Category Archives: ATL -> NYC

WTF is a Beer Ball?

Every so often I’ll remember this story and have a good chuckle. I had no ideas for today’s post, so I will share:

In January, 2007 (or as I like to call it, Junior year of college, round 1) I transferred schools from That Baptist One to The Music One up in Boston, MA. In an attempt to keep their daughter safe by educating me on the less safe areas of town, my parents accidentally scared me shitless about Boston. At this point in my life, I’d lived in Atlanta, London, São Paulo and Pittsburg, so the idea that I was in any more danger by moving to Boston was absurd. That being said, I never got over it and I’ve never been more constantly terrified in my life than when I lived in Boston.

The best part about this is that my first apartment was here:

In case you don’t know Boston, I annotated the map for you. It’s really all you need to know about this area.

But I felt like I lived here:

Boston was fucking terrifying.

And because I was on a college campus, we’d get these crime report emails every few days. They were always like such-and-such had her Marc Jacobs bag grabbed from her while walking down a dark street. I wasn’t exactly like being on “The Wire.”

So anyway, about three weeks into my life in Boston, a few of my friends came to town for the weekend. They had friends out in Allston, a neighborhood of Boston that’s basically a bunch of rundown apartments and houses that college kids rent out. And some Asian food places, because there’s nothing anyone living on a budget loves more than Asian food. It’s the best.

Allston is ALSO not super dangerous, but when we took a cab out there I was FLIPPING out. My brain was like, “Where the fuck are we? Why are there houses? The sky looks darker here. It’s definitely darker. The T isn’t underground… That only happens in the ghetto, right? Are we on the Orange line? My mom said that’s the bad one? Fuck, I can’t tell if it’s orange! ARE YOU THE ORANGE LINE, TRAINNNN???”

We got to the old house that this group of boys lived in and within two seconds of my meeting them they were all like,

“YOU’RE 21?!?!?!?!?!?!”

Oh, the joys of college. Turning 21 before pretty much everyone else made me the Designated Alcohol Purchaser for about three months of my life until everyone else caught up. And because there is always someone who came before you, there is no way that you can deny the request to purchase alcohol because you need to honor the good that was done by those who came before you. The drunken forefathers. The ones with summer birthdays. You had to pay it forward in drunkenness.

If his use of ‘progeny’ is incorrect, it’s because Benji was drunk… Duh.

So these boys requested that I purchase them a beer ball. Having never gone to real college, I had no idea what the fuck a beer ball was, but it sounded kind of cute and I was like, that’s fine as long as you drive me through this ghetto that you live in. So off we went to the liquor store three blocks down the road in one of the boys’ cars. My two girlfriends sat in the backseat and when we were one block away the dude driving was like, “Yo. You should probably get out here. There’s some law about not being able to have liquor in a car with people who are under 21.” Because I was terrified, I was like, “Aw, hell naw, if I’m getting you drunk you are not getting me murdered, drop me off at the curb.”

They drop me off, and I enter the FORTRESS that was the giant Allston liquor store. Massachusetts has the most fucked liquor laws of any state I’ve ever lived in. I think it has something to do with Red Sox fans getting shitfaced and destroying the city, or bar fights, or whatever, but it is literally easier to buy any illegal drug than it is to purchase alcohol. I’m not talking about if you’re underage either… At all. I never felt confident in the fact that I was going to indeed receive alcohol even when I was 23. Even when I had my passport.

I think that this was the moment I first learned this harsh reality, because as it turns out a beer ball is basically a mini keg. I’m standing in the aisle of the giant liquor store and the clerk comes up to me with a huge box on one of those rolly cart things that I can NEVER remember the name of and Google isn’t being helpful right now. My immediate thought was, “How the fuck am I even supposed to carry this out to the car?” THEN the clerk is like, “Excuse me miss, we’re gonna need you to fill out these papers.” Because in the state of Massachusetts, you have to register yourself when you purchase anything keg-like. I am freaking out, but also thinking of my drunk forefathers and so I persevere.

Rolly cart clerk takes me out to the sidewalk and as my friends pull up he informs me that indeed I am not allowed to get in the car because they’re under 21. I look at the driver, who is wide-eyed when he sees me next to the giant beer ball. I look at the clerk, who is similarly wide-eyed but kind of smirking at my unfortunate situation. I shrug my shoulders and pick up the beer ball. I figure, if I’m walking through the ghetto at least I can swing it at people.

But because Allston was not the ghetto, as I walked down the street, hunched over and wrestling with the beer ball box, tons of college bros were yelling, “BEER BALL!!!!!!!!!!!” at me.

And that’s the story of how I learned that Allston was not the ghetto. I was still freaked the fuck out every time I went there or anywhere I go, anytime I’m in Boston.

Peace, love and beer balls, 

BWCE

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Go Sweep the Buttway

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m insecure about a lot of things. I’d liken living in my head to hanging out in a room with a bunch of people who spend all their time pointing out my inadequacies and then one person who every so often creepily whispers, “That person walking behind you on the street is about to MURDER you.”

So when I was 20, the voice that tells me I’m a loser who’s never going to achieve anything was like, “You’ve never had a job, you fucking loser… Who is ever going to hire a 20 year old who’s never had a job?” And I was like, “YOU’RE RIGHT, VOICE,” so I went to the Waffle House and applied for a job.

I was pretty sure no one would hire someone whose only line on her resume was Dad’s Home Office Secretary, Age 12. Much to my excitement, immediately after filling out the application the manager was like, “Ok, you start Saturday.” It turns out they were in the market for a Door Corps, which is an under-glorified Hostess. Under-glorified is definitely not a term, but it applies here. It was like Hostessing lite.

You guys, they didn’t even PHONE SCREEN me!

I proceeded to work as a Door Corps for about two months, and I took it incredibly seriously. I even turned in a written two week’s notice when I quit. It was the worst job ever. ANYWAY, I have pieced together my memories of what training day was like and written it down for you. This is about 99.9% true and please do read it with an accent in your head.

JK, it was a normal Waffle House. But there were definitely days that it felt like this.

“We here are real dang proud to have y’all here as the newest members of our team and we jus’ gotta run through a quick training so you can give our customers the same Southern Hospitality we’ve been servin’ up since 1955. Now, first things first… I know it don’t sound like much, but being a Door Corps is a time honored position. Sure, you might not get tips or nuthin’ but you get the satisfaction of knowing that you opened the door for every single smilin’ face that comes in these doors lookin’ for a good meal after their huntin’ trip or Sunday service. I don’t know ’bout all y’all, but every time my Preacher gets ‘ta preachin’ ’bout hellfire and brimstone I get a crazy hankerin’ for some hashbrowns smothered, covered and chunked… Ooo wee!

Anyway, y’all are the ones that make sure people want ‘ta come into the Waffle House even when it’s at its busiest. Here are your key responsibilities:

  • Open the door for anybody and everybody who’s comin’ in or leavin’ the Waffle House.
  • Smile real big at ’em all.
  • When you notice it’s gettin’ a little busy, make sure to close the blinds so people don’t get scared away or nothin’.
  • Keep the toilets nice and clean. Now, I know this ain’t the most glamorous but it’s gosh dang important, ya hear? Like the Bible says, cleanliness is next to godliness and that sure as heck applies to our commodes!
  • Ok, time to come outside with me so I can show you a little something. Come on out now and don’t you be shy! See this little area right here? In between the curb and the cars? We call this “The Buttway.” Why? Well, because it’s where all them cigarette butts fall and we don’t want ‘ta make a bad impression so you gotta’ sweep it oh ’bout, every thirty-five minutes.

Well, I think that about wraps it up. You get two breaks a day and if you want ‘ta have yerself a smoke, you can hop on round back and take a seat on the milk cartons next to the dumpster. I’d recommend that you don’t take breaks with Leslie for the first couple months as she can be real mean to strangers. Once she warms up to you though, she’s a real darlin’ and she’ll tell you all ’bout her five granbabies and her three great granbabies and that time she unhooked Brenda’s bra while she had about five plates of Bert’s Chili in her hands. Oh boy, that was a hoot!

Ok, y’all, all that’s left is I gotta let you watch this video on our sexual harassment policies. Now, some folks have complained to our corporate office that they felt as if watching this video was sexual harassment itself, but we looked into it and it turns out they were just from Atlanta. Those city folk can be real dramatic sometimes, ya’ hear?”

In my memory, Leslie looks like this. The day before I left, she finally told me she liked me by saying, “Now, there are Door Corps and then there are DOOR CORPS, and you, you’re a DOOR CORPS.”

Peace, love, and if you work at Waffle House even your bras smell like waffles, 

BWCE

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No, that doesn’t mean you’re a lesbian

“My mom is a flight attendant so she always brings me their extra liquor bottles. Here, take a shot.”

One of the better things that happened as a result of my ending up at Shorter College was that I  got to study abroad basically for free. I spent the Spring semester of my sophomore year in London with a bunch of kids from non-Southern Baptist colleges. You know, normal college kids.

I’d gotten drunk only three times in my life, but the day I arrived in London I made the snap decision that I was going to begin drinking. I like to think that I packed all of the life lessons of Freshman year into those four months and that when I came back to the US, I returned a woman transformed by real life. As alcohol is the best social lubricant, beginning to drink also meant the beginning of my hanging out with people I wouldn’t otherwise hang out with. Over the course of my stay in London, I worked my way through a cast of characters that in retrospect were fit for a Van Wilder movie.

It started out with like-minded peers – the kids who liked indie rock as much as me. Then I met the stoner circle, who’d ask me to play guitar for them while they’d pass a bowl around their dorm room. It seemed the more I was down to drink, the more I liked EVERYONE, and so I moved my way through each group until I got to a group of wild and crazy party girls.

I don’t even know how I ended up in their dorm room, because I had a terrible cold and was on antibiotics, but there I sat, drinking cheap wine and taking a double shot of grey goose from a plastic bottle stolen from an airplane. My mom told me over the phone that alcohol would reduce the affects of my medication, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t warn me that drinking on antibiotics would DESTROY ME. I had no idea what was about to happen.

Our study abroad group had just discovered that the drinks at gay bars were significantly less expensive, so we were almost exclusively hanging out at G-A-Y, London’s giant (and probably terrible) gay bar that boasted a floor for lesbians and a floor for gay men. Before I knew it, we were in line and one of the wild girls was like, “You know what would be great? If we went to the lesbian part of the bar and tried to see if we could get free drinks.” My response was something along the lines of, “Dude, totally! I’ll definitely kiss a girl for a free drink!”

Baby Tiffany was not just drunk – she was fuuuucked up. Here’s a rundown of my sexual experiences at this point in my life: I a virgin, and I’d made out with like four people.  Until moving to London, I’d only kissed my high school boyfriend, who I was still completely obsessed with two years after the end of our three month relationship. Once I got to London, I made out with my RA a few times and I think one time I slept in his dorm room. His interest level in me was about as high as your standard college boy (that’s an optimistic description) and I was completely infatuated with him because, well, I was a stage five virgin clinger. When I think of all the Fall Out Boy lyrics I posted on my Facebook profile back then I’m just… So glad there was no such thing as a minifeed.

After the end to my almost entirely imagined love affair with the RA, I made out with two other boys in London. I felt like a sassy bitch and the cocktail of alcohol and antibiotics made me ready to take on the next feat of college craziness – lesbianism. Someone should have told me I wasn’t ready for this idiotic rite of passage. That’s some Junior year shit. Alas, none of my new friends understood the depths of my naivete, so down the stairs to the lesbian bar I went. The wild girl ordered an entire pitcher of something blue and the two of us downed the entire thing while we talked about boys. I listened, wide-eyed, as the wild girl told me about her open relationship. She was so cool.

“So… What type of girl do you like?” She asked me, turning around on her bar stool and examining the hardly crowded lesbian bar.

“I… don’t know?” I honestly had no idea what type of girl I would like, if I liked girls. I knew the type of girl I wanted to be, so I decided maybe I’d like girls like that, but Kiera Knightley was nowhere to be found. I ended up talking to a girl with two-toned hair and thick black eyeliner. She also happened to be the DD for her friends. I stood no chance, but luckily(?) for me the night got spotty after that.

I woke up the next morning to the usual post-drinking memories rushing back into my brain. The one difference was that this time the memories were not so usual. Did I really start talking to the ugliest lesbian at the bar? Did we dance? Did we then go to that terrible American sports bar afterwards and did the bouncer almost not let me in except the lesbian convinced him that I was fine and promised I would not drink anymore? Did I really stay in the booth while everyone else danced and did I throw up underneath said booth because I convinced myself that everyone was doing it? Did I then leave and walk ALL the way home because I didn’t want to wait for the bus? Did I throw up in the public restroom of our dorm building? Did I bump into the RA? Did the below conversation really happen?

“Hiiiiiiiii”
“Hey Tiffany…. You’re wasted.”
“No! Itswhatevah, I’m whatevasoberrrrr. YOU GOT NEW MOUTH WASH.”
“You remembered what type of mouthwash I have?”
“Yeahhhhh… Youuuuu hatttteedddd it. It wasgrosssss.”

Did that really happen? Yes, yes all of it did happen. 

I was miraculously ok with the throwing up in the bar, the walking home through London by myself in the middle of the night, and even the admitting to the object of my affection that I creepily remembered his feelings of regret surrounding a purchase of off-brand mouthwash. I wasn’t, however, prepared for the, “WTF is wrong with me,” feeling that accompanies any sort of deviance. Someone told me I gave the ugly lesbian my phone number and this simple fact spiraled me into two days of questioning my sexuality. I didn’t even kiss this girl, but I was so confused.

“If I got her phone number, does that mean I’m gay??”

God I was a fucking idiot when I was 20.

Photos from a similar night that also went terribly wrong. That’s a story for another time…

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The Firehouse/Alley

A couple weekends ago I ended up at the club at the Gansevoort Park hotel. Luckily, this time I did not spend 30 minutes trying to find the exit… Progress? It’s been a while since I’ve been in a club and even longer since I’ve been in a club and was sober enough to know that I was in a club. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to one, I kept yelling, “BUT I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE SUBWAY,” only to get downstairs and realize that what I thought to be the entrance to the train station was actually a flight of stairs leading to the club entrance. For the most part, I really hate clubs. I go through several stages of panic attack, anger at whomever brought me to the club and then overwhelming Atlanta-withdrawl because rap is not playing before I eventually give in (get drunk) and start dancing like an idiot.

As I was dancing on some sort of stage/partition/elevated dancing area that night, I was brought back to a time when I had high hopes upon entering the club and danced on stage/partition/elevated dancing areas almost every Thursday night. At that time in my life I lived in – yup, you guessed it – Rome, GA.

By the time I started college at Shorter, the idea that I was free to go ‘clubbing’ as often as I wanted was more excitement than my adolescent brain could handle. I’d spent years listening to Britney Spears’ songs about clubs and trying my hardest to copy that weird hip thing she does in the I’m A Slave For You music video. Despite the fact that I was so awkward I could barely function around the opposite sex, let alone talk to someone I found attractive, I was certain that the second I stepped into “the club,” I’d be transformed into a dancing goddess, paired up with an Abercrombie model who’d fall in love with my enticing moves.

I’m sure somewhere in my partially functioning 18-year-old brain, I had an inkling that this wouldn’t really happen. For one thing, I was pretty sure Abercrombie models didn’t hang out in a town best known for being minutes away from the carpet capital of the world. Additionally, I’d been to a couple teen clubs back in Atlanta and the closest thing I’d gotten to my fantasy club experience was getting pinched in the ass by a white guy wearing a du rag.

Along with this already overwhelming proof, I had a sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t the best dancer. Being fat in high school didn’t lend itself to my having a lot of practice dancing – I think I can count on one hand the number of times I danced with a boy. So from about 13 to 18, my main dancing partner was the wall in my bedroom. I spent countless hours listening to 112 and R Kelly while arhythmically grinding against this one wall in my bedroom, determined to win over my imaginary A&F boyfriend the second I was let into a club.

When I say I hated my teen years, I really, really mean it.

So after a couple weeks of hanging out with the sorority girls at Shorter, Rachel and I got invited to College Night at The Firehouse. The Firehouse was pretty much the only club in town and, even then, I use the word ‘club’ lightly. I can’t think of any other club in which I’ve danced on a stage right in front of a morbidly obese trucker while he chowed down on a plate of wings. It was a sports bar with a stage, but we soldiered on and danced all night. After our first week at The Firehouse, it got shut down due to health codes, or underage drinking, maybe a stabbing – who knows. It reopened a couple weeks later as The Alley and it was no different.

Here’s a picture of the time my friends from high school came from their real colleges in New York and DC to go ‘clubbing’ with me at The Alley:

A few things to note:

1. The X marks on our hands. I never once got drunk at The Alley… so I don’t know exactly how I handled the fact that I was steadily developing strong associations between the smell of chicken wings and clubbing.

2. These X marks also served as a means of semi-public shaming at Shorter. They were difficult to remove from one’s hand and the next morning in class everyone with the X marks would be glared at by all the more religious kids. To this day I still wonder if they knew that X marked the fact that we weren’t drinking.

3. My gold dress. This is a perfect example of how I felt about clubs. While everyone else in this photo is wearing jeans, I’ve decided that a cocktail dress should be worn… Just in case. I’d been going to the Alley(Firehouse) most Thursdays for a year and a half when this picture was taken.

4. My high school friends, who’d been to real clubs plenty, still describe this night as one of their favorite Shorter College moments. I think it ranks in third after the time all the white girls did the Soulja Boi dance in the student union and the New Years we ended up at a party filled with lesbians rolling on E.

I haven’t been back to Rome since 2007, so I can’t say for sure what happened to the Alley. I heard it closed down.. Something about fire codes. Either way, it taught me two valuable lessons –

1. No, you will not meet the love of your life at a club.

2. No, you can’t dance like Britney Spears.

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Secretly a Suitcase Campus

By the middle of Welcome Week, my desire to whine to Mark had dwindled. I was by no means happy in Rome, but my feelings of misery turned into a numb acceptance. The sorority girls were friendly to us and the feelings of newly found freedom were sinking in. One night Rachel and I stayed with the off campus boys until 3 AM. When we drove back to school and the only repercussion was the judgmental look of the night guard. I felt exhilarated for a moment. I was at college.

Sometime that week we went to lunch with one of the off campus boys and his friend. A town favorite was Harvest Moon Cafe on Broad Street. I think the fraternity President waited tables there and they served salads that vaguely resembled something from California Pizza Kitchen. For some, Harvest Moon was the hippest.

I’ll never forget that lunch because it was the first time I felt The Numbness. That afternoon at Harvest Moon, Off Campus and his friend (who I’d later learn was Austin’s roommate) sat across the table from Rachel and me and discussed hunting.

My mind wandered for a moment, and I realized I was no longer hearing their words. I’m from the South, but I’m not so southern that twang is immediately comprehensible. As they drawled at one another the words blurred together.

“So, lay-ust Wednesday we were hunting’ and ah saw the cahrayziest thang, it wuz lahk a durdurdurduhduh….” 

“Aw, Hay-uhl naw! Sheeeee-ut!”

I do love the South. I love rednecks, BBQ and I have the letters ‘ATL’ tattooed to my wrist. I have a lot of Southern pride, but, in this moment, the South felt alien.

It got worse. “Say-uh, Tiff-nay. What’d ew git on your S-Ay-Tee-uhs?” One quick note about me at 18 – I was an intellectual snob. I didn’t have any luck in other areas of my life so I clung to the idea that, at the very least, I was smart. I used this to justify my being incredibly judgmental towards anyone who wasn’t. I told Austin’s roommate my SAT score. I knew by intellectual snob standards that it was just OK. It may have been the reason Harvard didn’t welcome me with open arms.

Austin’s roommate’s jaw dropped,

“Shee-yut. Why are yew here?” His score was roughly half mine. I was under the impression that’s the amount you got for filling out the Scantron form. I paused briefly, I had come up with a lot of answers to that question in my first week at Shorter; I got a full scholarship; I’m going to be a musician; It’s God’s Will. Usually one of them would pop out of my mouth before I had a chance to consider whether or not I believed it. This time it didn’t.

“I have no idea.”

…….

On Friday night, Rachel and I decided to go to our first Welcome Week activity, which happened to be the last activity scheduled for Welcome Week – the Fitton Student Union party. Why, you ask, did we finally want to go to Welcome Week activity? Boys. Definitely just for boys. Earlier in the week I’d seen this boy walking with a group of Freshman participating in a scavenger hunt. He was tall, and wearing a cross t-shirt. Because I went to the International School, I’d rarely found a Christian boy to have a crush on. I daydreamed about meeting a Christian boy with a Jeep Wrangler who liked DC Talk and would take me on picnics and pray before our meal. Christian boyfriend would stop at second base and maybe one day he’d wash my feet before telling me he loved me like I’d read about in True Love Waits books. This boy looked like my imagined Christian boyfriend, and I pointed him out to Rachel.

He also had a cool name. I’ll mention at this point that I’ve changed the names of anyone with whom I’m no longer close who might not want stories of what they were like in college on the internet. So I’ve changed them, but only slightly.

“Do you know what his name is?” Rachel asked me while we picked tank tops to match our denim mini skirts.

“Ok, so either his name is Amsterdam or he lived in Amsterdam and now his nickname is Amsterdam. Whatever, he’s tall.”

“That’s cool. Some of the baseball players are cute.”

We pranced across campus to the student union, ready for our first weekend at college. As we walked through the parking lots, we noticed a suspiciously low number of cars and several students loading laundry bags into the trunks of their cars. The student union was practically deserted, save for a DJ playing edited rap songs and a couple of the foreign exchange students. That was the moment we learned that Shorter was a ‘suitcase campus,’ meaning that most of the students would leave each Friday afternoon and return each Sunday evening. Rachel and I sighed for a second and talked about all the fun things we could be doing if we were back in Atlanta.

Then it hit us… home was only an hour and a half away. We were on the road by 10 PM. We drove down highway 411, through Cartersville and over Lake Allatoona for only the third time. I was about to develop a very close relationship with that country highway.

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Campus

In a way, I knew what I was getting myself into by going to Shorter. Everything about the 76 mile trek from Atlanta to Floyd county screams, “Turn around!! No, seriously! …why the fuck are you driving up here?” The further you get from urban life and Democrats, the lower the clouds dip down in the sky. Driving on highway 411, staring at endless horse farms and fields didn’t feel relaxing to me. It felt foreboding.

Shorter’s campus did little to reassure me that doom was not impending. The first time I stepped foot on “The Hill,” I walked up the stairs from the parking lot to see its Sunken Garden. The pit of brambles and decaying bushes should have been converted to a barbeque pit when the Georgia Baptist Convention pulled its funding due to a disagreement earlier that year. Turning the pit into anything else would have worked. Instead it remained there – a reminder to all that Shorter as an educational institution was helpless without the monetary support of The Church.

I don’t have enough pictures of the school, so I’ve made you a map. It’s not to scale and somewhat inaccurate… but when I think of Shorter, this is what I rememeber.

The main campus I’ve mapped out above was set on the top of a hill. I’ll mention other buildings later, but I think you get the gist. There was one road on campus that led you up the hill and then in a big loop around this main area. Over the next two and a half years I’d walk and drive that loop countless times doing everything from praying to getting high and laughing about how scary speed bumps were to drive over. The one drive that sticks out in my mind the most was the victory lap we took in Austin’s SUV the moment I received my acceptance letter from Berklee and knew that I would be leaving Shorter for good.

What this map doesn’t show is how weird Shorter was in 2004. There’s so much to explain, but I want to point out a couple of highlights.

1.) The Taxidermy Room. Oh yes, it’s true… there was a room filled with taxidermy on campus. The story (not sure about accuracy) is that one of the biggest donors to the school had a penchant for hunting rare animals and spent a good deal of his fortune having his trophies preserved. When he died, he donated the collection to the school, and despite the creepiness factor, they didn’t feel right about not honoring the last wishes of one who’d given them so much. They piled the taxidermy in a room adjacent the student center and the smell of formaldehyde and the overall terrifying nature of the (mostly) endangered creatures quickly scared the students away from hanging out in what was once their common room.

The taxidermy arrived sometime in the 80s, but remained in that same room throughout my stay at the school. I’ve heard it’s the reason they had to make a new student union.

2.) Fitton Student Union. The new student union had everything a Southern Baptist school could ever need. It had a giant staircase reminiscent of the staircases used for prom photos that the school used to photograph every sorority, fraternity and young Republicans group on campus. There was also a mini-chapel used for Rush, a game room, a coffee shop and an anti-alcohol and drug advisory box.

You think I’m kidding about that last part, but I’m not.

In our FUCKING student’s center, there was a glass case devoted to reminding us about the perils of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Right above the box was the composite photo of my future sorority. You can’t see it from this picture, but the labels on these bottles had phrases like ‘Sin 69’ and ‘Lung Death XXX.’

3.) Cooper Courtyard/ Mud Pit. 

We arrived at Shorter in the fall of 2004, and little to our knowledge the school was in the midst of a tooth-and-nail battle with the Georgia Baptist Convention. The convention was upset about the liberal teachers at the school, the fact that our pre-med department taught evolution (a course necessary to become an accredited university) and that some of the key faculty were (GASP!!) Methodists.

The college wouldn’t risk its accreditation by suspending education involving the theory of evolution, and the GBC wouldn’t allow for sinful thought to prevail at one of its sponsees. The Convention pulled its funding, and as the school entered a heated legal battle with the Convention, we moved our Bibles and mini-fridges onto campus.

Without knowing it, we entered Shorter at a critical time.

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Welcome Week

The summer was nowhere close to over when I moved up to Rome. Georgia summers start mid-spring and end mid-fall, and I was about to learn that in Rome it was always 10 degrees hotter or 10 degrees cooler than any temperature one would consider comfortable. I wasn’t excited about going to college. I’d grown attached to Atlanta over the summer, and our orientation didn’t psych us up to move in. The one upside was that I’d be living with my childhood best friend, Rachel. On orientation night we played a game that I think was Baptist-risque; the title was Sex on the Couch. It was so awkward and not fun that we skipped the rest of the get to know you activities and sat on the tiny bed in our dorm.

We stared at the walls of our future room. Some type of fabric had been pressed into the cement, probably in the 70s… that’s when textured walls were cool, right? Some of the burlapy strings were sticking out; they poked through our tank tops as we slouched against the wall. Rachel teared up and I stared blankly. I thought to myself that God was in control but I was also suspicious of God because His Will really seemed to be fucking up my life lately.

On move in day, I arrived at Shorter an 18-year-old in an Abercrombie denim mini skirt and a neon church t-shirt. I had an orange corduroy purse from Old Navy that I’d soon attach a John Kerry 2004 button to because I was a recently-converted liberal. Earlier that year I’d gone on a school trip to New York, and Nina and I fell in love with Soho. We decided that once we became employed entertainers we’d share a loft there. I didn’t know when that would happen, but 26 sounded about right. As a kid I’d decided the age of 26 was a definitive point in the process of aging. I figured everything I wanted would happen by age 26, and then I’d be good. There was no rush, I still had eight years to figure it out.

We skipped all of the Welcome Week activities out of fear that they’d be other versions of Sex on the Couch or, even worse, more Sex on the Couch. We bought decorations for our dorm room, groceries and big gaudy rings. We did all of this at the Walmart… it turned out we were going to be doing everything at the Walmart. Rachel worked diligently on her scheme to make her mark on the Shorter social scene. She identified the ‘hot’ sorority and befriended the president of its brother fraternity. This gained us an immediate invite to an off campus house. A couple fifth year seniors were old enough to move off even though they were unmarried. Off campus houses were one of the few locations the Shorter party kids gathered to drink.

I drank twice my senior year of high school, which I chalked up to wild-oat-sewing and planned to never drink again. I did’t consume a drop of alcohol my freshman year of college. I wanted to spend weekends in dorm rooms and talk about how good the Daily Show was or listen to Modest Mouse, but that didn’t happen. For lack of anything better to do, I found myself at the off campus house sitting on an old recliner clutching a Dixie cup full of diet coke every night that week. I spent a lot of nights outside talking on the phone with Mark. He was my ex-boyfriend with whom I’d become close (but would proceed to be a little in love with for the duration of my Shorter years) who, like Nina, moved to New York to go to Columbia.

I whined to Mark that I already knew I didn’t fit. Classes hadn’t even started. He asked if was thinking about transferring. I was.

Each night a tall, skinny boy sat in the corner at the off campus house. He was one of the other ones who didn’t drink, and he only wore Abercrombie and Fitch. He seemed different too, but he never spoke and scowled always. I disliked him until the night he perked up at my mention of the nice mall in Atlanta.

“You shop at Lenox?” This was the first time the corners of his mouth turned up from the scowl.

“Oh yeah, I’m from Atlanta. I went to high school right there so we used to take our lunch break and free periods to walk around.”

Even though we didn’t have another conversation for at least several weeks, Austin never scowled at me again.

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Brainstorm about things that happened at Shorter turned into a rough Table of Contents.

Georgia

My second summer in New York is fast approaching. Because I’m only a few years out of college, I have yet to abandon the mindset that time passes in school years. I’m nearing the end of my junior year of life… I’d say that after I get to the end of senior year I’ll gain a sense of direction and feel like I’m going somewhere, but I took an extra year in college, so I’ll probably take an extra year in life.

Either way, I get all introspective at the end of Spring and the feeling is particularly acute as my last day of working at the flower company is June 6… it feels just like I’m ramping up for Summer break. The feelings of fear, excitement and confusion aren’t dissimilar from the way I felt ages 18 to 20. I think one of the reasons I see the connection between these two stages of life is because during that period my only major goal was to move to New York and live with my best friends, Nina and Austin.

Austin’s been asking me to write the story of how we achieved the outlandish pipe dreams we had in our late teens, and I’ve been promising to do so for months. I sort of don’t know where to start, because life has taken so many twists and turns from the first time 18 year-old Nina and I stared up at the brick building in Soho and hatched a plan to share a loft.

I think I have to start with Rome. No, not the one in Italy.

Ohhhhh yeahhhh. Rome, Georgia bitches.

Population: 100,000
Location: Northwest Georgia, only a handful of miles from the Alabama and Tennessee border and even closer to the Coosa Valley paper mill that gives the people of Coosa birth defects and the rivers of Rome the delightful smell of diluted skunk – all seven of them.
Fun Fact: Rome has the most churches per capita, per square mile (don’t freak out, Wheaton IL, we added in the per square mile part since you technically win). Most of them are Southern Baptists, who will tell you all the others are just Satanists masquerading as a church in order to mislead people into a cult they like to call Presbyterianism.

As I’ve mentioned before, when I was 18 I was about as intelligent as a lobotomy patient still under anesthesia, and I was 100% positive that I was going to become a famous singer-songwriter… like Jewel, but with the hotness of Britney Spears. I applied only to conservatory programs for Opera music, which I was terrible at, and was promptly rejected from all of them except a school in Rome… Shorter College. I was a really good student, so had I applied to any school for academics I would have likely gotten in, but again, as I was stupid, the only school I applied using a purely academic application was Harvard, where I was wait-listed and then rejected. I’d assume schools like Harvard only have a wait-list so people like me can be all “NO REALLY… I WAS SMART ONCE, I PROMISE,” because seriously… who’s going to say “Got into Harvard, I don’t really know if I want to go there.”

In August of 2004, off I went to Shorter College in Rome, GA while Nina moved to New York, Hibben to DC and all my classmates to reputable schools that are not currently the center of a national controversy.

As it turns out, ending up there was a real shot of luck. I’ve had many moments where I’ve shaken my fist at Harvard, my teenage brain, and all the other random things that caused me to end up in rural Georgia… but it’s in those times that I think of Austin. I’m fairly certain that no amount of liberal arts classes could have impacted me in the way our friendship has.

In what I hope to be many future posts, I’m going to tell you the story of how I shed my Baptist faith, got drunk off of Everclear in someone’s mama’s backyard and bonded with a school janitor about a rabid opossum… oh yeah, and how I ended up living here just like I promised my journal I’d do at 18.

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