pull all of our fingers


While we’re on the subject of shite and all things crap-related, I was asked “how communal pooping brought my fraternity together” back in 1989 at the University of North Carolina. The answer, as always, is slightly complicated.

At a certain point halfway through my proper schoolgoing years at UNC, the tenor of my fraternity – Chi Psi – changed dramatically. This is where I’d normally give the usual disclaimers about how my fraternity was different from all other fraternities, how we were intellectuals, often hilarious, had a healthy African-American quotient when no others would, and now, an openly gay quotient. I would then go on to say we had amazing parties and managed not to be assholes, but then everyone says that about their fraternity, so let’s move on, shall we?

Anyway, when I got to the Lodge, it was a bevy of people who would then go on to rock the world: David Gardner, who founded the Motley Fool; Peyton Reed, who directed “The Break-Up” and “Bring it On”; the creators of CitySearch, the new media barons of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, you name it. They were a feisty bunch who fought a lot, but always did it with incredible √©lan and words I didn’t even know yet.

A new group came in when I was a junior, and they were quite different. They liked to drink – a lot – and a few of them developed put-down skills that would have made Don Rickles blush. They even named their own era “RANCOR” and I fucking hated it. Not just because I was an easy target of their jokes – god knows I was – but there was an anaerobic insider-y mean-spiritedness to it that bummed me out. It bummed a LOT of people out, and the place became noticeably balkanized by the summer of 1989.

Cue a massive renovation, where the Lodge went from being a ragtag, quaint, mysterious fire hazard to a shiny metal interior reminiscent of a Ramada Inn. It saddened old-timers like me, but it was a refreshing change to have sinks that actually had running water and doors you could actually lock.

The 3-month job started in May, and was almost finished by August, except for all the bathrooms. Actually, those were finished too, but all of the toilets lacked stalls and doors; five of them, all in a row, with no protection and no personal space. The parts were “on order” or something, which meant we were facing three months of privacy-free grunting.

Many brothers simply held their goods until the middle of the night when nobody else would be there, but there’s only so many times you can do that. Eventually, everyone had to give in, and just take giant dumps right next to each other. Pee Shyness and Fart Shame became things of the distant past, and the whole fraternity grew noticeably more affable. Something about the communal latrine had done what nothing else could: forced some of these jerks to actually get along.

Except for me, of course. I was already writing “Wednesday’s Child” by then, and thus was not allowed to be funny or charming at the Lodge; my britches, apparently, had grown too big, and it didn’t help that I had become a drunk gadfly with a stunning lack of self-awareness. I continued to take gobs of rancor from many of the bros in attendance until I had my post-college poverty-stricken nervous breakdown, and then I was finally welcome back on the hoops court. Funny how these things work.


my composite picture, junior year

0 thoughts on “pull all of our fingers

  1. scruggs

    Trader Vics was always a good time. And I actually have one of your composites (circa 92/93) somewhere at my mom’s. Those things were funny to read.

  2. Salem

    Thank God for your temporary dip into the world of drunken gadflies, as I was drowning in a sea of those lacking self awareness. You dipped just far enough to pluck me out and I have been better off ever since.
    However, to our credit, like Socrates to the Athenians, we served proudly as
    “a sort of gadfly, given to the (UNC social scene) by God; the state (University) is a great and noble stead who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life.” The spirit of these words were later borrowed by the urban poet Young MC one of his earlier works, “Bust A Move”.
    I raise my tall, triple shot, one pump, caramel machiato in a toast;
    “to the continued strength of our passions, and may our weaknesses remain really fucking funny.”

  3. Annie

    Okay, what do I know? I went to Barnard!!
    But you did not SEEM drunken. You were definitely gadfly, though–or perhaps more accurately, a “gad-about.”
    Time to go reread Great Gatsby.

  4. Neva

    Because this made me wonder what does gadfly mean (other than what I thought it did) I looked it up in (oh, so liberal) Wikipedia and got this.
    During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato’s writings, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny (relative to the size of a horse) gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. “If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me,” because his role was that of a gadfly, “to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth.”
    That’s it Ian – you’re a stinging, whipping, gadfly. I love it!


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