Blind Melon’s iconic ‘90s video, “No Rain,” featured this girl in a bumblebee costume tap-dancing her way through a bland little town, never happy until she finds a field of other bees joyously dancing. The Cowl was my own bumblebee dance party.
A Rhode Island of Misfit Toys, wedged in the basement corner of Slavin Hall, The Cowl office was where I made some of my life’s best friends-—folks who still send me into laughter spasms with just a sideways look or a well-placed reference (“Russell P. DeMoe”).
The Cowl taught me the value of responsibility, motivation, and meeting deadlines, vital tenets when I worked in public relations and as a newspaper reporter and editor.
It taught me to behave when you screw up. (I shudder to think of the advertorial—paid for in a timely fashion—that claimed the Holocaust never happened.) It demonstrated the importance of keeping your cool even when being chewed out. (Don’t blame the newspaper for digging into alleged student election shenanigans.) Most of all, it made me see the humanity and respect inherent in every person’s story. (My senior year, during a single evening, two students died, one from a medical condition and one from an accidental fall.)
Details became significant (a front-page headline proclaimed the jam-packed campus parking lots “overcrowed”), and humor paramount (a story focused on someone defecating in a residence hall was titled “Holy S%*&!”)
The vast majority of us were English majors who couldn’t stem the waves of writing flowing out of us if we tried. Some just wanted an activity to put on their resume. Some were politico types who raged against the machine. All of us were cynical and had a dark sense of humor.
It regularly resembled Animal House or a Muppets Show meeting (complete with a conservative wandering through stating, “You are all weirdos”).
Writer’s block? An inning of wiffle ball in Slavin’s hallway or a trip to Gravity (ne’ The Abbey) was the cure. Bored? Prank-call the Friars Club office down the hall.
I heard the O.J. Simpson verdict there. I saw “The Internet” for the first time there (Brady Bunch fan sites, inspired by Barry Williams’ visit to ’64 Hall). I headed out from a last-minute cram session there to my final final (Fr. Donal Raymond Kehew, O.P.’s Philosophies of The Human Person).
The Cowl was more than simply a club; it is in my PC DNA.