I’m a sophomore, now. Last year I was a freshman and I lived on Old Campus, along with the rest of the real freshmen. TD, Silliman, I’m sorry. It’s true. We like you guys, sure, but you’re so far away. So — good luck with that.
The path I traveled on the weekends was the same, week after week. From Old Dirty Campus to Naples and back. That’s how it was on Thursday and Friday nights. Pitchers and pizza. Flip cup. Curt cashiers and long lines. Frequent bathroom breaks and a din of debate over what Bob Seger songs should be invested in on the jukebox. Tables so ragged with carved initials you could barely set your drink on them. And let’s not forget that everyone you ever met was always there.
I’m not a fan of nostalgia, as my friends will re-affirm. But my eyes are watering, just thinking of Naples and the enormous role it played in my freshman year. Thursday nights at Naples were a thing to behold– And now, for no good reason, they are no more.
I’m 19 years old. I’ll be 20 in two months. And I have drunk beer. Alcoholic beer. Once I even had a gin and tonic. There. I said it. I guess I can never run for public office now. I broke the law. Come on over and arrest me. Lock me up and throw away the key. I’m an underage drinker.
Naples is the best place in the world to be an underage drinker. (They serve you beer without an ID. Oops — did I spoil the secret?) Or at least it WAS the best place in the world. I say this not only because I have such fond memories of the electric atmosphere on the weekends. It wasn’t just fun. It was smart fun. It was safe.
Firstly, you could never get too drunk at Naples. At least I never ever saw anyone sick there, in all my nights. Or at least I don’t REMEMBER anyone sick. Maybe I was too drunk to remember, I don’t know. That’s not the point.
There are simply too many people around to let things get out of hand — too many friends — too many eyes — too many little guys behind the counter who would cut you off and kick you out into the cold Wall Street night if you were getting too crazy. Besides, unlike hard liquor, beer is not full of surprises. You can take five or six shots of vodka with no idea of how drunk you’re about to get. You can do this in a minute or two. And then you can spend the rest of the night ill and remorseful, because you drank too much, and couldn’t feel it when you were doing it.
It’s hard to drink too much with beer. Beer doesn’t sneak up on you. You’ve never drunk a beer and then said: “Oh man– That one hit me HARD.” It’s beer. It builds. It swells. It doesn’t stab. You know exactly how drunk the next cup will make you. It’s not dangerous stuff. When was the last time you heard of someone getting their stomach pumped from drinking too much beer?
Excuse me. President Levin? Hi, bubby. Listen– Students drink. If they don’t drink at Naples, they drink at parties — and parties are, by and large, a much more risky environment in which to inebriate oneself. Not only because (unlike Naples) they are ENTIRELY without supervision, but because parties are mixed bags.
They’re mystery alcohols, occasional fights, and atmospheres conducive to dancing and to hooking up. And we all know how nasty things can get with regards to the latter. I woke up Saturday morning next to a short, bald man who assured me I’d been a gentleman. I think he was Eastern European.
Naples isn’t about drinking mystery concoctions or dancing or randomly, regrettably hooking up. It’s something much more essential, something much more benevolent. When I walked each week from my room to Naples, I knew exactly what I was looking for, and what I was in for — a vibrant, conversational atmosphere, some loud non hip-hop music (a major bonus for someone like me, whose favorite group is E.L.O.). Beer was a factor, but it was not the point. Anyone who labels Naples a sort of exploitative college-town speakeasy is missing the point.
More than that, anyone who thinks that the undeserved persecution of Naples is for the best has probably never been to Naples. And probably has never had any friends. And probably has never had any beer. These are the people still fit to run for and serve in public office.
How many Yale students ever walked out of Naples after a night of revelry, climbed into their car parked outside and rolled it on the highway? Seriously. I’d like a statistic on this, because I’ve never heard of anything remotely like that happening.
For one thing, Yale students walk. We don’t drive. Where would we drive? Hamden? You know what’s in Hamden? Because I don’t. I think there’s a Ponderosa Steak House, but don’t quote me on it.
I walked. I walked home. I perhaps could not have walked a straight line, but I walked a straight enough line to get home safe. We all walked home, happy and drunk, enjoying college, thankful that there was a place like Naples — a safe, fun, essential place — a place we could not imagine being without.
I’m a sophomore now, and I pity the freshman who not only must imagine a Yale without Naples or a place like it, but that must spend four years there.
Greg Yolen is a sophomore in Pierson College who loves Matt, more than he should. More than Matt thinks.