River Falls Days

Ew, just...ewThe street is full of college kids, twenty-somethings and townies celebrating a festival in this small university town. Every university town demographic is represented: ex-jocks with breaching beer guts, hippies, townies, barflies, farmers, the former big man on campus who lives with his parents again and the sorority girl who is dressed like a senate candidate. Other than the three people I am with, I have never seen any of these people before in my entire life, yet I recognize them all. I organize them into social partitions in my mind as though I were walking amongst people I knew around my university town. This is because every university town is exactly the same; only the name of the town changes. Sometimes.

At the River Falls Days festival, the town celebration attracts alumni and townies, glass blowers, former residents and, well, English teachers living in the Czech Republic. For most it’s a chance to celebrate the town, but for alumni (and us) it is a chance to live like university students once again. And that is exactly what we do.

We arrive and immediately start drinking Miller High Life in cans and chilled bourbon shots. We sit on the porch and annoy the neighbors and slap at mosquitoes and tell stories about cavalier actions in times of duress that are, quite frankly, crap. Yet each story is more glorious than the last. There is tobacco in every form and Taco Bell, which quickly reminds me of why I stopped eating it in the first place about fifteen years ago.

We get to a college bar full of college people and start up immediately with a series of bar sports that pit teacher against teacher and glass blower against construction worker. Collin and I lose the bean bag toss and are forced to buy the booty shots. We win shuffle puck, shouting inane Czech insults at each other that acquire stares from the other patrons who have no idea that I just called Collin an ‘Egg Dog’ or a ‘Table Pig.’ The tie is broken with darts as Collin and I sweep up the floor with Steve and his stout companion. A group of bouncers come to the bar for last call, there is not one who doesn’t have either a mullet or a Mohawk.

We head back to Steve’s house and are soon joined by the 150 people that Steve has invited back to his house on the walk home. There are water pistol fights and terrible YouTube videos. There is Moussaka that I mistook for peach cobbler and Old Crow whiskey. I wake up on the couch surrounded by obese cats who are all mimicking my sleeping position with cruel accuracy. The others have gone to see a movie and I read for a short while before getting to my writing.

University towns may be exactly the same, but there are a couple things which set River Falls aside from Pittsburgh. The Midwest accents are unmistakable, the Bloody Marys come with pickles and not celery. The haircuts are on a different planet, not worse, but equally as terrible as those in Pittsburgh, just in a different way.

In one final stroke of differentiation, we stop at a dive bar on the way home and feast on pickled turkey gizzards. They look like light gray sacks of fat, but actually go down quite well with a Leinenkugel’s Original draft. The bartender is wearing camouflage hunter’s cap and cut off jeans. She tells us about the employment opportunities at the local gas station. We listen with interest and as I dessert on a pickled egg, I consider picking up an application.

  1. #1 by Jeremy Nicholson on July 27, 2012 - 2:43 pm

    Believe me, there are more than a few nights I wonder what I was doing, leaving the land of great beer and idiocy. And then I remembered that my ex-girlfriend still lived there and I came to my senses.

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