Thursday, September 11, 2008

The More Things Change

A year ago I wrote a post regarding September 11th, and little has changed in its relevance (save for changing "six years" to "seven"). In fact, things might have gotten worse, especially after Giuliani's presidential run with "noun, verb, 9/11" speeches, the unknown whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, and--most disgusting for me--this "tribute" video from the Republican National Convention. With every passing year a terrible tragedy and a beautiful rebirth get more and more trivialized, marketed, whored out and profiteered with devastating effect. Remember 9/11 today, remember what came out of it in November.

It's been seven years. Wow. Like anyone else, I can ramble through the particulars of the day: pre-litigated Coach Feldman telling us about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower (but still having to teach us about safety while lifting weights); going into Chemistry and watching both towers fall; the crisp, sunny afternoon and how something this terrible isn't allowed to happen on a day this beautiful. I'm sure you've been running through these same scenarios in your mind all day as well. The details still cut with incredible precision, and I doubt they will dull in time.

It's strange how the day has been mutated ever since. It has become a talking point, a fear tactic, a construction plan, a reason for more death, a squabble over a politically correct statue, a tent pole for polity. It's been a while since the tiny American flags were on every car, front door, and overpass. It's been some time since tragedy was transformed into unity, then patriotism and a rallying cry, then belittled as a conspiracy theory, a talking point, a charade. It says something dire about our society that we could so effortlessly and mindlessly turn a negative into a positive and then right back into a negative. The tragedy keeps unfolding.

Seven years. We've all had that weird "has it been seven years already?" moment, where we try and go back and touch the clothes, listen to the music, see the people. We try and put ourselves back into the proper perspective to re-break our hearts. To most of us, seven years in the past is just a marker of where we've been, where we've gone, and what has changed between then and now. What gets lost is what those seven years could mean others. The infant boy whose mother died is now a second-grader. The sixth-grader who has to cope with the loss of her father is starting college. A wife has to spend what was to be her 25th wedding anniversary alone.

I hate the phrase "never forget." It's common sense; I don't have to be reminded to remember. Far too often we remember Tower Two getting hit, the awful long shot of both Towers in line with each other, a plane coming from the right, a dreadful pause, then the blow out of fire, smoke, debris and flesh from the left side. We think of terrorism, and we fill our hearts with hate.

Tonight, remember the people who were working a boring job to pay the mortgage, or to get their kid through school, or because that's what their parents always wanted her to be, only to be killed. Remember the kids who, in a flash, had to traverse an infinitely more difficult road through life than we can imagine. Remember the firefighters and police who held the badge and their duty over their own lives. Don't think about the conspiracy, the wars that have come forth, the fear that we're constantly reminded of and held down because of. Remember the victims, remember the heroes, and remember the families of both.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Low Light

Is there a stronger human emotion than loneliness? Or is emotion not the right word; mechanism, condition, fault, component, downside? It is the one constant we are always striving against, even if it isn't in those terms. We do not want to be homeless, alone on the street somewhere begging for money from a group of people totally and completely disconnected from us. We pick which colleges to go to, the good ole' vessels for our future, based on the sizes of student population, determined to find out which one we would fit best in. We drunkenly hook up with one another because we want the carnal experience, sure, but it isn't a terrible feeling to sleep with the comfort of someone directly next to you.

Is there a more palpable sense in the repertoire of humanity? Pain is a feeling to extreme to contemplate; you simply feel it in varying degrees. In a lot of pain, you never stop screaming to ponder, "in what ways did I bring this pain on to me, and what is the best possible means to alleviate myself of this stigma?" Your brain is wired on instinct to help yourself (in most cases, get to a hospital). Grief is something that can overcome all rational thought, shutting down your cognitive because it cannot function when it's submerged so deep in sorrow and tears. You never think "why am I so sad?" when a loved one passes away, you simply are and we accept that fact. If you're happy, there is never a point where you try and analyze the function that causes your happiness. Oh, I found five dollars in my pocket, but why is my mouth all stretched out? Technically you broke even with yourself, but notching a +5 in your mental bank accounts just feels better.

Loneliness is unique because it is a feeling that can be seen in almost all feelings. You can be sorrowful because you are lonesome, can exacerbate pain because there is no one to aid you, and the sheer avoidance of the state can lead to happiness on its own, even if the time you had with people is lackluster. It can certainly damper your mood, alter your state of mind, inhibit your actions...hell, if it made you crash a car it would probably be illegal to take across state lines.

Yet it is the unique problem that we all suffer from, across the board, in every part of the globe, within every last shred of humanity. They even pulled it off with a robot in the brilliant Wall-E. That movie works in the most basic way because while it is an animated robot from the future, he deals with a constant in our lives and is instantly relatable, no matter the vessel in which the message is delivered (or trash compacted).

If the universal language is music, then all the solos exist because of loneliness. It is the condition that drives at least a quarter Beatles songs. It is the mechanism for terrible social and romantic ideas. It makes watching movies in the theaters more enjoyable because it is avoided. It makes attending sporting events better because you can high five someone other than yourself.

I have never felt more boxed in then being back at home after college. There is a clear divide that occurs almost immediately after you receive your diploma (or, in my case, a diploma holder with nothing in it until you have to retrieve it on your own the next day). Like a light switch being flicked up, suddenly you are an adult. You cannot relate to anyone under the age of 21 in the same way again. Ostensibly, your childhood is over. The 16+ years of schooling have been preparation, one grade after another, for this moment, where you are thrust into the adult world. But this is common knowledge.

What isn't--or at least wasn't to me--is the post-college experience of living at home. My work schedule doesn't match some of my best friends’. It doesn't even match some of my not-so-good friends. Yesterday, I had to put my car in the shop and my mom wasn't answering her cell phone, so I figured I'd just call someone else. As I'm walking down the street carrying a trumpet case and listening to an iPod on a road that is not designed for foot travel (don’t ask), it dawned on me that I had no one to immediately call. If I were in Boston in March, there are tons of numbers to call of people who are a mile or so away that could quickly come to my aid. Now, I have friends at jobs on Wall Street who I'm lucky to see once every weekend. I have friends going to Europe for years on end. I have friends who I know simply wouldn't pick up the phone.

By no means is this meant to lament my stasis, to "woe is me" until I'm crying to Dashboard Confessional. Instead, I think I'm hitting on a great irony. After years of being told "Michael, all your classmates feel this way," I'm taking a step out onto the ledge. My entire grade that is home right now mostly sits at home, bored, waiting for someone to talk to or call, yet we don't have the gumption to do anything about it because we don't know where the hell we are, let alone anyone else. You can't walk down the street and run into people; you see them briefly on a road as you both shoot by in cars, gaining a simple moment of acknowledgment, a thought of "I never see him/her/them" glances by just as quickly as the moment. Here we are, all of us, a group separate, but oh so connected in a most vital way.

And we're too alone to even realize it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Alive? Too Alive

The brain has such a unique and complex ability to block out ideas, events, and conduct that it simply does not want to render. If you are abused as a child, your brain can trip its own defense mechanism and completely block it out of your conscious mind. Or, if you are drunk and do something incredibly stupid, do you black out, or does your brain resist remembering the event because of the guilt that you would have to suffer through?

I know there is one thing I certainly forgot about: moving home after graduation. Now here I am, back in the same home that was purchased so I could one day grow up and frolic in a back yard, sitting in the same room where I went from sleeping in a crib, to a big boy bed, and finally to a longer big boy bed, and I can't for the life of me understand how I neglected this part of the equation. Of course I had to live at home. What was I going to do, get a great job from junior through senior year to carry me over so I could afford a place to live? Pfft, yeah.

I'm now a graduate with a film and television degree, where else was I going to go? I feel like I'm in a Greek tragedy, and that since I was a freshman in high school who decided he had to go to film school, I have been avoiding the inevitable, somehow unable to see the future that I could never avoid. You know, without that whole “sleeping with your mom” thing.

Anywhoo, here's some random shit that's been bouncing around my head for the last...well…before I embarrass myself by figuring out when my last "random" blog post was, I'll just say it's been a while.

Is there a household in America who actually allows a house cleaner to fully do her job? For a brief stint, the Anton family had someone come by and clean the house every week. It was so long ago that we were using the archaic and now certainly non-PC term of "cleaning lady," as opposed to the now-appropriate "cleaning woman." Every week before she came over, my mother would yell at me that [b]we[/b] needed to clean the house, for the cleaning lady (pardon) was coming the next day.

What other profession exists where the people hire someone to do a job, and then attempts to accomplish it before the employee gets there? Before surgery, do you clean out your internal organs and try to make them as neat and presentable before the doctor cuts you open? Do you start building your deck before the construction crew arrives so you don't have to be embarrassed by how much progress you haven't made?

What is the point of even having a cleaning woman if you're going to do half the job but still pay her full price? Shit, I cleaned my room and never got a dime, but this woman strolls in, neatly puts some things in a corner and hits my desk with Pledge and gets all the reward?

The other half of the payment has to combat the weird insecurity women (especially mothers) have when they invite other people into their homes. Except, ya know, this person is supposed to thwart said insecurity by cleaning the house so that the mother does not have to deal with such a problem. For whatever reason, moms have this idea that they need to present a house to others that seemingly no one has ever lived in, neglecting to recognize that everyone else is pulling the same gimmick.

It's a vicious cycle and I'd have someone try and sort it out for me, but I'd be embarrassed that this problem exists in the first place.

Is there really anything worse in the world than seeing a wet pubic hair on a toilet? There is simply no getting around it. You walk into a public bathroom that you clearly have to use (why the hell else would you be in a [i]public toilet[/i]?), you lift the seat up or just stare down, and there it is: wet pube.

You can't avoid looking at it, either. Like a traction beam, it just holds your rapt attention while you stand there, motionless, unable to stop it. Do you wipe it? Can you seriously wipe away someone else's curly, awful personal hair that is no doubt not covered by any other liquid than urine?

My god, what if the offending pube and puddle of piss [i]aren't even a matching set?[/i] How does one cope with this? There it is, just looking at you, kinda bent more than curled, drowned in waste, hanging on to the edge of the bowl, refusing to be effortlessly washed away into the swirl of the toilet.

We are fighting many losing wars--Iraq, Afghanistation, on Drugs, on Blatant Horseshit and Rampant Stupidity--but we cannot lose the war against wet toilet pubes. Don’t worry, just vote to give me power to act, and in three weeks time I'll bomb the toilet at a McDonalds.

Mission Accomplished.

I was never good at Logic in Math class, but here goes nothing: If there is a drunk girl, and there is a table in the room, a drunk girl will dance on it. I have seen it nearly everywhere I go, and have no idea what the allure is. Dancing above people? A fascination of putting your shoes where other people eat and have no doubt that it will not be adequately cleaned for patrons the next day?

In a rare form of proper journalistic conduct, I have decided to actually do some work in a segment I will entitle "Useless Knowledge," where some of my pithy rhetorical questions will be answered by someone who does one of those things I am mystified by. Because it is me and it is this blog, don't expect this segment to ever come back.

I dispatched a call to my friend Catherine, a self-proclaimed master of dancing on tables, to try and get to the bottom of this phenomenon. She explained, "Well, I guess, if you like dancing, doing it on elevated surfaces is just one step better. Oh, and it's about being the center of attention, pretty much. When I get drunk, I feel the need to climb on things and dance. Not something I feel the need to do when sober."

She will fall off the table "infrequently," and the impromptu scaffolding must always be "secure…unless I'm really drunk." When asked if she would fear dancing on the table if she fell off (the only time she could recount falling was when she had "three girls on one table," clearly not enough table to support the three ladies), she decidedly answered no. Clearly, when you fall off the table, you hop right back on the horse and dance. Or something.

Finally, when asked if she saw a girl dancing on a table, then saw two tables stacked one on top of another, if she would climb that mighty heap just to dance on a more elevated surface, Catherine answered an emphatic “yes,” before saying, "well the elevated surface needs to be secure." It is that second of recognition of danger and the abject lack of safety that is quelled by alcohol. Therefore, we have found out that girls need to be the centers of attention at all times, and that alcohol fuels their undying quest to both show up men and especially other women around them.

And they do not care about the sanitary conditions of tables, yet they will never eat something that falls on the ground. Hypocrites.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Here

The days have all been getting shorter, while consequently the sun has been going down later and later, for The Day approaches. It's a day that, while you aren't always aware of the exact date, it lingers in your mind for months and months. Maybe even from October forward. It might not be on the tip of your tongue when you're talking to your friends, but you all know what's going on behind the curtain; we certainly can't be such fine actors that we all hide it. When The Day finally comes, it seems surreal, like it was always just around the corner. Now that it's here, nothing is the same.

Everything from this day forward is different. It just...feels different, smells different, tastes different. There are more clinical more pointed words to describe what the day itself is, but what lingers more is the feeling. This is a day you remember for some time. It's a day without care, forethought, or pants.

It's Spring Day.

Spring Day is the first true day of Spring in Boston. Now you can say, "well it's been nice out for a couple of weeks, and the first actual day of Spring was a week ago you non-calendar-reading dope." True, and I do hate calendars, which is why I never put up Zack's move-in gift the 2007 Extreme Ironing Calendar. But has it trulybeen Spring? No, it was New England's attempt at the season, which goes as follows:

Go outside in the morning and it's 45 degrees, even though it says the high will be 68. "Impossible," you say, since this weather holds through Noon. Suddenly at 2 pm, it's 64 degrees, prompting you to stop on your walk and take off your hoodie and put it in your backpack or bag while you sweat constantly down your pant legs. You go to class and walk back home but the sun is low, causing shadows that feel like your marching to lay eggs in Antartica while Morgan Freeman does voice over for your actions. Shade moves and you're sweating out 68 degree heat again. Even though there is no sun, the night can stay anywhere between temperate and "fuck this" cold. Finally, it's time to go to bed and it's 30 degrees out, causing you to bundle up before waking up in the morning in yet another pool of sweat. This is less of a "warm season" and more like water boarding.

Spring Day is the first time where it's warm from when the day opens until deep into the night, and involves a leap of faith that almost everyone is willing to take. While guys can break those shorts out of hiding, it's a whole other ritual for women. It's as if they are finding some catharsis for six months in leggings, coats and scarves, making up for lost time. As you walk down the street, there are sun dresses, low cut shirts, and mini skirts in all directions. Everyone is happier, more fun, attractive, funny, personable. Spring Day is also not just for the upper crust of attractiveness, as it makes everyone just much more attractive. Ugly face? Great legs! Freak arm that bends the wrong way? Cute smile! It is some sort of carnal and peaganistic "fuck you" to winter in New England. We beat you, we survived, and look how little clothes I can wear!

Being the journalistic watchdog I am, I decided to go outside and check out Commonwealth Avenue and BU's campus to live blog the day's events. Except that I just typed up little notes on my cell phone and I'm writing about it a few hours after the fact. But it's close to live blogging, and I don't think there's anything creeper than going out with a laptop on a beautiful day, sitting around on the grass, and reporting--in real time--what people are or aren't wearing. Instead, I'll merely tape delay it, and therefore feel like a normal person.

10:30 AM - Well, nothing going here. Could I have guessed incorrectly? Was I too optimistic? Sigh. There are only some capri pants, which are just a ridiculous idea. How indecisive a person are you where you can't decide between shorts and pants? Has anyone ever said, "well, my ankles were really warm today while my thighs were freezing, but thankfully I had my capri pants for this perfect intersection of comfort, clothing, and weather." I'll accept them on mothers over 40 and girls under 10, who are undoubtedly influenced by their mothers in clothes selection. I refuse to accept them on males in any condition, European or not. You should be more sensible.

11:00 AM - On the T, see some shorts, a low cut shirt, but that's about it. Every male is wearing shorts. Sorry women, this day doesn't seem to be equal for you. Another thing to add to the list whenever a man brings up how painful it is to be hit in the crotch. For some reason, women as a group just cannot allow men to get away with discussing how much pain is involved when hit in the genitals. There must always be a follow up on how bad it is to be a woman involving child birth, periods, getting hit in the breasts. Add "Spring Day oggling" to the heap.

12:27 PM - It begins!

12:46 PM - The BU Beach is a curious place. For those not in the know, BU's campus is mostly along a strip of Commonwealth Avenue in Boston from about 500 Com until 1019 Com, and the only strip of grass is located in the middle of our "campus." The slang term for the patch is the "BU Beach" because if you lay down on the grass and hear the cars passing on a fairly major road just next to the grassy knoll, it supposedly sounds like waves at a beach. I prefer to think it sounds like cars on a well-traveled road because that's what it fucking is.

The Beach on Spring Day--and many days after--is just littered with humanity, looking like a refugee camp for the Hamptons. Stretching as far as the eye can see, there are lush greens and pale whites desperately trying to eviscerate their skin cells until it becomes a lovely mocha. I cannot slight those girls who go to get their fake tans (right above a sushi place, so you know it's quality) and have a rolling start when the season begins. Hope the cash was worth it because now you get FREE sun.

There are also guys just peppered around, talking to no one in particular on cell phones as they take a slow 360 degree turn to let everything in. They will also slowly bike by and errantly throw a frisbee around. It's quite pathetic. But then again, they aren't writing about it, let alone in a time-specific manner.

1:05 PM - There are three Yeah Dudes hanging out at the top of the hill, shirtless, and trying to get some attention. Yeah, ok. That works. Another reason why Yeah Dudes/Dude Bros ruin everything.

What is potentially shocking is that two of the most sexually promiscuous days of the school year are now days apart. Spring Day is today, and then Marathon Monday is...well, this Monday. Hold on to your hats, folks. And by hats, I clearly mean prophylactics that merely look like hats.

Friday, November 23, 2007

For You (And Me)

My mom and I were discussing how she believes that there is an openness about her, a frank way of putting herself out there when in general she is closed down. She only lets people know what she wants and therefore comes off--in her mind--of being open and honest.

Well, it's Thanksgiving, a holiday that asks of nothing but eating and sincerity. The hack thing to do is to make a list of all the things you're thankful for on Thanksgiving. The cheap way to go about it is to discuss all of the things that you're thankful aren't happening, so you can put something up, feign being clever, and not give anything away. The real way to do it is to be raw, bare, open, and (unfortunately, probably) unedited.

I am thankful for the fact that I come from a middle class home and that I didn't have to struggle for anything. Whatever I wanted, if it was reasonable, was mine. I'm thankful that I have never been forced to have a job, or had to deal with money issues strictly on my own. I'm thankful that where I went to school was always an academic issue and never a monetary one. I'm thankful that my dad has probably taken years off of his life to work for this to happen for me. I joke that because of my spending, he'll be working til he dies at 90. I have few goals, and one of them is to make god damn well sure that he never has to work again as soon as I possibly can. I'm thankful that if this never happens, he'll love me the same.

I am thankful for the blessing and the curse of living and growing up in such a small town. I am thankful that I can walk down the street and have the comfort of knowing someone at almost every other house. I am thankful that I grew up not having to worry about violence, or bullies, or dealing with bullshit peer pressure. I am thankful that there were teachers who gave--and still give--their time to a school that is criminally under funded, improperly cared for, and never get their due credit (like any teacher anywhere, really). I am thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from everyone and everything around me, and that I became wise enough to indulge and appreciate the experience long after I first soured on it and right before I left it, probably forever.

I am thankful for friends who have become almost innumerable. Everywhere I turn there is someone that I can trust and love and, even more importantly, joke around and be stupid with. There is such an incredible diverse and special group of people everywhere I go that it astounds me. Kids in high school, kids in college, adults who have gotten married, filling every inch of the spectrum. The only problem I seem to have is that there aren't enough hours in the day to appreciate all that they offer, all that they so unselfishly give out, seemingly unaware of how special they are. I am thankful that they can take me at face value, and the special ones that can see right through my "happy jokey guy" bullshit and see me for me, that I don't need to perform around. I'd run out of space for names, but I love all of you. I am absolutely nothing without you. Nothing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I am thankful for the gift and ability to write something like this out. I'm not thankful that I'm far too much of a lightweight to go around and tell people this stuff face-to-face, but, what can ya do? Write about it on the internet, I guess. I am thankful that my parents always encouraged me to be creative. Fuck, they let me be a film major without a blink of an eye. I am thankful for my mom for giving me a vast vocabulary; even though the word I learned from her the most is probably "fuck" (which is my fault, and not a lack of due diligence on your part). I am thankful that I just wrote and directed a 10-minute short film. I'm a filmmaker. An actual, bona fide filmmaker.

I am thankful that I have been able to use a keyboard and a varying succession of keystrokes to let my frustrations, tears, anger, surprise, glee, thoughts, feelings, and fears in such a safe and cathartic way. I am thankful for the fact that people actually read this, enjoy it, and sometimes even taking something from it. I am thankful that when I write about topics, I'm not alone. I am thankful that my bullshit can actually be used for something other than letting off steam.

I am thankful for my apartment and my roommates. I am thankful that I can live with two people who are essentially on opposite sides of the coin in many respects, and are linked in the most basic ways. I am thankful that I can walk away from college knowing full well that I got an education in life at the very least for two years. I am thankful that I can talk about films, writing, comedy, and anything else on the radar with Zack. I am thankful to grow as an artist off of him, and I hope I'm pushing him, too. I am thankful that Ben is a fucking rock, and reminds me a lot of my dad in so many ways. I am thankful that there is someone who always has two feet on the ground, who keeps me earnest. I am thankful that fate put us in that apartment, because it's meant the world to me.

I am thankful for a dedicated family who refused to let me down, or feel unloved, or insecure, or push me in any other way than positively. I am thankful that this extends far up and around the tree, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmas. I did not know how to be a son, my mom did not know how to be a mother, and my dad did not know how to be a father. It took a while--and a lot of work--but we all came through swimmingly. Of course it could be better; when can it not? We are once again going to hit a new transition with me leaving, and I am thankful that I do not have to worry about it. At all. We're all going to be ok. We're going to make it.

Finally, I am thankful that I can say thanks.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Heart Of The City

Boston just sounds different after it rains. The T doesn't glide by as easily. Cars make a more deliberate sound as their tires pull down for more traction as they move in the night in either direction past my apartment's windows. It does not matter if you're in Ben's room, the living room, or directly behind me in my room, the soft torrent of cars never ceases. It is past one so the T no longer rumbles, but that bass is replaced by shrill screams of drunk college kids heading East; the reverse Manifest Destiny. They have already conquered the West on this night, and the ones who haven't already found a bed retreat to their own. And certainly not like church mice.

As graduation--and the real world which sits directly on its broad shoulders--approaches with every passing day, there is one thing that I fear more than anything else: losing the heartbeat of Boston.

There is nothing that I have fallen more in love with than Boston. I have had girlfriends, I have had friends, I have had films, songs, but nothing affected me quite like this city has. It happened immediately, even with imminent death feet ahead. After a play rehearsal one night senior year, my Dad and I packed up the Explorer and headed north via I-84 en route to Boston and our room at the Hotel Commonwealth. On the way, we both had to trade off who was in charge of the gas-powered monster since either one of us would be ready to pass out at the drop of an odometer. When we arrived, I did not know--or care--where we were in relation to Boston. All I knew was that there was a bed waiting for me in the tower above.

The next morning I had to visit Emerson College and Boston University, the two Boston schools with film programs. My dad opened the window to find the Green Monster, feeling like an arm's reach away, staring back at us. There it was. It is akin to brushing your teeth, looking in the mirror, and hey, the Mona Lisa. What's up. It was still early (at least relative to my sleeping schedule, one of the few traits that I will carry with me where ever I land) but I scrambled to get out of bed and put my glasses on to take it in. My dad and I stood there for a good thirty seconds, standing both in awe and out of respect.

I walked the same streets that my mom fell in love with god knows how long ago in that oft told story, "I was walking down Commonwealth Avenue...". The story that got me to think of BU in the first place. I remember seeing so many foolish "Cowboy Up" bumper stickers, for we ventured up after the 2003 ALCS. (I did not know then that that moment would be my happiest as a Yankee fan in Boston.) I met BU's campus and just knew, like how the guidance counselors always spout out about how you just "feel" it but you think it's bullshit, and then you find out first hand how wrong you were. Sort of like how my mom walked in to the only house I've ever known as home, took three steps inside, and realized this is where the Anton Family would reside. Where later her son would grow up.

It's been almost four years since that trip. In that time--and in Boston--I have been in love, fallen out of it, turned 21, watched my Terriers win Hockey East, stayed up talking til 4 AM on countless occasions in various locations, have been intimate, have been lonely, have been surrounded by friends, have been decidedly alone (or, as I prefer, the French "seul"). I have met friends for a lifetime; I have met enemies who I still scowl at as I walk Commonwealth Ave. I have lived in a dorm, I've showered with three other friends in separate halls, I've stolen all the furniture in Claflin Hall, I've eaten far too many meals on campus, I've seen three new eateries open up in the GSU, I've been drunk, I've been high, I've gotten an apartment that is my second home in a way that I've never imagined.

And I know that when I graduate, these aren't the things that I will miss the most.

I get Boston. I got it immediately. It's a city that is discredited; a "false" city. Paling in size to Chicago to the west, failing to meet the enormity of all that makes up New York City to the south, and not being nearly as fun and reckless as Montreal to the north, Boston is a city that cannot be easily categorized. Or easily accepted for what it is. It is racist, it is caring, it is green, it's industrial, it's beaten down, and it’s rich. It's a city in transition. You don't know what's going to become of Boston. You certainly know where it's come from and what that journey has been, but who knows what's next? The possibilities are endless, considering the right opportunities fall correctly. New bridge, new tunnel; there are lots of prospects. It's just up to Boston to use these facilities and advantages to push forward into a bigger, brighter future.

This is where I point out that the term of "college town" is not describing the amount of schools in the area, but the fact that it simply is a town in college.

I'll miss growing with Boston. I'll miss walking home half way across campus, seeing a young-ish looking kid walking hurriedly West and knowing--for certain--that he lives in West Campus, is a Freshman, got ditched at a party and is refusing to piss anywhere but on his floor. He spins his keys by Pleasant Street, seeing his home looming large above what used to be a McDonalds, and he grows satisfied while I gain the satisfaction of feeling Boston move all around me. That girl is drunk, probably off cheap Vodka (Popov) at a frat party. He's a junior and is starting to get tired of this scene and starts to long for the grown-up allure of bars. She's 25 and is jealous of both of them. And all I see and hear is Boston.

I'm going to hop into bed now, and while I sleep, I'm going to hear cars passing by at this dreary hour of 3:05 AM. Maybe it's a garbage truck, or a couple of teenagers who are coming back way late, or just a drunk kid praying he makes it back without hurting himself or others. The motives are meaningless. All I hear is Boston breathing smoothly during another restless night of sleep. Its heart beats silently, steadily, gently, right along with mine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pump Your Fist

Last night I was alerted to a story of a University of Florida student who was tasered by police while trying to ask a question to Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry. A friend and reader showed great outrage, putting a link to the video on YouTube on her away message, followed by bombastic statements like, "freedom of speech is dead," and "RIP - first ammendment." She implored me to write about this on the blog, and, after looking at the situation and the issues involved, agreed. I just don't think she'll be happy when I use this platform to disagree with her.

Countless times on this blog I have defended free speech, including my use of it on this blog, censorship from my college at sporting events, and most dear to my heart, when to fight for it, and when it is mired in social and political agenda. As someone who also has a rather "edgy" radio show and who fancies himself a writer, freedom of speech is an incredibly important right that we have to fight for, especially now as our civil liberties seem to wane daily. This case, however, has nothing next to nothing to do with freedom of speech. I know you just got the angry face on and overreacted—again--but let me explain.

Here is the common perception of what happened, as seen on videos from YouTube. A college student asks a political-based question that is not answered. He is then pulled away from the podium by officers of the law as the student yells, "are you watching this? Why are you arresting me?" The student is dragged away kicking and screaming up the aisle towards the entrance for roughly a minute to a minute and a half as a handful of officers try to hold him down. He is eventually tased and taken away. Another angle of the event can be found here, courtesy of Breitbart and YouTube.

This story has been passed on from student to student as a rallying cry, an important reason to stand up and say something (as if we need another reason to). The calls to action are mainly because of three reasons surrounding the event that give it extra credence: a politicized situation, being pulled off of the podium, and police action.

A very crucial aspect is the involvement of John Kerry. If this student came out during a question and answer with, let's say, a distinguished political science professor, would it be different? First, the school wouldn't have used police, letting the Sophomore stable of kids in security blazers deal with keeping the order and peace. Second, his image as the "Anti-Bush" while he stood watching as freedom of speech is being tased out of someone is a big deal. If you read an account of what happened, such as this article which we'll get back to, the question and answer period was over but this student refused to let his answer be heard. He then rushed towards the podium (and, in turn, towards a Senator) after police repeatedly asked him not to.

Once he got up to the podium to ask a question, he didn't ask anything. He ranted, and tarnished an opportunity to ask Sen. Kerry a question that Kerry went out of his way to allow. If this wasn't a Senator on stage, security would have asked him to leave, eventually pushing him out of the auditorium. This isn't an isolated incident, it is routine in this sort of situation. Who hasn't seen someone escorted out by security by not complying with rules?

Throwing gas on the fire, while the student was being pulled away from police, he screams out "why are you arresting me?" Who said anything about being arrested? Why would they, for saying the word "blowjob" in public? I am relatively sure that they were going to escort him out of the building and let him off on his merry way.

Instead, he resisted needlessly from the start. He got so out of hand that he could be not calmed down by two officers and they needed assistance by the other police in the building. Why were there so many police that eventually found themselves around him? Because their job is to take care of security risks and disruptions just like this one.

Let’s be realistic. Could you walk around to a local police officer, have them ask you to stop doing something and resist. After they ask you again to do it you refuse yet again, eventually having them physically touch you. You then tell them to "get the fuck off of you," and resist their control further. Do you think you would get away with it? Apparently so if you’re saying that you were only instituting your right to free speech.

Furthermore, when he was on the ground, he was instructed for a good thirty seconds to roll over and he refused. Instead of simply following their orders, he resisted, choosing to become a martyr or a hero for the cause. He was tasered, following what I assume is procedure, adding the cherry on top. We now have a case for police brutality when the only thing he did was make damn well sure that everyone knew he was getting tased (“please don’t tase me!”) instead of following proper action to ensure that he wouldn’t be.

In conclusion to this section, I think that a kid went out of his way to be a pain in the ass to a police force who might not be prepared to handle this sort of situation. However, to say that he is a victim or some sort of martyr for the cause is taking a gigantic leap. We have fallen victim to the Fox News-ification of all news from all outlets. We are shown a small, selective piece of footage (one of the videos on YouTube is apparently from his own camera, possibly one of the videos linked above) and having it be used to rile everyone up and drown us all in hyperbole.

According to the Gainesville police report, which could very easily be a case of police covering their own asses, discusses how once the student was out of view of cameras he calmed down, reigniting once they got outside where more video cameras were sure to be there. He even went so far as to say, "I am not mad at you guys, you didn't do anything wrong, you were just trying to do your job," according to Mallo's account (from the article linked above). I'm sorry, I'm not falling for getting out my pitchfork for something that was being sensationalized as it was happening.

That does not mean that there are legitimate gripes with freedom of speech involved with this situation, both from the media coverage and the uprising of students over this specific “encroachment” of free speech.

Returning to the Breitbart article, there are some troubling issues brought up in regards to the credibility of the student in this situation. From the AP article, "Video of police Tasering a persistent questioner of Sen. John Kerry became an Internet and TV sensation Tuesday, generating fierce debate about free speech and the motives of the college student involved—a known prankster who often posts practical jokes online."

While I do believe that he overdid his reaction for his fifteen minutes of fame, does this mean that being a prankster suddenly absolves you of any credibility? What if this was genuine? If I'm tased by an officer in a situation where I was in fact incorrectly tased, would this blog somehow make the incident change?

The article goes on, describing the student's website. It contains "...several homemade videos. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says "Harry Dies" after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk in a bar while trying to pick up a man dressed in drag." Why is this news worthy? Why does the AP feel the need to critique the comedy styling of someone who is mired in this situation?

To show how classy they are, the AP report then decides to disparage the kid totally, writing, "Another site had pictures of Meyer licking a woman's face and making a suggestive pose as he stood behind a fake cow. The site listed his activities as 'getting wasted' and 'being ridiculous.'" It is one thing to criticize if he was making a big deal out of an isolated situation, but it is quite another to have the audacity to say because he makes silly videos that he shouldn't be regarded with the same respect as anyone else.

Just because someone has immature pictures on his Myspace or irresponsible messages on his Facebook profile doesn’t mean the AP has the grounds to use that against him to damage his credibility. There is a responsible way to discuss the event and the issues involved, and I find it shocking that my blog is being more respectful than the Associated Press. Freedom of speech is one thing, using words as a legitimate and respected news source to destroy a twenty-one year old is simply irresponsible to the highest degree.

Finally, I love how selective we are when we describe Freedom of Speech. The Imus Incident (gotta love those Important Capitalizations) was a clear issue of freedom of speech that hardly anyone got behind. Here is someone who was taken off the air for saying something that was completely FCC compliant and for that reason and that reason alone, does not justify his firing. The outrage only came because it involved an intangible of race. How many people who are saying what a travesty this kid getting tased is and such a slap in the face of the first amendment defended Imus? A handful?

You cannot choose to fight for this right only when it is convenient to you. Of course college kids are going to get up in arms, look at what this incident involves: a college student being "silenced” during a political rant at a politician before being abused by police. There is nothing out of the ordinary here. I just feel that it is disingenuous to label this a first amendment issue because people are upset only for the factors of age, police, and a politicized situation. And, once again, it's going to be heresy to come out against this as a true indictment of freedom of speech because of those attached factors.

The real shame of this entire situation is that even the first amendment could be so easily warped to fit a specific situation that has little relevance to what is really going on while a genuine case of censorship is laid to waste because of the racist and sexist implications involved. I love the fervor, I do, it's just sadly misplaced and badly timed.