life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch


the one-finger salute

courtesy of Jeff |

Historically, I haven't minded Christmas shopping all that much. Prolonged shopping in general tends to have somewhat of a negative effect on me, but not as much this time of year. Enveloped in the joy of the Christmas spirit, it really becomes tolerable, and sometimes even fun. I was getting pretty sick of it after a while today, though, but certainly not to the point of blinding, vulgar rage. But that's what I encountered today at the Grand Teton Mall. Just outside of Old Navy, I rolled into a pretty choice drive-through parking spot right next to a really big truck, which obscured my view of all things northward. Just as I stopped in the space, an old car driven by one of the members of ZZ Top peeked its way around the truck. This man, as it seems, certainly tired from a long day of store-hopping, also really wanted that spot. It was a good spot. He came to a stop directly in front of me and looked me square in the eye. At this point, I could already see the pure hellish rage in his snarl, and a maniacal quiver in his long beard. Slowly and methodically, he raised his huge middle finger straight up to the center of the window. He held his hand there for what must have been five whole seconds, and even bounced it up and down in my direction a couple of times, in a completely successful effort to remove all doubt as to who the recipient was of that triumphant one-finger salute. Shocked, I raised my open palms with a confused smile, and the angry, burnt-out rocker rolled away. In one simple motion, the bottom was reached, and summarily placed behind us. The holiday angst had been vented on both of our behalf. I'll never know who that man was or where he was from, but I hope he felt better about his Christmas shopping after that. I know I did.



courtesy of Jeff |

At last. My semester is nearly done. I have one final tomorrow in French Revolution, and then I can spend the rest of the week doing pretty much whatever I want. That hasn't happened in quite some time, to which my sparsity of blogging can attest. I'll probably spend most of the week reading things for my online class, though, which I'd like to finish over Christmas break. I don't think it should be that bad. On the subject of academia, I've accepted a fairly large decision over the past couple of weeks. I've decided to drop my history major. I'm so excited. First and foremost, I'll be able to graduate with honors. Also, I'll be able to focus more on my English and my writing, which is actually what I'm going to be doing in grad school anyway. The only reason I even was a double major was for that to look better on grad school applications, but I had an epiphany last week that showed me that my resume will in all actuality be more impressive if I can just focus on English and graduate with honors. I should be able to get a solid internship after graduation no matter what. I've also elected to write an honors thesis over the next couple of semesters regarding the origins and idiosyncrasies of the dystopian social commentary in the literature of the Soviet Union and the west. We'll see how that goes. On a more somber note, I was informed yesterday that my cousin Kevin has been missing for over a week now near Crystal Mountain, outside of Seattle. He and two friends went on a snowboarding trip and never returned. The search party was called off yesterday. Best wishes and prayers to him and his family.


the jumbotron

courtesy of Jeff |

Friday was a pretty good day. I gave away the paper I'd theoretically been working on for over a month. Specifically, I gave it to Lenny, my 6'4" Jewish Brooklynite history professor. The bulk of my semester is now behind me. I spent the better part of the week on the paper, minus a couple of Jazz games and a trip to Crystal Hot Springs. I don't really feel it was anywhere near my best work, but it'll probably be enough for the class. It was decent, I guess. I'm excited for this semester to be over. I slack off when I have too many easy classes. The remainder of my undergraduate career will be marked by 18-credit terms, however, with extra online classes on the top here and there. The really fun classes begin this January, including Creative Non-fiction Writing and Russian Translation. Anyhow, I felt pretty good on Friday, and I got to the basketball game way early to save seats for everyone. Much to my surprise, I was able to snag 12 seats in the front and second row behind the band. A member of the band told me that they weren't going to show up. Well, they did, so our timeouts were just as loud as the game itself. Early in the second half, we were just settling down to enjoy one (timeout) when I thought I saw one of the TV cameras upon me. As I and the rest of the 10,000-seat Spectrum soon discovered, it was. Yes, it was the popular USU basketball game classic timeout entertainment: the kiss cam-- and it was trained directly on Sarah and me. Anyway, we gave in and went from never having kissed in public to having 10,000 people see it simultaneously. The effects were felt immediately. The congratulatory texts started rolling in, my friend Jessica coyly raised her hand and asked about it as I was teaching Sunday School yesterday, and now people all over campus are throwing me the ol' wink-and-nudge with more frequency than usual. At least now I know why.


a manifesto

courtesy of Jeff |

An historic event occurred at our most recent Fast Food Friday, and not a moment too soon. All nine of our group- our current and recent roommates- met at Logan Burger to discuss a pressing matter. A convention took place, and a new document was forged- a declaration of independence, if you will. More than ever, as was alluded to in the previous post, we close friends are dating. A number of us are in actual working relationships all at the same time. This novelty has created a vacuum in which girlfriends have automatic precedence over all non-scheduled time. We friends been able to spend very little time together as of late. The stated purpose of the convention was to address this problem with the institution of a program of scheduled man-time. Our meeting convened in our usual booth at the restaurant with an introduction from me, announcements from Matt, and status reports from each of the council members, following which Erik gave a presentation on a similar program he and his friends had in high school. We then opened for discussion on general ideas of how to run this new program, and what the particulars of it should be. Negotiations took place, concessions were made, and agreements were reached. In the end, a large number of specific motions were voted upon and passed regarding the logistics of the newly created "Man-time" (Tuesdays), the rules governing such, and the consequences for violation. It is a document for the ages-- a MANifesto. Matt scribed it up at the restaurant, so all that remains is for us to print it and post it on the wall under the curling posters. Hopefully it will be as smooth in implementation as it was in inception. Our girlfriends have been notified, and all seem willing to comply.


Angels' Landing

courtesy of Jeff |

You try to get away for a man-weekend, but you're never really safe. Steve, Blaine, Erik, Brandon and I spent the last few days based out of Brandon's parents' house in St. George. We went to Vegas one night and saw the famed Bodies exhibit at the Tropicana (not porn). The next day we decided to climb Angels' Landing at Zion National Park, a grueling 2.5 mile hike practically straight up the fiery red rock. It's a lot of switchbacks, and then the last quarter or so of the hike is made up of a narrow ridge only a few feet in width, with cliffs straight down thousands of feet on either side. In that environment, you have to climb up to the last peak. There's a chain to hold onto in some places just in case, but either way, it's no picnic. Nevertheless, we made it. Real sanctuary. As we enjoyed our smashed sandwiches and Doritos in the direct sunlight of the summit, we basked in the serenity of our surroundings, as well as our own accomplishment. It was only a moment, however, before those thoughts were shattered. Arriving behind us soon thereafter on the peak was an annoyance from our past- a pair of girls who graduated last year with degrees in mindless chatter. They bothered us for 20 minutes on that peak, all the while trying to get our phone numbers so we could party that night in St. George. We resisted. They're nice enough girls, I suppose, but it was a man-weekend. Anyway, they soon turned away defeated, and we enjoyed our time alone on the mountain; but we knew we'd probably pass them again on the way down. In anticipation of the repeat inquiry about our evening plans, we decided to tell them we were going to watch movies, and we each selected names (real or otherwise) of porn movies, so as to deter them from joining. Mine was, and will remain, "Buns on the Run". Fortunately, we ran past them on the way down, and then avoided them down at the base, so it never came to that rather heinous lie. It's still good to know, though, that next time our man-peace is threatened, we'll be prepared. That night, we watched the Red Sox/Indians game, an episode of "The Office", and went to bed early.


Emotion Bowl

courtesy of Jeff |

I took Sarah home for the weekend, mostly just to get away. Too much has been going on around here-- not bad stuff, per se, just too much of it. Anyway, we went to the Emotion Bowl (which was a slaughtering), Bear World, walked around downtown, hung out with the family, watched movies, etc. It was a great weekend-- with my favorite person in my favorite city just taking it easy. Back to the grind now. For some reason, we've been really busy here at the Writing Center lately. This is supposed to be my paid homework/email time. Oh well. Guess I'll do my job. My buddies and I are heading down to St. George for the three-day weekend here in a few days. Now that all of us (except one) are in some phase of a girl-related relationship, we've found it much harder to spend time together lately, so the council voted yesterday to ban all females from the trip. Chances are, it will involve a good deal of rock climbing, hot-tubbing, and nice-weather-enjoying. Meanwhile, I actually will have an easier week than usual, plus we ordered new curling brooms that are coming in tonight. So there's much to look forward to.


cabinet meeting

courtesy of Jeff |

I was sitting in cabinet meeting last night, and we were going around introducing ourselves at the outset. That was our first official meeting. Anyhow, we were supposed to say our name, major, you know, whatever we deemed pertinent. Well, the last guy seemed to think that his entire life story up to that point was pertinent, despite the fact that the first three of us just gave the aforementioned basic information. This dude took about 15 minutes talking about all of his previous majors, why he switched, his jobs, what he likes about them, dislikes, etc. It was excruciating. I would have leaped across the room and tried to take him down, but he was huge. I think he had the biggest feet I've ever seen on a non-NBA player. Peter, the president, is a friend of mine, and did his best to keep the meeting on task, but the guy just wouldn't stop. Throughout the meeting, he seemed to think that every tiny little musing that came to mind was vital for the cabinet. He should start a blog.
I'm at work now in the USU Writing Center. This is probably physically where most of these musings will originate. I'll only have a couple of minutes now, between appointments, because we're booked all day, for some reason. This is a great job, except I had to turn down Jazz preseason tickets the other day because of it. Oh well. We lost anyway.


some poetry

courtesy of Jeff |

So, I'm taking a poetry writing class now, mainly because it's required for my emphasis. I'd hoped to enroll in yet another prose class, but it was not to be. As it turns out, I've enjoyed the class a great deal, and have turned out a few lines that I think are decent. None of them are finished products, and most of them were written in an extremely short span of time. But Elton John wrote the majority of his songs in 20 minutes or less, and he's considered a pretty good lyricist. So I think that justifies it. Anyway, here are a few I've been working on. Guess under which circumstances I wrote this first one.

"Lit Analysis"

Few college minds,
Hope of our future,
Are truly awake at this hour-
Too engulfed in last night’s
Party or tomorrow’s exam
To heed Chaucer’s counsel.
The tweed man, conversely, thrives
On his cream and artificial sunrise.
He divulges to us, in big words, secrets
He’s wanted to tell of since he
Was a boy: How Conrad showed
Him mankind as it is. How
Hemingway defined for him a
Generation in five-word
Sentences. How Whitman carried
Him up to the stars and
Made him aware, before MLA
Documentation caught him,
And sent him back to bed.


If words were vitamins
Or different colored crayons-
This one for contentedness,
And this one for ire,
And this one for admiration-
You would never have seen
The black eeking forth from
The corners of my mouth,
Hardening like wax.
I didn’t know it was there.

We could have made it through,
Under the tripwire, unspotted
By the ambiguity, but
The words don’t let spies through.
They know more than we do.

They send us off in a new direction-
One that we hadn’t planned-
But which on careful consideration,
We find to be right.

"Ode to a Parking Garage"

It’s not always an orphanage
Or a park to be paved
That a parking garage may then rise.
It sometimes is even convenient.
It’s not any small project-
Ten thousand dollars per stall, as it were,
To construct such a place
I consider my own.
It isn’t a forest, a babbling brook,
It’s boxier, darker, and gray.
But shouldn’t I be allowed to take refuge right here?
This cube understands me so well.
Neither inside nor outside,
Nor public, nor private,
Not here, not yet there.
A medium, conduit, channel, no more.
Is it that ambiguity
That turns us against it?
We don’t understand it at all.

“Not another one,” we say,
“Such a blight on our town.”
So it may not be pretty, but
What if it was? Could we ever admit it?
Form that’s born out of function,
Grocery bag tumbleweeds and black oil ponds,
Fresh and thick yellow lines
Direct cars of all sizes, all shapes, and all colors
To commence with their slumber,
Caring not who they are, why it is that they’ve come.

This may not be commonly thought of as beauty,
Or honestly thought of at all.
But my roots are here, safe tight in the sprawl.
If they’re pillars, not trees, then I’m sorry.
Nature cannot provide
This great thing we’ve designed-
A concrete consultant in structural form-
The most natural place in the city.

"The Trans-Siberian Railroad"

We piled the extra horse blankets
In front of the heater to stop the flow
Of Russian over-compensation
And the gentle undulation
That now has lulled
My companions to sleep on narrow sleds
Folded out of the edge
Of a room unforgiving and metallic as the
Clanging of the rails, with gaps swollen
And contracted by the bitter cold that builds

No hills,

No towns,

No trees,

If not for the pervading darkness,
I’d see the axis-pole. But no.
Just a gloss of flaky water
Many meters high, hardened
By months of inactivity. A state
Where life cannot survive under the suffocating
Blankets. A forever sleeping land.
Except every couple hours, a town
Approaches and then passes as quickly as the
Lantern’s flicker as a man dons his fox
And his bear, to prepare to venture out,
The only time today, into the deep
To retrieve unfrozen water from the pump
To bring back to his frozen hovel,
Where no blankets go unused.

So there's that. My favorite thing to write (by far) are short stories, but I'm a little more protective of those. I'll work on some. Anyhow, I'm pretty sure the Diamondbacks/Rockies game is starting soon, so I'll probably go turn down the volume and pretend to read The Anatomy of Revolution to appease my restless self.



courtesy of Jeff |

I don't really have time for this, but I do like to write, and I like to force my life and ideas on others. So I guess this makes sense. For all who've long not talked with me, life here at USU is good. I'm taking 17 credits, with a double major, double minor, honors degree, two jobs, an internship, a girlfriend, officership of a club sport, two student government committees, and a very demanding church calling. Plus, I'm pretty sure there are other extracurricular activities I'm failing to reference. But that's ok. I think I've made my point: that I really don't have time for this. I really should slow down. Curling and writing help. Anyhow, I'm studying creative writing and am already looking into MA and MFA programs for that, although if I could find some sort of good program for foreign language study, I wouldn't be able to rule that out right away. I guess I could do both. Anyhow, I've written some things, and while they're few in number thus far, I figured this may be a decent place to post them. That would force me to boost my revision effort, anyway. So I guess I'll figure out how to do that.