[one]When a major era comes to a close, you dream of it being epic. It\’s a vain indulgence, a classless way of thinking that you really deserve a smashing exit—or in other terms, a grandiose entrance. But even if there will be champagne, kisses and nostalgic sentiment, I have a feeling it will all be very quiet. No sirens, no one awaiting a triumphant arrival and very little bravado—I\’m not Odysseus, after all. What may be a very commonplace ritual will soon turn into a bizarre reality; but it had to happen eventually. My four years are exhausted, cheap movies at Wells Hall are spent, excuses for not having a job—retired. Graduation is here, the cliché “next move” is on the line, and damn, I\’m scared.
The land of academia had a safe grip on my comfortable lifestyle for what seemed like months. As classes come to a close and blue books are dominated, there seems little left to do but panic, reminisce and grab a cocktail at a local drinkery. Honestly, I don\’t feel well prepared for a life without classes too early, freezing walks for miles and endless reading too late. But alas, the big city awaits; the cruel world is waiting for another menial graduate to confront it. So with gusto, I shall dance out of our small, but precious, nowhere-town Michigan, and try to relate to everyone struggling for a buck…and healthcare benefits.
College brought me more than just new friends, cheap beer games and Kurt Vonnegut. It introduced me to musical and literary outlets that challenged my perceptions and shaped my identity. It was, and is, a really beautiful thing. Nowhere else can I imagine a condition so conducive for young, vibrant people to express themselves freely, and be able to share that, unhindered, with others. We have roughly 45,000 students at MSU, and by cherry-picking through campus, there have surely been some fruitful resources. It\’s an integral landscape for what\’s innovative, political and hopefully good.
I can thank my dad for early musical contributions like The Beatles, Dylan and Mozart—but that was only the start. Freshman year is a time of clinging on to the safety of high school, listening to the same strongholds and reciting lyrics verbatim because it\’s comfortable. Admittedly, I clung onto the mainstays in my CD player at the time because transition is strange, and music is medicinal. At angsty, romantic times I would listen to Jeff Buckley\’s Grace, which soon turned into an obsession over the next two years. In all of its beauty and ironical tremors alluding to death, the album became an almost spiritual safe-haven—and my brother was into him (what\’s cooler than what your older brother listens to?). My other favorites were Ben Folds, Radiohead, A Tribe Called Quest and, I now unfortunately admit, Ani DiFranco. The dorms were a wild time of letting down guards, letting in unfamiliar faces and hearing some crazy stories late at night on the back porch sharing cigarettes, even when you don\’t smoke. The Brody complex had so much to offer, although a slightly contrasting entity as it was. I won\’t forget the doorman who reminded me of a young Bob Dylan, as he wrote all of his papers in pencil, or my hippy friends who made me listen to Led Zeppelin. Thankfully all those coffee mugs I \”borrowed\” from the cafeteria are now precious reminders of my yester years, and tokens of my memories.
The shift from freshman to sophomore year was huge. The choice to move out of the dorms, head across town and live with six other boys may have had an influence on that. But if a slight 60s/70s musical theme had shaped my freshman year, the next year would seriously be rattled. I turned in Ani for The White Stripes and became attuned to getting mix tapes from a then roommate and good friend of mine. And yes, I said mix tapes. He got me deeper into Radiohead, The Smiths and gratefully, Joy Division. [two]It also helped that he was a local DJ and had turntables set up in our living room. But more than anything, I came across a midtown gem during the year, a noble establishment that sits coyly, that is up all night: the 24-hour Beaner\’s. If this wasn\’t a virtue of my college GPA then I guess all those books I read were. Coming in at a close second was Flat, Black and Circular, where, to my astonishment, I could find cheap CDs, chat with the managers and pick up interesting looking flyers about musicians I knew nothing about. The walks to class were far, and oddly enough, I\’ll sort of miss those maniacal zealots who shout at passersby in front of Wells. As confrontational as their message is, it\’s comforting to know that they\’re choosing a university, our university. It signifies not only the electricity of spirited youth, but also reminds us that we have prevalence to ideologies. Our opinions are in high flux, our minds are spontaneous and our voices are strong—even if they are used to telling the bigots to can it.
From junior year to the present, my musical persuasions have been staggering. I\’ve gone back to rootsy music, explored the Indie scene until I was almost sick and have eventually landed comfortably in the land of Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams, among many, many others. Reading the classic authors I missed out on in high school and back-issues of the New Yorker took on a weekend life of its own, and replaced, on many occasions, getting swilled with friends or bowling in the Union. The East Lansing landmarks will remain hilarious, dubious, seedy, comfortable and dramatic, each with their own personal history attached.
More than anything, I\’ll miss the extreme sense of a \”college ghetto.\” Walking home on a street strewn with sandwich wrappers, cigarette butts, broken sunglasses, cracked plastic cups, chewing tobacco cans, and in rare but inspiring occasions, crumpled class notes. There\’s nothing like watching the sunshine play off of the shattered bits of glass that bathe on the cement, adding a glimmer that only old Hollywood knows. The sparkle of glass reflects parties of the weekend, and the trash that gathers by the curb adds to the visual experience of a trashy, but glamorous, lifestyle. Broken blinds, dirty kitchens, angry landlords, delinquent neighbors who throw beer cans at your head while walking by; the real question remains: what will I not miss about college?
[four]While it seems like a lifestyle of glorious depravity and midnight meals is a shoe-in for most, there also must come the moment of retraction. For me, it came in the form of replacing bar D.J.s for really good books and Coors Lite for late-night espresso. It\’s been a waning process since fall semester, mostly because finding a job is a sobering experience and because it just felt like the time. That\’s not to say that I don\’t exploit drink specials and enjoy a.m. eating, it\’s just taken on a new, nostalgic feeling. It\’s less about the alcohol or which guy at the bar I\’m trying to ignore, and more about the atmosphere, my friends and how it\’s all soon going to take the form of a bittersweet memory. Soon everyone I\’ve grown so comfortable with—those who have seen me at every emotional state—will disperse and it will be a new place, with new music, new books and hopefully a late-night pizza joint with a coffee shop nearby. But until we\’ve packed our bags and head for the unknown, it\’s time revel in the end of lectures and the beginning of whatever\’s to come.