The phone rang twice before being answered. "Hello?" "Is this Erik?" "Yeah." The reply was tentative. "Are you a good Darkfriend, Erik?" The voice of the caller took on a sinister dimension. "Uh, I could be, I suppose." This reply was even more tentative than the first. "If you're a loyal Darkfriend, you'll be at the Chapter House at 9pm." "Uh, well, I have to do this paper for my professor. He's a really big darkfriend." "None bigger than I. This is one of the Chosen." "Uh, well, I'll see." "Don't make the Great Lord angry, Erik. Be there at 9. When you get there, ask for Naresh. Or Bors." The phone call ended. "Dude! Why did you give him my name?" Naresh asked as he hit me lightly on the arm. "Now *I* am going to get arrested for making crank calls! I can't believe you're so bogus, Bill."
Thus we got the ball rolling on what I think is technically the First-Ever Ithaca Darkfriend Social. Monday, April 1, 1996. Make what you will of the date.
Pam got a kinder treatment when I called her. After fearing that I scared Erik too much, I identified myself when I called her. She complained about homework, too, but she set her own trap by saying that she (a) didn't like it and (b) didn't plan to get it done anyway. After a bit of wheedling, she agreed to meet us at the Chapter House, a bar in Collegetown with a great beer selection and frequented by mostly grad-student types and older. (The Chapter House was always a favorite of mine for the aforementioned beer reason and because it was only half a block from my apartment during my senior year.) I tried calling Courtenay Footman twice, but nobody answered the phone.
It was really a spur-of-the-moment thing, so I'm sorry for not contacting any Ithacans whose names I forgot or folks who would have come if they had more than 15 minutes' notice. I was in town on Monday for a job interview (yes, I know, who actually GOES to Ithaca unless (a) for college or (b) because it's a bigger town than the 5-farm hamlet they live in) and I had an evening to kill. I would have suggested the social in advance, but I wasn't sure I'd have the evening free. I didn't want to get a bunch of friends together to meet with me and then not show up (on April Fools' Day, no less!).
Naresh and I drove up the hill to C-town, parked illegally in the Cornell lot on Stewart Street, and ambled over to the Chapter House. Damn, but it was cold! It snowed on Monday (reminder: this was April), after a weekend that saw temperatures in the 60s. I always figured Jordan had some real place in mind when he described the weather in the Blight.
Naresh and I settled in with pints (Newscastle Brown and Oregon Nut-Brown, respectively) and waited for Pam or Erik to show up. Pam arrived first. She confessed that she had thought about not coming, figuring that perhaps it was my idea of an April Fool's Day joke to call her up (from North Carolina), tell her I was in Ithaca, and ask her to meet me at a bar.
Anyway, I introduced Pam to my friend Naresh. Both of them are/were in the same graduate department at Cornell, although they didn't know each other before the Social. Naresh actually isn't a Darkfriend, and he's barely even heard of Robert Jordan or the Wheel of Time series, but he wasn't left out of the discussion... No, you see, the whole evening was spent with him and Pam having a bitch-fest about how the Applied Physics Department sucks, how several certain professors in the department suck, how graduate life in general sucks, how living in Ithaca sucks, and how pretty much anything connected with Cornell sucks.
I was hoping for someone *I* could talk to, in the form of Erik Schwiebert. I figured that since he was a CS/EE person, he and I would be able to discuss things and people of mutual interest. When Erik arrived, though, he fell right into the discussion about Physics sucking. Apparently he'd had enough exposure to the sucky department and sucky professors to know that they sucked, and had physics-major friends who complained about the suckiness there. Erik even contributed to the commiseration about how graduate life, in general, sucks, by pointing out that he was avoid being sucked in by the suckiness of grad life by getting a job.
In all, graduate life got a bad name at this social. Naresh had already pitched grad school in the toilet after 3 semesters of it and had just secured a job. Erik was avoiding grad school by getting a job. Pam was preparing to leave grad school for a hopefully much-less-sucky grad school, and I was attempting to leave the suckiness of grad school by trying to find a job (which, after all, was the whole reason I was in town).
Flustered by the outpouring of hatred against graduate life, I asked if any of us knew of anybody who liked grad school. None of us could name anyone. (Pam later asked around her department and found one -- one -- person who liked it.)
I think we had one obligatory WoT reference at this social. In the process of dragging one of their professors through the mud, Naresh and Pam discussed the possibility that the professor was a cocaine addict since he sniffed constantly. I asked Pam if this meant that Nynaeve was a "coke head". Pam said that all women in WoT are coke heads.
There were no Novak references. None, whatsoever. (Pam asks: Is this a record?)
There were a few memorable episodes at this social. I'll do my best to misrepresent them here.
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