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I read one of doyle's writeups the other day about all the "stuff" that has accumulated in his backyard over the years (reminds me of my garage). And then I looked at what I'm carrying around in my car. Yikes! I can't even claim that it is an old car and things have just accumulated over time; the Honda's less than six months old. Funny thing is - I can justify most of the stuff (I think). I inventoried it all and it breaks down into a couple of different categories.

The usual stuff people carry in a car

Road maps - a city map - a 1974 US Atlas my folks left in a Buick they passed on to me some years back - frost scraper (yep, even in Florida) - cell phone - folding umbrella - rain poncho (these last two because it is Florida) - spare eyeglasses - complete set of extra office keys - spare house key - battery for garage door opener - pens and pencils - notepaper - change for parking meters and toll booths - more-or-less complete first aid kit - flashlight with extra batteries (fresh?) and spare bulb - snakebite kit (probably out of date - I'd be afraid to use it, anyway) - tire pressure gauge - multi-blade pocket knife.

Stuff for the dogs

Dog rugs for the back seat - extra leashes - window spray and a cloth to wipe the slobber off the back windows - roll of paper towels in case Zöe gets carsick again - a spray can of pet stain remover - some spare plastic bags - a couple of Bronco's teddy bears.

Stuff for me

Hair brush - hair spray - cosmetics - clothes brush (all that dog hair) - shoe brush with built-in clear polish - safety pins - small sewing kit - shoehorn - one black cotton sweater and one white jacket (in case I have to cover up the tee and look a bit formal).

Comfort stuff

Spoon for my breakfast yogurt - napkins - a few CD's - something to read at drive-up windows - small pair of opera glasses for birding at stop lights.

Items in transit

Library books to be returned - items to be exchanged at Wal-Mart's - a basket for stuff to be dropped off at my mom's the next time I'm over there.

That's just inside the car - here's what's in the trunk

The spare tire, the jack and all the usual car stuff in the spare tire compartment (this one is a given).

Dog tie-out lines and ground pegs - water bowls and a 2-gallon jug of water - car rug and a small pillow (also inherited from the Buick) - a pair of 8 x 40 zoom binoculars and an Audubon Guide.

A folding beach chair - a beach mat - several hats - clip-on sunshade lenses for my eyeglasses - plastic flip-flops for the beach (this is Florida).

A folding shovel and expansion mesh strips for under the tires in case I get stuck in sand (this is Florida, remember?).

Thermo bags for frozen goodies purchased at Wal-Mart's - a folding plastic box to carry "stuff" from the car to the house - a couple of cloth shopping bags that just might be useful one day but haven't been used so far.

Good walking shoes and sweat socks in case I get stuck somewhere - a pair of sweatpants and top in case I have to change a tire (I never have yet - some guy always comes along) - WD-40 - work gloves - a jar of hand-cleaning cream and a bunch of old rags.

A blue Eddie Baeur windcheater I "borrowed" from a boyfriend back in my Appalachian Trail days.

An airbed that someone borrowed and returned two months ago and I haven't gotten around to unloading it yet - a plastic tablecloth to spread in the trunk in case I carry something dirty like bags of mulch - the headrest that I can't stand for the driver's seat - a red velvet bow that was on the hood ornament of my old car during the Christmas season (I just realized it is useless because the Honda doesn't have a hood ornament but it might come in handy if my flare doesn't work).

In his writeup doyle notes that if you want to know what someone is like, go sit in their backyard. I suppose the same is true for the contents of a car.

Here at Simon's Rock College, we have a group called CHI (Campus Health Initiative) that likes to do nice things for us overworked, underpaid college students. Some times they give us food, sometimes entertainment, sometimes information. But the week before finals every semester they give us toys. My first semester we all got 'Stress Peppers': You know those squishy-styrofoam type toys, like lifeguard tubes or those funky space age pillows? Yeah, they were squishy red peppers made out of that stuff. Some people thought they were excessively phallic, but I guess that's to be expected on a liberal college campus.

The next semester we all got little sticky flingy hands; the kind you got for a quarter at the All-You-Can-Eat buffet when you were eight. They were thoroughly entertaining, until they all disintegrated and ended up in random places around campus. Last semester we got fruit leather. I don't know whose idea that was, but I'm pretty sure they got expelled or maybe laughed at. This semester someone must have had a stroke of genius, because everyone found Silly Putty sitting in their mailbox, and everything was right with the world. Overdue papers, impending finals, family problems all disappear when you've got some Silly Putty. It's true.

Silly Putty is so freakin' cool. It stretches, flows, pops, molds, bounces, even shears. And no matter what you do to it, you can always roll it back into a ball and stick it back in it's egg (assuming you haven't lost it, which you have, but you'll find it later). What kind of substance can possibly be so versatile? You throw it at a wall and it comes right back. You pull it apart fast enough and it breaks, you pull it apart slow enough and you can stretch it out twenty times its original length. And if you let it sit for a while it oozes into a perfect blob.

I've given two years of my life to this place. I remember when I came here, thinking I was set: fifteen and in college, what more could I want? What more could there be? I got to skip high school, to go to college with 300 other smart, young kids, and I didn't have to deal with my parents anymore, I could do whatever I wanted. I was practically bouncing off the walls. That first semester was the longest 4 months of my life. I met so many new, fun, interesting people who would actually spend time with me. I was taking courses that required more time than the hours between midnight and whenever I got tired (not to say that didn't happen... every day...). I had so many ideas of what I'd do if I would do: I was gonna drop those extra pounds, get a girlfriend, be mezzo-popular and mega-brilliant. People would flock to me for my captivating mathematical prowess. I would hand in all my homework early and get 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night, depending.

Well, here I am, no thinner and no more productive than I was before I left home. I still stay up too late, and I still spend more time in front of a computer than other human beings. What happened? you're asking. Nothing happened. This is exactly how it had to be. I had to go through the stagnation to learn how to motivate myself. Isn't that the real point of college? It's not about teaching you how to solve differential equations; it's about teaching you to want to, and to want to do so to the best of your ability. It took me two years to figure out how to function at school and away from home, and I consider that a pretty good deal. Here's what I got:

  1. Don't think so much. The more I sit and think about something the further I get from understanding it.
  2. Know what you want. Once I know what I want, I'll also know how to get it.

It's been two years, and now I'm gonna graduate and transfer to Brown and start all over again. I feel like I've learned so much here, how could I possibly screw up? Brown is just like here, only bigger. More people, more activities, more classes, more fun. But I have no way of making sure that I don't just fall into the same old routines. I guess that's what friends are for, eh?

The Heart of Darkness

My father is dead. Even so, I remember a couple of the things he told me.

"Always look where you're going." This was one of the big ones. When I was very young I'd walk and look off to the side. Inevitably, I'd crash into things. Once I was working at a department store, walking in one direction and a customer called to me. I looked over toward her, and ran into a pole and broke my clavicle. I've not forgotten my father's words since.

"Son, do not play a game you do not intend to win." He said this when I got pulled from one of my football games. I was beaten, mentally. Tired. Everything I did came out wrong. He smacked me in the head. The coach sent me out. I got trampled. We lost the game.

"You didn't have it in you," my father said. That day, I didn't. That day I was not a warrior.

There is a truth to war only warriors know. It is impolite to discuss in civil company beyond the assertion that war is hell, and to survive the victor, one must become hellish.

Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness in 1902. Francis Ford Coppola made the movie, Apocalypse Now in 1979. They are the same story. Coppola even left the name the same. Kurtz.

You know where I'm going with this. If you don't by now run away. You're not going to like it at best, and you won't understand it, at worst. But finally, I understand my warrior father.

The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS's "60 Minutes II" and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" that were inflicted on detainees.
-By Christian Davenport
The Washington Post
Thursday 06 May 2004

What were we thinking. Dear Lord. What were we thinking?

The pictures are appalling, the words devastating. As a wounded Iraqi crawls from beneath a burning truck, an American helicopter pilot tells his commander that one of three men has survived his night air attack. "Someone wounded,' the pilot cries. Then he received the reply: "Hit him, hit the truck and him.' As the helicopter's gun camera captures the scene on video, the pilot fires a 30mm gun at the wounded man, vaporising him in a second.
-By Robert Fisk
Independent U.K.
Thursday 06 May 2004

We the people of the United States of America engaged a war in Iraq, one presumes, to win. Though "winning" was a nebulous goal, and despite the admonition of the entire cadre of human teachers of modern day that one should never enjoin a battle without a clear end in mind, we did it anyway. And so we engaged in war. We sent our fathers and brothers and sisters and mothers there--to win a war we could not properly define. As true warriors, they engaged in battle.

Colonel Kurtz works his way up river, out of the sight and mind of civilization and we hear nothing from him until the bodies begin floating down stream. And then the resources start flowing again. Somehow he's cleared out an impossible enemy and the goods start moving again. Civilization is happily ignorant of his methodology, because the end game for them is the goods and they're getting them in Conrad's 1902 story.

But something's not right. There are stories coming out of the jungle. Terrible violence. Atrocities.

Kurtz has gone nuts. He's lost his humanity. In 1902 or 1979 it doesn't matter. Apparently, he's killing everything and everyone in his path. He's made his own rules. Geneva convention, out the window.

We have to stop him. It's not right. It violates the natural order. It doesn't represent us.

We send someone up river to kill him. And when our man gets there, he has to become Kurtz to kill Kurtz. He has to abandon his humanity to succeed. That's his job. He does it.

He does it even though he's sure not one person in the civilized world will ever understand him.

You see, what none of us assholes sitting on our loathesome spotted behinds in the safety of the U.S.of A. is willing to realize that to win a war--a killing war--you have to become something none of us feels is polite to admit. Sure, we have our DVDs of Mel Gibson killing the British or the Vietnamese. Valient men shooting each other fair and square. But the truth is, it's only like that sometimes.

People who have been in wars don't talk about the times they had to abandon their humanity to survive.

Hasn't any one listened to them? We have done this--not them. We are fighting an enemy who has completely dehumanized us. The war against terror is a war against a faceless, unorganized mob who does not value human life, even their own. They have blown up our cities. They kill themselves in killing our innocent. And what we cannot admit to ourselves is that to beat them, we might have to become them.

This is why people are against wars. Not because we enjoy being weak or trod upon. Not because we want to hug trees and believe the woods are populated by cartoon bunnies. We are against war because we have to become hateful to win them. Because we have to do things like those reporters saw to achieve our aims. Wasn't anyone listening to the protests? Doesn't anyone remember?

We have sent our fighting people to Iraq to "win" even though we don't know what it means, but we do know war--because war has been war since the beginning of humankind. And we sit at home and read a newspaper or watch a television show and presume to judge our warriors.

What, dear Lord, are we thinking?

They are not living in our world. We have sent them to a different planet where the rules of survival are different. They are watching their friends die. They are being killed and injured for our objectives.

This is why I objected to this war. Not because I liked Saddam Hussein. Not because I didn't want to tear the heart out of every frigging terrorist who plotted the destruction of the World Trade Center--because I assure you, personally, I would have liked to see some nation somewhere turned to glass by the force of our nuclear weapons for it.

No. I was against the war because we have been taught time and time again what war means.

And so I believe every American should see every combatant killed every day. We should be forced to watch our sons and daughters vaporizing Iraqui insurgents. We should witness the torture inflicted by both sides just as we have been forced to witness the passenger planes crash into our buildings over and over. We should see our soldiers killed and the innocents caught in the crossfire. Do you think precision bombing avoids killing the innocent, the children? Do you think mistakes are never made? As Kurtz knew, they have had to become killers to do our bidding. What makes us think their rules will make any sense to us?

They are doing our work. All of them. Love them. Respect them. Realize you won't understand them and that you put them there.

This is the work of war.

After hating the idea of this war before it started, I now have no choice but to support it because we are there. I love our people. I want them to win. They have to do things I find terrible. That is their job. I want them home so the horror can stop.

We are fighting an enemy who does not understand our good intentions. The pictures are coming out. Kurtz knew what was necessary to win. That's why his last words were, "the horror."

Witness it. It cannot be avoided. This is what it means.

Patti Davis in Newsweek, May 11th at 3:00PM has just published an essay in those pages with essentially the same message & story. Of course, I have not been referenced... Writers beware, when you have an idea, write quickly. It occurs to others.

I am not sure how one is supposed to "respond" to writeups. This is not a message board; I know this. But somebody has spoken about leaving The Bubble, and I want to tell him and others what, exactly, that entails.

I'm not sure who you are, Iguanaonastick. You may have been the rival for a girl's affections; in one case you won her, briefly. In another you didn't. I am not sure if you are the same year as me, though I remember the pepper and the hands. Maybe you beat me in Guilty Gear XX in the basement of Dolliver; maybe you smoked certain substances with me in the woods; maybe you simply passed, as faceless as one can be in a university of 300.

Almost a year ago, I left Simon's Rock with my Associate Arts Degree. Six months ago I left the country; three months ago I started attending the University of New South Wales, a school bigger then SRC by several orders of magnitude. It was not a hard transition.

The amount of credits I took removed two years from my English degree, though many people at SRC don't specialize so closely, your classes will probably still be good. More importantly, I learned how to work hard and work fast. My friends complain about three page essays, five page essays, 20 page class reading. Simon's Rock taught us to do papers quickly and read quickly. It taught us how to read closely and carefully, and how to budget our time. Yes, there were late night of procrastination hell, but its over! It won't be as bad as Simon's Rock; it can't! You'll be secure in your skills and in the ordeal you went through.

Still, there's shit you're going to miss, and you're going to miss it hard. The sunset over Circular Quay is one of the most beautiful sights in the world, but sometimes it doesn't match walking down to Cumbys with two friends and bullshitting about life, the universe, and everything. You'll need to work non-easy jobs, perhaps, and not everybody will instantly understand you. There's also a distinct lack of Jim Monsonis' in the world.

But that's okay; it will pass. As Dad was fond of saying: ?You're ahead of the game.? You've got two years in a real university behind you; two years of staying up late, studying, relationship bullshit, and more hell then you can shake a stick at. If you're anything like me, its made you better, faster, and stronger. Its made you smarter, its made you more engaged, and its made you a very valuable, charming human being. Look how many SRC people found their way to E2-- we seem to be the largest organized university group here.

Unless you are, in fact, one of those assholes who'd seriously rag on me during ?friendly? vidgames in the Dolliver Basement. That guy's on E2, too, but SRC also teaches you that jerks are found in all levels of society. You deal with them, you smile, and you move on. Don't worry. You'll have a great life.

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