Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Savage

Next weekend the brothers of old KB are gathering for one of our regular reunions.  In the last ten years or so, it seems like annually a few of us get together and then every few years there's a bigger crew that meet in Albany and hoist a few.

We have met in February to see an Albany basketball game in the daytime and cavort telling tales in the evening as we imbibe far more than we should. "Whatever became of Jane Smith?"  "Who is the woman who got away?"  "What is your biggest regret?" As often we meet in October.

Wiser than when we were actually sophomores, (though we may act sophomorically)  we typically consume not far from, and often right at, the hotel where we will be sleeping it off.

The meeting next week has a somber tone to it. A guy I have met at these reunions,  but never really knew at school since he had a few years on me, passed suddenly a month or so ago.  So the gathering tomorrow is in honor of Marvin who, I have heard from so many others, was one class guy.  But in addition to some somber toasting we will have time to enjoy each other's company, spar about our political attitudes (the rich guys have become Republicans), and reminisce.

Got a call from my buddy Kenny on Thursday telling me he is up for the weekend. Kenny is a remarkable trouper. He spent most of the summer in knee braces after having taken a bad fall on Memorial Day weekend. He came by a month ago and in these Forest Gump braces still walked around town, drove and kept his spirits. I think he still has the braces on. Knowing the considerate, sober, and sarcasm light group of guys who will be there, I can guarantee that after a few minutes of "hope you are feeling okay" his stones will be roasted with quips asking if he is an extra for a Forest Gump sequel or if the metal helps him get Cleveland on the radio. No doubt someone will inquire about how the braces retard his carnal activities.

So, I was thinking of Kenny a moment ago, and I smiled as I thought of a common refrain we utter when we see each other after a spell or speak on the phone. Usually I, but sometimes he, will begin the conversation bellowing the words, "And noone can explain..."

Thinking of that, and Marvin, created a detour in my cerebral meanderings such that I started to think of a fellow we knew whose moniker was The Savage. David Neuman, The Savage--a fellow freshman in 1967 in the freshman dormitory, Waterbury Hall.  A few years ago because of the capabilities of social media, I read that the Savage had passed. I don't know the details.

It was maybe the second week of classes and I, back from the "new" campus where classes were held, was standing on the long serpentine line on the old campus that led to dinner for the Freshmen.  Unless you timed it right, the Freshmen were backed up a winding staircase, waiting for your time to get to the front and then devour the fare for the day, regularly hamburger patties, which we called "hockey pucks."

So, this one day I was standing in line halfway up the staircase. There next to me is this rather short, meek looking fellow.  He introduces himself and within a minute he tells me that "back home they call me the Savage."

He introduces this nickname because he informs me that in the downtown area where we reside there are a lot of "townies" who can cause trouble.  But, he tells me, I need not worry if, he intimates, I stick with him because "back home they call me the savage."

I am a combination of amused and flabbergasted by his claim. I break out into a broad smile and put it to him: "You're kidding. Why do they call you the Savage?"

No smile on this guy.  He responds: "Because I do savage acts."

"Really, what kinds of savage acts have you done?"

"Once hit Hans Schmidt in the back of the leg with an orange."

"Who is Hans Schmidt?"

He goes on tell me that Hans Schmidt is a professional wrestler who was wrestling in Rochester. The Savage hails from a Rochester suburb. He went to an arena apparently for a wrestling match and during the bout chucked an orange at Hans Schmidt.

About this time we were close to the food and I could not get over this Savage guy who kept telling me more stories to prove the point that his handle was appropriate.  Afterwards I told a bunch of buddies about the Savage and we got a charge out of going up to him and asking for other examples of things he had done that were savage

One of my friends in Waterbury had an older brother also at the school. When we told him about the Savage he thought of a prank.  He got a bunch of his cronies together and planned to dress up as "townies" and see just how savage he was.  No attempt at fighting, just poking fun.

So one night in walks these four seniors, dressed like local hoodlums (each of these guys is making over 200 K now easy). We get Savage in his room and into the room come "the townies".  One of the seniors says, "We're a couple of the local boys, we hear you don't like us types, and we (starting to point with his finger) don't like it one bit."

Initially the savage was a bit nervous and wary, but soon afterwards the seniors started laughing and revealed that it was just a gag.  Without missing a beat, the Savage smiled and shook hands around and then whipped out a piece of paper from his desk.  He got up on a chair and began reciting a mega ribald take-off he had written to the beat of a popular song of the day called Ringo.

It was classic hormone driven stuff, about a guy seeking out loose women and one in particular. Ellen.  "The story spread throughout the land, that I had eaten Ellen's gland." 

Sophomoric stuff like that, but what made it funny was not the lyrics but the brassy nature of the guy to go Karaoke on us right after the gag.

The last lines of the real song Ringo ends with

But on his grave they can't explain, the tarnished star above the name of Ringo.

We are hysterical as Savage is going through his parody.  When he gets to the end, he belts out the final lyric with his hand in the air like a marathoner who has just won the Olympics

And noone can explain, the hairy nuts above the name of Ellen!

So when Kenny and I get together we often chant these words from nearly fifty years ago as a reminder of our freshmen year and the Savage. "And no one can explain..."

Lost touch with the guy almost immediately after college, even after the first couple of years of school he seemed to travel in some other circles.  Good guy.

 Rest in Peace, Savage.

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