February came, and it was time to start working in Food Service again. I signed up to work lunch, still avoiding weekend hours.
Apparently I cut back my hours so my arm wouldn’t be put under needless strain, because these were my hours: 11 to 12:30 on Monday and Wednesday and 11 to 1:30 on Thursday, a grand total of five and a half hours.
I found myself with different people. One was a woman with brown, wavy hair and glasses, a married non-trad who was a few years older than I was. Clarissa sometimes worked with me. One was an elderly woman. One was a sweet, blond guy with sky-blue eyes and a mustache. I had a small crush on him.
The atmosphere was totally different now, and I liked it better. For one thing, people didn’t complain about my music, shut it off, or block out all non-rap. Most of the bossing around came to an end.
Grapes were popular missiles, especially with the brunette, who loved to throw them at the guy and the rest of us.
One day, the guy found a big crack in a bowl. He hurled it across the room and it crashed into the wastebasket, shocking us all. “Cracks like that are full of germs,” he said.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3:40pm in a cold room in the basement of Old Main, I attended a class (World Lit) which was so pleasant that I dreaded the end of the year.
One reason for this was the handsome young teacher, Wesley, fresh out of graduate school and maybe 26 at the most. He had short, dark hair, glasses, and a cute face, and he seemed tall. I spent many a lecture happily gazing at him as he spoke.
And they weren’t really lectures, either: they were open to discussion. In fact, because of his youth he brought a fresh perspective to the dusty old literature of the past.
Rather than spending all our time dissecting metaphors, we spoke about the things none of our other teachers did: sex, for example. We read Lysistrata and Lolita, after all.
When we read The Odyssey, he noted that while Odysseus’ wife got praises for her fidelity after all those years apart, Odysseus himself would end up in some woman’s love-nest and then say, “Oh, but I didn’t enjoy it.”
When we read Lolita (that “famous book by Nabokov” about a pedophile, mentioned in “Don’t Stand so Close to Me” by the Police), some of the students in the class got together. They chose a young man as spokesman and he said,
“We just have to wonder about you because you say this is your favorite book.”
Wesley insisted he didn’t assign the book because of the “Long Island Lolita” stuff which had recently gone on. (The story of teenage Amy Fisher trying to kill the wife of her adult lover, Joey Buttafucco, had been all over the news.)
Wesley kept pointing out a theme throughout the books of “Who are you.”
He was divorced already, I forget why, and had a son; but he told us that if he had it all to do over again, he probably would still marry his ex-wife.
I remember one day seeing a squirrel outside a window, and another day, a baby frog. Since we were in a basement room, the animals would be sitting on the ground above us, which seemed strange.
Wesley was a victim of the cryptosporidium epidemic which hit Milwaukee and, I believe, surrounding areas that year. He said that, as a single man, he ate out a lot, and one night at a restaurant, he drank far too much of the water which was set out before he got his meal. It made him very sick.
This parasite was a serious problem, and we were all worried it would come to Roanoke. It didn’t.
On the day we were to discuss Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” which I had read in German class back in high school, we walked into the classroom and Wesley wrote this quote on the board: “Sex with you is a Kafka-esque experience.” I believe it was a line from a Woody Allen movie.
Around February 27, we read Lysistrata, the ancient Greek play about the women of Athens stopping a war by refusing to have sex with their husbands. My classmates said there was no way the old men in charge of Roanoke would ever allow this play to be performed there.
We all laughed at this. (The irony of this was, only a year later, a play which was much, much worse really was performed there.)
We read Lolita around April 30, and saw the movie from 1962 in the Jubilee faculty lounge at 4pm on Thursday, May 6. (I also remember us watching Kenneth Brannagh’s excellent version of Henry V in that room.)
Domino’s Pizza had just mailed to everyone an announcement that they would deliver to Roanoke, so Wesley ordered some.
Since the movie was written by the author, Stanley Kubric, and had a slightly different treatment of the tale (for one thing, Lolita was as old as 16 in the movie), you had to both read the book and watch the movie to get the full experience.
The movie had nuances that only someone who read the book would appreciate, and the movie added jokes and things here and there.
This was the first time I ever allowed myself to admit, much less have, a crush on a teacher. I wanted to see what it was like, and figured there was no harm in it.
I wondered sometimes if he felt the same, but never said anything about it, never made any moves. After all, young and unmarried as he was, he was my teacher.
It was wisest not to get involved, since that could get us both into major trouble with the college. Another teacher was booted out that year because of an affair with a student; I didn’t want to see the same thing happen to Wesley.
Even now, I believe I did the right thing, and don’t (usually) feel like I missed out.
The irony is, one of my friends did indeed go on a few dates with Wesley, though I had no idea it was her for a couple of years. The rumor mill caught wind of it, but for some reason, he didn’t get booted out like the other teacher did.
From what she told me, I figured I was better off. When I heard of this from Pearl the following fall, I had no idea who the girl was.
I often talked to Wesley after class, especially about writing. He said that teachers talk about students, and when they found out I was in his class, they said, “She doesn’t talk much but when she does, she says good things.”
He said he would love to see some of my work, so in May I brought in some stories and a poem about the pump blowing up (more about that when the time comes).
He said, “Maybe we could go to the Student Union and get a Coke and talk these over.” (He often joked about how weird the college was for calling it the Campus Center instead of the Student Union like every other college supposedly did.)
He also gave me a copy of part of his novel-in-progress to read. I still have it. He said that readers kept saying the protagonist seemed numb.
He said, “Your writing is better than most undergraduate writing I’ve seen.”
I showed him a rewrite I’d just written of a story I wrote in high school, The Last Night. I feared it hadn’t gone well, but he loved it.
He said, “When I first began reading your pump poem, I thought, ‘Oh, no, don’t rhyme it!’ But the rhyme worked really well with the humor.”
He said I was good at dialogue, making it sound real, that I had a good ear for it.
He told me these things in his office, not in the Muskie or Pub, apparently completely forgetting his suggestion to go to the Muskie. He even left the door open. I didn’t say anything: He may have been worried about his job.
Frontiers of Space sounded like a fascinating course, especially after the fun I’d had in Astronomy class in high school. However, it was dull, dull, dull. (At least I got to keep the textbook this time.)
The teacher said he was an astronomer by profession, not a teacher–and, well, it showed. Even worse, the class was from 6 to 9:30 on Tuesday nights.
Clarissa taped the college drama Class of ’96 for me. (Ironically, the critics said this show was nothing like college–when I felt it was the closest to real college life of any show I’d ever seen.)
How did I get through the class? Christopher (a.k.a. Penisman) from Poetry class and two non-trad women sat behind me. Christopher kept making funny little comments and cracking up the three of us.
I doodled a lot, my usual pictures of women of various time periods and planets. One evening, a discussion of Nereid inspired me to write some sort of plot summary for a book based on my stories about the Solar System. (All the heavenly bodies were actually living beings with ethereal bodies; what we saw was the head. I would act out and sometimes write down the stories as a child. See here.)
One night, we all went outside Chase and looked through a telescope the teacher set up for us. I believe we saw Jupiter and about five moons. This was cool.
Also, on the way back to our room on the first floor of Chase, we passed a greenhouse room full of plants. I think the teacher joked (was he joking?) that there were man-eating plants in there.
We had to do presentations which involved models. For mine, I made planets out of the Play-Doh my Dad had once used to exercise his hand and arm after he broke his arm.
I spent a good amount of time trying to get them the proper size, and wondering how to show Jupiter and the Sun with what I had. After all, my materials were limited by what was available on campus.
The teacher graded every presentation harshly. Even Bill, a study-aholic with an impressive presentation, couldn’t get an A. He may have gotten a C. He was frustrated.
I don’t think my grade was better than a C. Everyone in the class complained to the teacher about it. I don’t remember if it made a difference, though.
The teacher showed us a videotape in class one evening. A friend had made it. This friend had spoken of selling it to PBS, but it had to be a certain length, and was longer.
It was a tape of the solar eclipse in Mexico in July of 1991, and showed not just the eclipse but the various types of people who were camped out in a field waiting for it to happen. It was fun to watch. In the summer of 1993, I found it on PBS one evening.
Introduction to Mass Media was taught by Bill, and a requirement for my Writing major. We met Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:45 to 1:50 in Old Main.
In this class, I learned why USA Today was “McPaper” (because it had snippets of information for the busy person to read instead of full news stories),
the history of radio and TV programming,
that TV programs and radio playlists were supposedly intended not to broadcast music and programs but to sell advertising,
and that the writer of our textbook loved alternative music and independent stations. These stations, such as college radio stations, didn’t have to follow some commercial idea of what was popular.
The writer didn’t like Top-40 stations for this reason, and because they filtered out quite a bit of new music into maybe 10 to 40 songs which got played all the time.
He loved Siouxsie and the Banshees (who, until I read this, I thought was a new band), the Sex Pistols, and the fact that MTV made bands like Duran Duran popular. (I already knew they made alternative bands like EMF and Jesus Jones popular, which, in the late 80s, was highly unusual.)
I also learned about Rush Limbaugh. Bill brought in a tape of one of his radio programs one day, and showed us how Rush would quickly talk down any dissenting opinions from his callers and get them off the air, while anyone who agreed with him could talk longer.
Rush was good at making sure his point of view got through and nobody else’s. I didn’t like this, though I admired his abilities. I wasn’t sure what to think of what Rush Limbaugh said, but I didn’t like how he said it.
One guy in the class, would take any chance he could to talk (in his fascinating Eastern accent) about Rush Limbaugh. It was Limbaugh this, Limbaugh that: he adored Limbaugh. It did get annoying after a while.
One day, Bill asked each of us what our favorite music was. I probably listed: hard rock, metal, dance, pop, alternative, Celtic, classical–whatever I felt like listening to at the time. Bill smiled and said my tastes were “eclectic.”
Bill loved the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, and hated to see it end.
We listened to a chilling tape of the famous radio news broadcast of the Hindenberg crash. We also listened to Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast.
The students each did a media presentation. Catherine did hers on the roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. She handed out copies of a few pages of Dragon Magazine and passed around a 100-sided die.
A Japanese girl brought in copies of a Japanese newspaper, like the ones you could find at the library’s circulation desk. I was shocked to turn to page 2–page 2! where everyone, including little kids, is likely to look!–and find ads for strippers in various stages of undress!
What kind of advertising is that for a respectable daily newspaper????!!!!! To my surprise, the “page 2 girl” is actually common.
My presentation, on alternative music, was on April 23. Here are my notes for it:
“Alternative music–what is it? How to define it?
“Alternative is a music style that can’t be defined. As MTV puts it, when the music stops changing, it’s no longer alternative. There are, however, a few common characteristics I’ve noticed: its difference from the mainstream, its content, and its oddballness.
“Content: death, love…
“Alternative stations are the place to go to see what’s probably going to be popular later on. For example, U2 and REM were first on alternative stations.” I first read about this in a teen magazine a few years before.
“Once the music listened to by the ‘scary’ people in your school” (that got me some chuckles); “now for anybody; I would listen to it sometimes on the Notre Dame station, late at night, back when I was an upperclassman in high school. It was weird, I thought. (Mention A.T.’s tapes in art class–other people’s comments.)”
This A.T., a “scary” person with a buzzcut, leather jacket and sullen attitude, brought alternative music tapes to be played in Art class senior year. The other kids ripped on it. For example, when A.T. played a tape of the Misfits, the other kids said they didn’t know how to play their instruments. I liked the music.
“I did like the alternative songs I heard on the regular Top-40 stations, but I didn’t really listen to it again until recently, when I discovered Alternative Nation on MTV, and some alternative stations along the way from South Bend to Milwaukee. I liked listening to it then because it was something different for the road, and they had some weird videos with weird music by weird bands on Alternative Nation.
“This music gives us something different to listen to, like when regular rock is boring or unimaginative.”
“Names: Butthole Surfers,” this one got me some grins, “Gin Blossoms, Belly, 10,000 Maniacs, Pearl Jam, Sun Scream, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Non-Blondes, The Beloved, Green Jelly/Jello.”
Jell-O forced Green Jello, the band which did “Three Little Pigs,” to change their name because Jell-O didn’t like the association with their green Jell-O. So the name became Green Jellÿ, though it was supposed to be pronounced the same as Green Jello.
I also showed a videotape I made from MTV of various alternative songs. Since the whole thing would take too long, I showed the ends and beginnings of songs.
Bill was happy to see the acoustic trend, such as in the Belly song, something he hadn’t seen since his youth. These were the videos I showed: “Feed the Tree” by Belly, “The Right Decision” by Jesus Jones, “Love My Way” by Psychedelic Furs (which I thought was new; also, I loved the lead singer’s long nose), “Connected” by Stereo MC’s, and “Sleeping Satellite” by Tasmin Archer.
Someone complained, were they actually alternative, since he’d heard most of them on the regular Top-40 radio? But just because Top-40 picked them up and liked them, didn’t mean they weren’t alternative. The music landscape was changing; the following year, alternative would be big on Top-40 stations.
One girl did a video montage of the history of music videos. I wondered where she got all those video clips, all together in just the right order. You can’t just sit in front of MTV and do that, especially with videos that old, which rarely get played.
She mentioned the boring concert videos which filled MTV in 1985, and said MTV soon realized this needed to change. A clip of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister excited giggles of nostalgia.
In various class discussions, students complained about pop music or Roanoke College life. Marc the Zeta said he turned the radio off a few years before and now only listened to the music he owned. This included Pink Floyd.
I didn’t think popular radio was quite that bad, not anymore. (In my opinion, popular music still had the occasional good song until the late 90s or turn of the century.)
Marc and others complained that college life at Roanoke was nothing like the kind their friends enjoyed at their colleges. They wanted to leave. There was too much apathy.
But I preferred Roanoke’s life to a place like UW-Madison, which everyone said was very liberal, had protests on various things, and was very P.C. (I was still very Republican in those days.)
I was sick of protests: anti-fur, PETA, abortion for and against, don’t eat meat, etc. etc. I only saw protests on TV. I wanted everyone to calm down, get along and treat everybody nicely.
At this point, the thing that mattered most to me was InterVarsity (IV). I wanted to help get the word out that we were on campus. I wanted IV to make a difference in people’s spiritual lives, and maybe even transform the spiritually dead atmosphere of the Christian campus.
I liked the quiet of the Roanoke campus, and had plenty of homework, TV, music, writing, reading, and socializing to do without campus events to fill my weekends.
Advanced Poetry, which combined Advanced and first-year students, met with Counselor Dude in room 24–yes, the Honors room again–of Old Main on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:15 to 10:50am.
This was my only morning class, so this was probably when I started skipping breakfast and making lunch my breakfast, instead chewing gum to help me get through my one morning class. (I sure couldn’t do that now.)
I don’t remember how many of us were in it, but it couldn’t have been more than 20. Darryl and Julie were in there. One day, I signed Julie’s petition to get Latin taught at Roanoke.
I had always expected to learn Latin at college, thinking it was as much a part of college life as the food and fraternities. But RC didn’t have it, and even after the petition, didn’t offer it.
Having gotten over the whole Peter-poem thing and now wanting to write about other things, I wrote a bunch of poems which even Counselor Dude thought were much better.
He said that I had been the love-poem person the year before, but now another girl or two had taken over that distinction, complete with complaints about her ex.
Catherine and Zeta Marc were also there.
I had a hard time coming up with comments for poems. I didn’t like some of them, such as gross ones or sex poems, but that was all I knew–and I didn’t want to say that. I never read much poetry. I took the class for the credits.
Counselor Dude noticed I paid attention to sound. I probably did this because metaphors and images were harder for me to deal with. My poems also were easy to understand.
The Farrago staff specifically asked for my werewolf poem. That poem shocked people, and Julie said she did not expect it from me. So at least something good came out of that crap with Shawn!
Counselor Dude had me read the title to my “Ugh” poem, because he said only girls/women could say it in that particular way. This was that poem:
my room is warm.
The flies are awake,
filling my room,
buzzing on the walls,
I grab the flyswatter.
The war begins.
My other poems are too big to reproduce here. I wrote them in various genres: science fiction, gothic, fantasy, humor.
The Poetry final exam was actually an oral exam on 5/18. I don’t remember if we had a final class for everyone, or just did our exams individually in Counselor Dude’s office.
I do remember Counselor Dude telling me in his office that he hoped I would continue to write poetry. However, I never had a huge interest in poetry, so I would generally use it privately as a release of emotions I had no other outlet for.
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)