Aliens are Everywhere

The sunrise this morning was a single beam of blood orange light, rising like a column from the misty soccer field I bike by in the morning. I was about halfway through my 6am, 35-degree ride when it happened, and I had to squeeze the brakes, sure that what I was seeing was out of a science fiction novel in which extraterrestrial beings try to burn a hole in the planet. The clouds were pink and gray, and hung low like waiting ships. The wind picked up, and I biked home.

Now it's Friday night, I am at work, and I can hear the bar next door turning up their jukebox. What a week!


There's a Better Place For You

Young woman from India approaches the table. She's with her father, and they are twenty minutes early. "Do you know much about Hampshire?" I ask. "Yeah," she responds. She's smiling and nodding. I look at her father. "But tell us more," he says, with an encouraging half-smile. "There are no grades or tests," I say. "There are no majors." Their faces brighten. "You have to graduate by completing a series of projects. Your last year is spent by taking no classes and instead completing one huge project. It sounds daunting, but everyone is doing it, so it's exciting. My friends made films. One of them started his own record label. I wrote a 100-page paper." They still want more.

Meanwhile, another young woman approaches with her mother. She has an odd accent that I can't quite place. She is rabidly excited about creative writing. I briefly debate telling her the story of the time that I, in my third day of college, wrote a short essay about my memory of my grandmother's death, and left it at Michael Lesy's door, as instructed, hoping for admission to his writing class. At the time, I fully intended to be a writer at college, since that's what I was known as in high school. But two days later, my name wasn't on the list of students admitted to his class. I think this was before they republished Wisconsin Death Trip. It was certainly before I decided to become a theorist instead of a creative writer.

I don't tell her the story. I tell her we're great with creative writing. She gets very excited. I describe the liberal Pioneer Valley. She looks so happy.

A bearded man approaches my table. "I went to Antioch," he says. "I understand having no grades." I smile and nod. "No one should have grades," he says. "Our daughter is different, though. She likes them. I'm trying to show her that life can be much more gratifying than getting a grade." We hold eye contact for a second. "I want to come to Hampshire," he says. I laugh. His daughter, a beautiful young Korean woman, approaches him. He hands her a card. Distracted, she fills it out.

A tall blond mother who went to Smith comes over. Her equally tall daughter avoids eye contact, and hides behind her mother's right shoulder. While she fills out an info card, I learn that her mother got a PhD in nueroscience after she graduated from Smith. She's now contemplating going to law school. I look down at the info card. She named her daughter Giselle. I think of a gazelle.

A funky woman in a purple scarf approaches me. "My daughter has a learning disability," she says. "Could she do well at Hampshire?" "Yes," I say, and begin to tell her what kind of personality types emerge there as surprisingly eager to learn. I ask what her daughter likes. "Boys!" she says, and laughs. "She gets B's, and she likes cheerleading and boys. She's very different from me. I personally would love to go to Hampshire." If she needs structure, I say, send her to a different school. I gesture to Hartwick, which shares my table, what with the alphabetical order. "That's where my little brother went, and he loves it." "Hmmm," she says. "Is anyone who goes to Hartwick NOT from upstate New York?" "Yes!" I say, doubting myself.

Girls stop in gaggles to fill out info cards; parents drop in as if I offer a respite from the madness (and I do); sophomores stop by, eager to leave high school, already dreaming of something better. I preach gospel. At the end, one student beelines for me. She already knows the basics. She just needs that last bit of convincing. She has purple hair and matching purple piercings. She is also incredibly beautiful. She is poised and focused. She knows all the right questions. What can I say? She wants to know how to leave high school early. I can tell she's ready. I can't answer her question, but I give her an info card and she flips through the catalogue. I tell her about the Drag Ball, and how I wore a tie for the first time. Her mother laughs, and elbows her. They both nod. I stop short of telling them that I liked it so much that I wore a tie every day for a week. On her card, I write, "She's got to come here."



This has been such a crazy couple of weeks! Every day I write an entry in my head, but it stops short of forming type. I found the perfect wedding dress; it is an ivory silk satin with a sleek front and a full, flowing train, spaghetti straps, handmade in Italy, empire waist, a cathedral veil, and a $2,400 price tag. Which makes it, oh, I don't know, about $2,200 over my budget. But it is SO gorgeous. Just luscious. And it was the first thing I tried on, too. I put it on, I went into the showroom, my grandmother cried, my mother hugged me, the staff handed me a bouquet of flowers, and I stood on a pedestal, to be admired by all. I actually kind of felt like I got married.

This from a girl who, until that dress got pulled down over my hips last Saturday morning, has always imagined getting married in a colorful cotton summer dress. In fact, I still imagine that. Either it will be the colorful frock, or the handmade silk variety that springs from a well in Italy. We'll see. We can't actually decide when to get married, so once that is settled, the other details can get some attention.

Tonight I am to encourage confused students in the privileged high school of a nearby suburb to appreciate the joys and whims of Hampshire College, the perfect destination for every oddball and misfit who ever turned 17. It's one of my favorite jobs, and I get almost nothing for it. Well, besides a free dinner, and the gratification of having guided lost souls to the glorious mecca of alternative education. Usually I do it with my former roomate of six years, and fellow alum, but tonight I go it alone. I love it when a stranded, lost parent approaches me and says, "My son doesn't really like high school." And I can say, "Well, at Hampshire we believe that the best kids don't like high school. Because, as you know, high school is dumb." I am very good at this job. Very good indeed!



Write In Today

to: info (at) clark04.com
subject: disappointed to learn of the departure

......of the campaign manager, Donnie Fowler. As a lifelong Democrat and current Clark supporter, I am desperate to promote anyone who can beat Bush in the election. I understand the nature of campaign staff turnover, but I feel very afraid that by relying on Gore's passive, conservative and ineffective 2000 team, you are letting us all down, General Clark. Please, understand the extreme position this country is in, and take a lesson from Dean: speak directly, speak loudly, and do not surround yourself with Washington insiders. Don't ignore the grassroots campaign.


Consciousness is Stressful

I love this headline from the Times today: "Bush Unsure If Leaker Will Be Caught." Oh my god.

President Bush said Tuesday he has "no idea" whether the Justice Department will catch the person who disclosed an undercover CIA officer's identity.

"This is a large administration," Bush said.

So, anyway! Last night, I was reading The Conscious Bride, which is great and which I do NOT recommend, ever. Sample checklist of questions:
"In what ways are you grieving for the loss of your singlehood?"
"How has your relationship with your dad changed since your engagement? Does he feel sad?"
"Is it hurting your relationship with your mom now that your primary role in life is not only going to be Daughter?"
Yeah. By the third question I was in tears. Blue says I can't read the book anymore. I think eloping is the only answer. Eloping in a field of baby animals.


Baby Animals Galore!

I've blogged about baby animals in the past, so some of you may know that I have an embarrassing and illogical, but wildly passionate, appreciation of them. I find it deeply emotional; it's actually hard for me to take my eyes off of them. Well, this last weekend was the weekend of baby animals to end all weekends of baby animals. We took our out-of-town guests to dinner with my friends and godson, thereby introducing them to a (very cute) human baby. The next day we were driving by wetlands, and I swerved to avoid a baby snapping turtle. We pulled over and held him for a bit. He was so tiny. His eyes were closed. He had long front claws and a soft shell. Not counting the tail, he was only a few inches long. We carried him off the road and set him free. He tumbled off into the grass. Nearby were some baby ducks, frolicking in a swamp.

Later that day, we stopped at an awesome farm near our house that allows visitors free access to stand outside the animal's pens and talk to/look at/coo over them. We checked up on some twin baby goats we've been watching grow, and found, inside a barn, about seven lambs with their mothers. The lambs were so young that their hooves were bright blue, and their legs were wobbly. And there were baby bunnies a-hopping about in the field. And there was a young chicken, in case not all the baby bases were covered. We all got exceptionally cuted out.

There were also good non-baby things that happened, like picking 40 pounds of apples, taking an open-air hayride on a busy street, and walking away from a yard sale with a set of 5 frosted drink glasses decorated with fruit for just $1. I was very relaxed. I felt even better when we ate delicious apple crisp that night.

There was also a lot of wedding talk, this couple having just recently been married. It scared us both a little, I think, because weddings are so overwhelming on every level. I have to admit that I have quiet fantasies of getting married in a small winter affair...like eloping, but with my mom there, and maybe even our closest friends. Right now the big summer wedding seems far away and expensive. But, this whole process really is the roller coaster ride they promised. I seem to vacillate wildly between one wedding dream and its opposite. All I know is, we're handing out baby bunnies as favors. Just kidding. Kind of.