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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cloyne Court- Excerpts 21 and 22

Phi Kappa Sigma Hazing-photo from peoplehowstuffworks.com
Cloyne Court, Episode 21
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Rated "R" by the Author.

Cloyne Court, Berkeley, California in the late 1970s.

Three weeks and nine lecture hours later, Ms. Barbara had said all she could say about feminism and nothing about Virginia Woolf. I looked at my notes. I had a page-and-a-half of three-word paraphrases and abbreviations and the symbols:

I looked at Karen, the woman seated next to me. She had thirty pages of notes and obviously reviewed them. She had paragraphs highlighted in different highlighter colors. I made a note to try to borrow her notes and decipher her color scheme.

After class one day, I walked with Karen through Sproul Plaza toward Telegraph Avenue. She was attractive in that Max Factor way with makeup (before ten a.m.) and not a hair out of place. I wanted to ask her out but was afraid.

Karen came to class dressed in a skirt and blouse and on cold mornings, with a sweater tied around her shoulders. The preppy look was unusual for Berkeley. Most students wore blue jeans, a T-shirt, and running shoes and carried a REI or Northface book pack. Karen carried a large-oversized purse that held one textbook and notebook, her cosmetics and a dozen highlighter pens in different colors.

“You sure take lots of notes,” I said.

“Stuff worth learning, don’t you think?” She had a reverent tone of voice as if the 'stuff' was the word of God handed down to Moses.

“It’s thought-provoking,” I replied, not wanting to offend her. If Rhetoric taught me anything, it was to know your audience and try not to offend them. “I don’t think one’s entire interaction with people should be perceived as men versus women.”

“It’s more than that,” she said, correcting me. “It’s information that empowers women. Virginia Wolff’s work has subthemes. She questions whether a woman can produce art as good as Shakespeare can, and there are more subthemes written all over it.”

“I take it you’ve highlighted the different subthemes in different colors?” I asked. “You sit next to me. I’ve seen your notes.”

“Precisely,” she said.

“Well, I guess as a lowly male, I can’t see that point of view from under your Famolares. Perhaps you can enlighten me sometime?”

She smiled at my sarcasm.

“I’d be interested in hearing what you think the subtext is. Perhaps we could meet and review notes some time,” I said.

“I’ve seen your notes. They are pathetic.”

“But I’ve read the book, as you have. I highlight the book. Not the notes. The notes are only an aid to memory.”

Fortunately, the book was in my backpack, and she couldn’t confirm I was lying. The book was still in pristine condition. I could sell the book back to the bookstore at the end of the quarter and receive full trade-in value for it.

Karen and I walked in silence. We couldn’t be heard over the raucous chanting of an antiapartheid protest going on at the steps of Sproul Plaza. We stood at the crosswalk at Bancroft Avenue waiting for the light to change.

“OK,” she said, breaking our silence. “Let’s study together right before midterms. I’m a Kappa Alpha. Do you know where the house is? Corner of Piedmont and Haste.”

I was well aware of the huge gray mansion on Greek Row with the two Greek letters K and A in snow-white paint affixed to the front of the house like Hester Prine’s scarlet letter. According to Alan, Kappa Alpha was the snobbiest of the sororities.

“What fraternity do you live in?” she asked.

“I live in a house on Northside on Ridge Road," I said truthfully. I remembered Alan’s warning about revealing my housing status.

“Are you an SAE,” Karen asked, “or Chi Omega?” She rattled off Greek letters as fluently as she spoke English. What could I say? Rush week had been over for months. Bids had been made and pledges had been initiated into their fraternities and moved into their houses.

I thought for a second. I knew that my answer would be a defining minor moment in my life—a precedent that could change my ethical integrity for years to come. I could have taken the path of honesty and high moral values and told her the truth. However, truth would have been sexual suicide. She would not have given me the time of day after that, and I wanted her time of day. I wanted her time of night. How should I answer her?
_____________________________________________________

Cloyne Court, Episode 22
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Rated "R" by the Author.

A creative memoir about Cloyne Court in Berkeley, California in the late 1970s.

As a devout Catholic in high school, I would have answered such moral dilemmas by asking myself, “What would Jesus have done?” But Jesus, the almighty God, would have either not have been interested in dating women or he shagged all the women he ever desired.[1] Secular knowledge wasn’t helping me now. Jesus would have done nothing, because he would never be in this position. I had to set my standards lower.

I thought, What would my parish priest, Father Steve have done? Because Father Steve was probably a latent child molester and drank the holy wine when the parishioners weren’t looking, I was certain to receive the answer I wanted to hear. The answer came to me in a flash of libido. He would have waffled the truth to receive this woman's communion wafers.

“I’m in Delta, mumble, mumble, cough. When do you want to meet?”

“Delta Lambda what?" She asked. “I didn’t hear you. You had something in your throat.”

“That’s right. You heard it.” I fudged. “Delta Lambda, uh, (Semper) Phi.” I improvised. I’m sure there could be a Delta Lambda Phi somewhere in America. I hoped she didn’t know every fraternity in the Greek system at Berkeley.

“Oh yeah, that one. It used to be on Waring Street, I think. Your chapter must have moved.”

She looked at me queerly, but her defensive demeanor went from red alert to yellow. She was visibly relaxed as we walked.

“Yeah, that’s it. New chapter house.” I lied, but I was on a roll. “Keg parties every Saturday night. Extraordinary bunch of guys. Great camaraderie. We have guys who are on the gymnastics team and the water polo team. Some are going to be the future Mark Spitz of America.” When in doubt, name drop. It works every time.

She wrote her number on a slip of notebook paper and gave it to me. Instead of giving her my house number, I told her I would contact her. I couldn't risk having her calling Cloyne Court and discovering where I lived. We parted at the corner of Channing and Telegraph. As I watched her walk toward Greek Row up Channing Avenue, the crowded, dirty streets of Telegraph Avenue didn’t seem so repulsive. It never does when there's something pleasurable to think about.

I returned to Cloyne that night and told Alan about my encounter with the blondest, most dreamy-eyed, sweetest, Kappa Alpha I had ever met. I hoped he would be jealous. I wanted to convince him you didn’t have to be in a fraternity to meet sorority women. I explained that I had made up the Delta Lambda Phi fraternity at the spur of the moment.

Alan looked at me with a ghastly expression. “There is a Delta Lambda Phi. It’s the gay fraternity.”
_____________________________________________________

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