Digital Places of Interest

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Post #18: The Final Dispatch

Hey Folks! It's Wednesday, August 8th and you know what that means. It's officially the last day of classes for the summer session of Bread Loaf.  Last night there was a nifty slideshow held in the Barn and afterwards the last of the Loafers headed up to Gilmore for one more summer shindig. The Mavens elected to remain closer to home, hunkered down in the front lobby of Inn, far from the remote hilltop glory that is Gilmore, but even from that distance we could easily hear the occasional happy roar cascade down the mountain. And this morning, you could hardly get through breakfast because of the rampant hugging of friends and the saying of goodbyes and the wiping away of the tears.  And now, if you hang around the Inn, you can hear the clang of car trunks slamming, and the hum of engines turning over, and the crunch of gravel spewing from under tires as they pull away. Heading Off the Mountain. Trading one life for another.

And seeing how this the last entry of Dispatches, I really wanted to get it right, folks. I wanted to deliver a doozy, a real humdinger of Dispatch. So I sat and thought of all things I could write to put a bow on the end of a fine Bread Loaf summer. I wanted to somehow write about all things that made for a good summer but maybe not a great blog. But then I didn't or couldn't figure out how to honor those things without it seeming contrived or trite. 

For instance, I wanted to tell you about what it was like to have breakfast every morning with good company, folks like Maven MacNair and David Huddle and Master Will; the kind of company where you can say a lot or say a little, but it's always comfortable and never forced.  

I was going to tell you about how it wasn't so bad working because it never felt like toil, even during those long slow stretches behind the front desk when no one came by the window for what seemed like eternity. I was going to say those were some of the best days being a Maven because on those days you could shoot the bull with Maven Gene about the most overlooked Zeppelin album or how Jay-Z is the hip-hop Jay Gatsby; or you could get into a much-needed chat about relationships with Maven MacNair or have fun impersonating Nicholas Cage; or perhaps you could get Maven Peter started--if you were lucky--on the elusive nature of good Haiku; and, thankfully, on some days the Writing Doctor, Maven Edward, would barge into to the room at just the right moment to let you know exactly how you could cure your writing blues. Which usually boiled down to "stop whining, shut the hell up, and keep writing." He's a good doctor.  

I was going to tell you how surprising it felt to discover it's not too late to make damn good friends.

And try as I might, I could never find the right words to paint you a picture of kicking back in the weathered Adirondack chairs after work watching the sun go down behind the mountains while Gene told me he never understood the lyric about purple mountain majesties until he came to Vermont. Neither could I get it out about how good it was having the occasional smoke with Maven MacNair while she pointed out the way sunlight played on something botanical nearby. 

I was going to tell you about how much fun I had writing these Dispatches even if I never did learn who was reading them in Russia and Ecuador (there's still time, guys). I had so much fun that I can't imagine never doing this again.  So maybe this isn't goodbye after all. Maybe it's more like, "See ya' later." 

I was going to say all these things but I didn't because how do you write those things down without being embarrassed? Without feeling like a Cliche Machine? Besides, I could hear Haiku Maven Peter say our best writing is found in the silences. I could hear the Blog Doctor chide me for trying to be "artistic."  And I didn't want to risk the possibility of making Maven MacNair sad because she has enough of that in her life.  So I didn't go in that direction. Scrapped my plans. Decided to not say those things. Instead, I figured why not go back to the headwaters, back to the original Bread Loafer himself, good ol' Bobby Frost, and let him have the last word? Seemed like the right thing to do. So here it is:

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Looking down Rt. 125, a few steps from the Inn.   

Thank you.
Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

You didn't think I'd let you get out of here without one more insult, did you? Here it is. A while back the Mavens were eating lunch behind the desk. No one is speaking. Then Edward lets out a grunt. "She digs me. Hard." We look over to see who's digging Edward hard and see he's reading a People magazine article about Katie Holmes. I laugh and ask Edward what he thinks about Tom Cruise. He says, without skipping a beat,  "He--like you--is a complete fruitcake. And what she doesn't understand--unlike me--is that it's not all cake in life; sometimes, slick, you got deal with the nuts and the fruit, too." And then he finished reading the article.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Post #17: The Final Week

Hey folks, it's Monday, August 6th, which means we have officially begun the final, truncated week of the Bread Loaf School of English for the summer of 2012. (That's a mouthful. I need a nap now.) It's also the last week of Dispatches from the Mountain. Only one more entry remains after today's. Please stop cheering. But also permit me two indulgences. 1) This post is wicked long (that's what she...nevermind), and 2) I've included a brief, one-question survey at the end to help me clear up a long-standing mystery about Who You Are.

But before we discuss the Final Week, I think I should tell you about this past weekend. It was a doozy, folks, a real humdinger filled with Hamlets, stormy weather, moonlight swims in mountain lakes, and a massive power outage on Sunday night. The power outage happened at a particularly inopportune moment for the Loafers, as many were in the midst of frantically writing their final papers. The outage left the power-deprived Nerds with nothing to do except wander helplessly into the front lobby of the lantern-lit Inn where they huddled together to form what Edward aptly termed a [Nerd] "refugee camp." There they played games long into the night while the Mavens looked on in bemusement. The Nerd Refugee Camp inspired Fellow Maven MacNair to proclaim, "Isn't this wonderful! I hope it lasts for the next four days!" I agreed. We turned back the clock. We experienced a childlike innocence for one lucky night. With beer and whiskey, of course. 

Fellow Mavens Peter and Victoria entering the Little Theater for Friday Night's Hamlet: Don't Fear the Reaper.  

 Blurry Nerds, a painting by Van Gogh.
Postmodern Prometheus: Maven Overlord Victoria springing into action, bringing artificial light unto the Nerds.
Last summer, I leapt off an outrcropping of rock into a pool of water called the Warren Falls. It was a moment facing true fear. This summer, the moment of fear was taking a moonlit swim in a mountain lake. Moonlight swim sounds harmless to you, but you are not in therapy. Pictured here: Half-naked Nerds on Rocks. Not pictured: my fear of water snakes, stirrings of love for Mother Nature, and longing for my Special Visitor, whose absence was deeply felt. Too much?

On to the Final Week. The Final Week ends early, on Wednesday, but there are still a few bits of business that need to be attended to. There's the final Karoake night, of course, when Bread Loafers stream down off the Mountain in droves to lay siege to the local tavern, Two Brothers. That's tonight. Then there's the final Gilmore bash tomorrow evening, which promises to be the picture of class and restraint, save for the planned Drunken Nerd Mud Wrestling competition. And finally for the Final Week, there is the small matter of settling the Bread Loaf Bocce Ball tournament. Second only to March Madness in terms of popularity, the Bocce Ball Final Four wraps up over the next two days. And guess who's playing today for the right to compete in the championship game? That's right, Fellow Maven Gene and yours truly, otherwise known as the MacNair-Do-Wells. Your fearless Maven Duo are facing off against another team of Bocce Nerds right after dinner. It's on, folks, it's on.

This is Oliver L. He's ten years old. He likes to read the New Yorker. As you can see, he's sitting in the wicker chair normally reserved for the Mavens. He was one of our opponents on the way to the Bocce Final Four. Don't worry: we stomped him.

In conclusion, let's just say that the Final Week is different for every Bread Loafer from the first year students to the veteran professors to the kitchen staff. Some are wistful, some are tearful, some are grateful to be done. Nonetheless, two days from now, most of the Loafers will say goodbye to the Mountain and head back to their "regular" lives, wherever those may be, and as they drive away down Rt. 125 past the Ripton Country Store, you can bet they will ask themselves questions like, "Did that really happen?" and "What is that stain?" and "When can I come back?"

For today's installment of Edward Insults Me: Recently, Maven Overlord Victoria invited the Mavens to enjoy a nice glass of wine on her back porch before attending Hamlet. It was a really pleasant affair, full of good cheer. Edward wasn't there but when he did show up he looked around the porch, saw me, and announced, "You're here? How did you get invited? This used to be a nice house. Used to be." 

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique.

And now, being that it's the Penultimate Entry of Dispatches from the Mountain (Penulti-what? Penulti-who? Yes, I could have written the "second to last entry," but that's not what Nerds do.) I thought I would turn the tables and ask the readers from the overseas countries to stand and declare yourselves. Who are you? I'm bursting with excitement to know. You can do it publicly in the comments section or shoot me an email or leave a comment on Facebook. I have a fair idea of who the readers are in some of the countries, but I'm absolutely dying to know: Who are you in Russia and Ecuador and Spain and Germany? Do I know you? Have we met? Did I embarrass myself? I was probably drunk and/or sober. I'm sorry. So very sorry. 

I'll miss you.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Post #16: Five Minutes with Marcellus

Hey Folks! It's Friday, August 3rd, and we're
winding down on the Mountain. Next week is closing time, but a steady stream of Loafers have already turned in their departure information to the Front Desk.

Sad Nerd Face.
But alas! The summer term is not over yet, folks! Tonight I'm off to see Hamlet: Live from Denmark State Prison. Rumor is, Hamlet does an awesome 16th century cover of "Walk the Line." Tonight's show will be the third performance of Hamlet, and the consensus from the Bread Loafers is that show is Simply Nerdtastic! Delightfully Nerdiful! Absolutely Nerdulous!

"I laughed! I cried! I nerded all over myself twice!"
On Wednesday we talked with the lead of the play, Stephen Thorne, but for today's post, I thought I'd take a different route. For today's Esquire-style interview, we have as a guest one of the student members of the cast. Student actors are essential to the plays. The professional actors typically number around a dozen, which is never enough to fill out all the roles in the average Shakespeare play. To round out the cast, the director auditions the minor character roles to Bread Loaf students and faculty. It is, without doubt, one of the coolest traditions of the play and a true act of community. As stated before, (but never stated enough) I was lucky enough to score a role in a couple of summer plays back in my pre-Maven student days.  The experience was so kick ass that when I was fortunate enough years later to find myself co-directing the school plays for my high school, the Bronx Academy of Letters, we incorporated the communal spirit of Bread Loaf. Every play for the past three years has included students, faculty, staff, and administration. 

Shakespeare in the Bronx. Gangsta.  
On to the interview. Out guest is Matt Kasper. Mr. Kasper has several roles in The Hamlet, most notably the role of Marcellus, who I think is one the soldier guarding the ramparts of Elsinore. But he also might be a mysterious drug kingpin from Los Angeles. I'll get my crack research team on that. When he isn't busy guarding Elsinore or being sexually assaulted by a gimp, Mr. Kasper teaches literature at St. Paul's of Baltimore. Hey, you know who else teaches literature at St. Paul's? Maven Overlord Edward Brown. You know who taught Matt back in the day? Both the Maven Overlord Edward Brown, AND the Maven Overlord's Overlord, Victoria Brown. Once again, because of my high journalistic skill level, I managed to record nearly 40% of everything Matt said during our conversation.

Can you imagine being the student of both Maven Overlords? The result is this guy. 

WHAT I'VE LEARNED (for five minutes)
with Matt Kasper (Marcellus)

Hamlet [the play]: I'm almost overdosed on the greatest play. Taking the class, in the play, and preparing to teach it next year. and I still haven't determined who Hamlet is. I'm in a weird place with Hamlet. [The man?]

Acting: I'm excited about trying to re-engage with that. I was in The Changeling two or three summers ago and that was my first acting experience ever. This year I wanted a chance to have lines. I'm ready to take the next step: play a part in a play, any play. But it's hard. As you know, during the school year, it's hard to pursue fledgling interests. Now that I think about it, teaching is a form of acting. You're not yourself. I never thought about that connection too much before acting.

Marriage: Uh, less than a month away.

Fathers: Have one right now. Which is good. The idea of the Father Figure to me is overrated because I such a great father. I was talking to someone about Batman, they were frustrated about his need for father figures. I didn't see it that way. I saw him as self-contained. All he needs is Albert. I've never been interested in looking at things through the lens of a father figure.  

Mothers: Mother figures, hmm. Maybe that's more attractive to consider. My soon to be wife does things that my mom use to do. [Laughs. A lot. Too much?] I mean, in the sense of keeping my life organized. She helps me understand the purpose. [Laughs more.] Is this gonna be on Dispatches from the Mountain? I'm glad I never ran for office. I'm like Joe Biden.

Bread Loaf: Always hungry for more. It's the appetite that's never satisfied. It's like Dim Sum. But at some point, you just have to get up, walk away from your table, get in your car and drive away. And I'm full. I'm going to remember this taste of this place as long it lingers on the tongue.

Edward Brown: Edward is this all consuming force. I'm around him constantly. We work together. we hang out together outside of school. We're up here at summer. It's hard to gain perspective. He loves baseball. That's my most recent discovery. Rabid fan. He watches games constantly. He gets in trouble for it with Victoria. He has to make up reasons to go to the game. For his fiftieth birthday I wrote a play about him. It's all the different versions of him talking to each other: the jock, the teacher, the photographer. They don't get along. In the play he starts off asleep and  all the versions decide whether to wake up his consciousness. Eventually he decides to start a school where all the versions can teach, but then one version wins the lottery and they open a cheesecake factory. Because Edward loves cheesecake. I should have sent that to you instead of talking.

And that's that. See you on Monday, for the final week of the Bread Loaf School of English.

And now for today's Re-Installment of Edward Insults Me: Recently while debating the merits of driving stick shift vs. automatic, I commented that I have problems driving stick. "Oh, you got problems slick!" he said. "I just hate it though when you limit them to driving."

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Post #15: Five Minutes With Hamlet


Hey Folks! It's Wednesday, August 1st, which means today is the world premier of Hamlet! The Musical! Just kidding, it's actually the real play, Hamlet: A Downer in Five Acts. I thought for today's post it would be cool to do an interview with Stephen Thorne, the actor playing Hamlet. But first, let's have a little context.

We should begin by explaining the summer play is a big deal for us English Nerds. You see, for one week during the summer, Bread Loaf is transformed into a veritable hotbed of culture. Theater lovers from all over New England come in droves to pack it in at the Burgess Meredith Little Theater. (Mostly to see the summer productions, but also to gawk at English Nerds in their natural habitat, giggling when they spy a Nerd buried in a book running smack dab into a wall or pine tree.)

Undercover Nerd. 

And yes, we are referring to that Burgess Meredith, the actor who played Micky, the guy who trained Rocky, who right before the best training montage in film history snarled, "You's gonna piss lightnin' and crap thundah!" Turns out Micky was a serious patron of the arts and funded the re-building of the Little Theater after it burned down several years ago. Who knew?

Back to the plays. The way it works is that a troupe of actors cobbled together from the Trinity Rep theater (located on the mean streets of Providence, Rhode Island), along with a few strays from New York City, gather on the Mountain to perform plays. And when they aren't dazzling English Nerds with their acting skills, they assist the Bread Loaf professors with dramatic performances of classic texts. No one is sure how many years actors have been an integral part of the Bread Loaf way, but we managed to locate an old photo album documenting past productions.

1924. Ancestral Nerds.  
Same play, 57 years later. More Chicks + More Writhing= ManNerd Heaven.  
And now for Stephen Thorne. Stephen has been coming to Bread Loaf as an actor for thirteen years, playing the lead in several plays, the names of which I would write in this sentence if I were a real journalist. The point is, Stephen kicks ass, to the extent that acting in plays can be considered a form of ass kicking. When he's not an actor on the Mountain, he is a member of the Trinity Rep and a doting husband and father.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Super Nerd.  Feel free to add your own Nerd jokes.  And no, I didn't ask him to wear this t-shirt for the sake of few Nerd jokes. I wish. 

On to the interview. Being that Esquire is one of my favorite magazines, a natural choice for the Urban Daddy that I am, I decided to borrow from one of Esquire's best features called,"What I've Learned." Here's how it goes: celebrities are given a word to consider, expound, and riff on while a professional interviewer--in this case, me--writes down everything they say. Well almost everything. It was really hard to type as fast as Stephen Thorne talks but I'm fairly certain I got at least 43% of what he said. Don't sneer, folks. It's called "Journalistic license." Look it up. Amateurs.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED (in five minutes)

with Stephen Thorne (Hamlet) 

The Little Theater: I love Burgess Meredith. I love that space. I feel like the audience and the actors have such intimate direct contact with one another. 

Mothers: (laughs) Working as an actor, you work at night. Angela [Stephen's wifehas been with the kids more this summer, but even when I'm at home more, mothers tend to be a center for kids. The first person you call out for is mother. I find that rather profound. 

Revenge: I spend a lot of time in my car thinking about the things I'd like to say or do to other people.  I know that makes me sound mad, but other people do it too. It's a funny instinct. You find a way to negotiate it or get around it. 

Bread Loaf: A calm.  

Beards: I can't grow one. Mine is patchy. 

Madness: Someday they'll have a name for Hamlet's type of madness. When you disregard any rules of how to behave or communicate and just do what you want it makes life difficult for everyone else. [Editor's note: I took this comment as a personal attack.]

Front Desk Mavens: The pillar. Answer to and for all things. And yet I always have to look up the freakin' number. You'd think after 13 years I'd have it memorized. 

And that's that.

In a departure from the norm, today we have Edward talking about Edward. Recently, Edward shared some insight about the difficulty of successfully biking up the Lincoln Gap,  a legendary road which boasts a stretch of pavement said to be the steepest in America. Cycle enthusiasts speak reverentially of it.  Edward says he's made it up once. I asked him how that made him feel, emotionally. "Emotionally? Listen: I go to bed a wreck and I wake up a wreck. Riding a bike ain't gonna change that." Word. 
Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

Who's that? That's right, in 2004 I scored a small role in the summer play as the executioner in Measure for Measure. Opposite me is Jacques Lezra, a frequent Bread Loaf instructor. Jacques had the role of the defiant prisoner, Barnadine. Coincidentally, Jacques was my literature professor during my senior year of college (2000). Alas,  he did not remember me. (This is often the case with teachers. I know from experience. I barely remember the names of 8% of all the students I've taught.) He forgot, that is, until we found ourselves rehearsing for this very scene. In the middle of rehearsals he blurted out, "Oh, Christian. Yes, now I do remember!" And then I sent him off to be killed. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Post #14: A Special Weekend

Hey Folks! It's Monday, July 30th, and we've officially begun Week 6 of Bread Loaf, the last full week for all non-seniors. Week 6 is notable for two things: 1) It's the debut of the summer play, which is Hamlet and 2) It's the week after Suppressed Desires. In other words this is the week where everyone cleans up the mess, both the visible ones and the harder-to-scrub invisible ones.

So much happened over the weekend, it's difficult to decide where to begin. For one, as you know, I had a Special Visitor. Having a Special Visitor carries with it certain obligations. One might call these obligations, "labors of love." The history books are littered with menfolk going to great lengths to please their Special Visitors. Would the Pyramids of Giza have been built were not for the Pharaohs trying to impress their Special Visitors? Methinks not. I am no different, folks. For instance, when the Special Visitor mentioned--weeks ago mind you--that she liked men with beards I put away the clippers.
John Walker Lindh beards: catnip for ladies who love English Nerds. 

When the Special Visitor said she wanted to peruse a groovy gift shop while stopping for lunch in the small hippie mountain town of Bristol, Vermont, I obliged. What the heck, right? And when the groovy and well-toned shopkeeper mentioned showed us a flier for something called The Gathering of Elders, complete with multicultural disembodied heads against a background of outer space, the Special Visitor said, "Hey, that sounds cool, let's go visit!" So we visited.

And that's how I, along with my Special Visitor, found myself in the middle of something called an Arbor Circle, a Stonehenge-like structure made of trees, with dozens of hippies of all ages, sizes, and colors, dancing around a sacred Native American fire. Not sure how that happened, folks. Perhaps it's because I was "smudged." That's right, a prerequisite to enter the circle was being "smudged," which meant being fumigated by a man named Brian who wielded a bowl of incense that smelled highly unusual. The Special Visitor said it was Sage. I say it was Peyote.  Regardless, I was smudged up beyond belief.  I won't tell you too much more since it doesn't pertain to English Nerds or Bread Loaf, but I will say that we re-enacted, through interpretive dance, the Big Bang, the beginning of the solar system, and the collision of the four basic elements of earth, air, water, and fire. For the record, I was earth and the Special Visitor was water. And then we sang a Native American hymn.

Following two women whose names I imagine are something PineMother and SoaringEagle into the Arbor Circle.

Luckily, once we returned from the astral plane, the Special Visitor and I made it back to campus on Saturday for the big dance.

To conclude today's post,  I thought I'd share a few self-selected winners from the Suppressed Desires Dance.

Most Nearly Unibrowed Nerd

Most Clever Nerd. Get it? Suppressed Desires=Hidden Drive?

Most Troubling Nerd: Matt, the director's assistant, as Oedipus Rex. This poor guy pours the beers for raging nerds at every single Barn dance but is not allowed a single drop himself. His ode to Oedipus Rex was well done, certainly, but when asked what his suppressed desire was Matt responded, cryptically, (problematically?), that it was the Oedipus Complex itself. What does that mean?

Most Best costume Nerd. Matty V., as Borat. He make nice impression character good. 
Most Scorned Nerd: Lindsay C., the co-headwaiter for Bread Loaf. Here Lindsay is dressed as Miss Effie. Lindsey, offended by the prevailing ignorance of her costume, indignantly informed people that Miss Effie is a character from The Hunger Games. A character we found out, who has about 6 seconds of screen time in the film. After Lindsay did not win the best costume of the night she showed her contempt for the contest by shedding her costume in favor of a bikini. That'll show 'em! 
Most Obscure But Cheerful Nerd: This young lady came dressed as Scout Finch from a scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout dressed as Ham for the school play. Or something like that. By this time in the evening it was difficult to pay attention to things like Nerds who dress up fictional characters dressed as food products. 

This the tub in the men's bathroom on the second floor of the Inn. Until this weekend, this tub has been spotless, mostly because there isn't one man I know who bathes in a tub. When we woke up on the morning after Suppressed Desires, this is what we found, the evidence of someone gone off the rails and into the woods. 

And for today's installment of Edward Insults Me: recently, Edward and I were talking about how fellow Maven Gene, a connoisseur of culture, will someday likely become a well-known and very influential taste-maker. Edward said, "We'll be able to say, 'Hey, remember when Gene liked us?'" Then he thought for a second and continued. "Well, you won't be able to say that. You'll have to say, 'Hey, remember when Gene worked with me.' Sorry, slick." 

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

Friday, July 27, 2012

Post #13: Suppressed Desires!

Hey Folks!

It's Friday, July 27, and that means of several things. First off it means that yours truly has a special visitor this weekend. Which is awesome, but let's just say that this special visitor has given me a strict time limit to produce today's post because this special visitor drove several hours and hundreds of miles to see me and this is not how this special visitor wants to spend a few days away from the city.

A special visitor, huh? Who is it?  oh, let me guess, is it...Satan? 

Today is also the last day of Hell Week. Which means tomorrow night is the yearly summer bacchanal known as the Suppressed Desires Dance, a tradition dating back at least 2,000 years, around the birth of the founder of Bread Loaf, Mr. Miyagi.

The First Suppressed Desires Dance, circa 67 AM (Anno Miyagio). 
The unofficial, unstated rules for this particular masquerade are that one comes dressed as one's suppressed desire. This is no mere costume party. A costume party is where normal men and women dress up as firemen and french maids to behave in ways they usually shun as naughty or reckless. A Masquerade is where stuffy aristocrats with funny accents wear tuxedos and gowns and hold up masks--masques--to disguise their hideous faces so they can have sex once a year.  A Suppressed Desires Dance is when English Nerds decorate a huge yellow barn and compete with each other over who can come up with the most wildly clever costumes in the history of mankind. 

Royal Nerd. 

Now, in years past, there are have been numerous examples of stunning costumes, too many to list in one mere blog post (also, I'm running out of the time allotted to me by my special visitor.)

I'm almost finished, I swear!
Typically the English Nerds will select costume ideas fall under a few broad categories. Many people go for the clever play-on-words costume, like Renee L. who was dressed in a Freudian Slip, or Melissa R. who came as a "One Night Stand," complete with body-hugging table and lampshade. Probably the coolest literary pun costume was worn by Christian G., who not only decorated the barn one summer (theme: brothel. Talk about literary!), but also arrived as The God of Boxus (Bacchus), which featured a Franzia wine-dispensing breast box.  Finally, there's the category of Dang-That's-Just-Freakin-Brilliant. One year Jim S. came dressed as a fully operational Photo Booth, complete with a working Polaroid camera. Loafers could step "inside" Jim and have their picture taken. (I'd show you the pictures taken that night but most of them came out blurry and the ones that came out well are not appropriate for a family friendly blog.) But the grandest costume of all, the one that tied in humor, creativity, and a genuine Suppressed Desire belongs to Andy P. One summer Andy and his housemates had so much fun hanging out on the porch of the Annex house that the then-director of Bread Loaf intervened. The director wrote Andy and his mates a polite but stern letter regarding their Annex porch festivities. Andy's response was to transform himself into his beloved Annex porch for Suppressed Desires. 

The Letter. 
The Buddha once said: You can take the man off the porch,
but you can't take the porch off the man. 

As for the Front Desk Mavens, attending the Suppressed Desires Dance isn't so simple. Maven Gene has yet to reveal his costume. Maven Overlords Edward, Victoria, Peter, and MacNair usually attend the dance for the sheer fun of seeing the costumes rather than dressing up themselves. As for me, well, I'm constitutionally allergic to costume parties for a simple reason. One Saturday morning in 1986 in the small town of Sherman, Illinois (pop. 1400) where I grew up, my mother, The Original Maven, heard me impersonating the twisted laugh of Pee Wee Herman. Realizing that the 9 year-old version of me resembled Pee Wee flipped a switch in Ma Clarke's brain and she instantly become a small-town Hollywood Mom. She entered me in that year's best costume contest at our local neighborhood Halloween block party. Tragically, I won. For there on, for four straight Halloweens, from 1987-1990, I dressed as Pee Wee Herman in order to defend my title. And I always had to do the laugh and say, "Hey, Cherry," in the voice. Luckily, all that changed in July, 1991 when Pee Wee got caught touching his pee pee in public. I have shunned costumed parties ever since.

No, mom, not again! I'm 34 years old. 

And so, tomorrow evening, the English Nerds will finally have their due. They will get out of their heads for one evening and into their Masques and cut loose. I will be there to enjoy the evening's festooned festivities from a comfortable distance. But I will have my camera ready...

And now for today's installment of Edward Insults Me: On Wednesday night, the special visitor joined one of the teams for trivia night. The next day at work one the special visitors' teammates, named Liz, approached the Front Desk. Liz let me know it was really nice meeting my special visitor. "She's really smart," she said, adding, "She pretty much got most of our correct answers." Edward, overheading this, chimed in. "Look, let's get real, here, Liz. If she's dating Christian Clarke, she just ain't that smart."

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novitiate, 2012
Hic et Ubique 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Post #12: The Mid-Point Malaise

Hey Folks!

It's Wednesday, July 25th, which means we have hit the half-way mark of Hell Week, otherwise known as the Midpoint Malaise. The Midpoint Malaise is that painful stretch of time when Loafers are drowning in essays, finishing essays, or turning in essays. Often the Loafers are beset by other concerns that compound their essay-writing woes: they are tired of the food, or fighting off sickness, or missing their off-Mountain lives. And while a fair number of Bread Loafers carry on, availing themselves of Fun(!), the signs of the Midpoint Malaise are everywhere.

Paper? What paper? I scoff at thee.

Sign #1 of the Midpoint Malaise: ominous, gloomy, weather. The nights are cold and rainy, the days are the epitome of unpredictability--torrential downpour one moment, blindingly sunny the next. Sometimes both phenomenon occurring simultaneously, which is a real goocher. The point is, for the Bread Loafer, they never know when their sunshine might be vanquished, and with it, their joy.

A Real Goocher.

Now, the rest of America may not make much of the gods' meteorological hijinks, but the English Nerd is different, folks. They are trained to see the weather as a symbol of their inner lives. They see their Midpoint Malaise reflected in the grey heavens above and the soggy landscape below. That's me, they murmur, standing on the Inn porch, overlooking the southern meadow, gazing upon the falling rain, as a single tear glides down their cheek.

No one understands what it's like to care about penis imagery in Proust.

As for the Front Desk Mavens, we are busy playing our part in the term-paper economy of Hell Week, the academic business cycle of essays. First, students seek out MacNair, looking for comfort after Edward has told them to burn their essays in the nearest fireplace. Somehow, they push forward and finish the essay. Soon, they approach the Front Desk, looking hopeful, hand us their essays to turn into their professors, and walk away.  Edward looks at the essay titles, reads a few lines, shakes his head, chuckles, walks four feet to other side of the office, and puts them in professors' mailboxes, from which they are often retrieved in a matter of hours. Next day or so, professors show up to the Front Desk, looking grim, return the essays, and walk away. Edward takes them, checks the grades, shakes his head, chuckles, walks four feet to the other side of the office, and puts them in the students' mailboxes. Shortly after, we listen for the inevitable gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Then MacNair comforts them. Cycle complete.

Maven Overlord Edward refuses to accept an essay from one Bread Loafer that interprets Paradise Lost as an allegory for being dumped by Clair McCaskill back in the 11th grade.   

To comfort you, Maven MacNair will knit you a beautiful wool sweater. It might take her 22 years to complete, like this one did, (seriously, no joke, it did), but as you can see, it's well worth it.
Sometimes, in the event of receiving anything less than an A-, it's necessary to bring in a higher authority. 

But as we round the corner on Hell Week, there is hope, oh yes, indeed, there is. For you see, folks, bubbling below the surface of the Midpoint Malaise are the fevered dreams of the Bread Loafer, dreams of the carnal delights they hope await them Saturday night at the Suppressed Desires Dance. The Loafers minds are like stainless steel Cuisinarts of Desire, as gaudy images of cleverly costumed Nerds dancing in a Nerd frenzy percolate at a low boil, goading them on, prodding them forward, urging them towards the finish line, the mountain top, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yes, yes, yes

The vehicle of desire, circa 1963.

Christian Patrick Clarke
Front Desk Novititate, 2012
Hic et Ubique

And now for today's installment of Edward Insults Me: during a recent conversation, I complained about not having a car to drive off the Mountain and back. Edward replied, not ungenerously, "Listen, slick, I'll give you a ride back up the Mountain." My face brightened as he continued. "I prefer not to, but I will, because I know that if I don't someone will. Probably the cops."