Saturday, 31 December 2011

Back In Time

So it all started with Citizen Kane on Monday 12th September. Or maybe it was Dune on Friday 23rd. Orson Welles told me that memory is 'the greatest curse that's ever been inflicted on the human race', and Frank Herbert that 'the beginning is a very delicate time'. Two truths more relevant to your first semester at college could, I'm sure, be easily found, but that's all we've got for this evening and so we'll go from there. Fourteen weeks I was away in Abu Dhabi, and that makes it about three months since I last sat down and reckoned out what I'd been doing into a snappy little post. That's an awful lot to boil down into a half-dozen paragraphs, and such an attempt is hardly my cup of tea. We're aiming for the highlights, of course, but we'll make do with what comes up along the wander down memory lane, and hopefully we'll still end up with some lights to guide our way, high, low, or otherwise.

I've watched a few films then. Beanbags, projectors, popcorn, sofas, TVs, donuts - I still enjoy a good film. Not so much this 'film v. movie' debate that keeps cropping up, because they're one and the same, aren't they? And when you look back at three months of your rather recent life, you do tend to see it as running celluloid, with the handsome star, the dramatic music, the montages, the love interest(s), the climax and then no resolution whatsoever because you're still working it all out long after the imaginary credits have rolled. But I don't want to have to wonder whether or not my past three months have been a film or a movie - whether they've contained any artistic merit, or whether it was all just duff scripting and pretty girls and what a pity about the protagonist.

Is there artistic merit in the day-to-day drudgery of shower-class-lunch-meeting-run-dinner-essay-talk-sleep? Not when you put it like that. But remember that conversation or that harebrained scheme or that crazy idea that actually came together a month down the line... Looking back with a bit of time on this side and everything acquires a neat little glow - I suppose we call that 'serendipity' these days, now that I'm a literature major. I can define myself by more things now than I could three months ago. I might even call myself a comedian, having now made a fool of myself and not too many other people on one, two, three and a half occasions, not counting the dry runs back in Tokyo. I guess you'd say I've come a long way, but then it's still the same old me.

I did watch the English team in this year's Rugby World Cup, from beginning to end - something I had to go to Abu Dhabi to do. Nothing quite like middle-aged men shouting over a warm pint on a weekend morning to remind you of home. I'm not sure there's any artistic merit in that either, but then it's all part of the rich tapestry of life, as my father would say, and he's right, as per usual, because there was nothing quite like getting out of the apartment and forgetting about the essay on the U.S. Constitution due that evening to cheer on the good old boys with their flaky shirts and even flakier playing. You had to get out occasionally. And if that took dressing up like a Blues Brother and going to a film screening on the beach in a suit and hat, then that's what it took. We were on a mission from God, after all.

I did spend some time trying to get into more classrooms then I needed to, and ended up taking the science kids' course for a week just to see what they were all complaining about. It was all in the spirit of journalistic investigation, and an article did come out of it eventually. Hasn't been much of extracurricular writing this term, and I'll see what I can do about that in the New Year. A few workshops with a real life New York critic perked up my ears and pen, but besides scratching down ideas for stand-up topics, my nib's been quite firmly pointed towards academic notes and even the odd bit of Arabic vocab. Next semester will see the first time in a dozen years that I haven't been trying to learn a language, so that should spare me a few minutes here and there. We'll see what we can do in 2012. 

It's going to be a very depressing year, on the face of it. No gap this yah. End of the teenage years. One year closer to end of education and the real world. I'd never quote myself, but to take a quote from my article on that Foundations of Science course, one professor did say, 'Although the life of students is very difficult, twenty years down the line you’ll look back and think how wonderful it is’. And it is kinda wonderful. I live with my friends in one tower block in a perpetual summer. We sit up until midnight to throw surprise birthday parties with ice cream cakes and terrible presents. We had a week off, so we went to Sri Lanka and watched the elephants bathe in the river and who cares then about GPAs and letter grades? This term I grew back my moustache and watched all of Twin Peaks and stood on the prow of a yacht with dolphins jumping around me. It was wonderful. 

So my university's been called 'a little utoptian'. I can deal with that. Should make for more interesting writing, at the very least. There's a fair bit of bluster, and often there's hot air blowing around the offices and the classrooms as well as out on the streets. The emails I receive from the Global Education dept do come with the endnote: 'We relate to each other because we are similar. We learn from each other because we are different.' That's a pretty high standard of conversation. I'm happy debating the pros and cons of marrying a mermaid for now, but that's not to say that isn't a valid truth. Different is good, and that's something I've gone by since my father bought me a chrome Buzz Lightyear. (I still wished he was decked out in the familiar white and green spacesuit for a while, but Dad did persuade me in the end.) I suppose old Orson Welles was right after all - 'A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember', and if he has a blog, he may well even write about them. Three months later.