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Death by saxophone

I'm not proud but, it was necessary at the time

In 1973, after my first three semesters of college I gave up my go-gettum Army ROTC Scholarship and called a do-over.
I enrolled at UW Madison with a new scholastic attitude; slow it down, enjoy college, try new courses, join clubs and take advantage of what we’ll call pharmaceutical opportunities.
My new attitude wouldn’t square with dorm life so I got an apartment. Back then you could work part time and still afford rent, food, beer AND tuition. So I settled into an easy academic equilibrium … until 1977. I forget what year I was in. What do they call your sixth year as an undergrad? Let’s go with my “Slothmore year". Anyway, that year I met Will Rodgers. Like the famous Will Rogers except spelled with a “d.” R-O-D-G-E-R-S. Will was gangly, loud and fun. The life of any party. He rocked a sort of "jolly biker" look; leather bomber jacket, t-shirts and jeans held up by a brass belt buckle the size of an Egg McMuffin.
The buckle had a portrait of the famous Will Rogers; cowboy hat, rope border, but Rodgers spelled with the “d.” Will was able to buy a thousand of those buckles for $15 from the guy who made the mistake. He handed them out like business cards.
Will had this crazy idea that life might be even better after college, something I’d never considered. He’s like, “We just work during the week, party on weekends, GRADUATE, get a job, have money, a car, all that!” When he put it that way … So we decided to move back into the dorms, as roommates, and finish up school.
Unfortunately, a family emergency kept Will out of school that semester. The university was slow to react and I ended up alone in a dorm room for two, right on the Lake Mendota!
It was a half-price paradise. Big room. Two of everything. I pulled the two beds together and slept in a king. One desk for studying, one for my stereo. And two bookcases so I had room for all my albums on one side and a smattering of art objects on the other. Very Architectural Digest. Turns out, dorm life didn’t seem so bad and smoking out the window was a small price to pay.
I landed a pretty sweet job in the Engineering Research Building working 9P to 3A with two grad students from Japan. I’m a night person so that’s perfect plus I learned some useful Japanese phrases like (Phonetic - Mo yamiti Nijon, knee caree musho!”) Translated roughly, “Let’s scrap this project and move back to Japan.” Always got a laugh.
Anyway, life was good until I came back from Winter Break and found out I’d been assigned a roommate. Homer.
I was not happy. Suddenly my life of abundance and privilege was over. I lost half my furniture to a guy I’d describe as humorless with a touch of rage. Oh, and I went from my “minimalist chic” style to mill pond dredgings.
Homer decorated his half of the room with fish. Fish posters. He had a paper maché fish bigger than me propped in a corner. The mirror over his dresser was framed with fish vertebrae. Everything was fish or fishing. And worst of all, he announces he’s a morning person.
I decided I needed to turn Homer into an ex-roommate ASAP.
And you’re thinking, “Whoa, Peter, ever hear of tolerance?” And I know, you’ve all had that difficult roommate, right? The guy with anger issues who’s being moved to a new room halfway through the year because he beat the crap out of his last roommate with the guy's own saxophone. Then threw the it out a window. The guy who, three times in our first week locked me out of my room, twice nearly naked because I was down the hall in the shower when he left and he was paranoid that someone is going to sneak into our room and steal his … fish. And did I mention he was a morning person?!
Operation “off the hook” began with a pipe. He said he hated tobacco so I took up the pipe and every time he left I’d shotgun a cloud into the room. He liked to look at the lake, I’d keep the curtains closed. When I was working late at night I’d have my friends call and wake him up … and make sure they left a message! I’d call at 2AM to see if there were any messages.
Charlie Parker, Stan Getz; I played all the saxophone greats.
Within, three weeks, the housing office had found him a new situation. A room to himself. And I got my king size bed back.
Now, I’m not really proud of what I did but, I’m convinced I just accelerated the inevitable, and since he never had a chance to “own” the room, I headed off a potential saxophone assault too. Win/Win, right?
Later I learned Will Rodgers wasn’t coming back, so I moved off campus again.
I found a great roommate named Rick. We had a good time in a cool apartment on Butler, a block off the Capitol Square.
I settled into my seventh and eighth undergrad years, enjoying college again. I look back on those days with pleasure. So much that someday, I've been thinking about going back and getting a degree.

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