A Platonic Relationship – A Penn State Story Part II

February 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

To recap, through both procrastination, and stalking, I secured temporary living quarters for the Fall Term 1982, with a young woman, Susan, in a space where the only privacy that could be achieved was in the bathroom.

Susan was an independent young woman, enrolled in the Computer Science department, and starting her Junior year of classes. She hailed from Beaver, Pa but she identified herself as being an “Upstate New Yorker” more than she was a Pennsylvanian. The term “Pennsyltucky” hasn’t been formed yet, but Susan knew immediately when she had moved to Beaver that she was “No longer in Kansas” anymore. She had spent some time living on her own, and secured the finances to attend Penn State with her own earned income, and some generous scholarships, but she had needed a place to live, and so she agreed to take this apartment on E College because she needed a place where she could control who she lived with. Not that she wanted to control the person, but she wanted a say over who her roommate would be, but she needed a roommate, and I came along and managed to convince her to take me on for one term.

It didn’t take long to see that we both had two very different schedules. While all classes were daytime classes, I did most of my work at night and many times rolled in after midnight. I would open the door very quietly, tiptoe in, retreat to the bathroom to prepare myself for bed, and then again, quietly, get into my sofa bed, and get some sleep. Susan’s routine was a more regular undergraduate student routine, classes on M,W,F, and sleep in T,Th. Included in my routine would be fairly regular bike rides with the cycling club. Those were usually early morning rides, and if I made commitment to meet the group, then no matter what time I went to bed, I got up, donned my lycra, pranced around getting my stuff together, grabbed my bike, and out the door I went. Sometimes she would be asleep when I got ready, and sometimes she would be up. I did my best to get out of her hair as quickly as I could.

For meals, we tried to share as much as possible. We agreed to make a commitment to meet at the apartment for dinner, where we may have split the cooking duties, but it was probably more along the line, of she would prepare most of the meals, and I would be there to eat. While we did not breakfast together often, we made sure we had food that we both liked, and lunch was whatever we could grab during the day.

At that time, just up the road was The Train Station, an institutional local restaurant with a main bar area on the first floor, a connect “Caboose” off the main dining area, and there was a small upstairs bar area where I spent some time the previous Spring when I had befriended some German exchange students, who liked to party. That may be another story, but for Susan and I, the Train Station was a place to retreat to, to get out of the confines of our apartment, and have a couple of beers, and play backgammon. With an Id card, you get get a game at the bar and play as long as you had patience. As I recall, we were evenly matched most of the time, but she may have taken more 2 out of 3 sessions than I did. We hardly ever grabbed a meal there, but as long as you were buying beer, pretzels were on the house. These were the hard thick pretzels like Snyder’s of Hanover, and they served up their own mustard recipe as a dipping sauce. Quite tasty.

Among my under-graduate friends, I was the only one to stay on for a graduate degree. Some of my E-Sci friends went to other University programs for graduate work, but here, I was the only one. Outside of that crew, all my other friends graduated and moved on as well, and while I did make friends in the graduate ranks, I didn’t have any under graduate friends until Susan introduced me to her friends. This was a gaggle that she met the previous spring when she moved into the dorms after transferring from the Beaver Campus. Her roommate, Joyce, was from Philadelphia, and had been there all year. What can I remember about Joyce? As told to me, and maybe by Steve as well, Joyce was exploring her sexual freedom, but perhaps didn’t always make the best choices in the men she chose. Joyce had dark hair, was of medium build, was not overweight, and seemed reasonably personable. She was of a Jewish background, but I wouldn’t say she was a practicing Jew. Her two main friends were Belinda, and Linda. Belinda was an attractive blonde of medium height, but perhaps a little “stocky”? If she was overweight, it was well distributed, and quite frankly I always thought she was good looking woman. Linda was another attractive dirty blonde, and all three of them were always in pursuit mode when it came to the men(boys) of Penn State.

Buddy was smart student, and had a girlfriend well established when I met him. Her name was Marie, and she was in Biological Sciences preparing to be a Vet. Those two were together like a married couple from the moment I first met them. Buddy was a red-neck, but he was an educated red-neck, and so, not really a red-neck at all. He had his ways, but he was a good roommate for Steve, and we would go on to become decent friends. I never got to know Damian that well. He had some very effeminate qualities, but he was not gay, or at least at the time, if he was, he hadn’t shared that with anyone. He managed a few girlfriends, so they have been cover for him, or he wasn’t gay. Taller than the other men/boys in that apartment, he was probably the best looking of all of them.

Somewhere along the line Steve Lewis and Joyce became friends. One thing they had in common was a love of the drink, and their drink was Gin. Of this entire group Susan found she got along with Steve the best, and could tolerate the rest in smaller amounts. She told me there was no way, she would ever consider living with Joyce and Belinda. Those two didn’t take their studies seriously enough, and they partied just too much. This was one of the reasons she had gotten her own place, but she enjoyed their company, and when she did want to party, she enjoyed partying with this crew.

The first information Susan shared with me was the Steve was gay, but it was a secret, and no one else in their friend circle knew. At least none of the men did, and it was important to keep that secret as now Steve was rooming with those men friends. They had gotten first floor flat in Allen Street Apartments on the corner of Allen and Easterly Parkway. It was about a mile and a half walk from our apartment, and one weekend she invited me along to meet her friends. No one batted an eye when I walked in. Apparently until we met, Susan had talked me up during her own meetings with this crowd, so they already had a good idea of who I was long before I ever met them. I guess I knew a lot about them as well, so perhaps that it made it real easy for me to fit in. The first thing I noticed was that these folks had a lot of discretionary funds allocated to alcohol. Once introduced, we found ourselves over at their place almost every weekend, sometimes twice in a weekend. Susan and I were probably the most reserved ones there, but we drank our share.

Two other introductions that occurred in those early weeks included my introducing Susan to my friends Pat and Gene (Geno) Paranzen. Pat and Gene became pretty good friends of mine, and I made it a regular habit to stop by and see them as often as I could. They owned a small house at 445 E. Foster Ave, that backed up to Peach Alley and was right behind Beaver Terrace apartments. While it may not have been the quietest of neighborhoods, it was only 2 blocks from where I was living, so it was easy to stop by. I had established a Saturday “Game Day” habit with Path and Gene the year before, and I introduced them to Susan pretty early on. “No, she is not my girl friend. We are roommates and our relationship is purely platonic in nature.” I told them “I was on my best behavior” in the apartment, as I didn’t want to do anything that would get me thrown out, or cause displeasure and become the basis for some day being asked to find another place to live.

In addition to Pat and Gene, Susan’s brother, Marty, lived in the next apartment over from us. In fact we could see his balcony from our place. I don’t recall the first time we met, but just like her friends, Susan had seen her brother more than a few times in those early weeks, and she probably talked about me, and just the same, she told me stories of growing up with “Marty”, so by the time we did in fact meet, we both kind of knew each other. Though not as big as he is today, Marty was a little hefty, and owned a bright and outgoing personality. It was not difficult to like this man, and we got along pretty well right from the start. Marty was living with Ed (Herb), Kenny Petracko, and Mark (Milikan?) on the seventh or eighth floor of Hetzel Plaza. As in Steve and his roommates place, Marty and his roommates also seemed have a lot of discretionary spending money for hard alcohol.

Those first eight weeks established a pretty consistent set of routines. Susan was almost always asleep when I came home from research, and she was almost always gone in the morning when I awoke. We ate dinner together at the apartment often, and just as often dropped into the Train Station for a couple of beers and some backgammon. Weekends we partied with Steve and his gang or we had a solid game day experience with Pat and Geno. We may have spent some time with Marty at the Train Station as well, and on Monday it all started over again. Mixed into this package of routine, I had my cycling friends with whom I managed to knock out a couple hundred miles a week on the bike. All this continued smoothly going into Halloween weekend. There were parties planned, and places to be, and little did we know it at the time, our relationship was about to change.

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