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?