Sunday, May 16, 2010


My first two years of college, I lived in a unique residential living-learning program, where I met numerous really cool people who became lifelong friends. One of the traditions at Residential College is that each semester, most of the dorm packs up and retreats for a weekend to a giant cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Alumni and faculty are invited, too. (Well, alumni WERE invited, until my freshman class sort of ruined things for posterity with a weekend of debauchery exacerbated by alcohol provided by older alumni. But that’s a blog post for another day.) Alumni are now only invited in the spring semester, so one spring, some of my closest friends decided to have a mini reunion by attending the retreat.

We decided it would be a good idea to arrive earlier than the current students, so that we could stake out the best rooms, which for us usually means the third floor. There are two things you need to know about my college bud Alan: he loves movies and he is very nostalgic. When he arrived, Alan was immediately put off by the fact that the century-old building had been renovated. No longer were the walls covered in graffiti scribbled or carved by school kids at summer camps during the past 50 years, as he so fondly remembered. The walls had been sanded down and restored to their beautiful stained wooden surface. This white-washing was almost sacrilege to Alan. Whatever mark he had left on the wall of a third floor room himself a dozen years prior was now lost to history.

This was unconscionable. It was a wrong that, after a few beers, Alan decided simply could not go unrighted. Armed with a knife, he began carving into the wall above his bed. I can’t be sure of his reasoning, but since there were actually snow flurries that night and we entertained the possibility of being snowed in, and since it was a giant cabin in the mountains (it sleeps 75) with long dark hallways, the mark he decided to make upon the wall, in homage to the horror movie The Shining, was “REDRUM.”

Fast-forward eight years. My fiancĂ© and I decided that the retreat center and its rustic scenery would be the perfect spot for our destination "Highland Hitchin'" wedding. We reserved it for two days for all our guests. On the eve before our big day, we had a handful of special helper-guests meet us in the giant cabin to set things up before the other guests arrived. The groom’s motley contingent of friends known as "The Guys" began schlepping their bags up the stairs in the otherwise quiet building. I had assigned them to a room with a lot of single beds on the third floor.

Chuck, who had never been to this place before, took in its rustic setting and long hallways and pointed out to the other Guys the inherent appeal for serial killers and psychos. Just as he was dropping his bags onto one of the beds to claim it as his own, he noticed some graffiti scratched above it and started to comment, "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if this graffiti said-"

What followed was a shriek so shrill that my fiancé and I heard it two floors below and wondered which guest had brought along a six-year-old girl.

Congratulations, Alan. You left your mark on posterity.

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