I’ll have 1% Camp Part Two Part Two up soon but in the spirit of my alma mater, where I should be in a day or so, ostensibly to watch the Varsity soccer team but really to drink away from my mom’s scathing judgment, I figured I’d throw this thing I wrote last semester up. I love food, and these are my favorite places to eat.
This is an article about food, which is strange because I don’t eat often. Since my dad told me to pay for food this semester instead of school, I’ve gone on the Starvation Meal plan, and I don’t eat because food is expensive and I would rather spend my sort of hard earned money on hard cider and jewelry. I don’t eat much, so when I do I have to make it count, which is why I will never be spotted at Baccios or some other pleb establishment unless I’m eating on someone else’s dime or too hopelessly hammered to remember that I have culinary principles. POST SCRIPT EDIT: Full disclosure: You know how freshman gain the freshman fifteen? By the end of senior year I had lost 15 pounds, my accidental anorexia a product of being too cheap to pay for food.
The first and most obvious place is Rossi’s, on South Clover Street. I doubt there is a better Italian deli in America. I can say that with a minimal knowledge of America, because it’s hard to imagine somewhere better. I would recommend the large Panini’s, which is food for the whole day: just eat half of it for lunch and the other half for dinner. Except it’s so good it’s hard to do that and I usually eat it all in about an hour and then take a nap. It’s one of those ‘oh no I don’t want the sandwich to be gone, I have to save some, but oh no if I don’t eat it all now Eli might (Eli is my housemate, he is not cool) eat it because he’s a douche, so I have to eat it all now,’ situations that people run into all the time.
Go to Rossi’s, fund their economy and be happy, because there are few things better than a good sandwich. Several female friend once asked me what it tasted like and I responded “fucking.” They were incredulous that I could put a sandwich on that lofty orgasmic pedestal, because apparently girls can’t think of things more appealing than sex. So just to make things clear, I would rather eat one of those paninis than have sex. It tastes about as good as sex feels but without any of the potential social repercussions. No sandwich has ever launched a thousand ships, for example, and no one has ever eaten a sandwich wondering if it actually liked them too.
Another place is Kavos, which makes gyros. In keeping with the general them of this article, they are really, really good. I don’t know much about gyros but my housemate Dante, who is sort of Greek in an American way, says that these are really good. Dante is much better than Eli. I don’t know much about Greek food but on their website Kavos says they produce a product exactly as it would be made in Greece today, and I trust them not to bullshit me on that. The food is fantastic, the guys who run the place are really cool, and if haven’t gone yet you have until your graduation to rectify this error.
I will now direct you to Janet’s Jerk Stop. I’m not quite sure where it is because Will always drives me (Will xxxxxxx, ’12, .1%), but like those other places it is near the train station. I will describe its delectability in a fashion roughly as tasteless as my own existence. I read (maybe in the da Vinci code, that bastion of truth) a blurb about some celibate religious sect, wherein sex was a sin because in the moment of ejaculation conception of God was totally driven from the mind. I’m skeptical of that, as when I ejaculate I’m usually thinking about the Protestant reformation, quoting Cormac Mccarthy in my head or trying to figure out how to apologize. Anyways, If that is a real thing that group would outlaw Janet’s. The food is so good I’m unable to think of anything besides how best to abase myself before Janet when eating. It is incredible. I ate the jerk chicken, went back to my house and was comatose on the couch watching Finding Bigfoot (fantastic show involving a human who is actually named Bobo) for three hours.
A lot of you have probably heard of those places, this was purely for the benefit of people who have not. Whatever Poughkeepsie might lack, it has plenty of good places to eat. For people without a way to get places, I eat out maybe 2 or 3 times a week (and go to the DC a lot, thanks to the 20ish people who let me in consistently) and I’d be fine taking you. Probably. I don’t have many friends for various reasons and could always use a new one, if you’re hungry I will take you.
I have edited this as well as I care to, If I fucked up anything particularly, my bad. Feel free to tell me.
I will bet that a lot of you have gone to a camp of some type. Everyone goes to camp. I went to a bunch of camps: soccer camps, school camps, summer camps… Lots of camps. I was quite the camper. Weren’t camps great? The one I can remember the most is Camp Rotary, and that place was lord of the camps. It was the kind of camp that involved cabins and tetherball and activities, although an obnoxious fucking bugle playing reveille woke me up at 6:30 every morning, because apparently starting every camper’s day by pissing them off was high on Rotary managements to do list. That aside, it was a chance to spend time in an idyllic woodland setting, a modern Eden into which I was granted access every summer.
And then I went to 1% camp, where I learned that all of the camps I had been to before sucked. Imagine spending your entire life doing something thoroughly average, like drinking skim milk or eating margarine. Do they taste good? Yeah, sure. But you haven’t met the real deal, have you? Whole milk hasn’t yet found its way past your lips; you haven’t smothered the fuck out of a bagel with real, delicious butter and treated your mouth to the kind of happiness people restricted to margarine cannot even imagine.
The disparity between 1% camp and regular camp camp (and by extension, I guess, just my life in general) would be enough to reduce me to tears if I had the capacity to feel. Even then, I spent the entire day after my first experience alternating between sitting alone in my bed clutching my white bear (my oldest companion) to my chest while staring at a wall and slumping over in the shower, trying to wash away my unhappiness with the ritual cleansing only scalding water can provide.
Despite the inevitable onset of despair post-1% camp, when one of my best friend’s dad (henceforth: the benefactor), shot me an email inviting me on another “retarded trip,” I bit immediately. The principle focus of the journey was a trip to Austin, Texas, to take part in Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong charity event, entrance to which my benefactor had won in some rich person poker tournament. The following will be a reasonably accurate portrayal of the 72-odd hours I spent in Texas for no reason whatsoever.
At 1:30pm I arrived, perfectly on time, outside my benefactors workplace in Manhattan. However I had one burning problem which would hang over my head all weekend: I had a sneaking suspicion that I had no money. I had attempted to use my debit card in the Boston subway system, and it failed again when I tried to use it to pay for my dinner in New York the previous night. I hadn’t had time to get to an ATM so I couldn’t tell for certain, however.
Further, I had told neither of my parents about the trip. My mom had been less than impressed with my decision to go on the first 1% camp, even though it was billed as a networking opportunity. This one had no such pretensions, it would be just me drinking with my friends dad for three days in Texas with a couple cool activities thrown in for good measure. I can understand why she’s mad, I’m unemployed and all that (now there’s a nonchalant way to describe being unemployed…), but I had set up my interviews for the morning and didn’t have anything on tap for Friday, so really no time was being lost here. That being said, I didn’t feel like explaining that to my mom, and didn’t tell her, banking on the fact that the only real loophole was if I failed at staying alive for three days and she somehow ended up learning that my corpse had been found in Texas.
However if my debit card was shot, I couldn’t use their credit card (purely for gas/groceries, although I occasionally try to see if I can sneak lunch past my dad, who at the end of each month circles everything he suspects was me on the bill and shoves it in my face, demanding exact change for whatever I bought. I always round up to the extra dollar and tell him to keep the change, because I am a dick), because then they would know I had been in Texas. It was a convoluted problem, the best way out of which would be to have more than no money, something I wouldn’t be able to ascertain until I could get to an ATM.
Continuing with the story, I had spent the morning interviewing with several staffing agencies, as well as meeting a helpful grad at Morgan Stanley. As an aside, the Morgan Stanley building was… quite nice. The whole place was a massive tribute to unnecessary opulence, the whole douchy spectacle highlighted by the marble columns (seriously? Marble columns? Insert obligatory “Rome called, they want their (x) back” joke) that held up the massive portico above the entrance. I am pretty confident I was the first unemployed 5-percenter to enter those hallowed halls, and while I may have had a suit on and am capable of cleaning myself up pretty well, I still felt like they knew I didn’t belong. There was sense that I had subconsciously tripped their unemployment alarm, and everyone from the doorman to the besuited old men walking the halls were following me with accusatory eyes, waiting for me to betray myself. Anyways back to the point – Morgan Stanley sucks, it’s 1% camp time.
When my benefactor arrived I tossed my things in the back of the car and we promptly sat in traffic on our way to Teterboro airport. I met my benefactor’s nephew, who is an excellent Canadian dude, and was coming along in his capacity as an ardent cyclist – which highlights another weird part of the trip, namely, what was I doing on it? I’ve had roughly 2 experiences with bikes in the last 10 years. The most prominent spanned the entire first semester of my senior year. My sister had lent me her bike, which promptly broke within a week. Notice how I don’t claim ownership of the breaking… the thing just broke. I had nothing to do with it. I may have been pedaling and felt the chain snap, but I certainly didn’t do anything untoward.
Because the bike shop wouldn’t open until November, I was stuck with my only mode of transportation from the Town Houses being a chainless bike. But it still had wheels, right? And wheels are still faster than walking, last I checked. So, like any industrious idiot, I spent the entire semester pushing myself around campus on the bike, forcing it forward with my feet and trying to look nonchalant. It sucked. Granted not badly enough that I ever went to fix the bike, but enough. That is just about the sum total of my experiences with bikes in the last couple years. I don’t give a shit about Lance Armstrong, I don’t ride bikes and I have a very limited relationship with cancer. Nothing about the focal point of that trip applied in any way to my life.
That inconsistency aside, we arrived at the airport shortly, and the ensuing experience represents the heart of any 1% camp. Just like regular camp, I’ll bet that most of you have been to an airport. They’re all pretty much the same, right? You get your ticket, and go to the security line. TSA agent #1 looks over your ticket and ID and asks for your name, as if he’s hoping to actually catch a forgetful terrorist, (how often does that happen?) and then lets you go. You then go through the line, take your shoes out and put your bag on the table, and god forbid you forget about the water bottle in your bag, else just after you give some faceless stranger buried in an underground facility staring slack-jawed at a bunch of computer screens a fantastic view of every part of your body (in the spirit of full disclosure I always make sure to go through that particular screener erect), you’ll have to deal with all your shit getting searched by TSA agent #2. After all that, you find your terminal and take a seat, because in order to make sure there isn’t a fuck up somewhere along the way you showed up at least an hour early.
Does that sound familiar? Well forget everything you think you know about airports, because when you fly private all the hoops regular airports make you jump through disappear. We didn’t bypass them by flashing a card at someone, they just did not exist. Did we need to show up early? No, because the planes sole purpose for being there was to tow us and only us around at our leisure. Rather than existing as some massive autonomous beast operating on its own sweet time, and the passengers can fucking deal with it, this airport was a much more pleasant and domesticated creature.
My benefactor identified himself at the front desk, and our luggage was immediately taken out to the jet – which is “only a turboprop” as his son contemptuously texted me, whilst chained to his desk and undoubtedly stewing in his own jealously. Soon after the pilot came over and shook our hands, and while he made a few likely obligatory statements about the flight he was far more interested in making sure we were content with the 6-pack of stella on the plane.
The plane itself was a magical, heavenly place. The seats could swivel! There was food everywhere! Regular planes have stewardesses with trolleys and shitty snacks, and since I don’t like my ability to eat being tied in any way to another person’s schedule, this was much more to my liking. Further, the cabinet in the middle contained more treasures than Mad Eye Moody’s 7-lock trunk. The most impressive part was obviously the alcohol stash. You know those little shot bottles (nips?) that are homeless peoples preferred alcohol injection method and can be found littered around the streets of just about every city? Imagine those, except instead of being horrifically cheap and filled with the kind of disgusting knock off liquor that only someone either determined to punish themselves or with no other choice would consider, they’re filled with top shelf brands – There were bottles of Jack, Bombay Sapphire, Bacard, Chivas Regal, etc. I took 5 of them, including the bottle of Glenfidditch, grabbed some peanuts and coined it my 1% camp goody bag.
A final symbolic difference between the standard flight and the private flight is in the in flight meal. Commercial in flight meals are not good. I don’t feel like taking the time to come up with a complex metaphor, so ‘not good’ is the extent of how I’m willing to describe this. I always either decline the in flight meal or find a way to pick out the chicken or beef and leave the rest of that festering mess in the can. Meanwhile, on my slightly more selective private flight, the in-flight meal was steak. In the immortal words of my drunk self, “OH BOY!” At the first 1% camp the catered meal was also steak, and I crafted the painfully obvious but obligatory “steaks on a plane!” pun, which still cracks me up. In the effort of getting a move on in this bitch, I’ll end by just noting that it was a fun experience in totally unnecessary but appreciated ostentation, and thanks, benefactor, for once again dragging my ass around the country without inviting your own children.
The first stop on 1% camp round two was St. Louis, Missouri, to catch game four of the Cardinals-Giants NLCS series, a trip in keeping with my benefactor’s obsessive love of America’s past time. As a sporting enthusiast it was a great opportunity, but it proved more entertaining to me as a spectator of human behavior, because I love watching people. Not in any malevolent sense, mind you, when looking at someone I’m never imagining them stir fried with a side of potatoes, nor is this meant in any stalker-ish sense of the word. And this is not to be confused with women watching either, though I was certainly on the look out in that department, intrigued by my benefactors announcement that we would see “two types of girls… Really hot college age kids, and a lot of large, corn-fed farm women,” with nothing in between.
Anyways, it’s totally benign, standard, people watching. One particular breed of human that has always amused and saddened me are those whose sense of authority far outweighs whatever tiny amounts of power have actually been entrusted to them. It’s fun watching small men given lordship over some broom closet exert their sovereignty over the rest of us mortals, unaware of the silly spectacle their lack of perspective makes for.
Give an idiot with no tangible power over any aspect of the world authority over some small thing, and he will exert that power to the fullest. His slavish dedication to the rules is both ludicrously inefficient and lacking in common sense, but he’s so fucking psyched to have power over something that it just does not compute. I’ve run into a few of these people, for instance Carl, the dude who runs Walker Field House is one such man. So was the assistant soccer coach who kicked me out of the 3v3 charity soccer tournament (a tournament I had won for 3 years in a row, albeit with a weird asterisk on the first year) in the final after I said something he didn’t like. The hopelessly useless human who operated one of the beer places in Busch Stadium was one of these people.
This guy was afflicted by a classic case of the having a shitty life bug. He was a bit overweight, wore a goofy uniform, his job sucked (being at a huge sports game but not getting to watch because you have to ameliorate the fun time of all the happy people? I’m surprised he didn’t give his wrists a good cut with every beer he served) and his goatee betrayed him as belonging to that select group of people who aren’t aware that Goatees look terrible. He also had that permanently blank look on his face that is the hallmark of people who don’t do a whole lot of thinking in their day-to-day life, e.g. the wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead.
When we showed him our ID’s, he immediately rejected Trevor’s because it was a Canadian drivers license, which apparently is not valid, despite the fact that Trevor’s 25 and clearly looks it. “He needs a passport,” was his only response to our objections.
Benefactor: “You don’t even need a passport to enter the US from Canada.”
Douche: “Doesn’t matter I can’t accept this”
Benefactor “Fine then I’ll have another Sam Adams”
Douche: “Nope, you’re just going to give it to your friend.”
Benefactor: “Have you ever heard of NAFTA?”
Dude was a stonewall, and Trevor was most definitely not getting beer out of him. Half an hour later we came back and the Benefactor, announced that he would like two Sam Adams, which was well within the rules. “You can have one!” the man stated, adhering in impressively steadfast fashion to his earlier, flawed policy. Then he undid all the good, dickish work he had been perpetrating by forgetting that I was in the same group as his enemies and letting me have a Sam Adams to go with a woodchuck (yes I realize woodchuck is gay) when I ordered moments later.
My triumph was slightly overshone by the fact that a few minutes beforehand I had checked my balance at the ATM, which revealed that I had $0.00. I literally did not have a dime to my name. On the one hand, that is suspicious, as it must be rare to so perfectly overdraw your account to exactly 0. Further, I was pretty confident that while I wasn’t rolling in money in that account, I should have more than that. I couldn’t say how much more because I avoid checking my balance in case I do find out that I don’t have any money, but I could have sworn I had more. Trevor sort of saved the day when he noted that a lot of atm’s don’t actually reveal your balance for whatever reason, which made me feel better but still didn’t make my card work.
Either way it cast a weird fiscal pall over the rest of the game from my end, as the following hours included a lot of opportunities for me to point things out to my benefactor that he would have to buy for me, “because I have 0 dollars.” I speculated that someone may have stolen my identity, but that didn’t seem to likely, I was probably just broke.
The Cardinals won, giving themselves three shots at getting into the World Series, and the fans were all quite pleased with themselves. As I was standing in line for the urinals – actually in line, it was incredible… there were 10 urinals and behind each was a perfectly coordinated, 2-3 man line. I have never seen such a docile and respectful group of slightly drunk people, it was very mid-west. Considering their teams colossal failure to close out San Francisco I feel a little bad in retrospect joking with guys about how they should be nice to Detroit in the world series because living in Detroit now (over the last x decades?) sucks. Whatever, pride comes before the fall. They fucked up.
The remainder of the evening was a pretty simple affair; we went out to a bar and just talked and looked at people. I’m very good at people watching in bars. I had a great time watching the attractive girl across from me get hit on by three ugly dudes in 20 minutes and make increasingly annoyed faces at her similarly beleaguered companion each time. As someone who spends a good amount of time feeling uncomfortable, I am inevitably drawn, like a moth to bright, beautiful, torturous flame, towards discomfort and awkwardness. Mostly just because it’s funny to watch clueless people interact with others like unwitting social wrecking balls.
I am aware this ends abruptly. To steal a line from George Carlin, I don’t do transitions.
I realize that I sort of jumped out of the gate with a lot of stuff to read and have fallen off in the last few days. This is for several reasons. I was in NYC earlier this week for a few interviews, and went straight from there to 1% camp, which is (this time) in Austin Texas (I’m sort of drinking alone writing this in my room). So I’ve had a packed week and haven’t had any time to do much of anything, I haven’t exactly forgotten this.
The other problem is more structural, and it is that I have no job, and am trying to get one. There are very few things that I can allow myself now that do not involve job hunting. It’s obnoxious, that I rarely allow myself to do things that are fun purely from feeling guilty about that problem. I still allow myself to drink (how else can I take the edge off of being alive), but besides that the only fun activity that I allow myself is playing soccer a few times a week, because the second I step out on that field I become incapable of considering anything besides the ball and the other team and how to put that ball in the net, and I like that every once in a while I can stop thinking.
In a similar vein of thought, My grandfather died 6 years ago today. I didn’t tell a fucking soul at the time, because grief is something that I consider intensely personal and do not like to share. He was an eminently good and decent man, and one thing he said has stuck with me. This is not a direct quote but it is fairly close, “if all you ever do is dig holes, dig the best hole in the world.” – Not only is this eerily apt, considering I got paid to dig holes in my aunt’s backyard a couple weeks ago, but it’s honest words from a man who spent his life fighting in WW2 and then driving a truck for a Salem cement company. What you do may never amount to more than a hill of beans, but it’ll be your fucking hill and your fucking beans. Make it count.
I assure you, old man, I will do more than dig holes. But if I do not, I defy you to find a better hole than mine.
On another note, I”ll be writing more soon. I have in the wings a jeremiad against Francis Meyo’s life, a recounting of 1% camp round 2 (round 1 is very much under lock and key) and a few other interesting things. Weird things happen to me.
I’ve always felt like there is a certain community amongst strangers. Not in any more literal sense than in the fact that we’re all ostensibly humans, however. Humans with their own peculiar problems and foibles, and as Vonnegut says, you’ve got to be kind. This sense has always manifested itself in weird ways with me; it’s not just in the fact that I say please when I ask for things and thank you when I get them. It’s like there’s a code, you see, between other people and I. I follow the rules, you follow the rules, I be civil, you be civil, and the world wins.
There’s nothing as satisfying as meeting other people who follow these rules, and this strangers code can often be seen in the way cars interact with each other and pedestrians. Observe, if you will, this timeless example of two men’s paths intersecting. I am driving my minivan in Salem, and a middle-aged man waits to cross the street. I see him and pause my car. I give him a thumbs up, “You may cross, good sir. A fine day to you.”
The man gives me a wave, a silent ‘Thank you benevolent stranger. May your sons grow tall and your daughters be fertile.’
Pause. Wave. Wave. Everyone happy. I lost a couple of seconds, that guy gained a couple. Net effect on everyone’s time is 0 seconds, but net gain in kindness is positive. Surely that man went home and told his wife and sons about the benevolent, bespectacled young man who graciously paused for him, sacrificing his own time for another’s. That kid’s going places, he will say.
The whole process is unhinged when you run into someone who is a fucking dick. There are people who violate those rules with impunity, shitting on passersby around them with what can be nothing other than militant ignorance or pure malice. Fuck every one of those people. Will I do anything to them? No, I’m too lazy to honk and the sound hurts my ears. But I will consign each and every one of them to the depths of hell.
If a human steps in front of my car against the light I will wish such destruction upon him that I would not find it surprising if he burst into flame before my eyes. Death would be his salvation, mere loss of job or money hopelessly tame. I will his life to unravel in hideous fashion, friends and loved ones cut down like so many stalks of wheat before the autumn scythe of God’s judgment until at last, broken and poor and alone, that fucking dick takes to the streets, a hopeless nomad bereft of kith and kin, a child of such woe and misfortune that his life will serve as nothing more than a warning to others, men who will point and say ‘Wow that guys life sucks, we should probably stop at red lights and not be dicks.”
Mine is a righteous rage. One of my happiest memories of justice done came on a ride to a soccer game with my dad several years ago. A group of 20-somethings were in a car that was weaving in and out of traffic, easily doing 90 to everyone else’s 75. They were shitty people, and I wished them harm. Several miles later traffic slowed to almost a stop. As we kept driving forward there were several cars, unharmed but with their warning lights on, littered along the side of the road. As we went further, I saw the crippled wreck of those douchebags car, slammed (somehow) head first into the median guard-rail protecting us from the other lane. Such a feeling of triumph and faith in justice I have rarely known.
Notes from the Unemployed
There’s a reason why it’s 1am and I’m watching Frankenhood on the BET instead of sleeping, and it is because I have no reason to be asleep because I have no job and can wake up whenever I want tomorrow. There’s a good chance I will spend the entire day in front of my television with my laptop perched (fittingly) on my lap, while I watch sports and pretend to apply to jobs online that I’m overqualified for but will never hear back from because blind online applications do not work. The worst part of my day will be the text my mom sends at 4 asking what I’ve accomplished, which I will not respond to because that will piss her off less than the actual answer. The worst part of my day used to be when she came home at 5:30, saw me on the recliner and leveled the kind of look of disgust at me that I imagine mothers usually reserve for when they catch their progeny masturbating to interspecies or cartoon porn.
My continuing unemployment is a function of several crippling character flaws. First, I am hopelessly lazy. When I actually decide to apply for something, I start a cover letter, write a sentence, then get bored and play minesweeper. However outside of this laziness putting a stop to most job applications before they get anywhere is a more fundamental problem: I don’t want to do anything. Many of my graduated colleagues had ambitions that translated into particular jobs. They wanted to be something, lawyers or teachers or scientists. I have never had such aspirations, no yearning for any particular vocation. The knowledge that any job would still be a “job” weighs my life down as surely as the cement blocks affixed to the feet of a mobster’s victim. Every application is a thankless task, me shuttling off resumes and cover letters for positions I do not want with pedantic official titles, assistant-this and executive-that, thinly veiled pseudonyms for coffee-getter and office bitch.
I do, of course, want to do several things. I want to read great books and play soccer. I want to eat delicious food, and I want to drink wheat beers and hard ciders, because my particular strain of alcoholism tends towards the delicious. That those things do not translate into jobs is lamentable, but all I must do is get a job and use my paychecks to buy those things, in theory making me happy. Why then am I sabotaging my own job search? The answer, sadly, transcends my own useless nature, and it is that the idea of a job is itself distasteful to me.
What do I find distasteful, you ask? That I must abase myself before strangers in the hopes that they will employ me. And who are these men to whom I pay obeisance, what have they done to deserve this power over me? If I were paying homage to the president of a company I might understand, but I’m literally dealing with the lowest people on the totem pole here. What else bothers me about the idea of a job? That I must then serve these people: expend my energy in the pursuit of their profits. Is there not something perverse about that? That I should toil to make a man far richer than me more money, and if I metaphorically fellate them properly I’ll get a promotion and a nicer desk? No, that does not sound like the kind of system I want to be a part of. They expect me to dance and I do not wish to dance. The whole soulless enterprise is laid bare in the application process itself, much of which is little more than redundant pageantry. Applicants with puffed up resumes supplicating themselves before unmoved firms, whose form paragraphs and “I look forward to meeting you’s” as contrived as the confidentiality disclaimer at the bottom of their emails.
Let me project to you this false dance via my rejection last week. There was an opening at my friends law firm, and she instructed me to reference her. I send my letter and resume to the designated HR woman. She responds within days, “am I available to interview in NYC at (time x),” “Why yes I am, I look forward to meeting you.” I arrive at the appointed time, besuited; clutching the official looking notepad my sisters’ college gave her for graduating. The HR woman whisks me into a room, where I must fill out a form. The form is a trap, but I know how to defuse it. “Desired compensation,” Please, child, you wish to trick me into lowballing myself. “Market rate” I write; no potentially traitorous digits in that answer.
The meetings commence with “behavioral interview” questions, ‘have you ever solved a problem,’ ‘give an example of a time you worked in a group,’ questions to which I supply real but embellished answers. The truth is your enemy: that fun group project with friends? It was actually a harrowing effort to reconcile enemies in a quest for knowledge. The whole interviewing affair reeks of sterilization; an attempt to dehumanize (professionalize) me, they do not wish to hire me the man but rather me the office automaton, and I am sadly all too willing to take their 30 pieces of silver, or rather 40k plus benefits & overtime. I spent the day shaking hands, and when the farce finished I walked back to my friends apartment to write individualized thank you notes because I was warned they are compared.
All of it, the suit, my answers, my thank you’s, the emails I exchanged, hopelessly scripted, evocative of the unequal distribution of power in our relationship. Failure to follow any step would have doomed me as surely as mooning the receptionist, yet the HR lady sent me an email with three grammatical errors and I could do nothing but dream of being permitted such laxity as I re-read the five line email I sent to her a dozen times. The entire process was spiritually emasculating, myself standing before omniscient gatekeepers, entrance into whose domain required blind acceptance: to take their beatings with perfect form and rise again with nothing more than “please sir may I have another.”
Eventually they made their pick, and sent me a form letter, “there were many qualified applicants, and you, Mr. Leach, were the least of them.” I did not get the job I would have hated, was denied the opportunity to file real estate paperwork for high-powered assholes. I was disconsolate, and spent the evening getting fantastically drunk alone watching Hall Pass. Yet in that failure, you can see the game, can you not? And why I despise it? Considering that cynicism alongside my lack of desire for any particular job makes the game very hard for me to play. But the game still has to be played (does it not?), and I guess I will eventually succeed. Remember: it was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily – All the Pretty Horses
So I watched both debates so far on my computer because after 10 minutes my mom couldn’t handle it and changed the channel. And I sort of wish I hadn’t because they just pissed me off. Listening to Willard speak actually makes me feel like (yes I realize I tweeted this) I’m being touched inappropriately. Like the content might piss me off but the voice does so even more he just sounds so cuntily confident. I want to get a bunch of gays to drag him to the ground and shave his immaculate hair. Kudos to anyone who reads the news and realizes why I want to have a group of gays do that to him: it’s not just for the sake of randomness.
The fun part about watching the first debate became apparent within the first couple questions. Obama said that Romney has a $5 Trillion tax cut as part of his plan, yet says he would not pursue any tax cuts that are revenue decreasing (something like that). Romney then said “No I do not.” And Obama didn’t press him on it, even though Mitt does indeed include that tax cut as part of his policy Thats not something people can quibble about, it is not a ‘six of one half a dozen of the other’ thing, or something where ‘well it’s kind of true but not really I can’t tell. He wants to cut taxes to a flat 20% rate, and in doing so government revenues over the span of a decade will lose $5 trillion.
I’m not going to go into the rest of it. Obama isn’t as great a human as he is portrayed (e.g. ramping up the drone war in Pakistan, capitulating to the big banks, sort of not pursuing a lot of campaign promises) but when I look at him I get the sense of seeing a human who walked in thinking he could do x/y/z and then the realities of the political situation got to him. He is a decent dude who has had to make a few trades that most decent people don’t want to do because in order to get what you want sometimes you need to let a bunch of dudes ejaculate on you. But whatever he may or may not be, he rarely tells a bold-faced lie that is entirely a lie. He’ll tell you something that’s sort of true but not really, but he will never flat up tell you to your face that he isn’t fucking your mother, while balls deep in your mother. That’s never happened before.
Mitt Romney did that.
I remember one line from the Kite Runner, which I didn’t find all that entertaining (for some reason rape/child abuse aren’t topics I particularly care to read about. Call me unfeeling), and that line goes thus:
“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. Do you understand that. When you kill a man, you steal a life… When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.”
People have a right to the truth. When you get up on that fucking stage and look in that camera, you are looking America and Americans directly to the eyes. And when you speak, you had better tell them the truth. How many idiots who don’t do their homework believed him when he said that? How many people are following around other people like rats before the pied-fucking-piper because they’ve been fed misinformation? I’m going to go take a shot I’ll be right back.
As for the rest of the debates, I’ve only got one other thought: When you vote for a dude, you are mostly voting for his platform. When the man refuses to outline his shit, in Mitt’s case: what he will and will not cut, but he still says that he will cut ‘things’ and in so doing save the money, it’s because he cannot tell you what he is going to do. The second Willard says what he’s going to cut and get rid of, the people who work for that thing and/or depend on that thing will turn against him. That’s how campaigns work. You get the people who support your policies to outnumber the people who don’t, but you outline your fucking policies. When you don’t outline your shit, but just say that it will be good, you are basically just trying to trick people who would not vote for you had they known what you intended on doing into voting for you. There is no other explanation for it.
Was this thing particularly funny? No. am more pissed right now than I am feeling funny. So this is what you kids get.
In the interest of just putting down content, I’m dropping in a shameless plug on a story I wrote freshman year second semester in my Russian classics course for Ungurianu. It’s a rip-off of Gogol’s Diary of a Mad Man, and I make some painfully obvious philosophical references to Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I could edit it right now and make it much better. But the reason it entertains me so much is that I wrote almost the entirety of it while very drunk, so instead of trying to make it better I’d rather leave it, flawed as it is, as testament to my ability to write something while hammered at UPC.
September 14th. Today, the strangest thing occurred. I was late to class again! You know how alarm clocks are. One day they work, the next they decide not to, one day I wake up, the next I smack the alarm silent and go to sleep, telling myself just a minute more, every minute for an hour, two hours, until I have stayed in bed all day. It was 11:05, and my class begins at 11. I jumped up and fed my hamsters Pushkin and Lermontov – though Lermontov may be female, and that name may not be apt. They are good hamsters, strong and proud. They spin in their cage all day, as resolute as Huns on the march. If the President of Jewett were to enter my room and see such hamsters, he would exclaim, “What hamsters! They are like God’s come to life! I would give my wife and children for such magnificent hamsters!” yet I would not trade them for the world, they are so great. They may bite when bothered, but that was in their nature. They were models of excellence.
I put the TV on and ran to class. I was late to my Greek class. Ten minutes late. Why would anyone care? What is ten minutes out of an hour? What is ten minutes of my life? Was I wasting his time? No, I was wasting my own. Who cares if I lose ten minutes of my life to sleep and feed hamsters? I don’t. I’m not even sure what ten minutes is. It is so trivial, so meaningless, but clearly not to him. He glared at me. “Late again, student? Pass in your declension sheet.” “Here is my declension sheet sir. I hope it meets to your satisfaction.” He was a stickler for declensions. He had his method, I had my own, and unfortunately they were not similar. He thought he was the best teacher ever, and his way to decline verbs was the only way! It must go first person singular down the page to 2nd person plural. I liked to write the singular on one side and the plural across from it, lining up the persons. He did not approve, and I did not perform well. But I would not change. No, I would not sacrifice my principles for a grade, for the sake of some arbitrary letter on a piece of paper. Does he not know that I am as capable of declining a noun as the rest of them? That he is no better than me!
What does he have, besides a piece of paper signifying graduation with the name of an institution on it, proclaiming his worth? And yet… That institution. Yale. Storied Yale. Land of a thousand splendid students, a shining temple of academia, the glorious home of the finest in the land. I would give to be among their number, would decline correctly, would do anything. I had called Yale once, their admissions office, when applying. Had heard the ring-tone associated with its hallowed ground, had listened to the melodious voice of that paragon of schools, “Hello? Are you a prospective student?” I did not have the strength to talk to them, to hear their words of thunder and might. I wanted to shout “admit me! let me in! But if you must, if it is destiny for me to be denied entry, strike me down! Strike my application down with the strength of a thousand drunken dwarves, the fury of a thousand enraged admissions staffers, insulted by the idea of one such as myself applying, but do it yourself! Let me find comfort in the dealings of your own hand, painful as they may be, rather than allowing a lackey the honor.”
Instead, I replied “No. Ma’am. Wrong number.” And hung up, ashamed, struck down by the weight of my own folly, as if I could get into Yale, as if I was among those storied few, me, lame The Leach, of the 14100 SAT score and the 3.5 GPA… I was not worthy.
School was torture. Class was torture. I returned to my room. The hamsters were watching. Writing little notes to each other. I could see them, with their little pens, paws busy, scribbling away. They were smart, Pushkin and Lermontov. I took their scraps away, and read, determined to learn from them. “The Leach is crazy.” Lermontov had written. “All humans are crazy. I do not even understand where we are. What is this ‘College,’ which he is partaking in? He lives here for four years. Almost all of these students, these children, do it. They live in these brick buildings, and attend talks given by learned men. Sleep amongst their own filth. Eat bad food, exhaust themselves, go to bed late and wake up late. From dawn ‘till dusk, nothing but listen to men who are smart talk and read books by smart men. They tap their fingers away on small keys for hours on end. On certain nights, perhaps when they have had enough of their tapping and lectures, they set up tables with red cups on them, pour some colorful liquid out of small aluminum cans into them, and throw small bouncing balls at them. They act merry and drink for hours, but when two nights have passed thus they work hard again. They are a strange people.” “Let them do what they want.” Pushkin wrote. “They are young and stupid. My concern is more pressing. I do not think much of our master. He gives us poor food. He drinks too much and does poorly on his homework, but dreams of attending Yale. How could he get into Yale, fool that he is? And he shouts names like Pushkin and Lermontov at us. Am I not named Shakespeare, after my father, and are you not named Voltaire, after your own? Where has he dreamt up these falsehoods? What a fool he is.”
I read with a mixture of anger and awe. Their prose was lovely, far beyond the skill of my English teacher, these hamsters had much the better of him! But their names… Who are they to name themselves? They are hamsters! I am a student, a 22 year-old sophomore. A man among boys, I should be their God. Who are they to insult me so? What would Yale students do in response to this insult? I did not know, but I knew they would not stand for it. Who cares if I am a poor student? And what do hamsters know of scholarship? Nothing. They know nothing. What right do they have to insult my poor scholarship? What is a scholarly person anyways, a Yale student? But he is just a man. What differentiates me from these other men? Do they not brush their teeth at night and go to bed in the morning, breathe in and breathe out? What makes me a Rasavs student? Perhaps I am truly a Yale student in disguise, perhaps I am no more a Rasavs student than those hamsters? Many men have begun their lives as one thing and ended up as another. Perhaps I am one such man. What have I done to make me a Rasavs student, and precisely why am I one?
My friend Jake came in the evening. He cut a horrid figure. His skin was a pale yellow, his eyes adorned with the deep bags of those not accustomed to sleep. “The Leach!” he cried. “I am a wretched man, a terrible student! I have four papers due tomorrow! They are all research papers, all will require many days to complete, and they are due tomorrow! I have known of them for months, but waited, painstakingly waited, until this moment, to begin.”
“What for, Jake!” I cried. “You have one night! You have no time! Four papers? This is torment! I cannot write one in a week and you must write four in one night, it is impossible.”
“Impossible it may be, but you understand? You see what torment I am in? You see how I suffer now? Look at me! I have not slept in two days, nor have I eaten. Nature has given me deadlines, it tells me I must write my papers, the work must be done, that 3+3 = 6 and that I must comply; to not do so would be to fail. What do I care if I fail? What is failure besides an ‘F’, a letter on a piece of paper? What if these natural laws, this decree to write my papers is not to my liking? What are deadlines, who are they to make me write what they wish when they wish it? These papers are my wall, they are nature, and I refuse to recognize their power over me. I spit on your deadlines, teachers!”
“How can you say this?” I asked in horror. These are your teachers, they are wiser… This is rebellion. You cannot do this” I said softly, dropping my eyes, humbled by the depths of his thoughts.
“They are not my law, I do as I wish. You see how I am now? My soul is tormented; this assault on my teachers’ will is killing me. It is unnatural, what I am doing – how can I not do my work? But see me now, am I not happy? Is my voice not stronger than ever? The enormity of these papers and the suffering I have allowed them to induce crushes me, but I am exultant. Everyone can see this work that I must do that I am not doing. I may suffer, I may fail, I may never get into medical school and may never make the money I need to make to secure my future, indeed may never even have a future because of my choices this night and these past weeks, but what pleasure there is in these thoughts! People know, they see the torment of my soul and say ‘Jake, you have lots of work that you are not doing! How can you live!’ and I say ‘it is nothing to me, the work. I will survive, I always do.’ And they walk away saying, ‘that Jake, what an upright and strong young man. He will survive, he always does. Nothing can bring him down.’ Their pity and love, their knowledge of my suffering is worth more to me than all of the papers in the world. These teachers may attempt to defeat me with their implacable wall of grades and future and what we ‘must do’ and I will not have it, I will not!”
I embraced him. “Do this then. Fail your classes. Be happy. I don’t understand where you developed this twisted sense of schoolwork and nature but it is important to you and I will never allow it to come between us.”
“I knew you would understand. You always understand. I must leave you now.” We embraced again, and he left, his back arched under the weight of his work, but soul upright with the triumph of one who knows that 3+3=7, and that nature can be defeated and our own souls justified in the defeating of it. He left, and I turned away. The TV was on, the news was showing. A Yale student had been dismissed. One of their hallowed students was no longer there. Wouldn’t he be missed? How could they lose a student? Surely they must find another soon. I went to sleep. As I lay there, waiting for sleep, I was humbled by Yale’s problems. Indeed, I didn’t even truly understand them. How could a school be absent a student? They say the spot does not have to be filled, but how? For every spot there must be a man. There must be a Yale student somewhere, waiting to assume his place. Perhaps he has been forced away for some reason, a corrupt administration, a drug problem, or just something.
September, Kekaw Kekaw.
The next morning, the most extraordinary thing happened. The news was on again, the Yale position was still open. I am that missing student. I only just learned it now that I truly opened my eyes, it hit me suddenly, as a moose who is loping smoothly through the woods jumps out into the open to be hit suddenly by a speeding SUV, so was I hit. I went to my classes for the day, determined to give all of Rasavs another day to bathe in my glory, to see for themselves a true Yale student. I went to the registrar to pick classes, partly in jest, partly to spite the school, who would be calculating classes for a student who wouldn’t be going. As I was waiting, the murmers began. The children beside me were growing ecstatic, for Lisa Kudrow was here! I did not twitch. Who is Lisa Kudrow that I should grow excited at her approach? She is not an actor, she is a plate. An ordinary plate, a plate from ACDC. Nothing more. She walked past, and I nodded at her, as one nods to an equal, as I imagine all Yale students nod at all celebrities.
October in the Age of Titans
I have given Rasavs my last week, allowed them time to bask in my genius. Now I must go, to fulfill my destiny. I walked out of the school, to Main circle, and hailed a cab. “To Yale!” I said, and we went to Yale. When I arrived I immediately announced myself to the administration. “I am here. Your student is here.” They feigned confusion, and when I refused to leave or ‘explain what I’m talking about’ they called the police. It is ok, it is a custom, I understand. All Yale students must go through this. I allow the blue-clad man to take me.
December, Year of the Squid
It has been a week. They are not kind, but they are rough to all children of Yale, I understand this. I know this. But still, it seems ridiculous. Why have they not put an end to it yet? It seems so unnecessary. What folly of these Yale students, to allow such an archaic initiation ceremony. I am sure that they will let me out soon, to rejoin my brethren. Pushkin and Lermontov have not been fed in over a week. I hope they are dead. They are mighty hamsters, but they are wicked, and an insulted Yale student must have his vengeance.
March, April, May
They used to question me incessantly – “who are you! Where do you come from?” I ignored them. Now they ignore me. Sometimes they beat me. I am tired and hungry. I have discovered that Oxford is not real: in fact it was never real. I should write Cambridge, they could press their assault on the rankings if only they knew their enemy was an illusion. But I cannot reach them.
Day of the Leopard and of the Hen, 1845
I have found them out, it is a trick. The guardsman wears a Harvard ring. He is the enemy, I know it. But I fear Yale has forgotten me. They have made no contact, I fear that Harvard has the better of them, and that I will not last any longer.
83rd of Janvier
No one cares for me. I am weak and I fear that I am dying. I see Rasavs, it’s trees, it’s library, Main Building. They are in the distance, and I am here. Jake has crumbled under his workload. The hamsters have taken my room for their own, they have begun a family, they plan their assault on Noyes from my own room and I cannot stop them. Take me home, cab driver. I must save Noyes. No! They are moving too quickly! We must halt them! … Were you aware that Tolkien had first-hand knowledge of Hobbits, having visited Bag-end as a child?
This episode occurred at Rasavs College in the autumn of last year. It seems now to be based on nothing. Harvard does not imprison Yale students out of spite, nor does it have control over the prisons in Connecticut. More importantly, everyone knows the proper method of declension, and so there is no reason for the student in question to decline nouns in his own fashion, it just makes no sense. It is further known that no college student would ever wait until the last night before it was due to write one paper, let alone four. Yet most importantly, why would hamsters attack Noyes? Everyone knows that Lathrop is far more amenable to the needs of hamsters. But perhaps the idea of paramount importance is why would anyone ever write something like this? It is nonsensical, irreverent, and above all, completely useless. And yet… people have gone crazy before. And we do not know the secret lives of hamsters; perhaps they can read. And if we allow for that, why can’t we allow for The Leach to be accepted to Yale? After all, transferring into colleges is not difficult. After that, more things become possible. Is this story any less believable than any others? Perhaps it could happen. Not often, obviously, but there is always the chance that it could happen.