Friday, April 12, 2013

Out on the Town

Saturday night was the Penn State Graphic Design students’ annual Film Follies. I’ve been going for a long time—I think this might be the third venue I’ve seen them in—the first place has long since been demolished and replaced with something bigger and better. (Actually, just bigger.) It’s a fun marker of the end of the spring semester at Penn State, though each year I’m a tad more astonished than the last at how young college seniors are. It’s been a long time since I burned my candle at both ends at Dear Old UVa.  

Very few of the follies in the Film Follies are live action films—they’re typically slide shows or animations. And they’re brief too. Don’t go expecting an undergraduate’s take on The Ten Commandments or Gone with The Wind.
Generally speaking, the subject matter is about issues important to undergraduates—stuff like getting drunk, hooking up, and the bathroom, not to mention the combo platter of getting drunk and hooking up in the bathroom. But there are also projects about serious subjects like global warming and bullying. This year they were a little more serious than usual: there wasn’t a single project covering masturbation in the library or flatulence during a calculus exam. What is this world coming to?  But the kids are creative, some even have a sense of humor, and I marvel at the technology that they use. By the end of the show of digital extravaganzas I wondered if they even knew where to purchase an Xacto knife and a jar of rubber cement.

The fashion scene there is always quite something. Graphics students seem to be a fashion forward lot and so they’re in a lot of black, which is the universal uniform of artistic credibility. But this year the kids went out on a limb and did black and white. At the same time. Yowza.

After the FF, my chums and I met some friends we don’t see very often for drinks. They didn’t want to go someplace loud, and they were emphatic about that, since, of course, everyone knows that my first choice is always to go to a cavernous dance club with deafening music located between a stone quarry and the end of the main runway at O’Hare Airport. While I see their point (a bit), if I wanted to have a drink someplace quiet and boring, I’d stay home.

Working under the theory that it would be quiet enough even if the house drink wasn’t the Geritol martini, we went to Zola, State College’s upscale hipster restaurant. I wasn’t expecting it to be as full as it was, but it was quite crowded. The bartender told us that it was fraternity and sorority parents’ weekend, to which I replied, “Great. Two generations of assholes in town.” 

Since a bunch of seats in one place wasn’t happening, Pam and I sat at the bar while the others crowded around a small cocktail table out of earshot.  

On my right were three macho enough types. After I checked them out I checked out what they were drinking (for those of you keeping score at home, white wine is an instant DQ). I did a double take when I noticed that the guy in the middle was drinking something golden and frothy from a martini glass.  “Uh, excuse me, what’s that thing you’re drinking?”  And that was how we met Nick, Wes and Nick. Or maybe it was Wes, Nick, and Wes. My head was a little unclear on that the next day. One was a physician’s assistant, the second a former surgical equipment salesman now selling organic/artisanal hooch, and the third, the one drinking the beer, was an attorney. They were doing the rounds of State College bars, spending some quality time with their friend John Barleycorn and enjoying the parade of pre-cougar female pulchritude that is State College on a Saturday night. We listened to their elevator speeches and they seemed like good guys.

The golden and frothy drink in question was a Fig Kiss. Yeah, someone really invented that. Its claim to fame is that Lady Gaga ordered one. It’s made with something like limoncello but made with figs, so it might have been called figicello. Wes (or Nick) offered us a slurp and Pam pronounced it tasty. Although I’ve slurped on worse things, that cocktail wasn’t something I needed to try. 

After the three guys left, Pam and I joined our friends at their cocktail table and yakked about weddings, the Boy Scouts, foreign countries, and differential equations.

Zola isn’t a late night place, and when it cleared out the others decided it was time for their beauty sleep. Pam and I headed to Chumley’s, State College’s best bar, for a nightcap. Ellen, the manager, is a super host and makes everyone feel at home. It’s sort of like Cheers meets the Algonquin Round Table meets a gay West Virginia road house. In other words, what’s not to like?

It was crowded. And loud, though OSHA regs didn't require us to wear ear protection. The crowd was pretty jolly. It wasn’t a night for my usual M.O. of standing around and not saying much.

No, this isn't Kenny. It's not even in State College. But hey, if that guy in green trousers doesn't have a place in my blog, I don't know who does.
Kenny, a biology grad student slash foodie, greeted me with “Say Rick, that guy you were in here with the other day…is he gay? He gave me his phone number.” I thought of typing LOL into my phone and handing it to him. Instead, I did things the old fashioned way and laughed out loud. I said, “No, he’s not gay. I went to his wedding. To a woman. Definitely not gay. Knows no show tunes and wouldn’t know a pelmet from a peplum.”  

He asked if I were sure, all the while giving me that look that said, “You so do not know what you’re talking about.”  OK, maybe I’m not as sure as I thought I was. But I’m still pretty sure.

All the while I was thinking, “I can’t believe he’d pick Mr. X over me.”

Kenny was accompanied by a gaggle of guys. It included Jeff, who’s in toxic waste dumps and is from New Jersey but claimed not to know which exit. (As fibs go, it ranks right up there with I’ll respect you in the morning, and I won’t, well, you know in your you know.)  In discussing Mr. X, Jeff claimed to have great gaydar, and I said that I wished that he could give me some pointers, since I was well into Season 2 of Will and Grace before I figured out that Jack was gay. In quick succession I met Dan the nuclear engineering student, Kyle the accounting major, and Ryan who did something else. And then there was a second Pam who was with Steve. Pam works at a social service agency with one of my friends and Steve, well, he did something else too, though probably not the same as Ryan’s something else. I gathered, however, that he probably wanted to do Ryan. The guys were bright and witty—Fred Flintstone would have let out a yabba dabba doo or two—and much more fun than a quiet drink at home. 

Mindful of the show biz adage that you always have to leave them wanting more, and before someone bought me a Geritol martini (once ordered by Lady Gaga's grandfather), I decided that it was time to head home. I had to usher in church the next day and that’s the sort of date on which you need to smell like Old Spice rather than Old Grand Dad.    

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