21 June 2005

Fruits of Higher Education

Collegiate lessons borne from a year of intensive study.

College and its ruinous cost have taught all of us a good many things, even if at Emerson collegiate academics are a well-organized fakery designed to let us film at will. After a year, and with a little reflection, you can stop and be shocked by the change. Benchmark it. We're gone, and irrevocably.

Exhibit: High school seniors touring the works come spring. Note how comparatively clean-cut they look. Even the dyed and pierced have an antiseptic kind of innocence. They're holding on to long-distance romances that have yet to crumble under the weight of actual distance. Wide-eyed, naive. Underexposed. Juiced up on anticipated hedonism we've already sampled.

They're a reminder. Education has done a number on us.

Lessons have been learned: how long it takes to do laundry in an upright washer (24 minutes), what Coetzee's allegory was in Foe (South Africa), and when NYP makes their best pizza (1:30 am). The streets intersecting Newbury are in alphabetical order (Arlington-Gloucester). There is a good Malaysian place around the corner. 15 stops on the B line get you 44 Linden and five kegs.

We have perfected our vices. We know the right angle to tilt our plastic cup for beer (45 degrees) and how Jagermeister is best served (ice luge). Without formal training, we can mix what bartenders call Cuba Libres. We usually do without the lime.

Exhibit: A dear friend of mine at Columbia who in a year has captured herself in a snapshot. Fedora tilted, scarf swung, lollipop lolling out of a mouth corner, liquor bottle in hand, eyes shadowed on a New York subway. A year ago she was white-dressed at Commencement.

And while we're on the subject, a White Russian with vodka is called a Screaming Orgasm. A T pass gets one other person in free on Sundays. Most cabbies will turn the meter off and take you back for a ten-spot if you ask. Wednesday the dining hall serves breakfast-for-dinner or pulled pork sandwiches. McCormick's has a two-dollar burger after 11. Thursday Lowes puts on midnight movies; print out enough Student Advantage coupons and you'll get in for $5.

The price of a cab from Brookline. Friday markets at Fanuiel Hall. Cheap Indian food. The numbers and menus for three different Chinese take-out. Cafes where they know us. Oyster bar Wednesdays. Pregaming.

We are hardened. We forsake sleep strategically. We run for blocks after the last T of the night and walk home if we miss it. We buy some music and steal the rest, shower three times a week, eat breakfast at our morning lecture. We stamp out papers in an afternoon. We suck down tomato juice and thick bread in the morning for hangovers. We dumpster dive in Back Bay for Upper Crust after close. We smoke pot on the docks. We don't go to bed before two on Saturdays; the car horns keep us up. We take pictures for the nights we won't remember.

It's no secret that the life's dirty and mean. Sheltered too, in a strange sort of way. It's not the real world, not yet. But then none of us are ready for that anyways. For the time being, we're here instead, learning an important life lesson:

3:43 am. Running home. A subway sign under our jacket.

Lesson - Never pay for posters when you can steal signs instead.

Lesson - Joyce's modernist pastiche employs multiple voices towards the end articulated by Stephen Daedalus in Portrait of an Artist: to sit as the artist, "within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, pairing his fingernails, like the God of his Creation" (Joyce 215).

Lesson - An Irish car bomb is not just an act of terrorism.

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