My Last Day of School

The journey that ended yesterday began in a small classroom roughly 2000 miles away. A Kindergarten classroom, where my friends and I used to snuggle with large stuffed animals and play ‘house’ with the plastic kitchen set. Where I’d bring books and read them to the class, relent to close my eyes during nap time, and watch the rain fall outside our window when the clouds rolled in.

A large part of my identity was forged in those classrooms, but an even larger share of my being was formed on the grounds around the school. There I’d run about with my friends and classmates, chasing butterflies and digging around in the dirt for dinosaur bones. I never did find any. But I found a lot about who I was.

I took that love of adventure and exploring and spent it on new corners of life. I fished on rivers and hiked mountains with my family, spent grueling dog days of summer on ball-fields and slid through hundreds if not thousands of piles of mud on the football pitch. And with every little jolt of energy, every little hustle through the wind and slide through the dirt, I felt alive.

And in High School, when I grappled with some of the most pressing issues of my adolescent life, such as ‘who I was’ and ‘what in the Hell did I want to do with my life?’, I took for late-evening walks and spent the better part of my nights walking around old ballfields, and soccer fields, and school grounds. Walking was a way for me to follow the arrow of my life’s journey around the hills and the valley’s that marked my life. And I never lost that fascination with seeing the world by foot.

And so it’s only fitting that yesterday, as the sun set and the moon stretched out over the horizon, I tied my shoes and went for a long walk through the dirt and the grass of the school and the city that I now call home. I followed along the steps of my past, remembering different stories and memories as they blazed by alongside my steps.


 

The Last Day

I began my walk at the church. St. Vincent DePaul’s Cathedral. I was baptized as a child, confirmed as a near-adult, and here during the early days of College I sought refuge. I remember as clear as day sitting in the back of the church, feeling the anxiety soothe through my body as I anticipated my first day of School at DePaul. But the marble statues, and the calm eyes darting around, comforted me. For a bit. And often at night during Freshman year, I’d find myself perched upon the steps of the cathedral, pondering the enormity of throwing yourself into a new world that you didn’t know.

Next, I walk past Corcoran Hall. I used to live here, behind the shutters of a room that wasn’t quite visible from my view. The room where I had lived gave an excellent view of the soccer field, the glaring eyes of a terrifying St. Vincent face on the wall, and an American flag illuminated by the light. There’s a patch of grass just on the outside where I had discovered the first of many books that I’d read in College. Upton Sinclair’s ‘The Jungle’. And it was so fitting, for my life would be marked by the jungle that is the meatpacking city, the city of big shoulders. I swear that even today we can smell the residual stench of the meatpacking plants.

The rectangular sheet of grass behind Cortelyou Commons comes next. I look back to a particular circumstance, way back in Freshman year, where a date and I had walked along the grass here and decided to dance in the dewy grass. It’s early morning time, 2:30 or so, and she begins to play Tchaikovsky on her phone as our shoes slip off. We become good friends, and our dance is magical. A drunken mind makes you think that you’re a fantastic Russian ballerina.

Emerging gardens and flowers remind me of the sun, remind me of the beautiful ways in which the greenery of springtime emerges from the desolation of winter. But I love the winter, make no mistake. No one takes long, thoughtful walks during the wintertime. During the winter, the campus is all my own. But even now, as the weather warms and the winter fades, I can tell that it’s finally time for me to go.

I walk into the student center, and quickly walk back out. I’m reminded of over-priced but desperately needed meals, meals devoured one after another by a guy who still had the metabolism of when he was an athlete. I went here almost daily for two years, and then, suddenly, I stopped going. I didn’t need to go anymore because I had had my fill.

The Library. Oh God, the library. I’ve had some breathtakingly painful moments in here. My family would be ashamed of how many papers I’ve completed in here within mere minutes of due dates. How many finals I’ve studied for right before the exam, how many finals weeks I’ve spent huddled with my laptop and binders of notes, caught in the fetal position.

But I’ve also had some incredibly beautiful moments in there, too. I’ve read so many beautiful things on the third floor, in the open side room where everyone tries to find a table. There’s a table on the fourth floor, in the farthest corner behind a stack of bookshelves, where I poured over so many great ideas for projects of my future: poems, stories, novels, shows. If there ever is a day when my words do finally break out from the chains of this blog, it’ll be because of that chair up there.

Levan Center and the SAC. Yeah, I had a lot of classes in here. To be even more pointed, I had a lot of very boring classes in here (admittedly most of my best classes were in Arts and Letters). There’s a thing that I did every class that I had in Levan or in the SAC, where I’d leave sometime during the middle of lecture if it was clear that the words weren’t going anywhere. I’d escape and find myself to the SAC pit, where I’d sit around for a bit and contemplate my frustration with class. But it also got better, and I always went back to class a better student. Every class should have periodic breaks.

Arts and Letters. I had a lot of great classes here. Fun, insightful, thought-provoking classes in here.

But I go to Arts and Letters and only think about my time in ‘DePaul Dems’, and the other clubs that I joined during my time at DePaul. I think about my first ever meeting during Freshman year, where I sat quietly in the back of the row and didn’t know what to say. I remember my first time ever as President of that club, and how absolutely scared shitless I was. I remembered some of the stressful days, where I seriously considered quitting and giving up on politics as I knew it.

But then I remember the good days that I had in there, the good times when my friends in the club came to my aid and gave me hope. Gave me a reason to keep doing the work. And I think about my last meeting as President, how utterly emotionally devastated I was to leave but how hesitant I was to show it. You spend three years of your life with a certain group of people, and it hurts to let go. And fittingly enough I came back here a week ago and sat in on another meeting, with another group of leaders and members, and smiled from ear to ear at the end. There’s something valuable, so beautiful, in seeing the blossoms of a garden that you’ve helped grow. Being in Arts and Letters reminded me of how thankful that I was for it all.

The last and final stop of my walk is in the Quad, and by now the sun has fully descended beyond the horizon. The night has fallen, and the few stars that I can see litter the sky. Most of the nights that I’ve walked here have been accompanied by soundtracks, and playlists, and the occasional whistle. But silence is the song of tonight.

Back in High School, I used to spend the better parts of my evening sitting on a bench at Hartman park (our baseball park), watching the stars in the sky. I used to listen to music then, as I do now, but it was always the sight of the stars, and the enormity of their existence and distance in relation to us, that fully calmed my restless soul.

And so it was one night, sometime during Junior year of College, that I had found myself out on the rolling hills of the Quad, escaping an engagement that I didn’t want to attend. I laid on the grass, sprawled about and watching the stars again as their light danced around my pupils and filled me with nostalgia for the past. But it was more than nostalgia, it was an appreciation for the past, about the road that I’ve traveled and the young life that I’ve led. And, in an instant, all of my doubts and fears had vanished in the twinkle of a tear. I found myself there, if only for a little bit.

And I found myself here, in the Quad of my school, on the night of my last day of school. The air was biting and the wind was cold, but I took the familiar waltz to the rolling hills of the Quad, ever so barren from the winter that was beginning to take flight. I laid out again and watched the emerging stars pierce through the sky, forming thoughts in my eyes, and taking me back to the very beginning of my time here at DePaul. And what better way to reach the beginning than at the very end.

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Books that I read in 2015

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(Bolded below are books that I ‘pleasure read’. The rest were assigned for school).

  1. The Prince– Machiavelli
  2. A Gentle Madness– Nicholas A. Basbanes
  3. On Writing– Stephen King
  4. As I Lay Dying– William Faulkner
  5. Lying about Hitler- Richard J. Evans
  6. Catch 22– Joseph Heller
  7. How Hitler could have won world war two– Bevin Alexander
  8. The origins of the first world war- Mulligan
  9. Pride and Prejudice– Jane Austen
  10. The Tempest– William Shakespeare
  11. The firm,  The Inside Story of the Stasi- Gary Bruce
  12. The opposite of loneliness– Marina Keegan
  13. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer- Mark Twain
  14. Tom Sawyer Abroad– Mark Twain
  15. Genghis Khan; Emperor of all Men– Harold Lamb
  16. Don Quixote– Cervantes
  17. The Swerve– Stephen Greenblatt
  18. The Idiot– Dostoevsky
  19. Twilight– Elie Wiesel
  20. Silver Star– Jeannette Walls
  21. Democracy Matters– Cornel West
  22. Baddawi-Leila Abdelrazaq
  23. The Bridge at Remagen– Hechler
  24. Detroit city is the place to be– Mark Binelli
  25. In the Garden of Beasts– Erik Larson
  26. The Scarlet Pimpernel-Emmuska Orcey
  27. Anna Karenina– Tolstoy
  28. The richest man in Babylon– Clason
  29. The Time Machine– H.G. Wells
  30. The snows of Kilimanjaro– Hemingway
  31. Travels with Charley– John Steinbeck
  32. A Sand County Almanac– Aldo Leopold
  33. Call of the Wild– Jack London
  34. Sherlock, a scandal in bohemia– Doyle
  35. Alice in Wonderland– Lewis Carroll
  36. Meditations– Marcus Aurelius
  37. The Metamorphosis– Kafka
  38. Sherlock, the red headed league– Doyle
  39. Sherlock, a case of identity– Doyle
  40. Sherlock, the Boscombe valley mystery– Doyle
  41. History of Julius Caesar– Abbot
  42. 2bro2b– Vonnegut
  43. Heart of Darkness– Conrad
  44. Faust– Goethe
  45. The Jungle Book– Kipling
  46. Orientalism– Edward Said
  47. De Profundis– Oscar Wilde
  48. The Million Pound Bank Note– Mark Twain
  49. Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century– Sean Patrick
  50. The Importance of Being Earnest– Oscar Wilde
  51. On the Decay of the Art of Lying– Mark Twain
  52. The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction- Tyerman
  53. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites- Mitchell Stevens
  54. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It- Hacker & Dreifus
  55. Troilus and Criseyde– Chaucer
  56. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I– Gibbon
  57. The Fall of the House of Usher– Poe
  58. The Pit and the Pendulum– Poe
  59. Richard III– Shakespeare
  60. Dracula– Bram Stoker
  61. Thinking fast and slow- Kahneman
  62. Historians in trouble- Wiener
  63. Woman on the edge of time- Marge Piercy
  64. God on the quad- Naomi Riley
  65. The masque of the red death– Poe
  66. Crusader castles and modern histories- Ellenbloom
  67. Missoula- Krakauer
  68. Excellent sheep- William Deresiewicz
  69. Why are professors liberal and why do conservatives care?- Neil Gross
  70. Oliver twist– Charles Dickens
  71. Moon and sixpence– W. Somerset Maugham
  72. Robinson Crusoe– Daniel Defoe
  73. The Hanging Stranger– Philip K Dick
  74. The skull– Philip K Dick
  75. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn– Mark Twain

 

Five favorite books that I read this year.

Anna Karenina– if you can get past the hours and hours that it will take to digest the content of this romantic and emotional drama, you’re in for one of the greatest pieces of storytelling known to human history. It’s simply incredible how a human can paint such a full and detailed portrait of fictional characters. I had a hard time leaving the universe that Tolstoy created for us. Highly recommended.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume I– this is unquestionably lauded as one of the finest accounts of the Roman Empire, and arguably one of the most thorough pieces of historical literature ever devised. I’ve never stumbled across a book that made me feel this close to the exploits of men such as Caesar, Nero, and Aurelius. Highly recommended.

Travels with Charley– being a huge fan of Steinbeck’s style helped me out with this, but there’s something here for everyone. It weaves around the American scenic and cultural landscape in a way that goes to show us why the writer made his mark in middle century America. It’s a fun read.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn– There’s no real need to review this one, since most of you likely read this sometime during your early educational careers (or didn’t read, for that matter). It’s a masterpiece, plain and simple. Flawed, cracked, revealing in nearly every dialogue the fractured state of 19th century America. Read.

Missoula– I read the majority of this in a public setting and nearly instantly regretted it. It’s chalk full of gut-wrenching, disgusting yet incredibly thought-provoking scenes of sexual assault and the way in which institutions of higher authority often silence victims. I nearly barfed during some descriptions. Read, please.

Blog Recap: Bahamas Trip 2015

So it’s been a about a month or so since our Cruise line nestled into harbor after a three to four day journey. I wanted to able to write down my experiences on the trip while my photos from the journey gathered dust on my desktop, so here we are.

My Father, Stepmother, Stepbrother and I boarded a Carnival cruise-line aimed for a three day adventure around the Bahamas; the first day in Freeport, the second day in the capital city of Nassau, and the last day crawling comfortably back to Florida at roughly seven knots (no joke). This had been my second cruise (my first was quite a while ago on a Princess Cruises trip through the Caribbean), so I figured I’d know what to expect on both the cruise and the islands.

Fortunately enough I was wrong!

The Cruise Ship

The first half-day of travel on the cruise was a blast! The food was pretty solid (free buffet-style dining is always appreciated), the room worked, and it was enjoyable enough just exploring the ship during the evening. I found myself walking around in the late evening as the pool and crowded hot-tubs started to shut down. Near the bow of the ship I found an excellent place for stargazing; hid right underneath an overhang that blocked any sort of light pollution from the rest of the ship. I could see the Milky Way Galaxy fairly clearly on both the first and the second nights, though it clouded up the last few nights as rain clouds hovered on the horizon.

The employees were great! They’d decorate our beds every night with cute creatures made out of towels. But on the second to last night, something weird began happening with the towels…

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Okay, so here’s the ‘adorable towel animal’ that the crew made for us. I can’t entirely tell if that’s a giraffe, the starfish bastard of a giraffe (probably most likely), the actual loch ness monster, or just a gigantic penis-like monstrosity. It gave my step-brother and I a hearty laugh, and I really sincerely hope that the crew wasn’t trying to make an actual animal here.

But skip forward to our last evening on the cruise ship. We get back from the dining room, and stumble upon this…

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Now, do I even have to explain this thing? I can imagine what was going on in the crew member’s mind as they did this.

Fuck it; it’s the last night of the cruise, and I have nothing to lose. I might as well make a vagina out of their towels.”

But seriously, look at this thing. LOOK AT IT! This creation is the definition of the ‘shrug emoji.’ Basically a polite ‘meh’ to the establishment, if you ask me. It gave me one of the best laughs of the trip, plus the towel dried me off more than well after a last dip in the hot-tub. That was a successful vagina towel.

Freeport, Bahamas

So on our first full day we docked in Freeport, Bahamas. I wasn’t sure at all what to expect from this island; I awoke from my room to see gigantic oil tankers and fuel depots lining the shoreline, so I was trying to decide whether we’d be taking strolls on beaches or tours through factories.

It was neither.

We got driven out on an excursion to this really pretty garden, constructed and grown by a fairly prosperous family near the end of the twentieth century. Looking back on it now, the entire family pretty much owned the entire island (them and the largest company on the island, which is a shrewd indicator of the colonial underpinnings of this island nation). Nevertheless, it was beautiful! But I’d have to say that one of my favorite parts of Freeport was this.

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Strongback Stout. It’s a locally brewed beer in Freeport, and boy was it delicious! This photo was taken approximately two minutes before an angry swarm of bees stormed upon our table and devoured my entire family’s food. Yes, the bees were actually beginning to dive within the contents of their food. I didn’t order food so I somehow got spared from the mayhem of the attack of the killer bees of Freeport.

Nassau, Bahamas

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This picture fully encapsulates the fun activities I partook in during my short adventure around the Bahaman Capital City of Nassau. It was a nice departure from Freeport and offered up a little bit of everything for everyone; old forts with ginormous cannons mounted atop, hours of relaxation on a pristine beach, or just a great glimpse at the urban agriculture of an island nation. Either way, I had a blast.

The picture above was taken just after my step-brother and I sped through a self-guided tour of an old Rum distillery in the city. It had roots stretching back to the earliest days of British colonialism (such an example was the well out back dug out from native slaves centuries ago). You could also taste the legacy of western imperialism with each gentle sip of the nation’s only seriously-understood export.

But in all seriousness, the rum was delicious. The bartender told us to sip each sample-size of rum to allow the ‘woody’ flavors to rest in the back of our throats, but instead we downed each one little cup like a celebratory shot. We’re such good American tourists!

FORTS

Exploring the forts gave me a sort of childish fascination. It’s akin to that moment where you read of a heroic adventure in some classic piece of literature only to see the setting of said book resting before your eyes.

These two forts gave a great view into what life must have been like for the British Empire here in the Bahamas. You could stand out on the top of the fort and lean against iron cannons and feel as if you were truly looking out on the ocean for any sign of pirates. I was trying my best to catch Jack Sparrow in the flesh, but he somehow fled my keen eye.

One of my favorite things about the forts was what were in the walls themselves. Through the many years of occupation British soldiers had etched their names and memories into the thick layer of the forts stone walls. There was a sort of bittersweet beauty in looking at the memories of long-gone soldiers etched onto nearly permanent walls.

The City

If you know me at all, you’d probably be able to guess what my favorite thing was to do when I explored the city.

Walking.

Aside from maybe a bicycle or the cart of a rickshaw, walking by foot must surely be the best way to see a new land. You can walk along the same streets and dirt alley-ways that the natives walk on, which is an eye-opening gaze into a world that you can’t quite understand from an expensive excursion. I loved the variety of urban architecture that dotted the city; from streets named after Parliament, statues carved in the likeness of Queen Victoria, to decrepit buildings slowly fading away to rubble. I got to the point where I had clearly went beyond the typical ‘tourist zone’, which is always the best part of any adventure such as this.

My Take!

If you have the opportunity to explore the Caribbean, please take it! Whether you’re into the history, the food, the alcohol, or all three, you’ll find something to enjoy in the Bahamas. Just please try to get past the touristy jewelry shops and factory-made cheap goods dotting the streets; once you start to catch glimpses of the real Bahamas, you’ll remember why you came in the first place.