Baker Act Pat – TBT

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As a popular destination for people in my dorm community with a hankering for beer pong, my room began seeing very heavy traffic each weekend.  Some nights, new faces were more common than familiar ones, especially with the parade of strangers that OJ ushered through my door.

One particular weekend, a broad framed and slightly portly fellow from up north named Pat joined us.  He was quiet, but beer pong breeds instant camaraderie and as Pat’s face grew redder with each game, we boisterously projected a genial manner on the guy and he smiled more and laughed harder as the night progressed.  Pat was an easy-going guy and fun to have around, if only as another body in the room adding volume to the laughter and happiness to the sweaty drunken atmosphere.  At the time, we were always in need of beer pong opponents so that we could play with teams of two, so I felt like we found a real keeper in Pat.

He partied with us twice in one weekend.  With the populations that OJ assembled varying between the two nights, I came to realize Pat’s connection to the chain smokers in the courtyard.  He didn’t do much to shift the group dynamic with us, so I assumed he was just a quiet guy lost in the ruckus of the cigarette gang and that was why I never noticed him before.

The next weekend, OJ and I prepared to gather bodies for binge drinking.  I mentioned inviting Pat and we tried to run him down, but never got a hold of him.  This became a recurring pattern over the following weekends.  Back then, I remembered Pat’s last name and I found him on Facebook and friended him.  I asked him where he had been on his wall, but got no reply.

I asked the chain smokers if any of them had seen Pat lately.  One casually mentioned that Pat had been Baker Act-ed the past couple of weekends.  The Baker Act is a law that states that someone can be detained and observed for up to 48 hours if they are reported to be a danger to themselves or others – at least that was what I learned from my peers.  I was shocked that such a quiet, laid back guy could be locked away for something like that.  I was even more flabbergasted by the way that the smokers were laughing about it until one of them elaborated on it.

Pat had a girlfriend back home who was a drama queen and things had become quite a train wreck between them.  His psycho girlfriend’s favorite tactic was to call the cops on him after they had a fight over the phone.  She would tell the officials that he was threatening to hurt himself, and just like that, Pat would vanish for a couple of days.  “What a bitch!” I thought, finding this to be an easy explanation to believe.

Legal experts and convincing liars often look exactly alike.

When Pat returned, I only saw him and spoke with him in passing.  As he resumed his use of Facebook, some of his posts were pretty dark and brooding.  It isn’t uncommon for people to jokingly say things like, “Oh my God, it was so awful!  I just wanted to kill myself!”  Something about the way that Pat phrased those sentiments online was different though.  There was an angry edge to them, as if he genuinely disliked himself and felt that he deserved physical punishment for his inadequacies.  I searched my beer hazed memories for any sign of sadness in the big quiet guy and I thought I understood a little bit about why he was so quiet.  Maybe he didn’t want to hang out with us anymore because being around people having fun just made him feel more alone.  It was a feeling that I could have related to only a couple months before meeting OJ.

I never saw Pat again, even in passing.  I think someone told me that he moved back home.  I couldn’t comprehend the disconnect between the guy drinking beer with me and the guy who very openly desired to hurt himself.  It showed me how superficial the bond between college drinking buddies can be.  I had two very fun nights with this guy by my side, and yet I didn’t learn a single thing about who he really was.  It wasn’t real friendship, just intoxicated physical proximity around a drinking game one night.

You can drink a lot of beer with someone without learning a single thing about them.

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Buying Beer from a Serial Killer – TBT

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As rumors swirled about police crackdowns on fake IDs and popular bars closed down for serving alcohol to minors (they would later reopen with new names and then continue serving alcohol to minors), I decided not to push my luck in procuring beer for LOST night one week.  By now the weekly event was familiar to many in the dorm community, so when I put out word that I needed help buying some beer, people offered advice and suggestions.

At the time, I put a lot of trust in OJ despite his propensity for bad ideas.  When he offered up a guy that he knew who could help, I was ready to jump in the car and escort the contact to the liquor store.  The first red flag, which of course I was too naive to see at the time, was the fact that we didn’t need to go to the store.  Our source had the beer in his dorm and I just had to go up and slap some cash in his hands to get it.  I asked OJ for more information on the guy, but the only real detail that I was given was the guy’s prodigious skill on the rock climbing wall.

The clock ticked closer and closer to LOST time and I became anxious about whether or not we would have any beer to put in solo cups that night.  As I happened past the courtyard where the chain smokers hung out, OJ waved me over to meet a tall, pale guy with bleached blonde hair combed over haphazardly.  I’m not really sure if he ever gave me his name or not.  All I know is that after that night, we always referred to him as Cat Burglar.

He was very economical with his words, responding to my beer inquiry with a simple, ‘Follow me.’  I was reluctant to pick up the bizarre vibes that this guy was radiating, so I obliged.  He took me to his dorm room in the building next to mine.  We climbed the stairs in silence, made our way through the common room on his floor in silence, and then entered his room in silence.

The room was sparsely populated.  His bed had a fitted sheet with the other sheet for cover.  There was no comforter.  His belongings must have all been put away and organized, because I didn’t see much of anything that would indicated that he actually lived in this room.  Harnesses for climbing hung on his bedpost along with a black beanie.  Unlike my abundance of space, Cat Burglar legitimately didn’t have a roommate.  He mumbled something about the guy dropping out or something, but I assumed he killed and ate his roommate or else has him locked in a trunk somewhere.  His silence was accentuated by the Rammstein that was humming from a small boom box.

“So you’re into rock climbing?”  “Yep.”  It was a grand piece of conversation.  In his own strange way, Cat Burglar was in a hurry to get the transaction over with.  From underneath his bed, he produced a lumpy blanket that had been folded strangely.  The physics of how he unrolled it perfectly are still a mystery to me, but laid out in an orderly fashion were several bottles of Bud, Bud Light, and assorted Coke Products.

I asked him where he got them, to which he responded, “I acquired them,” as if that were an adequate answer.  I ended up paying him around $1/beer, which isn’t a wonderful deal, but the guy was so off that I had to acknowledge my growing desire to get the hell out of there.

When I recounted the experience to OJ, he let me in on a secret.  Word around the campfire was that Cat Burglar used his superior climbing skills for evil.  He would scale the side of the arena and then Mission Impossible his way down to the concession stand, snagging brews before ninja-ing his way back out without leaving a trace.

Weeks later, when I saw him walking purposefully out of the dorm building wearing black shirt and pants that matched his black beanie and the climbing harness that was draped over his shoulder, I didn’t bother to say hello.  I assumed he was on a mission and didn’t want anyone to be alerted to his presence.

In case you’re wondering, this was the only time that I bought beer from this guy.

Some people are just quiet because they're awkward.  Some people are just awkward because they're serial killers.

A Mistake Wrapped in Other Mistakes: Trying My Hand at Stand-Up Comedy

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Throughout my efforts towards a film degree, I harbored nagging suspicions that upon graduation I would be truly screwed.  I came up with several hair-brained schemes to build my resume so that I would be that one-in-a-million Hollywood success story (the first from UCF since the Blair Witch Project kids made a buck or two back in the day).

As the greatest pre-writer in the world, I always succeed in over thinking absolutely everything I ever remotely consider doing and rarely follow through on it.

Even well thought out ideas can be terrible.

I knew that even if I wrote the greatest words ever to chase a cursor across word processing software, there would still be countless individuals between those letters and the big screen.  I was the only person in my corner so I knew that I had to take charge of my words in order to get them out there.

I decided to just become a stand-up comedian real quick to pass the time until the world recognized my brilliance and showered me with job offers (feel free to kick things off, Jon Stewart).  I had plenty of material to draw from and I was self-educated from hours wasted watching Comedy Central alone in my room Fall Semester.

After scripting everything that I planned on saying word for word and then reading over it a couple of times (you know, to sorta memorize it), I was almost ready to make my big debut at the crappy-sports-bar-in-the-Student-Union’s weekly open mic night.  There was just one last ingredient that I needed:  at least a pinch of self-confidence.  Luckily, I had just the recipe for that.  About an hour before showtime, I measured out 8 shots of my fancy Jim Beam bourbon into a big red plastic cup.  I topped it with Dr. Pepper and drank a big sip every time I realized how much I was nervously sweating.  I found the bottom of that cup pretty quickly.

I would have met up with some friends for a little pre-show support, but I made sure that I told absolutely no one anything at all about this because up until I finished my Dr. Bourbon, I was certain this would be an embarrassing failure.

I scuffed the side of my foot as I dragged it across the sidewalk.  I was wearing flip flops because it was January (which I have been told means something completely different in states that aren’t Florida).  That scrape probably didn’t feel very good but Jim Beam whispered that I was invincible and that it was no big deal, so I staggered onward.

Soon enough, I found myself sitting at a table next to the stage with my name on a list.  A rotation of hit-or-miss aspiring comedians warmed up the stage before me.  My bourbon really started to kick in while I waited.  The bullet points scribbled on my arm that represented my jokes weren’t making as much sense as they did when I originally wrote them.

Booze builds confidence but erodes short-term memory.

I don’t remember actually going up on the stage, but I do remember being grateful that my flannel jacket covered the ever-growing pit stains on my shirt underneath.  For the most part, I recited 20 tips for how to interact with your Pizza Delivery guy.  Literally between each one, I looked down at my forearm to try and figure out what the next smudged bullet point was.  The audience (who hadn’t been shy with their disgust at some of the previous comics) laughed at the lines that I remembered the best.  During the lines that I didn’t really remember, they would either maintain their merciful smirk from the previous joke, or just stare like I was part of the wall behind me.

The bourbon served its purpose and I made it through my 20 tips (I think).  I had an oak flavored squall brewing inside my stomach so despite my satisfaction with myself on some level, I quickly got the hell out of there.

Back in my room, I took a picture of my arm and smudged bullet points with my plastic digital camera and uploaded it to Facebook triumphantly.  Of course, I had to explain what the hell that grey stuff on my arm was, but I was still kinda proud.  It wasn’t until I was sitting in my dorm room that I realized that I had literally never spoken my jokes out loud before I got up on that stage.  My head was buzzing still, but I did manage to take away some very obvious lessons about the importance of rehearsing.

I also realized that my writing only works when delivered with care.  As I humorously captured the universal truths of crappy customer service jobs, my wit drowned in the drunken slur of my uncoordinated tongue as it struggled to remember what it was in the middle of doing.

Just to prove that I had almost zero understanding of my own body, I went for a 2.5 mile run around campus after that.  My sweat was 40 proof and my heavy breathing probably caused nearby breathalyzers to malfunction, but I did finish the long loop around campus.

After a very life-changing month of coming out of my shell, I would return to the stage to try my hand at topical comedy – I recounted a gun control debate between the College Democrats and the College Republicans (who had chosen a man too old to be in college who looked like Yosemite Sam to make their case).  Maybe it was how close I held the notecard to my face in order to read it in the dimly lit room, or maybe it was the fact that I only put 6 shots into my pre-show cocktail instead of replicating the 8 from last time, but nobody laughed.  I cut my set short, tucked my tail between my legs and suddenly realized that I had no interest in the hard work and rejection of being a performer.

I never stepped foot on that stage again, but through my cowardice I learned to respect people who submit themselves for ridicule in the name of entertaining total strangers.

Knowing what you are bad at is as useful as knowing what you are good at.

I still hope to hear my jokes spoken aloud someday, just by a performer with more skill (and a lower blood alcohol content).

My Brief, Intense Friendship with OJ

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After a midnight vow to be a better person in 2008, I returned to Orlando with a renewed optimism for making the most of my time at UCF.  With my bar tending school tuition in the bank and my escape plan in progress, I figured I didn’t have much to lose in putting myself out there more.  Even if I made an ass of myself, I would be at USC next year and I would probably never see most of these people ever again.

My nihilistic confidence was riding shotgun with me as I took a seat at the Spring Semester floor meeting with our RA Jen.  Most of the faces in the room looked familiar, but I didn’t think much of the ones that didn’t.  After all, I never really talked to these people anyways.

For those who have been following along, Ben wasn’t at this mandatory meeting.  It’s a safe bet that he never saw the flyers and posters all over our floor advertising the time and place of the gathering seeing as how to my knowledge, he hadn’t stepped foot in the building since Parent’s weekend.

At this point, not that many people on our floor hung out with each other regularly, so it was a pretty quiet meeting other than one unfamiliar, outspoken, bordering on obnoxious guy.  He wore one of those military hats that Fidel Castro was so fond of.  His jeans were baggy and more middle-school goth than stylish.  His black hoodie had holes in it.  He would introduce himself to me as ‘OJ’ after the meeting.  The short-lived legend of my Ping Pong table (which by now had been changed to a ‘beer pong table’ in the gossip) had already reached the ears of this new man on campus, and he invited himself over after the meeting to see it for himself.  Accompanying him that night was Mandy, a brash girl who had dyed her hair an unnatural shade of red.  She was more or less pretty and her creative and frequent use of profanity was a quality that I found admirable at the time.

Being in the judgement-free mindset of a 19 year old 400+ miles from home and in desperate need of friends, I volunteered the location of Ben’s beer fridge.  My guests didn’t hesitate to enjoy the beer that I brought back from Pensacola with me.  OJ and I played beer pong while Mandy sipped a weird ‘moonshine’ concoction from a plastic water bottle and sat in my fuzzy mushroom chair.  They were both from Titusville, home of John F. Kennedy Space Center for those who don’t know the state of Florida.  It was a mere 30-45 minutes northeast of UCF.  OJ had enrolled for the Spring Semester and was lucky enough to find an open dorm room, vacated by the roommate of Randy the Ladies’ man.  They were both nice enough people and even though I had yet to discover anything that I had in common with either of them, I enjoyed hanging out that night, breaking some rules and playing beer pong on the table that I had hoped would attract friends.

On a side note, when I questioned the contents of Mandy’s water bottle, she explained to me that it was ‘Apple Pie Moonshine.’  When I tried a sip, my teeth hurt for two days afterwards.  The burning harshness of the moonshine was erased by the Paula Dean-esque quantities of sugar that made the liquid murky.  The cinnamon was equally intense, but an Altoids addiction had thickened my tolerance so I found that part quite enjoyable.

We hung out in OJ’s room for a while after beer pong.  Mandy salaciously talked about what she wanted to do to Randy the Ladies’ Man that night, seeing as how she was already in the same room.  Mandy was either very easy, or at least wanted everyone to think that she was.  In college, this is a popular state of being for girls.

Sometimes girls who seem easy are just pretending

OJ was more outgoing than his social skills warranted.  It was an uncomfortable fulfillment of my wish for friends to gravitate to me.  His friendship was forceful and unyielding and he was a mainstay in my daily life for the next several months.  It brought me out of my shell, convinced me to drink too much, and led to more friendships with people I had nothing in common with.  Strangers began showing up in my room enthusiastically petitioning me for a night of beer pong.  OJ always accompanied them and I always obliged.

I befriended a gang of chain smokers that hung out in a black tar cloud in the courtyard between the dorm buildings.  They were as brash and mischievous as OJ.  Despite the horrendous effects of smoke on my allergies, I always stopped and chatted with them on the way to and from my dorm.

My drinking increased in frequency and quantity and my social life began bordering on exhaustion.  When OJ started hitting on a tall blonde with a masculine chin who lived in our dorms, I was drafted almost daily to accompany him to visit her at Panera bread.  At the time, my understanding of biology led me to believe that I needed all 10 of my daily hours of sleep as well as the frequent afternoon naps that became a mainstay in my schedule.  When OJ’s Panera excursions encroached upon my siestas, our friendship hit a tipping point.

Friends come and go.  Naps will always be there for you.

By this time, I had branched out well beyond the chain smokers and strangers that OJ brought to my door each week.  I had found friends that actually almost had common interests and talking to them was so much easier than choking down cigarette smoke, so I was hanging out with OJ less and less.

Friendship shouldn't be hazardous to your health

When he left for Summer and I stayed behind, I only spoke with him on two more instances.  He called me in the middle of the night once to tell me that George Carlin had died.  That was one of our few common appreciations, though his fanaticism for the comedian exponentially dwarfed my own.  Fall semester of Sophomore year, I met him in the courtyard of my dorm to hear some of the new jokes he was preparing for his stand up routine.  He tried to mimic Carlin’s style but went overboard and ended up with some Sarah Silverman style duds that were 100% offensive and 0% funny.  I was as courteous as I could be, but I don’t doubt that he felt the cold shoulder.  I never saw him again after that night.

It wasn’t the lifelong friendship that I saw in the movies (and OJ certainly won’t be a groomsman as my wedding), but it was a defining relationship in my college experience.  This one individual coerced me into drinking enough beer to be outgoing and friendly.  The ping pong table would have collected dust until it’s eventual demise if not for OJ.  Sometimes it takes someone obnoxious to just force you out of your shell.  Even if you aren’t sure whether or not you like that person, I promise you, it’s worth letting them drink your beer.

Sometimes obnoxious people are necessary to get you out of your shell.

Costumed Girls Making Out and Awkward Erections – Freshman Halloween part 2

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I was almost completely out of money on the Saturday before Halloween.  Getting my car back had cost me just under $200 and I couldn’t exactly ask my parents for help seeing as how I was at a party they would not have approved, so I spent a big chunk of what was left in my bank account.

It was a bummer that I pushed out of my mind until later.  Good things were happening and I didn’t want to let being broke rain on my parade.  I had a second party to go to!  Two parties in one weekend for the lonely guy who could rarely find anything worthwhile to do with his days off of class.

This party was provided by the brother of an acquaintance of my friends from Pensacola.  Malcolm went to high school with a lot of my old teammates from swimming.  He was in town from Gainesville to go to his adopted brother’s Halloween party and he made sure to invite people who made sure to invite me.  It wasn’t the same as being friends with extremely socially active people, but I would take it!

Optimistic that this party would be a more socially gratifying than the one before it, I suited up in my priest outfit, grabbed everyone that I wanted to take to this party with me and carpooled to the apartment, which was just around the corner from UCF.

The apartment was crowded, but not packed.  The music was loud but not too loud.  The girls were hot, but not unattainable.  The keg was accessible, but still crowded enough to provide watering hole social potential.  It was as if Goldilocks herself was hosting.

We arrived early enough to get a head start on the drinking.  Music was pouring into the apartment from behind the tiki bar in the corner.  It was densely populated with a smorgasbord of liquor.

I started off drinking with the people I came with.  We drank beer, did shots, played beer pong and flip cup.  As I started buzzing, the party grew steadily until I was surrounded by more people that I didn’t know than people I did know.  At this point, I was buzzed enough that I wasn’t nervous.  I interacted with strangers and though none of them became my next best friend, it was a big step for me to put myself out there that much.

Two girls dressed in lingerie fell on top of each other and started making out.  I don’t know what their costumes were supposed to be, but they definitely didn’t cover much!  They drew quite a crowd, which I assume was their aim.  According to the movies, this type of thing happened all the time everywhere in college, so I felt like I was finally living the real college experience.

As I stood next to several other dudes who were observing these girls’ affection for each other,  I felt something begin to rise against the front of my priest’s robes.  I figured it would be pretty awkward to get a hard on in this social setting, but that awkwardness couldn’t compare to the uncomfortable realization that followed.  This was a pretty sexy sight and I was sharing this moment with a bunch of other sweaty dudes who no doubt were feeling their own pants become tighter.

drunk girls

I began to realize that the girls’ control of their bodies began vacating their nervous systems several shots ago.  Their kissing was sloppy and I wondered how thoroughly they were covering each others‘ faces with slobber.  It was time for me to move on and go back to drinking.

Das boot Glasses

Adorable.

From somewhere, a mini version of Das Boot from BeerFest appeared.  For some reason, I had nursed a strange obsession with the movie, which follows five friends as they compete in an international drinking competition.  The climax of the film is a showdown between our American protagonists and their goofy German rivals as they compete in a relay challenge where each team member must chug a beer from a boot-shaped glass without spilling a drop of brew.  The boots at the party were more like shot glasses than draft glasses, but it was another experience remotely similar to a movie so it brought me pure joy.

As the party grew, the music got louder.  This escalated the volume of conversations and soon, the cops knocked on the door.  I was terrified and furious with the universe.  How could my first real college party end in handcuffs?  Surely these cops would lock us all away for underage drinking, I thought.  But they didn’t.  They told the host of the party to keep people in the apartment (the patio was becoming too noisy) and to turn the music down.  Then, they left and just like that, the party resumed.  I couldn’t believe that  nothing bad happened!  It sounded just like the stories of harm free run ins with the cops that my friends told.

Eventually, I met a girl with pink hair.  I think her name was Angela and I don’t remember what she was supposed to be, but it wasn’t slutty enough to attract a dozen competitors.  She was pretty and easy to talk to and she stayed by my side most of the night.  I didn’t have the guts to make a move, though.  Something about her was too nice to be some meaningless hook up, and at the time I thought that was my only option in college.  I couldn’t see myself discarding this girl after just one night.  The shame of not making a move prevented me from ever calling her after the party that night.

Some girls are too interesting to be drunken mistakes

After a second harmless visit from the cops took some life out of the party, my designated driver decided it was time to leave before a third visit carried repercussions.  It was easily one of the best nights of my first year of college, and it cemented my love of Halloween.  The holiday would go on to become a major benchmark of each of my years in college, almost a snapshot of my growth over the past year.  Unfortunately, even in years when I grew up substantially, I still spent October 31st acting like an idiot or making poor decisions.

brantley inappropriate zombie

like this…

The Least Accessible Keg – Freshman Halloween part 1

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Halloween is a particularly magical time for college students.  Girls dress up as sexy/scandalous (fill in the blank) and guys dress up as, well, that’s pretty much irrelevant.  Everybody gets especially drunk and incentive for learning that person you are about to hook up with’s name is almost totally diminished, as you can just jokingly call them by whatever it is that they’re dressed up as (one of my closest friends found himself pursuing Sarah Palin one year, and to this day, none of us can remember the girl’s actual name).

Being from a religious, Southern bible belt family, I was never allowed to dress up like the devil or anything resembling a demon as a child.  This was hardly a huge limitation of my options, but I always resented it a little bit.  In college, my parents weren’t around to veto my Halloween costume ideas, so I knew exactly what I wanted to be:  SATAN.

One of my favorite movies as a child was about an adopted ginger kid who was a mischievous hellion for his new parents.  In one deftly executed montage, he shows up at a little girl’s birthday costume party dressed in a red onesie-style devil outfit.  It was cartoonish in its lack of detail, but also a charming depiction of the ruler of hell.  The ginger, Junior was his name, ran around the party being a dick.  He popped balloons with his pitchfork, threw presents into a fountain (because this little girl was rich enough to have a fountain at her house), and just malevolently wrecked shit everywhere he went.  This was the look I was going for.

I started shopping for my costume weeks before halloween.  As I went up and down the aisles of Party City, my love of halloween grew and grew as I saw the selection of costumes for girls (sexy school teachers and naughty nurses and lewd law enforcement oh my!).  And up and down the aisles of Party City I went.  And then up and down the aisles of Walmart.  And then up and down the aisles of other places selling Halloween costumes.  That Halloween, I learned that costume manufacturers decided that Lucifer was a woman, a very sexy woman who doesn’t wear a lot of clothes.  They didn’t have any Satan costumes for guys.  They had horribly high maintenance Demon costumes, but nothing for the big man himself.

Satan is a beautiful woman

Brantley Priest costume

Exactly like this actually.

At this point, I was running out of time.  Halloween was just days away and my disappointment with costume shopping was   bringing out other bad feelings as I began to realize that I hadn’t been invited to any parties and I didn’t know where I would go once I was dressed up.  I ended up settling on a Priest costume.  It was nothing flashy, just a black robe thing with a white collar and a plastic cross necklace.  I still got my religious irreverence jollies, but in my heart I was disappointed that things didn’t work out.

Surprisingly, I had more luck in finding parties.  Apparently I wasn’t the only horny college guy who loved this holiday.  I had two parties in my calendar, one for Friday and one for Saturday.

The Friday party was pretty wild.  About 80 people had crammed into an apartment and I’m sure each of them woke with bruises the next morning because I’ve never been accidentally elbowed so many times in my life.

Somehow, the hosts of this party (who I never actually met) had set up an ice luge.  For those who only consume their booze through minor variations of drinking it out of a cup or glass, an ice luge is a big freaking chunk of ice that angles from a high point downward with a series of trenches serving as playground slides for liquor.  Girls line up at the ends of each trench and a guy administers alcohol from the top of the slides, admiring the cleavage of the girls below causing him to pour far too much.  The unconsumed liquor ends up soaking the girls and making a mess that none of the guys seem to mind.  If anyone ever tells you that college guys are stupid, correct them:  College guys are brilliant, they just only use their intelligence for evil.

By the time we arrived, the ice luge had begun to melt from the stifling body heat that flooded that apartment.  Water was cascading off of the counter onto the kitchen floor and was puddling out into the carpeted living room.  Had their been enough space between people, someone could have easily slipped and fell in the tiled kitchen.

Reaching the keg, which was conveniently located in the bathroom tub, would probably have been one of the greatest achievements of my entire life.  Apart from the beating I took from uncoordinated drunk people accidentally bumping into me as I clumsily slid through the crowd, the location of the keg posed another logistical challenge.  Anytime someone needed to use the bathroom, the keg was locked away from my grasp.  Of course being an enormous crowd of drunk people, there was a chaotic line (read:  jumble-fuck) for the bathroom.  I waited amongst my costumed counterparts with a red solo cup in my hand and a sobriety that nagged for me to admit that this party was overpopulated and awful.  I never reached the front of the line.  The people I came with were ready to leave within about 45 minutes of arriving.  I managed to push my way through hoards of people, but didn’t actually meet anybody new that night.

Don't put the keg in the bathroom.  Ever.

It was an uncomfortable party, but I wasn’t overly bummed out until we got back to my car – or rather, where I left my car.  The apartment complex was gated and had a fascist security guard that we assumed would be tallying the number of people claiming to visit the apartment that hosted the party.  Luckily, we were smarter than that inquisitive man at the gate.  We just decided to park at a nearby bank.  There were some open spaces next to the sign that read, “Tow Away Zone.”  As several other party goers arrived at the same time to join us in utlilizing the forbidden parking lot, we gave a collective shrug, content in the power of our numbers.  After all, they couldn’t tow away all of us, right?

Honestly, I can’t say whether they could tow away all of us or not.  I don’t know how many cars they towed that night, only that mine was the one that they started with.

Safety in numbers means nothing to the first person to get caught

The USC Escape Plan

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For the first months of college life, my social life consisted almost entirely of:  A.  people that I already knew from Pensacola and B.  their roommates.  When I branched out it was only to people physically in the same room as my friends from home.  Now there’s nothing wrong with my old friends and acquaintances from Pensacola, but I was extremely discouraged by the fact that new people weren’t gravitating to me with a yearning for lifelong friendship.  Sure I met people from time to time, but I couldn’t picture any of them warranting lasting relationships, and the movies told me that those were the type of bonds that you make in college.

If life were as awesome as movies, we'd all be dead.

My weekend nights consisted of me scrolling down my phone contacts, calling the same handful of people each week, hoping that they were doing something interesting.  A lot of these folks were people that I didn’t hang out with when we were in Pensacola.  When I spent time with them I realized why.  Other than our hometown, I had nothing in common with the population of my weekend adventures.  I was just settling for them because I didn’t have the balls to talk to strangers and meet new people.  After a while, I made fewer and fewer calls on Friday nights, fewer and fewer efforts to leave my dorm room.

Many of my first semester friendship needs were met online with people I thought I left behind.  I found myself in a unique position to comfort my old swim teammate, Kevin, who found himself frequently bummed out by all of the pictures on Facebook of his friends who left town for college.  Kevin stayed behind to get his AA at community college and then to finish his degree at University of West Florida.  I truthfully told him that college isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and he was always cheered up by my gloom.

I just felt mislead.  I thought college was supposed  to be a place where everyone is open minded and looking to make new friends.  If those people were on my campus, I certainly never saw them.  In a sea of 50,000+ undergraduates, I was just a lonely plankton.

Fat Brantley

I cropped a girl in dressed as a Sexy Little Bo Peep out of this picture. I wish I could have cropped some of my chins out too.

Exacerbating my woes, I had blown the majority of the $1,500 that I had stored away for booze and fond memories in Orlando.  I spent it on junk food, eating out whenever I felt like it despite the fact that I had an unlimited meal plan with unabridged access to the cafeteria any time it was open.  Even without copious opportunities for binge drinking, I piled on the pounds until I got winded tying my shoes and living on the second floor became a real nuisance.

College was supposed to be a fresh start, an opportunity to find myself and get a better understanding of who I really am, but it was just another overhyped disappointment, full of the same people from high school.  I needed a change.  I needed a fresh start from my fresh start.

My memory went back to an awards ceremony where George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola glad handed each other in their tuxedos.  They were all bros from their days at the University of Southern California.  I had passingly glimpsed at the college back in high school, but my stomach churned when I researched the cost of out of state tuition, and I had a Bright Futures full ride scholarship with stipends for books if I stayed in Florida, so I pushed USC out of my head at the time.  As I stared at the website for their film school, I found myself strongly reconsidering.

My heartbeat quickened as I read the list of their alumni.  Above it was a note, saying something along the lines of, “A USC grad has been nominated for an Oscar every year since the invention of the Academy awards and the dawn of time.”  It would be the perfect place to meet new people and network.  In southern California, I could have a job lined up for me as soon as they slapped that diploma in my hand.  I had to go.  It was just what I needed!

The price tag still towered over my head.  I didn’t want to count on help from parents, but my brothers went to expensive schools and I always assumed that my parents helped them so I figured they could chip in some too.

The escape plan was a ray of light for me, but it still wasn’t enough to chase away the creeping homesickness.  It had only been two months since I hastily left home to start my college adventure and I already found myself wanting a vacation from it.

I drove back to Pensacola for a three-day weekend in October.  While I was in town, I hung out with younger friends and other people that I thought I left behind.  It was comforting to see them, but painful to admit my difficulties with adjusting to my new surroundings.

Over lunch with my dad, I told him about my USC plan.  He thought the school sounded great, but my parents didn’t have money to make it happen for me.  He wasn’t harsh or overly assertive, but I have enough trouble asking for help as it is and I wasn’t about to whine or beg for it.  A dark cloud passed over my sunny southern California future.

On the way back to Orlando, I scoured my brain, hoping to find a way to get to California.  I was a hard worker, gritty and determined.  I knew that from swimming.  When I set my mind to something, I knew I could physically make it happen.  Hard work and instances of drive and motivation conquering impossible obstacles are all part of the romantic story of trying to make it in the film industry.

I recalled several instances of people telling me about how much money bartenders can make each night.  It was the missing link!  I researched bartending schools and found a decent looking one with positive reviews on job placement and a $500 price tag for the two-week program.  I was already planning on delivering pizzas over winter break.  I could save the money and be enrolled by January.  It was all coming together!

Despite my relief at having a plan, I still sank back into depression and isolation, where I remained for the remainder of my first semester of college.  I would surface for air whenever a good social opportunity would present itself, but I just stopped trying to seek out reasons to leave my room on the weekends.

Friday nights became pizza night for me.  I would order a large pizza and chicken poppers from Papa Johns and find a movie to stream online while I ate all of the food in one sitting with a giant mug of soda.  Other than that, I would hone my skills on Madden.  I took the Indianapolis Colts to 16-0 before tearing through the playoffs and in my darkest moment, setting the quarter lengths to a full 15 minutes and winning the Super Bowl 600-something to 100-something in a marathon of Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne touchdown passes.

Everyday I vowed to try harder and to turn things around tomorrow.  Tomorrow didn’t come until the next semester, when I started to take a New Year’s Resolution to be a better person seriously.

I stored away $500 of pizza money that December with every intention of enrolling in bar tending school the second I stepped foot back in Orlando, but that never happened.

Instead, I blew all of that money on beer, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life.

Sometimes beer is an investment in your future.

27 shots – a cautionary tale

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My first semester of college, I only had the balls to make a few purchases using my fake ID.  Taking great pride in my affinity for whiskey (how many 18 year olds did you know who were that refined), I figured it would only make me more sophisticated if I kept a bottle of bourbon in my dorm room, just in case I needed a night cap or something.  In my efforts to establish my high-brow cred, I lunged on the marked down price that the liquor store had on Jim Beam Black Label.  Back then, I would have sworn to you that I could taste each of the 10 years that the bourbon was aged, as well as the impact of the barrel that housed it for a decade.  In reality, it burned like every other liquor does to a teenager, the only difference was its tree bark-like aftertaste.

I opened up the fancy looking bottle that night, pouring a healthy dose into my UCF shot glass and trying not to make a contorted face as I swallowed it down.  To Jim’s credit, the bourbon did go down very smoothly and it had a great flavor that was completely over my head at the time.  After verifying that the liquor was enjoyable, I put it on top of my bookshelf and let it collect dust, waiting for the day that a friend would come over and we would drink shots and talk about where we were going to find girls that night.  If you haven’t read much of this blog yet, I will tell you that day never really came.

Brantley beer box on head

As you can see, this was a major milestone in terms of maturity.

A couple of months later, I was on the verge of turning 19 years old.  My celebration of miraculously lasting so many years despite my poor adolescent decision-making skills would take place in Pensacola, as I was home for Thanksgiving break.  It was November 22nd and my birthday wasn’t until midnight, but I had no intentions of being sober when the clock struck twelve and I had a very special mission for myself that night.  With a full bottle of fancy Jim Beam bourbon (minus the one, above mentioned shot) in hand, I arrived at my friend’s house where soon all of my high school buddies would gather.  On this night, I announced, I would be doing 20 shots.  The math of course being 19 for each year, and 1 to grow on.  It was an ambitious and impressive goal, but I was confident that it was attainable and Jim promised to make it enjoyable (at least for my taste buds).

brantley doing a shot

‘This will make 12!’

My friends were very supportive of my goal and they alternated leading the way.  They were drinking ‘Raging Bulls’ or something along those lines.  I’m almost positive they just made it up.  It was a mixed shot of bottom, bottom, bottom shelf tequila and Red Bull.  When they did a mixed shot, I did a heaping double shot of my Bourbon.  I can’t tell you how they fared throughout the night after the breakneck pace that they set, but I can tell you that my last conscious memory was holding up a double shot and slurring ‘This will make 12!’  The next morning, the tale was unanimous:  I reached 16 shots in under an hour.  After the last double, I mumbled something about sitting down before settling into a face down sprawl resembling many of the corpses on television crime procedurals.

Unwilling to let the birthday boy’s unconsciousness kill the mood of the party, my friends continued on around me, commandeering my camera to immortalize the night for posterity.  I was good humored about all of this, and I felt genuinely loved and cared for when the guys told me about how every so often my closest childhood friend would tell people to ‘Go kick Brantley and make sure he’s still breathing.’  When I would flinch and/or groan from the stimulus, they would give the all clear and go back to drinking.

face down drunk

‘Well, either he is letting us know that he’s okay, or he died with his thumbs like that.’

Being the competitive spirit that I am, I was disappointed that I didn’t reach my goal that night.  I came pretty close considering my lack of strategy and pace.  The defeat nagged at me for months until I put together a game plan and set out to climb that mountain once again.

Flash forward to Spring Semester:  The ping pong table and fake ID are seeing regular use, I think I have friends, but really I just have people excited at the prospect of drinking beer in my dorm room a couple times a week.  All in all, people in my building and community are interested in getting to know me.  Strangers come over to my room and leave as friends even in the absence of us having anything in common.  Some of the people I’m partying with will be a mainstay in my life for the next year and some will introduce me to people who will become some of my closest friends in the world.  I’m battling social anxiety, but my confidence is growing beer by beer, night by night.

My 20-shots defeat has followed me all this time, and I know that it’s time to get that monkey off my back.

On that fateful night, I bought a handle of vanilla vodka and a 2 liter coke.  I had a big cup of the soda with my dinner and topped the bottle off with 20 shots of vodka.  I shook the now-vanilla coke (with vodka) up a bit to stir it around, and then let it settle in Ben’s Booze mini-fridge.

As people gathered for the nightly mischief, I proudly announced my intentions for the evening’s slate of beer pong.  Rather than filling my cups with beer, I would be drinking from this bottle of Coca-cola.  Should I finish the bottle, I will have consumed 20 shots of vodka, accomplishing an ambitious dream that I had fallen short of back in November.

With the support of everyone around me, I got underway.  Game after game of beer pong progressed.  I won some, I lost some, but none of them really mattered.  The sugary syrup in that bottle got lower and lower.  The giant cocktail was the precise strategy necessary for conquering this challenge.  As I finished the bottle on a particularly dramatic final showdown, my beer pong partner hugged me and congratulated me.  We had won the game, and I had accomplished my goal.

The night was young and my drinking stamina was adrenaline-fueled.  I celebrated my 20 shots with a shot of Jack Daniels before consuming 6 more shots over the course of additional beer pong games.

The fact that I never blacked out is a testament to the time period over which this all took place.  Later on, I would hear the term ‘brown out,’ which I guess is where you remember every period of time, but not really clearly enough to make sense of it.  A friend who worked for the Housing department was on duty that night, working 12am-8am patrolling our community.  He dropped by to congratulate me, and then he used his keys to get us onto the roof of my dorm building.  My head was spinning like I was the girl from The Exorcist and I don’t care much for heights to begin with, so this probably wasn’t the best night to get such a spectacular view of our dorms.

If you're too drunk to stand, avoid opportunities to fall to your death.

drunken grimace

Unfortunately I wasn’t winking or smiling, my face just kept doing that on its own.

Pictures documented the whole night including those moments on the roof.  In each photo, I appear extremely pained by the flash.  My face is slack as if I’m having a stroke, but underneath the sloppiness, I’d like to think that there is a spark of pride, a burgeoning confidence in a guy who set out to tackle a challenge, defeated it, and continued surging forward.  Of course this is all self-serving optimism.

Regarding optimism and ‘brown outs,’ the next morning I awoke with two of the girls I was drinking with crammed into my twin bed with me.  At the time, I wished I had blacked out, so I could carry a suspicion that I had a threesome that night.  Given who these girls turned out to be in my life, I’m extremely happy to know for sure that nothing happened.

“How can you be so sure?” you might be asking.  Well, I will tell you:  That night, my liver kicked around inside of me as if I was a pregnant woman drinking a habanero smoothie.  My head felt like I threw it off the roof of the dorm and then later kicked it around as I tried to retrieve it and put it back on my body.  As I was unable to toss and turn due to the overpopulation of my bed, I got to feel the epic hangover as it descended upon me throughout the night.  I dozed off occasionally, but only long enough for the girls to leave while I was out cold.

When sobering up, always try your best to be unconscious

The next morning, I puked up yellowish green stuff in the shower.  To this day, I have no idea what that was all about.

It’s tough to find a useful lesson in this one.  Everything I can take away from the situation is so painfully obvious that it would be a waste of time to type it out.

I guess:

If you fail a drinking challenge, it isn't because you set the bar too high

The Roommate Who Wasn’t There

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By the end of the Summer after my senior year in high school, I became convinced that I had exhausted everything that Pensacola had to offer me.  I had put in my two weeks notice at Domino’s Pizza over a month before I left for college, leaving me with several weeks of absolutely nothing to do.  As my friends moved away before I did, I got extremely restless and decided that I had to be fully moved into my dorm room as soon as the university would let me.

I packed everything that I needed for my new life into my car and drove to Orlando by myself, leaving early enough in the morning that I would arrive by mid-afternoon.  My imagination got me through the first 4 hours of the drive, an insufferable 300 mile stretch of trees, nothingness, and monotony on I-10.  I fantasized about all of the mischief I was going to get into in college and ran through the lurid tales that my older friends (who would now be sophomores) brought home with them last year.

Daydreams of beer and boobies took me to the junction of I-10 and I-75, and then I got bored.  My iPod became less interesting.  My legs needed to be stretched out.  I started yawning frequently.  I couldn’t find a happy medium with the A/C in my car.  My feet were cold, but my arms were just right.  I turned the heat on my feet and pit stains began to blossom on my shirt.  Knowing how many cool points this would lose me with the gaggle of girls that would be lined up to throw themselves at me as soon as I pulled onto campus, I cranked the A/C up and hunched over the steering wheel, angling the vents to shoot arctic gales up my shirt to get the sweating under control.  My feet never thawed.

Discomfort and boredom gave way to frustration and blinding anger as I got off of Florida Turnpike and onto the toll road 408.  Over the course of an hour and a half, I realized just how big Orlando was.  Eventually, I gave up on being too smart to ask for directions and stopped at a gas station in a part of town where sweaty, angry-looking people grimaced at drivers from the roadside.  I finished the final leg of my journey painfully slogging from red light to red light, up a traffic infested main road, but unlike the 408, it was free to use!

After arriving on campus, I checked in, got the key to my dorm room, borrowed a dolly, and unloaded my car into my new home.  Campus was desolate and unpopulated.  My desire to get out of my hometown as soon as possible wasn’t as common as I had hoped.  I spent my first night in my dorm room alone, unsure if anybody else was in the same building as me, let alone on my floor.

With everything unpacked and moved in, I daydreamed about my roommate.  All I knew about him was his name, Ronald LeFleur.  I tried to look him up on Facebook, but couldn’t find him.  His name sounded tremendously dorky, but it didn’t matter.  If movies were to be believed, this guy was going to be my partner in crime.  I figured he would be a bad boy, reckless and and nihilistic in his drinking habits and endlessly charming with women; or he would be a quiet sleeping giant of a party animal and I would have to help him overcome his shyness to bring him out of his shell.  Either way, we were going to be best buddies navigating the hedonism of college and growing into bold, intelligent men together.

The dorm rooms in my building were set up in pairs, with two people in each room, and two rooms sharing a connecting bathroom.  The people occupying the adjacent room, my suite-mates, arrived before Ronald.  They seemed like nice enough guys.  One was a quiet, but stylish guy from Gainesville; the other was a scrawny New Yorker with a big nose.  I couldn’t see either of them as a groomsmen at my wedding someday, but I figured that could change.  My hope and optimism about my roommate, however, remained undaunted.

My dad had already come down and helped me get settled in and then left by the time Ronald LeFleur arrived on the final day of move-in.  The dorm had been my home for several days when I heard the voices outside the door and the multiple hands that were fumbling with the complicated ‘smart’ key that they gave us to get into our building as well as our individual rooms.

He was a skinny guy, made even skinnier by the girl jeans he was wearing.  It wasn’t likely that the white belt that held them up came from the men’s department either.  I don’t remember what band was on his t-shirt, but it told me that he was a ‘Scene’ kid.  His red hair swirled to one side in a Bieber-esque manner (even though, to my knowledge, Justin Bieber wasn’t yet a cultural force and the angelic voice of a generation at the time).  By the looks of him, Ronald’s sexuality wouldn’t likely qualify him to be the wingman that I had hoped for, but I wasn’t judgmental.  This was going to be my new best friend and college is all about broadening your horizons, so regardless of whether he chased men or women, we could still drink too much and grow up together.

I introduced myself, shook his hand, and met his family.  I helped them carry a mini-fridge through the door, and stayed out of the way as they haphazardly populated the room with the rest of his stuff.  After that, they left to go get dinner, and my new best friend and my new second family didn’t invite me.  I went to meal plan and ate dinner and hung out in the room, watching TV and messing around on the internet for the rest of the evening before Ronald (who preferred to be called ‘Ben’) returned.  His family wasn’t with him, but another scrawny guy who dressed slightly more masculine and looked equally feminine was.  This was a friend from back home.  They were meeting up with some other friends from back home.  Goodbye.

Our friendship and life together wasn’t off to a stellar start, but I didn’t get discouraged.  We just needed something in common, or some common experience that we could bond over.  It shouldn’t have been hard to find something that we both enjoyed, but I was put off by how difficult this ‘guaranteed’ friendship was and Ben just didn’t put in any effort at all.

When you expect too much from people you don't know, you will always be disappointed.

We co-existed for about two weeks, with only minor annoyances and minor courtesies.  He wasn’t a bad roommate, other than his tendency to set his alarm clock about 30 minutes before I planned on waking up.  After that, he was around less and less.  I rarely saw him during the day and then he stopped coming to the dorm to sleep at night.  Several days would go by between sightings, and had I been more capable of imagining bad things happening to people I knew, I might have wondered if he was dead in a ditch or something, but I was a little sore that we weren’t bros so I didn’t really care.

Despite the increasing rarity of our encounters in the dorm room (which I inhabited more frequently than not in that first semester), his belongings were vanishing a few at a time.  Soon, the room barely held any sign of him living there.  Other than the matching desk, drawers, bookshelves, bed, and his mini-fridge and microwave, there was not much evidence of more than one person living in the room.

It was at this point, that I got over my hurt feelings and began to see the situation for what it was:  a tremendous opportunity.  This was MY dorm room – I had it all to myself!  I started by taking liberties with his furniture.  I stacked his bookshelf on top of his drawers and moved some of the other stuff to against the wall.  The room started to open up, but I wanted more, more space, more control over the arrangement of the room.

Brantley Valentine's Day

You can see the bunked beds in the background. The rest…is much harder to explain.

At this point, I have to explain the peculiar beds in the dorms.  The twin extra-long beds (which are a pain in the ass to find sheets for) are adjustable in height.  Many students put their beds up as high as they can so as to accommodate a mini-fridge or some storage bins underneath.  I even knew one guy who put his TV and Playstation under the bed, creating a small man cave for himself.  Adjusting the beds can be done with a hammer and some determination if you are a layman, but the protocol was to put in work orders and let the maintenance guys (read ‘professionals’) do it for you.  They could even bring metal rods that run through the bed posts allowing the beds to be bunked.  Seeing as this was college and not summer camp, not many people pursued this option.

Before I could proceed with my plan, I needed closure on the situation with Ben.  I Facebook messaged him and asked if he was coming back and if I could bunk the beds and re-arrange the furniture.  Wherever the hell he was, he messaged me back with consent.  I put in the work order within the next 2 minutes.  In moments such as these, waiting can feel like an eternity, but the maintenance guys were prompt in their response and the beds were bunked, opening the room even more.  With some final adjustments to the furniture, I had exactly what I needed:  enough room for a freaking ping pong table in my dorm room.

Move all furniture out to walls.  Party in the middle of the room.

It took time to find a good price at a store near enough for me to pick the table up, so in the meantime, I ignored repeated requests from my awesome RA Jen to stop stealing furniture from the common room and using it to make my room cozier.  This shouldn’t have been a rule that I broke multiple times.  When a couch went missing, it was always very obvious where it went, seeing as how I was the only person with a room awesome enough to hold any extra furniture.  Several months later, however, borrowing couches for movie nights became a trend on our floor and I was always suspect #1 for these instances of temporary theft.

To this day, I am shocked that I was able to find such an amazing price on a ping pong table.  I’m truly grateful that I took the time to shop around.  As the weather began to turn and the heat lightened up its stranglehold on central Florida, I strolled proudly through the automatic doors of Sports Authority to pick up my brand new roll-away ping pong table for just $200.

After a couple of hours with a screwdriver and lots of swearing, the table was assembled.  I had paddles and ping pong balls ready to go, but few friends to play with.  I called up one of my closest friends from back home and he helped me to discover the depths of my ping-pong ineptitude that night and for many nights afterwards.  I bought beer mugs with the intention of playing that crazy type of beer pong that I saw in Beer Fest (where you play ping pong, trying to hit the ball into the mug), as well as beer to inhabit the fridge that Ben left behind, which I rebranded as my designated beer fridge.

My room became a curiosity and fellow people with mediocre or poor social skills dropped by every once in a while to see the dorm room with a the ping pong table in it.  By now, my RA was cool enough to casually mention the fact that this was all a big fire hazard and then never speak of it again.

All in all, the experience was another misguided belief that friends would just gravitate to me if only I seemed like a cool enough guy.  I reacted to the rejection of someone that I thought had to be my friend by turning his abandonment into an epic man-cave that would eventually come to be integral in my social development.  For several months, however, I was just another lonely guy, homesick and struggling to make friends with my only distinction being my ping pong table and my Alaskan Organ Donor Card.

Brantley Dumb Pose

Who wouldn’t want to be friends with this guy?

It wasn’t until the beginning of Spring Semester that I started trying to solve my problems by confronting them, rather than trying to work around them.

One Dozen Extremely Fake IDs

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Brantley with high school diplomaAs a senior in high school, I was extremely restless and ready to move on to the next stage in my life.  The upcoming challenge of relocating to a new city to make new friends caused me to salivate my way through twelfth grade.  I didn’t want to be High School Brantley anymore.  I was ready to grow up and drink beer and get laid and be College Brantley.

Exacerbating my mood were the tales that my older friends brought home from college.  They showered my imagination with anecdotes proving that real life higher education is absolutely 100% like it is in those raunchy comedy movies.  The booze was abundant, the girls were easy, and the drinking buddies to be made were the stuff of legend.

What I didn’t take into account was the difficulty of making friends in a new environment.  My friends had an enormous advantage over me in this arena:  They were all on their college swim teams.  With a group of people sharing a time-consuming common interest already pre-assembled for them, they arrived on campus needing only a keg to begin making memories of the greatest years of their lives.  

Needless to say, my friends weren’t pre-assembled and waiting with a 24-pack of cheap beer when I first moved into my dorm.  I spent the entirety of my first semester of college lost and confused, lonely and envious of the my friends’ legendary nights of college life.

With few friends, most of which being fellow Pensacola transplants and none of which being over 21, I had a lot of difficulty procuring the ingredients necessary for the drunken memories that my friends were making.  Luckily, my lumen as a visionary is only surpassed by my stubborn determination!  The solution was so simple!  I had to make myself older!

Disclaimer:  I never purchased a fake ID 😉  The rest of this story is about someone else 😉  Even as an 18 year old, I had enough good sense to realize that fake IDs were illegal and bad and none of them should have my face and information on them with an altered birthdate that by math would make me 22 years old 😉  I’m only continuing to write this in first person for narrative continuity.

I thought back to a night when a friend showed me his ‘Organ Donor’ card.  It looked very similar to a driver’s license, but it didn’t say ‘Driver’s License’ anywhere on it.  Another strange difference was a convenient misprint of my friend’s birthday.  He gladly volunteered the website that he ordered it from, and I filed the information away in my mind.  Facing an unnatural freshman sobriety, the information suddenly became crucial to my pursuit of higher education.

It was time for me to make a meaningful investment with the hard earned dollars that I had saved up from a Summer of delivering pizzas.  I looked up the website, filled in my personal information (including a birthdate four years before my mother brought me into this world) and rejoiced at the wonderful purchase I was about to make and the thirsty girls who would flock to my new ability to buy them alcohol.

There was one final hurdle.  I had to pick a state for the ID.  Each of the 50 states that united to make our great nation had a different card based on some unique factor about that state.  I knew that I couldn’t choose Florida.  Everyone in Orlando knows what a Florida Driver’s License looks like and would immediately know that my Organ Donor card wasn’t legitimate.  I would run a similar risk choosing surrounding states such as Alabama and Georgia.  I knew the safest bet would be a state whose population rarely found themselves ID’ed by bouncers and liquor store clerks in Florida.  I figured the further away, the better. 

Brantley with Handgun

Things got real in Alaska.

My mind involuntarily leapt to my senior year Spring Break adventure in Anchorage, Alaska six-months past.  I knew the trivia about the state, so the authorities could even pop quiz me if they wanted, which at the time I deemed to be a real possibility.  I was sold!  Alaska was the perfect choice!  To ensure utmost authenticity, I even selected a real address (I chose one from a Domino’s Pizza in Anchorage) just in case an inquisitive liquor store owner decided he wanted to plug my information into his GPS just to verify that it existed (once again, I deemed this to be a real possibility).  Alaska it was!  My conviction was channeled into my index finger as it clicked for a mock up of what my Alaskan Organ Donor card would look like. 

Next to a picture of a chubby teenager with shaggy, chlorine damaged blonde curls was the 22-year old’s height, weight, address, eye color, and other personal information relevant to an ID card.  Behind the text, photo, and red heart logo paired with the words ‘Organ Donor’ was a gorgeous snapshot of a breaching humpback whale.  One of the largest mammals on this planet, its body was 3/4 out of the water, and the imagination of any bouncer suspicious enough to stare at the photo long enough would inevitably conjure up the majesty of this great creature returning to his home beneath the icy waters of Alaska. The bouncer may even fleetingly daydream about booking an Alaskan whale watching excursion.  The impulse would probably be fleeting, however, and with his soaring spirits returned to earth, he would look back down at the chubby boy with shaggy, chlorine damaged blonde curls and wave him into the bar, jealous of the gorgeous and promiscuous girls that would flock to him once he entered the establishment.

Note:  I really wanted to post a picture of the ID, but I can't find it anywhere.  On the website that I bought it from, they have since changed the Alaskan Organ Donor cards to be substantially less epic.  For reference, here is a picture very similar to the one I was referring to.

Note: I really wanted to post a picture of the ID, but I can’t find it anywhere. The website that I bought it from has since changed the Alaskan Organ Donor cards to be substantially less epic. For reference, here is this picture of a humpback whale doing its thing.

The click intended to formalize the transaction was ineffective.  The webpage stuttered, reloading the same purchase page, with the same ‘Click to Purchase’ button beneath the mockup of the ID card.  I clicked again.  And again.  And then 9 more times, before becoming frustrated and giving up for the night.

The next morning, I awoke with my stubborn streak ablaze.  Technical difficulties couldn’t stifle me.  I was going to get that damn fake ID.  I sat down at my computer and checked my email, Facebook, and bank account.  Butterflies brewed within my gut.  The listed account balance was a $700-something dollars, but it had parentheses around it.  I recalled a previous instance in which I over drafted my account resulting in a negative balance that was denoted by parentheses.  Surely, that couldn’t be right.  I dug into the account details to see what the confusion was.

If you found my memory of exactly how many times I clicked the purchase button to be a stretch, I’m about to tell you why it is a completely accurate figure that I remember to this day.  The account had twelve consecutive charges of 100something dollars (not coincidentally, this amount was the cost of a fake ID).

At the time, I was baffled as to how an authentic-ish fake ID website wouldn’t have a payment confirmation page that loaded after your purchase and provided you with a transaction number.  Once the reality set in, I understood that I would soon be the proud owner of a dozen fake Alaskan Organ Donor cards.

I really wish I was exaggerating.

In a haze of despondence, one of my initial problem solving steps involved laying face down on the floor of a friend’s dorm.  With my head hiding in the cave that I created with my arms to block out the harsh overhead lighting, I silently begged for this all to be a bad dream.

I don’t remember whether it was my friend or one of her roommates, but some glorious voice of reason told me to just contact the website and tell them that they made a mistake.

Everything was resolved with a quick email and the company’s subsequent response.  I guess the Fake ID guys were truly honest businessmen.  The card came in the mail, complete with the holographic imitation of the State Crest and something along the lines of ‘Official ID.’  At the time, I thought it would make my fake ID more credible, so I paid extra for it.  I would later joke that it should have just read ‘NOT FAKE’ because it was the least authentic part of the ID.

The lesson that I didn’t learn that day was this:  

Sometimes there's an obvious solution right in front of your face.  You cant see it from fetal position

I only used the fake ID once during my first semester of college.  I bought a bottle of bourbon and nearly had a heart attack as the liquor store clerk admired the whale on my card.  After several Fridays confirmed that the card didn’t have its own gravity to draw friends to me, I put less and less effort into establishing a social life, and soon I found myself alone in my dorm with the lights turned out playing video games.

That first semester was rough, but I was able to turn it all around in Spring 2008.  I dusted off the Alaskan Organ Donor card and hit the liquor store across from campus to keep beer in my fridge and lure friends into my hollow social life.

Towards the end of that semester, I had accrued a stable of horror stories about cops bringing the hammer down on students with Fake IDs.  On the mournful day that my ID was turned down by three liquor stores in a row, I put it in a Santa Clause candy jar and decided to let it collect dust again for a little while.

As you can see, I went more than a little bit out of my way to buy alcohol when I was underage.  How did you get beer when you were under 21?  Comment if you have any amusing stories!