Waltham Weekly 25
Where the Music Really Lives

15 November 1999


Well, mostly I haven't been writing of late because I've been elsewhere. Zack (that guy I live with & sometimes even get along with!) assumed that I'm going to be gone next weekend since I've been out every weekend for a month... this spawned an interesting discussion about what the likelihood of me being gone usually is & why it's unreasonable to assume much of anything, but I'm digressing already & this is only the beginning! But I guess you actually DO read this, so that's reassuring to know. & yes, Barrett, we do all love the Daily Rime. At least I do. I cannot impose my will upon the populous at large, admittedly.

So where have I been? Well, as I'm sure one could expect, there's been the typical debate rigamarole. It's been okay... nothing spectacular, nothing bad, but I've now had 4 partners on 4 different trips & was slated for #5 on #5, but he got sick just before this past weekend & was already feeling swamped with work (something I still don't understand as far as college goes), so it's still just 4. Who wants to go to Fordham anyway? I've been seeing just about every other section of New York City the past coupla weeks, including the "other side" of the chunky waterway that divides NYC from the dreaded state of New Jersey. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I think they (whoever the "they" is that controls these things, esp. now that Microsoft has been declared a monopoly!) should officially ban the AOL-IM noises after every entry. Y'know the little bell-chimes that ring out every time someone has a message one way or the other? This has got to be one of the top hundred ways to make life better.

So, let's see... all the way back to Halloween is probably where our story begins. I went to Columbia the weekned previous, debated, had a party & a half & all that... came back & went to Salem for the better part of the day... the phrase "highly dubious" comes to mind right off the bat. I mean, it wasn't bad or anything, but it was slightly hokey. Lil' bit. Salem itself is a funky enough town with a lot of ancient buildings & plaques to prove it, direct access to the Atlantic, & several witch "museums", tarot-reading shops, & allegedly spooky hangouts. I suppose that it could be a neat place to go some chilly December dusk as long as one steers clear of too many of the tourist traps. However, steering clear of the tourists is the tough part on Halloween. It's a phenomenon, certainly... enough of one for the archaic "T" subway line to run extra trains out & back every half hour all night long. Many people are in costume & even more are drunk or crazy or trying to get tickets for the midnight showing of "The Blair Witch Project", which was probably being shown somewhere within 20 miles of every person in this country on 31 October this year. Regardless of which, the town was absolutely flooded with a sea of humanity, including Sara Katz (from high school, for the thankfully unaware), who I almost literally bumped into from behind, then quickly steered clear of to avoid conversing with her or her apparent fratboy companion. I did stop to chat with Rachel Flax (ibid), however, seeing her in a setting other than giving a lunchtime announcement or serving 66 Diner food for the first time in years. That was at Columbia, though, where she goes, & perhaps not as random as it seemed... but it took us a second to recognize each other - I suppose she isn't used to seeing me in debate clothes with a bunch of college kids. She might just be the only one.

So it's safe to call Salem Halloween a disappointment, esp. coming from a "main event" on what was my favorite holiday for years on end & might well still be, though I haven't given it much thought of late. Far better a day was that which followed 48 hours later... the 2nd of November, already slated to be remarkable for the release of the new Counting Crows album "This Desert Life", became far more so for having the best weather of any non-snow-day I've spent in Massachusetts. Fans of my "Ideal World of Constant 60-mph Winds" argument woulda loved this day... it was blustery & a shade overcast & nippy without being cold... watching thousands of leaves sail up from the side of the tracks on the commuter rail only to whiz in a swirl past the windows literally ranks in the top events of this semester. (Yes, I do realize this might be a bad sign for things generally, but let me savor the moment, okay?) I also got to buy 3 copies of the album since I was buying a copy each for Greg & Stina, picking up a quizzical look from the CD store's proprietor on the way.

The album, as I'm sure I've stated before, is incredible. Go buy it. Unless, like Gris, Jaque, Fish, & any others of you who I haven't heard from on this subject but enter the same category, you already have.

So the week went on &, as CC says in "Amy Hit the Atmosphere"... "today was just a day fading into another". Most days are like that in Waltham this semester. But eventually they led me to Brown, giving me a chance to debate with novice-of-the-year contender Mike Ruggiero from Rhode Island College (RIC), a great debater on a bad bad team. We had fun & got to run a Star Wars case (as in the George Lucas films, not the Ronald Reagan mistake) against Princeton's top team, which infuriated them to no end & almost cost them the round. We lost 2 of 5 rounds, but they were to the #1 & #3 teams of the tourney, so life goes on. I keep having to remind myself that I'm only a sophomore & if I stick with it, I don't have to win nationals until at least next year.... after debating for nearly 6 & a half years, I'm starting to think of myself as a 3rd-year senior more than going around again....

But this weekend upcoming will be the Brandeis tournament, which should be fun for the whole family as the tables turn & I get to judge all these lackeys! Or at least 10 of them. I'm also handling registration & "loose ends", which basically means I get to scamper around campus with a walkie-talkie pulling my hair out (in long strands) trying to avert disasters which inevitably threaten any good tournament. It should be fun, but knowing some people on our team, they'll find a way to make it stressful in the end. I could use a little stress, if you ask me.

I'll also get a chance to see some of you... at least Barrett, I know... maybe Jessica (Hass)? I'm glad you've finally jumped on the parli' bandwagon, Jess, though I concur with your analysis of your team... I was at that APDA meeting where Wellesley's tournament was brushed aside due to absence (actually, Gris was there too, against his will!) & must admit that such events aren't atypical. Oh well... try a couple tournaments - you might like it. Kate, you've gotta come up, too... I'm sure we'll get you plenty of "way south" discounts. Only in parli' debate is Maryland part of the deep south.

So I left Brown. Then, I went to New York. (The preceding phrase is a big part of my vocabulary these days.) I got a ride with the NYU debate team, which was reminiscent of Disneyland's famed "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride"... fortunately without the warmish conclusion. It included a stop at the Friendly's in Mystic, Connecticut for a chance for each & every one of the NYU people to take a shot at scaring the waiters & waitresses of that fine establishment. You might say that our group was a bit too friendly. Upon arriving at Gris's place (across the street from a movie theater... they look after their Tisch people well!), I promptly embarked on a hundred straight hours of hanging out at the chess shop in Grenwich Village where he works. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but no, not much. It was a good time to see Gris's world & all the folks who come in out of the cold of Washington Square Park to play on the buck-an-hour (that's the only OFFICIAL cost) tables inside the "Chess Forum". I also had enough time to finish reading my Kafka & lose a goodly number of games by an even wider margin. My chess skills have been shelved of late, but I was never a Washington Square contender.

On Tuesday, we went to Hammerstein Ballroom (on the fabled 34th street... but really, what streets aren't fabled in NYC?) to see the Counting Crows show. It was perfect. Many of you are likely not big fans of what is probably my favorite active band, but if you are even slightly, you would've loved this show. They opened with "Mr. Jones", played 8 songs off the new album, some old stuff, including a wrenching "Anna Begins" & what must've been a 15-minute "Round Here", then finished their 3-song encore with "A Murder of One" (by far my favorite of their songs). It was unreal. The opening bands were solid, the lights were great, the crowd was pumped, we were about 6-7 rows back, standing on the floor of the ballroom, directly in front of the center of the stage, & it was all enough to probably top Dylan/Simon from this summer as far as the concert itself goes. Gris & Stina had a great time, too, though methinks I was in another zone... esp. considering that the whole concert, I'd been wondering whether or not they'd play "A Murder of One" & then they closed the show with that as their 17th song. It was beautiful.

It was going to be hard for Dylan to top that 4 days later. & he didn't. But he also gave a great show, at the "Continental Airlines Arena", part of the Meadowlands, which is where all New Jersey's sports teams hang out. The Arena is supposed to be a smoke-free facility, as the painfully annoying announcer-voice reminded us every 90 seconds we waited in line. But Dylan's opening band was Phil Lesh & Friends, featuring almost entirely Grateful Dead songs. So instead of smoke-free, we got plenty of free smoke. As Jake put it at one point, "If you thought your clothes smelled leaving the bowling alley..." The concert was good when Dylan played Dylan stuff & marginal when he dipped into Grateful Dead tunes which got all the 50-year-old Deadheads bouncing around trippily. The encore, however, featured "Like a Rolling Stone" & then an awesome slow version of "It Ain't Me, Babe" featuring about 3 minutes of harmonica. But the 2ND encore brought "Blowin' in the Wind", one of my all-time favorite songs (as in, 2 or 3 all-time favorites), so that took the whole show up a notch & made everything well worthwhile.

I did go "home" (back to Brandeis) between those 2 concerts... for about 60 dreary hours of attending a handful of classes & doing the whole poker-night thing. I had considered not coming back, but 10 days would've been a bit much at this point. After all, Thanksgiving's only 10 days from now. Needless to say, I'm not going back to ABQ then, but I probably will be back very early for Winter Break. Having no finals, I may be home as early as the 9th of December, which excites me to no end. I've missed New Mexico more than I thought I ever would this half-year & I yearn for the high desert & a good Mexican meal like you wouldn't believe.

After the show, Gris, Jake, & I managed to have a marginal Mexican meal (good for the east, but the enchilada sauce had as much kick as a glass of ice water), then see a dumb movie ("Dogma"... it's not as bad as a Jack Nicholson movie, but it's still not worth seeing), then be on our respective ways. As I should probably be on my respective way about now.

Mesco, I heard you did something to your foot...? Only at Brandeis would I hear about this from people other than you. Drop me a line sometime.

Lauren, I'm sure I will meander thataway sometime. As you can see, though, most of my time's been spent outside of Boston of late. I still say you should give parli' debate just one tourney.

Schneider, we should go check out a hockey game or something sometime... I dunno what your finals schedule is & I know you're going home for Thanksgiving, but it might be worth checking out anyway.

Okay, folks, that's a wrap. If you've made it this far, then you can always write a little something back. I'll try to respond more individually... I'm actually going to be around town (though still at debate tourneys: here & then at MIT) the next couple weekends, so that'll yield more time. Hope everyone is hangin' in there & has the secret to motivation tidily tucked into a convenient backpack pocket. I'm sure that if I just keep looking, I'll find it sooner or later....

Take care. Be peaceful. Be lovely. Be...

"87 on 84. I don't recommend it. It's not a wise thing to do."
     -Professor E.C. Black, my French Revolution prof & History major advisor, describing his recent run-in with Connecticut State Police on highway 84.


the Past has come and gone
the Future's far away
but Now only lasts for one second

[Quotes thanks to Hootie]