I'm not sure this place even existed the first couple of years I was at UMass. It wouldn't have mattered because I was not of age, and I wouldn't have known because, as stated before, I wasn't in the Campus Center/Student Union complex that much. The first time I remember being in the Grad Lounge was drinking before a compilers class with a friend. This became a fairly regular thing regular thing and one time caused me to be late to class.
Sometimes I'm not sure how I got there. When I came to school, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to drink. But pretty early on, I remember giving in fairly easily when told, in no uncertain terms, that I had to drink some weekend and there was nothing I could do about it. I put it off a weekend (my parents were visiting that Sunday), but the next weekend a shot of E&J brandy introduced me to the wild world of ethanol.
Back in those freshman days, a night of drinking was an event. It invariably occurred on a weekend and invariably was characterized by excess. I can think of one example that was on a Thursday and did not involve excess by any typical metric, and it did involve a smelly shoe being put in my face as I writhed on the ground in the aftermath of a disastrous half-court beerpong game. Surely an event. I remember some photos getting out on Facebook and my first visit in Framingham being characterized by some half-serious inquiries by my high school friends into whether I had become an alcoholic. And really I was drinking once a month at most. Jesus christ.
After that first year, that next year in Gorman, was I drinking even less? Had a temperance movement washed over me in pursuit of a clearly dysfunctional romance with a clearly disinterested girl? Or was I just getting high more? Because I was. My favorite sophomore drinking memory is getting trashed and some friends put on Revenge of the Clones. I remember emphatically yelling "THAT'S NOT STAR WARS THERE'S A CAR CHASE" over and over and quickly drawing the ire of just about everyone. Also I had also watched this movie while drunk freshman year I think. I've never seen this movie sober.
What the fuck did I even do as a junior except turn 21 and then everything was legit. Already talked about that one maybe. Yeah same girl (though she was mostly gone by then). I think I lost touch with my supply (before I turned 21) and started working all the time. Good fucking grades that year. Oh and I pulled on allnighter in the course of writing cycle-accurate simulator.
It was that year that I became what I had sort of dreamed of before I had come to college. By the end of high school I felt aimless and unable to get things done. Now, I was a super-motivated programmer with crazy focus. I was super-interested in what I was doing and work and pleasure ran into each other. I was closer to whom I wanted to be.
Next semester I'm in the grad lounge drinking before class. Nothing gold can stay. Except that's so hilariously not how I feel. I think I feel as though a grew past some sort of mental block. I wasn't attempting to engage in episodes of borderline problem drinking in order to achieve some sort of catharsis or outpouring of emotion, but just taking in the everyday world with a buzz. It's funny because put that way it sounds more like the way of the alcoholic than the freshman who, by a rule, only drank on the weekends. But freshman definitely had more problems. And that senior who was 10 minutes late to class that one time and feeling a little funny through the remaining hour and five minutes is someone who I feel as though I can still identify with.
But who cares, what bothers me more is that I have no idea how this transition happened so quickly.
If there's a hoop-shooting game in the grad lounge, can it still be a place where people go to talk? To unwind after work? Even to get there work done? Will it become a center for meatheadery?
A memorable chapter of my life was kicked off by interactions in the grad lounge. It's almost a cliche, the important events in one's life all being traceable back to a bar. An offhand comment by a coworker growing into a festering idea, that motivates a meet-up at the very same place. All because of a thematically ill-defined institutional space. P.S. This story did not end as hoped.
But somehow, if someone had just beat their bro's record and was all OOOOOOHHHHHHH YEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH, the whole adventure could have been nipped in the bud. We're a product of the most minute details of our environment and that's why I needed one last walk through UMass.