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There was this kid in my fraternity who always dreamed of doing greater things. While the rest of us were totally content with getting drunk every night at the house and screaming at the TV when we’d watch Game of Thrones, he would just sit quietly in the corner, thinking. A bottle of Dewar’s in his hand, a symphony of thought in his head.
One day, he brought me a picture of the Sagrada Família on his phone.
“Look at this,” he commanded. “I want to build a temple. But out of beer.”
We all thought it was a joke at first. But soon, he began making the rounds after every party and collecting the empties. He even bought a couple big Rubbermaid Brutes and set them up in the basement with neon spray paint that said “Beer Cans Here.” He’d spend hours every Sunday slaving long into the night passing tray after tray of empty cans through the sanitizer. A visit to his room would mean tiptoeing through garbage bags upon garbage bags filled with cans. It looked like he was living in a third world garbage dump, but one that was really environmentally conscious and into recycling.
Every time he spoke of his project, there was fire in his eyes. It was like the Muses themselves blazed within him, urging him to create a tribute to some forgotten god. He went to Home Depot and bought Loctite tubes by the case. I even saw him order one of those battery-powered electronic caulking guns that accurately and effectively measures out the perfect amount of adhesive. The man was serious.
At first, there were only whispers. But then it began to take shape. A doric column here, a buttress there — can by can, the area around our bar in the basement became a Greek temple made of shimmering aluminum in blue and white. Mountains, Millers, Rockies, and Rainiers. They were all there.
“I call it the Beerthenon,” he announced simply when it was done.
We stared with the shock and awe to which you’d succumb upon seeing one of the wonders of the world for the first time. When I say “the area around our bar,” I’m actually talking about a pretty big space; the bar is about 20 feet long, and the main room is probably 1500 sq. feet. The Beerthenon was eight columns wide and seven feet high on either side and along the wall, with a square roof of beer containers fashioned into a multi-colored mosaic of Rolling Rocks, forties and bottles.
Truly a masterpiece beyond compare.
Drunk girls came from blocks around to see the wondrous building with their own eyes. In the weeks leading up to spring break, we had 7 straight toga parties to coronate our glorious new forum, a monument to beer and cheap booze; a temple that would stand for 1,000 semesters.
But alas, it was not to be.
In the shadows, a darkness was brewing: Kevin, the judicial committee chairman that everyone hated with the burning passion of a thousand suns. He saw the majority of the house having fun — celebrating a peerless achievement of man’s capacity for creation — and it turned his cold, black heart even darker.
During spring break, Kevin was the only one still at the house because even his own family didn’t want him. When everyone got back, the majestic Beerthenon had completely vanished.
Kevin said he didn’t see anything and was on his laptop watching Netflix the whole week. Obviously, nobody believed him. We were all super depressed, but the Builder of the Beerthenon just shrugged.
“Castles in the sand, I guess…” he said.
It seemed like the mystery would never be solved.
But one day, I was outside tossing an entire sink into a dumpster when three homeless men approached me.
“Hey, is this the house with all the cans?”
“What do you mean, my hygienically-challenged friend?” I asked.
“Some guy was telling us he had cans we could take to recycle. He came up to our camp behind the Circle K and said he had about 50,000 beer cans we could have.”
I raised my eyebrow.
“Did this guy look like Ebenezer Scrooge had sex with the evil dad from Despicable Me and then one of them took a nasty dump that grew legs and taught itself to speak?”
“Oh yeah! Squirrelly Dump! That’s what we called him.”
Our suspicions had been confirmed.
I discovered that over the break, Kevin had opened the main double doors of our basement to a horde of the homeless. These can-hungry hobos had sacked and pillaged the Beerthenon, carrying off its majestic columns and glittering portico to be scrapped and recycled for nickels (our state has a bottle deposit).
Just the way Rome fell.
The house was in an uproar and demanded justice. But unfortunately, we learned the hard way how difficult it is to prosecute the freaking judicial chairman. So we just threw him into the campus lake instead, vigilante style.
Eventually, we came to understand that all empires must fall, and all great monuments eventually turn to dust. But the memory of the Beerthenon, and the higher ideals that it stood for, will live forever in our hearts..