Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Thirty Years Passed... PSU

On Monday, August 22, 2016, classes began for the fall semester at all Penn State campuses.  Thirty years ago this week, I was one of the many doing that same thing.

The world in August 1986 was a far different place than today.  Obviously.  We didn't have the internet.  Mobile phones were the size of shoe boxes and incredibly expensive.  Ronald Reagan was in his second term, and the Cold War was raging.  There was a sense that at any moment, we could all die by nuclear fire.  I guess that gave life just that much more of an edge.

I was a far different person back then as well when I first arrived at Penn State in August of 1986.  I was 19 years old- I would turn 20 within the month. I was single for the first time in a while, as in no girlfriend.  We broke up before the summer began.  She was my first romantic relationship to speak of.

Me at the Nittany Lion Shrine, April 1987

I was living with two other people: two men who I never met, and who didn't know me from Adam. We never became close, the three of us. I didn't allow myself for one, but also we were very different people.  Marc was from Northeast PA, and was pretty much a redneck.  The other roommate, who name I've forgotten, was a very quiet guy who moved out at Christmas.  (He continued to pay rent, though.)  I haven't spoken to either of them since the spring of 1987, when we moved out of the apartment.

The apartment in question was called Beaver Hill, and it was on Beaver Avenue.  Yes, there are a lot of things named "Beaver" at Penn State. This was because they were named after General James A Beaver, who was an early president of the University.

Get your mind out of the gutter.

In any case I would live every minute of my time at Penn State on Beaver Avenue in 3 different places: Beaver Hill, Armenara Plaza, and the Fraternity house.

Beaver Hill, April, 1987

I remember going up to State College in the early summer to look for an apartment with a person from Drexel University who was going to room with me.  We ended up stopping at a place called AW & Sons, which rented rooms in the very large apartment buildings now known as Beaver Canyon.  The rental agent was an absolutely gorgeous, statuesque woman in her late twenties. I remember her wearing a black floral dress.   She had a perfect body, and I wished so much that I could be her.  remember, this was soon after I started suppressing my feminine needs.

My first few weeks at Penn State were a roller coaster.  I was homesick.  I was depressed that I was alone, without a girlfriend.  I went from crying fits when alone in the room to being incredibly happy that I was where I wanted, no, NEEDED to be.

My Penn State fraternity brothers were cold to me, for the most part.  I expected that.  Some were welcoming though, and I will never be able to repay their kindness.

Burger King, University Drive.  July 1988

In early September, I started work at the local Burger King, as I needed money.  Through there, I met two of the three people who would define my Penn State experience.  In my book, I named them Judy and Virginia.  They were roommates, and both Little Sisters at Alpha Chi Rho (Crow), another fraternity on campus.  I met Judy at BK, as she worked there with me.  Within a couple of weeks, I met Virginia as well.  I still keep in touch with Judy.  I have only spoken to Virginia once since we broke up in 1988- and that was to tell her about the book I wrote.

Crow House, Spring 2006

I could ramble on about that time and place for hours (Hell, I wrote a book about it!)  I summed up my thoughts about this time of year in the epilogue of my book, which I reproduce here.

As the old clich√© goes, Time marches on.  As the years scream by, the pictures fade.  Each fall, another generation of Penn Staters begins their journey, just as thousands of others in universities across the country.  Each of them will have their own unique story to tell- romances, parties, triumphs, heartbreak, loss. 

Penn State has left me and my classmates behind.  As we visit the campus, we see new buildings, small or significant changes, and we watch the campus grow.  Stores open and close.  Fashions change.  New kinds of music blare from the balconies in Beaver Canyon.  But one thing never changes- the students are frozen in time.  The students will always be somewhere between seventeen and twenty three years old.  Yet we alumni continue to get older and older.  We continue with our lives, which for the most part have taken us far away from the place most of us love so dearly. 

And when we return, the students barely give us a glance.  They have no idea what kind of campus we left behind, about the times we had, about who we were.  And why should they?  Their lives are complex enough.  Why do they need to listen to some boring old people talk about how things were different then? 

We sure as hell didn’t.

Well, sometimes.

As my own life hurtles onward, new experiences allow me to grow.  Since graduation, I’ve traveled the country and the world.  I’ve learned much more about myself then I ever cared to.  I married.

And yet I keep going back to stroll among the elms, drink way too much at the bars, and remember.  What am I looking for?

Am I looking for Virginia to be there as always behind the bar at Crow house, ready with a beer and a smile just for me?

Am I looking for Judy outside of Willard building, waiting for me to walk her to class on a brisk and sunny November afternoon?

Perhaps for Deb to smile down to me and wave from her balcony?

Or to go to Dave’s dorm room in Runkle, for a night of games and beer?

But all of these things are long gone now- part only of my memory.  And the pictures fade, as we all do with time.

Still, someday on my deathbed, there will be two images from Penn State that will be with me.  They will never leave.

One will be the smile of a cute black haired girl. 

And the other will be a summer sunrise over Mount Nittany.

Cream and Sugar. 

Hope and Promise.

Pause and Consider.

You’re Welcome.

The last six references are explained in the book.  In case you were wondering.

To conclude this over-long entry, I am posting ANOTHER piece of my unpublished book, Men of the Skull.  This is the first chapter of Part 2: Penn State.  Each chapter has the date when the event(s) occurred, followed by a front page news story from that day.  It was my first real Penn State party, and also talks about the day I moved up to PSU.  I hope you like it.

Chapter 2.1:  Hat Party
Friday, August 29, 1986     Bolivia calls state of siege to halt strife.”

That night, State College burned.  The hot summer sun was gone, but the parties were on: parties beyond counting, fun without limit.  The whole campus- the whole town- the whole valley sizzled with possibility that tonight, maybe, it would all come together: that sparks would fly and that we would make explosions and flames of our own that would burn on forever.  Or at least until dawn.
            Her breasts stared at me through her lilac colored oxford.  Moderately sized (but bigger than any that I’d ever seen naked), big nipples-and the AC was up too high.  She wore a scarlet wide brimmed hat that looked like something from the 1940s.  Tight jeans. 
            “Oh let me be--- your sledge-hammer.  This will be my testimony.”
The music was loud, but not too loud.  Keg in the kitchen, beer in clear plastic cups.  And everyone wearing stupid hats.  The hostess was a girl who lived at the end of the hall- it was a Hat Party, and everyone was invited.  Price of admission?  Wear a hat: the goofier the better.  You wanna kick in a few bucks for the keg; that’s cool too.
Her face was broad- eastern European.  Freckles.  Biggish nose, permed curly brown hair and happy smallish eyes.  With nipples like hers, it was hard to keep eye contact.  The hat set off everything nicely.  She smiled and we talked about Drexel and Penn State and nothing in particular that mattered.  Eye contact, Lance.  I smiled and sipped my beer.  Her name was Sara.
My first Friday night at Penn State.  My first real apartment party.  And Sara was smiling at me.  She seemed interested in what I had to say.  I was scared shitless.  Don’t fuck up, Lance.  Eye contact.
Our hostess, Katie, lived at the end of our hall: third floor Beaver Hill Apartments.  My roommates and I met her the day we moved in.  We helped her carry stuff up from her dad’s truck.  She bought us pizza and beer and we sat among the boxes in her place.  She lived alone.
I wore my black and yellow painters cap- backwards.  Dark blue button down.  Tan shorts.  Sara was a senior, 21, from Pittsburgh.  She lived in Atherton Hall: the honors dorm bordering College Avenue a block away from the apartments.  She smiled modestly and looked toward her feet coquettishly as I offered to refill her beer.
Brought it back, and we slipped over to the corner next to the mirrored wall.  All the apartments in this building had a mirrored wall- made the rooms look bigger.  Ooh.  Ahh.
The windows were open, and Delta Upsilon right next door was partying as well.  The sound of the crowd there mixed with ours, the music, and Sara’s husky voice.
I so wanted to suck on those tits.  Feel them.  Nibble.
“He do the walk… he do the walk of life!”  Dire Straits sang from the speakers across the room.
“So, why Penn State?  A guy like you could’ve gone to lots of schools,” Sara asked.
I had a hard on that must’ve been sooooo obvious.
“Well, Penn State has the best looking women- like you!”  I smiled.  You fucking dork!  Jesus Christ! No wonder you can’t get laid to save your own life!
She smiled, laughed politely, and raised her cup.
“Well, here’s to Penn State!” she said.
We touched glasses and drank; my eyes never leaving hers.  Brown eyes.  She had brown eyes.  Chestnut.  A beer or two later, and she had to go.
“I have other parties I promised to attend” she said with a smile.
“It’s been nice talking to you!”  I said.  Ugh!  Dork!  Ask her for her phone number, you idiot!
“You too!”  She bent over and put her cup down on the table.  I had a great view down her shirt at those beautiful breasts in a white bra.  Wow!  Did she mean to do that?
“Um, can I have your number so we can, y’know, get together some time?”  DORK!
Sara smiled.  “Sure!”  She found a pen and a napkin.

Not a bad end for my first week of classes.  So far, Penn State was almost all I could ask for.  I moved in the Saturday before: Beaver Hill Apartments, room 324. 
The apartment was small, but furnished.  The carpet was tan and the walls white, except for one wall which was covered by paneled mirrors.  The living room had a brown sofa, loveseat and a square glass topped table as well as two end tables with brass lamps.  The kitchen had a very small table and had a linoleum floor.  There was a large opening to the living room making a little “breakfast nook” as the ad called it.  The bedroom had two closets and three beds.  I was the first one to move in, so I claimed the single bed.  The other two guys would get the bunk bed.  The windows in the bedroom and living room faced the back parking lot and neighboring Cedarbrook Apartments, so the view wasn’t exactly sensational.  Lots of apartments had balconies, but not this one.  Off to the left of the parking lot was a large fraternity house: Delta Upsilon.  (DU). 
Marc moved in a few hours after.  We left our door open to “invite” the neighbors, like we used to do in the dorm at Drexel.  Put a life sized stand up of Freddy Kruger in the door (got it from Julianne’s dad).  A couple of people gasped.  Then one girl screamed.  We scared the shit out of her.
She was really cute!  Tall, short blonde hair, nice breasts, perfect hips- just really cute.  We had a good laugh with her and invited her in for a beer.  She accepted- but after she unloaded the truck.  So we helped, and she bought the pizza and beer.
We met a lot of other girls on the floor as well that day and the days following.  It was gonna be a great year.


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