Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Excerpt: Homecoming '86

I was thinking about this event tonight.  So I pulled out my book files.  This piece is copyrighted by me.  Just saying.  Enjoy!
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Chapter 2.14: Homecoming ‘86

Sunday, October 12, 1986 At summit, aides work on accords

            The girls arrived in a large mass, and they’d be there all week.  Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) were our partners for homecoming, which meant all of us would build a float, put together some kind of dance routine to go with it, drink too much and screw like wild animals in heat.  Zeta was one of the “up and coming” sororities looking to become one of the elite houses, and, in their eyes, homecoming with Skull was their ticket to that goal.  The guys?  They just wanted some hot women to fuck.  And, as Geno put it, these women felt “grateful and indebted” to us.  “Easy pickings.”
            The overall theme for Homecoming was “Penn State: A Whole New World.”  Sometime in the previous weeks, our Homecoming chairman, Sly, and theirs got together and decided on our particular theme: “Mickey and Minnie go to Penn Space.”  Seriously.
            At the chapter meeting the week before, Andy asked for volunteers for the various things that needed to be done.  Chumpy, the house manager, was in charge of float building.  Zit was to lead the “Crazy Band,” the people who would dress up and dance in front of the float.  The pledges would help where needed.  Everyone was expected to help with the float.
            I volunteered for the Crazy Band.  After all, if I didn’t get involved, they’d never accept me.  Besides, each of us would be paired with a Zeta all week.  Maybe I’d get lucky and a get a cute “grateful” one!
            Homecoming week officially started Sunday afternoon.  Chumpy and some of the brothers who were good with tools built the wooden frame of the float on top of a rented flatbed trailer (it would be towed by someone’s pickup truck.)  Chumpy’s partner from Zeta was Becky, a cute blonde with large blue eyes on a broad face.  As a bonus, she was even shorter than Chumpy!
            As those guys sawed, hammered, nailed, and drank, the Crazy Band met in the Club Room.  Zit and his counterpart, Jody, a dark haired Zeta with brown eyes and a fading tan, outlined what we were going to do.  I looked around.  There were twenty four of us: twelve guys and twelve girls.  The Zeta girls were very cute- not overwhelmingly gorgeous, not Barbie dolls, but definitely hot.  And grateful.
            “We’re going to dress up like Mickey and Minnie Mouses” Jody said.  “We’ll all have red shirts, just like this one.”  Zit held up a shirt.  “And have mouse ears and tails and other stuff.  It’ll be really cute!”  Jody said.
            The guys smirked and the girls giggled.
            The shirt was red with white printing.  “SKULL ZETA HOMECOMING 1986” was in an arch above cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in space suits.  Below them, in large letters read “Mickey and Minnie Go To Penn Space!”  We’d have the shirts in on Thursday.  Hopefully. 
            Jody started announcing the partners by couple.  My partner was Lisa, a petite girl with an average body, bleached blonde hair to her shoulders, and brown eyes.  I could tell she was thrilled to be partnered with me by her disgusted sigh. 
At the time I didn’t realize it, but many of the pairings were made by sisters’ request.  Now I wonder what Lisa did to piss someone off.
            “I’m Lisa and I have a boyfriend” she said.
            “I’m Lance and I don’t care” I replied with a tone that left “bitch” implied.  I was already starting to get irritated by the sorority attitude.  I was beginning to see why the brothers had so many bad nicknames for sorority girls: they seemed to think their shit didn’t stink.
            “The song we’re going to do is the Penn State Fight Song.”  Zit said.  “Jody has put together a dance routine that we should be able to do even if we’re all fucked up- which we will be.”
            We all cheered.
            The week went quickly.  I spent a lot of my spare time at the house, either practicing the routine on the front lawn or “pomping” the float.  Pomping was gluing wads of colored tissue paper to the chicken wire stretched over the frame of the float. 
            Most of the time there were at least two or three people working on the float.  At night, all of the pledges, ours and theirs, as well as many others would swarm all over it.  Of course, we were on tap the whole time.

Skull House. April 1987

Wednesday, October 15, 1986 City Charges 27 in Bribery Case

            The shift was long and very busy.  I was on burger board and Ashley was on register.  I was working until three as usual- she was done at one.  Jill worked next to me most of the day, but was back doing dishes as Ashley finished work.  Judy had off- she was doing fraternity work.  Probably pomping.
            Ashley clocked out, and as she walked by I stopped her. 
            “Um, I was kinda wondering if you had plans for Saturday night?”
            “Not currently” she said, smiling.
            “Well my house is having a formal Saturday night, and I was, um, hoping you’d like to go to it with me.” 
Oh, real smooth, Lance.  What woman could turn down an invite like that?  God!
            “Sure!” she said.  “Sounds fun!”
            “Great!  I’ll fill you in with the details later!”
            “Ok!  I have a sorority meeting tonight from seven until around ten.  Call then?”
            “I will!  Have fun!”
            After a minute or so, I could see Ashley walking across the parking lot toward University Drive.  Her jeans were very tight.  She had a great walk- unlike any other person I ever dated.  Poise, Grace: she walked like a Woman.

Thursday, October 16, 1986 House passes largest-ever spending bill

            The week ended with a flurry of activity.  Our pledges were given a choice: work on the float or work the standard Thursday night party.  They chose to work on the float (with the Zeta pledges).  That meant that the Last Pledge Class (the guys who just got in, otherwise known as LPC) had to run the party.  There was a saying in the house: “You’re not done pledging until you’re done LPC.”  Of course, all of Zeta was there as well.  The brothers took turns by pledge class working on the float as well- a schedule was posted on the second floor bulletin board.  I did my time with the Spring 85 class, who called themselves “Full Force.” 
            The party was absolutely packed as the Zetas brought their friends (boyfriends “discouraged.”)  The Zetas were going all out- each one wanted to be invited to our Homecoming formal (apparently it was a status thing) so they were dressed to kill, flirting and drinking hard.  A lot of hair flipping, arm touching and laughing at dumb jokes.  Hell, a couple of them even spoke to me in a non dismissive way!  It was a good night to be a Skull.
           
Friday, October 17, 1986 Major bills delay exit of Congress

            The day was picture perfect.  The leaves were in full glory, as if they too were putting on a show for the returning alumni.  Classes zipped by.  Crazy Band was to meet at 3:30 at the House.  I blew off my 5:00 EDPSY recitation again. 
            Crazy Band Happies started at 4 (after a couple of more run throughs on the front lawn.)  There was a whole case of Thunderbird and a keg of beer- just for us!  So we crammed all thirty of us into the “Commissary” downstairs and toasted, shouted, and sang.  It was packed so tight that we all got free feels.  We all wore our red shirts and jeans. 
            I never felt so “included” in my life up to that point.
            As we drank, a couple of sisters worked through the crowd, painting the tips of everyone’s nose with black circles and they drew mouse whiskers on our cheeks.  Other sisters pinned big black paper Mickey Mouse ears into our hair.  We were each given a black “tail” made of ribbon.  We were to put these on ourselves, but many of the sisters received “help.”  We looked like a bunch of drunken cartoon mice.
            At 4:30, we all did one last chug of beer (toasted to “Penn Space”) and piled into trucks driven by hopefully more sober brothers up to the IM building near Beaver Stadium, where the parade started.
            We parked out back with the float and staggered up to Curtin Road.  It was a madhouse- people in all kinds of costumes were packed together as the floats slowly swung into order.  We were surrounded by Aliens, baby dolls, cats, dogs, vegetables, planets, bathing beauties, and cross dressers.  Everyone seemed drunk or drunker than I was.  One of my fellow mice passed a bag to me with a bottle of the Bird in it.  (The bag was labeled “CHEESE.”)  I took a big swig and passed it to another mouse.  The whole thing was a drunken kaleidoscope in the setting autumn sun. 
            Bumped into a whole band of people dressed in tin foil with green faces, and green pipe cleaner antennae with little foil balls on top.
            “Lance- is that you?”  I heard a familiar female voice ask.
            Turned around- and there were Judy and Virginia green faced and tin foiled.  We pointed at each other and laughed. 
            “See- told you you’d catch lettucitus!”  I said to Judy.
            “What are you?  A mmman or a mmmouse?” asked Virginia
            “Comeer and I’ll show you, babe!”  I replied.  They were smashed too.
            “Where in line is your house?”  Judy asked.
            “Number one.  Top of the heap!  Always!”
            “Bullshit!”  Virginia said, laughing.
            “I think we’re nineteen or twenty in line.  I think” I said.
            “We’re fifty three!”  Judy said proudly. 
            “You’ll be here forever!”  I said.
            “Tell me about it!”  Virginia said.
            “We’ll be done and back to drinking before you even get started!”  I said.
            “We have a keg on the float and a lot of plastic cups” Judy said.
            “That- that’s good thinking” I said.  “I wish we’d thought of that.”  I saw our float pull into line.  “Gotta go!  Time to be Mousey!”
            “Have fun!”  Judy said, smiling. 
            “And don’t call us spacey!”  Virginia said, smiling as well.
          
            We stumbled into place in front of the float.  The Cheese made more rounds.  Good thing we each had partners or many of us would’ve fallen down.  Our float had an Old Main in the back, but done up as a space station.  Projecting out of it, not unlike a huge dick, was a Blue and White rocket with “fire” and smoke” like it was leaving the station.  The sides of the float were white with “Mickey and Minnie go to Penn Space” in Blue letters.  On the float rode Saint and his counterpart Melanie, dressed in “spacesuits” with rented Mickey and Minnie heads. 
            The float ahead lurched forward.  They were doing some kind of farming thing, and everyone was dressed like rejects from “Hee Haw” complete with the girls wearing “Minnie Pearl” type hats with price tags attached.  Anyway, Lisa was shamelessly flirting with Steel, one of the new pledges, who had the spot next to us.  I guess she only had the boyfriend when I was around.  Anyway, we waited, I dunno, maybe a couple of minutes, then we started out.  Gave the float ahead maybe a twenty yard head start.
            We staggered along waving and shouting to all the families, kids, and the few alumni that lined the route.  Lets face it- most alums wouldn’t arrive until later- they all had jobs and PSU was and still is a long drive from anywhere.  The parade was for the townies.  Still, that’s cool.
            Our float, towed by Cheese’s truck followed us.  Some of us hung back and leaned on the float or the truck for support.  It was gonna be a long mile and a half.
            About the middle of each block, we would stop to do our little song and dance.  The parade moved slowly, with lots of stops.  We kept running into the float in front of us.  Their Crazy band did some kind of square dance.  I think if our group spun around like that, we’d have a lot of people puking on the street.
            As we turned right onto College Avenue, my drunken haze began to lift and the hangover kicked in.  I guess it was all that exercise.  By the expressions on some of the other mice’s faces, I wasn’t alone.  Thank God the closest marching band was some distance away.  The drums would’ve killed us all.  Still, the crowds on College Ave were bigger, and full of students, especially girls.  So there I was, dressed like cartoon mouse, strutting in front of half the co-eds in school.  Still, I was doing so with the Skulls, which made it instantly cool.  Hey babe!  Would you do it in our house?  Would you do it with a Mouse?
            As we neared the judging stand near the University’s main gate at College and Allen, I saw a large number of Skulls and Zetas standing and cheering for us.  A bunch of Zetas camped out there all night to save the spot.  The float ahead pulled away from the judging stand and we ran into position to the cheers and applause of the crowd.
            I was really fucking nervous.  Don’t fuck up, Lance- they’ll hate you if you do.  Don’t fuck up!
            I heard the familiar “one-two-three!” and we started in with our routine.
“HAIL!  To the Lion, loyal and true.
HAIL! Alma Mater, with your white and blue.
PENN! STATE! forever, molder of men, *
FIGHT! for her honor—FIGHT!— and victory again.”
* “and women” wouldn’t be added until a few years later.

            The routine was simple- it was easy to tell that the designer, Jody, was a cheerleader at one time.  And we executed the routine fairly well.  I think. 
            We finished, cheered, shouted things like “Go Penn State!” the moved on.  My throat was shot by this point.  Alcohol and shouting don’t mix- go figure.
            The parade tuned north onto Curtin road, headed uphill.  We did our routine once more (in front of Beta and Fiji, where we changed the lyrics to “Skull house forever” just to piss them off.  The few of their people that were there booed.  We then continued uphill where the parade dispersed in front of Rec Hall and the Lion.  We cheered and hugged.  Many of us hopped onto the float to ride back to the house.  A few walked.
            As the float pulled away, I looked back at the Lion.  Crouching.  Watching.  Watching another parade go by.  Waiting for tomorrow.
            As we rode down Atherton toward Beaver Ave, the wind felt cool on my sweaty body.  My ears flew off.

           
            The House was immaculate.  The whole ’Hood spent every hour they could (when not going to class, pomping, drinking, fucking, or getting stoned) repairing, painting, and cleaning.  All this so the alumni would think we were responsible, trustworthy young gentlemen.  But the alumni weren’t stupid: they were Skulls too- so they knew what was up.  They appreciated the effort though.
            A table covered with a crisp white tablecloth fronted by the fraternity flag was set up in the foyer.  On this table was an incredible selection of “top shelf” liquor and some mixers.  A pledge manned this bar, ready to bring ice when needed.  Alumni poured their own drinks.
            The Hood was dressed in sweaters and nice pants, as were the alumni.  Most of the alums gathered in knots of people around their own age.  Deep drunken laughter rang through the halls.
            I smiled, drank, spoke briefly to some alums, drank.  Eventually, I ended up in the second floor bathroom.  There I saw three old alums, all wearing nice suits, all holding huge wads of wet toilet paper.  They took turns throwing the wads at Triangle, where they stuck to the brown wall.  The old, distinguished men laughed like naughty kids.

          Fall 1986 "Informal Composite"  Photo by Chuck Fong
 
Saturday, October 18, 1986 Logbooks tie contras, Fla airline

            The cold wind cut through my coat and sweatshirt and pounded on my hangover.  The bright sun spotlighted the hurried leaves in all their glory.  If my head didn’t hurt so much, I’d be dazzled by the beauty.  As it was, it was just a long walk uphill to the stadium.  The headache set up camp right behind my eyes.  Jesus Christ- I gotta stop drinking so much!  How many did I have?  There was all that Thunderbird and beer, and all those drinks at the House.  Just thinking about it made me want to puke.  I wondered if a puddle of vomit could be easily hidden by fallen leaves.  And would the colors match?
            I filed into the stadium alone among eighty some thousand others.  I sat high in the section, near the lip of the stadium.  I looked around and saw Jen and Emily from down the hall.  I walked over to say “hi” and they asked me to sit with them.  Yes!
            The #6 ranked Nittany Lions scored early and often.  As always, every time a ball sailed through the uprights into the student section, it was passed back, back, back, up and over, out of the stadium.  (This tradition ended when the upper deck was added to the south end.  Shame.  It was fun to watch.)
            At halftime, the Alumni Blue band took the field and they were really good.  The dedication of these people really impressed me.  I mean, they must’ve practiced this routine.  Don’t they have jobs and stuff?  When did they find the time?  Then again, when I thought of alumni, I thought of “old people.”  It never occurred to me that they might’ve just graduated last May. 
            Anyway, somehow I survived the game without puking.  I had a blast talking to the girls.  They didn’t see me as “a threat” so they didn’t bother putting up their attitudes.  The Lions beat Syracuse 42-3.  The girls and I walked back to Beaver Hill.  I was hurting, but happy, and collapsed back into bed.


 Beaver Stadium Seating from back of 1986 Season Ticket

            The sun was all but gone when Ashley and I arrived at the House.  She wore a dark green gown that flattered her figure and showed off her ass, but had shoulder pads and sleeves to her elbows.  Hey, the 80s weren’t exactly a Golden Age of fashion!  Still, I thought she looked great!
I wore my drab light gray suit and a red tie.  I wasn’t a fashion plate, but that said, I wasn’t the worst dressed.  Some guys looked like they never heard of an iron or a comb (grunge was still a few years away from being in fashion.)  The House was decorated with black and yellow streamers.  The alumni were all dressed in nice suits, mostly black or charcoal gray.  Brothers without dates, few as they were, talked to the alumni, their wives and girlfriends. 
The dates were dressed like this was the social event of the season.  Maybe it was.  Beautiful gowns, hot cleavage showing tops, jewelry- it was like a prom.  All the Zetas who were “lucky” enough to be invited tended to flock together when not with their dates.  The guys assumed that the girls all knew that to come to a Skull formal meant that they had to put out that night.  Surprise, surprise!  Lisa, my dance partner was there!  Boyfriend?  I introduced Ashley to some of the guys, but we mostly kept to ourselves.  After all, no one was falling over themselves to talk to us.
Dinner was catered and served by the pledges.  Chicken Cordon Bleu.  After dinner, all of the brothers went downstairs to the party room, leaving the women upstairs.
With the pledges.
Chairs were set up in rows downstairs.  I sat near the back and watched as many brothers and alums lit cigars, talked and laughed.  This was the annual “State of the Chapter” meeting with the Alumni Corporation.  And the pledges?
“They get to try to ‘scoop’ our dates” Garbo explained.
“What does that mean?”  I asked.
“They’re upstairs hanging out with the girls.  If one of them can score, no one can retaliate against him.  Even wives aren’t off limits.  Is that your girlfriend you brought?”
“No.”
Garbo laughed.  “Well, good luck!”
The meeting was called to order by Henry Keller, who was maybe in his late sixties.  He’d been involved with the House constantly since graduation all those years ago.  After reading a list of brothers who had died in the past year, we had a moment of silence.  Then they discussed House business, the balance sheet, House issues, and so on.  There were discussions and arguments.  It was kinda interesting, but not really.  I lost my buzz.
Took about an hour, then we filed back upstairs.  Ashley was sitting in the club room with a few girls who looked like Barbie dolls.  They stopped talking as the guys approached, hooting and hollering.  Ashley smiled.
“Your pledges are very nice” she said.  “A couple of them invited me upstairs for some champagne.”
“I noticed that you didn’t take them up on it.”
“I don’t like champagne.  Besides, it wouldn’t be right” she said.  “Some of the girls went with them, though, so I’m sure they’re not lonely.”

I noticed Lisa was nowhere in sight.
We hung around with that group for a little bit, then Ashley wanted to leave.  Her sorority had a special church event in the morning, so she wanted to make it an early night.  I walked her home.  We hugged.  She went inside.  Alone.


           

            

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