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It is not my intent to offend or insult you in the opening paragraph of my column, but I am afraid that I will. With a few notable exceptions (looking at you, West Point), all college towns are a great time.
They just have so much to offer. From the bars and nightlife to the upbeat attitude most people have because they’re still at a point in their lives where they can drink every night without worrying about near-death hangovers (you think they’re bad now, just give it two years), everything about college towns screams fun, minus the whole going to class thing, of course. While your college town may have its great bars, amazing late night drunk food, and a phenomenal gameday atmosphere, I have bad news for you: Your little town doesn’t have shit on Athens, Georgia.
I didn’t go to Georgia. I have no real ties to the school, either. Sure, I know a person or two who went there, but for the most part, I’m not connected in any way. I just know in my heart that Athens, Georgia, is an absolutely insane place and nowhere else, not anywhere I’ve been, anyway, holds a candle to it. I’m not saying it’s the best college town in America. I’m not even saying it’s the most fun, although it may very well be. I’m just saying that Athens is a town that many people cannot handle, and I am one of them.
I never actually intended on going to Athens. I had driven down to Clemson to visit a friend of mine from high school who was enrolled there and living it up in his post-chapter president semester. After putting up with the stress that comes with that position for the better part of a year, he was all about kicking back and relaxing. Nothing too extreme. After all, he was too old for all that shit.
I got into town Friday afternoon, went a baseball tailgate, had a few beers, and prepared for what lay ahead. Friday night was a typical night out — dinner and beers, a bar or two, and then some parties — but there was a day party the next morning that was the main event of the weekend. We woke up early Saturday morning, did the whole day drink thing all day, and that was that. That description doesn’t mean it was a bad time. It was quite the opposite. I just need to exercise a little brevity here and actually start talking about Athens.
When the party wrapped up and it started getting dark, we were left with a decision to make. Many of my friend’s fraternity brothers were passed out, too tired to go out, or had other plans that didn’t interest us. Someone brought up the idea of having a pledge drive to Athens, which isn’t really too far away, all things considered, so we hopped in this kid’s car, grabbed some refreshments for the journey, and proceeded down whatever back road took us from Clemson’s territory down to UGA’s.
Looking back now, I feel terrible for the pledge driver. He got stuck with driving us all the way down there and he had to deal with me, a guy from a different fraternity who gave him shit for not knowing my fraternity’s history and required pledge knowledge all the way down to Athens. It’s shitty, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
We had planned on going to check out the Terrapin Brewery, but being irresponsible not-really-but-still-legally adults, hadn’t bothered to check its hours. It closed well before we got into town. No worries, though. Downtown Athens had plenty to offer.
This is the point of the story where everything gets a little fuzzy. We went to a few bars, saw some decent bands, and, at some point, for whatever reason, smoked cigars. It was an absolute shitshow and I loved every minute of it. Per usual, I made a fool out of myself in front of some women way out of my league. The best part about the whole experience was the people. Everyone there was down to have a good time and was going absolutely wild. We ripped shots with some guys from the football team (great people, I might add) and had what I can only imagine is a pretty standard time for Athens.
At some point, we got separated. I don’t know how and I don’t know why. I was suddenly alone in a town where I knew nobody. To make matters worse, my phone died. Not one to get pessimistic, I continued on with my night solo, enjoying everything the town had to offer. Before I knew it, last call rolled around. Whether I liked it or not, I was now stuck with the realization that I was pretty much stranded. With no options left and luck clearly against me, I headed to the only place of refuge I knew of in this unfamiliar territory: Waffle House.
Luck, however, had not abandoned me. As I walked towards where I assumed there was a Waffle House (I’ve got a crazy sense for these things, kind of like sharks with blood), the pledge driver drove past me. I managed to flag him down, reunited with my friend and his fraternity brothers, and we began the trek back to Clemson.
Cool story, I know. It’s simply a personal experience and is in no way to be taken as empirical evidence for any sort of argument saying Athens is the best college town in America. I’ve been to a few — almost all the SEC ones, I might add — and they all have their ups, their downs, and their unique quirks that make them each individually awesome. All I’m saying is it’s insane and I absolutely could not and cannot handle it. Never been? Give it a shot. You won’t regret it. One of the rare few who can meet its challenges? Good for you. You’re a better man than I am..
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