Monday, May 11, 2015

Back to school

The entire month of April, the only place I wanted to be was my alma mater.  Something happens when the weather turns after March, and it's like I'm twenty again.  I can still imagine the smell of all of my classrooms (ancient hardwood floors and plaster walls ... unless you're in Bartley in which case the smell was fresh paint and MDF furniture), and I still know exactly how the light slants across the floors depending on which room you're in at different times of the day.  I still know how the paper in each of my books felt, which ones have tons of notes inside and which ones don't, and I always hear my Italian prof talking in the background--I can never hear what he's saying, I just know it's him talking.

(Very sadly funny: The other night, I had my first dream in Italian. I have waited since 1996 for this to happen, but it never happened ONCE in my decade of studying the language. Not once.  This means that, technically, I have never been fluent. I'm fluent enough to tell you that nobody speaking Italian in The Godfather speaks that well--horrendous mispronunciation all over the place--but other than that, no.  Another way of putting this is, I NEED the subtitles when Christoph Waltz is using Italian in the movie theater at the end of Inglourious Basterds--I can't understand him to save my life. Also, his accent sounds pretty good to my ear.

Anyway a few nights ago, I had this dream that Leslie and I were in Rome and we had to catch a plane, connect somewhere in Germany on a Lufthansa flight, and then home to Philly.  I told Leslie to start packing, and I would go check us out of the hotel.  The guy at the front desk was a real jerk and started insisting that we owed him an additional $700. I wasn't having it and started telling him--in Italian--to be real and that I'm no idiot and we're not paying him ANYTHING.  He kept using broken English, and I kept at it in my horrible Italian--I was not very good but I definitely conjugated stuff so it counts!--and I finally I opened my wallet, took every remaining bit of paper money I had--$250--threw it at his face and told him to get lost.  Then I ran back upstairs to get Leslie because this convo had taken too long and now we were LATE.  Problem: Leslie never started packing! She was putzing around on her phone, and now I'm yelling, "WE ARE NEVER GOING TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT! WE ARE GOING TO MISS OUR CONNECTION IN GERMANY AND WE CAN'T STAY HERE ANYMORE!" And now Leslie's crying because I'm yelling and we are just SHOVING stuff into suitcases. And there is SO MUCH STUFF. I keep finding stuff everywhere.  And so many suitcases!  And there is no way we can get all this crap home, and so much of it is breakable.  And I'm literally having a heart attack and just shoving crap into suitcases and yelling at Leslie to go faster. I keep looking at my watch.  The plane is taking off at 6:39pm ... the sun has set already, and it's 5:40pm ... and then it's 6 ... and then it's 6:10.  And I finally give up and start crying in a heap because we are not going home that night.  At this point, I heard my own voice in my head say, "YOU KNOW THIS ISN'T REAL, RIGHT? IF YOU WANT THIS TO BE OVER: WAKE UP." I snapped my eyes open so fast.  It took nearly twenty minutes for the adrenaline to metabolize.

But technically I used a language other than English! It counts!  Ten years too late. Oh well.)

I literally can't remember the point of this post.

Viburnum, I think--smelled wonderful.


The whole month of April, I wanted to stop by and I just didn't have time.  Too much stuff to grade and lots of nasty weather too.  I finally made it over on the last day of the month.  All of my finals were done, but classes were still going on here.

I love this chapel--this isn't THE church, but one of the smaller chapels scattered around campus.

I guess the darker panes are replacement pieces?  Also, this school has the money to do stained glass all around ... why haven't they gotten around to it?

So here you go: I literally had to lecture on this the week before I took this.  St. Augustine (in the middle) is shown here with his mom, St. Monica, on the left and St. Ambrose on the right.  Ambrose was the bishop of Milan back in the day (the 4th century ... not 14th, 4th) and Augustine was going through a pretty tough time--think insano existential vortex of the worst degree--and nobody could help him, not the Manichaeans, and not the Christians or so he thought.  Augustine hears Ambrose lecturing in Milan, has his Come to Jesus moment, and decides to convert to Catholicism and turn his whole life around.  Then he goes on to write his Confessions where he outlines what a jerk he was for the first few decades of his life before changing his ways; when he's not telling that story, he's investigating the problem of evil and trying to figure out stuff life the nature of time vs. eternity (if you hate yourself, read that part).  Then he dies, and he and his mom and Ambrose all get canonized. The End.  I promise if you take my Intro course, I do a much better job of teaching Augustine in class.  You cannot graduate from this school without getting an unofficial minor in Augustine.  Like, even the engineers and the business students have to read him. (Whether they actually do is a different story.) I was a PHILOSOPHY major and guess what? I have never read the The Confessions one complete time ever.  Only Raleigh Katherine understands how stupid that is.

Technically, I think she's supposed to be on the other side of the altar, but there's an organ over there so I guess that's why she's on the right and not the left.

I've been in here a bunch of times and I never noticed the organ.  Not once.

Then I went to check out the new fountain in the renovated Grotto.

I love it.  I wonder if you get yelled at if you jump in it Logan Circle style?  At the very least, are you allowed to dunk your feet in?

This is how great this school is: You can leave your crap on a freakin bench outside--totally unattended--for as long as you want and nobody will touch it.  I walked by an hour later and it was still there.  (That made me wonder, "Did somebody steal that stuff and ditch it there?? ... naaaaahh."  Somebody'll be back for it.) Now, my graduate school? If you looked away from your things for 3 seconds, somebody would steal them while you were blinking.  I still haven't readjusted from life on that campus.

Mom, see that tall, skinny, pointed window?  THAT is the staircase I could not climb after doing The Firm.  Third floor.  Couldn't do it, but I did it anyway and it took me so long that I was ten minutes late to class.  And then I couldn't sit down when I got there.  Fun times.

The magnolias on this campus are beautiful--I missed them this year by nearly a week. Not even close.

The building on the left is where I had my Italian film class senior year--if I could go back and sit through a class all over again, it would be hard to pick between that one and Italian Civ II.  Nothing in the film classroom had been updated since the 60s, the windows were HUGE--floor to ceiling, and the ceiling was at least two or three stories high--and it had this enormous movie screen.  You haven't lived until you've seen Sophia Loren's face on a huge movie screen, and unless you time travel to 1960, where else are you going to do that?  I still can't figure out her eyeliner. Or her hair. Omigod, her hair.  A few summers ago (actually, it was the day of Ellie and Anna's christening) I made Ron watch La Ciociara with me--it was on TV and I managed to catch it.  The final credits roll up, and Ron turns to me and goes, "Well. That's the most depressing thing I've ever seen.  You watched a whole semester of this stuff for your major?"  I can't imagine doing anything else.  If Vittorio DeSica is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

They really need to get to work on the dome of Alumni--it's not shiny gold anymore, and I think that's a pretty horrendous travesty.  The spires belong to the main church--I didn't make it over there this time.

There is no better place to be on earth in the month of April than a college campus.  It is THE fountain of youth.  Every cosmetic and skincare company is trying to find the formula, and the truth is that we already have it.  You want to lose ten or twenty years from your face? Work at a university.  (Also, try to avoid assigning graded material as often as possible for full benefits.)

I remember reading this story years ago, maybe in the New York Times, about this older couple who were both profs at Harvard and lived in Cambridge.  Something was going on--I think their kids were harassing them about retiring and moving somewhere else already--and the wife explained to the reporter, "My kids don't get it: I'll never leave Cambridge. All these ponytails keep me so young.  If you don't live here, you don't get it."

Oh trust me, I get it.

1 comment:

Linda C said...

Finally, blogger is allowing me to post a comment.

Funny thing as I looked at your photos, the first thought that went through my mind was - why is Mary on the right side of the church? All those Catholic rules and regulations are ingrained I guess.

Also, I NEVER heard you complain once about your years spent attending Villanova. Not once. That may be an all time record for you.