Sunday, April 24, 2011

Frat Life 101: The Pledges Who Thought They Were In

One day in 1986 (I can't remember what semester it was) it occurred to the Sig Tau membership that the pledge class had become very bold, even going so far as to show up at the house by themselves when protocol dictated that pledges were to only show up as no less than a pair at a minimum. The rule was in place to ensure that any and all pledges would have no choice but to get to know each other extremely well and therefore raise the level of brotherhood that they felt amongst each other. That way once they became members that sense of brotherhood would transfer over as well. At least that's how I remember it.

So as I said at this time the pledges were acting as if they were already in, that there was nothing left for them to prove even though the semester was far from over. In the face of this bravado there was only one thing left for the brothers to do and that was to teach the pledges a lesson. A lone pledge who had shown up (his name escapes me at this time) was dispatched with instructions to locate all of his pledge brothers and to return in an hour as a group or else they all would be gone, black balled into obscurity. Truthfully we had no intention of doing that, we just wanted to put some fear into them and have some fun while doing so.

In that hours time we came up with a quick plan and went with it wholeheartedly. When the pledges showed up first we read them the riot act for their lackadaisical attitude and told them that it all stopped tonight. We were going to teach them a lesson on brotherhood, trust and being aware of where you are. The pledges were promptly blindfolded and and put into the back of a pickup truck and then paper bags were put over their heads. After cautioning them about trying to peek and get a look at their surroundings we secretly dispatched a few members to purchase the oh so normal liquid elixir that always seemed to be prevalent at fraternity gatherings. Of course I am speaking of beer.

Next we set off on a grand journey designed to approximate the time that it would take for us to drive out to the Illinois river. We made lots of turns, sped up and slowed down and put the right wheels off the side of the road into the gravel to make it seem as though we were at the river. Honestly I don't think we really believed that they thought this was truly happening but indeed they fell for it hook, line and sinker. After pulling back onto the grounds of our fraternity house we took them out of the truck and led them on a circuitous trek around the property until we ended up in the back yard.

The scene was now set. We explained to them that we had brought them to a precise spot at the edge of the river and that they were now standing close enough to jump into said river. The water at this particular spot was neither too shallow nor too deep for them to get hurt or for them to drown. Their choice was simple, on the count of three all of them would jump in to the river as a group or they were all finished. We were anxious to see what their reactions would be. Would they all jump, not wanting to be the reason that the entire class was blackballed (in their minds but not in reality) or would some of them balk at the very idea of having to jump into water while blindfolded with a paper sack over their heads?

We didn't give them much time to think about how preposterous the idea was and instead started the countdown. To our amazement at the count of three they literally launched themselves as a unit into the air and landed not in the river as they believed they would but instead on the ground which no doubt was not a pleasant experience. As they pulled off the bags and blindfolds we could see that they were clearly stunned. Quickly we helped them up as we laughed (naturally) and told them "Do you really believe we would do something like that to you?" We all adjourned inside to partake of the beverages and share in our newly proven camaraderie. This pledge class had proven that they had a good sense of brotherhood and could be trusted to follow through on their word. They were the kind of guys that we were looking for to carry on our legacy. They were our friends.

Published by Don Leach

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Funeral Day

Today I went to a funeral and I suppose it was as nice as a funeral can be. To be honest the reason you are there in the first place is enough to bring anybody's spirits down to the lowest levels. As I listened and watched what was going on around me I started to drift mentally and think about what would happen when I die. What would my funeral be like? Would my family know enough about me to have a service that would go along with my wishes, beliefs and more importantly my personality? There's really no way to know unless you make it clearly known and even then they may not accede to your wishes.

I've seen funerals before where I knew that the dearly departed would have absolutely hated what was taking place in their name. Lot's of long, boring speeches full of nice comments about things that the person did not believe in. People who barely knew them talking about them as if they were best friends for life or attributing characteristics to them that frankly just weren't there. That's not what I want anybody to have to go through in order to pay their last respects, assuming of course there will be anybody willing to do so.

I want my funeral to be short and sweet. Just read a list of a few accomplishments in my life like getting married, having a child, going to a war and things that interested me like writing this blog and the time I did a radio show and so on. Play songs by Alejandro Escovedo, Rush and maybe one that I wrote the lyrics for. That's it. Then my family and friends can gather and eat, listen to music, watch some videos and tell stories about me. Celebrate my life don't mourn it.

If however my wishes were to be ignored then at least do something untraditional. Have a bunch of music, food and some senseless fun for everybody before stuffing the casket in the ground. I know that for a lot of people the funeral is for those that survive, not for the one that has passed but really, I'd like my funeral to be done as if I were there having to endure it with the rest of the saps. As if I'm the one watching the clock wanting to move things along no matter whether I am living or not. Whatever you do, just don't prolong it, get it over with fast. Then everybody can get on with their day. That would make me happy, well that is if I'm able to feel anything at that point that is.

Published by Don Leach

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mortality Rears It's Ugly Head

Sometimes things happen that seem extremely important and very serious and then a second thing happens that shows me that it really isn't so. Case in point, last Saturday my glasses broke and I had to be driven by my wife to see about getting them fixed. Once at the shop I found that they didn't have my frame in stock (the lenses were cut for the frame) and that it could take up to ten days to get new ones. I cannot see without my glasses so there is no way I could drive, read or let's face it, even work. To me this was a very big deal and I felt quite a bit helpless and overwhelmed at the chance that I would have to wait even a portion of that time to be able to see properly again. It just invokes a sense of helplessness and dependency that I am unaccustomed to.

Then I got the word that my best friend's mother-in-law had passed away the night before. Suddenly my problem didn't seem so serious anymore. Sure it would make life a lot more difficult but clearly, there are much worse things that can happen. Whenever something like this happens it inevitably makes me think about mortality, mine as well as others. I'm sure this is a normal and common thing to occur but since I am such a deep thinking kind of person, for me it goes to another level. I've thought about what will happen when/if just about everyone close to me were to die and how it would impact everybody else who is left behind and what our lives would be like as we go about trying to move on. This includes me and what it would be like for my family and friends if I were to die. Naturally since this isn't such a rosy, cheerful subject it only stands to reason that there isn't a lot of smiling and laughter going on when I am thinking about these things.

Let's face it, it's going to happen at some point. All of us are going to leave this mortal coil and pass on to something else. No matter how much we believe or think that we know through our religion (or lack thereof) ultimately the truth of the matter is that we do not know what is going to happen to us. All we can do is guess and surmise and hope that what we were meant to accomplish and what we wanted to accomplish will all be completed at that time, or that at least we'll have as much of the wish list checked off as possible.

Sometimes I feel that we need these reminders so that we don't get too complacent in life. If there's anything that we want to do whether it be traveling, music, writing or spending time with our kids, we need to do it now instead of putting it off for another day or time. I'm forty-six years old and when it gets down to it, I don't know if there will be a tomorrow or a next week. Nothing is promised so take care of it today. At least I can try to live that way, because I don't want to leave anybody behind that will end up saying they wished they had more time with me or that there were things that weeer eleft undone. The way I see it that's one of the worst things you can do to people you love.

Published by Don Leach

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Frat Life 101: I'm Not Even In School!

While in college in November, 1986 I joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard for two reasons. The first was so that I would receive a bonus and I would receive money for college. The second was so that I would have a little bit of money coming in each month. In order to receive my bonus I had to complete Basic training as well as my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) so with that in mind I elected to attend them consecutively instead of doing Basic Training in the summer and AIT in the following years summer. Ironically, after completing both courses I decided that I did not want to return to college because NSU didn't offer anything that I really felt spoke to me as to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Not that I know any better at this point in my life either.

After returning from training I was at my fathers rented house in Tulsa, when I thought that I would go to NSU and spend some time with my brothers while I decided what to do with my life. At that point anything was possible for me and I guess that I thought that if I were around them then besides being happy maybe it would help me decide if there was a chance that I would go back to school. Let's face it, I wasn't exactly a stellar student. Not that I was stupid or anything like that, it's just that going to class and learning what they offered bored me and I just wasn't interested in it anymore. Still, my friends were important to me and I wanted to be around them before the hard realities of life settled on my shoulders like The Iron Sheik did when he put you in a Camel Clutch (for those that aren't familiar that's old professional wrestling lingo).

It was the beginning of November and my birthday was about two weeks away when on one fateful evening I decided to attend the weekly fraternity meeting held at the student center on NSU. Afterwards as I was walking and talking with my best friend in my life and little brother in Sig Tau (Tommy) we took the elevator down to the ground floor. As we departed from said elevator I immediately knew that something was wrong because I was suddenly surrounded by pledges. I tried a lame excuse about forgetting something upstairs but they didn't buy it and quickly grabbed me. I had no recourse but to resist in any way possible which was short lived as I was outnumbered and because none of my so called brothers deigned to assist me. As they lifted me over their heads and started to carry me towards the front door I unleashed a torrent of curse words some of which I had learned in my military training and others in the fraternity. The faces of the students passing by were a mix of horror at the expletives that were gushing from my mouth and bewilderment as to just what was going on.

Try to get a mental picture of a skinny guy being carried over a group of peoples heads as they march him to the front doors cursing like a sailor as a group of my brothers followed along laughing. We moved right past the door to the President of the University's office (which was thankfully empty) to the two sets of front doors. I tried everything I could including putting my feet on the sides of the doors and grabbing them but was unable to halt the pledges advance and shortly afterward we were in front of the building where they had to set me down in order to get me into a car. It was at this moment that I realized as one pledge held each of my arms that I had a prime chance at attempting my escape if I were willing to simply drop my hands and do the old double ball squeeze, which would also eliminate two pledges from being able to chase after me. However, since this was being done in the spirit of fun and my pledge class had done far worse to the members in our time I decided not to do anything that would injure anyone and merely resisted their attempts at putting me into the car as best I could. Plus I was afraid of what they would do to me if they caught me.

Their attempts were better than my resistance and soon we were on our way to the river accompanied by many of the members as well as the pledges. It didn't seem to matter to them that I WASN'T EVEN IN SCHOOL and that it would better serve them to get an active member but they weren't buying it. Once there I was told to get out of the car to which I responded with something like "Get me out of the car, I'm not doing your job for you." It was my intention that they work for this as much as I could make them before I ended up giving in to the inevitable. That of course came rather quickly once one of them got ahold of my right arm and gave it a sharp Aikido like twist followed by my rapid acquiescence.

Being the kind of person that I am I decided that I would not resist any further and that I would enter the river of my own volition thereby ensuring that I would have dry clothes for when I came out of the water. That's right, I decided to strip down and go in buck naked which I think shocked them a bit. Maybe because that sort of thing was extremely out of character for me but more likely it was because they saw my pale butt. At least I had the excuse of shrinkage if anyone ever decided to question my size or lack thereof. Plus to me it allowed me to regain some of my manly pride by going in under my own power instead of being thrown in. See, I CHOSE to go in. At least that's what I fooled myself into thinking. Now, it wasn't the coldest water that I've ever been in during my life but I have to say that it came pretty close however at least I did have my dry clothes to put back on. As a result of all of the conditions though I did catch a rather nasty cold.

I made the pledges abide by all of the rules even though I didn't smoke then (or now) and didn't exactly want a beer at that moment. I wasn't about to let them have it any easier than it had already been. We drove back to the house and shared a lot of laughs mainly due to my nudity and I tried to goad the pledges into getting an active member and extend the fun but they were through with their shenanigans. Soon their pledgeship would be over and I myself would be moving back to my home state of Ohio before ultimately going active duty in the Army and those days would be long gone and over with for me and everyone else involved. You see, the chapter folded a few years later and was all but forgotten except for those lucky few like me who will never let it completely fade away into obscurity. After all, that's the purpose of this blog.

I'll continue the water theme (sort of) very soon.

Published by Don Leach

Over My Head song lyrics

I friend came in to work last night and told me about how his recording session had gone with his brothers band. They are without a bassist and wanted him to play bass on a song. Nothing special mind you, just something basic so he agreed. Once he was done two members of the band showed up with a few other guys from another band that had broken up. They wanted him to play drums on a song that they had written and it also had some of his lyrics on it. At first he felt like they were much better musicians than he is but then he settled into the song and let himself be lost in it. As he described his experience I started getting an idea and it came out in a chorus for a song. I don't know if I'll work on the rest of the lyrics of if he wants to. Who knows, but I've learned that when the muse strikes, you better be ready for it or else you'll lose it. Anyway, here's the chorus that I came up with:

Start and stop

Here we go again

I feel like I’m in (Over my head)

It’s what I dread (Over my head)

Start and stop

Lose myself in it

I feel like I’m in (Over my head)

I cannot dread (Over my head)

Over My Head!

Really simple but if I feel it tomorrow I'll work on it some more.

Published by Don Leach

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Perils of Driving in Tulsa

I almost hit a child yesterday. Now before anyone gets all upset about physical abuse let me say I don't mean it in that way. Allow me explain in greater detail. I had just dropped my son off at our babysitters house and directly across from them is a school. There is a small hill which comes up against the sidewalk and it was this time for parents to pick up their children so there were a number of cars sitting at the curb.. As I started driving I noticed a little further ahead a child running backwards down the hill.

As I continued he suddenly darted from between two parked cars and if either of us hadn't been paying more attention then he'd be in the hospital right now. As it was, I saw him and hit my brakes but even so if he hadn't have also seen me then I don't think my quick reaction would have been quick enough. Thankfully he stopped and as I started driving again I watched him run behind my truck across the street. Needless to say this was a bit of an eye opener for me as well as a heart accelerator. It didn't help my mood at all that as I turned the corner I encountered a small traffic jam because parents were double parking as they waited for their children and they didn't seem to care that they were blocking traffic at all.

The traffic around this school and another that is merely about six blocks away (explain that lack of planning and foresight city of Tulsa) that I drive past has been the source of several bad experiences this past week. It seems that locally people cannot grasp the concept that just because they are there to pick up their children it doesn't mean that they can violate any traffic law that they choose. They double park, they pull out of parking lots into traffic with little to no room, they stop and talk with pedestrians and they like to drive at less than half of the posted speed even after they get several blocks out of the school zone. Trying to motion to them or honking your horn does no good because they're far too busy on their cellphones to do more than flip you (or maybe just me) off.

I know, I know, I should find another route to traverse that would allow me to skip them but it's easier said than done in residential neighborhoods and school zones. I am looking though, it's just not worth the headache involved to get all worked up. This brings another thought to the forefront of my brain though. My son will start Pre-K in the fall and even though I will be dropping him off and presumably picking him up I'm starting to have this fear that no matter how much I talk to him and explain why it's so dangerous being around all of those vehicles and how he needs to be extra careful, I also know that kids will be kids. They run around without a thought or care in the world because they are only concentrating on having fun and no matter how much you teach, preach and try to inform them ,that all goes out of their mind once they start having fun.

I think the only way to deal with it is to try and educate them to live right the best you can and then put it out of your mind. There are so many bad things that can happen to a person in this world that you'd go crazy trying to think of ways to keep someone safe at all times. It's just not possible because everybody out there can use their free will do both positive and negative things and those actions impact other people. No matter how hard the government tries to regulate safety it's an impossible task. It's just an illusion. It can't be done. Perhaps it's time to start teaching people to be responsible for their own actions once again instead of avoiding the repercussions that come with it. Nah, it'll never work.

Published by Don Leach