Waltham Weekly 11
Could I Have Been Anyone Other than Me?
9 December 1998
I suppose it serves me right for attending a school with "Judges" as a mascot.
But you gotta wonder, after a time, if there'll ever be a time in our lives
when we are no longer constantly bent to the will of other people's judgment.
& it's not just judgment that's so bothersome... it's the concept that one's
entire worth as a student, as a human, as an entity is determined by the numerical
evaluation of others. Whether we do well in grading or poorly, the concept becomes
inherently disturbing after a while... when do we get to objectively determine
our own fates? When will self-determination override the constant nagging duty
of pleasing teachers? If you're sitting in a school & haven't been contemplating
this lately, maybe you're luckier than I am.
In case you haven't figured this out yet, it's been a somewhat disconcerting week in the realm known as Brandeis University. With December comes desperation to get outta here... everybody sees the horizon of escape around each assignment or class & fever to leave is reaching a climax. I myself have only 2 papers & 3 finals between now & salvation for the winter... the fact that we refer to it as a salvation illustrates current dissatisfaction with being at college. But it's not dissatisfaction as compared to anything else... merely dissatisfaction in some sort of absolute sense. More people here feel directionless & unfulfilled than at any time I've ever been in contact with. I am no exception to these "more people".
The week was not without highlights. The weekend just past (a couple days past, I s'pose) was filled with the debate tournament at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, affectionately known by civilians as MIT (or, for Jaque's sake, the "Georgia Tech of the North"). Kraig felt compelled to study for "orgo" (organic chemistry for those as scientifically inclined as I am) back at the ranch, so I debated with Jeff Light, someone who if you knew, you'd go: "Oh, that annoying sophomore kid with dark hair & glasses?" & I'd go: "Yeah, that's him." The boy is nice enough, sometimes, but as a debater, he just doesn't quite make the cut. When I started debating in college, I wondered about the whole partner thing & guys like Jeff are the reason why such wondering was fully justified. We managed to post a 3-2 record, not good enough to get anywhere, but 4-1 would've been solid & he managed to single-handedly lose us a round by talking about issues entirely irrelevant to the case. So it goes. I ended up being 2nd novice speaker at the tourney, as I (surprise surprise) outspoke Jeff in every round. I'm not bitter about the parntership... really, believe me. It's just that Kraig & I could've done some damage at the tourney, methinks.
The rest of the weekend was lonely & depressing & wreaked havoc on my feelings about being here at Brandeis & everything else more or less important. The details are nasty, brutish, & short, much like Thomas Hobbes' evaluation of human life altogether. So I won't bother people with them here... I'm not over it, but I've moved on sufficiently to survive the remainder of the semester & return home with the intent to set my house in order, my ducks in a row, & my teeth on edge. Wait, they already are on edge. Two outta three ain't bad. Regardless of which, college seems to be a place where one acquires a million transient "friends" which would've been acquaintances back in high school... then maybe (if one is lucky) a handful of friends who one still doesn't know in the slightest, but hangs out with in the hope of one day knowing. Maybe this is no different than the way it used to be, but it seems like the change is substantial. When everyone's removed from their context & thrown into a context-vacant vat known as a university environment, the potential for disconnection is incredible.
That said, there's also enormous potential for surprise as one realizes that those whom they thought they knew are far cooler than initially suspected. One such individual is Ariel Maruri, mentioned previously I'm sure, but perhaps only briefly. As good a friend as I have on this muddled campus, she's had enormous privilege in life but is also immenesely generous... & her recent offer (all of 16 hours before the concert) of a ticket to the Dave Matthews Band concert demonstrates that quite soundly. While I've often aspired to attend such an affair, tickets usually sell out all of 17 nanoseconds after first going on sale, relegating the bulk of the populous to listen to the radio for the chance-in-a-million at winning or to listen to the bragging of the more fortunate on the day after said concert. But as finals have besieged us all, Ariel was too busy to feel good about attending the concert, & suddenly I was blazing out of a hellish weekend & into the midst of a Monday-night concert.
I've often hoped that college would be a learning experience. Joining relatives & your friend's nose, what one learns is on the list of things one cannot pick. For example, we have a wonderful city here in Massachusetts, one larger than most of the state capitals on the Eastern seaboard in population. This city, home of the Dave concert last Monday night, gets less publicity than one might expect, simply because of the Massachusetts accent issue. While spelled simply enough, Worcester has the noted snowflake-like distinction of never being pronounced the same way twice. Just as I tried at first to phonetically attack the home of Brandeis, I feel the pronunciation of this town should be "Worchester". Most folks locally lean more towards the "Wooostaa" approach. A similar township in Pennsylvania is evidently known as "Worsester". & the most literate of "Mass" residents refer to the local edition as "Wuhster". If you thought too much of my brain used to be devoted to song lyrics, just imagine how much is now dedicated to my Massachusettsian-English, English-Massachusettsian Dictionary!
Then there's the issue of the unavoidable & unfortunate link between DMB fans & illicit substances... having to get a ride with Ariel's original companions (previously unbeknownst to me) meant riding with a responsible driver from Taos, a pot-smoking owner of the car (suspended license for posession of said substance), & 2 go-with-the-crowd types. Suffice it to say that the NM 40% minority in the car also ended up being the 40% minority who turned down taking a hit. One of the illegal majority ended up freaking out with the ever-so-articulate declaration "Oh man, I'm freaking out, okay, okay, I'm really flipping out now, I mean, help me guys, this isn't cool, I'm like really like losing it ohmygod, somebody help me calm down, c'mon, I'm serious, okay, okay, okay..." But we made it safely & on time to the Worcester Centrum Centre, finding ourselves immediately amidst a swarm of teenie-boppers & various youth.
The stadium, an indoor hockey arena restructured for the concert, was packed to the rafters & then some. We were in a section that made me thankful for my 20/5 vision, but it was still amazing. & while Dave didn't play many of my favorite songs, like "Ants Marching" or "Typical Situation" or "The Best of What's Around", he played most of the other favorites which were almost all excellent. This included a 20-minute version of "Two Step", which was most remarkable & included a huge violin/guitar jam, "Warehouse", "Dancing Nancies" (from which the title of this message is taken), "Crash Into Me", & "Lie in Our Graves". But, all of this was merely a prelude to the encore... an odd way of looking at life, though the encore at a DMB concert is evidently as taken for granted as infidelity in the White House. Being December, Dave decided to slow things down with "Christmas Song", one of the saddest & most excellent songs I've heard... something so old, I hadn't hoped to hear it going into the concert. It was incredible... to expound in words would be to undermine the quality of the experience. It made up for all the songs I would've like to have heard but didn't... it was just really darn spiffy.
People who don't know or follow Dave Matthews probably just missed a bunch in the above paragraph, but that's okay. Dave fans will (hopefully) understand.
This is the last full week of classes 'round here & while I envy people who intend to be home from college by the end of the week (cough, cough, FISH, cough, cough), it's nice that things are slowing down. Unfortunately, everyone I know is completely losing it due to anticipation (is this too generous a word?) of finals & thus there is less ping-pong & fewer latenight conversations... I feel like a freak for not flipping out about finals, but then again, I never have. Of course, I've never lived with everyone else at school before either... so the contrast between those who study like crazy & I is heightened. & things have really started to shut down, too... debate & clubs stop meeting as people retreat to the hibernation of intense book-pouring. I don't understand it, but perhaps that's just me. By this weekend, I'll have only 1 paper & 2 finals between myself & the flight back to Nuevo Mexico. & that, my friends, is reason enough to celebrate in the oncoming holiday season.
If you live at an institution of "higher learning" & I would have a relevant reason for knowing when you'll be going home (i.e. you live in Albuquerque or want to get e-mail from me at a different [home] e-mail address over winter break), please let me know. Otherwise, take care of yourself & enjoy the last handful of days at school, wherever you may attend this antiquated educational system. It's almost the last year of the millennium & if that doesn't put things in a bit of a grander perspective, I dunno what will. Sometimes the minor details get in the way of the important stuff, & maybe 1999 will alter that a bit. Maybe I'm just way too wishful more often than not.
Peace & Love,
the Past has come and gone
the Future's far away
but Now only lasts for one second
[Quotes thanks to Hootie]