By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Most of the Dungeonites are freshmen. Kids from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, the Central Coast. From Puerto Rico, Pico Rivera, Texas, Oxnard, Arizona, Japan, East L.A., Orange County. Kids with ridiculous nicknames and ridiculous real names. Rich kids and poor kids — mostly in between — from suburbs, cities and countrysides. Liberals and conservatives, deists, theists, agnostics and atheists, sluts and celibates, drunk, stoned and sober. Kids majoring in nothing and everything. In wheelchairs, on the UCLA football team. And in the military. Animal, Wild Man, Ronny and Rotty are in ROTC. We talk politics. We disagree. We agree. We get along fine.
Together we represent 100 percent of UCLA’s semiunderground on-campus inhabitants. The surface-dwellers use elevators; we take the stairs. There are two all-male floors — ours and the eighth — and two all-female floors; the other six floors are mixed. With half the Dungeon taken up by janitorial offices, storage closets, a huge laundry room, a handicapped restroom and a mysterious storage area where rusting 55-gallon drums of presumed toxic waste fester behind a locked chainlink fence, our population’s about half that of the other floors. Everyone gets acquainted because there’s just the one bathroom — five stalls, four urinals, six sinks and one shower room with six showerheads — for about 40 of us.
Others enter the Dungeon only to do laundry. Emerging from the elevators with their baskets of clothing, most avert their eyes from the boys in the black lounge.
Animal’s roommate goes by the name of Doc, short for Dr. Dungeon. Doc’s a quadriplegic doctoral student in his 30s, on the verge of a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Doc’s from Houston, and has lived in the Dungeon since 1969. He has cerebral palsy of some kind. Can’t use his legs at all; he can move his arms a bit, but his hands are clenched tight. Doc gets around in a wheelchair fitted with an electric motor, controllable by a Doc-friendly joystick. The chair also accommodates a small tray with a beverage holder.
Animal takes care of Doc’s hygiene, down to the most intimate wipes. In exchange, the university gives Animal room and board.
Another guy on the floor, Scraper, is also quadriplegic, also afflicted with a cerebral palsy that limits muscle control in both legs, arms and shoulders. But he has considerably more upper-body control than Dr. Dungeon, so Scraper rarely uses his big blue electric cart that is usually stored in the handicapped restroom, at the laundry end of the hall. Scraper gets around on aluminum crutches with wrist braces, his legs crossed at the ankles, dragging behind. Tips of steel have been attached to all Scraper’s shoes, to keep the leather from wearing out. These tips cause a peculiar scraping sound, Scraper’s song of approach, whence comes his name.
Every few days or weeks, Scraper falls. He’s rarely injured, but the sound is horrible. A group of us would be studying and drinking in the lounge, and . . . scrape . . . scrape . . . scrape . . . But somebody would have just come out of the shower and left a puddle of water in the hallway, or spilled a beer, and Scraper’s crutches would inevitably find the wet spot. You’d hear the most ungodly FWUH-GUNNGKH! You’d wince, shiver, scamper down the hall to check for damage — almost always minor, as Scraper (a.k.a. Scrapey, Shcrapely or the Scrape) generally gained some control on the way down; he was good at falling. You’d probably find Pro, Scraper’s saintly roommate, already there, helping the Scrape back up to his original scraping position.
Scraper has fair control over his upper limbs and over his hands, so, unlike Animal, who gets room and board and a monthly stipend, Pro takes care of Scraper for free.
FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS that would take months to describe, most of us have ridiculous names. But there is only one I can’t accept: Wild Man. Sounds like a frat dork with a trust fund who hops up on the table to dance with strippers during rush week. George W. Bush in the Air National Guard — there’s your Wild Man.
But apparently there are other kinds. One Sunday morning, Beef and I sit peacefully at our respective built-in desks, chairs tilted back, facing the open door to the hallway, enjoying the day’s first beer. Suddenly, the door directly across from us opens, and out bursts our sophomore neighbor, Wild Man. By now we’ve shared meals and hung out with Wild Man — but we haven’t met this version.
This Wild Man is possessed. He throws open his door, leaps and lands melodramatically in the hallway, frozen, silent, staring, breathing heavily. Brandishing a golf club, he wears only boxers and a demented stare made all the more disturbing by the Billy Joel blasting from his room.
“Go ahead with your own life, leave me aloooone!” Joel sings. Wild Man leaps again. Lands in our doorway. Pauses, stares, leaps once more, this time to one side, out of view.
Then it begins: shrieks, bellows, divots. Wild Man attacks the wall with his 5-iron.
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