Columns for my tryout

12 04 2005

Below are the three columns I submitted for purposes of trying to be a
DC columnist. They are exactly as I submitted them, so if you see any
typos, I fucked up. Thanks to everyone for their comments. They really
did help a ton.

     Welcome class of 2009! My name
is Jake, and I’ll be your UW – Madison
freshman orientation guide for your first few days here on campus!
     You’ve probably already noticed that the
campus here isn’t the same as your high school. I’m here to help you make a
smooth transition to college and all that a life here at UW has to offer.
     First off, let’s talk about the dorms. If
you move into your dorm room before your roommate, make sure you get all the
perks of the room before he or she does. Claim the bottom bunk, fill the
mini-fridge with your food, and take
both of the free pizza coupons that housing leaves in the room for you and your
     If he or she gets to the room before you,
nag and whine until you get what you want. It’s not a very hard thing to do,
and it establishes a rapport with your roomie that tells him or her that unless
you get your way, you’ll be like this for the rest of the year. If you do this,
you shouldn’t have any problems with your roommate for the rest of the nine months
you’re together.
     Regarding relationships with the rest of
your floor, make a name for yourself. One way to do this: make a mess in a
conspicuous place (the bathroom is best,) then claim responsibility for it.
This will ensure people will know your name, and it’s a great icebreaker.
     The next thing to worry about is getting
wasted in a timely manner. A sacred tradition on campuses across the nation,
inebriation can help you have great times you’ll never remember.
     Getting a hold of alcohol appears to be a
daunting task, but it’s really not tough at all. Your most reliable source is
your house fellow. Ask him or her to buy you a bottle of low-grade vodka or a
case of classless beer. Most house fellows will cheerfully agree and procure
what you need. Note: the going price for a liter of vodka right now is about $50.
Don’t let anyone overcharge you.
     Once you’ve gotten your alcohol, down it
as fast as you can. Just so you know, guys, excessive drinking impresses the
ladies. When you vomit on your shirt and pass out on her floor, it tells a girl
you are committed to drinking and so can also be committed in a relationship.
     If drinking in the dorms isn’t your scene,
there are a number of parties on the town, never more so than during your first
week of school. Everyone knows about the best parties, so take your new friends
from the dorms, and head out on the town. Look for another big group of kids
your age that looks like it knows where it’s going and join up with it.
     This process is known as herding.
Eventually, one herd of freshmen will know where a kickass party is, and all 40
in your group will make your way there. Cups usually cost about $7, but the
money is well worth it. The beer flows freely from kegs, and it never runs out…
     The remainder of the night amounts to
stumbling back to your room and passing out. When you wake up the next morning,
nurse your hangover well. It should be done by about 3:00 pm, the perfect time for you to get a head start on
the next evening.
far as school work goes, that all falls into place around this schedule, so
don’t worry about it until mid-December when finals hit.
     In conclusion, have a safe, fun kickoff to
your semester. Eat, drink, be merry and all that good stuff. Just be sure to go
to lecture in moderation.


     Let’s get it out
in the open. I have a confession. I’m having a love affair. My mistress:
tobacco. For the sake of brevity, we’ll call her Smoky.
     Smoky and I first
met when I was seven. My dad and his buddies had a softball team, and I was
their bat boy. Half of the guys on the team, along with each of their wives in
the stands, smoked. The sweet second-hand scent of Camel Lights filled my
nostrils weekly. I didn’t have a care, except to grab and organize bats. Ever
since, Camels have reminded me of those summer nights.
     Always the guilty
pleasure, Smoky made her return my junior of high school, right around the time
my friends made up their minds to develop serious relationships of their own
will Pall Mall, Newport
and Virginia Slim.
     During the summer
before my senior year, my buddies and I would waste the days disc golfing at a
course by my high school. Smoking bummed cigarettes every round was a ritual.
     On the weekends,
we would camp on a friend’s land in the country, start a bonfire, crack open a
case of Busch Light and light up.
     The occasional
cigarette became an integral part of my summer experience, and as ashamed as I
was of her, Smoky was back in my life. Every pull of my cigarette was bliss in
that last lazy summer.
     A year later, I was clean again. When I left
for college, Smoky was as much a part of my past as those frolfing friends.
     College was a
fresh start, a chance to reform. That’s exactly what I did. When others in my
dorm headed outside for a smoke, I stayed resolute. My late-night rendezvous
with Smoky were over. That was that.
     I went a whole
year without Smoky, but she caught up to me. Like a meddling bitch, she pleaded
for me to come back, to have one more night of hazy bliss and relive the glory days,
even if for just a few minutes.
     I caved, and now
she’s back in my life.
     I smoke in spurts,
now. Sometimes I’ll buy a pack, and it will sit, unused and stale, on my shelf
for months at a time. All at once, I’ll get a craving for a cigarette and pull
one out of the pack. The rush I get from having one makes me think about having
another later in the day. Soon the pack is gone, and I’m on the way to the
store for another.
     I certainly don’t
mean to glorify cigarettes. Smoking is an awful habit that has killed millions.
I know this, and I agree with people when they tell me how bad it is for me.
     But when friends
ask, “Why would someone do that to themselves?” I have an answer that makes
perfect sense, if to no one other than me. I’m not addicted to cigarettes, but
like a secret lover, the attraction eats at me.
     Cigarettes remind
me of simpler days and good times. I long to relive the days when I didn’t have
to worry about midterms, work or even what I was doing tomorrow. Now, every day
is filled with some new challenge to overcome, which is the way it should be.
     Still, when I
feel myself getting anxious over homework or a semester-long project, I’ll
sneak away to light up a cigarette. Smoky, my lady in waiting, reminds me where
I came from and who I am.

     It all starts
with a frisbee. Next comes a hacky sack. Soon ladies are wearing less clothing
and guys are noticing. Spring is back on campus.
     Happiness is an
easy thing to find when spring first hits Wisconsin.
Leaves start popping out of buds on the trees, shorts become reality instead of
wishful thinking, and the thermostat can finally be shut off.
     On one
particularly beautiful Wednesday, I resolved to head to Library Mall to sit and
study. In the back of my mind, I knew I shouldn’t kid myself. I knew I was
going to nap, but I justified the trip by filling my backpack with heavy
textbooks and a couple notebooks.
     When I reached
the mall, it looked a bit crowded. I scanned the area and eventually found a
small corner of grass to sit in. I brushed some litter from a previous group,
and then plopped down. Three little kids were walking around and barking orders
to their mom, but I was content to tune them out.
     I unzipped my bag
and pulled out my chemistry book. I opened it up and began scanning the pages,
finally settling into the peace that was spring.
     Just as I hit my
groove, a sharp popping sound broke my concentration. Three sandal-clad guys
with hemp necklaces had taken up the hand drums and were working on a groove of
their own.
     I recognized one
of the drummers. He was known as a pretty crazy kid when he lived in the dorms,
and now he and his cohorts were shouting nonsense words to accompany the drum
     No problem, I
thought. I have headphones. I pulled them over my ears, but I could still catch
glimpses of dancing girls out of the corner of my eye. They were spinning to
the beat of the drums and flailing their arms to announce just how happy and
mellow they were. Their expression was not
making me feel the same way.
     As I tried to
settle back into my book, another sound caught my attention.
     “Yeah Dad,” it
announced to everyone in a 20-foot radius, “Yeah. We were fishing on the yacht
on the gulf coast the whole time … Yeah, the fish were, like, huge! We ate so much fish! … What? … Yeah, I’m
sitting out on the grass right now. There are a ton of people here.”
     I cringed,
knowing that this one-sided conversation was going to last a while.
     As a second chorus
of drummers joined the first, a small dog started yipping at the children who
were trying to play with it. I finally came to grips with the reality that
everyone else had come out to enjoy the weather just like me. My serene, early
spring study session was definitely not happening.
     It seems that we
all get a little crazy when we have to spend the majority of our waking hours
inside, speaking in hushed tones. When we finally have the chance to get
outside without countless layers of clothing, we jump at it. All that pent up
energy comes out at once, and our lounging and shouting is just a way to say, “Damn,
it feels good to be out again!”
     Resigned to the
fact that even a nap was unlikely, I packed up my books and trudged off to the
dark chasm that is College Library to hibernate indoors for one more week.




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