Page 1

The Grotonian

Fall 2012 Expository Writing


Table of Contents

Marianna Gailus 4 Mammology

Danny Castellanos 9 In the Pews

Sinclaire Brooks 14 The Dukes of Orange

Nick Funnell 17 I’ll Be the Prince and You’ll Be the Princess

Chi-Chi Okorafor 20 The Debate

Hugh McGlade 23 Badger

Catherine Walker-Jacks 28 A Modest Proposal

Nicholas Wray 31 His Generation


Table of Contents

Marianna Gailus 4 Mammology

Danny Castellanos 9 In the Pews

Sinclaire Brooks 14 The Dukes of Orange

Nick Funnell 17 I’ll Be the Prince and You’ll Be the Princess

Chi-Chi Okorafor 20 The Debate

Hugh McGlade 23 Badger

Catherine Walker-Jacks 28 A Modest Proposal

Nicholas Wray 31 His Generation


Marianna Gailus Sense of Place

Mammalogy “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering because you can’t take it in all at once.”-Audrey Hepburn Once, when I was two and a half, I saw life in flashes. Lightning-speed changes of color and shape stamped my retinas, projecting purple spots and squiggles into midair as if I’d tried to stare at the sun until I could feel my eyes burn. Standing in the entrance to one of the halls at the American Museum of Natural History, I scrunched my face and rubbed my eyes with one chubby fist, clenching the other inside my babysitter’s palm. She had just shuffled me through the main gates that open from Central Park West between 77th and 81st Streets. The sky was deep blue, I remember, and the first chill of autumn was starting to touch the trees and stone steps that surround the statue of Teddy Roosevelt astride a horse. He sits sentinel to the treasures behind him in his museum, proudly wearing the pigeon-crown that so many similarly silent and stony faces wear in the city. Brushing the cold from our arms and hair as we were revolved in from outside through whooshing doors, we circled the central atrium, dodging bigger and smaller people as they rode an invisible carousel around mounted skeletons of Barasaurus and Allosaurus. My pigtails fell across my back as I craned my neck up to look at the dinosaurs’ empty eye-sockets. I tried not to trip as my baby-sitter took my hand and led me towards the back of the atrium, past a guard who smelled like dry-cleaning and a group of women with black-veiled faces. She had promised me elephants today. We had stopped in front of the Carl Akeley Hall of African Mammals when the camera went off, a real camera, with a lens and a flip-up flash, not like the phones and iPads I see now in that hallowed hall, oblivious people looking at their screens to see the lions five feet from their faces. So it was that I had my eyes squeezed shut when my babysitter led me past the salmon-colored marble pillars that were posted on either side of the entrance to the hall. Disoriented and impatiently waiting for the fireworks behind my eyelids to subside, I tapped my feet on the hard stone floor 4

, and the cacophony of echoes that answered told me stories about the heavy thuds of a herd of water buffalo, the yips of African wild dogs as they swarm to take down a zebra, the maniacal hiccup of greedy hyenas. I’d heard the stories before and I knew how many steps I was from the plains and jungles in the dioramas waiting for me: twenty-seven steps northwest to okapi and boar, fifteen skips due east to the giraffes at the savannah watering-hole, forty paces true north to the freestanding herd of elephants ready to charge. I can’t remember not knowing their old, familiar faces, probably because I can’t remember much before I was two. Now, I could give a tour in my sleep, considering how many minutes I’ve spent there awake as well as dreaming. From the brightly lit central rotunda, I can’t see much beyond the columns except the outlines of shadows. But, if I stay on a straight line towards the opening, as if walking down the central aisle towards the transepts of a heavy, Romanesque cathedral where the color-filtered lights obscure more than they illuminate, I can make out my altar in those murky shadows: the African elephant leading the herd. The acidic smell of freshly-printed museum maps begins to fade as I get closer to the opening. It is musty, almost humid. Stepping through the threshold framed by two very worn ivory tusks, my eyes adjust and the theatrical lighting highlights behemoth bodies on the raised dais before me. With weather-beaten ears flared and feet stamping, the frozen cluster of elephants stands eight strong in the center of the hall. Among the sounds of sneakers squeaking and parents grunting as they lift their little ones high up into the air, I can almost make out the matriarch’s trumpeting call as she summons her own young to her side. Beneath her, jittery toddlers and their exhausted chaperones flop themselves onto the low wooden benches that line the perimeter of the elephants’ platform. I watch as one particularly intrepid explorer, standing tiptoe on one of the benches, leans forward over the edge of the platform, his eyes focused entirely on the elephant toes within reach. Unfortunately for him, some unwelcome flashing from light-up Velcro sneakers causes his mother’s head to snap around until she takes in her son’s rear end halfway across the platform. I turn my back in order to face the dioramas that line the walls around the elephant family, but not before I notice my daredevil smirking in triumph as he is plunked back down on the bench. Families step up to small railings that separate runny noses and sticky 5


Marianna Gailus Sense of Place

Mammalogy “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering because you can’t take it in all at once.”-Audrey Hepburn Once, when I was two and a half, I saw life in flashes. Lightning-speed changes of color and shape stamped my retinas, projecting purple spots and squiggles into midair as if I’d tried to stare at the sun until I could feel my eyes burn. Standing in the entrance to one of the halls at the American Museum of Natural History, I scrunched my face and rubbed my eyes with one chubby fist, clenching the other inside my babysitter’s palm. She had just shuffled me through the main gates that open from Central Park West between 77th and 81st Streets. The sky was deep blue, I remember, and the first chill of autumn was starting to touch the trees and stone steps that surround the statue of Teddy Roosevelt astride a horse. He sits sentinel to the treasures behind him in his museum, proudly wearing the pigeon-crown that so many similarly silent and stony faces wear in the city. Brushing the cold from our arms and hair as we were revolved in from outside through whooshing doors, we circled the central atrium, dodging bigger and smaller people as they rode an invisible carousel around mounted skeletons of Barasaurus and Allosaurus. My pigtails fell across my back as I craned my neck up to look at the dinosaurs’ empty eye-sockets. I tried not to trip as my baby-sitter took my hand and led me towards the back of the atrium, past a guard who smelled like dry-cleaning and a group of women with black-veiled faces. She had promised me elephants today. We had stopped in front of the Carl Akeley Hall of African Mammals when the camera went off, a real camera, with a lens and a flip-up flash, not like the phones and iPads I see now in that hallowed hall, oblivious people looking at their screens to see the lions five feet from their faces. So it was that I had my eyes squeezed shut when my babysitter led me past the salmon-colored marble pillars that were posted on either side of the entrance to the hall. Disoriented and impatiently waiting for the fireworks behind my eyelids to subside, I tapped my feet on the hard stone floor 4

, and the cacophony of echoes that answered told me stories about the heavy thuds of a herd of water buffalo, the yips of African wild dogs as they swarm to take down a zebra, the maniacal hiccup of greedy hyenas. I’d heard the stories before and I knew how many steps I was from the plains and jungles in the dioramas waiting for me: twenty-seven steps northwest to okapi and boar, fifteen skips due east to the giraffes at the savannah watering-hole, forty paces true north to the freestanding herd of elephants ready to charge. I can’t remember not knowing their old, familiar faces, probably because I can’t remember much before I was two. Now, I could give a tour in my sleep, considering how many minutes I’ve spent there awake as well as dreaming. From the brightly lit central rotunda, I can’t see much beyond the columns except the outlines of shadows. But, if I stay on a straight line towards the opening, as if walking down the central aisle towards the transepts of a heavy, Romanesque cathedral where the color-filtered lights obscure more than they illuminate, I can make out my altar in those murky shadows: the African elephant leading the herd. The acidic smell of freshly-printed museum maps begins to fade as I get closer to the opening. It is musty, almost humid. Stepping through the threshold framed by two very worn ivory tusks, my eyes adjust and the theatrical lighting highlights behemoth bodies on the raised dais before me. With weather-beaten ears flared and feet stamping, the frozen cluster of elephants stands eight strong in the center of the hall. Among the sounds of sneakers squeaking and parents grunting as they lift their little ones high up into the air, I can almost make out the matriarch’s trumpeting call as she summons her own young to her side. Beneath her, jittery toddlers and their exhausted chaperones flop themselves onto the low wooden benches that line the perimeter of the elephants’ platform. I watch as one particularly intrepid explorer, standing tiptoe on one of the benches, leans forward over the edge of the platform, his eyes focused entirely on the elephant toes within reach. Unfortunately for him, some unwelcome flashing from light-up Velcro sneakers causes his mother’s head to snap around until she takes in her son’s rear end halfway across the platform. I turn my back in order to face the dioramas that line the walls around the elephant family, but not before I notice my daredevil smirking in triumph as he is plunked back down on the bench. Families step up to small railings that separate runny noses and sticky 5


fingers from the glass partitions of the fourteen habitat dioramas. Bas-relief landscapes and animals glint in the dimness from bronze panels above and below each scene while a cast-iron alphabet set into a marble frame captures places and names that force me to twist my tongue into foreign, exotic shapes: Greater Koodoo, Gemsbok, Upper Nile, Colobus Monkey, Kalahari. Light, which behind the glass seems dazzlingly warm and bright, loses its strength in the denser shadows permeating the rest of the hall. Some shafts of artificial sunlight manage find their way through, gleaming onto the moss-colored marble and aged oak panels on the floor and walls. I walk on auto-pilot, feeling myself angling right as I drift through the rabble of visitors jostling each other as they view the drool of the water buffalo and the invisible wind ruffling cheetah fur. I don’t have to get too close. I know who’s there and they know me, too. There is a juvenile male lion that has been in puberty since 1922. I feel sorry for him standing in the shadow of his more famous father, while his own mane will never grow beyond a few inches on the top of his skull. In the watering hole diorama next door, giraffes tower awkwardly over their neighbors, chatty zebras confer with goat-faced wildebeest about the weather, and little white birds sing working songs as they pick and peck their way across a hippo’s rump. Across the hall, one of the ostrich chicks stands alone from the others. She stares intently on the little patch of dirt before her that, upon closer inspection, reveals the beginnings of a termite mound. I decided long ago that she was the bookworm of the lot, her other brothers and sisters easily distracted by the novelty of having some wild boars over to visit. There is a second-level balcony about ten feet wide that circles the walls above the main hall, threatening to crash over visitors’ heads as they shuffle about. Though lacking the skin-pricking tingling induced by facing the elephants head-on from the ground, this balcony presents the best view of any hall in the whole museum. While the undulating swarms of people around and below me strain tirelessly to get millimeters closer to the motionless figures in the walls behind, I instead look out and over at these sightseers, these animal-watching animals. Social organisms sharing and reacting to shared experiences together. Spaniards next to Texans, old couples beside new ones, hands being held, cherubic faces crying. All of them ignoring the illuminated plaques indicating the scientific origins of the animals and plants on display: Crocodylus niloticus, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla. 6

I see myself at two and a half, five, seven, eleven, and fifteen. I waddled, ran, hopped, and slouched. Pigtails, bob, ponytail, bedhead. Eyes lit up with wonder and curiosity, yearning to step through the glass and understand. After five trips, thirty, a hundred or more, the same buzzing energy renews its humming after deep sleep. I used to create stories of what would happen if I should find myself standing alone in the Hall of African Mammals. No echoes, no cameras, just that musty smell of old wood and paper and the feeling of hundreds of glass eyes watching me. Do the hyenas laugh when they think no one’s looking? Could I wade in the Nile with the crocodile, and watch the sun rise with ostriches as they gather their chicks? Will that distant blast of trumpets I always think I’m hearing come from a living, breathing, moving thing? I seized the opportunity one morning when I was fifteen, having arrived to my summer science program half an hour early, before the museum opened. I proudly displayed my AMNH ID badge to the guard manning the desk at the subway entrance, raced up two flights of shallow, marble steps, and swung a hard right until I reached the central atrium. Except for the chugging of a floor polisher in a corridor on the left, I heard nothing and saw no one as I walked briskly around the Allosaurus, pinching my palm with my fingernails as I squeezed the straps of my bookbag. The quickening thumping of blood rushing through my ears grew louder as the distance between me and the dark hall ahead decreased stride by stride. Bursting into the shadows quickly, I held my breath and waited patiently for my eyes to adjust, remembering how I fidgeted after that camera flash thirteen and a half years earlier. I don’t think I truly expected much. I had outgrown Night at the Museum sleepovers and had by this time thoroughly researched the museum’s ancient Egyptian collection for any tablets rumored to have magical properties. The stony hall was cold and empty as my eyes flitted about for any signs of life. No heaving ribcages, no thrumming growls. Just the clogging sound of heavy air. What was surprising was that the letdown I secretly wanted never actually came. The shadows are hungry in the Hall of African Mammals. Living things frozen forever behind glass walls, beings full of the potential energy to pounce but never able to transform it to motion, landscapes that existed for explorers a hundred years ago being mowed down, moved into, altered. Ravaging time lapsed for the Africa that exists between West 77th and 81st Streets of New York City. 7


fingers from the glass partitions of the fourteen habitat dioramas. Bas-relief landscapes and animals glint in the dimness from bronze panels above and below each scene while a cast-iron alphabet set into a marble frame captures places and names that force me to twist my tongue into foreign, exotic shapes: Greater Koodoo, Gemsbok, Upper Nile, Colobus Monkey, Kalahari. Light, which behind the glass seems dazzlingly warm and bright, loses its strength in the denser shadows permeating the rest of the hall. Some shafts of artificial sunlight manage find their way through, gleaming onto the moss-colored marble and aged oak panels on the floor and walls. I walk on auto-pilot, feeling myself angling right as I drift through the rabble of visitors jostling each other as they view the drool of the water buffalo and the invisible wind ruffling cheetah fur. I don’t have to get too close. I know who’s there and they know me, too. There is a juvenile male lion that has been in puberty since 1922. I feel sorry for him standing in the shadow of his more famous father, while his own mane will never grow beyond a few inches on the top of his skull. In the watering hole diorama next door, giraffes tower awkwardly over their neighbors, chatty zebras confer with goat-faced wildebeest about the weather, and little white birds sing working songs as they pick and peck their way across a hippo’s rump. Across the hall, one of the ostrich chicks stands alone from the others. She stares intently on the little patch of dirt before her that, upon closer inspection, reveals the beginnings of a termite mound. I decided long ago that she was the bookworm of the lot, her other brothers and sisters easily distracted by the novelty of having some wild boars over to visit. There is a second-level balcony about ten feet wide that circles the walls above the main hall, threatening to crash over visitors’ heads as they shuffle about. Though lacking the skin-pricking tingling induced by facing the elephants head-on from the ground, this balcony presents the best view of any hall in the whole museum. While the undulating swarms of people around and below me strain tirelessly to get millimeters closer to the motionless figures in the walls behind, I instead look out and over at these sightseers, these animal-watching animals. Social organisms sharing and reacting to shared experiences together. Spaniards next to Texans, old couples beside new ones, hands being held, cherubic faces crying. All of them ignoring the illuminated plaques indicating the scientific origins of the animals and plants on display: Crocodylus niloticus, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla. 6

I see myself at two and a half, five, seven, eleven, and fifteen. I waddled, ran, hopped, and slouched. Pigtails, bob, ponytail, bedhead. Eyes lit up with wonder and curiosity, yearning to step through the glass and understand. After five trips, thirty, a hundred or more, the same buzzing energy renews its humming after deep sleep. I used to create stories of what would happen if I should find myself standing alone in the Hall of African Mammals. No echoes, no cameras, just that musty smell of old wood and paper and the feeling of hundreds of glass eyes watching me. Do the hyenas laugh when they think no one’s looking? Could I wade in the Nile with the crocodile, and watch the sun rise with ostriches as they gather their chicks? Will that distant blast of trumpets I always think I’m hearing come from a living, breathing, moving thing? I seized the opportunity one morning when I was fifteen, having arrived to my summer science program half an hour early, before the museum opened. I proudly displayed my AMNH ID badge to the guard manning the desk at the subway entrance, raced up two flights of shallow, marble steps, and swung a hard right until I reached the central atrium. Except for the chugging of a floor polisher in a corridor on the left, I heard nothing and saw no one as I walked briskly around the Allosaurus, pinching my palm with my fingernails as I squeezed the straps of my bookbag. The quickening thumping of blood rushing through my ears grew louder as the distance between me and the dark hall ahead decreased stride by stride. Bursting into the shadows quickly, I held my breath and waited patiently for my eyes to adjust, remembering how I fidgeted after that camera flash thirteen and a half years earlier. I don’t think I truly expected much. I had outgrown Night at the Museum sleepovers and had by this time thoroughly researched the museum’s ancient Egyptian collection for any tablets rumored to have magical properties. The stony hall was cold and empty as my eyes flitted about for any signs of life. No heaving ribcages, no thrumming growls. Just the clogging sound of heavy air. What was surprising was that the letdown I secretly wanted never actually came. The shadows are hungry in the Hall of African Mammals. Living things frozen forever behind glass walls, beings full of the potential energy to pounce but never able to transform it to motion, landscapes that existed for explorers a hundred years ago being mowed down, moved into, altered. Ravaging time lapsed for the Africa that exists between West 77th and 81st Streets of New York City. 7


But in the gloom, I can remember. Impressions, pictures, pink and purple negative images, colors, shapes, and sounds of half-forgotten places. Hundreds of days when I roamed the hall, seeking out a particular bird or just watching from the balcony. It’s true that nothing changes behind the glass. The water buffalo has been drooling for eighty years, and when I return to my haunts, he’ll still be looking out at me with that same dumbfounded expression. But if I look closely at the glass, at the right angle with the right light, I can see the shadowy outline of a reflection that has never been and will never be the same. I see life in flashes.

8

Danny Castellanos Sense of Place

In the Pews There it stands, a massive edifice, but not an intimidating one. It once was the tallest building in Hoboken, the town I grew up in. Now overshadowed by the W Hotel and Waterfront Corporation Buildings 1 and 2, Our Lady of Grace Church stands further back in the town, on the corner of 4th Street and Willow Avenue. Every Sunday our family of three, then four, then five, would walk or drive down to the parking lot. I do not remember if I used to throw tantrums in church, though my mom tells me otherwise. As a small child, I remember walking up the limestone steeple and staring up at the looming German gothic bell tower, built by brick and painted red. It was probably about four stories tall, but to my five-year-old self I found its size comparable to that of the Empire State Building. Walking through the large white doors, sitting in the time-worn, wooden pews, I looked at all that surrounded me. The ends of the pews were not decorated with any curls or fleur-de-lyses; rather, they were simple, trapezoidal prisms many of which had been etched with various man-made carvings (I always used to think they came from nervous or angry parishioners). To the left and right of me were fourteen marble wall sculptures displaying the fourteen stations of the cross, and for some reason, my dad would always choose to sit on the same row as the fourth station, “Jesus Meets His Mother”. ”. Further up the nave was a large painting of Jesus on the cross, about five times my height back then, and on the opposite side was a large tapestry of Mary surrounded by various Cherubim and Seraphim. Above me was a night-blue ceiling, painted with various golden stars, which out of all the things in the church appeared to me as the most beautiful, however simple it was. In fact, you could have easily caught me looking up at the ceiling for most of the mass. It was like being in a museum when you were in there, being quietly fascinated by all the different paintings and sculptures alike, but unlike in a museum, you could feel something more in this church, a heavy, indescribable obscurity. It filled every corner of the space—you could feel its support and comfort. The church was not as long as it was wide, but with the ceiling floating above everyone’s head about fifty feet or more up,


But in the gloom, I can remember. Impressions, pictures, pink and purple negative images, colors, shapes, and sounds of half-forgotten places. Hundreds of days when I roamed the hall, seeking out a particular bird or just watching from the balcony. It’s true that nothing changes behind the glass. The water buffalo has been drooling for eighty years, and when I return to my haunts, he’ll still be looking out at me with that same dumbfounded expression. But if I look closely at the glass, at the right angle with the right light, I can see the shadowy outline of a reflection that has never been and will never be the same. I see life in flashes.

8

Danny Castellanos Sense of Place

In the Pews There it stands, a massive edifice, but not an intimidating one. It once was the tallest building in Hoboken, the town I grew up in. Now overshadowed by the W Hotel and Waterfront Corporation Buildings 1 and 2, Our Lady of Grace Church stands further back in the town, on the corner of 4th Street and Willow Avenue. Every Sunday our family of three, then four, then five, would walk or drive down to the parking lot. I do not remember if I used to throw tantrums in church, though my mom tells me otherwise. As a small child, I remember walking up the limestone steeple and staring up at the looming German gothic bell tower, built by brick and painted red. It was probably about four stories tall, but to my five-year-old self I found its size comparable to that of the Empire State Building. Walking through the large white doors, sitting in the time-worn, wooden pews, I looked at all that surrounded me. The ends of the pews were not decorated with any curls or fleur-de-lyses; rather, they were simple, trapezoidal prisms many of which had been etched with various man-made carvings (I always used to think they came from nervous or angry parishioners). To the left and right of me were fourteen marble wall sculptures displaying the fourteen stations of the cross, and for some reason, my dad would always choose to sit on the same row as the fourth station, “Jesus Meets His Mother”. ”. Further up the nave was a large painting of Jesus on the cross, about five times my height back then, and on the opposite side was a large tapestry of Mary surrounded by various Cherubim and Seraphim. Above me was a night-blue ceiling, painted with various golden stars, which out of all the things in the church appeared to me as the most beautiful, however simple it was. In fact, you could have easily caught me looking up at the ceiling for most of the mass. It was like being in a museum when you were in there, being quietly fascinated by all the different paintings and sculptures alike, but unlike in a museum, you could feel something more in this church, a heavy, indescribable obscurity. It filled every corner of the space—you could feel its support and comfort. The church was not as long as it was wide, but with the ceiling floating above everyone’s head about fifty feet or more up,


sound and music reverberated easily off the church’s walls, though somehow it never disturbed the insurmountable silence that would swim around the thick air of Our Lady of Grace. My dad went to this church as a kid, and he felt a similar attachment to the place. He told me that it used to be filled with people — it was glorious — there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. Over the years, people began to move out of Hoboken, and the numbers diminished, like the music of a brass band echoing away. New people, more affluent than the old ones, moved in to Hoboken as the town’s dynamics changed, and some of them, but not all, came to join the parish at Our Lady of Grace. These new people, my dad would tell me, went to church, but “didn’t have the same feeling for it”. My dad grew up in Hoboken from small means, but even as he was able to make enough money to live in the same buildings as the new people, Dad always stayed a true member of the town, and the church, in his heart. We used to go to the Spanish mass every Sunday at 12:30. The usher, Omar, would give us our leaflets and hymnbooks. We would go sit in front of “Jesus Meets His Mother” like we always would, and sing the Spanish hymns while a small chorus of old Spanish men and women would sing (so off-key) accompanied by two guitarists. Even with their imperfections, as a child, I found their music mesmerizing. “Cordero de Dios, que quita el pecado del mundo / Ten piedad de nosotros,” (“Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World/ Have mercy on us”), they would sing in various unintended keys. Fr. Francisco and sometimes Fr. Eid would always drone on sermonizing in Spanish, putting me in a trance. Something about the church—I don’t know if it was the music, the priest, the large space, or just the smell—somehow made me yawn a lot. I yawned so much that I would almost pass out. My mom would sometimes close my mouth for me, and to this day I have never been able to figure out whether she did that to discipline me or just to help me out. When I went to the St. Thomas Choir School in New York in 4th grade, we ended up having to skip Spanish mass. I was away from home now, so my family tried to catch me sing on Sunday. In order to keep me from breaking the third commandment, my dad would take me to mass on Saturday. It was a little bothersome, all the moving back and forth between New York and Hoboken, but I put up with it and kept silent, mostly because my dad did. 10

We eventually stopped going to the Spanish mass completely, and when I came back from breaks, we started going to the English mass at 10:30 on Sunday. The usher, Larry, would give us our leaflets and hymnals. We still sat in front of “Jesus Meets His Mother” like we always would, but this time the hymns were different—obviously in a different language, but the tunes themselves were different, more rigid. The choir was a little larger—my mom and I joined it during the summers—and slightly more on pitch, accompanied by the organist. It did not help much when the organ was already about five Hertz too flat. The music at the English mass was better in terms of quality, but I secretly longed for the songs from the Spanish mass, which had become as familiar to me as nursery rhymes are to anyone. Even if “Lamb of God” meant the same thing as “Cordero de Dios” I liked sound of the latter more than the former. Fr. Ken and sometimes Fr. Eid (who was, in fact, bilingual) would drone on now in English, and I could actually understand what they were saying. I yawned less, perhaps because I was in the choir now, and I didn’t have much of a chance to yawn in between notes. The church choir sang up on a balcony in the back of the church. I remember before I joined, I would look up at the organist playing during mass and see behind the organ console waves of pipes of all different lengths and widths, parting at the radiant purple stain-glass rose window like the Red Sea for the Jews. I had to climb up a steep, dusty spiral staircase to get to the second floor. Once you got up there, you could either continue go up another spiral to the bell tower, or you could walk straight and end up in the choir balcony. I remember the first time I was up there. It was a thrill being up on a balcony where you could see over all the parishioners, where you were eye-level with the iridescent chandeliers that hung from the blue and starry golden ceiling. I was taller than the pillars that supported me. It was as if I were in control, as if I could control any change. When the choir sang from the balcony, our voices would float over the thick-aired silence and almost cut through it. The silence was permanent, but nothing else was. Things in my church were starting to change significantly. We had a new pastor now—that was the biggest change: Fr. Alex, who replaced the retired Fr. Ken. I had difficulty adjusting to the new priest; Fr. Ken was relaxed about everything. Fr. Alex was harder to talk to, because he was the one always talking. He always went off-topic during his sermons, I thought. He didn’t match with the rest of what came out of the church. 11


sound and music reverberated easily off the church’s walls, though somehow it never disturbed the insurmountable silence that would swim around the thick air of Our Lady of Grace. My dad went to this church as a kid, and he felt a similar attachment to the place. He told me that it used to be filled with people — it was glorious — there wasn’t an empty seat in the house. Over the years, people began to move out of Hoboken, and the numbers diminished, like the music of a brass band echoing away. New people, more affluent than the old ones, moved in to Hoboken as the town’s dynamics changed, and some of them, but not all, came to join the parish at Our Lady of Grace. These new people, my dad would tell me, went to church, but “didn’t have the same feeling for it”. My dad grew up in Hoboken from small means, but even as he was able to make enough money to live in the same buildings as the new people, Dad always stayed a true member of the town, and the church, in his heart. We used to go to the Spanish mass every Sunday at 12:30. The usher, Omar, would give us our leaflets and hymnbooks. We would go sit in front of “Jesus Meets His Mother” like we always would, and sing the Spanish hymns while a small chorus of old Spanish men and women would sing (so off-key) accompanied by two guitarists. Even with their imperfections, as a child, I found their music mesmerizing. “Cordero de Dios, que quita el pecado del mundo / Ten piedad de nosotros,” (“Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the World/ Have mercy on us”), they would sing in various unintended keys. Fr. Francisco and sometimes Fr. Eid would always drone on sermonizing in Spanish, putting me in a trance. Something about the church—I don’t know if it was the music, the priest, the large space, or just the smell—somehow made me yawn a lot. I yawned so much that I would almost pass out. My mom would sometimes close my mouth for me, and to this day I have never been able to figure out whether she did that to discipline me or just to help me out. When I went to the St. Thomas Choir School in New York in 4th grade, we ended up having to skip Spanish mass. I was away from home now, so my family tried to catch me sing on Sunday. In order to keep me from breaking the third commandment, my dad would take me to mass on Saturday. It was a little bothersome, all the moving back and forth between New York and Hoboken, but I put up with it and kept silent, mostly because my dad did. 10

We eventually stopped going to the Spanish mass completely, and when I came back from breaks, we started going to the English mass at 10:30 on Sunday. The usher, Larry, would give us our leaflets and hymnals. We still sat in front of “Jesus Meets His Mother” like we always would, but this time the hymns were different—obviously in a different language, but the tunes themselves were different, more rigid. The choir was a little larger—my mom and I joined it during the summers—and slightly more on pitch, accompanied by the organist. It did not help much when the organ was already about five Hertz too flat. The music at the English mass was better in terms of quality, but I secretly longed for the songs from the Spanish mass, which had become as familiar to me as nursery rhymes are to anyone. Even if “Lamb of God” meant the same thing as “Cordero de Dios” I liked sound of the latter more than the former. Fr. Ken and sometimes Fr. Eid (who was, in fact, bilingual) would drone on now in English, and I could actually understand what they were saying. I yawned less, perhaps because I was in the choir now, and I didn’t have much of a chance to yawn in between notes. The church choir sang up on a balcony in the back of the church. I remember before I joined, I would look up at the organist playing during mass and see behind the organ console waves of pipes of all different lengths and widths, parting at the radiant purple stain-glass rose window like the Red Sea for the Jews. I had to climb up a steep, dusty spiral staircase to get to the second floor. Once you got up there, you could either continue go up another spiral to the bell tower, or you could walk straight and end up in the choir balcony. I remember the first time I was up there. It was a thrill being up on a balcony where you could see over all the parishioners, where you were eye-level with the iridescent chandeliers that hung from the blue and starry golden ceiling. I was taller than the pillars that supported me. It was as if I were in control, as if I could control any change. When the choir sang from the balcony, our voices would float over the thick-aired silence and almost cut through it. The silence was permanent, but nothing else was. Things in my church were starting to change significantly. We had a new pastor now—that was the biggest change: Fr. Alex, who replaced the retired Fr. Ken. I had difficulty adjusting to the new priest; Fr. Ken was relaxed about everything. Fr. Alex was harder to talk to, because he was the one always talking. He always went off-topic during his sermons, I thought. He didn’t match with the rest of what came out of the church. 11


I didn’t like it, and my dad didn’t either. I didn’t like it because my dad didn’t like it. I felt like I was changing too, but I didn’t want to. I met my first atheist roommate, Aidan, at school in the spring of my 6th grade, who told me with brazen defiance that the Bible “was a load of crap.” I would banter with him all the time outside of classes, regurgitating whatever I had learned in Sunday School, until one night he finally came around to me. “Instead of questioning me,” Aidan said, “why don’t you question yourself for once?” and stopped me dead in my tracks. That was the thing: I didn’t want to question myself, or God or anybody up there. I needed the support and comfort that there was somebody watching out for me. I let Aidan win. Later that night, when we were in our bunks, he asked me if I thought Bobby Braverman’s sister “was cute or what?” With reluctance, I agreed. Then, I cannot explain why, but I began to cry silently into my pillow, and it was as if all my entitled unquestioned beliefs came with the tears, before I finally fell asleep. Then in the summer of my 8th grade, we moved out of Hoboken. We finally bought a nice big house in the suburbs. Backyard, pool, and everything! One day, my dad and I were driving down, moving boxes, when I asked him what he would miss most about Hoboken. “Our Lady of Grace, without a doubt,” he said. “What a wonderful place that was.” I thought about it. By this point, I didn’t listen to everything my dad said — I had changed quite a bit — but I agreed exactly with what he said. Even if my faith had been shaken, whenever I entered that church, I didn’t necessarily feel a restoration of faith, but I did feel a closeness with a presence that I have never felt before. When I would come back home from Groton, I would forget home was in Manchester, not Hoboken. I would forget we bought a cat and named her. I would forget that we were going to be a family of six now. I would forget where I was, or not even know where. But when we came to visit Hoboken on the occasional weekend, and Our Lady of Grace, looking at all the marble wall sculptures and paintings and the rose window behind a sea of organ pipes and blue-golden starry ceilings, I felt like I had a home. I remember one of the last times I was there sitting in the pews, looking 12

intently at my dad. The silence was insurmountable.

13


I didn’t like it, and my dad didn’t either. I didn’t like it because my dad didn’t like it. I felt like I was changing too, but I didn’t want to. I met my first atheist roommate, Aidan, at school in the spring of my 6th grade, who told me with brazen defiance that the Bible “was a load of crap.” I would banter with him all the time outside of classes, regurgitating whatever I had learned in Sunday School, until one night he finally came around to me. “Instead of questioning me,” Aidan said, “why don’t you question yourself for once?” and stopped me dead in my tracks. That was the thing: I didn’t want to question myself, or God or anybody up there. I needed the support and comfort that there was somebody watching out for me. I let Aidan win. Later that night, when we were in our bunks, he asked me if I thought Bobby Braverman’s sister “was cute or what?” With reluctance, I agreed. Then, I cannot explain why, but I began to cry silently into my pillow, and it was as if all my entitled unquestioned beliefs came with the tears, before I finally fell asleep. Then in the summer of my 8th grade, we moved out of Hoboken. We finally bought a nice big house in the suburbs. Backyard, pool, and everything! One day, my dad and I were driving down, moving boxes, when I asked him what he would miss most about Hoboken. “Our Lady of Grace, without a doubt,” he said. “What a wonderful place that was.” I thought about it. By this point, I didn’t listen to everything my dad said — I had changed quite a bit — but I agreed exactly with what he said. Even if my faith had been shaken, whenever I entered that church, I didn’t necessarily feel a restoration of faith, but I did feel a closeness with a presence that I have never felt before. When I would come back home from Groton, I would forget home was in Manchester, not Hoboken. I would forget we bought a cat and named her. I would forget that we were going to be a family of six now. I would forget where I was, or not even know where. But when we came to visit Hoboken on the occasional weekend, and Our Lady of Grace, looking at all the marble wall sculptures and paintings and the rose window behind a sea of organ pipes and blue-golden starry ceilings, I felt like I had a home. I remember one of the last times I was there sitting in the pews, looking 12

intently at my dad. The silence was insurmountable.

13


Sinclaire Brooks Defining Moment

The Dukes Of Orange I knew I was born to drive. Every bluegrass song I’d listened to told me so, told me that somewhere deep in my soul was the need to blast down a dirt road, feet on the floor, foot caressing the accelerator, letting the southern wind carry my troubles through the pines. I simply could not wait; I saw myself hopping into the car, giving the door a quick slam, popping in a Jason Aldean CD, and letting go, I left the rest up to my imagination and I ran with it. The possibilities were endless. I was drag racing my buddies down Chicken Mountain Road, careening and swerving, full of that brash air of invincibility only found in teenage boys, winding and twisting until the light flashed empty and we would push down the hill to the Sheetz station, laughing and recollecting, letting the story grow as big as we wanted it to. I had waited years for that car. It came with us during the move and dutifully awaited my coming of age hidden in a quiet corner of a run down barn behind my house. It was a 1993 Toyota 4Runner in Forest Green, a handsome car, tough, yet not rugged enough to fit into the “over compensation” class. My sister drove it during her high school years, and I remembered late night rides to IHOP, the intoxicating smell of orange air freshener, and the numbing drone of Bob Marley on the stereo. Somehow this aberrant collection of memories only heightened my love of the car. That strange intersection of nostalgia and excitement consumed me, and I counted down the days until I would call it my own. I quickly mastered the art of driving and breezed through every behind the wheel session and written test. I was proud of the fact that I was the only member of my driver’s ed class that did not cheat off of Pat, the 75 year old black woman stuck in our class after a DUI conviction, and I was even prouder of my keen driving abilities. My teacher noted the ease with which I maintained speed, my smooth, tight turns, and my polite demeanor. Plus, I only ran off the road once and it was in a suburb. I was her star pupil, well on my way to the lonely dirt laid down so perfectly in my dreams. I got my license in late March, and needless to say I became the ramblin’ man of my imagination. I was the lonesome drifter in a Hank Williams song, riding 14

through the Virginia night, wet with stars, letting the road take me as I went, transfusing my own thoughts and hopes with the road until they were ingrained in the gravel, and we were one. My buddy Ford and I were the Hazzard boys, running fishing poles instead of moonshine, dodging whitetails in place of colorful sheriffs, cruising all afternoon simply because we had the means. It turned out that I was just a really shitty driver. I drove too fast, sang along to my music too loud, all caught up in the freedom and perpetual motion. I never wanted to stop, so why should a loud red hexagon tell me so? One late night while in character, I found myself lost on Lovers Lane. All metaphors aside, I was lost, without GPS, generally screwed. After awkwardly turning in to one too many strangers’ driveways, I attempted my most difficult driving maneuver to date: a U turn on a narrow dirt road with the venerable 4Runner, which, in hindsight, is actually 4 feet longer than the road is wide. Gritting my teeth, I called upon all of those previous images of heroism and bravery, I was the master of the road, hands gripping the wheel tightly, soaked through with sweat and confidence., I felt the back right wheel flail helplessly about the gravel bank to the side of the road, clawing and gnashing and fighting for position only to slide into a deep ditch. No amount of cussing or engine revving could get me out. I sat behind the wheel, helplessly pounding the accelerator, not for any purpose other than sheer frustration. I sat there, immersing myself in self pity, analyzing my actions, intentionally dodging the full extent of my stupidity as if not accepting my culpability might somehow raise my spirits. After an hour of deliberation, I meekly called my dad. I was terrified of what he might say, shaken by my mistake, but, more importantly, finally understanding my own inexperience. I had no idea what I was doing and I couldn’t shake the feeling of helplessness. My dad arrived prepared as always and hitched the pitiful Toyota to his truck and pulled it out. The 4runner was fine, but I couldn’t say the same for my pride. That incident solidified my reputation as the bad driver of my family, which I accepted, not only because I had my fantasties to to fall back on, but because I knew they had to be wrong. I let the dinner table jokes roll off my back, choosing instead to delve deeper into my fantasies, as if imagining myself could truly make me better. Moreover, it was a means to appease my guilt, make me feel better about what happened, simply put, it was easier than feeling bad about myself. 15


Sinclaire Brooks Defining Moment

The Dukes Of Orange I knew I was born to drive. Every bluegrass song I’d listened to told me so, told me that somewhere deep in my soul was the need to blast down a dirt road, feet on the floor, foot caressing the accelerator, letting the southern wind carry my troubles through the pines. I simply could not wait; I saw myself hopping into the car, giving the door a quick slam, popping in a Jason Aldean CD, and letting go, I left the rest up to my imagination and I ran with it. The possibilities were endless. I was drag racing my buddies down Chicken Mountain Road, careening and swerving, full of that brash air of invincibility only found in teenage boys, winding and twisting until the light flashed empty and we would push down the hill to the Sheetz station, laughing and recollecting, letting the story grow as big as we wanted it to. I had waited years for that car. It came with us during the move and dutifully awaited my coming of age hidden in a quiet corner of a run down barn behind my house. It was a 1993 Toyota 4Runner in Forest Green, a handsome car, tough, yet not rugged enough to fit into the “over compensation” class. My sister drove it during her high school years, and I remembered late night rides to IHOP, the intoxicating smell of orange air freshener, and the numbing drone of Bob Marley on the stereo. Somehow this aberrant collection of memories only heightened my love of the car. That strange intersection of nostalgia and excitement consumed me, and I counted down the days until I would call it my own. I quickly mastered the art of driving and breezed through every behind the wheel session and written test. I was proud of the fact that I was the only member of my driver’s ed class that did not cheat off of Pat, the 75 year old black woman stuck in our class after a DUI conviction, and I was even prouder of my keen driving abilities. My teacher noted the ease with which I maintained speed, my smooth, tight turns, and my polite demeanor. Plus, I only ran off the road once and it was in a suburb. I was her star pupil, well on my way to the lonely dirt laid down so perfectly in my dreams. I got my license in late March, and needless to say I became the ramblin’ man of my imagination. I was the lonesome drifter in a Hank Williams song, riding 14

through the Virginia night, wet with stars, letting the road take me as I went, transfusing my own thoughts and hopes with the road until they were ingrained in the gravel, and we were one. My buddy Ford and I were the Hazzard boys, running fishing poles instead of moonshine, dodging whitetails in place of colorful sheriffs, cruising all afternoon simply because we had the means. It turned out that I was just a really shitty driver. I drove too fast, sang along to my music too loud, all caught up in the freedom and perpetual motion. I never wanted to stop, so why should a loud red hexagon tell me so? One late night while in character, I found myself lost on Lovers Lane. All metaphors aside, I was lost, without GPS, generally screwed. After awkwardly turning in to one too many strangers’ driveways, I attempted my most difficult driving maneuver to date: a U turn on a narrow dirt road with the venerable 4Runner, which, in hindsight, is actually 4 feet longer than the road is wide. Gritting my teeth, I called upon all of those previous images of heroism and bravery, I was the master of the road, hands gripping the wheel tightly, soaked through with sweat and confidence., I felt the back right wheel flail helplessly about the gravel bank to the side of the road, clawing and gnashing and fighting for position only to slide into a deep ditch. No amount of cussing or engine revving could get me out. I sat behind the wheel, helplessly pounding the accelerator, not for any purpose other than sheer frustration. I sat there, immersing myself in self pity, analyzing my actions, intentionally dodging the full extent of my stupidity as if not accepting my culpability might somehow raise my spirits. After an hour of deliberation, I meekly called my dad. I was terrified of what he might say, shaken by my mistake, but, more importantly, finally understanding my own inexperience. I had no idea what I was doing and I couldn’t shake the feeling of helplessness. My dad arrived prepared as always and hitched the pitiful Toyota to his truck and pulled it out. The 4runner was fine, but I couldn’t say the same for my pride. That incident solidified my reputation as the bad driver of my family, which I accepted, not only because I had my fantasties to to fall back on, but because I knew they had to be wrong. I let the dinner table jokes roll off my back, choosing instead to delve deeper into my fantasies, as if imagining myself could truly make me better. Moreover, it was a means to appease my guilt, make me feel better about what happened, simply put, it was easier than feeling bad about myself. 15


This summer, after years of incident-free driving, I was driving on Main Street when my heart sank at the sight in my rear view. Red and blue flashes, white hood, sunglasses and a mustache behind the windshield. An improper lane change, a few terse words with Officer So-and-So, $50 dollars out of my pocket, the sting of wounded pride, and that was that, until the letter from the esteemed Commonwealth deeming me unfit to drive, suspending my license indefinitely, and demanding a $200 fine and remedial driving course. Now I sit, back at square one, and those same lofty dreams creep back into my mind. Every minute sitting at home, stationary, longing not to move but rather for the freedom to do so, is filled with hunger. It does not consume me; rather it is a constant understated desire for liberation. Each time I sheepishly ask my mom for a ride into town, I know that my days of imprisonment are numbered, hash marks on a jail house wall, for when I get behind that wheel again, hands draped over the leather, I’ll go right back, hit the road and let my imagination take me, forever caught between what is and what is not, divided by two white lines.

Nick Funnell Compare/Contrast

I’ll be the Prince and You’ll be the Princess “What is this abomination of taste and decency assaulting my eardrums?” Conjuring my inner Ignatius J. Reilly, I yelled this to Loulie and George above a technological bass blast akin to robot intercourse as a shrill female voice repeated “trouble, trouble, trouble.” “It’s T Swift’s new song,” Loulie responded. “Excuse me?” “Yeah. ‘I Knew You Were Trouble.’” “This is complete shit!” George seemed to agree, but he was too entertained by my own disdain to make any commentary regarding the song’s quality. Fighting off Loulie’s attempts to stop my progress, I lunged at the speakers’ off button and then panted heavily amidst the silence, doubled over from exhaustion and disappointment. “Never again. Never again.” Taylor Swift released “I Knew You Were Trouble” as a promotional single two weeks before the official release of her fourth studio album, “Red.” Of the song, she said that it “is one of my favorite songs on the new album.” I was crestfallen when I saw this quote. I had been eagerly anticipating “Red” up to this point, but if this techno-pop crap was a highlight of the album, I dreaded what the rest might entail. I was doubly nervous when I saw another recent quote of hers: “I have so many playlists full of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown…I love Wiz Khalifa.” What had happened to country music’s princess? * * * I remember the first time I heard Taylor Swift sing. I was showering before a day of Saturday classes at Cardigan Mountain School. There was a waterproof clock-radio in the shower with a frustratingly difficult circular dial on the right side. Reception was not always great, but I could usually find 97.1 KISS FM just fine. The popular music station was all a seventh grader could ever possibly want to listen to. The song was infectious, the voice was beautiful—angelic really, and I was beside myself. “He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar, the only one who’s 17


This summer, after years of incident-free driving, I was driving on Main Street when my heart sank at the sight in my rear view. Red and blue flashes, white hood, sunglasses and a mustache behind the windshield. An improper lane change, a few terse words with Officer So-and-So, $50 dollars out of my pocket, the sting of wounded pride, and that was that, until the letter from the esteemed Commonwealth deeming me unfit to drive, suspending my license indefinitely, and demanding a $200 fine and remedial driving course. Now I sit, back at square one, and those same lofty dreams creep back into my mind. Every minute sitting at home, stationary, longing not to move but rather for the freedom to do so, is filled with hunger. It does not consume me; rather it is a constant understated desire for liberation. Each time I sheepishly ask my mom for a ride into town, I know that my days of imprisonment are numbered, hash marks on a jail house wall, for when I get behind that wheel again, hands draped over the leather, I’ll go right back, hit the road and let my imagination take me, forever caught between what is and what is not, divided by two white lines.

Nick Funnell Compare/Contrast

I’ll be the Prince and You’ll be the Princess “What is this abomination of taste and decency assaulting my eardrums?” Conjuring my inner Ignatius J. Reilly, I yelled this to Loulie and George above a technological bass blast akin to robot intercourse as a shrill female voice repeated “trouble, trouble, trouble.” “It’s T Swift’s new song,” Loulie responded. “Excuse me?” “Yeah. ‘I Knew You Were Trouble.’” “This is complete shit!” George seemed to agree, but he was too entertained by my own disdain to make any commentary regarding the song’s quality. Fighting off Loulie’s attempts to stop my progress, I lunged at the speakers’ off button and then panted heavily amidst the silence, doubled over from exhaustion and disappointment. “Never again. Never again.” Taylor Swift released “I Knew You Were Trouble” as a promotional single two weeks before the official release of her fourth studio album, “Red.” Of the song, she said that it “is one of my favorite songs on the new album.” I was crestfallen when I saw this quote. I had been eagerly anticipating “Red” up to this point, but if this techno-pop crap was a highlight of the album, I dreaded what the rest might entail. I was doubly nervous when I saw another recent quote of hers: “I have so many playlists full of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown…I love Wiz Khalifa.” What had happened to country music’s princess? * * * I remember the first time I heard Taylor Swift sing. I was showering before a day of Saturday classes at Cardigan Mountain School. There was a waterproof clock-radio in the shower with a frustratingly difficult circular dial on the right side. Reception was not always great, but I could usually find 97.1 KISS FM just fine. The popular music station was all a seventh grader could ever possibly want to listen to. The song was infectious, the voice was beautiful—angelic really, and I was beside myself. “He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar, the only one who’s 17


got enough of me to break my heart,” this sweet voice laden with sadness crooned above chords of acoustic guitar. Although the shampoo had all washed down the drain several minutes before, I listened to the entirety of the song until the DJ’s voice came on again, “That was country newcomer Taylor Swift, up another couple of slots with ‘Teardrops on My Guitar.’” Even when the radio was off, the water had stopped, and the steam in the room had subsided, the melody still echoed through my head. It stayed with me for the rest of the day. Her next big single to hit radio was “Our Song,” a song that was much more country than “Teardrops,” but still earned airplay on pop stations. I had always despised country music with a passion. This was a difficult feat in an area of New Hampshire with three country stations on the dial and not much else. It was twangy, whiny, uneducated, and downright bad. Then there was Taylor, a wonderful singer-songwriter and a beautiful teenager. Song after song from her debut album travelled across the radio waves to audiences everywhere, much to my delight. Taylor Swift was my gateway into the world of country music. Starting with her, I branched out and it has since become my favorite genre of music. I was able to embrace the culture of country music, and then the rural culture of my hometown. She stood at the pinnacle as my country crush. I fell in love with Taylor Swift in the fall of my ninth grade year. I fell in love with her music, of course, but I actually fell in love with Taylor Swift the girl. This was on the heels of her newly released sophomore album, “Fearless.” It should be called “Flawless.” It is perfection in musical form. I listened to those thirteen (her lucky number) songs on repeat throughout the fall and into the winter. “White Horse” and “Breathe” served as lullabies every night, “You Belong with Me” blared in the JV hockey locker room and we all sang along, and “Fifteen” comforted me as I thought ahead to beginning high school at one of the places I was writing applications for. The crown jewel of the album, however, is “Love Story.” The song tells the story of an ideal love—equated to Romeo and Juliet but with a happy ending. I owned both the song and the music video, which I watched nearly every day. . Her beautiful curly blonde hair flowed over her soft shoulders and extravagant gowns in this fairytale romance and I watched it again and again, wonderstruck. That song, that video, that girl—that was the perception of love in my fourteen-year-old mind. It looked easy, simple. All I needed to do once I left the confines of my all-boys middle school was find my princess and I 18

would be happy forever after.

* * * If my princess does exist, I have not met her yet. I am now as old as Taylor Swift was when she recorded “Fearless,”–eighteen and a half, and I’m further away from love than I was at age fourteen. In the four years that have gone by, Taylor and I have both matured. Things would never work between us now. “Love Story” ruined us both on a fundamental level. It deceived me into thinking that love is like the one in the song, but now I know that it’s just wistful idealistic bullshit. I still love the song though. As for Taylor, well, “Love Story” had a more drastic effect on her. Before this she was innocent, carefree, and a sweet country girl. Since this, she has had a series of failed relationships, inspiring song after song of heartbreak. Her ideal love is still the one in “Love Story,” and the more relationships she has that do not turn into this, the harder she tries to become the girl in the music video. High-class and proper, with fancy dresses and makeup. Straightened hair with bangs. Social events with the Kennedy family. It’s not genuine any more. I don’t like pretenders. She has tried to hard to be loved by as many people as possible that she has sacrificed her own identity while trying to forge a new one. It would be a crime of the music industry to label “Red” as anything other than pop. Of the sixteen songs, there are only five or six that I tolerate. The rest is garbage. To see the progression of her change, one only needs to either listen to her music or just look at her four album covers. Her first album, “Taylor Swift,” shows a wildly curly blonde head of hair with blue eyes and light drawings of butterflies. “Fearless” has her blonde hair flying softly in all directions while she wears a white dress. “Speak Now,” her third album, finds Taylor’s hair being closer to wavy while she sports a flowing purple dress. Then there is “Red.” Half of Taylor’s face is in shadows. Her hair is nearly straightened and her lips are bright ruby red. Her four album covers progress in elegance at the sacrifice of sweetness. I miss the Taylor Swift of old. When “Red” officially came out, I sat in the room and hesitantly listened to each preview of each song. Shaken, I proceeded to play every one of her previous songs, reminiscing on the good times. When we were both young, she was country, and I was in love. 19


got enough of me to break my heart,” this sweet voice laden with sadness crooned above chords of acoustic guitar. Although the shampoo had all washed down the drain several minutes before, I listened to the entirety of the song until the DJ’s voice came on again, “That was country newcomer Taylor Swift, up another couple of slots with ‘Teardrops on My Guitar.’” Even when the radio was off, the water had stopped, and the steam in the room had subsided, the melody still echoed through my head. It stayed with me for the rest of the day. Her next big single to hit radio was “Our Song,” a song that was much more country than “Teardrops,” but still earned airplay on pop stations. I had always despised country music with a passion. This was a difficult feat in an area of New Hampshire with three country stations on the dial and not much else. It was twangy, whiny, uneducated, and downright bad. Then there was Taylor, a wonderful singer-songwriter and a beautiful teenager. Song after song from her debut album travelled across the radio waves to audiences everywhere, much to my delight. Taylor Swift was my gateway into the world of country music. Starting with her, I branched out and it has since become my favorite genre of music. I was able to embrace the culture of country music, and then the rural culture of my hometown. She stood at the pinnacle as my country crush. I fell in love with Taylor Swift in the fall of my ninth grade year. I fell in love with her music, of course, but I actually fell in love with Taylor Swift the girl. This was on the heels of her newly released sophomore album, “Fearless.” It should be called “Flawless.” It is perfection in musical form. I listened to those thirteen (her lucky number) songs on repeat throughout the fall and into the winter. “White Horse” and “Breathe” served as lullabies every night, “You Belong with Me” blared in the JV hockey locker room and we all sang along, and “Fifteen” comforted me as I thought ahead to beginning high school at one of the places I was writing applications for. The crown jewel of the album, however, is “Love Story.” The song tells the story of an ideal love—equated to Romeo and Juliet but with a happy ending. I owned both the song and the music video, which I watched nearly every day. . Her beautiful curly blonde hair flowed over her soft shoulders and extravagant gowns in this fairytale romance and I watched it again and again, wonderstruck. That song, that video, that girl—that was the perception of love in my fourteen-year-old mind. It looked easy, simple. All I needed to do once I left the confines of my all-boys middle school was find my princess and I 18

would be happy forever after.

* * * If my princess does exist, I have not met her yet. I am now as old as Taylor Swift was when she recorded “Fearless,”–eighteen and a half, and I’m further away from love than I was at age fourteen. In the four years that have gone by, Taylor and I have both matured. Things would never work between us now. “Love Story” ruined us both on a fundamental level. It deceived me into thinking that love is like the one in the song, but now I know that it’s just wistful idealistic bullshit. I still love the song though. As for Taylor, well, “Love Story” had a more drastic effect on her. Before this she was innocent, carefree, and a sweet country girl. Since this, she has had a series of failed relationships, inspiring song after song of heartbreak. Her ideal love is still the one in “Love Story,” and the more relationships she has that do not turn into this, the harder she tries to become the girl in the music video. High-class and proper, with fancy dresses and makeup. Straightened hair with bangs. Social events with the Kennedy family. It’s not genuine any more. I don’t like pretenders. She has tried to hard to be loved by as many people as possible that she has sacrificed her own identity while trying to forge a new one. It would be a crime of the music industry to label “Red” as anything other than pop. Of the sixteen songs, there are only five or six that I tolerate. The rest is garbage. To see the progression of her change, one only needs to either listen to her music or just look at her four album covers. Her first album, “Taylor Swift,” shows a wildly curly blonde head of hair with blue eyes and light drawings of butterflies. “Fearless” has her blonde hair flying softly in all directions while she wears a white dress. “Speak Now,” her third album, finds Taylor’s hair being closer to wavy while she sports a flowing purple dress. Then there is “Red.” Half of Taylor’s face is in shadows. Her hair is nearly straightened and her lips are bright ruby red. Her four album covers progress in elegance at the sacrifice of sweetness. I miss the Taylor Swift of old. When “Red” officially came out, I sat in the room and hesitantly listened to each preview of each song. Shaken, I proceeded to play every one of her previous songs, reminiscing on the good times. When we were both young, she was country, and I was in love. 19


Chinedu Okorafor Compare/Contrast

The Debate I hate English. Why do I hate English, you may ask? Because it is a waste of my time. I could be researching the cure for cancer; instead I find myself reading Emily Dickinson’s #465 poem. Who cares if you hear a fly buzzing when you die? Shouldn’t you be more concerned about your life’s accomplishments than an insect’s annoying buzz? Instead of focusing on dying, Dickinson should have been meeting with a psychiatrist because it was obvious that she was an emotional wreck. She wasted her life writing depressing poems when she could have made an actual difference in the world by researching science. Science is the way. There is no other path to take, Robert Frost. Science has helped saved millions of lives with the developments of vaccinations for measles, smallpox, polio, and other major diseases. What has English done? Nothing except for the introduction of frivolous novels and poems into the world. Do we really need Catcher in the Rye? If you really want a book full of complaining, I can write you one right now. English does not provide facts like science does. Rather, you must interpret the book or poem the way you understand it and there are many ways of interpretation. Nope. I refuse to do that. Give me the cold hard facts and I will have a thesis ready to go. Bur what about Shakespeare, the greatest known playwright? You must appreciate his works. I say Shakespeare is a fraud. It is greatly debated in the literature world in whether Shakespeare was the only playwright. Yet we praise him for the supposed works that he wrote. In my opinion, Shakespeare is overrated; his works do not impress me. How can we believe that Hamlet’s father appears as a ghost to Hamlet in order to achieve vengeance against his murders? That is an unlikely story. Once a person is dead, he or she is dead. It is not scientifically possible for a person to come back as a ghost. People tell me that I should not take the story so literally. That’s hogwash. It is my duty as a knowledgeable human being to dispel the superstition that Shakespeare uses in his plays and promote common sense. If you do not like it, then you can write an angry poem about me, and I will proceed to throw it away. 20

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Please excuse my colleague for her disrespectful tone. She must take a required English class in order for her to receive her chemical engineering degree and she is not happy about it. I am studying for my English major now so I wish to defend the beautiful world of English. I feel as if you should hear it from both sides. Unlike my colleague, I do not undervalue the worth of science and humanities in our lives. Each serves an important purpose. Science provides us with the answers in life while English challenges us to question the facts of life. For example, Death is something that we can’t explain. The doctor can tell us exactly how the person died in scientific terms, but the feeling of grief does not just go away. It stays with us, creeping into our lives until it consumes us. One way of dealing with this grief is by writing it out. We found ourselves questioning the death and why it happened to our dear friend or family member. With each pen stroke, the burden of grief is lightened. English provides a medium of expression in which science can never provide. Whether you feel happy, sad, confused, or lonely, the paper is the blank canvas for your thoughts. Emily Dickinson used writing as a way to deal with her depression. It was petty for my colleague to belittle Dickinson’s emotional state. Those who were close to Emily died and in response, she secluded herself from society, carrying the grief with her. She questioned death and immortality in her poems as a way to explain the death around her. Many might say that she wasted her life writing these poems instead of actually making a difference in the world, but that is not true. Yes, she did not find the cure of cancer. But she touched the aspect of life that science could never touch: the emotion. Her poems continue today to console those people who have lost a dear friend or family member. While I was dealing with a death in the family, I read Emily’s #712 poem. Emily personified death as a gentleman who took a carriage ride with her that led to her grave. She questioned whether this is truly the end. Is there life after death? This important question is what science chooses to ignore because they choose to only deal with the cold, hard facts. Science only deals with answers, while English strives to explore life’s unsolvable questions. The theme of death was also evident in Shakespeare’s works. Even if the supposed works were not written by Shakespeare, we can still appreciate them. 21


Chinedu Okorafor Compare/Contrast

The Debate I hate English. Why do I hate English, you may ask? Because it is a waste of my time. I could be researching the cure for cancer; instead I find myself reading Emily Dickinson’s #465 poem. Who cares if you hear a fly buzzing when you die? Shouldn’t you be more concerned about your life’s accomplishments than an insect’s annoying buzz? Instead of focusing on dying, Dickinson should have been meeting with a psychiatrist because it was obvious that she was an emotional wreck. She wasted her life writing depressing poems when she could have made an actual difference in the world by researching science. Science is the way. There is no other path to take, Robert Frost. Science has helped saved millions of lives with the developments of vaccinations for measles, smallpox, polio, and other major diseases. What has English done? Nothing except for the introduction of frivolous novels and poems into the world. Do we really need Catcher in the Rye? If you really want a book full of complaining, I can write you one right now. English does not provide facts like science does. Rather, you must interpret the book or poem the way you understand it and there are many ways of interpretation. Nope. I refuse to do that. Give me the cold hard facts and I will have a thesis ready to go. Bur what about Shakespeare, the greatest known playwright? You must appreciate his works. I say Shakespeare is a fraud. It is greatly debated in the literature world in whether Shakespeare was the only playwright. Yet we praise him for the supposed works that he wrote. In my opinion, Shakespeare is overrated; his works do not impress me. How can we believe that Hamlet’s father appears as a ghost to Hamlet in order to achieve vengeance against his murders? That is an unlikely story. Once a person is dead, he or she is dead. It is not scientifically possible for a person to come back as a ghost. People tell me that I should not take the story so literally. That’s hogwash. It is my duty as a knowledgeable human being to dispel the superstition that Shakespeare uses in his plays and promote common sense. If you do not like it, then you can write an angry poem about me, and I will proceed to throw it away. 20

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Please excuse my colleague for her disrespectful tone. She must take a required English class in order for her to receive her chemical engineering degree and she is not happy about it. I am studying for my English major now so I wish to defend the beautiful world of English. I feel as if you should hear it from both sides. Unlike my colleague, I do not undervalue the worth of science and humanities in our lives. Each serves an important purpose. Science provides us with the answers in life while English challenges us to question the facts of life. For example, Death is something that we can’t explain. The doctor can tell us exactly how the person died in scientific terms, but the feeling of grief does not just go away. It stays with us, creeping into our lives until it consumes us. One way of dealing with this grief is by writing it out. We found ourselves questioning the death and why it happened to our dear friend or family member. With each pen stroke, the burden of grief is lightened. English provides a medium of expression in which science can never provide. Whether you feel happy, sad, confused, or lonely, the paper is the blank canvas for your thoughts. Emily Dickinson used writing as a way to deal with her depression. It was petty for my colleague to belittle Dickinson’s emotional state. Those who were close to Emily died and in response, she secluded herself from society, carrying the grief with her. She questioned death and immortality in her poems as a way to explain the death around her. Many might say that she wasted her life writing these poems instead of actually making a difference in the world, but that is not true. Yes, she did not find the cure of cancer. But she touched the aspect of life that science could never touch: the emotion. Her poems continue today to console those people who have lost a dear friend or family member. While I was dealing with a death in the family, I read Emily’s #712 poem. Emily personified death as a gentleman who took a carriage ride with her that led to her grave. She questioned whether this is truly the end. Is there life after death? This important question is what science chooses to ignore because they choose to only deal with the cold, hard facts. Science only deals with answers, while English strives to explore life’s unsolvable questions. The theme of death was also evident in Shakespeare’s works. Even if the supposed works were not written by Shakespeare, we can still appreciate them. 21


Some take his stories too literally. The reader knows that there is an unlikely chance that Hamlet’s father will appear as a ghost to Hamlet. But the significance is that Hamlet must take vengeance against those who murdered his father. Moral questions arise in this play. Is it right for Hamlet to kill his father’s murderers, or will he himself be guilty of murder? Hamlet faces an ethical dilemma and the readers are challenged into forming an opinion in whether Hamlet should commit this action or not. Science hinders us from thinking this way. In science, we are only focused on the answers instead of questioning the unknown. English provides a way for us to express our opinions and findings in this vast, unexplored world.

22

Hugh McGlade Cultural Critique

Badger My phone buzzed, and the caller-ID read “Dave Badger.” “Hello,” I said. “Where are you? Time is everything in this business.” “I’m right around the corner; I’ll be there in a minute.” As we pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out of the car, thanked Ms. Lincoln for having given me a ride, and jogged over to the black minivan waiting for me. Opening the passenger side door, I hastily but carefully sat down—not wanting to wrinkle my suit. “Sorry I’m late,” I said, the guilt already setting in. “No worries. But remember, even in this business, time is everything.” As I settled in and the car began to move, Dave Badger continued, saying, “Okay, so we’re going to a burial at the Littleton cemetery first, and then we’re going to bring this guy up to the crematory.” “This guy?” I thought to myself. “Who’s this guy?” As I turned my head over my left shoulder, I noticed a six or seven foot coffin resting in the back of the van. “Lively company,” I said to Dave Badger. The joke fell flat. Three or four minutes into the drive, the silence came to an end when Dave Badger turned on the stereo. “I only listen to Jimmy Buffett in the hearse,” he explained, “I love the guy.” The melody of “Margaritaville” soon engulfed the hearse’s interior, and Dave Badger began tapping his finger on the steering wheel. As the coupled scent of decomposing flesh and chemical preservative crept up my nose, I couldn’t help but think, “Jimmy may be the only one in Margaritaville, but he sure isn’t the only one wasting away.” As we wove through the streets of Littleton, we approached a sharp curve. Clearly in a rush to arrive at the burial on time, Dave Badger seemed not to be interested in cautious or measured driving, and about midway through the turn, I heard—above the steel drums—a loud thump. The coffin, secured by nothing, had slid across the back of the back of the van and slammed into the wall. “Quiet down back there, buddy,” Dave Badger murmured. 23


Some take his stories too literally. The reader knows that there is an unlikely chance that Hamlet’s father will appear as a ghost to Hamlet. But the significance is that Hamlet must take vengeance against those who murdered his father. Moral questions arise in this play. Is it right for Hamlet to kill his father’s murderers, or will he himself be guilty of murder? Hamlet faces an ethical dilemma and the readers are challenged into forming an opinion in whether Hamlet should commit this action or not. Science hinders us from thinking this way. In science, we are only focused on the answers instead of questioning the unknown. English provides a way for us to express our opinions and findings in this vast, unexplored world.

22

Hugh McGlade Cultural Critique

Badger My phone buzzed, and the caller-ID read “Dave Badger.” “Hello,” I said. “Where are you? Time is everything in this business.” “I’m right around the corner; I’ll be there in a minute.” As we pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out of the car, thanked Ms. Lincoln for having given me a ride, and jogged over to the black minivan waiting for me. Opening the passenger side door, I hastily but carefully sat down—not wanting to wrinkle my suit. “Sorry I’m late,” I said, the guilt already setting in. “No worries. But remember, even in this business, time is everything.” As I settled in and the car began to move, Dave Badger continued, saying, “Okay, so we’re going to a burial at the Littleton cemetery first, and then we’re going to bring this guy up to the crematory.” “This guy?” I thought to myself. “Who’s this guy?” As I turned my head over my left shoulder, I noticed a six or seven foot coffin resting in the back of the van. “Lively company,” I said to Dave Badger. The joke fell flat. Three or four minutes into the drive, the silence came to an end when Dave Badger turned on the stereo. “I only listen to Jimmy Buffett in the hearse,” he explained, “I love the guy.” The melody of “Margaritaville” soon engulfed the hearse’s interior, and Dave Badger began tapping his finger on the steering wheel. As the coupled scent of decomposing flesh and chemical preservative crept up my nose, I couldn’t help but think, “Jimmy may be the only one in Margaritaville, but he sure isn’t the only one wasting away.” As we wove through the streets of Littleton, we approached a sharp curve. Clearly in a rush to arrive at the burial on time, Dave Badger seemed not to be interested in cautious or measured driving, and about midway through the turn, I heard—above the steel drums—a loud thump. The coffin, secured by nothing, had slid across the back of the back of the van and slammed into the wall. “Quiet down back there, buddy,” Dave Badger murmured. 23


We soon pulled into the cemetery and stepped out of the van. Thirty or forty feet away, was parked a hearse—not a minivan converted to hearse, but a real one. Three men were standing around a deep, rectangular hole in the ground, and the hearse’s back door was open, exposing an ornate casket. Unlike the plain, rectangular coffin that we had been carting around, this one had engravings in the wood and flower bouquets organized neatly on top. As we approached the men, Dave Badger explained to me that they were funeral directors who worked for him and that the family had yet to arrive. “Okay I’m glad you’re here, we need your help,” one of the men said, pointing at the casket, “She really liked dessert.” The five of us circled around, and on a count of three, we lifted the woman and her casket, carrying her over to the grave. A contraption of ropes had been set up on top of the hole, and the coffin rested on it until the family arrived. Dave Badger rearranged the flowers and dusted the engravings. “Now we wait.” Five or ten minutes later, a Toyota pulled up to the gravesite. Two men in their fifties stepped out of the car and walked over to Dave Badger. Dressed in t-shirts and jeans, they looked out of place among the five of us who wore dark suits and black overcoats. After thirty seconds of chatting, one of them said, “We’re ready.” One of the funeral directors cranked a handle around and around, lowering the coffin into the ground. The two men, who I’d now realized were family, picked up handfuls of dirt and tossed them down onto their mother. They got back in their car and drove off. Now, a large truck with a crane attached to the back pulled in front of the grave. A large, thick rectangle of concrete hung from the end of the crane’s neck, and a man dressed in a thick sweatshirt with oiled gloves operated a small joystick. He lifted the concrete slab and slowly lowered it, encasing the coffin completely in a vault. Dave Badger whistled for my attention and we returned to the minivan hearse. My first question, before the why’s and how’s of burials, was, “Why were there only two family members there?” “Most of them had to fly out of town. We had the wake last week for her, a funeral yesterday, and today was just the burial.” As we continued to drive to the crematory to drop “this guy” off, I thought about what Dave Badger had just said. He passed it off in such normal terms, but I wondered about just how logical that series of events was. The average adult 24

embalming, funeral, and burial like that woman had just received costs $7,755.For what? For a slit in her neck so they can force formaldehyde into her dead bloodstream? For a casket that will be seen for all of ten minutes by two family members? It’s not that I have trouble celebrating the lives of those who’ve died, no. It’s that, in order to “mourn” and “eulogize,” some people need all of this expensive and toxic material to do so. There he was again—Jimmy Buffet, interrupting my train of thought with margaritas and “women to blame.” We finally pulled off the highway and into the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. “This is the closest crematory,” Dave Badger explained. The old mill town’s dilapidated buildings hugged dirtied rivers, and our minivan hearse may have been the most expensive car on the road. On the edge of town, we pulled up to a discrete brick building that faced away from the road. A small white steeple crowned the center of it, and hidden quietly on the far end of the chapel was a set of doors with a loading dock in front of them. Dave Badger backed the hearse up, and just as he turned it off the ignition, the doors opened and a man walked out. “John, it’s good to see you,” Dave Badger said. “You as well, Dave.” “This is Hugh. He’s learning the ropes. Thought I’d bring him up here and show him how the crematory works.” I walked up to the man and extended my hand for a shake. As I looked at him, I noticed that both of his eyes were lazy. “No way,” I thought to myself, “the guy who burns the bodies has two lazy eyes. You can’t make this shit up.” As I stepped inside, I could hear the grumble of the burning chambers as the heat hit my face. As Dave Badger and lazy-eyed John unloaded the coffin, I strolled up and down the hall, passing the ovens. Some were open, and I peeked inside. “They kind of look like pizza ovens,” I thought to myself. I could see the left over remnants that hadn’t quite been swept up from the last cremation. “So we keep the ovens at about 2,000 degrees,” John said. “The average cremation—depending on size—takes two or three hours. Kids are quick, for example. We also have to be more cautious now a days with all these breast augmentations—silicone doesn’t burn well.” Completely fascinated, I looked at the controls and into the chambers once again. “So how many cremations do you do a year?” I asked. 25


We soon pulled into the cemetery and stepped out of the van. Thirty or forty feet away, was parked a hearse—not a minivan converted to hearse, but a real one. Three men were standing around a deep, rectangular hole in the ground, and the hearse’s back door was open, exposing an ornate casket. Unlike the plain, rectangular coffin that we had been carting around, this one had engravings in the wood and flower bouquets organized neatly on top. As we approached the men, Dave Badger explained to me that they were funeral directors who worked for him and that the family had yet to arrive. “Okay I’m glad you’re here, we need your help,” one of the men said, pointing at the casket, “She really liked dessert.” The five of us circled around, and on a count of three, we lifted the woman and her casket, carrying her over to the grave. A contraption of ropes had been set up on top of the hole, and the coffin rested on it until the family arrived. Dave Badger rearranged the flowers and dusted the engravings. “Now we wait.” Five or ten minutes later, a Toyota pulled up to the gravesite. Two men in their fifties stepped out of the car and walked over to Dave Badger. Dressed in t-shirts and jeans, they looked out of place among the five of us who wore dark suits and black overcoats. After thirty seconds of chatting, one of them said, “We’re ready.” One of the funeral directors cranked a handle around and around, lowering the coffin into the ground. The two men, who I’d now realized were family, picked up handfuls of dirt and tossed them down onto their mother. They got back in their car and drove off. Now, a large truck with a crane attached to the back pulled in front of the grave. A large, thick rectangle of concrete hung from the end of the crane’s neck, and a man dressed in a thick sweatshirt with oiled gloves operated a small joystick. He lifted the concrete slab and slowly lowered it, encasing the coffin completely in a vault. Dave Badger whistled for my attention and we returned to the minivan hearse. My first question, before the why’s and how’s of burials, was, “Why were there only two family members there?” “Most of them had to fly out of town. We had the wake last week for her, a funeral yesterday, and today was just the burial.” As we continued to drive to the crematory to drop “this guy” off, I thought about what Dave Badger had just said. He passed it off in such normal terms, but I wondered about just how logical that series of events was. The average adult 24

embalming, funeral, and burial like that woman had just received costs $7,755.For what? For a slit in her neck so they can force formaldehyde into her dead bloodstream? For a casket that will be seen for all of ten minutes by two family members? It’s not that I have trouble celebrating the lives of those who’ve died, no. It’s that, in order to “mourn” and “eulogize,” some people need all of this expensive and toxic material to do so. There he was again—Jimmy Buffet, interrupting my train of thought with margaritas and “women to blame.” We finally pulled off the highway and into the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts. “This is the closest crematory,” Dave Badger explained. The old mill town’s dilapidated buildings hugged dirtied rivers, and our minivan hearse may have been the most expensive car on the road. On the edge of town, we pulled up to a discrete brick building that faced away from the road. A small white steeple crowned the center of it, and hidden quietly on the far end of the chapel was a set of doors with a loading dock in front of them. Dave Badger backed the hearse up, and just as he turned it off the ignition, the doors opened and a man walked out. “John, it’s good to see you,” Dave Badger said. “You as well, Dave.” “This is Hugh. He’s learning the ropes. Thought I’d bring him up here and show him how the crematory works.” I walked up to the man and extended my hand for a shake. As I looked at him, I noticed that both of his eyes were lazy. “No way,” I thought to myself, “the guy who burns the bodies has two lazy eyes. You can’t make this shit up.” As I stepped inside, I could hear the grumble of the burning chambers as the heat hit my face. As Dave Badger and lazy-eyed John unloaded the coffin, I strolled up and down the hall, passing the ovens. Some were open, and I peeked inside. “They kind of look like pizza ovens,” I thought to myself. I could see the left over remnants that hadn’t quite been swept up from the last cremation. “So we keep the ovens at about 2,000 degrees,” John said. “The average cremation—depending on size—takes two or three hours. Kids are quick, for example. We also have to be more cautious now a days with all these breast augmentations—silicone doesn’t burn well.” Completely fascinated, I looked at the controls and into the chambers once again. “So how many cremations do you do a year?” I asked. 25


“We do 6,000. More than anyone else in the state. Somewhere around 16 a day,” he replied. As I listened to him explain the process, I thought back to the burial I had just seen. What was in front of me seemed cruder. It seemed more cringe-worthy. But for some reason, I found it to be far more reasonable. To start, cremated bodies take up far less room than buried ones do—and we don’t have millions of acres of prairies to keep housing corpses. It’s thousands of dollars cheaper, and on top of that, no chemicals have to be pumped into the bodies. Finally, and most importantly, I felt like they were returning to some kind of original state. I am not particularly religious; in fact, I struggle to refer to myself as anything but an atheist. Despite this, the religions that I find most inviting, and at least mildly rational, tend to be Eastern. Hinduism, for example, and the concept of reincarnation appeal to me more than the Holy Trinity. I had always known that Hindus burned their dead, but their rationale was never apparent to me. Was it just easier? Did they not have wood for coffins? After a few clicks and a minute or two of reading, the World Wide Web provided me with my answer. “Cremation is a ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body; it is intended to release the soul from its earthly existence.” It is a release while burial is an internment. Cremation sets you free. Finishing up my tour of the vaults, I thanked John, and we headed back to Littleton. When we returned, Ms. Lincoln was parked in front, waiting to drive me back to campus. “How was it?” she asked as I climbed into her car. “Wild,” I said, “We took a body up to the crematory.” “Oh right, I actually responded to the EMT call about that guy just the other day. Sad story.” “Oh really, what happened?” “Well, he got in his bed, gun in hand, and shot himself through the roof of his mouth. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t succeed. So, he stood up, walked to his bathroom, turned the shower on as hot as it could go, and ran his bleeding head under the water until his veins dilated enough for him to bleed out.” “Wow,” I said. Now I really knew “this guy’s” story. But as depressing as his last moments may have been, part of me felt that his life had come to a close more fully than the dessert-loving mother whom we’d buried. I felt as though his cremation had released his spirit from his awful death. The bullet wound that dis26

torted his face; the horror he had created for his family; the negativity associated with suicide—it had, in my mind, all burnt away. His soul had been freed from his body. His departure from this world may not have been “kosher” or “sanctified,” but it was most definitely practical, and perhaps, liberating.

27


“We do 6,000. More than anyone else in the state. Somewhere around 16 a day,” he replied. As I listened to him explain the process, I thought back to the burial I had just seen. What was in front of me seemed cruder. It seemed more cringe-worthy. But for some reason, I found it to be far more reasonable. To start, cremated bodies take up far less room than buried ones do—and we don’t have millions of acres of prairies to keep housing corpses. It’s thousands of dollars cheaper, and on top of that, no chemicals have to be pumped into the bodies. Finally, and most importantly, I felt like they were returning to some kind of original state. I am not particularly religious; in fact, I struggle to refer to myself as anything but an atheist. Despite this, the religions that I find most inviting, and at least mildly rational, tend to be Eastern. Hinduism, for example, and the concept of reincarnation appeal to me more than the Holy Trinity. I had always known that Hindus burned their dead, but their rationale was never apparent to me. Was it just easier? Did they not have wood for coffins? After a few clicks and a minute or two of reading, the World Wide Web provided me with my answer. “Cremation is a ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body; it is intended to release the soul from its earthly existence.” It is a release while burial is an internment. Cremation sets you free. Finishing up my tour of the vaults, I thanked John, and we headed back to Littleton. When we returned, Ms. Lincoln was parked in front, waiting to drive me back to campus. “How was it?” she asked as I climbed into her car. “Wild,” I said, “We took a body up to the crematory.” “Oh right, I actually responded to the EMT call about that guy just the other day. Sad story.” “Oh really, what happened?” “Well, he got in his bed, gun in hand, and shot himself through the roof of his mouth. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t succeed. So, he stood up, walked to his bathroom, turned the shower on as hot as it could go, and ran his bleeding head under the water until his veins dilated enough for him to bleed out.” “Wow,” I said. Now I really knew “this guy’s” story. But as depressing as his last moments may have been, part of me felt that his life had come to a close more fully than the dessert-loving mother whom we’d buried. I felt as though his cremation had released his spirit from his awful death. The bullet wound that dis26

torted his face; the horror he had created for his family; the negativity associated with suicide—it had, in my mind, all burnt away. His soul had been freed from his body. His departure from this world may not have been “kosher” or “sanctified,” but it was most definitely practical, and perhaps, liberating.

27


Catherine Walker-Jacks Cultural Critique

A Modest Proposal To whom it may concern: I ask for your ear, not as a victim, but as an innocent bystander. I know that I can no longer sit idly by; I just would not feel right about it. For your sake, and everyone else’s, something must be done. Kids, I implore you. You need to get your parents off of Facebook. The offending evidence is clear. One need not peruse the site to find flagrant manifestations of over-forty-activity. Take, for example, “ parent comments”. You can identify them immediately; they have that little je ne sais quoi that draws your eye immediately. Characteristics include proper punctuation, except to have words deemed important in all uppercase, and generally at least two exclamation points. Embarrassing for some, hilarious for uninvolved others, they are sure to have an impact. Examples include: OMG, look at Bren’s teeth...thank god we got him those braces!!! Look at Gracie in leopard......MEOW!! What a great day!!! SOOO much fun.... Most often these comments are praising someone’s appearance (OMG, cute!), how someone has grown (You look just like your Father!), or just note something “funny” (LOL!). Every once and a while, a parent will feel the need to have a conversation with their child on a random photo, (Hi, Sweetie how’s school?! Any snow yet?!) What better place to talk to your child than on a public picture that belongs to someone else and notifies that person of each and every facet of the conversation? While comments are one of the many ways adults like to “stay in the loop” of their child’s life, their usage generally extends further. Perhaps the more rampant phenomenon is what is commonly known as “serial liking”. One must only click through Johann Colloredo-Mansfield’s pictures to witness this in action. 95-98% of his photos are liked by a “Susan Keller.” In my own personal experience, this woman has immediately “liked” any photo of Johann I have uploaded to Facebook. When asked about who this mysterious character is, Johann responds simply: 28

“Yeah she used to be my baby sitter, I haven’t seen her in, like, multiple years.” From Susan Keller’s perspective, Facebook is probably a lovely way to reconnect with someone she hasn’t seen in a long time; from Johann’s it is likely annoying; and from everyone else’s, just plain creepy. While in theory, Facebook is a great way for adults to catch up with kids, this does not quite pan out in reality. Do adults really want to see intentionally blurred pictures of their children holding cans of Bud Light? Or the inappropriate status updates made by hacking friends? What about the eloquent comments such as “YOLO” or “f*ck yeah” that are so indicative of a $50,000 a year education? I think not. The same can be said for children finding more out about their parents than they bargained for. Seeing mom in a bikini with a perm, as well as the comments from her middle-aged friends commending her good looks, is probably no one’s cup of tea. A quote recently published by Facebook itself sums up the issue quite nicely: “Swimming pools are filled with people. Some you know. Some you don’t. And every once in a while you see something that maybe you shouldn’t. That’s why swimming pools are a little like Facebook.” With the current situation, both parents and children are seeing more than they should of each other. In this case, it would be more beneficial for one of the involved parties to step out of the metaphorical pool. For the sake of age-appropriateness, kids ought to help their parents up the figurative ladder, and into the symbolically age appropriate, and private, lap pool off to the side that is email. Just like no one wants to see anyone else’s father (or even his/her own) do an embarrassing and revealing dive off the diving board, no one really wants to watch adults meander their way around the Internet. If adults resist this nudge in the right direction, I have three pieces of advice for you. Option A is to simply never accept the friend requests of anyone over thirty years of age. This is the policy I abide by. Option A requires having realized the potential gravity of this problem long ago (as I did), and for those of you who did not, I offer Option B. This course of action demands swift and evasive action: “unfriend” anyone over the age of thirty. Potential problems with this strategy are clear: said adults will find out sooner or later that they have been “unfriended” and likely throw a fit and 29


Catherine Walker-Jacks Cultural Critique

A Modest Proposal To whom it may concern: I ask for your ear, not as a victim, but as an innocent bystander. I know that I can no longer sit idly by; I just would not feel right about it. For your sake, and everyone else’s, something must be done. Kids, I implore you. You need to get your parents off of Facebook. The offending evidence is clear. One need not peruse the site to find flagrant manifestations of over-forty-activity. Take, for example, “ parent comments”. You can identify them immediately; they have that little je ne sais quoi that draws your eye immediately. Characteristics include proper punctuation, except to have words deemed important in all uppercase, and generally at least two exclamation points. Embarrassing for some, hilarious for uninvolved others, they are sure to have an impact. Examples include: OMG, look at Bren’s teeth...thank god we got him those braces!!! Look at Gracie in leopard......MEOW!! What a great day!!! SOOO much fun.... Most often these comments are praising someone’s appearance (OMG, cute!), how someone has grown (You look just like your Father!), or just note something “funny” (LOL!). Every once and a while, a parent will feel the need to have a conversation with their child on a random photo, (Hi, Sweetie how’s school?! Any snow yet?!) What better place to talk to your child than on a public picture that belongs to someone else and notifies that person of each and every facet of the conversation? While comments are one of the many ways adults like to “stay in the loop” of their child’s life, their usage generally extends further. Perhaps the more rampant phenomenon is what is commonly known as “serial liking”. One must only click through Johann Colloredo-Mansfield’s pictures to witness this in action. 95-98% of his photos are liked by a “Susan Keller.” In my own personal experience, this woman has immediately “liked” any photo of Johann I have uploaded to Facebook. When asked about who this mysterious character is, Johann responds simply: 28

“Yeah she used to be my baby sitter, I haven’t seen her in, like, multiple years.” From Susan Keller’s perspective, Facebook is probably a lovely way to reconnect with someone she hasn’t seen in a long time; from Johann’s it is likely annoying; and from everyone else’s, just plain creepy. While in theory, Facebook is a great way for adults to catch up with kids, this does not quite pan out in reality. Do adults really want to see intentionally blurred pictures of their children holding cans of Bud Light? Or the inappropriate status updates made by hacking friends? What about the eloquent comments such as “YOLO” or “f*ck yeah” that are so indicative of a $50,000 a year education? I think not. The same can be said for children finding more out about their parents than they bargained for. Seeing mom in a bikini with a perm, as well as the comments from her middle-aged friends commending her good looks, is probably no one’s cup of tea. A quote recently published by Facebook itself sums up the issue quite nicely: “Swimming pools are filled with people. Some you know. Some you don’t. And every once in a while you see something that maybe you shouldn’t. That’s why swimming pools are a little like Facebook.” With the current situation, both parents and children are seeing more than they should of each other. In this case, it would be more beneficial for one of the involved parties to step out of the metaphorical pool. For the sake of age-appropriateness, kids ought to help their parents up the figurative ladder, and into the symbolically age appropriate, and private, lap pool off to the side that is email. Just like no one wants to see anyone else’s father (or even his/her own) do an embarrassing and revealing dive off the diving board, no one really wants to watch adults meander their way around the Internet. If adults resist this nudge in the right direction, I have three pieces of advice for you. Option A is to simply never accept the friend requests of anyone over thirty years of age. This is the policy I abide by. Option A requires having realized the potential gravity of this problem long ago (as I did), and for those of you who did not, I offer Option B. This course of action demands swift and evasive action: “unfriend” anyone over the age of thirty. Potential problems with this strategy are clear: said adults will find out sooner or later that they have been “unfriended” and likely throw a fit and 29


threaten to take away your allowance. Option C, though time intensive, is likely the best. It involves going through and specifically altering what each adult can see on and add to your profile. Limitations on commenting and wall posting, as well as hiding pictures, can be effective measures. Any complaints can be refuted with the “I’m doing it so colleges won’t see anything on my profile, I swear!” excuse. You can then go and choose to hide these adults from your newsfeed and, voila, you are done. Out of sight, out of mind. It is interesting to note that as of June 2012, over 65% of Facebook users are over 35. That means that there are roughly 520 million adults currently commenting to their hearts’ content, “serial liking” as if there is no tomorrow, and on a whole making the site quite lame. We have our work cut out for us.

Nicholas Wray Final Paper

His Generation It is a timeless skill, and a dying one at that. Many stand around and watch, remembering those days, the times where “The Weight” would play endlessly on the radio, where a station wagon was a ticket to anywhere you wanted. It was a generation, a generation I wasn’t born into. “Sunday, how’s 2 sound?” I hiked the bulk up onto my thighs, holding onto the far gunnel, smearing thick green paint onto my khakis. He was close to 65, but still lively as ever, a real old timer. Shutting off the radio and closing the door, he cleaned his round glasses, a smile on his face. He grabbed his scepter, his tool, stretching under the bright sun that illuminated the gravel dead end in which we stood. “Let’s get going.” Rolling the dripping green beast off my thighs and onto my shoulders, I started the slow march, my vision halved. It was a short walk, and soon he took the load off, sliding the brute into the swift current. “It’s just a little ways up into the riff.” He started to demonstrate. “Long pushes.” “Walk your hands up.” “Watch for the muddy spots.” “Vertical motion only.”

30

The endpoint of his tool was made out of a PVC pipe and a couple 31


threaten to take away your allowance. Option C, though time intensive, is likely the best. It involves going through and specifically altering what each adult can see on and add to your profile. Limitations on commenting and wall posting, as well as hiding pictures, can be effective measures. Any complaints can be refuted with the “I’m doing it so colleges won’t see anything on my profile, I swear!” excuse. You can then go and choose to hide these adults from your newsfeed and, voila, you are done. Out of sight, out of mind. It is interesting to note that as of June 2012, over 65% of Facebook users are over 35. That means that there are roughly 520 million adults currently commenting to their hearts’ content, “serial liking” as if there is no tomorrow, and on a whole making the site quite lame. We have our work cut out for us.

Nicholas Wray Final Paper

His Generation It is a timeless skill, and a dying one at that. Many stand around and watch, remembering those days, the times where “The Weight” would play endlessly on the radio, where a station wagon was a ticket to anywhere you wanted. It was a generation, a generation I wasn’t born into. “Sunday, how’s 2 sound?” I hiked the bulk up onto my thighs, holding onto the far gunnel, smearing thick green paint onto my khakis. He was close to 65, but still lively as ever, a real old timer. Shutting off the radio and closing the door, he cleaned his round glasses, a smile on his face. He grabbed his scepter, his tool, stretching under the bright sun that illuminated the gravel dead end in which we stood. “Let’s get going.” Rolling the dripping green beast off my thighs and onto my shoulders, I started the slow march, my vision halved. It was a short walk, and soon he took the load off, sliding the brute into the swift current. “It’s just a little ways up into the riff.” He started to demonstrate. “Long pushes.” “Walk your hands up.” “Watch for the muddy spots.” “Vertical motion only.”

30

The endpoint of his tool was made out of a PVC pipe and a couple 31


screws, and soon the pushes became rhythmic. The slide, the grab, the push, the drawback. He was a master, years of practice, and he could move us in and out of the current without effort.

“I can’t get it. The currents too strong, it always grabs my bow.”

“Your turn.”

To this day I don’t know if he motioned to his right or all of a sudden it hit me. It was simple really: a left push, drawing your bow into the riff, then a draw left, quickly, to bring your bow back, not too far. A switch push to the right, then another, then one last prod to get my bow into the eddy.

He turned the canoe around with a single push, and now I sat the stern. Handing me the 14 foot pole, and sitting back down, he didn’t say a word, hoping I would understand. I stood on my throne, a shaky unstable one, but a throne nonetheless. My scepter held all the power I needed, and I pushed off of the sandy ground. The pole was rubbed smooth from the years of hands sliding along its cedar shaft. It was powerful, yet flexible, letting you feel each spontaneous side stroke sliding smoothly. “There you go, you’ve got it.” A few more pushes, a strong shove, the resistance of the bottom, only a few inches. I was nearing the riff and the current was getting stronger. Soon each thrust needed to be walked further up the pole, hand by hand, and the canoe’s momentum slowed with each return. “Okay good, now try to direct your bow into that eddy, give it a few good pushes, and slide your stern right into it.” It wasn’t easy. The current was swift, and if you let your bow slip too far, the current would catch you and whip you around, returning you to right where you started. I tried and tried, but again and again I found my self facing downstream. He sat there wordless, watching every push, every slide, watching the son mimic his father. I didn’t complain, and he didn’t offer help. He had taught this before, and had taught it well. I still don’t know what he was thinking as he sat there in the bow, not uttering a word as I fought the current time and time again. He sat forward, watching the riff. He didn’t have to, he knew the waters well. 32

“Try again, you’ll get it.”

“Acta est fabula, plaudite!” It was far from mastered, but we decided the day was enough. Using the pole as a rudder, I turned us around, sliding down the riff intentionally. We floated casually down the banks of the Nashua, not needing guidance. “So you knew my father well?” “Quite well in fact, he was one of my favorite students.” “You taught him this too…….didn’t you?” “Of course, I taught him almost everything he knows.” “Its not going to be that way anymore is it?” “I think you’ll be the last.” “What’re going to do after you leave?” “Live out the rest of my life essentially, canoe and fish mostly.” “You’re one of the last aren’t you?” “Pretty much the last. Sackett is too old, Brown always was too much of the book keeping type, and they just don’t bring in students like they used too.” “You won’t be around anymore, to still teach, to still teach stuff like this?” “Not really, I’ve been around here over 40 years.” “But what about the students…they need….” “No one wants to do this kind of thing anymore.” “I…but…I do.” “Your father can teach you the rest now, I’ve taught enough for ten lifetimes. I’ve only ever taken four students out for a lesson. 33


screws, and soon the pushes became rhythmic. The slide, the grab, the push, the drawback. He was a master, years of practice, and he could move us in and out of the current without effort.

“I can’t get it. The currents too strong, it always grabs my bow.”

“Your turn.”

To this day I don’t know if he motioned to his right or all of a sudden it hit me. It was simple really: a left push, drawing your bow into the riff, then a draw left, quickly, to bring your bow back, not too far. A switch push to the right, then another, then one last prod to get my bow into the eddy.

He turned the canoe around with a single push, and now I sat the stern. Handing me the 14 foot pole, and sitting back down, he didn’t say a word, hoping I would understand. I stood on my throne, a shaky unstable one, but a throne nonetheless. My scepter held all the power I needed, and I pushed off of the sandy ground. The pole was rubbed smooth from the years of hands sliding along its cedar shaft. It was powerful, yet flexible, letting you feel each spontaneous side stroke sliding smoothly. “There you go, you’ve got it.” A few more pushes, a strong shove, the resistance of the bottom, only a few inches. I was nearing the riff and the current was getting stronger. Soon each thrust needed to be walked further up the pole, hand by hand, and the canoe’s momentum slowed with each return. “Okay good, now try to direct your bow into that eddy, give it a few good pushes, and slide your stern right into it.” It wasn’t easy. The current was swift, and if you let your bow slip too far, the current would catch you and whip you around, returning you to right where you started. I tried and tried, but again and again I found my self facing downstream. He sat there wordless, watching every push, every slide, watching the son mimic his father. I didn’t complain, and he didn’t offer help. He had taught this before, and had taught it well. I still don’t know what he was thinking as he sat there in the bow, not uttering a word as I fought the current time and time again. He sat forward, watching the riff. He didn’t have to, he knew the waters well. 32

“Try again, you’ll get it.”

“Acta est fabula, plaudite!” It was far from mastered, but we decided the day was enough. Using the pole as a rudder, I turned us around, sliding down the riff intentionally. We floated casually down the banks of the Nashua, not needing guidance. “So you knew my father well?” “Quite well in fact, he was one of my favorite students.” “You taught him this too…….didn’t you?” “Of course, I taught him almost everything he knows.” “Its not going to be that way anymore is it?” “I think you’ll be the last.” “What’re going to do after you leave?” “Live out the rest of my life essentially, canoe and fish mostly.” “You’re one of the last aren’t you?” “Pretty much the last. Sackett is too old, Brown always was too much of the book keeping type, and they just don’t bring in students like they used too.” “You won’t be around anymore, to still teach, to still teach stuff like this?” “Not really, I’ve been around here over 40 years.” “But what about the students…they need….” “No one wants to do this kind of thing anymore.” “I…but…I do.” “Your father can teach you the rest now, I’ve taught enough for ten lifetimes. I’ve only ever taken four students out for a lesson. 33


You’re the first in the past twelve years.” “Times have changed haven’t they?” He sat there in silence. He looked out over the bow down the winding overgrown Nashua. “I remember when you could see the river from the Circle.” I didn’t know how to respond. I gave the boat another push, and then sat down. The warm June sun flickered over his gray hair as we slid under a grove of quaking aspens. “Here’s the pullout on the right.” We packed up in silence, the beast, the king and his scepter onto the station wagon that held everything he owned. Driving back to the Circle I looked out the window, trying to comprehend. As if by fate, as we sat in the profound silence the muffled radio began to croon, “Come gather ‘round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth saving Then you better start swimming Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a changing.” I cried in the handshaking line that year. 34


You’re the first in the past twelve years.” “Times have changed haven’t they?” He sat there in silence. He looked out over the bow down the winding overgrown Nashua. “I remember when you could see the river from the Circle.” I didn’t know how to respond. I gave the boat another push, and then sat down. The warm June sun flickered over his gray hair as we slid under a grove of quaking aspens. “Here’s the pullout on the right.” We packed up in silence, the beast, the king and his scepter onto the station wagon that held everything he owned. Driving back to the Circle I looked out the window, trying to comprehend. As if by fate, as we sat in the profound silence the muffled radio began to croon, “Come gather ‘round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth saving Then you better start swimming Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a changing.” I cried in the handshaking line that year. 34

Profile for Groton School

Grotonian, Fall 2012  

Grotonian, Fall 2012

Grotonian, Fall 2012  

Grotonian, Fall 2012