Tag Archives: drinking

Story of the Day: 2-25-11


The problem with telling stories about the people in your life is that those people are in your life. And they sometimes read these stories and have a different memory of your memories than you do. That is what happened with yesterday’s story, and now I have to backtrack and tell one more story so as to rescue my reputation for honesty. Although, it is another story about dishonesty, so maybe it shall be counterproductive. I am honest about my dishonesty, at least, and that’s gotta count for something.

When I said I never stole anything again after the house party raids, I was totally lying. What I should have said is that I never stole another thing that actually belonged to anyone.

The incident in question occurred at our favorite pseudo-frat, Zeta Psi. Zeta Psi was a great place to party but a horrible place to drink. They had one keg for guests, and if you didn’t know any of the brothers, you could wait for 1/2 an hour, 45 minutes before you managed to jostle your way to the bar.

That night, Josh was wearing the “Shimbo” cap, which was a black baseball cap that said “Shimbo” on it. I don’t know what it meant, but the brothers at the house took a liking to it and began referring to him as “Shimbo” when he was around. I stuck close to him in the thought that any recognition at this kind of event would eventually lead to better keg access. As the night wore on, however, it didn’t seem to be doing much for us. “Hey, Shimbo!” the kegmaster would shout as we waited our turn in line, and then go back to serving whatever hot girl happened to be in front of him at the time.

Out of boredom, we decided to explore the rest of the house. The one thing the Shimbo hat did grant us was access. Normally, we wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere above the first floor — the Zetes were careful to keep all of their party activity confined to a limited area, on the off-chance that thieves might show up and try to steal their microwaves — but no one blinked an eye when Shimbo was in the room. We snuck up a back corridor to the second floor, and from then, we were in. We were welcomed with open arms into any room we chose to enter, the Shimbo hat acting like a magical frat cloak that turned its wearer into an honorary brother.

We somehow gained access to the fire escape and decided to climb up to the roof. Once we were on the roof, we thought it would be a good idea to destroy the house’s television antenna. I realize there isn’t much of a lead-in to this part of the story, but that’s only because the adult me can’t fathom it this ever seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, I guess I was kind of a shitty party guest.

Motive be damned, we smashed the hell out of that antenna. Television antennae, we discovered, are pretty unstable pieces of equipment. One little snap was enough to break off the long, round spokes that composed the body of the receiver. We hooted it up for awhile, then returned to the fire escape, clutching the recently-liberated pole parts in our hands. I’m not sure what we were planning on doing with the poles, but they seemed like prizes at the time.

As we were descending the ladder into the house, a frat brother poked his head out of his window, wondering what all the noise was about. He looked from us to the poles, from the poles to us, a confused expression on his face. We froze in position. Suddenly, his face brightened. “Hey, it’s Shimbo!” he shouted. “Come on in!”

We ditched the poles and climbed into the window, then set off on another round of exploration. This time we landed in the empty kitchen, just behind the room where the party was taking place. And there, waiting for us like the sword in the stone, was an untapped keg.

“We must have this,” we said. I can’t imagine what we were planning on doing with it once we got it. We didn’t have a tap. We lived in a dorm where kegs were not particularly welcome. And it was heavy as fuck. But somehow the mere fact that we’d found a full, unguarded keg in an empty room was enough to convince us that it was meant to be.

With much groaning and straining, we managed to drag the 90 pound behemoth (I looked it up) out of a backdoor without anyone noticing us. We sent one of our friends up front to scout for potential narcs. He came back and told us the coast was clear, so we calmly walked around the house to the sidewalk and began carting it back home.

After 1/2 a block, we realized there was no way we were going to make it the 8 blocks back to our dorm. So we covered the keg with a plastic garbage can and returned to the party. We could always return for it later, we determined, now that we knew where it was.

About 15 minutes after we returned, pandemonium broke out in the house. Word traveled quickly that someone had stolen the last keg. No one had ever heard of such an egregious party foul being committed. The brothers were ready to kill.

Party-goers were sent to scour the premises for the beer thieves, to shoot on sight if they had to. We decided it was time to step up and face the consequences of our actions. We went back to the front of the house and removed the garbage can from the keg, exposing our crime for the world to see.

One of the brothers, who happened to be on the front lawn, saw us unearth the buried treasure. “Hey!” he shouted into the house. “They found the keg! Shimbo found the keg!” The brothers swarmed out of the house, patting Josh on the back and shaking his hand. He became the hero of the party; after that, all he had to do was snap his fingers and he’d get an instant refill.

I don’t know what this story tells us. I guess the moral is, a memorable hat can get you through just about anything.


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Story of the Day: 2-24-11


When I claimed a few weeks ago in the Tower Records story that I’ve never stolen anything, I was totally lying. I’ve stolen tons of things. I guess I really should have said I’ve never shoplifted anything. Because, oh boy, have I stolen things. My criminal activities were limited to one night, but I’m pretty sure that excuse would not get me far in a court of law. “Sorry I killed my wife, officer. It was only one night.” Nope.

It was early in the fall of my freshman year of college. My high school friends and I had arranged an impromptu reunion at Michigan State. I was staying at my sister’s place, in the heart of the student ghetto. My friends and I set out from her house around 10 o’ clock and began making the house party rounds.

Every school has its own code of party ethics, and Michigan State was no exception. Open house parties were the rule of thumb at the time. You did not need to know anyone in the house to attend; so long as you paid $2 to get a cup, you could drink as much as you wanted. By contrast, at University of Michigan parties, you could drink for free, but it was considered poor form to crash a house party where you didn’t know anyone. If you wanted to drink with a bunch of people you didn’t know at U of M, you went to a frat. The beer was free there, too, but it was generally impossible to get to the keg. I wrote a song about it. Here it is.

Working the Keg

The trick was to buy a cup at one party and then wander from party to party with that same cup so you only had to pay once. Fiendishly clever, I know. We were in college, after all.

We were in the kitchen at our second or third party when I noticed my friend Jonah (not his real name) rooting around in the refrigerator.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“Food,” he said. “I’m hungry.”

He pulled a block of cheese out of the refrigerator, then began rifling around the drawers for a knife. He found a pair of scissors in one of the drawers and handed them to me.

“Here, take these,” he said. “I’ve been needing scissors.”

I didn’t think anything of it. It was just a pair of scissors, after all. Who buys scissors? You just have scissors. The owners of the house just had these scissors, and now we had them. They would manage to find another pair somewhere. One always does.

The scissor and cheese heist was such a success, we decided to see if there was anything else in the kitchen we could use. Jonah moved on to the freezer.

“Well, lookee here,” he said, pulling out a fifth of vodka. And then, mysteriously, a package of bacon. “We’ll need this too,” he reasoned. “For later.”

I think it was the bacon that really set the whole thing off. The bacon turned it from a mere scavenging session into a competition over who could get the best swag. When we found our friends and told them what we’d been up to, they all wanted a piece of the action for themselves. We began working our way through the house in teams, sticking to the shadows. When no one was looking, we’d pop open a drawer and grab whatever lay inside. Before the heat could catch on, we regrouped and move onto the next house party.

As the night wore on and our intoxication levels increased, we became more brazen. We moved on from drawers and started grabbing things in plain sight. At first, the objects were small … an electric shaver from the bathroom, a pencil jar from the desk … but the small items quickly proved unchallenging, forcing us to take it to the next level. I began to wonder if things had maybe gotten out of control when I saw Jonah walking out of a house with a microwave.

After an hour or so of unchecked plunder, we bundled our ill-gotten gains up in our arms and headed back to my sister’s house. She and her roommates weren’t home yet, so we let ourselves in and spread our winnings out on the carpet to take a good luck at what we’d accomplished. Included in the final tally were not one but two microwaves, the bacon, the vodka, the shaver, the scissors, a couple of phones … not cell phones, mind you, but home phones. (Cell phones didn’t really exist in 1993, and even if they had, I’d like to think we would have considered them off-limits. We weren’t real thieves, after all. We were property liberators.) I used to have the entire list hanging on my wall, but I just looked through my old notes and it doesn’t seem to exist any more. But trust me, it is far more extensive than you could imagine. I know it included a toaster and a fair amount of kitchen supplies. Oh, and my favorite thing of all: the owl wall hanging that you see at the top of this page. I still have that one. It’s been in every apartment and house I’ve lived in since then.

Seeing all of our work in the light of day, I got a sort of sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. What had we done? Others were nonplussed; a few of my friends headed back out to see what else they could score. We didn’t want or need any of this stuff, mind you. We were a gang of Winona Ryders, sticking sweaters under our shirts for the thrill of the grift.

Eventually, my sister came home, and that was when the full weight of our adventure really hit me. “Where did all this stuff come from?” she asked.

“We stole it,” I said. “We’ve been stealing.”

She was completely baffled. And pissed.

“Why would you do that? And why would you bring it back to my house?”

“I don’t know,” I said meekly. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The next morning she drove us to one of the houses we’d been to and made us return everything we’d taken. She didn’t make us go up to the door and apologize, thank god, although we would have done it if she’d insisted. My sister can be plenty intimidating when she needs to be. We just unloaded everything on the lawn with a note reading “Sorry.” I don’t even know how much of the stuff actually came from that house; we were just happy to be rid of it. It felt like we were doing as close to the right thing as we could do without exerting the slightest bit of energy.

And that was really, truly, the last time I’ve ever stolen anything.

Well, not quite. There was that one frat party at U of M where I took every toothbrush in the bathroom. But those guys were dicks and I maintain to this day that it was a pretty good prank. Can you imagine waking up the morning with a raging hangover and stank breath and not being able to brush your teeth? Oh, the humanity!


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Story of the Day: 2-23-11

Don’t Call Me Dude

I’ve never been good with directions. Just one of the many things men are supposed to do well that I have never quite grasped. I have lived in Los Angeles for five years now, and I’m still a mess every time I get on the freeway. It doesn’t help that the three major highways one uses to get around LA are called the 10, the 110, and the 101. You’d have to be some kind of Einstein to keep those three separate.

Knowing this about myself, it was probably foreseeable that any plan to walk from Zeta Psi to East Quad going strictly through backyards was bound to end in disaster. It seemed like a great idea at one o’ clock on a Friday night, when both Josh and I were seven sheets to the wind. We probably should have taken into account the weather before hatching our plan; Ann Arbor was in the midst of the biggest snowstorm of the year and it was FREEZING. Also, Josh was wearing a sleeveless vest and a t-shirt. In retrospect, not the best idea we’ve ever had.

I’m not sure quite where we took a wrong turn. Zeta Psi was a straight shot from East Quad, about five blocks south on East University. But once we made that first wrong turn, we just kept on wrong-turning.

After about 1/2 an hour of walking, we decided it was time to abandon our backyard plan.¬†What we needed was to find a main street, any main street. Wherever we were, none of the street names were recognizable. We soldiered on through the driving snow, completely off our bearings. Every few blocks we’d see a street we thought we recognized; we’d follow it and end up in yet another completely alien environment.

1/2 an hour turned into an hour turned into 2. We began to get desperate, looking for garages where we could crash for the rest of the night. We wanted to hitchhike, but the roads were frozen over and there were no cars to be found anywhere. I seriously began to wonder if we would make it out alive. Just our luck we’d freeze to death in a highly populated city because we drunkenly thought it would be fun to walk home through backyards.

Finally, after several hours of walking, we stumbled upon an open warehouse where newspapers were being distributed for morning deliveries. We walked in like two visitors from Antarctica, icicles dangling from our body parts. We could barely contain our joy at being given a second chance at life. We walked up to the nearest person, a grizzled old newspaper-delivery veteran and explained our situation.

“We’ve been walking for hours, and we need a ride back to our dorm,” we stammered breathlessly. “Can you please help us?” Reluctantly, the guy agreed to give us a ride. I’m sure there was nothing charming about two semi-coherent college students begging for a ride when the guy was just trying to do his job and get on with his life. But we didn’t give two shits about what kind of impression we were making; we’d survived, and that was all that mattered.

We thanked the man profusely as he drove us back to our dorm. It turned out we were several miles away from campus; how we’d gotten there was anybody’s guess. “Dude,” we told the guy when he dropped us off at East Quad. “We can’t thank you enough. You saved our lives.”

He cast a steely-eyed glance at Josh and me, clearly unmoved by our gratitude. “Don’t call me dude,” he said in a menacing growl, then peeled off down the road.

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