Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin' Man (And a Tuesday Excerptin' One, Too)

Alright, so, I've got a bit to get through.

I am going out of town tomorrow after work. I will be going to Davenport (to visit my brother-in-law Dave. Wow, Dave, Davenport...I think I will start calling it Dave 'n Port), spending the night, then Kathy, Dave, Cakelyn (Dave's daughter, see prior post about getting stuck in the middle of Iowa from the early days of my blog), and I will be heading even further North to Rochester, MN on Thursday for a Thanksgiving Feast.

But what's most important about tomorrow is that I will be turning 25. A quarter of a century. That scares me. It scares me mostly because when I turned 15, I could barely remember being five, but now I have vivid memories of being 15 (although, my Tuesday Excerpt below will refute that, but you will have to discern where I've taken poetic license and where I haven't). Fifteen was big; first year of high school, Jon Roundy joined The Hitchhikers and we actually had a singer, then we went into a recording studio. I made friends with Monica, and we're still friends today, so it was a year when good things happened. But what happened to five? Well, clearly, it was twenty years ago. And who can remember what happened twenty years ago?

I guess it's just my "getting older" syndrome I feel so acutely. Not so much at work, you know...I'm one of the youngest at work, but at school, no so much. Granted, I take a few night classes, so I don't feel like the absolute oldest, but even still I feel old. You see, even though I can't recall specific things about myself when I was five, I do recall many things about the 1980's. And the current class of freshmen know nothing of the 80's. I spent eight years stuck in the 1980's. I even went through an 80's revival phase in high school (spurred on by my physics/astronomy teacher, Mr. Yates...in conjunction with a campaign to bring back the ultimate power snack; Moon Pies and RC Cola. Oh, more on Moon Pies later...). A couple weeks ago, when one of my teachers asked if anybody in class remembered the Chrysler K car, three people raised hands...two ladies who have children old enough to be in college, and myself. The teacher looked at me and said, "Whatever, you are too young to remember the K car, those haven't been around since, like 1989. You were probably two then." I said, "Nope...seven. And a neighbor on my street had one until sometime in the mid-90's." Then, of course, inevitably, somebody did math and said, "No way! That would make you, like...twenty-five. No way you're that old?" To which my reply was, "Since when did 25 become old?"

Well, actually, earlier that same day, we were talking about the business of writing for money in my playwriting class. And the general gist was that if you haven't made an impact as a playwright or as a screenwriter by the age of 30, your chances go way down. They want young people. I have five years left until I'm 30. That's half of ten...and I can remember things from ten years ago like they were yesterday. So that's not a lot of time...

Back to the Moon Pies...I do like me some Moon Pies. My sister's husband, Kevin, works at a grocery store that sells Moon Pies (the big stores around here, for some reason, don't, but the smaller ones do...no one can quite understand or explain this phenomenon), so occasionally I get the token Moon Pie. For my birthday (we celebrated this Sunday with my family, because I will be out of town, plus my dad's birthday was last Tuesday, we normally celebrate the Sunday in between with dinner at my parents'), Mo and Kevin bought me a carton of ice cream...Prairie Farms Moon Pie Ice Cream.

The verdict? It's yummy, actually. I mean, ice cream is good, Moon Pies are good, makes a certain amount of sense that Moon Pie Ice Cream would be good, but...jelly beans are good, buttered popcorn is good, but buttered popcorn flavored jelly beans are quite possibly the nastiest thing a person could ever desire to eat an entire box of (and trust me, they sell entire theater-candy style boxes of Jelly Belly Buttered Popcorn flavored beans, I know, I used to have to put ad sings up for them every few weeks at Target). But no, I mean, this ice cream is really good. But you probably already have to like Moon Pies to appreciate it.

Another consequense of getting older is that (first time admitting this in a public forum) I can't eat the way I used to. Well, no, I can still eat the way I used to, it's just that now I actually show it. Not tremendously, just...enough that it's noticeable. After a week of particularly uninhibited scarfing down of every morsel in sight (and after a very heavy dinner of biscuits, pork-sausage gravy and scrambled eggs with cheddar followed by a dessert of apple pie...), I went to Ted Drewes Frozen Custard for another dessert (the Extreme Ice Cream Club), and a friend of mine I hadn't seen since just after I started my new job showed up. His first comment? "Hey...Elliot. Wow. You got fat."

So, let's recap; so far in the last couple months, I've been called Fat and Old by my peers, plus people are giving me food (the ice cream and half of my birthday cake came home with me from my parents' house, and Kathy won't eat it because she doesn't like spice cake). So, imagine how well my birthday is being handled.

On the upside of all of this, I can actually take time to ride my bike this summer, because I won't be worn out from working ungodly hours at Target, and I won't have homework, so I can get back in shape. For the time being, though, I have to buckle down, squeeze in a few crunches here and there, and remind mysel that even though I used to be able to order twenty dollars worth of Taco Bell, eat it in one sitting and still manage to lose a pound (no joke, it's happened to me in the past), I can do this no longer. So I shouldn't order that much. Or eat it if I do. At least, not in one sitting.

But then again, Taco Bell really doesn't keep well...

Okay, so, now to the last thing...and no, not "The Last Thing..." which I posted last week. I'm still working on that one. I kind of stalled...scene 2 is erratic right now and needs an amount of work. Then, of course, there's the rest of the play to write...

I digress. Actually, twice. First thing of the last two things; I really really want to take off from Rochester on Friday and head to the Twin Cities. If I had planned better, I'd totally do it, but right now, I don't think it's feasible. Maybe I'll call some folks tomorrow and bounce the idea off of them, see if they'll even be there. That's the real crux of the situation.

But now, truly, the last part of this evening's blog; the Tuesday Excerpt. This one goes out to my sister-in-law Lori, who is currently plowing through college applications. This is the application essay I wrote for Webster University, which netted me smiles from my admissions advisor, a laugh from my academic advisor, and $4000/year I will never have to pay back.

===

"Webster University General Application Essay" 2006"

I can remember my senior year of high school. This should come as no shock; I was what, seventeen and eighteen, and now I’m only twenty-three. I suppose that’s longer ago than it seems to me, but it’s so vivid to me still for some reason. Now freshman year of high school, I remember maybe three or four major events and those are, in no particular order; doing over five hundred push-ups during marching band camp, getting called out by Anne Lutjens for staring at her legs during academic lab (a glorified study hall), my band The Hitchhikers getting picked for a huge battle of the bands a week after our singer went to Germany for a month, and my sister graduating and going off to college. A whole nine months, and that’s about all I have. But senior year, I had everybody breathing down my neck.

I borrowed books about college essay preparation. I asked all of my older friends if I could read their essays to see what they said. I asked teachers, guidance counselors, friends, family, co-workers, a girl at Starbucks, and tried to find some help on the internet. In the end, I wrote and subsequently directed a one-act play about a guy attempting to write his college application essay. His friend distracts him, and in an entire weekend he manages to write three sentences. That’s a whole three sentences more than I got. Of course, that didn’t stop people from asking where I was going to school. The answer was simple.

“Nowhere.”

Except I did go to college, at the University of Minnesota. Only, I didn’t take it very seriously that first semester, spring of 2002. I was under the impression that college was about drinking and having fun, so much so that I forgot that it was also a little bit about school. So, I went on academic probation. Then I got mono fall semester, and my motivation gave out on me. Basically, I flunked out and came home to St. Louis.

That’s when I went to community college. This was in 2003 (a full two years after I graduated from high school). I went for one whole semester and then dropped halfway through the next because something had happened while I was academically probated and getting dangerously sick; I fell in love with and proposed marriage to a girl, and I had no money because I was only working enough to keep gas in my car so I could continue driving to and from school and work. I buckled down at work, went full time. I got married July 17th, 2004. Best day of my life thus far. If you haven’t fallen in love and gotten married, I would recommend it. I enjoy it immensely.

Of course, I spent the next year not going to school, which led my wife to deliver the gentle but firm statement “if you don’t go back to school, I don’t know if I can stay with you.”

You see, silly me, the spring leading up to the summer we were married, all she wanted to do was drop out of school. I had told her not to, because she was nearly done with her degree. So, on my advice, and threats of not staying with her, she finished school. Ah, how the tables had turned! So, summer 2005, I decided to sign up for another class at community college.

“Another class” turned into a ten-credit summer session, while still working full time, which basically meant I had either enough time to sleep or enough time to eat and, most often, chose eating because, if you knew me, that’s just the kind of thing you would expect. So when it came time to sign up for fall semester, I opted to pull back a little.

“Pulling back” turned into eleven credits. Still working full time. Oh, and my wife and I bought a house. So, you can see how well pulling back worked.

The upshot of all of this is that I am finally, after four and a half years out of high school, a sophomore in college and I just decided I would much rather spend the next few chapters of my academic life at a school I am excited to attend, even though I may have been afraid of it at one time.

Why was I afraid of Webster University my senior year of high school? Because I could see Webster’s campus from the parking lot of my high school. I didn’t want to travel only that far, I wanted to go somewhere. Hence Minnesota.
Now that I consider things, though, how far have I come since then? Well, aside from marriage and home ownership and about six thousand miles logged on a bike that is worth more than my car, academically I’ve achieved in four and a half years what it should have, by all counts, taken me nine months to accomplish. And I can’t let the next three academic years take me into my thirties, forties, or beyond. Why wait? My friends, family, and especially my wife will tell you that I put the “pro” in procrastination; I’ve taken it to a whole new level. I just think it’s time to let certain skills die and sharpen others that are much more useful.
It is time to move forward and actually go somewhere.

===

"Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it." -Truman Capote

7 comments:

Molly said...

Happy Birthday! The funniest part of this particular blog is the angst you voice over being old and fat. hahaha.... oh, and the blog title is pretty good, too. Ok, the whole frickin' thing is good. I hope you know how much your mother loves you, buddy. Travel safe this holiday weekend.

alf said...

Happy Birthday, Elliot!
It's strange what we remember from various years of high school. I have yet to turn my quarter of a century page, but I'm kind of looking forward to it. Mostly because it gives me a good reason to demand people to come out and do whatever I want to for a night, but you know, it's the little things, right?

p.s.
I liked your One Act a lot.

Becca said...

Sorry, haven't been quite as diligent at checking your blog lately. Ok, here's my very belated free write friday post (since you haven't actually posted it yet, I figure I'm still all good).

Teenage girl tries to come to terms with her father's mid-life crisis, in which he decides to quit his (respectable) desk job in finances to become a male stripper. Ready, set, go.

the wife said...

I love the suggestion Becca! Sorry you feel old and fat- just remember I am older and fatter... but never tell me, I don't think I could handle it:)

I like your play as well.

Lisa said...

OMG, Elliot. If you're fat then what am I? WAIT! Don't answer that! I loved your essay. Oh and I know you're probably going to give me the you're so young speech, but 25 is not old and you'll look back on this when your 85 and say "I was a fool to think 25 was old". I may be young, but I have perspective.

marty/bridget said...

let me see if i've got this right...elliot has gotten old and fat...you gotta be kidding me! i can't wait for christmas...at the family gathering, don't wear red, we may mistake you for that jolly fat old man!

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