...or nine months in a Cuban family's basement!

Housing options in Dover, New Jersey were limited and how I ended up in the basement of a Cuban-American family is still a mystery to me. The mother and father spoke almost no English. Their three children, two daughters and a son, spoke English better than most of us and the grandmother... well, she was unique. On several occasions, the grandmother would venture out on a deck that was located above my bedroom window, and clear her sinuses... in a rather disgusting way. But, all in all, they were a very nice family... especially the extremely cute daughters. But I digress...

Shortly after I moved into my room other Kubert students found their way into “the basement.” The first to arrive were Tim and Pat Kennedy. The lanky, red-headed twins from Cincinnati, Ohio. I really liked these guys... even if they had an obsessive devotion to James Garner and the TV show Hill Street Blues. They occupied one room, while I had the other all to myself until... Graham Nolan arrived.

In an alternate reality Graham and I might have been the best of friends... nah. Now, I’m not saying that there was anything wrong with Graham, on the contrary. It’s just that we were from two very different worlds. He hailed from Satellite Beach, Florida while I was a land-lovin’ midwestern boy. He was tan, athletic and good looking while I was pale, fat and... not so good looking. And to top it off... the bastard could draw! OK, maybe I was jealous but, at least I didn’t comb my chest hairs. So there.

The bedrooms were full but, Kubert students kept coming. So, two beds were placed in the family room. One was for Bill Schultz. Bill was one of those guys you couldn’t help but like, although, I don’t think it was a coincidence that his initials were B.S. I don’t know what became of Bill but, if the art thing didn’t pan out, he could have been a used car salesman or possibly a politician.

The other bed was for Adam Cortez who showed up about a third of the way through the school year. Adam was a second-year animation student who quickly became a good friend and... something more... my ride. Adam had a car and his animation classes were at the same time as my classes. Hallelujah!! No more walking through the snow and rain to get to school. For the most part, we all got along quite well. Since Adam and I were on the same schedule, we spent the most time together.

I was on a very strict budget at school and quite often had to decide between my comic book habit and food. Usually comic books won out which is probably why I lost 35 pounds that year. Considering I weighed over 350 at the time, I could afford to lose some weight. Since those art school days, I’ve taken off almost 100 pounds and weigh in at 240 on a 6’ 3” frame.

What became a tradition for us basement dwellers were Wednesday nights at Vincent’s (no relation) Restaurant. On this particular night of the week they had an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner for $3.50. Myself, Adam, the twins, Bill and Graham almost put this establishment out of business. They soon came to dread our presence because we were the only people that caused them to lose money on this all-you-can-eat deal. Usually, myself, Adam and Bill would make it to the third plate - after that we could go a day or so without eating. I refer to this as cost effective food management.

Like a lot of kids I experimented, ever so briefly, with alcohol for the first time in college. People who know me now, will vouch that I abstain from alcohol entirely. This is in no way related to my college experiences - I just never acquired a taste for alcohol.

My first sampling of alcohol was when Tim and Pat Kennedy gave me a couple shots of Southern Comfort. Nothing. My next encounter was a Budweiser that Graham gave me. I got about a third of it down. Nasty. Never again.

Adam, on the other hand, was bound and determined to get me drunk. So, he bought a fifth of Tequila Sunrise and had me drink the whole bottle. It didn’t taste that bad - it didn’t taste that good either but, I drank it all. There was only one problem... Adam couldn’t afford enough alcohol to get me drunk. The reason... my sheer body mass counteracted the affects of that comparatively small amount of alcohol. The most that ever happened was that I felt a little warm. Needless to say, Adam was disappointed.

Each of my roomies handled alcohol in very different ways. Pat tended to be the angry drunk while his brother, Tim was the friendly drunk. Adam became the party animal while Bill seemed much more subdued than usual... and Graham? Well, I had hopes of having a room all to myself after one of Graham’s alcohol adventures. It was late one evening, after I had gone to sleep, when Graham stumbled into our room and collapsed on his bed. As Graham lay on his back, moaning and groaning he suddenly began vomiting, choking, coughing and... well you get the picture. I didn’t want to watch Graham expire right in front of me so, I left the room.

I went into the other room to find most of the guys awake - some of them had just returned from a party. According to them, Graham had consumed a large quantity of alcohol at this party and thereby wasn’t able to navigate a long flight of stairs upon his departure. In a nutshell, Graham survived... in spite of my desire to have a room all to myself.