Walking through the immense shopping center parking lot, it's nearing midnight and Jon Slay issues a prophetic warning: "Every time I've been here, I've either seen a fight or been involved in a fight."
Moments later, the commotion arrives on cue. Fists of fury are flying out the door of Famous Pub and spilling out onto the curb. The ruckus runs its course, all to the cadence of a young lady in her ninth month of pregnancy repeatedly yelling, "He just whacked my stomach!"
School's only just back in session, yet the shenanigans are already in midsemester form. "We're well ahead of schedule," says Slay. "You usually don't see a fight until about 3 a.m."
Slay, a 2004 Emory alum, is reminiscing during a Saturday night stroll through his hazy college haunts. This Toco Hills shopping center is home to Famous Pub and Maggie's Neighborhood Bar & Grill, both Emory watering holes, both notorious and farcical in their own right — Famous Pub for its bizarre cast of neighborhood miscreants and Maggie's as a slummy yet brilliant clusterfuck of a headquarters for private school kids and their indulgences.
By 1:30 a.m., Maggie's is slammed with four-year veterans mixed with tender-footed, wide-eyed first years. And much like the state school down the road in Athens-Clarke County, there's a sense of entitlement among the students while still being inclusive. It's cookie cutter and cliché like UGA, but less W.A.S.P.-y. The light brown and olive skin give it a worldlier feel. The upper Atlantic accents strangely are a welcome ring in place of your typical Southern college bar filled with baseball caps and close-minded good ol' boy drawls. These kids may be privileged, but it's the kind of privilege that comes with sophistication and maturity.
An upperclassman walks by and then turns to Slay and says with his deepest regrets, "Yo, bro. I apologize. I just farted all over you."
Yes, Emory is a beacon of light in this old-fangled South.
In a sea of dark hair, there's a sparkling dirty-blond breezy that has an I-went-to-college-but-it-didn't-do-me-any-good look. Her eyes are dilated and bouncing around like the Cookie Monster spying an oatmeal raisin. Asking if she's on Adderall to keep up with the rigors of Emory's curriculum, she responds, "Nah, it's just the cocaine."
She's most likely unreliable, but still, Emory's answer to Ke$ha would make a fun lab partner.
It's last call and everyone filters out to a cab line that circles past the Mattress USA. Guys are outside scrambling through "lightning round" — trying to put early points on the board this first weekend of the semester. And Slay is ready to take memory lane to campus and get weird at his old fraternity house.
The hierarchy of a frat seemingly never expires, because Slay gets let in the quiet two-story residence and immediately begins a ridiculous 4 a.m. bed check. Bob Marley posters and aluminum litter are scattered about, and he's making himself at home again by busting into every bunked barrack. Flipping on the light, "I'm here to take your alcohol and carbohydrates."
He walks out with pretzels and a quarter plastic handle of vodka, and is on to the next room. "Whoa, you guys are frighteningly organized in here!"
Waking up a room with two Indian guys, "Ahh, cómo está?"
Busting into a room with a young man studying anatomy with a co-ed, "Get down here and hang out with me."
"Who the fuck are you, dude?"
"I'm Jon Slay ... 2004 pledge master!"
Sure enough, the absurd chain of command still is in effect, the kid leaves his sweaty studies to drink cheap vodka from Owensboro, Ky.
It's 5 a.m. with a crisp fall chill in the air. It's been a hectic night of a full-contact homecoming. Sipping confiscated liquor, Slay recollects in a moment of sincere clarity, "You know, lost in all the excitement, what the fuck is a girl that pregnant doing at Famous Pub past midnight?"
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