by 13 Stoploss
It seems like an eon ago, but if I remember any catch phrase from Basic Training, it would be: “if you’re ten minutes early, you’re five minutes late.” At the time, it didn’t resonate well within, not while patiently standing at parade rest in the slanting, windy-cold of a Fort Benning winter evening. In fact, my superior reasoning skills told me that, since our Drill Sergeants would be ten minutes late for formation anyway, there was no point in standing quietly stiff-legged for twenty-five minutes when there were more productive ways to end the evening. When I left the Army, however, that phrase took on a whole new meaning. I suppose I never looked at the Army like it was “a new job.” So, after the Army, when I got that “new job,” which was important, and for which I wanted to make a great impression, it did evoke a worthwhile remembrance. That is how I prepared for my first day in my major, at the university.
Mrs. 13 woke me up far earlier than I had awakened all summer. My eyes stung more like they would after having been awake for thirty-six hours than asleep for six. After downing a glass of water, and cranking up the volume for Dennis Barthel’s morning classical show on KUSC, I stumbled like a legally blind man who can mostly see, but refuses, into the shower. Coffee and breakfast were waiting for me, as I trudged downstairs.
By eight, I was on the road for a drive that normally takes twenty-minutes at most. I was an hour early for my nine-thirty class, but I found a parking space on the top level of the parking structure with enough room to positively suppose that assholes will leave my doors and corner panels alone. In fact, I was alone up top, and sipped my coffee at comfortable and leisurely pace.
After rocking out for a bit in the car, and after swearing off elevators for the entire term, I walked down five flights of stairs, across a street, up three more flights of stairs, and through a glass-paned door leading into the food court. The ambience changed from black and white to technicolor as this straw tiger-man traipsed past all sorts of sordid crows and flying monkeys. Bank of America, Boost Mobile, and every sort of bro’d-out fraternity welcomed me to UC Irvine. Posters and banners streamed across the bridge like frantic and multi-colored M4 tracers fired at night. Persian Student Alliance, Korean Christians—I don’t want your color-coded trash or discriminatory glances!
I walked through a giant park, up a hill, next to the remnants of some slit-your-wrist emo concert, then back down a hill, up a ramp, and around the side of the Computer Science building for my Poetry class. Yeah, Humanities be hanging with the Computer Science geeks. Go figure.
The classroom was unlit and unlocked. My motion triggered the lights, and I took a seat in the back. Professor was a down to earth kinda guy from Iowa, a Ph.D candidate, and all-around seemingly solid dude in jeans and a relaxed, casual long sleeve, collared shirt. Memorable quote of the day:
Girl: “What is a Poet Laureate?”
Professor Dude: “I don’t know. Really. I mean, it’s kinda like… you know, a state flower or something. They exist in name, I guess.”
I had ten minutes to walk back across the park the way I had first come. When I got to my next classroom, it was nearly full, occupied mostly by chatty women. A beach cruiser was parked in the front of the room, displayed proudly as if on exhibit. In the “teacher chair” in the front of the room was a slacker looking dude in short shorts and a t-shirt, reclining in a chair that refuses to recline, and hiding behind a stack of papers. His hair was dark, and unkempt, and I wondered whether he was the dude, or just a dude.
Eventually, the class settled down, and a deep, calm voice echoed from the slacker up front. He was the dude, and he had a voice that said he was fifteen years older than he looked, despite looking as old as I am, but not how I look. I gathered that he was an east coaster, and hopefully not a Red Sux fan, but one who had stifled the stereotypical accent. Cool with me. He’s a free-lancer, teaching on a fellowship, a note, he said, regarding the way things are in the business right now.
Class was great. I read a selection from the syllabus, nervous like a school-girl, but read with confidence and a spacing resembling competence, despite a few cracks. (Public Speaking is not my thing) Definitely a laid back atmosphere, but one for which a great deal of work is to be expected.
Most of the class exited the room, and shuffled upstairs to the next intro class, on reporting. The Professor reminded me of my grandmother, at a time when Alzheimer’s had yet to strike. She was tack sharp, and quick like a shot of Tequila. Most of the points in her sentences were run-on, where no comma was necessary. Keep up, or get out, and it suited me just fine. No time for deliberating, a protest was forming, speeches were being made, and my class of amateur, wannabe, and introductory journalists had an event to cover, and protesters to interview. No kidding, not fifteen minutes into class, we were outside in the thick of it, doing the doing.
Much of the events can be found online with a simple google search. As the only veteran that I know of in the program, I am going to focus my interviews on how the UC budget crisis has affected veterans applying for and trying to receive VA benefits for schooling.
The day ended with an interview of a recruiter on campus, after my last class, as a sort of feeler for the VA idea. More to come in the weeks following, including pictures.
In all, I very pleased with the experience. THIS is what I wanted. This is where I have always wanted to be, and THESE are the people I want to learn from. I had a great experience in the Community College, but there is a distinct difference between campuses despite being only a few miles a part. Where the JC is almost an extension of HS, or HS-lite, the UC is where serious thought and instruction are taking place. With the exception of a handful of instructors at the JC, there is very little comparison to the atmosphere, and expectations. I hope to have something to show for it when I'm done here.