East coast trip final leg: Alumni Weekend


Our trip culminated in a return to my alum mater, Vermont Academy, located in the small village of Saxton’s River. VA is a great little school at which I spent three of my formative years and met some really wonderful people. That was ten years ago.


Second story corner room of Jones Hall, where it all went down.

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Does booze give you superpowers?

For those of you too drunk to read any further, the short answer, according to my empirical research, is an unequivocal duh. But allow me to elucidate.

I’m 19 (back in the day when the drinking age was a sensible and civilized 18) and get an invitation to an open-bar party at my old Catholic grade school in NYC. Open bar. I don’t have to tell you that those are words to set an Enthusiast—particularly a broke-ass college kid—to a-trembling. I am so there.

Since the cocktail party is scheduled for only two hours—and since it’s my pre-heat for a Friday night frolic—there’s a lot of work to do. And I set about it enthusiastically: Jack, chased repeatedly and relentlessly by Miller High Life. Pretty soon, my skinny ass is wasted. In fact, maybe the most wasted ever, before or since. And pretty soon, I’m in trouble. Or they are.

A lot of this has had to be reconstructed later with the help of my schoolmate/drinking buddy who came with. But I have no doubt about my motivation: I’m looking at an older, irretrievably square crowd—uptight, wine-swirling mackeral-snappers in striped ties. And rather than being engaged in some bullshit conversation about my progress toward respectability, I decide to bring some “conversation” of my own.

So I circulate around to each happily chit-chatting couple, stand close to them for a moment, grinning, watching, pretending to be interested, politely waiting my turn to enter the discussion—only to issue forth with an ungodly shouting that makes all conversation impossible. Not a little whoop or yelp. This is a long (30 seconds?), high-volume, non-verbal, unremitting vocal drone, a weaponized yelling designed expressly to destroy cocktail party palaver. And when I say loud, you have to understand that people think I’m loud when I’m just talking (I once got a note from a woman at a restaurant that read “your loud voice wrecked our dinner!”) and that, once upon a time, I sang in front of a very loud rock band.

I work my way around the room, assassinating comity, one conversation at a time. And it’s not just the loudness that’s disturbing, it’s the randomness. My beef is at such a conceptual—and dubious—level that these poor Catholic partygoers are like: what the fuck?!? If they ever said the word fuck.

On and off, the sonic assault continues for maybe 15 minutes, until the principal, a gentle, caring, middle-aged gent, approaches and throws a friendly arm around my shoulders and says, with a genuine smile, “I think it’s time for you to go.”

Let me explain that when this man was younger he had been afflicted with an illness (TB?) that resulted in one of his lungs being removed, which evidently carried a certain morbid, if heretofore unrecognized, fascination for me. So he’s easing me toward the door when I fling off his arm and throw mine around his neck and drag him to the floor. I have the kindly principal in a headlock on the floor, and now I’m yelling at him: “No one-lunged bastard is gonna throw me out!”

I gotta admit, if it’s comical now, it was mortifying the next morning, and for many mornings after. In any case, it’s my buddy and our unfortunate dates who ultimately disentangle me and the principal and get yours truly the fuck out of there.

But, alas, the night is still young.

The four of us pile in a cab, headed downtown to the Village Gate, where one of my all-time favorite bands, NRBQ, is playing a couple of sets. On the edge of Union Square, we get stuck in traffic. Stopped cold. Lots of honking and yelling, but no forward movement. Suddenly, without notice, I fling the cab door open and start running into the darkness and crowds of 14th Street. My friends and my date, not surprisingly, are happy to see me go. And after patiently waiting out the traffic jam, the cab deposits them, 10 minutes later, at the door of the club.

And I’m there to greet them!

This is the superpowers part. Apparently, I flew like Superman or ran at supersonic speeds like Flash to beat them to the Gate. No other explanation is possible—unless you subscribe to the crackpot theory that I ran around the traffic jam and grabbed another cab a block or two away. But that strains credulity, not to mention the rules of super-hero science. No, the facts point incontrovertibly to me acquiring temporary superpowers through the liberal application of booze.

Once inside the club, I barge into the dressing room to tell the band (I think) how much I love them, only to be physically threatened by a visibly agitated lead singer who is restrained by his band mates who are yelling at me to “just get the fuck out!” I return to my friends, who’ve found a comfortable booth, and, at some point during the set, go to sleep. On the floor. The ushers clear out the club for the next show—my friends finally making good on their escape—but somehow no one notices me. As the room begins to fill for the second set, I rise up off the floor and, looking around for my companions, discover instead some unwitting acquaintances from high school, to whom I attach myself for still more bar- and party-hopping until six in the morning, when, my superpowers depleted, I stiff them on a cab ride uptown.

—Toots Shor

Superman photo courtesy of rustman, flickr.