Good morning. It is 9:06 am on Monday, February 15, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where it is currently -3 degrees Fahrenheit.
I hosted a weekly radio show for KDIC my freshman year of college. I named the show Dr. Thunder, after the generic brand of Dr. Pepper sold at the Walmart off campus. This was the fall of 2007, when music blogs reined supreme and every song seemed to come with an accompanying remix by people with names like Aeroplane or Classixx or Wallpaper. The highlight of my fall semester came when an upperclassman on the music committee called in to my radio show to compliment my music selection.
I remember reading music blogs with names like Gorilla Vs. Bear and Said The Gramophone and, of course, Hipster Runoff. I remember manically scrolling through my Google Reader from my tiny dorm room on my 12-pound HP laptop that was constantly overheating. I desperately wanted to be cool, or “relevant,” as Carles would say. I still want to be cool, only a little less desperately. The aesthetic markers of coolness have changed drastically since I was 18, and I’ve pretty much aged out of that social bracket anyway.
My freshman year roommate was a girl named Lauren*. I met Lauren the summer before our freshman year through a Facebook group for the incoming class. We bonded over a shared love of Belle & Sebastian. Nevermind that I didn’t actually know any Belle & Sebastian songs, but I knew they were a Cool Band and was desperate to be seen as cool, and to have at least one friend in college. I wanted to belong. Lauren and I decided to room together.
We shared a 10-by-15-foot shoebox, the smallest double on campus. Lauren had brought her pet sugar glider to college with her (this was liberal arts school, after all). The sugar glider’s name was Lulu*, and she slept in a 3-by-3-by-6-foot mesh cage that Lauren had managed to squeeze under her lofted bed.
The first night after we moved in, I woke up in the middle of the night to a dog barking. While small marsupials were allowed on campus, dogs were not. Who had brought their dog to campus and let it out to roam the quad in the middle of the night? I realized it wasn’t a dog, but Lulu. Sugar gliders are nocturnal, as it turns out, and Lulu’s preferred activity for the hours of 2-6 am was leaping from one corner of her cage to the other while barking and emitting one of the foulest varieties of piss I’ve ever smelled.
I’d made a grave error.
Lauren and I had a music class together, and she would often bring Lulu to class with her, when she bothered showing up to class. She would tuck Lulu into her cleavage to keep warm, and Lulu would sleep through class that way, her wide eyes occasionally blinking out from between Lauren’s considerable breasts.
Lauren quickly befriended the upperclassmen who lived off-campus, so Lulu and I often had the room to ourselves at night — Lulu whining from her cage, and me lying in my lofted bed trying not to think about my checking account balance. While most of my clothes were from Kohl’s and Old Navy, Lauren’s clothes were from American Apparel, Anthropologie, Free People. I’d be waking up for my 6-8 am lifeguarding shift at the campus pool when Lauren would be stumbling back to our dorm room to pass out.
Sometimes she didn’t make the climb up to her bed. One time I came back from class to an empty room. I started unpacking my backpack when I heard a muffled groan. I turned around to see Lauren passed out in her pile of dirty laundry in our shared closet. Another day I came back from class to find Lauren lying in bed, her arm flopped over the side of her lofted bed, a hospital bracelet dangling from her wrist. She’d gotten alcohol poisoning at an off-campus party and had to have her stomach pumped.
One day, Lauren let Lulu out of her cage. To Lulu’s credit, she was very cute hopping the 24-inch gap between our lofted beds, her webbed arms outspread. Then Lulu leaped down to my desk, and before I knew what was happening, she was pissing on my laptop keyboard. I screamed and batted Lulu off of my keyboard, but the damage was done. Despite the campus IT center’s best efforts, my hard drive was fried, along with all of my work from the semester. Lauren didn’t offer to buy me a new laptop, and I worked out of the computer lab for the rest of the school year.
Lauren stopped going to classes altogether halfway through the semester, and she was expelled. The last I heard from her, she was living in LA working as a waitress at a vegan restaurant. I hope she’s doing better now than when we were both 18-year-old girls desperate to look cool to upperclassmen. Lulu is long gone by now. RIP Lulu.
Anyway: this is a song that reminds me of that time in my life, the good times and the sugar-glider-pissing-on-my-laptop times. It’s a great song to dance to. I hope you have a good week.
* Names changed to protect identities