Of Fiends and Fountain Drinks

conquer3In these times of financial difficulties (i.e. “Hey! Where’d all my money go?”), lifestyle changes are expected.  Many of my cousins upon graduating high school have shied away from out-of-state education, investing in used cars, gas stations and morning commutes from home; others have ignored the traditional college altogether, seeking apprenticeships in trade schools, community colleges, or donning their suits or aprons in the work force.  In the Murphey house, with several of the siblings already in college, expenses have been tight: fewer meals outside the house, more carpooling, and no unauthorized visits to the bookstore . . . unless somehow linked to another far-more-necessary errand such as picking up the kids from practice or restocking our dwindling supply of breath mints.  You know . . . essential stuff.

Yet even my weekly rations of manga and short-story anthologies must be curbed.  Barnes and Nobel employees find me staring longingly at the latest Bestsellers like a twelve-year old at a pet store.  No one seems to mind me petting the spines, but when I start chatting up the authors many of whom have been dead for centuries, someone typically comes and asks me to leave.  This never halts my conversations but out in the parking lot, people seem to mind less.

As with most problems, money is the issue.  Therefore, in order to satisfy my bibliomania I’ve curtailed other less-necessary addictions like eating (half-portions), gaming (goodbye WoW), and education (graduated . . . finally).  One final expense remains: raspberry iced tea.

No force on earth, save its total destruction (thus rendering this whole argument moot), can sate my hourly need for half-way decent tea.  Other men have their Starbucks and Bud Light; I have my Lipton.  I cannot change this.  What I can do is try to cut down on the cost of my caffeine, thus saving capital for more pressing addictions: books and comics.

Thus I put my college math to work for me.  Borders like many cafés offers refills on a few of their beverages for a discounted price (50 cents or so, not including tax). Therefore my $2.40 iced tea with a refill actually decreases to about a buck and half.  As the number of refills gradually increases – assuming of course the serendipitous occasion of finding myself at the bookstore all day – the average cost per cup will decrease to about fifty cents.  My costly obsession with caffeinated beverages might actually provide a useful everyday application to my high school calculus and save me money in the process.  A rare treat indeed!

After all, apart from simple arithmetic and remembering how to spell ‘cat,’ how often can we honestly admit using those high school factoids oh so necessary for our mid-terms and pre-lunch pop quizzes?  Without the aid of Wikipedia, the name of the 30th president, conversion of meters to inches, and forty or so state capitals are long forgotten, buried under years of academic trivia, for use only during reruns of Jeopardy or boring parties.  Thus, it’s a real pleasure when I can apply these archaic mental-nuggets for use in my daily life.

Back to the calculus.  Stopping at a red light I formulated the following equation:

(2.40 + x(.50)) / (1+x)                                      x = being the # of refills consumed

Cost of Iced Tea per Refill at Borders

Cost of Iced Tea per Refill at Borders

Naturally the more I drink, the less spent per cup, offering more capital to invest in novels, Japanese comics, and the like.

Last Tuesday gave me the chance to test my theory.  The boys’ graduation practice ran a little longer and so I found myself with another hour at Borders to snoop through the shelves and tempt myself to some new fiction.  I managed to refill my cup three times, and as you can see from the graph, decreased the cost of my drink to nearly a buck.  With each delicious sip, I managed to steal the wealth of corporate America through some legal loophole.  I felt empowered, heroic like that weary young man, who upon returning from war and torture abroad built his keep among the trees, thieving spoils from the wealthy and distributing it to the destitute.  The Robin Hood of book buyers.

Yet all great ideas have their flaws.  Mine revealed itself half-way through my third cup while gazing at a polar bear peeking from the cover of a travel anthology.  My body twitched.  My breathing faltered.  I tried desperately not to think of flowing water, but row after row displayed rushing rapids, majestic waterfalls, and winding Amazonian rivers.  Instinctively my feet rushed me to the bathroom until my brain kicked in, reminding me of my half-filled cup, my sole source for more tea and economic superiority.

Alone without a Wingman, my options were limited.  Cutting my losses did not seem feasible; I had at least two more cups of tea left in me and another half-hour before I needed to don my chauffeur’s cap again. Carrying the cup inside the restroom likewise proved unsavory.  Most bathrooms – public or otherwise – possess an unsanitary aura, a gastronomic No Man’s Land, at least for items which you might like to stick into your mouth minutes afterwards.  Crossing the lavatory threshold drink in hand to me is akin to washing the cup with toilet water.

The Robin Hood of book buyers.

The Robin Hood of book buyers.

Few other choices remained.  Relinquishing my plastic chalice on the small table set aside for unpaid merchandise, I went about my business quickly, aware that some conscientious employee might toss my cup. Or worse, defilement.  Literary souls inevitably breed oddity; it’s what makes us so interesting . . .  and dangerous. Immediately I checked the remaining dredges of iced tea for tampering: any unnoticed fingerprint marks, lipstick, or powdery residue – I imagine passing out among the audiobooks only to wake hours later in tub of ice with only one kidney.  Finding no traces, I returned to my browsing and another refill.

An hour and a half later, my cup full once again with tea, three books in hand, I strode to the counter for check out, confident that I had saved myself ten dollars at least of valuable income.  In celebration I added another ten-dollar manga volume to my arm.

Arriving at the counter, I smiled at the cashier, dropping my pile before her, half-wondering if she would be interested in the results of my little science project.

“Hey Miss, did you know that I reduced the cost of six iced teas to nearly fifty-cents per glass.  Whatcha think about that?”  Her eyes glisten.  Her cheeks blush.  Her hands grab hold of my shirt.  As our bodies disappear beneath the counter, the remaining customers shout in unison, “Get a room!”

Or not.

I set the books too close to the sub-counter magnet, which triggered several loud beeps somewhere near the register; the cashier stepped on something near the floor silencing the alarm. Several armed guards and German shepherds shuffle away, disappointed.  Meanwhile she stared at my pile and counted.

“You know,” she said, “if you pick up one more book you can get one of these free.”

“Huh?  What?”

“Buy four get the fifth free,” she said pointing to the various cardboard signs stapled to the shelves around the store.

“Really?!”

I affected some surprise at this, having spent nearly two hours at the bookstore without noticing the words ‘free’ and ‘books’ together.  Then with a quick look at the clock, I took off again towards the children’s lit.  Ten minutes.  If I grab another eight dollar book (the price of my less-expensive purchase), I’ll have essentially just robbed the store.  When people think of me, the word ‘badass’ rarely comes to mind.  Nonetheless, I felt like buying a belt-chain and not recycling my old Snapple bottles.  That’s right, tossing ‘em in with the plastic bags and used iTunes gift cards.  Hardcore . . .   Desperate times, they can bring out the worst in all of us.

Diluted Sins

img_2377“What did you give up for Lent?”  An honest response to this question typically requires a fair bit of chagrin, a prolonged sigh, and an explanatory tale that often begins with “Well, it’s like this . . . ”  Regardless of their beginnings, no two stories are the same even though — more often than not — we all wind up innocent in the end.

Once again, this year Dasad and I have not managed to free ourselves from this fate.  However, unlike everyone else, it’s not our fault this time.   Truly.  Seriously.  Look, if you can spare me a moment or two, I can explain . . .

Lent for us Catholics is typically a time of sacrifice, fasting, and forgiveness, a decidedly textbook definition for what amounts to using God to enforce those pesky New Years’ resolutions we’ve long forgotten over the last two months.  As a kid, this usually meant giving up candy, video games, or the internet for forty days and forty nights, the same time period Noah suffered storm-tossed seas and a boat-load of the world’s fauna without the aid of Dramamine, sails, or steel cages.  After mounting a particularly towering wave, the world’s last pair of unicorns slide into the lion paddock, promptly removing magic (and many a childhood dream) forever from the gene pool.   By all rights, getting by with one less bag of Twizzlers doesn’t seem so bad.

iced-teaThis year in addition to striving to run two miles each day, I decided to halt my weekly purchase of novels and considered diving into some of the older tomes I have left to gather dust  over the years.  Thus, no new novels for forty days.  In hindsight a more effective sacrifice would have constituted banishment from the bookstore entirely, but my on-going addiction to Borders iced tea prevented such a bold stroke.  Instead while shifting through shelves of manga one afternoon — keeping a wide berth between the rest of the stacks (Mr. Bradbury, you know why) — my eyes tantalized by several new titles,  I considered what exactly constitutes a ‘novel’ per se.  My thoughts traveled back to EN212, Birth of the English Novel, and some vaguely remembered definition concerning plot and character, an eight-page paper citing specific examples in 12pt font, Times Roman.  At any rate no mention of ‘Japanese’ or ‘comics’ appeared in the slurry of words so I grabbed a handful of books and raced to the check-out counter before any divine arbitrator could consult the fine print.   Afterward outside the store, amid the blustery spring breeze and cloud-streaked skies, I walked bag in hand, swelling with my new purchases,  confident in my adherence to the letter-of-the-law even while gut-punching the much ignored spirit-of-the law with two rights and an uppercut to the chin.

To my credit, over the last fifty days or so, I ignored the graphic novel section (collected anthologies of Superman, Spiderman, and other comics) entirely.  Here my half-hearted arguments that graphic novels did not strictly constitute novels failed; in the end I could not escape the nomenclature.   Besides, nothing good (i.e. Batman’s ‘Heart of Hush’ book) arrived in the stores until at least the end of April at least . . .  and in the absence of temptation one finds strength.

Still despite my own innocence in this affair, I still felt the twinge of guilt, a smidgen of complacency in my actions; thus I sought out Dasad, prompting his confession and shared guilt with the similar question:

“Wait, so you’re only giving up videogames on Saturdays?”  I wrote to him on IM one morning, a week and a half after Ash Wednesday.

“Well, it’s like this, man,” he typed with a speed reserved for computer programmers and courtroom stenographers.  “It used to be everyday, but once Resident Evil 5 came out, I decided to alter it a little.”

“A single day sacrifice though?”

“Well, when the game came out, I thought of just abandoning the whole no-gaming sacrifice altogether, but considering a potential wrath-of-God-slash-karma blacklash, I just decided to tweak it a bit:  ‘No games that I already own, will I play.’  There.  Now we have a loophole . . . and my console is RE5 ready.”  For most individuals Lenten appeals do not need to be stated aloud, resting solely on the honor system.  In our case, we require written contracts for the sake of bragging rights.

“What about Gears?  Don’t you already own that?” I wrote with a smile.

viva_pinata“Uh yeah, I thought of that too,” he typed after a pause.  “That would put a serious dent in our Friday nights so then I considered ‘No games released before 2006,’ but that only really eliminated that pinata game and Madden 2005 . . .”

“Both of which you haven’t opened yet, if I recall correctly.”  Dasad collects games almost habitually, like a schizophrenic stockpiling voices, or old Mrs. Martin and her cats.

“Yeah, not much of a sacrifice, right?  So then I reconsidered and decided that I would only play games on Friday and Sundays.”

“Ok, so what went wrong with that?”

“There was nothing on TV last Wednesday.” I picture my friend flipping frantically through his 1 million channels, his mounting anger that nothing NOTHING was on except another abysmal season of American Idol.  Then finally after dousing the lights and shutting the blinds, he switches on his Xbox for a quick Horde match.  No one will ever know . . .

“Dude, that’s sad.”  Sincerity aside, I am laughing when I write this.

“Hey look, the whole Lenten season is rife with loopholes.  No meat on Fridays except seafood and if St. Patrick’s Day falls on Friday, then the Irish are given special dispensation to eat corned beef.  Moreover, on Sundays you are free from your Lenten sacrifices anyway.”

“Yeah . . .” I consider, trying in vain to differentiate the rule from the habit, “. . . but I think that’s only for elementary school kids.  As adults we’re expected to keep the sacrifice every day no exceptions.”

“Ha, another bias!  Damn it all, I’m having pastrami tonight.”

In the end, I think Dasad faithfully maintained his original pledge and abstained himself from gaming throughout the last forty days.  Every now and then I saw his avatar logged onto Xbox Live but he swears that was merely to watch a movie — which he reminds me does not constitute a game at all.  Frankly I believe him, though for the sake of my own heathen soul I like to pretend otherwise.  Hell, I hear, is a quite a lonely place with a very poor library — the constant humidity is murder on the pages.  In the absence of reading materials, amid the screams of the damned, a sympathetic ear means the world to us sinners.

Economic Value

The man approached us while we stood in line, our arms plump with books like old-time school children – bibliophiles that we are. I had come to the bookstore early that afternoon to stock up on several new manga volumes. A story sickness had overtaken me over the last few weeks, and my visits to the neighboring Borders and Barnes & Nobles could not arrive soon enough. After copious cups of iced tea and several hours wandering the stacks – limited funds led me to gather twice my current wares and replace half – I found my way to the check-out counter.

. . . whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea.

. . . whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea.

Our visitor held aloft a $25 gift card and offered to give it freely in exchange for a twenty.

“You earn five bucks,” he explained, while my fellow bibliophiles gazed nervously at each other.

“How do we know that anything’s left on that card?” the woman behind me asked.

“I’ll stay in line and pay for whatever you have there,” he said. “It’s all there. Does anyone want it?” I kept quiet and stared at a woman on the cover of National Geographic, her face glimmering in gold paint.

“I have a twenty,” a man in the back spoke up. “I’m not much of a reader, but I suppose that my girlfriend could use it.”

The man filed in beside his newfound patron.

“I lost my job last week,” the man confided. “Right now, I could use the money. Books are less important to me.”

My turn at the register had come. I walked away, paid for my purchases and left the store. Getting into my car, I regretted not talking to the man. I had no hard cash in my pocket, merely credit, but I felt ashamed at my silence.

Throughout my life, fear has always been my bane – ice cream too, but let’s not get into that. Of course this is true of anyone (of fear, not of ice cream unless you’re lactose-intolerant). I fear speaking up, speaking out, making myself known to the world. Thus, often it is turmoil merely to announce myself to others. Especially when I feel that my voice will do nothing.

People often wonder why I read fantasy and manga. Most individuals assume – wrongly – that I have a penchant for dragons, unicorns, and cat-eared forest girls. This is not so . . . . well, I do like my cat girls. For the most part, these are mere decorations, trappings that give a story color or excitement. The true whimsy lies in the characters, those few chosen individuals full of courage, strength, and fidelity that they risk all for the sake of others. Therein lies the true fantasy; those noble souls, these heroes are akin to manticores and chimaras, the stuff of legends and myths.  Yet despite the impossibility for such creatures in the ‘real’ world, I continue to hope and prowl the bookstores. Perhaps one day a bit of their nobility will rub off on me in the reading.

I tend to get distracted.

Honestly though, in these tight times, I cannot say which is more important to me food or books. With my small paunch, I could probably last a week or so without meals, provided ample coffee or iced tea was available. Without caffeine, valuable reading time might diminish. There’s also a good chance of death too, which could really ruin that novel I’m reading.

I worry sometimes about a lot of things: the economy, my life, the arrival date for the next volume of One Piece, and whether I should try peach syrup with my iced tea. I mean, Border’s raspberry tea tastes quite good – unlike Nestea, which is actually lemon extract, excessive amounts of sugar, and toilet water – but I wonder if I should reach a little outside my comfort zone. No one becomes happy without being brave. Next time I visit a bookstore perhaps I should ask for something new, a mint-peach syrup combination maybe. It may confound the barista a bit, but the dissolution of weakness deserves the extra tip. Especially in these hard times, we need all the virtue that we can lay our hands on.

Haunted

My teacher walked into the classroom and frowned at me while I typed.  Apparently my focus while writing is such that I seem angry or upset, as if contemplating a bad exam grade or a disparaging letter to Microsoft for recently mind-wiping my Xbox (The company is sin incarnate.  Seeing the RLoD (Red Lights of Death) twice in the last year, my feelings were such that I considered tossing the box into the nearby pond.  Then I recalled that Gears of War 2 will arrive shortly and thus promptly recinded my Micro-cidal thoughts . . . for now at least.).

“Murph,” he asked.  “Are you ok?  You look a little . . . ?”

“Haunted?” I responded with a smile.  Thinking about Microsoft will do that to you, like contemplating an impending root canal.

“Sure,” he said with a laugh.  “That’s it.  Hey how were your comprehensive exams a few weeks ago?”

“Ok,” I said with a shrug.  The test went relatively well in that I finished ahead of time and felt relatively confident of success.  The residual doubt circulating about my brain questions whether I remembered to type my name on the last three essays or whether it was folly to suggest that Google “lighted fools the way to dusty death.”

My teacher assured me that everything will be fine and strode back out of the computer lab.  In truth, my real worry rested in the job market.  Yeah, I mounted the hurdle of final exams, but now that I (hopefully) have my degree what do I do with it?  Foolishly no potential plans appear before me, nor is it a priority — though it should be.  My difficulty lies not in finding a job, but choosing a good one, one to love and enjoy forever and ever.  Yet I am abysmally slow at making important decisions, and in order to build up my courage on deciding my life’s pursuits, I seek refuge within books, comics, and immersing videogames.

Questions flit hurriedly as I sit there.  Where should I go?  What should I do?  Do I work solely for the money or should I seek out an occupation that stirs my interest and passion?  Should I move away from my family and friends for work?  Or do I continue my present residency?  Dreams or responsibilities?  Fidelity or adventure?  Maturity or childhood?  My head began to twirl.

Halfway through class my head began to spin a little.  My imagination manifested rainbow confetti pouring from light sockets, green M&M’s bubbling from the ceiling, and ice cream sprinkles dribbling under the door like water from an unwatched bathtub.  My professor did not seem to notice and continued his lecture, slowly expounding on program testing, quality calculations, job performance, and other mindless terminology.  The heat in the room failed to abate; the sight of wind-bent trees through the windows nearly drove me insane.  At 6:40 the class ended and I calmly walked to the door as quickly as humanly possible.  An autumn breeze embraced me at the door, as a friend-long lost readily missed.  Yet though released, my mind continued to spin.  Walking to the Metro, the cement tiles of the sidewalk glowed at my step like a disco dance floor or three-dimensional Q*bert pyramid.

At the Metro I unsheathed my latest tome from my backpack as a knight would a claymore.  There I stood and relaxed, immersing myself in other’s dreams and battles, allowing the words to wash away the heat and the stress like the voices of old friends.  The memory of jobs, tests, and homework fade from mind with each passing word.  Like a man haunted by a vision not his own.

Disbelief

“Why on Earth do you read them more than once?”

The questioner’s tone of voice drips with shock and disbelief as if I had casually admitted to sniffing white-out. Moments prior I had casually mentioned to the girl sitting next to me (a beautiful freckled young lady equipped with a British accent, a passion for Jane Austen, and a wedding band) that I habitually reread some novels every year. She nods rigorously chewing tuna salad, when a question breaks into our conversation.

I drop my sandwich onto the lunch table, swallowing before I answer. The rest of the lunch table has now turned their attention towards me and David, my fellow student-turned-interrogator in this week-long summer class on digital libraries. From nine to five, we sit and listen to technical lectures about our future careers, while I daydream about summer movies and dinosaurs. If a giant scaly monster crashed through the projector and ripped me in half, I could save several excruciating hours trying in vain to remain awake.

I take a sip of room temp Pepsi.

“Yeah,” I shrug. “It’s like revisiting old friends. Some books like The Lord of the Rings, The Count of Monte Cristo, or Pride and Prejudice, I read about once every year.”

“Ugh, why?” David scoffs this time. And I am reminded why I do not like him much. Like me, David has admitted to some previous experience as a scientist – philosophy apparently. Unfortunately like many scientists, he retains a personality akin to the man in Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” never bothering to develop an imagination or a sense of humor.

“I guess that I just enjoy reading,” I laugh. “I can be quite passionate about my stories sometimes.”

“But when do you find time?” he persists with such astonishment that I pause, wondering if I had misunderstood the question. When he speaks, he shakes his head with wonderment revealing a thick furry beard, the barbershop love-child between Chuck Norris and a muppet.

“Um . . . I don’t know,” I say. “On the metro, before bed, during my free time . . . uh lunch. I guess that I just make time to read.” After all, stories are important to me. Like taking showers in the morning or putting on your shoes, you learn to piece reading into your lifestyle.

Despite my explanation, David does not appear to understand, which honestly shocks me a bit. What must he do in his own free time to merit such incredulity? Although as I recall, David excels at asking awkward questions. Once during a cataloguing class, he felt inspired to reveal his revulsion of the social tagging site, del.icio.us.

“Why do all these websites have such stupid names?” he would ask. “Meaningless names that have nothing to do with what they do. Google, del.icio.us, Yahoo. They don’t make sense. They don’t mean anything. It’s stupid.”

Silence.

“Um . . .” someone remarks. “Unusual or quirky names, I guess, help people remember, right? Like cereal brands or detergent names.”

“But the websites names are asinine. Why can’t they tell us something about the site? Or what it does?”

No arguments concerning marketing and memory could convince him. Someone even mentioned that Google was now a verb in the dictionary. People after all who can easily remember site names are more often to visit them.

“It’s still makes me sick,” was his only reply.

Lunch ends, and as we leave I ask David what he enjoys reading.

“Nothing,” he says. “I don’t read. Or watch movies. I don’t have time.”

“Oh,” I blurt, surprised at his answer. I mean who does not have time for a book or movie every now and then? Oh but maybe he means fiction . . . “Well, I have a cousin who doesn’t care much for stories or fiction either, but he’s a great fan of news, biographies, and histories. Did ever read Richard Preston’s Hot Zone?”

“No, I do not read,” David reiterated, emphasizing the ‘read’ as if I had just been rendered deaf.

“Oh.” In the end that was all I could say.

Children don’t read to find their identity, to free themselves from guilt, to quench the thirst for rebellion or to get rid of alienation. They have no use for psychology…. They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff…. When a book is boring, they yawn openly. They don’t expect their writer to redeem humanity, but leave to adults such childish illusions.

— Isaac Bashevis Singer

Shopping Blues

The lights flashed and flickered into darkness as Mom finished her fifth catwalk down the aisle. I sighed yet again, noticeably upset that I had traded in a beautiful lightning storm for women’s shoes. As I understood it, Mom needed a third pair of Asics to replace her current “good pair” which she would wear down to Florida next week. Her original pair, though perfect for sporting around the house, could not be seen outside the house lest the world mock her for unclean running shoes.

The Plum shoe . . .My simple male logic, which clearly made no sense of the previous two sentences, decided to stare aimlessly about Kohl’s department store in the hopes of finding something pretty, shiny, or in lingerie. Finding only two of the three in the shoe department, I decided to return my attention to Mom, who had just finished fitting another pair of purple (the box said plum) shoes. She jumped off the bench and strode down the aisle again.

“How do you like them?” she asked.

“Um . . .” I always attempt honesty first. This seldom works but typically results in several funny awkward moments. “Actually I like them, better than those pink ones with the bland gray color.”

“Really?” Mom says in that tone which tells me I had just failed that test. “Because I really like the pink ones. They’re less noticeable.”

“But the purple ones have more room right?”

“Purple? What purple ones?”

“Plum,” I sigh. “The . . . plum shoes you have on.”

“Oh, yeah. They are more comfortable, but a little more expensive.”

“So what? Just buy them,” I advise. This is typical bored-guy logic at work here, the “if you like it, let’s get it and go” perspective that reminds her irritatingly of her husband.

“He’s always rushing me,” she would say and then wonder: “Why can’t you be more patient like when you were little?”

When I was growing up, I would love to go shopping with Mom. We would first visit the bookstore, where Mom would buy me some story or comic and then enter one of the major department stores to shop for the younger kids. There I would find myself a nice hidden nook, a nest among the children’s clothes to read in peace. Mom would spend hours looking at bibs, tiny plaid shorts, and one-piece overhauls with mooing cows, checking sale prices and muttering to herself how big all her children had become. Rarely did she shop for herself. Yet, when she did I would inevitably find myself a corner, gather several fashionable dresses and petite slacks discarded or dropped from their racks and nestle myself for a few hours of silent study.

Mom of course loved this. Not only did she have a shopping buddy who was willing to go with her, but this shopping buddy did not mind one bit whether she spent all day analyzing outfits and arguing prices. Nowadays however as I’ve grown in size some, escaping to a corner beneath women’s apparel to read, hoarding pillows of female apparel would earn me several bizarre stares and perhaps a police-escorted invitation to leave the store. Pervert!

Thus, I am left sitting in the shoe department, my book burning a hole in my pocket and watching my mother parade down the aisles in an assorted variety of Skittle-flavored running shoes. The truly ironic thing is that my style of shopping mimics Mom’s . . . that is, in the proper venue. Later this week, as we prepare for a long roadtrip south to Florida, she will come ask for a ride to the bookstore and a quick scan of their magazine department. The sound of her impatient “Are you done reading yet?” will be music to my ears.

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Dropped Out

Well, I truly screwed up this time. Today was to be my first of class for the summer, a week-long nine to five excursion through the city’s museums and art collections, yet last Monday something happened: I started my summer reading. Typically at the beginning of each summer, I peruse the children’s collections at the local bookstores for a fun adventure series to explore for the next few months. Kevin currently was reading the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, The Lightning Thief, a book I recall one of my fellow classmates recommending a few months ago.

To make a long story short, I dove into the series devouring first four books within a few days. The series does a wonderful job of incorporating Greek myths into daily life, and I relished the characterizations of all the gods, goddesses, heroes, monsters, and legends. Every so often, I would halt my reading to peruse a section of the Odyssey or Ovid’s Metamorphosis, just to guess who the emerging monster or new god. The series even included a nice Potter-ian epic storyline and a blossoming romance. I got hooked, falling totally into “story sickness” once again.

Yet I realized last night that my excursion into the realm of myth cost me a great deal of time, necessary to prepare for the upcoming class. A twenty entry annotated bibliography required for Tuesday had not even been considered. A group presentation for Wednesday, after consulting my school email, had already begun. Sources had already been distributed, summarized, and analyzed. I had barely skimmed the four page proffered list of sources. The group had decided to meet tonight to discuss thoughts and powerpoint. Class had not even begun, and I was already failing.

Now two weeks prior, I had gazed briefly at the syllabus. Never a fan of academic journals/writing (ever since NIH the longwinded style simply puts me to sleep), the immense load of research and reading scared me a little, but I thought myself capable of finishing it all in a few hours time. After all between Iron Man and Speed Racer movies, Percy Jackson and my writing, learned journals seemed so much less important, too unexciting and dull for serious contemplation. Thus, although I have an excuse, it is not much of one.

Learning of the immense work, I had yet to complete sent a shockwave of anxiety through my stomach, similar to waking at 2AM to realize your toothpick bridge (25% of total grade) for Honors Physics may be due tomorrow. I nearly threw up. Then I decided to drop the class.

I now wake this morning, feeling somewhat refreshed, invigorated, and totally worthless. It is a strange feeling, sacrificing education for a children’s book. Yet sometime along the past week or so something else just became more important. Given the chance, I would probably do it again. No regrets; although I realize how irresponsible and stupid this makes me sound. In the end, I just could not help myself. Knowing how the current series ends, somehow eclipsed school work. The only problem now is what will I end up reading today . . .