Saturday, October 1, 2011

A place to call my own, continued

That's a view from campus of the center of town. The bright blue building in the center is the one I will be living in. You can find the rest of the photos here.

Anyway, I made it to campus around 11:30 and took some time to walk around. I went into the library to maybe sit for a bit cause I had, after all, been on my feet all day, but once I got in for some reason I felt uncomfortable so instead I found a bench outside. The campus itself is about... 8 buildings I'd say, all situated around a large field with a pond that I'm told ices over in the winter and people have been known to play ice hockey. Two of the buildings are dorms/class rooms. The interesting thing is that the school has over 800 students, but the dorms only hold 300 so somehow the other 500+ find places to stay in a town of 2200. Actually, I guess I found a place pretty easy so I guess it's not that hard after all.

I met my transfer councilor, Shelbie Ross, at noon, and we headed towards the cafeteria. The cafeteria was.... nice... and maybe I'm being a snob here, but I wasn't too impressed with their offerings. I've been to a few school cafeterias and they tend to offer a range of choices, this one was pretty much two, sandwiches or whatever the prepared meal was that day (I think it was stir fry, but I just grabbed a sandwich). We talked for a bit about the college and then about the differences between California and Maine. Specifically we talked a lot about food. One of the funniest moments came when we started talking about coffee and Dunkin' Donuts and I asked when they were going to put in a Starbucks and she said, "We had a Quizno's once, everyone was really excited when it opened, but then it wasn't very good."

After our talk we went to go meet Kaz, who was going to tour me around the school. Kaz is a basketball player recruited from London, who is also of Indian decent. That boosted my spririts a bit, knowing that someone from London had been living well in Machias for about four years. Kaz was a great guy who obviously had had American idioms beaten into his brain. He never once said football when talking about soccer, or used any London slang. I had to trick him into it when we were talking about where in London he was from by asking whether North London was the "posh" section, which he readily agreed with. On our tour I met a woman named, I think, Christina, working in the bookstore. Christina was from Jamaica. Yeah, that's right, Jamaica. She was in Maine because her younger sister was attending a boarding school nearby by. What kind and why I never found out because she was working, but I plan on asking her when I see her again, which I will cause the campus is tiny.

So after our walk around we made it to the book arts lab. We were suppose to meet the guy in charge, Bernie, but he was in a meeting late. Kaz and I talked about the differences between living in a city and living in a small town. He is on a basketball scholarship so his day is situation is fairly planned. He lives on campus, he works on campus, all of his meals are on campus, but it was still quite a switch for him. He agreed with me that the lack of a variety of food was probably the biggest drawback.

So, finally, Bernie showed up and Kaz took off to his next thing. By this point it was nearly four and I had been off my feet for about one hour since eight. Still, I managed to work up enough energy to be excited about seeing the presses. They were great. The whole press room is full of letter tiles and the smell of ink. Bernie ran some maintenance on one of the presses as he talked to me about my love of publishing and books. I just sort of watched and tried not to sound stupid. He then took me back to his office where he had examples of paper from all over the world and all different ages. He had a beautiful piece of goat skin vellum pounded very thin and covered in music, as well as a lot of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese paper samples. His thing is paper, but he also showed me a lot of books he was working on for various organizations.

At this point, having sat down, all the exhaustion of the day hit me at once and I became far too tired to be charming. Any of you who are familiar with my personality when I'm tired know that I struggle to find words, make odd non-sequitors, and pretty much act like a rambling idiot. My point is I couldn't make the impression I wanted to, so instead I shut up and just let the man talk and try to follow what he was saying.

After he talked at me for awhile Bernie invited me to a banned book reading at the library which I readily accepted, and I returned to the admissions office to speak to Shelbie again. Actually, all I did was get a free shirt from her and then told her I needed to sit down for a bit. After sitting long enough to feel a bit refreshed I went back to the library where the banned books group was meeting. The people were all glad to see me there, just like everyone I met, it seems like everyone in Maine is perfectly happy to see you, and were excited to hear that I was there all the way from California. One of the members of the group was the first student to come in under their book arts program. She will be graduating in Spring. The members got up, one by one, to read passages from their favorite banned books. Eventually I was asked to read something so I grabbed Maus, which only a couple had heard of, but that they all enjoyed.

That was my day. The next day I put a deposit down on my apartment and then drove back early to Manchester.

The story is done so now a couple of thoughts. I feel like Maine is the forgotten state. There's really no reason that it should be so empty of people. It's got a ton of potential industry and beautiful geology. It's not so much colder then places like Buffalo, Green Bay, or Minneapolis, which together have a higher population then the entire state. The coastal area doesn't get storms like the rest of the Atlantic. Even in the winter, according to Shelbie, there are no big snow storms, just snow falls. I think people just kind of forget it's there. When they are looking for a place to move Maine just doesn't come up. There's probably about 0 growth there and that may be part of it's charm. The funny thing is, people from all over New England and the Mid-Atlantic states go up there and vacation in the summer, as if living in Pittsburgh during the winter is somehow more pleasant then living in Bar Harbor.

Second thought came to me as I was flying into Phoenix. Phoenix has over a million people and for the life of me I can't imagine why. It's a fucking desert, and only occasionally is it the pretty, photogenic kind. Most of the time it's the dusty, barren, what-the-hell-are-you-doing-trying-to-live-there kind. The plane flew over the reservoir which was obviously struggling. You could tell from the air that a healthy level was probably 80+ feet up from where it was. Yet, despite what I could only call drought conditions, I counted no less then 16 bright green golf courses on the way to the landing strip. That's probably the most awful thing I've seen in some time. I get that people want to live in a climate that isn't cold or damp, but there are plenty of places where you can do that and not try and force a desert to be something it's not. Listen, if you want to live in the desert fine, live in the desert. I have, it has it's moments. But don't live in the desert if you want to live in some other climate. Don't change the environment to your tastes, change your tastes to your environment. Maine doesn't seem to have any of that. People aren't trying to change the environment to suit them, they're more trying to eke a living out of it. Like the eccentric woman at the bookstore told me, in Maine you're either a bird or a bear. You either fly south for the Winter, or you bundle up and emerge in the Spring. I can really respect that.

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