Oberlin Blogs


April 26, 2010

John West ’10

Two weekends ago, I was sprayed by a skunk. This, I think, serves as a pretty good metaphor for my semester so far.

But let's back up a bit. If you've read my bio—which I'm sure all of you have—you know that I'm a double degree student, and that my conservatory degree is in Historical Performance. That is, you know that I play the recorder. What you don't know is that there's been a rash of gigs for recorder players these last two months. Go recorders! I've played a bunch of Bach Cantatas with the Minnesota Bach Society. I've played, most recently, Brandenburg IV (a Bach concerto) with Lyra Baroque Orchestra in Rochester and Minneapolis, MN. But, most fatefully, two weeks ago, I played two shows in Chicago with my Baroque ensemble, Toekomst (nee "Old, Bald, and Desperate" and soon to be called either "Skunk Orgy," "Unicorn Bar Fight," or, in honor of Jon Stewart and Michael Steele, "Lesbian Bondage Fiasco").

A duo performing on violin and recorder.
Tanya (left) and Me (Right): Two members of Toekomest/Skunk Orgy/Unicorn Bar Fight/Lesbian Bondage Fiasco in action at some church in Chicago. Photo by Emma Dayhuff.

Yes, that Chicago gig was a doozy. I was to drive out on a Friday, after a long day of classes and work. It was about 9 PM when I finished packing up the car, and I was taking out the trash. All of the sudden, a flash of black and white. Then a smell. An indescribable, terrible smell.

I had been skunked.

I took off those clothes, doused them in some horrible Febreze-like solvent, put them in about four garbage bags, and prayed that it wouldn't stink up the house. I took a shower. I took another shower. I still smelled like skunk. What followed was the worst car experience of my life--and I've had some bad road trips (getting stuck in Grand Island, Nebraska bad). The smell was overwhelming. And every time I got semi-used to it, all it would take is a minor shift in my seat to yield whole new depths of skunk-smell. My friend--and our harpsichordist--put me up for the night. I rewarded him by making his house smell worse than a hippie's armpit after contact improv. We played two shows the next day. Our violinist kept edging away as she played. The cellist shot me dirty looks. It was horrible.

I got the smell out by rubbing vinegar all over myself. Of course, I smelled of vinegar for a few days, but I was almost ready to cry from the smell at that point.

Now for the two lessons. The first is self-explanatory, and it goes something like this: Don't mess with Oberlin skunks. They will fuck you up. The second requires a little work, and it's been put best by Eeyore: "There's a cloud for every silver lining."


This semester is good. I'm playing music for money, which is a relatively new experience. Additionally, I'm playing on the senior recitals of two excellent musicians. Wilder Voice, the magazine for which I'm editor-in-chief, is about to put out its longest issue yet (weighing in at a whopping 90-something pages). I'm living in a wonderful apartment, and for its kitchen, I'm in the midst of building a butcher's block table. I'm growing my own vegetables in my back yard. Yes, things are good.

But the universe is a cruel, cruel mistress, and must exact some sort of penance for all this goodness. I'm really busy. Scatterbrained all the time. Pulled in twenty different directions. It's the curse of the Obie. I may be generalizing a little much, but I'm fairly certain that there's at least a kernel of truth in this: Oberliners do a lot, and, generally, that which they do is pretty disparate. And that's great, because it means that I can, in the same night, hear Javanese Gamelan and also go blues dancing. That also means that, every once in a while, you get figuratively sprayed by a skunk--or, in my case, literally.

Similar Blog Entries


March 4, 2024

Thorin Finch

An eclectic collection of poetic musings on the everyday experiences of Oberlin students.
Thorin Finch