An excerpt from a chapter of the current writing project.
Our short careers in campus Greek life were over. What had started so promisingly on that early September Saturday -- Andy and I dressed in gameday oxfords and ties on the ledge of the pillared front porch, dancing and guzzling beers while our first Ann Arbor gameday as frat bros paraded blurrily by down State Street -- had gone south about as quickly as that Michigan Football season. I won't bother to bore you with the details of intrafraternity drama, except to say that I learned that Fall that some men would always march through life to the tune of some drum I would never hear.
Though geographically we had only moved a couple blocks down State Street, for Andy and I leaving the close-minded halls of the fraternity house for the more hedonistic digs of BOX House was like being released into another world, liberated. The people were different, the houses were different, and the parties were different. It was almost like moving to an entirely new city, where there was a whole new crop of cute girls to meet and a whole slew of new drinking establishments to imbibe in, only there were less rules and no dress code. Andy and I quickly fell into the house party lifestyle that Al and Brett and our other new roommates were already firmly established in there, and we spent that semester touring Greenwood, South Forest, White Street, Packard, Catherine and Hill, and all the other Ann Arbor streets, toaasting late night beers with strangers we had only just met, eagerly flirting with every blonde or brunette who gave us the slightest interest, dancing while the speakers blared in our ears, shouting "Sweet Caroline" when Neil Diamond comes on the playlist, partying until the crack of dawn and generally having the times of our lives with all of those Engineering students, business school kids, pre-med, pre-law, and liberal arts students who overflowed Ann Arbor's townhouses and apartment complexes.
We developed a close circle of friends who were scattered in houses throughout that area of off campus housing -- a group of heavy drinkers with whom we threw big parties for twentieth and twenty-first birthdays and for Holidays and for the simple fact that it was Thursday or Friday night, with whom we got day drunk on Saturdays and Sundays because we had no other pressing demands on our times or because there was half a keg leftover from the night before, and with whom we wallowed on living room couches with during the inevitable Sunday morning hangover; we pregamed at each other's houses and in our later college years descended upon the bars together, drunkenly shouting and stumbling on the sidewalks, often having drunk so much at the pregame that it was all we would remember of the night. In youth's obliviousness, we drank as if we reigned supreme there, as if we would one day be the doctors, lawyers, and engineers of America, as if we had found the keys to life's ignition in the bottom of a bottle, and as if our parents' generation had missed that revelation. All the while, we shuttered to think that it would ever end.
I can't speak to North Campus' reputation as the land of Asian students and Engineering nerds, or to Kerrytown's reputation as the radically-progressive, LGBT/hipster-friendly scene, because frankly I rarely left my bubble on central campus, but the reputation of our neighborhood -- and our house in particular -- for its raucous tailgating and its binge drinking culture was certainly well-deserved. And even among that cross-section of the student body, the seven other guys I lived in BOX House with represented the far left end of the spectrum when it came to partying, which I knew, after living among the conservative, rule-abiding fraternity guys for almost an entire semester, was precisely where I fit in.
On one of my first nights at the house, a random Wednesday night, I came home from class and walked in the front door to discover one of the neighbors passed out on the living room floor; Ross and Peter were drinking forties of Steel Reserve and watching television, paying no attention to the man passed out in our living room .
"Brick, we're getting fucked up tonight. You in?" Peter asked me, and I knew right there and then that BOX was right where I belonged.
We got our shit done and took our education seriously, and we would extract ourselves from that environment when our studies absolutely necessitated a trip to the library, but when it came down to free time -- and we had more free time during that pristine time known as college than we would ever have again -- we set no limits. We drank with reckless abandon.
I fell in love with that house that winter. Over the years, BOX House would become my final harbor from the rapidly-advancing real world, a safe haven where I always knew I could get drunk with someone and forget even the worst personal tragedies. There, we drank to celebrate when our sports teams pulled off thrilling victories, and of course we drowned our sorrows when they lost. We drank there in the mornings to kill a hangover before class, we drank there in the afternoons before a lecture or a presentation, and we drank there in the evenings while writing papers and watching sports. We drank there for every event there ever was in college -- something to settle our nerves after a big midterm or exam, something to toast new internship offers and new relationships, a bottle of whiskey to help us forget a bad breakup or call from home, always a shot of courage right before anything important. Every night of the week, there were people drinking at the house, and if not there was always someone up for it. But what I loved most about that house was that, there, your drinking was never that much worse than anyone else's, and there was sort of an unwritten rule that, no matter how bad someone had fucked up, you were never allowed to call someone out for drinking too much -- a rule which became more difficult to follow as we turned into Juniors and then Seniors and some of us even fifth-year seniors.
In the mornings, if we weren't too hungover, we would descend from the front porch onto the sidewalks that took us on a ten minute walk along State Street towards campus where, after cursorily putting in our days in the classrooms and lecture halls of academia, we fled back to the house to drink our nights away. It was an extremely mild winter and spring that year, for Michigan's standards, and on St. Patrick's Day and any other day the sun decided to peak out from behind the gray clouds of winter we gathered on the front lawn and on our front porch, huddled around beer pong tables and gallon jugs of "jungle juice," dancing and flirting with whatever girls found their way to the house while the stereos blasted cheesy eighties songs and nineties rock jams, day drinking until the sun started setting against the backdrop of our echanted college town. Then in the evenings we regrouped for round two, when we wandered from one house to another, from one drinking gathering to the next, as from one room in a house to another, oftentimes carrying to-go beers -- as if all of Ann Arbor were but an endless block party to which we had an open invitation.