Community makes life especially sweet. Many will experience it next weekend when the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl. Others by attending religious services or participating in festivals, parades, parties, or running races. The problem with the Super Bowl is now we know the violent hits come with severe health consequences. Another problem is a lot of young people feel they need alcohol and/or drugs to have a good time with others. Exhibit A, the world’s largest frat party that I attended Saturday.
With the NSA hot on my trails, I can’t say where it was exactly, but as alluded to previously, I have recently switched coasts. Suffice to say it’s an annual party, this was the 99th version. It starts with a huge pirate invasion and then continues for hours with beer drinking; floats; beer drinking; thumping music; beer drinking; non-stop bead throwing, catching, and collecting; and beer drinking. There may have been 100k people and 1m beaded necklaces.
Yes, I probably was the oldest person there. And since my green tea latte had worn off an hour beforehand, I was definitely the most sober. It was fun because it was a spectacle and so atypical of me. And it was a window into a different region of the country and into youth culture. About 80% of the people there were in their 20’s. It’s one thing to read a lot about college students abusing alcohol and altogether different to see it up close and personal.
Everyone seemingly had the same philosophy of life—hedonism—if it feels good, do it. I tried to get some discussions going about Stoicism, but was unsuccessful. “Hey, Seneca and Epictetus didn’t need Bud Light to have a good time.” I just walked around self conscious about being old, sober, and alone. Eventually I sat down and leaned back against a palm tree to people watch. Shortly afterwards, a woman sat down right next to me. She was a local who was with four friends whom she pointed out and described to me, including her sister who was a middle school teacher from Miami.
To borrow from an especially outgoing student of mine this fall, my new friend was a “raging extrovert”. Thirty-four, with a tiny nose-ring, she was a very successful hairstylist who enjoyed traveling the world. Here was the most depressing part of our conversation. First, you have to understand that like 90% of the people there, she “started drinking at 7:30a.m.” She wasn’t nearly as drunk as her younger counterparts, but definitely buzzed. (My “friends” will challenge this description. They’ll say the only way she would have voluntarily sat down next to me is if she was over-the-top inebriated. I stand by my description.)
“I just barely know you, but what the fuck. Last year I took two months off and made six figures. I pay for my sister to travel with me. $1,500 fuckin’ bucks for airfare to Dublin. But I don’t mind because I love her.” The hairstylist makes double the school teacher. Fuck. Oh sorry, it’s her fault for setting the bad example.
It would’ve been easy to pre-judge her based on her f-bombs and cigarette smoking, but I liked her. She praised her friend who was drug and alcohol free. And she was critical of the excesses of the event and “fuckin’ embarrassed to admit she was a letter writer”. The city had actually taken some of her (and others I’m sure) suggestions for improving the event to heart and added porta-pots, positioned them better, and provided more police on bicycles.
Sometimes raging introverts like me need raging extroverts. As my mother likes to say, “Diversity is the spice of life.” All of us need community. I prefer Olympia’s Procession of the Species, or a group bike ride, or dinner with a few friends, but the pirate invasion made for a spicy Saturday afternoon indeed.