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The First (And Final) Andy Rooney-Thon


I WENT TO A SMALL PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGE in the Northeast that I shall not name, and I attended it with various characters that I will also leave nameless, in order to protect the innocent and harbor the evil from the even greater evils. The minute I set foot there, I lost my own innocence, but I also got a shot to the arm filled with that crazed adrenalin that changes your life and sets off the explosion that turns your childhood development to dusty rubble that in turn makes you cough for some years after, as you recover from entering this wretched flaming multi-level adulthood. It’s funny and it’s sad, the following story, and it’s also true--from what I can remember. The campus of College X was the office cubicle in the copy room to the executive office suite of your U.S. News and World Report five star university. And it was filled to the brim with the outcasts from your local high school: geniuses, assholes, drug addicts, ex-dictators of small island nations and anything else that is downright absurd and makes this world seem smaller than it is. So of course, we threw some interesting parties. There were many terrible ones, but there are a few that do stick out in my unreliable memory. This brings me to the night of the first and only Andy Rooney -Thon, which was advertised on campus for some time in a dorm with a reputation as a palace of inspired debauchery. Weeks prior to the event, various images of Mr. Rooney from 60 Minutes/- graced fliers that decorated trees and other wooden surfaces campus wide. With a cover charge of five dollars, one could enjoy keg beer and three musical acts. It had nothing to do with Andy Rooney, and it also turned into something different than the fliers advertised.

I went through a pre-party ritual rivaling that of Kid n Play in the original House Party movie, teasing my already ridiculous mop of hair and putting on a shirt with loud wall paper patterns, as well as my blue tinted sunglasses, While trying to find myself, I would normally join congregations of friends in various dorm rooms for hours, even after the party started, as it was much cooler to wait at least an hour after the listed time to arrive. We would smoke pot or drink beer, and I did both on this occasion when a drug- addled acquaintance of mine told me that she loved me and that I was "a bright, shining light." Wow, I thought, people love me way too early today.

She produced a bag of colorful pills with cartoon characters printed on them. "This is beyond Ecstasy--it’s the pure thing, MDMA, and I want you to experience this with me." Being naturally impulsive, I dolled out the twenty five bucks for my taste of this temporary sunshine. My pill had a roller skating elephant gracing its seal. I gave my beer away and hung around in different circles of people when the elephant began to slowly have that bubble-brained effect on me. During that moment, and the ensuing night, I advocated having a Big Fuck across America. “Fuck the hands shit!” I’d said. “Or at least an extensive cuddle cluster from coast to coast, which is safer and cleaner.” I had a grinding jaw and a seemingly good perspective on love, hate, good and evil, genius and mediocrity. With perfect timing, I made my way over to the Andy Rooney-Thon.

There was a toe- sucking session underway as I handed over my five spot. Girls stood in a line waiting to have their nubs slobbered on by a guy with a stud in his tongue; he was earning money to get into the party. The dorms at this college were little paper maché tract houses that could easily have been demolished in an earthquake, and there were already far too many people flooding the hallways of this hoe-down. I bushwhacked through the crowd to the center stage, where the first band of the evening was passed out around their instruments. The MC asked the boisterous crowd to give them a hand, and bottles crashed everywhere. There were more punk types in the corner having a vomit and shit-eating session, so I enjoyed that with the enthusiasm of someone on Super Goofballs, egging them on and telling them that I just wanted to give all of the shit eaters of the world a hug. I almost had a piece of “chocolate and ramen remnants” cake, but fortunately I passed. I soon flew into a delirium and found myself bouncing off of other members of the flock, muttering sweet nothings into each and every ear. Most were blotto stinko, and I came close to getting my pretty little face torn off and stuck to the common room fridge. In my heightened state, for all I knew my face would have survived the attack with an idiot’s smile plastered on it, giving lectures on Human Togetherness.

I ran into one of my sole detractors of the time, a bald communist with a penchant for bowties and a biting cynicism that pierced into the center of hearts. I offered him a hug and he reminded me of his pocketknife, and I told him I would still kiss him even if he stabbed me. With good fortune I was whisked away by what seemed like pixies at the time (they were hairy lesbian women after several Pabst Blue Ribbons) to the upstairs bathroom. I could not see the tile floor--there were so many appendages and heads bobbing around in this bathroom--it was a bad imitation of the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera. We pushed through to the keg where a dwarf friend of mine was doing keg stands to the cheers of the eighteen year old yuppie derivatives that were new that semester. Not being a spoiled sport (certainly not at the time anyway) I did six keg stands in a row…and could have done a seventh had I not tried to stand on my hands in the adjacent shower, having mistaken a stowed away drum for the keg. It was time to get the hell out of there, I thought. I knew my boundaries. But then of course I’d forget them, as I did on this particular night, and I straggled along with the cheering crowd. A close friend of mine with a pension for manic glee after a bottle of Jack Daniels began to playfully punch people in the stomach which started a large random brawl. None of us knew who to fight. The marijuana smoke didn’t help and it ultimately went from a brawl to a tame orgy session… to a combination brawling and balling spectacular.

And then a loud crash brought on a mighty hush. My sucker- punch happy friend had slammed his large empty bottle into the toilet, smashing it in two and causing it to spray shit water every which way, with the intensity of a fire hose. We did not need to run so much as we slid in shit out of the bathroom and down the stairs. I will never forget the look on that commie’s face as he saw my big fat smile while I tumbled toward him, a tidal wave of shit directly behind me. I ducked into the broom closet at the bottom of the stairs with enough time to watch his suit get ruined by shit, piss, and vomit. The party turned into a riot. Everyone rushed for the front door while the main band of the evening was just sober enough to play some chords. Some of my fellow PharmaSmiley Folks enticed me out of the closet, and I ran like hell out the first available ground level window. Outside it looked like a bomb had gone off. The seemingly injured, but plainly wasted- were laid out on lawns and what remained of the front foyer to the dorm was going up in a spontaneous bonfire. In place of the foyer was a huge hole with chunks of crushed dull wood for its teeth. The bomb was the people escaping their mess, of course.

I made my way through the ruins and the scattered drunks, before locating another close friend. We greeted each other as if we were refugees meeting for the first time on the other side. She produced a chillum to salute our survival and we talked to one of the drunken lesbians about knitting. In our dazed state we watched someone take a large SUV to the front lawn for several donuts, the last of which caused him to crash into a sewer manhole, leaving a huge gaping hole a few feet deep. People were reduced to nudity and devilish dance circles around the bonfire. We comforted people as if we had just experienced some sort of attack from an outside source--perhaps it was Al-Qaeda. The Bushes!!! No. It was all Andy Rooney’s doing, we concluded. The slow lights of the State Trooper cars began to appear from around the corner--it was time to disperse to our various nooks and nests.

My friend and I were loitering along the perimeter of the front lawn, when we heard several faint cries for help. Not even wanting to believe ourselves, we peered down the new hole in the ground to find a party-goer trapped in it. All three of us laughed as we pulled the poor girl to safety, comparing it to a TV movie of the week from the late eighties, in which a little girl got stuck in a well. We didn’t recognize our resurrected friend from school and she told us she had been invited from town to the party, and arrived only to find herself trapped in this hole. She then proceeded to ask us who Andy Rooney was, and I told her that he was the Big Man on Campus around our parts. A trooper’s flashlight hit my eyes; it was time to hide from the night.

I sat in my bed and stared out the window at the flame as it and my buzz slowly died away. I puffed on my pipe and watched a group of people charge a newly constructed wooden tank on wheels down the center lawn of the housing area, chanting “Hell no! We won’t go!”, while a group of befuddled state troopers screamed at them to halt all deviant activity. I sighed and thought of what Andy Rooney might say in one of his televised editorials. He’d probably call us all degenerates and a good example of where the youth in this country are going; but then in the back of his head he’d recall that one fluke time he smoked reefer with those jazz musicians and woke up the next day with his head in a bucket of ice water, chewing on aspirin and cursing the Imperial Whiskey company. One thing I learned from Andy: He always puts his stories and memories in cardboard boxes by his desk--and in that way I emulate him. That’s where this story comes from, one of my cardboard boxes. Thank you Andy Rooney, for what I don’t really know.

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About Kevin Ridgeway

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Kevin Ridgeway is a writer currently living in a shady bungalow in Southern California with his girlfriend, menagerie of mangy cats, and old books. He wasn't meant for these times, should have been born a century ago and often daydreams in black and white. When not writing he haunts the local graveyards, bread lines and sends letters off to his imprisoned...read more bank robbing old man, who looks like George Clooney on acid and once took a prison pottery class with Charles Manson. Mr. Ridgeway also enjoys strip Scrabble and is an amateur avocado farmer.

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