Thursday, November 29, 2012

Real Talk Yo

This won't make much sense if you haven't read my first and second posts about Jack.

UPDATE: There has been a major change to this post, the following section is the original, which I no longer agree with. The update follows.

I've reached a turning point in my relationship with Jack. I still enjoy the quotes he spouts off all the time when he is in "battle mode" but I'm starting to understand him a bit better during his more lucid periods. I had failed to "imagine others complexly"and had reduced him to what I had learned in a short time. He's still kinda nuts, kinda paranoid, and I have still have nothing in common with him, but Jack and I had a conversation last night that made me respect him a lot more.

Jack came into the room and was obviously distressed. I learned that Jack had encountered someone who apparently was so much crazier that Jack became self-aware of his own craziness. Jack was also concerned that this other guy might be suicidal and talked with me about what he was doing about it. He apologized for involving me in his problems but proceeded to have an intelligent discussion on the topic.

"Yo man, I know I'm crazy sometimes, and that I freak you out, but this guy was messed up. I know you don't know if I'm a good guy or not, but I know I'm a good guy. This guy....I don't know."

We talked for a while and I discovered that behind the jock exterior, the crazy, manic rapping, and the bizarre turns of phrase Jack has the same "big" thoughts that everyone has. It was eye-opening.

The rest of this post is what I was going to post until Jack and I had our little bonding moment. I expect that "Living with Jack" will become less of a feature on my blog soon because of the newfound respect I have for him.

UPDATE: Annnnnnd I just lost any respect for him I might have found. He came into the room a moment ago and told me that "his troubles were over" and that he didn't have to worry about that "crazy" guy anymore. Last night we had talked in the abstract, Jack hadn't told me anything specific about the person he was afraid of. Today he told me something more specific and it just floored me with its shallowness.

"80% sure he's gay. I mean, like, really gay. You know how gays are just looking for attention. I think that's all he's doing. 80% sure that's all the suicidal thing was about."

So I was right, sort of, I haven't been imagining Jack complexly enough. He's a complex enough person to be able to make me at first think he's crazy, then think he's crazy but has a lucid, thoughtful side, and then BAM, I find out he's a bigot who honestly believes that because a person is gay all they are looking for is attention, even when they apparently mention suicide. I'm a bit more than annoyed with Jack right now.

I guess imagining someone complexly doesn't mean you have to like them. Living with Jack will still probably feature a lot less, but not out of respect for him.

Also, for those of you who may be worried, Jack has insinuated that he truly does not believe this other person is suicidal, and has cited more reasons than "being gay." He doesn't seem inclined to offer any more details and I have no intention of asking for more.


I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

I came back from classes a couple days ago. and started cleaning up my side of the room a bit when I noticed my bed looked a little odd. The post of the footboard, made from three pieces of wood joined together, was split open. The big staples holding the pieces together stuck out about an inch from the wood. I looked at the other post of the footboard to find it suffered from similar damage.

At this point I should note that Husson does not want to pay much money to furnish dorm rooms. That said, the furniture in my room is quite old, but it is built to withstand the beating of a thousand college students.

It is NOT, however, built to withstand the beating of Jack wielding a baseball bat.
As one of my friends and commenters on this blog, Red Wolf, so eloquently put it,

"He isn't named Jack for nothing."

I would like to point out that he broke BOTH posts with ONE swing. This means that he hit the frame with enough force to twist it, forcing the other post to split.

I asked Jack about my bed when he returned to the room a bit later.

Me: Do you know what happened to my bed?

Jack: Oh yeah man, sorry about that.

Me: What....did you do to it?

Jack: I hit it with my baseball bat. I was taking a couple practice swings and slammed it pretty hard. Don't worry dude, if they charge for it it's on my head.

Me: Well.....thank you for being honest.

I would also like to point out that the images I have provided were taken AFTER Jack did his best to fix the damage.

Our conversations are still very humorous on the whole but not as quotable so I rummaged around and found a conversation I'd written down the night after Halloween. As usual there were random people yelling in the parking lots near the dorm. Jack started talking about how he always got worried about them, thinking they might try and get in, and I started jotting down notes.

Jack: It's just…whenever I hear something going on outside….

Me:  They're just messing around.

Jack: One of these times it's not gonna be someone messing around.

Me: We're in Bangor Maine, nothing ever happens in Bangor Maine.

Jack: I was ON THE WATCH DUDE!

Me: Why? Why?

Jack: Dude! You should feel safe! I have this place on lockdown!

I pointed out to him that it might in fact be worse to be locked down with him than to worry about random people outside.

Jack: DUDE THERE'S HOLES IN OUR SCREEN.

Me: Nobody is gonna crawl through the screen without us noticing.

Jack: In the imaginary world where zombies…were not real….but people were imitating zombies on Halloween and the people that were imitating the zombies on Halloween were the freaks of the freaks... which is true... and so they're like (in zombie voice) "Yeah, whatever." If they end up in our window…they're REAL people, dressed as zombies…

Me: (cutting him off) But that's not gonna happen!

Jack: If somebody who was dressed as a zombie was trying to get through my window that would mean they are trying to kill me.

Me: Nobody is gonna try to kill you!

Jack: It's not gonna happen. I understand that, I get that………but in the event that it were to happen I was ready.

Me: But WHY worry about it?

Jack: Cause they COULD!

Me: Well, the world could end tomorrow…but it's not gonna.

(Jack got very somber here)

Jack: I legit thought that the world was ending last night. I thought everybody knew. I was with a couple of my buddies. They were being all cold and….it was just because they were tired….that's when it hit me…. it was all over and nobody knew how to tell me. Nobody even cares to tell me because…..the news….the news was so weird the way they were broadcasting it....

He trailed off.

Jack: I act like such a warrior dude… I'd run.


Well Jack, we finally have something in common. In the zombie apocalypse....I'd run too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spencer is such a downer name.


Living with Jack has grown in popularity rather quickly so I thought I would follow up with another post about his antics.

Jack returned from a long weekend away just recently. He had been complaining of tooth pain for a few days prior to leaving. He was lying on his bed, occasionally uttering some line or other about tooth pain when suddenly he went motionless and stared intensely across the room at nothing in particular.

Jack: “GUMMY BEARS”

Me: “….what….?”

Jack: “Gummy bears, man”

Me: “I don't have any…”

Jack: “No dude, I need to stuff my face with gummy bears. That’ll help the pain. I'm gonna go out and buy as many bags of gummy bears as I can. And you know what?”

Me: (completely bewildered) what….?

Jack: “If I can't buy 'em….I'm gonna steal 'em. HOW MUCH MONEY DO I HAVE?”

*pulls out wallet*

Upon discovering that he only had two dollars in his wallet he decided that he might be able to buy some from a vending machine. He glanced over at me,

Jack: “I don’t WANT to steal them but if I don’t have enough money I’m gonna have to.”

He then sprang into action. He moved around the room grabbing his things. Occasionally he paused to throw out a one-liner.

Jack: “Since I have a car, I WILL go buy gummy bears.”

Jack: “Since I have class tomorrow I WILL pack for that.”

And then, noticing that I really wasn’t responding to what he was saying,

Jack: “Since I have the right to remain silent I WILL.”

Jack: “It's mind over matter kid…”

Then he left.

I didn’t see him again until the weekend was over. I did find a near-empty bag of gummy bears when I returned from class that night.

He reappeared midday on Tuesday and immediately started spouting off more quotable quotes.

“Long time no see, Giants hat” – Yes, he was addressing the hat. I wonder if this is the same hat he landed on last time?

He then mumbled something I couldn’t undertand and then shouted “SNACK PACKS!”

“Gloves, moto-stick, what more does one need?” Deep breaths and chewing gum? (see previous post)

Then he turned to me and said in a disappointed voice,

“I wish your name wasn’t Spencer. It’s such a downer name. How come your name isn’t Zack or something? Be so much easier…in battle mode…guess I just have to accept it, kills the flow man.”

I guess I don’t have a very easy name to shout when he’s in “battle mode” or something? He then prepared to head to class.

“Warriors must do what warriors must do. It’s battle time. One last time, lets go!
….It sounds so creepy…. (laughter)”

Yes Jack, it does sound creepy.

And then, my favorite quote of the day as he was finally leaving.

“I’m trying this whole pants sag thing, it’s not bad. I like to picture an ape.”

Then several seconds later…

“That whole pants saggy thing? I actually don’t like it…it’s awkward.”
“I’ll give class another shot. I’ll go to class again.”

As he receded down the hallway I could hear him “keys check wallet check  boom boom boom boom” Then he sang “Where did I park where did I park where did I park?”

Yep…

Here’s another quote I found recently that I had jotted down in a notebook a couple weeks ago and then forgotten about.
“Pit swag like nothing. Like nothing it’s a habit.”

I could not derive ANY meaning whatsoever from this sentence. I read it to a classmate who actually managed to understand what it meant.

Apparently it means –
“I have so much swag (coolness) that it is like second nature. I don’t even have to worry about it.”

I think I need to hire him as a translator.

Final note: I looked on Jack’s Facebook page. In his “about” section.

Under “favorite quotations” is the following:

“90 percent of the things i hear in my head.”

Me too Jack, me too…

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(100 total comments achieved on my blog!) – Woooot, I prefer comments to page views, so let me know what you think even if it’s just a short blurb!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Living with Jack

This is my fifth semester at NESCom.

For the first four semesters I lived in the same dorm room with the same roommate, an Italian man named Jim whom I got along with very well. I was very happy that the housing form I originally filled out had done such a good job of matching me with a roommate. We didn't talk much but we had a good rapport and never had any major conflicts. To this day Jim and I remain friends and often work on projects together.

This semester Jim moved off-campus into an apartment and for the first few days I had the dorm room to myself. However, within 24 hours of my RA discovering that there was a vacancy in my room (they had thought Jim was returning) I had a new roommate.

My initial impression of the seven-foot-tall wall of muscle bringing in a duffle bag of baseball bats was that we would have nothing in common.

I was right.

We introduced ourselves to each other briefly and I mentioned that it would be a new experience for me to live with a jock. He was upset by this, telling me that he wasn't a jock and didn't think it was very nice to be called a jock.

I apologized and then asked what he was studying. He replied "Sports Management, but I'm really only here for the baseball."

My face...

For the purposes of this blog my roommate will go by the pseudonym "Jack."

At first, living with Jack wasn't so bad. I thought it was nice to have a roommate who would talk. Jack isn't in the room very often, he's very busy with baseball practices, classes, and managing what seems like two or three relationships. So for a month or more we would speak now and then, mostly to marvel  at the fact that our schedules were almost exact opposites. I was always going in when he was headed out and vice versa. Many nights he would spend with his girlfriends and not come back at all.

This wasn't a bad situation as it was almost like having the room to myself. Then things got weird.

It quickly became apparent that Jack had a very different upbringing than me, as evidenced in his speech. His speech is what I would consider urban (One of his favorite phrases is "real talk yo" which means "This is important") but more than that it has a uniqueness to it that I have never encountered before. Uniqueness in this case translates to "completely unintelligible."

I'm not exaggerating either. He uses English words (most of the time) and the words follow what is arguably proper sentence structure, but the purpose of the sentences is beyond my comprehension. As such most of our conversations are fairly one-sided.

I cannot impart the way Jack delivered these lines but I think the oddness is apparent. Most lines are either spoken with a loud, commanding voice or a soft, halting, contemplative one. I leave it to you to decide which is which and present for your consideration a few phrases I hastily jotted down.

When Jack gets ready for class, he is always in a huge hurry and so he talks to himself to calm down and get his priorities straight...

"Deep breaths chew gum…..you know what else is there?"
"A slow turtle is better than a fast frog…… (and then quietly)…..I am a slow turtle."
"Jacket....engaged......backpack.....engaged.....caffeine...engaged..." This went on for a while.


"This puts everything on hold, this stops the flow" He couldn't find his hair gel.

"Twenty-three years old and I land on a hat..." No, I didn't mishear this.

"Do you think the mother of a douchebag.....knows?" This was prefaced with "Real talk yo..."

"Today was the first day I was able to say yes to something yesterday, and no to something today. But I could have made it happen. Whatever." A friend of mine kindly made this into a meme. (That is a stock picture, not my roommate.)

Jack is very proud of the word "skepticising" which he has coined with the following phrase.
"Man, the world has just been skepticising me today" Honestly, I kind of like this word and I think it should be a thing. Ex. "I skepticise that you could climb that cliff."

It isn't just his speech that is weird though. For example, Jack takes his baseball bat with him to go brush his teeth. He periodically raps to me about what I happen to be doing. One night Jack heard someone rapping outside (at 2AM), jumped up, ran outside, and proceeded to have an 80 decibel "rap battle" with them. Dorm residents were less than pleased with the commotion.

He has admitted to me that he is a kleptomaniac (but assured me he would never steal my things). Jack proudly showed me what he called his "power rag." Yep, power rag. It's a dishrag he stole off a counter at McDonalds. Why? Because Jack. The only other thing he's told me he's stolen was a bottle of eye drops from Rite Aid. Oh and possibly gummy bears (that's another story.)

Until I get a new roommate or I change rooms "Living with Jack" will be a recurring theme here on my blog. Trust me, this is only a small taste of what it's been like.

(UPDATE: New post! Read more about Jack here)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Small Blue Notebook



Nothing in all of human history has been analyzed, discussed, and fantasized about more than love. It is the subject of countless poems, songs, stories, and novels. In a Google search, love returns 8,310,000,000 results. In comparison, “sex,” “war,” and “drugs” return barely as many results combined. Humanity is obsessed. The world doesn’t need another twenty-year-old single white guy giving his thoughts and opinions on love. If you agree with that, stop reading now.

This blog is the second journal I’ve kept in my life. My first and only pen and paper journal was a small blue notebook I started in junior high. I wrote exactly one entry per year and the subject was almost always my thoughts on love (or early on, the person I “liked.”) I would make an entry and then tuck the journal away until I would find it again months later. If a year or so had passed I would make a new entry. I did this routinely for four or five years. Then I forgot entirely about the journal until I rediscovered it in 2010 (I think). I made one final entry in it which mostly concerned how utterly foolish I’d been when I’d written the earlier entries. I then tucked the journal into a faux leather pouch and safely stowed it where I wouldn’t lose it.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve lost it. So this post is mostly written for my future self. Unlike when I wrote in my little blue journal I now feel comfortable enough to discuss this kind of thing publicly (however public a blog with 4 readers is). I want to be able to look back years from now and see exactly what I thought about love. This is less about specific people and more about love in general.

You know what’s great about the topic of love? It is both immeasurably daunting and exceedingly natural to talk about. Everybody has a valid opinion on love because it’s part of being human. You know what else is great? Because everyone has been pondering and writing about love for so long there are no shortage of wonderfully composed thoughts I can use that express my own thoughts far more eloquently than I ever could. So, as a heads up, there will be a LOT of quotes in this post. Most are by John Green because he is a genius but their sources range from bad zombie apocalypse novellas to sweeping fantasy epics to good friends who are more important than they know and whom I, yes, love.

“Using words to talk of words is like using a pencil to draw a picture of itself, on itself. Impossible. Confusing. Frustrating … but there are other ways to understanding”(Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind.)

The best and only way to understand love is to love.

Love, like most emotions, cannot be narrowly defined because its causes are not narrowly defined. We can define a physiological reaction like thirst quite easily because we know it is caused by a lack of water. Love is not nearly so simple, and yet it is nearly as essential as the water we so easily define. Love is not simple. “The truth resists simplicity” (John Green) “That is what keeps poets scribbling endlessly away. If one could pin it to the paper all complete, the others would lay down their pens.” (Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear)

Just because love is difficult to define doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tried. Philosophically, love is often broken into three parts; Eros, philia and agape.  Generally these are defined as romance, friendship, and unconditional love respectively. Those are broad definitions, but if you really want the in-depth descriptions you can go look it up on Wikipedia.

I don’t want to talk about love defined by dusty old philosophers. I want to talk about love defined by people I can relate to. A good friend of mine recently used the quote-distribution-machine that is Facebook to post a quote from Dave Matthews which reads

“A guy and a girl can be just friends, but at one point or another they will fall for each other. Maybe temporarily. Maybe at the wrong time. Maybe too late or maybe forever.”

I thought about this for a while and I decided that it was correct, but not in the way it was intended. The quote says that friends will eventually “fall for each other.” I believe that this is true because being friends with someone is a way of falling for them. If you are good friends with someone, you love them.

This is a fact I have often forgotten in my life. Facebook and other social media have cheapened the word “friend” to mean anyone you interact with and can tolerate enough to have a civil conversation. But that isn’t friendship it’s acquaintanceship. Several summers ago I began to understand how friendship is love when a fellow camp counselor said those famous three words to me.

“I love you.”

I cannot impart the inflection in those words other than by saying they were sincere. I was taken aback because I wasn’t dating her or even flirting with her. It had been my understanding that those words were only uttered between family and romantically involved couples. I had heard them said in other contexts, but never with such sincerity and conviction. I responded in kind reflexively, the way you say “you’re welcome” when someone thanks you.

That night I felt confused and conflicted. Was she suddenly romantically interested in me? How could that be? Was she just joking? Had I suddenly become irresistible? (A kid can dream.)

I realized that it was none of those things. She was my friend and she loved me. I cannot thank her enough for the wisdom in that. It seems obvious now because I have many friends (including her) that I love and I don’t have any trouble telling them that I do. But at the time it was a groundbreaking thought for me.

So friends may “fall for each other” but in truth they have already fallen for each other. It comes as no surprise that so many slip into a romantic relationship after being “just friends”. Friendship is realizing that 

“…there is nothing romantic or supernatural about loving someone: Love is the privilege of being responsible for another.” (John Green, Zombicorns)

I’ve had two romantic relationships in my life, both of which ultimately ended with me doing the breaking up. I never thought I’d be more of a dumper than a dumpee, but there it is. Both relationships started well, they had their ups and downs like all relationships, but over time they developed cracks. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I had different concepts of love at the beginning and end of each relationship. Once the difference was great enough it became hard to continue in a relationship I didn’t believe in. I had grown, changed, and discovered that what I once thought was fine, wasn’t. I’m not going to get into detail here, that is one thing I’ll save for when I find the blue journal. Relationships are complex things and even in hindsight not easy to comprehend.

“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness” says Nietzsche. I have to give credit to the dusty old philosophers; sometimes they have some good quotes. People do not necessarily decide what or who they love, but they do make reason-based decisions while they are in love. They have to. This creates a conflict between irrational love and rational thought. “Should I base my decisions on the feelings that I feel or base my feelings on decisions and pretend the feeling's real?” (Meltdown, by Carbon Leaf) I have been accused of being a bit emotionless, of basing my feelings on decisions rather than the other way around. It is a fine line I have to walk because while I do believe that love is an important and necessary component of decision-making, I also hold rationality in equal regard.

Sometimes people let their love get a bit out of hand and put the subject of their affection up on a pedestal where they believe them to be perfect or believe they can do no wrong. They imagine the person they love to be more than they actually are.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” – (John Green, Paper Towns)

Despite being very unhealthy, this is reinforced by many traditional romance stories by the idea of soul mates. I’m very cynical of this concept. I believe it cheapens the idea of love because it takes away the power of choice. Someone who shares my cynical view of everlasting love is Tim Minchin, who performed a most excellent song about love at an Amnesty International fundraiser in 2008. Watch the whole thing, and don’t judge it too quickly, it’s meant to fool you twice. Then come back and keep reading.

You may be thinking that Tim Minchin is a horribly mean person. After all, he just told his wife that "someone else would do" and that he doesn’t need her specifically. It sounds awful initially, but Tim isn't actually being mean. He isn't saying he wants to be with someone else, just that he could be. The fact that he could love someone else doesn’t make his relationship with wife any less special. Tim is saying he is with her by choice, not by fate. If his wife was the only option because she’s his soul mate and they were destined by fate to be together forever where’s the romance in that? Everyone knows that they could love someone else (if they don't they are deluding themselves). They don't want to love someone else because they already have a connection with the one they love. Tim isn't going to leave his wife.

I actually take comfort in the fact that people can “have somebody else” because if I was the only way for my “soul mate” to be happy EVER I would feel an immense burden of responsibility and fear. I could never leave for fear of dooming them to eternal unhappiness. I wish that fate on nobody. Knowing that they can in fact be happy without me is a relief. One of the best lines in the song is “love is made more powerful by the ongoing drama of shared experience and the synergy of a kind of symbiotic empathy, or something.”

This is saying that the connection you build with a person is just as, if not more, important than the person themselves. You can find another person who is similar to the one you had been with. However, you can never recreate the connection you build with one person with someone else. When you break up with someone you miss them but what is really yearned for is the connection you had with them. How you met, what you did, the conversations you had. People are fairly unique (You’re special, just like everyone else) and so the connection between two unique people is so impossibly complex that it can never be repeated. So the other person is important because you can’t have the connection without the person.

I have tried my best to explain my thoughts on love but it has been very frustrating trying to put some of my ideas into words. I haven’t covered every aspect I would’ve liked to either. Love of family and love of the self I didn’t even really mention. Love is too massive a subject to put down in one post, but I think I’ve gotten it out of my system for now. Some of my thoughts aren’t fully fleshed out, but I am only twenty years old. I hope that in the future I will be able to fill in some of the blanks as I grow to understand and experience love more. I hope I know enough now to not screw it up in the future and to always recognize love when I find it, but my track record isn’t stellar.

I have quoted others enough and so I will leave you with a quote of my own. I believe love is the complex and innumerable connections between people that bind our existences together. Love is the recognition of oneself in someone else. You don’t love someone just because of who they are you love someone mostly because of who you are.

P.S. (I highly recommend reading any and all of the books I’ve quoted from here, they are all fantastic! I own most of them so let me know if you’d like to borrow one!)

P.P.S.   .....or a banana