Working retail during the Christmas season would challenge the Dalai Lama's patience. But just when I'm about to give up on people altogether, someone comes along to tip the scales in the other direction.

Today, it was a boy in a teal shirt and beanie, and another with a beard and down jacket.

I was sitting in the creepy mural room at Memorial Union when a man in his mid-thirties came and sat at a table with a student. It soon became obvious that the man was on edge, probably on drugs, and if not dangerous, at least uncomfortably willing to invade personal space. The boy sitting at the table picked a moment when the man went to the bathroom to flee. When the man returned, he began harassing the next-nearest target--a girl studying nearby.

At first, I assumed that once she ignored him for a significantly long period of time, he would go away. However, he simply became more and more invasive, repeatedly touching her shoulder and moving her books and papers. She shrank back in her seat, and although I felt strongly for her, a giant part of me also has been raised not to become involved in escalating altercations. I've seen knives pulled on people who've done less. I was, however, pulling out my phone to call the police when a young man--the one in the teal shirt--rose from a nearby seat. He walked over to the girl and put himself between her and the man. "Hey, Sarah," he said. "How's it going?"

She looked at him. "Fine," she said, after enough of a pause to indicate that it wasn't her real name. The man looked at both of them for a long while, then recommenced his harassment. At this point, the boy left, presumably to alert Union security, and the girl was once again left to her own devices.

Seconds later, though, a second boy set down his backpack, pulled out a book, and sat across from her. "Ready to study?" he asked.

The man became sullen and edgier. He held out his hand to the boy, who accepted it and found himself trapped when the man wouldn't let go. "I need to study," said the boy. "I have finals."

"Fuck finals," said the man. "My tests were with life and death." He pointed at the juncture between the two hands, the sharp contrast in color. "You? You've got finals. You'll pass."

The boy nodded, doggedly keeping the man's attention until he tired of the game and moved to another room. Moments later, the campus police arrived, frisked him down, and kicked him out. The boy and girl introduced themselves, and left in separate directions. And I let out a breath I hadn't realized I was holding and turned back to my work.
I should be editing the paper that is worth 25% of my grade right now, but instead I'm translating Old English that won't even be on the final, calling The Boy to make sure he's awake and remembers to mail the Christmas cards, figuring out how $15.33 is going to pay the rent (I have subscribed to Carmen's Theory of Dehydration, in which if you pour money on your checking account, it will magically grow in a beanstalk-like manner), missing the purring kitten that slept on my lap all yesterday, and deciding how to spend the week after finals, when I will be too exhausted by the Christmas madness to do anything anyway.

Ah, the last week of school. How I loathe and love thee.
As always, I apologize for the long delay. I tend to fall in and out of love with the internet and fandom, especially during the summer, when all I want to do is spend as much time out-of-doors as physically possible. When I want to remove myself from any traces of academia and taste the sunlight dancing on my tongue.

I might start updating here soonish, since this is primarily a fandom/writing journal with a little life thrown in, and both SPN and FNL have started again. When I get time to write (and more importantly, read) fic, I'll definitely begin posting again.

The real reason for this post, however, is to share a friend's website/blog/project with you. It's called The Intimacy of Strangers, and it's a fascinating venue for connection and conversation about life in general, New York living in particular. Go check it out. (For those of you who read both of my LJs and have therefore seen this announcement twice, go check it out more than once!) There's a great discussion about the inherent versus assigned versus interpreted meaning of photographs going on right now. Pop in, give it a look, and maybe drop a comment or two into the discussion. It's still a work-in-progress, and it could definitely use some of the intelligent commentary I know you as a group could provide.

Anyway, I'll be catching up with you all sometime in the next few weeks. For those of you who've recommended or commented on my fic recently, I'll get back to you ASAP. I had no idea how many new people I'd rather passively acquired. For now, I'd just like to let you know that you're appreciated, even if it's taken me this long to notice. *cringe* And it's good to be back, even in this tiny way.
Things not to do while being pissed off about international politics:

-Listen to A Perfect Circle's remix of Pet, Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums.

-Argue with a professor's lecture on The Lady of Shalott in the margins of my notes until I can barely make them out for all the point-for-point rebuttal. I am maybe a little bit of a nerd.

-Try to write a coherent Middlemarch paper about how George Eliot forces the reader into a passive role of a judgmental society without descending into a rant. (I spent five pages analyzing the first few sentences of the book to prove this point and by the end I grew weary of defending it.)

-Work. Which I will have to go to in ten minutes and which I am dreading.

-Post to LJ. Heh.
Alas, school has begun afresh. Sigh.

I don't actually have class on Mondays, so I worked all day instead. Normally I love it, but sometimes the nine-to-close makes me want to stab things, or cry. In that order.

I wish I could describe my mood. It's not bad--that's the wrong set of expectations and connotations. It's certainly not good. I think it's quiet. I think the snow put me in a quiet mood. I don't particularly want to talk to RL people, because when I do, they make noises that are speaking and all I can hear is the clamor of their voices. Their words mean little to me. I want to read forever, until all I can hear is the silence of the written word. I have no desire to discuss real things. I can't stand the thought of work, or of having to introduce myself in four separate classes tomorrow, of having to listen through four syllabi, of having to write down four sets of notes. The idea of it makes me nauseous.

It's not the people or the school. I like them. I am just very sensitive at the moment, physically sensitive to noise, to light, to motion. The more I invite upon myself, the more I withdraw. It's frustrating.

I'm probably just getting sick. This is often how I feel before the symptoms of illness set in, vague discomfort, de-synchronization with life. De-synchronization with myself. I'm not even sure why I'm posting this as I'm posting it, not sure whether it will help or only invite me to retreat further into myself. Hmm.
Every once in a while, when I am bored/angry/upset/annoyed, I shuffle on over to [ profile] hesychasm's In lieu of life and just wallow in the joy.

Then this afternoon I was sitting in the living room, trying not to think too hard about the fact that I have fifty more terms (dates, definitions, connections) to memorize for history and about a hundred more pages of Gulliver's Travels to read before I'm caught up with English (where I have a final tomorrow), and I wrote a list. Which I think, in hindsight, was partially inspired by [ profile] hesychasm's. But anyway.

College is caffeine. College is eight hours of studying to two hours of sleep to nine point eight meters per second squared times the mass equals the Newtons. College is recognizing the kid who comes into the Deli because he sat three seats behind you in lecture. College is reading anything (everything) except the textbook.

College is hating your lecturer but loving your TA. College is loving your lecturer so much that you would bear his children even though the children he's already got are twenty years older than you. College is wishing your TA could fucking speak English.

College is locking yourself in a room until the paper's done. Wondering where the hell that one paragraph came from and why you can't remember the difference between then and than at five o'clock in the morning. College is flinging formulas at problem sets and squeezing epics into five pages of close reading and sleeping it off for twenty minutes before turning it in.

College is shower, what shower? College is not having shaved in three weeks and buying new socks so you don't have to wash the dirty ones and leftovers that aren't growing anything you can see, so they have to be all right. Right? College is frosting gay gingerbread men for Christmas and baking scones with your roommate at three in the morning. College is whatever they have on sale at the grocery store and lots and lots of curried lentils. And canned tomatoes. And Triscuits.

College is embarrassing stories about that one time you got trashed and then you woke up and there was a boy on the couch who you kinda sorta maybe work with and who tells the story to everyone you meet until you give up and just laugh. Or that other time you got trashed and made out with a random boy on a dance floor while Green Day blasted your eardrums to ringing. Or that other time when you got trashed and watched crappy TV until your eyes burned and went to sleep happy, so happy, and how despite all this, you're pretty straight-edge.

College is Milton and Donne and Shakespeare and Spenser and Chaucer and Twain and Kerouac and Morrison, Jim and Morrison, Toni and Morrison, Van. College is f = v/2L and F = ma and F = 0-59%. College is reading for understanding, reading for love, reading for sanity, reading for sleep. College is spending a third of your paycheck on printer cartridges and paper and photocopies and batteries. College is spending the other two thirds on rent and internet and scrabbling together the last dimes for a cup of chai.

College is eight hours of work and two hours of class and run home and nap and eight hours of work. College is knowing all the regulars at both your jobs. By their first and last names. College is knowing which woman wants seven lemon bars and which wants a mixed green salad, hold the carrots, sherry dressing, whole grain bread, large tea. College is loving the regulars for not changing.

College is freezing on the way to class and freezing through class and freezing in your apartment. College is waking up at two in the morning because your room is ninety degrees and opening a window to let Wisconsin winter in. College is yelling good morning to the neighbor smoking on his roof and fuck off at the neighbor playing Tom Petty at eight on a Saturday and you know it, baby at the neighbor who says you look good in your new jacket.

College is rising at dawn, three days before the winter solstice, and looking at a stack of flashcards as tall as your cup of coffee and thinking Yeah.
As you may have guessed, I am in college.

This means I am:

a. Poor; and
b. Poor; and
c. Stressed all to hell.

Alors! Here's what I propose instead of cards for Christmas/your holiday or winter celebration of choice:

Give me something. No, not a physical thing. I'm talking a word, a phrase, a favorite poem, a picture, a rant about how your cat won't quit puking in the corner.

And I will write you a sonnet [sort of maybe a little] related to whatever you give me. I make no promises about the quality of said sonnet; however, I am actually majoring in this stuff, so it should not make your brain hurt too badly. It will be done by January 1, known in Madison, WI as "The Day We All Get Wasted Out of Our Fucking Minds."

In all probability, it will be done by December 25, known in Madison, WI, as "The Day We Exchange Presents and Then Get Wasted Out of Our Fucking Minds."

Any takers?
I've been reading all these books published in the 1950s and 60s for a paper on how, while academics were all discussing the finer points of managing an integrated classroom, the south had a lot of trouble with, y'know, the basic desegregation part of an integrated classroom. And in a book called The Teacher and Integration, I came across the following passage:

Teachers handle the use of bad language in various ways. Jimmy, in the kindergarten, was playing with a toy. Suddenly he ripped out an oath, "You blank......."

The teacher, hearing it, said, "Jimmy, what does that mean?"

The child looked up and, smiling sweetly, said, "It means the car won't start."

Oh. Jimmy, you're probably my grandfather's age by now, but just so you know, I love you.
Am I a terrible person for snickering to myself every time my poetry professor says "epitaph" when she means "epigraph" and not stepping in to correct her because I like the idea of writing poems about things you find on headstones?

I am, aren't I. I am going to the one hundred and twenty-third circle of Hell, the one reserved for those who obsess over the OED and love it when their professors make spelling mistakes on the chalkboard. And for the people who know how to spell "daguerreotype." Long story.
Dear Boy in Passing Car,

I'm sorry if anyone ever questioned the undeniable fact that you must have the biggest dick on the block. But in case someone doubted your claim to alpha-boyhood, playing your music at that volume totally affirms your status.

Carry on.

Religion (and especially very religious people) can be so frustrating.

I'm sitting in Union South, listening to a born-again Christian who was raised traditional Methodist describe his vision of Bascom Hill covered in praying students. He sits across from a boy in a red Wisconsin hoodie and they talk about prayer, about the power of prayer. Born-again wants to have a place on campus where people can go and say "My dad just died; I need prayer now" and get it.

And I want to go over and say:

I pray every single moment I am awake. Each of my poems is a prayer, a tiny boat of hope or despair set out drifting across the sea. I make eye contact with a stranger and smile, and that is a prayer. My professor says something in class that makes me think, makes me dissect and wonder. And that is a prayer. Everything we do when we are alive is a prayer; every time we move or blink, it is a prayer.

We don't need the words, the Our Fathers and Hail Marys, we don't need the books and the beads and the songs. We just need to keep breathing. Just one. More. Day.

Born-again has no idea what he's talking about. He thinks faith only comes in one form, thinks it means knowing the rituals. And yeah, the rituals are nice, and I love going to mass every once and a while, but come on. If there is a God, he doesn't care more about the people who kneel and light candles than he cares about the people who don't believe in him. God doesn't like Christians and hate everyone else. If there's a heaven, or an afterlife, or reincarnation, it's not only for the people who pray. That's so amazingly narrow-minded, self-centered, and pretentious. How do you get off telling me that your relationship with God is better than mine? Because you had a vision of students praying on Bascom Hill? Because you like hanging with the local pastors? People have been arguing about this ever since the beginning of organized religion; you, sir, are not a prophet or a messiah or even a saint. You are a small man from Colorado in a plaid flannel shirt, and you make my stomach turn.



May 2010



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