I had to call the cops on my own college graduation party. And somehow, that wasn’t even the wildest party ever thrown at my parents’ house.
Growing up, my parents always had a huge summer party. Their one-and-a-half acre lot with an in-ground pool was the perfect spot to unwind. From bikers to doctors, every walk of life showed up to cut loose with the Tindales. Whether it was Labor Day, a 50th Birthday, a pig roast, or after prom party it was always a truly egalitarian event. Throwing parties felt like building family.
Our house was the epicenter, and I surveyed the fun like a master of ceremonies. The idea of going to college with that mindset seemed like it would be a great advantage. But instead, when I arrived at the University of Maryland I felt lost. My assigned housing was on the opposite side of campus from the majority of freshmen. It was a big pond and I didn’t even have a school of fish to swim with.
The first week of school, I sat on a bench contemplating how I would fit in to this new ecosystem. By chance, an alum of my high school walked by with a friend. I remembered this guy, Adam, as a book smart soccer player. But I soon learned that on campus he was known as the Assman. (The nickname has obvious sexual connotations but also referred to scars on his butt cheeks from hip surgery). His friend seemed much older than college age. He went by the name Nicky Fingers. He was a tall, dark, New Yorker with a naked lady tattooed on his arm.
The Assman knew that I played football in high school. My position was defensive end and I was first team All-County, second team All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-State. (To be honest, I don’t think I was actually All-State, but I did play in a prestigious All-Star Game. Years later a website posted that all those All Star players were All State. That story was picked up by a bigger website and now according to Google I am All State. Who am I to argue with Google?)
So when The Assman invited me to a party, in hopes of recruiting me to play on the team, I decided to give it a chance. Nicky Fingers also wanted to recruit me. He had a similar pitch but used the F-word many more times. I mean come on, the guy had a naked lady tattooed on his arm. How could I say no?
I showed up to the-off campus party at the rugby house. When I walked in the door, a flood of recognition washed over me from my parents’ summer parties. The three-story red brick house dubbed the Red House was packed wall to wall with people. I met some of the residents, both rugby players and their friends. They had names like Tommy Guns, Choad, and Hobbit.
Then, a man named Smallwood (his actual last name, not a nickname) performed an act called a flaming asshole, where he got naked, rolled toilet paper out of his butt, lit the paper on fire and jumped off the roof. I signed up to join the team on the spot. I had found my new family.
After every game, we had a drink up. Minutes after punching, kicking, scratching, choking, and raking the other team, both sides came together as one brotherhood to drink beer and sing songs. Much like Native Americans had an oral tradition of passing down knowledge and tribal folklore, the rugby team had an oral tradition of passing down glorious, disgusting, offensive, sexist, hilarious songs. If camera phones and social media existed between 2000-2004, I would be unemployable. In today’s culture one round of the raucous song “I Used to Work in Chicago in an Old Department Store” would get you kicked out of college immediately. I won’t write the entire song but a portion included the line, “A ruler she wanted, twelve inches she got.”
Junior year, it was my turn to live in the rugby house: a run-down, hideous home built in 1923 at 4610 Knox Road we called the White House because—surprise—it was painted white. A week before school started I went to move in and two surprises greeted me.
One: The home had never been cleaned after the last tenants moved out. Mold grew all over the basement.
Two: The roommate who organized the rental decided to not come back to school that year.
We lived in a shithole and had to find a new roommate on short notice. Only one thing could help: throwing a party. That first weekend was loud and rowdy. Someone threw a keg through a glass window.
The next weekend? Another party, equally loud and rowdy. A second keg got thrown through another glass window.
Things were going great though. As a junior, I was in charge of handing out nicknames. We called one guy Penguin because he looked like the Penguin from Batman 2. A guy with a big neck who went to Broadneck High School was called Broadneck, and his skinny friend was called Pencilneck. Another guy showed up to his first practice and had his front teeth knocked out. After dental surgery he came back and was known as Jaws.
Another guy showed up tall and lumbering. In between drills at practice, he pulled out his mouth guard and a long string of slobber hung from his mouth. In that moment, I named him Slobber. He went on to be a mess of a person throughout college. I often wonder if my nickname empowered him to let out his worst qualities. A nickname can be a powerful thing.
We even found a new roommate. A kinesiology grad student. Life was good.
The third weekend was when things got out of hand. A huge wave of freshmen showed up to the house. From pre-med to American Studies majors and nerds to jocks, everyone was welcome at the rugby house. It reminded me of home.
The back deck of the White House sat about two feet off the ground. I sat on its railing and surveyed the wonderful party, the family I had created. Next to me, a pack of freshmen surrounded the keg, talking about what a rager this was, how much they loved college. It was their college dream come true. All because of this magical party house.
All of a sudden, the freshmen dropped about 2 feet. The deck had collapsed. It looked like a Red Cross rescue effort as people pulled their friends from the wreckage. To this day I can’t believe no one was hurt.
That next week I had to tell our landlady that we had broken off her deck. Not an easy phone call. Then, we received more unwelcome news in the mail. The City of College Park had issued a noise violation for each of our three parties. Each violation had a higher fine than the last.
A few weeks later, while we were at an away game, our house was robbed. It could have been a random partygoer, but most likely it was our new roommate who turned out to be a steroid addict. none of his things were taken and then he moved out shortly after the robbery.
A year later, when I graduated college, I went back to my parents’ house to celebrate. I was now a more grown up, seasoned partier. I had seen party struggles and overcame them. The day was a fun mix of high school and college friends. Even the Mayor of College Park, who I had become friends with, showed up. (I never brought up my triple noise violations.)
As the evening went on, more of my friends left and more people I didn’t know showed up. Tensions escalated between a random guest and an old high school football teammate. Punches were thrown. One of the fighters started screaming at the top of his lungs, “He punched me in my ear, son! I’m deaf, son!” At that point, it was time to call in the professionals. I dialed 9-1-1 and invited the police to my own party.
The troublemakers cleared out before the police got there. Another successful party. We didn’t even break a window or collapse a deck.