about larry.

the first time i met larry was at a "sam green" party - basically, sam would hold these get-togethers at dr. weihe's elaborate home, paid in full, i'm sure, by the blood of illiterate first-generation college dropouts. faculty, staff, and students would attend this annual ritual, held towards the end of winter quarter, to hear some of sam's students read aloud their finest works. i attended because meagan and i were a couple, and meagan knew sam, since she had taken the ireland trip the summer before. there we were, amidst SU's literary circle - a real meeting of the minds. larry shook my hand, after meagan introduced me. we didn't speak much. little did i know this man would save, ruin, then possibly save again, my life.

meagan recommended that i take larry's expressive writing class, and so i did. i was a creative writing major, after all, so what's another couple grand? put it on the tab. or, more specifically, and this is going to sound awful, but it's true, and this is what this blog's all about - truth - put it on my parents' tab.

so, in spring 2004, i took expressive writing with larry nichols. we did daily writes, freewrites; we wrote to music; we read essays and wrote responses. we listened to the man talk. our first real assignment was to write about a "turning point." i remembered meagan's turning point essay, a brilliant piece about her mom getting drunk and forgetting to pick her up one evening, and i especially liked that she kept things in present tense, giving the reader a sense of urgency. i followed suit. i wrote about my experience at jesuit high school, specifically about mrs. ellis, my english teacher, and the time she told me to write whatever we wanted.

everyone essentially wrote the same thing, summed up best by jon rogers (remember that asshole?) with his opening statement: "fuck this school." for the first time i felt united with a group of dissatisfied individuals. i felt the "brotherhood" stronger than i did at kairos. it was a moment that saved me. i wrote about this, but didn't read it aloud. mrs. ellis read my essay silently, looked up, and said, "james, i had no idea."

to be honest, i don't even remember exactly what i wrote. the essay, though, couldn't have come off as any more pessimistic than most of my usual ranting. but i did feel satisfaction in surprising her. i was always the good student. obedient, quiet, raised my hand to volunteer answers. i was one of the few students who read in and for class. one of the few who would choose to read the longer book when given a choice. so, when she read about my gloomy experience, i could only expect that she was surprised.

anyway, for some reason, larry liked the essay. he liked it so much that he made me read it for the whole class. i was pretty excited about that. finally, after years of reading and years of journaling and trying stories out, i was getting some recognition. it wouldn't last long. my next essay was titled, "baseball card show," and in it, i made a saved by the bell reference. suffice to say, i didn't read it aloud. or even work on it for that matter.

larry paired me with a girl named amy (who i was also paired with in a life-changing theology class; we might've been friends if she wasn't so superficial and arrogant (she was a miss teen usa contestant at one point)) and another girl named cienna (damn, i had to look her up on myspace - my memory is terrible). i always felt victimized by cienna and amy. cienna was a pretty good writer (she writes articles for seattle's the stranger now), but her criticisms were damn blatant and harsh. and i had worked with karyna mcglynn before. i know that doesn't mean much, since the majority of you readers don't know these people, but you get the point. anyway, i always got the impression the two girls hated me, and i hated larry for placing me in the same group with them. and then we switched groups once, and i was okay for a while, and then he fucking put me back with cienna. what the fuck, old man?

here's a typical scene:
[amy reads] and on my sweet sixteenth birthday party... [she finishes story]
me [going through my "eschew surplusage" phase]: i don't think you really need to call it your "sweet sixteenth birthday party"; i think you could just say, "when i turned sixteen..."

now, it wasn't the greatest advice. it really had nothing to do with the story. i was just trying to, you know, shorten it to the point that there would be nothing left.

cienna: "no, she needs to leave 'sweet sixteenth birthday party' the way it is. it's important to girls; you couldn't know that; you're a guy"

okay, so it's not verbatim, since memory escapes me, but that's essentially how i interpreted it. i got flustered and shut up for the rest of the workshop. yeah, i remember my sixteenth birthday. i got my license, ate my cake, and didn't have any friends over. i guess i can't give anyone advice now.

workshops were a pain in my ass in that class, since i wasn't getting the feedback i wanted, or thought i deserved. and most everyone in class was a terrible writer. i remember reading tiffany small's script for a screenwriting class once. it was obviously written the night before, since it didn't exceed three pages in length, and the entire opening act was just a couple of people standing around a kitchen at a party, talking to each other. and we actually had to discuss it like it was a real effort at a script. my teacher, cheryl slean, talked about it, instead of denouncing it as the efforts of a lazy college student. i only say this because i kind of knew tiffany, and she was a much stronger writer, and she was obviously pulling one over on us.

anyway, my only real goal was to get larry to notice my work. i guess i was always expecting him to say something that would give me credibility as a writer. and yes, i was still looking for the professor grady/james leer relationship that wonder boys sold me. i can't say i ever really got it.

larry recommended that i work for him at the writing center. i immediately applied, and i began trying my hardest at sounding like an "intellectual" in writing workshops whenever larry was listening in. i got the job, i think, because larry knew my work, and because my friend, tiffany, was the writing center coordinator. had it been any other way, i don't think i ever would've been a consultant.

i did pretty well as a consultant. like i've said before, it was the best job i ever had. the rest of the story gets pretty boring from here; i worked with larry on an independent study, and i wrote a couple of terrible stories that went nowhere; i presented my research paper at the pacific northwest writing center convention in april; i let larry down by not showing up to another presentation he had expected me to attend. we didn't talk for a year.

i wrote him twice, apologizing first for being an ass, and then again just to catch up. he never responded to the second one, but he told meagan that he will when he gets a chance. i'm not holding my breath.

actually, i'm bored enough to write about the pacific northwest writing center conference. why the fuck not? maybe i'll make this the longest blog entry yet.

after reading my research paper on revision (entitled: "revision: an alternate cookbook" - god, how many trees must suffer for such useless undergraduate essays?), larry recommended i collaborate with jean bessette to work on a presentation. jean was hungry to get into grad school, and knew that a presentation like this would do wonders for her application, so she agreed. her research paper was on insight, and somehow, we were supposed to connect the dots. we had, i think, three weeks to do it.

it was a strange collaboration. jean could've been a freshman, and i probably still would've been intimidated. i'm a first-generation college student who also happens to be filipino-american - what the fuck do you/did i expect? anyway, we sat around, trying to think of how our essays connected. it was a fun project, and we finally put together a presentation, complete with powerpoint.

it rained the day of the conference. the first session was horrible. these two girls and this fucking guy, and all they did was talk about how to make the writing center more fun. they had stuffed animals, balloons, and some party favors. the whole time i was thinking, what the fuck is this? i thought this was an academic salon? jean and i worked for hours on academic, abstract nothings, and these assholes were going to just entertain us with puzzles and jokes? what the fuck?

our presentation, as expected, went really well. it even inspired a whole hour of intellectual discussion. and later, i won a mug. or maybe it was a thermos, i can't remember.

i remember feeling like i was going to win something. it's like when zidane says he knows he's going to score a goal, even before he gets the ball.

it's felt sense by sondra perl. "the soft underbelly of thought." fucking writers. alright, enough already.

1 comment:

claire said...

I remember that Amy girl. She was smart, but not really nice. I was never sure if she was awesome or horrible. Then, out of nowhere she left me a happy birthday message on facebook last year. People are weird.