The Boys in the Boathouse
A Novel -- really, none of this ever happened -- by Dr. Frank Emfbo
College boys are in the midst of huge changes in their brains. This leads to immense creativity. Our mommas were generally proud of such things. But when dozens of college boys are packed in, living together in the stress of working out twice a day and competing for a handful of seats in a boat, plus a killer workload in classes, not to mention genitals overeager for company, well, it just gets better. Camaraderie and creativity get stirred into a stew with a dash of sarcasm and a dollop of testosterone. It’s a beautiful thing. A new name is created and a man is born anew. Our mommas never expected this kind of wordsmithing from us.
Lots of nicknames are simple takes on a real name. Crawdaddy. Mikey. Porker. DeeJay. Sopp. Stillborn. Even Goog was just a mispronunciation of a real name. Fred Alphabet was just fucking lazy talk. OK the guy had the longest last name I’ve ever seen and at least half the letters of the alphabet, but fuck, show some respect and just give it a try.
This chapter is not about those names. It’s not about no-brainers like Bomar. The guy’s into computers. That’s strange, who the hell takes computers seriously? Call him Bomar. No, this is about a twist of fate tossed in with that rumbling stew of white hot passion to forge a name that sticks. Or, now and then, a name that’s best forgotten. Allow Doctor Frank to take you back.
Some guys show up with a name already hung on them. And still have it years later because nobody knows their real name. Dago had a few fellow grunties and even some varsity fuckers he knew from high school crew that spread the name around the crewhouse. And since he never talked or attempted to get anyone to use his real name, pretty soon it was cast in stone. But the questions abounded.
“What the hell, he’s not even Italian.” “Yeah, but I hear he’s got mafia connections.” “No, you dumb shit, it was some name game those Green Lake Crew punks played.”
Didn’t really matter. If the name had any doubt about sticking, two things happened to cement it for good.
Practice on cold mornings can be foggy on Lake Washington. Coxswains have a hard time seeing, and coaches sometimes lose their boats in the haze. Rather than having five boats bashing oars, they’ll send them off one at a time, coxswains following the sound of the boat in front, and hope the leader gets back to the boathouse without spearing anyone. On this particular day, as Dago’s boat disappeared into the mist, the whole team heard the send-off:
“Hasta Luego, Dago!” It became what today we’d call a meme. Dago leaving for class. Dago heading for dinner. Christ, Dago shuffling off to take a shit were all met with “Hasta Luego, Dago!” which was funny for, like, two days. But it’s been forty years and some still think it’s hilarious.
This led to The Dago Song. Doctor Frank reminds you of his resentment and anger expressed in Chapter Nine, but still. This shit was a great example and it was funny as hell to us at the time. Out of the blue came the lyrics. Now and then they still echo over reunion beers.
Dago is gay, so,
Some say he’s a good Joe, but
We know he’s a ho mo.
The last two syllables got equal emphasis and were sung like separate words. The song got plenty of play and Dago just flipped off the singers, smiling at the attention but maybe wishing it would all go away.
Best part about Dago’s name is that there are truly three years’ worth of grunties that, to a man, still don’t know his real name because they were scared shitless of him. He seriously never talked. He just stared at them, expressionless. We love our little victories.
Now, before Doctor Frank delves too deep into this one, let me say that Barker was a decent guy. Friendly, innocent, clean not mean, just a plain nice person. And let me say again, please refer to Chapter Nine.
Barker had a girlfriend who adored him. She believed that Husky Crew men deserved pep rally posters before races. Maybe she was a cheerleader in high school who put stuff on football players’ lockers on game days. Who knows.
So we wake up on race day morning to a giant “StudMuffin” banner in the hall outside Barker’s room.
What the fuck. Target. This would have been the automatic new nickname for any other guy, and the game would have been over. He’d be StudMuffin forever, probably still called Muffin at reunions. But Barker was at a different level for the teasing. Being a decent guy was not enough. He was from Bellevue, dressed in style, always looking good for the ladies. And his hair looked like he slept in a wind tunnel. He must have worked that mop two hours every morning with the blow dryer. All of which got people calling him gay, homo, what not already.
Then the StudMuffin thing happens and secures the crown of ridicule. We couldn’t just leave it at StudMuffin. We had to go further, god damn us.
There was a Husky cheerleader with a microphone who led cheers like this, letting the crowd yell the “Huskies!” part:
“I say go, you say Huskies! Go!”
The next night at dinner, some guy stands up and leads the cheer. Except he uses “Barker” and “homo.” Everyone dug it. It happened again and again. Like, the guy would walk by and the cheer would go up. It was brutal, it was wrong. But Barker got the last laugh, pulling a stick in the V Boat, homo or not.
The Pride of Conibear
OK now, this one was good. And well deserved. And the guy we hung it on never knew. How many nicknames go for four years with the nicknamed guy never knowing?
These days he might be called OMG. You could imagine the pants coming off and the partner’s hands going over her mouth while she can’t help herself. Oh. My. Gawd.
The man had a cock like a horse. Clydesdale size. Budweiser can size, sixteen ouncer, flaccid. We thankfully never even saw it erect. It would have to be the size of a baseball bat. Gruntie year, someone noticed. Holy crap, did you see that? Jeezus, even limp, it’s immense. Like, the girth. Insane. How the hell does he fit that in his pants? More so, once it’s in there, how the hell does he get it out to take a piss?
Who’s the girl who’d marry him and take that thing day in and day out? It’s like she’d be having a baby in reverse every time they do it.
Within a week, all the varsity fuckers knew. They’d nonchalantly pass by the gruntie shower room, jaws dropping. Maybe even step in for a quick scrub and a discreet better look, claiming the varsity showers were full. This was a rule. Gruntie showers were for grunties and for any varsity fucker that felt like coming over. Varsity showers were for varsity fuckers only.
So now, imagine this. Every gruntie and every varsity fucker in the boathouse knows. Eventually the whole women’s crew knows. And the nickname is hung. Hung, for sure.
Just one person doesn’t know about the nickname. The Pride of Conibear has no clue. He was, well, just too shy and reserved. And too well respected. A guy who, somehow, everyone just knew would be mortified about any discussion of his cock size. Even in championship terms.
While we’re on the topic…
Doctor Frank has no idea how this one came about. Well, we can speculate. But once it started, it just wouldn’t stop.
Was it his reputation as a man whore? Someone who’d fuck anything, anyone, just to work off those masculine hormones? This one has some merit. Guy had a lovely girlfriend back home, or so he claimed. We never saw her. And he had no qualms letting us know all of his real and imagined conquests locally. And he saw nothing wrong with this, a real girlfriend back home and dozens of one-night fuckbuddies in Seattle. Crazy shit. Penis used, or penis claimed to be used, and a nickname ensues.
Was it his size? Doctor Frank has no recollection of a large penis on this man. Not like Doctor Frank looked. There was no reason to look, with the Pride of Conibear in the house. But, given the man-whore status, he may have claimed size when clothed. Guys will do that when discussing women. I’m so big she couldn’t get enough. Which is a strange thing to do around people who see you naked every damn day.
Was it – could it be – that everyone else thought he was a dick? Well we could be on to something here. Like a handful of guys who didn’t fit that lumberjack mold, Penis wasn’t, you know, from here. He brought a distinctly non-west-coast attitude. He was seen as cocky, arrogant, pushy. A bully. Doctor Frank kinda liked him, even teased him about his reputation, his accent, his image as an asshole. Penis didn’t care. He blustered through life.
So maybe a man whore who talks about his dick size and has a rep as an asshole… just gets called Penis.
He liked the name. He loved it. Didn’t mind if someone yelled “Penis!” from a hundred yards away on campus. You never know, a hot chick might hear it and get all melty over it. Or that’s what he thought.
This guy was a varsity fucker, but a decent guy. He actually told jokes to the grunties. He had a plant in his room that he talked to. Nobody was allowed to touch the plant. Nobody was allowed to water the plant. Don’t fuck with the philodendron, or coleus, or whatever the hell it was. So. Decent guy but a little fixated. Which may explain the nickname.
Like most varsity fuckers with nicknames, we were afraid to ask him directly about it even if he was a decent guy. So we asked Crawdaddy.
Turns out there was a movie called Lickity Split that their class went to see when they were all grunties. There were some scenes in that movie, which they had to view in the Embassy Porn Palace downtown, that Lickity particularly liked. Maybe he wished he could try that one move. Maybe he claimed he’d already done it. Whatever, the movie stayed burned in their brains and on their rosy palms and the name got hung on Lickity.
Doctor Frank chose to research this topic further for this novel. It’s just what I do, trying to stay true to the people and places, even if I’m making it all up. Someone has to do it. So I looked on the google. It’s amazing what you can find on the google.
Lickity Split. 1974, Sweden. A lonely soldier on the feverline of lust… wet, hot, wicked. Rating 4.1 out of ten. Hmmm…
Plot key words. Bar fight, hitchhiker, trailer, waitress, bus. OK, sounds boring. Wait, click here. More key words. Double penetration, dildo, orgy, stripper, hardcore, sex. Well that’s more like it.
Lickity, Doctor Frank believes it was that porn star moustache you sported. You looked like cast member Leo Lovemore. You can find him on the google.
Some guys take forever to learn the catch. Reach out, hands level, roll the blade up, drop it in the water without fucking splashing the guys behind you. Some guys never learn and spend an entire workout, every day, douching their teammates. Some guys do it so much they just get named Douche. One guy in particular. Nobody wanted to row behind him.
That’s what he was for the first year. When he figured out the catch, and he came back for his rookie year, and he started hazing grunties, and guys started wondering what the name was for, it evolved. Like a mutating germ, the name became Douchebag, even though the bag part had nothing to do with the douche originally.
Penis didn’t mind his name being shouted in public. It was cool to him. But Douchebag had an issue about broadcasting it amongst the general populace. So, kindhearted as we were, we shortened it. Bag. Or The Bag. It’s a mark of status adding The to a name. The Bear. The Duke. The Bag. He was in high company.
Ask the next three classes of grunties if The Bag deserved that. Doctor Frank thinks maybe they’d prefer leaving it at Douche.
We’ve discussed him before. Doctor Frank painted him harshly in Chapter One. He deserves this. We grunties were scared as shit of him. Another year, and we knew he did it all for love. Love of his equipment, shells, oars, engines, anything that moved. Don’t you stupid grunties fuck anything up.
By our second year, we loved Lucky too. But, like Lickity, we were still afraid to ask where the name came from. The blue bandana was cool when it wasn’t coated in grease, the Toyota Land Cruiser was ultra sweet. Lucky Pierre once attempted a dock sweep of the entire freshman class with a twelve-foot-long timber lashed to the front bumper. Mechanical engineer or not, Lucky failed to calculate the finite nature of weight bearing capacity on a floating pontoon. When the dock began to sink, the grunties bunged the Land Cruiser. We watched in horror from the balcony as tires disappeared, doors and floorboards swamped, a pile of grunties tilted and swayed atop the rig’s roof, and Lucky prepared to abandon ship if the grunts didn’t obey his command to get the fuck off you gruntie scum assholes. Like rats swarming to evade capture, they all made it safely to shore as the float resurfaced with Lucky and his truck high and dry again.
You’d think his nine lives avoiding tragedy in events like this – and his near death experience with a motorcycle that landed him in a wheelchair and nearly earned him the Better Red Than Dead Safety Award, except that Dago shot himself, which is a whole different story – had something to do with the name. But, like Lickity, there’s a little more to the story and, like Lickity, it just might involve nipples on film.
Once again Doctor Frank has answered the high calling of in-depth research. The google this time led to the Wikipedia. Which says… “The Adventures of Lucky Pierre is a 1961 nudie cutie film created by exploitation filmmakers Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman. The first of its kind to be filmed in color, the film starred comedian Billy Falbo. It was unique for its time and genre, adding successful comedy to the nudity and sensationalist material.”
Nudie Cutie. Now there’s a film genre we can support.
He started as Rollo. And he was forever linked with Lucky. Lucky and Rollo, Rollo and Lucky. Can’t say one without the other. Neither ever raised a hand to a gruntie, actually, but we were in constant fear that a secret gesture, a nod of a head, would bring down the righteous anger of the varsity fuckers at any moment. Drinking beer with them now, one wonders why. Such gentlemen.
Rollo claims he got his nickname on his first day. He showed up because he heard Dik needed a mechanical hand. Someone to drive the launch for practice and just fix shit around the place that needed fixing. He was a gruntie. This was a year before Doctor Frank was a gruntie. The varsity fuckers at that time took one look at his bright red hair and for some reason dubbed him Rollo. Not even Rollo knew why he was Rollo.
Doctor Frank has no idea if Lucky scared the shit out of Rollo when Rollo was a gruntie. Lucky was a sophomore then, duty bound to fuck with grunties. That’s lost in the ether somewhere. Maybe they’ll read this and straighten things out.
By the time Doctor Frank rolled around a year later Rollo had decided the nickname needed a little more flair. Maybe he saw that French movie about Lucky Pierre and got all inspired with the oui oui. Anyway he morphed into Raoul permanently about the time that first Skip N Go Naked dance came around. And he continued his legendary ways as Dik’s launch driver, four solid years of listening to a little coaching and an endless river of philosophy. We think we were lucky being his rowers. Raoul was the luckiest man we knew, drinking up what Dik had to offer.
Or Le Grande Wa-Zo. Only years later did Doctor Frank learn the French word for bird is Oiseau. Still, pronounced Wa-ZO’.
The guy was immense. Maybe six-seven, two fifty. Ripped, solid muscle. And no fucking pain threshold. The “crew guys just pull harder” mantra came from watching him. He’s the only guy to make the tach spin faster on the erg with every passing minute. Nobody ever beat him.
He was a beast, a machine, uncontrollable. That little peckerhead from the Henley boat loves to tell the story, over and fucking over again, of Dik reaching up and grabbing Big Bird by the collar and telling him not to pull hard until the twenty-first stroke, because he was fucking up the little peckerhead’s steering. That little peckerhead would love coxing today. They give you a microphone. That little peckerhead loves holding a microphone. You have to tear it away from him when his time is up.
Do I digress? Again? Bottom line about The Bird, there I go again adding The to the name, but this guy does deserve the legendary status, after all he has that purple jacket, is that, in spite of his animal nature during a workout, his voice gave his off-water nature away.
He sounded, and I mean exactly, like Big Bird. Give him a pile of yellow feathers and put him on the Sesame Street set. He was that guy. Both in voice and manner, he was Big Bird. It was always a treat, seeing people’s reactions when they talked to him for the first time. Scary monster huge dude and a cartoon voice. Gentle and kind. Just like the original.
And a Husky Hall of Famer.
Some guys can manage drafting up their own nickname. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. Imagine walking across campus, talking about girls, term papers, finals, workouts, mama and daddy, whatever you’re talking about. And the guy you’re talking to stops you. Interrupts you and points at a big sewer manhole and says,
“Look at that. What a cool nickname. I think I’d like that to be my nickname.”
You look a little closer, following his pointing finger. He doesn’t want to be called “Sewer.” The manhole cover says “STORM.”
You talk about it a bit as you walk. Just Storm? Would it sound better with two syllables? Stormy?
Pause. “What about Stormin’?”
So you agree, that’s cool. And you walk back to the boathouse and you eat lunch and you tell people and pretty soon everyone’s saying it, and by the time you’re getting off the water that afternoon it’s hey Stormin’ nice workout.
And before you know it, he’s up there with Big Bird putting on that purple jacket.
Sometimes a nickname doesn’t stick, even if it’s cool and even if a guy didn’t pick it for himself.
So this gruntie goes home to his parents’ house for Sunday dinner, and brings a classmate with him. Nice home cooked meal. It’s a couple weeks until head shaving, and the gruntie’s been growing his hair out. No haircut for well over six months. The locks are rolling across his shoulders.
Over a nice pot roast, his father looks at him and says, “boy, you look like a bobcat headed south.” Everyone laughs. He’s never seen a bobcat but assumes they must be pretty shaggy.
On the way back to the boathouse, his buddy points out that south is away from here, so the only part of the bobcat you could see would be the asshole. “Your dad thinks you look like a bobcat’s asshole.”
The gruntie stares at his friend, saying nothing.
Pretty soon the word is around the crewhouse that the gruntie’s new nickname is Bobcat’s Asshole. Which he promptly shortens to Bobcat, finds a magic marker, and writes on the front of his new Washington Crew workout gear. Bitchin’ I’m The Bobcat.
It doesn’t fly. Within a week the boys have forgotten the name, and he turns his gear inside out for the next three years.
He should have kept “Asshole.” Nobody would have forgotten that one.
This one came from Coach Clothier, when Mort was just a gruntie. Things got a little nippy around November and, like a good Canuck, Mort showed up in a red turtleneck for practice, pulled up real high around his face. Clothier told him he looked like that guy Mort from the Bazooka Joe comics. Simple enough, funny how one comment like that can keep a nickname around for all these years.
Mort. Easy to say, powerful, nothing fancy. Mort. And he was the heart and soul of Husky Crew for the next four years.
Mort’s status as a mystical leader was already cemented before he got his other whispered nickname. One of his teammates was chatting with a booster, describing a summer “optional” practice. This was a guy who watched practices and hung out with Dik. The guy wanted to know…
“Was God there?”
“God. You know, Mort.”
Dik had explained Mort’s status to this guy a few times. And he’d seen it, in practice and in races. It was no insult, it was no sarcasm. It was just reality, Mort was the God of rowing.
God has spent his alum years giving back. Steward, booster, Hall of Famer. And… in a pinnacle of divinity or royalty or just perfection of Husky karma… his daughter married the five-time champion coach of Husky Men’s Crew. His legacy continues. That’s what Gods do.
I Got Hubbard
Doctor Frank saved this for last because Doctor Frank needs to vent again. The guy called Hubbard is a prince of a man. Kind. Gentle. Sensitive. But he was a tough motherfucker. Dude could pull like hell and never give up. Broke an oar one time. Still gets embarrassed when he talks about it today. Probably had a flaw, goddammit that cost the Stewards a couple hundred bucks, wish it hadn’t happened. All that. Covering the little smirk that says yeah, baby, I cracked that sucker right in two. Not many guys can say they did that.
But during one practice, a race from Sand Point to the lighthouse pitted the guy called Hubbard’s boat against one that was coxed by a little peckerhead, I know they’re all peckerheads but this one knows who he is so he’s just that little fucking peckerhead.
When a boat is passing another, the peckerhead in the passing boat will often call off where he sits in relation to parts of the other boat. I got their tiller, I got their stroke oar, I got their bow ball, and so on. Not so common in practice pieces because the guys in the other boat are your fucking teammates, goddammit, but more common in races when demoralizing the competitor is a business that requires every trick possible.
The little peckerhead’s boat is passing, and the guy called Hubbard is sitting in the five seat in the boat that’s being passed. Everyone’s working their guts out, all eight actual rowers in both boats, while both little peckerheads are just sitting there screaming. It’s late winter, race season coming up, everyone just busting it in Every Man a Husky manner, trying to make that top boat and trying to make each other go faster.
So the little peckerhead in the passing boat says nothing about who’s being passed, because that wouldn’t be sporting with his own fucking teammates after all, until his actual athletes that are giving him a joyride around the fucking lake pull him up to the five seat in the other boat. He turns his head, megaphone and all, remember the little fuckers had the strap-on megaphones then, not microphones, as much as any little peckerhead loves a microphone, but he looks right at the other boat from an oar's length away and shouts “I got Hubbard!” and looks back forward again.
The boats reach the lighthouse, ass busting over, and line up for a final mile, an easy run back to the dock. We’re just cruising along when someone, an actual fucking rower, looks over at the boat next to him and yells “I got Hubbard!” Now you get some laughs. But that’s probably the end of the story, right?
Wrong. Back on the docks, boats being put away, he’s just standing there in shell storage and the whole damn crew carrying the next boat to the rack counts him down as they go by. Each fucking guy yells it, I got Hubbard, I got Hubbard.
Next morning, the guy called Hubbard is on his way back from class, taking his time, just wants a little lunch before afternoon workout. Little peckerhead from the day before jogs past, right there on campus by the Engineering building. “I got Hubbard!”
It was already old. To the guy called Hubbard, it was already not funny. And it had been around for less than twenty-four hours.
Nobody likes getting beat. None of the fucking real athletes in that passing boat would have rubbed it in that way, and the guy called Hubbard knew this. It was the little fucking peckerhead that did it, that started it and got everyone else thinking it was funny, and it was the little fucking peckerhead that kept it going long after it wasn’t funny anymore.
It went on for two fucking years, long after that little fucking peckerhead was gone. And one day, in the spring of his final year on the team, the guy called Hubbard was rowing bow seat in a four across Portage Bay, one of those unsupervised “on your own” practices during racing season where you’re just tuning up for the weekend competition. There’s another four sitting between two of the houseboats, backed in, probably chatting up some little lady they spotted sunbathing topless. To impress her they’re going to do a racing start from right there in between the docks. Without looking for crossing traffic, just ready all row. Half half three quarter full full six seven WEIGH ENOUGH HOLD DOWN!
Too late. They hit the other four full speed, speared it with their bow piece, which pierced the gunwale next to the guy called Hubbard and directly into his right cheek. Like, way in. Like, he had two assholes.
So the motherfucker in the bow seat of the other boat shouts:
“I got Hubbard!”
OK, OK… so that one was funny. In a really shitty, gallows humor kind of way. Maybe even now after all these years, the guy called Hubbard can see the irony. But after all these years Doctor Frank will wager it still hurts. Dammit Hubbard, I’m a doctor. I know these things.
Doctor Frank was recently dropping a line to Mrs. Guy Called Hubbard. They are a beautiful couple, loving life and all the joy of grandparenting and running a business. Doctor Frank couldn’t help bringing it all up again, describing “…my righteous anger at the assholes who perpetuated all those years of I Got Hubbard. He is a fine man… he won in the long pull. And you won when You Got Hubbard.”