Tuesday roundup: drunken a$$hats edition

Kiss my chap$, little boys!

Howdy, friends:  I was away for a long holiday weekend, but now I’m back in the saddle and ready to ride on out.  Lots of great news and views in the blogosphere–so I’ll let your fingers do the clicking while I catch up on my day job!

  • First, Tenured Radical has a great post up (and a great comments thread) about the “culture” of campus drinking and the curious blindness or acceptance we adults have for the very real personal and financial consequences.  We like to think it’s the under-25s, but it isn’t.  I can attest to that–this weekend in Denver it was the annual Rocky Mountain showdown between in-state rivals, the University of Colorado and Baa Ram U.  When we were out and about on Saturday night, it wasn’t just the under-25s making the 16th St. Mall Ride smell like a brewery.  There were plenty of middle-aged people literally stumbling around town in their Buffs or Rams jerseys.  (Sometimes even with their grade-school aged–or younger–kids!  No joke.  That kind of shocked me.)  Pathological drinking doesn’t come from nowhere–and I’ve heard that local hospitals go on Red Alert in many college towns during Parents’ Weekend–not because the student drinking is any worse, but because a lot of parents drink themselves into stupors that require hospitalization! 
  • But, at least the more dedicated and experienced drinkers among us know how to be reasonably discreet.  One thing I think that has changed about student drinking since I was in college is the sense of entitlement today’s students have not just to drink on campus or in their houses and dorms, but to behave as though the campus extends to wherever they happen to be, subjecting innocents to public drunkenness and really trashy behavior.  I had the unfortunate experience of swimming in a rooftop pool Saturday afternoon at what I thought was a pretty swank hotel, when I found myself in the middle of some a$$holes’ beer commercial fantasy:  a gaggle of Buffs fans, energized by their team’s crushing victory over Baa Ram U., shambled into the pool area with their suitcase of Keystone Light, jumped into the pool with their trousers on, sending the terrified young children in the pool to the edges of the deep end (8 feet) while they cannonballed and splashed in the shallow end (4 feet deep).  Super-sophisticated, our Buffs fans!  Fortunately, the house phone was adjacent to the deep end so I got hotel management on the case, and the dirtbags were ejected forthwith.  Stay classy, football fans!  They topped it all off by scaring a little girl in the elevator on her way back to her room as she cowered behind her mother.  Super-duper classy, and very manly too!
  • At the pool and otherwise, I got a good jump on Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom this weekend.  I’ll offer a complete review here once I’ve finished it.  So far it’s a good book, but not a great one.  Franzen is a wonderful limner of most of his characters and of parent-child relationships, but he’s weak on plot.  This book (so far) is like the Great Gatsby crossed with Cheever country, only “Tom Buchanan” is a thoroughly decent, self-made virtuous husband, father, and environmentalist; “Jay Gatsby” is a dirtbag rock-and-roller; and Daisy is just as vapid and underdeveloped as Fitzgerald’s Daisy.  It’s a complete mystery why “Tom” (Walter) and “Gatsby” (Richard) are so into her (Patty.)  This is a major problem for the book–to say nothing of the ninth-grade philosophizing over “freedom,” and the tortured major subplot involving mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia. 
  • Notorious Girl, Ph.D., against her own better judgment, offers some really good advice to people about how to find the best graduate program for themselves.  She makes a really fantastic point about disabusing potential applicants of the desirability of just looking in one’s hometown or particular region:  “But why city X? Must you stay there? Do you have a spouse or family member or some other reason why you can’t possibly leave, or is it a matter of geographic preference? City X, I’ve heard, is very nice, sure. But if your geographic limitations are based on preference, rather than actual necessity, you need to reexamine your priorities, especially if you’re looking at graduate programs and beyond.”  Word.  If you have a problem leaving home, chances are slim you’ll ever work in academia, friends.  Mobility is key–you need to find the strongest program, wherever it is, and then if you ever get offered an actual job professing somewhere, you need to go wherever it is.  No one ends up where they want to, or think they want to, successful academics learn to bloom where they’re planted.
  • Finally, I have it on good authority that Squadratomagico is back from Burning Man.  She’s got a preliminary report up here, but more Burning Man blogging will follow, so watch this space!

13 thoughts on “Tuesday roundup: drunken a$$hats edition

  1. Keystone Light?!? Theyda got laughed out of Happy Valley with something like that on their carrier, cannonball or no cannonball. I’d of demanded an immediate transfer to the Brown Palace myself, which for all I know might not even have a rooftop pool.

    My experience with campus-vicinity noisemaking over the last decade has given me an entirely new appreciation for the “Domestic Tranquility” clause of the pre-amble to the Constitution, which I think needs to be redefined away from its original intention of suppressing farmer insurgencies, now largely outdated, and enlisted in the cause of decibel suppression more generally. Not to become a single-taxer or anything like that, but if we put a heavy tariff on sound production, I could live with that just fine.

    I had a RamsFan (TM) sitting in my class this morning, possibly a stray from your herd, although I didn’t quite get the brand.


  2. I lived close to the stadium in Ann Arbor and had a driveway that I could sell as a parking space on game day. The price tended to fluctuate depending on the person. Dad with his 9 year-old daughter packing boxed lunches and no visible alcohol? 10 bucks including bathroom privileges. Fifty somethings with more booze than food in the car, 30 bucks and if I catch you peeing in the yard, I’m slashing your tires. Honestly, I only had takers at the lower price and I was good with that.

    Plus, since I’m a guy, I rarely wait for hotel management in those situations but confront people directly with a “hey, what the fuck is wrong with you scaring kids like that, are you an asshole or just not paying attention!” It often works and nobody’s beaten me up yet. Considering I’m pretty small and skinny this is a major miracle so there must be something to it. I think it might be the choice thing. Apparently even drunk people don’t want to be assholes.


  3. You’ve had a similar post on drinking culture before and I think I’m going to make roughly the same point I made then. The middle-aged drunkenness you’ve pointed to here is still all based around college activities and could be read as parents (unwisely) trying to recall their youth. I suspect a much smaller percentage of these middle-aged people carry on in this fashion in their normal lives, away from college situations like football games. I still think that, in this country, the residential college experience functions as a drinking “last stand.” (You could also argue that football games in general have the same function.) Students drink hard for four years b/c it’s the last time it’s socially acceptable to be wasted constantly in public situations. I’m not an expert on this but my sense is that in the UK, college does not function in this same way and there is no post-college opprobrium towards excessive drinking. There, the drinking problems of adults are much worse than ours and, accordingly, have received much more political focus. There’s the pub, of course, but I’m thinking more about public disorderliness in public transit, the notoriously wild office parties the likes of which are probably hard to find in the US, and the increasing concern of the number of “units” British women are consuming per week.


  4. Adult drunkenness might be more visible in Britain, but I’m not sure it’s that much more prevalent. My sense is that the heavy drinking among American adults happens more at home (not so much in pubs, either), but the tailgating and parents’ weekends bring it out into the open. Speaking as a middle-aged adult now, it would no more occur to me to put on a football jersey and wander drunk around downtown Denver than it would occur to me to wander around naked in downtown Denver. But that’s because I’m not an alcoholic, and I don’t need the “cover” of college events for my heavy drinking activities.

    Western Dave: yes, I think even skinny men feel more empowered to confront half-a-dozen large, drunk a$$holes than I felt. (I also felt very strongly that this really wasn’t my problem to solve–it wasn’t my pool, after all, but rather the hotel’s pool.) I also didn’t want to be the person who makes a scene in front of the children there. Once people start talking back to me, I’m not very disciplined, so I thought the better of it and let hotel management do their jobs.

    It was a good lesson for the children at the pool, though: if you’re quiet, polite, and follow the rules, you get to do what you want to do! There were other groups of young people/college students up there with other suitcases of (unauthorized) beer–but since they were respectful of others, we left them alone. (The beer was unauthorized b/c I’m sure the hotel would have preferred to sell it to them. Alcohol was clearly permitted on the pool deck, since the hotel was serving it to other patrons.)


  5. Historiann: We must have crossed each other’s paths on the 16th Street Mall! We went to enjoy some ac in the Hotel Monaco, and to our dismay discovered drunk Buff fans careening around the hallway, and even stumbling into the Barnes and Noble up at the Pavilions shopping thing. I didn’t see any drunk Baa Ram fans on the Mall, for what that’s worth. I’d like to apologize for CU-Boulder but they could give a shit what we think down here in Focus-land or at CU-Springs. Speaking for myself, I enjoyed my fair share of alcohol quietly in the hotel room while watching the revelry below. Paul


  6. Sq.–can’t wait to see the photo!

    And Paul: I love the Hotel Monaco! I’m envious. My hotel wasn’t quite as swank or funky, but it did have the pool. (Although that turned out to be an amenity of dubious value.) Did you enjoy the cocktail and snack hour?

    I’m sure there were plenty of Rams fans behaving badly. I didn’t mean my post to seem partisan–I’m against big-time college football (and its related excesses) wherever it is, including in my own backyard. But, it’s possible that the Rams fans were more subdued Saturday night: 1) they lost, 2) they’re not by reputation as affluent as Boulder students, 3) they’re from in-state, so they’d probably run into a neighbor or a parent on the 16th St. Mall and get caught out.


  7. Re: Public vs. private drinking in the US. Hey my dissertation research comes in handy! Alcohol researchers who studies Navajo and Anglo drinking in Western New Mexico found that alcoholism rates for Navajos and Anglos were similar based on medical evidence. Navajos had higher mortality rates because of more drunk driving and exposure fatalities compared to Anglos who had to drive less far to drink, were closer to hospitals when accidents occurred, and were extremely unlikely to die of exposure when drunk. Now if you know anything about the discussion of alcohol in the public realm you know that drinking is perceived to be almost exclusively an Indian problem. Go to Gallup on a Saturday night and you’ll see lots of drunk Indians (not just Navajos) but you wont see lots of drunk Anglos unless you a) go to the country club or b) bust into people’s homes. However, almost all the discourse is around what to do about Navajo drinking because it’s visible.

    Compare where I grew up in Manhasset, NY as described by J. R. Moehringer in The Tender Bar, “Men and women throwing raucous parties and boozing until they blacked out or ran someone down with their car? Sounded to us like a typical Tuesday night in Manhasset.” and JR is not exaggerating. The book, which got glowing reviews, none of which were remotely horrified about how much drinking there was in the book. Indeed, folks like JR and McGraw Milhaven are far more ambivalent in their relationship to alcohol than the reviewers were. My HS reunion is next month. I’m probably going. If it’s like my last reunion, almost all the money will be spent on an open bar with top shelf liquor and almost none of it on food. At the last reunion, as we were leaving, my wife said, “did I just see somebody get into that car carrying two open beers?” Yes, yes you did. Welcome to Manhasset, where as long as you have enough money, you’re not a drunk, but a socialite.


  8. Yes, you’re right, Historiann, about the CU/CSU class and geographical distinctions and the consequent effect on public drinking entitlement; not taken as partisan at all, but a very perceptive observation.

    Re: Monaco, aside from wine hour their restaurant (Panzano’s) makes some killer small plates, check it out if you haven’t already.


  9. Pingback: Denver, you have a drinking problem. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  10. Pingback: Denver, you have a drinking problem. | Historiann

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