I was secretly Amanda Bynes the whole time

By Jake Reed

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian
Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

How do I begin reflecting on my time at the University of Massachusetts Amherst? Let’s start with this: if it weren’t for transferring here to start my sophomore year, I wouldn’t be living as openly and authentically as I am now. The Pioneer Valley and the UMass community provided the open, welcoming arms that I needed to embrace who I am and make the world embrace it too. Shout out to everyone out here for never giving me a second look when I was holding hands with another boy on campus or in town. I still get looks of pure confusion or even straight-up mean mugs for it in Boston, (yes – Boston!) so I guess I have that to look forward to after graduation, but my time in the Pioneer Valley has given me the strength to face it with my head held high.

Okay, now let’s get real. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you don’t necessarily know me in real life, but you’re probably familiar with my statuses. (Not to brag, but somebody commends me on my social media contributions at least once a week.) I think I recently broke my record for the most likes: 52, for a status that read “even though it is ‘420’ plz remember that today is about jesus and not the devil’s lettuce (sic).” If not, maybe I’ve served you at Taco Bell. Most of my memorable stories come from 348 Russell St. in Hadley, whether they be about the man who forgot he was at our drive thru window and began eating his Wendy’s burger before even re-buckling his seatbelt; to the Hulk Hogan look-alike (and size-alike) that asked if I was “Stupid!” because I had accidentally entered his order as two XXL Grilled Stuft Burritos instead of three; to the lovely cashier who got me a job after giving my best friend her number during my first Taco Bell excursion as a Pioneer Valley resident. Crazy things happen at Hadley Taco Bell.

If you don’t know me from TB, then maybe you remember me as the lead singer of Red Panda. Nothing will make me feel more pretentious than explaining my band’s genre as “indie-jazz-math-rock-with-some-post-rock,” and it’s likely that nothing will make me more uncomfortable than an apparent fan humming the melody to our song at me while brushing his teeth in his underwear in a Chadbourne bathroom. Playing in dingy Amherst basements is more fun than it sounds, but my advice to aspiring local musicians is to make sure you’re on your time management A-game if you plan to manage a band, a part-time job and homework. As for the future of local music, I’m interested to see which venues (and houses) are the next to take on local DIY shows.

Moving forward from a college journalism student to a real (?) journalist, my time at the Daily Collegian will remain some of the most valuable time I spent putting in real, honest work during my time at UMass. My opinion piece on the local music scene led to an interview with the Daily Hampshire Gazette – which in turn scored me a photo on the paper’s cover that was later burned on Larry Kelley’s lawn in the most confusing symbolic gesture I have ever been roped into. More shout outs go to Who’da Funk It and Sexy Girls for lending their talents and personalities to two of the most exciting profile pieces I’ve written. Shout outs to all of the lovely people that I’ve had the privilege of working with as well. Shout outs especially to all the lovely Arts editors and writers, past and present. Shout outs for everyone!

Can I end this column like a yearbook farewells page? Well, I’m going to. Alison Bowler, you are truly my (lil) rock and I wouldn’t have made it through the year without you as my roommate. David Bazzett, you are the best “Band Dad” a kid could ask for. Dan Gurgian, I will miss holing away in your room watching “The Office” to escape our housemates (or landlord) and our guys-night-outs. Zachariah Peña, you are the gay best friend I’ve been looking for my whole life. Gabe, Tommy and Shaina, y’all are lovely and I hope we continue to collaborate on musical and photographic ventures in the future. Taco Bell, you complete me.

Jake Reed can be reached at [email protected]