Wednesday, August 28, 2013

All We Are is Dust in the Wind

I'm not sure how I ended up getting a minor in anthropology.

Actually, I do. Back in pre-computer days you had to register for college classes manually. By the time the scribe etched out your schedule on your tablets, most of your day was gone. When I got to the front of the line, all the classes I wanted were full. So I ended up in anthropology.

I should have seen this coming -  the same thing happened on my first day of high school. I showed up with everyone else, but somehow my registration wasn't there. The principal said, "Well, it'll probably show up tomorrow. As of now, we have no record of you. Maybe you should just go back home." So I walked back home and missed my first day.

Hey, maybe I was the problem.

Anthropology wasn't too bad once I got over the fact that I wasn't going to minor in art history (where the real money was).  Except for Folk Medicine.

Folk Medicine was one of the classes I got stuck in because nothing else was open. The workload was insane - I still have a suspicion that I somehow ended up in a graduate class. There was a ton of reading, and none of it was what I thought it was going to be - helpful hints like, "to get rid of a cold, take half an onion and bury it at the crossroads at midnight while petting a black cat." No, instead, we read a lot of dry articles about epidemiology and other words I didn't understand.

There was a cool section of the class devoted to a disease spread through cannibalism,which kept me interested in between ...jeez, I don't remember anything else about that class, other than my thinking I was in way over my head.

Speaking of over my head, our final paper was supposed to be 30 pages. I had never written 30 pages before in my life. Just thinking about made me feel like I was supposed to turn in "Moby Dick" or "War and Peace."

Somehow I was able to do it. I have no idea what my topic was. Maybe something about cannibals or cavemen. I was pretty proud of myself. I mean, 30 pages? With an opening and ending and everything? There is no way I could pull that off today. As you've probably noticed, after like 6 paragraphs I get bored and trail off, post whatever I've done up to that point, and go to sleep.

This was also in the days of word processors, where you couldn't save your work. Well, you could, but not that much. Saving a 30 page paper at that point would have taken one of those huge NASA room-size computers, far beyond the processing capabilities of my Brother word processor.

I put the finishing touches on the paper while visiting my parents in Bradenton. It looked pretty impressive in the front seat as I drove back to Gainesville. I imagined I was a respected and famous author delivering his latest manuscript to his New York editors. "This is your best stuff yet," my sexy editor would say. "Let's celebrate by buying some new leather patches for your jacket for your Letterman appearance. Then we'll drink some martinis and have some sexy, literary sex."

But before that could happen, I had to stop in Tampa to buy records. I was still in the throes of a fairly serious record collection habit, and had to stop in Tampa every trip between Gainesville and Bradenton to get my fix.

I rolled down the windows as I pulled off the interstate, possibly in an effort to sniff out vinyl treats.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch weeks' worth of work fly out of my open window onto Fletcher Avenue. As I watched sheets of paper that I had worked on floating in the breeze like a parade, I had a sudden revelation.

Like Bill Murray taught us in Meatballs, "it just didn't matter." Sure, these pieces of paper represented hard work, but in the long run, what did it really mean? Would anyone remember how I did in some class I didn't care about years later? And why was I knocking myself out in school, anyway? Why not just relax for a few years - maybe I should mellow out and wander through America, having real experiences, exploring my feelings, and communicating deeply with other searching strangers.

Then I remembered that I don't like exploring my feelings or talking to strangers and realized I had to corral that term paper.

I screeched into a gas station and ran out into traffic, frantically trying to grab the floating papers.

I straightened everything out as best I could and tried to reassemble my masterwork. I was missing a handful of pages in the middle, and there was no way I could find them.

I stayed up all that night trying to recreate the linking pages from memory. It would have been easier if it were the beginning or the end where I could pad some stuff, but the middle was a lot harder to figure out.

I eventually came up with enough filler to finish my paper and ended up getting a C+. There were no marks on the paper. I'm not sure the professor even read it.

I don't think I've ever written anything that long since. I never got a sexy editor. You know how you'll have nightmares of being back in school and having to take a test you haven't prepared for? Every once in a while I'll have a dream I'm chasing those papers down Fletcher Avenue in Tampa.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Can't You Hear Me Knockin'

I don't like conflict or confrontation.

I do like sleeping.

Sometimes these opposing sides come into conflict with each other.

I was dreaming hard about 3:30 this morning. I can't be sure, but I'm fairly positive that a wise old ghost was telling me how to find his secret fortune so that I could be set for life. Before the ghost could give me the final location of his riches, we both noticed a bass line snaking through the dream.

"Sorry, I'm outta here," the annoyed ghost said. "But remember, my fortune is hidden directly under a ...."

The bass line that chased my money away was coming from my real-life neighbors across the street. I usually go over there once or twice a month or call the cops in an effort to get them to shut up.

This time I decided to walk over, even though it would mean putting on pants and shoes. This was going to be a simple "Hey, turn off your crappy music" visit and I'd be back in bed within minutes, hopefully tracking down my rich ghost and my phantom fortune.

I'm banging on the door and can see the shocked faces of people inside through the little panes of glass above the door. Then I realize why they look so shocked. Instead of knocking on the door like a normal person, sleep-deprived and newly fortune-less me had been knocking on one of the panes of glass above the door and had put my fist through the thing.
Fist of Fury
So my intended 30 second confrontation escalated into me arguing with a bunch of drunk 20 year olds and now I have to call the landlord to get some glass put in in the morning. I really should have just called the cops.

But even though I have to deal with the landlord and got about two hours sleep which I'm somehow supposed to function on today, I think I imparted a valuable life lesson to the kids.

Old people will smash some stuff up if they don't get their sleep.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

When Animals Attack

I am a friend to the animals. Sort of a St. Francis of the 'burbs. I'll swerve to avoid hitting a squirrel. I'm on a first name basis with all the feral cats and dogs of the neighborhood. OK, so first name basis means Kittycat or Poochie, depending on species, but it proves that I'm interested in their feelings.

Some of my favorite times have been spent in a boat, fishing and checking out river creatures or biking early in the morning on the trail digging the deer and turkeys as the morning chill starts to evaporate.

But do I get any love back from the animal kingdom? No, I do not.

Last weekend my girlfriend and I went to the North Georgia Zoo. It was pretty cool. We hit the Atlanta Aquarium earlier thanks to free passes, so it was a day of animal fun. We bought a bucket of food and started feeding animals. I made friends with an emu, a bird you might recognize from crossword puzzle clues.

The goats and sheep were all over us, due to our magical bucket. Here's one of the few photos I shot, mostly because my fingers were covered with goat spit.

As I was distributing handouts to another group of pushy farm animals, a llama wandered over. I started to say something deep like, "Check it out, a llama," when it looked at me with its stupid llama eyes and spit all over me.

If you've never been spit on by a llama, imagine being dunked in lawn clippings that smell like the inside of an animal's stomach. Add some grit, some liquid, and a little more stink, and you've got the idea.

It was all over my face, my hair, my shirt, inside my mouth, basically everything above the waist. I dropped my glasses on the ground while spitting and coughing. Apparently I was ready to just leave them, saying, "I'll just get some new ones." I'm surprised I didn't just leave my shirt on the ground as well, but my reluctance to display my doughy physique won out.

I spent the rest of the day smelling like the stage of a 1977 Sex Pistols show, and learning a valuable lesson about animals that pretend to be your friend.

I still speak to the stray cats in my neighborhood, but I am a bit more wary and not as cheerful. Will I still swerve to avoid a squirrel? I'm not 100% sure anymore. Some might say that blaming all of animalkind for the actions of one asshole llama is a terrible example of racism, but I'll bet those people have never been covered in llama spit.