"Like what exactly do you learn in it?"
"'Buncha stuff," she said, passing the bong up to me. "Like, you learn about gangs, and gay people, and people who get tattoos and pot smokers and stuff. The professor, she wears a bikini to the first lecture."
I took another hit and coughed it out like a newbie. "No...*cough*...shit," I said, passing the bong back to her.
"Yep. Professor Lahey, she's really cool. You know, interesting to listen to. It's also really easy; there's only one book you have to read and one paper you have to write. The final is multiple choice." Ruthie took a hit off the bong, then put the stem back in with a motion of finality. "It's dust," she said. "Say, do you have the new Underworld CD?"
As a sophomore, I was in the third round of people who could register. Deviance in Society was an extremely popular class with those not majoring in sociology, since it fulfilled a social sciences requirement. I was number five on the waitlist, but the class accepted about two-hundred and fifty students, so only two-percent of those would have to drop the course for me to get in. When I checked my registration after winter break, I was fully registered for it.
The Deviance in Society lectures were held Mondays and Wednesdays in Chem 140, a huge lecture hall that was used by the Program Council to show cult movies and those free student sneak previews on the weekends. The hall was packed with students and I had to crawl over several to get to a seat on the side. Professor Christine Lahey was standing at the head of the lecture hall wearing a trench coat and was speaking with her student aides as she got her wireless microphone all clipped together. She looked to be in forties with kinky brunette hair. She was wearing Teva sandals under the trench coat.
"Okay everybody, settle down. I know there's a lot of people in here, but let's keep the chatter to a minimum." Her voice sounded tinny over the PA system, like there was too much high end on the levels. "If you are registered for sociology ten-forty, Deviance in Society, you are in the right class. If you're not, feel free to stay as long as you can find a seat. Those who are still waitlisted, please see me after class."
Professor Lahey came around from behind the lectern while her student aides began going up the aisles, passing out the syllabus. "So most of you are probably asking yourselves, why are you here? What do you learn in a class on deviant behavior? More importantly, what do you DO?" She walked to the right side of the lecture hall. "Well you will not just read about deviance in this class. You will actually be practicing it."
At this point she took off the trench coat and was wearing nothing but a blue bikini underneath. She was pretty tanned and in good shape, though her tits did have the forty-year old sag. I knew this was coming, and the rest of the class didn't have much of a reaction either so maybe they did too. Professor Lahey worked to unhook the microphone from the trench coat and attach it to the strap of her bikini, then stuffing the transmitter into the seat of her swimsuit.
She continued. "The first thing we must do when we study deviance, is to define what exactly IS deviance? Well deviance is simply 'anything that is outside of society's norms', like teaching the first class of the semester wearing a bikini."
A smattering of laughter through the lecture hall.
"That was easy, wasn't it?" Professor Lahey said. "Well, it's more complicated than that, because after that we have to define what society's norms are, and those are constantly in flux. While it's strange for me to be wearing a bikini while I lecture students, it would not be out of place if I were at the beach, or at a swimming pool. Fifty years ago, it would have been considered deviant for me to wear pants to a lecture, or for a man to have long hair...things that don't even raise our eyebrows anymore. Deviance also varies across cultures. Here, it's no big deal to eat a steak, but in India it is a major social taboo."
I thought: This is Boulder lady, don't be so sure.
She went on. "Another thing we have to consider is why people are attracted to deviant groups. It would seem that no one would want to invite the scorn that comes from being outside mainstream culture. What are the factors that make people join deviant cultures voluntarily? What about those who are part of deviant cultures involuntarily? How do people move from a deviant culture to a mainstream culture or vice versa? These are the types of questions we will be examining in this course.
"As you can tell by looking over the syllabus, many of the topics we will be discussing will be of a prurient nature. I encourage those who believe they will be offended by the discussions to talk to me after class. This course may not be for everyone."
If that was meant as a true warning, then it failed miserably. If anything, I was more curious. A few weeks into my chaotic sophomore semester, Deviance in Society was one of the few courses I was attending on a regular basis. Since the lecture hall was so big, it was easy to attend class stoned or with a splitting hangover. You pretty much just had to read one chapter in Professor Lahey's book a week, and you could even fudge that since they went over the pertinent points in class.
The topics in the class proved to be as lurid as I was led to believe. We spent a whole day discussing gay "teahouses" and glory holes. We could have just done a field trip to the men's bathroom at Chem 140, since it had the most obvious glory hole I'd ever seen. Enormous penises squirting gallons of semen and crudely drawn pictures of hairy men licking testicles were drawn all over the stalls of the bathroom, along with messages like BE HERE AT MIDNIGHT WEDNESDAY FOR HOT COCK SUCK. I made a point of never taking a shit in there for fear of getting an STD off the toilet seat. I was especially titillated by the discussion of women's roles in biker gangs, and how the members of the gang would run a train on them for any transgression, then force the new recruits to go down on her after they had all busted their nuts. I didn't even know what the phrase "running a train" meant before I took that class.
We discussed the social stratification of prostitutes, and the importance of tattoos to street gangs. While it was all interesting, I began to suspect that the practice of sociology was mostly a matter of applying academic terms and strict definitions to things that may defy strict definition.
Still, I liked Professor Lahey. She spoke well and was interesting enough to listen to for an hour and fifteen minutes. The TA who ran the recitation was a different story.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the big state university system, I will explain. A large lecture class like Deviance in Society is typically split up into smaller groups that meet once a week with a TA (usually a grad student) who runs discussions about the lecture and grades the papers and tests. It is this person who actually grades you and not the professor.
The TA doing our recitation was this jerk-off named Marty. On the first meeting, he reiterated Professor Lahey's warning about the extreme nature of the subjects we were covering, but he said it more like he was bragging. "This is the second time I've assisted this course. Last semester, a girl ran out of here crying. She was too weak to handle what we were discussing, because what we are discussing is REALITY, and if you can't handle this class, you can't handle REALITY and I have no use for you."
Marty looked to be in his early thirties. He was balding but had grown his remaining hair into a ponytail. His gut hung out over the belt of his too-tight black jeans. His wardrobe seemed to consist of two Dead Kennedys t-shirts he rotated each week. Marty was always moody and brooding, but moody and brooding didn't look cool on him. He came off like he was constantly upset that the girl he met on a singles website stopped e-mailing him.
"I walk around a lot when I talk," he also informed us on the first day. "I'm just telling you this because it intimidates a lot of people."
Marty couldn't intimidate shit and everybody in the recitation knew that, but since we all depended on him for our grade everybody kept their mouth shut and refrained from puncturing his little world of angst.
But fuck it...I mean I only had to put up with the recitation once a week for fifty minutes. I could deal with his mind numbingly stupid comments like "We all know the reason why women like motorcycles is the same reason they like washing machines on the spin cycle," or him wasting half a period bitching about how his seventeen year-old Civic hatchback didn't pass an emissions test.
"The only use of government is to oppress people," was what his experience with the DMV proved to him.
The incident to top them all came about halfway through the semester when the class began to study the deviant behavior of "punks."
Now, I hadn't spent any significant amount of time with bikers, gang members, prostitutes, or gay men who like to get their dick sucked in filthy toilet stalls, but I had observed quite a number of punks. Apparently there is rigid social stratification amongst the members of the punk scene. The article we read for the lecture told us to think of punk scenes as a "dartboard", though I think a "pyramid" would have worked just as well. In the center bull's eye, there is the core group-- the "hardcore punks". They live the punk life 24/7, and as such cannot hold meaningful employment, relying on "the scene" as their main social support. Of course, a scene cannot support too many hardcore members, so their numbers are few. Their dedication to the "punk lifestyle" makes them the ideal; the bright little epicenter that all things "punk" revolve around.
Pushing outwards from this bull's eye, you get varying degrees of commitment to the punk ideal. You have the "weekend punks" who live with one foot in both the mainstream and punk worlds; "preppie punks" who show up for the fashion show while ignoring the deep meaning of "punk ideals"; the "hangers on" who don't even bother to dress punk but go to the shows because they like the music.
Really, the only thing that really struck me about this sociological study of punks was how shallow and superficial it was. It basically boiled down to "punks are elitist assholes," a point I could get across in four words rather than the twenty-five pages this study took.
Anyway, the lecture with Professor Lahey was pretty easy to handle since all we did was watch video clips from The Filth and the Fury and The Decline of Western Civilization on Chem 140's movie screen.
When I arrived at the recitation that Friday, Marty actually seemed to be in a good mood. "I trust you all have read Pritchard's article on punks," he said, pacing the room neurotically. "You all are actually very lucky because I know everything there is to know about being punk."
Marty then started going off on this embarrassing and probably bullshit story about how after he first heard the Sex Pistols (who BTW are considered by many to be the premanufactured Spice Girls of punk) he went out immediately and shaved his hair into a Mohawk and bought a leather jacket. "The music just spoke to me," Marty said. "I knew immediately who and what I was. It explained a way for me to be opposed to the system. I knew that I was a hardcore punk, and I that I would be a hardcore punk all my life."
Let me reiterate: Marty had a ponytail. I also doubt that many "hardcore punks" are grad students in sociology, but the most embarrassing moment was yet to come.
"Can anyone name some punk bands for me?" Marty asked the class.
It took a second, but one girl eventually raised her hand. "Green Day?"
I knew she was going to get savaged for this and I was right. "No no...Green Day is not considered a punk band. They are a pop band that tries to act like a punk band. But no, they are not punk."
Oh well, I was inclined to agree with him on that point, at least on everything from Dookie onward.
The next hand popped up, this time from a guy in a tie-dye shirt. I knew this was going to be bad. "What about Offspring?"
Marty shook his head. "The Offspring is not punk. Come on folks, you all have to dig deeper than the stuff that is spoon fed to you by MTV. Think...outside....underground."
I hated the Offspring as much as the next guy, but Marty's level of condescension was just sickening. Half the people in this class listened to either Hootie and the Blowfish or Sublime. I can be a snot when it comes to music, but I failed to see what bashing your students' bad taste in music had to do with sociology.
Another victim raised their hand. "Are the Dead Kennedys punk?"
Marty nodded (he was, as always, wearing his Dead Kennedys T-shirt so that was a safe answer.) "The Dead Kennedys were a true punk band. They had a politically motivated message that criticized the power structure of the time. Jello Biafra even ran for Mayor of San Francisco and came in fifth place on a platform that would require businessmen to wear clown suits," he waited for the laughter that never came and moved on. "Basically, they wanted to make a change to the system. Come on, let's hear some more bands."
This frat guy sitting next to me raised his hand. "Is Black Flag a punk band? They were in the movie we saw in class..."
Marty shook his head. "No. They used a lot of the same musical style of the punk bands of their era, but their focus was more inward. True punk takes a political stance, not a personal stance."
At this point I wanted to throw my desk across the room. I don't know what alternate universe Marty lived in where Black Flag wasn't punk because they didn't bitch about Ronald Reagan in every song, but a fat, pony tailed; pretentious student teacher was considered a hardcore punk. Only at CU Boulder, a school that actually tenured Ward Churchill, could such a being be allowed to mold young minds.
The rest of the class went on this way. Marty explained to all of us that the Misfits, the Cramps, and the Stooges weren't punk, they just sounded that way. The only ones that made the cut according to him were Minor Threat and, of course, the Dead Kennedys. I knew that Jello Biafra came from Boulder (hell, I even lived in the same condo his sister lived in before she died in a rock climbing accident) but Marty's slavish idolatry was pathetic.
Still, towards the end of the class, I figured out the perfect way to throw a monkey wrench into his line of reasoning. I raised my hand and said simply, "Lard."
Marty looked confused. "I'm not familiar with them."
"They're a Ministry side project with Jello Biafra on vocals. They also do one called Pailhead with Ian Mckaye..."
"That's industrial," Marty chuckled. "That's a wholly different genre."
"Yes...musically they are very aggro-industrial," I argued (I fucking love impromptu hyphenated-genres.) "But lyrically Lard songs are very *ahem* politically activist. 'Drug Raid At 4 AM' rails against the drug war. 'Pineapple Face' comically discusses our blind support for South American dictators because they are anti-communist."
Marty shook his head. "They still are not technically punk. There is a lot of folk music out there that has political messages, but that doesn't make it punk."
"But if it's not the music and not the 'message' that defines punk, what does?" I said, and I'm sure I couldn't keep the smugness out of my voice. "Please help me to understand it."
His cheeks started turning red. I imagined him looking like the evil omniscient super-computer in a sci-fi story that had just been given the riddle it couldn't solve without frying its logic circuits. There was no way to answer this without him contradicting everything he said before, so of course he fell back on fallacy. "Punk is just...punk. It's both. It's the musical style and the message. They both have to be there or it's not punk. There's no way to really get someone to understand. You either do or you don't."
I didn't say anything after that. He moved onto recounting his days "pogo-ing" ("Not moshing...that's something completely different that ignores the very real camaraderie in a true punk crowd...") at punk shows in the mid-eighties. I felt a little victorious, but not enough to feel as if I'd salvaged the fifty minutes this class had taken out of my life. It was as when we had to listen to our teachers reminisce about Sixties in high school history...
Later that night, I was smoking kind bud with my buddy Harv in preparation to go to the Pink Floyd laser light show at CU's planetarium. I had to bring up the subject of my recitation while we were all high as kites. They busted up laughing.
"Wait, wait..." Harv said, pot smoke blowing out of his nose like a bull. "Black Flag wasn't punk because they aren't *political*? They did a song called 'Police Brutality' for chrissakes. What's that if not political?"
"I know. The guy was full of shit." I lit a cigarette and started ashing in an empty Mountain Dew can on the floor of his room.
"The first punks weren't political," Harv continued as he put more kind bud in the bowl (it was always great to smoke with Mike because he was rich, always had kind bud and always shared.) "The Ramones weren't political, MC5 wasn't political, Iggy Pop wasn't political. A lot of punk bands were political, but politics doesn't make something punk. It's just a minimalist, rhythm driven style of music; thematically it's all over the place. Mid-seventies New York City punk was distinctive from late seventies British punk, which was different from early eighties Southern California hardcore, which is different from the late eighties stuff coming out of Orange County. What he said was as idiotic as saying that all ROCK music has to be political. Apples and oranges, my friend...apples and oranges."
Harv had the tendency to over-intellectualize things like punk music. He tended to over-intellectualize everything trivial. As a result, he was a massive scene hopper. When I first met him at the beginning of the year, he was a goth; we bonded over his massive collection of Cure B-sides and Joy Division records on vinyl. After a few months, he moved on to becoming a "post-punk" and wore black and gray turtlenecks and smoked expensive (yet shitty) Canadian Export-A's. He tried becoming a mod and was obsessed about getting a Vespa, but that only lasted until he turned inexplicably into a skinhead, which was very strange since Harv was a Jew.
"I'm not a racist skinhead," he explained. "The skinheads didn't start out racist. It was mostly just lower-class British dockworkers that were into reggae. Look..." as he pointed to the JAMAICA patch on his flight-jacket. "Non-racist while not quite being involved in the gang activities of the SHARPs."
His skinhead phase blew over quick though (since I doubt most of those dockworkers were Jewish and Harv was far from lower-class.) Now he mostly just listened to lots of Two-Tone ska. I didn't really mind his dilettante approach to subcultures. As long as he didn't become a Phish-worshipping hippy or start listening to Dave Matthews, I was cool with whatever.
He stopped suddenly, mid-rant, looked at the bowl and then back at me. "That reminds me. Have you ever smoked out of an apple?"
"No," I said. "You got one?"
The Punk unit only took up one week, but I was definitely on Marty's shitlist now. He never called on me in class any more. Worse, he started to do some retaliatory grading. The pop-quizzes I'd previously gotten B's on were now coming back with D's and F's. I was getting pissed since this was a class I actually bothered to go to. I'd start next year on academic probation if I didn't pass at least this class.
I tried to convince myself that all I needed to do was buckle down a little more and at least do the required reading before class, but that just raised my quiz scores to D's. After a few more weeks of that, I just had to laugh. Jesus, he was acting like such a fucking baby over this and I was above dealing with that. Despite me not really giving a damn about the class anymore, I still attended the lectures. Thinking maybe I can pull something out of my ass for the final, which would be multiple choice, filled out on a Scantron so it wouldn't be subject to the subjective whims of Marty.
There was still about twenty percent of my grade though that WOULD be subject to Marty's retaliatory grading. I'd spaced it since I'd lost the rubric to the class at least a month before...
"Remember when I said that we would not just be learning about deviance, we would be practicing it?" Professor Lahey, who had been teaching the class fully clothed since the first day, told us towards the end of the semester. "Your final paper will require you to break some social norm, and then observe how people react to you."
That didn't sound too hard. My sense of shame usually went down as my blood alcohol level went up. I think that the incident at the beginning of the year when I chased some fat sorority sister around a house party with a strap on dildo attached to my forehead while waving a half-empty bottle of Mickey's. There are certain people bound and determined that that incident be carved in my headstone when I die.
"What will constitute a deviant act for this paper?" Professor Lahey continued. "You can do almost anything; from talking too close to someone to cross-dressing to just walking backwards down the street. Doesn't have to be anything big, it just has to elicit a reaction. There are two stipulations though...you cannot do anything illegal or anything that will endanger the safety of yourself or others."
"But be creative, and have fun. I've had students tell me for years that this assignment is the most enjoyable one they've had of their undergraduate careers. I encourage each of you to give it your all."
I was psyched to do it after her little pep talk, but the inspiration wore thin after just a night. Of course, it would be Marty grading the paper, and of course he'd nit pick it into at least the D-range. He'd knocked an entire grade off my last reaction paper because he said it was written in "passive-tense". This was sociology, not fucking English composition. I thought it was pretty damn good for being written fifteen minutes before class...
I considered going to Professor Lahey's office hours and complaining about Marty and his retaliatory grading, but what did I really have to stand on? I had no record of being an ideal student, and I doubt she would change my grade on what an already bad student perceived as unfair. Even if she did mention it to him, that might just make the situation worse. Marty was sure to know how to cover his tracks in such matters, as academia is second only to Congress in the use of weasely, Machiavellian tactics to subdue your opponents.
Another problem was deciding which deviant behavior I was going to perform for the paper. I heard a few people talk about what they were planning to do. "I'll go to a movie theater, buy a bunch of popcorn and candy and drinks, and then share them with everybody in the crowd," one girl told me. "It'll freak everyone out, since people don't just go around SHARING their concessions with everybody. I think I'll get some good reactions."
Of course I couldn't do anything so lame, but at least she had a plan. I kept thinking of ideas and instantly discarding them for either being too intricate or too dangerous. It was the weekend before the paper was due and I wasn't even to the point of having a premise for the paper.
I woke up at one o'clock that Saturday afternoon. I had drank like a fish the night before, hence the wastebasket next to my bed filled with vomit. I took it down to the loading dock and hosed about ten screwdrivers and a slice of cheese pizza that made up the contents of my stomach out of it. This pissed off the raccoons that were rummaging through the garbage for rotten food.
"'Sup Dave," someone called out to me. It was Nam standing shirtless in his window right next to the loading dock. He'd taken the fly screen out so he could just jump into his room instead of having to go through the doors (which were always locked after eleven, making it so you had to go all the way to the front entrance.) Nam was this Vietnamese skater guy who was a finance major. He didn't party (by which I mean do drugs or drink himself into oblivion), but he was one of the few cool sober people in the dorm. "Whatcha doin' right now?"
"Trying to wash away my memories from the night before before I start working on a paper. What about you?"
"I got a study group later, but you know that place you told me check out, Mondo Video?"
"Yeah." Mondo Video was this place down at the edge of Pearl Street that carried a huge selection of Hong Kong action flicks, even better than the Video Station. Hong Kong action flicks were what Nam and I bonded over primarily.
"I rented a Jet Li movie from there. Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk. I gotta return it this evening, wanna see it?"
I'd already seen The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk, but I wanted to see it again. A rare surge of responsibility came over me and I said. "Nah, I need to get to work on my paper, since I'm sure I'll be roped into going out AGAIN tonight."
"That's cool man," Nam said. "Hey, check this out." He ducked back in his room for a moment and reappeared with a Black Cat. "My little brother got me these. You got a lighter on you?"
I handed him my Zippo and he lit it. Nam held it until I was sure it was going to explode in his fingers, then he tossed it into the dumpster. The explosion made me jump a little and made the raccoons inside go absolutely insane. It sounded like the Tasmanian Devil fucking a lawnmower.
"Sweet..." I said. "We're gotta go out some night and chuck those at some frat houses. They'll think some gang members are doing a drive-by and shit in their Abercrombie and Fitch jeans."
"I want to throw them at hippies," Nam said. "Especially those fuckers with the drum circle under the bridge. Useless fucks."
I nodded. Nam was actually pretty chill, but for some reason I never got to the root of, he had some serious hatred for bongo beating hippies.
I excused myself back to my room, telling myself I wasn't going to leave it until I had my sociology paper well on it's way to be finished. At this point, I was just going to make something up. No one would know better. I turned on a Jesus and Mary Chain CD and my laptop and sat down and drew a...blank. Its not like thinking up deviant behavior was hard for me, but to make it academically compelling was a different story.
Then inspiration hit me...
Now, the events I am describing here all took place around April of 1997, when the rest of the world knew of Boulder, Colorado as the place where little JonBenet Ramsey had her head bashed in on Christmas Eve. It was the town where the police so thoroughly fucked up the investigation that the idea of apprehending anyone, much less charging them, was remote after just a few hours after her death.
Yet, even four months after her death, the murder still gripped and divided the town. Not the students so much, since we were just the brats who came in for eight months of the year and left our tax dollars to enrich the town's coffers. Boulder is a very wealthy town, but this Berkeley on the Prairie feels a lot of paradoxical guilt towards their good fortune. It is a city where the Whole Foods market had valet parking; where property values were sky high because of zoning laws to preserve natural open space. The people constantly played lip service to their "diversity" though only 2% of its population was black, and the only Hispanics you saw were working the drive thru at Burger King. Smoking pot is more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes. You are not a "pet owner" if you live within Boulder city limits; you are a "pet companion". The city council discusses *seriously* the idea of banning all chain stores within the city or even banning cars, making bicycles the only legal mode of transportation on the roads. Even the most silver spoon sucking, Wonder Bread frat boy had a FREE MUMIA poster in his room and nobody winced. Boulder is truly the home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains of America's champagne socialists.
But I digress...let's just say that the JonBenet Ramsey murder was a raw topic to the residents of Boulder at the time. A raw topic that could be easily, and artlessly, exploited for the sake of my paper.
I went over to my dresser and picked out a plain black t-shirt I'd had since high school. It was ripped in the armpits, had countless cigarette burns and wine stains on it. It was expendable. After rooting through my desk drawers for some Wite-Out, I painted a simple message on the front of it: I FUCKED JONBENET. After smoking a few cigarettes and waiting for the liquid paper to dry, I put it on. Fuck just making up my paper; I was going to do this for real.
It was dinnertime at the dorm cafeteria, so that's the first place I went. It didn't get much attention from everyone there, except for the usual crusty stares I got from the 'Crombies, who were already convinced I was a lunatic (I made the mistake of registering to live at the biggest Greek dorm on campus; at least sixty percent of the students living there were rushing.) After making myself a tray of lasagna and salad, I sat at my usual table of people who weren't frat-rats or sorority-whores. They liked the shirt, and when I explained that it was a sociological experiment, they suggested additional ways of making it offensive like writing "If there's grass on the field, play ball," or "Incest is the best! Put your sister to the test!". After dinner, I added most of their suggestions short of actually drawing a picture of JonBenet being sodomized on the back.
I sat on the front steps of the dorm smoking some more cigarettes when Nam came out the front area. "What's up with that shirt dude?"
I explained my whole sociology project thing and he laughed. "Dave, you don't have to try and be deviant. You are deviance."
I was sort of flattered. "What are you doing?"
"Goin' down to Mondo Video to return Fong Sai-Yuk."
"Mind if I tag along?" The reaction to my shirt from the students wasn't really a fair reaction. Like I said, they were a lot less raw about the whole JonBenet thing than the rest of the town. I needed to piss off some townies to get some real material for the paper. Plus, I could see if City on Fire had been returned...
We started off on our long trek down to west end of Pearl Street, where the video store was located. We were out for an hour, and when I got home, I ate five mini-thins, waited until I could feel the hair on the back of my forearms growing and my jaw grinding, then purged all my observations into my laptop.
Subject: Pedestrian at corner of 17th and Arapahoe, waiting at crosswalk.
Appearance: Male. Early to mid forties. Wearing bright yellow spandex. Probably "power walking" or something cardiovascular.
Reaction to Deviance: A few double takes, but nothing spoken. Disapproving looks. Between me and Nam, he was outnumbered, so there wasn't much he could do.
Subject: Cashier, Starbucks, Pearl Street Mall. Me, using a free drink coupon someone gave me because they lost a bet.
Appearance: White. Early twenties. No visible tattoos or piercings (hence, she is not cool enough to work at any Boulder coffee shop EXCEPT Starbucks.)
Reaction to Deviance: Nothing. She's at work and has to be nice to me no matter how despicable my appearance. However, did not smile even after I left fifty cents in her tip jar.
Subject: Lady with her toddler sitting on the patio outside Starbucks.
Appearance: White, thirties. Upper middle class. Beginnings of crow's feet in her eyes. Looks kind of like a bitch.
Reaction to Deviance: "There are CHILDREN here..." she says, though it might have been in reaction to the cigarette I lit up once I got outside. Inconclusive.
Subject: Group of three hippies (two guys, one girl)
Appearance: Twenties. Dreadlocks, hemp jewelery, Birkenstocks. The female really needs to shave her legs.
Reaction to Deviance: None. They were spare changing, asking for change in exchange for listening to their horrible poetry. Nam replies, "Change for poultry?" We both crack up and keep walking. They call us motherfuckers behind our backs.
Subject: Clerk at Mondo Video
Appearance: Twenties. Backwards ball cap. Eraserhead T-shirt. Probably a film student.
Reaction to Deviance: "I think there's a reward out for you..." he says, but he's just kidding. "Naw, it was her dad that did it. Totally her dad...the sick fuck." Movie I want to rent (City on Fire) has STILL not been returned. Rent God of Gamblers II instead.
Subject: Yuppie couple, Pearl Street, walking out of Boulder Books.
Appearance: Late twenties, early thirties (approx.) Him: khakis, flannel shirt, gold watch. Her: black shorts and red blouse.
Reaction to Deviance: BEST ONE OF THE NIGHT! "I bet you wouldn't think it's so funny if it happened to your kid, loser." I am strangely devoid of any witty comebacks and in fact, do feel like kind of a loser. Nam thinks it's funny though, and I'm over it after walking another block.
Subject: CU students, 17th St. Across from Boulder High School.
Appearance: Budweiser T-shirt, jeans, backwards baseball cap. Smell heavily of Jagermeister.
Reaction to Deviance: "I FUCKED JONBENET TOO DUDE! FUCK THE RAMSEYS! RICH MOTHERFUCKERS! I FUCK 'EM ALL!" Is entertaining at first, but a little too loud. Follows us up until we come to the turn onto University Ave. where we head towards the dorm.
And so on and so forth...
I worked on it until five in the morning (though I took a couple of breaks to watch Ricki Lake at midnight and to scrape resin out of my pipe when I started coming down from the mini-thins and felt unpleasantly jittery.) I woke up again at one in the afternoon, having missed my morning classes. I had enough time to force a ham sandwich down in the cafeteria, and then look over my paper again.
I was scared. It was a mess. What could I have possibly been thinking? I felt considerably less clever than I had on Sunday. It didn't matter though, since class was in an hour and a half. I did a quick edit, which ended up being obsessive since I was desperately trying to find ways to make it sound more socially scientific and otherwise pad out the eight-page minimum. I reread the syllabus, mostly to just to make sure that the paper technically conformed to the requirements. I felt sluggish and really wished I had another mini-thin (the five I took polished off my stash.)
I smoked about three cigarettes in the ten minutes it took my dinky little inkjet printer to shit out all eight pages. When it was done, I yanked it off the tray, pausing only to staple it, and then ran off to Chem 140. It was about five minutes until class started...
My speed walking got me there on time. There were ten manila envelopes taped to the chalkboard at the front of the class, each with our recitation teacher's name on it. After waiting to get through the crowd, I dropped mine in Marty's envelope, then looked for the most remote seat in the back of the lecture hall as Professor Lahey began getting into the next chapter on Indian caste systems before doing a rough description of what to expect on the final. My paper was either utterly brilliant or an utter failure. Considering that it would have to face the vicious pen of Marty, I was pretty much settled on the latter.
There were three weeks left in the semester, and this moment wasn't rock bottom. In those final three weeks, I was fired from my weekend job at a movie theater, arrested for marijuana possession on an Army base, got caught in the middle of an idiotic riot, experienced love, violence, and betrayal on a level that my 19-year old mind considered Shakespearean.
After it all, when I was back home safely at my parent's house in Aurora for summer break, my grades came...
SOC1030 Deviance in Society: F.
Woohoo. I was now officially on academic probation