Not the Love Bus

It has been a long time since I graced these virtual pages with an eloquent tale of romance and victory. You will continue to wait. This is a story I though I had already told. It is a story that has left an indelible mark upon Mike, and now so it shall mark you.

Let’s hasten back to our freshman year at UB. I had completed my first semester, and has spent my break back in New Mexico with my family. Boy, what a mistake. Spending four weeks with them conquered me of ever needing to spend more than a few consecutive days with them. My month-long semester break was over. I had used the time to reflect. I had discovered I had some annoying behaviors that I decided to stop, and I had decided I wanted to move out of mechanical engineering and into computer science. Unfortunately I was too scared to switch majors after only one semester so I stuck with engineering for the rest of the year, and it became crystal clear I was correct as I spent less and less time on my engineering studies. Be I am jumping ahead. The long and short of it was it was time to head back to Buffalo, and I was going to travel by bus.

Why on earth volunteer to take the bus across the country? Well, it was not exactly voluntary. My parents were still my primary source of income, and my father felt that taking the bus was a good experience. Just like how on family vacations he felt it was best to start the day by 7AM and was angry I was wasting the opportunity by sleeping in the car instead of staring out the window as we rolled back endless amber waves of grain and cows across the mid-lands.

Knowing this would suck going into it, but ecstatic to get away form my family again, I was willing to take the blow and hightail it out of Dodge, Dodge actually being almost eight hours further east than Albuquerque would have been a blessing. So I purchased my bus ticket, and two days later my father dropped me off at the Albuquerque bus station and I sprinted inside to board my Greyhound. I was to be a 38 hour trip, with 2 stops to transfer buses. Not so bad since they drive through the night, and I figured I could sleep away much of that time. By the end it took 50+ hours. Keep in mind this was the pre-iPod days.

The first leg was the longest. It was a 12 hour drive to a bus transfer. It was early evening when I left Albuquerque, incidentally we took a left turn out of town. I boarded what was the most jam-packed vehicle of any kind I have ever seen before or since. Even though I always board vehicles early so I have a solid choice of seats, I got one of the last few seats. There were several old people and families with many small children who also boarded early. Luckily the last seat was with the only other lone traveler, a 20-something black man who clearly did not subscribe to single-serving friends (a la Fight Club) as I did not. We sat next to each other for 12+ hours in silence. Each of us listening to our walkman and sleeping. Our only communication was the occasional nod or eye roll at the family who took the several rows behind us. This family consisted of a dad who did nothing, a frantic mom, and 3-6 screaming children. I saw 3-6 because they moved in a chaotic cloud of constant motion that made it nye impossible to count them. Kicking seats, running up and down the isle, screaming, poking, etc. My seat-mate and I kept them at bay with an aura of hatred with apathy and disgust. Honestly I did 90% of the work here, providing him a shield, as I had the isle seat. Maybe this is where my desire to procreate dissolved.

When we finally arrived, they took out a giant Spam key and unfurled us like oily sardines, and after that trip we were all oily. Not having a window seat, and avoiding all eye contact I had not surveyed the landscape until I was peeled out the bus. As I made a slow 360 to force blood to once again pump through my extremities, I saw we were literally nowhere. In every direction I was nothing but sand. There was only the bus station. A lone sign of civilization. I wondered if I had slept through the Apocalypse.

The station was one giant room, with a counter, and a lot of seats. They did have the seat TVs, but I had spent my change on the vending machines, and the mutt behind the counter had never heard of quarters.

To enhance our experience they gave us two choices. The transfer bus was overbooked, picking up several lost souls at this station – and I think they were literal wraiths, so we could cram onto the bus that was leaving in 10 minutes, or wait FOUR FUCKING HOURS for another bus. Myself, and two others, including my former seat-mate elected to wait four hours once we learned the later bus would be virtually empty. I had suffered through 12+ hours of excruciating hell already, what was a few more? At least it would be quiet without those damn kids.

I can’t recall how I spent those four hours. Due to the boredom and heat I entered a zombie-like state, and not the fast-moving zombies that are popular today. I was ecstatic, sweaty and exhausted when the bus finally arrived. The wait was well worth it. My row-mate and I joined only three others on the newer bus that had cushy seats and working AC. Did I forget to mention this first bus had half-ass AC and seats one level above the shit bench seats you get on a yellow school bus. I boarded and we sped off above a relative heaven of transportation. A business-class womb with wheels.

I was so enthralled by the new bus that I have no idea what happened until I pulled into the next bus station for my final transfer. According to my original itinerary I should have been setting foot in Buffalo, but due to my self-induced delay I had to wait several hours for another bus. This bus at least knew what the concept of change was, and had some surrounding structures and populace.

I wasted most of the time here studying the Amish family who was also waiting. I was fascinated that the Amish were taking a bus. I was also certain an explosion of famed Amish anger would take place at any moment. The family consisted of a father, mother, and two boys (about 10 and 12); all very Amish looking. What keyed me into the potential entertainment, was not just their handling of their misplacement in modern society (albeit this cruddy bus station was hardly the height of modern society), but that both boys had two black eyes. Was this the result of an improper churning of butter, or a disastrous raising of a barn? I have no experience with the Amish, other than buying a delicious pie on the side of the road once, so I make no commentary on them as a whole. No smiting of furious anger took place. They boarded their bus without incident, but the purpose was served; I had passed the time.

My final bus ride proceeded without incident. I arrived at the downtown Buffalo bus station. Finally, home again! Damn. My trip was not yet over. I had to get my ass back to the Amherst Campus. I struggled my bulky luggage the several blocks from the bus station to the train and managed to board. I spent an uncomfortable ride back to Main Street Campus. All the while I was made more uncomfortable because I had not purchased a ticket, relying on my pitiful looking state as payment enough for any ushers.

I was able to get a ride from Louis back to the Ellicott Complex. That was no joy.

I finally made it home. I derided the bus as the worst form of transportation ever. I vowed to never ride a bus again when traveling greater distances than across the city. I have made many vows in my life, but none was more serious. This is also the only one I have ever kept. The bus sucks.


Knaus and I

            Since drafting ‘Thies and I’, it became apparent to me that some of the characters found herein and such probably require similar tales to be told. Chances are that in the collected edition, the T&I story will follow this one and thus what I am writing about probably makes no sense at all, unless you are a clever enough monkey to skip about or perused the formidable table of contents. If not, I’m certain you are already confused and having made your way this far, you might as well continue, as my words, I am certain delight to you even more than fresh cherry cobbler.

            Though it is probably of little interest to the reader, I met Knaus the same way I met Psycho, at one of the Wargames meetings. He had somehow, and without my knowledge or consent, been brought in by Louis to help ‘run the day to day operations’; something I was perfectly capable of pretending to do. Although threatened by the intrusion, I discovered early on that he was mentally in the same magnitude of bizarre that I was; something that I found strangely comforting. We also found ourselves taking the same art class in sophomore year, which is where he picked up the long discarded moniker, Mouse. As each of us took to the comic book style of art, I introduced him to Collector’s Inn, pleasing Jim to no end, as Knaus always seemed to have a wallet full of cabbage every time he walked in.

            That year I also managed to create another connection by bringing Dave to the art show where Knaus and I were showing off our wares. Within 5 minutes of meeting each other the two were wrestling like dogs in heat in the parking lot. A beautiful bromance was born, and one frankly, that I sometimes became the third wheel in. This was my first and only successful attempt at integrating groups of friends from previous periods in my life with newcomers, probably because it is usually something I try to avoid.

            The first time I stayed over at the Knauses over night, I knew I had met my match in oddness. The kitchen table was covered with newspapers, atop which were a collection of batteries in various stages of disassembly. Knaus revealed that he was performing detailed dissections on them, and although I had abandoned my childhood attempts at alchemy, I resolved to put my chemist hat back on and see what forbidden substances I could take apart at home, resulting in many burns. Knaus also revealed that day his own particular brand of logic when making scrambled eggs. I witnessed him dumping in quantities of vanilla extract into the mix, and when I pressed him on why, he stated that vanilla made things taste better, end of story. It was a principle that could simply not be argued with, though I will say they were pretty sucky eggs.

            That first sleepover was also memorable as it revealed Knaus to be as daring an intrepid explorer as I was, perhaps even more so. We decided to walk over to the old Thruway Mall from his house, taking a back channel along some old abandoned rail road tracks, something Dave and I used to do ourselves. After screwing around there for a while, we headed back utilizing a “shortcut” Knaus claimed to have intimate knowledge of. Somehow we became lost in this area, readily observable by entering these coordinates (42.904482,-78.786821) into Google Maps. This delightful looking “park” area is in truth nothing of the kind; the area is actually an industrial dumping ground amidst a swamp treacherous with piles of corroding hulks of strange machinery and murky channels of slightly frozen over sludge and water filled ditches. Did I mention it was February?

            Knaus led us deep into this wasteland with was what I feel were deliberate intentions to cause me the maximum amount of discomfort possible. We scurried around the piles, snagging our jackets and flesh on the razor sharp edges of rusty metal and frequently plunged one or both legs into one of the horrendous bogs. A mixture of snow and drizzle started to come down, further obscuring our limited view and sense of direction. For several hours we wandered, forced back to the center by the presence of trains or some insurmountable obstacle. Eventually we found our way to one of the side streets and took the by ways back, ending up in Town Park on Harlem. There we were accosted by an angry gentleman we affectionately referred to as ‘Dickhead’ afterward. With our muddy disheveled appearances he mistook us for a pair of sophisticated second story men who had been doing some breaking and entering in the local area weeks prior. We managed to convince him otherwise, but he banished us from the premises anyway.

            Despite the horrendous trip through the bog of doom, I let him convince me to accompany him through the tunnel that runs beneath the Galleria mall shortly after it was built. We began the journey in the mall proper and had Jeff along in tow. We got some cheap flash lights at the Dollar Tree, the kind that you have to hold down the button to keep lit, and ventured to the start of the tunnel, resembling old timey Roman catacombs. Jeff freaked within the first few feet and pledged to meet us, if we emerged alive, around the other side. Creepy does not begin to describe it. Pitch black, sterile, with a slow creek running through. At some points you could look up through a grate and see the happy shoppers walking above in a very different world. Near the end we found a side tunnel and began to venture down. An indescribably horrific noise, however, led us to believe a cult of Satanists was looking for fresh sacrifices, so we bolted out of there post haste.

            We managed to maintain a tight friendship through high school even to the point where I hooked him up with my cousin Ann for the senior prom. He was actually supposed to return the favor hooking me up with his cousin Lin, but fate intervened and I ended up going with Ende’s girlfriend’s friend instead. Before high school ended and after we both got accepted to UB, we made arrangements to become dorm mates the following fall; a service UB was willing to provide as roommates with prior friendships were less likely to cause administrative headaches by requesting room changes mid-semester. We were assigned to Schoellkopf hall on the South Campus on the fourth floor reserved exclusively for freshmen men. Not an ideal choice by any means, but it was a start.

            Our living arrangement was an interesting one, defined by the contract we drew up on the first day that allowed for privacy with female visitors (never required) and the settling of disputes on the field of honor. The field of course turned out to be whatever manner Knaus chose to enact his insidious revenge. In order to shield myself from him better, I constructed an enormous wall from the top of my desk, almost to the ceiling that I referred to as my ‘fire hazard’ as it consisted of mostly paper. Knaus respected the wall to a minor degree, though would often tear pages out of the phone book to turn into paper airplanes and launch them over in miniature raids. Fortunately for me, he had not yet stumbled on the notion of lighting them afire just yet.

            At least once a week we would trundle down to Shirley’s O’Aces, with or without the Irish Club, and stumble back in the wee hours of the morning. It was a grand tradition that later moved to Anacone’s but always followed the same pattern of cheap beer, some sort of bar food, and a traditional playing of William Joel’s classic, ‘Only the Good Die Young’ on the juke. On the walks back we would wax into bizarre conversations, such as what we would do if we stumbled upon a patch of decapitated heads on stakes. Knaus, I recall, immediately concluded that he would take as many of them home as he could carry. Hmm… it occurs to me that this post, as well as some of the others, will probably be deposed as evidence against the defence argument that he is sweet and silent as a lamby-pie.

            As a gift that year, Knaus procured for me a small collection of mice, one male and two females. By April the collection had grown to 42 mice and stunk up the room with great aplomb and all too frequent defecation. One weekend, when we least expected it; they made a bid for freedom. I came back to the room Sunday night and immediately noticed something different. The large tank I kept them in now sported a hole where there had been none before and no mice where there had been 42 before. Looking over at my desk I bore witness to the one named ‘Stripe’ after the Gremlin’s character dive into the moldering water in my hot pot, swim across, and jump out the other side slick with putrid grease. Furious, I called Knaus’s house to get him to come help round them up, but no one picked up. By the time he returned that evening at 11, I was sweaty, disheveled and had managed to recapture 3 of the slowest; the rest defeating my best efforts with ridiculous ease.

            Knaus did manage to help me capture the rest in a comedic run about, John Hughes style, with head clonking, crashing falls, frequent collisions, and all manner of events that would indicate the mice were far cleverer than we. At the end it was Knaus and I against Stripe, the lone hold out, and we were hopelessly outgunned and maneuvered. At some point the little bastard made it into the hall and we happily bid good riddance, but he made a surprise return a millisecond before we shut the door. Finally, improbably, Knaus got the mouse and a day later the lot was taken to a pet store with the most likely final destination in a large reptile of some sort.

            Knaus at this point, and for years on forward, became the prime initiator of trips down to Alleghany to get lost, camp, or make every attempt to get injured in course of photographing wildlife and wee pretty flowers. Most of these trips simply involved a lot of hiking, though there were several traditions that had to be met each trip. One was a visit to Thunder Rocks where we would climb around and scale the impressive boulders. Second was the trip to the legendary beaver damn, the jumping off point where we all got lost that epic journey recounted in ‘How I Became a Horseman’. If this chapter precedes that, well, tough luck. Finally, no trip was complete without a stogie enjoyed usually on the trail leading down from Thunder Rocks to the stream that led to the dam. Due to our impoverished condition, these were usually Dutch Masters, but on one occasion toward the end, we enjoyed authentic Cubans.

            Despite the abuse suffered at his malicious hands, and in spite of the fact that he took to calling himself Malfeus for some reason, we decided to room together the following year rather than take chances on a devil unknown. Common adventures shared between all the roommates in that situation are recounted far too often elsewhere, so I will concentrate on a few items unique to point of this post. While it didn’t trouble us in the past, at least not me anyway, a point of contention came up regarding both my habit of snoring loudly and engaging in distracting sleep talking that made little to no sense. These things enraged Knaus and from time to time I would awaken to see him standing over me gritting his teeth in fury. At site to keep you awake at night assuredly.

On several occasions I did some sleep walking as well, always to his inconvenience. One happy night he was treated to being awakened by me piling the contents of his desk on his sleeping head as “they were about to start air brushing”. Another night I somehow found myself in the hall way, locked out, necessitating a furious pounding on the door until he unhappily let me in. His remedy was to play the same Nine Inch Nails CD on auto repeat each and every night; a condition that kept me from ever really falling asleep soundly and led to many missed classes after sleeping through them on the 5th floor of Lockwood.

Knaus also had an excellent habit of distracting me from schoolwork; something I heartily embraced. He’d look over at me from his desk, exclaim, “I have waaaay too much work to do”, then pull out the latest issue of ‘The Mask’ and commence to reading. This always resulting in me aping his behavior as Matter Eater Lad was far more engaging than BF Skinner. He also had a way of dragging me out to Anacone’s and such on nights before an early morning class. Always with the one-upmanship, if I had an important lecture, he would claim a critical final. He probably did as it was shortly after this that it was strongly suggested he change majors from aerospace engineering to something more his speed like basket weaving or photography.

Knowledge of fine and classical music was an area in which Knaus felt I was severely lacking and attempted to educate me in. Prior to knowing him, I was completely unaware of the iconic 90’s superstar band Transvision Vamp and how they rocked the air waves with such classics as Trash City. We had the opportunity to see them in concert once and to this day I contend that lead singer Wendy James was looking me dead on with the hairy eyeball, such was my magnetic presence in the crowd. I also learned of other enduring legends such as Savatage, Shriekback, and was treated often to the cat like wailings of a post-Blondie Debbie Harry. I’m sure it was musical ignorance that I often sought out knitting needles to end the agony.

When we finally all moved to Comstock, Knaus took on a more reclusive role especially once Aaron and I began our reindeer games and intimidation campaign. Still, on occasion, he would emerge from his oft locked sanctuary and announce he was on a quest for alcohol and trundle down to Anacone’s with or without anyone else in tow. Despite his apparent either shyness or unwillingness to speak in general, with a few beers in him a charismatic demagogue emerged who drew in the enfeebled masses. Often in such circumstances we would find him amidst a crowd of drooling hangers on, gulping up his every ill spoken word. If anyone thought to supply him with endless brandy the world could easily have another JFK or David Koresh, such was his inebriated cult of personality. 

In those heady days of yore he introduced us to one of my favorite summer festivals of all, Allentown. His enthusiasm for going downtown on the subway, slurping raw clams and beer, and looking at all the art we couldn’t afford was infectious! Since those days each trip back is a search to recapture the raw joy of Buffalo’s first summer festival of the season. We used to badger Knaus about entering his own photography as the camera apes down there were pulling down serious green for the same tired old shots of the Central Terminal and shit, but he was unwilling to lay down the cabbage to rent some space despite being able to command four digits a pop for abstract snaps of me eating dog food or Litter Box Jam. Even now I hope to run into him down there, but so far he has declined to compete.

As time progressed he emerged less and less unless it was to bang away on the worlds oldest word processor or not clean the cat box which had become an impressive tower of feces. Once, however, he emerged in a manner most unusual. I came home and was surprised to hear a small commotion and a female voice coming from behind Knaus’s door. As ¾ of the house, a demographic to which both Knaus and I belonged, were not currently being seen with female companionship, this stuck me odd. A bold enquiry led me to believe that Aaron and my cousin had ensconced themselves in there, apparently without Knaus’s knowledge or permission. I began to sweat at what he would do to them, or so I still contend, and when he came strolling through the side door like a thundercloud of death I gently broke the news to him in order to bear the brunt of his immediate wrath.

To my surprise he remained nonchalant about his sanctum sanctorum being so rudely violated. I could only imagine that he was saving his volcanic outburst for the soon to be damned. I threw myself in his path, but he simply stepped over me, the ashes from the cigarette dangling from his lips blinding me from making further pursuit. I managed to come up behind him just as he opened the door and prepared to bludgeon him before he could blast them with his eyes with a bolt of eldritch energy, but while I looked around for an appropriate tool, it became clear that the three of them were really in cahoots. The story, as I was led to believe, was that Knaus egged on by Aaron and Ann in their little exclusionary ka-tet, used a bed sheet tied to his handcuff ring above the bed to shimmy down the side of the house if for no other reason than to annoy me.

When the Comstock project wrapped up and Knaus moved back to his folks, much to their soul crushing dismay I’m certain, we worried he would become a fixture in our past; more of a relic than the hideous goat lamp we absconded with. In the final months we saw very little of him as he spent his time elsewhere and discouraged questions as only Knaus could. At times he would bring Malice, his familiar, along with him as they embarked on dark and mysterious deeds. Instead we were delighted to find that he now actually chose to spend more time in our vicinity, often making the long haul over to Princeton and joining us for our very frequent beer and movie nights. The newest recruits to the Whole Sick Crew, like Jenn with the tongue, Mary, Rob, Chet, and even Dave’s new interest Jennifer took a shine to him. It was the silver age of Knaus and we thought it would last forever.

When things at Princeton degenerated in the last year or so, Knaus, perhaps feeling the Discordia when mom and pops were on the outs (I’m pops by the way), kept his distance. Meetings with him became consigned to long evenings of coffee with myself, Dave and Jen or old school excursions to the forest where to my dismay, increasingly longer periods of time were being devoted to setting up complex equipment to photograph wild posies. When I broke the silence about my intended enlistment to him and Dave, I received open support, though some degree of skepticism as to my true intentions. Anyone who knows me well has difficulty pinning me as a ‘Yessir!’ style military man, except perhaps in the tradition of ‘Stripes’.

While in Basic training Knaus became my most frequent writer, a condition I was intensely grateful for. Basic was a dreary place in which I received frequent verbal comeuppances and days would pass without hint of a smile. Knaus, however, managed to coax out of me the very first laugh out loud with his long and convoluted tales of his wanderings with Dave in the land of UB looking to fulfill the Celestine prophecy. I attempted to share with the other folks, who could all use a giggle as well, but apparently I was the only one cracked enough to appreciate the mad ramblings of shellac headed penman.

Despite the distancing he displayed prior to my departure, he certainly made himself available on a near constant basis when I managed to make it home on leave. Although he had a full time job, not to mention achieving high year tenure at Work-n-Gear, he still managed to drag himself out each and every night until the wee hours. Not only that, but since I didn’t have a car at my disposal, he even drove. Fun nights of pool and beer were spent at old Anacone’s, Bullfeathers, old favorite Caputi’s, and of course our new favorite down on Franklin, the Sanctuary (or Spankuary as it was sometimes known) with its midget bar tender and gothic crowd who moved in from the now defunct Icon.

When I returned for good, Knaus came by to help move me in, although he conveniently showed up just as the very last box was removed from the truck, but had a bottle of SoCo in hand and was forgiven. I don’t recall much after that due to the illness, except that the annual Christmas exchange with Dave resumed and that a screening of our old classic ‘Eric the Viking’ was made to break in my new digs. Next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital, bored from my near death experience only to have it relieved by a considerate Knaus shipping me a hefty load of books overnight.

In the year or two after my return, Knaus was around for a time, but gradually began to slip away into the night. He was a force to be counted on when Tiffany came to visit, once again eschewing work (since I couldn’t, new in my crap ass job at GP:50) in order to entertain her during the days. He was around often in those days and I think made one last epic trip to Allentown with us. He was also instrumental in decorating my pad with his home grown bonsai trees, necessitating me to line up someone to water them every time I went out of town.

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.

Mini Marathon

This is a collection of short incidents.

Origins of Psycho – From high school until I left Princeton my nickname was “Psycho”. Where did this nickname come from? Expecting a clever or even mildly interesting origin? Fool! I was on the phone with Louis, and he called Knaus, so after over an hour of 3-way phone conversation Knaus made a judgement. The next day he told Louis, “That guy sounds like a psycho.” How ironic that Knaus called ME a psycho.

Winter Sock Run – Before Louis and I met Dan, Matt, etc. we knew some guy named Jeff. One night the three of us were watching movies at Louis’s house and his parents left. Somehow, perhaps Louis can recall, Jeff and I took turns daring each other to run from the back door to the fence and back in our socks. It was winter, with plenty of snow on the ground. After the first few times we spent the time between our runs picking the enormous chucks of snow out of the expanding holes in our socks. I forget the final total, but it was close to 30 trips. When the spring arrived Louis’s dad awoke and peered out the back window to see a path of dead grass well worn in his backyard.

Cheese and Pepsi – This is another middle/high school period event, like the “Winter Sock Run”. I have no idea why this started, Louis? However, Louis and myself debated how disgusting cheese in Pepsi would be. Louis was adamant I could not drink a glass, while I was just as stout that I could. After much stern debating we proceeded upstairs to settle the matter. Now, in my mind I pictured a glass of Pepsi, in the shapely Classic Coke glasses, with cubes of yellow cheese, much like ice cubes, plopped in. The reality of the solvent was tearfully different. The timeless Pepsi glass was true to vision, but then Louis produced a cheese slice from a package of Velveeta sandwich slices. This was foreboding, but only for a moment as Louis freed the soft cheese (BAD!) from it’s plastic sheath. He then mangled and mashed the cheese into the Pepsi. The tipping point was peering in the final beverage and viewing the greasy fingerprints in the squished cheese. My mental stomach allowed me to only take 2-3 sips. I hold that it was Louis’s false advertising that led to his victory.

Free Ravioli – There is some story I was a part of, but I do not remember, involving my freshman year, where the Ravioli vending machine was discovered as broken. We immediately ran back to our room to procure a backpack which we filled entirely with mini-Ravioli cans.

That’s Not a Urinal – Louis and I attended a free golf class one summer. The climax of the class was to play 3 holes at the course. I spent the night before at Louis’s house. We woke up late and Louis’s dad drove us over to the golf course. We got there in time for me to head the restroom. I was about to let the morning fountain loose , when I half-opened my eyes to see myself?! Why is there a mirror over the urinal? I have seen a newspaper, but a mirror? Holy crap! I am about to pee in the sink! I sidestepped to the real urinal just as some schmo entered the restroom. A close call.

Fashion Conscious – This is a piece of advise rather than a full blown story. I suggest all single guys shop with either a gay or a girl. They can shop vicariously through you and you will get much better clothing out of it. Some other points of catour (sp?); tell people, and by people I mean women, you are spending about $300 on a new wardrobe. As far as footwear goes only shoes or multi-colored sneakers (two primary colors and a third, trim color) are necessary.

The Year of Aaron – Much like the previously mentioned “Year of Rob”, I proclaimed the following New Year’s Eve it would be the “Year of Aaron”. I decreed I would ask a new woman out each month. I did this, the first month, and was successful for a short, 1-2 month relationship. After that the momentum of the “Year of Aaron” petered out. I mention this to show that we are 2-for-2 on “Year of” decree.

Death From Above – Louis’s parents held a party in their backyard. Louis and I decided to throw some water balloons over the corner of the house. Louis was the spotter, peering around the corner of the house.

Aaron throws the first water balloon over the corner of the house.
Louis: “It landed 30 feet away from anything.”
Aaron adjusts on his second throw.
Louis: “That was only a few feet closer. Move a LOT more to the right.”
Aaron adjusts his third throw.
Louis: “RUN!”
Aaron jumps on his bike and takes off.

I rode my bike around the neighborhood for 30 minutes until I encountered Louis riding him bike. The postmortem was the third shot was hit a cake on a table. It flew in at the perfect angle to fly under the table umbrella. The cake splattered everywhere, all over several people. The party-goers did not know what happened so I was safe.

Poll – Never mentioned before friend Nick is a sicko, but a lovable sicko. I experienced a phase where I created a new poll to ask everyone I knew. One of this was “What is the least amount of money would it take for you to sleep with the sex you don’t find attractive.” (got to be alternative friendly). The median answer was $100k. Nick was typically unique in his response, “I’d do it for a quarter if I needed to make a phone call.”

Taddle Tale (HA!) – Knaus, Ann and myself were just lounging in Knaus’s room. We heard Dave and Wolf arrive home. The muse of tomfoolery suddenly struck! By an unusual coincidence Knaus had parked his car around the corner that day. Knaus would exit the room, unknown to Wolf/Dave, then drive his car home. Ann and myself would make noise in hushed tones from Knaus’s room. We expected Wolf/Dave to follow Knaus up to his room when he arrived, and watch the rage Knaus would certain showcase upon finding Ann and me in his room. The first problem was to get Knaus out of his own room quietly. Regular readers will recall his room was on the second floor. In literal cartoon style we fashioned a rope out of a bed sheet and jacket, with which we lowered Knaus out the back of the house. A surprising success.

The plan worked to perfection to this point. Knaus brought his normal halo of tense into the house. Wolf immediately proclaimed, “Ann and Aaron are in your room!” We heard this all the way upstairs, and Ann was semi-livid. Knaus managed to hold the charade when he unlocked his door. Ann and I played the part of the surprised, guilty intruders. It was not long before Ann was unable to contain her anger, “You tattled on us!” “No I didn’t.” “We heard you!” For the rest of us it was an entertaining episode.

In fear of leaving you with a deflated feeling, I will, as is a mirror of Comstock.

FSA Follies

        Old FSA represented one of the various means of employment we were forced into for the sake of making ends meet during the college years. As with most of the situations we accept when young and inexperienced, it, aside from the people, righteously sucked. This is by no means a request for sympathy as all readers have had their share of shitty McJobs. I would, however, like to share in the experience and allow all readers to respond with their own fun times, and lengths they took to meet the heavy burdens imposed on Knauses quarterly or biannual revelation of sums owed.

        Before delving into my own stories, I would like to first touch upon my favorite job held by someone else; that someone being Aaron and that job being his position at Parkside Candies on Main and Windspear. I don’t recall when he started there, but it was in the first year. What made it so enjoyable was Sunday afternoons when he would be left to man the joint solo, ruling the environs as he wished in his tyrannical German way. During these days, my cousin Ann and I would stop by for lunch and partake of the all you could eat soup bar, sometimes a sandwich, and always some candy for desert. The price was more than right as a check was rarely, if ever, written, and certainly not paid. In addition, we also received extensive tours around the back of the interesting and ornate old building. Sunday afternoons became dull and grey once the gravy train ended. As I remember it, Aaron came home one day a bit early and after almost no coaxing, admitted that he got the boot that afternoon. The owner’s pain in the ass son was incensed by the thickness of the roast beef Aaron was cutting and worked furiously to secure his dismissal. He succeeded and the days of free lunch evaporated like a beautiful dream. I have been bitterly resentful of his slicing ability ever since.

        Shortly after he got the can, I decided to help out my shiftless, unemployed housemate by getting him considered for a bright future career in food service. After taking a short hiatus myself, I accepted a position cooking mornings at Norton. This is where I had begun two years prior with CK before we were both shipped off to the flagship enterprise Putnam’s, and subsequently quit due to the tyrannical whip cracking of the dread manager Scott. The old days of Norton were a fond memory, making subs with CK and washing dishes with Emmanuel, who called everyone his cousin. The manager was Sue Wozniak, who took the hands off approach, much to our collective satisfaction. Posh and prim, she never allowed the drudgery of food service work sully her impeccable appearance. The best part, however, was the presence of the outstandingly attractive student manager, Adrianna. We all found it a shame when she hooked up with John Improta, a nice guy in his own right, but a killer to any fantasies that may have been brewing while admiring her from not far.

        Making subs was the most enjoyable part of this first stint, as I gained unrivaled popularity with student body. Not only did CK and I maintain a jovial relationship with our customer base, but I took to eschewing the use of the scale to properly weigh the lunch meat. My internal mechanism for correctly measuring portion sizes was out of calibration by several orders of magnitude in the favor of the customer rather than the establishment. This was a quality greatly appreciated by all but Sue and the perpetually dieting Long Island sorority girls who demanded low fat ‘toikey’ pitas on a nightly basis, reaching for them with their well manicured and emaciated hands. As mentioned, my success led me to Putnam’s where I fell out of love with the food industry and left around the same time as CK did, due to graduation on his part and a sense of ennui on mine, whatever the hell that means.

My triumphant return originated from a visit to my aunt. Dave Green, the new day manager, was looking for a hired gun to come work the grill, as they had a hard time keeping anyone for more than a few days. Since he couldn’t find one, I agreed to take the position, I think for the princely sum of $3.90 an hour. Paydirt! It was better than Collectors where I worked night; a place that will receive it’s own due in course. Once in, I soon found out why the position was difficult to fill. The difficulty was apparently Helen, a fiery redhead with temper to match. We got along just fine, but I knew bearing the weight of this duty was no one man job. I eyed Aaron as the perfect foil to her lunacy, and after greasing the skids with management, got him in.

        Working Norton this second go around was half heaven and half hell. The heaven was in the free food we were allowed to scarf down during our shifts. Although student workers had a limit to what they were supposed to take, a blind eye was turned for Aaron and me due to our taking a slot no one else wanted or lasted in. I was generally able to pack in enough calories that I only needed to eat the smallest of meals for dinner and still managed to gain weight. I can also admit that the work itself was marginally enjoyable as were the people. It didn’t hurt at all that my aunt was the union boss in back, and I never doubted that her presence gave me more of a carte blanch to do was I would more than the rest of the workers.

        The hell was in the customers. For a liberal college crowd attempting to dine on a shoe string budget, the average customer had higher expectations than the patron of a 5 star restaurant. Several in particular would fire off Napoleonic demands and often reduce the poor order taking girl almost to tears. Bad idea. I believe it was St Thomas Aquinas who once said, “Never fuck with he who prepareth thy grubbage”. Or maybe it was Paulie Shore. In any event, for those particularly annoying folks, shielded from view, we would play kick ball with their breakfast sandwich rolls, lick their toast and allow it fall butter side down, and other such tomfoolery. One woman, who complained each day that her dish was too cold, even seconds after being removed from the grill, caught my ire particularly. I suspected she was making the outrageous claim out of hand, just to get my goat. Exasperated, I took it back one day, ceremoniously removed the toast, and dumped her eggs (sunny side up), bacon, and homefries into the fry basket and plunged it all into the boiling oil. It was all then dumped back on to the plate and handed back to her, swimming in hot tainted grease. The message was successful as the plate never was returned again.

        Working with Helen was a treat unto itself. While it had been said for ages that no one could survive for more than a day with her on the line grill, both Aaron and I didn’t seem to have any trouble, and grew fond of her quirky, high strung ways. It was pathetically easy to get her worked up into such a tizzy that she had to go sit outside for a spell in order to calm down to a more workable level of ‘freaked out’. We of course attempted to actively cause this at every opportunity. It was a stressful gig at times with orders flying in faster than we could read them, with Helen wigging out, frantically splashing hot oil everywhere with wanton urgency, often getting as much on me as the hot plate. Like a cat with a can tied to its tail, I always expected her heart to finally explode within her tiny frame, but she somehow soldiered on, inspired by the thought of her pets and nightly glass of wine awaiting her after the shift.

        The day finally came when Helen decided to take on a less stressful position and thus extend her lifespan considerably longer. We said goodbye to her with reluctance, knowing the grill would never be quite the same. It certainly wasn’t as her replacement was a force of nature, a man mountain if you will, in the form of Big John Thomas. Where Helen had been a flighty nervous wreck, John was relentless as a glacier and utterly unflappable. “Make it happen” was his catch phase, and a strong sense of teamwork was inspired though it. John deserves an entry all his own, so that is all that will be explained of him at the moment.

        The most interesting of the characters we didn’t work with directly was Big Weave. I’m sure he had a real name, but can’t put my finger on it. Big Weave, a wholly enjoyable individual, was absolutely impossible to understand. I think my whole college career went by without me comprehending a single sentence the man ever uttered. He made ‘King of the Hill’s’ Boomhauer appear an eloquent orator in comparison. The story behind him (unconfirmed as I could never understand his answer when I asked him) was that his previous occupation was pimping and that he left it for food service ‘cause his mama didn’t like it’. Frankly, I never had any difficulty picturing him in a broad brimmed hat with peacock feather, burst free from the set of ‘I’m Gonna Get You Sucka’. I can only guess is that is that pandering is not so lucrative in Buffalo if accepting a food service job was the logical lateral move to keep up the lifestyle to which he had become accustomed, and if so, he chose wisely.

        Also worth a mention was Ron, who Aaron and I took to calling ‘Big Shirtless Ron!’ for some reason that escapes me, though never to his face. Like Big Weave, Ron also had a murky background I was never completely sure of. There were alternating stories that he was either developmentally disabled or had completely melted his mind on drugs. I think possibly both, although he readily admitted to the latter. He kept a pet rabbit named “Rabbit” that he doted on, and in whose honor he turned to vegetarianism, at least until his cravings for succulent cheeseburgers won out. Never exactly svelte, he had an issue with comments on his weight, and every so often some ill intentioned individual would make some snide remark, thus sending him into a rage. My aunt once caught wind of the plans of some scurrilous chaps who planned to egg him on to the point of violence, but fortunately she was able to nip it in the bud. Taking pity on him, she invited him to family functions where his presence always added flavor as he sought the constant attention of the elder generation and received it. He is a good egg, and I have heard from my aunt that he is still doing well.

        During the summertime, my involvement with old FSA extended to a catering gig, managed by the wise and powerful Berrafado clan, Buffalo’s most savvy restaurateurs. Although I had a summer job, I took the catering to both supplement my income and use the opportunity to pursue my quest for the affections of Joanne Zemszal, who was having boyfriend troubles at the time, and appeared ripe for a trade up as I saw it. This of course never came to fruition as I had not yet gained the life experience to know that a woman crying on your shoulder over some brute has already placed you in the same class as her girlfriends, but without the fear of you seeking her man’s affections behind her back. Ah the lessons we wish we could go back and tell ourselves, but this too is deserving of its own entry. Joanne, CK, and I worked hard those summers dishing out pancakes and roast beef to the ravenous CIPSI conventioneers. The following summer I didn’t bother as the additional work lacked the attraction brought by friends in previous times.

        The day finally came when the FSA elder Don Hosey saw fit in his inscrutable view to shut down old Norton and move operations down the hall to Talbert, where it was cleverly renamed ‘Berts’. Aaron had already taken leave of the service gig to instead spend his time lurking in the basement of Crosby, helping clueless students attempt to set up flashy modern VAX accounts, the certain wave of the future. To replace him, I once again applied my likely less than considerable influence to get Dan hired on. Dan, perhaps not entertained enough by the washing of dishes, took to accusing the Chinese foreign student working with him of being a communist spy. This agitated the poor guy to an alarming degree, who somehow must have taken the notion that the foul talking dish boy beside him had some sort of governmental influence. When nothing came of it, I think he finally got it that Dan lacked the connections required for late night abduction and questioning under torture.

        During his tenure at Berts, Dan also managed to embarrass me in front of the entire assemblage of employees at the annual Christmas luncheon and gift exchange. It was just my luck that Dan pulled my name to be my ‘Secret Santa’, and must have enjoyed himself immensely in shopping for me. There, in front of about 50 people, of whom half were elderly women, I had the pleasure of unwrapping ‘The Amazing Pocket Pussy!’, a hot pink molded rubber self pleasuring device reported modeled in exacting details of the flesh and blood region of the same area of a well known porn star. My face instantly turned red as I attempted to stuff it quickly back in the shredded wrapping as curious old biddies crowded around me asking to get a look at what I got. Most disturbing was that Ron asked me to borrow it for the weekend and give it back to me Monday. I still wretch a little at the thought.

I        spent the last year of my college life cooking there every morning, Monday though Thursday with Big John and Eileen, our order taker and toast butterer. There we would work furiously to feed the demanding masses who would foist dozens of orders upon us at once, expecting service in 5 minutes or less. To entertain ourselves, we would compete as to who could make the most outlandishly grand blueberry pancakes, quickly becoming a favorite item. We also experimented with flash frying different items, which is why I still maintain to this day that I invented the fried pickle. A claim no more verifiable than the rest of my crackpot ravings, and likely false, but one I will continue to boast all the same. After each shift I would leave for class, reeking of hot grease and eggs, and wondered why my attempts to chat up comely coeds in my classes never ended satisfactorily.

        The day finally came when I graduated and as I had been a student worker, found this passage of my life done. While I cannot say that I would trade the time spent, I was glad it was over. The benefit of working such a job is that it serves to inspire in some of us the desire to gain future employment that never involves cleaning up after oneself or asking someone if they would like fries with that. It was a long and rocky road getting to that point, but FSA was a fine first step.

House Party Hooligans

      “Here we are now, entertain us” was an apt anthem to describe our generation in its youth, as first espoused by terminally defunct grunge rocker Kurt Cobain. While he chose entertainment in the form of the sharp end of a heroin needle and subsequently the business end of a Colt 45 (or however he offed himself; I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look it up), we chose to seek out the best possible party each Saturday night. While at Comstock we often had to look no further than our own living room, the dorms were less accommodating.

            The beautiful part about living on the UB South Campus was that the dorms there were in convenient walking distance to all of the University Heights run down, student rented housing. It has often occurred to me what desperate landlord would consider renting his property to fraternities, sororities, and unaffiliated young douche bags such as ourselves? At the rental rates for the area, I suppose the choice was this by a slim margin over the crack addicts and escaped insane who could also only afford such accommodations. Despite the price being right, combined household incomes were often not enough to make the rent and thus the house party was born.

            An intelligently run (and I use the term loosely) house gig usually consisted several kegs dispersed throughout the premises, a $4 cover charge, half hour wait for the bathroom, the annoying chick asking everyone if they had some pot, and the dude who was clearly way too old to be there. In some instances there were clever draws such as free shots of Rumple Mintz for filling out a Discover Card application (completed and approved by and for one Mr. Chester Cheetah) of if we were in luck, a live band. Some itinerant groups spent a great deal on promotion and advertisement thus guaranteeing an early arrival of the police to break things up and cart away the instigators. The rule of thumb was to take the number of flyers per wall in the Student Union, multiply by 5, and that is how many minutes before 11:00 PM the Man would come and kill the good buzz.

            Band parties were great, but none so much as the Drunken Puppet parties on Tyler. Unlike our own attempts at the band thing (see Wolverines SF), these guys played the whole night though, cleared any noise issues with the neighbors before, and spread the word quietly. I can’t remember a one of their gigs that were broken up early. A great deal of their brilliance lay in that they decided to forego anything original whatsoever and concentrating their core competency on being able to cover the widest variety of bands from the 60’s on forward. The play list was eclectic; transitioning from the high falsetto of “Oh What a Night” to a rugged “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and back to a mellow “Piano Man” all within one set. There was something for everyone and nothing was so disappointing as to go to their final appearance in the spring of ’92 (although there was a reunion performance at Jimmy J’s on Bailey two years later). No one ever pulled it off better, including us.

            As entertaining as many of these shindigs were on their own, it was up to us to really make the most of them. Of all of us, Knaus took this responsibility to the highest level of seriousness possible. Prior to each event, Paul began to doubt the potency of the alcohol that would be present and its ability to allow him to achieve the chemical induced state he was seeking. Because of this he invented the pre-party cocktail consisting of a full bottle of Nyquil used to chase down the contents of an entire box of Vivarin. On occasions where he was feeling particularly challenged he would add a liberal dose of Dexatrim diet pills to the mix. While hardened junkies might laugh at the effects such innocuous over the counter pseudo-medications might have, they certainly produced a profound and disturbing change in Knaus. Like Superman being exposed to red kryptonite and its harrowing effects, Knaus would transform from a mild mannered, reserved and serious student to a crazed and violent wildman, just barely constrained by our combined efforts to keep him reeled in. Frankly, we wouldn’t have had it any other way, although I found it a minor miracle that even the most cash starved of enterprises deigned to let us though the door.

            The core group for these outings consisted of Knaus, Aaron, and I, although for the sake of variety we brought in guest stars from time to time such as Dan, Ann, JP, Schultz and even Jeff S. To my recollection, Dan was by far the most interesting as well as the most useful on those occasions when Knaus would finally become overcome with combined effects of the cocktail and beer, and lost it all together, sometime exploding into a fireball of chemical rage.  Poor Jeff was the most timid and it was just his luck that the one event we managed to drag him to got busted early causing him to burst into a flurry of panic. It probably didn’t help that I filled his head with the horrors of anticipated prison life, but in my defence it never occurred to me that he would consider an underage beer drunk to be grounds for harsh sentencing.

            Upon arrival it was custom to wait for our first beer together, but disperse soon after, looking for people we knew, waiting on the bathrooms, or waiting for more beer. Knaus and I would often take up positions at the keg itself, volunteering our services as pump jockeys with the hopes of meeting new and interesting people, preferably of the opposite sex. Performing our duties, which perhaps not having the desired aphrodisiac effect, allowed us to gain new skills such as administering keg stands and funneling. The added bonus was that we were always first in line. Generally we would be relieved of duty once we lost the requite motor skills to effectively pump, and would then disperse to wander about the premises. On one such occasion, I came upon Knaus sitting upside down in a chair. He was ringed by several seeming disciples, sitting cross legged on the floor and listening with rapt attention while Knaus spouted tales of murderous paratrooper bunnies. Appalled, I quickly made my exit before I would be associated with him.

            I don’t remember when it started, but Paul began a new tradition at one of the frat parties. You see, we didn’t care at all for the frats themselves; hating them with every fiber of our beings, but were grudgingly willing to drink their beer. In order to offset the outrage of paying the lords of date rape to enter their dens of iniquity, Knaus began stealing items from the premises. Nothing large mind you; generally just toiletries, small household objects, and occasionally cutlery. In one instance, he gleefully showed off a package of razors he absconded with, but when we reminded him that the house in question was not occupied by a frat, he insisted on returning to the party expressly to return them. His most interesting lift, however, was of a full bottle of charcoal starter that was to play an important role in our lives months down the line.

            Prior to that particular party, Knaus hit the pre-party cocktail a little more heavily than usual, adding Dexatrim and sinus medicine to the Nyquil and Vivarin, all on an empty stomach. By the time we reached the premises, he was no longer with us in any mental or personality aspect. It was not long after we arrived that his cocktail combined with the alcohol caused him to lose it entirely. He was busily and loudly demanding a sharp object from the frightened occupants when they finally insisted he leave. He did, with Aaron and I in tow, and revealed his theft of the charcoal starter half way down the driveway. Aaron and I were both annoyed at having to leave so early and decided to go back to the dorm, drink some left over GABs, and perhaps watch a movie. On the way back we decided we were a bit peckish and the yellow sign of a Subway beckoned. Deciding it best not to bring in Knaus and risk not getting fed, we set him on a bus stop bench where he slumped over, muttering incoherently, while we ducked in for a couple of Subway Melts.

            Exiting the Subway a few moments later, we immediately detected a problem. Someone, perhaps even himself, absconded with our Knaus. The Metro itself seemed a likely suspect, but given that I had ‘borrowed’ the last of his cash to get my Melt, we doubted he would have gotten far. The local gangs were not much for human trafficking in those days and probably would have only boosted his boots, leaving the unwashed sot in his place. No, Knaus had by some miracle of fortitude lifted his gangly frame and sallied forth, the trooper that he was. Utilizing the finest tracking skills at our disposal, we followed on his trail, presuming it was a bee line for the dorms.

            Upon reaching our rooms we were dismayed that our quarry had not led us to his den as expected. Foxy of him. Very foxy. We entered into some debate as to whether to eat first while our food was still somewhat warm and then look for him, or to look first as it had begun to snow. Heavy hearted, we suited back to reenter the nights air and threw open the door to find a worn and weary Knaus standing, fumbling his keys, with the charcoal started beneath his arm. He looked up at us uncomprehending, pushed past us ripping off his jacket, and passed out boots and all upon his bed. We watched TV for a short time until he began retching up on himself, which added nothing to the ambiance.

            The following day found him in better position to talk, after laundry had been done and other measures of de-skunkification. He related to me what happened. Enraged at being left on the bench like a common hobo and unwelcome sot, he lunged forth, resolved to get his own victuals from another establishment. By some minor miracle he made his way across Main and cut across the empty barren fields of the UB south campus. He recalled walking, then somehow encountering stiff resistance and absolute darkness. After some exploration, he determined the cause to be his face down condition in the snowy field. Thirst hounded him and he turned to the only port in his personal storm; the charcoal starter. It was a poor choice anyway you look at it. He spit most of it out and concluded a few puffs on one of his trademark Winston Selects would give him the clarity of mind to find his way home. Lady luck however blew the winds fierce that night, saving him from the ECMC burn unit. Said luck and perhaps the last shreds of self preservation led him back to the dorms soon after.

            Generally speaking, such narratives end with a moral, or pithy phase beginning with, “We learned a great lesson that night”, but in this case, I’m afraid it was not so. Truth be told, this was likely only the 5th or 6th closest anyone had gotten to buying the farm in our gentle care those early years of the 90’s. I never tried the fluid myself, even in my least coherent moments, but I hear it’s not much worse than getting shot in the ass with rock salt.


One day, Aaron and Matt arrive before a Spelljammer session at my house. They seemed to be in on some kind of joke, but claimed they were sworn to secrecy and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES would I *ever* find out what happened. They then continued to act strangely. After a few attempts to get it out of them, I said “Ok, fine. I don’t need to know what happened. From here on out, the OFFICIAL STORY will be that Aaron got drunk last night and got nailed in the ass by another guy. I’ll be sure to let everyone know what happened when they arrive.” Well, it didn’t take more than a minute for the real story to come out,  along with a declaration that I was a “complete bastard.”

The real story was much less colorful, involving someone we knew getting drunk and making an ass out of themselves. From then on, THE OFFICIAL STORY became a term for a grossly exaggerated or completely fictional account of what happened in any circumstance,in the absence of other explanations or evidence. Many times since, when people go missing or can’t be reached by phone, an OFFICIAL STORY is concocted, such as “The OFFICIAL STORY is that Matt was eaten by werewolves, unless he proves otherwise.”