Chapter 2 - Fraternity Life
There's so many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones ~ Mark Knopfler
Jeb had joined first, and I reluctantly did later. I’m not the kind of “joiner” that gets along with everyone. But, since I had nowhere to live, and they said I could build a bar, I pledged. When we looked over the place late in the semester, I found a room that two guys from the last pledge class had abandoned. The had put in a floor about three feet over the room floor, and the intended to sleep under the floor to give the place more space. I could have it all to myself! I was wise enough to put in good ventilation, and with all the construction next door at the athletic dorm, we found plenty of materials in the dumpster. We had run a water line to the room, and it was easy because there was a large space under the rooms. It was dirt, but easily accessible. It also made it easy to do what we had to do for sewer. We didn’t have enough fall to gravity feed the sink to the bathroom. So, our solution was to use the sink as little as possible, because we ran the line into 30 gallon drums we got from a local lube shop. When we heard splashing, we went down and changed the drums. We’d have an issue with that later.
So basically I was going to school, running a bar, and fooling around. The craziest part was that the bed under the floor became a legend unto itself. It didn’t exist unless you’d been under the bar. It was very nice. I had a king bed, a little table with the legs sawn down to accommodate a squat lamp. There were built in shelves and even a secondary exit that led under the bar. What I didn’t expect was some girl writing on the underside of the plywood floor. Soon enough it was like a mural down there. Pictures, poetry, and just “Kilroy was here” notes were all over the place. Someone had brought a big set of markers and left them around the place. They tore down that asbestos filled thing some years later, and I can only imagine what those guys thought when they pulled up that floor and found all that. Wish I’d been there to see it!
The other thing we lacked was bar ware. We had everything we needed except for the glasses required to mix drinks and pour shots. There were were, a day from opening, and we were broke. Other Kevin and Jeb told me not to worry about it, to finish the last minute items we needed to open, and they’d handle it. What I didn’t know was that they would slip in to the student union using the tunnels. We had found a way in, and it was freaky enough wandering around the place in the dark we never went back. Or I didn’t. The way in was through a storeroom, and you had to be skinny to fit. We’d done some spelunking down in Devil’s Den, a state park with nice limestone formations, so we were used to tight spots. It was so tight that I was told the four cases of glassware the “borrowed” wouldn’t fit. They had to take all the glasses out, flatten the box and pass it through, then hand them through one by one and refill the case. I knew immediately where they were from, and told them they had to go back… later. Once we had some cash to spend, we bought real bar ware, and they reversed the tedious task after we washed and sterilized them. Amusingly enough, coming out, they actually got pinched by some guard at the union. But, they only got a stern lecture about the dangers of the steam tunnels, and how just a week before some freshmen had gone down and one broke his leg. It was actually true, and they had a heck of a time getting him out. They started gating off more and more of the tunnel junctions, and that was the end of that.
Well, the Lucky 13 Bar & Grill was open for business, we had a little hibachi outside the window, but didn’t sell food. We didn’t really need to have that hassle anyway. At a buck a drink, this was back when, we were doing just fine. A connection to discount liquor through a fraternity brother didn’t hurt, either. Buy a big bottle for $11.00 and pour thirty-five shots out of it. Easy math! We had some fine neighbors to the north, the athletes dorm. Although that may have been our ultimate undoing. But to the south we had a rather cranky fraternity.
It all started during our biggest party of the year. We had a band, the bar was open, and the punch was free. We still served on the side, and everyone knew when you got a drink, you dropped at least a buck in the jar. You tip? You get bigger drinks. But that night, while Jeb and I were tending our establishment, some member ran in because there was going to be a fight. Turns out it was a group of guys from next door, the elephant walkers, wanting to skip the $5 cover for guys. I call them that because we could see them through the painted over basement windows where it was scratched off. You can look up what it means, but I wouldn’t have done it to join any damn group.
So that night we had a little skirmish, and we tossed a few guys down the lawn, no big deal. But one of their foolish pledges decided to steal a fire extinguisher, slip around back, and spray down my bar. Well, I wasn’t there, but some football player was, and he wasn’t amused at being covered in chemicals. He jumped out the window and caught the kid before he got off the property. So after interrogation, we sent him back with the promise he would clean my place the next day, and once a week for two months. I loved it. But we weren’t really done with these guys.
You see, aside from those things, there were fireworks wars, ledging, and all kinds of battles between us. So, when the bar had a plumbing problem, they came to mind. We had finally used all the drums we had, nearly a dozen, and they needed to be dumped. Since we owed our neighbors a good prank we decided to use them for fun! About three in the morning we rolled these things as quietly as we could across the parking lot. They had a long concrete stairway then terminated at a sunken patio. Of course, it had a drain, and if it was one thing I’d learned, it was how to plug a drain. Once that was done, we slowly poured this disgusting sludge, and it had old drinks, vomit, urine, and maybe even a condom or two. Then, when the last drum was emptied, and we were back at the house, we gave the thumbs up. That was when Jeb’s bride to be called next door. She said she was a Theta, the only sorority on fraternity row, and she’d just gotten home to see some guys messing with their cars. They came flying out in their skivvies, sliding and falling around in that foul mess. They finally figured out they’d been had, but never knew who did it. That prank kind of started a little tiff with them and the Theta house. Sorry Thetas, but it was too good not to do.
One nice spring day I had the window open and was grilling up a steak out my window, and I heard a familiar sound. I poked my head out the window just in time to hear it again, and see the aluminum extension ladder leaned up against the building. It was evening, and the light was fading, but it seemed sure as the wind blows, someone was hitting golf balls off the roof. So I decide to climb up, and sure enough one of the actives was up there with a golf bag and balls. He was one of the more, well, picture Otter from Animal House. That should do it. So the roof is soft tar, and tees stuck in it well, and since we were higher than Barnhill across the street, apparently you could work on your medium irons. Who knew? It had to be in the evening, because if you overshot, it landed on the practice field. So once it was evening, it was safe. Or so I was told.
He had handed me a beer, and I was about halfway through it, when the shrill sounds of a pack of women came from the side of the house. Seems large group was exiting the side door to our left.
“Well, whatever that is, it can’t be good.” He said and started to the end of the roof.
“No, I think some tomfoolery is afoot.” I was known for saying things like that.
“Are those the li’l sisters?” You could have those back then. “And is one of them…”
“Topless?” I finished his thought. “Yes, and I belive you know who, too.”
“Well, that’s not good.” Another girl gave her a sweater. “Better. Still not good.”
We were going to head down and see what had happened, but before we could get too far the door from the kitchen, on the same side of the building, burst open. Out ran my pledge brother Jeb.
“Get back here!” He screamed in his accent. “Y’all gon’ be sorry, promise dat!”
He went to the storage area, and when he didn’t find what he was looking for he searched a bit, and finally found the ladder behind the building. It was in use, but he grabbed it and took off, against our protests. He said he’d be right beck, and we heard him clanging around in front of the house, even though we couldn’t see what he was doing. He returned with the ladder, we climbed down, and of course I had to heft the golf bag. Jeb was tasked to put the ladder away, and we walked around to the front. There, above the letters, was a bra, and it wasn’t very big in size.
“Bet I know who left that behind.” I said, looking up. Even though I think I was the one guy who actually wouldn't know.
“Jeb,” The older brother said. “You might want to take that down.”
“No way.” He got that scowl with his teeth clenched, He turned to me.”You look inside, bro! You’ll see!”
“Okay.” We all walked in the front door to the wreckage. “See what I mean?”
“Little Sister Walkout, Spring 1994.” I read the sign, then turn to our plaid brother to be. “What the hell is that?”
“Got me.” He shrugged. “But damn they made a mess.”
“They called to see if we knew it was them.” He told us he said they best come clean up. “The bra is a hostage.”
“Or it’s evidence of a crime.” Jeb looked at him.
“I just grabbed. She pulled and ripped away.“ He explained. “Total accident.”
“I still think you’re in for some serious shit.” I told him. “But at least it won’t be boring!”
It wasn’t Fortunately it was all handled in house, and Jeb got extra duty, but maybe because of the lax rules at the time nothing more was done. It turns out the little sisters did come back, and they cleaned the house until it was spic and span. Not because of Jeb, though. It turned out it was the house mom who was behind it all, because she thought the pledges weren’t cleaning well enough. Turns out the members were none too happy to have their power usurped, and after explaining it to her, they said every one of those girls would be unwelcome at future fraternity events if they didn’t clean, and clean well. We lowly plebes were pleased with the turn of events.
However, not everything was fun and games. I remember being very upset at some of the tasks we'd been assigned. It wasn’t some crazy hazing stuff, that was entertaining. No elephant walk for us, just run of the mill crap, and fun drinking games. We didn’t have a full pledge class, but we still had all the work, and it was wearing me down. I do believe it was on a Sunday, and I’d just finished and “arctic rescue” down in the dining room. The brothers would often bring home beer or a bottle and simply leave it in the ice machine to stay cold. The only problem was that when thy forgot about it, and new ice was made, they ended up down near the bottom. So, a unlucky pledge, usually on a Sunday when you can buy no alcohol in the state, we would empty the machine into clean buckets and get all the orphans. It was cold and it sucked.
Since I was filling the coke machine, mostly with beer, it probably meant that it had been raided the night before. Maybe it just ran out, but it was another crappy job. For some reason, maybe just to blow off steam, I decided to push the machine down the hallway. I was quite a bit stronger by them. When I got to the end, I decided to go down the next one. The house was like a big square doughnut with a multi level courtyard in the middle, and since I was still angry, I was going to push the damn thing all the way around. So I did. At first I was going to put it back, but I’d probably had a few of those beers meant for the machine, and decide to push it down the stairs. It would likely go through the window end end up in the fountain. No more filling that machine! So I noisily pushed it to the top of the stairs, the legs caught on the lip of the stairs, and it started to tilt. But just as I was hitting that apex to get it to fall, it stopped. I pushed harder, and it might have moved a little, but then it seemed to push back. Well, since that was curious, I peered around the big dispenser, only to see the face of the fraternity president. All six foot whatever and two-plenty pounds.
“Now, what would you be doing, Kevin?” He said quietly.
“Well, I’m pushing this Coca Cola machine down the damn stairs!” I replied, even though it was obvious.
“How about we not do that?” He pushed the unit back toward me and we set it down gently.
“I suppose we could put it back.” I said said with a little pique. But we put it back in place.
Then the oddest thing happened. We asked me what was wrong, and we sat on the top of those steps and we had an honest to goodness heart to heart talk. Aside from our pledge trainer, no one listened to us. It seemed like he did, though, and that alone made me feel better. But, we got some of the chores lifted off of us, and even members were pitching in. Granted, we still got the worst jobs, but at least we weren’t getting all of them anymore!
At least I didn't lose it like one of my brothers to be. It turns out he was in love with a girl named Alice, who dumped him. He decided to drown his sorrows in a bottle of wine. The brothers decide to help him along and added grain alcohol. Now, how he didn't know, I don’t get. I think he just didn’t care. Either way, he was plowed, they were messing with him, and I was unaware of any of it. Until they came into Jeb’s room where I was sleeping. That wasn’t the best idea, and I woke up and trained a shotgun on them. They froze.
“It’s us! Members!” One whispered.
“Why are you in this room… members.”
“We’re messing with Ed, just listen.” Another one said.
They slipped out into the hallway to the breaker box, and flipped the circuit breaker to Ed’s room. What a cacophony! The television, stereo, appliances all came on. Ed came flying out of his room looking for the culprits, but they had ducked back into my room. So, as well as he could in his state, Ed shut all his things back off, locked his door, and went back to bed. Only they weren’t done. They slipped the lock to his door as they had done all night, and turned on all his things again. Only this time, they pulled the hinge pins in the door and slip it into the frame. Again, all of this was done while I was trying to sleep, but nature called. I turned down the hallway to Ed’s room just as they flipped the switch once again. A door came inward off its hinges, and was then hurled out into the hall, followed by a big, dark skinned, very hairy man.
“I’m pissed off!” He screamed.
“Well, not at me. “ I said. “I got nothing to do with this, and I’m going to piss.”
“Who is doing this to me?!” He demanded as I stepped over the amputated door.
“I think your friends are messing with you.” I responded quietly and entered the bathroom.
When I came out, he was still in the hall, but seemed much calmer. My friends?” He asked.
I nodded. “Yeah, the whole brothers thing.”
He called to them. “Guys! I’m not mad! My friends were just having fun, right?!”
I heard in the morning, then saw it myself, that they had shaved a big ‘A’ in his chest, for Alice, his unrequited love. Apparently, they also initialed his back. Like I said, he was a pretty hairy guy. The amusing part is of all of us, he made good. Finished, school, went to law school, became an attorney and married. Every once in awhile he calls or comes to visit, and I’m a long way away. Good job, brother. Alítheia Kai Logos.
One day it all came to an end, and some people thought I was fooled. I wasn’t. The whole place was closing down after the summer, and once everyone went home, who would be our patrons? No one. In fact, we closed weeks prior.
It was study time, and since I was off for the afternoon, the door was open. I had a book open, and all I know was it wasn’t physics. The sun was shining, the windows were open, and even the doors to the hallway were propped to let in the breeze. It was the end of spring, and you could smell it. Just get through these last finals and it’s party time.
It wasn’t unusual for alumni to visit. The first time I saw it was a football game. We were there, and then some old guy walks in the house and starts filling his ice chest. Turned out he was a member. His name is probably on my paddle even though I gave him a hard time about stealing ice. How was I to know? So by the end of spring, it was fairly common to have older people come by, as was the case when some guy walks in and takes a seat.
“Heard I can get a drink in here.” He said.
“That you can.“ I replied. “What can I get you?”
“Beer is fine.” He said. I gave him a couple choices and then got it from the cooler and opened it.
“Here you go.” I set it on a napkin and went back to my textbook.
“What do I owe you?” He inquired. I knew better than that, and my patrons knew just to put a buck in the tip jar.
“Can’t sell you a drink, friend.” I smiled. “All you can do is tip the service.”
“That may be, young man.” He looked at me smugly. “But you’re in a lot of trouble.”
“Why is that? You asked for a beer and I gave you one.” I said. “So what?”
“So what?” He showed me his alcoholic beverage control identification. “You didn’t discern my age first.”
“But you’re… you’re... “ I stammered. “Bald!”
“That doesn’t matter!” He snapped. Smug turned into a little anger. “Now you can pack up that liquor and shut this place down, or I call the sheriff!”
“Well, did you at least bring a box?”
He did, in fact, have one. And it fit just about everything with hard alcohol in it. He left the beer, and a bottle of crappy Spey scotch. I was depressed. It seemed like I just couldn’t catch a break in the speakeasy business. I heard later the athletic department had sent him over. I guess letting those athletes get drunk and party all over the house wasn’t cool with the coaches. Party poopers.
“Join me in a shot of Spey, Bro?” Jeb asked when he found me sulking in the bar.
“Sure, man.” I replied, and poured the remainder of the bar stock into two tumblers.
“To the Lucky 13!” He said loudly. “She’ll go down in history.”
Then we both finished off what was left of our bar.
Summer finally arrived. The house was practically deserted, so I could have a dog and guests for extended stays. Things were interesting. My soon to be wife was coming around more, but I still liked some other pretty girls. Everyone knew the house was closing, it didn’t seem like anyone cared very much. We were on our own for provisions, but I was someone adept in that regards.
The fountain in the middle of the courtyard will always be cool in my mind. Jeb dove in it once on a dare, we threw little sisters into it, if it was nice we’d have keg riding contests, but the best was a hot tub. Since the house was powered by steam, there was no end to the hot water. A hose hooked upstairs could fill the fountain and make it into a big tub.
Just as it got warm, but not too hot, we decided to fill it up. School had let out, and almost no one was left, and about then it was me and my pledge trainer. Even though I was well versed in physics and how electrical current works, I agreed to blend daiquiris in the tub. I suppose I am the reason they put all the warning stickers on shit.
But, as luck would have it, we weren’t exactly alone. There were two lovely ladies in bikinis with us. We poured the drinks around, and after awhile, those nice girls danced for us.
“I was born for this.” I said to my brother.
Neither of us were, actually.
It didn’t seem like this kind of college life was for me, so I decided to leave. I got married, and did many thing in between, but I had to understand some things. In my day, having a diploma was important, no matter what. I didn’t get that, and had to go back. And that, is where the story picks back up.