Sunday, May 29, 2005

Spring in Laramie

Somehow, I'd forgotten that spring in Laramie is tricky. Today has been windy with occasional light showers; it's so dry here that rain evaporates from the sidewalks quickly, even when it's this cold. Well, actually, I'm just assuming it's cold out. I haven't been outside myself, not once today, having taken a nap after my shift and then watching baseball. Fuck you, Yankees!

So the clouds have been raggedy and oppressive, which somehow seems to fit my mood. Mostly I'm just off my game from the overnight shift, but I'm also stressing out a little bit about money, finding a teaching job a year from now, and the aforementioned loneliness thing (sorry for the melodramatic tone to that last post - that's what I get for writing in the morning after a weird night).

Oh, hey, a question for the Dearest Readership: if I'm suddenly taken by a desire to build models again (mostly wooden ships, which I've never tried but have been told are quite a challenge), does that make me the most immature 33 year old ever? I can't decide if building models is a reasonable adult pastime or a symptom of severe developmental retardation. Thoughts?

The Weekend

It's been an interesting few days.

Thursday afternoon I drove down to Ft. Collins, a white-knuckled hour on US 287. It would be a pretty drive except that it’s one of the most dangerous highways in America, clogged with Wyoming rednecks in pickups and Colorado yuppies in sports cars. That’s a volatile mixture in any environment; on a curvy two lane road it’s just plain scary. I made it, though, and once in Ft. Collins I had lunch with an old high school friend who now lives near Boulder. He’s been keeping my Telecaster and banjo for a year – ever since he helped me unload the U-Haul when I moved to Laramie – and I’ve been getting the itch to play bluegrass and electric country again.

Once safely back in Laramie after lunch, I went to another friend’s bachelor party. He’s a very smart and funny guy but pretty hardcore Christian, so there was neither nudity (well, no female nudity anyway – more on that in a minute) nor booze. After grilling burgers, we banished him to the basement while we compiled a list of things he had to do to earn a total of $100. It was basically a scavenger hunt, but mean. My contribution was: go to Albertson’s and buy a cucumber and a jar of KY jelly, and we need them both on the same receipt as proof.

The first event involved going to Wal*Mart and asking for a price check on “condoms, extra small.” Then he went to the ladies underwear and asked a clerk which pair she liked better. By this point, a group of ten guys laughing hysterically had attracted some management attention, so we left.

On to downtown Laramie, where the groom-to-be had to change into a three-piece denim jumpsuit worn by one of the groomsmen’s dads when he was in a band in the seventies. The groom is a tall and skinny guy, and he looked not unlike John Travolta a la “Saturday Night Fever.” We dragged him past three very hard eyed individuals on our way into the Buckhorn.

A note here about the Buckhorn. It’s a bar. It’s a good bar; any bar with an honest-to-God bullet hole in the mirror has to be. “The Buck” is pretty much a Laramie staple and on most nights the crowd is a fairly accurate cross-section of the population: you’ll see cowboys, bikers, tourists, professors, sorority chicks, hippies, and townies standing shoulder to shoulder.

Thursday night, though, when the groom-to-be was required to sing “My Wild Irish Rose” to the entire bar, it was mostly bikers. Mean, worn out bikers. The bartender clearly got a kick out of it, but that was about it. His performance was fine; the reception was icy. We left. Quickly.

We made a group decision that he had to repeat that performance, but somewhere it would be appreciated. We walked over to Coal Creek coffeehouse: a much better reception.

To K-Mart, where he had to buy the largest panties and bra he could find, since he’d be putting them on the Ben Franklin statue on campus. Turns out that even a 42DDD wouldn’t fit on ol’ Ben.

So then we made the groom-to-be change into Speedos (he’s a swimmer), we scrawled something obscene on his back, and made him run across campus. That’s when the cops showed up.

Somehow he got out of a ticket, and after restoring Ben’s dignity we headed over to the groom’s apartment to watch a movie. First, though, we tackled him and scrawled more obscene things on his chest in permanent marker.

That was Thursday.

Friday morning I worked the lobby desk from 7 to 11am, had four hours off, and then worked again from 3 to 11pm.

Saturday was the wedding and also my 33rd birthday. The wedding was gorgeous, an outdoor affair at a state park between Laramie and Cheyenne. Those kinds of things always make me think about what I want my wedding to be like (mostly it’ll be up to my bride – but I think less money spent on decorations and more on booze and entertainment is probably the way to go).

The thing is, though, I’m 33, and the biological clock is starting to tick a wee louder. Yeah, I want to be a dad, and yeah, I know I need to wait until I’m out of college and have a steady income. But for all of yesterday’s fun and fellowship, it underscored for me how worried I am about being single for the rest of my life. Over the past few years, I’ve become especially attuned to looking at that marriage-able quality in girlfriends and even friends for whom I’ve pined but haven’t dated. And I gotta wonder: who on earth is going to marry me? She’ll have to be a very strong, smart, and uniquely patient woman. But who?

Eah. For all the poetics, another part of me is certain it will happen at some point. I just want it to be sooner rather than later; I don’t want to be forty when I get married – I want to roughhouse with my kids (whether with boys or girls, but my kids’ gender expectations are another story), and I want my parents to see their grandkids get married. More than any of that, though, I want my marriage to work and to last. So maybe my pickiness is an issue, or maybe I really haven’t met the right person yet. Who knows?

Okay, this is getting out of hand. I’ve been at the desk since 3am (I’m working 3am to 11am today) and I’m simultaneously bleary and keyed up, like a toddler hopped up on M&Ms past their bedtime. There’s some mail leftover from yesterday’s shift, so maybe I’ll do that for a while.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Sea, pt. II

So, obviously, I’m given to romantic notions of sailing and the sea in general, recently stirred by what I’m reading in my plentiful spare time. My sister and brother-in-law gave me Patrick O’Brian’s The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels for my birthday, and I’m well over halfway through the first volume. The stories take place during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century; the film Master and Commander was based loosely on a few of the novels in the set.

In simple terms, they’re about Jack Aubrey, a fictional officer in the Royal Navy, and his surgeon friend Stephen Maturin. The New York Times once called these novels “the best historical novels ever written,” and although I try to avoid most historical fiction and my experience is therefore limited, I’m inclined to agree. O’Brian was an amazing writer, not to mention prolific. These are the kinds of stories that are by turns dramatic and hilarious, but more importantly, believable.

I’m so enthralled by this stuff that when I eventually get a cat, I’m naming it Captain Jack Aubrey. I’m having visions of a very large and very obnoxious yellow tabby beating the hell out of a dog twice its size, probably my dog, which I plan on naming Whiskey.

“God damn your eyes, Captain Jack Aubrey, stop attacking Whiskey!”

The Sea, pt. I

In the summer of 1999 one of my Amazon buddies invited me to go sailing with him in the Puget Sound. He was a prototypical pre-IPO Amazonian: he never finished college, he did things on his own terms (which would cost him his job during Amazon’s First Great Bloodletting shortly thereafter), and he was astonishingly smart. That summer was two years after Amazon went public, near the peak of the stock’s ridiculous apex, so those pre-IPO types like my friend were also very, very rich. He lived on his sailboat, moored somewhere on the Salmon Bay or maybe Lake Union.

We cruised under motor power down the bay – actually a canal connecting Lake Union and Lake Washington with the Puget Sound – to the sea. Out past the channel makers and buoys, we cut the motor and unfurled the sails. Once underway he taught me the basics of sailing: they’re not ropes, for Christ’s sake, they’re lines. One hand for you, one for the boat. And of course the seafarer’s prime directive: the captain’s word is law.

We tacked a bit, generally on a northwestern course. It was a gorgeous day by Seattle standards – sunny, in the 80’s in town but cooler on the water. There were plenty of other boats out as well: sloops and pleasure craft out for the afternoon; huge yachts heading due north to the islands or maybe Vancouver. A gigantic menacing navy ship headed south, down to Bainbridge. The air was sharp and clear, and I tasted salt from the spray breaking over the bow. Something moved in the water not five feet off starboard.

“What was that?” I asked. My friend just grinned.

A dolphin sprung completely out of the water, perfectly parallel to, and at precisely the same speed as, the boat. Two more. A third, a fourth, and by this time I couldn’t tell one from the other or how many there were. We sliced through the water with dolphins leaping at our side, oddly expressive creatures even in midair. I’ve had moments of joy in my life, and I’ve felt intrinsically connected to nature plenty of times in the mountains, but this was primal happiness that I haven’t experienced since. It lasted maybe a minute; the dolphins simply disappeared.

Back on shore we had dinner at a marina. Someone mentioned that John John’s plane had been found. Out in the bay, water lapped at the pilings.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Vedauwoo

It's pronounced "vee duh voo," like it rhymes with "peekaboo," and it's an odd geological area just east of Laramie. Vedauwoo is a rock climber's paradise (I'm told - I hate heights) and an awesome place for quick hikes - those rat bastard politicians want to charge five bucks for a day pass, but most locals just park along Forest Service roads and hike in to wherever we want to go. Vedauwoo sits on a north/south ridge that comprises most of Medicine Bow National Forest; this ridge is actually a mountain chain (the Laramie Mountains) that extends north for 80 miles or so, curving slightly to the west and eventually stopping near the middle of the state. Casper Mountain is the very northernmost edge and last mountain in the chain; the land north of Casper is flat and, well, high desert. Take a look at a map - any old road atlas of Wyoming will do - and you'll see what I mean.

Last Friday I headed up there after work for a quick hike. I parked in a promising camping spot and just headed off-trail towards the nearest high point, which turned out to be a rock outcropping with an awesome view. The pictures below don't quite do the place justice.

Vedauwoo, looking south / southwest. The white strip beneath the horizon near center is I-80. Just to the left of the farthest bluff, you can barely make out the Colorado Rockies' front range. Posted by Hello

On top of a rock outcropping at Vedauwoo, looking due east.  Posted by Hello

"I Want to Ride My Bicycle, I Want to Ride My Bike"

Generally I've never been too pleased with my physique. In a fit of humor or maybe caught off-guard during a weekend bender, the gene fairies gave me my dad's stocky torso and core, and my mom's thin limbs and digits. As a result, I'm simultaneously slight in parts and chunky in others. Think of E.T. but with a smaller head.

Especially annoying is the fact that I have no biceps or triceps to speak of. Oh, sure, I can lift heavy stuff when I need to, tapping strength from a rather generous ass or applying vise-like pressure with my rat claws, but my meaty pectorals are betrayed by skinny shoulders and arms, which simply refuse to add bulk.

And I have tried, Dearest Readership. I've spent hours and hours at the gym, or more enjoyably, heaving bags of manure in Wal*Mart's garden center years ago. For this, I was rewarded with a little upper body tone, but no bulk.

So I've decided to go the other way. If I can't add bulk, maybe I can lose some flab. I haven't driven my truck in about two weeks now, with the singular exception being a drive up to Vedauwoo last Friday for a quick two hour hike (see picture). I've biked out to Wal*Mart a few times; I've biked downtown when I've needed to go there, and I've resolved that if I need to get something from my storage unit that can't be carried in my backpack, I probably don't need it that badly.

Biking in Laramie is either technical in-town riding or highspeed burns through residential streets. By "technical" I mean slowly navigating curbs, tricky lights, and the occasional gargantuan diesel pickup. Despite what you might think, Laramie traffic can be oddly heavy, especially on Grand, the main east/west drag that borders the university. I've done a bit of city riding in my time (Champaign, Phoenix, Lexington, Seattle), and Grand at rush hour is second only to Seattle in terms of the likelihood of getting drilled by a car. At least in Seattle cyclists were respected on the road (although I did have a bicycle messenger friend who was booking down Pine from Capitol Hill toward downtown Seattle when someone opened their car door right in front of her. She told me later the subsequent crash was as close to wingless flying as she is likely to ever come). Laramie drivers on the other hand simply do not give a shit about cyclists, and the mile-long uphill pull on Grand to Wal*Mart requires staying off the street.

With the increased bike riding, I really think I'll be losing weight soon. I've had to stop going to the gym, since I'm not technically a student yet, but once my classes resume in mid-June I'll even try to work that into the routine. Mostly it just feels good to get out and sweat a little bit – I'm always a little happier at the end of a ride than I was at the beginning.

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

My boss stopped by the lobby desk yesterday, and I took the opportunity to let her know about the staff's feelings about the meal plan fiasco. I was as civil and rational as possible, saying that we RAs understood the compensation plan when we signed up and had made a commitment to the job, so there was no impending mutiny or anything silly like that. We were just, you know, kinda peeved about the whole thing but generally handling it like adults. She said she sympathized, would talk to her boss about it, and get back to us. She also said we shouldn't plan on any changes this summer.

Today she pulled me aside and said her boss was "all over it," meaning he understood why we were pissed and was actively working to get the RAs a 15 meal plan. It's not in stone yet, but positive change is likely on the way.

Well. For all of Monday's drama, it looks like civility and reason won out.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Funny, Funny Story

Exactly one year ago, I pulled into Laramie and moved into my room over in Orr. I had interviewed and been accepted as an RA for this past school year, but for a few reasons, I had not been accepted as a summer RA for last summer. For one, summer RAs don't have any real training to speak of; summer RAs are almost by definition returning RAs and have therefore been through two weeks of official training and more importantly, they've experienced that crucial real-life training (because really, no amount of classroom lecturing can prepare you for vomit in the elevator or golf in the lobby). So while my boss for the school year was willing to take the risk of hiring me as a rookie RA, he was not willing to risk throwing me into the summer RA gig. Probably a good move, and instead I would up doing something called "conference assistant."

CAs are similar to RAs, except that they haven't had too much official training or any kind of experience (if they're new). CAs work with the various summer camps that come to the university and stay in the residence halls; when high school football, basketball or soccer camps come, CAs check the kids into their rooms and work the lobby desks. A CA desk shift comprises watching a LOT of movies and repeating the phrase "No, we don't have change here." And that's about it.

Summer RAs, meanwhile, have a bit more responsibility. We forward mail – lots and lots of mail. RAs also interact more with the summer school residents; RAs and summer students are housed on separate floors (and usually in separate halls) from summer camps for obvious reasons.

With me so far? RAs and CAs are very similar, except that RAs have to forward mail, are trained to handle crises, and have experience living and working in the halls. RAs are also required to take summer classes – with their associated tuition and book costs – and do rounds. With six of us, that's a lot of rounds and generally a lot of work.

Let's talk compensation for a minute. As a CA, I got a 9 meal plan (i.e., 9 meals per week) at the cafeteria and an hourly rate of $6. As an RA during the school year, I got an unlimited meal plan and a modest monthly stipend, with no hourly rate. As a summer RA, we get the 9 meal plan, no monthly stipend, and return to the $6 hourly rate.

Earlier this spring, when I was trying to decide between going back to the CA gig or being a summer RA, quieter desk shifts sounded better. Everything else, really, was a wash – the job's about the same; it just seemed less likely that I'd have to say the phrase "No, we don't have change here" nearly as often as I said it last summer. There were also some serious leadership/communication problems last year that made the experience quite a bit more chaotic than it needed to be. I knew the summer conferences would have a new director this year, but I didn't know what kind of manager the new person would turn out to be. Not wanting to risk another ride on that impending trainwreck, and thinking quieter desk shifts would be just fine, I chose to be a summer RA. The other five RAs and I are tight, and we were thrilled that we'd be working together this summer. "Hey," we told each other, "this RA gig isn't that bad. Let's continue to work hard and make that very special sacrifice that RAs make."

And what did we get in exchange for our naive dedication? Why, a swift kick in the tenders.

This summer, CAs get the same hourly rate as the RAs plus a 15 meal plan plus an extra $50 per month. Meanwhile, RAs get nine meals and the hourly rate, with no extra cash. Let me repeat that: CAs, who go through one tenth of the training RAs do and have been literally hired off the street, get more meals and more cash than RAs. CAs are not required to take classes and don't handle mail. RAs work harder for less money.

It's all due to CAs and RAs being under different branches in the same departmental tree, and it fucking sucks.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Drop Whatever You're Doing and Go See Star Wars

I worked the lobby desk this morning from 7 to 11, and between watching the original Star Wars last night and checking out trailers for Episode III on the Internet, I got a wee obsessive and made a compulsive decision to go catch the 12:30 show this afternoon.

Wow.

Despite some crappy dialogue (what would a Star Wars movie be without George Lucasisms?), this was the best of the prequels by far, and in my opinion, right behind The Empire Strikes Back and the original Star Wars in terms of sheer entertainment value. All kinds of good stuff happens in this one, and it does a damn fine job of explaining how we wound up with the events in Epidsode IV. The battle scenes are epic and visually overwhelming . . . we get to see . . Chewbacca . . . and then the Emporer . . . gets all up in Yoda's grill . . . and then . . . Anakin. . . gets worked . . . by Obi Wan . . .

Sweet mercy. All I had hoped for, and then some. I'm going to see it again Monday night with other staffers, and will even go again sooner if someone asks. I strongly recommend catching this one at the theatre - it is the ultimate summer movie.

Go. Right now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Idle Hands II: The Double Stink

Another prank that I’ve always wanted to pull involves creating nasty, horrible smells in someone’s room. This version is strictly off-limits to residents, since it involves room invasion, but it’s perfect for RAs. In most halls here, where two RAs work on the same floor, their rooms are divided by a bathroom. Sure, each bathroom door locks on both sides, but most partners get to the point where they forego the locking business in lieu of a simple knock on the door. This trust and respect is key to any good working relationship. It's also fun to violate.

While elegant and complicated pranks are all well and good, I prefer the Viet Cong approach: ingeniously simple, brutally effective, and astoundingly cheap. This one can be pulled off for about two bucks.

First, get two cans of tuna.
Second, get a few strips of duct tape.
Third, get the target’s RA partner to let you into the target’s room while they’re gone.

Poke a hole in the first can of tuna. Drain it. Put it somewhere – anywhere – in the room, hidden but not hidden too well. This is your diversionary stink, so behind the refrigerator is good. At the back of the refrigerator works as well.

Poke a hole in the second can of tuna. Drain it. As your primary stink, you need to duct tape it in a hidden spot: the underside of the sink counter is good. The underside of their work desk is also good. A hidden corner of their bed frame works. Somewhere near or on the heater elevates this prank to supernasty.

Once that room heats up, the target will probably notice a certain odor. With any luck, they’ll assume it’s their laundry and take care of it. After a day or two they’ll probably realize it’s something else, and most likely, they’ll find the diversionary can. "Ha!" they’ll think to themselves. "Found it!"

And yet the odor will linger. It will in fact get stronger. It will reek. After a week or so it will be noxious, and neighbors will start complaining.

This prank would be even better if you could somehow sneak into the target's room, thus ensuring no accomplices will rat you out. Its relatively benign nature, though, means that even if you do get busted, the consequences won't be too bad - and if the target dares to take revenge, it only paves the way to bigger and better stunts.

On Star Wars

The original Star Wars premiered on May 25th, 1977, three days before my fifth birthday. We were living in Brookings, South Dakota, in a large white house a few blocks from the South Dakota State campus. That house and its expansive backyard are about all I remember from my early childhood, although two things do stand out in my earliest memories: I remember a neighborhood kid coming over to our front yard where my sister and I were playing and telling us that Elvis had died, and I think I remember seeing Star Wars in the theatre.

The story, if my sister is to be believed, goes something like: my parents were concerned that Star Wars was too violent for a five year old, but between family friends’ assurances that it was okay and my incessant begging, they finally relented. I remember being in the movie theatre in downtown Brookings, and our parents having to sit apart because the theatre was so crowded (although, come to think of it, this might have been for Superman, a year later).

I don’t remember specific scenes, and I can’t say it was a life-altering event because I don’t really have any point of reference before it. But I was certainly hooked.

I distinctly remember my dad coming home from some trip somewhere with a Star Wars album; I’m pretty sure it was the entire film, dialogue and everything. I vaguely remember the Star Wars Christmas special on TV, and crying my eyes out when Chewbacca saved his family at the end (I think that’s how it ended). Speaking of the Star Wars Christmas special, George Lucas now officially hates it – rightfully so, because it’s so very bad – and it’s pretty hard to find. I managed to download a shitty copy of it a few years ago and howled with laughter, it was so bad. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it all the way through to the end, because my gut hurt from laughing. Seriously. Bad.

Of course, my toy collection was dominated by a constellation of Star Wars merchandise, mostly figures. My parents never bankrolled the major pieces – no Death Star, no Millennium Falcon – but I had enough figures to play out the important scenes, and I had the Tie Fighter and X-Wing (both of which, their battery terminals long since corroded, their plastic canopies yellowed, and missing various parts, still reside in a box somewhere in storage). My shittiest Christmas ever was marginally improved by the cool droid junkyard set piece; it came with all these little robot parts that you got to mix and match to create your own droids.

What set pieces I didn’t have were improvised: I made a few levels of the Death Star out of cardboard boxes and tape. Han, Chewie, Luke, and Leia scooched through little cutout doors, pursued by Darth Vader and a couple of Storm Troopers. The coup de grace was a trash compactor, complete with a moving wall on rails.

The one time in my life when my mom resorted to bribery involved Star Wars figures. I was having a hard time taking some pills – or more accurately, cooperating in taking some pills – and my mom said if I got these last two down she’d buy me a Star Wars figure. Gulp. Of course, I had to remind her about it a few days later (Jesus, Mom, did you really think I wouldn’t remember?)

While my interest focused on the figures, I liked playing live-action Star Wars, too. I never had a lightsaber, which didn’t really bother me that much – I was always more of a Han Solo kind of guy. Never got that cool gun of his, though. One year for Halloween my mom acquired this amazing furry fabric that might as well have been genuine Wookiee hide. From this she made an entire Wookiee suit, and combined with a cheap Chewbacca mask it was the costume of a lifetime (another family story has it that this costume somehow wound up at my aunt’s house, where it scared the bejeezus out of my cousin).

My interest in Star Wars peaked with The Empire Strikes Back, released a week before my eighth birthday in 1980. I’m willing to bet that 90% of my free time that summer pertained to Hoth, Yoda, the Cloud City, or Boba Fett.

When Return of the Jedi came out in May of 1983, something had changed. Sure, we got to see Darth Vader’s nasty face, and yeah, Luke was now a Jedi Master, and holy shit, Yoda died, but it still felt empty somehow. Maybe not empty but . . . juvenile. I bought a few figures, but playing with them had lost its charm. That was the summer I started checking baseball scores regularly.

In the spring of 1999 I was a trainer in the Customer Service department at Amazon.com. Our boy Jeff Bezos flipped the bill for a couple of busloads to a reserved showing of The Phantom Menace in a Seattle suburb. On the ride over we were giddy twentysomethings cracking jokes based entirely on obscure Star Wars references. On the ride home we were prototypical Generation-Xers: deeply angered and vaguely betrayed. What brainiac cast that little toehead as Anakin, when the kid couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag? Metawhat? Jar Jar fucking Binks?

As a Star Wars devotee, I’m telling you that whatever flak George Lucas caught from critics, he deserved every word of it. At least Ewan MacGregor absolutely nailed Obi Wan. Three years later we were generally more receptive to Attack of the Clones, with the exception of Hayden Christensen’s melodramatic whining.

So now I’m pretty excited about Revenge of the Sith. This is by far the most important movie of the three prequels, since it shows Anakin’s pivotal switch from Jedi to Darth Vader. We also get the Star Wars setup by somehow separating Anakin’s and Padme’s twins, with Luke going to his uncle’s place on Tattooine and Leia going, well, wherever she goes. Obi Wan must also wind up on Tattoine, presumably after the Empire wipes out almost all the Jedi and takes control of the galaxy. Rumor has it Obi Wan kicks Anakin’s ass – which I really can’t wait to see – before getting the righteous hell out of Dodge. Good stuff.

There it is. I think I’m probably going to wait until early next week to go see it with some other staffers. In the meantime, I’m going to watch the original trilogy over the next few days.

I’m not going to say it.

I’m . . . not . . . going to . . . say it. . .

Must . . . not . . . say . . . it . . .

Must . . . not . . .

Oh, goddammit. Maytheforcebewithyou.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Idle Hands. . .

So I’m working the lobby desk this afternoon, and taking a break from forwarding mail, when I notice a file on the computer desktop that says “Staff Movie List.” I open it up and sure enough, it’s an Excel file with each RA from this hall listed alphabetically, and a list of DVDs and VHS tapes listed under each name. The staff is gone for the summer. The file is not locked.

A wickedly funny practical joke occurs to me, which happens more than most people realize. You see, while my outward behavior is reserved and polite, I am perpetually looking for ways to fuck with people.

It was me who conceived and organized the party that buried our boss’s car in snow.

It was me who rigged up a bunch of confetti bombs on certain RAs’ doors and then staged a confetti attack on my own door, thus diverting the blame.

It might be me who inserts a bunch of pornographic movie titles in the staff movie list.

I need to be careful here, and in the process of covering my tracks I might even be able to pull a double-whammy. Since the file will be time-stamped when it’s updated, I can’t do it during my shift – because if someone wanted to, they could simply check the timestamp against the schedule and deduce who was working at the time. Therefore, I need to edit the file during someone else’s shift; I can just come down to the desk while they're here, pretend like I need the computer for a bit, and nonchalantly add titles like "Hairy Potter and the Chamber of Secretions" to the Excel sheet. The staff movie list will be, uh, “fleshed out” with various porn titles, if the file is ever opened there will be much confusion and embarrassment, and the person who gets blamed will be someone other than me. Genius!

Now, when does my good buddy C work next . . .

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Steamboat Springs. We hiked up a trail on the valley's western mountain, and this view looks east across the valley. Posted by Hello

Steamboat

The weekend in Steamboat Springs with Willie and Jenn was, as these weekends always are, a good time. It would have been a better time, though, if I hadn't come down with some wicked allergies or cold-like symptoms on Friday afternoon. I felt a tickle in my throat Friday morning, and somewhere near Walden I started sneezing, and by the time we were hanging out in Willie's condo I was suffering from the nastiest nose-throat problems I've had in years. Willie and Jenn were kind enough to keep me dosed up on Claritin and nasal spray, which helped, and for the rest of the night I'd feel okay for a few hours but would suddenly feel totally crappy for stretches.

We'd planned on doing some kayaking Saturday morning, but I just didn't feel like sticking my head in a river comprised mostly of snow runoff. The run itself looked doable – mostly class II with a few class III holes – but even without the likelihood of putting the boat upside down, I just didn't want to risk it.

Instead, Willie and I took a hike up the mountain on Steamboat's western slope (the ski area occupies part of the valley's eastern slope). The overlook gives you a fantastic view of the town and ski runs. Willie was alert enough to grab his phone and take a picture of me. Saturday evening we played some volleyball and eventually grilled some burgers; I had a beer and hamburger around 9:30, and that's the last thing I remember. Willie tells me I said something about lying down for a bit, and in five minutes I was snoring away on the couch.

I'm back in Laramie now, and while the sneezing and throat itch has gone away, I'm still really congested. Bleh.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Straight A's. Again. Heh.

Wow. I really didn't think it would happen this semester, but happen it did.

Due to a schedule switcheroo that worked in my favor, I'm heading down to Steamboat today to hang out with Willie and maybe do the Yampa town run. I'll be back by Sunday afternooon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Music and Stuff

Every now and then I get completely obsessed with a song; listen to it, play it, study it, sometimes to the point until whatever relationship we had is smothered by my attention. For example, I can't really get excited about Bob Dylan's Tangled Up in Blue or Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah anymore. I've simply worn those songs out; I've studied their lyrics and listened to them in a dark and otherwise deathly quiet room, my ears to the speakers. I've spent hours on the Internet looking for the stories about how the songs were written. And then, like a crush, one morning I woke up and was over them.

The new song is Gillian Welch's Red Clay Halo. The funny thing is, I don't own a copy of it; I just heard Willie and Jen perform it one night in their living room and fell in love with it then and there. The song is brilliant on a few levels – first because of its unpretentious melody and chord structure, but also because of the lyrics' subtle shift from base human to divine. Just. Fucking. Brilliant.

So anyway, this coming Wednesday the coffeeshop downtown is having a bluegrass jam. I'm planning on going and maybe – maybe – doing Red Clay Halo. I haven't been playing guitar for a few months and my calluses are once again almost completely gone, so I'm planning on just playing through the pain.

Hmm. Weird thoughts tonight about music. I've always wished I could've studied music more formally; I think I could've made a decent professional musician. I'm way over the whole rockstar thing (one night a few years ago, I had a dreamy thought so pure and obvious and profound it literally woke me up: I wanted to be a rockstar because I thought external validation would solve my fundamental insecurities, which of course is total horseshit. So I woke up at like three in the morning and realized, Jesus, being a rockstar would totally suck. The money would be nice; the fame part would just plain suck). But I still could've been a professional musician on some level and in fact, I still want to be in a local band – again, not because of the fame, but for the thrill of playing music with other people. The problem here is twofold: first, while I have a decent ear for music, I can't really read it too well. Second, my voice isn't all that great. Sure, I can do the raspy folkie sound with the best of 'em, but Jesus, who can't? It's unoriginal and besides, most folkies these days (Mason Jennings is a notable exception) have no fucking clue about timbre, and my timbre is thin, nasally, and generally unimpressive. But I digress.

So, anyway, I've always wanted to study music more formally. Maybe some day I will. I'd really like to be able to write out guitar solos, since one of my biggest frustrations about my playing is that I can't always play the sounds I can hear in my head. I'd also like to write out some vocal harmonies for bluegrass/folk songs – I think generally they rely on thirds, but I could be wrong about that.

Whew. Anyway. Tonight I'm going to restring both guitars and practice up.

The Amazing Race

If you know me at all, you know that I generally hate primetime TV. In fact, about the only TV I watch anymore is SportsCenter in the morning and endless hours of WWII footage on the History channel at night. But some friends convinced me to watch The Amazing Race, and last night . . . well . . . the right couple won the million bucks. For once.

First, some background. A group of us went over to our friends' apartment for the finale. A quick note here about their apartment: north of campus, just past the football stadium, there are squat rows of military-looking brick barracks. I think they were barracks at one point, but I'm not sure. Anyhoo, these barracks have been "renovated" into apartments, and J and R got a one bedroom for something like $500 (although, being the good Christian couple they are, are not both technically living there just yet - they're getting married on my birthday in a few weeks) which includes absolutely everything except long-distance phone service. This is an astoundingly low price for Laramie. The rental market - hell, our entire real estate market - is unreasonably expensive. I mean, Jesus, this is Wyoming, not Hong Kong. We have space, you know? As much as I like Laramie, I actually wouldn't want to be in the market for a house here.

Soooo, we all went over to their tiny apartment and watched The Amazing Race. All of us were pulling for Uchenna and Joyce simply because, well, they're good people. Unlike the POW and Pageant Queen, who snipped at each other at every possible opportunity, Uchenna and Joyce were supportive and clearly in love; even when things got shitty and they were chopping onions while the other two couples were miles and hours ahead, they stuck together. Awesome. As for Rob and whats-her-nugget, well, they'd already won their million bucks from a Survivor episode. So fuck them right in the ear.

Anyway, when Uchenna and Joyce crossed the finish line and announced they'd use some of their money for invitro (they'd been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. But not during the show. At least, if they did, it wasn't aired), oh, the waterworks! Uchenna and Joyce cried. The goofy host of the show cried. The other contestants cried. I suspect some of my friends were crying.

So that was my night. I'm back at the lobby desk today from 7am to 3pm. Which is actually fine with me, since it's supposed to snow today. Welcome to summer staff!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

That was, in a word, dumb.

Some of you might have caught a recent post in which I listed my new address and phone number. Right here. On the Internet. Where random strangers might find it.

Heh.

Big thanks to MaryAnn who pointed out how very stupid that was. Email me if you still need the new info.

Monday, May 09, 2005

My Craptastic New Room

I spent yesterday moving from one dorm room into another; my new room in Downey Hall is smaller. Much, much smaller. You walk into the room and take a left, and you're at the window. Take a step to the right and you're at the desk. Turn around and you're at the sink. Downey Hall was built in 1965, but judging by the room dimensions you'd think it was built two centuries earlier. It's sort of like the smallest dorm room you've ever seen, but smaller. The sole redeeming quality of this room is that it's carpeted.

Throughout the day the other RAs and I referred to it as "the ghetto." Yeah, yeah, I know that term is patently offensive in just about any context. But we're going through some stressful times right now, and we'll take our laughs where we can. Like saying "that's just ghettofabulous" while assembling rickety loft kits for our beds, or mumbling the falsetto chorus from Elvis's song "In the Ghetto" whenever something didn't go our way. By the end of the day we'd rewritten a whole verse:

------------------
To the tune of "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley:

On a cold and gray Wyoming morn
Another underpaid RA leaves Orr
for the ghetto
(the ghetto)

And the wind blows
------------------

This morning I'm working my first shift at the Downey lobby desk, and it's not so bad down here. It's clean and organized; it's quiet; I've already done some reading – some leisurely, non-scholastic reading – and it was heaven.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Just a Quick Reminder That the Yankees Are in Last Place in the AL East

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Heh.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

When Residents Attack

It's finals week, and the residents are getting antsy. I walked out of my room this morning to a giant furniture pile/sculpture/fortress in our floor lobby, a trail of toiletpaper that wound up and down the entire floor, and two residents' doors had shaving cream and other unidentifiable goo plastered all over.

Yesterday my RA partner and I split a sixpack of Coors and the last of my Jagermeister, with our feet propped out of his open windows, listening to country music (which isn't usually my thing, but somehow seemed appropriate yesterday). Today we checked a few guys out of their rooms, and tomorrow the lobby desk closes at 5pm. Tomorrow night is the staff dinner, and then Saturday the last of the residents check out before noon.

I can't believe it's all over. . .

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

We Interrupt This Broadcast. . .

After numerous edits and five of the most excrutiatingly slow pages of writing I've ever extracted from my brain, I hit the "print" button on my computer at precisely 9:00pm local time. The Senior Seminar research paper, my last assignment of the semester, is currently sitting in a state of near perfection on top of a massive stack of library books on my floor.

Why yes, I'd love a beer.

Monday, May 02, 2005

And Then There Was One

All that could be done for my Linguistics grade has been done; the final exam this afternoon went okay but certainly not great. A good deal of the exam involved defining terms, short answers, and one essay. . . and given the professor's penchant for precise definitions, my grade depends on whether or not my words matched her words. And really, I'm not having a great writing day (sometimes the words come; sometimes they don't), so I'm probably looking at a B on the exam and a B in the class. Maybe an A. Probably a B.

And now all I have left is another five pages added to my conference paper, along with the implicit research. Not a big deal, I don't think; I've checked out some books and had hacked a bunch of stuff from the conference paper, so achieving the minimum page requirement will not be a problem. Getting the motivation to actually sit my ass down and write, however, will be a problem. Right now what I want to do is sleep.

Yes. Yes, I think I'd like to sleep right now.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Final Exams and Carrion Dinners

I took time off from studying and went to church this morning, where my old friend H was preaching. He's the assistant pastor at an evangelical church, and he's heading off to seminary in August. We're slowly rebuilding our old friendship, though, and I'm getting more comfortable talking to him about religion. Part of his sermon this morning actually made reference to some of our high school hijinks. Still, at some point soon I'm going have a heart to heart with him; I love the guy and can see glimmers of the old H every now and then, but I don't think I'll ever be a full-fledged member of his congregation.

As a side note, when H kicked off the service with announcements he made several references to a "carrion dinner." I was baffled by this term; I know these fundie types do some strange stuff, and a very small part of me wondered if things had become snake-handling, speaking-in-tongues, out-and-out, weird. Then it occurred to me he was saying "carry-in dinner," which made much more sense.

In other news, I got an A on the conference paper, and one of the faculty noted that it was "one of the strongest presentations – both in terms of reading and of content." My final week is shaping up pretty nicely: today and tomorrow morning I'll study for my Linguistics final on Monday afternoon. Monday evening and all day Tuesday, I'll be writing my final research paper for Senior Seminar, which is essentially a higher octane and more developed version of the conference paper. Tuesday afternoon I turn in my final project for my Quantitative Reasoning class, which I worked on for about eight hours yesterday and finished last night around 11:30. Tuesday evening I present my final project in Young Adult Literature, for which we had to "respond creatively" to any text we read throughout the year. I wrote a poem over the course of the week and wrote the requisite reflection paper on Saturday. Basically, everything's done except the Linguistics final and the research paper. As of Wednesday morning when I turn in the paper, I'll be all done with the semester.