How to Live in an Abandoned College Town

Back in May, I wrote a piece about how to keep yourself busy if you happen to be stuck at school when all your friends go home to the real world. Because let’s face it, a place where consuming a profuse number of toxins is the standard, and morally fulfilling responsibilities is 100% optional, can never be considered the real world.

I hadn’t been back to the University of Maryland all summer, and I was dying to revisit that carefree, debauched atmosphere I had been deprived of for three months. So I went back. (Editor's note: We told him to go back.) Consider it a warm-up round for the final nine months of my college career, which are rapidly approaching.

Me and buddy Jelly laid out the plan: Go to College Park on a Saturday night, find a bar with some friends we haven’t seen since Spring, and try to get into the same booze-fueled shenanigans despite the  lack of half the campus population. We hopped into Jelly’s Volvo, scrounged some cash for a 30-pack, and high-tailed to he and his roommate NITErider’s house where we proceeded to pregame, bounce around each other’s summer stories, and listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers, just the three of us.

When we walked outside, no one was in sight.

No local year-round residents outside their house, doing whatever the hell adults living in college towns do. No duplicitous vandals lurking near parked cars with metal slim jims. Not even a single empty beer can on the side of the road. Mind you, College Park is a big town with many neighborhoods, and their house was a bit of a hike from the riotous downtown scene. But it was still a rare, strange image I wan't  used to seeing when living in a town with nearly 30,000 students.

As the three of us headed to the bars around midnight, I quickly realized that this one block consisting of CP’s most popular watering holes contained basically the entire population of collegiate boozehounds stuck there during the summer. Lines around the building, lines around the bars, lines around the bathrooms. Exactly the same as any weekend night during the school year.

The town and campus change during these months, but the bars never change. Ever. The same permeating stench that resembles an exploded septic tank, the same floors with inch-thick grime that couldn’t be penetrated with a power drill, the same toilets that have seen more regurgitation than defecation.

But what REALLY hasn’t changed about these beacons of high society during summertime is the abundance of Greek life that post up there. A lot of frat and sorority kids bartend, so naturally their brothers and sisters come in massive packs to take advantage of the free drinks.

When we got in, me, Jelly, and NITErider met up with Frye and Parrothead, two buddies from high school who were in the same fraternity. Parrothead had just come from a Jimmy Buffett concert in an ugly ass shirt, so a decent portion of the night was dedicated to berating his Hawaiian clown costume.

We proceeded to order tequila shots then, from the night, the night moved into random disconnected scenarios that stood out in my aching head the next morning—the small jam band getting busted for playing outside our local Smoothie King; a philosophical discussion about how the type of noodles you prefer defines you as a person.

It was the same kind of drunk with the same kind of people at the same kind of shitholes. The entire half of College Park where NITErider and Jelly’s house is located was eerily vacant, but the bars were more alive than some September weekends.

That’s the one thing that trumps the essential need to have a roof over your head: alcoholism.