The real ending of my E-Dorm life came a year later. I stayed at the E-Dorms after the Big Room years rooming with Jesse finished, but moved to a Voorhees single. In trying to avoid the odd feeling of being in Brian’s old room, I accidentally picked one Scott had lived in. Since he got rid of his bed and slept in a hammock during his stay, there wasn’t much familiarity of the space anyway.
Graduate school can be summed up as far less classes, and far more homework than normal college. My classes only met two days a week in my final semester, and none started early. That year cemented my discovery that I operate at peak efficiency sleeping from 2AM to 10AM. This is why I have been tired and crabby ever since the mid Nineties.
Due partially to my abilities and work ethic, but also to how Graduate School grading is curved (if you get a “C” you’re basically failing, but A's still required effort) I got straight A’s minus one. During my first semester, I took a 600 level Design of Experiments course at the same time as its pre-requisite Statistics class. Because the Statistics instructor didn’t show up all that often, playing videos of past classes, it was tougher than I expected keeping pace with the Design of Experiments stuff. The saddest part was watching the occasional student raise his hand towards the monitors playing the video in Statistics, then look sheepishly down at the empty podium in the front of the room and slowly lower their hand. Because of the lag, I got a “B” in the DOE class. Another possibility for the grade stems from the main conclusion of my final project, which was conducted the year before during the end of my time in the big room.
“No matter how experienced a knife thrower your friend is, do not conduct an experiment in throwing styles and grip type when she is standing anywhere near your dorm room window.”
Because this friend attended SUNY Albany, the property damage was inconsequential compared to Linda extending an invitation to a SUNY A. drama group party just before the final week I was at RPI.
There are oceans of movies based in and around college parties. Attending a technical school for five years, I accepted they were all works of exaggerated fiction until that evening.
We were told to meet the drama gang near the big fountain on their campus. When we got there, we didn’t see them near the fountain. That is because a majority of them were tossing a Frisbee around while standing IN THE FOUNTAIN. I juggled my torches to establish enough weird performer credit to be accepted in to their merry band for the night.
We hung out there for a while, until the folks that went on the beer run returned and one of the girls said she knew somewhere to hang out.
Who knew there was an enchanted glen next to a waterfall just off Route 90?
Ben using his scouting skills, and I using my Up the Lake skills, got a campfire going in the center of the large rocky outcrop we had gathered on across the gorge from the falls. Several of the group had guitars with them, in a permanent state I’d imagine, and almost everyone not from my school could sing really well.
Spending a night with anti-engineers after five years of RPI was quite refreshing. One of the tribe’s leaders described his post-graduation plans as:
“I’m going to sit in a tree,
spend the first half of the day rolling a joint,
and the second half smoking it.”
At one point, a group of us went down to the pool at the base of the waterfall and since just about everyone already spent part of the evening in the fountain, we jumped in. Up the Lake training was yet again helpful in two ways. The first was when one guy, who I guess never had the luxury of free range swimming, was surprised and concerned that there was no life-guard in in the forest during the middle of the night. Ben told him he didn't have to worry because I was down there.
He asked, "Is Jeff a life-guard?"
Ben's reply, "No, but he's big and he swims well."
Thank you Ben for comforting him by stating I was Shamu.
After we exited the basin of the mountain stream, "sit in a tree guy" was overwhelmed:
"That was amazing! That was astonishing! That was like a baptism!
With years of Up the Lake swimming experience at various times, dates and climate conditions I helped finish his sentence.
"YEAH!" He enthused, "THAT WAS COLD!!!"
In mingling, I met Mary, a Senior from SUNY A, also shortly due to leave the Capital District forever, who was born in the exact same Italian named Catholic hospital in the Bronx as I was. We first connected when we both started headbanging to Green Jelly’s (then still "Green Jell-o" before the copyright suit) “Three Little Pigs” song on a car radio parked near the fountain. Her family had taken the more common easterly migration path out to Long Island. My father was always a brave individualist, leading our family on the more treacherous western migration route to the wilderness of New Jersey.
Ben pulled me aside at one point to pass on a warning he’d heard that she was somewhat crazy.
I responded, “Have you met me?”
“Oh yeah, never mind,” was his quick answer.
She and I spent most of night talking to each other, trading stories and jokes.
No she did not accompany the group down to the natural pool. She "double dog dared" me to go, and instead of returning her "double dog dare" I simply said, "OK," and left.
Yes, I may be a fossil now, but there is much solace in knowing I am now wiser than a dilapidated fence post.
Since I had come with Ben and Linda, when they were getting ready to leave, I searched desperately for another ride home. I arranged one with a guy from Ben's gaming group I'd join extremely occasionally for Dungeons and Dragons and other pursuits. The reason it was extremely occasional is they insanely played starting at seven on Saturday mornings, a time I'm not sure physically existed in college. I arranged my ride just in time to learn Mary had asked Linda for a ride home to SUNY A and they were getting in Ben's car down the hill from where I was at the moment, which was already down a hill from the main the rocky outcrop. I briefly entertained abandoning my juggling equipment up by the fire as the only way I'd have an outside shot at catching up was running directly down to the parking area. Instead I continued mingling with the entertaining tribe, figuring I'd ask Linda for Mary's contact information in a day or two.
As Scott missed Jesse's Senior Week last Laughter Hours the year before, due to accelerating his graduation more than I had, he was the only one I invited to the final episode. It happened before the drama party, but as none of these memories have been in a coherent order, why start now? I decided to end a week early in the semester since it coincided with Laughter Hours's 100th Episode. I did briefly consider a "rerun" the following week of a show the tape recorder glitched on to get it into my library Since that would be anticlimactic (and deranged, even by my standards) number one-hundred was the true finale.
However, because it was too late to be thrown off the air, this time I let him go for the full dedication. He also tacked on an undeserved dedication to Emily of the unknown accent, since she welshed on her promise during juggling club to show up that night. (Side note- I've been rewatching the Marx Brother's films again. Margaret Dumont's accent is mostly unspecific as well. Emily did a good job.)
Scott and I joining in with Queen at the beginning was a far greater embarrassment to us than any of those the song was dedicated to. My sister was on the phone, sharing the final Trenton State Update. She could be heard in the background quietly stating what all the listeners must have been thinking,
"Oh my God they're singing."
Death and Danger called in to say farewell and remind everyone that A) they were part of our awesome and insane all night all request show and several other nearly as insane endeavors, and B) That no one since they did had the (Them- "Can we say this on the air?" Me- "Sure, it's my last show.") BALLS to do a show every week starting at one-thirty in the morning. They did give me a hard time for trying to speed them along, since I had a lot of dedications to get through on the last round up and limited cassette space.
My folks called in to congratulate me as well, but they hadn't roomed with - and learned from - an experienced performer for four years, meaning there was no way on earth they were going on the air.
The final three songs of Laughter Hours were:
“(Please Can I) Go Round Again”- by Benny Hill, a surprisingly sensitive number from the music hall master, for reminiscing.
(In here was a bit of Patton’s final speech from the George C. Scott film for …something.)
“This Frog,” by Kermit- for inspiration.
And finally- “School’s Out!” – by Alice Cooper, for CELEBRATION.
It is no coincidence that I play Coop for my daughter when I take her to the last day of school every year.
After the final station ID, and before shutting down, I appropriately played Statler and Waldorf from the first Muppet Album,
"That's it, its over, how'd you like It?"
"I don't know, I slept through the whole thing,"
"Well, you didn't miss much."
*Muppet Musical Sting*
Scott and I had one final adventure before I left the area, my first ever visit to a Wal-Mart!
There I found "Bob" a six foot rubber snake that replaced one I had and broke into many segments Up the Lake before age five. Bob turned out to be the name of my first boss, making it a precognitive circle of life thing. Bob is now over twenty-seven years old and still lives in my comic book room.
The graduation ceremony would be at the end of senior week. My family had a Disney trip planned...
Well, technically my family always is in some stage of planning a Disney trip.
But this time we had one specifically booked for shortly after I finished my last final.
A) I went through a ceremony a year before ,
B) They don't invite graduate students to the Booze Cruise,
and most importantly
C) Linda didn't know Mary's phone number or room location,
(dilapidated fence post)
There was no reason to hang around the dorm alone for a week.
My folks had already scheduled driving up to let everything be taken out of the room in a single, two vehicle trip. Dad recommended leaving my ancient and decrepit computer in the hall for someone to steal. I told him, “It's RPI, no one is going to steal this.”
I had already been through a fair amount of confusion a short time before. Since I originally planned to do a thesis, the professor in charge of that would have become my advisor. In the interim, I was told to keep seeing my undergraduate advisor even though I was in the Design Concentration and he was focused on Thermodynamics. When I switched to project and course based Graduate work, no new advisor was assigned, and in the flurry of swearing at take home tests, I didn't think about it..
Luckily, I read the requirements very well and took all the classes I needed. When I went to see my “advisor” near the end of the final semester, he was highly surprised. While the school was happily billing us for courses, setting up and charging for my room and meal plans, and assigning me to class times, large sections of the Mechanical Engineering department and its systems had no idea I was there.
My “advisor” looked over my final course list, and presented me with the full extent of my graduate school advising:
“Yes, you met all the requirements. Congratulations, you get a Master’s Degree,”
With all of my papers in hand, I went to the table downstairs in the Union where they certified the students who would be graduating. This was also where they handed out the tickets for the ceremony.
I filed all of my information, got checked out on their computer and was cleared to finish my college career after five years with two degrees.
The girl running the table then handed my ticket envelope over, and I said,
“No thanks, I’m not going.”
Her eyes widened and she exclaimed, “
You’re not going to graduation? Why not?”
I maintained a straight face…somehow…and replied,
“You guys pronounced my name wrong last year, so I’m not going.”
I walked away to the sound of her jaw dropping on the table, enjoying to my own personal epic, “I’m going to Disney World” moment.