Tuesday. 2.19.13 11:57 pm
Wednesday. 2.13.13 11:57 pm
“I felt like they were asking me to condone him in my place of worship. It’s one thing for me to be out there,” I nodded to the outside window, “but to ask me to go out and campaign in church? I couldn’t make that jump. I did not want to have those two worlds mesh, you know?”
“I look at it the same way you look at torture,” I say to a re-emerging Dr. Kerber, turning my attention from his wife to him. “Remember the classes you’d talk about how it’s about who we are, as a nation, and whether or not we want to turn toward evil to accomplish potential good. I see his policy with drones the same way and I didn’t want to have to condone that shit—“ I cut myself off and covered my mouth sheepishly. I glanced around the elderly Jewish couple’s kitchen, taking note of the many African-themed artifacts decorating their home. Necklaces with fastened with beautiful jades and rubies to one side, creepy skulls and eerie masks to the other. “I’m sorry—for cursing, you know. I didn’t mean to.. you know,” I said aloud, more so to her than him.
“I wouldn’t condone that shit either,” Alessandra said with a smirk. “So the question now becomes—“
“Al, have you offered Jonathan anything to drink? I bet he wants coffee,” Dr. Kerber says as he takes a seat, having put Ted the dog outside. “And maybe a biscuit or two.”
“I’m actually not much of a coffee drinker. I would love some water, though.”
“Are you sure you don’t want coffee, Jonathan? I’m sure you want coffee. Al, go ahead and brew some coffee.”
Mrs. Kerber rolled her eyes and stood up.
I’m really not much of a coffee drinker. I jokingly refered to the beverage as the white man’s potion while campaigning because it seemed as though my co-workers could not function without it. Or, at least, they felt they couldn’t. In fact, the last time I drank coffee was maybe a week or so before I left the campaign.
Every morning before work I would go to a corner market in downtown Charlottesville to buy a handful of clementines. On this particular day, I bought an entire bag – maybe it was payday or something. Anyway, I left the bag on my desk, unopened, and went to the café next door.
Six or seven of my co-workers gathered around my desk when I came back to my office, eating my clementines. My pal Leah said that as white people, they were just exericising their natural inclination to colonize my desk.
“So the question becomes now,” Mrs. Kerber continued, “what do you do now? You can’t continue living on Amy’s couch.”
“I’m actually already off of Amy’s couch,” I neglect to tell them that I’m currently sharing a bunk bed at a hostel. The dude who sleeps below me tickles my feet when I snore to wake me up. “Sorry, mate, it’s just—you know, you sound like a triceratops,” he told me the first night. How he knew what sound a Triceratops didn’t strike me as odd at 3 AM in the morning so I just shrugged and went back to bed.
“And I’ve got a plan. I’m applying for jobs now, in D.C., New York, California… I reckon I’ll just stay in the District for a few days, then make my way West.”
“I’ll figure it out,” I hear myself say once more. “Don’t really have a choice, really.”
“Do you regret choosing to resign over going to church?”
“No. I thought I was doing the right thing, you know? I just… didn’t know that doing the right thing would also mean doing the dumb thing.” I sighed and sunk deeper into the chair. For a moment, I wished I actually were a triceratops – they know what their mission in life is: eat, sleep, and procreate. Come to think about it, Triceratops and the Snookie have a lot in common.
“I think I’m on the right path… I just wish that I knew I was doing the right thing in life right now.”
“The ultimate goal in life is to see life as it is as beautiful at the same time,” Dr. Kerber says after taking a sip of his coffee.
“Yeah, I’m not there yet. There’s just so much .. fucked up shit everywhere. Hatred, disenfranchisement, rape, genocide… when you’re a kid you don’t know none of that shit, right? But then you become exposed to it – you see what life truly is for a lot of people around the world. How can that be beautiful?”
“That’s the test, Jonathan. You have to find the beauty in life, while still recognizing all that you described is also a large component of the human condition as long as you’re cognizant of it… and then still see the world as a beautiful place.”
“.. Well, damn.”
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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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