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Walking in through the gates of Chilifest in Snook, Texas, you’d be hard-pressed to find any chili, or really anything that isn’t a college student holding a lukewarm beer and covered in mud and dirt. The Texas country music festival is essentially Christmas for Texas A&M students and Greek organizations, who occupy an entire side of the grounds and drink an ungodly amount of alcohol in temporary structures built specifically for the event.
In short, it’s paradise. I went the last two years, and even though I graduated (from a different Texas school) in December, I was convinced by a good friend of mine still in college to make one last pilgrimage. This was the first time I’ve been 21 years old, which means I could drink freely in the open and not have to worry about the police randomly picking me out of a crowd.
My experience as a graduate was much different than when I was a student, however. Here are the three things I noticed about the dichotomy between attending
We didn’t realize how ridiculously gross we were in college.
Last year when I went, a complete stranger hopped in a portable toilet with me and peed in the sink, telling me the whole time that “it’s alright man, don’t worry about it.” This year, although it did not rain a single drop, the entire ground of the fraternity build I was in was a muddy swamp, as everyone just drops their beers immediately upon finishing them and walks away. People walk around with beer cans holstered to their belts, ready to pull one out, spray everyone around them with foamy Frio Light like a bootleg version of a Word Series celebratory champagne shower, and go on with their merry way.
All of this adds to the charm, of course, and as a college student I was more than happy to hurl an empty beer can across a sea of people with no regard for my surroundings. Hell, I might or might not have peed behind the U-Haul full of beer once or twice or five times — there’s just no way of knowing, or proving. But having been out of the university experience, even for a brief three months, meant that I was surprised just how filthy we all were back in the golden days.
Authority figures might as well not exist in these scenarios.
Chilifest is the site of the infamous rock-paper-scissors duel with a drunk girl and a cop, a legal masterstroke that will go down in history alongside Johnnie Cochran’s defense of OJ and Tom Cruise getting Jack Nicholson to admit he ordered the code red. I saw a girl this year who was much less fortunate – as the police hauled her away in their Polaris four-runner, the crowd of onlookers all let out a cheer, and she raised her hands in the air like Adam Vinatieri winning a Super Bowl for the Patriots.
Respect for authority goes out the window once the cheap beer starts flowing. One guy, told by a cop that he had to leave a fraternity’s bus because he very clearly was not a member, proceeded to spend the next five minutes outside the bus politely suggesting, like Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro, that the members of that fraternity should provide him with oral sex, to put it politely. Police officers patrolling the area for Uber pickups and martialing the crowds were quickly booed to the point where it became a demilitarized zone, with only the whims and pointed jeers of people waiting for their cars keeping the line of moderately confused and mildly amused Uber drives moving.
There’s no real postgrad equivalent to weekends like this.
Sure, there are music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo that may attract as many adults as college kids. But Chilifest is pure, uncut dope – an opportunity to act and live like savages for two days, watch Lynyrd Skynyrd blow out a speaker during Free Bird, and drink as much beer and smoke as many ill-advised cigarettes as possible.
And even after Chilifest, especially on Saturday night, the bar scene is as strong as it would be on any other weekend. I can’t imagine there will be too many nights in my postgrad life when I’m coaxed into taking two shots immediately upon going out as “a little energy boost so you don’t get shaky.” Normally at 11 p.m. I’m either asleep or finishing up an episode of The Wire on HBONow, and even on the weekends I’m not trying to have an alcoholic beverage in my hand in a continuous stretch from 9:30 a.m. to 2 a.m the next morning.
When I woke up Sunday morning, my whole body physically hurt, as if I had just run a triathlon. In college I could wake up and leave Chilifest back to my school at the crack of dawn – I once left at 6 a.m. after staying out until 1:30 that morning in order to make an on-campus job interview (which I got, to my surprise). This year I spent an hour and a half on my friend’s bedroom floor, blearily staring at my phone and trying to stop my hands from shaking.
This will probably be my last Chilifest, because I just can’t justify spending $150 of my starter-job salary on a two-day ticket to act like a complete animal and do things that would cause my mother to call and lecture me from ten hours away. There’s nothing in this world that compares to the feeling as a college student walking through those gates. I found myself this year feeling like a heroin addict chasing a high – don’t get me wrong, it was an incredible time, but it’ll never be like it was in the glory years.
Then again, I don’t have a test in three classes this week like most of those students, so maybe the postgrad life isn’t as bad as I think..