Oh boy, breakfast! I start some hashbrowns roasting and some water boiling, then I run upstairs and wash my hair in the sink. Dump in the noodles into the pot, lash together some sauce, chop up some broccoli, and dump the whole thing into the tupperware I borrowed from Skot and Torrey. I leave the pot on the stove with two pounds of cleaned black beans, set to soak all afternoon.
The drive to Santa Cruz passes quickly. I park the car outside Ace's house (his parents are letting me keep it there to avoid parking fees), and remove my bike from the rack.
Feelin' pretty good for the ride up to UCSC. I take the bike path that cuts through the center of campus, but ends up on the west side, far away from Merrill. So I backtrack and then get myself lost. The moment I realize I'm lost, I turn around, and then start picking directions randomly. It works. I arrive at the Merrill sub-college, and lock my bike.
I pick up my second orientation packet and leaf through it. Hmmm, nothing official to do until 2pm. What's this? A notice saying my fees aren't paid. Down the hill I go to the financial office. Many pretty girls. The dude behind the window says it's only a computer glitch, and is about to hand me a validation sticker but I have no student ID yet, so he can't put it on. So I need to get my ID, but I have to present my drivers' license to get it. For this I need to go to the car.
So I walk up to the bike, then ride down out of campus, marveling at how magnificent the view is. Fluffy purple underlit clouds, crystalline coast, high-definition piers and ships. I can clearly see the vapor above the Moss Landing smokestacks.
Zoooom, down to the car. Instead of storing the bike I just mount it on the car. Drive to Skot and Torrey's. No answer at the door. Oh well. I'm hungry, so I eat some of my tupperware surprise. It's filling but very dry, so I try to find a drink at the gas station. The people there are very - almost suspiciously - friendly. Must be the weather. I can't find anything that is both vegan and non-lethal, so I nab some honey-roasted peanuts and some bottled water. Drive downtown and buy a sweet potato and some tomato sauce in a can, for my Brazilian black-bean stew. You can tell I'm an amateur at this home-cooking stuff because I went to the store for one can of tomato sauce.
Nothing else to be done, so I groove back up to Ace's house on the tape I'd dubbed the day before, and sit in the car organizing my packet of info. That gets boring, so I ride the bike back up to campus; the trail along the east road this time. Slow going since I'm feeling the drain of my poor sleep. Finally at the top of the Evil Merril Hill, I walk in on a very short meeting, very sweaty. A QA session with a trio of Merrill orientation counselors. The woman from my December orientation is there, and we exchange comments about how great it is to bike onto campus. I ask where I can rent a storage locker on-site, so I don't have to haul all my things up the hill every day. No one knows of such a place.
The meeting breaks up and I'm going back to my bike to finally get my ID (since I have my license in my pocket now), but I change my mind and walk back to the counselor. We discuss whether or not I can get into a CS class with my buddy Brent, and whether or not my math theory class is really necessary. As far as she can figure, the CS class will be very hard to get into, but the prerequisites are nil, and the math class is actually irrelevant for my major. What was that counselor I saw in December thinking?! Oh well. I thank her and she says "see you at the provost's dinner". As near as I can figure, her name is "Angel", but with the A pronounced like the one in "awning".
Well. I can't get my student ID that day because, according to Angel, they won't be able to develop and attach the picture until tomorrow, when the official stations will be set up on the other side of the campus. So I ride across the breadth of the campus to the homely student-run trailer park where Brent lives, and knock on his door. No response. While I'm at the door his new next-door neighbor mistakes me for a resident and introduces himself. I describe Brent to him in fantastical prose, and then wander over to the park's commons room.
Chris and Noreini are there watching Volcano, so I lie back and gaze at the sheer Hollywood cliche' of it all. When the movie ends we watch the Animaniacs, but the manager of the trailer park busts in to hold a meeting, so we shuffle out as the theme to Pinky and the Brain plays. I ride back to Merrill, and wander around to the computer lab, trying to waste more time.
> Um, Grr! I am the perky UC transfer! Fear me! Taste my
> wrath! Raarrr! Excuse me.
> Burn all the houses, steal all the cattle!
> Hoo, Hoo, Hoo!!
I think this is from something by Robert Frost, but I'm not sure. Or maybe T Eliot, (top bard, on no drab pot toilet.)
So: Nothing interesting has happened so far! ARRGH THE MUNDANITY.
I hang around in the lab until it closes, and then wander over to the provost's house. Dinner isn't ready so I walk and chat with some guy standing outside. He talks about surfing, the commute, and the campus. He's boring me into the ground, but I can't get rid of him without harshing his buzz, so we stroll aimlessley until I reach the metal sculptures in the Merrill parking lot, and start playing them like drums. The second of three teirs is the only playable structure, a warped metal shell resembling waves in a bubble, teeming with human figures half submerged. It makes some pleasant sounds. The first tier is a smattering of indivdual statues on flat concrete; also studded with pairs of holes- breakpoints where most of the figurines have been snapped off to find a change of setting in some freshman's dorm window.
The dude decides to walk to the provost's place, because it's about time, but I stay around experimenting with the art for a little while longer. Boom, bimpa bimpa boom, etc. Enough of that. Off to my free vegan meal.
The provost's house is hexagonal in shape, built around a central garden. The rooms proceed clockwise from the front door; an entryway, then a living room, then a sliding door to a cozy dining area. One can assume that the kitchen resides behind the next door, and the dishes are brought out and set up in secret, while the guests congregate around the fire in the living room. This is what happens. Angel is there, as well as the surf dude, and a handful of other people. We eat pretty good vegan casserole, and talk about the changing face of Santa Cruz.
The provost stands up and makes a speech, then we adjourn to the living room for a Q&A session with him and the peer counelors in attendance. No one knows what the term provost means. I suggest that it's that thing at the end of a pier that seagulls sit on. No, no, that's a pilon. Never mind. Laughter. The provost is long-winded with his answers, and nearly puts everyone to sleep, but finally we break into informal discussion, and I have a lively conversation with a girl perched next to me on the couch. Her name is Eszter. She has a very characteristic accent, which I discover is Hungarian. She'd come to this country when she was fourteen.
I excuse myself to the bathroom and wash my face and torso, towel off, and dress to my sweater. Angel has left, and I resign myself to a quiet evening at home, and begin shuffling out to my bike ... but partway I stop, think "nah. I need a social life. People are here. Be with the people". So I turn around and walk back into the Provost's house. Good decision.
Eszter and Ricardo (for want of a better name, can't recall it) are in the foyer, getting ready to walk over to the dorms. They're going to retrieve a schedule of classes and majors from Estzer's dorm room. Estzer says I'm welcome to tag along, so I do. The three of us discuss majors and requirements as we walk, then as we settle on the couch of her two-room apartment, the conversation shifts to our backgrounds.
Ricardo is from the Mexican town of Chihuahua, original breeding place of the small, big-eared, nervous dog. A large desert, just at the bottom of texas, also bears the name, as does a brand of beer that you can purchase locally. Ricardo is sharp, and discusses the roots of Eszters' Hungarian dialect, tracing it back to an invading people I cannot recall. I ask him about the connections between Spanish, Latin, and English. We focus on the word 'rajah', and the Aztec culture for a bit. Sounds very academic and pinky-out-while-sipping-the-cocktail, doesn't it?
Then pleasant hell breaks loose when tall, jovial, decisive Jen strides in, with two rented movies, and four more people trailing behind her. Jen is Eszter's housemate. I spring up off the couch and shake hands with Beth, Jeremy, Lisa, Linda, and Jen herself. Ricardo leaves to attend a housing meeting.
At first glance, Jeremy so much resembles Milan (brown banana namesake Milan of old) that my head explodes trying to fathom the chances of it all. Impish and gangly, with a tanned face, glasses, and a thin brown mustache. He seems to vibrate with cheerful energy, and acts five times more looney than Milan ever could. You know how Matt Heck was Happy Spot material from the first second Andy spoke to him? How he just dropped right into the chaos like he had always been there? Jeremy is that same way. He'd fit into my old gang perfectly, though he's even less inhbited, even more overt, and even farther out of control than any of us.
(Now don't confuse him with the Jeremy that Brent knows, Megan's ex, the one in the trailer park, the one I ran into downtown on First Night buying a falafel. That Jeremy is Happy Spot material too, but he's more sophisticated and at the same time more comfortably perverse and sadistic than this Jeremy. To summarize, Trailer Park Jeremy wears a tuxedo and no pants, and grins with a lot of teeth. Merrill Dorm Jeremy wears a monkey suit and bunny ears, and drinks way too much coffee. Get it? Of course you do.)
Anyhow, Jen and Linda and Beth shove each other all around in the miniscule kitchen, preparing spaghetti, while Eszter sits on the floor catching up with Jeremy, and Lisa sits on the couch shooting the bull with me. I describe the evils of programming assembly in hex to her, based on an earlier discussion we'd had about the math book Ricardo had been leafing through with Eszter. Lisa is compact and solid, with straight blonde hair and white skin. The word "nordic" leaps into your mind if you see her. She has a very artistically shaped nose, tapered and rounded at the end, completing her face. Very nice eyes. Her first impression is of a fun person to go camping with.
Linda sits on the floor between the couch and the armchair. She has glasses and long, thick black hair that forms a curtain around her head. She is quiet and her aura is almost feral, like a wild animal curled up and trying to behave. From her overheard remarks I learn that she's a Trekkie and an Anne Rice fan.
Beth wanders out of the kitchen and sits on the armchair. Jeremy instantly leaps up and sits across her lap. Lisa decides to leave, to my disappointment, but her presence is exchanged for Phaedra, who sits over by the television and talks into the mass of people. I do a double-take because she looks an awful lot like Tori Amos. Same head and chin, same wreath of hair, same bedroom eyes except hers are larger. Her body is also more voluptuous - a classic hourglass wrapped in an electric blue pajama suit. She even has the same cadence of speech, and her remarks are gently self-effacing, with a subtle but endearing undercurrent of warmth. A voice very conducive of boyfriends who want to wrap themselves around you, perhaps to the point of smothering.
But maybe I'm taking this thread too far. On the surface of it, I instantly find her attractive, but also sense that she is very much her own property, and if you expressed simple lust for her, she would happily exploit you for personal amusement ... and you would enjoy every minute of it. In the middle of a conversation she casually mentions to Jeremy that she forgot her whip at home. Then I catch a fragment of conversation between her and Eszter about a "muscular neck" and "steam coming from his nostrils", and insert myself into their conversation by confirming that yes, they were talking about a horse. Phaedra spent last summer caring for the horses at Disneyland.
About this time Eszter takes a phone call, and we learn that Katie and Jeff will be attending. Jen expresses discomfort over Katie's presence, and mentions something about past indiscretions. I figure that anyone who manages to become an enemy of Jen is probably an enemy to me, but when Katie and Jeff walk in, I find nothing overtly offensive about Katie, though the two of them seem rather bland. Katie has an aloof air that smells to me like old money, and Jeff appears to be interested only in Katie and his own personal space, and ignores everything else in the room. I don't recall Jen saying a single word to Katie over the evening.
Spaghetti is served, and we all gather 'round the television to watch the first movie: Contact. I referee a wrestling match between Jeremy and Eszter, and declare Eszter the winner. Jeremy responds by walking over and picking me up off the floor in a bear hug, then stomping around the room while I cry comically for rescue. Hijinks ensue. After being wrestled, propositioned, manhandled, slam-danced, pun-addled, and seduced by Jeremy (sometimes all at once, amidst a flurry of monkey hoots), I discover that Phaedra has stolen my spot on the couch, so I am all too happy to sit between her and Katie.
Contact is long. Eszter comes out of the other room partway into the movie and thows a blanket over Phaedra, Katie, and I. All the happier am I to be watching a good movie with gorgeous girls next to me, under a blanket. No hanky-panky of any kind, though. Very discreet. After all, Phaedra has a boyfriend. Somehow, I don't feel jealous. Somehow I'm too comfortable with Phaedra already to be jealous.
Jeremy gives Beth a back massage. Dominic pops in near the end of Contact, babbling over the most emotional scene, which incites hissing noises and wrath from the entire troop. He is unable to control himself, and both Jen and I are on the verge of grabbing him and forcibly escorting him from the apartment, but he finally gets the clue and wraps himself around some female and quiets down. I'm not sure who.
At the end of the movie, Phaedra gets up and leaves, presumably to sleep. Such is her power, I consider the idea of following her like a puppy dog, but then promptly boot the idea aside. Another boy, Scott, unattached to any particular female in the room, comes in and lies on the floor to watch Grosse Point Blank. Ricardo returns from the meeting after a while, and sits between Katie and I. The indomitable Eszter sits on the couch next to me, then dashes out of her seat to the kitchen, prepares some popcorn, and dashes back. Somewhere about this time I glance at her running form and finally notice that Eszter has an amazingly well-shaped body.
Dominic unwraps himself and says goodbye, then leaves the apartment. We all laugh at Grosse Point Blank. At the credits, Katie and Jeff take off, to Jen's visible relief. Linda says her goodbyes, as does Scott. Jeremy and I horse around and hoot and rant for another half hour. Jeremy tackles Eszter, but Eszter manages to pin Jeremy, so she and I tickle him to bits. Jeremy isn't exactly beefcake; though he took off his shirt earlier in the evening and did a manly flex routine, while describing a beach vacation with a rain of puns. "The bathrooms..." (Jeremy flexes his bicep so his fist is raised towards the ceiling) "...are over... THERE" (He pokes his finger out of his fist, towards the bathroom door.) When his shenanigans rise to fever pitch, Jen and I hoist Jeremy up with the intention of throwing him over the railing, and get him nearly to the sliding door. Then I lift him up on a shoulder and take him around the room, offering free chances to spank him to everyone present. Somehow we manage to get him a little worn out, and when he leaves, the sudden departure of his personality causes a great sucking effect, and he takes everyone but Jen and Eszter out the door with him.
Jen announces that I am perfectly welcome to crash on the couch instead of driving all the way back to Watsonville, which I accept after 20 or 30 seconds of "Hmmm", with the stipulation that I get to use their shower. They agree.
So here I am alone with Jen and Eszter, thinking the average run of lust-driven young man's thoughts. Ignoring these, I sit on the couch and have a fine conversation with the two girls, encouraging Jen to tell stories about their adventures together, and describing the horrors of living in a rat-infested Davis apartment. Jen's mannerisms seem oddly familiar to me, and only this late in the evening I realize that she speaks and tells stories with the same basic movements and transitions that the guru Unix sysop at Mother.Com, Steve, used. Steve was a hermit, though, while Jen appears to be a socialite; a font of information, stories, and gossip, all told with the same quirky, sardonic delivery that is entertaining enough by itself, and unless you're careful, may distract you from the realization that the sheer volume of things she recalls and the complimentary way she orders their delivery requires a mind with an atypical organizational gift. It seems quite reasonable that the way a person speaks offers some insight into their mental process, but in this case the comparison is dramatic. I don't know what her major is; perhaps I'll suggest that she try being a sysadmin. She is tall and an expert swimmer, though she admits she is not as in shape as she once was.
Eszter is a cipher; I ingested a lot of factual things about her, and a lot of her past history, but nothing seemed to reveal the workings of her mind. Whatever is hidden under there is obscured by an external appearance of cheerfulness, concern, and energy - and a sort of deliberately constructed harmlessness. All I can say for sure is that, like me, she desires an environment where everyone gets along, and has become proficient in locating and maintaining that kind of environment.
Anyhow, I get into the bathroom and dress down to a towel, and put my watch around my belt and open the door to throw these items next to my backpack. Jen whistles at me so I strike a pose. I jokingly invite her to join me, and she says her boyfriend probably wouldn't sit well with it. The responses are all pat and expected. What I really want to do is give Eszter the same proposition but I am just too unfamiliar with her. Gee, what a shock, right; only knowing her for 8 hours or so, I was unfamiliar. Pblhbtt.
Anyway, "See you soon", I say and shut the door. Eszter makes some comment under her breath just then and Jen is honestly shocked, and hollers "ESZTER!!" I lean out and inquire what she said, but Eszter is silent and Jen is vague. So I shower.
More conversation happens after I come out. We set up a sleeping bag on the couch. I borrow one of Eszter's shirts because mine is, as I put it, "Very stinky". We all finally sleep around 4am. I drape my shirt over my eyes because I know that in a few hours sunlight will pour in through the bay windows and torment me.