Friday, September 09, 2005

A Feisty Return

You know them, of course. God help you, maybe you're one of them, with the sadness in the back of their brown eyes, or that reckless way of turning a corner. They were there when the levee broke, or they couldn't stop the brakes failing on that car, or the cancer came and there was nothing they could do. I knew a missionary once, a wily old lady in northern India, and anytime anything bad, sad, negative or just right-out miserable happened, and she couldn't carry any of it, she said, "Adjust and carry on." She was very tough old lady.

I am not one of the tough people. I create my own problems. These problems are not at the levels of mayhem and misery that other people have experienced, but my world is pretty small, and they take up a lot of room. I do not recall ever having suffered at the hands of someone or something else. On July 27, I received a letter from the University. The letter was all bad. I was not to think of taking any more classes. My GPA was simply too low. The letter did not mention how I love University. It didn't mention that the study ("study", ha!) of English literature is one of my favourite things in the entire world. It didn't mention how much I use attending University to balance a multitude of failings in my life. It didn't, in short, end with the words, "Here's to being permanently kicked in the teeth, and congratulations, because you did it yourself."

Last autumn, you see, I was up against it. Because of a situation of my own making, money was a little less scarce than hen's teeth. And I hadn't found any hen's teeth since I was six years old, lost in a September wood near a reservoir in southern Ontario. Last autumn, then, I signed up for only two courses ("two" as in non-tax deductible, by the way, which I later and regretfully found out). But I didn't take both of those courses. That's not my style, you see. Instead, I took one and merely didn't attend the other. By the last class drop date, I'd forgotten I ever signed up for that course, even though I'd paid for the damn thing. Are there less intelligent people than myself? Sadly, I still retain enough sentience enough to understand just how unintelligent I am. Result? Unhappiness, oh my brothers, and piles of bleeding stress. Still, the skies remained unsilver and unlined, and I decided to take the winter semester "off" and work. Which I did. Which resulted in my taken class' "A" fighting against my unattended class' "F". Across an entire school year. Thus, the University's use of the Canadian postal system.

Well, I appealed of course. And the appeal stalled. And stalled. And wouldn't start. And the whole summer, day after day, the sun rose like it always did, and there were warm nights on Whyte Ave, and my girlfriend and I fought mildly and made up better, and I listened to good music, and buried myself in mediocre books, and I pretended that returning to University for fall semester was nothing extraordinary, a given, and not a gift, not something along the lines of miraculous. I still hadn't recieved an answer from the appeal board on September 7, the first day of classes. I got up around five-thirty am, that day. Got on the bus, and stared at the floor of that crowded vehicle for forty minutes. Made my way to the appeals office, but the advisor wasn't there, again. Left a message on the advisor's machine. Maybe she would be there at ten? Tried to take a short nap in the lobby, ended up flipping my cell open and shut for fifty-minutes. That's a personal tic that annoys just about everyone I know. Couldn't take it. Wandered off toward Rutherford. And the cell vibrated as I was walking through the near-deserted halls of Engineering. The advisor. Wanting to know why I was calling.

"Well, hadn't heard from you guys since last week."

She was shocked. "We sent you a registered letter on September 1."

"I haven't gotten anything, though."

So she read me the letter over the phone, while I leaned into a recessed window, and the warm sun, and the leaves outside, passing students, a crowd of talk and future and careers. And she said I was succesfully readmitted! I tell you, I turned around and hugged the broad white wall. Sure, the two freshmen behind me were not so impressed. But I'm back, people! And this year will be the best year of my life.

Reading: There are books which take a lifetime to read. I'm not talking the KJV or Huckleberry Finn which, let's face it, would take a lifetime to learn, nevermind read, I'm talking flat-out-time-spent-in-a-chair-turning-pages. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell just about had me in traction, but it's got nothing on what I'm reading now. But there's something strangely hypnotic about reading such a large work. I remember seeing my brother first opening War & Peace and the look of bland satisfaction on his face. That's what you get out of these big books, I think, or I do, anyways. Reading as accomplishment, right? Sort of like watching Gone With The Wind—never again—or reading the Globe & Mail. Yeah! I got through it! And I'm still alive. Which is good news. And on the plus side, I've become a walking encyclopedia on early-century gossip. I always liked Juvenal. He was a cut-mouth wise-ass, and this is the kind of stuff he would have snickered at. Want to know what Caligula really whispered to his horse? Did Maximus ever cheat at sports? Just where did Galba get his dark skin? This book has the answers, son. Check out The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire Vol II + Edward Gibbon

Listening: Whatever you do, do NOT look at the picture of Feist on the front of her site. Whoever that is, that is not Feist. How do I know? I own the CD and I've listened to her music. Feist is gorgeous. Feist is not that woman with the bad Ramones hair (like there's good Ramones hair?) and the "Kiss me, I'm drugged" eyes, looking like she's part of a shoplifting gang in central France. That's not my Feist. Feist is what you listen to on your way to an evening swim (I'm going downtown to the Grant Mac pool tonight). Feist is what you listen to as you order Belgian waffles. Feist knows words like "Mushaboom" and says, "It's cool to love your family". Feist is way better looking than the Feist in that picture. Forget Broken Social Scene. Remember that voice behind The Kings Of Convenience? Godsake, she sings with Jane Birkin. Go listen to the good-looking Feist, okay? The one who dances with that Buck 65 lookalike. Go to the video section and listen (it's only a sample) to the smoothest song outside of 1970. "One Evening" + Feist

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