Thirteen college memories: sophomore year

Mind-boggling, isn’t it, that I haven’t written a Thirteen for my year in the dorms? Well, not really that mind-boggling. Sophomore year was one of my worst years ever, so I don’t go there without some trepidation.By the way, I’ve added a new category for my Thirteen fans: Thirteen Candles. All Thirteen, All the Time. Revel in it.

Below the cut: thirteen dormie memories. (Here’s a photo of the cast of characters; and if you’re jumping into this out of sequence, here’s the freshman year thirteen.)

1. Floppy, a nickname I acquired thanks to my refusal to sit like a normal human being (I’m double-jointed) and also a certain floppiness of mental outlook — hence the “floor airhead” award you see before you.

It could have been worse. I might have been labeled “Least Likely to Get Laid.” That’s the sort of prediction that lodges in your inner core and makes itself true.

I didn’t get laid that year. Not even close. Never even got to first base, unless first base can be loosely extended to include Helen Keller Award Winner and Gloriously Zaftig Andrea, who would give out hugs to all who would ask. Thanks, Andrea. I needed those hugs.

2. Dale, my next-door neighbor, and the main reason I won two more awards (not shown): Most Tolerant of Horrible Music and Most Likely to Go Deaf. Dale was quick to inform us of his 4.0 high school GPA, just so we would know there was more to him than the slacker/stoner/rocker who blasted his music (big Kinks fan, Dale), spent the month of October drunk and high, peed off the balcony, peed in the hall, and generally made all of our lives hell. He flunked out after Fall Quarter, thank God. I doubt I would have survived another two quarters living next to that idiot.

3. Sleeplessness plagued me even after Dale’s early departure. My favorite place to sleep: Bechtel Lounge, where they had lots of comfy couches. I would also crash at Moffett Undergraduate Library. One afternoon, I knew I had two hours to nap. I put my head down, fell asleep instantly, and awoke as refreshed as if I’d had a full night’s sleep — fifteen minutes later! I was so delighted by this I decided to take another nap. This time, I overslept my lecture and woke up feeling like crap. I never will understand that.

Sleeplessness was my ticket out of the dorms. I don’t think my parents believed how bad it was until I went to Tahoe with them for the sole purpose of getting a decent night’s sleep. What really impressed them was the fact I would rather sleep on the floor of their hotel room than spend the weekend in the dorms.

Betcha didn’t know I was an artiste. I drew this on our lounge’s chalkboard and ultimately had to erase it myself. No one else wanted to.

4. The Letter. I came to the dorms out of a long, weird summer in which I’d begun to realize that my girlfriend’s plans for the future didn’t include me. Things were not good between us and, typical guy, I was the last one to figure it out.

Fall quarter, she wrote me far less frequently than she had during Freshman Year. Did I read more into those few letters than I should have? I don’t think I’ll ever know. But after several weeks’ torturing myself over what was happening to our relationship, I decided to give her something of an ultimatum. In writing.

For some reason, when the shit hits the fan, I always think I can write myself clean.

The corner mailbox lay directly beneath my dorm, all twelve floors (or whatever) of it. For a half hour or more I stood there with my letter in my hand, crying noisily, not knowing whether to mail it or not. Well, I did finally mail it, and then I started bawling even louder.

Someone above me got fed up with the show. He or she filled a waste can with water and up-ended it above me. It was a perfect shot.

5. Christmas Vacation: the breakup. Even after twenty-five years I can’t write about this with any objectivity. So let me give you a few memories:

  • My father: “You should have played the field. How many times did I tell you that?”
  • My mother, in disgust (on noticing my glum looks as we entered a particular restaurant): “Oh, Jesus Christ. You’re thinking about her, aren’t you? You ate here with her. God.
  • My GF’s younger sister, looking at me with pity.
  • My GF, kissing my hand as she said goodbye for the last time.

6. And the aftermath. My dormies didn’t like me much after that. I wasn’t fun anymore. I wasn’t Floppy. I would play Spades and Bridge with them but I didn’t seem to derive the same pleasure from my Asian Beauties Playing Cards. I wouldn’t slam dance or get drunk or be the goofball they’d become fond of. I became morose. I became my own worst enemy. A month would go by and I’d say to myself, It’s been a month and you’re still not over her? Like a month would solve anything. A year later, I was thinking the same thing.

Hair of the dog would have worked, but I chose the wrong dog. I developed a crush on a cute li’l Chinese girl (and I do mean girl — in retrospect, my overtures failed because, despite her age, she had the romantic sensibilities of an eight-year-old) who had made the mistake of being nice to me. You know — saying kind things, leaving me little gifts. I misinterpreted what she had surely meant as acts of friendship.

After butting my head up against that wall a few times, I gave up. Have you ever kissed anyone who didn’t kiss you back? Yeah, I did that. Anyway, afterwards, I was angry but not hurt. I don’t think she could have hurt me, though; the hurt spot was still fully occupied.

Why couldn’t I have met Karen sooner? It would have saved me from a rough two years.

My pal Stan

7. Napa State Mental Hospital — as a volunteer, not as an inmate. That was the year I began going to Napa once a week with Deb, Tracy, Laura, and that gal who drove, what was her name? I told you about Debbie a long time ago (yup, me butting my head up against another wall). You can’t imagine how good it is for one’s sanity to get away from the dorms, if even for a short while, to hang out for an evening with paranoid schizophrenics, Penal Code patients, schizoaffectives, and borderlines.

One fun (and useful!) thing about my time at Napa: meeting up with truly scary patients on the streets of Berkeley. They never stayed long in Napa, nosirree. My Napa experienced helped me immeasurably; I always knew when it was a good idea to cross to the other side of the street.

8. Henry Rappaport, my organic chemistry teacher. Sophomore year was a big science year for me — organic chem, analytical chem, biology, and physics. I may have also taken psychology and a couple of anthropology classes that year. It’s all a blur! Anyway, my favorite teacher of all was Henry Rappaport. It takes a special man to make a hellishly dry subject like O-chem interesting, but he was up to the task. All it takes is enthusiasm — it’s an infectious emotion.

9. The psycho among us. My friend Russ’s roommate, the ROTC guy, never socialized with us. He studied with headphones on, music cranked. He began accusing Russ of various perceived crimes, and his accusations became progressively more and more whacked, to the point that Russell moved out and slept on the floor in another dorm room. Our RA didn’t want to do anything about it — a decision which would later bite him in the ass.

One day at dinner, we saw two policemen drag the ROTC guy in cuffs past the cafeteria window. He had assaulted our RA and then barricaded himself into his room! Exit ROTC guy.

Russ and I went upstairs to reclaim his room. I had an intuition we would find something among ROTC guy’s effects to explain, or at least document, his decline; and sure enough, within ten or fifteen minutes’ searching, I found some tightly scribbled pages. They read like Travis Bickle‘s diary.

Russ (winner of “Least Likely to Get Laid” and “Most Likely to Become Greek”) is the middle guy, who could have also won the Peter Billingsley lookalike contest:

10. Dave, the Physics God, was one of our dorm’s more colorful characters. He had Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce patter down cold; the man was a nonstop font of snarky wit. Trouble was, that’s all he was. Dave had a crush on the same girl I mentioned in #6. He had a shot at her, too, I suspect, except he couldn’t drop the Hawkeye routine. She couldn’t penetrate the facade and it frustrated her.

Then she found six-foot-tall, blue-eyed Jesus, and we were all out of luck.

11. My friend S. had an uglier breakup than me, if that’s possible. He and his high school girlfriend had both been admitted to Berkeley and they roomed together in the Co-ops. She left him for another guy, but she and S. had to stay together in that little room, in that very same bed, until the quarter’s end. That had to be torture.

I confess I felt some happiness in S’s breakup. I hoped I would have someone to commiserate with, and truly, it did work out that way for awhile. S. and I had that rollicking good time watching Eraserhead, for example. But while Stan (the Zappa-like dude in the saran wrap, above) and I have stayed friends all these years, S. and I drifted apart.

12. Easter break, I had no reason to go home, so I hung out in the dorms and had myself a good old time hiking in the Berkeley hills. That, and sitting in the showers until my fingertips got wrinkly. To this day, when I’m upset I either shower or walk.

We also painted doors that week — pure, mischievous funsies. Here’s what we did to Russ’s door.

13. Bagels. My pal Stan has never been what you might call a neat freak. He managed to keep a branching walking path clear in his dorm room: you could navigate to the desks and beds if you carefully placed one foot in front of the other. He claimed to know where everything was.

At the beginning of Fall quarter, Stan bought a dozen bagels. He found them again in June while cleaning out his things. Or at least, he surmised they had been bagels once; the bag contained nothing more than a few inches of fine, green silt.

That’s it, folks. I’ve bled enough for one post. You know the ropes: leave a comment and (assuming I’m not getting my butt slammed against the wall by unruly patients) I’ll give you the linky lurve you crave.

May knows herself a wee bit better

Thirteen things about Darla’s lovely daughter

Wonder at the peculiarity of Suisan’s mutant horse!

SxKitten’s 13 (and more) great nature photos. There’s even a frog.

Tam’s busily writing another Dubric book, and

John Masters gives us 13 photos from Louisiana

Shaina links to a New Years Resolutions meme . . . mine is uncannily apt:

Pay for my frogs on time.
Ask my boss for a food.
Take evening classes in humor.
Spend more time with my pc games.
Buy new spiders.
Lose ten exotic pets by March.


Trish has 13 resolutions. Don’t give her any sh!t, ya hear?

And Corn Dog gives us 13 college memories of her own (don’t miss these!)

Technorati tag:



  1. mm says:

    Hey – Your pal Stan is CUTE!

  2. Walnut says:

    And taken, too :)

  3. May says:

    Number 13 is hilarious.

  4. Darla says:

    Your memory is way better than mine. Maybe because my sophomore year was pretty much a blur of sex and alcohol.

  5. Suisan says:

    I think my thirteen memories of sophomore year in college would go something like:

    Be Depressed.
    Forget to Eat.
    Read a book.
    Get a note from the Dean’s Office.
    Inform my parents that Smith College is asking me to pack my bags and take an “Extended Leave of Absence.”
    Fight with my parents.
    Be Depressed.

    Ah. The Memories….

  6. Walnut says:

    May: yup, and it’s typical Stan, too. I wonder if his wife has cured him of this yet.

    Darla, if I could trade that year for a blur of sex and alcohol, I definitely would.

    Suisan, that sounds even worse than my year :(

  7. sxKitten says:

    OK, would someone please enlighten the dumb canuck? What year is sophomore? Here, we call ’em 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. How can I trade stories if I don’t know which stories to swap, huh?

    Oh, and I posted 13 photos of scenic beauty, mostly stolen from my dad.

  8. Walnut says:

    2nd year, m’dear.

  9. tambo says:

    My daughter starts college fall of ’08.

    You’re making me scared.

    My dorm experiences were. mostly:

    Hand out with suitemates who also mostly studdied, slept, and ate.
    Realize that the gamers, SCA folks, and whatnot were too weird for me. Something I didn’t think was possible, but having people IRL call you by your Palladium character’s name (and dressing like him, too) kind of surpassed my geeky-nerd-gal limits.
    Listen to tales of actual interesting things from Australian gal (Sheryl) from across the hall. She had double pierced ears and hung out with a group of Samoan guys. She was most cool and probably the hilight of my year.

    Lather, rinse, repeat, and go home every weekend I could.

    1 year in the dorms was enough for me. I’m too freaking shy.

  10. This was a totally fun read. I even went back and read the “freshman” one. Good stuff. I didn’t have nearly that much fun in college, but I’m one of those guys who goes to great lengths to avoid any appearance of doing wrong; in other words, boring. Your stories are great though.

  11. sxKitten says:

    2nd year, huh? (I like the m’dear, BTW). What do you do for names in a 5-year program like my B.Comm? Do you get 2 senior years, or what?

    I was still living at home sophomore year, carpooling with 7 friends (2 cars a day and a hellishly complicated schedule), dating a guy my folks didn’t like (which led directly to my moving into student residence the following year), playing D&D with said boyfriend, and hanging out with my family. Kind of dull, in hindsight.

  12. shaina says:

    dammit. another thursday, and no ideas yet. i’ll let you know if i come up with one. i have to go write a resume, maybe i’ll write about that. (in the meantime, i posted a hilarious meme you might like!)

  13. May says:

    Just so you know, I’m not married. The long story short is that me and Racy share uncannily parallel lives (we even went on vacation at the same time). Her husband, aka Mr Racy, is an Irish fencer. I’m not sure what we were discussing at the time, and how we ended up talking about him in the first place though.

  14. shaina says:

    ‘kay, i did a TT for real. yay! so proud of me. any way you could create a list of topics that i could use in the future? i have such a hard time thinking of things to write. 😀

  15. Suisan says:

    Hey, Wait!

    It’s not *MY* mutant horse!!

    (Appreciate the linky love anyway, but good grief. You make it out that I’m harboring mutants. Well, maybe I am. Who would know?)

  16. Corn Dog says:

    Ok…my 13 sophomoronic memories are up. I know I’m sliding in under the wire. As usual.

  17. Corn Dog says: thirteen sophomoronic memories are up. I know. I’m sliding in under the wire…as usual.

  18. Corn Dog says:

    maybe third times the charm. I can’t seem to leave any comments. My sophomoronic memories are up on my blog. Late, as usual

  19. trish says:

    Happy TT!

    Wish I had a memory like yours. My past is a little fuzzy. I *think* I was there.. I just can’t remember. :)

  20. Corn Dog says:

    Can I post or is it Doug giving my comments a kick in the @ss?

  21. […] Ruby Slippers and twelve other junior year memories By Walnut Continued from last week. […]

  22. […] (Wednesday). Today, we looked at real estate & saw some amazing homes. Then we caught up with our friend Stan and his new baby girl, Jayna, and ate at a great Chinese restaurant (Shanghai […]