Call me naive, but I thought the movie "Animal House" must have been exaggerated. The disgusting but endearing 1978 flick that launched John Belushi way beyond Saturday Night Live was top-to-naked-bottom with profanity, nudity and scatology. Though I viewed it during my until-then-innocent youth, 30 years later, scenes from the Toga Party and Food Fight flash immediately back to my nauseated psyche.
Well, I now know that the classic whacked-out film had a basis in reality. I have inspected the bowels of a fraternity, and have emerged to tell you about it, using language considerably more refined than most of the enshrined lines of the "Animal House" script.
The occasion was the end of spring quarter and beginning of summer, when my daughter was to move from her hysterical sorority into a frat house, whose alternate floors are let annually for the summer to Greek-system women. I'd packed her vast store of clothing and schlepped them with her mini-fridge, plastic drawers and bins of shoes to my car; we were to take our first load on to the fraternity a couple blocks away. Most guys had cleared out for the summer, and for the next ten weeks, my daughter was to assume her part of the "four-man" (double bunk bed) room she'd assured me was fabulous--spacious with three closets--and a steal at just $250.
Always remember: You get what you pay for.
The exterior of the fraternity was unprepossessing, with a flat concrete pad on which two lavishly tattooed guys were shooting baskets. The open front door led to the lower floor, the level of my daughter's room. We stepped in, and--dum, dum, DUM--descended into a world of vomit, scum, broken glass and knee-deep beer cans. And not even beer worth drinking; these cans said Keystone Beer, the dirt-cheap stuff you buy at the convenience store when you're too sloshed to care if there's flavor (just be sure any girls you try to pick up aren't wearing a bluetooth in their ears).
The room my daughter was renting with three girlfriends was not the worst of it, despite being in the basement with two tiny slit-windows near the ceiling, which was criss-crossed with pipes. The carpet, strewn with detritus, much of which was unidentifiable broken-edged pieces of plastic, boasted some enormous dark stains and copious dirt-balls. The mattresses on the bunk-frames were of the ilk I would touch only if protected by latex gloves.
True enlightenment, however, came from viewing the "party room" steps away, through a short hall whose walls were multiply knuckle-punched through, with splintered holes (some covered by faux "walls" of shredding paper). On one of the "party room's" navy-blue-painted (and blotched and scratched) walls was a large flat-screen TV. The floor was completely obscured by beer cans, broken drinking glasses, wadded paper, toppled disposable cups, beer bottles. A large low coffee table, laden with empties, was surrounded the length of the 50-foot-long room, with putrid once-discarded couches, most with threadbare arms and stuffing oozing out, sagging cushions, colors faded into grime-homogenized dullness. Behind this first semi-circle of dilapidated upholstery was built a plywood platform that supported a second tier of similarly filthy and vile sofas; two layers of fetid furniture in a dark and beer-soaked dungeon.
Into this, I cast my beloved baby girl.
Wasn't I lucky that we could take a look at the entire place? Walking the length of the upper-floor hall, I got to see the sophisticated intellectual pursuits of these university men--like the full-sized nude pin-ups. Whereas the bedroom doors in my daughter's sorority each had cute photo collages with the girls' names in cut-out letters, I saw tacked here on one fellow's portal, scrawled on a sheet of notebook paper: "f--- [female dogs]; get money." Several of the doors had manly knuckle-punched holes; most were simply banged, bitten and scratched. Ear-splitting heavy metal rock blared in cacophony from several rooms simultaneously. Since guys will inhabit upper floors while the renter-sorority girls take the lower ones, I enjoyed a relaxing sense of security about my daughter's summer welfare...not.
She chose to eschew her lovely, private, quiet bedroom with bath and sweeping lake view here at home for a basement next to the party room of a bunch of uncivilized beer-guzzling sex maniacs. And we put up the cash for it. She also gets to procure and cook her own (kosher) meals, sharing the kitchen facilities with the grungy guys. This should be fun.
Only in my own fantasies will this adventure cause my daughter to appreciate the many luxuries and privileges she enjoys when in the bosom of our family. She and her girlfriends will laugh off the feculence, and use satin sleep-masks to comfort their pampered eyes at night, while placing their plumped feather pillows over their ears to blunt the din. They'll take arms-length photos of themselves seated on the fouled couches, Keystone in hand, giggling. And they'll think themselves so clever and cool to be where the action is in the summertime.
But on the eve of Shabbat (our Sabbath), I can predict from experience, my daughter will come home, pass me her filled laundry basket, head for her clean, comfy bed, and collapse.