I found myself getting a little nostalgic for college earlier today, not sure why, and decided hey, let's share some of those memories...1. Crashing a Dance in Drag
One time the International Students Association was holding a big dance, the same night as our dorm -- the GLBT one -- was hosting the semi-annual Drag Ball. The drag ball started a bunch earlier than the other one, though, so Caleb and I decided to go to both. I got dressed up in an approximation of a tuxedo, including tux coat, tie, hair combed down, etc., and Caleb wore my prom gown and some of my rhinestone jewelry. We walked over to the Student Union and found that not many people had shown up for the ISA deal yet, so there wasn't a big crowd to witness the spectacle. Stil, we paid our $1 or whatever to get in and boogied around. After some time, the "hanger string" Caleb was using to hold the *strapless* dress up broke, and we had to leave. That night he wore one of Kristina's dresses. I believe his roommate Eric came dressed as Princess Di. And of course our friend Chris did his Madonna act.2. The Island of Bad Puns
In the middle of the UMass Amherst campus, between the library and the fine arts center, lies the Campus Pond. The pond was actually rather swampy and kind of stank at times, due to poor circulation. There were various kinds of ducks who swam around in it, plus a swam who was nastier than even the average swan, because his mate had died. Anyway, this pond also featured a small island, which you could go out to via a couple of small metal bridges. Caleb, Kristina and I had some fun times there, feeding the ducks, talking, etc. Then in sophomore or junior year, Caleb and I were in an arts and music course and, studying sculpture, learned something we never knew: The island wasn't just an island, it was an "installation piece." Some artist had actually created the island, with a specific form, shape, designed the bridges, etc. And it had a name, a horrible, punnish name: Isle of View. (Say it out loud, you'll see what I mean.) Ugh!3. The Monthly Assassination
In the little non-red-meat dining hall I and all my friends ate at, there was this group we called "The Back Table" -- at least before we got in with them and joined up. These were loud, mostly gay, exhibitionist types who tended to draw attention to themselves. One example was our friend Jenny, who would occasionally stand up on a chair or bench and sing show tunes. Anyway, one of their "exhibitions," repeated several times, involved a reinactment of the JFK assassination. Basically a guy and girl would sit side by side at a table, with somebody a row over as the driver, and then the hidden gunman would act and somebody would smash open a grapefruit next to JFK's head, so it went everywhere, especially all over Jackie. And everybody would scream. Did you have to "be there" to get this? Probably.4. Underwear Woman
The LGBA, the campus queer org, always threw dances, usually once a month. It was at the first LBGA dance Caleb, Kristina and I went to that we first met Underwear Woman. My memory is that the dance was great, all kinds of cool nights, early 90s techno, people in crazy outfits, and then we noticed this woman stripping, during a Lords of Acid song. Soon she was wearing nothing but a pair of men's undies and kneepads. And she was writhing around on the floor. The rest of the night. Later we met Underwear Woman and her name was Patricia. In regular life she wore all these amazing 1960s dresses, which later inspired me a bit I think.5. Masked Man
In an "Only at UMass" phenomenon, for a few months, at around noon I think once a week, on Wednesday or something, a masked man would appear outside the Student Union and go on a soapbox of anti-capitalist, Unibomber-esque rantings. He had what looked like a hand-made paper mache mask but regular clothes otherwise. As far as I know, nobody ever found out who the guy was and he didn't get arrested either, because it was free speech.6. Day of the Dead
The Masked Man deal reminds me of an incident which made headlines around campus: This radical Costa Rican student, Juan, who later was editor of the college paper, decided to go all out for Day of the Dead. He pretty much stripped off most clothes and just wore like a loincloth, feathers (wings I think), body paint and some natural type jewelry. Then he enacted some rituals involving blood and several cow hearts. Which got splattered all across the steps to the Student Union. Later on he got into trouble because some people found it purely exhibitionist, while Juan said it was religious and/or cultural expression. Then he got in trouble b/c he was a reporter at the paper and supposedly we weren't allowed to do anything political or arrange events that would get publicity in the paper. He was mightily pissed off. Despite the fact that he had plenty of reason not to like me (white, privileged GLBT issues editor), Juan was always very fair with me and I admired him.7. Queerfest
One year we decided to put on an event called Queerfest. Not sure it was great marketing to call it that, but it was great fun. We held it on the lawn by the Student Union / Campus Pond and set it up to include speakers, bands, singers, and a sort of festival/fair thing with tables, games, vendors, etc. My favorite bit was this English academic who was over at I think Mt. Holyoke doing gender studies or women's studies and did a whole speech about her "bi-sex-u-al boody." She had a great accent and was very cute.8. Farrakhan's Booming Voice
At one point Louis Farrakhan came to campus to do a speech, which as you'd expect engendered a lot of discussion, people either for or against him, National of Islam, etc. In the politically charged (and mostly left-wing liberal) atmosphere, it was THE topic of discussion and THE event to attend. You also had the curiosity factor, since UMass was/is a pretty white school and to have Nation of Islam guys around with their suits and bowties was just an anomaly. Anyway, I didn't go to the event, but I walked around the Campus Pond, which is next to the Fine Arts Center, and listened to his thunderous voice. I couldn't make out the words but damn, was it stirring!9. The Tallest Library in the World
The UMass library is 26 stories tall. And it's red brick. Besides offering a link to a picture
I think that's all I have to say really, to give an idea of how weird it was to have to see it every day, let alone go in there for research purposes. After hearing a line in a Beck song about "a giant dildo crushing the sun" we often referred to it as the "giant dildo." 10. PVTA.
UMass and the surrounding around has a great transit system, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authorities. Most of the buses and routes were free, so you could take buses all around campus, Amherst, over to Hadley, Northampton, even Belchertown, for free. Anyway, what I find funny? The acronym for the system is PVTA, which I and friends always pronounced as "Poovta," or "Poofter." Which is SO appropriate given the area.