Despite what you may think, graduation will not bring life beyond your means in a New York City loft with your four best, blondest friends. It’ll bring middle management, bill collectors and an acquaintance with the strange, perverse nature of things. Let me assure you, this is what is waiting for all of you.
The friendliness of South Street: I’m not talking about the South Street where commercialized counterculture and trendy kitsch are purveyed at a marked-up rate. I’m talking about places where you can find venues that host events like the Binge Fest and acts like James Kochalka Superstar, whose lack of musical prowess ensures that his rhythm section won’t accompany him to shows (not that they could have helped). But there is more to find on South Street than bad music. As I went outside for fresh air, I met a homeless gentleman who asked me if I was interested in making some real money. The secret, I was told, was garbage. Scrounging through the discarded detritus of urban life is a sure-fire way to find hidden treasure. As if I needed more proof, my new friend handed me a published manual that detailed all I needed to know and a pen with which to mark my favorite passages. After giving me the keys to destiny, this gentleman recited a Psalm that conferred Godly blessing unto me and then promptly asked for 10 bucks. I relented because it was only fair: he did give me the secret to wealth, which I wasn’t going to find in the Quad.
The four horsemen of the Apocalypse: I found myself on 18th Street one evening dining all’aperto. I supped on cheap food while soaking up the evening air and the ramblings of the madman across the street kicking a newspaper dispenser while cursing at pedestrians. Amid this, I heard the unmistakable clip-clop of hooves on macadam. I looked up to see two men dressed like cowboys riding horses northbound stop at the traffic light and wait for it to turn green. I looked at the woman at the next table and asked her if I was indeed hallucinating. The doubts of my sanity were laid to rest when two more horsemen rode up 18th and continued north. The crazy man had disappeared after the four horsemen made an appearance in Center City. We have been warned. The end is nigh.
Roaming rodentia: I was attending an awkward intern social at a 22nd Street restaurant. After an evening of forced conversation, I was eagerly awaiting the check. As I feigned interest in the table discourse, the lady on my left let out a scream. I followed her pointed finger with my gaze until I laid eyes on a well-fed mouse meandering underneath the table near the wall. We summoned the waiter, informing him that there was an uninvited rodent roaming the floor. He laughed and told us not to worry. This small rat comes in here all the time. Everything was all right, he said. While I contemplated food poisoning, the manager appeared to assuage our worries about our four-legged, disease-carrying guest. “He’s a regular,” the restaurateur assured us. “He’s Peppino; he’s a little gangster, this one is … we try to chase him out; we lay out the traps; Peppino, he always comes back. This gives us trouble when the health inspector comes in, but it’s all right! He’s a little gangster.” Well, at least I was eating with Peppino and not eating him.
The Zorro of Sonic: During another sojourn to the Southeast, I went to Sonic with an old friend. We pulled into the drive-thru and ordered. As we were waiting, windows down, for the food, I spied the typical American family. A boy, his sister, a sturdy housewife and the paterfamilias sat outside enjoying ice cream in the pleasant summer heat. The picture of normality except for one chilling aberration: the man held an old sword in his right hand while staring off into space with a gaze that suggested a burning fuse. I elbowed my friend to point out this incongruous sight to him. He then proceeded to drop his drink and yell, “Oh my God! That man has a sword! Why the hell does he have a sword in public!?” We laughed until the man fixed his gaze upon us and walked toward the car, sword held by his side like Zorro on the prowl. Frantically shifting into reverse, we peeled out of the parking lot with tires squealing.
Quality time with the family: On a warm Sunday, my brother and I decided to spend the day cruising in his Jeep. We motored up to the outskirts of Atlanta, where gas is cheap. We parked and proceeded to fill up. A tall man sauntered over, dressed in golf hustler chic: pastel polo shirt, gold chains and fake Rolex. He took one look at the Jeep’s windshield sticker and asked, “Hey, do you work there? Does Southern Off-Road buy guns?” My brother answered, “I don’t think so, why?” The man’s eyes darted and answered, “Well, I wanna sell some guns. I got an AK-47 and a MAC-10 with a silencer I need to get rid of.” My brother and I exchanged looks while he assured us that these then-illegal assault weapons “weren’t hot or nothin’,” he just needed to sell ’em. The NRA member of the month told us that the MAC-10 was worth four grand. However, he was willing to let us have it for the low price of $400. Tact and good sense escaped me when I asked, “Where did you get a weapon like that?” He looked at me as if I were stupid and replied, “I was in the Army.” I were reassured, since the Army lets soldiers take home their guns after they leave. Rambo told us that he had it in his car if we wanted to see it and added that it scared the hell out of his daughter. My silver-tongued sibling told the man, “I’ll trade you the Jeep for it,” and our new friend stormed off in a dejected huff.
As you can see, life is much different beyond the safe confines of college. This is what the urban jungles of Philadelphia and the forgotten nooks of your hometown have to offer. You may appreciate reality or yearn to crawl back to safety. But, what is life without adventure?
Augustine Marinelli is a senior political science major from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at [email protected]