Johnny Cash Trumps Grumpiness

Typical of Bag End, I can only guess at what’s going on downstairs.  I was reading for 1950s History, poring over Nightmare in Red as if watching a Soap Opera (I am convinced that the Red Scare and The Days of Our Lives are equally ridiculous), when the music began.

It took me a while to recognize the song, but eventually, through the foot-stomping and clapping, I picked up the notes of “Folsom Prison Blues,” played amateurly on someone’s acoustic guitar.  Yes, friends, there is a party downstairs.  There is homemade curry.  There is folk music.

Somehow, even though I’ll have a mountain of reading to do tomorrow, even though they’re not exactly my friends, even though they’re positively drunk, I cannot bring myself to go tell them to keep it down.  Not when they’re singing Johnny Cash.

They’re singing 4 Non Blondes now.  I’m officially going down there to join.  Talk to you tomorrow.

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In Which I Am Unflatteringly Honest

There’s a party going on downstairs, one that smells like Argentine steak and wine instead of beer and cigarette smoke.  The voices are happy to be reunited after a long Winter Break, they’re giddy talking about what they’ve done and what they will do.

And I, concussed, am up here by myself.  Uninvited, and thus trapped.  There’s no way out of this darn house for me except to go down the stairs, which open up in the middle of the dining room, which is right where everyone is.  I can’t think of anything more pathetic than for the third housemate to tiptoe out into the rain, past everyone who is having fun and spearing hunks of beef with water-spotted forks.

This is not one of my finer moments.

Anyway, I wouldn’t have anywhere to go.  Few people are back in town yet (classes start Monday), and a casual walk would quickly be rendered miserable by the rain and the cold.

So I’m up in my tower, reading book after book and casually keeping tabs on the voices wafting through the vents.

This really hasn’t been the most flattering post, but as much as I’d love you all to believe that I’m some kind of superstar, getting myself into pickles, even of a social nature, is sort of my forte.  Also, I’m cranky and tired and frankly needed to write this down or go crazy and rampage through the party wearing sweatpants and my Gatsby crewneck.

Christmas Eve

For almost as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve written a Christmas Eve post every year.

2009

2010

2011

This Christmas Eve, I’m once again sitting on the couch gazing at the tree, feeling steeped in family and ham with cheesy potatoes.

We’ve had the traditional Christmas activities:

Cookie Baking

Extended Family Christmas Eve Party

Last Minute Shopping/Wrapping

Mexican Train

Christmas Jigsaw Puzzle (which Amy takes over.  I have not the patience for such things.)

Christmas Movies (The Santa Clause is my favorite)

Christmas Eve Mass (and the resulting pew dozing, which is simultaneously irreverent and inevitable)

It’s funny to be twenty-two, and to remember past Christmases when I could hardly sleep for excitement, and to look forward to future Christmases which may not be spent in Minnesota or with family.  It’s funny to feel that I just want to soak up more togetherness, and that I don’t really need a thing under the tree.  It’s funny to be mature and blase and (slightly) boring.  It’s funny to be too old to run around with the kids at Christmas parties, and to instead sit up straight with the adults (and be offered alcoholic drinks).

This is getting to be a nostalgic post, and while I do think that Christmas is the perfect time for nostalgia, and for rewatching those Christmas home videos in which you are quite blatantly opening your little sister’s presents “for her” and coveting them shamelessly, I also believe in merry Christmases and bright futures.  May you have both.

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Written from a Humanities Classroom

I am currently perched atop a desk on the second floor of the Humanities building.  A whiteboard, scrawled with my notes, is behind me, shining with promise.  I swing my legs and peer out the window to my right.  Immediately across the way is the Student Center.  I see Isaac working his Higbies shift (it has to be him; no one else is that tall), I see unwatched TVs broadcasting TLC and football, I see scattered students unwrapping their packed dinners atop Turtle Mountain Cafe tables (they don’t bother to close their laptops while they eat).

And I’m in here, and my gentleman caller (is this getting ridiculous?  I still think it’s funny, but you tell me) is in the next room.  I had to leave because sometimes I need to sit atop the teacher’s desk and talk myself to a thesis, as if I were teaching a class:

“Now, you may think that Fortune is a simple entity, but actually, she’s a dichotomy, as evidenced in Greek and Roman texts…”

I worked my Writing Room shift from 3-5, and I was reluctant to go, as I often am on Sundays when schoolwork has piled up and I know that it will be a late night.  As always, however, I had more fun helping students to brainstorm theses and gather evidence and arrange outlines than I have at any other time during the week.  Sometimes I think that I should be a teacher after all; I derive such great joy from helping other people learn and improve.

Anyway, I walked out of the Writing Room, having crafted three theses for peers, and feeling confident that I could now craft my own.

And I did.  I’m currently sitting on a decently solid thesis, and a ten-paragraph outline.  I’m sitting on it because my goodness what a jump there is from outline to paper, from planning to executing.  I’d like to bask in the complete before I move on to the daunting.  At least for a while.  At least until Isaac finishes making one drink, until the girl in TMC finishes her slice of reheated pizza, until I finish my own meagre dinner of apple and Kashi crackers.

It has been a lovely weekend (I think as I bask and creep): The G.C. (is it too, too weird to abbreviate?  You tell me) and I finished watching season two of Game of Thrones.  I think we both just about sobbed at the end, not only because it’s a dramatic finish, but because what will we live for until Spring, when season three premieres? What is our relationship without weekend Game of Thrones watching to ground it?  Winter is coming, my friends, and I suppose we’d best start preparing for it (major GOT reference, don’t worry if you’re confused).

As I mentioned in my last post, Friday night was also the Anne Panning reading on campus.  What I didn’t mention was that Butter sounds just like Minnesota, and that even though I didn’t get home until 2 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning, I stayed awake for another hour blazing through 86 pages of that wonderful book.  It’s written from the perspective of pre-teen Iris, so the true intrigue stems from the fact that she can’t figure out what’s going on with the grown-ups, and by extension, neither can we.

Last night, G.C. (maybe I’ll just ask him if I can use his name in here.  Or make up a fake name.  That might be more fun) and I went to see UMM’s production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.  The play dealt with the murder of Laramie, Wyoming resident Matthew Shepard (a hate crime; Matthew was targeted for being gay), and its effects on the town of Laramie and its citizens.  It was fascinating and inspiring and relevant, but mostly very sad.

After Laramie I attended a birthday party.  Theme?  Drunk authors: guests were asked to dress as their favorite alcoholic writers.  We had a Hunter S. Thompson, two Oscar Wildes, a Bob Dylan, a Sylvia Plath, a Virginia Woolf and Leonard Woolf, a Stephanie Meyer (pretty sure that one was a joke), and a Truman Capote.  I don’t think I need to tell you who I dressed as.  Hint:

And now, I plan to stop procrastinating and to start drafting the darn paper.  At least until 8, when our entire Woolf Lit. class will pile into our professor’s living room to watch the movie version of Orlando.  He’s buying us pizza and cutting up veggies and letting us sprawl on his living room rug and enjoy the hominess that just cannot exist in a college house.  Only at UMM, I tell you.

Wild Dogs

There was a party last night.  It was a birthday party/LSAT completion party.  It would be, I knew, filled to the brim with philosophy majors and English majors wearing velvet jackets and hoods (the theme was Lord of the Rings).  The house would be clean underneath, for these men knew, as their mothers and fathers had known, that to throw a party is to tidy the house first.  On the surface, however, at least by the time I arrived, there were empty cans and bottles strewn about.  Plastic sheathes that had once held neat rows of Chips Ahoy and Oreo were empty, littered with only crumbs.  There were spills, too.  Splattered on Travis’ shirt and on the couch cushions.  A game of Never Have I Ever was going on; wobbling twenty-somethings sat around a table holding up varying numbers of fingers.  After each question, a large groan would ring out, and cups would raise to lips and fingers would be subtracted, sometimes with drunken sheepishness.

I hate parties like this, when I’m surrounded by people I know, sometimes very well, but I don’t recognize any of them.  That’s the worst thing drinking does to people, I think; it turns  them into strangers.  There’s maybe a small bit of that person buried beneath sips of Red Dog, but when it tries to form a coherent sentence, the result is alien, although draped with an earnestness that is almost piteous.

I left after an hour, having had only about a quarter of a drink, and went home, where I read until I felt like myself again.  And then I fell asleep and dreamed that a family was swimming in one of those natural spring pools out west, and suddenly looked up to find the pool surrounded by wild dogs, who were gnashing their teeth and growling.

First Snow

First snow tonight.  We were walking home, admiring the purple rim of clouds that clutched the treeline, when suddenly there were white flashes in the palisade of street lights surrounding the police station.

My sleeve was dotted dark, and although we couldn’t see them, faint pellets hit our foreheads, stinging and colder than the air.

It reminded me of freshman year, when we watched Underworld in the Cow Palace, and went outside halfway through to find an inch of snow on the ground and fat flakes falling.  Of that night, the only written record I have is a small journal entry: “October 9th and it’s snowing in Morris.  I love it here.”  Still, I remember how amazed we were, how even Evan was in disbelief, how quiet the campus was, how lovely with white draped over roofs and tumbling softly down gutters to the sidewalks.

But I’m inside currently, having dragged myself away from such sentimentality for the research that has been tugging at me for some time now.

There was an open mic night going on downstairs; I had to open the door carefully when I came in, for Joey was crouched on a chair reading from a book I’ve never heard of, and a dozen of my friends listened with cocked heads and clutched guitars or sheets of poetry or warm beers.

The party went out a few minutes ago, though.  They’re going to a house called The Bakery, which is self-explanatory, I think.  Before they left, someone shouted up to me:

“Bye Holly, I love you!”

“Bye Zak, I love you too!” I returned.

And then the door shut and the house inhaled and I turned back to my work.

Distinguished Alumni

Good evening, everyone. I write to you from the pit of despair that is sitting behind a desk on a Friday night.  It’s not the job, really; it’s the fact that I’ve had a startlingly efficient day, and while that was fine and good while it lasted, I’m at the point where I want to leave campus.  I’ve been here since 9 a.m., and I’m officially ready to ship out.  Ship out to a shrimp and white wine birthday party, that is.  My, but college parties are classy these days.  I’m dressing up and everything.

The distinguished alumni banquet is going on across the hall.  I hear clapping, the clink of the fine silverware that the students don’t get to use, and occasionally, the door will open and a mother, dressed to the nines, will walk out, tugging her cranky child behind her.  They walk around the Student Center, mother pointing to a painting, or a room: “I used to study in there all the time.”  “My friend Tony-wonder where he is now?-broke his wrist trying to scale that wall with a bottle of wine and three packs of Twinkies.”

There was an awkward moment a few minutes ago, when two gentlemen came up to the desk.  “Is KUMM still in the basement?” they asked.  And then, after noticing the fancy to-do in Oyate: “What’s going on in there?”

“It’s an alumni banquet,” I said, purposefully leaving off the ‘distinguished.’

“What kind of alumni?”

Darn.  “Um, distinguished alumni, I think it is.”

They looked at each other and laughed.  “No wonder we weren’t invited!”

Generally, I like having all of these alumni around.  It’s Homecoming this week, so naturally they’ve come in droves, driving minivans plastered with UMM stickers, or shiny sports cars that betray nothing but their present success.

I like to watch them walk the campus, exclaiming about one thing or another, and envying (so I imagine) the students, for whom college isn’t over yet.  It’s a little strange, the divide between us and them.  We all went to UMM, we all adore it, but the generational gap still stands.  They protested the Vietnam War, brought their dates back to the dorms before curfew.  We fight against the Marriage Amendment, play Quidditch on the Mall, check Facebook fifty times a day.  Now, they have to ask us where the bathrooms are, have to follow campus maps and tour guides as if they were incoming freshmen again.

It’s funny to think that in a year, I’ll be among them.