Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Sixty

Posted by ilbebe on December 21, 2011

A small package of documents arrived near the end of July 1999 for me at my parent’s house. It contained a cover letter on blue paper signed by a girl named Sarah that explained that she was a marine biology major entering her third year of study at Humboldt State University, and she was excited to be the living group advisor for Hemlock Hall for the academic year ‘99-‘00. There was a drawing at the bottom of the page of a whale swimming in the ocean, smiling and blowing a stream of water out of its blowhole. This was my introduction to the dorm where I lived during my freshman year of college. The summer camp vibe described by the cover letter would continue into practice once I moved up to Arcata at the end of August.

My roommate that year was my good friend from high school G, who had somewhat reluctantly agreed to request me as a living companion. We got along well enough as friends, but he feared that my interest in keeping a moderately clean and orderly room might impinge upon his preferred manner of existence, elements of which included only putting on pants to leave the building, idly poking at the ingrown toenail on his left foot which had been festering for almost two years, and spending hours at a time harassing fellow amateur poets on an internet message board. His suspicions were completely justified; and furthermore, he was not hopeful about me dealing well with the long-distance phase of my relationship with my girlfriend back home that had just begun, which also proved to be well-grounded speculation. In other words, it was an ideal match for dorm living.

We were both rather excited about our first encounters with high-speed internet access, and G took advantage of these newfound opportunities by buying assorted knick-knacks from eBay, including a Dead Poets Society button which read “Carpe Diem”, and an Urkel poster. The button he modified with a piece of bandage tape to read “Carpe Diem MOTHERFUCKER”, and the Urkel poster nicely complemented the Last Supper tapestry we used as an area rug in the center of the room.

It is crucial to note that Hemlock Hall was the Health and Wellness building in our set of dorms. I took this label to mean that although underage drinking and drug use was prohibited in all campus housing, in Hemlock Hall and other designated Wellness buildings, the Housing Office wanted to stress that they were not kidding. It was somewhat of a surprise that G and I had been assigned to Wellness living since we had not requested it, but we soon discovered that an amusing side effect of this status was that tours for prospective students were routinely led through our building. The often-inaccurate assumption was that auspicious behavior would be at a minimum.

The highlight of many strange encounters with housing tours came one afternoon when G was sitting in our room alone and with the door open, the norm in our hall. A small tour came by, and the guide asked if they could step into the room for a closer look, failing to notice that G was not wearing pants. He assented and the group entered, carefully considering the Urkel poster, the curious smell of body odor and sugar, and Garrett’s pantslessness. Moments later, a glance at the floor led a large elderly black lady to exclaim Oh Lord! I just done stepped on Jesus!

One side of the room abutted the stairwell, and on the other side was a single room occupied by a dickhead preppy from Seattle I’ll call T-nuts. Living next to the stairwell was frustrating because it was entirely concrete and glass, and the door to the hallway shutting produced a thunderous echo, which was all the more pronounced late at night when the dorm was otherwise quiet. Our relationship with T-nuts quickly devolved to the point where G stayed up all hours of the night playing bass through a variety of echo, wah, and other pitch-shifting effects with the speaker of his amplifier turned towards the wall between our room and T-nuts’. The aim of his all-night “musical” wanderings was to disrupt T-nuts’ sleep and hasten either his suicide or departure from the university. I was behind G’s effort wholeheartedly.

The room across from T-nuts’ was a double occupied by M the Stinky Native American and Felix. They did not get along well. Felix had turned 21 a mere six weeks into the fall semester and was not amused by our constant requests for his help in getting booze. He was dating a girl who had moved up to Eureka to stat close to him and had taken a room in a house with “two filthy hippies”, as Felix described them. M the S.N.A. was part Native American, enough to qualify for a generous scholarship at least, and a San Jose native– never promising. He smelled bad, played acoustic guitar, and was trying to perfect his rendition of the vapid Goo Goo Dolls hit ‘Name’. Felix had an old office chair on casters that he had brought up from home to use, and he explicitly forbade anyone, not even his girlfriend, to sit in it but himself.

One afternoon G and I were in our room with the door open when Felix abruptly appeared in the doorway clad in nothing but plaid boxers and black leather boots.

“That fucking asshole is in my chair.”

Felix had returned from a shower to find M the S.N.A. in his chair, and was apoplectic. G and I listened to Felix rant for twenty minutes, and when he was done venting, G and I stared at him and went “Uhhh…” in unison.

“He smells bad, and all I ask is that he not sit in my chair, and he was in my chair!” This re-capped his rant very efficiently. On that he turned and left. My new pal C showed up a moment later and asked “Was that Felix that was just here?” C had seen Felix walking back to his room.

“Yeah.”

“Was he just wearing boxers and boots?”

“Yeah. He was really mad. M the S.N.A. was sitting in his chair again.”

“Oh.”

Another newly-21-year-old named B lived on the other side of T-nuts. B was an odd guy who was not hesitant to advise against using the middle shower stall (“That’s the jerk-off shower”) or to reach through the curtain to goose you while showering. He was a good deal more accommodating about buying you booze than Felix, and had an air of Jack-Mormonism about him. He was also a huge Faces of Death enthusiast. Last I heard of him, he was moving up the management chain for a national car rental agency.

Across from B lived DC, a really nice and mellow guy who surfed and listened to Desire by Bob Dylan more than I would previously have dreamed possible, and at either end of the hallway were the four person mini-suites.

The contrast between the two mini-suites was striking. At one end of the hall lived four guys who had met during an orientation weekend over the summer and decided to room together in Hemlock Hall because of its Wellness building status. The leader of this gang was a fearless boho named Anton. He had convinced D, P and J into requesting their suite under the logic that “we can party elsewhere and then when we come home at night it’ll be quiet.” As an aside, I later found out that, if you discounted Anton’s gang’s specious reasoning, only two of the fifteen guys on the floor had actually requested Wellness living. Unsurprisingly, these two people were B the execution admirer and M the S.N.A.

Anton’s and his gang were relentless party animals. D was of all things a huge Pearl Jam fan from Oregon who mistrusted the population of any state that allowed common citizens to pump their own gas; P looked somewhat like Casper the Friendly Ghost if Casper had died a few more times and kept returning; and on the topic of returning, J came back two days late from winter break because in a weed-clouded month at home he had forgotten about being enrolled in college. P almost burned the place down when he left a candle burning on top of the TV overnight, and J is now a cop. But Anton was the craziest. He was fond of the point and shoot hand motion greeting that people often employ when they cannot remember someone’s name. He shaved with a whisk brush and straight razor, wore a beret, and extolled the virtues of farting in class. He banged chicks in the shower several times a week, and not just in the jerk-off stall!

The other mini-suite’s population was less outrageous. Sammy was a mush-mouthed Mormon from Arcadia, a biographical fact that caused him much grief at parties in those first few months.

“Where ya from, buddy?”

“Arcaya”

“Oh, you’re local, huh? I haven’t actually met anyone from around here. Why did you stay around for college?”

(rage growing) “Noo, Orin Cowme!”

It was ridiculous how many times I saw that happen.

Nick was a pretty average dude that was also from San Jose, something I could never really get past. He got in trouble for throwing a football in the hallway that hit and triggered a fire alarm. The punishment for this offense was to draw a series of public service banners that read IT IS NOT A GOOD CALL TO PLAY BALL IN THE HALL. This was precisely the sort of sophisticated message I knew I would encounter in college.

Sean was in his third year at Humboldt State and had every intention of becoming a career student. He was an affable guy with a goofy sense of humor, perhaps best exemplified by the ‘Black Death European Tour 1348’ t-shirt he wore. When I graduated three years later, he had just wrapped up his sixth year, and was looking forward to his seventh.

The fourth member of their suite I can’t recall for the life of me, try as I might. Was he so singularly unremarkable? Did he drop out of school three weeks into the semester like our RA Sarah did? (That’s another barrel of laughs; after Sarah-the-whale-artist’s departure, our new RA came in and turned a blind eye to some activities that would be pushing the envelope in international waters.) Was I distracted by the hours-long phone calls I made to my long-distance squeeze? I’d like to say not being able to recall him will haunt me for the rest of my days, but that would be an exaggeration. Whenever I get frustrated trying to remember his face, I just have to think, “That fucking asshole is in my chair!” and all is right in the world…

Epilogue, 30 hours later, 2:25AM 12/22/11: I have been thinking about the material described previously for the previous 33 hours, a span of time covering when I first started trying to write about the subject thru when I felt I had reached a sufficient stopping point to rest and publish my output. I have since come to remember that there was no fourth person in the second mini-suite, in fact, the character I have described as Sean had no roommate in his be-bunkbedded room. My memory is entire. In his third year of college, Sean had convinced his parents to purchase him a “super-single”- a double-occupancy room just for him- at a slight discount.

What strikes me about this is the totality of my memory. I seem to be unable to forget things, and perhaps this is why it distresses me that so many of my memories are distressing, unsettling-

Has my life been bad?

Will it continue to be?

Do I stand a fighting chance at making it any better before I die?

The end is no end, but this life of mine will one day come to an end, and is there a snowball’s lot in hell for a man like me, whom you don’t meet just every day??

In the limbic system of our psyche exists lymph, bilge– the detritus of the scabs we peel off of our accumulated experience in order to further our emotional development that unfortunately occasionally piles up in nearly unbearable loads, leading to the blockage of our ability to not explode. In these times of overload, some turn to prayer, some turn to drink, some turn to both, some turn to both twice daily. Some explode. Some survive. Some implode. Some shift their focus in the war. Some recover their ability to participate in the struggle.

I hope to feel that I am part of the last category.

Second epilogue, 31 hours later, 9:37AM 12/23/11: I have come to realize I was mistaken about both the factual matter described and the confidence declared in the first epilogue. This in and of itself makes an interesting comment on human fallibility. Even if my memory is entire, is it all accessible, all at once, any time? Doubtful, but man doubts, even the faithful. Around Christmas time, we remember the faithful departed, and must consider the limit of our own existence.

The fifteenth member of the floor, and fourth person in the second mini-suite, was a guy named Luka. I understand now why I found it hard to remember him, which is simply and mostly because we never spoke that much. I remember his face, but not where he was from, his major, his other interests, if he ever dated, what he liked or loved. He had red hair, and was a shorter fellow. That’s about all I remember. I think his last name rhymed with Cloberts, but I’m not sure.

Well Luka, now yr a part of this mess. But the greatest punishment is to be left out of the record, and nothing you did or didn’t do should have led you to that fate. I hope this second epilogue atones for my error. It was unintentional, and if anyone caught it, they didn’t tell me. I’d hate to think I’m in this alone, but I do sometimes. I know I’m not, but in light of continual negative returns, it is hard to keep a positive attitude.

Look-

Here comes the sun!

9:47AM

Peace.

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6 Responses to “Sixty”

  1. What I remember from your time in Hemlock…

    A fridge full of koolaid and a jug of vodka (OMG the drunkest I ever got in my young {at that point} life.

    That time Ryan Jones dropped the jug of vodka in the staircase and Garrett hid in his bed under all the covers, as he was terrified the broken bottle IN THE WELLNESS DORM, would be linked to him.

    Oh yes, and my all time fave – all night marathons of THE ROSEANNE SHOW, in the TV lounge.

    Oh, that ingrown toenail of Garrett’s. *Shivers*. Wait, who am I kidding?! I was as obsessed with looking at that thing as he was. I kind of miss it, now that it’s all healed. But I’ll always have the photographs I took!

  2. ilbebe said

    Jenny, that’s got to be the funniest fucking set of impressions I could have possibly asked for. Thanks for expanding the story!

    Thanks!

    Luv ya:)

  3. Jenny do you still have that picture of my ingrown toenail somewhere? I have been looking for it….

    I did not hide in the covers when Ryan Jones dropped that alcohol in the stairwell – I got the hell out of the dorms as fast as I fucking could.

    Landon, I don’t remember any of these fucking people. Who the shit was T-nuts? I haven’t a clue but I am glad that I tried to annoy him with my bass playing. I vaguely remember that. But have no clue who he was. Can’t picture his face.

    I only remember Anton, the smell guy but I swear his name was Mike, the guy with the lamb chops, and Ben.

    Mostly I just remember ‘it hurts so good’ and the monkey smelling his fingers after sticking it in his ass and his subsequent falling out of a tree.

    Thank you Napster.

  4. ilbebe said

    Ah yes, Napster. What a fortunate precipice we found ourselves standing at. Do you remember that the first song you downloaded, on R. Thombley’s advice, was Vomit Express by Ginsberg/Dylan? While Craig spent hours looking for The Thong Song? What a trip.

    Did you know that the next year internet connection was free, so we were the ONLY year of students that ever had to pay for internet access? And furthermore, were you aware that the dorms’ hardwired ethernet system is now essentially obsolete thanks to the rise of wireless? Capital investments, a funny phrase…

  5. By the time I got to your dorm room Garrett, you were totally hiding under the blankets. The aforementioned incident had happened hours before. Hahahaha. I think Stephanie was trying to coax you out. And you better believe I have some ingrown toenail pics!
    I think they are on facebook, actually.

    Speaking of Facebook, Landon, I posted this blog on my page. This is what Staci Cox had to say! “Ben and I read #60. He’s mentioned. I laughed so much I almost fell off my chair. Tell Landon that “Felix” got married last year and “B” was his best man. It was awesome.”

    Gratification!

    • ilbebe said

      Wow, thanks for passing that along. Did I tell you I saw Staci on an episode of Ghost Adventures that was being filmed in Old Sacramento? Fame!

      At one point Felix asked me to be his best man. I think I was the third person to be nominated and then dismissed. Haven’t talked to him in more than three years now, and it bums me out. I actually just deleted his number out of my phone two weeks ago in a year-end “house cleaning”. But I am happy to hear he’s doing well.

      Say hi to Staci for me, and thanks again for all of yr help.

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