Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"I'm Comin' Home Again"

Homecoming weekend is always a curious affair. When I was still in college, it was just another party weekend. There was really nothing extra-special about it, other than knowing that there would be more people on campus than during a typical weekend. This included recently-graduated friends of mine who were likely to be buying a few rounds at the bar. But in the end, I was guaranteed to be just as drunk and have just as much fun as I did…any other weekend during the school year.

In the first couple of years after I graduated, however, it became the event that it had always been billed as. Being a young alumnus, you’re right in the sweet spot of homecoming partying: You’re still young enough to know most of the kids on campus, and to still be sought after by the girls at the school; but, because you’re slightly older, you can frequent the bars (and have some extra cash in your pocket when you do), you are admired by the younger guys still in school, and you’re really sought after by the younger girls at the school (because you’re supposedly more mature than all of the guys they go to school with—just how silly do you girls feel about that misconception when you finally graduate?). And odds are it is one of the drunkest weekends of your year, now that you actually have responsibilities like work and rent that can eat into your time during the other 51 weekends on the calendar.

After about your 5th year out of college, though, things shift again. Now you’re too old to actually know any of the currently-enrolled students, so drinking on campus is more awkward. You’re still good at the bars, since there’s likely to be quite a few of your fellow “older guys” right there with you. But the girls now see you as less desirable, unless they’ve got gold-digger tendencies or daddy issues.

This past weekend was the 8th Washington & Jefferson College Homecoming that I have attended as an alumnus. T.C., Zach, and I didn’t drive up until Saturday morning, electing instead to go to a friend’s going-away party at Elixir in the South Side on Friday night. Instead of a 48 hour play-by-play, I’ll give you the highlights:

  • Our friend, Ryan, turned at one point during the party Friday night to find his mom on the dance floor with Zach. The sheer look of terror that came over him was priceless.
  • T.C. does some assistant coach work for one of the area high schools, and came directly to the party from a game. The bar was somewhat
    “upscale,” so how he managed to walk through the door wearing a windbreaker, sneakers, and coach’s shorts is beyond me.
  • While he and I stood talking to his sister and her boyfriend, three girls walked past; the girl in trail bumped into me as she walked past, damn near delivering a forearm shiver. T.C. was a little surprised, wondering aloud if she was trying to instigate a fight. “No,” I said, “She just wants attention.” Sure enough, after the three later returned and hit the dance floor, she walked over to us. “Are you going to come dance with us or what?” I assured her that I wasn’t, and when she left T.C. said, “Son-of-a-bitch, you were right.”
  • Since I’d driven to Elixir, I planned on pacing myself and going easy throughout the night. Two things worked against this, though: (A.) a bottle of beer cost $4-5, while a gin & tonic cost $6 (again, I’m no math major, but…); (B.) Ashhad showed up, and he can’t stand near a bar without ordering shots—it’s like leaving a young child alone in a room with a fully-stocked cookie jar.
  • Ashhad, Zach, and I eventually moved on to Carson City Saloon, and after some beer pong we found ourselves at Mike & Tony’s to close the night. This is a popular South Side gyro shop that has been one of my crew's favorite late-night eateries since 2001. One gyro with everything—hold the sauce—to go, please. Saturday morning I awoke in my bed and, after some thought, texted Zach. “This may sound sacrilegious, but I don’t think I ever ate my gyro last night.” I got up and went out to my car; in the passenger-side footwell sat the crumpled remains of a paper bag and a ball of tinfoil. I stood corrected. I texted an update to Zach, and added, “I’m proud and ashamed all at the same time.”
  • Shortly after arriving in Washington (and before drinking anything that day), Zach—still hurting from the night before—asked me to pull over to the side of the road. He hopped out, ran behind some bushes, and pulled the trigger.
  • Most of our friends had been tailgating since 9 or 10 a.m., and had set up camp in the parking lot. Zach and I joined them around 1, carrying a case of Miller Lite stadium bottles. We had been there for about 20 minutes when I realized that not far from us stood the mayor of Pittsburgh, who graduated from W&J a couple of years after me (no, that’s not a typo). When we were in school we weren’t tight, but I knew him to see him, and we’re still familiar enough to say “hi” when we run into each other. T.C. and I walked over to do just that, and I said, “So what’ve you been up to? Anything interesting?” “Not much,” he countered. “Just running a major city.”
  • I was having a semi-serious discussion with Shannon, when we hit a pause. She cracked a smile and said "I'm HAMMERED right now!"
  • Standing at one bar later that night, it struck me that everyone in my immediate vicinity was easily five to six years younger than me. I shot a text to TJ: “I think I’m Wooderson. Son of a…”

Alright, alright, alright…

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