Wednesday, March 11, 2009


As a junior in college, I transferred to a university in Norcal that was Hippy Disneyland. The campus was beautiful with its trees and hiking trails; you could see the ocean from its position up on the hill. I had never lived in such natural beauty.

I loved my literature classes . . . the professors were soundly anti-establishment. They challenged everything except their privileged vantage point from the ivory tower. My homework was mainly reading lots and lots of books and then a couple times per term, writing lots and lots of papers. I always kept up with the reading but somehow couldn't motivate to write unless under the tightest of deadlines. I usually did fine but without letter grades, it's hard to say for sure.

Living in the small college town was an adjustment for me. Cars stopped for pedestrians here. Strangers looked each other in the eye and smiled. People looked and talked differently than in Socal. It was always "hella," "harsh my mellow," and are you going to "come with?" (come with what?). This was the height of the grunge era. Ripped jeans and flannels were the norm. It was unacceptable to be flashy in any way . . . there were no fancy cars or designer clothes. I had heard that, on average, the parents of students at my university were the wealthiest of all the UC's. You would never know it. Status symbols included good camping gear, Grateful Dead tapes, and dread locks.

I lived in the dorms my junior year, coincidentally in the building next to where one of my high school sorority sisters lived. I met a group of friends through her . . . a handful of the girls have since become like real sisters. We claimed a bench in the quad and spent hours playing cards. Our diet consisted mainly of coffee, cigarettes and bagels.

We spent a lot of time laughing. There were so many things that were funny. The time I tried to show my friend how to get the little "pills" off her sweater with a lighter and accidentally lit her on fire. The pure look of fear on her face when I tried to knock her to the ground so she could roll the fire out made us laugh so hard that we cried. The time my friend got drunk because she was nervous about being in a campus fashion show. We later heard through the grapevine that she had cornered a girl in the bathroom that our group of friends had been mean to (a little of the sorority mentality lingered) and told her she was beautiful and she loved her. Whenever the girl walked by after that, we couldn't help but dissolve into uncontrollable laughter.

My own dormmate was unexpected, to say the least. She was a little older, maybe in her mid 20s, and SHE WANTED TO BE A NUN. I have no idea how she ended up at this university. She kept holy water by her bed in a carved wall plaque. There were bibles and religious sayings all over our room. She even tacked pro-life posters to the outside of our door. There were benefits to the arrangement. No one liked to hang out in my room . . . the religious paraphernalia harshed their mellow. My room was always clean and a good place to study. Occasionally, friends used my room as a hideout . . . no one ever came looking for them there. Rules were rarely broken in my dorm room and the couple times when they were, I had to face hours of my roommate crying. I felt like my parents were somehow behind the whole arrangement.

I guess you could say that there was very little about my university experience that prepared me for the real world. It was a time-out. I didn't work except when I returned home on school breaks. Maybe because I had so much time on my hands, I remember feeling down more often than I should. Or maybe it was just the crummy diet.

I have a vivid memory of sitting on the beach with my girlfriends, shortly before college was over. We watched the sunset and passed around a couple beers, leaning on each other. It was the pinnacle of relaxation. None of us had jobs and we were about to return to our apartment to get ready to go out for the evening. I remember thinking . . . it will never be this way again and I started to miss it before it was over.


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