Reunions with fellow marching-bandies are inevitably the catalyst for endless reminiscing, and Bagdis’ recent provided opportunities aplenty. We were skyping with a friend back at Princeton—who, dare say, I predate—and, as usual, I started subjecting her to tales from my orange-plaid glory days (I think being forced to listen to stories from alumni is something of a Princeton Band right-of-passage). Talking about it inspired me to write some of these moments down—before I completely forget them—and, of course, to take stock of the way I view my own life-history nearly one year after graduation.
To be fair, as band road trips go, our visit to Dartmouth in 2007 was pretty legendary. The Dartmouth Band at the time was at a membership low, and so the four Drillmasters—Lucas, Concepcion, Justin, and I—went home with some tangential friends-of-friends of the band president. They took us into what was unequivocally the most disgusting dorm room I’ve ever seen, pushed a mountain of pizza boxes and loose papers off their tiny futon onto the last remaining clear spot of the floor, and fled out the door to a frat party. As soon as the door closed, we all looked at each other and burst out laughing at the absurdity of our accommodations. After snapping a few pictures for posterity, we grabbed our bags and walked out the door.
Somehow, we wound up wandering Dartmouth’s frat row, until we realized that at the end of a row of Animal House-lookalikes was the University President’s house. We spent a few minutes cavorting on the lawn before ringing the doorbell and running off. I don’t quite remember how it happened, but we definitely wound up sleeping on a fraternity tap-room floor. While we slept, Dan Jaffe managed to get himself arrested for drinking from a hip flask in an on-campus party.
It’s been too long for me to remember what happened on Saturday, except for a few snippets. I was almost decapitated by a flying pumpkin after ding-dong-ditching a frat house during the 8:00 a.m. march around. I passed an hour between field rehearsal and kick-off by trying to build a bonfire in a highway median, until President Greg got mad at me. During half-time, I opted not to participate in the formations and instead systematically dismember the plastic pumpkin—on which I broke my foot at the beginning of the season—with one of my crutches. At some point, RW slide-tackled the Dartmouth drum major. I obviously have no clue who won the game (on the one hand, Princeton lost most of the games I watched… on the other hand, Dartmouth is terrible…), but I do know that before we got back onto the bus, I tried to take the “set the conductor on fire” tradition to a new level and chased Matt Rich around with a hairspray flamethrower.
A few days ago, I tried to cheer up a housemate-in-distress by showing her some pictures of my “youth” in Flagstaff: of river trips with barely contained bonfires (are you sensing a theme?), joke cult rituals after cross country meets, anarchy pancakes and punk rock shows, homemade potato guns and rocket powered sleds. The pictures did the trick—watching me almost blow myself up 100 times over definitely provided momentary distraction for my housemate—but also sent me into a paroxysm of nostalgia.
I look at these pictures and see a past of creativity and chaos that is beyond recreating: all I’m left with stories that I rehash over and over again to try to convince the people around me, “I used to be interesting, I swear.” Part of it, I suppose, is simply context: I know that, in large part, all my best stories come from being around friends more reckless and impulsive than I, and now they have graduated and acquired jobs and significant others and, quite frankly, have better things to do than play with fire. Another chunk of it is just imagination – a tendency to look backwards and only see the exciting moments. But at the same time, I also feel like in the post-mohawk, post-Princeton band, post-Cult of Elk period of my life, I’ve simply gotten boring.
I suppose if I looked back at my time in Oxford so far, I could find plenty of indications that I haven’t entirely sold old and fallen in line. I have, after all, gotten in a fight with a neo-Nazi, done an erg in a tuxedo, popped champagne in our department reception area, eaten falafel from a sidewalk, and—as of last weekend—joined in teaching a few Germans to play robo with sawed-off water bottles (not to mention showed them the joy of those hair-spray torches). In reality, though, this is probably not anything to be proud of. In terms of things I should be worried about falling into decline—such as my academic performance, or my political activism—my identity as a raving lunatic ought to be low on the list. And, in the depths of this self-over-analysis, it occurs to me that maybe what I should really be worried about is not about growing up, but not growing up fast enough.
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Jukebox: Pennywise – Homesick