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05.20.02 3:38 a.m.

REPUBLIC, n. A nation in which, the thing governing and the thing governed being the same, there is only a permitted authority to enforce an optional obedience. In a republic, the foundation of public order is the ever lessening habit of submission inherited from ancestors who, being truly governed, submitted because they had to. There are as many kinds of republics as there are graduations between the despotism whence they came and the anarchy whither they lead.

 -Ambrose Bierce  

Previously in Xenology: I decide a stranger should be my friend. Veronica and Zack break up, but have a strange post-break-up relationship. Jenks is an abusive, passive-aggressive weasel. Dances with Bunnies was detached from sense.

Fancy Dijon Ketchup
I have been lax in updating this site. I could blame finals and whatnot, but I shall just say that I have not much been in the mood to write and am not terribly interested in writing right now. However, summer is here (though the temperature would lead me to believe otherwise) and stories shall build. So I will fill in blanks that may develop by explaining each "Soon in the Journal" from the previous entry. It's all very orderly, which hide the sheer laziness of my story-telling technique.
Coke lines at Eveready: Easy enough story. Melissa, M, and I were hanging out at the Everyready Diner in Hyde Park because Emily suggested we go and insisted that we never do what she suggests. Actually, on the way there, we wanted to change the plans and see Monty Python and the Holy Grail but we unable to signal this to Emily in her car. So, to the diner we went.
Once we had reached the diner, the conversation took a turn toward drugs. It does that from time to time. Everyready offers jars of sugar rather than packets. As such, Melissa instructed us on the finer points of cocaine etiquette using the sugar she had poured onto the table. She showed us the line that an average person would do. Then she showed us the line she ODed on years ago. It was easily fifteen times the size of a normal line and was composed on far purer coke than was usual. Emily and I were shocked. It was horrifying to thing about ingesting that much sugar at one time. In a morally relativistic way, we were highly impressed by her tolerance. It's a lot more fun of a story once the person has been clean for a few years, too.
On a separate topic of conversation, Melissa explained Liz's family dynamic to us. Essentially, Liz is like a mother to her sisters (not all of whom are directly related to her). They depend upon her as they would a mother and she is responsible accordingly. This was a strange to think of, as I usually just see Liz outside her home, when she is one of my crazy friends. It makes her seem a lot fuller in my mind to know that she has this dimension to herself.
Brahma: A quick one. Emily, Zack, and I were shopping in Wal-Mart a while ago. Emily needed new sandals, so I was wandering around the department looking for ridiculous footwear to share with others. I was salivating over a lovely concoction of metal and black leather masquerading as hiking boots when I noticed the brand name. "Brahma." Brahma wants to sell me leather goods... If you don't see the irony of that, I'll wait while you look it up in the dictionary... You see now? I do not know what they were thinking when they decided upon this name. "Cows so sacred that we would only kill them for your bipedal comfort."
Kandahar: Melissa and I saw the movie Kandahar a month ago. It was made before September 11th, so it would not be affected by those events. We were expecting a film that would illuminate Afghanistan beyond what popular media was showing us and would, perhaps, show us how beautiful a country it truly is. Melissa told me that theologians thought that Afghanistan was one of the possible sites of Eden because it was so beautiful. Instead, we were treated to a purposely opaque and plotless faux documentary with no real ending. We saw nothing but dirt and legless men. The acting was actually worse than if the actors had just read their lines for the first time off of cue cards. You really didn't give a damn about the protagonist. The whole reason for her flight into Afghanistan is unbelievable (her sister threatened to commit suicide during the eclipse, though we are never given any reason to think this is more than a melodramatic woman seeking attention and we never meet her in the movie). We were sorely disappointed.
That same night, after the film, Melissa divulged to me that Martin Luther King's family, who are currently leasing his image and words out to anyone who can meet the family's steep price for whatever reason, does not use any of this money to maintain the MLK museum. When the African-American community asked his family, given that MLK once lived for help with revitalizing, they were harshly rebuffed. The family was also given a government grant to restore MLK's writings and, once presented with the restored and preserved papers, locked them away and said that no one would be allowed to see them. Basically, we think that Dr. King's physical legacy is doing a great disservice to his spiritual and social legacy.
M tells me not to harass strangers: A few weeks ago, I spotted Sara(h) the Scarf Girl walking. Emily was with me and clearly knew that I wanted StSG to be one of my friends, so I asked what move I should make. Emily told me that I should back off. I had given her this web page address, and that was really all I could do. I had nothing new to engage her with and pushing it would scare her off. I conceded that Emily was likely right, though I have my disappointed doubts now that the semester is over.
Veronica is an abrupt faucet: Emily and I were hanging out with Zack a few weeks ago in New Paltz. We got onto the topic of Veronica and Isabel. Isabel is likely no longer a part of the story, as they ceased to be a couple. I am a bit iffy on how much of a couple they ever were. Zack confessed that he didn't think Isabel and he had much in common. There was an undercurrent that Veronica indirectly played a part in this. More that Isabel wasn't Veronica. He also explained Veronica's changeable demeanor toward him quite well with "Veronica is an abrupt faucet, always going hot or cold in a moment."
Anne and Jerame's party: Emily and I went to a party at Anne's a bit ago. It was in Emily's old neighborhood in New Jersey. I was very odd to be in this environment that was so wholly Emily's. She was showing me important sites from her life. The ice cream shop where she worked and met her boyfriend Pete. Her old house. Christina Ricci's old house across the street. It made me a little sad, I think, because I have always lived right where I am. I cannot get terribly nostalgic for places, because they are still evolving new meaning for me.
The party itself was nice. Emily was thrilled to see all of her old friends. I tried to find a place for myself where I would not be terribly in the way. Emily's friends sort of took to me, but I think I was quieter than is usual. One boy gave me his card. I didn't really know what to make of it, so I have made no use of it nor do I think I will.
Desubstantialization: I realized that a great deal of the spiritual/emotional problems that I deal with have to do with the fact that things lost their meaning. What is the point of an action once one has forgotten its purpose? To lose meaning in the objects and people one is surrounded by is to cut oneself off from one of the chief bulwarks of one's humanity. Delight and appreciation keep one really alive and interested in life, not merely breathing. To quote Robert Farrar Capon, "As long as man dealt with real substances, he would himself tend to remain substantial." It causes me to feel alienated from reality and it is stopping.
One of my chief complaints in the break-up with Kate is that she ceased to see and treat me like a person. I became symbolic to her and her friends. I became an abstraction meaning "ex-boyfriend" or "lack of freedom." This made it easier to treat me poorly, because I wasn't a living person. Detaching meaning from events and objects is a frequent tool in dehumanization. It's a lot easier to send a symbol of German failure into a gas chamber than a Jewish girl named Sara who is seven years old and likes to cut-out paper dolls.
How long was sex just something that was carnality? It had meaning for years. Then, after a series of women who saw me as little more than an outlet for their sexual frustrations (not that I let them, aside from Kate), I grew cold to the idea. I couldn't understand its importance. I couldn't feel what I once did. I forgot how to feel. This is but one example, though it is one I have explained at length herein. Only in the past few months can I see glimmers of what I once did, in this and in all things.
I think this summer will be one of rediscovery. Or maybe I should take the quick route and just read Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

Screwtape Letters
While I am now done with Jenks and the whole of the New Paltz secondary education program, I have need and justification to vent. Jenks announced last week that he would not be giving us conferences on our portfolio's during class time, as it seemed on the syllabus, but would instead be giving it to us after most of the students would have left for home after the semester was over. I informed him several times, though words and e-mail, that I was unable to meet his suggested meeting times as I am starting on my summer work schedule at the library. I told him he could meet with me after the final on Wednesday or during the five-hour block I had between tests on Thursday. He kept asking me if I could come in during the times he scheduled, acting as though he could not hear me.
Thursday, when it was very apparent that Jenks was not going to meet with me during the times I suggested, I wrote him the following very polite letter:

It appears that I will be unable to attend a conference. I spoke to my supervisor and she stated that, as I did not ask for Friday or Monday off a month in advance (as is practice), I couldn't take these off. As the syllabus gave no indication that these conferences would occur outside of class time, I did not have the foresight to take one of these days off. In addition, the times (Wednesday after class or Thursday) were evidently inconvenient for you. It is a poor situation, but these things happen. If you wish, you are welcome to confer with me via e-mail. I do not require my portfolio back, as I have copied the documents therein. Thank you in advance for your understanding.
He responded with a letter telling me that I didn't belong in his program because I didn't like structure and I was disrespectful to him and my classmates. By this, he meant that I would quietly get up and go to the bathroom when I felt the need and I didn't raise my hand and ask for permission. All of my college professors had always insisted that we were adults and they could trust us to manage our affairs and bladders without permission. Clearly Jenks feels my urinary tract is his business. He also tried to lay several guilt trips upon me, which I ignored. All of this would pretty much equal that Jenks is an enormous, self-important jerk except for one fact. He felt the need to carbon copy this letter to the old head of the department and the new head of the department. Why? He gives no reason. I feel that this was done to sully me in the eyes of these women who could decide to deprive me of classes, had I kept the major (which, of course, I transferred out of a month or so ago). He wanted to harm my academic future in New Paltz, the petty buffoon.
I want to go to the dean about this and prevent this pathetic little man from abusing what little power he is given, but my father is against it. Emily is urging me to report him to protect other students, and I am inclined to follow her advice.

A Swan Song for Bunnies
I am also done with the insensate Dances with Bunnies class. Oh, but she went out with a bang.
During our penultimate class, one of her adherents got her on the topic of free energy. Not in a Teslaian sense, because I imagine knowing information about Tesla is a bit beyond Bunnies. DwB seemed to think this meant that there was energy in the fourth dimension and we could use it to power everything in the universe. Einstein might have a thing or two to say about the concept that there is an unlimited collection of energy hiding, in a cosmic sense, behind a mason jar full of pickled beets. My classmates tried to explain this basic law of energy to her, but she kept insisting (giving no effort to expanding upon the topic or explaining) that there was an unlimited supply of free energy hiding in the fourth dimension. Also, I may be a tad confused, but isn't the fourth dimension time?
Evil, pseudoscientific bunnies.
She did try to get into explaining things using scientific terms. Unfortunately, she and her adherents in the class are a bit shaky on the concept. One of them clearly thought particle physics was his forte and tried to explain how "quantums" work. Evidently, the "quantums" shake and other "quantums" shake too. He couldn't really tell us more about these Elvis-like "quantums" nor tie it back to free energy. Such a shame, he had so much to give.
Dances with Bunnies somehow got onto a rant about how each and every one of us was a god. Not that we had a little piece of divinity within us; that we all were a little bit of one great whole. No, she meant that we were all different gods and we caused everything in our lives to happen through our will. I guess everyone else's godhood takes a backseat when I want a Slurpee. Some of my more sensible classmates tried to challenge her by asking if she meant that people who got raped wanted that experience or children starving in third world counties were responsible for their condition. She said that this was so; they had chosen to be cruelly violated or to suffer an agonizing death through starvation. And the rapist wouldn't really be responsible for the rape, because that is was that particular goddess wanted to happen. He was just fulfilling her wishes. I'm not exactly sure how she can hold this view so tenaciously. When someone asked her to expand upon her meaning, she only repeated "you are all gods" again and again. One of her adherents jumped to her defense by sharing a story with us, in a think Bronxian stereotypical dialect, that went roughly as follows: "Yeah, see, so I was datin' dis chick who had long blonde hair. And she was a bitch. So I said, 'Yo, I don't want anymore of these long haired blonde girls. I'm tired of dat.' So da next weekend, I went to go visit my friend and ended up in bed wit his girlfriend, who had short brown hair. So I made dat happen." After the laughter died down, one of my classmates tried to enlighten this boy to the fact that he merely chose to be attracted to his friend's girlfriend. He had not manifested his will to summon a short brown haired girl to him. He created this outcome only in as much as he is a slimeball who bedded his friend's loose girlfriend. DwB, however, agreed with the Bronx boy and stated that he had magically created a situation where he could get into bed with a girl who didn't have long blonde hair.
Before we left, she wanted to give us all angel cards that she would interpret for us. I think I audibly scoffed despite myself. I quickly decided that this would be a great deal of fun and I would allow it, because I couldn't imagine the hilarity that would ensue. When the time came, I summoned Emily forth from out of the hall. DwB greeted her with an awed "Spoonbender!" Emily looked to me, slightly and rightly frightened. DwB decided that she wanted to give Emily a card as well. I shuffled the cards for a minute and handed them back to Bunnies. She asked me to pick one and I ended up choosing the Angel of Perfection. She handed the deck to Emily, who said that she trusted my shuffling job. Before Emily picked her card, I knew which one it would be. I saw her picking it. She got the Angel of Abundance.
Of my card, DwB (holding my left hand in a way that did not make me terribly comfortable) told me that I was perfect right now, as I am. I didn't need to change at all and just needed to accept my inherent perfection and not try to reach for anything more. While I like me quite a bit, I think, just maybe, I will eventually seek to be a little more than a college student and a library clerk.
Of Emily's card, she said that M has a lot of what she needs and a lot to give to the world.
This is what skeptics of fortune telling call "cold reading." Basically, you say generalized things that you think they subject wants to hear. You make no real guesses or say anything out of unusual. For example, you say, "Most people come to me seeking advice about love..." You look at them and if the subject looks like you guessed exactly what was on their mind, you continue in that vein. If they seem confused, you finish with, "But you are not seeking this." It is all very regulated and the person does most of the reading. I was stone faced when she was "reading" for me and Emily did nothing but vaguely smirk, so she kept babbling.

Can I Get My Punk Ass Off the Street?
Emily is now a college graduate. This is a huge shock to her as she is now rather responsible for her life. You know, in theory. In practice, I don't think it is very different. Instead of going to class, she will go to work. Nothing else has changed.
She's such a proud monkey in her mortarboard. This was the least terrified of all the pictures I could find.
She called me at around midnight the night before her graduation, terrified and in tears. I soothed her as best I could, given that I have not gone through this experience and even if I had, I couldn't assure her 100% that everything was going to work out. I tried to assure her, summoning up an appropriate television quote that it's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by the pointy horns or black hats. And, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies, and everybody lives happily ever after. But Buffy didn't believe it when it was said to her and my slayer could only take vague solace that she had the sort of support system that would quote her favorite show to her.
She did calm down that night, though the entire experience left me so anxious for the coming day that I wrapped Emily's presents in many layers because Emily made the mistake of telling me that she likes to unwrap presents. I got her a baby chinchilla doll that is supposed to make various cute sounds, but is evidently developmentally disabled. I also got her a Baltic amber ladybug pendant and a fuzzy pink hat, because I could not find the exactly appropriate gift (I knew what it was, it just didn't seem to exist). While I was walking by a bookstore, some pathetic mallrats thought it would be funny to deride me to one another. When I heard them say, "Look, you can't even tell if it's a boy or a girl." I spun around, shooting swords, and mocked them loudly, "Look, it's a couple of rude little bitches!" Everyone around turned and stared at them and the pathetic monkeys bolted to the nearest exit, grumbling. These girls had learned that not everyone was going to put up with their asinine cattiness. My work here was done.
I think it is a cute hat.
I arrived to Emily graduation ceremony early and wandered for a half an hour, trying to find someone familiar. Eventually, Emily's mother found me, said she was saving me a seat, and told me where I could find Emily. Emily was overjoyed to see me when I appeared, hugging me so much that the school photographer snapped a photo of us (which I can hopefully get my hands on). I reiterated her parents' advice that she had completed the difficult part. This was merely a formality that required silly clothing.
I went to my saved seat after a bit of wandering. The ceremony was structured rigidly but poorly. There was needless formality that took a great deal of time away from the actual purpose of the event. It was clearly a creation of an idealist who had never been to such an event. Actually, given these factors, it was really the epitome of New Paltz.
I cracked occasional jokes to Emily's mother and shared my story of Jenks. She was horrified that this impotent little worm was so greatly abusing his power. Jenks and his cohort (whom I dealt with during the first semester at New Paltz) averted their gazed when they walked by me. As Emily aptly put it, they are the sort that will throw a rock and run. Emily informs me that when Jenks passed her, she nailed him in the foot with her shoes and then feigned shock that Jenks was hurt. Aw, how sad we are for Jenks.
After they read her name, she walked back to my seat and sat on my lap. I say this only because it was my favorite part of the ceremony.

Soon in Xenology: Theories of the paranormal making our heads explode. Oral sex discussion. M's belief in fairies. Nirvana on oldies. Weird day. The party.

last watched: Final Destination
reading: Lasher: Lives of the Mayfair Witches
listening: Cheap and Evil Girl
wanting: a monkey. Haven't you always wanted a monkey?
interesting thought: For all the pain Jenks gave me, I still got a B in his class. Worm.
moment of zen: Waking up amid four of my best friends.
someday I must: make chocolate chip, peanut butter brownies. (Can't you see this diet is killing me?!)

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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