Allston That Ends Well.

Chapter IX

We watched the SUV sail across all three lanes of Storrow Drive. It was Saturday night and Amanda was giving three of us rides home after work. The bars had just let out and Storrow, which runs alongside the Charles River and connects the West End to Allston, was pocked with traffic. Not that it deterred the drunk in front of us.

That year, Boston was launching a pilot program to keep a selection of subway and bus lines running until 3 a.m. on the weekend, up from 1 a.m. Working in the service industry, I welcomed the change – unfortunately, only temporary – as finding a Taxi on a Boston Saturday night is cutthroat business. Plus, Boston roads are less than ideal that time of night.

After the SUV narrowly clipped our rear bumper, Amanda judiciously let him pass. In awe, we watched the drunk race ahead, swerving across all three lanes to sideswipe the cement barrier on the left side before ricocheting back across the lanes and nearly careening off the road into the river before correcting.

From the shoulder, a sitting police cruiser watched the scene but didn’t move. We called 911. To our dismay, the drunk slid off the same exit as us. The SUV must have pulled off down a side street as we merged into traffic because we lost sight of him. I have no idea where the driver ended up, whether back home, in a police car, or with his head bisected by a tree trunk.

Watching the SUV abuse the road evoked a visceral response in me, a seemingly gratuitous anger. I’ve done my share of idiotic things while drunk but my reaction wasn’t because the driver almost collided with us; or, it wasn’t just that.

There is a beauty to a road at night, the serenity of a world viewed only in the high beams. Red and white lights passing in streaks, chaotic yet rhythmic. It’s game theory and ballet; it’s sacred. And one drunk was fucking that up.

Forget it Jake, it’s Allston

My arrival in Boston coincided with the beginning of the school year, and since the city is one giant college campus with a town threaded in the cracks, hundreds of thousands of students had already gobbled up every rental well before I began my search.

Only a few weeks out from my ninth move, I received an email from a guy named Lucas. He and another roommate, Emily, had locked down a four bedroom apartment in Allston, but two of the other renters had dropped out unexpectedly and now they were scrambling to fill the rooms. Their misfortune was my… not misfortune.

On Moving Day – the bitterest Boston holiday – I drove into the city under a torrential downpour to meet my three roommates. Together, the four of us would survive our apartment.

Welcome to AllstonAllston is the cirrhosis-stricken liver of Boston’s college nexus. Calling it rat-infested inaccurately characterizes the natural ecosystem: Allston is human-infested; the rats just tolerated us. Our first floor apartment included easy access to the basement laundry and a quarter-inch layer of black, indeterminable grease coating every surface. It was a week before I realized our floor was actually made of hardwood.

Like any classic sitcom setup, the four roomies had one dynamic as a group, but split into pairs we developed distinct relationships. With Lucas, I chatted pop culture and liquor, money and politics; life. He worked in fraud prevention for a major bank and, of the four of us, was the only one with a traditional 9-5 job. He was also a practiced cook and spent many weekends with his out-of-state girlfriend.

Adam, the youngest of the four, had been studying film at UCLA before transferring cross country. He required little prompting to expound endlessly on his passions. He and I frequently debated art at length, somehow always circling back to David Lynch (he a devoted fan, me, not so much). An off-hand comment about a  superhero movie trailer could unexpectedly turn into a three hour exegesis on the shifting classification of film genres.

Finally, there was Emily. She’d relocated to Massachusetts from Arizona for nursing school. Demonstratively bright and from a family of means, she could’ve studied anywhere in the country but was drawn out East by a desire to expand the borders of her world. With Lucas’s regular schedule and Adam being a morning person, Emily and I handled the late night conversation shifts and became fast friends from our first meeting.

On any given night, we could kill a bottle or two of wine while weaving through a range of topics, whether travel, music, mental health, or any tangents that might shake loose after midnight. Or, we might just have a 2 a.m. dance party, to Lucas’s chagrin.

Lucas, Emily, and I barhopped together – Adam, to our occasional amusement, wasn’t a drinker. We partied vicariously with the Founding Fathers on the Freedom Trail and danced to 90s songs in sweaty clubs. Sometimes we stayed closer to home to drink among the crystalline youth of Allston. My roommates could still pass for undergrads, in looks if not in lack of cynicism, but next to collegiate eternal youth, I couldn’t help but feel (and look) worn. The threshold for old age in Allston isn’t high.

In our apartment, indignities stacked up quickly. Even after we – well, Emily – gave the place a thorough cleaning, rodents were a fact of life. The rats and the mice maintained separate territories. Outside, long-tailed, beady-eyed rat bastards rustled incessantly in the garbage before retiring under the tires of passing cars, painting the streets like some sort of gut-splattered Jackson Pollock.

Though slightly less aesthetically repulsive, the mice were nevertheless a more persistent problem, scampering inside our walls and hungrily devouring anything within two feet of the ground. They got so comfortable in our home that they even invented a fun game: They’d hide in the trashcan and race up Emily’s arm when she went to throw something away. Boy how she howled with laughter.

As our landlord unhelpfully – but rightly – pointed out, mice were just a fact of life in Allston. The same could apparently be said of an apartment whose power grid had inexplicably been rerouted through the oven. Half of the apartment, including Lucas and Adam’s bedrooms, lost power unless one of the stovetop burners was left on. Not ideal.

When we eventually found a non-incompetent electrician (third times the charm), he discovered that the fuse box in the basement had previously caught fire and partially melted. Now, I’m no building inspector, but I suspect one or two codes had probably been broken to get to that point.

Then there was the paper thin ceiling. Usual college kid noises infiltrated our space, but we – again, mostly Emily – also had our upstairs neighbor’s awkward sexcapades projected down at us as if by loudspeaker. And yet, the true cherry on top of our shit sundae apartment didn’t arrive until New Year’s Eve.

With Adam and Emily out West, Lucas having an NYE dinner with his girlfriend, and me working the holiday shift, our apartment was visited by freelance movers. Climbing in through a broken window in Emily’s room, the intruders ransacked the place. In terms of financial loss, Lucas probably suffered the worst – I lucked out; though they swiped a couple hundred dollars I had sitting out, they unplugged but ultimately left behind my laptop, my only possession of any value.

The police were predictably unable to do anything about the break-in. While we could accept our material losses, it was the psychological intrusion that invoked the deepest absence. I’ve been robbed before, but never from inside my own apartment, even when living in some of the purportedly worst neighborhoods in the county. For Emily, especially, the use of her window as the point of entry was an unrectifiable invasion.

With the passage of years, we’ve come to appreciate the dark humor in our garbage dump of an apartment. Even at the time, though, the various frustrations never perturbed me quite as much as they did the others. In part, this was because I’d lived in my share of hovels. Even more so, though, I felt comfortable with concrete issues, problems with solutions. We could set mouse traps, put bars on the windows, call repair men. I didn’t feel, as I had in New Orleans, like returning home was a prison sentence. I actually liked the apartment; I enjoyed my roommates.

Lest I give the impression that I only experienced one Boston neighborhood, I did enjoy life outside Allston. I served tables at a pub in the Financial District, working alongside a diverse and rowdy crew, including my co-closer and concert partner, Amanda. I celebrated St. Patty’s Day in Southie with Emily and attended the Red Sox’s World Series parade with Lucas.

When the city started feeling too small, I left. The Northeast has an advantage over any other region of the US because a day trip in almost any direction will bring you somewhere entertaining and beautiful.

Meanwhile, Emily and I worked to bend Boston to our inebriated will. Boston doesn’t permit happy hour and its nightlife is mostly constrained to weekends. Allston dives were fine, but half the fun was in wandering. On one late night, in fruitless search of a rooftop to lounge on, we surreptitiously climbed the fire escapes of strangers, dodging the headlights of passing cars.

One Sunday evening, we trekked half of the city until we finally located an open liquor store. Stashing bottles of champagne, we entered Boston Common and reclined on the grass while the dusk burnt away to night.

For all its posturing as a city, Boston is a small town, for better and worse. It didn’t take long to feel like we’d experienced most of what it had to offer. When the city felt constraining, we sought out fresh avenues. Emily was a fellow traveler, accustomed to taking detours in life. Restlessness was our bond.

The Drive

Twenty-four hours after the NYE break-in, I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. The trollies and subways of Boston could be inefficient, especially in winter, so Emily was transporting her car across the country. To give her parents peace of mind, I volunteered to co-pilot. They expressed their appreciation, but fact is, I’d drop a baby to go on a road trip.

We had a loosely planned route: Avoiding winter in the Midwest, we cruised across thirteen hours of hypnotic, Texas nothing, then dropped into New Orleans overnight for Emily’s first visit. From the bayou, we crept through eerily quiet Mississippi and Alabama towns in pursuit of plantations and any restaurants open on a Sunday afternoon. Our progress was hampered by a snowstorm as we approached Nashville. Finally, we reached the coast, dining with Marianne and her beau in D.C. before swinging past New York on our way back home.

Somewhere in the lull between Texas and Tennessee, while I sat behind the wheel with Emily asleep in the passenger seat, I had a moment of such transcendent calm that it bordered on religious. With the road stretching to each horizon, no cars in sight, I was overwhelmed by a sense of timelessness, as if there was no future, no past, just that road, that instant. Maybe I wasn’t meant to have a home; I’d be okay.

I could’ve driven forever.

Separate Paths

In the waning months of my year in Boston, while I focused on my final move, my roommates were also resolving plans. Adam jumped the Charles River to live in Cambridge; Lucas moved in with his soon-to-be fiancé in Connecticut; and Emily found a new apartment with Amanda so she could finish her final year of nursing school.

As for me, it was almost literally the last hour before I had a place in New York. It didn’t matter. Even if I ended up homeless, come September 1st, I was driving my few belongings the four hours to Brooklyn to begin Year 10.

I could see the finish line, if nothing else.

Keep Reading: Start from the beginning


This past Saturday night represented a first for me, as I was invited to attend my very first professional soccer (futbol, for the dilettantes) match. 

The Seattle Sounders, you will be happy to know, were victorious in their final regular season game with an exciting push in the last fifteen minutes of the game.  Even as someone who had never watched a Sounders game in my life, it was impossible not to get caught up in the thrill of the crowd (and the riotous anger when they felt the refs had blown a call).

I grew up playing (and sucking at) soccer, as well as watching my older siblings play at various levels in both outdoor and indoor leagues (my sister even played college ball for a short period).  It’s a sport I appreciate a great deal but don’t follow because, well, I don’t follow any professional sports.

College basketball is my one athletic interest, and I think my obsession makes up for my utter disinterest in every other sport.

It’s true what they say, though, watching a game live is much better than watching on TV.  This is probably true for most sports, but I think if you could convince a larger US audience to actually attend soccer matches, it would probably be a much bigger phenomenon here.  Even for someone like me who is an awe of the pure stamina is must take to play the sport, I just can’t get myself to be anything more than a passing fan of the sport.  I don’t watch on my own, but watching with a crowd is fun.

So, yeah, go Sounders!

I was invited to the game by an old college friend who, along with his wife, had an extra ticket.  The last time I saw either one of them must have been at the wedding of one of my college roommates (a guy I lived with during my freshman, sophomore and senior years).  Of the eight or so guys who I spent most of my time with in college, I think all but two of them have gotten married, a few of them have kids and all of them are marching forth in some professional manner or another.

I don’t see these guys much, obviously, but it’s always good when I do.  Male friendships are easy.  They aren’t always the deepest of connections, but that’s what makes it so simple to hang out again after years apart.  There is a common language developed from shared experiences and inside jokes that can be called up without delving into the years of separation.  In fact, I would say that the ‘shallower’ the friendship, the easier to reconnect.  With closer ties, the changes that each friend has undergone over the years become all the more noticeable.

That can be sad for some, but I think of it as a good thing.  How terrible would it be to never change?  I think we all know that friend who lives in the past, subsisting on their past successes or conquests.  Pathetic, right?

Speaking of the past:

My 10 Year high school reunion is in a month.  I won’t be attending, though that shouldn’t be taken as some sort of angsty statement.  If I happened to be in town that weekend, I probably would go just to see it.  But, I won’t be, so I won’t.  No matter, I’m pretty sure I’d be just as anonymous at the reunion as I was in high school.  It wasn’t really my time back then.  Even in my group of friends, I was a bit of an outsider (it didn’t help that I was a fervent Christian at that point; talk about changes). 

College was the period when I really started to come into my own, which is another reason why I think seeing the old college roommates and assorted friends is still fun, not something I dread, as can be the case with some past acquaintances.

If I hadn’t had those four years of growth in college, I don’t think I could have survived this 10 Cities Project.  I certainly never would have made it if I had attempted to do this straight out of high school.  Some people say “College isn’t for everyone,” and that’s probably true, but I for one recommend it.  Not for the education or the classwork, but for the friendships and networking, the partying and the mistakes.  Actually, I think the mistakes are the best part.  You have a period in your life when most of your mistakes are going to have absolutely no real world consequences.  At the time, you’ll think they are life altering, but in retrospect you’ll see how inconsequential they were.  And you’ll still have the lessons learned.

And just knowing that around this country, from Seattle to Orange Country, from Chicago to Nashville, there are small pockets of friends and acquaintances to meet, have a beer and watch [Local Sport Team] with is a pretty nice return on my investment.

Not that I paid for college, I was on scholarship.  Bitches.

Where should I move next?

It’s April out there, and you know what that means.  Short shorts!  Praise Allah!

Also, it means that I’m 5 months out from making my next move.  The end of my time in Chicago marks the end of my 5th year on the road, the halfway point for my 10 Cities in 10 Years project.  It’s not exactly all downhill from there, but it does mean that everyday forward is further in the ‘Less days ahead, more days behind me’ phase.  Kind of an odd thought, really.  Like finishing your sophomore year of college.  Man, my sophomore year of college was pretty great.  And college in the Springtime, amazing.  Short shorts!

Wow, sorry, I’m getting off track.

It won’t be ’til sometime in mid June that I officially pick my next city, in the sense that I’ll start looking for work and apartments and figure out the public transportation situation.  I am leaning towards a particular city (or state, really, with 2 cities as options), but I am interested in where people think I should move.

I’ve floated the idea of even doing a poll, getting people to vote on my next destination.  This move is a little too complicated for me to add that into the mix, but I’m thinking for my 7th city, I might just do that.  Open it up to the masses.

But, still, for fun, I’m interested in your ideas.  Where should I move?  What cities should I put on my list?  Keep in mind my criteria:

1. The city must be in the top 30 most populated cities in the country (which means that Portland, Oregon is the smallest city I’d live in… other than New Orleans; I’ll consider that city down the line if the repairs make real progress).

2.  Must have solid public transportation.  This is vital, because I don’t own a car and I don’t want to own a car.  I love driving, but car ownership just isn’t worth it.

3.  Must not be in Florida.  Yeah, sorry, just not going to happen.

Those are really my only criteria.  I’ve ended up in places I never thought I’d live (Southern California, anyone?).  I’m open to the winds of fate.

For this move, I’m going East.  It doesn’t have to be on the Coast, I just want to be closer to the East so I can hit the coast up when I want.  But, in general where do you think I should live?  What cities have you loved?  For moves 7, 8 and 9, what cities should I keep in mind?

Your thoughts?

Nth Wave Feminism

“Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.” ~ Ferris Bueller

In college I frequently took what might be considered ‘chick’ classes, classes with decidedly unmanly titles like, “Family and Literature.”  This had the sometimes uncomfortable, but often nice bonus of making me one of the only guys in any particular class (and usually the only straight guy).  Taking those classes offered me a fresh perspective that I think shaped my views a great deal in those years.  Thanks to a good friend of mine, I had gained a genuine interest in Feminism and the inclusive elements of its main tenets.

There have been at least 3 ‘waves’ of feminism, the 3rd wave beginning more or less in the 90s.  At the time, I considered myself a 3rd wave feminist evolving into the as-yet-unlabeled new species, 4th wave feminist.  Which is to say, I was susceptible to bullshit titles.

Basically, the 3rd wave feminist had a very simple classification of feminism which attempted to practically label everyone a feminist:

“Do you believe women should get paid equal money for equal work? Yes? You’re a feminist.”
“Do you believe women should be able to follow their dreams as freely as men? Yes? You’re a feminist.”
“Do you believe women can be satisfied without men? Yes? You’re a feminist.”

You get the point.  Everyone (who isn’t a backwoods misogynistic moron or True-Believer Religionist) is a feminist.  It’s nice in theory, but in reality the term ‘feminist’ is a dangerously loaded word, so much so that even a lot of strong-willed, independent women balk at the label, let alone your average hetero male who respects women but also likes to get laid once in a while.

Since leaving university, I’ve tended not to label myself a feminist.  I still am one, I just don’t go out of way to link myself to the movement.  I think most ‘militant’ feminists would probably be happy to keep the distance between myself and them.  I consider myself a feminist by default, because I do believe in the inherent right of anyone to pursue their own happiness/dreams/ambitions without being discriminated against.  But I also love a good sexist joke and my favorite word is ‘Cunt’ (how can you not love it?).

That said, let me say why I do not feel the need to align myself with any wave of feminism, 3rd, 4th or whatever may come next:

Men and women are not created equal.  We just aren’t the same.  In the mathematical sense of the word, no one could legitimately say the two genders are equal.  There is a book entitled Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, coauthored by a pair of evolutionary psychologists, Alan Miller (deceased) and Satoshi Kanazawa.  The book’s a couple years old, but well worth a read for anyone.  The authors smartly begin with a caveat:  They aren’t reporting what should be or even what must necessarily be.  They are merely looking into the biological facts of our species and reporting the results of studies and research, much of which suggests a biological component to our behaviors.  (Too often, the facts of science are used by people to push an agenda such as Social Darwinism; and then ignorant people use Social Darwinism to attack true science as if they are one and the same.)

There are many fascinating topics in the book, perhaps the most interesting one being the chapter that explores why (hetero) males (of all races) tend to have an attraction to the “Barbie Doll-type” girl.  It’s worth reading because it largely disproves the notion that men are just being conditioned by advertising to find that type attractive.  I could go on, but just read the book.  For now, I want to stay with the question of male/female differences

There are countless ways in which males and females differ.  Perhaps most obvious, men are more aggressive while women tend to be more passive.  This isn’t a stereotype.  This isn’t sexist.  It’s a trend that exists across cultures.  Not all men are aggressive, not all women are passive.  Shock!  As with regular biology, biological psychology acknowledges that people are evolved creatures that are the product of mutations and survivalist breeding.  All people do not evolve exactly the same (if they did, evolution wouldn’t even be possible).  Exceptions don’t prove or disprove the simple fact that males and females in general fall into certain observable, categorical types.

Is everything in this book 100% right?  Probably not.  Like all of psychology, they are working from theories and hypotheses.  Their theories are those that are strongly supported by the evidence.  Their hypotheses are those that may have only circumstantial evidence and need to be studied more.  But a great deal of evidence does support them (as well as a great deal of history).

To bring this back to feminism, I want to mention Margaret Mead, the well-known cultural anthropologist whose famous book, Coming of Age in Samoa, essentially gave feminists of the mid-20th century a rallying point.  Mead purported to have found a culture in which the women took the roles almost always held by men in every culture, that is, the dominant gender.  Feminists used this study as proof that women could be leaders, too, and that it was merely the cultural bias of Patriarchal societies that kept men in power.

As Miller and Kanazawa present in their book, however, another cultural anthropologist, Derek Freeman, came out with research a few years after Mead’s death that threw her whole book into question.  He provided evidence that Mead’s original interviews might have been based on lies (or a joke) from the women she interviewed.  Some people dismiss Freeman’s evidence, and certainly there is reason to at least be cautious in accepting his view.  But if you’re interested in the truth and not just a politically correct pat answer, it’s worth your time to consider Freeman’s evidence (even if only to prove him wrong).

That’s beside the point, though.   Even if the Female-dominated Samoa culture is a reality, it represents only one such culture among the thousands of male-dominated cultures.  Only a bad scientist would consider one counterexample as proof that the whole paradigm should be thrown out wholesale, especially if that example is on tenuous ground.  The fact that nearly 50 years of feminism was rooted in this (possibly faulty) research is why I feel the need to separate myself from the feminist movement.

It shouldn’t be a question of gender equality or biological predisposition.  If a job is done, it should be rewarded based on the quality of the work regardless if the worker was man, woman or alien.  To get bogged down in gender ‘eqaulity’ is to miss the point.  I understand that when feminism was starting out, women needed to argue that they were equal to get any footing in the debate.  (The same thing had to be done for blacks in the civil rights battles.)  It’s been a necessary tool of this fight to blindly compare apples and oranges like they’re the same fruit, but with the initial walls fallen, we shouldn’t be so hypnotized by the rhetoric that we forget that men and women are not the same.

Let me put it another way:  Yes, women and men should be paid the same amount of money to do the same jobs.  But that doesn’t mean that every man should be paid the same as every woman no matter what.  If a man does the job better (or quicker, or whatever is desired), than the man is entitled to higher compensation, just as the woman would be if she were the one doing a better job.  It’s common sense.*

The problem with trying to make feminism a giant rendition of “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)” is that it makes women and men competitors, and even friendly competition can turn people into enemies.  Plus, as any feminist should be aware, the gender lines aren’t always that clear.  There are gay men and lesbians, transsexuals, transgendered people and probably many other classifications.  Instead of arguing that men and women are equal, we should acknowledge that there is a vast spectrum of gender in which a person may fall in.  If it’s bigoted to reduce an entire group to a ‘type’ in order to dismiss them, it’s just as bigoted to reduce one group to a ‘type’ in order to include them.

This is why I like the LGBT movement.  Like feminism, it is seeking equal rights, but instead of couching the conversation in the language of comparisons, it is actually going quite the opposite route:  It says we are all individuals, very different and despite those differences we should all be able to live together in a fair society.

I know there will be some feminists that will disagree completely with my assessment of feminism, and rightly so.  3rd wave feminism always made the point that anyone can be a feminist and a feminist can be anything (President or Housewife), and with such a wide net there is no way to generalize the whole movement.  But, so often, a movement comes to represent something that the individuals do not stand for.  Again, I consider myself a feminist in the sense that I believe in equal rights for women (and all biological classifications of people).   I do not align myself with the -Ism of being a feminist because I think the movement in general leads down an unnecessary path of bitter disputes, often based on ignoring gender differences in a way that is either ignorant or blatantly false.

The battle for equality (whether it be women’s rights, gay rights, racial equality or any other form) isn’t won when the numbers of your group reach their highest peak.  The battle is won when your group doesn’t need a label at all.**


*You could legitimately see this as an argument against Affirmative Action but that is a different and larger subject with broader issues to consider.  If I were to make a quick generalization, I would say that Affirmative Action has its necessary uses, especially in the university setting where many social factors could  explain discrepancies in test scores and the such, but I think Affirmative Action in the work place is a bit more dubious and I have my doubts that it fixes any problems.

**I want to acknowledge that Sam Harris made a similar argument for why people should lose the term ‘Atheist’.  While I have had these thoughts about feminism for a while now, it had never occurred to me to think of atheism in the same light.  I think it’s a great insight.

A dream is what you wanna do, but still haven’t pursued…

Last night I had one of those vivid, surprising dreams that, at least for me, only come around once every few years. I’m not one for fantastical dreams, I have never flown in a dream or been a superhero (I did once have a dream where Spider-man had turned evil and was trying to kill me… or maybe I was the one who had turned evil… that could take some psychoanalysis). My dreams are very pragmatic (like me, fittingly) and rarely slip into the sort of surreal, Dali-esque strangeness that others seem to take for granted.

As a child, I was steeped in the mythology of Christianity so thoroughly that my dreams did on occasion include the slightly more out there imagery of the Fundamentalist worldview. In fact, one dream that has stuck with me more than any dream I have ever had was of a time when I was a young boy, first going off to summer camp. At that camp, with my brother and our fellow classmates, we came across Satan. Not the large and in charge fellow with crazy horns and a pitchfork, or the more fearsome, beguiling figure who so often haunts the mind of Christian youth (and some adults, I suppose). Rather, he was a tiny creature, almost a bug, and the boys, as boys will be boys, wanted to stomp on the little creature. However, the girls in the group wanted to spare the creatures life (those sweet, delicate nurturers), as they felt it was cruel to crush such a small thing. I, for reasons that probably explain a lot about me, sided with the girls. Having let the creature live, my brother and I returned to our cabin, and for some dream-logic reason I did so with one of those wooden, elementary school rulers in my hand. As we reached the door of the cabin, the ruler suddenly morphed into a snake (Satan! You Eve-deceiving, Jive-talking motherfucker!) and that snake struck out at me, wrapping around my neck and choking me to the point that I couldn’t even scream out. It made no difference, though, because as I looked to my brother I saw he, too, was choking.

And then I woke up. You can probably understand why a dream like that would burn itself so thoroughly into my mind. The hellscape visions of the Christian backstory (whether you believe in hell or not, it’s a firm part of the mythology) is clearly compelling, and it is no wonder that a child would not only find it frightening, but also a bit fascinating. I would guess that a good deal of Christian children-turned-Christian adults have an underlying fear (and reverence, even) for the fiery imagery from their childhood that forms a foundation for their faith that they don’t even fully realize.

Or, feel free to disagree, it’s really only a tangential point.

Back to the dream I had last night, and why it has spurred me to write this current entry. In the dream, I was a college freshman again. But not in the, “Oh no, it’s my first day of class and I’m naked” sort of anxiety way (I’ve never actually had one of those kinds of dreams… it would seem to me, being naked in dream would be kind of freeing). Rather, I and the guys who I lived with for my first 2 years of college were all back in the hall, meeting for the first time, except that we were all aware that we had done this before. We weren’t nervous about going off to a strange new world, awkward and uncertain of what was ahead of us. We were downright giddy at the thought of having our 26 years worth of knowledge (admittedly, not exactly aged and wizened) in the bodies of our 18 year old selves, ready to take on challenges that we had not only faced before, but successfully passed.

I, for one, felt invincible. The chance to relive college? Fuck yeah! First off, college was a time of parties, late-night food runs and rare class attendance, and even at the time I realized how much freedom I had. Give me a chance to relive those days while also having the full knowledge and confidence that having lived through it all and then some has given me: I say, “Sign me up!”

The actual details of the dream are rather inconsequential, other than to maybe my roommates and cohorts of the time who might appreciate the college redux, but what really matters is the emotion I felt. Much like the fear and utter helplessness that came over me when I dreamed of Satan, what will keep this dream in my mind is the exhilaration and liberation that came with the realization that I had an opportunity to do everything over again, and this time pick out the best results from the possible outcomes. It was a ‘Kid in a candy store’ sort of feeling, except replace candy with crazy parties, horny coeds, ill-advised roadtrips and… well, maybe some candy, too. I’m a sucker for peanut M&Ms.

I have always lived with a kind of ‘No Regrets’ mentality, in that I realize the place I am in my life at this very moment is a product of all the right and wrong choices I have made, the mistakes and missed opportunities. I like where I am, so I wouldn’t change the past, even to get a more desirable outcome for that moment. But what this dream made clear is, it’s not about wanting to change the past to fix what once went wrong (where’s Al when you need him?), it’s about getting a second opportunity to experience something completely different. Robert Frost had it wrong. Two Roads don’t diverge in the woods. Hundreds and hundreds of roads exist before us and we choose just one of the countless opportunities and we stick with that one, and then that choice opens up hundreds more. So much is left undone.

So, while I would not actively change where I have arrived at in my life (it’s pretty much exactly where I wanted to be, even as a know-nothing 18 year old freshman), I cannot help but grow a little excited at the thought of getting to go back and try something new, learn something I missed the first time. If it was a movie, it’d be Groundhog Day meets Big (as I write this, I realize there was a recent movie where the guy from Friends turned into the guy from High School Musical which strikes me as less a movie about a guy getting to relive his youth, and more a film about a guy getting to be way hotter than he ever really was).

As a side note, I wouldn’t want to relive high school, because while there were plenty of missed opportunities (you might say, a plethora), far more than in college, and hours upon hours wasted pursuing fulfillment in something completely empty, I also know that there is nothing about that time worth doing over. It’d be more frustrating than liberating.

It’s an odd sensation to wake up from a dream, something I know to be completely unreal, but be left with the residual buzz of emotion as I enter my day and step out into the life I’ve chosen. Not a bad feeling.