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.
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.
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:
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.
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!)