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Put narrowly, there are two kind of events in a person’s life: small and big. Mundane and Special. Impotent and Important. Tying your shoelaces, making dinner, performing ablutions all qualify as the former, but then there are those moments that you never forget: the first time you perform a mating ritual and lo are initiated into societal adulthood, the first time you hear Pet Sounds or read Woolf, and yes, the first time you move out of home. It’s platitudinous, but fuck it: I’ll never forget the first time my family’s sagging station-wagon pulled into Karori as a mist ominously fell upon the humble land. My mum cried, my dad stoically shook my hand, my brother quoted Arrested Development at me, and voilà! I was free to live the Student Lifestyle.
Or I would’ve been, if I hadn’t stayed at Helen Lowry Hall. The most commonly asked question of the owners was some variation of “I’m a keen hunter. Am I allowed to bring a rifle?” and the populace were comprised of misfits, losers, loners, oddballs, Internet Mana and ACT voters. Needless to say, I felt right at home, and many fine nights were spent gorging on beer bongs and mi goreng in a nearby park – at least until a nearby resident complained about those “fucking Helen Lowry kids”. But did I really get the Student Experience? Helen Lowry was located in the hinterlands of Karori, not exactly a student hub. And, if I can channel Carrie Bradshaw real quick (yes, I can), I couldn’t help but wonder whether you have to attend an illustrious Hall, a Hall with history and prestige, to get the full experience. Besides, I went to HLH practically decades (okay, four years) ago; student culture changes so fucking quickly!
I didn’t know how, or on what, but I knew I was missing out somehow. Using the Vampire Weekend test – a time-honoured tradition that I just made up – I realised that none of their songs were appropriate to my first-year life. Now increasingly desperate, I realised I had one shot, one opportunity to make amends. I heard on the wind that there was a party at Weir House with a rumoured 1000 people invited. I had to go and infiltrate this scene of hip youth if it was the last thing I did before my 22-year-old lungs gave out. I was going to scream along to Peking Duk with the best of them. I was going to sink piss or die trying.
I was somewhere around Kelburn on the edge of the Botanic Gardens when the drugs began to take hold. I remember muttering something like, “My goddamn back has gone out again, maybe I should just go home”, and suddenly, the blessed ibuprofen kicked in. I was unconquerable; I took a swig of raspberry Scrumpy, overdid it, and choked out half my mouthful onto some nearby pavement. No matter! I was almost there. The imposing structure of Weir House crested in the distance.
Weir House is steeped in tradition, as its website quietly boasts, and is allegedly the most sought-after place of residence among incumbent first-years because of the prestige it has attained. It was inaugurated in 1926 after a Mr William Weir left the sum of 77,000 pounds to Victoria under the stipulation that they build a Hall of Residence for male students. Its origins are curious: William Weir was a timber merchant with no known ties to Victoria, and I personally suspect extortion or an illegitimate heir, but I digress. Since, it has been the go-to Hall for the best and brightest high-achievers – at any given time, about 70 per cent of its populace study Law or Economics, and if you didn’t get that Excellence certificate at NCEA Level 2, don’t even bother.
In 1949, a ribald exposé of the Hall was written by a W. H. Oliver. He identified an inhabitant of Weir as “a creature of great appetite – he attacks food, alcohol and women with equal gusto” and recalled the “incidents of sexual licence presuppose residents equipped with the insinuating grace of Don Juan, the opportunities of Solomon, and the potency of an Olympian god”. Female students have since begrudgingly been allowed admittance, but I imagine that the general ethos held true. These fellow raconteurs were surely my people! Flaneuring about with them would be easier than first thought.
Upon my arrival I immediately befriended some people who were smoking by the entrance by offering them a hit from my pipe. “Only if it’s the green stuff eh,” one plucky lad replied, making a curious motion where he drew his thumb and forefinger up to his mouth. “I’m not sure what this ‘green’ ‘stuff’ is, but I assure you I have the finest bourbon-spiced pipe tobacco known to mankind,” I replied cheerily. For some reason, interest in me dampened and one of them even asked “Who the hell” I was. “Oh, just a fellow youth looking to have a sick old time,” I explained, but they looked uniformly unconvinced, so I took my leave and ascended the stairs to C-block, where the party was being held.
The place was swarming with people, and a bleary racket emanated from the speakers like a cruel, sensory-overload torture. It was here that I put my intrepid journalistic skills to use. I overheard one girl talking about a certain ‘Josh’, saying: “he can get it any time… and he can get it hard.” I never discovered what this ‘it’ was because I was jostled by a drunk young fellow wearing a ‘normcore’ outfit. “Why are you here?” I asked. “Maaaate. I’m OTP. On the wets. Getting #turnt.” This was fascinating, but I still felt like I wasn’t getting at the heart of Student Life. So I asked about his choice of outfit. “In high school I was TC, y’know, the kind of person who’d yell the F-word at people from cars, but I’ve turned over a new leaf, but now I’m here, everyone wears skinny jeans! I have to fit in, and they’re my steez, but I don’t want to wear them too skinny because I don’t want the laydeez thinking I’m a fucking eunuch. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna take a slash.”
I excused him happily, as there was a bit of dram occurring on the other side of the room. Someone had just noisily expelled the drinks of the evening on what looked like very expensive carpet, and some kind soul was discreetly vacuuming the evidence away – at least until an enterprising young lass suggested that the vacuum nozzle be repurposed as a bong.
The response to this suggestion was drowned out by cheers as ‘Fancy’ came on the speakers. “How can you tell Iggy Azalea doesn’t like Modernism?” I asked the person nearest. “Well first things first she’s a Realist”—then, disaster! A pompous-looking young man with a lanyard around his neck stormed in, shouting about things getting out of hand. “I like your choice of attire! Very dashing!” I tried to appease, but he turned on me with a nasty stare and told me to fuck off before he called the riot police, and I knew he would be true to his word. I got out of there like stink, sculling my Scrumpy on the way.
Before Salient found me in a compromising position, I thought back on the night’s events. I hadn’t found solace in youth culture; not even close. Perhaps this particular door was closed to me forever. Besides, as Matthew McConaughey proved in Dazed and Confused, people who refuse to grow up are a pretty pathetic bunch. But still, I couldn’t help but yearn for the excitement of youth and the joys of the past. “And so we beat on…” I mused. Next thing I knew, the editors had thrown a bucket of ice-cold water on my face and were laughing hysterically. Fucking shitcunts.