Waltham Weekly 17
Old Friends, New Ventures
2 April 1999
Ladies, Gentlemen, & Those Who Define Yourselves Otherwise,
I waited a whole day to write this. I was ready to sit up at my computer screen 24 hours ago & commence my weekly tale of college life when I realized exactly what I was about to do. Then I had to wait a long time. No one ever takes anything dated "1 April 1999" seriously.
In this vein, the "Justice", our on-campus fishwrap, covered their regular paper with a 4-page leaflet known as the "inJustice", stealing a name we (Pelta-Heller & myself) had been preparing all year for a spoof counter-paper. Dated 1 April 1999, & printed to commemorate the passing of a foolish holiday that no one but Erasmus could support. This will be important later.
I've always been a fan of watching for omens (don't even THINK about pronouncing that word that way, Lisha & Mesco!) & observing what takes place in life for symbols of the larger picture. In this spirit, I've been greatly disheartened this week by just one thing. It's been florescent light replacement week at Brandeis. While I'm not a vampire, I'm certainly in favor of banning all florescent lights in all public places in the world, starting with my own university campus. One of the few proven instigators of migraines, as well as the most insipid form of light, florescent lights are among the mundane banes of my existence. The light in our back room had been burned out for over a month, & the work-order which had been placed at that time was not acted upon till two days ago, to my secret exultation. But no more... now Andy, despite agreeing with me wholeheartedly that "florescent lights are baaaad" (his own words) will turn it on every time he goes in there, simply out of habit, according to him. & the row of lights which remain on every single hour of the day in our hallway had been fading, but now have been replaced with shiny new horrors in each socket. This will make taking cover from the ceiling a new priority for me...
It's been a packed week that, looking back on it, seems like much more than a week. There has been yet another campus exodus, this one primarily in honor of the original "Exodus"... as what is officially known as Passover Break (also the "2nd Spring Break") began technically on Thursday, but the floodwaters had rushed out by Wednesday night. No more than maybe eight people remain in my building, but somehow my roommate Todd is among them. In an effort to flee his pretentiousness (he didn't quite understand the concept of not being able to "afford" to go home this week... he admitted that the only reason he wasn't buying a $500 ticket to his home was because he didn't feel he'd get any work done... where he FOUND the work to do over break I'll never know), I walked alone into Waltham, got an ice cream & watched "Lock, Stock, & 2 Smoking Barrels", which gives a whole new definition to "off-beat". It left the beaten path in the dust about 80 miles back. Nonetheless, it strangely fit my mood last night & thus was worth the effort. Just before seeing it, however, I was treated to a full-screen display of the latest preview for "Star Wars: Episode I (The Phantom Menace)". It was really nice to see it on the big screen, & not over the shoulders of 4 of Andy's friends huddled round his computer screen like cavemen around the first fire, gasping at each twist & turn of their ninth consecutive viewing of the downloaded trailer. It would not be the first time I introduced the concept of technology going too far. The only disappointment was the volume... I believe that Andy's computer speaker-blasters were actually louder than the sound system in Waltham's lone cinema complex.
The past week's worth of days have been filled with two great series of events, the first of which was a five-day visit by Fish & Jake. Hailing from far-off lands in search of wonder & merriment, these 2 brave souls entered Brandeis fresh from a stay in New York, where Fish had visited for the first time. It was also his first venture to Massachusetts, & though he missed most of Boston, he fell in love with Brandeis like humans have never taken to college before. The 3 of us also spent a good deal of time mingling with my Brandeis friends, which included a formal-dress dinner-&-a-movie with Anna & Courtney at Bombay Mahal (an Indian restaurant, in case you didn't pick up on that) & then seeing "Elizabeth" at that lone Waltham theater. It ended up being about a 6-hour occasion, as it was followed by coffee & tea at our on-campus coffee house, where the night before we'd seen Ariela's a capella group perform in their next-to-last show of the year. Then, we ended up playing Risk till dawn, as a game started shortly after returning from the coffee house. Essentially, in five short days, I managed to trick Jake & Fish into believing that I have something of a real college life here! But seriously, words can't describe how great it was to see them again & spend some time... but perhaps most impressive was how easily they fit in with my local friends & how everyone got along well with everyone else. It wasn't quite so awkward trying to integrate my two split worlds & that was great, especially when Schneider was with us too, though he didn't get to spend that much time here unfortunately. I was also reminded of how much I've been lacking in some of the people I know here, but especially my roommates. Andy & I have never had a conversation that lasted more than maybe 20 minutes, & Todd & I just clocked our longest conversation ever at fifteen minutes yesterday. We wouldn't be friends outside of the room & in fact, we aren't really... I don't see them much outside of Scheffres 212/213 & when I do, I don't quite avoid them, but I don't exactly trip over myself to go talk to them either. Next year, I doubt very seriously that we'll play any role whatsoever in each other's lives, except providing yet another person to wonder about saying "hi" to on the pathways on campus. You know, that whole dilemma of whether or not one says "hi" to someone because one doesn't know if one knows them well enough to warrant always acknowledging each other or not... perhaps this is a debate unique to the stranger folks among us....
But if I thought Saturday's exit of these two old friends was going to slow things down, I was wrong. I don't actually recall whether I thought that or not, but I'm sure it's irrelevant. Point being, Monday got busy in a hurry. Now, I don't know how many of you are keeping track of day-to-day news; I know that college feels like the end of the earth most of the time & all those current world events take place on the other end. Regardless of which, my "Causes & Prevention of War" class has forced me to keep up-to-date, which is good, because current US policy is (surprise surprise) bad. Very bad. The recent US/NATO bombings in Kosovo have enflamed an already hostile region & brought about a Serb backlash of the worst ethnic cleansing since the breakup of Yugoslavia. Also, in the name of "bombing Milosevic to the peace table", this bombing has committed Milosevic to resisting peace talks like never before. So, I was not expecting what I heard when I fell outta bed on Monday morning & picked up my phone to check for messages...
'Round here, we have (yet more technology) a very elaborate voicemail system which involves changing the dial tone when we have messages, telling us who our messages are from, when they were recorded, etc., etc. & the infamous dark force which haunts our voicemail is the dreaded "Broadcast Message". Broadcast Messages are "helpful" hints from the University administration, usually regarding on-campus events (like Jehuda actually being seen on campus!), parking restrictions, deadlines for class registration, & similar boring administrative garbage. They are ALWAYS recorded in the exact same voice, by a legendary deep-voiced man who may be real or may be computer-generated. Recent investigation into the legend has it that this man has an actual name (some have rumored the rather a propos last name of "Black") & is a professor or administrator of some type on campus. We make frequent jokes about him sitting at home with his family at the dinner table & announcing ceremoniously in that distinct voice, "The potatoes will be passed toward the head of the table at 6:35 pm. Parking will be limited in that area, & all those currently parked there will need to vacate or be ticketed. The university invites all potatoes to attend."
Back to me falling out of bed on Monday morning, picking up the phone, & hearing this voice tell me that there would be a rally in favor of the US/NATO bombings at 2 pm that afternoon. In favor!? This sounded like an absurdity, that the administration of Brandeis University, which spawned Abbie Hoffman & all sorts of other radical leftists, would be somehow sponsoring (or at least informing us) of a rally IN FAVOR of the bombings.... I pressed "4" (so convenient) to listen again... sure enough, the reliable Broadcast Message had not changed. Looking at the clock, I realized I had but 5 hours to save the world, or at least a small corner thereof.
Thus began a frantic effort to contact Jamie Rinaldi, activist extraordinaire on campus, freshman, president of the Brandeis Leftist League (formerly that Socialist club I'd been to a few meetings of), & good acquantaince/vague friend. With the support he could raise, a handful of my own friends (though many of them & my own roommates looked at me quizically regarding the whole matter), & a new set of markers & posterboard, we set to work. By 2 pm, I had attended classes, we had signs, we had support, & we were ready to protest the rally to our heart's content. The only problem being that the "rally" was nowhere to be found. Sure, there were a couple of dressed-up students with a microphone & a couple of speakers, but the audience seemed to be entirely absent. Surely the deep-throated voice of Mr. Broadcast Message could summon more than the paltry crowd of 5-7 people that we were about to protest! But it was not so. In the end, we out-drew the original rally, talked to many more people about our cause, were interviewed by WBRS (the on campus radio station) & the Justice (which is weekly) & landed on the front page of that paper, which came out the very next day. Except, if you'll recall, it wasn't QUITE the front page, because (of all the weeks!) they had their little April Fool's shpiel on the very front. Considering they had initially gone to cover the rally, it was pretty impressive that a picture of 2 friends of mine & I, with signs that I had made, ended up taking up about 1/4 of the front page, unrivaled by mention of the first rally itself. There was also an accompanying article, which included quotes from me like "Bombing is not productive. It only serves to make the conflict even more bitter." & "The primary reason for the low attendance is that most of the Brandeis campus does not support this."
Well, we had so much momentum coming out of Monday that we just had to do something with it by Tuesday. Monday afternoon, we decided to hold a counter-rally on the following day, which we planned that night. By now, the core group planning this was a fairly funky bunch which included Kelly from upstairs, a loose cannon at best, & Simon Finger of the Albuquerque Academy class of '96, now with shorter hair (slightly ironic) & the same old relaxed but sharp demeanor. Together we made flyers, got a microphone, an amp, the courtyard of the Student Center, a table, more signs, & faculty speakers including the highly popular Gordie Fellman. We littered the campus the next morning with "Rally for Peace" signs, advertising the noon rally & ended up drawing about 60 people over the course of an hour (30 of whom stayed the whole time). While it's not the biggest rally in campus history, it was huge compared to the previous one & is awfully good for coming the day before Passover started & being advertised on about 3 hours notice. So, the movement has begun... I expect it to continue & gain momentum as long as our government is stupid enough to promote violence & injustice on the planet. This is why I came to Brandeis & am not at Georgetown School of Foreign Service.
In half an hour, I leave town for the next 8 days, which will include a debate at Princeton through Saturday, a stint at Gris's gargantuan Broome Street apartment in New York, & a second debate at the City College of New York on the following Friday & Saturday. I'll be back late Saturday or early Sunday. It'll be nice to get away from this area for a while, especially when it's so deserted. These are 2 of the last 3 debates... Nationals follows CCNY & then the season is over. I'll also be debating with three different partners in the next three weekends... Dalia this weekend (should be... interesting...) Jordan at CCNY (we expect to do really well) & then Kraig at Nationals (novices at Nats are never the favorites, but we'll be happy if we get top novice team there). It's hard to say what I'll do with myself after that... I've become so accustomed to debating all the time that I don't know what a weekend is without debating! I hope I'm exaggerating.
Ah well. The bus is leaving; I must depart. Actually it's Greg Wilson's car, but that evades the point. Obviously, it won't be my most communicative week, but I look forward to seeing you, Gris. & I had an absolutely great time with you guys, Fish & Jake. Take care everyone & happy Passover to all!
Peace & Love,
"Oh, I thought you were already gonna be gone."
-Todd Gonzales, my roommate, one minute ago, upon waking up & finding me still here
the Past has come and gone
the Future's far away
but Now only lasts for one second
[Quotes thanks to Hootie]