37 North Brooks, amid sandwiched between parking lots. Image taken from Bing.com.
37 North Brooks St. The century-old brick remnant of the old Italian Greenbush neighborhood, whose rare remaining vestiges include the nearby Italian Workmen's Club and Fraboni's Deli, was my first introduction to independent living. On the last day of our lease, an area maintenance man, who was familiar with the house, told us that the fireplace was built of marble from the last reconstruction of the Capitol (Google Maps photo).
The freedom offered in a house with four other friends was a radical advance from the limited freedom the dorms had offered our freshman year. With house fellows no longer a concern, we played beer pong seemingly every night during the first few weeks, and although we generally shied away from parties that threatened property and privacy, the few that we had in our enormous basement turned out to be legit ragers.
There was practically no concern of police intervention. The basement mostly confined the music, and more importantly, the house itself was an isolated island squeezed between two parking lots. The nearest living units were at least 50 yards away, and the nearest non-student housing was nowhere to be seen. If our neighbors could hear us, it would not be likely that they would complain.
Apparently our successors have not been as successful. The people who lived at the house last year were busted and subjected to a heavy fine for serving alcohol to minors, and today I read that the current residents of the house, which includes a former cast member of MTV's "College Life," have been assessed $85,000 for a recent kegger.
As Ald. Mike Verveer explained in the article, that amount will likely not stand after the guys negotiate with the city. Hopefully the two stories that appeared in the WSJ and the Daily Cardinal have fulfilled the city's desire to flex its muscles, and hopefully they have inflated the city's ego enough that it will no longer feel the need to pursue such a mean-spirited and reckless prosecution of college kids for being college kids.
As one of the defendants explains in this video, many of the people the MPD charged the tenants for serving likely weren't drunk from the kegs at the party. As was true in my day, the parking lots around the house are prime Gameday tailgating locations where fans (including a fair number of underagers) congregate before and after football games. There may not have been many tailgaters left late at night, but plenty of the partygoers had been drinking long before they went to the house.
Of course, raging, irresponsible, dangerous house parties would not be quite so popular and dangerous if we had a drinking age that reflected realistic expectations of American behavior. Adults between the ages of 18 and 21 who were allowed to enter bars and expected to act like adults would spend much less time partying in dingy basements. If the target is drinking and driving, target the entire equation, not just the first part.