If September 11th wasn’t reason enough to cancel a party, then there was a much more down-to-earth excuse the following year. In the party that welcomed the new group of students (including yours truly) the year before, my friend Rosalyn took a fall down a flight of stairs. It was the type of mistake anyone could have made, had they been a little too close to the staircase that led from the living room to the basement floor. While there were handrails, the rectangular hole in the floor that showed the stairs was hardly noticeable. With drinks, high heels, and the stairs’ low visibility, anyone could have tumbled down and hit their head. But it had to be Rosalyn, one of the people who lobbied for the party.
There are a few events that have found their way into MFA lore at the University. My housesitting adventure in Professor Joseph K’s home, complete with eating “magic cookies,” is one. After our fall-out, Professor K bitched about to any of his acolytes who happened to be nearby. I happened to have found out about it from Rosalyn’s husband, then husband at Rosalyn’s birthday party. Which now bring me to the other: To deflect attention from herself, Rosalyn has happily spread the cookie monster about me. Of course, Rosalyn’s falling down the stairs had many witnesses. There were the few who saw it first-hand and came directly to her aid, and then there were the other party-goers who found out within minutes. With so many people who knew about the fall, it was very hard for Rosalyn to live it down. And the program’s co-director had first-hand knowledge of it, since she was the party’s emcee.
What is an MFA program without a little heresay? The MFA welcome party was canceled and the reason was spread through the grapevine: The co-director said to Rosalyn that the party was canceled because of her infamous drunken fall down the stairs. Using 9/11 and the “spiritual wound” was bad enough, but this was a personal attack. Rosalyn, who was no pushover, did at least say a few things in her defense.
In pre-blog/MySpace/Facebook/Twitter era, some of us used social networking. On a Yahoo Groups board someone set up for our MFA program, Liza Radley and I expressed our anger over what happened to Rosalyn and the excuses used to pull the rug out from under a tradition. The same board was also used to organize several unsanctioned MFA “welcome parties.”
To give some credit to the program, a bland reception was held in the top-level courtyard of the University’s Humanities building, on the south side of the “H.” But a cheese-and-crackers operation in the afternoon of a school day isn’t quite the same as an evening everyone has set aside to meet each other. But the excuses were totally unnecessary.