On Friday I looked forward to this past weekend's informal Red & Black reunion in Athens by recounting my five most treasured memories from college, but what I failed to consider at the time was just how little of the surface of my college years I was actually scratching. That didn't really dawn on me until we met up at the new R&B headquarters on Baxter Street, which make our old shop at 123 North Jackson look like a Cabrini-Green meth lab by comparison. Not only is the building itself a palace, but the kids who get to work there now are using computers every bit as fancy as the hardware I've got at my current job. I would go off on a crotchety rant about life not being fair and kids these days not knowing how good they have it and blah blah blah, but I can't because I've been distracted by a fascinating feature that longtime publisher Harry Montevideo was kind enough to show us on Saturday: The entire back catalog of the R&B, every last issue, has been digitized by the UGA library and put online. You can browse through them here (though you may have to download a plug-in to get started).
I won't bore you -- and oh, lordy, would I bore you -- by repeating all my Greatest Hits from the opinions page; anything you can conjure up in your head about my circa-1998 feelings on SUVs, the Republican Party, or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is probably far superior to what I actually wrote. What I will do is give you a little nostalgia tour of the mugshots that went with those columns. I think this historical rundown -- an "Evolution of the Feces," if you will, and I do -- is going to be instructive in terms of demonstrating why my success with women, even in a target-rich environment such as the University of Georgia, has been so meager over the years.
Herewith, my first-ever R&B mugshot. Keep in mind this is how thousands of readers were first introduced to me back in mid-1997.
Now, I distinctly remember being laid low with a raging head cold at the time that photo was taken, so it's not like I was putting my best foot (or face) forward by any means, but still, gahh. My goatee looks like it was maintained with a Black & Decker hedge trimmer, and needless to say, I wasn't smiling (in fact, I only actually learned how to smile for photos sometime in the last six months or so).
Thankfully, version 2.0, which mercifully replaced Boo Radley up there in time to make regular appearances on the editorial page during the summer I served as opinions editor, was a little better . . .
The good news is, the goatee was a little better-trimmed by that point; the bad news is, it still existed at all, and my sartorial choices weren't much better (that said, you can have my Gap anorak when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands). When I was appointed Variety editor for the regular daily fall paper later that year, we took another one . . .
. . . in which I actually bothered to look presentable (I think I had a job interview or a meeting or something like that the morning that photo was taken, hence the reason they were able to catch me on the one day out of the year I was wearing a tie). The goatee's still there, but oddly enough, I finally ditched it within two weeks of this shot; surely, then, the final version of this mug, the one that was front and center during my last semester, the one during which I actually got to occupy the editor-in-chief's chair, we'd finally get right . . .
Ohhhh. No dice. So sad. The goatee's gone, but so's the coat and tie, and my hairstyle has regressed back to something closer to what I was rocking in sixth grade than anything that would be considered remotely stylish, even in 1999.
Based on this series, then, I can only estimate that at no time in my college career, even on my best days, did I ever rise higher than, say, 40th percentile out of the whole student body in terms of physical attractiveness. It's tough having a Costco economy-sized drum of FAIL staring you in the face like that, but fortunately, I've risen above it.
The top photo is me (far right) with four of my best friends from the R&B; the bottom photo is me and my friend Jennifer getting wicked pissed at The Globe on Friday night. And I have finally become, as you can see, one sexy bitch. I've long since aged to the point where I'm too old to be considered desirable by college chicks, but it still happened. I count this as a moral victory.
Me and my favorite journalism professor, Conrad Fink, in the R&B newsroom. Fink was the AP's Asia bureau chief during much of Vietnam, and thus spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time lying on his stomach in rice paddies with bullets whizzing over his head; I'm sure he could not be prouder that I'm now basically living off a state government's dime, for all intents and purposes doing PR for a university.
The girls and the guys at the Twilight Criterium bike race in downtown Athens. Goddamn, those are some sexy individuals up there. And the girls aren't bad either.
Last but not least, our whole group in the lobby of the R&B building.
Obviously, after a weekend of uproarious-laughter-filled reminiscing and All-Pro alcohol consumption, the question was frequently asked -- not least by Your Humble Blogger -- Why in the world did we ever graduate from here? For many of us, this often graduated into, Hell, I'm comin' back! It really is sad how much better-equipped I am right now to have a non-stop kickass four years of college than I was back then; my alcohol tolerance has increased dramatically (I was effectively on a solid IV drip from 5 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m., and still woke up bright 'n' early Sunday morning ready to run a 5K if I had to); I'm a better writer now, too; and I'm exponentially more attractive than I was ay any point between September 1995 and May 1999 (though certain caveats apply to that statement, of course).
And yet, even if I could be magically offered four more undergrad years at UGA with which to inflict my older, wiser, sexier self on the world, it probably wouldn't be as good, because my fondness for the place has so much to do with the people who were enjoying it along with me -- the folks I got to hang out with this past weekend. If I could gather 10 or 12 of us up in an MTV "Real World" house on Milledge Avenue and relive the good ol' days that way, I'd do it in a heartbeat, but since that's not feasible -- even if it is a pretty intriguing reality-show premise, now that I think about it -- those days are probably best left as-is in our collective memory banks, unsullied by any craven mid- or one-third-life attempts at going back and re-enacting them. Not that it would necessarily be as soul-obliterating as this, but it wouldn't have been nearly as fun as what I remember. Memory Lane may have been widened and expanded out into a roaring twelve-lane superhighway, but that doesn't mean you're still not screwed if you get on the wrong side and barrel headlong into oncoming traffic.
But that just makes those friends, and the fact that they've seen fit to stay so close to me (and each other) over the years, mean that much more. Y'all know who you are, both those of you who were at the "reunion" and those who couldn't make it, and this is as good a time as any to say: Thank you. Thank you for letting me join in your reindeer games; thank you for cheering me when I was up and giving me a hand when I was down; thank you for making me pee my pants with laughter on an hourly, if not minutely, basis; and thank you for, by your mere presence, making me a happier, cooler, and better person.
And I'm not kidding about the "Real World" thing. Tell me now if you want on that list, 'cause when my Mega Millions numbers finally hit, we're totally doing that.