"Thanks for helping me move out, Mom."

"No problem," the mother replies while lugging her daughter's bags down the stairs.

"Is that too heavy, Mom?" she asks, looking at the big bag of dirty clothes that is being lugged by her mother. She looks unstable. She looks as if she could fall down the steps at any time.

"It's fine," she smiles and then throws the striped, cloth bag down the steps.

"Nice trick, Mom."

"I know. I learned it from you... the last time I saw you do laudry."

"Hehehe. I know, but this time I have my glass unicorn in there..." she replies with a worried look.

"What?!" her mother asks, grasping her chest with one hand and the brass railing with the other.

The daughter smiles sarcastically. "Silly Mommy, I don't have a glass unicorn."

A relieved, "Oh..."

After a generally crummy day, one of the few every school year, I get home. I woke up still tired, I had no homework done, I had three more college applications to send in today, with 3 supplemental essays. The common application may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the competitive colleges require that I send in an additional essay or two. I just finished one for Amherst College describing the diversity of my school. Too bad I can't include E2 on my list of hobbies. Imagine the admissions officer decides to check it out and see fisting and Live nude lesbians on the home page.

Anyway, I unwittingly say the wrong thing when I get home, making my mother very angry at my ingratitude for her help (sorry). I open up mail.app in Mac OS X and see this in my mailbox. It's from Columbia University in New York. I applied there Early Decision, and had my fingers crossed. "We usually don't reject, we defer to regular admission" the admissions officer told me.

Dear James:

The Committee on Admissions has reviewed your application to Columbia College under the Early Decision Program. I am sorry to inform you that our final decision is that we will not be able to offer you admission. I realize that this is disappointing news for you and your family, particularly in light of your strong interest in Columbia.

Over the past six years, the first-year applicant pool to Columbia has nearly doubled in size, making admissions intensely competitive for candidates seeking places in the Columbia College class of only 1005 students; this has resulted in an acceptance rate of just 13%. The Committee on Admissions carefully evaluates each candidate's credentials in the context of the applicant pool; because our decisions are the product of many hours of thorough assessment and review, we must emphasize that they are final and not subject to appeal.

I want you to know that our decision in no way reflects a lack of confidence in your ability to achieve success at a competitive college and throughout life. Our experience is that the vast majority of students who do not gain admission here go on to distinguish themselves at many fine colleges and universities all over the world.

Earlier this week, your official decision letter was mailed to the address we have on file with your application. This electronic message was sent simply as a follow-up to your official letter. Please note that we will be unable to respond to this electronic message. We appreciate the interest you have demonstrated in Columbia and wish you the best in your college career and future endeavors.

///Censored\\\\ (I don't think he'd be happy)
Executive Director
Undergraduate Admissions

Dang it.

How could they not defer? They rarely reject, except this was a new year, they made some changes. I called my classmate, who I felt was a shoe-in. Nope, she was pretty teary. And I.....I felt strange. I see my life as numerous forks in a road. I really wanted to go that way, but I'm stuck in a detour.

Oh, well. Stoicism really isn't my thing, but I still have the rest of my "triad." If I get into either Columbia, Brown University, or Union College, I'll be happy. If I get into only one, I'll see it as fate and take it.

Was I sad? Hmmmm...sorta. Did I feel insulted? Yes! "They don't know a good thing when they see it!" I loudly yelled at the letters. Ah, c'est la vie.

Oh, back to the anger, right. I feel sort of happy. See, the guidance counsellor really strongly reccomended early decision, even though I was torn between two colleges. In short, if I was accepted, I would be looking forlornly at the smaller, less competitive Union College upstate, away from the city. Tough choice. Now, not only do I have the choice, I can apply to the 8-year medical program, saving me the hassle of applying to medical schools.

When it rains, it pours.

It's finals week here at the University of Iowa. I'm in the lab studying for my AI final, taking a break to look back on the week.

Where to begin?

I suppose the main thing is the roommate. Everything else really pales in comparison to it - I suppose he's the real problem, dropped mightily on everything else I need to be taking care of.

I should have known he was going to be a problem in the house. He started the semester off by being fully a month late with the first month's rent. He kept whining about how his financial aid hadn't come in yet. I wouldn't be annoyed if he had a freaking job - he was taking four fluff classes, going to the bars every other night, and watching TV in his spare time. So his aid comes in, and he pays the landlord up to December. Huzzah! We will not be thrown out of our place due to insufficient funds!

He then goes on to order himself digital cable which will play on his brand-new 32" flat-screen television, whilst his favorite shows will be saved on his shiny new TiVo and archived onto VHS tapes. All of this new booty was placed on a newly purchased entertainment center, procured from the same store from which he purchased his new multi-level computer desk.

The rest of us hung our heads at this shopping spree, expecting trouble - which we got this past week, in armloads. First off, the cable modem service stopped. I called the cable company to find out why. Nothing was wrong, said they, just a temporary outage. We did, however, have near $200 in delinquent bills to pay by December 26th or both cable TV and internet service would be totally cut off. These bills were supposed to be paid by the roommate - we'd all been forking over our share. I ponied up three quarters of the outstanding dept to keep us running smoothly. Then, a check said roomate wrote to another roommate bounced. The check was to pay for around $150 in collect calls made to said roommate by his girlfriend. The bouncing of this check has precluded the latter roommate from scraping together the money he needs for tuition.

This whole time, the roommate has been back home, six hours away. He came back yesterday to take a couple finals. He was so damn sorry, he had no idea anything was wrong. He said he'd taken care of all the delinquent bills, and paid for this month by himself - don't worry guys, it's on me. He swore he'd have all the money he owes us by Friday.

So then we get a phone call from the landlord. He'd had a conversation with the roomate - seems he's "thinking" of vacating in mid-January, and had he spoken with us about it?

We went to his room to see what the deal was. He was gone - back home. All of his expensive stuff, the TiVo and TV and laptop were gone. Most of his stuff was all packed up in boxes. He knew he was going to leave, he was going snow us and just leave us in the lurch. That was the last straw. We called his home number, left a message to let him know that he was out of the house, and had a week to get his stuff out of there. We have a friend who'd love to live with us, so we'll fill the space.

I really hate to be such an ass to the guy, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. He's a lying jerk, and he's decided to lie in a jerky fashion over finals. He reaps what he's sown.

I am so pissed at my family right now. I went to the cafe to play some pool and hang out a bit before leaving for New Orleans on my mission of mercy. I had every intention of relaxing, doing the CryptoQuote and crossword puzzle and enjoying a cup o' joe. That was the plan and, for the most part, it went off without a hitch.

Well, except for one hitch.

A friend of mine, who is dating a friend of my family, sat down to chat with me. We chatted about her boyfriend's brother's quirkiness and why she isn't getting married to Noah yet. It was idle chatter. Then she says, "You know, I'm surprised you're so calm, Jay, what with all that's been going on lately."

I just stared at her blankly, totally unsure of what she was talking about.

"Uhm..." she said uncertainly. "Your mom is Andi Seals, right?"

"Ye-es..." I hedged. Last time I checked, that was her name. "Why? Is something wrong with her?" I asked not out of concern, but more out of curiosity. If something serious had happened, they would have called me, so I simply suspected that my friend was just sharing the family gossip with me.

"Oh, my," she said, somewhat embarrassed. "Oh, dear. You don't know, do you?"

"Know what?"

She sat down heavily. "Jay, your mom had a stroke Sunday. She was celebrating her fiftieth birthday with some friends-" (this much I had expected, as I knew her birthday was in December) "- it was a sleepover kinda thing. Well, the next morning, Sunday morning, she woke up feeling out of sorts. Like, groggy and sluggish and she couldn't speak very well. Her friends called the doctor, the doctor told them to give her some asprin and then they took her to the hospital. Apparently, it wasn't a severe stroke, but it was a stroke, a small one. She felt fine a few hours later, ready to go home, but they decided to keep her under observation for a few days."

I just sat there, stunned beyond words. There are right times and wrong times to fill me in on family news. When my little brother gets a good grade in school, when my dad finishes making a new fly rod, when my nephew takes his first step- these are idle things that aren't necessary to bother me with. They're good things, to be sure, but not vital to the family unit. When, oh I don't know, my step-mother has a stroke, even a small one, that's the right time to fill me in.

I'm a loner and I'm fairly independent, but I'm not that alone or independent. These are the kinds of things family members should be made aware of. Last time I checked, I still bore the family's surname, I was still a part of that family. Unless I'd been voted out in the last month, I fully expect to be apprised of these kinds of events.

"I'm so sorry, Jay," my friend said. "I feel like such a piece of shit. God, I'm so embarrassed."

"Don't be," I told her. "This isn't your fault. It's theirs, for not telling me a word of it. Thank you for sharing this with me." I wasn't harsh with her. I don't kill the messenger, and how was she to know that I hadn't been told? No, she is utterly without blame in this.

My family, on the other hand, will be hearing some strong words from me when I get back from New Orleans. This is not acceptable.

Perhaps it's the fact that my grandfather died on christmas, when I was a boy. Maybe it's the fact that, with the exception of a kitten, I've never really gotten any gifts that make me feel like I think I should, like those perfect cherub TV boys feel when they open their presents, and throw themselves into the arms of their mothers.

I remember being four or so, and listening to the radio for news of Santa's sleigh. I waited by the window and watched, hoping for a glimpse of a red nose, shining like a beacon... And I remember that I thought I saw it, once.

Maybe it's because every year I keep hoping this is going to be 'the one', the christmas that will be perfect, wonderful, just the way I imagined it. Every year, I find myself more and more upset by the fact it's not.

I'm going to be spending christmas alone, this year. Everyone's going to be going back to Ottawa, except myself. I'm working christmas eve, christmas day, boxing day, new year's eve, new year's day.


I wish I could be one of those people that just "cancels christmas" ... They declare that they're not going to celebrate it, or buy any gifts, or accept any. It's just another day for them, and I suppose I admire them for that, somewhat. I wish I could do that. I can't.

I can't shake the last nagging hope that maybe, maybe something will work out right for the holidays, maybe I'll finally have a christmas the way I want to, if I just keep hoping.

I sit here, numbly feeling my life slip away from my paralyzed mind. Cursed with enough clarity to understand the opportunities I’m wasting, I lack the ability to effect a change. Lack of ambition? Maybe - or maybe no clear direction for it has ever emerged. I’m that kid on the playground who always failed at being “It” for tag. So many targets, I couldn’t pick just one, and so I ended up with nothing and no one. I was so terrified of that happening to my life: that once again every opportunity would vaporize in front of me and leave me standing, confused and shamed, wondering at my defects and the sudden emptiness of my world.

So I panicked. I seized the first thing that came along that was acceptably good. Proof to show the world that I could better my lot in life, that I would not end up with nothing!

The problem is that I got comfortable. I settled for where I was; expanded to fill my income and my living space, and got to the point of reflexive familiarity with every corner of my world. Change, and opportunity for change, are still everywhere, living in my pockets and breathing in my ear – but where is the motivation to leave animal comfort to leap into dangerous new territory? To risk that security? Perhaps self-disgust will provide an impetus where ambition fails? I’m not a lost cause yet, but are we taking odds?

We make ourselves old, not by accumulation of years, but by the acceptance of mediocrity as our lot in life.

We mistake material security for happiness and then wonder at the flat gray landscapes of our lives, damned by ourselves to a temporal Hell defined by our low expectations and greed.

Killing ourselves by inches, we get what we earn.

You thought it'd be different, didn't you? You thought that once you'd done it, like a bolt from the blue there's a sudden change, everyone's happy, didn't you? It wasn't meant to be like this. You weren't meant to have to work for it. To sit there, with the pain, the angst, to sit and hope that throng was looking away when you did it. You wanted some angel of mercy to come and save you, but he didn't. You're getting there, but you didn't want it to be this way.

Sitting in that car you were trying to fall asleep but the world kept dropping into your mind and you were afraid. You didn't want to see me today, you wanted a happy reunion, to chat over coffee and cakes.

This room smells of incense but everyone's happy
They're laughing and I want to go to sleep
Look at me emaciated I am screaming at you let me sleep
This coffee isn't very strong.

How can you be angry with us for not feeling? We are the children of another generation. It's a generation too young for a name, for psychoanalytical books, to be explored, broken up, put back together again and diagnosed by an undergraduate who becomes detached by spending the profits on the things we condemn. A generation too old to be ignored.

We never knew him - how can we feel sympathy? Our science tells us that this is his fault, he chose this path and he must walk it. Our hearts tell us nothing, robbed of their emotions by recessions and heavy rotation. We cannot feel sorrow.

The people who shaped our futures are unknowns to us. We vaguely recall them, rhymes in the playground or caricatured pictures, but they mean nothing to us. Nihilism is our goal, but apathy pervades. We are not unfeeling, we are justified. Love us, accept us. We are Maggie's children, and we're not going away.

Listen to me, I'm trying to get through to you. I can help you find a way out of this. Let me in! You cannot hope for solutions without work.

In tonight's Lottery draw there was one lucky winner, winning a total of over £3 million. The winning numbers: 34, 21, 11, 14, 43 and 27. And the bonus ball: 40.

Listen to me, I'm trying to love you, and be loved. Look at me, accept me.

So I saw The Fellowship of the Ring at 12:01 am on December 19th, 2001, the opening day. Even though I worked a 12 hour day that day. Even though I had to work the next day. Because you've got to have priorities.

This is one of those movies whose appeal will last for generations. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz. And all I can say is "Wow."

It was all I hoped for and more. The first time I looked at the time, an hour had passed, and all I thought was "YES! Two more hours of this!!!" When 2 am rolled around, I was almost sad, because I knew the movie was more than halfway done. When it ended, I clapped, and wiped a tear away, because now I have to wait until next Christmas to see the next one.


Bryan put The Blues Brothers in the VCR. I talked online. We had already devoured our fast food meals and sat back into a typical sedate week night. Now and then, I would walk over the the TV when I recognized the voice of Aretha Franklin, or Ray Charles, or one of those obscure actors who had once been in Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. Then I'd go back to talking online. Every time I talk to Angel I want to kidnap her and keep her in my pocket. I wish she lived closer, that she could come over for coffee.

We both had to get up for 8 the next morning. Bryan is starting back at his old job. His ex leaves town for her hometown sometime the next day. Rental car has to be back at 11pm. I will likely drive him to get his computer, after she's gone, if he hasn't by then. He asked me earlier in the night, before fast food, to pick him up there. I sat in the car with the lights off, far enough away from the direct line of sight of their second floor window. I couldn't bring myself to look up into it or honk the horn. I just smoked and listened to the stereo.

Every couple nights or so
You know you pop into my dreams
I just can't get rid of you
Like you got rid of me
Ah, but I send my best
'Cause God knows you've seen my worst
Yeah, well all is fair
All is fair
In love

Gas prices have gone down. Now it's not a flat $10 I can slip the foreign gas station attendants. I have to go back inside and get my $1.93. Pump. Stop. Pump. Click. Bryan gets in. Sitting there in my car, waiting, I felt like a bad undercover cop. I almost halfway expected her to come down after him, or wave from the window. He says she asks about me, asks what my feelings are for her. I told him that if she really understood what she has done to me, she wouldn't ask. Her asking now shows that she's concerned for relieving her own guilt.

A little after we both agreed to sleep, we can't seem to let go of the topic. I wince in the dark. A candle is dancing about beneath the ceiling fan. His face is long and now his hair is bleached blonde. I wince because I want to be over it, I want to stop burdening people with talk. Still, we agree, it is good to have someone to talk to about it. We both have one sentiment in kind, that this would all be easier if we really believed our exes felt bad about what they did, that they are able to really take in how they've hurt us. If they did, I feel, they wouldn't have done it a second time. It would make it easier to forgive, to smooth over, to move on. He said he felt bad that he maintained some connection with his ex for my sake and I said no, that was ok. He had emotional stock in his ex, and that was to be expected. Of the two, I'd said, I would be more willing to speak to my ex again because I'd known him for about a year and a half and considered him a friend, but I believe we could and would never talk about what happened.

Then we got to talking about neutrality. Some people will completely side with you, donate to your venting and ranting. Others will stay neutral. Others will stay neutral so that they don't miss out. Some people say they're neutral when they don't know that know things about them. And others, luckily, don't care and aren't involved and want to keep it that way.

I told Bryan my metaphor, which I've likely used before in a daylog. The feeling is like witnessing a really bad car wreck, standing there for a minute, and then having someone pull you away and point your face toward some beautiful, tranquil scene. You still see the car wreck in your mind, and you can't really appreciate the scenic view. You want to, but you can't right now. He said he was interested to see how I will be when all I can see is the scenic view.

So am I.

Today I was an actor. For the second time in as many days, I stood up on the bare stage (almost bare anyway, just a table and a few scattered chairs) and I acted. This is a new thing for me. And when it was over-- it was closing night-- people told me that I was good. Not even good-- GREAT. AMAZING. I got three different bunches of flowers. After four years of rejection, there I was, a star. Or almost, anyway, except my character was a little crazy and not exactly a lead, but it was the character I wanted to play and I had the most expensive light in the entire play shining only on me. Life is beautiful.

The play was J.B. and I was the Second Messenger. And for just a minute, I was a star, I was living my dream ever since the day I walked into auditions for the first play in my freshman year. Of course now the fleeting glory is gone, and I can't do the next play because my parents think it's too "stressful". Already my lines, my blocking, what it felt like to stand on that stage, is slipping away from me. The director said that plays were "ephemeral" and I think I now understand what he meant.

"I only am escaped alone to tell thee."
--My favorite line, lest I forget it

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