The time: late summer, 1997.

The place, a small liberal arts school in upper Pennsatucky.

The invitation came via the usual way in their pre-Facebook days, when making friends meant actually speaking to someone face to face, and there was no such thing as cyber bullies, so if you wanted to be a bastard you had to do the deed in person and look your victim in the eye, and if that victim decided to respond with a solid kick to the crotch you took the pain like a man and went home hopefully wiser in the ways of proper civilized behavior…

In other words, it came via the grape vine. “Jimbo’s is having a party.”

Jimbo (not his real name, of course) had begun his collegiate career as a pre-med. He then switched over to philosophy in the earnest hope that this would lead him to riches (which he did gain in time…as a drug dealer…but that is another tale…) But what he was best known for in our circle of friends was being the biggest alcoholic on campus, back in the days when you could still just get away with smoking, drinking and swearing in public and the appropriate response to any of the nascent PC mobs coming by to scold you was the offensive gesture of your choice, followed by a few pithy remarks about their appearance, parentage, personal habits and choice of sexual partners.

It was rainy and we were bored. The bars had cracked down on underage drinkers, and none of us wanted to brave the roads for a drive to the nearest metropole to see some fourth-rate show by a fifth rate post-Grunge buttrock band. So party it was.

I showed up at around nine PM. Jimbo’s room was a small place, perhaps twenty feet to a side, with barely enough room for his bed, desk, and a small shelf containing his books and TV, one which he liked to watch professional wrestling (he was a big fan of the old-school ECW, which back in the day sponsored “Bring Your Own Toaster Night,” in which those appreciative of the art of kayfabe were encourage to come to the local bout with any old household appliance they wish to be rid of, and to hurl said appliance at the ring as a way of livening up the festivities…)

There were fifteen of us to start. After pooling our money, we got together about ten crates of cheap beer, half a car trunks worth of cheap whiskey, a bottle of Old Peculiar for our mutual friend Percy (who had a thing for really heavy English bitters…) and a case of Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers, which more than anything shows that were in the 90’s,. By 10 PM the party was in full swing, and we had packed about 50- people into that small single on the second floor of the main dormitory.

My memory of that night becomes a bit hazy after that. Three things stand out before the campus police showed up:

My getting stuck with a chocolate raspberry wine cooler, which tastes like chocolate and raspberry of both were left to rot in the sun for a week buried under a pile of fish guts. Bloody awful, and even worse I couldn’t get near the beer.

Friend Percy handing me a small burning roach of what I assumed was oregano. A short while later I was sitting in the stairwell outside Jimbo’s room, conversing in Quenya with a pair of elves who’d stepped out of the walls about the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, the OJ Simpson trial, and the merits of Grunge vs Britpop.

Near the end, all forty-plus of us packed in the room, belting out an off-key version of Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” at the top of our lungs (I have it on good authority that our sweet serenade was heard clear on the other side of campus, over a quarter-mile away.)

At that point, the campus police showed up. The party, needless to say, was over. They were kind enough to let the rest of us leave without checking our id’s (the 90’s really were a more trusting time…) Jimbo later said it was a good thing they’d showed up when they did, as the beer has just run out and there was just a finger-worth of whiskey left. Oddly enough, we had plenty of wine coolers.

I stagger back to my room, in a state of mind where I’m drunk enough to be mellow, but not enough to be sleepy. I turn on the TV, hoping to zone out and space out enough to sleep. The news is one. Something terrible has happened out in the world. I watch in shock, and then, not in a state to think clearly, leave my room, trudges back across the wet, rainy paths of Podunk U to Jimbo’s room. I open the door and walk in, to the sight of Jimbo facing the head of campus security and two of his men, who are reading him the riot act by all appearances. All eyes in the room turn to yours truly.

“What do you want?” The boss cop asks.

“Uh..” I say, “just thought you outta know. Princess Diana is dead.”

The cops look at each other, then at Jimbo, who looks very confused. “Er, thanks?” He says, telepathically telling me to GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE!

Message received. I stagger back to my room, where I am finally tired enough to sleep.

So what is the moral of the story?

Well…don’t drink wine coolers? Avoid Oregano?

Actually, there is no moral. It’s just a good story about back in the day. I miss the 90’s. Ah, nostalgia….