357 South Milledge Avenue would be condemned a year or two after I left it. While the city of Athens certainly had a point in declaring it uninhabitable, in 2003 not only did fifteen of us live there; we had invited our Moms to visit. As we got closer to their arrival, signs of domesticity and hygiene emerged. Holes in the floor were obscured by end tables, (with tablecloths no less!); ash trays were emptied, bathrooms were cleaned, and the persistent slurry of congealed hunch punch in the kitchen was, if not removed, then at least made less so. A change occurred in the inhabitants as well. We became, or imitated as convincingly as possible, the polite, upstanding, non smoking, future lawyers, accountants, and doctors which Mom always wanted us to be. We were, as Phillip Marlowe said, "neat, clean, shaved and sober, and we didn't care who knew it."
My parents arrived and had the decency to pretend to be taken in by the wholesomeness of the fraternity's facade. They met the boys with whom I drank and lived, spoke with other parents and eventually settled in to smoke a pork shoulder that they had rubbed the night before. Mom, a teacher was a zealot about soaking the wood chips in water prior to burning them. Dad, a chemical engineer, was suspicious of this practice. Mom won out.
As they began to cook I was asked to give a speech to the group. I mumbled through something about how great a day it was for Sigma Pi. The audience and i were, I think, equally relieved the speech concluded, but we also became aware of at least one small bit of truth in the talk. It was a great day. A November afternoon that was cool enough for a light jacket but didn't require anything more. People sat in haphazard little flocks, in camping chairs drinking Natural Light in red coozies, talking about David Greene, or LSU, or, in my Mom's case, how nice that Mark Richt seemed. She hoped he won.
The pork shoulder would take most of the afternoon to cook. So as the rest of the front yard and the nearby houses walked down Baxter Street to the stadium we stayed, cooking our barbecue and talking about the dawgs. At 3:30 a tumbleweed would not have looked out of place on Milledge Avenue. We turned on the radio and listened to Larry Munson call the start of the game. Georgia had elected to receive the kickoff and he began his call of the first play. His voice broke the silence of the surrounding yard like gravel being dumped from a truck.
"Dawgs line up in the I...."
Making sure the hickory chips were still smoking on a quiet street in Athens and Larry's voice transported us away from any problem or concerns. It was the purest distillation of what was right about being a college student in the South which I remember feeling during my years at the University of Georgia. For the first time that day, it was not necessary to pretend.
Rest in peace Larry.