Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Best One-Sided Conversation I've Ever Had.

Thank God for insomnia. I get a lot done in a few hours' time: I read about some of Bob Dylan's electric albums while listening to Music From Big Pink by The Band.

Two things: One, The Band still does absolutely nothing for me. An album later, I was underwhelmed and literally yawning. I will admit, the song "Chest Fever" is pretty cool...but what do you know? The lyrics were made up on the spot, and the song itself functioned as a way for organist Garth Hudson to show off his chops...

From this, you could assume they were some bad-ass proto progressive rock act. Nope. While it's easy - and fun - to dismiss it as lazy hillbilly music that should have just stayed on the back porch, there were some nice qualities to it. One is Garth Hudson's sense of tone, though at times the "cutting edge" synthesizers he was using in 1968 now sound like Nintendos.

But yeah, on the whole, very dull...Zappa used this phrase to dismiss Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, but it works here: "cowboy music." That's what it is. I just don't relate to it. Then again, neither did they, nor anyone not from a century earlier.

The conclusion: I'm still not enthralled by The Band the way so many other rock/music fans are. It's weird, being a Neil Young fan, a Dylan fan...but not liking The Band. I don't know, I guess the issue of authenticity paired up with what I consider a rather monotonous sound puts them in a lower regard.

Then again, I'm not afraid to give a record a second listen. I really ought to sit down and come up with the "Albums I Initially Hated, But Now Swear By" list. You'd be surprised both by the artists and the albums that made it.

Second, I regret not getting into Dylan earlier. In all fairness, I spent 8th and 9th grade delving into The Kinks, Zappa, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones. In 10th grade it was Cheap Trick and shitty 80's music because The Gill and I came up with a movie script we never quite got around to - probably for the best - called Cortland Vice. (See what I mean?)

I had a big Bowie kick the summer of 2003, mainly Diamond Dogs and bits and pieces of Aladdin Sane...though it wouldn't be until May 2005 that I finally picked up what I contend to be two of his four sublime efforts, Low and "Heroes." (The other two being - duh - Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs. And though I've had it since fall of 2005, I've still not listened to Hunky Dory. Guess that shows you what a rush I'm in.) After Bowie, though, it was The Rolling Stones.

Curiously, at the beginning of my senior year, I picked up both a Stones album (the dreadful Black And Blue) and a Bowie album (Scary Monsters, which I rank in the "good, not great" category that most albums tend to fall into), as if to signify the passing of the torch to...Marilyn Manson. I know.

And the weird thing is, I still like him. Once I actually have two nickels to rub together, I will pick up his new album.
"We're From America"

But I was too self-righteous. Too serious...on the other hand, maybe Dylan wouldn't have helped. The first year of college I was too focused on getting laid and then later mellowing out with Shelley - and showing her the music I already had - to do much in terms of expanding my collection. The Smashing Pumpkins made a brief - but probably not brief enough - rotation, as did Nine Inch Nails. Sophomore year of college is was HIM in the fall, and then Frank Zappa came back in a big way. This lasted right up to the spring of 2008 when I met The Residents and Captain Beefheart. This school year it's been Neil Young and The Kinks, the latter for obvious reasons.

So...maybe it was perfect timing.

Maybe I needed the unique - to some, grating - vocals of Billy Corgan from the Pumpkins and Neil to prep me for Bob. Getting acquainted with those ancient blues, folk, and country recordings in Z385 and Z201, along with developing a tolerance/acceptance level for said musics by way of Neil Young that got me ready for the wheezy harmonica and the country/rock/Biblical strains of the magnificent John Wesley Harding, which I may have blown off a year ago. (Forrest, I think you'd like some of this stuff. Neil, too.)

My current situation involving parental units - I won't say whose - only made the defiant "fuck you" of songs like "Maggie's Farm" and "On The Road Again," both off Bringing It All Back Home...well, bring it all back home for me. Of late, the phrase "I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more" has entered my lexicon...and not as a lamentation of my hatred for agrarian-level servitude.

Long story short, "Positively 4th Street" is a perfect summation of the death of my friendship with Gill. As of this week, as far as I'm concerned, the dream is over. He did acid and then asked ME for the number to the local Buddhist temple.
"Positively 4th Street"

You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that's winning

You say I let you down
You know it's not like that
If you're so hurt
Why then don't you show it

You say you lost your faith
But that's not where it's at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

I know the reason
That you talk behind my back
I used to be among the crowd
You're in with

Do you take me for such a fool
To think I'd make contact
With the one who tries to hide
What he don't know to begin with

You see me on the street
You always act surprised
You say, "How are you?" "Good luck"
But you don't mean it

When you know as well as me
You'd rather see me paralyzed
Why don't you just come out once
And scream it

No, I do not feel that good
When I see the heartbreaks you embrace
If I was a master thief
Perhaps I'd rob them

And now I know you're dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don't you understand
It's not my problem

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you

On the subject of God, I've developed this paranoid, irrational fear of death. It's bubbled under the surface for about a year - namely, if there isn't a God, is it really just lights out? Like that scene in Terminator 2 when the T-800 robot is lowered into the liquid steel, where everything just goes black and THAT'S IT?

I couldn't bear the thought of that. The atheists have a good argument, and in all honesty you could do far worse than a man like Richard Dawkins as a spokesman. He's intelligent, he is a master debater (masturbatory pun not intended!), and he's British. Dawkins is like C-3PO in human form, but with an agenda, unlike that war-supporting lush Chris Hitchens. Science. It's all about science...if we can't see it, it cannot be, right? If its existence cannot be scientifically proven, it doesn't exist, right?

We can't see air. But we know it's there because we can feel it...even if it's completely still outside, without a touch of wind, we still acknowledge the presence of air.

Subatomic particles exist...but only in theoretical predictions. Quarks, mesons, etc.

The conditions that exist for this planet to sustain life are too spot on for it to have just been an accident. Our universe had a definite beginning, suggesting the role of a Creator. Whether it was the "Big Bang" as read or a "Big Bang" in the sense that, like the origins of the Earth, took eons to occur is up for debate. It is also unknown.

And yet we can all agree the universe exists, can't we?

Desperate last Friday night, I found myself turning where I thought I would never return. I don't even know why I still have it, but I cracked open the Bible. I read part of Habakkuk and part of Nahum, which respectively address why bad things happen to good people and that the Almighty handles the "smite the deserving" department quite well, in turn rewarding the righteous.

It didn't even answer my initial query on death and the afterlife, yet it still proved to be a solace.

I'm writing this for you on the assumption that
a.) you aren't my parents, and
b.) you won't breathe a word of this to them.

I wouldn't want them to think for a second that their "Oh, he'll come around" mentality had anything to do with this. Because before I turned to the Bible, I read some of the Bhaghavad-Gita. Dull, but worth a second glance, for sure. They ever find this out, in typical Christ-like fashion they will rub it in my face. Besides, their church is boring. I don't like the songs. That and I feel I need to investigate God further before I go into re-investigating the main star of the New Testament.

One more time for the world: this was all me.

For the first time in a long time, I prayed at great length. Just to be extra safe, I did it on my knees, facing east.

In light of the past, present, and future, I asked for guidance, patience, and strength. Guidance that I be assured I am doing the right thing. And if not, that it be revealed to me what to do differently. Patience...ah, patience...something I don't have much of, ever. I'm too hasty. I'm ready for it to be the end of August, yet a lot must be done before then - a wedding to attend, an apartment to hunt, etc. Strength? Um, hello? Have you met the people I'm up against?

A seven nation army couldn't hold me back...but I wouldn't mind having the strength of a seven nation army to back me up in this battle of wits.

I'll provide more details later - I've not slept.

So much for being out of the ditch. Oh, well. I might still be in the ditch, but at least I'm further enough up the proverbial road to cope with it, understanding just why it's going on, and ready to work my way out or die in the process.


"All Along The Watchtower"

There must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief,
Theres too much confusion, I cant get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.

No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke,
There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
But you and i, weve been through that, and this is not our fate,
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Meditations On My Final Year As An Undergrad

Be sure to check out the exciting conclusion to my New Orleans trip, just below this entry.

Ok, so here goes.

Dear World -
I've been in a major funk until recently. Things didn't look good for a while, as I found myself losing friends, alienated by the ones I still had, alienated from my partner, disillusioned from my family, at odds with a man I once called my mentor (who by his own admission was/is anything but), the piece of shit car I was driving was on the verge of bursting apart at the seams, I was stuck in a depressingly dead-end job, and with no certainty regarding my admittance to graduate school.

I hid behind a beard and a mean disposition. If it ever seemed like I was taking it out on myself or anyone near to me who truly had the best of intentions, then I apologize. There was a stretch where it got increasingly hard to wake up in the morning, knowing nothing of note would happen in the ensuing day. It also got harder and harder to care.

It took a new car, admission into a graduate program, a successful conference presentation, my final review with the IMP committee, and a series of long talks with Shelley about things that brought me to where I am now:

Note I'm no longer sporting that mid-1970's Neil Young beard. I can't ever see myself being the kind of guy who shaves down to being a baby face on a regular basis. Yes, I will shave clean for my wedding, Shelley's brother's wedding, and others. But I like stubble. It looks good on me.

With one moderately difficult final behind me, all my projects done (hence the gap between entries, including a 40 minute mini-documentary on The Kinks), and an easy final and an intermediately difficult final tomorrow, I can say I'm ready. Shelley's grandparents, who we'd speculated would be a little more sympathetic towards our relationship, are apparently not huge fans of the idea of us. So instead of everyone meeting for what would be a very uncomfortable "Ok, we just sat on our asses for two sweaty hours at graduation, can we PLEASE just go eat?!", we've arranged that our parents meet Friday night before the bustle of graduation day on Saturday. We'll see how that goes when we get to it.

Things are starting to look good. Like old Neil, I'm finding myself emerging from the ditch. Neil's experience is far more harrowing than mine - he experienced the death of two friends - at least on paper. In discussing our life stories, Joseph told me that what more people should understand is that suffering and turmoil in one's life is not something that should be treated like a big fish story. There shouldn't be any one-upping, where the guy who was sexually molested by his scout leader's tale has more credence as a tale of genuine suffering than the boy who was marginalized by his peers for being too smart for his age.

Here I am, now, thinking to myself, maybe a life without regrets is impossible to achieve. Besides that, how much of an existence would you have if you didn't sport a few regrets here and there? I'm now finding myself thinking about things I wish I had or hadn't done. This school year has been a truly formative experience for me. Hell, this past calendar year...can't forget the events of last summer. Shoot, be fair, let's go back to January 2008, when things just got strange, to the present.

Damn, it really did last as long as Neil's visit to the ditch. How about that.

I lost two friends to their drug habits, one to his own ego, and another simply because I'd grown tired of him. The first two? They're long gone as far as I'm concerned, bound to never change until life bites down but hard. That third one? We've rekindled our friendship, though some of my long-running sore spots are still there. I've let his main offense go. And in the fourth instance, he's gladly let me back into his life as a friend. I'm happy for it, but I've noticed my own tendency to keep a distance.

That's just the surface. I almost lost Graham due to Kieth being such a liar. Another friend I feel I've lost is the result of their own attitude and failure to better themselves in a society conducive to upward social mobility. I blame them as much as I blame their significant other being a rock around their neck.

"Time wounds all heels." - Groucho Marx

Can I say I truly don't have any regrets from this year? I wouldn't be where I am now. So...maybe I don't have any [major] regrets. I say major because there's always those minor regrets - "I should have ordered the chicken, this pork is terrible!" - and while I ideally wish things had gone differently I feel wiser and stronger as a person. Less brittle, more mature, less shy, more assertive, less paranoid, more confident, less fragile, more resilient.

If I was able to handle this past year, I'm ready for anything. Even future in-laws.


Let's end this entry the same way I entered into this phase of my life. I had a quote from this song as the sub-header for this site for quite some time. I don't think anyone noticed at the time, but it was a veiled celebration that Shelley and I were back together, that it was getting better, getting better all the time (and then, followed up by Lennon's lyric of "It can't get no worse," although by the time it was all said and done it, in fact, could get worse. Theoretically, that IS a double negative...)

Ladies and gentlemen, THE BEATLES! (Lyrical emphasis mine)

I used to get mad at my school (No I can't complain)
The teachers who taught me weren't cool (No I can't complain)
You're holding me down (Oh), turning me round (Oh)
Filling me up with your rules (Foolish rules)

I've got to admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get no worse)
I have to admit it's getting better (Better)
It's getting better since you've been mine

Me used to be angry young man
Me hiding me head in the sand
You gave me the word, I finally heard
I'm doing the best that I can

I've got to admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get no worse)
I have to admit it's getting better (Better)
It's getting better since you've been mine
Getting so much better all the time
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better

I used to be cruel to my woman
I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can (Ooh)

I admit it's getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can't get no worse)
Yes I admit it's getting better (Better)
It's getting better since you've been mine
Getting so much better all the time
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
It's getting better all the time
Better, better, better
Getting so much better all the time

Adventures In Academia, Part Two

Part Four: Planting Seeds
Friday could have been a lousy day, let's be honest. We'd made the trip down, we did what we'd come there to do, caught a live show, and had already eaten a great day's worth of food.

Thank God it wasn't. I stayed up Thursday late night, thumbing through the extraordinarily thick program of panels for the following day. Why not, I thought to myself. There has to be something that is worth attending, right?

The first one of interest I saw for Friday was a panel chaired by Maxim Furek, who I'd met the previous day. His topic was an abstract of his recently-published book, 'The Death Proclamation Of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy Of Goth, Grunge, And Heroin.' It's something for families, especially those with small children. [Lying.]

Two things fascinated me: one, he discussed an era of popular culture and entertainment that I at least knew tangentially. Sure, I was shitting my pants in the heyday of Gen X, but I'm still doing that in the heyday of Generation Y! [Kidding, I haven't shat myself since elementary school.] But seriously, the 90's just happened - or I can at least vividly remember it; my memories dating back to the 80's possess a phantom like quality, bits and pieces, like the day Nick was born and a few other select highlights - and now it truly is history. There is so much to be discussed, from the media's monopoly over America's emotions (OJ, Columbine, etc.) to examining the subculture that was Gen X.

What really caught me was the study of various generations. We never had a President from the so-called "Silent Generation" elected (though McCain would have had this distinction had he gotten in), for example. This says a lot about this generation, wedged between the "GI Generation," which gave us 7 presidents (JFK through Bush I) and the "Baby Boomers," whose impacts upon society are still felt today. Furek focuses solely on Gen X, though I had to ask him about my own generation, known both as the Millennials and Generation Y.

I posited that maybe, just maybe, we are more cynical, having grown up on lying Presidents ("read my lips: NO NEW TAXES!", "I. Did. Not. Have. Sexual. Relations. With. That. Woman. Ms. Lewinsky...that depends on what your definition of 'is' is.", and of course "Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and can be linked to 9/11), the birth of a non-mainstream media (the Internet), where fact-checking is now a Helluva lot easier, and yes, the 9/11 attacks.

He said these were great points, and based on the cycles in the 1991 book 'Generations' by William Stauss and Neil Howell, the Millennials are part of a Hero/Civic cycle. We'll be the ones to get a lot of things done in our lifetimes for future generations. It's interesting to study, and something I'd like to get more into.

There is a list of exhaustive proportions as well, divvying generations up by name, class, and cycle. Really, really cool. As with the previous day, Dad disappeared when I was talking with Maxim.

Maxim's book sounds great, I just wish I actually had the wherewithal to purchase a copy! I'm not one to shill for anybody, you all know this, but he emailed me after the conference and asked if I was interested in using his books for any classes I was teaching. I explained that I was about to graduate and go on to an MA program, but I was flattered he thought I was an instructor.

But this got me thinking, and this is more something that set in post-conference than immediately after: Professor Michael McGerr (a true gem of a professor at IU) is a member of the Baby Boom. Glenn Gass is, too. Both teach on the history and music, respectively, of the 1960's. I grew up in the 1990's, viewing it from a safe distance contemporaneously, and now able to look back and do some critical thinking. Who's to say I wouldn't one day do a class on the history/music of the 1990's? Just a seed of an idea, left to germinate in the old greenhouse between my ears...

In the exact same room, there was a panel on the topic of humor. The other three lecturers could have gone up and done jumping jacks for 20 minutes for all I cared - the one I was there to see dealt with Frank Zappa's use of humor and its relationship to the carnivalesque. It would turn out the other speakers were great, too, just like the guy who talked about Tom Stoppard alongside the Beatles fan the day before.

My ears perked up when the speaker said she did her Master's thesis on Frank Zappa. Naturally, I made a b-line towards her after the panel, in sync with Dad pulling yet another disappearing act. I told her I'd gotten into grad school and I, too, planned on studying Zappa. My only real question on the subject: "Did you have to deal with Gail?" The answer was no. Thank God. For me, this was pretty much a green light to do Zappa in my MA studies.

Basically what I'm saying is that by Friday afternoon, I had the next year or so of my academic career mapped out.

Part Five: Mommy, Wow, I'm A Big Kid Now!

This part is almost sheer anecdotal drivel. At dinner, I ordered a strawberry daiquiri, since it was only a dollar (and as it turned out, in a cup that is too small for my average number one - see previous entry for info on the number system for bodily functions). But Dad ordered a Sam Adams - it wasn't like Wednesday, where he ordered what I ordered. He actually ordered a beer!

I know, I know, "52 year old man enjoys a beer in New Orleans," stop the presses. Maybe it's not such a big deal...for you. When I was really little, I think I saw him drink beer once in a while. Mom had the occasional wine spritzer. Then, they just...stopped. We were told underage drinking led to nothing short than death or teen pregnancy like most other Baptist families. I was floored Mom was fine with me ordering an Irish coffee on my 21st birthday.

So yeah, it was a little (and by a little I mean VERY) weird to be sharing a drink with my old man. I felt like a grown-up.

Part Six: A New Friend
That night, Dad turned in almost alarmingly early. I think there was a bit of unconscious bad blood because I had decided I was not going to go to Muncie for Easter at the church where Nick is a youth leader...again, something that set in later. At the time, it was more like, "He's a little...strange, don't you think?" I had initially thought he was in a good mood until he realized how much things were costing. I did feel bad about that, and tried to order as cheap as possible.

My objective, once Dad went to bed - since I had no intention of sleeping at 10 PM - was pretty simple. Here we are, at an academic conference. I'm rubbing shoulders with experts and people on the way to being experts in all sorts of areas of popular culture. Surely I could meet somebody who could make for an enlightening till dawn type of company?

I talked to Shelley for about an hour and a half, hoping I'd see Tom, Maxim, Eric (see Adventures In Academia, Part One for more as to which of the multitude of guys named Eric I've met that I'm talking about), the dude who complimented my Zappa shirt on Thursday wander through the lobby...someone? Anyone? Near the end of my conversation, I told Shelley I saw someone I sort of knew - the guy and girl who had bummed me a clove cigarette the night before - and figured I might as well drum up a conversation somehow.

This may come as a shock to you, but I can at times be cripplingly shy. Put me in a situation where I don't know anyone and I could very well be over in the corner, gulping down my fifth cup of lemonade. It's because of this that I didn't quit smoking when Katrina dumped me in September of 2005. I realized it was a great way to start up chit-chat that invariably turned into friendships.

(As a complete side-note, if I hadn't been smoking with some buddies outside Wright in November 2005, I wouldn't have seen Sarah Murto, I wouldn't have asked her to prank call Johnson and ask for phone sex, I wouldn't have gone up to her room after to thank her for making my evening, and I wouldn't have met her roommate, who was a cute little girl with magenta-colored hair and red-framed glasses named Shelley.)

I made a promise to myself: I was several states away from what I call home, Shelley was nowhere to be found, I didn't know a soul in that lobby, so I was going to go up and just start talking to someone. Anyone who was there and up at 1 AM was clearly an attendee of the conference; that alone could be a topic of discussion. So I walked up to this pair and ask if they had any more cloves. No, they had just run out. The girl offered us her pack of cigarettes - which, had I know what was to follow, I would have accepted gladly - but we passed, taking just one each.

His name was Joseph. He hailed from North Carolina, but was attending school as an MA student in San Francisco. His lecture was on Wednesday, on Stephen King. He reminded me a lot of Graham, in a good way in that our professional interests may not overlap, but we both love learning so damn much that we enjoy hearing about it. (Graham's majoring in Linguistics, for example.)

A basic question of "What's grad school like?" was happily answered. There's more reading and more writing, but it's in areas you're interested in. I can't complain about that. I'm not saying I won't eventually, because school can be stress-inducing, but it's a lot less daunting. We also had a lot in common with our fields of study. He had professors saying his critical and analytical approach is well-founded...but he's still writing/talking about Stephen King. I've had just the same problem - and will continue to, I'm sure - with rock and roll music.

"Why rock and roll history? Why The Kinks? Why Frank Zappa?"
I swear to God, if I get these questions again from someone under the age of 65 I'll break a bottle over their head. I'll tell you why - it's fucking relevant, that's why! The same reasons we discuss the poetry of T.S. Eliot or the music of Bach, Beethoven, or Chopin - that's fucking why! If no one does it, they'll be lost forever!

Joseph didn't ask that question - nor did I ask him the same thing about horror films/literature. When we told the other what we spoke on, the mutual reaction was, "Oh, cool!" Another problem we've both had is past examples of criticism/analysis of our respective interests. For me, it's people who will write at great lengths about how bitchin' somebody's guitar solo is, paying no mind to the lyrics - plenty of books of that caliber out there. For Joseph, it's horror fans who are more interested in the depictions of gore and violence than what the films are trying to say.

We both agreed, yes, it's fine to praise the aesthetic qualities of the work...ok, you know what? I'll just say what he said, so much less boring than me:
"Of course I notice the gore in the movies - but it's one of those things you talk about in the theater when you see it happening in the movie! It's not something you write about in your review of the movie!"
(See what I mean?)

But no, I knew exactly what he meant. We shared some of our life experiences, swapped emails, and before we knew it the sun was coming up so we called it a night/morning. There's those one-off bonding experiences you have with someone that produces just as fruitful of a bond as a friendship that has lasted years. I hope I'll see him again, whether it's just once or twice a year at conferences, or if luck will have it we'll find ourselves living in the same city at some point in the future.

For my readers - have you ever had something like this happen to you?

Whatever the case, it made for a great ending to this little story arc that started back in August when Tom invited me to the conference.

Epilogue: The Dark Horse Goes South
As we were driving up Canal Street from the hotel to the Interstate, I decided to ask Dad what was up with him vanishing after the panels. His answer was honest, and more than a little touching:
"This was your thing, I didn't want to get in the way."
My natural response was to say, "But you wouldn't have," but I didn't. Let's be real a way, he would have. Anyone would have, whether my guest had been Eric (brother), Shelley, or Mom. Whatever conversation I was having with whoever would have turned into "The program sounds really exciting, I've heard great things about Boston - Oh! This is my fiance, Shelley. She's a Kinks fan, too..." or "Oh! This is my father, Eric. He's a Kinks fan, too."

Is there any way to get this point across without sounding like a dick? I knew what he meant.

Dad was a little feisty on the drive to the airport, frustrated at the traffic and the markings for the car rental place being so bad. I hadn't gone on a proper family vacation since Los Angeles in 2005 - that was a real shit-shower in and of itself, with (don't laugh) Mom telling me to shut up because I thought the Californian landscape was beautiful but she thought was ugly, and that I only claimed to like it because she didn't...mind you, this was the vacation to celebrate my graduation from high school - and thus hadn't really seen "Dad mad at traffic" for the better part of four years.

What was once intimidating, and subsequently rubbed off on me for years afterward as a practitioner of low-level road rage, I saw now as just...stupid. We had plenty of time, we weren't getting charged by the mile, we'd used up maybe a gallon of gas, so where's the fire? Though I'd mellowed out as a driver since quitting my job at the mall, I've made a conscious effort after getting back to just take it easy. We're all going to get to where we're headed eventually. If you're an extra ten minutes late, who cares?

He wasn't a happy camper at the airline desk, either, having to print out our tickets and what-not. I kept thinking, just mellow out, we aren't late, and it's just a stupid policy. Joseph walked by, tapping me on the shoulder and saying hello - I tried introducing him to Dad, but in his struggle with the ticket machine barely muttered "Hi, how you doing." I bid Joseph safe travels, and we parted ways. Oddly enough, he was changing planes in Dallas before going to San Francisco. Strange how these things work out.

On our way into the airport, I was treated to a free slice of physical comedy. One of the security agents, fat, mustachioed, and all-around dumb looking decided - for reasons completely unknown to me - to kick the rope barricade around the baggage check. (You know the kind I'm talking about? They use it to cordon off bathrooms - sort of a poor man's velvet rope - they also have it at movie theaters now.) The rope became unfastened and snapped back to the pole, but the dumbass had kicked his leg too high and landed flat on his back. Adding insult to injury his phone came out of his pocket and broke into several pieces.

I'm still laughing about it now.

Both flights - to Chicago, then to Indy - Dad didn't talk. I can't help but wonder what was on his mind. It had to have been my not attending Easter services in Muncie. Mom and Dad had both told me Nick would be giving the sermon, while the rest of the service would be put on by his youth group. I'm not against showing support, but
1.) I hate Muncie.
2.) Really? Church? I don't even like going to church in Seymour, going to one in Muncie just compounds this.
3.) I decided in advance to factor in that I was probably not going to be sleeping much Friday night. Lo and behold, I went to bed at 6 AM and woke up at 10. I would not have been much fun due to lack of sleep...then factor in numbers one and two.
4.) Honestly, I really just wanted to sleep in my own bed.
5.) I missed Shelley. She sure as Hell wasn't about to share a car ride with my mom from Bloomington to Muncie, she had a paper to do and I had her laptop. So I would have been flying solo.
6.) Going from an academic conference in 80 degree weather to a complete shit-hole of a town in Indiana that, if memory serves, was enjoying weather in the balmy 40's was not my idea of a good time on any level.

(Eric [my brother] told me Nick's "sermon" was little more than a quick "Thank you all for coming this morning" speech, less than five minutes, and that the service itself ran around a half an hour. Nick and Mom we apparently in dour moods, Nick in particular acting like he couldn't be bothered. Oh, yes, and Mom brought Lily - yes, the family dog - with her. So she had to be dealt with in the car. Seriously.)

After we landed in Indy, I thanked Dad for coming along and witnessing what I considered a pivotal point in my life, between getting into grad school and being there when I read the email to seeing me speak, etc. I also thanked him for covering the expenses and making everything happen.

He told me he was going to walk to where he parked - I needed to take the shuttle to my lot - so he gave me enough money to cover the price for parking and as I stood waiting for the shuttle, he just said, "See ya!" and was gone. No "I love you," no "Take care," no hug, no "I'm really proud of you"...nothing.

I popped Tommy into the CD player of the PT Cruiser and got home right in time for the fade-out of "Listening To You". Perfect timing. Have I ever mentioned that album ranks as one of the all-time best night driving albums? No? Well, it is.

Other than the really odd ending, this really was a life-changing experience. When I told Glenn about it the next Tuesday, all he could say was, "Well, welcome to the world of academia!" Leave it to Glenn to sum it up perfectly. And what a welcome.