College Life Replays: Print Journalism Lesson #2 — A Riot Mixing Grain with Grapes

A few moments ago, I came across an excerpt from a quote George Clooney gave during a speech in Houston, recently … “Never mix grain with grape.”

As I sit drinking my glass of TerreDomini’s Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2009 that quote takes me back to those first few weekends of freshman year at Western Michigan University. The irony is wine consumption was limited to whatever was the cheapest (i.e. Boones FarmMad Dog 20/20Bartles&Jaymes, etc.) and tasted fruitilicious. Further, I knew very little about the unpleasant effects brought on by mixing it up with Boones Farm Strawberry Hill and Keystone.

A Riot Mixing Grain with Grapes!

Love in an elevator
Livin’ it up when I’m goin’ down
Love in an elevator
Lovin’ it up till I hit the ground

— Aerosmith: Joe Perry, Steven Tyler

My roommates and I were strolling Kalamazoo’s Lafayette/Knollwood Avenue neighborhoods on the search for a keg party. We decided to check out California West Apartments; and we spy an open door as well as happy people drinking. B-E-E-R!

The happy people welcomed us, took our dollars and directed us to the keg line. As I filled my cup with Bud Light, I scanned faces in the apartment. Instead of seeing eye candy, I saw familiarity. Shit! I know these people!

Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen
Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen

The editor-in-chief as well as the news, sports and A&E editors from the Western Herald were all there. I felt a sinking sensation in my heart similar to the one I experienced in Vegas upon realizing I might have unwittingly set my boss up for a dinner meeting at an exotic supper club.

But, within seconds — just like in Vegas — it became clear —despite the beer buzz — that all would be okay. I would still have a job the next morning. Six creative forces I became better acquainted with that evening included Kyle (editor-in-chief), Susan (news editor/party hostess), Jamie (A&E editor), J.C. Jensen (aka Coach/sports editor), Shirley (photo editor), John Fountain (Fountain’s Pen Comic Strip) and Carrie (assistant news editor/party hostess).

Shirley and John Fountain
Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen

In fact, my appearance at this keg party initiated me into a group that would eventually expand to include quite a few Western Herald editors, writers, illustrators and business people. These individuals were not only newsroom mentors and peers; they were now friends who partied as hard as they worked honing their talents.

Lafayette Neighborhood Riots, October 18, 1989

Like grain and grapes there are certain ingredients that do not mix well. The combination of WMU’s Homecoming weekend and its annual football contest with Mid-American Conference (MAC) nemesis, Central Michigan University, is one well-documented example. I do not know what the MAC decision-heads were smoking when they scheduled this match-up for this particular weekend. WMU’s Homecoming is usually enough of a reason for photos — of students doing incredibly dumb things — to be plastered on front pages across local, state — and sometimes national — newspapers.

Photo/Scan Credit: Susan

WMU’s post-game festivities — as reported in the Western Herald and around the country — included wiener squirting contests, car-b-ques, and riots. S’mores anyone?

Grain and Grapes

Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen

As a freshman, the choice between drinking Boones Farm Strawberry Hill and Bud Light often settled upon whichever was available. Sometimes both were. What to do? Instead of drawing a hard, fast line, I usually opted to start with the wine. Then, when the wine bottle(s) went dry — due to sharing with friends — of course — switching to beer was common practice. I rarely succumbed to the unpleasant results of mixing grain and grapes.

But, then, there was that one night at another party Susan hosted…

Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen

As Michelle — a long-time writer friend — and I primped at her dorm room in Bigelow Hall, we slurped Boones Farm Strawberry Hill through the straws of our squeeze-bottles. At the party we played quarters with J.C., Susan, Carrie and a few others. My poor quarter-bouncing skills emptied my squeeze-bottle quickly. To stay in the game there was only one choice: Bud Light.

J.C. Jensen
Comic Credit: John Fountain, Fountain’s Pen

As you may recall from my College Life Replay last week, I am not a quitter. My quarter-bouncing skills just required some practice. So, why not fill up a glass; or two; or three; or four? Besides, I was among friends. They had my back and, plenty of sympathy later on that night 😦