Tag Archives: Zeta Psi

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: 2-23-11

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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Story of the Day: 2-1-11

The Legend of Scary Gary: Part 2

Player Black came to us by way of Zeta Psi. Zeta Psi was the Animal House of U of M. It was the frat for the weirdoes and the druggies and the people who would never in a million years join a frat. It wasn’t even a real frat. Legend had it they were kicked out of the Greek Council because someone was making cat in their attic. Cat is short for methcathinone. It’s like crystal meth on crystal meth. It’s made from paint remover and battery acid and it supposedly makes users bleed out of their peeholes. The only place I’ve ever read about cat is in a 1995 article in Spin Magazine. The article claimed the drug was sweeping the nation, but judging from the amount of time I just spent explaining what it is, I think it’s fair to say the cat epidemic has yet to take off.

Even though Zeta Psi wasn’t technically a frat, they still had pledges and hazing and all that fratty stuff. Just because one’s peers do not recognize one’s legitimacy does not mean one cannot adopt those peers’ rituals. I think Thomas Paine said that. I don’t know what kind of thing goes on during the pledge period at normal frats, but from what I gather, the thing that went on during Zeta Psi’s pledge period was drugs. Lots of drugs. They would make their pledges do lots of drugs and then scare them with Frankenstein masks and things. If the pledge didn’t go insane, he was Zeta Psi material.

My freshman and sophomore years, I lived in the weirdo dorm, East Quad. East Quad was home to the Residential College, the program from which I graduated. The R.C. was a small, creative arts-focused college inside of U of M. Most of our classes took place in East Quad, so we didn’t really ever have to leave or get dressed if we didn’t want to. We didn’t have a functioning grade point average because we got written evaluations instead of letter grades. My college transcripts say things like, “participates in class regularly” and “great handwriting.”

Zeta Psi loved weirdoes, so East Quad was the unofficial breeding ground for Zeta Psi pledges. And frat parties had free beer, so we spent a considerable amount of time at Zeta Psi. They once had an Easter party where they gave one of their guys a bunch of acid and crucified him above the front door for the entire party. It was like the Hall of Presidents, only real and scary and with Jesus.

One of the punks I lived with senior year was a Zete, which was how Player Black came into our lives. Player Black had stumbled upon Zeta Psi during a party and made himself at home. The technical term for his residential status would be “homeless,” but he wasn’t like a crusty-old-pee-flavored kind of homeless. He was a hustly, moochy kind of homeless. Like he had more important things to do than find an apartment, and you should be pumped that he decided to share his genius with you for a few weeks. Zeta Psi was in such a constant state of anarchy that they could go weeks without noticing someone had moved in, so it was the perfect place for a dude like Player Black to crash.

He showed up at a couple of our parties, by way of our Zete housemate. The young punks liked him because they were sophomores and he was a total character. As a wisened-old graduate, I had lost my patience for characters. Characters thrive in college towns, where there are plenty of wide-eyed undergraduates looking for a story to tell the next day. Unfortunately, as one learns, the story loses some of its fun when one wakes up and the character is still there.

No one really knows how Player Black got his nickname. He was black. So, I guess that was part of it. But he did not fit any definition of player I’ve ever known. Having a place to sleep at night is pretty much the most minimal criteria for being a player. I can only assume he gave himself the nickname Player Black, which is about the most un-player thing you can do.

His other nickname was the King of Cats, which I also assume he gave to himself. He claimed that cats couldn’t get enough of him. This one appeared to have some basis in reality. Andre’s cat Tricky Kitty really did seem to perk up whenever Player Black came around.

Nearly a month into his stay on the couch at Zeta Psi, the Zetes finally had enough of Player Black and they sent him out on his ass. He packed up his gym bag and headed straight over to our house. At this point, I was no longer on the lease; I was subletting from Andre and the punks for the summer. So I had little say or responsibility over what went on in the house. If they wanted to spray-paint the upper living room and knock out the stairs to the basement so none of us could do our laundry, it was not my concern. I had graduated, and I was sure to be on to bigger and better things come fall. I didn’t know what those things were, but pretty much anything is bigger and better than living in a non-functional house whose interior walls are coated with spray paint.

Player Black fancied himself a rapper. His sole possession was a cheap Korg drum machine that he used for making beats. It didn’t have a speaker, so he’d punch up the beats and make us listen to them through his waxy old headphones, staring at us with a huge grin while we pretended to enjoy them.

“Nice,” we’d say, nodding our heads, because that’s what we were expected to do.

“That’d get the party started, ‘miright?” he’d ask.

“It certainly would get some kind of party started,” we’d answer.

For the first few days of Player Black’s residency, I tried to keep out of it. If the punks wanted him to stay in their house, that was their right. It soon became apparent, though, that no one wanted him there; they just weren’t sure how to get rid of him. And as the only functioning adult, it eventually fell to me to kick him out.

There were two straws that broke the camel’s back. The first happened in the middle of the night. I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I heard Player Black talking to someone in our upstairs living room. “Yeah,” he said, “you like that?” I walked out into the living room to find him sitting on the couch, holding his headphones up to Tricky Kitty’s ears. When he saw me, he looked up and grinned.

“He likes my beats,” he said.

The next morning I’d told the punks what had happened. “I can’t have this guy playing his beats for the cat at 3 o’ clock in the morning,” I said. “He’s a total lunatic. I want him out. Today.” When I got home from work that night, however, he was still there. He was sleeping on the couch in the downstairs living room. The only light came from the TV, which was tuned to a WNBA game. I don’t know why, but the thought of him falling asleep on my couch while watching the WNBA suddenly felt like the ultimate sign of insolence.

“That’s it,” I said. “You’re out of here.”

Luckily, he went without much of a fuss. I guess a guy like Player Black has gotten used to being kicked out of places. Nevertheless, it was the end of the road for me. When my high school buddy Don called up the next week and asked if I wanted to move to New York with him, it didn’t take me long to make a decision.

Spoiler alert: that decision was yes.


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