Went to a History Final, Made Twenty Dollars

I took my second to last final today. History of Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World. Around 7:30 last night when I was about to begin studying for it, I pulled up the syllabus and calculated what final score I needed to get both an A and a B. This is how I begin all finals – you have to figure out if its worth it. I needed a 90% for an A and a 50% for a B. So I put my book down and went to a friend’s house to watch Lost. SAYID! NO!

I actually coasted through the first part of the final this morning. I was surprised at how many dates I could retain. I may have made up a battle, but who’s to say? Many of these records have been lost. Ptolemy could have very well been breeding Sharktopus in the mouth of the Nile. He built the Lighthouse at Alexandria – what’s another Wonder of the Ancient World, especially if it involves elementary genetic engineering. Archimedes auto-writes that stuff in hypnosis. What a swagster.

I ran out of steam on the last essay. I was asked to list the three primary sources for the Hellenistic (300-100 BCE Greece) world, and the problems and positives accompanying them. I got one right, did a good job guessing at the second, and couldn’t even lie about the third. I wrote this as my final paragraph.

“The third source for the Hellenistic world is fragments of Alexandrian scholarship. But really, Dr. Muntz, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just making this up. My hand is cramping and I want to go to sleep at noon and wake up in October. I’ve enjoyed your class and the historical anecdotes, but now I’m going to approach you and hand in my test and tell you to have a good summer.”

Two weeks ago in this very class I had a paper due which was worth more than the final. I waited too long to start it, and the books I needed – that Dr. Muntz told me I needed – were checked out. I had to order a copy of The Naval Aristocracy of Hellenistic Rhodes off Amazon (linked directly to my bank account – CHA CHING! Also bought a copy of Marvel Comic’s Earth X megaseries. Package my items together, please). It was forty dollars. That’s an expensive essay. I couldn’t return it, so I hoped that it might be an okay read, something worth keeping on my bookshelf. It wasn’t. It was like Vincent Gabrielsen was forced to write about Rhodes. Lighten up, man. They specialized in pirate killing. Couldn’t you have written more about that?

As I turned in my test, I told Dr. Muntz that I had to buy the book, and then told him I wasn’t going to reread it (he spilled his coffee) and did he want to have it? He hesitated, and said he wanted to give me something for it. I almost asked for an A, but my mind was already settled on a B so I kept quiet. Instead, he opened his wallet and gave me twenty dollars. I now own eighty giant sized gumballs. Thank you, Dr. Muntz.

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How I Know It’s Time To Leave

I’m graduating in three weeks. Today I got a tassle from the Fulbright college. As the secretary combed through it with her fingers, she explained how to detach the tassle that came with my cap and attach this new one. She referenced a hook on the peak of the cap, and said, “You know what that is, right.” I said of course. When I was leaving, I turned around in the doorway and said, “Oh, I almost forgot. One of my really good friends hasn’t picked up his cap and gown yet. Do you know if the bookstore will be selling those again before graduation?”

People ask me all the time if I’m sad to leave. I always say not yet. It hasn’t really hit yet. I’m still going to class and skimming the books I’m supposed to read. I’m still spending time with my fraternity brothers. When I can’t do those things anymore, then I’ll be sad. But at the same time, I feel like its time to leave. My coolness is peaking – if I was here next fall I’d be like a Beanie Baby or Lindsy Lohan. Or the second, third, and fourth seasons of Heroes. I could go on.

Anyway, I was in the library today waiting for a computer. There’s an established system here at Mullins Library – there are two waiting areas, on opposite sides of the bank of computers. People gather in lines there, and each side takes turns when computers open up. It’s unwritten, but it’s also eternal. In four years at the University the system has never failed. I have never yet had a computer dispute.

After two or three minutes of standing alone in line at my favorite spot by the atlases (because you can rest your backpack on them), one of the new desktop Macs opened up. This are highly coveted because the screens are gigantic. All the windows computers use flatscreen shoeboxes. You have to kiss the screen to see any words. But, like I said, a computer opened up. I started towards it when a tall young man sat in the open chair. It was like he apparated right into it. It was like he was an evil wizard.

I hesitated. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal. It was a computer, and I could find another. Maybe he had to email his dying grandmother, or he was committing internet fraud. But I decided to say something. “Hey man,” I said, “I was kind of in line for the next computer.”

He swiveled around and looked at me before responding. “There is no line,” he said with a scoff, and turned back around to login. I stood shocked, but also very embarrassed. I said okay, and walked away. This was the first time in four years the computer waiting system has failed. I’m almost afraid to go back in the library. I’m glad I’m leaving in three weeks.

(The worst or best part – I’m pretty sure I knew him. When he typed in his login, I recognized it, and wanted to ask, Are you X? Do you know Y? I felt like I had made a poor first impression, though, and kept the secret to myself. I’ll take it to my grave, then get out of there quickly, because if the cops catch me at my own grave that could stir something up amongst the people who thought I was dead.)

Man Night!

Okay, so I did do something for Valentine’s Day. It was called Man Night, and it was a celebration of all things that are not available to guys who have girlfriends. Or at least what I think isn’t available. The same principle applies to my semi-annual Earthling Night.

To get in, you had to wear flannel and have a cigar. I bought mine from an old man who looked like Mr. Filch from Harry Potter. While my friends bought items with Spanish names and warning labels, I paid two dollars for an unmarked tree branch six inches long and as thick as a quarter. I couldn’t really taste it, although I hear you can’t taste radioactive fallout from a nuclear blast, either.
(I heard this from a chemistry professor this morning; I went to his office hours, though I only had him for one class a year ago, and after reintroducing myself asked him about the effects of a nuclear blast seven hours later at two miles away from a bomb detonated one mile above the surface of Pittsburgh. To ease into the conversation, I told him it was for my thesis.)
Smitty, one of my fraternity brothers, bought four twelve packs of Best Choice Fruit Punch, which came in aluminum cans. It tasted like Mexican orange soda. I didn’t drink any, but I know the taste because my clothes are soaked in it. The main activity of Man Night was softball pitching these cans to another Man wielding an aluminum bat.
These things explode like doves. It’s kind of beautiful. As the bat hits the can, the opposite side splits open and fruit punch flows out like vomit. What remains of the can floats to the ground on two little wings.
There were girls at Man Night. They had to follow the rules; they couldn’t talk about girls either. One of them, Alex, was a golfer in high school. We gave her an old nine iron. She split a can in half.
I went inside after maybe thirty six cans, so what follows I have pieced together from separate and disparate accounts, but apparently near the end of his reign as fruit punch king, Smitty began to climb one of the trees in his backyard. This is an old tree; they had to build the porch around it because it wouldn’t move for them. Too bad they didn’t have faith the size of a mustard seed – Jesus told me that helps.
He was on a branch, maybe ten feet off the ground, when he asked another brother, Taggart, to pitch the cans to him so he could hit them and watch the doves glide to their nests on the grass. Before the first pitch, the branch snapped and Smitty fell all the way to the ground, among the split cans and sticky grass.

Taggart was laughing when he told us this; he couldn’t get out the last part, which was that Smitty had almost landed straddling a tree branch, like in Home Alone. After he finished laughing he asked for some band-aids. I followed Taggart down to assess the situation. Smitty had a three inch gash below his knee that looked deep. The girls asked him if he needed to go to the hospital, but before he could reply, Taggart, staring at the wound, said, “This makes me want to watch Saving Private Ryan.” And we did.

Who Actually Like Crime and Punishment?

The first day of Modern American Literature, we went around the room and introduced ourselves to the professor. She’s an older woman who looks like Professor Trelawney. I honestly cannot remember her name. It’s my senior year. This class isn’t very important.

Modern American Literature is a sophomore level class; freshman can take it if they declare English, so most students are younger than I. Each person had to give their favorite authors. Walt Whitman. John Milton. Albert Camus. Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
You are all liars, and I am extremely embarrassed because you are not wearing pants since you took them off when they caught fire on account of your great deceptions. These are not your favorite authors. These are no one’s favorite authors. Hard human truths and favorite authors have never held hands. And who gives Dostoyevsky’s first name when they talk about Crime and Punishment? It’s like your trying to pretend you knew him; it’s impossible that you would know him, because he would never hang out with anyone who looks like you do. I know him. We play Settlers of Cataan every other Wednesday.
The skinny acne farm who said Albert Camus was his favorite author also said that it was because of the dichotomy which Camus creates between a presumed life and a true life. That’s when you pokes a hole in someone’s throat, right?
Last summer when I was in Galway, I paid 50 euros to attend a “Master Screenwriting Class” hosted by Christopher Hampton, who adapted Atonement and Dangerous Liaisons and such (see clay face, above). A good writer. A terrible class. The advertisement didn’t say this, but it was actually a pump up the jam party for the audience’s egos. Hampton, who said less than nothing that you can’t read in Syd Field’s Screenplay (which is the go to book, if you’re interesting in screenwriting), fielded questions from “students.”
Sample question: “I was a writer on a major motion picture, and the director kept asking me to rewrite this one scene for the big name actor in the major motion picture, and he was never satisfied. What should I have major motion picture?”
That’s not a question; that’s a high five. You might as well give yourself your own nickname. Like Major Motion Picture Lips, or Very Poor Self Esteem Face.
My favorite quotation, besides some really arrogant things Hampton said, came from one student who tossed Hampton an abstract softball that began with the statement, “Film is a very esoteric medium.” That’s where the salt water and the freshwater meet, right?
On the first day of class, the guy who introduced himself right before me said his favorite works were Eastern spiritual tomes and egalitarian love texts. Egalitarian? That’s with horses, right? You’re sick, greasy eighteen year old on my left.
When it came to me, I said currently my favorite author was Richard K. Morgan. What has he written? A trilogy of novels, with this same character Takeshi Kovacs. And what are they about? Five hundred years in the future, this ex-Navy Seal of the Universe who has a really bad attitude solves mysteries. He always gets his man. And he sleeps with a lot of women.

T.S. Eliot’s Legacy

My first class on Fridays is Modern English Literature with Dr. Marren. It’s a regualar classroom, with a chalkboard and a lectern and perhaps thirty desks. On the first day of classes, Dr. Marren asked us to move our desks out of the traditional box pattern we were in, and into a circle, so that each one of us would have to stare awkwardly at another random and unfamiliar student. When we first did this, there were so many bodies that chairs had to be brought in from another classroom.

The problem with this system is that we have to move the chairs from the original set up to a circle everyday. This is not difficult; the difficult part is spending the next hour counting the number of unmoved desks, and realizing that today, fifteen fellow students skipped class.

It has to be disheartening for Dr. Marren, to have a visual confirmation of how many students don’t want to spend their time with her. I imagine every time she looks up to see our neatly arranged faces all she can see are the ghosts sitting in the unmoved desks in the middle of the circle, like children who are forced to sit in the muck pot after being caught during Duck-Duck-Goose. I may not pay attention – I use Modern British Literature to transcribe previous nights’ dreams into a notebook and to brainstorm titles to short stories I’ve outlined – but at least I come to class.
I cannot blame those who skip. Let’s all be honest together – T.S. Eliot makes no sense. What I think happened is this: Eliot gathered his extensive library of original language classics and put all those millions of pages into an commercial grade blender, and then arranged individual scrap sentences like magnetic letters on a refrigerator. Then everyone clapped for him.
I will say that Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a must have for every collection. I’m just waiting for one of my fraternity brothers to get sick, so I can read him Gus: the Theatre Cat, and he can tell me I make him uncomfortable. But its a good poem, so I think he’d appreciate it either way.
Quick story: during my first year to work at camp, on a day off, I suggested to some other counselors that we all see the musical Cats, based off of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, which was passing through the Walton Arts Center that weekend. They all laughed and told me I was funny. I laughed with them. Later that night I went to see Cats alone and told no one. Except you.