What better way to commemorate an event then a souvenir? A sweatshirt, a party favor,even a simple postcard. From a faded junior prom corsage to a personaliozed yarmulke from your mother-in-law’s cousin’s bar mitzvah, these keepsakes take us back to a joyous (or sometimes unbearable) moment in time. So shouldn’t it just be common sense that the brothers of Theta Nu from time to time would procure a momento of their moments?
Take, for example, the after-dinner dance shenanigans in 1968. A small contingent of Theta Nus and their dates headed down to Joe Strasko’s family bungalow in Ortley Beach. (Let it be known that they did, in fact, pay for the damages after Mr. Strasko sent them a bill.) The revelry played out as it had a hundred times before: furniture pushed aside or deposited out back; the refrigerator emptied to make room for cases of Horlacker of Iron City beer. mattresses and cushions strewn about to make room for …well, you know. Already primed from the earlier festivities, brothers and girls saturated themselves until the booze ran out. And one-by-one, they passed out. Like sardines wedged around and against each other. Some on top of his date, some on top of somebody else’s date, some on top of…no, I won’t go there. They fought valiantly to preserve their consciousness but to no avail. They fell – Williams, Brateris, Donovan, both Fowlers. Guys and dolls piled up, lying down, sitting up, bent over like one breathy, snoring menagerie. Until only two remained standing.
Marty Flynn and Artie Gonnaud had somehow outdistanced themselves. They surveyed the panorama around them and intuitively knew what they must do – get more beer! Neither of them had driven there but they were men of Theta Nu and had benefitted from the Message of Garcia. Nothing could stop them. What the hell -Ronnie Cerrito’s ’57 was waiting outside. All they needed was the keys. No pocket was ever more easily picked.
So off they ventured. Village Liquors was only a couple miles down Route 35. It never occured to them that at two o’clock in the morning, it would be closed. But then again, it didn’t matter. Because they never got that far. Maybe it was coincidence. Maybe it was God’s plan. But for whatever reason, Kling’s Diner was between them and the Village. And Kling’s was identified by a sign hanging out front. A sign, that if borrowed and hung on the wall back at Strasko’s would certainly, when everyone awoke, jumpstart the next day in high spirits.
Flynn, of solid atheletic ability, shimmied up the pole, unhinged the sign and dropped it down to Gonnaud, his designated look-out. In a moment, the sign was wedged into the back seat. Another moment brought the realization that the doors wouldn’t close. Should they just discard their treasure and continue on their original mission? No, that wouldn’t be heroic at all. And besides, their marinated minds had already lost what they started out for. Down the road they drove, back doors wide open.
It might have taken a minute. It might have taken two. Route 35 was the only main road in Ortley and even a blind cop couldn’t miss this one.
They were pulled over by a twenty-year old rookie cop. Since this was his first big bust, he was intent on bringing them in himself. “Follow me to the police station”, he ordered.
Too tired and snotted up to argue, they obediently followed; doors flapping in the cool night breeze. While they spent the next hour behind bars, baby-cop called the owner of Kling’s and proudly apprised him of the situation. Kling’s response was not as expected. Not only was he not grateful for such splendid police work, he was outraged that he was awakened in the middle of the night for such an apparently silly college prank. He had no intention of pressing charges and only wanted his sign put back where it belonged.
That could have been a nice happy ending to the story but it wasn’t. The sargeant on duty called the local magistrate who ordered that they make bail. Sure it was rather odd that they hadn’t been officially charged with anything but this was a small shore town in need of revenue and so someone had to pay something. It’s only fair – that’s the law! Having no more than the price of two six-packs between them, their release seemed unlikely. Fortunately the Sarge gave himself wide latitude in such matters and resolved that the monetary remittance outweighed the pound of flesh.
He instructed the dim-witted kiddy-cop to take Gonnaud back to the party, come back with the bail money, and the matter would be dropped. While Marty remained as collateral, they made it back to Strako’s just as the morning sun shimmied across the Atlantic. Much to their chagrin, the semi-oblivious brothers ponied up their bacon, egg and cheese savings until they made bail. Meanwhile, the young rookie was fascinated by what he saw. This conglomeration of half-naked, half-conscious, totally debauched herd of people – this what life’s about! On the way back, he asked, “You think you guys will be back next year?”
“I don’t think Marty and I will be.” replied Artie.
“Oh”, said the rookie in a tone of absolute despondence. And then, after a moment of thought, “What about the rest of them?”