7:30 — Catching a flick
Despite the risk of getting caught in the downpour, Brent Lowry ’09, Ashley Malone ’09 and Audrey Pak ’09 leave Lanman Wright a little after 7 p.m. to catch the Yale Medical School Film Society’s 7:30 showing of “Crash.”
Instead of braving the 10 minute walk to the Med School, the trio of Pierson freshmen decides to venture across Old Campus to wait for the Yale Shuttle at Phelps Gate — this was one movie the weather would not keep them from seeing. They join about 15 other Yalies waiting for a bus to whisk them to “that other part of campus” beyond Interstate 91. But it is already 7:06, and the crowd is getting antsy. The freshmen watch as a group of five hops into a MetroTaxi cab and abandon the more frugal Yalies set on using the complimentary transportation their tuition pays for.
Lowry and Pak had tried valiantly to make the 7:30 show the previous night. But after arriving at the Medical School by Yale Minibus, they had found that luck was not on their side: “We didn’t know where it was,” Lowry admits.
Their misfortunes continued when he and Pak finally discovered that Hope 101, the lecture hall where “Crash” was screening that night, was packed, with only a couple of empty seats remaining.
So they turned around and decided to return for the next night’s showing, though not without a heaping dose of deja vu. Sunday night, Lowry, Malone and Pak run into difficulties as well; after hustling over to an empty Hope 101, which they now know the location of all too well, they realize the screening location must have changed.
Minutes after the other passengers on their bus, the three frantically run to the vestibule of Harkness Auditorium to purchase their tickets. With an ounce of embarrassment and an ounce of relief, the three file in and take their seats, at last able to experience the movie they had gone through so much trouble to see.
Though their first time at the Medical School had been a harrowing one, they don’t seem to hold any hard feelings.
“It was worth it,” Pak says.
8:30 — SigEp’s feng shui
-Daphne Miller and Katie Rockman
It’s T-minus 35 minutes until go-time, and the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon have just made an intense game time decision: due to the night’s inclement weather, the second floor of the fraternity house will be open to guests.
Spontaneous? Yes. But that’s just how these men roll.
Rain or shine, the Sig Ep brothers are determined to throw a damn good party. And with the backyard out of commission — let’s be honest, mud and khakis don’t mix — the brothers are making a few last minute adjustments.
The beverages, of course, are present and accounted for: champagne chilling on ice, Kamikaze shots a-plenty, and case upon case of cold PBR (cans, mind you, not kegs) — a promising start to the fun-filled evening ahead.
Still, though the essentials are on hand, the set up is far from complete.
Ned Mitchell ’07 takes a break from moving an armchair near the fireplace. Wearing a red silk kimono, he gestures majestically from the door through the house with both arms and explains the frat’s take on feng shui: “You’ve got to think about the flows.” In anticipation of the rush of Yalies expected to fill the two rooms of the house’s main floor, all furniture has either been pushed aside or moved upstairs, leaving only a white foldout table topped with the aforementioned adult beverages. And with music already playing in the background — think “Murder on the Dance Floor” and “Hypnotize” — it is easy to imagine the fiesta in full swing.
But who gets to come to this fabulous soiree? Who, if you will, makes the cut?
Joe Handel ’07 says he put “cool” freshmen on the list, people who he wants “to share in the Sig Ep experience.”
“Some would say that’s elitist, but it makes a better experience for those involved,” Handel says. But he adds hastily, “It’s not like we’re going to turn people away at the door.”
So, though the e-mail may say “by invitation only,” the Sig Ep vibe is far from exclusive. In fact, we got the invite on the spot — and a pair of complimentary shots for the walk home.
9:20 — Looking for cash
“Can you help me out? Just listen for a second, let me tell you what’s gone down …”
John Konoroski mutters into the window of a red Crown Victoria. The driver looks haggard, his dark skin flushed by the primary colors of traffic lights and the glow from the nearby ATM.
“Sorry, man, got no cash on me,” he says too loudly, not-so-surreptitiously rolling up the window.
What’s gone down is that Konoroski’s friend had given him a ride down to New Haven from Wallingford to make a few dollars laying drywall, then drove off without him after 13 hours of skim coating side by side. Now it’s 9:30 p.m., and the hemp necklace Konoroski tied on this morning is frayed, the 10 dollar bill he left home with spent on a soda, a beer and a sandwich, and his eyes red-rimmed with exhaustion.
“Can you help me out?”
To four people this time, two of whom are inexplicably in suits and ties only a few hours before midnight on a Saturday night. Across from the New Haven Green on Chapel Street, the party gives him a long explanation about only carrying plastic. One of the women puts out a cigarette against a wall before shaking her head.
The shelters in New Haven have probably closed for the night, Konoroski says, and he absolutely has to get back to the church where he’s staying for now. Konoroski needs less than $3 in total for the bus back, and so far none of the four dozen people he’s asked have given him anything.
Plaster-stained sneakers march off the Green and up to two Asian women, one wheeling a bike and the other grocery-laden and sweating.
“Can you help me out?”
They don’t even have the grace to look abashed or duck their heads to avoid eye contact.
Konoroski shrugs affably. “Probably don’t speak English,” he says.
This is what it means to be up all night in New Haven: Split-second Brownian collisions with people who walk at New York speed with only a suburb’s supply of places to go; ambulances, inebriated students and fellow night owls who drift past just often enough to prevent peace and quiet; and, inescapably, the loneliness of a city where the biggest breach to the skyline is a gothic tower.
Konoroski decides it’s not for him. He’ll walk it, he says — Wallingford is only 10 miles away, and, anyway, the city bus stops running at 10:30 p.m., which isn’t so far off.
But a tall, balding man crosses Whitney Avenue a few paces in front of Konoroski, and maybe, he guesses, this time he’ll get lucky.
“Can you help me out? Listen for a second …”
9:40 — 2-Walk kung fu
Carlos Vega whirls his blue-and-white striped umbrella baton-style, two-stepping in the middle of Cross Campus.
“So that’s what you do if someone swings at you like this,” he says, pausing for a Rocky-style uppercut. “You slam on the front brake, and then the back pops up.”
Vega is a security officer with 2-WALK, and tonight is not his night. Typically, a 2-WALK officer responds to a phone call by riding his bicycle out to the pick-up point and then wheeling the bike next to him as he walks the caller to his or her destination. Were an assailant to attack the pair, Vega explains, the bike can serve as a handy self-defense tool.
It is not Vega’s night because his bike has a flat tire, which is why he is demonstrating this two-wheeler Aikido with an umbrella and why it took 20 minutes for him to arrive at the Whitney Humanities Center after my call to 2-WALK.
It is also
not his night because he managed to break a window in the Sterling Law School. As we pass, he re-enacts the accident for me, scuffing the spot where he tripped and pointing his neat tape job on the part of the window his hand went through.
“Dogmeat, my mother would say,” Vega says, pointing to his ripped hand.
For the past six months of Vega’s life, five evenings a week have been built around the rhythms of these walks: staccato punctuation from his crackling radio, encounters with random loners whom he begs to escort to their next locale and long-running jokes with other guards. Vega has fielded 13 calls tonight on his eight-hour shift, encompassing everything from the jumble of students locked out of rooms to dorm alarms that won’t stop beeping to the nervous, the lazy and the drunk who need someone to accompany them.
As we walk across Cross Campus on our way to Jonathan Edwards, Vega pauses, always looking out for a way to break up the tedium of his night.
“Do you smell smoke?” he asks. “I think I smell smoke.”
10:15 — Chicken and the city
A homeless man approaches a Popeye’s employee — outside in the light drizzle on a smoking break — and asks if she can get him some food.
“Sure,” she replies, puffing on her cigarette absent-mindedly. “I’ve never denied anyone food.”
As my three friends and I enter the fast-food joint, the fluorescent lights, colorful murals and faint disco music are at first a bit overwhelming. Though it seems surprisingly busy, with about 10 customers at the counter and an equal number of bustling purple-polo-clad employees behind the counter, no one is sitting at any of the tables. A group of seven or eight 20-something guys sit on the curb out front talking and laughing in what seems like a regular ritual.
After about 10 minutes of waiting in line (the men in front of us grumble, “We should have gone to KFC”), Emma takes our order. After we finally make sense of the somewhat complicated ordering process, Emma matches up our sauces, side-dishes and drink orders. When I hand her my American Express card, she looks across the room.
“Miss Lisa,” she asks the woman in the beige polo sweeping on the other side of the restaurant. “Do we take American Express?”
“Not only do we not take American Express,” Lisa retorts, momentarily pausing from her sweeping, “We don’t take any credit cards at all.”
After a brief silence, Lisa adds, chuckling, “Where would you swipe it anyway?”
A fellow worker nudges Emma in the side and jokes, “She’d swipe it in her pocket.”
While the restaurant itself is fairly empty, the evident camaraderie among the workers fills the room.
“We always have a really good time,” Talicia, a Popeye’s employee, tells me.
As we dispose of our empty soda cups and rolled-up napkins and make our way out, Miss Lisa’s voice echoes behind us as she chastises one of her staff members.
“You called me all the way over here to your register and now you’re not even here?!”
10:50 — Game night means TV
“So this is a typical Saturday night,” James Stewart ’07 exhales.
A mere brick facade away from the Old Campus Saturday night frenzy, their common room is like a parallel universe. Soaring white walls enclose a scattered collection of futons, alcohol paraphernalia and a hissing television. Red plastic cups are strewn over yellowed hardwood floors.
They look like artifacts from a collapsed civilization.
“The team has a 48 hour rule,” Miller explains. “No alcohol 48 hours before a game.”
Unfortunately for Stewart and his suitemate Jake Miller ’07, tomorrow is game day. At 1:30 Sunday afternoon, they’re scheduled to be at the Yale soccer fields — sans hangovers and the acquired Toads odor — to play American University. But now they must face the catatonic calm before the storm.
The television projects a neon bath of baseball games and TGI Fridays commercials. Occasionally interrupting its broadcast with indecipherable fuzz, it’s still mainly smothered by the snarl of the fan.
“We usually try and get to bed by midnight,” Miller asserts while fumbling with a purple Vitamin Water bottle.
His voice becomes victim to its own echoes as it detonates in the vast stratosphere of the room. His words ricochet off the walls and into the burgeoning Old Campus nightscape of scraping high heels and oppressive cologne.
His eyes listlessly wander back to the television. The room is again condemned to stillness. His hand crawls towards the remote and switches the channel.
“I make the sacrifice,” he concedes. “Games are what you look forward to.”
12:30 — Weird science and beer
At this hour in Sterling Chemistry Lab, one’s footsteps echo down the hallways like a scene in a bad horror film. Passing room after room filled with only the sound of whirring airvents and the quiet hum of idling computers, the building appears deserted. In Room 142, however, there are signs of life.
Marko Hapke, a second-year postdoctoral candidate, is working under the fume hood. His blue-gloved hands gently shake a test tube filled with cloudy brown liquid. Nearby, a foggy gas begins to flow down the sides of a two-gallon metal container.
In the small lounge down the hall from the lab, Hapke removes his neon-green safety goggles and sits in a red leather chair. A large butcher knife sits ominously — and bafflingly — in the center of the table in a room cluttered with coffee machines and dry-erase boards. This is not your freshman organic chem lab.
Through his thick German accent, Hapke describes his work studying the breakdown and reforming of organic compounds. His group’s research focuses on the actions of carbon-hydrogen bonds; possible applications for their experiments’ results include alternative energy sources, making every hour incredibly valuable. Even so, Hapke finds his work schedule, which involves a six-day work week and frequent late-night work sessions, to be a big change from his former experience in Oldenberg, Germany.
But late nights in the chemistry lab aren’t all work. Though he’s working alone tonight, Hapke says the lab is usually more full, and he enjoys the company of his co-workers and the camaraderie that comes with working on a team project. The socializing certainly differs from the way it’s done in Germany, though, he adds with a smile, it is not uncommon for German researchers to enjoy a beer or two while working in the lab.
In his current position, however, things are a bit different.
“I once brought in a six-pack, and it took five days to find someone to finish it,” Hapke says.
1:30 — Down and out at DUH
Apparently, if you’re going to DUH on a Saturday night, you’re going by 12. All the action happens before midnight, says the genial security guard who mans the front desk from then on. Surprisingly, it’s the earlier shift that takes in most of the kids who went a little fast, whose plans got cut a little short.
By the time the night has rolled around to 1:30, all of Hillhouse is silent and dark, and so is most of DUH. Uninviting during the day, at night the squat gray mass seems even more deliberately a destination of last resort. From the outside, the building looks like it could be closed entirely. The path from the sidewalk to the main entrance is lit, but barely. The entrance itself is blocked by a set of poles strung with a velvet rope, as if the clinic were something more pleasant — a movie theater or a private club.
Still, the doors are unlocked, and DUH is going, just at a less frantic pace than before. Now the waiting room is emptied of the variously sympathetic and annoyed friends it held
earlier. There is just the guard — standing at the desk, neck craning to watch the music videos playing on the waiting room TV — and rows and rows of empty plastic chairs. If there’s any action left in the building, it’s upstairs with the nurses and their charges, though that action is probably limited to waiting, sleeping and unpleasant trips to the bathroom.
The rest of campus may be all action, all light and noise, but this is DUH. This is the place that no one wanted to be tonight, and the silence of the street, the rows of empty chairs and the tired face of a harried nurse all exude a silent hope that nothing more will happen before morning.
2:00 — Toad’s after the last dance
The zombies are spit out onto York Street — glassy-eyed, beer staining the front of their shirts, trying to concentrate on getting back to their colleges or the Quinnipiac bus. The big doors close, and for the first time in hours, you can hear yourself think in Toad’s Place.
The club’s interior looks like a commercial for flood insurance. Much of the 15 kegs and 150 cases of beer owner Brian Phelps says Toad’s goes through on a Saturday seems to have wound up on the floor, along with hundreds of cups, crushed cans and other debris.
“Puke, there’s always a lot of puke in this place,” Phelps says.
Enormous ventilator fans try to suck the smell of body odor, old beer and vomit out of the building. Professional cleaners will come in at 6 a.m. to clean out most of the club. For now, the focus is on getting the trash out, washing glasses and mopping the dance floor.
Downstairs, employee Doug Roberts is given the Herculean task of cleaning the men’s room, where you can’t step anywhere without hearing the wet squelch of paper towels. All of the toilets are clogged with paper, cups and – inexplicably – a tampon wrapper.
“I have a disgusting job,” Roberts says dryly.
By 3 a.m. some – though not all – of the club has that antiseptic hospital smell. The bars are all scrubbed clean and the cups have been swept off the dance floor. Around 3:15 a.m., a man outside apparently smashes the glass in front of the club with his fist. Police and emergency personnel — no strangers to Toad’s — wrap up the man’s hand and take him away. Within minutes, the glass is cleared away and a piece of plywood is screwed in over the window. There’s barely a stir from the staff — just another zombie causing another mess.
5:45 — Sunrise on the A&A roof
The Elm City is still in the predawn hours. Lights dot the entryways in Pierson and Davenport colleges while streetlamps buzz and flicker, illuminating the streets with their sickly yellow light. A cool breeze sweeps eastward across the rooftop of the Art and Architecture building, carrying a candy bar wrapper with it. All the while, the giant fan powering the tower’s ventilation system drones in the background, a reminder that the city is never really asleep.
The dark sky slowly changes color, from pitch black to a deep clear blue. The few clouds in the distance enhance the warmer pink and orange tones in the sky as the sun makes itself almost visible, obscured by the highrises downtown. The hesitant start to the day makes time slow to a crawl.
Looking over the edge of the roof reveals an eight-story drop. Small rocks, accidentally displaced by feet dragged sleepily across the rooftop, sail downwards and land with a soft thud on the earth in the adjacent lot. Across the street, a lone deliveryman exits his car and deposits a load of newspapers at Jonathan Edwards. He pauses to stretch his back before returning to his car and heading to his next destination.
Soon, the sun clears the skyline. A blaze of yellow flares up in the clouds as the pinks and oranges retreat, leaving nothing but a naked cerulean sky. The few birds that interrupt the scene only do so momentarily, but even they do not dare break the dawn silence.
A downtrodden old man clad in beat-up corduroys, a maroon sweater and a baseball cap pushes a squeaking shopping cart down the street. His worn out sneakers audibly scuff the pavement as the wheels clack over the cracks, protesting their journey without a destination. With every additional square of concrete traversed comes a chorus of clinks from his cargo, a mountain of empty beer bottles. After searching a rubbish bin for recyclables but finding nothing, he turns a corner and shuffles out of sight.
By 7 a.m., the sun is well above the buildings. As it begins to warm the tranquil city, signs of life become visible. Joggers and dog-walkers appear on the streets, buses start their routes, and church bells ring. A muffled jackhammer can be heard across the street at a construction site. Beyond the Marriott Hotel, a siren wails, shattering the city’s reverie. Another day has begun in New Haven.
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