Tuesday. 2.12.13 11:58 pm
“You were at Harvard!,” Dr. Kerber says with mock astonishment. “And then I get an e-mail from you saying you’re in D.C.,” he continues as we make our way out of the cafe. The three of us – me, Kerber, and Tim, the Borzoi dog, -- walked in unison down a busy sidewalk in the most powerful city in the world. I reckon only one of us was truly at peace with their place in the world and he wore a leash.
“So just what the hell happened?”
“I tried to do the right thing,” I said with a shrug, as though that were all that needed to be said. But I told him the full story anyway.
“I joined the campaign staff about a month or so back. I thought I could take a semester off of school, contribute to something bigger than myself by getting involved in politics and policy—you know, make an impact.”
“Yeah, naïve, I know. But, I went after it anyway. So I’m working on the campaign in Charlottesville, Virginia, right? And there’s… something both infuriating and insulting about being black in that city and having all these constant reminders that motherfuckers who make your skin crawl are exalted as heroes.”
He laughed again.
“Oh, and I’m also seeing a woman who lives not too far away. She’s actually the reason I moved to Virginia in the first place, and not Iowa. We had a talk abothe same time.ut marriage and---“
“Wait, wait, wait a second,” Dr. Kerber says as he and Tim come to a complete stop and turn to look at me. “There’s a woman in this story? C’mon, Jonathan, you know better than that. You know they ruin everything,” he says with a facetious grin before continuing: “My wife’ll tell you when we get home!”
I hadn’t taken note of it during the course of our trek, but our surroundings grew progressively rural as we made our way toward the residential part of the district. I wasn’t entirely sure we were still in the city when we reached his front porch. Gone were the typical urbanism regulars like overpriced boutique sandwich shops and nuanced grocery stores. In their place were gas stations and chain restaurants.
“So you’re the vagabond law student I’ve heard so much about,” Dr. Kerber’s wife Alessandra said while opening the door. “Come in, come in – what can I get you? How are you feeling?”
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Monday. 2.11.13 11:57 pm
“Come on out here, Jonathan. I can’t bring her inside,” I hear my mentor bellow from across the café. One hand gripped the dark leather leash fastened to an absolute beast of a dog, keeping his pet at bay while Dr. Kerber held the door open with his free hand.
I took one last sip of that free cup of water, grabbed my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius off the table, and pushed myself out of the couch and onto my feet. Reminiscing about the last time I ran into Dr. Kerber, I smiled as I thought of my last visit to Washington, D.C. – before the whole campaign job / love affair blew up in my face.
“This guy… this guy here, he’s got to be.. wait, you know---,” an inhebriated Dr. Kerber stutters amongst a group of his current students upon noticing my presence. There’s about a hundred folks in one of those big ass fancy conference rooms on the northwest side of town, all dressed and dolled up for the special occasion: the 25th anniversary of the inaugural class of a fellowship. Winners live, work, and study in D.C. as part of an immersion in policy and politics work with the supposed goal being to groom the next generation of Texas leaders in a multitude of fields.
“You know what, you tell ‘em, Jonathan. These fine men and women you see before you --,” he motions to the six or seven students around him, “are.. well, you. Four, or maybe five, years ago. So why don’t you tell ‘em all about what this fellowship has meant for you!”
“Well,” I say with a slight fidget. I’m looking my former professor straight in the eye, reading his reaction to my story. “After the fellowship ended, I went back to Texas for a bit.. then I invested a lot of money into an agricultural endeavor and opened up a fruit stand off the side of the I-35 freeway outside of San Antonio, Texas. So, you know.. if you’re ever driving up the freeway and see ‘ Jon’s Jazzy Apple Stand,’ feel free to stop by and offer me some patronage.”
My former professor squinted briefly before turning his gaze to his newer students. They were in the midst of nodding their heads unsuredly, offering me half-hearted congratulations.
“Okay, now, tell them what you’re really up to, Jonathan,” Dr. Kerber says with bemusement.
“I’m currently a graduate student at Harvard University and will likely pursue a career in either human rights work or criminal justice.”
Now it was time for the new students to squint and then laugh awkwardly as they gave me that Bobby Goren “is he serious…?” look. Luckily for them, Dr. Kerber came to the rescue:
“And this is what I had to deal with every day. This kid has the driest sense of humor I’ve ever encountered – and I’m still not sure when he’s bullshitting me or not.”
He gave me a nod; I replied with a smile, and turned to walk away.
“Wait.. so.. wait, is he really selling fruit now?” I hear a woman say while I made my way across the room.
With that tale on my mind, I followed Dr. Kerber outside of the café. I e-mailed him a few nights prior to our meeting with brief details about my last month on the campaign, but I could tell he was eager to get the full story out of me.
“So last time I saw you, you were a student at Harvard. And now.. you’re.. well, just what the hell are you doing here?”
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Thursday. 2.7.13 11:32 pm
In lieu of an actual entry, I figure I'll take the opportunity to clear up some confusion I've seen in the comments.
The last few entries, and likely the majority of the ones you'll read going forward lest I somehow indicate otherwise, took place in the distant past. More specifically, over the course of the last six or seven months. I anticipate somehow turning this collection of short story-esque memoiresqe entries into a book one day.. or, at least, i dream that I will.
So yeah, feel free to critique any and everything you read here. If things arent' clear because of my writing style or they just don't make sense to you, please don't hesitate to let me know either pm or comment or facebook or if you're unicornisaurus, during our weekly 2:30 am hangout session.
I've slipped up and used her real name a few times in the past (and I'll have to go back and change that...), but SWSNBN has been a central figure in this blog since its inception. My very first entry here was about her ten years ago. She's sort of been this big catalyst in my life. Obviously. Full disclosure mode: I'm about to make a big choice in my life with little regard to how it will impact my relationship with her for the first time that I can remember.. so that's.. progress?
And consider this my mailing it in entry for the week. I reckon we're all entitled to one a week, right?
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Whatever it fucking takes
Wednesday. 2.6.13 10:05 pm
“Can I just.. water, please,” I say to the guy standing behind the register. I can never tell if these folks get frustrated with people like me – people who go to cafes and ask for some free water. If dude had a problem with my ilk, he didn’t let on. He simply nodded, his minidreads shifting along with his head before passing my order along to a co-worker.
Me and my free water stayed in a corner of the café for maybe ten minutes, waiting. I went over in my head my last two weeks. My gig at the campaign was rough – I got into the office, which was actually located in an outdoor mall in downtown Charlottesville, every day around nine AM and reported to a supervisor. He or she would typically send me and a partner out to some corner of the city to register voters. “Remember, Jon… this is how we win the election. The margin of victory comes down to the number of people you register!”
There were tons of slogans political workers throw around constantly on campaigns. Personally, I feel most of them are meaningless. For instance, whenever any sign of reluctance crept across my face, a supervisor would grin and say “ Fired up!,” with the expectation that I would exclaim back “ready to go!” To describe my retort as tepid would be a redefinition of the adjective. I often shrugged and walked away.
Another favorite saying was “do whatever it fucking takes” whenever I pondered how to go about accomplishing a certain goal. How do I go about getting 25 people to register to vote in the parking lot of a WalMart? By doing whatever it fucking took, obviously. Some nights I didn't make it back to the office til six P.M.. From there, I'd make recruitment calls and persuasion calls til around 10 P.M., then document all that I did and the results I achieved til around midnight.
Oftentimes I was lucky to get one or two people to register to vote on any given day til the college kids started rolling in again. As the July sun beat the fuck out of my body on one of those off days, I gave my pal Julian a call.
Like me, Julian left our law school prior to completing his degree. Unlike me, he had no intention of going back. Instead, he dedicated himself to his artistic craft: filmmaking. A part of me was jealous at the man’s courage.. it took a lot of it to say no to the keys to comfort and instead try to make a living selling as subjective as art. But I reckon that’s what made him a true artist and me.. well, me.
That, and the fact that I had concrete reasons for wanting to be a lawyer whereas I think Julian did not see much utility in the occupation itself… but when Harvard comes calling, most pick up and never hangup.
“Of course, man. Of course there was doubt. But I just knew I wasn’t meant to be there. I knew that I was meant to do something else… so, you know, I just did it. You only get to live through this shit once, so why not do it right?”
Waiting at that café for my mentor, too scared to spend a buck fifty on some tea, I wondered if I as truly following his advice.
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Tuesday. 2.5.13 11:39 pm
DISCLAIMER: the entries throughout this month and going forward til otherwise noted reflect my thoughts, feelings, and life during the summer, fall, and winter of 2012. in other words, these are old entries ive been emaning to getting around to writing.
The most tortuous nightmares are the ones you sorta yearn for. Those nights where you dream of some real sweet shit only to wake up to discover the longings of your soul could be obtained only through slumber. I've been having these dreams going back all the way to when I was a kid growing up in a tiny Texas town.
It's kinda funny though.. back then I used to wake up to the realization that my relationship with my father didn't resemble Cory and Alan Matthews of boy meets world fame and get angry. The first few days I woke up on Amy's couch that summer left me feeling more shame than anything else. Waking up to the realization that I wasn't actually laying in her bed made me miss her and therefore brought upon the shame of coming to the realization that I was still very much in love with the girl still.
"Listen, man, let me just.. let me just drop some... knowledge on you right here, Jay," Tyler says with a mouth full of sloppy joe. It's late July and we're at a grimy downtown diner in Baltimore, Maryland. He licks his lips before he speaks again, allowing his tongue to flick the metal hoop piercing his bottom lip before continuing. "You just got to say "fuck it," you know? I'm not on some Dr. Dre shit or nothing -- I'm not saying women ain't shit. All I'm saying is that you got to be like me, man."
I hit him with one of those stale faces while cutting up my pancakes. "What do you mean, T?"
"I mean you got to realize that relationships are bullshit, Jon. You can't go around just caring about women this way because they'll end up fucking you over if you let them. So don't let them."
I picked up my grilled chicken sandwich -- white onions, pickles, and barbecue sauce as toppings-- and pushed my now empty plate of pancakes to the side. A weird combination, I know, but it's my special heartbreak meal. "I don't know, man. I hear what you're saying -- the folks we make ourselves vulnerable to are the ones who can do the most damage to us, but..."
Sensing I couldn't come up with a counter argument, Tyler sat back in his seat and grinned at me from across the table. I shrugged and turned my eyes back to the sandwich for a moment.
One of my most influential teachers told me once that the tattoo a person has tells their story of anguish. According to her, folks often get tattoos as a commemorative event of sorts -- a showing to the outward world that they've been through some shit but came out of it stronger. Sitting across from Tyler that afternoon, I reflected on her words as I took note of the maybe thirty or forty tattoos covering his exposed bodyparts.
"My favorite? This one--," he takes a hold of his collar and yanks it down far enough for me to see his chest. Atop his right breast was a Megaton Pokemon with a shield and sword standing guard before a gate. If Tyler's philosophy on relationships could be boiled down to one image, it'd have to be that. "Or, maybe this one..."
He may not have convinced me to completely adopt his philosophy in terms of relationships.. but he did succeed in convincing me to get a replica of the second tattoo he showed off. Across his knuckles were the words "Sola Fide," which roughly translates from latin to "By Faith Alone."
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Monday. 2.4.13 8:20 pm