23 July 2011

One last walk through UMass (Part 1)

I can still get on the UMASS wireless network. I wonder how long that lasts. Currently, I'm sitting outside the Student Union. It's quiet out here, the occasional car and confused-looking driver slowly make their way down the pedestrian path that is serving as the detour as they tear up Hicks Way to do electrical work for the new honors residential complex. No one else sitting here, which is almost unheard of during the school year. But that's summer in Amherst.

I started sitting here maybe my second semester as a graduate student. View's superb, there's a ton of foot traffic and activity and there are trees to shield you from feeling like you're right in the thick of it. The fountains in the pond are nice too, these days. There's a nice constant sound of splashing water. How I came to sit here I think came from a grad students' antsiness. A constant feeling of 'how am I going to accomplish this' that lends itself to long walks through the heart of campus, hoping to gain some sense of inspiration, but more than that a distraction from the sterile office environment. A comrade would sit here, and sometimes I'd catch him here and we'd chill. Sometimes I'd just sit here by myself, usually with my laptop and let the benchmarks run while I watched the girls and the fountains.

But I always had a sense of being misplaced here. Being some child walking onto the set of a movie with a fan-screaming laptop. I hate to put people in groups, but there was a sense never stated by constantly inferred (and maybe not even implied) that to be here you needed to care more about politics or organic food than I ever could. Or at least dressing like it? Is this unfair? Yeah, probably really. Maybe it's more of a mindset thing. Did I not develop some fundamental characteristic that would allow be to not feel like an outsider as I watched the fountains and the girls, and talked to people who I felt like I was never quite on the same footing as.

Today I came over here as via upper central. I parked in blue lot 29, where I would park when I would visit Chadbourne as a grad student. I miss that dorm, I really do, which aside from a friend living there is I think the reason why I tried to make it back so often. By first semester there was not so hot. I had a huge single room on the top floor with a beautiful pitched roof and dormer. But there was no sense of community and I spent most of my time down the hill in Gorman. What even happened that semester? I turned 21 and spent the night in my dorm room cussing out a girl (not to her face) and playing Mario Kart. Supertime radio. Random car rides in the dead of night. I think this way the semester where I started to relax a little, where relaxing is in this case defined by deviating from a more strict routine. But still a forgettable one.

Two semesters later I found myself in Chadbourne again and my primary complaint is that I worked too much, but fuck I could say that about the whole time I was here. Is mini-baseball the the defining element of that year? What is there to recruiting people from throughout the dorm, taking them to an abandoned storage room, and hitting a squishy globe ball with a souvenir Lowell Spinners bat. Some sort of quirky sense of joy.

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