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Summer break usually means time away from campus, and that can breed boredom. A surefire way to combat the monotony of hitting the same hometown bars with your high school friends every night is the midsummer college friend reunion trip. The glorious trip involves convincing your college buddies to commit to a weekend trip with the reason behind it being that you’re all struggling with the adjustment to suburban life (even though the next semester is just a couple months away). If you play your cards right, the entire gang being back together again will result in poetic chaos that takes place outside of the college bubble for a change.
Every summer, my best friend and fraternity brother Leo had a massive barbecue at his family home that started as family, friends, and fun but quickly devolved into a colossal shitshow. Brothers of all ages would show up from around the East Coast to convene at his New Jersey home. The wise ones arrived with an extra bottle in hand, a tribute to the great man that is Leo’s father (thanks for letting us do this every year, sir).
One summer, I got into town the night before the main event with a few of my closest friends and knocked back some beers while catching up on the incredibly long month since we’d last seen each other. The next morning, we would make the customary supply runs — beer, ice, burgers, the whole nine yards. Even doing this simple stuff together was a lot better than being at home, and we were all excited for the tidal wave we hoped was heading our way.
The first to start arriving were Leo’s hometown friends. Once we all got chummy and started drinking together, there was nothing but laughs. Then Leo’s dad fired up the grill, and we were on our way. As the clock approached noon, most of our fraternity brothers were arriving in groups, all the girls we were friends with started rolling in, and of course the most obscure and distant girls we knew came in as well, because who doesn’t love a little spice? The speakers that we had picked up from some random restaurant were pumping at full volume, the kegs were flowing, and we felt like we were at school again.
The first trouble I noticed came around 2 p.m. Apparently I had passed out in a lawn chair for about twenty minutes before someone woke me up with a bag of wine. To this day I believe it was a 2009 Chateau Margaux in that bag; it was that delicious. I pulled for a few seconds then stumbled away vomiting into my own hands. Still was delish, though.
I looked up and locked eyes with Leo’s saint of a mother, who had a facial expression that I recognized from a nature documentary wherein a weak gazelle watches as a member of its herd is about to cross a croc-infested river. I gave her a weak thumbs up and then went inside to change my shirt. At the time, I didn’t feel too weird about it. I had just gotten ahead of the party; I’ll accept being too drunk too early and learn from my mistake. I went back outside purposefully trying to play it cool and keep myself together, but that’s when I saw what I had missed on my shameful walk inside: everyone else had gone the same direction as me. People were taking their clothes off, using wiffleball bats to hit empties into the neighbors’ yards, throwing up all over his lawn, and the music had gone from a Jimmy Buffett island vibe to more of a Fetty Wap trap house scene.
Everyone was treating this like a college daydrinking event, but we weren’t at college. His parents looked concerned as they were realizing this was getting out of hand. In that moment, I had a choice to make: do I try to talk with Leo and dial things back, or do I ride this wave? I looked to Leo, and he was in conversation with his mom. She was lecturing him for smoking a cigarette, and with glazed over eyes he was nodding in agreement. She demanded that he put it out immediately, as if stopping this one transgression of his would bring back order to her home. He maintained eye contact with her, finished his drink, and put the cigarette out on his bare foot. That made it official: we are all leaning into this thing. The name of the game was “try not to cause any real destruction, but cut loose like we normally do.”
Around 4 p.m., everyone hears that there is human shit smeared on the walls of the bathroom. I never went to look at the situation developing. I never saw a picture of the bathroom, and I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but we all know exactly who did it. Leo’s parents still refer to the guy as “poopy boy.” He swears on his life that it was someone else, but he only started to make those claims after he found out that another guy was in the midst of a full blackout as well during the time of the crime. Surprisingly, some feces-stained walls did not put any measurable damper on the day. Leo’s parents didn’t seem any more distressed than they already were, and, as a matter of fact, Leo’s father seemed like he was enjoying himself. Ernie, the frat hound who was actually Leo’s dog, ran wild, excited to be surrounded by this familiar atmosphere once again. Ernie was much like George Washington’s horse: more comfortable on the battlefield than off of it.
The barbecue went past sundown. We laughed and screamed like we were back at school. The group dined on uncooked hot dogs because we’re idiots and Leo’s dad stopped working the grill. We lost plenty of stragglers along the way; some walked home, some passed out in the grass, and some definitely Ubered all the way back to Massachusetts. Around 10 p.m., rain started to fall and we had to move everyone inside. In some cases, that literally meant that Leo and I had to carry limp bodies into the house (we’re still waiting for those thank you notes).
At this point, Leo’s parents started to take a firmer stance and the evening was officially wound down. People passed out all over the floor, and I walked back to my car in the driveway to pass out in the driver’s seat given a severe lack of better options. Once I got there, I was struck by the sudden urge to drop a deuce. I turned around and looked back at the house; I remember being blown away at how much farther it seemed now. With borderline zero hesitation, I decided to just dump out right there on Leo’s lawn. I used the moonlight to find a stray Solo cup and haphazardly covered my mudchild… I think I planned to properly dispose of it in the morning or something.
It was a weird night for me. I remember waking up to vomit out those six raw hotdogs. I also remember that a friend of mine was in my car with me and that I had a full conversation with him explaining why I’d just thrown up. The next morning, I discovered that I hadn’t been talking to a friend of mine; the whole time I’d just been babbling to a sweatshirt laying on the passenger seat.
And the icing on the cake: I remember shivering violently the entire night because I couldn’t find the sweatshirt I had brought.
In the morning, I got out of my car to stretch and saw some people milling about — the early leavers, some people cleaning up, and Leo participating in some customary goodbyes. As I began to approach the house, I saw Ernie bounding up to me. Then, before I could stop him or even comprehend what was going on, Ernie knocked away the Solo cup and devoured my brown son. Needless to say, this had me unbelievably shook. The rest of the morning I just went through the motions. The goodbyes, the cleanup, the six-hour drive home… it was all meaningless after what I’d seen.
Why were there multiple poop-fueled problems at this event? Possibly the raw hotdogs, possibly because we are large babies living in an adult world; I’m not here to argue semantics. But that reunion helped get us all through the summer. Don’t get me wrong: being at home can be great, and you shouldn’t take it for granted. But the mental recharge you get from physical and mental destruction with your fraternity brothers is priceless.
So if you’re bored and free this summer, do yourself a favor and meet up with the boys in someone’s hometown. Figure out everyone’s schedule and make it happen at the time when the most people can participate. It’s a little of what you’re used to, and a little of what you’re not. And it’s absolutely great..