Once upon a time, the western-most space on the first floor of our house was a semi-formal living room. It has built in book shelves, a gas fireplace, an antique oak roll-top desk, a large couch, and a couple of nice rocking chairs. In bygone days I used to work at the desk once in a while, or enjoy a warm fire while reading a book on a cold winter’s night.
No more. The amigos and their friends have coopted the room and converted it into their own cozy little Delta Tau Chi fraternity. For those too young or too cultured to know, Delta Tau Chi is the formal Greek name of the infamous “Animal House” inhabited by John Belushi (aka, Bluto Blutarsky), Tim Matheson (aka, Eric “Otter” Stratton) and their brethren in the 1978 comedy directed by John Landis.
For those neither too young nor too cultured, you’ll remember some of the hijinks depicted in the movie (set in 1962 at fictional Faber College, located somewhere in Pennsylvania): absurdly out of control drinking, a toga party which included terrific music from Otis Day and the Knights and Belushi destroying an acoustic guitar, a road trip to a nearby Women’s college, a food fight at one of the college’s cafeterias, Dean Wormer closing down Animal House for its innumerable violations of Faber’s code of conduct (to which Blutarsky laments, “Seven years of college down the drain!”), etc., etc. As its name indicates, the frat house is a veritable mess and its inhabitants are, to put it charitably, constantly on the precipice of some sort of disaster.
Back to the amigos and our 2016 version of Animal House. Abby is the outgoing, friendly, inviting member of the frat. She’s the social director. She’s “Otter” Stratton, minus his faux urbanity and hyper-interest in the opposite sex (thank God). She’ll admit anyone, and do so with alacrity. She’s quick to spot a potential member’s strengths and virtues. On the other hand, she’s also absent-minded and leaves all sorts of mess and detritus behind for others to clean up and has a tendency to wear earphones when playing on the computer in the frat-room. This tendency is understandable, given all the commotion that’s typically transpiring around her, but it produces the annoying consequence of our having to yell repeatedly (and in successively increased volume levels) to gain her attention.
Daniel appears to be the fraternity’s newest pledge and is therefore relegated to quasi-slave status. He’s the member who’s constantly commanded to get something for one of the other members when they’re too busy (i.e., engaged in a video game) to do it for themselves. “Hey, Daniel, get my water from the fridge, willya?” or “Daniel, someone’s knocking at the door! Go answer it—I’m in the middle of something!” are fairly typical statements heard emanating from the western portion of our home. Daniel is every frat’s dream pledge: eager and willing to please, good-natured, almost never complains even when he’s got plenty of justification for doing so. He’s “Flounder” from the movie, a freshmen who is slightly desperate for acceptance, willing to do almost anything to gain it, and join Delta house because it’s the only frat that will take them.
Luke is “Bluto”—irreverent, energetic, comedic, hedonistic, and a little slow (though he’s improving in this regard) to realize when he’s placed himself in peril of unpleasant consequences. Left to his own devices, our 11 year old Bluto would go to bed at 2:00 a.m., wake up at noon, play on the PS 4 until God-knows-when, shower perhaps every third day or so, have Daniel/Flounder bring him food and drink throughout his waking hours, and leave the frat house every so often to play baseball, shoot hoops in the driveway, or hang with his posse at the municipal pool.
This comparison is severely limited, but I would say that Krista most resembles the character “Niedermeyer,” the ROTC cadet from the rival Omega house—driven, disciplined, borderline obsessive-compulsive, and constantly the butt of the Delta house members’ jokes. Luckily for the amigos, Krista is unlike Niedermeyer in two important respects: (1) She mothers them with devotion, patience, and appropriate expectations, and (2) she doesn’t spit when speaking (Niedermeyer sprays all over Flounder during an ROTC exercise when sputtering apoplectically in his face “A pledge [spittle flies] pin [more spittle]?!!? On your uniform?!”).
And me? Well, obviously, I’m Dean Wormer, and I come with all the baggage that implies. I try to affect positive change and encourage dignified behavior, but I am often ineffective. Still, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve for the amigos, and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this to yourself.
At just the right moment this summer I’m going to unload my secret weapon that’s sure to have the desired effect: Double-secret probation!