Writer goes ‘Gonzo’ with Delta Chi

I sat on the wall with Lurleen Burns Wallace’s name between my legs and looked up at the sky. My God, how will I cover these events, I thought? What is it even about? Competitions between sororities for points and perhaps pride, though I couldn’t be sure.

Infiltrate. Immerse. Observe. Report. Sure, I thought, seems simple enough.

Two long-boarders went by and I wondered what they would be doing for the next three days. Will it involve fraternity hijinks and paired debauchery with sorority women? Likely not.

I crossed Pine Street and wandered down the row looking for the Delta Chi house. Eventually, I found a few guys on the porch stripping wires and wheeling out of large speakers. These young men looked alright, so I approached and introduced myself. Pay me no mind, I told them, I’m just here with the school paper to see what’s going on.

One of the guys gave me a brief tour of the house. Inside were brothers fumbling about, cleaning random things, shifting clutter from doorways—typical frat house stuff—except for those low-hanging power lines in the backyard. Impending doom for the Friday night Foam Party; expect big fireworks, I thought.

My tour guide proceeded to explain that 150 to 300 people could fit in the backyard where the big shindig would occur. Hell, man, I’ve seen 200 people crammed into a Boston basement half the size of this yard. You’re gonna need more foam.

I left because I had showed up early. None of the sororities had shown up yet to paint the porch which I was informed was now a tradition. I returned at sundown and found a good mix of men and women spilling from the porch into the front yard.

The brothers had the speakers cranked up and the ladies were seated, deep in concentration on their respective paintings. Gallon buckets of paint, handfuls of paintbrushes, art boxes and painter’s tape surrounded the diligent women. I looked around and saw no alcohol. It is only Wednesday, I thought, but that is usually no excuse for college kids. Perhaps they’re just dipping their toes in the pool. No sense abusing the privilege so soon again.

Friendship. Character. Justice. Education.

“Wagon Wheel” came on and a sing-along ensued. I’m not sure if they are being sarcastic or not. I hear conversation about the music selection. Put a good song on, she said. But this is one of my favorite bands, he responded.

She probably wants more “Wagon Wheel,” so good for you, brother.

The music choice for a front porch gathering might be what separates Delta Chi the most from other NPC fraternities at UNA. Velvet Underground made an appearance on the stereo, briefly, and then promptly changed. Oh well, this ain’t Animal House after all.

Before I left for the night, I was given tidbits of information—background information to help me get a grasp on what these guys are about.

The host of the once popular Nickelodeon game show, “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” is a Delta Chi; apparently, the origin of the idea for this week’s festivities. The “X” in the brother’s front yard was found on the porch of the Kappa Sig house earlier this year, though no reason why has been determined. Also, the UNA custodian who once lived in the now Delta Chi house once fell down the home’s stairs, resulting in a gruesome injury. This may or may not have been a direct result of alcohol.

I arrived at Flowers Hall on Thursday to cover the Mermaid Challenge. NPR was reporting that a Black Hawk was downed in Afghanistan. Four dead. Still, the games must go on.

The Mermaid Challenge consisted of sororities involved in a relay race to retrieve objects floating and on the bottom of the pool. But where were the other two sororities? Five p.m. was an early start, but ZTA and Alpha Delta Pi showed up. Rumbles of some strange rule against bikinis over at Phi Mu made their way down the line. No public bathing in 2012, the year of our lord? A stroll across campus in the spring would lead one to believe otherwise, I thought. Perhaps it’s true; this is Florence, Ala., after all.

Next, we moved to the intramural fields for something called earthball. This is a sport of chaos—rugby, tug-of-war and elementary PE combined into one brutal competition between ladies. Ladies yes, but with a twinkle of fear and determination in their eyes as they slammed the 6-foot-tall, multi-colored ball into one another in a feverish attempt to push it across a goal line. They fought for points but also to preserve dignity.

Nike could have used these activities as an opportunity for an ad. The ladies sported every style and color available. A dance party at nearby Rivers Hall provided the soundtrack. Thumping bass lines seemed to accompany the thump of faces as the earthball was muscled back and forth. Late in the competition there were hands on hips and substitutes shuffled in and out. Not sure if that was making much of a difference. With the score knotted at two it didn’t look like anyone had much left in the tank. Eventually, ZTA took the game 4-2.

Thursday ended with a brutish spectacle of dodge ball. Still, only two sororities involved, but the boys of Delta Chi didn’t seem to mind. They joined in to even up the teams and enjoy themselves. The Zetas picked up intensity and showed the day’s first true desire to win at one of these things. But what would they win? What is the goal here? I think Alpha Delta Pi ended up winning the dodge ball portion, but I can’t be certain. It had been a long day for everyone, and the structure and rules were waning. I heard one young lady say she hates dodge ball. At least you were a good sport.

I parked my car down the street from the house Friday evening and turned off the engine. The photographer and I could hear DJ Lil’ Skittle over the constant hum of an industrial foam machine.

Time for the grand finale—time for a party. Time for slurred speech and debauchery—time to tame chaos.

I arrived to find that the night’s festivities would be a dry party, as they say on the Row. These cats were just a different breed. Different strokes for different folks. Some folks don’t need to get drunk to have a good time, and I couldn’t accuse them of not having any fun. There was a 10-foot wall of foam filling half the backyard and enough people for a group rendition of the Dougie. These guys might be known as the weird frat or the nerd house on the Row, but there were two girls for every guy and smiles on most faces I saw. Those not smiling were just focused on getting the foam out of their hair. No one got arrested, no one got in a fight. No one puked in the driveway and no one fell off the deck. It may have been more interesting if some of that had happened, but it was different. Just like Delta Chi.

In the end, the sororities placed like this:



Phi Mu

Alpha Gam

I’m not sure who really won, or what they won. I’m not sure if any of that matters.