Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fresh Meat

One day you're on the top of the world. And the next, the world's on top of you.
Senior year of high school was my coming out party. I had finally made it to the rank of cool and accepted. My skin had cleared up (kinda), I could speak a whole sentence without puting my head down and I learned how to spit water between by front teeth. The latter was clearly the most important.

Just when I thought I made it, I began my freshman year at Louisiana State University and slid from hot shot to not-shot.

Freshman hazing was still a ritual at LSU when I was admitted (just my luck ... it was outlawed the very next year). This was the practice of making all freshman feel as though they are the lowest form of life. Apparently it was started in the 1920's by upperclassmen who figured out if the freshmen boys had their head's shaved, the upperclassmen would have an edge on the "Fresh Meat" ... the freshmen girls. So all freshmen went through this ritual when they started classes.

If this wasn't bad enough, the freshmen were also commanded to wear little beanies with the name "Dog" and their last names written on the underside of the brim. When they were confronted by upperclassmen they had to do whatever they were commanded to do like pushups, washing a car, barking, telling the upperclassmen how hansdsome and smart they are ... everyday stuff.

There was also the tradition of wearing pajamas to the first game. It was mandatory ... if you didn't they would kill your firstborn child or something. So I remember sitting with the other freshmen and my roommates watching the game with our dumb beanies on ... no hair ... and pjs. what I didn't know was that at halftime we were supposed to throw all the pajamas off onto the field. Apparently everyone else knew, because I was the only one that didn't wear clothes under my pjs.

All freshmen had to take ROTC. The choices were Air Force or Army  ... I should say it was chosen for you. All freshmen lined up in the big Cow Palace (the Ag Center) and were plucked one by one ... right and left .... Army and Air Force. Well, if there's one thing you learn early it's DON'T get picked for the Army. You had to march with a rifle, classes started much earlier, uniforms were wool and much hotter. So I cleverly started to trade places in line as I looked to the front and counted the numbers, playing the odds. Army, Air Force, Army, Air Force ... Army ... "Well hello Mr. Momberg. Welcome to the Army!"
My roommates of course got Air Force. They marched at 10AM and then took naps in their cute little blue short sleeve shirts. I marched at 6AM until forever with my M1 rifle ... on which we had to constantly have "loading" exercises where you stick your thumb precariously into the cylinder while pulling out quickly before the bolt snapped it off ... like our sergeant's thumb. 

By the way ... Army had the nickname of "Ground Pounders" and Air Force were "Flyboys".

But what really made that first semester so special was the fourth roommate we had in the dorm suite, Phil Miley, the freshman punter from Bogalusa, Louisiana. Phil was 6'8" and weighed all of 300+ pounds ... and as gentle a soul as you would ever meet. He was soft spoken, had a Looooosiannna drawl and  always willing to lend a hand when someone needed help.

I think it was the first week that Phil freaked me out. He walked over and sat on my bed in the middle of the night. Actually he sat on my legs and he also happened to be stark naked. Phil stared down at me without any expression ... just staring ... no hint of his signature grin.

"Phhhphhhphhil?" I calmly said. "You're ... um ... you're sitting on my legs".

No movement.

"Well ... really it's okay if if if you wwwwant to do that."

Still no movement.

"You wanna trade beds? Is that what you want? Sure ... I will. Don't like yours, huh?"

Phil calmly got up, turned and went back to his bed.

I, of course, didn't sleep (that night or any other). I got up cautiously that morning at 4AM to polish my shoes for ROTC and tiptoed out the door. I saw Phil later and he acted as if nothing happened. He was his old jovial self and in fact never mentioned again. But I was always sleeping with one eye open never knowing when he might get "frisky" again.

Months later at dinner, I remember,  he turned to me and said, "Hey, know what I forgot to tell you. Sometimes I walk in my sleep ... probably won't happen here but just in case ... didn't want you to be concerned."

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