After a summer of virtual slumber, the tiny hamlet of Oxford Fucking Ohio is once again a vibrant place - for better and worse.
The mayhem started early Friday morning. Students and parents from all over Ohio, from as far away as Atlanta and Chicago, from Kentucky and Korea, Italy and Indiana, began their annual migration into the batshit that is 21st century college culture here.
* * * *
Friday night marked my last night as a "free man" before the popped-collar masses return in full force. The spoiled rich girls were already pulling their Hummers into student housing parking lots by the time I left the office.
Who the hell buys an undergraduate a fucking Hummer? Why is it, at this Local U., located in a community where almost one in five children under 18 lives below the poverty line, there are parents who will buy their children automotive monstrosities - simply to make a half-mile commute to campus?
I went out for drinks with two colleagues early. One guy, A., is what the students call a "Townie." His father is a bit of a local legend about town, a guy who brought humor and wit to quite a few folks, a hard-working, honest-to-God symbol of Small Town Americana, taken from this community by cancer and God.
I never met the man. But as A. and C., both graduates of the local U., swapped stories about their experiences, I felt the hidden beauty I often overlook whenever I post something about this town. Watching C. ogle voluptuous women in tight outfits, hearing the cheers of Cincinnati Bengals fans as they watched their team pummel the Buffalo Bills 44-31 in a sloppy preseason game...
I was reminded that there is beauty everywhere, even in Oxford Fucking Ohio.
* * * *
I guess that's why, two hours later, I almost got into an all-out brawl with two guys outside of the local movie theatre.
Two local teenaged girls were walking down the sidewalk.
The girls were probably 14 or 15 years' old.
One of the guys hollered from the window of a parked sports car, asking if the girls were looking to party. When the girls ignored them, one of the Local U.'s finest decided it was appropriate to get out of the car, to call the teenagers snobby townie sluts and to instruct them to go back to their fucking trailer park.
I informed the gentlemen that this was unacceptable behavior.
When my polite request to stop such foolishness was laughed off, I more forcibly explained my position, outlining, in graphic detail, how painfully embarrassing it would be for both "men" to have to explain to Mommy and Daddy why they had been beaten down by a fucking librarian.
One of the guys didn't like being dressed down in public, so he decided to take a Natty Light-fueled swing at me.
Wow. How'd my forearm end up in that guy's chest, anyway? Must've slipped.
No hard feelings...bro.
While I abhor violence, I refuse to live in a community where supposedly intelligent young men are allowed to verbally harass teenaged girls.
Call me old-fashioned, I guess.
The thought of one of those girls being forever scarred by the drunken rants of a pair of assholes, of even one of those young women taking those words to heart and believing that they were nothing more than "townie sluts" was enough to convince me that, yeah, there's not enough money in the world to buy some guys even an ounce of self-respect.
No regrets, really.
* * * *
Shaken and stirred, I decided to swing down to another bar to keep some bartender friends company. An unusually slow night, one of the bartenders informed me most of the students were out at house parties.
As I sat there, I watched three students, two guys and a girl, dolled up in about $500-600's worth of designer clothing, rack up a $30 tab.
They tipped my buddy J. a whopping 50 cents.
At one point, three rather annoying women walked into the bar and proceeded to have the most inane conversation about the "fuckability" of the guys they'd met that night. The entire conversation apparently revolved around the guys' majors and their potential financial futures.
Wow. Nothing like listening to three catty women argue the finer points of the "cock-size vs. wallet-size" debate, a debate found wherever women pursuing M.R.S. degrees congregate.
At one point, while eavesdropping, I told J. that I found the women's conversation so stupid, it was almost intriguing. He laughed and said something like if you still find that intriguing, then you haven't lived here long enough.
* * * *
I left the bar at just past 1:30 Saturday morning. I'd racked up my share of free drinks for the night, and, well, I'd succeeded in keeping a few buddies entertained for a few hours.
I wandered up to a 24-Hour filling station for a cup of coffee. I notice three "indie rock" type kids staggering down the alley, scenesters from some suburb, clad in too-tight Fallout Boy and My Chemical Romance tee shirts, reeking of overpowering bodyspray as they passed by me. They were bitching about uncool Oxford, how it was nothing like their summers in Europe, how un-scenester-esque this town can be.
This Emo Girl in the group stared at me through rose-tinted, windshield-sized sunglasses, then rolled her eyes as I acknowledged her staring. She instantly whipped out her pink Razr, let out a pouty noise, and scampered along behind the rest of her Hot Topic Rebel Army.
For some reason, her reaction made me think of a quote I read recently, in a short piece about what this girl's peers are listening to in Iraq right now, the "scene" they're making while they deal with death all around them, as they face their own mortality at 18, 19, 20, 21, 22...
"We can't put a Dashboard Confessional song on and expect to go out there and kill somebody."- Marine Sgt. Brandon Welsh,
as quoted in Rolling Stone
(Soundtrack to the War, Evan Serpick, Aug. 27, 2006, issue).
Thinking about that quote made me feel, well, sad for Emo Girl. No matter how much of a fashion show she puts on while in college, no matter how much she frets over hipness, she'll probably never see her name in the pages of Rolling Stone, like Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and ... a 23-year-old Iraq War veteran from Virginia.
But, well, Welsh and the other folks over there have more earned the right to be interviewed by one of the world's best-known "cool" publications.
Of course, she's had the luxury of living in a sheltered world in a sheltered college town, far away from places like Fallujah and Baghdad, free from the fear and courage required to survive things like attacks on Light Armored Vehicles.
I have yet to meet a Jarhead in Oxford Fucking Ohio, wandering the streets with the leftovers of a line of Coke powdering a red nostril, looking at the world through such rosey Gucci eyewear.
* * * *
I sat on a bench in Uptown Park until well past three, watching as all the pretty young fish filled an already overcrowded fishbowl.
I watched as sober-looking guys escorted very drunk women down High Street, one hand on an asscheek and the other holding up potential date rape victims.
One rather arrogant guy, with very young looking girls under each arm, had the balls to leave a woman at a table next to mine, saying something about how he didn't fuck fat chicks.
I walked over and asked the woman if she needed some help. She simply threw up, asked me if I thought she was fat (she was probably 120 pounds or less, about 5'5 or 5'6), and staggered onward into the night, hollering at the guy that she wasn't fat and she thought she was in love...
* * * *
At one point, a rather attractive brunette decided to sit down and, well, see why such a hot guy was looking so like lonely.
Sat down, as in literally hiked up her skirt and straddled me. She started telling me that I had nice shoulders and that she liked older guys and thought guys in black tees were like hot...
Did you know the barely-remembers-to-shave-once-a-week look is apparently back in style, according to several fashion magazines?
Ask me if I give a shit.
I also looked like the guy who worked in [My] Library, the she'd interviewed as part of a Mass Com class assignment last year.
Well, it's good to know I look like myself, I guess.
I noticed she had black Xes on each hand; she was under 21.
For the price of a case of Keystone Light, I could've had an 18-year-old sex toy to, in her words, do whatever I wanted. I wouldn't even have to use a condom, because I looked "clean."
Wow. There's a visual examination for AIDS now?
And to think, there are human rights organizations actually trying to stop illegal sex trafficking and forced prostitution... why bother?
There are apparently young, affluent American women willing to sell their bodies for a case of cheap beer.
As long as you look "clean."
* * * *
Welcome to Fall Semester 2006, in Oxford Fucking Ohio.
Something tells me the kids, well, may not be alright, after all.