Thursday, December 11

The Pre-CDP Essays (2000-2002: Volume 4).

Pre-CDP Essay week continues to roll along, as we now move into a chunk of my life never-before written about in the history of the CDP (still haven't, technically); my time spent attempting to earn a college degree. Today, we'll focus on three essays spotlighting my first day of post-High School school, my cultural animosity in moving to the impenetrable Metropolis that is Madison, Wisconsin, and the hopelessness of being completely broke and sad and stupid and alone. Enjoy.

Ryan, Meet Ryan And His Other Friend Ryan.
(Published appx. 09-26-02)

I woke up last night at 3:27am. I could feel the vessel explode inside my head, and the blood begin to stream out of my nose. I was in pitch darkness, my head covered with a down comforter. I cupped my hand under my chin, threw the cat off of my shins and made a stumbling beeline for the bathroom.

Flicking on the fluorescent lights shrunk my pupils to pinholes, and as the reflection slowly came into focus, it appeared as if I had attempted to take my own life. Blood everywhere. On my neck, my forehead. I was in no mood to battle this softly. I blew the huge, dark clot out of my nostrils and went back to bed. I had to be up soon.

Getting up for school felt strangely routine, despite its absence from my life for two years. As usual, I showed up about five minutes before class time; I wanted at least a minute or two beforehand to collect myself and mentally prepare, but perhaps tomorrow will be less paced and frantic. Regardless, I timidly stepped into a lecture room full of people that looked just like me…cold, uninviting and very much worried about how other people were viewing them.

Once I found a seat somewhere towards the back, I joined the mob in eying down everyone who walked in for the next four minutes. I tried to not draw any attention to myself, and silently prayed that my nose wouldn’t start to bleed again. Nothing would make friends quicker on my first day of Big Boy School than scrambling for the exit, pooling my own fluids in my hands. Didn’t happen. Our instructor walked in; a man who looked more at home in the front row of a Rusted Root show. Long, wavy hair. Hemp necklace. Kind of looked like Eddie Van Halen. Told us we should call him Ralph. We did.

Over the next few hours, apart from the wavelengths and kilohertz and rarefaction, I made a startling discovery. Somewhere along the way, I became frighteningly uncool.

In a small town, dressing funny and being in a band gives you looks, stares and curious attention. However, that’s the status quo in any larger city. Everyone here is into music. Everyone here is in a band. Everyone here is a critic; that’s why they’re here. I more or less dress like a sad, little boy. Denim jacket. Converse shoes. Faux-hawk. Jeans that my girlfriend insists I buy three sizes too small. I completely forgotten that, outside of my group of friends, nobody else could give a shit less what I dress like.[1]

(1. Apparently, I was more flippant with my profanities as a youngster.)

Madison is all about extremes and stereotypes. The punks look very punk. The gangster wannabes look scary, and nearly disappear into their huge clothing. The Italians walk around flinging pizza dough into the air. Everyone else just smells like cigarettes. And here I thought for sure that this kind of individuality was dying out.

I’ve also discovered that Sun Prairie is for people who are too pansy for Madison. That was essentially the one thing that I learned on my first day of college.[2] That, and there are four people named Ryan in just one of my eight First Semester courses. There are more losers named Ryan in this city than there is litter.[3] I personally feel bad for every one of them. I can soon imagine all of us stutter-stepping around the commons, wondering if the guy across the hall was trying to get their attention or some other Ryan’s.

(2. I no longer find this to be true.)

(3. I no longer find this to be true.)

Me and The Girlfriend went to Fazoli’s for supper after school. I needed money, so I walked over to the mall to hit the ATM. There, more of the same. People everywhere who suddenly looked much more important, cultured, fashionably literate, wealthy and smarter than me, when just last week, they were nothing more than obstacles between me and my Sweet & Sour Chicken at the Happy Wok.[4]

(4. Pre-vegetarianism!)

Was I depressed? Jealous? Having an early breakdown? No idea. I’m just finding my place in a new environment, it seems. Spending your life in an Unincorporated town lends to a slight amount of discomfort and culture shock, even if you’re only moving to a city with a quarter of a million people in it. Celia, on the other hand, has talked to many people and seemed to feel quite at home, which I think is a first for her. Meanwhile, Mr. Social Butterfly’s wings have crusted over, and are being devoured by hungry aphids.

Damn, dirty aphids.

(Faux-hawk to the rescue. Eat a sandwich, for Christ's sake.)

The following is one of the few essays I've ever written, as an adult or child, that I would consider 'too whiny.' Judge for yourself.

One Tempo To Another.
(Published appx. 10-10-02)

I’m well into my second week of becoming a master sound engineer and music business virtuoso, quickly learning everything there is to know about sound waves, amplitude, acoustics, music theory and basic studio recording. Scoring a 95% on my ‘Practical Computer Skills’ test-out examination, I can now sleep until 10am on Tuesday mornings. My head is quickly filling up with more useful information than three years at the Hardware Store ever could have, discounting all of that ‘real world’ stuff, like preventing explosions and ducking when alcoholics throw coffee mugs at you.[1]

(1. I should really write more 'My First Job' essays. This is all true.)

Also, one of my instructors looks a lot like Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s, and if you pardon my bluntness, I’d like to have a Go-Go on that as soon as humanly possible. Seriously, she needs to drop the attitude, stop by my apartment one night and just get it over with already. The sexual tension between us needs to be dealt with and put behind us immediately, so we can move on comfortably as a student and teacher. It’s for the best; my lips are sealed.[2]

(2. In a delightfully ironic twist of fate, Miss Jane Wiedlin herself now lives in Madison, where she's engaged to one of my former college instructors. Can you freaking believe that? We're going to meet up one of these nights, I swear to God.)

But one thought has filled my head more than anything as of late. A harsh realization that seems to nip at my heels whenever class is dismissed and I step out onto the concrete.

I have the absolute shittiest car on the lot.[3]

(3. Language; geez!)

No doubt about it. Look, this private school wasn’t cheap; not by a long shot.[4] The bulk of the kids that go here are living off of daddy’s dime. They didn’t have to move, don’t live on their own and probably don’t even have to pay for gas. I see Acura’s, Audi’s and monolithic SUV’s. Somewhere in amongst the chrome sits my 1993 Tempo with the massive dent in the driver’s side, from when a deer decided to run directly into it at Full Deer Speed.

(4. I did the math, and I'll have my student loans paid off in eleventy billion years.)

It rattles as I start it up, and the number of unattended problems with it continues to add with each passing day. I’m literally scared to death to even sit inside of it. It cost me $500 to buy it, thousands have been poured into it, and I pay over a thousand dollars a year to insure it. And of course, that money only covers me if I were to hit someone else; someone who has a nicer car and a lot more money. I won’t see a penny.

Am I jealous? Am I upset that I have it a little bit harder? Does it make me sick that these kids can get away with limited responsibilities, while my palms sweat every time I pull out of my underground garage?

Buy a new car, you ask? Listen. Last night, I ate a bowl of microwavable Bow-Tie pasta that cost 75 cents at the supermarket, and it was the fifth night in a row that I’ve done so. So yeah, like it or not, this car is mine until it officially becomes illegal to drive. Tonight, I have to decide if I’d like more food, or if I want to use the 75 cents to do a load of laundry.[5]

(5. In order for us to get quarters to use in the washing machines, we'd have to walk over to the bowling alley and change our dollar bills in the Game Room.)

I can’t allow myself to scream “It’s not fair!” at the top of my lungs and carry around a pissy attitude all the time, but it’s a constantly uphill climb right now. Let’s face it, I don’t have a job right now, and I’m living off of a student loan, but I can promise you that I will have to pay this all back times two over the next 30 years.[6] What the hell, I should just start breaking into some of these nice vehicles. Some of these kids probably wouldn’t even miss some of the stuff that I want to take. Can you feel the bitterness? I sure can.

(6. Yup.)

Autumn is coming, and the reminder that Christmas and Winter will follow is naturally depressing enough for anyone to be looking for a quick escape. My only small wish is that the snow waits until after Christmas to fall, so I don’t have to drive up north amongst it. If that doesn’t work, then I hope to die before I attempt to make the trek. That way, my girlfriend won’t have to perish with me in the horrible wreck that’s certain to follow.

I miss my Buick. That’s all for now.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the last essay I wrote before launching the Communist Dance Party 14 whole months later. I kicked ass at school, graduated in February of 2004, launched the CDP weeks later, and the rest is blogging history. Enjoy.

(Published appx. 11-25-02)

Whenever I heard anyone mention ‘midterms,’ it always sounded to me like trite college-speak from brats who wanted to sound important. ‘Oooh, I’ve got midterms this week; it’s gonna suck!’ they’d say, as I would agreeingly nod and contemplate why I was talking to this person in the first place.

Turns out, they were right. Midterms do suck.

Exactly halfway through the semester, those communist instructors decide that they want to make sure you’ve been keeping up with the material or not. So they actually give you a test! A test that you’re graded on! Well, I was just as shocked as you are right now, I promise. It’s a massive chunk of your grade, too. And here I thought that I was paying $24,000 to sit around school and occasionally catch a can of mace to the eyes.

True story; a kid’s can of mace went off in his bookbag, and I stepped directly into a cloud of it. Even secondhand, it was debilitating and sent dozens of people scurrying for the exits, coughing, crying and blindly stumbling the whole way. Don’t say I never warned you about anything.

I can’t say that the midterms snuck up on me. They really pound this stuff into your head for a good week or two. Countless reviews, writing and re-writing notes, handfuls of quizzes. So needless to say, I’ve been studying Sound Engineering like an autistic kid would study a shoelace.[1]

(1. Still one of my favorite one-liners.)

But so far, so good. School has given me nothing to complain about, mainly because I’ve been putting myself in no position to complain. I’m working hard, trying to keep up and remain in the pack. As long as I continue to boot myself in the ass when I get lazy, it’s been mostly smooth.

On the home front, I received a postcard in the mail from The Exclusive Company in Appleton. Two months ago, I dropped off my CD player because it wasn’t responding to anything. They finally got back to me a couple of days ago to tell me that it would cost $125 to fix. So here I am, staring back at the postcard, contemplating calling them with the go-ahead, or instead sending them two pounds of cat feces in an Airwalk shoebox. I don’t have the cash, but I do have the feces. I’ll need a few more days to decide.[2]

(2. I eventually went with the money, but just barely.)

Speaking of the cat, she’s in the habit of finishing her food shortly after we go to bed, and forcing us awake to feed her at 4am. She’ll yell, step on your head, rub her whiskers on your face, anything. The cuteness of this wore off faster than an author’s paycheck at the tavern. We’ve got into the habit of tossing her over the loft; she only gets hurt when the ceiling fan is on.

When you have no friends where you live, and merely a cat and a girlfriend for company, you end up telling humorless anecdotes like that. I’m not a senior citizen yet, but I’m certainly beginning to sound like one. Soon enough, I’ll be yelling about the price of my medications and bothering the poor kid bagging my groceries. I try not to bother him now, but every once in a while, I’ll tell him to bag all of my instant pastas alphabetically. Starting with the Bow Ties and ending with Sour Cream & Chives. I’ve got nothing but time!

Well, I’ve got to go and study. I have a Music Business exam tomorrow, so I have to brush up on the art of being a lying, shrewd, conniving prick. Wish me luck.

This week's historic Pre-CDP Essay anthology is over. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

I can seriously not imagine Tinker pestering us. Nowadays she sleeps with us all through the night, and is still sleeping when we leave. Poor senior citizen cat.

I don't remember that instructor that looked like Jane Wiedlin. But I hold fast that Jane Wiedlin is not attractive.

And I also hold fast that Ralph was one of the worst instructors I've had in my life. I physically could not learn from that man.
I'm personally glad that I'm ending Pre-CDP Essay week a day early. For one, it's hard to re-publish rather personal stuff that you don't find to be particularily well-written, but it's not exactly lighting up the hit counter, either.

Jane Wiedlin rules, but I think that my instructor was even cooler.
"Also, one of my instructors looks a lot like Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s, and if you pardon my bluntness, I’d like to have a Go-Go on that as soon as humanly possible."

One of the classiest lines I've read. And totally something I'd say. Considering I'm thirty, does that mean I need to grow up?
I, for one, thought these essays were interesting. But yeah, the hit counts are finnicky. Me? Mine usually go up when I intellectually insult a local right-wing radio host, or conservative bumper stickers. It's very exciting.
BRUCE - Thanks, and no, growing up is not necessary; I still mean what I said in 2002.

EMILY - That's just it. It's easy to boost traffic to your site; just go batcrap insane and start threatening death on people. We can't win.

That, or take your clothes off. That may work out a little better for you than me, however.
Wow...this gets me back to thinking about my college days...and about how I am now a teacher rather than student...

Actually, for a while I was both.

When I was in college, I lived on gas station food because any waking hour not spent in class or doing classwork was spent working at a gas station. There was a brief stint when I live on Eggos and Pepsi.

And now, 7 years later, I can't believe I drank regular soda and ate full sugar syrup. However, I will blast the Specials at full volume and skank around the front of my classroom as my first hour students trickle in. I have matured on so many levels.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hilbelink - Where were you when I was in school? The coolest teacher I ever had listened to the Indigo Girls.

(I like the Indigo Girls, but you cannot skank to them)
Nice Showoff sticker on the bass. I caged a bunch of stickers from them when they opened for Goldfinger at the Barrymore (after the Promise Ring's van accident I believe) and I still have a few floating around on various things.
Showoff ruled. Great debut album and genuinely nice guys.

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