Monday, March 14, 2022

Bray Days: The Party "Scene"


That first year, snow or not, we had more contacts with official Fraternities than we would once we were fully isolated from them, by choice, in the E-Dorms.
 Most weekend nights freshman year, our gang would be in the hall, playing Cosmic Wimpout or something. Our side job was steering the drunk folks who staggered back into Bray Hall towards their rooms. It's nice to know one can provide a public service.

I went to exactly two Fraternity parties in college. The first was during pledging time, I don’t remember who talked us into stopping in, which of us went, or what fraternity it was, not that it mattered. There was music and flashing colored lights in a room filled with solo cups. I spent a while observing the alien culture, trying to figure out the rules and signs of their social hierarchy for a while. Then we left. That was more than enough.
The second, like much of my life, was a matter of strange timing and ridiculousness.
Fraternities all had individual images, and it was usually campus based.
Although Alpha Chi Ro aka, “The Crows” played the role of “the fraternity fraternity” on every campus I’ve ever visited.
Looking up names, I see they’re currently on probation at RPI from March 2018 until next December. Nice to know some things don’t change.
Some were quiet and, some were known for partying. Theta Xi, “The Zoo” has the Alpha chapter at RPI, which means it can’t be permanently closed. However, it was temporarily shut down a couple of times to let all current members graduate before starting up again.
Unsurprisingly, “Delta House” (Delta Tau Delta) was known for causing trouble. The whole thing was closed for a year before we arrived because they cut down a giant pine tree in front of someone’s home. The pledges in the class when it reopened all made paddles that looked like Christmas trees, saws and axes.
Some were sport based, some were cultural or arts centered, and several were service fraternities. Alpha Phi Omega was the lead in the service group. They really were filled with genuinely kind people. And I'm not just saying that because of the cute and intelligent redhead I tried to meet who was a member. Especially since her dweeby boyfriend was also a member, offsetting any bias.
Zeta Beta Tau (sadly, now closed due to lack of interest) was known on campus as the geeky fraternity.

I’m going to let that sink in for a bit.

ZBT - a fraternity at an engineering school in the Eighties- was known by attendees at that school for being the “geeky one.”

Our RA, Ed was a member, a truly decent guy and a helpful RA. His rapport with his charges led him to recruit several members of our floor to join up. The Bray dwelling football players (they were spaced a few in each dorm, based on some damage bill issues I’ll go over later) were not as respectful, however. During an after practice shower one day, they came up with a parody of a current Def Leppard hit using his name, which echoed throughout our halls. It would rear up at an unfortunate (for him) but entertaining (for everyone else) moment later.
Tom, Jesse’s juggling partner and my computer savior, was one of the new members of Zeta Beta Tomata” as we dubbed it. Yes, we were less than helpful. While Tom was trying to memorize his pledge requirements for the group that used blue and gold as their colors, Jesse and I would stand outside his room reciting:
“On my honor, 
I will try, 
to do my best, 
to serve God and my country, 
and obey the law of the pack.”
Until he threw things at us.
In spite of this behavior, once he was fully integrated, Tom invited us to a ZBT party. It was the same night as the Capital District introduction of the Seventh Doctor. A mix of us Bray folk and other jugglers (including Tom) went to see the Doctor Who premier. 
It was held in a creepy looking little UHF public television station, which resembled the one in the Weird Al film of that name. In the fossil times before easy projectors and flat screens, they rolled out two, middle school Audio Visual tower looking carts, with a  twenty-four inch CRT screen TV atop each one. There, we were introduced to “Paradise Towers” making “Build high for Happiness” the official Juggling Club greeting, and “Icehot!” acceptable praise.

Aside- I’ve often wondered why many venues used his second story as the Seventh Doctor's Grand Introduction. With Sylvester McCoy’s introductory season recently released on Blu-ray, we just watched “Time and the Rani” without the excitement of a new Doctor after a hiatus…
And now I know why they led with the fun one that was the first written specifically for the Seventh Doctor.

The advertised “refreshments served” consisted of paper cups for the soda bottles, and some chips and pretzels on a paper tablecloth covered folding table by the side of the room. Therefore, dinner was a necessity.
Most of us came from New York, New Jersey or other areas where Diners were a staple. Tom, being from Massachusetts, had not encountered one. Therefore, when it came time for dessert, our hungry, indecisive and uninitiated to the massive size of Diner dessert selections friend ordered both lemon meringue pie AND chocolate cheesecake.
One serving could have been easily shared by the table, but Tom, who was not large in any direction, downed both. Returning home, we all cleaned up and met over at the ZBT house, where they’d made the common room look exactly like the only other frat party I’d seen:
Loud music, flashing colored lights, and a multitude of solo cups.
Tom’s gymnastic training came into play when he demonstrated a “108.” This act involves forward flipping from a standing position and landing on one’s back, ala Bruce Campbell. I think the two drunk guys he did it for remained staring at that spot on the ground for the whole night, long after Tom stood up and wandered off. Tom was a master at using his physical skills to that effect. We passed the football players staring at nothing in the hallway one day. It turned out they were arguing about how the crane kick worked in Karate Kid. The loud discussion distracted him from studying, prompting Tom to come out of his room and explain Daniel leapt off, kicked with and landed on the same foot. They didn’t believe that was possible until Tom stated, “Like this,” and performed it, kicking a ceiling tile.
The evening had two interesting callbacks to recent events.
The first was when “Paradise City” by Guns and Roses played. Tom was dancing up a storm, while impressing a small group of ladies at the soirée. The music got faster and faster, as it does, and for the big finish, a strobe light came on. Tom was a ball of flailing limbs, his moves and leaps captured in static freeze frames by the strobe light. All the while he kept time with the tune.
Then the pie and cheesecake hit.
Tom stopped dancing mid leap, held his stomach, and exited stating, “I need to go.”
The second moment was a result of many of the new frat brothers being Bray Hall residents who had heard the football players' impromptu shower performance.
Ed was over in one corner chatting up an attractive young female guest of the Zeebies, when “Armageddon It” came on.
In one voice, the former pledges from Bray joined in-
“Are you getting it?”
“Ed McGettigan!”
“Alone in bed again!”
“Ed McGettigan!”
She giggled, Ed fumed, and we went home, because the highlight of the evening, and my total lifetime attendance at frat parties, had passed.
Due to the “Dorm Spirit,” however, there were occasional “Room Parties” in Bray Hall. (Likely, when the third floor R.A. was on duty.) I did not partake during these parties at that juncture for…reasons.
In fact, the very first time Nyra visited Jesse in his new home away from home (after immediately pointing out, “It smells like guys in here.”) she had to step over Mark, our next-door neighbor. His body was sprawled across the hallway, with his head inside his room between two speakers. Statistics being what they are, the speakers must have been playing one of three songs. Mark only listened to those three songs repeatedly for two full semesters, loud enough to shake the wall we shared. As a defense mechanism, I have blocked them out, because I can only remember one was by Queen, one was by Pink Floyd, and the other was “Mr. Roboto.”
Nyra was “blessed” with luck, or perhaps there were more Room Parties than I initially recalled. She was visiting when another one occurred later in the year. In what was a miraculous event for a building full of geeky freshman, some young women from the nearby College of Saint Rose (home of our psychic radio requestor, Denise) stopped in. One went off to hang out with John down the hall. I had talked to her friend for a while a bit earlier and that young lady came to me in a panic. She stated they needed to leave or they’d miss the bus and never make check-in time at their dorm. It took a minute for her to explain dorm “check-in time” as official security in an all-male dorm during the Eighties was an elusive and ephemeral concept at best.
“Have no fear, I have a car and can drive you home without issue. Why don’t you join me with my roommate and his girlfriend to watch a hilarious juggling version of Shakespeare first. We can get to know each other, then I'd be happy to take you all back.”

I said…

In my head…

About a week and a half later than that night when I really said:

“OK, I’ll show you what room she’s in so you can both leave right now.”

Once again, illustrating, quite clearly, the reasons behind my non-existent collegiate dating life.


longbow said...

RSE had free pizza and would screen a Monty Python movie before Monday night football every week.
They bid me, stating they were impressed by how much I could pack in and that I knew so much of the dialogue.
Seemed legit shocked that I instantly declined

Jesse Schell said...

I had forgotten there were two TVs at that PBS thing. It made it hard for me to pay attention! Loved that diner, though! When they brought the second dessert for Tom, I thought his eyes were going to fall out of his head! As always -- I'm so glad you remember all this!

Jeff McGinley said...

Scott, thanx for joining in! Didn't know that about RSE. Never entered that building. I do remember the poor pledges with the hose standing outside all night in the winter to make their ice rink. You made the right decision.

Jesse, thanx much. It was definitely a weird set up. We all kept saying "Tom...are you SURE? The desserts here are really big." Oh well, he learned eventually.