Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hair Update

This is rather late, but a lot was going on.

This is what my hair looked like last month:

A little bit less than a month after these photos were taken, I went in for my much-loathed bi-annual haircut, which I faithfully get every six months despite my strong desire to let my hair continue growing unchecked. After seeing what a year with no trims looks like, however, and having to have four inches of dead ends removed as a result, I'm willing to allow for some maintenance cutting.

It usually takes a few weeks to a month for my hair to reach about the same length it was before I went to the hair cuttery, but the crazy thing is that it actually feels longer in February than it did in January.

It's just gotten crazy long lately.

Last Saturday I had to cover a fraternity event for Student Newspaper. A friend from Student Media proved a lifesaver when he stepped in to lend me a suit after I was notified at the last minute of the function's dress code, but with a giant binder in my hand, a very long blonde ponytail falling down my jacket's back, and, thanks to a scheduling mistake, no seat at the banquet, I stood out.

"How long did it take you to grow that?" one of the fraternity brothers asked.

I thought about it.

"Wow, actually more than three years now," I answered. "A while."

What's really wild is that it's about the same length now as when I cut it in 2006, which means that within the next few months it will get longer than I've ever had it.

Crazy times.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I haven't written in a while, and now more than ever I have no excuse for that fact. For last week I was not, as I am now, subsumed in school work, handling back-to-back interviews for newspaper or magazine articles, and searching for relevant internships I could work during the summer.

For most of the week, in fact, I sat on my butt and ate.

I was in production (the process whereby a periodical integrates its pieces, photographic and written, into a coherent format for publication) at Student Newspaper on Friday, February 5th, when heavy snow began to fall over campus.

"Persian Girl," I said, eyeing the accumulating dust with trepidation. "I need to get out of here as soon as possible."

Persian Girl, in addition to being the news editor at Student Newspaper and thus my immediate superior (I became assistant news editor at the start of the spring semester), is one of my closest friends.

"Well, I need to go home, too," she said, her attention turned to the window through which we could see the fantastic downpour of flakes spiraling through the sky as if spit from the mouth of some furious Arctic creature. "And if you leave there's going to be more for me to do and I'll be here until five o'clock."

I cast a glimpse at the rush of white that was checkering the sky ivory and iron, at the gentle petals of frost already beginning to pile up on the walkway outside where students were pushing one another and shrieking with laughter. I had an hour-and-a-half drive home.

I looked her dead in the face.

"Give me the articles you need edited," I said. "I'll do it all right now."

I flew through the work assigned me, dispensing with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and AP errors before grabbing the packed bag I'd brought the office and heading out on roads covered in light snow as powder continued to rain down.

By the time I got home around three o'clock, not much had stuck, but it came pounding down with greater intensity as darkness fell.

We spent the night, Beautiful Cousin, Thomas, Pie, my parents, our dogs, and I, bundled up against the cold and swirling snow that turned the black sky into a crumbling structure, each flake a piece of cracked glass falling from the disintegrating behemoth.

The next morning, Saturday, the storm hadn't even paused to think about stopping, and in fact only gathered strength throughout the day to strike us all the harder. By early Sunday, at which point the snow had finally ceased, our world was a soft landscape of white plains and rolling crystalline hills, interrupted only by the sweep of wind that blew grains across the desolate desert.

To my utter astonishment, Major University was closed on Monday, the first time in my postsecondary career that the institution had shut its doors during the regular term. So staunch is school's aversion to canceling class that it has in the past remained open despite unploughed roads, a stance that nearly resulted in my having a car accident during the 2008-2009 school year.

While I was happy with getting out of my sessions, the unexpected development led to some issues; I'd only planned on being home for three days, and had packed accordingly. I started raiding my father's sock drawer and the closet where I keep everything too ugly to wear on campus as another system began to move in our direction.

Before it came, though, we had to dig out from its sister, and that was quite a task.

The roads were impassable, the neighborhood locked off from the rest of the town by ice, and the yard covered in nearly three feet of snow. We gave up quickly on the idea of shoveling everything and instead opted for strategic areas, such as the space immediately surrounding my mother's car (not that she was going out), the vulnerable cover of the hot tub, a path on the back deck where our three small Dachshunds could go to use the bathroom, and the air conditioning unit on the side of the house, which was completely submerged before we freed it up so the heat wouldn't go out.

Major University remained closed on Tuesday, greatly surprising me, and by Wednesday a second storm was bearing down on us. This one wasn't nearly as large; it only left us with about six inches, but on top of the giant, as still yet to be recovered from, that had gone before it, it constituted a major problem. By Thursday afternoon, our cul-de-sac was even more thoroughly snowbound than it had been before, and nothing, including my car, was going anywhere.

Major University didn't open its doors for the remainder of the week, and no one could have gone in anyway, so my intended three-day weekend turned into a ten-day vacation during the course of which the members of my household ate popcorn, baked brownies, consumed plates of spaghetti, watched endless movies, and played so many games of Monopoly that even I, the diehard fan (and, I might add, consistent champion), began to grow weary of it. One night we brought over Black Boy and Younger Neighbor, the eighteen and seventeen-year-old brothers from next door, just to spice things up.

It was a nice break from the pressures of school and the newspaper, and from other things that will have to be detailed in another post. The fact is, no matter how well things are going outside of home, no matter how much fun I'm having or how many friends I've made, once I get there I never really want to leave. I'm glad when I do, of course, as life must be lived beyond that sphere, and my efforts at doing that, though frightening and sometimes hurtful, have been very rewarding. Still, it was nice to have an ironclad reason to stay in my house for more than a week.

They say El Nino is behind the recent spate of snow we've gotten, which this winter has been far more frequent and heavy than is normal for our region. I hope that the global cooling theories are right, though; this is what winter should be, and I hate to think that next year it could all go away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The New Dorm

The New Dorm

The new dorm is not nearly as nice as the old dorm, at least not in terms of physical comfort. The building is older, the Internet less reliable. The kitchen is smaller, its implements more outdated. I share a room here, whereas before I had my own. The bathroom is an abomination of aged tile and filthy carpets matted with dust and hair, the shower a low-ceilinged affair with weak water pressure, unreliable temperature, and a floor cluttered with the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles of four people. All in all, it's a major downgrade from where I lived in the Fall.

I love it so much more.

Don't get me wrong: Tall Roommate, Smart Roommate, and Non-Frat Roommate were all nice guys, and I knew that in a sticky situation, like the one I got myself into last Halloween, they wouldn't let me down. But they weren't friends. Even at our most cordial, I wouldn't have called them that. They were polite.

Here, in this dingy, thirty-year-old housing unit, I've found for the first time in my university career flat-mates with whom I actually have camaraderie. This warm atmosphere, however, is not confined to my room, and is in fact an outgrowth of the overall culture in Student Town, where I already knew several people before moving in.

Red-Headed Friend, an acquaintance since my Sophomore Year, lives here, as does Friendly Guy, who was already a friend of mine during a time when I had almost none.

It was Friendly Guy, in fact, who realized who my new roommates would be when I told him my room assignment number last December.

"If you're with who I think you're with, you're going to like them," he said. "They're nice guys."

He wasn't sure if I would actually be bunking with the young men he had in mind, though, and as I drove from Mountain Town to campus the day before the start of the semester, worst-case scenarios played themselves out in my mind. I saw every binge-drinking, hard-partying, gay-bashing frat boy in existence over the course of the ninety-minute trip.

I had no more than walked through the door to my new apartment when those fears melted away, and within days the unlikely notion, then the reality of actual friendship set in. I have been very lucky.

There are four of us in the room, at least officially, and a host of close friends and former residents who stop by on a regular basis.

Weird Roommate and I share a bedroom, while Gay Roommate and Sweet Roommate share another, and the four of us enjoy in common a bathroom, living room, and kitchenette.

Weird Roommate, as his name suggests, is a bit odd. His speech is highly formal he's given to making random noises and observations, often to no one in particular. On several occasions I've taken my head phones off to address what might have been a question, only to find that I wasn't being spoken to. No, there was nothing he was asking me. Weird Roommate was just talking to himself.

Weird Roommate's behavior became a topic of discussion my second night here, with the others cracking up as I recounted the abnormalities I'd picked up on after one day in residence and that they'd been discussing for an entire semester.

"What's up with the way he walks?" I questioned as the room roared with laughter.

"It's not really a walk," Sweet Roommate said. "It's more of a glide, kind of like he's a super villain."

"Did you tell him about the knives?" Sparky asked.

"Oh, yeah, dude, this was crazy," Sweet Roommate answered. "I was out here cutting up an onion one time, and I was like, 'Man, does anyone have a knife?' Out of nowhere, Weird Roommate comes down the hall with this massive butcher knife, and he hands it to me without saying a word."

I must have shown my shock, because Mexican Gangster pointed at me and laughed, saying, "Look at his face!"

"Come here, dude," Sweet Roommate directed, leading me back to my room, where he went to Weird Roommate's side and pulled open a drawer in his desk.

Sure enough, there were two huge gleaming blades, sitting alone in the wooden panel.

"Awesome," I said, looking at the menacing metal. "I sleep here."

Weird Roommate has proven friendly enough, though, and at least where I am concerned has demonstrated no homicidal urges yet.

Sweet Roommate is the one with whom I've bonded the most.

He's a tall, jovial 20-year-old with a penchant for Lady Gaga, a friendly demeanor that moved him to welcome me into his group the first night he met me, a giggling laugh that would seem more appropriate coming from a twelve-year-old boy than a college Junior, and a fundamentally kind nature.

The other night, during one of the parties that are a frequent occurrence here, I locked my dorm key in the bedroom after having a few drinks.

He and I left for the Student Town residents' desk to retrieve a new one, and while the Resident Adviser on duty was fishing in her drawer for the bronze implement I happened to notice a box of free condoms sitting on the countertop.

Calm as could be, I reached my hand in, clasped my fist around the latex and plastic, pulled about three quarters of the container's contents out, and shoved them into my coat pocket, all without making a sound.

Sweet Roommate looked at me, his eyes crinkling with laughter.

"You're ridiculous," he informed me, and then we exploded into loud cackles that made the girl helping us fight not to laugh.

The fourth resident is Gay Roommate, a fellow homosexual and someone in whom I have, just to preempt the questions I know are coming, no sexual interest whatsoever.

He's nice enough, and when he is obnoxious it's typically in general, not aimed at any specific person.

Other regular personalities include Sparky, a twenty-two-year-old former roommate who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish but looks like a teenager; and Mexican Gangster, a jolly hard partier who, despite being expelled from housing and banned from the dorms, sleeps over on a regular basis (Mexican Gangster is in fact ElSalvadorean, and Sweet Roommate is given to refer to him as "ElSalvadorable").

Grand Pa is someone I've met only a few times, a young man about our age whose pseudonym is actually a moniker given him by friends poking fun at his traditional views on some issues.

There's no one here I really dislike, although Weird Roommate occasionally makes me nervous.

Another thing that I adore about living here is the difference in culture; Student Town is a group of old apartment-style dorms, set up in three-story brick blocks, and the community here is much different than in my last residence, where spacious modern rooms were all housed in a single large building. The set-up here encourages students to congregate outside or at least pass one another while walking to class, while in my old housing unit the way out consisted of going down the hall and getting into an elevator.

It's very easy to meet people in Student Town.

While visiting with Red-Headed Friend a few nights ago for cooking lessons, I was introduced to her two friendly and cool roommates, and before long we were bonding over a shared love of laughter and overeating.

"We don't have that much cake," Red-Headed Friend called from the fridge as we settled in for dessert. "So the pieces are going to be kind of thin. Who wants the small slice?"

Her two roommates and I each averted our eyes to the floor and were totally silent for about three seconds, when we looked up, realized that we'd all been doing the exact same thing, and burst into laughter.

And they're far from the only new friends I've made.

There's Boy-From-Poland, the genial nineteen-year-old who spends every holiday in Warsaw because his father worked for years at the American embassy there. Then there's Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet, whose acquaintance I made for the first time last night during the course of particularly raucous festivities.

"Hi," I laughed, bounding into her friend's room because my feet were cold from where I'd been standing outside in socks.

"Hi," she smiled, hugging me as her friend cracked up in the background.

"Honey, you're so little," Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet said, putting her arms around my shoulders. She shot an evil look at Sweet Roommate. "How much did they give you?"

Sweet Roommate laughed and raised his hands in defense.

"Not that much," he insisted, a smile on his face. "Really."

Tonight I ran into Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet while doing my laundry, and after she asked jokingly if I was alright, we had an hour-long conversation about our families, hometowns, and the benefits of living on campus. She's not a partier but doesn't judge those who are, and I'm not a heavy partier but I enjoy it now and again.

That's what I love about being here: though my roommates consume alcohol with gusto and though almost all of them smoke marijuana, they put no pressure on me to join; weed just isn't my thing and I'm not one to drink all the time. They understand that, so when I want to refrain they're fine with it and when I'm ready to jump in I'm invited.

Similarly, someone like Girl-I-Don't-Have-A-Pseudonym-For-Yet is not castigated for being more tame, nor does she condemn the wilder set.

When I told her about Red-Headed Friend's attempts to educate me in the culinary arts, she revealed a love for spaghetti that rivals my own.

"The next time I cook, I should let you know," she said.

"If I'm here this weekend it would be perfect, since we'll probably be snowed in," I answered. "Let me give you my phone number."

Just like that, a new contact was in my address book.

The coolest thing about Student Town is that people who like to cook spaghetti can hang out with political science nerds who love to sing, and both of them can be friends with the drinkers even if they don't drink. Student Town is big. There's enough room for everybody.

And honestly, that's a nice change from the places I've been the last few years. Some of them were pretty crowded.