Imagine a campus composed of three small, rectangular, three-story glass buildings, each facing a different direction and located some distance from the other two. Between them are well-manicured lawns with concrete walkways meandering through them. Near the buildings are clear pools and ponds, occasionally a simple fountain, occasionally a railless concrete arch bridge crossing a small artificial stream of clear water babbling over dark river rocks. Here and there are abstract sculptures with surfaces of brushed stainless steel, almost matching the trim on the buildings. Looking between and beyond the buildings, the grass ends in what appears to be desert, with blue mountains tiny but clear in the distance. The azure sky has wisps of clouds and the air is sparkling clear, making the sunlight on the concrete and sculptures just a little too bright for comfort. The air is warm but not hot, and there is a dry breeze.
My car died a dramatic death last Saturday.
My car has this cool feature: you can simultaneously close or open all the windows from outside the car by holding the key in the lock or unlock position. Approach the car on a hot summer day, and you can release all the hot air before you even enter the vehicle. Been cruising with the top down and all the windows open? You don’t have to close the windows until after you’re out of the car.
A collection of pieces from a 1991 writing course.
- …Rely on Them, modern miracles
- University Haze, smog as a metaphor
- Be Careful What You Wish For, beware adult-envy
- Specialization is for Insects, my rather strange career path
- People, Places, and Themes, travel and writing
- How I Write, why my house is clean
- Burglary, it’s just stuff
- An Interview, from the other Gulf war
- Feet of Clay, thoughts on the flaws of our heroes
- Border Crossing, a verse written in San Diego around 1990
“Petrichor” is the smell produced by the first rain on dry ground. It is a wonderful word as well as one of my favorite scents. We just had a couple of weeks of dry, sunny weather followed by some pretty intense rainfall, and the petrichor, though faint, was evocative. As always, it brought back a singular memory:
One of my favorite college writing workshops was focused on “short short” stories, exercises in very short fiction. I ran across an archive from a 1990 course. No great literature, here, but perhaps a bit of fun.
— RonRisley – 09 Feb 2005
I had a bad day today. A bad day on top of a monumentally stressful week that included the loss of an old friend to a tragic illness and the loss of a new friend to a tragic misunderstanding. The kind of bad day that starts out when someone you really care about finds a little knife in your ribs and twists it around a bit; a day that continues with someone else threatening legal action against you; a day that then throws in a gastrointestinal illness to make doubly sure you can’t shrug any of it off. The kind of day where all you can do is escape.
The burglary occurred at the end of a long week. Any week with a biology midterm on Monday and a research paper due on Tuesday is likely to seem long, and it didnt help that Melvyl had been down all afternoon on the day I had set aside to complete my research. Theres always the weekend, I had said to myself, and spent the time studying biology. But Saturday morning, as I stepped out of the shower and reached for my towel, a terrific cramp shot through the right side of my neck, down my shoulder, and into my arm. It wasnt the first time I had experienced that pain; it seems to happen when I havent had enough sleep. If the past was any guide, it would last for days.
Life at UCSD seems calm compared to life at Caltech. The California Institute of Technology is famous for its pranks: students once surreptitiously altered cards that Ohio State football fans were to use during halftime at the Rose Bowl game to display the school logo — the altered cards spelled out Caltech instead. Another time, after an unpopular instructor had a students car towed from his reserved parking space, students sandblasted the parking lot overnight and repainted it — with that instructors space missing. Once an instructor returned from vacation to find his Volkswagen, in one piece and running, in his third-floor windowless office. The funniest prank I remember, however, wasnt the work of Caltech students. It was performed by Mother Nature.
Though I do not remember what the story was about, I can see the green cardboard binder I put it in. I can see my juvenile handwriting — tall and thin, with no slant — rendered in fat, dark, shiny pencil. I can see the paper: unbleached, brown, and grainy with thick, uneven blue lines. I can even see my small hands carefully printing the title on the binder, but I cannot read that title.