Waltham Weekly 27
Millennium, Take 3
I decided to come back to Waltham. Now the goal is to find ways to spend as little time here as possible.
24 January 2000
As the electric guitars from my next-door neighbors, blasting out their dischords of techno music, sing out to me in accompaniment to screams of rage, I realize I'm back here in this quiet little suburb 10 miles out of Boston. I suppose there are worse places I can be; my conviction that there were really no better has driven me back here. As I've told a zillion people already, making a decision doesn't mean I have to feel good about it. It merely means that I felt better about it than other decisions, which could still be marginal at best. I'm making an effort to be optimistic, but such efforts tend to fade when one is faced with a stagnation that just doesn't quit. I mean, really. This institution is frozen solid. Literally.
For, as many of you know directly yourselves, or might have heard from others, it's cold out here. Today was suddenly balmy after nearly a week of temperatures hovering in the single-digits, with icy winds to back it & occasional snow to brighten our otherwise dreary days. "Balmy" of course consisted of a high getting dangerously close to 40. So everyone scurried about the campus in big balls of padded jacketry that obscured identities as they rushed for the nearest entrances in all directions. After going to Amherst this past weekend, I'm looking forward to Montreal beginning this Thursday, where I'm sure the frigidity I've enjoyed of late will soar to new heights. Stellar.
But we did get the snow, & with it came the sand. Out here at Brandeis, we have a groovy tradition of covering the university's insurance liability potentials under about a foot of loose sand. The second the snows start flaking from the sky, workcrews head out to their stations at approximately 100,000 strategically placed barrels throughout the campus & begin pouring. By the end of a night's worth of snow, the walkways are clear of everything but a light brown gritty sludge that makes traversing the school a joy & a pleasure. But this mixture of snow & sand creates an absolutely ideal situation for tracking dirt: moistening the soles of one's shoes thoroughly, then caking said soles with a copious helping of grit, which one can't help but carry into one's final destination. As a result, Zack's & my room has been progressively filled with little mounds of dirt granules, & the gaps between these mounds is rapidly closing. I figure in a few days, finding our shoes & various other items on the floor (like my bed) will be a process of archeological discovery. Maybe I can get out of my science requirement that way. Zack's idea for how to solve the problem? Spray Windex (yes, Windex) throughout the room, then wipe with paper towels. I think Zack wants our interior sandbox to glisten in the light as it fills the room, or maybe he's just underestimating the problem.
About Zack. We're getting along better; we truly are. Pelta-Heller's the sort of guy that can let past problems slide right out of memory, to be replaced by even earlier solutions. Which works well. We're also doing our best to stay busy (read: out of each others' way), so there's not terribly much common time in the room. But we're talking about more than the weather & we even have returned to our pinball tradition & eating meals together & all that jazz. Things would be near perfect if he'd dump Anna, his latest female interest. (This is not an "Anna" that any of you have met, which is pronounced differently anyway. Well, Mesco, YOU might have met her, but you have significantly more time on this campus...) Actually, "female interest" is probably being generous to the individual. We don't get along at all, & she's finally stopped trying, though her "trying" consisted of being condescending & obnoxious. Which seems to work well enough around Zack. The real kicker is that Pelta-Heller honestly becomes a worse person when she's around. I suppose he feels compelled to show off & she prefers his annoying side. But knowing Pelta-Heller, he'll have to be dumped about 3 times before this ends, so I guess she'll be around for the long haul....
Ugh. Andy, my former roommate, is ICQing me. This is why I haven't been online much in the past year. People who live down the hill spend time blabbing about their classes OVER THE NET. I don't understand...
Classes. It's a common question, so I might as well get it out of the way. 'Round here, in fact, it's all anyone will talk about till about March, then again from late April on (because of finals). Honestly, I couldn't think of much of anything more boring, both to take or to discuss. But maybe I'll have one gem of a course that will break that mold for me this semester, so I'll give a brief run-down. Don't get me wrong, this is a part of one's life that's almost vaguely important, but listen to too many Brandeisians & you'd think it's all there is in life... Anyway, I'm taking 3 histories (major will be FINISHED [minus thesis] after this semester!) & 2 philosophies (putting me over halfway through that major). Find subjects you like & stick with 'em. The histories are War in Vietnam, 20th Century Russia, & Communism/Socialism in American History; the philosophies being Mathematical Logic (gets me outta either math or science, since I dropped CoSi last semester) & Philosophical Problems in Space/Time. The last of those is taught by my favorite professor of all-time here, Eli Hirsch, who is absolutely brilliant & completely nutty. My Math Logic prof is the absolute stereotype of a college professor: he paces about the room, scribbles illegible symbols on the board, gets very excited about logical proofs, & waves his arms wildly while trying to grasp an incoherent thought. Evidently, he flies up daily from New York City, his real home, & gets students to pick him up at the airport, returning in the evening. I can't imagine this makes his job anything but volunteering, unless of course his dad works for Delta....
I've been trying to mix up the routine I have out here, or perhaps more precisely, to GET a routine. A large part of this has consisted of playing basketball every day. The Boston Celtics built our gymnasium back in the day, since they used to use it as a practice facility, so it's far more expansive than any division-three school's should be. Then again, I think UCSD is division-three too, & after visiting THAT gym a couple weeks ago, I really have nothing to say. Regardless of which, there's a lotta courts, & almost always a handful of guys (& the occasional girl) shooting around. I've been going for about 1-3 hours every day I've been back & usually get in a few games of 4-on-4 or 5-on-5... it's improved my life dramatically & introduced me to a lot of new people, many of them complete jerks (well, it IS a sport...). But there's some good guys & the running around is good for me. I went a couple times while dragging Zack, or Greg, or Gardy, or all 3 down there, but they don't seem to have much of the staying power. Zack told me the other day that he "doesn't need any physical activity, aside from Anna", so after that comment, I backed off a little. I didn't need to start that debate...
Speaking of debate (or in debate), I think I'm going to try to run the proverbial gauntlet of spending every single weekend this year (until after Debate Nationals in mid-April) at a debate tournament or MUN competition. It's a lofty goal, but certainly attainable, & after debating at Amherst this weekend & going 3-2 with a really marginal partner, I'm ready to get back in the groove. Barrett, our team is currently discussing going to Stanford & trying to work out some sort of deal with your team, so methinks I'll probably be out there in the first week in March. Gris, NYU is still on for the 11th & 12th of February. There will be a whole lotta talkin' goin' on. This coming weekend (as briefly mentioned above) features a return to the coldest place on God's green earth... Montreal. Many folks 'round here are reminiscing about a year ago & how my return that weekend from said trip was the happiest I've ever been seen on this campus. Could such history repeat itself? Doubtful. But I'm keeping an open mind. Among the new people going on this trip is someone who was at Congress Nationals in 1997 in Minnesota & made finals there too... talk about a blast from the past. She actually seems like an interesting person otherwise, though it's really too early to tell.
Alright, Andy, I can't take it anymore. I'm just not going to respond to that last ICQ. You've repeated yourself the last 4 messages!
Back at Amherst this weekend, trudging through the eternal snow out there, we also discovered that our debate team has a future, personified in one Ben Brandzel from the Bay Area. He debated with Zimmy, not precisely the most articulate knife in the drawer, & beat one of the 3 best teams in the nation this year, on his way to being second novice speaker of the weekend. Moreover, he's a very interesting person with a fair amount to say & it just so happens that he was supposed to be my roommate last year. Perhaps you were wondering how Chris Sann, creator of rampant havoc & the untouchable rug in my room last year, managed to get in off the waiting-list, turn in his housing form 2 months late, & still get high-priority housing? He took someone's spot, who had deferred, but been offered a place with Andy & I shortly beforehand. Ben Brandzel decided to wait a year before college, instead working with Jerry Brown's mayorial office in Oakland. So we got Chris instead & the rest is very much history. As Jordan said to Ben & I while driving back from Amherst, discovering some unsettling similarities between the two of us, "either you guys woulda hated each other last year or become best friends". Either way, it's a new friend at this point, which is much appreciated as most of my other local friends seem to be lacking those "friendship" qualities.
Ah, it's getting late, & I promised some of those local friends that I'd meet them over at Shapiro After Dark tonight, where just about all of them are employed. Zack, Ariela, Courtney, & Anna (not Zack's, but the one you might have met) all work over there regularly, & thus it's become even more of a hang-out than it used to be. But they give me free food, so I'm hardly complaining. The owner is graduating this year & Zack & I were actually contemplating buying the student-run operation from him, but we can't figure out a way to acquire the food necessary without a car. We had visions of carrying bulk crates of styrofoam cups on the subway, blindly tripping onto the "danger third rail" as we tried to peer around the cargo. But it's still an idea. I think Pelta-Heller just misses being class president, or in a role that suits that model.
So, I hope this random calendar event called the advent of the 3rd millennium (I don't mean to get this discussion going again, but I have an even better new reason why it IS already millennium #3) is finding everyone well. Maybe this millennium will be better than the last. If you are not my former roommate Andy & want to get in touch with me, I'll be on the ol' AOLIM & ICQ a bit more in the coming days, at "DuckGreen" or "29346456" respectively. Otherwise, this e-mail address hasn't changed in a LONG TIME. & it's not about to.
"The Vietnam War was completely surrealistic. Surrealism is simply a fancy word for crazy. The war was crazy."
-Professor John Schrecker
"I got a friend who spends his life
stabbing my picture with a bowie knife
dreams of strangling me with a scarf
when my name comes up he pretends to barf
I got a million friends"
-Bob Dylan, "I Shall Be Free No. 10"
"Things are geting worse but I feel a lot better"
-Counting Crows, "Amy Hit the Atmosphere"
"That's too many quotes, Storey"
-The Peanut Gallery
the Past has come and gone
the Future's far away
but Now only lasts for one second
[Quotes thanks to Hootie]