On Being About to be Graduating College, Drinking Milkshakes and Seizing the Carp.

It was a Latin joke that my teacher used to make.

My teacher, Mr. Gini, a man with a fine mustache and demeanor–a Brown graduate–who would come in to class with a tweed suit every day, though his swarthy-look and dark-black-hair must have proved that he was too young for such attire.

Maybe he was the sort of man who aspired to such vestiments of tweed–someone wanting of tweediness. It’s not the worst thing in the world to want to be an academic, to feel compulsed to inculcate young minds with Latin grammar and conjugations as you yourself were once inculcated.

I did him poorly though. Even though I much admired him, him and his tweedness, his nerdiness, his earnestness and his love of poetry. I admired him for his pretty, vivacious, spunky wife, who I met while traveling on a Latin trip, getting drunk for the first time and drinking Ouzo with some fellows from Missouri, who made me feel significantly cooler than I had any right back then.

Plus one of them had a curly Jew-fro, something I admired and would later self-incorporate in a sort-of-form without ever acheiving the loftiness of full-on tight-curled exuberance.

I did Mr. Gini poorly though, pulling out the lowest score, a 1, on my AP Virgil exam. I had no patience as a senior for Virgil, as I had once had for Catullus as a junior. Back with Catullus, I felt a sympathy, a synergy, a longing towards that sense of romantic hopelessness he embodied from across the ages, while I had no such sympathy for Dido and Aeneas, with their troubled star-crossed love. Love to me then was only a longing felt unanswered, not a troubled beast itself.

The low score I’m sure must have hurt him–Mr. Gini–and I think that the powers that be at my high-school must have given him a hard time. I didn’t care for anyone but myself back then, in my brooding leather-jacket days and so the 1 was at most, a mild embarassment. I was even already in college and ready to defecate on anything I could build-up enough courage to vandalize at that school. But I hadn’t meant any harm to Mr. Gini, a gentle man, who wore tweed suits.

He used to tell us in class, the high-school juniors-and-seniors, with a slight smile and a bit-of-wit from beneath his bristly mustache:

“Carpe Diem–Seize the Carp.”

It was a joke that resonated to Latin students, cut-ups and New Yorkers. It was stupid but smart. And it always brought a smile to my face.

***

I was trying to find “Wave of Mutilation” on LimeWire and that’s what made me late.

While I’ve cited it in the past, I love my Pandora Radio. The new music I hear is often great, opening me up to new artists or songs, but it’s really hearing the things I’ve heard once before that’s gets me.

Because when you hear a song you only half-remember, it stirs things in you, memories, sensations, the experience of where you heard it, it takes you down a path. There’s a feeling of comfort though, of home in that sort of half-remembered memory: an uncertainness, but a comfort nonetheless.

So when I left my shower this morning, having woken up early (7:45am, I find it hard to sleep late, as of late), I combed the “thumbs-uped” songs from my Pandora station looking for songs to add to my phone. Songs like “Sister Golden Hair” by America, which I knew primally, from movies and my youth, but which I never knew the name of. Songs like “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed I had heard in a movie I liked. Or songs like “Wave of Mutilation”, the Pixies, which I was played by my 26 year-old film-teacher riding shotgun, stoned, through the back-forests of Vermont.

It was for this reason, picking and choosing and looking and downloading the songs I half-remembered so I could always listen to them on my phone that I was late, despite being early to picking up student-rush tickets for “Next to Normal”, the Broadway musical, and subsequently did not get them.

I’ve had a checkered relationship with musicals in my life, but they’re somewhere in my blood. My grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side were both, at one time, “musical theater people”, dancing, singing, performing. I was in some in high school, though I never was a star, and I seem to recall a propensity for messing up my lines, improvising or choking at the inopportune moment. I remember my fellows in those musicals.

They’re all gay now.

Anyway, my entree in to film was also a flight away from musicals, away from what I saw as folly, or the perceived failures and inadequacies of my youth.

But just as film had gotten me out from the musical, it found me back in it. A film like Chicago seemed to take a dark spin on the genre, even if it was done somewhat inadequately (I particularly doubt Renee Zellweger’s ability as an actress and Rob Marshall’s ability as a director) and when I saw Singin’ in the Rain, I was reinvigorated to the potential the musical might hold. When I started seeing Broadway again, in the lapse of time between my Junior and Senior year, I was still stuck on seeing plays, what I thought the “legitimate theater”, but after a hint took me to see Passing Strange, I wanted to see more.

Next to Normal seemed an interesting choice. A musical about a dysfunctional family with a bipolar mother that takes place largely at home and in the treatment facilites and therapy sessions the family endures. It seemed like an interesting direction for the genre and as with most things, I wanted to take advantage of it while I was still a student, in the nether-region I inhabit: devoid of class, but not yet graduated.

But as I said, I was too busy browsing songs at home, at ended up in line at 9:45, before the box-office was open, but about 25th in line for tickets and boxed (and sold) out.

I ended up at 10:30 searching for a purpose, searching ofr a milkshake. I had nothing much to do right then, but I found myself near one of the places I’d read about in the Times: City Burger, a reputable establishment. As I was planning on walking down to Shake Shack to kill some time anyway–it was only 10:30–I decided to eschew such plans and try out this joint which happened to be open then.

I had some good grub there, but some good gripes as well. The Turkey Burger ($5.95) came with “the works”, a combination of toppings I’d encountered at Goodburger among other places: mustard, mayonaise,ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles–a combination I asked for all of except the last (I am the one Jew non-pickle-lover). The combination was pungent and good with a kick, but overwhelmed the thin patty of turkey-burger I received in the middle. I felt slightly eschewed–this was not a hot dog and thus did not need excessive relish. The french fries ($4) were pretty good, better than Shake Shack’s–which I generally feel are overrated–and flavored with some pepper or paprika, a light touch which I appreciated. Plus the fries came in abundance, in such abundance in fact as to feel like a great deal compared to the burger itself. The Black+White shake I got ($5.50) was also huge and not bad at all. Shake Shack is obviously known for it’s shakes and this was not the Shack’s equal for its legendary “hot-fudge” Black-and-White, but it didn’t disgrace itself either, instead providing a strong counter-point to the burger-and-fries, along with something to take for the road. My only gripe there was for some reason a Black-and-White was 50 cents extra–as if it was some fancy French-dimension to add chocolate syrup to a milkshake. Even though they don’t know the Black-and-White in Vermont (napkin-drawn diagrams were required to explain it, provided upon request), it’s less exotic than say, Strawberry, here in New York City and I don’t see whyever it should cost extra.

I took my 50-cent-extra-shake and began the walk downtown.

***

Waiting in line for a cap-and-gown seemed both like some sort of existential journey and a giant let-down.

On set on my film, it was a such a big issue. Remember my parents were there on set with me and even though they were supportive and helpful they also seemed pissed-to-all-shit that I still hadn’t managed to register for graduation. When I tried to explain to them wearily that I had been concentrating on my movie or, alternately, concentrating on not-concentrating on my movie, this didn’t seem to pass a good excuse to them. My last day of shooting was my last day to order a cap-and-gown online.

Wi-Fi was found. Wi-Fi was lost. My script supervisor was put on the job. My script supervisor failed lacking a credit card. I stole my art director’s computer and hovered outside of bistros down University Place trying to find a connection outside of any of them, finally getting my order through, only for my friend Langston–the art director–to be denied his order, as the Wi-Fi gods giveth, the Wi-Fi gods taketh away.

Here, waiting on line, everyone had to wait, cap-and-gown order or no. You didn’t even have to wait in line if you were just getting the cap-and-gown. Order online or no.

I saw people I knew in the line and bumped elbows with them, a signifier of my handsful of The New Yorker and an interesting article, and also a signifier of how little really was invested in exuberance over the event.

I remember when my mom called me to tell me I had earned a “gold tassle” for my academic acheivements I was disappointed that Tisch did not over something in Latin (“cum laude”), instead prefering large ornamental arrangements of string.

The people were nice at least and the line moved quickly enough, New Yorker in hand. The people were nice enough at least for people who were renting you blue robes. I saw people as I walked back towards home, blue robes and hat in hand and nodded to them soberly, giving them the same elbow-fives I’d asked of them before.

When my mom called me and asked what night I wanted to go out for graduation, I snapped after a few rounds of asking me and told her “I couldn’t care less”.

“Tuesday, Wednesday,” I told her. “It doesn’t matter. As far as I know, I’m free for the conceivable future.”

I told her I’d talk to her later.

“Carpe diem”, I thought. The same words I was told upon graduating high school.

“Carpe diem. Seize the Carp.”

***

CITY BURGER

#2- Burger, Fries and Milkshake- $12.95

Corner of 39th St and Broadway

1237NQRWS to 42nd St-Times Square

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2 Responses to On Being About to be Graduating College, Drinking Milkshakes and Seizing the Carp.

  1. friend of gini says:

    mr. gini knows about this entry nick.
    while he is apparently less inclined to contact you about it, i seriously question your judgment in displaying your thoughts on his wife on a public blog. i would also suggest also that this whole tweed suit everyday thing is in your imagination. i think it would benefit everyone if you were a little bit more careful with the opinions you choose to spread publicly.
    thank you

  2. Lisa says:

    This is beautifully written and one of your best posts. One thing about the critique above…from a very eely sort who wouldn’t even self-identify…I bet that its progenitor wouldn’t be able to seize that carp. He or she is just too damn slippery.

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