A Sewanee Memory

My band stayed at school one summer, pouring coffee for money and sleeping cheap in a cleared-out, all-girls dorm. Sophomore summer, it was. Freshmen summer I’d gotten off to a volatile, drunk start, and Dad’d forbade me to stay in town; I’d gone home to intern at the Knitting Factory, and made the original PrisonShip rcordings.

Our band had congealed Sophomore winter over seven-inch parties and drinking games. We came from different social circles, mine the philosopho-frat and theirs revolving around the Russian House. We survived despite this ever-present emnity between cliques. Cliquishness was one of the worst aspects of Sewanne, testimony to the canny suggestion that the caste system is at bottom an Anglo (and subsequently, Anglican) form.

Our band was really influenced by Unwound, the Van Pelt, and various Sonic Youth inheritors associated more with the ‘hardcore/emo” scene than their indie rock cousins. It was only this year that I really and truly came to worship Fugazi, if that explains anything. So we were pumped up on that stuff, and I was beginning a 3-year love affair with the whole ‘pigfuck’ tendency coming out of hardcore, and we also dug the Velvets at their brashest, and that’s how it was. We set up a baby pool on the front porch of the dorm, never changed the water and left empties, capsized ashtrays and dorm furniture in the pool ’til we were censured by the Dean. We all chainsmoked regulars and kept communal menthol packs.

Meanwhile my everyday homies were staying in a dorm that was once Sewanee’s hospital, in a suite with a bunch of hard partiers from a more paradigmatic, rich and dirty fraternity. All summer we taught each other drinking games in their top-floor suite. Rob fell into a true elevator-shaft of an affair with a lady living “out Jumpoff,” in this weird, indescribably beautiful and remote spot 20 minutes off campus. His roomie Smith and I ended up galvanized as a twosome that summer, as Rob pursued his amorous venture.

One night the band played the coffeehouse lawn, just as the prestigious and ridiculous Sewanee Writer’s Conference whiskey-belched itself out into a commencement ceremony. They sent minions – a lot of friends ended up working as Writer’s Conference minions – to quiet the rock, but we wouldn’t stop playing. I personally mentioned how I couldn’t believe that Andrew H. ( a Sewanee-ish poet I actually quite like) would want to quiet some rockers. Of course he would’ve, I realize now.

Anyway we were pretty offensive to the minions, and I was made to formally apologize later. The memory is a lesser example of the sort of thing I remember when I’m in a particularly bad mood about myself. It shames me to have acted so stridently about something so tiny as a rock aesthetic, and it shames me to have apologized for doing so. Witness my ever-increasing ambivalence towards the only alma mater I could ever’ve claimed to’ve loved. Very much like that of a comic book Quentin Compson, this stance. Maybe I’m succumbing to, like, a narcissistic negation of Sewanee’s narcissism, or some such? Or maybe I’m old enough now to feel at least distant enough from my collegiate self to see my collegiate years as something different than what I’d seen as I saw them then. I think I’ve been that old for a while, but I think certain psychotherapeutic discourses have me thinking about ‘the past’ and my ‘history’ in a clinical way.

Prisonship as “prose’n’shit” is really taking off, eh?


5 Responses to “A Sewanee Memory”

  1. minx Says:

    That was nice. I wasn’t around for those events, but they sound appropriate. Never knew about the rockers vs. the music conference. Anyway, for several years I got the creeps whenever I was back in Sewanee. (There were some long gaps.) Now, however, I feel oddly like a stranger when I go there.

  2. Wilbro Says:

    That place doesn’t “belong” to us anymore. If it ever did, for that matter. I won’t be visiting for a while, I don’t think.

  3. nuge Says:

    One time that summer, I came back to visit while on phish tour. My friends and I (who were all underage at the time) went to the depot to get beer. The lady that was working the window was unfamiliar with us and asked us for id, to which I said something to the effect of, “I know these people, I buy beer here all the time.” The lady was like, “Uh…OK, Gina this guy says he knows you.” Lady comes up and is like, “oh yea I know him”. We bought them out of pabst tall boys and went back to Rob & Smiths room. I located the bubbla (without knowing where it was hidden) within 30 seconds, eventhough neither Smith nor Rob were home. Around 30 minutes later Files showed up and was pissed because he went to the depot for some pabst and “some fuckers bought them out” to which we said “look in the fridge.” That was a fun trip, I almost never made it back to OKC.

  4. minx Says:

    purty good.

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