Summer EXtravaganza III

A few years ago, over a friendly game of poker at one of my fraternity brother’s houses, an idea was spawned. All of agreed that we were having a good time getting together with a number of people that we hadn’t seen in a while, and thought, “what if we could expand on this idea?” In that moment, the beginnings of Summer Extravaganza were born.

That first year, we had kind of a whirlwind process of getting everyone together, but it still turned out well – about two dozen alumni and actives showed up to drink beer, play golf, go out to the bars and play poker. Some were newbies to the game there only because it was a chance (ahem… excuse) to get together with old friends and drink some beer. Most of the people went out to Toftrees to play golf, a select few of us decided that our times was better spent at the annual State College Microbrew Exposition, sampling the wares of brewers both local and not-so-local. I drank a lot of good beer, and was pretty tired before the game, but still finished 9th – 1 out of the money.

Last year, preparations took place a bit earlier and things were more organized. Unfortunately, having just started a new job a few days before, I had to bow out at the last minute and didn’t make it. But amost 30 others did and had a great time that coincided with one brother’s bachelor party. It looked fun…

This year, I was determined to make it up again. I put my name in, withstood the jibes that I wouldn’t make it (I’ve been somewhat unreliable as of late), and waited for it to come around. I contacted one of the younger alums who was heading up from the Philly area, Al, and asked if he wouldn’t mind sharing a ride. He didn’t, and we got a ride to PSU with another former brother, James, who I hadn’t met before that day. My loss, it turns out. If you needed someone to watch your back, really protect you when things got ugly, would you choose a ninja or a lumberjack?We got a bit of a late start on Friday, not leaving the city until after 7, but made great time up, arriving a little after 10. It was interesting ride, talking about how things were at the house were when these two younger guys were there and how they contrasted from my experience (such as the fact that we had kegs on tap pretty much 24/7 and could serve beer at parties; they had to dismantle the keg box, couldn’t ever have kegs, and had to have non-alcohol parties as the majority of their events – that had to suck). But we had a bunch of interesting chats about Philadelphia restaurants (James is a health department inspector in the city), music, the wayward maniac kids in Haddonfield, why Barry Bonds should be shot in the arm before he breaks the record and what might be one of the best questions I’ve ever heard:

If you needed someone to watch your back, really protect you when things got ugly, would you choose a ninja or a lumberjack?

I had to laugh – the question was bizarre, and yet we ended up having a big discussion about the merits of each. Ninjas are obviously bad-ass, but lumberjacks are brawny men who carry axes. James was a ninja fan, while Al seemed to think that lumberjacks were the far superior warrior. I picked ninja, upsetting the balance, offering the fact that while “lumberjacks are okay, they sleep all night and work all day”*, they simply couldn’t hold a candle to the likes of a ninja coming out of the night. They were, after all, the warriors who attempted to bring down the samurai in medieval Japan. I had thought them originally derived from ronin, but found out that I was in error. Al countered that ninjas wouldn’t last an hour in the freezing temperatures in their pajamas, to which I replied that I would “rather be wearing pajamaas than ‘…cut down trees…wear high heels, suspenders and a bra”*. He couldn’t argue with that… So, what do you think: Ninja or Lumberjack?

Anyway, when we arrived, no one was sitting around, so we quickly located them at the bars and made our way down to infamous Skeller. The place was fairly full, and a good majority of those in attendance were Theta Delts enjoying memories, cheap beer and the Skellar atmosphere as they shared the required tales of what they were doing now, how their wives were, had they seen [insert name], etc. After a few hours there, it was time to go back to the house for some food, more beer and euchre, a house specialty that we played nearly every moment that were weren’t on a golf course, bar or playing poker. Actually, some of them were even playing AT the bars, too…

I spent most of Saturday NOT golfing, since I hate the game, instead heading around campus to all of the bookstores and shops to refill my Penn State gear list. I needed a couple of shirts for work, and some gifts for the wife, son and nephew. I was amazed by the variety of items out there and the disparity of prices as you went from store to store. I originally wanted to get Caleb a Penn State football jersey, but couldn’t find one that made sense for the money (at 2 1/2, he’s going to grow out of it in about 15 minutes). Instead, I figured that a t-shirt would be sufficient for now, although I’ll probably splurge on a jersey later. Have to counter-act that Univ. of Georgia influence he’s getting. I walked around campus for a while, seeing the multitude of changes that have happened recently. It’s amazing how much it’s changed not only since I graduated all of those years ago, but since I stopped being a regular visitor.

Eventually, I met up with others for lunch and then some pre-game happies. The real festivities began at 8 that night with the tournament. I happened to be sitting with two of the better players, which frightened me a bit. Web could be a semi-pro player and Stellar has a natural card ability that makes him dangerous. But the person who ended up being most dangerous was Joel, who plays clueless and free with the cards, and had such amazing luck that I’m surprised he didn’t pull out a royal flush to take the whole tourney off of a A – 2 unsuited deal. He played the most ridiculous deals, and managed to pull out winning hands on the flop, turn and river all night. He should have been out quickly; instead, he managed to parlay luck over skill well enough to make it to the final table.

As for me, I went 14 hands in a row without out betting, and after that, when I would stay in early, the flops were merciless. I finally had one decent hand and pushed it all in, hoping to counter what I thought was a bluff by Web. It wasn’t and he cleaned me out, 6th person out of the 31-person field. My luck didn’t change much in the cash game afterward. Luckily, I wasn’t as invested here and left only $5 after an hour of playing. Some nights the cards just avoid you, I guess.

It was great to get up to Penn State that weekend, anyway. I got to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a while, meet some of the newer brothers, and hung out with some old friends. I didn’t win at poker, but I didn’t devestate my body, either, as I’ve been prone to do on other occasions. All in all, it was a good time – and now I’m looking forward to heading back during football season…

*Thanks to the immortal Monty Python for those lines…


3 Responses to “Summer EXtravaganza III

  • That sounds like a great time. I’m looking forward to seeing a college buddy of mine when we go to North Carolina. We’ve had a few get-togethers with a few of us, but I don’t think I even knew as many people in college as you have at your Extravaganzas.

    I had no idea anyone outside of Indiana had ever heard of Euchre. It’s pretty big here, but everywhere else I’ve gone, it seems like nobody’s heard of it. I never got that into it myself, but I’m not really into games in general.

    It’s weird how alcohol rules and laws change over time. Evanston, where Northwestern University is (which is where I went) was a dry town until the 70s. Things got a lot more open-minded for a while, but they seem to be cracking down more in the past few years.

  • Ninja easy. Although lumberjack would tell you they eat ninjas for breakfast, lumberjacks will eat anything for breakfast. Ninjas are too busy kicking ass to eat breakfast.

  • Michael – I learned about Euchre at my fraternity, although I think we were one of the few places at Penn State that played it. At one point, a 10-card variation became popular, but the ‘traditionalists’ always preferred 5-card. I miss playing when I’m not around the rest of the guys from the house.

    Thanks, Van – I’ll relay your vote to those ‘in the know’.

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