Wednesday, August 31, 2011


They say you are not officially a writer until you are published.

Well guess what buddies?

I am official.

College By StormPDFPrintE-mail
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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Weathering a move into a dormitory in the eye of a hurricane

By Connor Miller

I first learned about Hurricane Irene, which was tracking along the eastern seaboard, the day before I left for college in New York state. Back in sunny California, my dad took me to the computer and showed me a map. He pointed to Bronxville, New York, just north of Manhattan, where my home away from home would be. “This is where your college is. And this,” he traced a line directly over my school, “is the path of Hurricane Irene.” I was a freshman who would be moving into my dormitory during a hurricane.

The next day, Friday, August 26, we (my mother, father, and myself) boarded our plane for New York. The flight attendant shook his head as he scanned our boarding passes. “Shouldn’t you be leaving the city?” This became a recurring theme on the trip. The flight attendant would come onto the intercom, make an announcement, and spice it up with a hurricane joke.

“Are any of you planning to do the ferryboat tour? Leave your jewelry with me for safekeeping and if the hurricane gets you…, I’ll be rich.” There were more jokes like this at which everyone on the plane laughed because we had nothing better to do. But by the time we landed, I was sick of hurricane jokes, and I could tell when a new one was coming.

In our hotel room my dad obsessed over hurricane updates on the news. The reports were overly dramatic, complete with animations of what New York City would look like underwater, as well as footage of the storm blowing through east coast towns. One woman journalist, broadcasting live from an area that was about to get hit by the hurricane, reported, “It is so quiet here. It is like the terrifying calm before the zombies attack.”

The next day, I moved into my dorm. I met my roommates and their parents. Hurricane jokes! I went through registration to get my student ID and paperwork. More hurricane jokes! Then we sat down under a tent to listen to a speech from the president of the college. Even more hurricane jokes! However, I will give her credit for tying the storm into the more inspirational parts of her speech. “Sarah Lawrence College encourages creating a sense of community, and what better way to do that than weathering out a storm in your dorm rooms.” Well played, Mrs. President. Well played.

That night, we all piled into the school auditorium for a presentation put on by our upperclassmen. We were told how much we would love our college experience, how Sarah Lawrence is so different from other schools, and of course, how funny the hurricane really was. “There are a lot of things I’d like to say about Irene, but I can’t because they’re misogynistic,” said one student.

That night there was thunder and lightning. Our Resident Advisor had told us that the campus would be closed the next day and that for safety reasons, we were prohibited to leave our dorms. If that meant an end to amateur comedy hour, I was completely fine with it. I had classes to pick and forms to fill out, and the last thing I wanted was cracks about Irene in the middle of Irene. There would be games in the dorms and meals would be delivered to us. “We will survive this together,” our RA told us.

Neither of my two new roommates seemed bothered by the storm. We were preoccupied with figuring out how the shower worked (turn on the faucets slowly, because the water pressure dishes out enough power to take the bark off a tree). Even though I could hear the wind outside, I was busy wondering if I could mix shampoo with face cleaner to make body wash. My roommates were the first to fall asleep, while I decorated my wall with pictures. The storm raged outside, but I felt very safe. I slept soundly.

Sunday morning, the big day, the day of the hurricane for which we all had been preparing, turned out to be disappointing. Other than some strong wind, there wasn’t anything to really fear. The campus lockdown was lifted at 11:00 a.m., when most of us were just waking up. Lunch took place in the dining hall as usual, and we did not play a single board game.

Of course, the storm was serious in other places. My roommate got an enormous kick out of reading us updates from his iPad, so I heard about the flooding and damage in New York City. Down the street from the college, the town of Bronxville was flooded as well. My parents, who were staying with a relative in the city, told me a tree fell and missed their car by a couple of feet. However, I believe the world suffered equivalent damage from bad jokes. If I learned anything from this whole ordeal, it was that the threat of a natural disaster somehow awakens the stand-up comic in people. But it makes sense.

We need a way to cope with impending doom, and what better way than with humor. It took away some of the seriousness and the edge of the storm and made people laugh instead of worry. And people did laugh. No matter how bad the jokes were, the people on the plane laughed, the incoming students laughed, and strangely enough, I laughed, all in the face of disaster.

Now that I can scratch surviving a hurricane off my to-do list, I can’t wait to see what’s on the agenda during the next four years. I’ve been told it snows.

Connor Miller is a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College whose first day on campus coincided with a hurricane striking the eastern United States. He is interested in a career in writing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ultimate Day

Today I went to the Ultimate Frisbee game next to my building. I met some upperclassmen who are REALLY good at the game, and we played for almost two hours. I scored some goals, and I made some friends. A successful day? I think so.

I wrote my name on the sign up sheet to join the Ultimate Frisbee team, known as the "Disc Nuts".

"Who's nuts?"


We will practice twice a week, even in winter, and compete against other schools in spring. And we will kick ass.

I went to the library to check out some assigned reading for my Childhood Development class. "It will be due at three fifteen."

3/15?, I thought. Wow, I have forever.

"Three fifteen today."

I looked at my watch. The book as mine for four hours.

I blazed through the pages I needed to read (p.1-36) and took notes. It was very interesting, and I highly recommend the book (Wally's Stories by Vivian Gussin). A kindergarten teacher decides to write down everything her students say and do. It is fascinating, and you soon realize that Wally is the most creative and different out of all of them. I want to read the whole book, but I didn't have time. I returned it in two hours.

As the sun was setting, I took my Spanish placement test. It took a while, but I scored 43 correct out of 76. Not bad. Ok, it's technically and F, but it proves I know some Spanish. It took a while to finish the test online, and when I was done I was looking for a way to reward myself. So I looked out my dorm room window and saw fire.

A man juggling fire. A mechanical bull. A DJ.

I ran down all three flights of stairs as fast as I could. Then I realized I was dressed for Frisbee, so I ran back up the stairs and dressed for dancing.

It was dark outside but it took a while for the dance pit to warm up. The DJ played songs that were vaguely familiar to me, but at one point he DID play "I'm On a Boat", which makes me respect him more. Lots of girl-oriented music, but I guess that's because the DJ knew his audience. I had a good time though. I danced late until about 11:00pm, when the dance pit started to smell like cigarettes and alcohol. And when the shirts started coming off. The DJ saw that it was getting a little out of hand, so he ended with a Britney Spears song, and then one or two encore songs.

When I came back to Westlands, the kids who didn't go to the dance were singing and dancing along to "Rocky Horror Picture Show", which was playing on someone's laptop.

I am glad they managed to have fun as well.

So today was the ULTIMATE socializing day for me. I joined a sports team and I attended a dance, all of which occurred within 100ft of my dorm. I truly do have prime location on campus.

Tomorrow I interview my potential professors. So now I must sleep.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rough Day. Needs Lube.

Yes, a provocative title, but it will make sense soon.

Sarah Lawrence has a unique way of having students sign up for classes. Each student picks the classes they are interested from the course catalogue, and then they interview the professors of those classes to see what the class will be like. The school prides itself in this program, and we, the students, attended many workshops and presentations that attempted to make the whole process easier. I think I have a clearer understanding of the "class interview" system, but it was still difficult as hell.

I had to sign my name on sheets of paper taped to office doors all across campus. It was like a scavenger hunt. I had to navigate through buildings and mazes of hallways for each of the six classes I am interested in taking. And the great part is that some of the teachers are stranded in New York City, which means I could find their classroom, but the sign up sheet isn't there. I would not be complaining if I was familiar with the campus, or if I was full of food. Because of my meal plan, I have been worried and irritable all day.

After a particularly frustrating round of hunting, I found the office of one of the writing professors. It was at the top of a flight of stairs in a narrow white hallway.The professor was there, so I shook his hand and introduced myself. As I was writing my name, a kid tried to slide past me, and his backpack hooked onto the fire alarm. He stumbled, the bar came down, and the alarm went off.

The whole building was alive with lights and sirens and confused students and faculty. I looked at the kid who tripped. He looked back at me with a helpless expression on his face. I turned to the writing professor.

"So...he tripped the fire alarm, not me." Pause. "I'll see you Wednesday for the interview."

And I was gone.

I removed the blame from myself, and now I am in the clear. But the professor now knows my name, and when he sees me again he might call me an asshole. And I will take it like a man and agree.

"Yes. Yes I am an asshole. So... journalism?"

I rewarded my inglorious behavior with free ice cream at the School Expo. I sat on a rock and ate it as I flipped through my course catalogue for the 100th time. I felt very overwhelmed. My planner is filling up with things I need to do, and I hope that college will get easier when I settle into a routine of classes. Right now it is all chaos. All the time.

Ate lunch/dinner with new friends who made me laugh and who I made laugh. Drank Coca-Cola. Ate pizza. And cake. Food is therapy. So is good conversation. My new friend from Houston, Texas, told our table the story of how he became ambidextrous (he broke his right arm playing basket ball). We all laughed, even when he showed us that he cannot longer extend his arm full length. He was laughing too, so it's ok.

The last exciting event of the day was "Lube It Up!", a traditional sex-education presentation by a favorite Sarah Lawrence Alum. We learned about different kinds of lube, condoms, dental dams, and quick substitutes for any of these things (seran wrap, rubber gloves). Fun stuff.

"Now, what are some things you heard about Sarah Lawrence?" asked the presenter.

A person shouted something from the back.

"YES! Absolutely." cheered the presenter. "'Gay by May' is definitely an unofficial Sarah Lawrence motto. My personal favorite is 'Queer in a year or your money back!'"

Yup. I shouldn't really be surprised. Sarah Lawrence is a really really liberal school.

"Do NOT have sex while drunk. You might accidentally screw a Republican." said the presenter.

Cheers in the audience. Soft, awkward clapping by me. I am not a Republican. But my family votes for them. So I felt weird.

I do not plan on changing my sexual orientation by any deadline, and I do not plan on accidentally making love to anyone, regardless of their political alignment.

I am in Westlands. Substance free, quiet housing.

Or, as the upperclassmen call it, "Virgin Vault".

And I am completely fine with that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Storms and Showers

I did not bring toothpaste, soap, or shampoo, which made personal hygiene last night rather difficult. I borrowed some shampoo and face soap from my roommate and I mixed it together in the shower to substitue body wash. I learned later from a friend that you are never supposed to use shampoo on non-head areas of your body or it will mess up your pores. I am hoping one time will not kill/horribly disfigure me.

Heard the storm while I was showering, and afterwards, wearing only a towel, I watched as it whipped trees around outside my dorm window. Thunder, lightning. The three of us slept soundly in our dorm.

The next morning it was kind of windy but calm. We were given the all clear at 11 o'clock, which meant we were free to leave and do whatever we wanted for the day. I had a mission: buy toiletries.

I joined a group of kids from Westlands, my building, on an excursion to the grocery store. We tried going down into Bronxville but the town was flooded.

(Above) That is a car on the freeway.

(Above) This is the main road.

So we turned around and went to the Yonkers shopping center instead, which was uphill and less... wet. We went to a grocery store and I bought shampoo, razors, body wash and face soap. I didn't buy toothpaste because one of my friends said she had an extra tube, but I don't know where she is right now so I am getting worried. I may have to borrow my roommate's toothpaste again, which is a fancy brand called "Rembrandt". "It's expensive, but I figure if I am going to put something in my mouth, it might as well be the best, you know?" Mr. Ohio tells me.

I also bought some Cup O'Noodles, because it was cheap and on sale and everyone else was buying some. Buying ramen is so stereotypical of college students that it makes me cringe, but strangely I am looking forward to christening our currently unused microwave.

When we got back, I looked out my dorm room window and saw a black guy juggling on the front lawn. I ran down the stairs and across the grass to introduce myself. I now have another friend. He is about the same juggling skill level as me, and we spent more than an hour juggling and talking about juggling. He taught me some tricks, I showed him some of mine, and we made a deal that we would go visit Dube (pronounced "doo-BAY) Juggling Store in New York City. It apparently has a hidden entrance so that only jugglers can find the store, and once you're inside you can play with all of the juggling equipment they have on display.

Are you excited yet? I am.

Also, I told my RA that I was into ultimate frisbee, and it turns out he is on the school's ultimate frisbee team! He said they're looking for more players, and I am definitely going to join. I need the PE credit, and the exercise. I'm out of breath by the time I reach my room, which is up three flights of stairs. This will be fixed. Soon.

Tomorrow I meet with my don. For those of you who don't know, my don is one of my teachers, but also a counselor and a mentor. She is a old, frail, charming woman who teaches the Early Childhood Development course, which is my First Year Study course. Everyone in her class met her yesterday, and she had all of us explain why we chose this area of study.

Girl 1: "I chose early childhood development because I am a fiction writer and I am really interested in writing characters from a psychological viewpoint."

Boy 1: "I chose this class because I want to become a doctor. And also I love working with kids."

Don: "And what about you?" (points to me).

Me: "I... um... want to be a great dad... and hopefully this class will help... that."

Everyone laughed. My don smiled and nodded. "I know some great dads." She said. Definitely the weirdest reply that could have been said.

Since the storm has passed, tomorrow is packed with activities, including a sex-ed presentation and a showing of "Water For Elephants". Actually, it's the same event.

That was a joke. Please laugh.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Day

Today I moved into my dorm. It took three suitcases and a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond to do so, but it was done, and it was done well. I moved in first so I think I got prime bed placement. I haven't told my roommates this, but even if I did I don't think they'd argue with me because we're still in the "first impression" phase of friendship where we feel we MUST be polite and courteous all the time.

One of my roommates is from California, the other is from Ohio. I like them, especially Mr. Ohio for supplying the microwave and fridge. He claims to have a variety of "addictions" to things like Twitter, coffee, his iPad, and other things that he says will become clear in the near future.

This is what my corner looks like.

Yes, it looks kind of messy, but I have other things to worry about other than the neatness of my corner.

This evening we had dinner and we discuss our meal plans. I have Meal Plan 3, which I was pretty excited about until I learned that it was the worst meal plan that provides me with 10 meals a week.

That means I can eat twice a day, on weekdays. And on weekends, I fast.

My classmates were appalled.

"Meal plan 3? You'll have to... eat your roommates."

I am told I can upgrade to 21 meals a week (3 meals a day, which is normal) for $300, so I am going to call my parents and tell them how much I love them and how great college is and, oh, by the way... food.

After dinner we went to a presentation put on by some of the upperclassmen of Sarah Lawrence College. It was unorthodox, high energy, and tremendously supportive of the idea of "being different." The whole place was going wild as one of the students danced around in his tight plaid pants and a bedazzled tank top that said "Likes Boys".

I clapped softly, wondering if I applied to the right school for me. I looked around and saw that a lot people were dressed like they were blind, which in this environment is more of a compliment than an insult. "The crazier the better" seems to be the school's unspoken dress code.

I am afraid I am not going to fit in at this school of misfits. I don't think I'm weird enough, and to be totally honest I have no desire to be as eccentric as some of the people I'm seeing as I walk through the campus. And I'm afraid that by the end of the school year, just being around this much "creative chaos" will change me into something completely different.

And maybe that's what the school is going for.

I have made some friends that I can stand, though, and they all live in Westlands, the same building as me. So at least I have a refuge. But I know eventually I am going to have to go outside and make some friends. I go back my favorite Jack Kerouac quote:

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles..."

I agree, so maybe I am in the right school. Still, I am scared.

There is thunder and lighting outside my window. Hurricane Irene is coming, so tomorrow we're supposed to stay in our dorms all day. I'll use this time to reflect, straighten out my room, and flip through my course catalogue. I need to pick my classes for the semester, and I have a lot of choices. Hopefully it will help me take my mind off my fears.

In that same presentation with the dancing man in plaid pants, another woman put on a slide show that talked about kids who go to summer camp and send letters back that say "I hate it. Everyone is horrible." But then the next letter says "One person is ok." And the next letter says "I love everyone. I don't want to go home."

Hopefully this will be the case with me. Hopefully the school won't change me too much, but strengthen my sense of identity.

I'll keep you posted.

New York! SWAG! SWAG!

First acknowledgement of the fact I was carrying a peacock feather onto a plane.

Flight Attendant: "Don't even try... to tickle me with that thing."

Finished reading Catcher in the Rye by the time we landed in LaGuardia Airport. At the rental car station, I had ANOTHER star sighting: John Lutz from 30 Rock.
This guy. He looked at me nervously when he realized I recognized him. I smiled and didn't say anything. I am a creeper. He quickly left the building to get his rental car.

So now it's two in the morning and we're trying to get some sleep at the hotel before we go to Sarah Lawrence at 11am. I am REALLY excited to move into my new home. According to the local news, I'll need to move in completely before Hurricane Irene hits in the afternoon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

At The Airport

I officially am the weird guy at the airport since I'm carrying a 3 foot long peacock feather. I thought it would be confiscated at the security check-point on the grounds that it was a little "too random", but it went through without hassle.

I am 80% sure I saw Kreayshawn at the Oakland Airport (if you don't know who she is, watch this video and be amazed). I checked online at her website to see if her tour schedule gave her a reason to be at the Oakland Airport today, and apparently she was performing in San Francisco LAST NIGHT. However, she represents Oakland, which would explain why she's here to catch a flight to her next location, Los Angeles.

So it's legit. I probably saw Kreayshawn. She was with two tall black guys who were carrying her bags. Swag.

I have about two hours to kill before the first flight from Oakland to Chicago, so I'm going to wander around the airport terminal and try to balance the peacock feather on my chin.

I am so cool.

Last Day, Part Two

Said my last goodbyes to some of my closest friends. As a going away present, one of my friends gave me a shot glass with my name and the word "Swag" on it. I love it, but I plan on keeping it at home to discourage drinking at college. I am seriously juiced for learning, and I want to have as little distraction as possible.

Lucas and I went out to dinner at Chaya, an Asian Fusion restaurant in San Francisco. We dressed up in our finest (suits with matching ties) and ended up spending over $100 on food. But it was delicious and it was completely worth it. Highlight of the night: the waiter putting a steak knife next to Lucas's plate without him noticing. It blew Lucas's mind.

We spent the rest of the night with friends at San Francisco State University, and came back home at around 1:00 am. I said my goodbyes, which weren't really "goodbyes" but more "I"ll miss you's" because I plan to see most of my friends when I come back for Christmas. Still, it was difficult and sad.

I'm supposed to wake up in four hours to leave for the airport, so I am packing up my suit and my dress shoes as quickly as I can so I can sneak in a couple hours of sleep. This might not happen, but I'll have a long plane ride to catch up on rest.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Last Day

Things are getting pretty hectic, so I can't type to much now. I need to buy boxers, get my toiletries together, and figure out what else I'm going to need. In the meantime though I'm looking into my suitcases and trying to figure out how to fit in my juggling clubs.

It doesn't look like they're going to fit.

I'm scared and nervous, and when I think about leaving I start sweating. I look forward to hanging out with friends tonight in San Francisco, which will be a pleasant distraction.

More later. Need to do some laundry.