Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Certain Pictures Have Surfaced Recently...

Oberlin College,
circa 2003-5

Robot Warz

Blaise took the semester off from school, so naturally he used his time to organize an elaborate series of pranks coinciding with spring tours of prospective students. The movement caught on in Harkness (our co-op) and took on a life of its own. We had schedules of tours from someone working in the admissions department and we figured, What better way to influence the new generation of Obies to be cool? Uptight students would be disgusted and anyone like us would know this was the place for them.

For Robot Warz, a dozen of us spent most of an afternoon making cardboard robot suits/body armor out of the co-op's recycling. We got Sam to dress up like a mad scientist with a giant remote control and someone queued up some drum 'n bass on a stereo as we waited for the tour to come by.

We all roboted around until Sam screamed that he'd lost control of the robots and then chaos ensued. It was basically a giant mosh pit of cardboard robots. We'd attracted quite a crowd by then, so we all put on a good show. In the end, cardboard carnage lay strewn across the grass.

Bike Derby

Bike Derby was a great annual tradition and probably the most nihilistic, self-destructive event on an otherwise conscientious, environmentally-responsible campus. Events as I remember them included: tall bike jousting (top), bike discus (below), longest track stand, tug of war (two riders take off in different direction attached by a band made of inner tubes... obviously one or both fall spectacularly. Actually, most of bike derby ended with people falling spectacularly...) and the derby. The derby was about 20 riders doing laps around the bowl, chugging a beer at each lap, and then the final no-holds-barred round where you just plowed into everyone else until your bike physically couldn't function any longer. It was incredible.

The Bike Derby traditionally ended with a giant, smoldering, black-smoke-spewing pile of annihilated, unrideable bikes. Safety and Security was never very happy about this, and they usually tried to shut down the Derby - although it seems like they didn't try that hard, in retrospect. I do remember one year them arriving to break things up as the keg we had hidden inside a bike-powered float made a stealthy get-away.

Braveheart Reenactment

This was the most elaborate event coordinated to coincide with prospective student tours. There were at least 50 and maybe closer to 100 participants - all dressed in kilts and other Bravehearty attire. We squared off in the big bowl in front of the library, first mooning each other, then the front flash, then rushing at each other screaming, stopping just short and hugging, then resetting and the final charge, ending in carnage once more.

Big Parade

Big parade started as a student art project and become an annual event that really united the crazy students and the town. It featured a load of bike-powered floats that were all impressive.

Co-op Antics

Harkness co-op was the base for all of this. A co-op is something like a hippie version of a frat, I guess. We set our own budget, administered ourselves, decided rules and policies, bought food from local farmers, cooked and cleaned up all the meals, etc. The bathrooms weren't gendered, and there was a cube outside the group shower with a 3/M/W/E on it. Depending on what way you oriented the character, it meant: Me Myself and I (the 3), Men, Women, Everyone. The greatest thing about Harkness was that you could count on seeing everyone you knew at the meals, and they became the catalyst for most of these pranks. Basically there was a group of a couple hundred really cool people who were ready and willing to do these things at the merest suggestion. (The other co-ops were great, too... each had their own character and personality.)

Several other prospective tour pranks that I participated in or heard about were: leading our own tour in outrageous costume to intersect with the official tour at various points, David Brown as tour guide loudly citing ridiculous information, 6 or 7 of us pecking the ground like chickens outside the admin building when the tour went by, Blaise and Kerry (female) walking toward each other across the library bowl, meeting, undressing, exchanging clothes, redressing, and going their separate ways. The stand in if we hadn't thought of anything else and a tour was going by at meal time was to streak, of course. One time we challenged the tour guide to a backwards race (the tour guides always walked backwards), but it was hastily organized and everyone took off running (backwards) in a different direction. We awarded the tour guide the bust of a conquistador that had been in the lounge.

My favorite story is one I only heard about. There were twin sisters, one of whom was a tour guide. While she was giving a tour, they pulled up in a van, grabbed her, threw her in the van, then her twin sister got out and calmly continued leading the tour as the van drove off. I still love imagining the thoughts running through the heads of parents who were accompanying their kids on these important school visits.

Chair-diving in the co-op dining room late one night.

This started small, just another night with nothing much to do. Nate and Ben Shirley-Quirk and I started doing runs into stacks of chairs on a little kids bike. It started out pretty small but people keep showing up to watch and the chairs keep getting higher and higher. I think in the end, we were at it for 2-3 hours until finally the chairs were up to the ceiling and the top one had a metal trash bin filled with silverware on it. Ben ended up bleeding from his head and we called it a night.

Here's an action shot of me diving into the chairs with cape and Styrofoam cup helmet.

Our award-winning couch/tent/inflatable raft fort.

Made this one weekend when my friend Chris came to visit. I think he had a good time. Chris is a pilot now. He does corporate flights for a small company in Michigan. Sometimes he flies celebrities to the Dominican Republic and sometimes he flies a cooler with an organ in it. Chris has excellent taste in B movies.

I think Oberlin showed a good time to my friends who did manage to visit. Rob (dubbed "Wingarrow" during an earlier visit by my friend Mollie) came down with his blues rock band to play a show for my birthday. If I'm remembering right, this was the same night Nate's black metal band Abaddon set up and hide in our basement drinking PBR for at least an hour before the party started. We tied 2 beer cans on a string through a conveinent hole in the bathroom floor that I could shake to signal them to come up at the appropriate time. They emerged (in total darkness) from the hatch door in our kitchen carrying candles and deer skulls, marched processionally into the living room, plugged in and started to play. Or maybe that was another night. Either way, I remember Rob saying it was one of the best shows they'd played. For years later, he was still known as Wingarrow to my friends, some of them had never known his real name.

Graduation Week

Graduation week was a great time. All the greatest people in the world, with a whole week before the ceremony and nothing to do but have fun together. Amanda started a tradition where we had dinners at rotating people's houses rather than eat in the school cafeteria (the co-op kitchens had shut down after classes ended). We ended up having quite a few meals at our house, which was great. I'll always remember Blaise and I were cooking for one, and we had all these stuffed bell peppers that no one had wanted to eat the day before. Instead of serving them again, Blaise suggested we put them through the blender and make a milkshake. Needless to say, no one even tried that item.

One of my favorite things about the week was that Blaise had made this giant dinosaur skeleton out of cloth over a metal frame stuffed with newspaper. It was enormous and awesome. He researched skeletal anatomy to create his own plausible creature. It stood about 15 feet high and 40 feet long. Well, it had been in storage but Blaise was getting giving it to the Big Parade, so he got the head and front arms and we draped it off our porch so it looked like the thing was crawling out from inside the house. Then we'd just sit out there hanging out and watch people walk by. At one point it had a Bambi cardboard cut-out in its mouth when a group of schoolchildren on a field trip passed by.

Nate and I decided to stay up as long as we could during graduation week to see what would happen. We ended up staying awake for 80 hours. It wasn't bad once it was day, you got more energy, but the nights were really weird. It must have been the second night when we were both just drifting off into weird weird places. I remember the only way I got through it was by doing dishes all night, courtesy of one of the dinner parties. Nate was playing Wagner on the record player and I remember my mind drifting off and sort of blanking out whenever I didn't have something physical to focus on. I have no idea what was going on for him. Our 3 days of being awake ended with the Bike Derby, which was perfect.

I'm not going to get too mushy. There were so many more memories and so much more to say about my experiences there. Oberlin changed my life. It was fantastic.