Well Officer Gibson-that was his real name, because I dont curr(accent coming through) dropped me off on the Widener University campus, in south Philadelphia so that I could be greeted with some curious stares of the campus crawling kids. After I thanked him for not beating me up(I actually did) and joking aboot how crazy Canadians are, he drove off and I was slightly rattled. It was coming on 5 o'clock, and there wasnt a chance in hell I'd get a ride at this time, in this place.
I walked into a campus building and plunked down the fat ass that is B1. I whipped out the laptop, and prayed I could leech their Internet. Prayers were answered, and I was able to check some emails and try to find me a couch to surf. There was no way in haaayle I was going to find a ride, or granola eating hippie to take me in for the night. A curious professor approached me, and asked me my deal, as I'm sure he could tell I was not a student. I only told him I was a photographer passing through, and needed to check my email, as I don't think the whole hitchhiking on a dime pitch would have worked. He began to ask me questions, not to interrogate and determine if I was a threat, but rather in interest. After a few minutes, I told the bearded older gent my gig. He was super down like a clown, and commented several times on my bravery, and seldom seen passion. I told him I was merely a young and naive kid who thought he had the world all figured out. He told me his son had done a bike trip through the states, and stayed at the different fraternities he was a member of. It was something I hadnt considered; imagine a bunch of frat dudes wouldnt be down with some hitcher kid. I wouldnt even need to tell them the story.
It still seemed a little harder than I initially thought, so I grabbed my gear, and headed down to the Days Inn hotel off campus. I went to the desk, and knowing this was going to be more uphill than Everest, I tried to plead my way into a free room. I told him my gig, that Im travelling in search of human compassion, yadda yadda. Aziz wasnt having none of it. I knew it was a tough gig. I had done it before, but not at a major chain, and not in America. After the pitch didnt work, I looked him in he eye and said 'mano y mano, Im asking you in compassion to save me from sleeping outside'. Still a firm no. I had plenty of money, and the room rate was only $55, but it still breaks all of what Im trying to do, so I had to stay committed, and carry on, despite how grim my chances looked. I noticed a big patch of secluded woods, and figured I could hammock it and be alright. It wasnt as cold as it had been before.
I thanked him for his time, swallowed my feelings and headed back out into the cold.
As I was walking away, some crackhead came up and asked me for change. I said I couldn't help him and apologized and he swore at me. I wont lie; I snapped. I turned to him and went on quite the foul mouth rant about how if he wasnt so addicted to bleeping drugs he wouldn't be asking me for change. I told him there are bigger bleeping problems in this world than cigarettes and he should change the way he thinks, and maybe he wouldnt be outside in only a hoodie, talking to his shadow. He laughed and started to sing 'travellin man, travellin man, life is good, travellin man'. Cocaine is a hell of a drug, isn't it Rick James? He said good for you, you have a backpack, but can I have a dollar? I smiled and just turned around, because I was not about to argue with someone as intelligent as a wooden chair. It was the polar opposite of the mission for this trip, and sure, I could have spared a dollar in reciprocation of compassion, but Ill save it for someone who needs it for food, and not a dime bag.
I walked down what was 'frat row', a line of massive Victorian style houses that had laws littered with beer cans and flipped couches. A snowboard ramp from one had mattresses all over the place.
I saw a few kids standing in the stoop of one, and decided they would be my best bet. I approached them, and hoped with all of my gear and the detailed story they would beleive me and see Im not there to rob them or something.
They were kind of nerdy, and some of them were startled when I mentioned Canada, hitching, couch. Some were startled when I said 'the'. They ended up saying they wish they could, but that they couldnt due to liability of having a non student. I knew the chances were slim, so hopes were never up. Thanking them, and asking advice of what to do, they all had no effing clue, so I walked down the sidewalk, reality setting in. I prepared myself mentally for a frosty night outside, when I saw another group of frat boys walking towards me. In a last ditch attempt in complete desperation, I chose my words carefully and asked them.
These were not the nerdy frat boys who joined a house to have people to play Warcraft with. They were the boys who knew how to party. It took them a few seconds of deliberating to determine whether or not I was legit, and finally asked if I was gonna rob them. I told them Im more afraid of all of them beating me up and robbing me!
They said its cool, and that there would be a spot somewhere, and the 5 or so walked me in.
Thats when shit got hazy. As I walked into the house, an overwhelming smell of stale beer stung my nostrils, and I looked around in amazement at all the broken glass, food wrappers and wall stains. This house was the evidence of a bunch of dudes living together and enjoying themselves pretty well. F*ck that, it was evidence of 30 dudes living together and not giving a flying fuck and non-stop partying in the highest form. It was immediately infectious. Just being in there was making me want to slam a beer and punch a hole in the wall. And that was just the main floor lobby.
They led me upstairs to the dorm rooms, and not for one second was I hesitant. My one rule travelling is to not allow myself to be outnumbered by dudes, as it would only take a second for one to distract me, another to take my shit, and another to sucker me.These guys were legit, and I think just more apprehensive of me, a strange kid telling them he hitchhikes. Around ze planet.
They took me to the floor most of them lived on, and the smell of stale beer and burger wrappers only doubled. The paint on the walls looked like it had endured a riot, and there was garbage littering the floor everywhere. Used condoms and crusty scraps mixed with stale air and and beer puddles let me know I have missed evenings of mayhem. I get a quick jolt of excitement when I try to picture what goes down here on a regular basis, knowing that if these walls could talk......
Im led into a bedroom where a bunch of them are playing video games and talking about the latest hookups. Im introduced, and told to tell my story. They're all super cool with it, and a few were inspired. I knew I was still a hitchhiker showing up asking a favour, but once we got talking, they all opened up, I felt totally at ease, and the jokes started coming out. Most of them were curious, asking about me, and what I do, why and how. It was a pretty foreign concept to them to see some dude who's hitchhiking around the world with no plans, money or stability. It was obvious alot, if not all came from affluent families, as the flatscreen TVs, piles of beer cans and nice clothes made it pretty clear. After about half an hour of story telling and question answering, they realized I was a "legit dude" and that I wasnt going to screw them over. They then offered me some microwavable dinners, laundry and a shower. I was stoked to have gained their trust, as they were really cool dudes.
If I said to close your eyes, picture the typical American Frat house and the boys in them, they were it. To a friggen T. Ragging on each other, College team sweaters, clean shaven faces, talking about who they were gonna hook up with that night, and worrying about the booze supply. I loved every minute of it. As much as I may have been a culture shock to them, their reality to me was as foreign as a cowboy in Siberia. Frats don't exist in Canada, and I think everyone wonders what its actually like in them.
Well my friends, Im going to tell you, because I stayed with them the next 3 days and experienced a window into the life of a Fraternity. Not just any, TKE styles, son.
After the initial intros, there was Oswald one of the house leaders, Matt the baseball player and Scrapper the pass out, Davidson, the hilarious Tonk, soccer kickin Brydges, Squid, Berger, Duncan the karate kid, Spross, Chris, Moyer, Steinstra and Zac(a pledge-which I will talk about later) Travis-the only one with a girlfriend on campus, Whitehouse the football player, Frankie, Keyack the joker, Shatner the Jersey kid, Ernie, Daddy the house OG, Mik, Pauly and if im forgetting anyone, my apologies.
They were all pretty down with the idea of a random dude from el norte crashing with them, and although I wasnt worried about them robbing me, or messing with me-they easily could have, I think they were still slightly apprehensive, but I couldnt blame them, it was more random than a hitchhiker showing up at the doorstep. Waaaait a minute....
So Tonk was super cool, and got me sorted to take a shower, tossing me shaving kit, a towel and the smelly gels to get the stench of foot sweat and B.O. out. The bathroom was hilarious. Doors to the stalls had been knocked off, and the smell of stale beer, vomit and peepee had that place on lockdown. Toilets are seldom flushed, as if the deep yellow abyss is some sort of trophy. Of laziness.
The hot water was the bees knees, and I got myself feeling fresh and clean.
Tonk is the man, and one of the guys I will be keeping in touch with after this trip. He tossed me a house shirt, and Brydges tossed me a Widener jersey, as he plays Varsity soccer.
I guess while I was scrubbin' me bellybutton word had got out, and although it was a Thursday, they had been off school on snow days all week( I know!) and were off the next day, and down to partay. Even has exams been the next day, the beers still would have been cracked, right boys? Calls were made some foreigner was in town, and it was cause for celebration. They were gonna throw down a jam in my honour and a jam it was. The pledges were made to do a beer run, and the weapon of choice was Nat Lite, or Natural Light. The beer of College in the Mideast, and it goes down like water.
"Are there gonna be girls?" I asked.
"Oh buddy" was the reply, with grins sneaking onto faces. One was on the phone and said "...we got f*ckin' Jude Law here".
"You are so gettin laid tonight man, chicks are gonna eat that shit upppp". Que excitement. I threw on one of my only clean t-shirts, and despite my attempts still looked like I stepped out of Outside magazine. We shot the shit, told some stories, and the boys were cooler than Miles Davis in his prime. I wouldnt normally be down with the Hollister type kid, living on Dad's dollar, but I forgot about all that crap, as these guys knew how to have fun. Id like to think I do too, but in other ways I suppose. As we waited for the expected 60 or so people to show up, we threw on the beats, pounded down a few and went to chill in Daddys room. Daddy is like I mentioned OG. His eyes were Phillies Red all day everyday. He had what kids these days call a 'bong' (shharcasm) and passed it to me. Their styles of smoking is communal, a bowl for the room. Where we come from, you punch that shit, and I smoked almost the whole bowl. Big mistake. It was like a girl in gr9 getting drunk for the first time. I was beyond function. I could barely talk, and moulded into the chair. My hiatus from indulgence kicked my butt. Of course a pile of cute girls show up ten minutes later, and when Ernie introduced me to them, I could mutter out a hello, and that was it. Over the next 20mins, people rolled in by the dozens, and I started the drinking acceleration, as Tonk and Squid kept feeding me beers. I normally have a really low drinking tolerance, and a 6pack has me pretty done in, but I just kept drinking. I snapped out of my little Cheech and Chong lapse and started being social. I threw on my iPod, and the party started. It didnt take long for some of the boys to get pretty tanked, and the girls sqwaking. I had out the video camera, and the footage was too funny. I dont know how or why, but the idea to smash empty bottles over the ol' melon came about, and Moyer decided it would be a good idea. After three unsuccesful attempts, to which he only produced a soft 'ting' when it hit his forehead, Mikey figured he was the man for the job. Lets just say they both ended up on their ass, without breaking the bottles, leaving the 40 kids laughing histerically, chanting and clapping. Glass 1 Forehead 0.
Throughout the night, several sorority girls were introducing themselves, curious and flirting. Im not going to toot my horn, but it was clear the intentions. In a few attempts to grab my attention, they made some amazingly naive and incredibly stupid comments. Like not knowing where Toronto, Ottawa or Haiti was. I would be surprised if they could find their elbows. They werent all like this, but certainly most of them were. Sure they were cute, but goodness me if they werent, they were screwed in the real world. After several more beers, Mik led me with a few others to shotgun one. Snap, chuggle, drop. I was shittered. After my video camera was being tossed around getting some hilarious audio on tape, we went down to a party room and played some beer pong. Shatner is a pong champ and sniped cups all day long. Too bad he has a blowout. In case you dont know what a blowout is, its the gelled haircut made famous by the douches on Jersey Shore and lame Italians everywhere. Shatner was far from lame, a cool guy in fact, just should stop watching that show. After some intoxicating pong, time to hit the dance floor and imagine the TKE house didnt have one. Complete with commercial speakers, amps and mixers, disco ball and black lights, they didnt really need to ever leave, as the bar was in the house. People finally made their way down to the basement, and the liquid inspiration had everyone dancing. Zac was spitting his favourite quote; disregard females, acquire currency, if thats any indication into his mind. Zac was funny, and kept yelling random shit into the camera. Ryan, a really chill dude kept making sure I was always beer in hand, he with Squid, Tonk and most of them actually were good at that.
Back upstairs, drinking continued and there was one little blonde who kept pulling on my t-shirt and repeating my name. She was more annoying than finding out they took the Double Cheeseburger off the value menu at McDonalds.. She pulled me into a corner and just started kissing me. As drunk as I was, I just went with it. It was really weird, because 1)there is such a thing as too much tongue, and 2) the entire floor was chanting my name. I cant complain, as I had spent the previous night in a friggen truck with a totally random dude, and now I had some girl grabbing my belt, but I could have sworn it was her first kiss, and she was one of those, 'thinks shes hotter than she is' type. It just made me appreciate Canadian girls, and although I didnt show it, I was really just missing one back home.
More beers, more cheers, the party kept going. They are relentless, and need a reality show, 'cause the MTV generation would eat that shit up, although I think we would just have a generation of fetal alcohol syndrome babies, so no, maybe they dont need to be on TV.
Tonk is the type who gets a shit eating grin when hammered, Squid the drunk eyes, Moyer loud as f*ck, Mikey pulls out the pranks, Whitehead space cadets, Frankie wheels like Pat Sajak, Shatner gets the head bobbing, Travis pulls out the chants, Chris smashes bottles, Berger stumbles and I grin. Not to mention each and everyone smokes like chimneys. The cigarettes in America suck, although they cost $5 a pack. They couldnt care less about rules, and smoke inside the house, butting and ashing everywhere. I even saw a dude flick is smoke down a girls shirt without her knowing, which had me laughing in tears. The broken glass magically accumulates like snow flurries, and at the end of the night, the house looked like a warzone. If the warzone was both World Wars combined, and dynamite was the weapon of choice.
After waving inebriation goodbye, and welcoming stupor, everyone started to pass out and started to disperse. I wish I had written next day, as Im leaving out so many details due to the cloudyness. I passed out in Scrappys room on the top bunk, and as soon as my head it the pillow, it was game over.