(A while back the story of the snake was finally put to type. You can find it here. This is the story of how I got that pimp-pad of a room for my junior year, as promised in the story of the snake - a story for another time that is now being told.)
It is now time to talk about the pimp-pad.
Near the end of my freshman year, I had the sudden realization that I needed to join a housing group. Our school had fraternities, and housing groups. I'm not really sure what the difference was, all I know is the housing groups had Greek names and did a lot of the same things as the fraternities, but technically weren't frats. Even the frats, however, were not the same national ones you find at big schools. They had Greek names, but ones made up at some point, unique to our small, private, Christian college. Lame.
Anyway, I had realized that I needed to join one because I found out that otherwise I was going to end up in Hicks, basically the worst dorm ever, where no girls would ever talk to you, much less visit. This, of course, presented a huge dilemma for the freshman male.
I pretty much had my choice of fraternities or housing groups to join. I was not yet cool, in my own right (that would come with time), but I was like one of 2 or maybe 3 kids from California in my class, so I had the whole surfer dude thing going for me. That helped me more with the ladies than with the guys, but doing well with the girls got noticed with the guys. Perhaps even more instrumental with securing my position as a solid rush was the time I stood up to Chip Kosher.
(brief side story)
Freshman year you are forced to take a "Fitness and Wellness" class (a.k.a. "Fitwell") which is basically a college version of PE. Which was ridiculous. They're going to try to tell an 18 year old who runs 7 miles a day, lifts regularly, practices martial arts, and is on 2-3 intramural sports teams at a given time, how to stay in shape. Like I needed that.
Anyway there were two parts - half the semester was spent in the classroom learning useless stuff about exercising and food, the other half was in the gym doing useless workouts (which I opted out of, more on that in a second). So on the first day of class, all of us nervous freshmen men (this was the one class on campus that was not co-ed) were sitting there in our assigned seats in the auditorium. The seats were assigned alphabetically, based on your last name, so sitting to my right was a one Chip Kosher - captain and star linebacker of the football team.
Class is just about to start when Chip did what I came to suspect he did in any academic course he ever took in his life. He leaned over and put his elbow on my desk, pulled his shirt sleeve up to expose his bicep - which was roughly thicker than my waist, at the time - and, nose to nose with me, told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to help him pass this class. He then sat back, please with himself that he was going to pass another class I suppose. So I leaned over, put my elbow on his desk, pulled my shirtsleeve up, exposing my bicep - probably about as thick as Chip's thumb, at the time - and said exactly 4 words, starting with "The..." and ending with "...I am."
I don't think anyone had ever done that to Chip, and, surprisingly enough, he respected my massive (MASSIVE) gamble. So he turned to the other scrawny white kid on his right and did his schpeel again. The kid actually turned whiter, which I wouldn't have believed was possible for a Pennsylvanian.
From that day on Chip was like my best friend - inviting me to frat parties almost constantly, trying to get me to come over to their hall to do shots, introducing me to upperclassmen girls, etc.. I politely declined most of the time, as it wasn't really my scene, which made him call me up even more. Chip thought I was cool and nobody knew how I had done it.
The second semester of that year, I finagled my way out of the gym half of the PE class by "testing out," informally. The coaches that taught the class worked off of that same alphabetical list of last names, so naturally Chip's came just after mine again. When we got to the pull-up test (they tested you at the start and end of the semester to measure improvement), Chip was getting mouthy with the other guys as the coach got nearer to his name on the list - making fun of them for not being able to do the 30+ pull ups required for the highest marks. Then Chip turned to the coach (one of his buddy-coaches from the football team) and told him that he bet he could do 31 pull-ups, and if he did, he would get excused from that part of class for the rest of the semester. No discussion was made of the penalty for failing, to my recollection, but the coach took Chip up on his offer. 2 guys later it was my turn, and I walked up to the bar, and told the coach I'd be taking the "Chip deal" as well. He didn't get what I meant at first, but when I explained it, he laughed and said "OK." So I did 31 pull-ups (I weighed about 135 at the time, so there wasn't much to lift). Chip did the same thing right after me. He took me back to his dorm for a celebratory drink, at 10:30 in the morning.
Chip would sometimes try to tackle or punch or otherwise abuse you for little or more often no reason at all, and this was how he found out I knew martial arts. One day in the mail hall, between classes, he saw me through the crowd and started shouting at me: "KNOWLES! I SEE YOU KNOWLES! DON'T YOU MOVE KNOWLES! DON'T RUN!" Well of course I tried to run but there were too many people, and he got to me about halfway through the crowded hall, and hoisted me up in the air, pinning me to the top of the wall with my head kind of crammed against the ceiling. He then just put one hand on my chest and leaned into me, securing me hung and helpless in midair, with everyone who walked by (most importantly, the girls) having a good laugh. Chip informed me that he'd only put me down when I agreed to party with them in the city that weekend. We argued for a minute and then I told him I was going to make him put me down. "If you kick me Knowles, I swear we are gonna fight, right here."
"I'm not going to kick you."
"You're not going to try and piss on me, are you?"
"Then how are you going to get down." (It was more of a statement than a question.)
I grabbed his hand on my chest, which happened to be perfectly positioned for one of the basic aikido moves, and next thing Chip was on the ground with his arm bent behind his back. He was a mix of "Uncle!" and "Holy cow KNOWLES KNOWS KUNG FU! Knowles you didn't tell me you were a ninja! Etc."
Letting Chip in on this turned out to be a mistake. Years later when he sat next to me in a finance class, his favorite thing to do was still get everyone's attention, announce that I knew kung fu, and then say "watch" and proceed to slam his arm in to my chest, sending me flying.
Chip had a really loud, obnoxious old pickup truck, a very cute blond girlfriend, and his family were rich - his dad owned the most successful hunting-dog-food company in the northeast. That's about all I remember about Chip.
So where was I? Oh, yeah, how I joined a housing group. I decided to go with the Nu Dels, because they were the only guys who had a double room left with no one to fill it, and since I was the only remaining rush they had, I would get to pick my own roommate, and he didn't have to join the housing group. I planned on remaining as independent as possible, so having the only indy roommate on the hall fit well with that plan, and I got to room with my buddy Kevin, who was awesome.
Because I wasn't down with most of the housing group activities (parties, drinking, running around in your underwear), I didn't end up "getting along" very well with some of the guys, although I did get on just fine with some of them. But there was some latent angst about my laissez-faire approach to the group, and about half-way through spring semester, things came to a head (one of them tried to attack me with the wooden ladder to his bunk bed, at one point), and I told the dean of men, Toncic, that I needed to move out of there before someone got seriously injured. He moved me the same day into a single that had just come open in the next dorm over - Lincoln.
I thought things were great, but there was a rub. That same day that I moved just happened to be the day that they had room-draw for the ensuing year, where all the rising independent men picked numbers to see which order they would pick in, in their class year.
So, since as of that morning I had been in a housing group, which didn't have to pick numbers for their rooms, I missed room draw, and after informing me of this Toncic told me to come to the room-picking session (where you selected whatever best room was left when your number came up). He said he would "See what he can do," which translated to "I was going to pick last out of the whole sophomore class," I was pretty sure.
That evening, I walk into the auditorium, and there's this sly Italian kid who was a year ahead of me, a rising junior - Frank Fagan. Frank was suave - smooth as a movie star suave - he had a way with the ladies that I deeply respected. I remembered Frank, even though we weren't really friends, because he won his freshman talent show with a song that he made up on the spot on the piano. I had met him when I tracked him down after *my* freshmen talent show (which I didn't win, sadly), where he performed at the end, as the previous year's winner always did before presenting the prizes. I asked him to teach me that song that he played and he told me he couldn't really remember what it was because he had just made it up. I asked him if it was the same thing he played at his show the year before, when he won, and he told me he just made that up too. This was Frank.
So there he was, just cool as the cat's pajamas, and he's sitting all sprawled out across a couple of the auditorium seats - and he sees me wandering in and beckons me over. He tells me he has a "proposition" for me, but I have to promise to keep it on the DL. I'm game for anything at this point so I shut up and listen. Frank tells me he has 9th pick out of all the seniors. He tells me he wants to give it to me, let me do with it as I will. Any room in Alumni (the best dorm at the time) that the Pans (rich boy frat) don't already have is mine...so what's the catch?
Frank's dad was paying for his senior year, so if Frank could get a job and support himself, he could afford to live off campus in a booze-filled apartment. Problem was, the admin wouldn't give him the OK for it, because they had the sneaking suspicion that Frank would fill his apartment with booze (and probably women, too). So he needed someone to keep up the facade that he was actually living on campus. I got to have a roommate-free double in Alumni, my pick of the room, and all I had to do was make sure everyone got the impression he actually lived there. He said he'd stop by a few afternoons and take his shirt off and study, etc., to help towards this end, which happened all of like once, which is part of why we ended up getting outed, eventually.
There was another catch, however. In addition, I had to find a way to turn in 48 or so chapel cards that year for Frank, but - there was a bottle of my choice from the liquor store waiting for me upon completion of that (how's that for irony - going to chapel for booze?). The college had a policy that you wouldn't receive your diploma unless you had turned in your chapel cards (one per service), or alternatively wrote a book report on a theological book for each chapel card outstanding. I won't divulge my methods, but I never wrote any book reports for Frank.
The pimp pad was a nearly perfectly positioned room in Alumni, the 2 story building that housed most of the athletic department offices, plus the gyms, racquetball courts, mail room, and student union on the first floor. It was centrally located, one easy flight of stairs up, and had lots of great views, especially if you picked a room like mine, which was right above the main entrance to the building that most of the female population at the school used every day, coming to and fro between their dorms and the classroom buildings. (It should be mentioned that despite being a pimp pad, it in no way to be compared, whatsoever, to the passion palace, the room I would wind up in on the other side of Alumni, my senior year. *That* is another story for another time).
And that's the room I lived in when the whole snake thing went down. (Its also the room that my buddy Dave from down the hall started crashing in half the time, because his roommate snored like a diesel engine. Dave and I would become good friends, and I would later learn most of he and his brother's smooth ways with women, when we all roomed together later that year, once the snake thing happened and it became evident that Frank was not living with me on campus. Dave and Steve - his brother - were a big help to me in that department, but that, too, is a story for another time.)