I saw the movie “Old School” with Will Ferrell in the theater three times. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie in the theater even twice before, so that was a first. Yea, it was lowbrow humor with easy setups and a predictable outcome, but I just found it funny. I’ve caught parts of it here and there on TV when I’m bored and scrolling through to see what’s on, and it always captures my attention, even if just for a little while. My guess is that one of the reasons I like it so much is because I can relate to it in some way. You see, I am a fast approaching middle-aged “retired” frat boy. It’s been 15 years since I moved out of the frat house and put away the paddle, and I no longer wear Greek letters as a staple. But the frat is still in me. I imagine Yoda might say, “The frat is strong in this one, it is.” Wrong movie, but you get the point. Hopefully… Returning to “Old School,” I identify with it in some odd way because I’m still fratty and I could envision a situation where I stepped back into my frat life again, however unlikely that would be. in fact, years ago, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a reality show: they’d wrangle up 20 middle-aged frat guys all from the same house and then move them back into their old frat house for a semester. The old guys would have to try to recreate their old lives: going to class, going out and partying every night of the week, having social functions, working at bars, etc. I still think it would work. It would be a comedy of errors.
So it is this weekend that I’m having a frat reunion of sorts back on campus (the University of Illinois). Getting the group together was like herding cats, but we’re going to be about 12-13 strong, so while the turnout could’ve been more impressive, it’s a big enough group to keep things interesting. We’ll be going back for the Illini football game against the UNC Tar Heels (a school we still hate from getting beaten by them in the 2005 men’s basketball national championship game), and it will take place at night, so there’s a whole day of, well, drinking. I’ve been trying to psych myself for pacing the beers. It’s never been a strength of mine but I’ll need to power through somehow. I get in Friday night, as do four others, so the smaller group will have to develop an extra strong constitution for the weekend. Those Saturday-only guys are getting off easy. I don’t want to make this come off as being all about drinking because it’s not. It’s about college girls, too.
My dad is a retired fireman. He is a plaque in his den that reads, “Old firemen never die. They just eat smoke and drink firewater.” Cheesy, yes. But I wonder what it would be for old frat boys? My guess is it would not be fit for print. But to keep it PG-13, I’d suggest: “Old frat boys never die. They just drink Natural Light and smoke Parliament’s.” Hmm. Doesn’t have quite the ring. I’ll let you know what I find to be more fitting after this weekend. That is, assuming I’m still alive to tell about it…
The large group is meeting at an old staple on campus at noon on that Saturday, Murphy’s, a campus legend for big greasy burgers and cheap suds. It’s funny though: I never really hung out there during college. I ate there a few times, and have come to do so more over the years since leaving campus (my alma mater is also in my hometown), but in terms of bars, it wasn’t one that we frequented. It wasn’t a fratty bar. We had our mainstays where we made the rounds: C.O. Daniel’s (now closed), Kam’s, Bub’s (now Red Lion), Orchid (now closed), Gully’s (now closed), R&R Sports Grill (now something else, the name escapes me) and Clybourne (now Firehaus). It appears we’re trying to avoid all these old haunts (well, the ones still open). Aside from needing to be on/near campus for meeting up and the game, it appears we’re going to go downtown for our imbibing needs. It has developed a lot and there is a ton to offer – I go there every time I’m back – but what about college girls? They don’t go downtown. I may have to point this out to the crew…
This will be like the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve returned to campus with a large group of brothers since graduating, but it’s been probably 7-8 years since the last installment. People have gotten married since then (and divorced). People have had kids since then (some have had several). People have gotten older since then (and lazier). So it’ll be different. When we were younger and we would gather in cool locales like Illini football games at other schools or bachelor parties in fun cities, it seemed we were always able to return to our old form. To pick up where we left off and party like 20-year olds again. Speaking from experience I can tell you that’s hard the older you get. Sometimes one night is all you need because that’s all you can handle. The recovery process of debauchery takes longer and longer the older you get. I think because we’re mostly out of practice. And maybe we value sleep a little more.
In 2009 one of good buddy’s had his bachelor party in Tahoe. It took place over a very long weekend. I was one of those foolish enough to go for the whole 5 nights. Several did, actually. Many went for four nights. The point I’m trying to make is, I was trying to change my flight after the 2nd night. Many people were. We all wanted out. We’d done all the damage we could handle. We thought we were a 4th of July fireworks show and in reality we were duds. We didn’t have the fizzle to make it 4-5 nights. Of course what happened was that I couldn’t get my flight changed and I had to make it through the rest of the weekend. Abusing my liver, kidneys and brain cell count. I did it. I guess I look back on it now as some strange accomplishment. Kind of like climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world solo. Kind of… Anyhow, this was seven years ago. My party stamina has leveled off. But I’m in it for the weekend, hoping I can keep my wits about me Friday, pace myself Saturday afternoon and then let loose Saturday night. I’ll be staying at my folks’ place, so I hope I don’t make any really bad decisions: throwing up, falling down the stairs, crawling into the wrong bed. I probably should have gotten a hotel with the others, so this might be the 1st mistake of a long weekend full of them. We’ll see…
Then when it’s all said and done, this Sunday I fly back to my current home on the East Coast. At 10 a.m. Ugh. That’ll be rough. Then somehow I have to slap myself into coherence and get ready for a very busy week. It’s going to be tough. I sure wouldn’t want to do this every weekend, but I’m sure glad I get to do it. All the emails, phone calls and social media interaction in the world can’t hold together friendships the way sharing space – and beer – can. This weekend is about 4 years of college (well, 5.5 for me…) and the 20 years since we all met, but it’s also about the next 20 years. This will be a significant anchor point for the growth and maintenance of those friendships going forward. And I’m grateful for it. Frat guy till I die!
The Fratmaster General
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