Yet I still squatted to pick up the extra bit for laundry money. With more than $300 in insurance copays spread amongst three different doctors (still no answers, other than just finish the meds prescribed for the swollen nut, stay off my feet as much as possible, apply ice for the swelling ... and wait - probably injury-related), money's a bit tight this month.
I stopped just short of falling for it. I noticed the brown/black smear around the bill, the smell of fresh, mashed dogshit filling the night air.
We used to use already-been-chewed Big League Chew, especially on hot days, back in Virginia. Adhered to the paper better, plus it proved much more entertaining to watch some random stranger struggle with sticky mess afterwards.
I glanced up and down High Street. I hadn't even noticed the group of smirking middle-schoolers camped out on the picnic table ten feet away. One lanky kid, greasy blond hair covering a acne-filled face, whispered to one of the giggling girls in the group, sure I'd be a sucker.
I waved at the kids and smiled. One of the girls waved back, before one of their party sucker-punched her in the kidneys.
The greasy kid looked pissed, his attempt to relieve his peers' boredom and to earn coolness points with the pubescent ladies foiled for the night.
In return for his gift of rolling eyes and mouthed "pick it up, fucker!," I gave him the finger.
God, I love summer in a college town.
* * * *
I took a moment to appreciate the emerging summer nightlife, here in Oxford Fucking Ohio.
The vast majority of undergrads, who normally would be littering the sidewalks with vomit, their drunken bodies and foul behaviors ruining family outings past sundown, are gone home to the gated communities that spawned them.
It has been more than a week since I saw my last Hummer, since I last overheard my last Daddy just has to pay for me to go to Italy... or I was so fucking wasted I think I fucked that chick from my Accounting class... conversation.
Instead, at nine o'clock on a Saturday night, the streets are now full of parents pushing strollers home from Uptown dinners at restaurants. Parents are playing catch with their children in the parks beneath the city's streetlights. The locally-produced college students are home for the summer, sitting outside of bars, smoking cigarettes and swapping war stories from places like Columbus, Muncie, Athens, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky, and Bloomington.
And, of course, there are the teenagers, making out behind the burnt-out shell of the former Wendy's, skateboarding down sidewalks and grinding down curbs, and making the town theirs again. Teen-aged girls fill one street corner in their respective cliques; the boys conglomerate across the street.
Several alumni, frustrated by what they see as the decline of the Local U.'s positive contributions to Oxford's culture, have told me that this is how Oxford was once, year-round, with student behavior held in check by the presence of the "townies."
Townies notice it, too, often citing the almost murderous hatred many full-time residents now feel towards the stereotypical Local U. undergrads as an example. As one long-time Oxford resident puts it, Local U. students, for him, are nothing more than "the occasional piece of dumb rich girl ass ... cockroaches with Mommy and Daddy's money who pay my fucking bills."
Trust me. If you're single, make less than $50,000 a year, and over 22 in this town, you've had similar thoughts. And if you say you haven't, well, you're a better liar than I am.
During the Academic Year, at night, one would think that Oxford's entire population is made up of nothing more than drunken privileged 18-22 year-olds, overworked police officers, and under-tipped bar staff. But during the summer, Oxford Fucking Ohio becomes, for all intents and purposes, a real college town.
* * * *
It feels real, honest, almost cliche - the All-American campus village that surrounds the ol' Public Ivy, the place American poet Robert Frost, according to rumor, once called one of the most beautiful communities he'd ever visited.
According to some versions of the legend, the poet was only talking about the Local U. campus. But according to at at least some of the older Oxford townies, there's always been speculation that Frost was actually talking about the perfect blend between campus and community that once existed.
Yes, THE Robert Frost, the Road Not Taken guy.
I sometimes wonder what ol' Bobby would say now, in 2007, if he walked around town during the school year.
What would Frost say, for instance, if he spent an evening sometime between August and April, tripping over Natty Light cans and listening to sophomore girls debate the merits of Botox? What would his reaction be, say, if he spent a night in an overcrowded bar, listening to the spawn of the Wealthiest One-Percent - the popular campaign target of just about every election - bemoaning the fact that, yes, they do have to leave a tip and, no, those dirty "townies" just won't move somewhere else?
What would Frost say about the faculty, had he seen some of the things I've seen in the past three years? I once watched a group of professors at a restaurant as they trashed a union groundskeeper, someone that I work with on a regular basis, for being a "lazy redneck." A group of regional campus students at another table, one of whom was the daughter of said redneck, got up and left.
I've always figured he'd probably say what many visiting artists say upon seeing the zoo that is the local Higher Education Underground:
"Hey, as long as you're paying me and I can get outta this dump quickly, I'll entertain your sorry ass..."
But if he showed up during the summer, well, his opinion of the Local U. and surrounding community probably wouldn't change one bit.
* * * *
As I walked home for lunch Tuesday, enjoying the ability to walk without groin pain on a balmy May afternoon, I overheard a fascinating conversation between a pair of summer session undergraduates in front of me.
"I wish I could just take classes during the summer. Everything's so chill and there's nobody here."
"Oh yeah. I even like the summer professors better. And you graduate so much quicker."
I'm not the only one who notices it.
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