So its the same year that I was still in the suite with Dave and Steve, the pimp pad. This, however, is not a story about the pimp pad. This is a story about how the passion palace came to be, and how that almost derailed a train. Literally.
So room draw comes along that year (drawing for my room for senior year) and I draw the 19th pick out of the entire senior class.
This was the same year the Pans lost their charter. The Pans were the rich-frat boy fraternity on campus, and they had all the best rooms in the best dorm, Alumni - the same one I was in for the Year of the Snake. I had actually been friends with some of them, so I had hung out in their rooms and whatnot, which made me uniquely privvy to their best kept secret:
The Pans' president's room.
For years untold (well, since the last time they lost their charter, at any rate), the Pans' had always had this block of rooms, and the diamond of the bunch always went to the frat prez. It was basically 2 double rooms, with a hallway and a bathroom in between them, and a small study room off the back end of the bigger double room.
BUT, the smaller double room was like an inch too small to be called a double by state regulations or something, and due to some other kind of regulation it couldn't be considered a single while it was attached to the other room via the small hallway between the two.
So basically 2 guys got 4 rooms to themselves.
The idea was to shove the all the beds, desks, and dressers into the smaller room, and then you had the massive other room for a huge lounge. The Pan's president and his lucky roommate had been successfully implementing this strategy for as long as they had been in possession of their charter. Which, conveniently, they no longer were.
Forced to pick room numbers with the rest of us independent plebs, they were all desperate to get that room with their highest pick. I like to imagine their emergency meeting before the room-draw, with the president raving about the room, spewing the fate that they would suffer if he didn't have his palace returned to him. Etc. Anyway, they were desperate, the 30 or so of them, to come away with just one high pick, one saving grace to get that room back. And so they picked with us, and then gathered outside the auditorium in a circle to determine their highest possible pick. Which was 60-something.
God was clearly frowning on them, along with the administration.
Of course they had carefully surveyed who had grabbed the top picks to see if any one of them might be a threat to their obtaining this room. At some point in the next couple of days, they must have logically worked through the first 18 guys with the assurance that none of them knew the secret of that room. The secret, you see, was that it was drawn on the map like a normal double-room. Nobody knew this. It was their holy grail.
So they figure all of those guys who got picks #1-thru-18 are going to go for rooms like "the palace," (yes there was actually a room by that name, which inspired me to name my room "the passion palace," for while it was infinitely better and more passionate, it was also a secret known to the privileged few). Singles, too, usually went pretty high in the room picking.
But then they get down to me, #19 on the list, and they know that I know.
And so they began to come, bearing gifts. Groveling.
The first offer was so insulting it immediately made my ultimate decision for me - they could end up offering me the moon, they weren't getting that little slip of paper with the 19 on it out of my grubby paws. But then of course the offers got better and better.
At one point it got up to 600 some dollars and they'd do all my chapel cards for me, and they'd give me their highest collective pick for #19. There might have been something else, even, I don't remember.
I do, however, remember politely declining it to my closest Pan buddy, on a quiet evening in the rows of computers in the Technological Learning Center (TLC). The look on his face was one of sheer desperation. He was their last emissary, and he had been denied his plea. We looked at each other and we both knew, then and there, that I had lost any friendship I may have had with any among their brotherhood.
It was a sad moment, but two minutes later I was over it. The previous year I had made the mistake of dating a sorority girl. But I learned from my mistake - I learned how you can instantly make 30 friends, plus all their boyfriends, and then instantly lose them as well. So this came as no surprise.
So that same evening, I caught up with a one Bo Bucklen, the chillest kid to ever go to my college. Chill was pretty much my number one qualification for a roommate to share the passion palace with me.
"Bo," I said..."I have a proposition for you." (In my best Frank Fagan impersonation, although Bo never knew him.)
Bo was a freshman at the time, and the prospect of living in the biggest double-room on campus with a senior in the year to come was obviously appealing. Under advisement that we would be under withering hatred from the Pans, and would have to watch our backs for the first month or two there til they got over it, Bo accepted.
One of the best things about that room was its location. Pop open the window, and you could hop out onto the roof, walk over across the building, jump out of the bushes and you were in the senior parking lot (the building was built into the side of a hill, essentially). This was convenient for getting to class in a hurry, but even more so for importing contraband into your room.
Which is when we decided that I needed to obtain a duffle bag that could conceal a case of beer.
Bo had a car, I had a license proving my legal age, it was a match made in heaven. I quickly learned I studied best with a couple Icehouses and tuna fish sandwiches. I probably ate dinner in the cafeteria all of 10 times my senior year.
Bo came with a trio of friends - James, Brett, and sometimes Bob. Mostly James and Brett. It was a regular occurrence for me to show up on a Thursday or Friday afternoon (but sometimes a Monday or Tuesday...) and find the three of them standing around trying to look like they weren't waiting to ask me to take them to the beer distributor.
This is really the best part but its so horrible.
I was bitter, around that time, had just been dumped in a pretty odd fashion. So I was in a phase. A phase, with a phrase. It was a phrase from one of Dr. Dre's soliloquy - suffice to say it was a phrase that characterized my distrust of the fairer sex at that point in my life. The guys would ask me to get them beer, and I would force them to tell me what was the single most important lesson they would take away from our institution of learning.
After all, I was only repeating the wisdom of Dr. Dre.
So they would repeat the phrase, and then I'd pretend like I hadn't heard them clearly.
"Say it like you believe it. Say it like you want beer."
So they would and then off we'd go to the beer distributor. Sometimes they'd head off to a party, sometimes they'd stay in, and occasionally I'd celebrate the fact that we had beer along with them.
Well, one of those nights, we decided for a change of scenery from the room, but no one was in any state to drive anywhere. So we load the case up into the duffle bag and head down for the railroad tracks across the road from the school soccer fields. There was this old flatbed sitting there next to the main line, and it had a bunch of lumber on it. I remember it was my idea to go hang out down there and drink, but I don't remember why.
So there we are, sitting on the flatbed, sipping Yeungs, when all of a sudden the guys decide to start piling all of the lumber on the flatbed onto the main tracks, right next to the stationary car we were sitting on.
Its like 1 in the morning or something.
They're having a grand old time talking about how cool it will be to see the train plow through this, and I'm standing on the flatbed trying to determine just how bad of an idea this is (whilst opening another beer).
See, these were big thick boards of lumber. 2x4's and some even bigger. Like, posts. And there were a lot of them.
And that's about when my bionic right ear heard something in the distance.
EVERYBODY SHUT UP!
They drop to the ground thinking its the cops pulling up.
Quiet...do you guys hear that?
The train whistle sounds again in the distance, and just then, way off where the tracks curved into the woods, I could see the light starting to shine on the trees. Oh sh....
I start screaming at them to get the wood off the tracks before they derail the train and we all go to jail. Bo and James snap into instant sobriety and start ripping the lumber off the tracks like wild men. I jump down and start helping them and am promptly knocked in the head by a flying board.
The train has rounded the corner now and we can see his light, but he hasn't seen us yet, cause he's too far off. Roughly half the lumber is still on the tracks by the time I shake off the knock on the head and start helping again, and then I realize Brett isn't with us. WHERE'S BRETT I scream but nobody's listening.
I jump back up on the flatbed, run to the other side, and sure enough, there's Brett, crouching next to the case of beer, drinking and giggling. So I drag him back over to the pile and he starts helping us.
And that's about when the train sees us, and he lays on his horns and his brakes simultaneously, but by now he's bearing down on us and there's no way he's going to stop before he reaches where we're standing.
More screaming, more frantic removal of wood.
In the end we finished with maybe 10 seconds to spare, and then we had a very brief fight about what side of the tracks we should be on. Brett, James and I were on the flatbed side of the tracks, where we would be cut off from school once the train passed. Bo was on the school side. I was trying to get everyone to the school side so we could run and hide, but there was still beer left in the case, so Bo jumps over to the beer side and that was pretty much that.
The train goes flying by, still on his breaks and horn, we scramble over the flatbed, grab our beer, and start running up-tracks, opposite direction that the train was heading.
At some point it reached a stop, and we crawled through between the cars, and off into the forest and fields back towards campus, staying off the main roads. that took a long time, but we made it back to the back side of the school parking lots, where we finished the beers and then walked back to my room.
We were worried for about a week that they'd finger-print the wood and come find us. There was a lot of research into how well finger-prints could be lifted off of untreated wood. Then someone pointed out that there were beer bottles there. That was a long Thursday.
But nothing ever came of it. And a month or two later, we had a new favorite drinking spot. The end.
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"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."