Tuesday, June 25, 2013

beer fueled critical thinking

I was living in Scranton, Pa when I learned that city had the highest consumption of beer per capita than any city on Earth.  I know.  That's a bold statement, but true.  Munich and Berlin didn't come close to the amount of suds Scranton guzzled and that statistical fact filled me with pride and I did my best to help keep that record.

I was a freshman at the time and maintained an apartment a block away from the university with a couple of roommates.  Some of my classmates were locals and were familiar with ways to find lots of free ice and cheap beer but even they were unaware the student union provided beer at wholesale prices, with no deposit for the keg or tap.  Beer sales were run by seniors and every Saturday the student union basement was filled with half kegs of beer for the weekend.  We used to wonder what the couple quarter kegs were for until a grad student got one for some kind of big bash.  After he left you could hear a few chuckles and comments like, "I'd get one of those for Monday Night Football."    

Our free keg ice came from the cafeteria at Marywood College, until they asked us to leave, but not before we made friends with some of the students.  The Marywood student body was primarily female and everyone we talked to was most eager to party with us.

We had the dubious honor of tapping the first keg of the fall semester with a lively mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and about thirty-five of the cutest girls Marywood had to offer, creating a ratio of three girls to every guy, and we became instant party legends.  As time went on and the parties grew, we realized a half keg wasn't enough and decided to tap a second keg in the living room, reducing the beer wait by 50%.  We not only had the reputation for having the most babes, the most beer, and the most fun, we consistently drained our kegs before anyone else, forcing us to seek out more parties for our beer swilling guests.  We would get tips on where the parties were, how many people, and how much beer they had and estimate how long they'd party til they kicked the keg.  Based on gathered information, we'd decide where to go first, followed by a string of other parties in order of estimated beer quantity and party endurance.  With glasses half filled with keg remnants, we'd grab the girls, pile into cars, and start the drunkards invasion in a follow the leader parade of inebriated revelry.
When a bunch of guys you don't even know come to crash your party with a whole bunch of beer drinkin babes, they always get in.  We never paid for what we drank and we'd stay til the beer was gone and move on to the next place until there was nothing left.

We never realized our pre-planned campaign to liberate all the beer from other parties was right out of Sun Tzu's Art of War and a few Greek classics.  We learned all we could about the enemy, their strengths and weaknesses, amount of fluids, and rates of consumption, before we launched our attack.  We never even considered the Trojan horse tactic when we put the prettiest girls in front of the door just before it opened.  Our back-up battle plans were the result of beer fueled conversations before the guests arrived and were never meant to be taken seriously until the second keg was on the verge of floating.  Only four of us knew of any contingency plans but a floating keg was like a starters pistol and without warning, we'd grab the girls, the last of the beer, and anyone up for an adventure, and hit the campaign trail in search of golden nectar.
Ahhhh... The benefits of a classical education.  Our teachers would be proud.     

That's what Scranton was.  Beer swilling capital of the world where the party didn't get started til the first keg was half gone.  The beer was plentiful and cheap and came from breweries within walking distance from each other.  Drunk driving wasn't a crime and college students were never hassled or carded and the university sold you the beer below distributor prices.   
Those days are long gone.  Marathon binges are out and sobriety is in.  The carefree, unbridled, disobedient, teenage baby-boomer generation got replaced by a series of cradle to grave, conditioned, obedient, kids who accept their nanny/police state existence as normal.  Town cops routinely raid college parties and jail anyone who gives them lip or doesn't answer their questions fast enough.  Metal detectors, campus cops, zero tolerance, cams everywhere, and rule infractions are handled by police arrests and jail time.  I know a college sophomore who was tackled by three members of campus security for the high crime of crossing the lawn with a can of beer.  Even though this guy was pre-law, he had absolutely no concept of his constitutional rights and dutifully accepted his fate.  What's next?  Intensive interrogation followed by forced labor on a collective farm?

I know... It sounds like the older generation bitching about the new, like every preceding generation since Aristotle, but Aristotle is no longer part of school curriculum and critical thinking has been replaced by doing what you're told by systematic conditioning from birth.  The rebellion of youth, historically viewed as a right of passage to adulthood, is now considered unacceptable and punished by time outs, arrests, detention, jail, and a criminal record.  Play is structured and organized by adults, competitive sports emphasize group effort where every kid is a winner, no matter how physically inept.   Failure, once considered an essential step to individual success by learning from past mistakes and exercising critical thinking to overcome future obstacles, is all but eliminated from the equation, to spare the feelings of potential underachievers and make everyone feel good about themselves, as their collective group I.Q.s drop faster than the twin towers.

 If Aristotle saw what was going on today he'd never stop throwing up.      


enemies of the state

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

learning lessons

The longer you live, the more people come into your life.  Some make a lasting impression and others come and go without so much as a name or face you can remember.  Every one of these people come into our lives for reasons so mundane we fail to notice the ripple effect they had on our life paths.

Granted, most people we meet are just faces in the crowd, like extras in a movie, with no real purpose but to fill in scenes and have as much impact on our lives as background scenery, but it's the supporting actors who provide detail and steer the plot line to it's inevitable conclusion with such subtlety we never see it coming.

Ingrid was in my life since my late teens.  I don't recall specifically when we first met.  It was like she suddenly appeared and it felt as if we already knew each other and never had to go through that getting to know you crap.  We were simply friends, or so I thought..

About a month ago I decided to see what she was up to so I did a search.  What I got was a notification of her death.  It seems she died three years ago this October in a town not ten miles from where I live.  No information as to cause or surviving relatives or illness.  Just a notification that she's dead, dead, dead.

I've lost many friends and relatives in my life due to death.  I'd shed some tears, grieve, feel sad, accept it as a part of life, and move on.  But the news of Ingrid's death put me in a state of low level grieving for a month and I can't seem to shake this feeling of sadness.  The occasional passing thought of Ingrid has been replaced with a non-stop flood of memories and I can't seem to get her out of my mind.  It's not like we were close friends.  We ran with the same crowds when we were teenagers and didn't see much of each other after that, except for a few chance meetings.  I can't shake the feeling there's a lesson to be learned before I move on.

We all ran in crowds back then, going from one party to another and making things up as we went along.  Ingrid shared an apartment with another girl and we'd sometimes end up there after a night of raising hell.  More often than not, they'd invite me to stay after everyone else left and the three of us would hang out and party and have a lot of laughs.  Sometimes we'd grab the girls and go off for an adventure with no destination but to sniff out some parties to crash.  Many times we'd find ourselves in a strange house, partying with people we didn't know, and Ingrid was always by my side.  If there was only one chair, she would insist I take it, preferring to sit on the floor next to me using my leg as an armrest, raising feminist eyebrows and unmentioned masculine approval at the sight of such subservient behavior.  But her subservient posture was her way of thumbing her nose at conventionality.  She was the most level headed person I knew and she knew I knew that, just as she knew me better than I knew myself, and I knew that, too.  Without discussing it, we knew all about each other.  I saw who she really was and she saw that in me and that was the foundation of our friendship. 

We had a few chance meetings through the years.  The last time we met she was sitting on a bench in an amusement park.  I casually sat down next to her and said hi.  She beamed as she saw my face after all those years and we immediately picked up where we left off, basking in each others auras as we chit chatted and drank in each others faces.

The news of her death brought me more than sadness.  The realization of the absolute finality of it all ripped a hole in my soul and a feeling of irretrievable loss.  I can't help thinking Ingrid was a relationship that never blossomed.  Even more so, a soul-mate not recognized until it was too late.

I wonder if she knew that on her death bed.  I wonder if she knows now.  I wonder if I'm just deluding myself.

All I know is my family, friends, and everyone I know can drop dead tomorrow and I'll get over it.  Why am I still grieving a month over a relatively insignificant death?

I wonder what the lesson is.