Tag Archives: Dartmouth

The Triple Zoom

Winter term of my freshman year, the drinking age was eighteen and several of the guys in my dorm and I decided to hit fraternity row. It’s a bucolic little street with maybe a half-dozen fraternities lined up on each side. It’s anchored on one end by Baker Library and on the other by the President’s home (neither of which did much to dispel the revelry one enjoyed there).

Late that night, Chuck, Lefty, Hilliard and I found ourselves in the basement of Beta. There was a crowd but nothing specific going on – no band or cocktail party – just beers on a Friday night. We were standing near the back of the basement where four guys were playing a game of “Zoom, Schwartz.”

Zoom, Schwartz is a drinking game. While the rules are simple, the game itself is difficult to play – especially if you’ve been drinking. It’s a verbal game of tag where players stand in a circle and bark out one of four commands to tag another player – who then has to use one of the four commands to tag someone else. If you speak out of turn or fail to respond quickly enough when you are tagged, the game stops and you are required to drink. You are only allowed four drinks to a cup of beer and if you get tagged three times in a row, you chug.

The four commands are, “Zoom” – which designates the player at whom you are looking. “Schwartz” – which designates the last person who spoke. “Budeman” – which designates the person to your left. “Perfigliano” signifies the person to your right. On this last, the shortened “Figliano” is considered an acceptable contraction due to the speed of the game.

So much for the rules. Back to the basement of Beta.

“You guys want to play?”

It took us a nanosecond to say yes. Freshmen aren’t always welcomed into upper class sanctuaries, let alone invited to join in their fun. I had an older brother who belonged to Bones Gate (another fraternity) where they played a similar game called Wales Tails (‘nounce pronounce the prince and four, regular Wales Tales, the prince calls on…) So, I thought we could hang.

I was wrong.

They were so fast! “Zoom, Zoom, Shwartz, Budeman, Figliano, Boom.”

“Boom? BOOM? Drink ‘shmen!”

We couldn’t follow them. It was like watching a professional team play against a high school. They owned us. And we were too embarrassed to quit. Once they realized that we couldn’t keep up, they started to single each one of us out, ganging up to force three mistakes in a row. We were chugging left and right. It was a nightmare. The drunker we became the worse we played. Finally, one of us booted and they kicked us out. We returned to our dorm in shame.

The next morning we met up at Thayer Dining Hall.

“Unacceptable.” Hilliard said, shoving his plate away.

“They fucked us.” Lefty was so made he could spit.

Chuck drummed his fingers on the table. “We can’t go back there…not unless we get better.”

I lifted up my head. “So, let’s get better.”

We chipped up a keg, I called Mo’s and within an hour we were set to go in the common area of our dorm. We circled around a trashcan and made a vow that none of us could leave the game until we booted.   We nicknamed the game “Boot, Shwartz.”

We played all day. We stumbled through the first hours, but as time moved on, we began to feel the rhythm of the game.

“Zoom, Shwartz, Figliano, Budeman, Budeman, Schwartz, Zoom.” We became supercritical of each other. “That was a roving Zoom. Drink!” “Too slow. Drink!”

Eventually, we all booted into the can and had to stop.

Sunday morning the keg was still there. So was the boot bucket. Each of us took our places and again we began.   One beer in and we were back up to speed. We started using headfakes, double Zooms. We got so good, if felt like we could read each other minds.

“Zoom-Zoom, Budeman, Figliano, Figliano, Shwartz, Shwartz, Zoom, Schartz…the sequences got longer and longer…it took a minor miracle for someone to make a mistake. No one booted on Sunday.

We were ready. The next Friday night, we met outside Beta, our faces solemn.

“We got this.” We high-fived each other and went inside.

Same basement. Same guys. They seemed surprised that we had returned. We got a beer and talked amongst ourselves, waiting…hoping to get the invite. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Beta boys discussing it amongst themselves.  They were laughing, remembering how poorly we had played last week. Finally, one of them shrugged and they all nodded.

“You guys want to play again?”

“Yeah, if that’s okay with you guys.”

“Your funeral.”

Lefty started. We double-zoomed them and although they were surprised, they were quick enough to return fire. We began to use head fakes. We anticipated each other’s moves. The Beta boys started to falter. After ten minutes, they were drinking as much as we were. We adopted their tactics, imitated their moves. They started to get angry.

Now the alcohol was working against them. Their faces grew serious. Ours, on the other hand, were exuberant. We knew we were winning. They tried to gang up on one of us, but we diverted the attack. After a really good head fake, one of them spoke out of turn. He drank. When he started the game again and we pegged him with another head fake. Same result.

“Fuck.” He knew we were coming for him. His buddies tried to deflect our assault, but we were faster. We were pounding him with commands, but despite all our pressure, he remained resilient. We had all of his attention now and could see the determination on his face. He wasn’t backing down and we couldn’t seem to catch him. He was playing at a higher level – until the triple-zoom.

You have to be really good to pull off a triple zoom. We had practiced it enough, but too often, the second or third player would speak too quickly, disrupting the order of commands. Speaking out of turn was a drinking offense, so the ploy backfired as much as it worked.

Hilliard set it up. He was grinning an evil grin and looking at my ear on each command, so I knew he wanted to try it. I looked at Lefty and he had seen it too. With a smirk, he nodded. We played along, waiting for Hilliard to get called. At long last he caught a Budeman. He took a deep breath. I looked at Lefty’s ear. Lefty looked at the Beta boy.

“Zoom-Zoom-Zoom.” We spoke almost in unison. The call bounced from Hilliard to me, from me to Lefty, and from Lefty to the Beta boy in under a second. By the time he realized it was aimed at him, it was too late. He had taken to long to respond.

“Fuck!” He was furious.

We were laughing.

“Get the Fuck out of here!” His face had turned crimson.

“You have to chug first.”

“Get the fuck out of here!” The room had quieted. We suddenly were in unfriendly waters. Guys were lining up behind Beta boy.

“Time to go,” Hilliard whispered. And go we did.

I never got invited to join Beta. Neither did Lefty, or Hilliard, or Chuck. But, I’ll never forget the look on that guy’s face after the triple zoom. It was worth it.

It was so worth it.

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Bucky F#@king Dent

Say the name, “Bucky Dent” aloud in Boston and you will stop any conversation cold. No one ever says, “Bucky Dent” in Boston. They say, “Bucky Fucking Dent.”

Some might think it odd that the name of a New York Yankee short stop would be so universally recognized in Beantown, but to almost any Bostonian Dent’s name symbolizes eighty-four years of anger and frustration at the Red Sox’s inability to win a World Series.

It was in Boston, October 2, 1978; the Red Sox were playing the Yankees in a tie-breaking playoff game for the American League East Championship. Dent, who was not known for his hitting, batted ninth and had very few homeruns to his name. Yet that night, Dent hit a three-run homer over the Green Monster to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. They went on to win the game and afterwards the World Series. It was yet another close call with no reward in a city desperate for satisfaction. Worse it was a loss to their perennial rivals from New York.

In Boston, they hate New York. After that night, they hated Bucky Dent.

And, I was there.

Not at the baseball game – I was in town with my older brother Goose. Despite the fact that we are both from New York, we had come for the Harvard v. Dartmouth football game that Saturday and were staying at our fraternity’s headquarters on Bay State Road, commonly known as “The Grand Lodge.”

We had met up with a bunch of Dartmouth guys for the night and ended up in the wee hours at Kenmore Square, only about six blocks from the Grand Lodge. The place was packed with a sea of people, almost all of who were drunk and hungry for an early morning hoagie. There were maybe ten of us, striving to make our way through the crush of bodies to the counter. There were so many people, like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, you couldn’t move anywhere in a straight line. You had to move with the ebb and flow of the crowd’s tide to make your way.

I was about ten yards into the fray when I heard shouting behind me.

“New York sucks! New York SUCKS!” Clearly, the post play-off game fury had set in and some of the folks by the door were taking it personally.

I turned around just in time to see my brother sucker punched in the face by a guy with a buzz cut. Fists started flying and I realized Goose was grossly outnumbered. I looked for my Dartmouth friends to call for help, but they were too far away. I shouted, but they didn’t hear me and I knew if I tried to reach them it would be too late to help Goose.

I headed back. By the time I got to him, a cop had arrived. He was African American. There were about six or seven guys from Boston on one side of him and Goose on the other. I stood next to Goose.

“What’s going on here?” The cop demanded.

“That guy,” shouted Buzz Cut, “shit on Boston.”

“All I said was, “I’m from New York.” Goose wiped his nose to see if there was blood.

Someone in the crowd started taunting the cop, using the N-word.

“Are you going to let him shit on Boston?” Buzz Cut asked.

The cop looked worried. He, like Goose, was outnumbered and the crowd was turning ugly. Again, I heard the N-word.

“I want all of you out of here!” The cop waved his Billy club. “If you aren’t off this street corner in ten seconds, you’ll be arrested.”

I looked at the guys from Boston. They were itching for a fight.

“I’m out.” Goose walked away.

I knew they would follow.

“Wait. Goose! Let’s get arrested.”

“What? No. We’re done here. It’s over.”

“Please, Goose. Stay here. It won’t be so bad.”

I watched him walk away. The Boston guys were laughing. The cop was gone and Goose was heading back towards Bay State Road. I didn’t have a choice. I went with him.

“You know they’re coming.”

“Nah. It’s over.”

But, I could see them in the shadows behind us. I reached into my pocket. I had a lot of loose change. I shook the coins into my hand to give my fist weight and prayed I wouldn’t need it.

We walked the two blocks to Bay State Road and turned left. There was a streetlight on the corner and a party across the street in one of the row houses. People had spilled out of the front door into the yard.

They were still behind us. Four blocks to go. Three. I saw some movement across the street. It looked like a couple of them were running ahead of us.

“Hey, New York.” It was Buzz Cut.

“It’s over.” We kept walking.

“Hey, New York! Talk to me.” They were right behind us.

We turned. “Look –

Both Goose and I got hit from behind.

Now, I don’t know why I didn’t go down. The guy who tried to tackle me hit high and I instinctively bent at the waist. His momentum flipped him over me and he landed on the ground in front of me. I punched him in the face.

Goose had gone down, but I had other worries. I was surrounded.

Now, I’m not going to lie; I was scared. I felt my bowels start to give. (That’s right, I almost literally shit my pants). It was a “fight or flee moment” and it looked like I was going to fight.

They were taunting me. “Fuck you, New York.”

“We are going beat the shit out of you.”

I struggled to control my fear. There was a fence nearby and I figured if I could get my back to it, at least I would see the attacks coming. Unfortunately, one of them stood in my way. I hit him in the face and ran past him to the fence. I turned back – and realized my mistake. Now, I had nowhere to run. They stood in a semi-circle around me.

“How brave. Seven against one.”

Buzz Cut smiled. “That’s right. But, we’re going to kick the shit out of you.”

It was then I remembered the house party down the street. Maybe if I could fight my way there, someone would help. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was a plan. I sized up the guys on that side of the semi-circle and picked the smallest one. I ran right at him and punched him in the face. To my surprise, he went right down and I sprinted past him.

They were on my heels. I got to the sidewalk and felt someone grab my shoulder. I turned. It was Buzz Cut. We threw a flurry of punches, none of which seemed to land, but it gave me some space. I back-pedaled. Another flurry and I ran to the corner. They followed, The streetlight was one block up. It was Buzz Cut doing all the fighting. He chased as I back-pedaled. We’d exchange blows and I’d keep moving. One more block to go. I got about halfway down the street when Buzz Cut picked up a garbage can and threw it at my head. I lifted a hand to block it and Buzz Cut tackled me. As I went down, the others descended on me and started kicking. I covered up my head and hoped someone from the party would see us.

They did.

“Hey! What the fuck?! What are you doing to that guy?”

After a few moments the kicking stopped and a hand pulled me up. It was Goose.

“You all right?”

“Yeah.” The guys from the party had Buzz Cut, both arms behind his back and none of his friends in sight. He was younger than I expected. And, it was clear he was scared, expecting me to hit him.

“Get the fuck out of here.”

They let him go and he disappeared into the night. I turned back to Goose.

“What happened to you?” He looked untouched.

“The guy who tackled me, hit me in the head. I think he broke his hand. When I got up, he ran away. I followed you down here.”

And that was it. Other than a cut on my cheek and some bruised ribs, I was okay. Our buddies caught up with us later. They wanted to chase down the Boston guys, but I knew they were long gone.

After that, I never had any sympathy for Boston’s losing streak.   Although I have friends from Boston, I didn’t cheer for them in 2004 when they finally won the Series.

If asked where I stood on the rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, I would pause and smile and then say I was with Bucky Dent…Bucky Fucking Dent.

That always ended the conversation.

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The Origins of Fizzbin

images-3I spent a winter term abroad teaching on one of Dartmouth’s Language Study Abroad programs in France. We got a ten-day break in the middle of the term and almost everyone skipped town to make good use of our Eurail passes. I palled up with Stanley Weil to visit Nice, Monaco, Florence and Munich. To keep our costs down, we took midnight trains between destinations and, splitting a couple of bottles of wine, slept as best we could on the hard third-class seats.

He had a deck of cards and we wore it out, passing the time between destinations. We played Spades, Hearts, Crazy Eights, Gin and anything else we could remember. At some point we had had enough. All the games had been played out. Continue reading

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Tuesday Poetry Post

It’s snowing in New England and this close to Christmas everyone is pressed for time getting everything ready for the holiday.  It made me think of this poem by Robert Frost and my good friend Pete Volanakis.

It’s short.  You have time.

ef2c344d6fb6b5825c84f5e756f019dcStopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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