Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ART VS LIFE: Ten Years Ago Today ...

The memories came back with a twit from @ohsuperheroine:

Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of STAR WARS Episode One - THE PHANTOM MENACE! [Barf!]

Give or take a couple of days, that also makes today the 10th anniversary of my college graduation. Back then I was, much as I feel I am now, something just a bit off-center, choosing the life of a college newspaper diehard over something more ... well, collegial. From my farewell column:

No big Spring Break adventures. No great college romances. No frat pledging. Not even any Greek invitations to parties. No afternoons at Monty’s drinking with my buds. No trendy shoes or wife-beater shirts or armband tattoos.

Just three years of sitting in this bunker, typing story after story, going to Associated Students meeting after women’s basketball games, after football road trip, after softball doubleheader, after tennis meet, after whatever else I’d talk myself into writing about or doing, just to feel that rush of doing something. Instead of the latest drink special; I was after a story.

So don’t feel sorry for me because you did more “typical” college things than I did. Instead of the beer bong and the body shot, I had a notebook, a recorder and a will.

The ceremony was held on a sunny Sunday morning at Tony Gwynn Stadium, then a shiny new announcement of my alma mater's fundraising power, now a backdrop for the latest baseball phenom. We didn't get to come out from the dugout, as I would have preferred, but the day was still enjoyable: I sat on the field with my newspaper colleagues and friends. (Trust me, they weren't all one and the same.) The Group -- my circle of high-school friends who I've been lucky to have since moving to the U.S. in '88(!) -- attended en masse, as did my mother.

At the time, I felt my mother's pride in me for not only surviving the accompanying culture shock, but in the journey I'd just completed. Nearly four years later, at the end of a six-month stint living back at home with her and my stepfather, as I was getting ready to move myself out on my own accord, she told me she and my stepdad never wanted me to move in with them in the first place. I realized then and there that love, as the song says, is thicker than blood. And that's all I'm prepared to say about that. Right now.

Ten years later and I've still led a life most unconventional: from the observation deck of the Sears Tower to the pits of South Texas in August; throwing the first pitch at a baseball game; I've seen death hit loved ones, and seen other loved ones give birth to new lives of their own; I have known love, I have hurt others, and I have been hurt. Part of me wonders, occasionally about the "conventional" things I've missed out on -- the weddings, the houses, the great loves -- but I don't know if the cost of getting those would really be worth it. There's not many places I'm genuinely scared of venturing into, not many styles of music or film or art I'm not at least willing to explore. I've gotten standing ovations at Vaudeville theatres and from an entire restaurant full of people. I don't believe the appeal of "growing up" would have been worth living without these experiences. Because, hell, if I'm going to die poor, the worst thing I could do to myself is to do so quietly. (I also, by the way, have a plan forming covering certain events after my death. We'll get to that later.)

I also don't think the "grown up" me would have quite the same kind of friends I do now: creative, progressive, artists, writers, musicians, performers, people who are unafraid as a matter of fact. I certainly don't think that person would have friends, literally, almost across the globe: Chula Vista, San Diego, Wichita, Los Angeles, England, Singapore, New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, etc. The kinds of folks who would know, without any prompting, that the proper graduation gift for a smart-assed geeky college journalist would be to skip the parties and liver-picklings and instead take in a matinee of The Phantom-fucking-Menace followed by dinner at a classy establishment:

Ten years later and I'm still fighting. But I still have my pride. And I still have people who care about me. Even if it takes a crappy prequel to remind me about that once in a while.

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