Waltham Weekly 3
Live (?) from NY
22 September 1998
I just (as in, JUST, hopping off the late train [commuter rail] from Boston) got in &, after reading all the e-mail that's accumulated this weekend, am replying to everything & telling of my weekend in another edition of this weeklyISH report. I am now back home (wow... I'm calling Brandeis home already), so this isn't being written FROM New York, per se. The usual disclaimers apply... if you're new to getting this, my apologies for not sending it earlier... if you don't want this anymore, just lemme know. Back issues always available for the new people. Moving on....
Whether or not you knew of this, I've spent the past 4 days in beautiful gargantuan frightening & fun NEW YORK CITY! (Why does this call to mind a really cheesy salsa commercial from way-back-when?) Nevermind. Anyway, it's a positively overwhelming experience... if you've never been to NYC, I must admit that I can't well describe it to you. It's too massive. Everything is huge... the buildings, the streets, the sidewalks, the percentage of taxis as compared to the rest of the cars (60% by my estimate... though Gris remarked at one point after I said "I haven't seen a yellow car that isn't a taxi", that he "hadn't seen a car that wasn't a taxi".) The subway map is more complex than most science courses. It's like being teleported onto another planet (not to start this up again, Jake & Fish...) which runs by oddly different rules than the rest of the universe. But fun... don't get me wrong, it was fun.
The original purpose of my being dropped off on this planet in the first place was to compete in the Columbia (University) Novice Tournament.... the first & only parliamentary debate tourney of the year exclusively for novices, judged by non-novices. After this tourney, we will be unceremoniously thrown to the proverbial wolves of the debate world.... hungry juniors & seniors ready to slap us around. I had a multitude of doubts about my partner, Kraig Kumfer, a cornfed Indiana boy who did 4 years of foreign extemp in high school, never leaving the Fort Wayne area to compete save for Baltimore, Detroit, & St. Louis (forensic folk will know what this means). In practice rounds, he'd been under his speech time every time & hadn't seemed terribly enthusiastic. But it turned out that we worked pretty well together & while he could cover the semi-prepared PMC & PMR (I won't bore everybody with a detailed explanation of parli debate... at least not now), I did well at the rebuttal-based MGC.... conversely, I got the LOC & LOR on opposition (quick-thinking & refuting duties), while he got the MOC (again, more summarized, prepared). It turned out to work really well, cuz we cover each other's weaknesses & have a common strength in foreign affairs & history.... a good thing when you have to build a case about ANYTHING in 10 minutes. We broke top-seed outta a little more than a hundred teams... they only broke to semis, screwing 2 of the 6 4-0's outta breaking. We beat a really good team from Columbia (host team!) on a 4-1 decision in a close round in semis, then debated a not-quite-as-good Hopkins (no offense, Freez) team in finals, in front of about 250 people. We ended up taking the round on a 14-7 decision, winning the tourney. It still hasn't hit me, really, that after never winning a national-level HS tourney in 5 years of LD, I won my first national-level college tourney. Mind you, it's a novice tourney & from here on out, we expect to take some hard knocks. But at least we'll be feared among the novice circles, & have a shot at winning the not-all-that-coveted "Novice of the Year Award". & I guess I can debate with this whole partner thing after all. Plus, we've put Brandeis on the map, because another freshman from our school, Sarah Halperin-Meekin, won the top speaker award.... her partner had an asthma attack 30 min.s before we left for NY & thus she was stuck with a pretty lousy partner...so she didn't break, but she spoke incredibly well... so Brandeis esentially swept the tournament... considering Brandeis had never won a parli' tourney of any sort before, it was pretty darn spiffy.
Anyway, 'nuff 'bout that. Afterwards, I trekked across various subway stations & in & out of many subterranean rails to eventually discover 400 Broome Street, Gris's luxury (?) accomodations at NYU. Not really at NYU, considering the building they live in is off the campus map, surrounded by "danger zones" according to the NYU orientation folk. Nonetheless, it's a nice place & the apartment (yes, it's an apartment, not a dorm... replete with full kitchen, full bathroom, cable TV & VCR, etc...) is frickin' HUGE! I mean, large & in charge! I'd like to see a competition to determine how many volkswagens can be fit inside that apartment. Gris's comment that "we really lucked out" doesn't quite cover justice on that front. I also must complain that Gris hasn't devoted significant e-space to a full description of his roomies, each of whom is quite a character. Holden, for example, his actual roommate (the suite, if I may call it that, contains two rooms with two beds each, plus a gargantuan living space, with kitchen & access to a private bathroom with shower & tub) is an absolutely zany guy who would be the tallest kid at Brandeis... has very little shame about saying whatever may be on his mind &/or making fun of anyone &/or bossing anyone around... he's alternately hilarious or extremely offensive, depending on nothing more than his random whim. Dennie is a frequent target of Holden's quips & jokes, which Holden makes mostly for reaction & will push to the limit till someone laughs or tells him to shut up. Dennie would be the tallest kid at Brandeis if Holden didn't go & he did.... he's mostly just a nice guy with a somewhat sarcastic eye on life, but good humor throughout. His actual roommate is Travis, who is dwarfed by everyone else in room 609, & gets constant jokes about being a hick Virginny S'uthu'n boy... even though Holden's originally from Atlanta & Travis is the least Southern Southerner I've ever met. He's a cool guy too. I dunno... it's just a fun dynamic they've got going there... everything will appear normal till Holden bursts on the scene, says something outrageous, runs into his & Gris's room to blast the stereo at a zillion decibels, & runs back to the room of a junior or senior girl down the hall. The door of 609 always remains open, & in my brief 2 & a half days there, I think about 7 different girls walked in the room & asked for Holden, all pouting when we told them, invariably, that he was absent.
Anyway, they were all gracious hosts & I appreciate that... though when Holden confided in me that their original planned method of greeting me was acting "completely crazy.... totally insane", I was tempted to ask if they hadn't gone through with that plan. Gris & I visited Central Park & Times Square... both amazing locations, & the Museum of Modern Art... slightly less amazing. Any place that holds a revered spot on its walls for a four-foot-by-four-foot photograph entitled "Glass of Water", containing nothing more than a blue background behind a glass of water has, in my 'umble opin', slight problems. Some of the stuff was cool, & some of it was just crap. No two ways about it. The amazing thing about New York is that you can't go two feet without finding another famous place, or reference, or well-known something. For example, Gris lives in the middle of SoHo, near Bleecker St.... we also crossed Sullivan St. & of course Broadway, 6th Ave., etc. etc. Then there's the whole Central Park/Times Sq. deal, which is vaguely famous... lil' bit.
I came back today on the Greyhound. I've now been to NY & Connecticut. On the Eastern seaboard, states fly by like pigeons. Which reminds me of another amusing realization about New York. The pigeons are more fearless than the muggers. Walking through Central Park, I almost tripped over a group of pigeons foraging on the cement. When they realized I was a human being & almost tripping over them, they didn't flutter off on the breeze or even fly-hop a short distance away. Instead, they nonchalantly ambled a few steps out of my way, carefully inspecting my person for bread as they went. I'm not even sure they're capable of flight. Suffice it to say, & this is from the sad-but-true bureau, they're better fed than the homeless of the city.
Anyway, methinks I'll wrap up this ambling jaunt through my long weekend soon. To fully describe all events in seeing NYC for the first time would be impossible. It would also be excessively repetitive. Every third sentence would resemble "Dang, that's a huge building!" or "Wow... sky... I forgot they had that here!". Methinks I've hit the highlights. I'm probably going back at some point, maybe even for the regular Columbia tournament, whenever that is.
Kudos to Fish for winning the door prize from last week's Waltham Weekly. The answer, for the rest of you is "War Games". A great movie, containing the quotation, if you'll recall, of "The only winning move is not to play." Now I just need to figure out a door prize to send you... no Schneider-style care packages, I'm afraid... though I saw the results of your care package to Gris, Fish.....
Sympathy to Jaque for moving into a ratio-negative environment down in GA-Tech. Think Emory, my friend, & all will be well.
Sympathy also to Barrett for debating in Texas. Come do parli at Brandeis!
Questions to Eliaii along the lines of "Where the heck are you?"! You've received a great deal of mail & as yet not responded to any of it, at least not to my knowledge. Either that or "email@example.com" is someone OTHER than Eliaii, in which case you know far too much about me for never having met me before. A reply might be groovy... hint, hint...
A great big wonderful "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" to Jenny. Seventeen is a fun age. Enjoy it while you can, even if you can no longer hold onto sixteen...
A promise to Jessica (Hass) to write your friend soon & tell her all the wonders of a Boston education. Though I'd hate to convince her to go elsewhere if she's just having jitters about W&M. Though, the way you tell it, it's permanent. Sympathy also for having no debate team, but a recommendation to try MUN anyway. It's more interesting than debate, methinks.
A multitude of questions to Shan about life in Ashland, moving into college, etc.? You have moved in by now, haven't you? Tell me all about it... I should probably stop writing to your old address, huh?
& finally, of course, immense thanks & gratitude to Gris for hosting me for 3 days & 2 nights in NYC. Remember, the invitation is always open to come up to Boston & Brandeis & stay as long as you want. Of course, that invite's open to ALL of you... though methinks some might be more likely to pursue that option than others. Everyone is welcome in Scheffres 212. But thanks again, Gris, for making me welcome in 400 Broome Street 609.
Well, everybody, I suppose that covers it. Take care of yourselves, enjoy college or high school or wherever your final destination may be. I hope that all is well with everyone, encourage everyone to write lots of mail back, & promise to at least try to write many personal messages to supplement this big group thing. & no message from Brandeis would be appropriate without a great big "Happy Rosh Hoshanah!" to everyone. As always, I love you all....
Peace & Goodwill for a New Year (by some calendars),
the Past has come and gone
the Future's far away
but Now only lasts for one second
[Quotes thanks to Hootie]