The Price of Pledgeship

As Pledge Commander, I’ve had to make sacrifices. I’ve stopped going to many classes. I don’t do my homework. And many nights, I don’t sleep in my bed. I’ve given up any hope of a normal life or a face that girls might find attractive in order to watch all thirty episodes of the canceled television show Jerichowith my pledges.

However, I have found that being Pledge Commander has a different price – my dignity. Not that I had dignity before, but I feel like when other people see me, they feel my dignity slipping away, and I don’t have time to stop them and say, “I lost my dignity long ago. It’s too late for me – save yourself,” so somedays I feel it just as strongly as the first day it left, that time Lewis Chase ratted me out to Stephanie Broderick for writing that anonymous love note in second grade.
Every time I go to Wal-Mart, I relive that day when Lewis Chase told me that Stephanie would much rather be with him than with me (right before she left town; to this day I still can’t find her on Facebook. Do you know how many Stephanie Broderick’s there are in the continental U.S. alone? At least ten, because you can only view ten at a time, and I wasn’t about to page through the whole list). For pledgeship, I’ve had to buy the oddest things. 200 squirt guns. Fifty pounds of flour. Fifty dollars worth of panty hose. A hacksaw and several gallons of industrial strength lime. Okay, I made that third one up.
Saturday, in the check out line with seven bottles of spray paint, ten rolls of masking tape, and seventy Hanes V-necks, Arkansas radio personality Rick Schaeffer (see picture: the original Hotness) pulled in behind me. He gave me the stink voice, which is the FM equivalent of the stink eye. In return, I told him not to sound so smug, with your fifty pounds of animal feed. What are you doing, running a cock fight?
I may have not said that, but it still feels terrible to have a minor local celebrity infer that you’re losing your dignity.
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Another Assassins Story

Last night, the game Assassins ended with a battle royale at midnight on Old Main Lawn, between the fifteen remaining players. They survived 150 other assassins, to make it to the final round, only to spend the last ten minutes of the game searching all the trees in Arkansas’s arboretum for the last target, who was well hidden. However, this is an email I received from Matt Bakke, a pledge who was killed this past weekend.

The best way to describe it is an overwhelming sense of nothingness.

That last shot of adrenaline when danger is near, and then you feel those liberating drops of water.

Hit, wet, free. No more walking up 6 filghts of stairs. No more sidewalk chases and wall climbing. No more making body shields out of passerby’s. No more stakeouts outside your door. No more being chased out of residence halls for sneaking in by angry RA’s and secuirty. No more cryptic texts, “Hey man, What are you up to?” No more suspiciously attractive females asking what you’re doing later. No more people hiding in bathroom stalls. No more avoiding your room like the plague. No more piles of laundry from not going to the laundry room. No more broken water guns soaking your pocket. No more furtive glances over your shoulder, and twitchy 360’s, no more accidentally shooting someone for looking suspicious, no more hours in the library, no more creeping on your targets house.

Just Kevin Lawson in a dark coat with the joy of the kill in his eyes.

and Freedom.

The First Man I’ve Met So Far

I went to Stillwater for the OSU Homecoming; the festivities were gorgeous and crowed, and the city was flat and debilitated personalities. Leaving Stillwater, I felt like a person again. However, neither the crippling depression that waits for you there or the $50,000 dollar Greek lawn decorations were what made a lasting influence. The memory I left Stillwater with was of the man Stony Fath.

It’s pronounced Faith. Stony Fath, like he was faith like a rock hard foundation, or like a stripper’s name. Stony is 6’2″, 220 lbs of lumberjack; he transferred to OSU after two years playing linebacker for the Air Force Academy still left something to be desired in life. He’s kept a well trimmed beard and receeding hairline consistently since the tenth grade. Stony lives alone in a one room house decorated with oil paintings of small children. He’s built most of his furniture and spends his time reading the Jewish Roman historian Josephus. I cannot make this up.
Saturday morning, after sleeping on an old futon where diseases are created, Stony woke me up and told me to get my clothes on, because “we’re going to get the Don.” Who is Don? Why are you in my room? These questions did not matter. I did what I was told.
He took me and several of the other backcountry boys that were sleeping in the same house to a Mom and Pop diner, where we waited in line with other Cowpokes for ten minutes. When the nine of us finally got to a table that seated six, instead of ordering, Stony told the waitress we just needed nine Dons. Why are there so many Dons? Can I have some coffee? These questions went unanswered.
I beheld the Don. Two pieces of Texas toast, upon which rested two hamburger patties, topped with several handfulls of fries, covered with grated cheese and white gravy. Only six of us finished. Stony finished first, then ate the rest of mine.

An Assassins Story

Our fraternity is playing Assassins: with teams of big and little brothers, each team eliminates their target, another big little team, and takes that teams target. The one team left in the end wins. It has been a heated, controversial, and at times colorful competition. I recently received this email from one player who was contesting his death. You might call this a guest blogger:

I would just like to pass on this story to you, because, regardless of the outcome, it was a glorious battle for my life, with multiple parties taking hits on both sides.

For the past three days, I have avoided my house like the plague. Only randomly dropping in to grab essentials, I make my visits at unannounced times. Tonight was no different, and I made my nightly stop about an hour after step show practice was over. During a brief chat with three of my roommates, I let slip that I was heading to the library to work on a lab report with some people (Mistake numero uno). But, it was just my housemates. Right? Would they sell me out? Wrong.
There we are in the library, vigorously working on our lab reports (peopleofwalmart.com), and none other than the venerable Jordan Difani walks up and taps me on my shoulder. Fear gripped my insides like ice. I glance down at my watch, only to realize that it was 12:15. For those of you who aren’t familiar with David W. Mullins Library protocol, it is open until 2:00 a.m. However, after midnight, the only door open is the one on the Union side. Hence, only one door to freedom.
Quickly calculating and realizing my predicament, I begin to weigh my chances. Knowing there is a underground entrance to the library into the Chemistry Building, I proceeded to have a flirty conversation with a wonderfully rude beast of a woman named Michelle, who happened to be working the main desk at the time. She very kindly informed me that under no circumstances would I be able escape my prison through that venue.
As I stared at the door, I saw the growing masses of assassins grouping at the one exit, preparing to do unspeakable evils to me.
I made the call, and rallied in the troops. Mike Turner, Jon Braschler, Tim Yopp, and four of my friends from the BCM answered my call to battle. They came armed with a large blanket and ingenuity, and together we hatched a brilliant escape plan.
We placed the tallest one of them, which happened to be a girl, under the blanket, and the rest of them crowded around it. As we creeped up the stairs from the basement to the Golden Doorway, I hung back, biding my time. As soon as they reached the main floor, they were seen. They broke off at a sprint (or as much of one as the blanket-covered body could manage) for Maple Drive, not making it very far before Matt Chappell quickly and concisely blocked their path. What continued was much grappling and water-squirting, with the biggest of the Allies grabbing the psuedo-me and attempting to carry her off to the BCM and safety.
In the ensuing confusion, I took my chance. I bounded off towards Dickson Street, nearly measuring my length on the stairs. I made it a good five steps before they realized what had happened. As I was sprinting away, the Axis powers-at-be chased after me. Being a good twenty yards ahead of them and already running, I very easily made it into the welcome open door of Jon Braschler’s truck outside of the Music Ed building. With the windows up and the doors locked, they jumped, pushed, and squirted futilely.
We drove off in victory, but it wasn’t long before we realized that the screaming we were hearing was more of the Nazis having launched themselves onto the top of Jon’s truck. We slowed down to let them off, and Josh took his leave. Before getting back up to speed, we wanted to make sure that there was no one else on the car, not knowing that Tommy Hughes was still clinging on for dear life. We slowed down, and I cracked my window (Mistake Number Two) to yell at whoever that they needed to jump off then or most likely be subject to much Road Rash.
Tommy wisely hopped off, and as we were speeding up It happened. The Shot Heard Round Dickson. Running beside the accelerating truck, Tommy made two valiant squirts into the cracked passenger side window. They missed. They hit. Both sides could have sworn on their momma’s grave the opposite outcomes. We will never know the truth.

An Alternate Olympics

A little over a year ago, my grandmother died. I know, that’s a terrible way to begin a story. I once read a short story where, in the first paragraph, the main characters accidentally kills an infant. I think that tops what I just did, so you should feel lucky.

She had Alzeheimer’s, so her passing was positive – it was her time, so to speak. And it was actually a blessing, because we had a week’s notice, and everyone who knew her was able to fly in and say goodbye. All the men my dad grew up with came to the house; it was where they all stayed when they were younger. They told many stories, and my favorite is this: there were five boys, all within a year of each other, that lived in her house. Every fall, each boy would invite four friends, and the 25 kids would be split into 5 teams of 5, and my grandfather would run an Olympics, with basketball games and sprinting events and a spades tournament. But the best event was hot wax tolerance. Each team would pick one kid, and the kid would hold out his arm, and hot wax would be poured on it. Whoever didn’t wimp out won the gold.

I read a poem I wrote at the funeral. I wrote it when she was unconscious, and people were filing in and our of her room, whispering about hot wax tolerance.

look at me
i have four foot wings
as thin as my skin
and the color of my boys

rising up from my bed
i am floating to a place
where the stars are halfway
between silence and noise

look at me
i am an angel
i am done with changes
i am completely released

i have held on forever
but forever is over
this is me going
away with the east

look at me
yet not while you’re crying
with your feet on the ground
and your minds set on mourning

i am a satellite drifting
but i am not drifting
i am not an old woman
on morphine

look at me
i have four foot wings
the skies are all mine
but where are my loved ones

i am a spirit
but they are still bodies
this is me saying
goodbye to my sons

Camp War Eagle Is Recruiting

This week at the University, Camp War Eagle is recruiting. They have booths set up outside of dining halls and the Student Union, and it’s supposed to rain all week. But think of it as little tap tap taps of angels, saying, “Way to go!”

To encourage you to apply, I thought I’d tell a story. All counselors at War Eagle who work for more than four weeks are usually required to serve at least two weeks on the maintenance crew, which is called SWAT in a silly attempt at an acronym that I won’t talk about. On SWAT, there are fifteen plus counselors who have grown to hate kids and need a break; they take two weeks off, and instead of play with campers, they clean dishes and set up for events. After two weeks, they have been driven so insane by this work, they’ll do anything to escape, even work with kids.
This past summer, I was on SWAT for the second and third sessions, which are the third and fourth week of camp. For the previous two weeks, I had ten punk rock sixteen year olds who could only find words that ended in question marks or angst accents. I really hated campers after that, and on SWAT, I was searching for an outlet. I found it in the SWAT Monster.
I worked in the dish pit, taking metal cafeteria trays from kids and stacking them for the dish washer. Putting on a climbing harness and skate park pads, I tied myself to one of the large kitchen appliances in the pit and began acting like an animal. I ate leftover food, drank out of the slop bucket, smeared my face with ketsup. Sometimes, during lulls, my coworkers would take me out on all fours, using the harness and rope as a leash, and let me attack campers.
Kids loved it. They were fascinated, and during picnics, when I’d crouch by the trashcans like a gorilla, they’d feed me out of their hands. And I ate everything they gave me – ice cream, burgers, chips in barbarcue sauce, old apples, grass, raw eggs. As a result, I think I contracted salmonella. And that’s why you should work at War Eagle.

Best Coke Date Ever

On Thursday, we had scheduled a coke date between our pledge class and the pledge class of Delta Delta Delta. We were supposed to learn how to line dance – a BYX alum named Cy Martin (who may be a fourth year senior – all I know is that he was the only Beta class member attending chapter for two years straight) was lined up to not only teach the dances, but to call them off, too. I’m still not sure what that looks like, but in my mind I see an auctioneer.

As the pledges and I walked towards the back door of the Tri Delt house, sirens began to sound. I never knew we had sirens in Fayetteville. The sounds they produced makes me think they were military surplus from the Cold War. We had no idea what was going on, so we go inside the Tri Delt house and shut the door. In my mind, I truly believed we had seconds to live, and I had to find the love of my life right now.
That wasn’t true. It was actually a tornado warning. For a few seconds I debated making my pledges line dance anyway, but considering the ongoing natural disaster, I decided that would labeled hazing. Instead, we forced all my pledges, all Tri Delt pledges, and all Tri Delts in the house at the time into the basement.
The Tri Delt basement is less a series of rooms than it is just a really curvy hallway. There were rooms down there, but we weren’t allowed in. In fact, we weren’t even allowed to look inside. My pledges, dressed like cowboys, stood shoulder to should lining the walls like human survivors in the Terminator movies. Girls clumped together in corners, ignoring anyone who wasn’t a sister. Driven by the idea that we were the last of the human race, and we needed to be fruitful, I improvised: I told all my pledges that by midnight that night, they had to email me a 500 word biography of one Tri Delt. That started conversation.
We after about an hour and a half, when there was no tornado, but when the rain was still falling heavily. By midnight, I had received about fifteen emails – no one really took me seriously. No email was over a hundred words, either, but there were some great ones, including this:
“Tonight I met a girl named Alex Tedford. Now Alex is actually from my hometown which is the city of Little Rock. Surprisingly I don’t believe that we had been formally introduced before tonight. She is a very nice girl that I would like to get to know better but here’s the deal she has a boyfriend. Now I have actually seen this boyfriend of hers. He is not what you would call clean cut. He is actually the lead singer of a heavy metal band. I guess I have some competition. She is blonde and very pretty her boyfriend is a lucky guy.”
To that pledge, I say, if there’s not a ring on the finger, fair game.

Is This What Getting High Feels Like?

Austin City Limits was fantastic, but there was this one point that wasn’t as cool. That was when a drunk girl burned me with her lit cigarette.

Blanton and I camped out at one of the larger stages, the AMD stage, for a little over five hours. Stages alternate shows, and each stage features an artist who plays a one hour set, then there’s a one hour break, then another one hour set. At AMD we saw the Avett Brothers, Phoenix, and John Legend. All were great, but I really wasn’t expecting anything out of the Avett Brothers, and they made it rain. At least they brought the cloud cover, which was highly desirable in the Austin heat.

However, in the waiting hour between the Avett Brothers and Phoenix, standing with Blanton at the front of the crowd (that’s what you wait five hours for – to be at the front), I felt something that, at the time, I thought to be a mega wasp sting on my elbow.

I once saw a movie on the SyFy channel called Mansquito. I believe what I felt must have been comparable to what Lt. Randall felt fighting that monster.

After crying aloud in pain, I turned and saw a drunk, heavy girl holding a beer and a cigarette in one hand. She apologized – a lot – but really, when was the last time you burned a stranger with a cigarette? That sort of thing doesn’t happen. It’s like accidentally dropping a baby, or unintentionally selling state secrets to a Soviet Bloc country. Her kind of negligence was what put Nero in power.

As consolation, she showed me a mark on her arm where she had put a cigarette out by snuffing on her skin. How does that make me feel better? All I know now is that not only are you drunk, but you’ve also shown yourself to be a consistent idiot. To try and make her feel stupid, I took my elbow and put it on her forearm, so that the burn marks touched, and said, “High Five.” She didn’t get it.

The Unsung Heroes of ACL

I went to Austin City Limits yesterday with Blanton, and yes, it was great, but I can’t talk about that right now. My heart is so full for one specific issue that I have to pour it out before it starts to boil and I die. I think that’s what happens, from my rudimentary understanding of anatomy.

Sign language translators at music festivals. These women (I didn’t see any men) are valiant – they process live lyrics and output them into the sign language format deaf people have come to know and love, all while maintaining some semblance of rhythm and meter. The best part: I have no idea why.
There were translators at every show I saw, and they all behaved differently. At Phoenix, the translators was shuffling her feet like she was in a step train, pumping her knees like pistons while translating the stutters and French accent of the lead singer. During John Legend, another woman focused on communicating the whole sex appeal by slowly swaying her very wide and old body. She may have spoken with her hands, but she was communicating with her hips. And the last show, Kings of Leon, had a spotlight at an odd angle, illuminating only half of the translator, so that her signs became gigantic shadow puppets on the muslin that covered the speakers.
My personal favorite was the woman at Andrew Bird. That lady deserves a medal, or at least a VIP pass. Maybe some time at the autograph tent. She managed to communicate about half of Bird’s lyrics while keeping her involuntary laughter at her own incompetence to a minimum. This is not because she was bad – I think that she had ACL’s number one hands – but because Bird’s lyrics are so weird. There probably aren’t signs for words like “formaldehyde” and “anoanimal” and “vestments of translucent alabaster.” I’m pretty sure she translated that last one as “gown of see through rock.” I really don’t see another way to do it.
The best part was watching her try to communicate whistling, violin, and xylophone all at the same time; she had to find some way of expressing the idea of looping, but the best way she came up with was to try and stifle her laughter and point to her puckered lips, as if she was undergoing asphyxiation.
Deaf people can taste the delicious Sweet Leaf Tea, smell the weed smoke, feel the burning cigarette a drunk girl pushes into the flesh of their arm (and when you read deaf people, think Cass Trumbo), but they hear no noise. Really – why are deaf people going to a music festival?