Wednesday, December 10

The Pre-CDP Essays (2000-2002: Volume 3).

Pre-CDP Essay week continues to roll on with a Hump Day Double Feature. We kick things off with the very first essay written as an independently-functioning man-child, followed by the last essay written before I became a college student. Life-changing, neurotic and hopelessly bankrupt, I hope you enjoy these essays written during my 20th Autumn on Earth.

Sun Prairie Welcomes You!
(Published appx. 09-05-02)

Belated greetings from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The Charter Communications ‘Pipeline’ Internet Service is in blazing full effect, and I am finally reunited with the Wired. It’s nice to be back after all the seclusion.

On Sunday, September 1 of 2002, I moved into 1755 Linnerud Drive, Apartment #204.[1] Accompanied by my girlfriend of almost three years, we embarked on adulthood together, and realized that it’s not too difficult thus far. All thanks to good planning.

(1. I don't live anywhere near there anymore, so don't bother stalking me. I do, however, frequent the Post Office just across the street to check my PO Box from time to time.)

We shelled out all the cash for the 12x16 moving truck, filled it to the brink with all of the the things that The Fiancee’[2] owned (and all of the things that I haven’t thrown out yet)[3], and drove for two and a half hours south. We then emptied the contents of the truck into a space that seemed significantly smaller than 12x16, it would seem, and tearfully said goodbye to our parents, and to a greater extent, our childhood. In actuality, my mother was the only one crying, but I had to hold it in. I cry more than I let people know, and the apartment is plenty big, so I guess that I’m a liar on both fronts.

(2. In February of 2002, The Girlfriend became The Fiancee'.)

(3. I liked to throw my possessions away during particularly steep bouts of anxiety.)

The door shut, and we stood together, amongst our strewn belongings. Three days later, and the place looks as we wanted it. What to do now?

It was just that. September 4, and school didn’t start for three more weeks. We can’t afford to spend too much money in the meantime, and a giant, friendly Wal-Mart and Supermarket are our closest neighbors. We go there way too much. The refrigerator is stocked with three cases of soda, and above that sits grape, orange and pineapple juice, chocolate and white milk, and a random assortment of dressings. As long as I live, I will never go thirsty again!

In the pantry…half a loaf of bread and two boxes of cereal.

In the freezer, three cheese pizzas. In three days, we will be out of pizza.

But I kid. The Fiancee’ has been showing me her long-hidden, chef hat-wearing side. She awakens me with waffles, showers me with pastas and taught me how to work the dishwasher, a kitchen appliance that I’ve never once had in my life. I, in tune, do my part by making sure I vacuum up my fingernail clippings from the living room floor so they don’t cut her toes. And it just so happens that I put the vacuum cleaner together, too. And it almost works!

With everything cleaned up and taken care of, we retire to our loft to sleep (it’s a studio loft, and it’s very expensive). The upstairs is usually 30 to 40 degrees hotter than downstairs, as our cooling source is on the ground level and refuses to rise. So we sweat. That, coupled with the super-firm mattress and frame that I purchased on the cheap, is giving us the most troubled uncomfortable sleep ever (not to mention that neither of us are too used to sharing a bed). And when we awake and trot back downstairs, our breath is clearly visible amongst the frosty furniture and air conditioner.

I called the cable guy, who installed my blazing cable Internet connection. Two-hundred and fifty-six K, baby![4] He also hooked up our digital cable: 145 regular channels, 32 premium channels, 45 music channels and 25 more channels that I will never watch and instantly deleted from my guide. Pure bliss. I took the afternoon off[5] to hook up the cable, DVD, VCR, Sega Genesis, NES, RF converter and stereo to the television. You can hear the hum of the electricity from outside the building.

(4. Whoo-hoo!)

(5. I have no idea what I meant here by 'took the afternoon off.' I was unemployed and had no friends.)

Note that even with all of the recent advances in boredom control, I still stick with the Nintendo and Genesis. I refuse to buy another instantly-out-of-date console until they find a way to insert it directly into my cerebrum.[6] Regardless, television is wonderful enough, you can do almost anything online, and The N is airing back-to-back episodes of Pete & Pete five nights a week.[7]

(6. I went back on this statement when Guitar Hero was released.)

(7. I miss that.)

You’d think that I was a technological genius. That’s not true; in fact, I spelled both of those words wrong. I usually just bumble along, knowing nobody knows any more or less than me. I can half-ass with the best of them.

But you can’t half-ass when it comes to laundry, and I feared the washing machine. Loathed it, wished it gone. However, here at the Hunters Ridge compound where I reside, they’ve idiot-proofed the entire operation. The washing machine requires you to press only one button to clean your clothes. I couldn’t believe it, it was almost worth the $1.25 per load. We dried our socks on the deck last night.

It should also be noted that before moving here, I purchased a large amount of cheap, blue bathroom towels that instantly came apart in the wash and shower, covering everything in their path with a thin, blue film. This problem has since been remedied, but not before some cursing and utter shock upon looking at my naked, blue body in the bathroom mirror.

All hilarious and quick-witted observational humor aside, I couldn’t be happier here. The people are nice. They say hello to you on the street. They help you at the store when you can’t find the ranch dressing. The Fiancee’ got several comments on how nice her hair looked (as usual). It really is a much nicer and friendlier community than I am used to, coming from the stuck-up-for-no-reason Fox Valley, and snooty Winneconne folk. Yeah, I said it, and I’d say it again if I had to.[8]

(8. Yeah, suck it, Village of Winneconne! That'll teach 'em!)

In my sleep-deprived state, I have run out of things to say. Any questions, comments or concerns about my journey into adulthood; send ‘em my way. And come visit us; we’ll take you to the zoo. And no, I’m not talking about the Capitol Building! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!


I attended a private Media Arts college in Madison with the hopes of becoming a Sound Engineer, Music Producer or what have you. And while my education has given me a golden ear and deep appreciation for the Science of Sound, I got entirely sick of making records rather quickly, and now only work on audio production as a hobby.

Today's last essay spotlights my feelings that maybe I should have just stayed in my Grandma's basement instead, and put this independence nonsense behind me. It also shares a secret that, to this day, nearly nobody knew about until now. Enjoy.

The Day Before The First Day Of College.
(Published appx. 09-25-02)

I remember my last memory of High School quite vividly. I was 18 years old, and graduation was a week and a half away. Mrs. Fuller’s Algebra II classroom was cold and quiet, and the echoes of much happier kids rattled just beyond the oak door. I was watching her slurp her water as emotionless as can be, her glasses coming dangerously close to slipping right off of her peaked nose and dunking right into the mug. She was not happy, but she was willing to help.

‘If you don’t pass this Final, you’ll fail the class. That equals a Semester F, which means you’ll lose the credit and not be able to graduate next week.’

I heard it, but I couldn’t really believe it. Just like anything she ever said to me, it never really sunk in. Algebra II wasn’t really my scene; I remember dropping the class after about 15 minutes my Junior year, before it came back around to bite me in the ass at the worst possible moment. Who knew that I needed it in order to go to my chosen college?

For most of the year, I blamed Mrs. Fuller, but this time it was different. The cold woman whom I’m sure began to hate her job years ago was looking at me differently. She offered after-school help. She offered anything she could do. She even asked my girlfriend, the 4.0 Academic Genius to help me out. Mrs. Fuller wanted me to pass this test even more than I did. Maybe because she didn’t want to see me again. Or maybe it was because she knew I could. Whatever the reason, it finally began to sink in.

I could feel it all coldly imploding inside of me. The humiliation. I could hear my mother sobbing, blaming herself. Mostly, I could hear everyone’s frustration that such a smart kid could have transformed himself into such a lazy, apathetic bastard. For the first time in my life, I really did feel like a lazy, apathetic bastard.

So, one week before I quit public school forever, I finally began to try.

I brought the work home, I shut the television off, and I studied. Honest to God, studied. After a few hours, I got some questions correct. I began to wonder why I hadn’t done this before; surely this was a far easier way to pass an exam as opposed to just winging it for over a decade. I went into Algebra II class the next day, and a few minutes later, I was the first person in the room to turn the test back in.

The rest of the day was hell. Everyone around me was talking about their plans following high school. I figured that none of these plans contained a diploma book with a blank piece of paper inside. I was sick to my stomach. An adolescence of slacking had led me to this moment, and at 3 o’clock and 4 seconds, I dashed back into Mrs. Fuller’s classroom to see my fate.

100 percent. Perfect Final. Something I hadn’t done since Elementary school, when I was touted around every ‘gifted’ class in the District for years, and perhaps mistakenly labeled a ‘boy genius.’ Maybe ‘idiot savant’ was more like it.

Nobody was more amazed with this score than me. It was one of the most relieving moments of my entire life. The happiest moment, though? Not even close. I finally felt as frustrated as everyone around me had been with my lack of effort. I really could do anything if I tried. Ironically, I finally made peace with this fact after what was the last test I would probably ever have to take.

Then, graduation. Diploma. Pictures. Smiles. Happiness. Almost nobody knew what had happened, and what I had gone through to get there.

I was a changed man. I would never, for as long as I lived, half-ass again. I would look at every challenge with fresh eyes and a new outlook. I would constantly work with as much brain power as I could muster, and never do less that what all my cells firing as one could produce.

Then came the Hardware Store and my dreams of punk rock superstardom for the next two and a half years, where I slowly-yet-completely died inside. Right on Autopilot for the remainder of my teen years. I was never given tasks, never told what to do, had a ton of expendable income with no bills, and didn’t live with my parents. I essentially became a 117-pound lump of unimaginative, egotistical crap.

I’m still that lump typing today. Only now, I’m 20 years old, tomorrow is the 26th of September, which marks my first day of college. I somehow slipped back into school again, carrying with me the attitude that I swore would never return. Oops.

It should be known that I used to have nightmares about school. Awful ones. As an obsessive-compulsive teenager who suffered from disorganization at school and home, sweat-soaked, bloody-nosed nightmares tended to show up every now and then. Since I’ve moved to Sun Prairie to get my degree, they have since returned.

Where are my books? Why am I late? Where have my clothes gone, and for God’s sake, what is my locker combination!? Childish, 9-year-old fears have forced this 20-year-old man to wake up shivering again. There aren’t even lockers at college; what in the hell is happening to me?

It’s 9:36pm right now. My first class in two years starts in ten and a half hours. I’ve just triple-checked my books and schedule, and could repeat it verbatim if forced to at gunpoint. Of course, if someone ever did point a gun at my head, they probably wouldn’t ask me to recite a schedule; they’d probably just take my wallet. It’s a good thing I always carry a knife around with me. But I’m digressing from the cold, Dr. Phil-like truth.

I’m scared to death.

Yeah, I moved all the way out here for this very reason. Started a new life with The Fiancee'; bought a cat and everything. But I’m still scared to death about this thing that I’ve tried so hard to make a reality. I mean, I did all of this stuff for the sole purpose of going back to school, and yet it’s the only thing I’m afraid of. That, and the pale girl that works at the Pick-N-Save. I’m really worried about her.

Regardless, whatever remaining fears I have will have to go untyped for now. I have to set my alarm clock for 6:30am; a time of day I haven’t seen in at least two months, when I quit my job at the Hardware Store to move down here. I’m going to pretend to sleep, and we’ll talk all about Ryan’s Big Day tomorrow.

As you can imagine, I’m going to be pretty relieved when it’s all over.

(2000-2002: VOLUME 4)

I see someone was getting a little on the side with the Travelocity Gnome. That fella gets around...
Oh man. Oh man oh man.

I failed Algebra I twice in high school, before finally passing it on the third try. That meant that, to graduate on time (and get out of Oklahoma on time), I needed to take both Algebra II and Geometry at the same time during my senior year. So last-minute math crunches? Yeah, I'm intimately familiar with that. And with the crushing feeling that you really could have been doing better earlier, and saved yourself all the stress.

'Course, even with all the studying, Algebra still didn't make much sense to me. They're numbers, not letters, dammit!
Emily- you're from Oklahoma?!?

Maus- That photo was a prop for a music video that I shot for my Video Production class. Perhaps one of these days I can get Ben to convert the VHS tape to digital and I'll put it up on the YouTubes for everyone to see. :)
From only in the sense that I came to Madison from Oklahoma, but not as in born-and-raised. I just did junior and senior year there.
MAUS/HATHERY - We'll get that video up soon enough. It rules hard.

EMILY - You're a Minnesotan, right?

Glad you feel my math pain. I did Algebra my Freshman year, Geometry my Sophomore year, no math whatsoever my Junior year, leading to the final Algebra II showdown my Senior year. Never got around to Trig, but seriously, unless you're going directly into Engineering school, you don't need it.
Oh yeah, I think I knew that Em was from Minnesota. I'm going to call you Em from now on. I think it's affectionate and cute.

I took Algebra II my sophomore year, only because I needed it if I ever wanted to go to college. After that I swore off math for the rest of my life. As Ryan can attest, I am now only capable of simple addition, and even that is questionable.
By order of appearance, I am a Minnesotan-Illinoisian-Oklahoman-Wisconsinite. So basically, a Midwesterner. :)

Y'know, I wanted to swear off anything more complicated than basic math after high school, but my stupid college made my English-majoring ass take Algebra I. And it took me another two damn tries before I passed it then.
P.S. Hathery - Most folks who know me call me Em, so it's all good. Plus I'd much be referred to in an "affectionate" and "cute" way than some of the other options.
Blogger eliminated my comment. :(

Yea for skipping math junior year! I was on track to take AP Calculus my senior year and I was just like, "Um, what? Why?" But we were required to take math senior year, so I skipped math junior year so I'd only be in pre-calc senior year (which is useless enough). My guidance counselor acted like I had tricked him or something.

But I'm with you on not knowing if I'd graduate from high school. I had to write a paper for my poli-sci class about some movie we watched, but my teacher kept the volume so low that I didn't hear a single word of the movie (or, really, anything my teacher said all semester). But he was creepy (like, skin-tight white pants with an enlarged package creepy; also my ex had found him with a barely legal girl in a questionable position) so I didn't want to talk to him about it. I made up some paper and hoped I would pass. I actually went to commencement not being certain that I'd hear my name called. I have never told anyone this. It's like Super Secret Sharing Day!
Woh, that teacher sounds super-creepy. His outfit sounds like the singer for the Newsboys. Was he the singer for the Newsboys?

Em, I'm glad you're okay with me calling you Em. :)
HATHERY/EM - Yeah, Hathery cannot do math for crap. It's amazing, because she's such a brilliant woman, and adding restaurant tip is the absolute hardest thing in the world for her.

BABY BEAR - PostSecret has nothing on Super Secret Sharing Day! I also want to thank you and Emily for making me feel a little better concerning my pre-graduation crisis.

Either your teacher was the singer for the Newsboys, or he was that Milkman Dan guy from the Red Meat comics. Either way, he sounds like bad news.

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