Saturday, April 07, 2007

Spring Break

Wasted: How I Spent My Spring Break
A journey in excess which, by definition means the mind of the average college student
By Matt Rasmussen

Panama City is an empire. Not a traditional empire like the politically progressive Rome, or the economically innovative Byzantine, but screw it, I say it’s an empire. An empire comprised of three-prongs: promiscuous sex, over consumption of alcohol by the underage, and kitsch. In a mere five minutes on the beach, one could obtain a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers, booze, bitches, you know, whatever the kids are into these days. If your aspirations are gettin’ high, goin’ down, gettin’ loose, gettin’ wound, you could consider it the place dreams are made. Politicians would call this reprehensible, after-school specials: dangerous, but to college students across the nation, it’s simply “Spring Break”.

Fairbanks, North Carolina. Or Fairfield. Or Fairfax. It’s not really important, honestly. The fact that I’m here now is pretty irrelevant, as I could be anywhere – not just towns with names less and less memorable than the last, but more specifically an emergency room, a police station, on a shore, really, plenty of places that aren’t 18 miles from the AutoZone and right off of Chicken Foot Road. There’s a BP here that sells your standard gas station fare – and some third-rate sugar-water with the misnomer of Jungle Juice.

Like I was saying, though – it’s not important. What is: how I got here. In a car would be a reasonable assumption, even if there isn’t one now. In an altered state of mind is a possibility. Actually, a reality, considering the trip began with half a bottle of percocets, a quarter ounce of marijuana, three cartons of cigarettes, several cases of beer, and a few spirits. I’m at this gas station with three companions, and – actually, don’t worry about who I’m with, names are hard to remember anyway and potentially incriminating.

We’ve been gathering a bit of a crowd since we’ve been here, starting with the Hammer Brothers and Ron – more about them Later (which is actually Earlier).

Now is Tony, a longhaired slacker with brown locks down below his shoulders. He has a crass shirt that contrasts his soft, reassuring tone. Tony asks what’s going on and offers his sympathies and his hand in greeting. He asks if we smoke, with a discreet grin that suggests he’s referring to something other than cigarettes. Apprehensively, we reply affirmatively. We’re then offered pipe after pipe full of weed. It’s schwag, not kush, and Tony apologizes profusely, citing supply and demand issues, telling us that he used to “screw around with ‘dro [hydroponically-grown marijuana] but that shit has gotten too expensive”. We are also offered temporary refuge. Our makeshift hideout comes in the form of Tony’s pick-up truck, which features a soundtrack of nu-metal’s greatest hits and light-up pedals.

Tony starts driving to the AutoZone. He wants to know if it would bother anyone if he were to smoke, now referring to cigarettes. It seems like a trivial question, but he makes it a point to get the approval of all four of the passengers. Tony tells us his aspirations, and his abbreviated life-story. He just got divorced, got fired by his union-boss (who doubled as his baby-momma), and was working hard to start an auto repair business. He also offers an explanation, an attempt to explain his motivation and his response to our current predicament: “I’m just a nice guy, man”.

And, he was a nice guy. He spent a good three hours, taking us from sober and stranded to rocked and on the road. We were now homeward bound and this left ample time to reflect on our experiences up until this point. Actually, all that happened was everyone was getting their sleep on, but for the sake of narrative structure, let’s pretend we reflected.

Most reasonably sane members of society set goals for themselves. If you are a musician (or an Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay protégé), you might dream of selling out Madison Square Garden. If you’re into academia, you might aspire to talk shop with greats at an Ivy League school. But if you’re a college student, Spring Break is your Olympics.

You’ve trained for years. You’ve shot gunned and funneled, you’ve done your power hours and strikeouts; you’ve gone to clubs and bedded strangers. You’ve studied tapes – MTV Spring Break, Animal House, Van Wilder, Old School, and imagined what it would be like to really be a part of something like that. And, much to your surprise, the real spring break is exactly like that. Finally, you’ve found an excuse for your alcoholism, your nymphomania, and your knowledge of all the lyrics to Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty” and its remixes.

For about a month of the year, we take complete control of beaches all over the nation, and even annex other country’s beaches, like Cancun. But who really runs the show? Any company who values money over their ethical responsibility, of course. It starts with the clubs that are on the beach, who offer free beer and discounted drinks several hours of the day. It then extends to companies like Trojan, that want to make sure we have a safe spring break – by running a tent that looks something like a carnal carnival. To make sure we’re protected, the U.S. Army has a presence. What that booth consists of is a mechanical bull and an obstacle course, which is totally worth signing up for the U.S. Army mailing list – after you’re hammered, of course.

Oh, speaking of hammered – the reason we were in North Carolina. A town I have now remembered is called Fayetteville – our car caught on fire. Some dudes with a hammer came by and hit it a few times and it stopped being on fire. Then some biker named Ron came and helped us too. No biggie.

But I digress. Spring Break is a portrait of excess; of complete over-indulgence in any and all sins we’re possible of achieving, brought to us by some of the hottest brands in the 18-25 demo. They think by simply having a tent with some free wristbands or by giving out free t-shirts, we’ll perform mock-coitus on stage, or fill out an application for a credit card? Well, maybe we will. And maybe we don’t mind selling our souls in a moment of drunken greed for a chance to funnel against an actor claiming to be Blue from Old School.

Since I’m an expert on the subject, let me clear up two little-known facts, one about Panama City, and the other about Spring Break. What most people don’t know about Florida is that it is actually legal to do whatever you want there. I know what you’re thinking, surely, this is an exaggeration, but no, it’s true.

Indecent exposure and lewd conduct in public are championed by authority figures, as evidenced by the MCs who are hired. The industry term for these hosts is “douchebags”, and their job involves making obscene comments, that generally refer to one of three things: over consumption of various intoxicants, egging on of sexual acts, and more recently, in an attempt to become hip: references to projectile ejaculate over ones partners face.

This conduct isn’t relegated to the beach, however. On club row, anything goes, and locals actually get quite upset if you do not encourage them to shed their clothing in exchange for a peace offering of customary beads. Also, on the strip, it is key to pay homage to Bay Area rap, which has brought to the forefront a movement known as “ghost riding the whip”.

When ghost riding the whip, your goal is to dance on or next to a moving car. One group of particularly dedicated individuals opted to stand on the back of a pick-up truck and pass a blunt back and forth. In most states this would be considered stupid and a blatant disregard for safety and legal regulations, but in Florida, it would have been a disgrace to even consider not doing this, punishable by death.

Now let’s clear up this whole Spring Break thing. It’s for us, right? Which means that “the future of America”, and strictly the future of America can attend. But how do you know if you’re invited? It’s pretty simple, really, if you don’t think you would be featured in a music video, then you probably shouldn’t be there. To be more succinct: no uglies allowed.

Hard to believe, I’m sure, but it’s true – boys and girls who aren’t at least a 7 on a 1-10 scale of hotness are barred from spring break. Those who do manage to get in are relegated to a week of being the token fat guy or girl on stage that the “tens” have to make out with when they lose the hourly Spank-Offs and Wet T-shirt Contests. Why? Media stereotypes, of course. We’re only shown beautiful people at Spring Break, so why should the busted members of society get a chance at this paradise?

The truth is Spring Break really has been co-opted. Though I haven’t researched this, I am guessing before there was television, and by proxy, music television, students spent their Spring Breaks having fun, getting wrecked, and making out with strangers. Then a visionary at the Music Television Network had the idea to film this, and offer incentives like tattoos and dream dates with the New Kids on the Block. Then came us, the echo boomers. What we know about college life came from those who raised us – our television sets.

And with purported role models coming to share in the fun, whether they are famous look-a-likes or one-hit-wonder rappers like Rich Boy and MIMS, it’s apparent they don’t have any issues promoting this behavior. In fact, a majority of the Spring Break performers were seen consuming great quantities of alcohol on stage, lighting joints, and encouraging others to follow this behavior.

Is this sort of thing dangerous? Probably. But this is college, and we’re invincible. Why worry?

Maybe one day media will give the same energy to promoting alternative spring breaks, like volunteering in New Orleans or working for Habitat for Humanity, but until those involve body shots off supermodels, I’m convinced that the tropics will remain America’s choice.

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