Saturday, December 16, 2006

HOMECOMING

Playing “Men of Dartmouth,” the ragtag band, led a sauntering and sometimes staggering parade of green-bedecked alumni down College Avenue toward Memorial Stadium. It was the 1959 fall Homecoming Weekend and the air was as clear as spring water and as crisp as a ripe apple. Despite copious brandy and scotch swigging along the way, this oiled mass arrived well ahead of the start of the pigskin pandemonium with the Harvard Cantabs. When they entered the gates behind the stands, they were quickly adsorbed into the milling throng of tailgaters chewing on everything from hamburgers to each other. It was a sea of green and white pompoms, Dartmouth Co-op knitted caps, long verdant-striped wool scarves wrapped twice around, and Smoke Shop pipes exuding cherry-scented smoke.

The Saturday-morning trains from Boston and New York had already disgorged their raccoon-coated coeds from “the skids” (Skidmore), “swellsley” (Wellesley), “radical” (Radcliff), and “vasectomy” (Vassar). The buses from New London, NH and Poultney, VT had also been emptied of their sometimes dumber but often warmer girls from “coal chute” (Colby Jr. College) and “the groin” (Green Mountain). Meeting these conveyances were the boys of “dirty mouth” (Dartmouth); some eagerly scanning the assembled faces for their blind dates ... while others were already dry humping their steadies against the nearest lamp post. The more naive or horny females would never see the football game, attend the soiree, or even view a face other than their date’s for the remainder of the weekend.

The prior night there had been a pep rally featuring the sanguine-cheeked college president, the beefy football coach, and lots of players with names like “Moose,” “Grinder,” and “Hulk.” There was also a five-story-high bonfire that the students took as a sacred college tradition and a construction challenge ... whereas the town of “hangover” (Hanover) took it as an opportunity to dispose cheaply of mountains of flammable trash and old railroad ties. The festivities ended with the glee club and the Injineers singing all the popular college songs including “Dartmouth Undying,” “Dartmouth’s in Town Again,” and “Eleazar Wheelock.” Some of these tunes had optional purulent lyrics that the students sang as contretemps against the censored glee club versions.

The gridiron match began poorly with the leg-shaving John Harvards scoring a quick touchdown and a field goal. This brought out the groans and the flasks. Even the “big D” cheerleaders and the bare-chested, war-painted Indian arriving on his saddleless pinto were unable to rouse the morose crowd. This dolor continued as the Crimson scored again and then humbled the Big Green even further with a two-point safety. At half-time, after the atonal marching band had formed some X-rated icons, many disgruntled alumni left the stadium mumbling that such performances were not why they were giving large donations to their alma mater. However, in the second half, things abruptly turned around as Dartmouth scored once on an interception, once after an on-side kick, and, as the clock was running out, one last time on a spectacular, open-field punt return. This, of course, brought out the white handkerchiefs with which to taunt the prissy Harvard fans in the opposite seats.

The game ended without further incident and the stands emptied to fill the fraternity cocktail parties, the dormitory snugglings, and the Hanover Inn mini-reunions. At a house party one could kiss up to your professor for a higher grade, tap your graduated frat brothers for a evening keg, or even snake a date from the various assembled distaffs. The night would then bring a rock-and-roll-banded, theme party at all the Greek houses ... which were the templates from which the movie “Animal House” was drawn. The motif could be old Rome (togas) or a farmyard (hay and roosters) or “Gunsmoke” (ten-gallon hats and chaps) ... among others. By eleven PM the sex pits were filled with groping couples and, by two AM, the floor of the bar room was generally slick with beery puke.

Sunday morning brought a wash-tub full of bourbon milk punch, some soft modern jazz, and bleary-eyed male revelers striving to somehow let their brethren discretely know of their conquests of the previous night. By the time this galvanized caldron was emptied and the old sneaker and dirty jock strap fished from its vanilla reside to the eeks and ughs of the novitiates, it was time to disassemble the weekend and bundle your sloe-eyed date onto her bus or train back to normalcy.

(I wrote this somewhat fictionalized piece ten years ago. I just recently remembered it. GWP)

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