Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blackout Summer In The USA - Another Dorm-Days Flashback

This week's Dorm Days Flashback takes us all the way back to the Summer of 2001. At the time I was working at a little golf course on the west side of Salt Lick known as Rose Park. Oddly enough, a month ago, I just started a new job at that familiar little golf course on the west side of Salt Lick known as Rose Park. Like a lot of things in my life, it seems like I take a long and arduous journey just to get back to where I started. But like I always say, it doesn't matter what happens to me as long as I get a story out of it. The story of how I just ended up back at Rose Park will be told at a different time, but to tide you over until then, here's a twisted look back to my first summer away from home.

"Blackout Summer In The USA"
(June 2001)
Originally posted to the old blog in February 2006

It was the summer of 2001, and it was a scorcher. During the summer the only kids still living on campus were people enrolled at least full time, or worked a campus job for ten hours per week. I had a job at a local golf course in Salt Lake, Rose Park, and really did not want to quit and return to Price for the summer. So I got Coach Connor to sign off on ten hours per week as a personal assistant to his staff, and got to stay on campus. VodkaRob, in a similar situation, didn’t feel like returning to his small hometown as well, so he kept his campus job. Without school and less responsibility than ever, could VodkaRob and I, the remaining members of Room 302, manage not to party ourselves to death over the summer? Could we avoid pissing off the administration and getting kicked out? Would we make some new friends? These are all questions hanging over our heads as we cruised into my favorite season of the year.

The administration’s solution, at least to the second question, was to split us up. They wanted to “keep an eye” on all of us summer stragglers, so they confined every on-campus resident to a new building, Residence Hall 4. VodkaRob and I drew different apartments on the ground floor of the new building, and each had five new roommates to get acquainted with. Rob, on the basis of his prior military affiliation ended up with a rowdy bunch of Naval ROTC kids. I ended up with a crew of hard partying, occasionally womanizing members of our Griffin Soccer team. I really can’t stand soccer, but these guys were pretty cool. And considering they were touring the country with various clubs and attending camps and clinics, I pretty much had the apartment to myself, which was a strange place in itself.

I ended up in the ADA compliant room. This meant that the cupboards and appliances in the kitchen were lower as were the sinks in bathroom. For the first time since I quit getting taller at age 13, I actually felt tall! But the best part of all was the bench in the shower, and detachable massaging shower-head. As sore as I’d be when I’d either return home from a golf tournament or unable to stay on two feet due to a few too many, at least I could relax a little bit getting cleaned up.

After returning home from a hard day at work with darkness falling over the city, happy hour would begin, and Residence Hall 4 would spring to life, people starting their own engines, getting ready to hit the town, or tying one on at home. VodkaRob and I along with whoever wanted to join us would load up a little mini cooler with various alcoholic beverages and hold court on a picnic table out in the main quad. While liquor was allowed in the dorms, it was pretty taboo to have it outside of the rooms. But this restraint was either lifted or overlooked that summer. It was like a little outdoor version of Cheers every night, as our group would shoot the shit and relax in the cooling evening air. Once in awhile we would drag out the electric guitars and do our best GN’R impression out there to the delight of no one in particular. Maybe that is what retirement will be like.

It was on one particular Wednesday night that our story takes place. I was deep in preparation for one last run at qualifying for the Utah State Amateur Golf Championship. The qualifier that particular year happened to be in my hometown of Price, so I was prepared to leave nothing to chance as far as getting in. I’d been practicing for hours a day the few weeks prior, before and after work, during my lunch break, hell, I’d even tap two foot putts in the hallway for an hour every night before I went to bed. I was ready, and that particular Wednesday I’d played in my final competitive tune-up, in an 8-man team match for Rose Park against our hated rivals from Mountain View at their home course. I fired a 3-under par 69 on my way to thoroughly destroying my opponent, the son of a Senior PGA Tour star going six holes up with five to play. I needed to unwind before I left town for one last day of preparation down home in Price.

I returned to the school at approximately 9:00 pm that evening. Now, the all new Residence Hall 5 was currently under construction on top of our usual parking lot, so we had to park all the way on the other end of campus. As soon as I got out of my truck I heard the concussive BOOM of an explosion in the distance and started hearing sirens. “Jesus, that sounds like its right in the neighborhood” I thought to myself, not noticing that the normally brilliantly lit up campus was much darker than normal. I grabbed my gear and started trekking across the school grounds. When I reached the dorm quad to find that the fellas had already started happy hour without me.

“A substation bit the dust homey! The power is out dude.” Mikey Hip-hop, a lanky, blond haired, blue eyed kid in a FUBU shirt, and one of VodkaRob’s new roommates hollered my way as I crossed the bridge with my golf bag. “It doesn't look like you boys are jammin’ tonight.”

“I guess not,” I said sorely, “Rob, you got any vodka?”

“Does the Pope shit in the woods?” He replied. I stowed my gear into my room, lit a couple of peach candles and hit the shower to pound a can of Fosters to warm up. It was time to unwind; we were getting seriously tanked tonight, in the dark.

I grabbed two of my commemorative Westminster College glasses, a quart of half and half, my bottle of Kahlua Especial, and a flashlight and picked my way through the dark down to VodkaRob’s apartment. I was currently in my The Big Lebowski, white Russian phase. But as usual I overdid everything. I preferred my stuff in a big glass. Mixing drinks in the dark is no small task, and these were pretty damn stout. We went back outside where pretty much the entire dorm was hanging out on the grass around the fire-pit. Somebody brought out a battery powered tape player and we had a little impromptu party in the dark.

After about two hours and several trips back into the dorm for refills (couldn’t let the milk spoil!), we heard the muffled sound of the generators kick back on and the lights flickered back on dimly. As I stood up, it hit me. My eyes blurred, and my legs felt like spaghetti. I looked at VodkaRob and slurred, “Man, I’m fucked=up. But I haven’t had more than I usually have.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, all I had was Stolichnaya 120. It’s a little more powerful than Skyy.” VodkaRob said matter-of-factly as he downed the remainder of his whiskey sour.

“Great.” I thought as a bunch of us made our way down to Team Navy’s apartment. Rico, another one of VodkaRob’s roommates opened the door.

“Dudes, check it out, my buddy sent me some funny videos!” he said as he giddily dropped a DVD into the player in the main area of the apartment. This kid evidently was some kind of porno connoisseur, as about six of us dudes and three girls were treated to this sick bastard’s new favorite title, “Gag-Factor 8.” The women featured in this particularly degrading, yet humorously titled piece of verite’ seemingly enjoyed fellatio so much they would vomit during the process. Fucking heinous. But most of us were so destroyed that we just kind of stared blankly. The room started to spin, and I excused myself to use the john.

When I returned Rico and his collection had disappeared, and all that were left were VodkaRob, Mikey Hip-hop, and a couple of other guys named Chad and Jeff were talking with the lone remaining female in the room, some gal with frizzy blonde hair named Monique. “Sorry fellas, I think I passed out in there.” I said as I noticed that about a half hour had passed since I went in. I had blacked out.

“S’cool homey! We was just discussin’ some fly art yo!” Mikey Hip-hop shouted, maybe a little too loud as I snagged a beer and sat in the big chair.

“Oh really,” I said, suddenly interested in something besides finding the bottom of my bottle. I do enjoy art very much, especially the really weird shit like Van Gogh, Basquiat, The Dali’ and Picasso. Someday I want to be able to afford some good paintings, not only can they be an interesting conversation piece, but it’s one hell of an investment as well. Monique talked about some of the stuff she had done, and it sounded like it was up my alley. She specialized in canvas paintings with different materials other than paint. “Like what?” I asked. Hey, inquiring minds wanted to know.

“Oh, foods, cleaning supplies, biologicals.” She said.

“Biologicals?” VodkaRob inquired.

“Yeah, plant, animal, and human fluids. It’s been especially difficult getting approval for my latest project.”

“Which is?” I asked, my curiosity peaked.

“It’s a commentary on the misogyny of college age men and their attitudes toward any artistic expression of powerful females inside of the artistic medium.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Chad asked.

“Well, in layman’s terms, I’ve painted a female figure, and I’m going to get five college guys to ejaculate on the canvas and shine it under a black light.”

As completely obliterated as I was, it actually seemed like a sensible idea to me until I looked over and saw the horrified look on VodkaRob’s face. And then it hit me. There are five of us dudes in here right now; I think this crazy woman is propositioning us. When Hip-hop enthusiastically volunteered to do it, I knew it was a bad idea. “What the fuck are you thinking?” I asked myself, and then the room started to spin again. Time to bail. “Sorry folks, I’ve got a long drive tomorrow morning, it’s time for me to retire.” I like weird shit, but not that fucking weird.

I walked back down the main hallway to my apartment, and paused about halfway through and took a knee to gather myself. “Nickas, This shit is getting beyond out of control You better lock it up before you do something really dumb that will ruin your already less-than-stellar reputation.” I thought to myself as I willed myself the rest of the way down the hallway. I managed to choke down two large glasses of water without throwing up to lessen the hangover, and hit the sheets.

The trip home the next day was mostly uneventful; I had a tremendous headache and played like shit during my practice round. I shot a 7-over par 77 on the course I’d played hundreds of times as a kid. My dad and I went down to his old bar, the Savoy, for a beer after dinner. “You all right?” he asked, “you looked like shit out there today.”

“Dad, I think I’ve been living a little too hard lately. I’ve got to reel myself in a little bit,” I said, reluctant to get into specifics.

“You’re not doing any drugs or anything, are you?” he asked.

“No, but I have been drinking a little too much lately. It’s not messing with my job or the way I’m playing or anything, but I can see how things might get out of control if I don’t rein it in.” Unbeknown to my dad, I’d gone through a phase in my mid teens where I kinda lost it, and it seriously messed my grades as well as some relationships with family and friends. It took a lot of hard work in the years since to get things back under control and become the real Nickas again. “I just don’t want to do anything stupid.”

“Well, do what you have to do. You know what you want out of life, if it doesn’t happen, the only one you have to blame is yourself. Just don’t let it bother your schoolwork when that starts again, or then I have a problem too.” Things may not have turned out the way he imagined in his life, but as far as life smarts go, my old man is freaking Einstein. He did not say anything I did not already know, but just hearing it from somebody who had been there in his own past made me feel a lot better.

The next day I did not play especially spectacular. My grandparents and great aunt came out to watch my first few holes, the first time they had ever seen me play competitively. I stayed steady enough until the 18th hole but I didn’t think it was going to be good enough to qualify, when one of the tournament officials asked each of us in our group where we sat. “I’m at 3-over right now,” I replied.

“Mr. Nickas, it would do you some good to get a birdie on this last hole.”

“Well, thanks for that. No pressure or anything.” I thought to myself as I stepped to the tee and crushed the piss out the ball, but pulled it a little left. It looked like it was about fifteen yards left of the green, but in the rough on the short, par 4. Everybody else in the group had laid-up off the tee with iron shots, meaning they played their approaches first. This gave me a little extra time to think over my own shot, a pitch out of a semi-buried lie in the tall grass. “Shot of your life dude,” I thought to myself as I drew the club back. The ball felt good coming off the club, it landed about halfway to the hole on the green and rolled smoothly over the ridge to the back pin location settling about twenty-four inches from the cup. I made the longest two footer of my entire life, and managed to qualify for the State Amateur by a single shot. Despite all of my problems, I had managed to become one of the 75 best amateur players in the state.

Qualifying for that tournament gave me something new to focus on. VodkaRob went to Oregon for a couple of weeks to see his lady-friend, which afforded me the chance to take a little break. Not that it was his fault or anything, it was all on me, but I had the chance to sink my mind back into my work and my game. That’s not to say we gave up the good times completely, but it never got to the point where I considered spunking on a painter’s canvas a reasonable idea ever again.