Monday, April 16, 2007

A Night at the Fraternity

I haven’t had a beer in the shower in a long time, but it seemed appropriate that I did for some reason. I haven’t had a beer while shaving in a long time either, but it seemed to make some sentimental sense that I did. Then again, I haven’t been around a bunch of 20-year-old kids since I was a 20-year-old kid, which was nice to do in that old sentimental fashion, but even sentimentality gets old pretty quick when you least expect it. I don't party, and I don't dance and I find it hard to revel in the new delights from the old times. On top of which, it was nice to go home at the end of the evening and be 34 again, not having to worry too much about the future like I obsessed about 15 years ago. Standing on the edge of a dance floor watching the crowds pulse to music I had never heard before reminds me of a time of uncertainty and carelessness. Perhaps I liked it then, I don't remember, but I don't welcome it now, not by any means.

One of the three organizations that I am currently volunteering my time to is my old fraternity, and since I told you about it a few months back, I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that the fruit of the kids’ efforts was realized last Friday when they hosted their Chartering banquet at the picturesque Mission Inn in Riverside, just west of the University of California, Riverside, campus. No, I didn’t go to that school, and since Cal Poly’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter has been around for 27 years, they really don’t need my help any—not like they’re sitting around weighing that thought—but these guys needed some guidance and organization and I was asked to help. Plus, it's close by. After three years of being a charter to the national fraternity, they were finally awarded chapter status and it was a treat to not only be on the ground floor of the night but to be at the banquet and see the excitement. I wasn't especially excited to go, because of the pressure to be interesting and extroverted (two things I try not to leak out), but once I was there and spoke to some of the members of the executive board, it was a pleasure to see how much it meant to them and their exuberance was infectious.

On one hand, it was nice to see such festivities, even. The room was glitzy, and all of the active brothers were dressed in bow ties and black jackets with pretty girls on their arms; the recent memories of their proms were probably not such a distant recollection for a lot of them. And, of course, formal dresses on the women were the du jour I expected. The whole nine yards.

I met a couple of guys that I hadn’t seen in a while, a couple of older alumni from my old chapter at Cal Poly, and I spoke to a lot of new faces. I got to meet the Grand President from Richmond (where the HQ is), and his old-school southern drawl was delightful, and I ended up saddled with a lot of the wives for some reason. Perhaps it is my wall-flowerism. I don’t mind standing off to the side and watching the people go by, and maybe other people see that and think that as an invitation to chat me up. Look, there’s another guy who’s by himself, so let’s go talk with him. Maybe he's alone. Granted I was, but it hardly means I'm lonely. However, I spoke at great length to a pregnant woman (talk about a fish out of water) about the excitement of being a first-time mom. Cripes, I can’t even get out of the house with other adults without talking about babies, and I sat at our table next to the grandparents and the mother of the chapter president, who were all charming people of course. The grandfather asked a lot of questions about the proceedings that I was only too happy to answer.

I sang fraternity songs. I charmed the bartender (which is something I always try to do, as it sometimes eases the cost of later drinks) and I talked shop with the hotel detective who wondered in to keep his private eye on things. He explained that fraternities are among the most respectful and rule-abiding groups that use the facilities, and weddings are the worst. He said that he’d rather have a room full of rodeo clowns than a wedding party, and I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that because I have never been around a large group of rodeo clowns. Frankly, I hope I never do, but I nodded in agreement all the same. Rodeo clowns. Wild. Uh-huh. Sure.

I ate the dessert intended for the person sitting next to me. Hey, he didn’t show up until late. His loss. I ate his salad too, and would have eaten his dinner if they’d brought him one. I was also lucky enough to have the bread basket land in front of my place setting, meaning free reign to the remaining bread, which was nice that I didn't have to share the spoils. Back in the day, we used to put our coats on the backs of empty chairs for the extra meal, telling the servers that there's someone sitting there, when there wasn't.

I had a good time--I always have a good time--but it was nice to go home, away from the turmoil, the fervor, the verve of youth. God, that makes me sound old, but I was never one for boisterousness and ruckus noise, especially that which is caused by modern music. By 10:30, I was pretty tired, and since I got smacked in the head by a cold toward the tail end of last week, a insurmountable headache started to drill me in the back of the eyes. Without a headache, even, I'm sure I would have wanted to leave. It was time. I don't dance, and that's where the evening was turning. I saw the old people, the grandparents and the parents, quietly leaving the night to a younger generation. I thought to do the same.

Regardless of all of it, I spent the evening out of place. Out of maybe 500 people in the room, there were perhaps 10 people older than me and another 10 people whose names I actually knew (or could remember), and not that I’m ancient by any standard. I’m old in my responsibilities and I felt it. Plus, I was by myself, so I had really no one to relate to.

So, it ended up that I spent the evening drinking by myself in a room full of people, leaving as many strangers as I met when I arrived.

Sorry, I’m not in a good mood, so I didn’t tell the story very well. There’s a couple of atmospheric-type pictures here and you can draw your own conclusions.

I did get a logo champagne glass to go with the collection.

1 comment:

Raquel said...

Was not a bit surprised that you ate the guy's desert and his salad. That's just you!


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