Oberlin Blogs

Pleasant, Pleasant, Pleasant

August 10, 2009

John West ’10

Well, it's been a while since I posted last, and, while I wish I could say that I have a good excuse, the truth is that I have no excuse whatsoever--unless "laziness" or "leading a rather boring life" count. And it gets worse, a bit ago--several months, actually--I engaged in a cardinal (or at least venial) sin of blogging: I pulled a hit and run; that is, I wrote an entry criticizing--or at least in dialogue with--fellow blogger Charles Grim, and then went AWOL and left his excellent comment unanswered. So, Mr. Grim, you have my apologies, and I will post a further comment on the matter sometime in the near future. You all (my gentle readers) are, of course, more than welcome to join in on the fun. Moving on...


I've been having difficulty coming up with something to say. I'm not doing anything all that interesting this summer. I'm living in my apartment in Oberlin this summer, which while pleasant, isn't exactly getting front-page articles in major newspapers (by the way, congrats, Alice; that's fracking awesome). I'm taking a science course at Cleveland State University (CSU) in a desperate attempt to fulfill my science requirement so that I have a chance to graduate before my hair turns gray. The class is engaging enough, but it's not exactly my cup of tea, and there's nothing about it worthy of a blog post. I could, I suppose, write some kind of ode to Hulu, which, had I discovered it during the school year, would surely have become the destroyer of my GPA. But I think my personal blog is a better place to write about my excitement for Caprica or Dollhouse or Better Off Ted or my gratitude for The Daily Show.

Of course, I don't just watch TV on the internet and memorize bio terms. Some of the former editors of Wilder Voice and I are trying to put a publishing company together, and I've been working on mock-ups of books and searching (without much success) for funding; I don't know if you've heard, but print is dying a slow death and the economy isn't exactly Clinton-era right now. I could try to write about that, but "The Annals of Layout" or "Print is Dead and There is No Money for New Small Publishers" don't feel like winning blog posts.

I could try to write another "Me Versus My Bookshelf" post, but at this point, the stack of books I wanted to read this summer is getting depressingly big and, per my previous post, I'm trying not to depress the hell out of my reader(s). So, I'm left with an "Oberlin in the Summer" post, which is difficult to pull off well. I've been looking for a good angle, and I think I'm going to go the vignette route. That is, I'm going to write a series of posts, each one a little story of life in Oberlin in the summer. If these prove boring or the writing overwrought, obviously, just let me know. If these are too far outside the scope of this blog (I'm looking at you, boss-men/women), obviously, let me know. But here goes.


A little while ago, I picked up my friends Ellen and Arthur (not their real names) from the Megabus station in Cleveland. (For those of you who don't know, Megabus is a ludicrously cheap bus company based out of Chicago that services much of the Midwest.) Of course, "Megabus station" is something of a misnomer. The bus simply stops in front of Tower City--once home to Cleveland's train depot, now an urban mall. Tower City sits on the bluffs above the Cuyahoga River, right where it pours into Lake Erie. And it's a pretty view, in its own way--a sort of monument to that Rust Belt aesthetic: Cleveland's downtown was birthed in arrogance--its proud and ambitious skyscrapers, squares, and plazas can seem forlorn and vacant now. The flats beneath bear the marks of a faded industrial economy, with rusted, weatherworn metal buildings at whose purpose I can only guess.

On the 45-minute drive back to Oberlin, after the easy patter of "How's the trip? How's Chicago? How's the family?," Ellen, Arthur, and I talked about Cleveland's prospects, how it's adapting--albeit slowly--to a twenty-first century economy, how Cleveland is coping with the strange pendulum of white flight and gentrification. We ended up at my apartment. Ellen set herself up in the living room, spreading out on the recliner, pulling out her laptop, and catching up on work. Arthur and I set to dinner: chicken breasts, homemade teriyaki sauce, red peppers, carrots, onions, rice, salad. Arthur called his mother for instructions on the salad, and Ellen and I listened as he fell in and out of Mandarin: "[stuff I don't understand]. Really? [stuff I don't understand]. Okay okay okay. [stuff I don't understand]. Thanks, Mom."

Time moves more slowly in Oberlin in the summer, and the light was wan through the picture window as we talked and laughed. Ellen did the dishes, and Arthur and I sat back and talked some more and touched our too-full bellies and smoked cigarettes. Every once in awhile, Ellen would poke her head in from the kitchen and interject. I was sad to see them go, and we doordanced for a while and marveled at the ease and pleasantness (pleasant being one of Ellen's favorite adjectives) of Oberlin in the summer.

Oberlin, I decided that night, should have two names: Oberlin-in-the-Summer and Oberlin-in-the-School-Year. Evenings in Oberlin-in-the-Summer feel like a gift after the speed and movement of Oberlin-in-the-School-Year. It's easy, during the school year, to fall into the habit of asking "what's next?" We have homework, readings and recitals, parties, dance-a-thons in the 'Sco. But Oberlin-in-the-Summer is like (to steal from John Ashbery) a beach, where you stand and think of going no further. That is: evenings linger in the summer--even the sun doesn't want to go--and, as often as not, you never once think of what's to come.

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