Academia Waltz

       Before I begin this tale, I must first offer apologies to Berkley Breathed for lifting the title from the college paper strip he did so many years ago before Bloom County. I found it fitting and thus worth pilfering. Why reinvent the wheel where there is a perfectly good one just sitting there bolted onto some guys’ car? The purpose of this telling is not to offer some tender old fart style remembrance of the Crystal Beach boat or quarter drafts at Anacone’s, but to share some moments worth remembering of the old UB experience. So yes, old U of B, U of B, my alma mater by the inland sea, this Buds for you. My plagiaristic tendencies know no boundaries apparently. In the words of the great Raymond Federman, good authors think of new ideas; great authors steal them.           

       One of the great traditions at UB, one that remains in place to this day, is the free classified forum available to all students in the back of Generation magazine. While Generation always hosted a number of enjoyable features (my favorite being Beepo and Roadkill), the free personals were always good for cheap fun. For the most part they consisted of your standard lonely hearts, missed connections, gripes against those asshole frats, and your usual lovey-dovey shit, but could also be used to give people a hard time. During the Goodyear days, one such person was the Romano Cheese Woman. Her real name I think was Monica Romeo; a foxy little chick in my poetry class. Knaus was responsible for confusing her last name with smelly cheese, thus branding her for the duration of our stay.           

       Monica and I often talked in class and we were both surprised one week to see that some schlub in the class had posted a ‘secret admirer’ classified to her in the Generation. It was quite obvious who it was, given that this mook sat directly across from us (we enjoyed the horrendous circle format in this class) and mooned at her with big cow eyes to her considerable discomfort. Happy it was not me who wrote it, I had a great deal of enjoyment giving her a hard time. The ad itself was about as cheese gooey pathetic as one could hope for, and this was quickly picked up on by the multitude of smart asses. Each week to her horror, new messages of increasing devotion and graphic sexual suggestion would appear with her name attached. Knaus was quite enthusiastic about the whole proceeding and finally went so far as to post his own. Filthy enough to offend Red Fox, it broke her to the point of sending a nasty and uncharacteristically threatening response. By pure chance, Knaus and I happened to run into her very shortly after, and with wicked glee, I introduced Knaus as the author of the latest post. The look of pure scorn she shot him was enough to have him calling me a traitor for years.           

      Another venerable tradition, enjoyed only by those who dormed on the South Campus, was the wide scale theft of shopping carts from the Tops across the street. Although each day Tops would send some poor Schultz like cart boy over to collect them all up, each night at the foot of the escarpment dozens of them would be sitting there abandoned; bent metal versions of the Mary Celeste. We found early on that even without much money, a trip to Tops at 3:00 AM was a wonderful stress reliever and allowed considerable time to be killed rather than study. Most of these trips were made under the guise of seeking a snack, but while there, we had fun with the blood pressure reader and even gave turkey bowling a shot. The trip generally ended just shy of us being asked to leave, and we make it worth their while by making token purchase of some such delicacy as ugli fruit or mystery meat labeled ‘Tops Meat Dept’.           

       Best use of the carts, however, was not to bring home groceries. Some short time after Dan first began hanging around; we managed to convince him to allow us to push him down the hill in one of them. With little coaxing, he climbed in, extracted a promise from us that we wouldn’t tip him over, and away we went. Of course we got him going as fast as possible then tipped the cart over at the end to his outrage. What made this worth remembering is the fact that despite being so treated, he willingly entered for another go around the very next time with the same results. Like Charlie Brown’s obsessive compulsion to try to kick that football, Dan would reluctantly give it one more go time and time again, although on one occasion I believe we hit a tree before we could tip him. It was his surprise each time that made the joke worth repeating. I think Tops has since made it much harder to abscond with their precious carts, thus depriving new generations of sadists our delight.           

       Another tradition marked for and found by death during my tenure was that of local liquor stores that actually delivered to the dorms. Incredibly, these establishments were allowed to operate for years on end bringing beer, wine and hard liquor to locations known to have hundreds of underage students for every one that was over 21. The deliver boy, usually a student himself, was generally not very enthusiastic about having to truck back heavy boxes of hooch and thus was willing accept nearly anything as proof of age, up to and including a forged note from mom. The quickest of these was on the corner of Main and Windspear, and we managed to place several successful orders freshman year before they discontinued service the year of Goodyear. Public safety was not much of a fan of this tradition and may have been instrumental in having service cut off. I remember Aaron once sharing a tale of chase over a beer ball that ended poorly, and perhaps he will be inclined to share.           

       Most liberal universities have a tradition of protest and UB more than most, steeped in the radical hippie anarchy of the 60’s, students all pissed off about the war. This tradition has sadly died as I can see no signs of unrest amongst the lazy ass self involved Generation Y when I walk through the campus. In our day, however, there was at least still a spark alive, although with the death of the Soviet Union and the only war around being extremely popular with all, there wasn’t a whole lot to bitch about. The SA, in conjunction with that old hippie dude who just refused to graduate, still managed to find something to get fired up about. In my freshman year, the university rather than burying the cost in what would have been a completely unnoticeable tuition bump, decided instead to make a big show of charging students $70 a semester to ride the Bluebird shuttle back and forth between campuses. The receipt for this insult would be a laminated pass to be displayed upon each entry.           

       We were incensed to the point of vomitous rage. How could these fascist fat cat bureaucrats even entertain the notion of foisting upon the student body the responsibility to pay for the folly of building the campuses so far apart? Not only that, but providing this service for free so many years then jacking up the price once we became accustomed to this lifestyle. Unconscionable! Oh, they would pay for this attempted indignity. A rally was scheduled in Founder’s Plaza (how they must have been spinning in their graves at this injustice!) by the newly elected SA. Hundreds attended and were initially treated to near silence. The administration, probably with a good chuckle or two, cut the power to the mike and amplifier, leaving our frazzled leader to attempt shouting over the grumbling herd. Eventually they relented and the mike came to life and the comedy began.           

       We were treated and riled by impassioned speeches of liberty and freedom, and joined our fellow disenfranchised riders in song. Oh, how Steve Samples ears burned that day, despite our inability to rhyme his name to anything embarrassing or otherwise. A great number of our student leaders and their devoted followers went so far as to burn their bus passes in protest against the man. This logistically required the foresight to arrange another method of transportation home, which in the moment of passion most forgot and were thus found whining and stranded later in the day. How the mighty must have trembled on the fifth floor of Capen! We called upon them in loud voices to descend from their tower and answer to the masses. Their silence spoke volumes, and had not the power been cut a second time, we would have doubted their existence all together. Some doubt began to manifest as to the efficacy of our exaggerated theatrics.           

       As the crowd began to disperse, an excited gangly gentleman came bursting forth from passage between Capen and Norton. “We got one! We got one! Everyone, let’s take them all!” An enterprising hunting party had broken off from the main tribe and executed a covert mission while everyone was distracted. A meandering Bluebird, self considered apex predator in the campus environment, was taken by surprise. When it stopped to disgorge in the Hadley loop, the intrepid hunters surrounded it with ridiculous ease. While it was generally acknowledged that the Bluebird had the wherewithal to mow down these bastards with too much cockitude, conventional wisdom held sway. News of the kill reignited passion in the crowd. The issue suddenly became interesting again, and those who burned their passes saw opportunity to apply the right kind of leverage to at least get home.           

       The gangly guy and the capture team, not part of the SA, quickly assumed command in a bloodless junta. Orders were quickly fired off by the general. An estimated 4 additional Bluebirds were on the North Campus in various locations. Squads were rapidly formed and deployed. The fastest runners dispatched toward Ellicott and Flint/ Maple. The rest of us split between the bookstore and Augsburger. Knaus and I found ourselves in the Augsburger contingent. A Bluebird was barreling down the road, no doubt warned by the cries from its captured brethren. Before it could make the breakaway over the ramp to Millersport, luck held with us and the light turned red. It came screeching to a halt and we immediately surrounded it.           

       Peering thought the tinted windshield; we were filled with giddy delight. Before us were the iron grey curls and signature cop style sunglasses of a real bitch on wheels. The capture was no longer just a moral victory but the celebration of perverse pleasure in inconveniencing the most hated of all bus operators. This old bat was legendary for her cruelty and draconian captainship of her vessel. Lateness was inexcusable, as was dawdling, backtalk, and of course unscheduled stops. Many were the times when I bolted though the pouring rain toward the inviting open doors, only to have them slam shut at the last instance; just enough time to catch her smirk as the chill drove deep into my bones. On other occasions I bore witness to her refusing entry even in the most unfavorable of weather to those whose looks displeased her. Despite her complete lack of expression, I could tell she desperately wanted to mow us down, then back up and finish off the rest.           

       It became a Mexican standoff; neither side wishing to relinquish any little advantage. We of course refused to budge until explicitly instructed by the junta. She in turn held captive those poor schmucks who had gotten on the bus before capture and simply wanted to get back to the dorms before dinner ended. Though clearly agitated and outnumbering her, they sat firm rather than attempt forcible exit. Cruel Mother Nature sided with her own and it started to softly rain. We attempted negotiation to come in and warm up on the bus, but she sneered at the very notion. Discussion ensued and it was quickly determined that a full scale invasion would incur unacceptable casualties, and that continued occupation would no doubt inspire an insurgency in the riders, or at the very least lead to our identification by the administration. Lacking other options, catch and release was the new motto. With a clap of thunder, our rebellion ended. The following semester the fee was embedded in our tuition and as predicted, went unnoticed.           

      These were but a few simple tales of the SUNY Buffalo experience and more shall no doubt follow.

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4 Responses

  1. The most popular Tops token purchase was Tina’s burritos, only cents a piece!

    My story with the beer ball delivery is from freshman year in the Ellicott Complex. Some brief pertinent info first. My floor had Rick the Dick as an RA. When he was on duty he would be cool and hang out, often inviting himself into our rooms to partake of our obviously ill-gotten beer and underage drinking of said beer. What are you gonna do when your ass RA invites himself in and asks for a beer. When he was on duty, instead of hiding out in his room and turning the music up so as to turn a deaf ear to the goings on, he would investigate the floor repeatedly looking for trouble to put a stop to.

    One night we were able to order three beer balls, each being purchased by a different group, at a different location. We snuck the beer balls past patrolling campus safety by placing the ball in a laundry basket, and covering it with towels.

    All parties, and the three beer balls, convened at a single room. A large party ensued, far surpassing the “occupancy +1” rule. Due to a poorly thought plan, the active beer ball way placed by the open window. And thus when Rick the Dick RA walked across the courtyard the vigorous and continuous pumping action was visible from the ground below.

    Knowing Rick’s reputation we all scattered. The first three out the door each towed a beer ball, and each one after them followed a different beer ball. We hear public safety coming up the stairs seconds after we dashed down the hall. A few stayed behind to stall and claim ignorance.

    It all happened so fast, but I was coherent enough to follow the ball with good beer. We ran all about the complex, and in the end myself and another guy split off from our beer ball group to escape the heat. Dejected we made our way back to our room, only after having “casually” walked by the area to make sure there was no stake out. Once reasonably sure it was safe form public safety we returned to our room. We found one of the beer balls had found it’s way to our room, and we drank away with the savors who rescued it.

  2. Just so you know Beepo and Roadkill are in a number of comics called Deep Fried. You can order them through http://www.whatisdeepfried.com. They are funnier and nastier than the old UB ones.

    I remember once getting in the carts, but not more than once. i believe that I also created a pyramid of carts (There were so many scattered about), and taped a sign on it, but I can’t rememebr what it said. Anyone help me out. Wolf with your supposedly great memory, should be able to help me out.

    That liquor store had been there for 30 years. i have fond memories of it when I was a child. All menacing, with steel shutters and everything. But it is gone now. it was briefly a tatoo parlor, but I believe that’s gone now. i don’t know what’s in it’s place though.

  3. Cool link! Glad to see the the clown no way inspired by Dark Pistacio still lives in print.

    I recall hearing of the pyramid, but don’t recall actually seeing it. I think it was dismantled before I could bear witness. My certainty is pursuant to to the fact that I would have attempted to climb it, as bad an idea as that would have been, and know I never broke a leg.

    I can’t help be curious as to what the fond childhood memories of the liquor store were! “C’mere boy, I’ll learn ya to drink some whiskey… and something else as well….”

  4. very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

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