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Title: A glimpse of life
Posted: November 21, 2009 (06:44 PM)
A friend of mine who I have known for the past two and a half years woke up one day and just decided to start treating me like shit. It came to some level of tension on Thursday night, and because I am very sensitive it actually caused me a great deal of stress. I must have had a lot of adrenaline in my bloodstream because I had trouble getting to sleep that night. At 6:30 AM I went for a short run and eventually fell asleep at 7 AM.

The worst part is that the reason is extremely petty: a video game. I play Smash Bros. competitively, and I have a group of local friends who I play with. This particular individual's problem with me is that I am simply not good enough, and that is the basis for his mistreatment. I am a sensitive individual and I have very strong and developed values on friendship, so this episode has actually shaken me a bit.

Circumstances have forced me to move on with my life as best I can. I have a ten page research paper due on Tuesday, which I have not started writing and am currently procrastinating, but I at least have all my sources. Unfortunately, my laptop died earlier this week. I set out on Friday very late at 4 PM to work on it at a computer lab. Much to my dismay, all of them were closed due to UC-system-wide protests.

I attend UC Berkeley, and in my fifth and final year (which should not have happened had I been more responsible in the past) it has seen a resurgence of campus activism and protest. Friday's protest lasted from roughly 10 AM to 10 PM. Tear gas canisters were fired while I was walking over to another building look for a lab. The concerns of the protest cover a variety of issues, which include proposed 32% tuition hikes that will force low income students to either take a year off or withdraw entirely; the laying off of 38 custodians; unfair contracts for three immigrant-owned businesses that will essentially force them out of business; the saving of an extremely affordable apartment complex that is essential to low income students, and particularly the Latino community on campus; and probably many other things that I am unaware of because I am not personally very involved in the current politics.

While I was there, I ran into someone I met at the Berkeley Undergraduate Sociology Association. I mentioned my computer issue and he actually offered some resources for help. I declined for some reason but made sure I expressed my gratitude. I also ran into someone from my "Social Change in Latin America" class, and we talked extensively about many things. Both very nice people.

At about 6 I went back home for dinner. The people in my house were talking about meeting up to go back to the protest, and since it was not possible for me to work on my research paper, I went along.

I also knew that there was a Marti Gras party (or Party Gras) that night at my house that I had originally been anticipating very much. My mood had somewhat (possibly an understatement) deteriorated by my encounter with my (former) friend, and it was difficult for me to just enjoy myself as much as usual. I went anyway (hard not to considering I live there), figuring that there was still potential to have fun and that it might actually help my mood.

This party was crazy. Since the theme was Marti Gras, many people dressed up; many others undressed. I don't know how much I want to go into the actual details, but one way to express it is that what happened at the party are the kind of things that happen at the actual Marti Gras. I saw many naked bodies, both male and female. For my part, given my generally shy nature and my recovering-but-still-upset mood even while drunk, I was more of an observer than a participant. I did get a massage from a half-naked girl sitting on my back, and when I think about it that was actually really nice, but it was certifiably tame compared to what else went on that night.

My memory disappears roughly at the conclusion of the hot chocolate wrestling, though that was probably the apex of the night anyway, and it was conducted almost entirely in the nude. Why hot chocolate? Last year jello was used and it somehow messed up the tiled floor. The floor needed to be re-tiled, which cost the house many dollars. Hot chocolate is also hot, which is very nice considering Northern California weather is somewhat chilly at night in November.

Living in a communal house of 150 people (called a cooperative) provides a lot of opportunities for interesting parties. At one level parties can be separated into in-house and out-of-house parties. Most parties are in-house, which means the people who attend are primarily residents, and those who aren't are friends of residents. Out-of-house parties are advertised to the public; a fee is paid for entry; and they are generally massive. All of them are themed, and often involve costuming to some extent.

My best costume was the one I made for Halloween. Drawing on Kurando Inugami from Shadow Hearts Covenant and Jin from Samurai Champloo, I made myself a sort of samurai/ronin/Japanese swordsman outfit that turned out way better than it had any right to considering I safety-pinned bedsheets to a pair of pants. It wasn't technically a samurai because samurais wore armor, so it was more of a ronin. The problem with telling people that is it would generate responses such as "what the fuck is a ronin?" So I just told people I was a samurai if they asked.

The Halloween party itself certainly wasn't my favorite. It was an out-of-house party, which I like less than in-house parties, and I was recovering from sickness so I limited my drinking.

The Pirate party was also out-of-house and hence not one of my favorites, but what was even more fun was the "pirating," or advertising, that we did earlier in the week. About thirty to forty house members gathered to "plunder" the other coop houses and even a few greek houses. This basically involved running through their houses in costume while yelling "ARRR COME TO THE PIRATE PARTY." The fact that so many people participated and were in costume; the fact that they were so game, willing to role-play and get into the pirate character; the fact that we were drunk as a consequence of passing around rum handles; and the fact that we actually stole shit -- all of this combined to lend a sense of believability to the entire affair, to the extent that we were actually pretending to be pirates as opposed to merely dressing up as pirates. I'm 22 years old and I haven't done that since I was a kid.

On the subject of theft, it was mostly cheap consumables (ice cream, fruit, cereal). One person stole a container of Olive Oil, which is a little more expensive. A resident from the house that this Olive Oil container belonged to actually came to our house to take it back.

I had a similarly fun experience at the in-house Medieval Times-themed special brunch -- a combined feast and day party. At first I didn't have a costume and I literally felt awkward and uncomfortable because of this. It is a strange situation to feel awkward for not wearing something that under any other circumstance I would feel awkward for wearing. After a few sips of delicious, strawberry-flavored wine (a total girl drink), I began seeing the possibilities, ran to the corner convenience store to buy a pair of scissors, cut up and safety-pinned a costume together, and grabbed my enormous toy claymore that I had bought a year earlier. It wasn't the best costume I've had, but it eliminated most of the awkward feelings, which allowed me to enjoy myself more, and I did get comments on my sword.

The day itself was great. In addition to simple eating, drinking and socializing, there were a series of events that were a joy to participate in and watch. The best one was the jousting, which involved people riding at each other on bikes while trying to hit each other with ten-foot wooden shafts (pillows on the end). Two participated at a time obviously, and there was quite a crowd for it. As it commenced, excessively dramatic music (the kind you would hear at the beginning of a battle in Braveheart or something), mostly loud percussion, boomed from large speakers at an extremely high volume. Afterward people danced to (pseudo-)Medieval Times-themed music, dancing in ways you would never get the chance to at any other college party, such as locking arms and skipping in circles. Much like the pirating, there was some sense of believability to it all.

One thing that I have learned from this party experience is that there are basically five approaches to college costuming:

1) The Lazy approach -- Usually involves wearing basically normal everyday clothes, but also one minor costume item, like a bandana. This approach usually occurs with people who are too lazy or haven't found the time to find a full costume, but realize at party time that they want to be in the spirit.
2) The Store-bought approach -- This involves primarily buying costume items, particularly ones that are intended as costume items rather than as clothes for every day wear. It shows knowledge of accessible resources but little ingenuity.
3) The Home-made approach -- This involves using mostly clothes from one's own wardrobe, often in odd combinations. It also often involves cutting, safety-pinning, and, at higher levels of skill, sewing. When done well, it can be just as good as the Store-bought approach.
4) The Hybrid approach -- A combination of the previous two, and probably the most common one in reality. It often occurs when people home-make the clothes part of the costume and buy any accessories, such as toy swords. And finally,
5) The Sorority Girl/Pornstar/Videogame approach -- This is when girls wear lingerie and put on a pirate hat.

I have conflicting feelings of being grateful for a fifth year of college and at the same time feeling as though I am overstaying my welcome. The academic, political and, especially the social, experience of college, and particularly of UC Berkeley, is a unique one that I will never have ever again after I graduate in May 2010. I am doing my best to cherish it while it lasts. On the other hand, drinking doesn't do nearly as much for me as it used to, and eighteen years of straight education is really wearing on me, especially considering I have never liked the school aspect of school to begin with even though I have always loved learning.

School and learning have been at odds for me often because school typically fosters a certain style of learning that is more or less consistent across schools. It is mostly structured and narrowed, arguably even disciplined and regimented. My style of learning has always been anarchic and impulsive, and so when I am not bogged down by school work I involve myself in a lot of independent learning. I basically want to learn about whatever presently interests me and this has the tendency of either falling outside of school curricula, falling only into particular part of a class, or not lasting the entirety of a semester. I might wake up one day and decide that I want to read Edmund Burke, and will actually resent it if class-learning demands are intense to the point of effectively prohibiting or delaying my independent learning interests.

At this point my creative energy is more or less spent. Writing this blog has been has been both a great stress relief and a horrible act of procrastination, given the respective current circumstances. It's long, unrevised, and weighty, and I'm not sure how many of you will read all of it. Despite the overall positive tone, my mood is still only recovering in light of recent events, and I have essentially failed to make progress on my work. I'm going to go back to my house for dinner (cooked by a team of five house members), and come back to the lab after to try again.

Cheers everyone. Hope you're all doing well.

zigfriedUser: zigfried
Posted: November 21, 2009 (07:52 PM)
I read every word. After thinking about it for a moment I realized that I, too, need an emergency claymore.


randxianUser: randxian
Posted: November 21, 2009 (09:02 PM)
Too bad about your friend man. I guess there are always real friends and fair weather friends. I certainly feel your pain. I recenlty lost some friends over stupid crap as well, so I know how that goes.

Anyway, it's probably a good thing you have all those parties to let off steam and whatnot. The pirate one sounded cool.

Felix_ArabiaUser: Felix_Arabia
Posted: November 22, 2009 (07:00 AM)
I think just about everyone who goes to college for an extended period of time experiences the highs and lows you describe. College is about finding who you are and learning to learn. I graduated after four years from Indiana University last May, and there are many things that I experienced at that place that I will always remember, good and bad.

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