Breaking with tradition, it’s 8:00 on a Saturday and I’m not pondering the acceptability of crawling into bed while it’s still light outside. That would be because the doors just opened at the Borgata Events Center and sometime in the next hour or so, Counting Crows will be on stage. This falls well inside the circumference of my happy place.
Listening to these guys is always like taking a ride on the way back machine and landing square in the middle of Cambridge Hall, 6th floor, high side.
Looking out the kitchen window into the inky blackness of 6AM, while I was waiting for the coffee maker to quit dripping, I got smacked in the head by a memory of a place where I haven’t set foot in over a decade. The old Honors Lounge was a half-subterranean affair stashed just off the boiler room in Guild Center. It had the benefit of not just being secluded, but also of being close to almost all your classes if you happened to be a social science major. Though the furniture was of suspect cleanliness, it was comfortable in that beat to hell kind of way that hand-me-down furniture tends to have. On most days it was a great place to find a conversation or an argument and it beat walking all the day down the hill to Lane Center or Cambridge if you needed to kill an hour between classes. More important than any of that, though, the Honors Lounge had a coffee pot and usually a giant drum of Maxwell House in the fridge. Sure, if you went in too early on a Monday morning there might have been mold growing in the filter or scorched sludge in the pot if someone left it on over the weekend, but the important part was that it was there at all. Fresh, hot coffee on demand. That was living big. As long as you liked your coffee black that is, since your chances of finding creamer or sugar stashed somewhere were nil.
I don’t know what made me think of that this morning. Maybe it was the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting up at me. Maybe it was the last exasperated gurgle the machine made before giving up its piping hot wonderfully caffeinated beverage. Since I’m not a fancy big city psychologist, I’ll probably never know what exactly triggered that particular memory, but for a few seconds this morning, I was standing right there in Frostburg looking out the window towards Old Main waiting to pour a fresh cup before walking down the hall to class.
I saw a Facebook post yesterday morning from my alma mater proclaiming a smoke free campus. Personally it’s sort of a “whatever” moment for me as it doesn’t impact me one way or another. You can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been back on campus since I walked across the stage at the PE Center. Plus, there’s the whole quitting thing so I won’t be strolling campus jonesing for a fix any time soon. Still, it got me thinking about the old stomping grounds a bit.
I probably shouldn’t admit this here on the internet, but some of my best memories from college are the times sitting on the wall in front of Cambridge Hall smoking and joking with whoever happened to show up. Those were some great late night conversations and friendships that were bonded in the face or driving snow, wind, and rain. Of course it was always nice that if you jumped inside the wall, you could find a few feet of dry space and keep the conversation going? I could rattle off a few names, but for their sake a decade later I won’t. If you’re reading this, chances are you know them or might even be them. Standing in front of Dunkle? Yeah, I was there too. Or if I was lucky, I got one of the coveted benches at Guild Center between POSCI classes. It was a golden age… and as much as the anti’s would have me feel ashamed of it, I enjoyed every puff.
Look, I know the health risks of smoking. You’d be hard pressed to find a current or former smoker who doesn’t. We’ve lived them and will continue to live with the repercussions for the rest of our lives, but that’s the choice we made. I’ll direct you to the ill-fated experiments of Prohibition and our ongoing War on Drugs as an example of how “banned” substances come back and ruin your day with unintended consequences. The only thing this kind of ban does is force those intent on continuing an activity to find alternative ways and places to do it. They’ve moved the behavior across the street and declared victory because it isn’t happening “on campus.” That’s some victory they’ve got there.
No, I’m not changing careers, but having the ability to talk like a used car salesman has a plethora of important uses. Among the most important of them was trolling for freshman as a junior on the 5th floor of mighty Cambridge Hall. Now you all know that I’ve never really had any game to speak of, choosing instead to rely on sheer force of will and infinite patience in pursuit of the fairer sex. Theoretically, Cambridge was reserved for upperclassmen, but the 5th and 6th floors were assigned to the Honors Program, which guaranteed an influx of freshmen every semester… We’d later learn to call this a target-rich environment.
I suppose it would have been October of 1998 and I was targeting a particular freshman with lots of attention, long talks on the back patio, romantic,lingering dinners in the dining hall, and of course, booze. After an extensive “softening up” period, I decided that a frontal assault was in order, saying simply, “I’m gonna sell this like a used car… What do I need to do to make this deal?” Well, in making a long story short, for some totally unknown reason, it worked and began a whirlwind romance that would practically end with a war between the north side of the floor and the south… That’s right, our own little version of the Civil War. Come to think of it, that was also the night I learned that no matter what you are doing, having two people in a single bed is just damned uncomfortable. So, yeah, that’s the story of How “like a used car salesman” came to be a phrase in regular use. I don’t get to use the phrase often these days, but it still crops up from time to time.
Gonnaherpasyphilaids is actually one of my personal favorites. I find it to be an excellent all-purpose word basically meaning that the individual in question has a high likelihood of carrying one or more diseases of the naughty regions that are non-responsive to penicillin. This word came into usage during my sophomore year as a response to the choruses of “I’d do her” that accompanied almost any chick of even modestly attractive features. That is to say, “Yeah, you’d do her, but you’d probably end up with gonnaherpasyphilaids.” This term is still regularly in use.
At the request of a dear friend, I have undertaken a small project to catalog many of the “Tharpisms” that have evolved over the years. Many of them have their origins high atop Cambridge Hall in the land of single rooms and honors students. Others are more recent additions to my personal lexicon, but nevertheless, they will be familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time anywhere near me in the last 10 years… If there are any particular favorites, feel free to make a request. I’ll start you off with two that top my list in the coming posts.