Stewart

The first draft of anything is shit. – Hemingway

subtle, Sweet San Buena Ventura

When the waves whipped my face on a brisk weekday morning, and my fiance’s bed welcomed me a warm, posturpedic heaven, I realized that I would never be able to completely leave Ventura. When I sang Lovin’ is What I Got around Luke’s campfire surrounded by friends, some of whom sang along, followed by bitching about Oh Captain! My Captain! Lindsey, that’s when I knew that the city between the beach and the hill where I almost failed out of high school, would always be my home.
In Santa Fe, the winter gets cold, the summers are hot, and mice like to run around in my dorm room. But I juggle as much as I can and the cafeteria food – the hand-made desserts and the cooked to order crepes – almost always put a smile on my face. Still, every night I lie in my bed, usually talking to that sweet woman who said she would stay with me forever, and I just want the semester to end. When Mike calls, or Kelsey, or Luke or Dwight or Derrick or Evan or Mom, I get a sense of what I left behind. I get a sense of those palm trees that you can never get out of sight, and the sunsets over the ocean that blead into the tide like a bittersweet suicide.
I am as anxious as modern conspirists awaiting the arrival of the thirteenth bak’tun on the Mayan Calendar. I want to go home, but am I still me? Are they still them? Is the place that I love still the place that I love? Will main street still run down to the ocean? I know it is not likely for that to change, but will it still invite me from the sand to the street in the same Southern Californian way?

I left home to become a man
Not knowing just what it would take.
And I’ve done everything that I can,
Everything in order to make
A life for myself from the chances I have
Been given by people I love.
But the sand in my toes, and my face gone unshaved
Is all that I now can dream of.

Subtle, Sweet San Buena Ventura.
I sing symphonies of sorrow for you.
Subtle Sweet San Buena Ventura.
Sing your sweet song for me too.

October 19, 2008 Posted by | essays, Musings | Leave a comment

Success, like Time, is relative

Success, like Time, is relative

 

            Less than five percent of the United States population will ever take a class in physics. Of those who take physics in high school at the advanced level, something around thirty percent of the students will pass at the end of the year. The material covered is intensively math based, revolving around complex concepts which explain all things rudimentary and sophisticated in the physical world, from the micro to the macro level and all things in between. For those who decide to tackle the challenge, it is a rare honor to succeed, and I am not among the successful.

            I call Lucas Zucker often to get help on my physics homework, which has been beyond me in many ways. He speaks kindly and slowly, and in the end I usually see that the thing I have been struggling with for half-an-hour is, in fact, simple. Luke is getting an A, as with the rest of his classes. Of the two tests we’ve had so far, I’ve failed both with flying colors. It really takes a sense of flare to fail the way I do. The first test did nothing to determine. I was far from the only one to fail, and I acknowledge that I am not the most logically minded person in the world. Sticking with the class I felt the tension ease. Perhaps I was like a ball being rolled down the hill. My learning curve was one with a constant acceleration, increasing competency over time. I’m thinking now that perhaps I am more like a ball being tossed into the air, whose fastest velocity is at it’s release, slowing down as it rises due to the pull of gravity, until coming to zero.

            I took my second test with confidence in most strokes of my pencil. My fingers seemed to clumsily perform the correct dance across the keys of my calculator. Like an object in motion, I seemed to have stayed in motion, though at an admitted slower pace. I recognized the questions, and caught many of the tricky parts of questions that had been thrown in my direction. I turned in the test and went to my next class with a feeling of accomplishment.

            Today I saw my test. 23/44. Roughly fifty-five percent. This one hurt. To know that I had put so much effort – so much studying, hard work, and love (yes love) – into my assignments; to walk out confidently from the test, only to find that I had failed to answer all but two of the questions completely right, was immeasurably cruel. I couldn’t help wondering what Mr. Weldele thought about my capabilities in the class. I had to wonder about what I was going to do. There was the test, right in front of me, mark after mark after mark against me in what seemed to be the most sympathetic of blue pens from a man who probably wished that I forgot to come in on my own time and see my grade. The hardest was the attempt to maintain composure, and not to hop onto my desk and scream, “FUCK GODDAMNIT SHIT SAD-ASS SONS-OF-BITCHES FUCK THE REVERSE OPERATION OF TAN!”

            I practiced breathing exercises on the way home. It is the one reason outside of expenses that I am happy not to have my license. I grant myself a buffer between school and the things at home that would inevitably be hurled against a wall. So I walked, and I thought, and I got misty eyed and my head hurt a little bit. I kept thinking about right triangles. I thought about my mentor whose infinite scientific wisdom I was putting to shame with my piss-poor knowledge of vector equations. I thought about how badly I wanted to be a scientist when I was little, and I thought about who I was really taking this class for, and why? Have I been trying to take this class to prove a point or to say something? Was everything I said about my passion for physics lust a lie to talk my way into the class? Had I ignored every lesson that my mentor and I went over in his work shop. Surely I learned something from about vortices and coronal winds from our experiments.

            Today was the only day it rained since I’d gotten back three months ago. So as I stare out my window now, I think about the silver linings around each cloud, and about the three kids who passed the test at the end of the year and improved their grades. I’m also thinking about the comforting words that Mr. Weldele has been seemingly chanting all year about how he would rather see someone walk out of his class feeling as if they had learned something worth-while, despite hell or high water, then someone who took the class for the grade and the credits, and never thinks about it’s further reaching implications.

            I am taking physics because science has always been part of my life, and I love to understand how the world around me works. I love struggling for forty-five minutes on mundane problems to prove points that I child can say without thinking. I’m not good at it. I might even be terrible, but I love it. So when I was walking home, I thought about that ball some bastard tossed into the air. It reaches it’s maximum height, and happily rests at one place. If, as is absolutely necessary, it is thrown at some degree away from ninety, it will continue to travel forward even when it’s vertical acceleration is at nought, and as it plummets, it will land back in my hands having achieved the same velocity as when it started. As with that damned ball, I am going to struggle and struggle and struggle, and in my beautiful sacrifice of time, perhaps I will come out of the door on the last day having experienced the effects of a rewarding reaction.

            .

September 21, 2007 Posted by | essays | 2 Comments

Essay Aneurism

It is time I put my two cents in on writing. Not that I am professional, or that my style is polished to such a degree that people have finally stopped saying “It’s coming along, but it’s still shitty”. But because my friend Taylor and I have a seemingly legitimate analogy for essay writing. I have dubbed it the reverse Alzheimers process, because the moment you stare at a prompt, you forget everything you have ever known in relation to the topic. Even if it’s something as elementary as “what color are your eyes?”, you find yourself desperately seeking the nearest mirror to confirm a caution to the wind gut inclination that your eyes might be brown. Even as I write this, the most prominent thought that eeps into my mind is how good the hamburgers that we had eaten were at the time when this discussion came up. Now, because this is for essays, it is only speaking of a timed first draft; arguably the worst piece of writing you will ever produce: Read a prompt about a topic you had never intended to address in your immediate future, develop a strong opinion on the topic, and back it up with evidence, preferably Latin phrases that only scholars remember because they are hidden away in the dark recesses of The Vatican Library. So dive deep into yourself, grab a spoon, and eat up some sophomoric wisdom about the evolution and development of a shitty first draft.

The prompt is set before you. READ CAREFULLY. These are the words that prod at your skull and leave you constantly asking “did I read carefully enough?” You’ve annotated every word for six different meanings, and searched for hidden encryptions in hieroglyphics that circulate around the interior of certain O’s. you’re sweating blood, and you now have solved the mystery of what causes brain aneurism: stupid prompts. NEWS FLASH: All prompts are ridiculously stupid because you are never in the mood. Even if you think you are in the mood, you aren’t. Twenty minutes into any essay and you will realize that. Staring at your paper, wondering whether you’ve wasted too much time already, you will soon forget the prompt, and have to start over. And then the inevitable, “Who am I?”, “Why am I hear?”, “I really need to mellow out and start taking drugs.”

That’s right! Essays are not the anti-drug. But fear not, for I am sober, and always have been relatively so. So at this point, you are lost, stranded, and cannot leave the classroom because it is against the sacred rules of AP. So you start to construct a sentence, putting your head in the guillotine, waiting for the inevitable drop. This piece of paper is a direct representation of your head in that basket. And in the end, it will be graded on a scale of one to nine, and you will most likely never see it again. But still, you write. You are in kindergarten now, as far as mentality goes, and the question is big. Your words are small, and you’ve got large ruled paper so you can make sure that you don’t put an extra swoop in your double-u. the question is about Native Americans, so you draw a little turkey in the corner of the paper, and then some corn stocks in another. At the top of the paper, you write, “What I know about Native Americans”. And just below, you write, “kill me NOW”. You mean it. But soon you catch a point. You’ve graduated to first grade and you’ve got a sentence that summarizes all there is to know about native Americans: “The Native Americans were a big group of alots of people who grew plants and ate stuffing with the mayflower people on thinks giving.”

You are aware that you’ve spelled “thanks” wrong, but you are proud that you’ve made a nearly coherent point. You look at your corn, and draw some feathers and buckle-boots next to it, along with that cute little racoon from Pocahontas. There!!! Pocahantas, John Smith, and the discovery of America. You’ve skipped all the way up to fifth grade, and the friendly Thank-giving that you were probably taught a song about while cutting out hand shaped Turkeys and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because you have not yet learned about healthier substitutes such as cashew butter. Either way, you start to write a paragraph.

The pilgrims came to America on a Boat called the Mayflower. There were lots of them, and John Smith was one of them. He was a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes. They came to America. They built a Town and met some Native Americans, and a really pretty one named Pocahantas was among them. She saved him from the chief, and they lived happily ever after. I like the movie Pocahantas.And so it goes.

You are excited to have successfully used the word among, but you still feel like vomiting all over your paper. Hadn’t you spent two weeks back in August discussing Tribal relations with Native Americans, Smallpox, Chief Powhatan? Now things are starting to formulate as you remember the words “Introductory Sentence”. You’re pretty sure it sums up what you plan on saying, and then it’s just three paragraphs after that, and repeat what you said before. So next to your racoon, you draw a fat little king, and a Mayan Pyramid.

The Native Americans lived happily in America and Mexico until a group of sick white people came over on ships from England, fed them a Turkey dinner, and killed them all.You then add:

                 And John smith was one of them.

So it goes.

You are dancing around the sixth and seventh grade, hitting editorial puberty, and becoming distracted by the sexy semi-colon and the allure of the hyphen. You start writing sentences with obscure punctuation, and melodramatic words that are completely unnecessary:

Native Americans: people who danced-around fire!; engulfing life with massogonistic indignancies and libatiously bantering ubiquitous folly…John Smith.

Hey, at least you’re trying.

Finally, ninth grade rears it’s head. Nothing useful historically, but you now know about the three part thesis and CD CM’s. So you construct the following.

The Native Americans were a prosperous people who had religious beliefs, danced a lot, and were killed by white people.They had many religious beliefs. This shows that they were religious people. This also shows that they believed in things. In addition, they did not have church. This shows that they were not Christian. This also shows that they did not believe in Jesus. The Native Americans did not believe in Jesus.You remember the warnings against this kind of writing, and decide that you want to shoot yourself in the head. But you don’t because tenth grade comes around, and you skip it because fuck tenth grade, that’s why. Junior Year! Writing is writing. You have learned some material and your handwriting most likely does not look like chicken scratch. So you construct an elegant sentence with beautiful diction and syntax the likes of which have never been seen. Then you construct your essay and thesis, and finish it with a flourish. But alas, a cursory reading reveals that it is still just a shitty first draft, and you turn it in anyway. Your brain has stabilized, and you go to lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 19, 2006 Posted by | essays, humor, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Women: i got nothin’

I can’t think of any good way to start off this essay, so I will say this. I love a passionate, foolish, foolhardy, ignorant, short, disdainful, irrelevant, and downright secular fling with a woman I hardly know, but if I were offered one thousand of such an experience, against one thought out, intelligent, mature, wise, long lasting, purposeful and matrimonial relationship, I think I would take the one. I will even go so far as to say that if I were offered one year with a woman who would stick by my side, but was ill-fated to an early demise, as opposed to two lifetimes of the world’s most beautiful woman at my door, I think I would spend a week mulling things over, before resorting to a year by my one love’s side.
I am a foolish human being who gives way to instincts before thought in all the areas that such notions should inverse, but I know what I want, and I know that I am the wrong person to go looking for it. When I look at a woman, I look through clouded eyes, and I cannot discern the forest through the trees. I am my father’s son. The son of a father who has been married three (but engaged four) times, all because he is quick on the draw with the question. Arranged marriages? How far are you dragging the concept? I don’t care. I’ll accept. Slap a good woman round my arm and I’ll be set for life. But what is a good woman? My idea entails something to the effect of someone I can talk to, and someone who I can wake up next to every morning, and still expect to see something new. I don’t care if I spend years getting to know her in courtship, or in matrimony, as long as I get the chance. Whether she be beautiful or not so much within the guidelines of such a word; whether she’s twenty pounds under, or four-hundred pounds on the deep end, she’s still my pretty little thing, and if I have to get down and say it for her to believe me, she’ll tell me that that’s what I have to do and damn it, I’ll do it. But I’m getting off topic. Who am I to say I am any better at finding this woman than any body else? I walk the same line as the men who tread the roadside sobriety test before me. What I mean to say is that we all fall short of the straight and narrow every once in a while, and whether the reason is my choice, or that of another, poor, reckless, incompetent soul, doesn’t make much of a difference.
Ask me if I’d mind an arranged marriage and I will tell you sure, but only under the guise of a happily married couple. I don’t want Joe Bachelor lassoing me into a game of ‘pin the ring on the barfly’. If your going to plan my life, show me what you’ve don e with yours. Everything is circumstantial, and I don’t care if I may have contradicted myself by now because this is not the standard essay. This is what comes to mind, and what five cups of rootbeer has made me feel.
I’d love to love the one I’m meant to love, but I believe that if you can’t be with the one you love, than love the one you’re with. And if you can’t love the one you’re with, don’t pop the question because you’re anxious to tie the know before the important bits stop working. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, the sweetest bits go sour last. I’d like to take this moment to thank Mr. Geib for sharing that most interesting quote with the class.
I will trust a wise man’s judgement, but I will never marry a woman that can’t spell Mississippi, though I certainly will not hesitate to love one. Love knows no bounds, and it is a universal language which no one wrote a dictionary for. With this question, I’m all across the board, and in the end, I’ll take whatever comes my way, and spend a lot of time thinking it over; at least once every 3.5 seconds. It’s the nature of the male. So come on, oh female of the species! The two kinds of your breed beget the pious and the pompous. And both are fine with me. For now, show me the pious. Let me have the fun an ignorant fool will have. And when I grow up, let me find the one that I have so sorely been seeking. If the two at some point should prove one in the same, God be praised for a miracle hath befallen this retched soul! Either way, I’m easy. I’m the little tramp, just trying to keep his hat on his head and his cane in his hand. Give me a quarter, I’ll show you a trick. But give me your hand, and I’ll never let go. I’ll meet the one you bring to me, but the end decision is my own. I can’t think of a very good way to end this essay either.

September 19, 2006 Posted by | America, essays, the female of the species | 2 Comments

   

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