Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Very Special Christmas Blogging!

With Christmas verily nie and the universities I’m applying to closing shortly (the employees have already shut down) I’m settling in for my long winter’s nap.  With seven applications submitted and four to go, all of which aren’t due until January 15, I’m pretty okay with this.

So as pertinent and actually on-point as this blog has been over the past few weeks, I’m taking a break this week from writing, thinking, or doing something about grad school applications.  It’s a good thing.  So for your yuletide pleasure--and mostly mine--here are some occasionally deep thoughts about the holiday season;

 *Nobody ever wants pants as a gift, even if they need them.  Giving someone pants for Christmas is like saying, "I was too lazy to consider what you’d really like and felt too awkward to just give you money so here are some slacks".  It’s Christmas; get over the awkwardness and give the money.

*I wish Michael Buble and Justin Bieber would just get it over with already.  This is worse than watching Ross and Rachel.

A forbidden love... because the Biebs is a lesbian.

*Traditional eggnog is a wiley beast.  Copious amounts of dairy and alcohol mixing together in one’s stomach, usually over the duration of a party, sounds like a reasonably horrible idea.  So much for reason, right?

*If Santa is real, why doesn’t anyone look for the reindeer turds on the roof?  Every other animal can’t seem to walk ten feet without dropping some coal into the stockings so how are we to believe that these deer can go a whole night keeping it to themselves?  If I was a good little gentile boy or girl, I’d be up on the roof December 26th looking for what didn’t come down the chimney—click, click, click.

*Apparently it’s only cool to wear sweaters during Christmas season and Cosby Show marathons, so get your fill now because I haven’t seen Rudy and Theo for a while now, unfortunately.

Which is better?  Can there really be a loser?

*Stop trying to make Hannuka happen.  It’s not going to happen.  The only people who Hannuka is a big deal for are christians and commercial retailers, trying to assuage their guilty consciences for ramming Christmas down our collective throats or trying to find way to turn the jews into buyers during December.  I’m not even entirely sure that Hannuka is a Jewish holiday!  Sure, I learned about it in Sunday School, but really, I have skepticism. 

*Is there anyone that does not think “Do They Know It’s Christmas Anyway” is a piece of condescending, ethnocentric crap?

*The Muppet Christmas Carroll is the greatest Christmas movie of all time, hands down.

I'll take suggestions for runner ups, but you look into those felt faces and tell me they aren't #1.

*Wish everyone 'Merry Christmas' because it shows that you care (how horrible, right?) and it's the only holiday that anyone cares about this time of year--seriously.  Not sure?  Feeling guilty?  Experiment Time!  Wish jews Happy Rosh Hashana in the fall while wishing christians a Happy St. Eusebia Day and see who cares about which holiday.  Go!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The End is Nie-ish

Let’s let the application counter roll over to five.  Six more apps to go.  As per usual, I’m behind my targeted pace, but I run on the ‘Speed Limit Theory”.  If I set my goal as submitting six applications in a week, I’m not going to reach six, but I’ll hit four or five where I probably would have only hit one or two if I had set my goal as four.  The results speak for themselves.  By the by I have to attend driving school this weekend because of a speeding ticket I received so perhaps the Speed Limit Theory only works well in the theoretical, and not so much in the practical. 

You'll go 35, but not 45.
Now that I’ve developed templates for most of my application items—statements or purpose, curriculum vitae, writing samples—the remaining applications should go relatively smoothly.  I just submitted my app to the one MA program I applied to, which required altered variations of everything that is designed for MFA applications, and I’m about done crafting those items for the Creative Writing and Environment MFA I’m applying to (the big difference there is that I insert the words “conservation” and “wild fire” in regard to my AmeriCorps experience about a dozen more times each).  So now, relatively smooth sailing as long as I stick relatively close to that Speed Limit.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll mention it again now that I’m seeing this ploy come to fruition.  In each application that you mail in, include a post card, thank you note, some small, free-standing, pre-stamped, self-addressed piece of mail that thanks the program and then asks them to mail it back to you to confirm that they’ve received everything for your application.  It provides you with some peace of mind when you get it back in the mail and keeps you from clogging the program’s in-box with paranoid e-mails about the status of your application.  It’s also a nice gesture that shows the program that you care and sets your app apart form others—maybe the biggest obstacle to achieve with any application. 

I also paper clipped a few photos that I took while in Joplin, MO to my article about the tornado that struck the city last spring.  A little showy and glammy?  You bet, but it's an attention-grabber.  No matter how good your stuff is, if the reviewer is indifferent or comatose when reading your app, your stuff is going to be perceived as mediocre, or maybe not even looked at.  It sucks and is unfair, but that's life and thems the breaks. 

I still have six more apps to submit and miles to go before I sleep.  Robert Frost must have been applying to grad school to when he wrote that little poem.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Midst

Four out of my eleven applications have been submitted.  Seven more to go.  Based on past experiences, I know it’s way too early to pull out the champagne and light the cigars, but still, damn.  Woot.

Some apps are submitted online, and though clicking ‘submit’ is sort of satisfying, it’s the ones that require physical copies, the ones that you package up and drop off at the post office that truly offer that sense of accomplishment.  It’s like dropping off a letter to Santa, letting it slip through the mailbox slot, turning away and knowing that you’ve written your best list and most convincing letter of appeal.  Now it’s all in Big Red’s hands and out of yours.

Dear Santa Grad School, please love me.
With multiple applications—particularly with eleven—it’s easy for the whole process to become chaotic.  I’ve already hashed and rehashed—painfully—all of the minor and not so minor differences that run from one application to another; length of statements of purpose, inclusions of curriculum vitas, etc.  And though completing these sundry items is rough, keeping them organized can be worse. 

Throughout my entire application process I’ve kept a separate document detailing the requirements of each program’s application—a checklist with phone numbers and e-mails I can use for help.  Without it, I’d just be toggling back in forth between admission guidelines pages and probably absolutely getting things mixed up.

Then when it comes time to actually submit an application—if it requires a hard copy mailed in—you can print off this checklist and label it as a “Table of Contents” listing all of the items that are included in your package (writing samples, statements) and all the required items that the program should receive separately (GRE scores, academic transcripts, letters of rec). As confusing as it is for applicants dealing with 5 to 10 to 20 applications, each school has to deal with 100 to 200 to more applications and when they mix an application, that applicant is simply dropped without remorse.  So the more organized and reviewer-convenient you can make your app, the better—for you and them. 

I still have seven more apps to go and hopefully I’ll get in another two this week.  If I do that then the remaining five aren’t due until January and I'll have some breathing room, not that I’ll be using it. 


Table of Contents: Launchpad McQuack

List of application items included in this package
1.)  English Department Applicant Form
2.)  Statement of Purpose
3.)  Curriculum Vitae
4.)  Writing Sample (26 pages total)
a.      My Drugged-out American Dreams (personal essay, 13 pages)
b.     Storms of Humanity (article, 13 pages)
5.)  Letters of Recommendation (signed and sealed before I received them), from;
a.      Writey McWriterson
b.     Recommedra St. Recommenderton
6.)  Pre-stamped, self-addressed Thank You card to be mailed back to applicant to verify that all materials were successfully received

 List of application items that should have been received separately from this package
1.)  Online application
2.)   (2) Letters of Recommendation mailed from:
a.      Dr. Sues
b.     Bill Shakespeare
3.)  Official academic transcripts from State University sent to:
a.      Department of English
b.     Graduate School
4.)  Official academic transcripts from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizzardry sent to:
a.      Department of English
b.     Graduate School
5.)  GRE scores

Please let me know if I’ve omitted anything that is required—thanks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Application Armageddon

My first deadline is now less than a week away—Thursday, December 1.  Dum, dum, dum!  But behind all of my lazy blogging this month, I’ve actually been catching up with my applications and I’m in pretty good shape currently.  After this one, I have due dates of December 5, 9, 15, and 31 before the January onslaught hits.  Hopefully, once I get this first app in the rest will follow in streamline fashion—hopefully.

This is actually a pretty good impression of me... after moving in with Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern when they got locked out.

And though I hate this and all other upcoming applications, the schools I’m applying to, and their dastardly deadlines, I can’t help appreciate the appropriate timing of these deadlines.  Now that Thanksgiving is officially over and the Christian, commercial, and secular worlds can finally sink their collective teeth into Christmas, what better time to introduce a ticking clock?  Think of any Christmas movie that you’ve ever seen—from Rudolph to Home Alone—there’s always some kind of countdown to Christmas where the characters need to accomplish something by Christmas morn, or at least hold on until then.  All I need now is a cartoony colander laden with black ‘X’’s to count the days down to the respective doom days—application Armageddon.  Hmm, really too many religious references in this post me thinks.

What does any of this mean?  It means I’m sitting around trying to clean up my writing pieces and struggling to put on the final tinsley touches on my statements of purposes, so instead I’m writing this post—sweet distraction.  But I shall return to my stupid work—some time, soonish—with a ticking clock in my head and thoughts of Macaulay Culkin throwing paint cans at Joe Pesci.  ‘Tis the season.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Latest Rant

To my great shame, I missed posting last week—the first time since I began the blog in June.  To my dear, dear followers—all 10 of you—and to all others who follow this blog in secret, I’m sorry.  My bad.  My bad. 

But as I said, my time is tightly strained these days and my mind is not really oriented towards blogging; it’s oriented towards statements of purposes, finishing writing samples, online apps, and shuffling around schools’ admissions directory until I find the right person.  So in short, I’m all about the things that annoy me right now.  Here, in no particular order, are some more of them;

1.)   Khakis—every time I wear Khakis I feel like I’ve failed.  Wearing them is like wearing a tight, wrinkly white flag around all day.  12-year-olds wear Khakis when they are forced to.  Grown men, which I’m very similar to, should not have to wear them.  They’re the sign of someone who can’t really dress up—doesn’t have the cloths or the savvy—but wants to give it a half ass try, like the guys who “dress up” to go on Jerry Springer. I have to wear Khakis to work most days because I only own two real button-down shirts that go with slacks.  I’d much prefer just wearing jeans, but apparently those aren’t professional enough, although they are decidedly less sad.

2.)   Speeding Tickets—I think speed limits are a good thing and I’m not going to argue against them—it’s the speeding traps that I loathe.  We all know what’s going on here, I thought to myself as the cop who refused to look at my unbuttoned shirt, wrote me my ticket.  Worse yet is that if you want to pay the ticket in full and take the points assigned to your driver’s license, it’s a pretty easy procedure.  But try to keep some of their money and appeal and/ or accept driving school, then it’s a round-the-world adventure full of magical appointments and mystical forms that save you little money and add much wasted time and frustration to the whole ordeal.  In a month, I’ll have to burn 8 hours sitting in driver’s ed classroom with some interesting folks I’m sure, but at least I’ll get some good writing fodder.

3.)    Ashton Kutcher—What happened to this guy?  Remember Kelso?  Yeah man, Kelso.  That was a great show.  Now he’s selling cameras and doing his best to hide from Bruce Willis?  What happened to this guy?

4.)   Christmas songs on the radio… since November 1—Christmas creep they call it, but it really needs a name far less cute and more ominous.  Yuletide Armageddon?  Is Halloween, the candy cramming-est, Great Pumpkin waiting for-est, first real holiday of the season, really the only thing damming up the flash flood that Christmas has become?  I love Christmas, but the reason it’s special is because it only really exists in that magical realm between November 25 and December 25, or January 1, or January 7 if you’re down with the Three Kings Day.  Radio, you’re wasting my flava’!  Next thing you’ll be telling me is that all the kids would be buying Frankenberry cereal if it was sold year-round.  Hmm, touché, self…
You were my breakfast night light.

5.)   Captain Crunch is getting discontinued—Speaking of cereal, the Cap’n isn’t my favorite, but it just makes me feel good knowing it’s there—alright, all these things are really just minor annoyance compared to these grad school apps.  As soon as they’re done, I’ll gladly sit in driving school, wearing my Khakis, listening to Jingle Bell Rock (although by December that’ll be about right), sitting next to Ashton, not spoon-feeding him Captain Crunch.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cruel, Sweet, Sweaty Distractions

Currently, grad school applications are the bane of my existence, and it’s funny how easily one can be distracted from one’s bane.  Facebook is the devil—that’s well known.  Gmail should remove the refresh application from the menu bar because apparently I have to click it every thirty seconds.  And Hulu, well there’s just no escaping from the latest episode of Law and Order SVU—the stories are frick’n ripped from the headlines, people! 

Drama at its best, don't tell me different
 These are all horrible distractions and I am a horrible person for giving them power over me.  But they all pale in comparison to the grand-daddy of all distractions for me: fantasy football.

Sports have long been the grand distraction from life for dudes, if not lady dudes and all dudekind.  They're an amalgamation of various rules, statistics, and actions, none of which make any sense from any “real world” perspective.  Take baseball, please.  If an alien race came to Earth and tried to understand the twisted, sweaty Rubix Cube that is the three-outs, three-strikes, infield fly rule game of baseball, they would probably just vaporize us out of frustration. 

The Wide World of Sports totally separate from the real world, and thusly, offers an escape from it.  The arbitrary stats and figures fans get from sports might as well be pertaining to city bus schedules—they’re just as worthless to everything outside of them—but they are also an investible distraction from everything outside of them.  Fantasy Football is just the natural evolution of this.  Watching football and mentally collecting these stats and figures is okay, but to use them to compete against friends, casual acquaintances, or mortal enemies takes the distraction to a whole new level.  Suddenly, the distraction is given additional validity. 

I loves the Fantasy Football, but I harbor no delusions about it.  It's the essence of trivial.  But if I didn't realize this, every female comedian is kind of enough to devote a portion of her routine to explaining it to Neanderthals like me.  Now I wouldn’t dream to contend the likes of Kathy Griffin or Whitney Cummings, but I would like to offer a slice of enlightenment pie to all of those pots calling kettles black out there, and it’s called celebrity gossip.

For every ESPN and Fantasy Sports chat room there is an E! Network and TMZ.  There is no difference between knowing how many yards Frank Gore rushed for against the Cowboys and what the details of Kim Kardashian's pre-nup.  Both are equally trivial, and to argue against either is even more trivial. 


But sports and celebrity gossip are unified in what they offer the world: a distraction from it.  Everything in moderation, to each his own, and blah, blah, blah.  The real take away here is that writing a blog is also a grand distraction--maybe reading it can be too?  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to finish my statement of purpose to Ohio State and decide whether I want to start Hakeem Nicks or DeSean Jackson this week on my Fantasy Football team.  Both are of equal importance.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gone in 300 Seconds

Bad news sportsfans—with just exactly a smidgeon over a month before my first applications are due, I have sadly just exactly under a smidgeon of time to give to this blog.  Lucky for you, “smidgeon” is a variable and indefinable term of measurement—who knew?

But seriously, not a lot of time here.  I’m setting my timer and writing whatever I can in five minutes—go!
Me, pretty much all of the time now, minus the red pen.  That's a nice red pen...

The problem with applying to 11 schools, aside from having to deal with 11 heartbreaks in the future, is that each school’s application is just different enough from the others' aid to make you have to do 11 separate complete applications.  One school might want a 1-3 page statement of purpose where the next might want fewer than 750 words.  Newsflash to all the wordsmiths out there; those are two entirely different statements.  Aggravation.


Then some schools will take unofficial transcripts where other require official transcripts, or better yet, multiple copies of official transcripts which must be procured from your undergraduate college.  And you don’t want to talk to them, because then they might ask you about those, um, aid-unpay-eh oans-leh.  GRE scores are annoying too, especially when the schools that you sent them to last year, want another copy.  Hey, dummy grad schools; I haven’t re-taken the GREs or re-attended college since last year, so your copies of both from last year should be just fine.  I'm paying you another application fee, what do you want from me?  Damn it!


To apply to every program, you have to send some stuff to the Creative Writing Program and some stuff to that school’s graduate admissions.  Last year I would have asked if these major academic institutions are so unorganized and up their own buttholes that they can’t coordinate and share information between departments.  A year later after having already gone through the process and having worked at a major academic institution for over a year, I know better now.  Yes, yes they are.


Cost a pretty penny, but it's worth every cent.
All new writing samples, and yes, all new statements of purposes (because you won’t want these schools to think that you’ve been too lazy to write a new one), are the most important components of applications, by far.  And because of this, they are the most difficult to produce.  If I had to/ when I will have to I can sit down at my lap top one night at midnight and spend five hours cranking out all of the on line applications and such because it’s mindless, certified zombie work.  Writing is not.  You have to be in the mood and let it flow out of you, effortlessly like the morning dew from a leaf.  DAMN IT!!!


It’s ironic that now that I’m in the midst of applying, I probably have the most pertinent and interesting information to supply this blog with, but have no time to write it.  Ah, such is life.  Oh well, I’ll keep doing my best to slap something down on the Internet every week that is vaguely if not inappropriately entertaining.  And then on the other side once my apps are in, weeks and weeks of pessimism and strained hope until my responses arrive.  Oh, who I am I kidding—pessimism and strained hope for the rest of my life!  Huzzah!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Had Dinner with Jonathan Franzen--remain excited!

When last we left our intrepid college crusader, he was precariously poised at the cusp of facing the one man who could single-handedly save his academic aspirations!

So let me fill you in as I was pretty unclear as to what exactly I had been winging myself into last week; some kind of charity benefit or something—I wasn’t really listening.  In actuality, Jonathan  Franzen was a speaker in a literay series hosted by my hometown’s natural history museaum and sponsored by my dad’s company.  As such my dad had tickets to not only the lecture, but to the meet and greet beforehand and the dinner with Franzen afterwards.  My dastardly simple plan was to introduce myself to Franzen, strike up a conversation with him about his hometown where I live now, sprinkle in a few jokes, and then as the conversation naturally gravitated towards MFA programs, ask him for the goods: agreement to look at my writing and then maybe, maybe, if the mood was right, a letter of recommendation.  The greatest challenge would be talking with him long enough to build this report while shutting up before he realizes that I’m actually an idiot.

Object of my graduate desire.
At the meet and greet there were loads of donors and big muckity mucks; museum patrons, friends and clients of my dad’s company, and anyone generous enough to pay for the honor of meeting Jonathan Franzen.  Face time with Jonny would surely be competitive.  I got in one good handshake here.

“Very nice to meet you, Mr. Franzen.  I’m really looking forward to your talk tonight,” I said.  And first contact had been made.

The lecture went well.  Though he initially appeared nervous and detached at the meet and greet, on stage Franzen was personable and charismatic with great comic timing.  Maybe we could strike up some kind of friendship after all.  However, the questions that followed in the Q&A were all well thought-out and researched, with keen understandings of Franzen’s works and literature as a whole—so in other words, they were from college students: ambitious, ruin it for everyone else, college students.  Again, I was intimidated, and again I’d have to forget about it and prepare myself for the main event.

Dude sitting next to me at dinner, exactly.
Franzen didn’t appear at the dinner table until about an hour into the meal.  His book signing line was that long.  This gave me the opportunity to mentally review our future conversation, re-editing my responses and reactions based on how I thought he might respond and react.  This was frequently interrupted by the other guests at the table, who for some reason believed that this was actually a social event—the nerve!

Finally, like an apparation in thick-framed glasses, Franzen appeared, taking his seat directly across the table from me.  Thanks PR lady, wherever you are.  And then it began.  We did the conversation tango for a while where others interjected our conversation with questions about his books and characters’ true intentions.  But Franzen kept coming back to me, which gave me some confidence.  I started off talking about his hometown, but it turns out he hates it.  Typical writer, right?  But then somehow, miraculously, someone mentioned that one of his books was being turned into a mini series on HBO, which brought up television—tada! 

TV I can talk about.  And about TV we did talk.  You all should/ might/ are probably not interested to know that Jonathan loves him some Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire.  But the conversation was not naturally flowing towards MFA programs as I had hoped it would, so with time running out in both the evening and my imaginary clock of how long I could speak before he realized I’m an idiot, I made my move;

“So I have to ask, what advice would you give someone applying to MFA programs in Creative Writing?”

“Don’t go into debt.”

“Haha,” I too forcibly laughed, “Check.  So I know that you have a lot on your plate right now, but would you consider taking a look at some of my writing?  It would be incredible to get any critique from you.”

“Well, you know,” Franzen was already looking towards the door, but I wasn’t breaking eye contact, “Are you applying for this coming term, 2012- 2013?”

Time was running out on my idiot clock, and my future...
“I am.”

“Listen, I know this going to sound like a bold-faced lie, but I am loaded with work at the moment.  I wouldn’t have time to do anything for you by your deadlines.”

My banker friend had said not to take ‘no’ for an answer and to be aggressive.  So I was aggressive, in my own way.

“Hey, I understand. But I’m probably going to get rejected anyway, so you can just write me a letter for the next time.”

Franzen laughed a little at this and put down his briefcase. He asked me if I had a card, which I did at the tips of my fingers ready for the giving.  He told me that he was “easily found” on the Internet—meaning his e-mail address, I guessed—and wished me good luck before he left.

Since then, I’ve posted something on his publisher-run Facebooks page and have requested his e-mail address from The New Yorker and MacMillian, but I think it’s safe to say that the ball is on his court now.  A letter of rec from Jonathan Franzen would have been without exaggeration a golden ticket into any MFA program.  But where’s the flavor in that?  My current recommenders are amazing, not only because of their respective writing, but because they know me well as a writer and a person.  And I guess now that I’ve taken my crazy moon shot at glory, it’s time to get to work and do it the old fashioned way.  At least I can say I've had a conversation with one of the greatest writers of our generation, and he didn't think I was an idiot, because I watch TV, damn it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm Having Dinner with Jonathan Franzen--get excited!

The term “long shot” is put out there a lot.  Funny thing is, it’s probably not put out there enough.  Winning the Lottery, living to 100, getting into a Creative Writing MFA, sigh dating Natalie Portman—all solid examples of long shots.  So how would meeting a world-renowned writer at an intimate dinner and impressing him into writing a letter of recommendation for you be classified?  A long-johns shot?  Scratch that.  Nevermind.  Bad. 

The St. Louis Scribe, himself.
Just two days ago my Dad called me to say that his company is sponsoring a literary lecture that features Pulitzer-Prize nominated novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom, The Corrections—crack open a book some time people!  Anyway, he’s so big that he turned down promoting his book on Oprah, so that should color inside the lines for you.  Anyway, anyway, whether you know him or not, the take-away is this; how often do your parents have dinner with a big time, world famous writer, who incidentally is also a damn good writer, and then offer to flip the bill for your plane ticket home as long as you let your mom show you the new trick she taught to the cat (baloney, she taught the cat anything)?  Answer: not very often.

Blamo!  So I’m flying back home tomorrow for less than 48 hours dragging along my best business-casual dinner party gear—spoiler, it’s a sweater vest!  I’ll have to banter-battle with maybe ten or so other guests for Franzen’s ear, and even if I do, I’m going to have to squeeze a lot of impression into a relatively short amount of time with him to seal the deal, whatever that "deal" may be.  After telling this tale to my friend who works as a banker, he said that a deal is exactly what this is.  A sales deal.  I will be selling myself to Mr. Franzen, almost door-to-door style.  I’ll have to be aggressive without taking 'no' for an answer, in a non-threatening, charmingly befuddling way, of course.

It will be amazing simply to meet Franzen.  Period.  But I can't afford to go star-struck school girl here because perhaps more than anything, this is an opportunity.  This is certainly a long-johns shot.  And what do I have to lose?  I said I’m going to put everything on the line this year with my applications, give ‘em everything I've got, and take every chance I can take.  This counts.  I’ll let you know what happens, next week. 

So remember kidos, same justdumbenough time, same justdumbenough channel— excelsior! 

He's the 2nd one from the left.  Seriously, he's so famous the Simpsons cartooned him!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mawedge is wot bwings us togeder tooday!

Sorry for the very late submission of this week’s post, but I was out of town at a wedding this past weekend with zip time/ coherence to write anything.  And now before you start jumping to conclusions about a wedding post that is surely a polarizing diatribe about the social folly of marriage, just slow your roll—slow it, slow it! 

Ah, the good old days.  Lachiam!
I love weddings.  I’ll say it again; I love weddings—they’re the best!  At the ripe old age of 26 when I shant be going to any more Bar Mitzvahs—well, many more—weddings are now the biggest, craziest, all-your-friends-being-there-est parties around. Money is poured into travel, hotels, food, music, booze, and just throwing the biggest bash imaginable after the wedding.  Nevermind that the reason it’s so big is to commemorate the last time the married couple will party with their friends.  It doesn’t matter because there’s a certain tragic beauty in the mortality of a moment… and in an open bar.

The mid 20 something crowd has so many commitments now-a-day that sending an RSVP to get them to promise to attend an event nine months in the future is really about the only way to get most people to a party.  This weekend I saw some college friends who I hadn’t seen in years, and probably won’t see again until someone else gets married when then another grand celebration of reminiscing, drinking, nostalgia talking, getting drunk, anecdoting, and falling into the desert table will commence.

So maybe it’s the wedding reception that’s really the greatest, but I believe it’s still the whole package deal that makes it work.  Here are a few of the finer points of weddings that shouldn’t be overlooked;

1.)   Drinking with the Father of the Bride –

            Bride’s side, groom’s side, both, the night before the wedding the family patriarchs want to drink hard alcohol, smoke fine cigars, and bring their son/daughter’s friends along for the free ride.  In my youth I thought this was simply a chance to score a few free drinks, but now I realize that I shouldn’t just grab the whiskey and run when no one’s looking.  These guys have great stories, not just about the bride and groom, but about life damn it, and the more you drink, the more fascinating they become.  Don’t miss out on learning why real men take the hard road in life, or how to light a cigar with your belt—just wow.

2.)   Dancing with your Friends’ Wives –

            I see a lot of movies where your Vince Vaugns and Neal Patrick Harrises are taking their veritable pick of the hot single girl liter at weddings.  And maybe this is the case at some post college weddings, but a few years down the road I’m  calling bullshit on this.  Bullplop!  Because everyone at these weddings is married, in a relationship, or at least with a date.  The DJ will inevitably play Single Ladies at some point (usually for the bouquet toss), but none of those giggly and momentarily aggressive girls who take the floor will actually be single, just without rings on its.  Hence, you’ll dance with a lot of friends’ wives and girlfriends.  Your friends will be glad they don’t actually have to dance, and if you’ve been making good use of the open bar, you’ll be more than glad to oblige and break it down.

Unrealistic depiction of weddings.
That's more like it. _                                                      
 3.)   Singles Spotting –
            At some point in the night, maybe at multiple points, married guys, ladies, whole couples will creep up to their single friends and have this uncomfortable conversation with them;

            “Hey, do you see that girl, the one in the green dress, she’s dancing over there?”


            “So what do you think?”

            “About her?  I don’t know?  Who is she?”

            “Man, you should go for it—I would.”

            “Do you even know who she is?  Is she even single?”

            “Dude, you’re such a wuss.  Five years ago, I’d totally be all over that.  Woo-woo!

For some reason, all couples want to live vicariously through their single friends, while conveniently contracting amnesia regarding their past single lives.  If this hypothetical conversation would have been continued, our single would have responded thusly;

            “All over that?  You were set up with your wife by friends after seeing her at study session!”

Of course everyone comes to a wedding to celebrate the marriage, to celebrate the overpowering happiness that their friends have found and want to share if only for a day.   And whether the celebration draws its ferver from an era ending, or from one beginning, is really up to the newly weds.  I feel like I’ve seen it go the way of the former more than that of the latter, but I think part of the excitement of a wedding is in never truly knowing which way it will go and hoping for all the marbles.  At a wedding there’s hope, and friends, and warmth, and God willing, an open bar.

Big congrats to Dimi and Jenny.  I love you both and am so happy that I could be there this weekend... and that you had an open bar...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mystery Alaksa

We’ve talked about how to pick which schools you’re applying to—and by "have talked", I mean that I have written something, which you may or may not have read.  The order of the list is individualistic, but here’s mine again;

1.)  Program Type – MFA, MA, MBA, SPACE JAM NBA, residency, low residency

2.)  Financial Aid – money, money, boo bah!

3.)  Location – near, far, desert, mountains, Space Jam planet

4.)  Faculty – profs whose works line up with what you want to do

5.)  Teaching experience – may also be part of financial aid factor

6.)  Post Grad Opportunities – doesn’t make much sense to go if you’re only going to be unemployed three years later… unless you’re just going to move to Space Jam planet

This list of priorities works for me, in this order, or at least it did until I decided to drop “location” a little lower down the list.  Getting rejected by nine schools makes a guy think, you know.  The Midwest and east coast are still where I want go because of proximity to my friends and family; however, this seems like the case for a lot of applicants, which makes the competetion at those schools that much higher.  So what to do?

Nanooks of the pain!
Go north, young man, go north!  Alaska north, as in the MFA program at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks—go Fighting Eskimos!  The program is legit, provides financial aid through teaching assistantships, has solid faculty, and as far as post grad opportunities go, apparently they’ll pay you $12,000 just to live in Alaska these days as long as you pretend like Sarah Palin never existed.  I’m already doing my best to do that right now.

Yes, I am applying to Alaska.  But as much fun as it’d be to write about riding snow machines while hunting moose with dynamite guns, I hope I don’t go here.  What in the name of Michael Jordan’s oh too short lived acting career is he talking about?

I really want to get into a Creative Writing MFA program, a lot, but even more than that, I want to know if I can get into one.  I realize that after two swipes at this thing, it just might not be in the cards for me.  It’s a possibility, if not a probability.  But I don’t ever want to look back on this with doubt.  No, when I’m old, retired from my illustrious career as an international Lawn Darts Champion, petering around my candy mansion with my loving wife Natalie Portman, I want to know with absolute certainty that I could have never gotten into an MFA program.  Natalie would be upset with me for anything less.  And though I’ll never truly know with absolute certainty, right now I feel if I give it my very best shot this time and it’s still not good enough, I’ll be able to move on with peace of mind. 

Remind me again, now why is this my Plan B?!

That’s where U of A comes in.  Based on only common sense and pure conjecture, I figure, who wants to go to school in Alaska anyway?  Alaskans don’t even want to do that. I got to believe that the competition to get into this program is significantly lower than in other places.  If I can’t get accepted here, then I’m probably not going to get in anywhere.

Aren’t there other ways to prove this, Moron Mountain?  Sure.  I could apply to less competetive programs, which don’t offer as much financial aid and support, or just to lesser academic programs in general.  I could.  But I think part of me also wants to know what I’d do if I did get accepted by Alaska.  Would I go? 

The friends and family who I never wanted to leave are now changing, moving themselves, evaporating.  Marriages, jobs, careers, mortgages, kids, their own dreams--they may not be in Alaska, but at times it feels like it.  Just how far would I go to pursue my dream, if this actually is my dream? 

Alright, I’m not going to end on a downer here so here's something awesome!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gingerbread Man

September 1 marks the start of when most graduate schools will accept applications.  Now regardless of your application’s place in line, they all claim that there is no “line” and that each application is read and considered fairly.  But I snuck all of mine in just under all of those respective deadlines last year so…  getting them in sooner than later is a good thing.

But in typical procastination fashion, I set that September 1 date as my deadline and missed it horribly.  Missed it like a third grader misses his mom at summer camp—that’s just a saying, not a, uh,  personal history or anything…

So you would think I would take this (acknowledging of my application suckitude) as a sign to get moving on this stuff, but instead I wrote this poem to an old AmerCorps buddy who’s moving to the Phillipines shortly.  Tomato, tomato, right?  Hmm, that doesn't really work here.  Anyway, it’s the only thing I’ve had time to write this week so please enjoy this non grad school related blog;

Ode to a Ginger

Henning or Henningway?

No Earnest, you are not,

Because he wrote books and junk,

And you just move your shit a lot.

What's that a shot of?  Penicillian?

From Sacramento to St. Louis,

And Ethiopia to the Philippines,

Forget shot glasses and T-shirts,

You just come back with STDs.

EOCing and HIV prevention,

That’s your gift to humanity,

That and the ten red-headed babies,

Left behind  you in each and every city.

Upon referencing the dictionary,

Your name can be seen,

It's the second definition of "tramp",

Right after Charlie Sheen's.

To say you're global lothario,

Doesn't quite fit the bill,

Because you've screwed more people around, 

The world than BP and Cargill.

You are crude, brash, and arrogant,

Without even an ounce of shame ever shown,

You struggle to stay clothed in public,

And you're one of the greatest guys I've ever known.

As much as a try, and I don't,

I can't seem to deny the facts,

Most of my good stories include you,

And that's you without wearing slacks.

I guess Buffalo just got too small for you,

Heck, it’s barely in the US of A,

It would have been great to come up to visit,

But it would have been wrong to want you to stay.

It's basically Souther Canada, or Junior America.

See you're not like most people I know,

With wives, and mortgages, and commitments,

You just see life so much clearer,

And seize it without hesitance.

I know this could have been,

Perhaps, our last chance to meet,

But you're one of the only people for whom,

I'd spend 30 hours in a plan seat.

Honestly, my only reservation,

In making this Pilipino journey,

Would be the cost of and time lost...

In finding a good international attorney.

So Henning, you are certainly no Hemmingway,

And I can't seem to fake a poet's tale,

I wish I could be there this weekend, but I'm not,

So remember to call someone else for bail.