Cooper Chronicles: I.4

(An ongoing series for the month of January, these are letters written to my family and friends during my college years in New York, when I discovered my love of writing.  Introduction here.)

the weeks are flying by — i can hardly believe i’ve been here for three of them!  then again, in one sense, it feels like i’ve always been here — like i’ve never left.  you know how sometimes, every once in awhile, you meet someone so akin to you in personality, interests, and creed that you think you must have been friends with them forever, and just not known it before?  i feel that way about my school.  somehow it feels as though i’ve always lived here — i’ve always walked these dirty and beautiful streets, always looked out of my window and seen skyscrapers instead of oak trees.  i know it’s just an illusion, of course.  probably one day soon i’ll wake up and realize what a stranger i am to this city.  but, for now, i like that it feels like home.

e-mail has been, for the most part, my only contact with my “former life.”  after i sent last week’s letter, i spent most of the rest of the day writing to individual friends.  (avoiding this was exactly what i was trying to do by starting this series, but i suppose it was inevitable.  i love you all too much!)  monday was our first rainy day here, and we enjoyed it.  we stayed indoors and worked on our homework for drawing class (which was, among other things, to draw that same darned peapod AGAIN.)  i’ve really enjoyed watching my roommate sara’s progress in her art classes (she’s an art major.)  she gets to take fun classes like “color,” which focuses on how colors affect other colors and how to use them to one’s advantage in a design.  she had one assignment which was to take a sheet of paper of one color and find two other colors that, when behind the first color, made it look like two distinctly separate colors.  (confusing?  well, it looked really cool.) 

we had our first encounter with the ne’er-do-well maintenance crew in the dorms at the beginning of the week, when the air conditioning broke.  i knew something was wrong when i woke up hot and sweaty instead of freezing (i swear, the temperature drops at least 20 degrees in a normal night.)  so the rest of the week has been spent with the windows opened, wearing shorts around the dorm, and taking long walks at night when it’s cool.

my classes have been going well.  we had our first “real” architechtonics assignment given out on tuesday: to create a frame for a cube.  sounds easy, but professor abraham talked at length on the integrity of the vectors and how they should be preserved (and unwittingly created a catch phrase among all the arch students — “preserving the integrity of the vectors.”  it makes anyone sound horribly intelligent, even when thrown into conversation.  “why, i’d love to accompany you to the art museum — i’ve always thought it did such a good job of preserving the integrity of the vectors.”  “you know what your problem is?  you have no respect for preserving the integrity of a vector.”  “well, i was going to do my homework, but i decided that the integrity of the vectors would be better preserved if i didn’t.”) — which, translated into modern english, means that the structure should have as few holes, joints, and blobs of glue as possible.  in addition, it should be stable. 

our first solution, the only one to completely preserve the integrity of the vectors (HA!), was to use dowels of varying sizes and drill holes in them.  that way, the imaginary lines inside the sticks meet at one imaginary point in the middle.  this created other problems, though — namely, that it’s impossible to drill exact holes in something round, and the sides of the cube would be of different thicknesses — creating imbalance.  i’m sure this is boring you all to death, so i’ll stop — let you know what happens. 

literature continues to be interesting, but repetitive.  the administration is still dragging its feet on the AP credit issue.  in drawing, we had our first experience with nude models.  i’ll be honest and say that it took about five minutes to get my shock under control and look at the model (he’s actually a funny guy — known around campus as “naked bill”) as an object to be sketched, not a scene from a rated R movie.  we’ve also moved from drawing peapods to drawing cut-up bell peppers.  (“you’re going to think this is turning into a cooking class!” my professor lamented.)  we also had our first critique on friday, where our work is pinned up for all the world to see.  it was relieving to see that i’m not the most inexperienced in the class, and she didn’t rip anybody apart.  (that comes later, i’m told.)  i had my first session of architecture history also, which looks to be very fun.  we started with the ancient cities of Babylon and Ur on wednesday.  it’s our only stereotypical “college class” — i.e., lecture format, lots of photocopied reading handouts.  all the others seem to tend towards discussion and group work.

this has also been a great week for one of my favorite pastimes — swing dancing.  i had no idea the trend was so huge in new york — but should’ve guessed.  we went dancing three times this week.  the first time was in the TV room, where we pushed back the chairs and cranked the stereo — some of the R.A.s tried to give a lesson, but it was more fun to grab someone and teach them yourself. i taught all kinds of people, and i don’t even know that much besides the basic step and a few variations.  my friend damien was absolutely ecstatic when he picked it up — he was screaming, “i’m dancing, i’m dancing!”  ah — the rewards of teaching.  the most fun was on saturday night, though — we went to a club and heard 5 live swing bands, all local.  i danced mostly with my friend kadar, who was an amazing partner, considering he had never done it before.  i think he enjoyed feeling powerful by making me dizzy and dipping me so close to the floor i thought my head would hit it.  we were making up our own moves by the end of the night.  swing dancing is the most fun kind of dancing — invigorating, exciting, a little daring when some guy starts swinging you around and almost hitting other people.  when it’s done right, the girl looks like a toy being bounced, swung, and twirled around.  my sense of balance, which was extremely poor before, is slowly improving with all these spins.  i’m taking advantage of all these free nights now, though.  i understand there won’t be many more.  as professor abraham said, “we expect you guys to live here.  it’s not a class from 2 to 5; it’s 24 hours.”  shiver. 

thursday night pete made ravioli again, and armando made strawberry sorbet in his ice-cream maker.  raquel and sara and i love it — there’s so many good male cooks around here that we don’t have to fend for ourselves much of the time!  then we rented “a fish called wanda” and watched into the wee hours — very, very funny movie.  the next night matt and i went to a campus-crusade party at someone’s apartment — i don’t think i’ll have time to become really involved with the group, but it was fun to meet people.

and, on saturday morning, i was pleasantly surprised with a visit from my beloved youth pastor greg!!  it was so good to see someone from home — we took the subway all the way uptown and visited the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is more like a museum than a church — but very beautiful and interesting.  then we had a time finding a place for lunch — after wandering up the ghetto street of Harlem, he said, “when in doubt, go over a block.”  it was a different world over there.  i went shopping at the farmers’ market in union square later that afternoon, and did some exploring solo.

this morning Father Christopher announced that next week he was taking all the college kids out to dinner.  i’m telling you, this church is looking better and better …

right now i’m feeling very peaceful — dave (next door) packed us a picnic lunch and we went to battery park, right across the water from ellis island.  he took pictures with his way-cool camera and did calculus homework — i read my new favorite book, ayn rand’s “the fountainhead.”  it was a going-to-college present from daddy.  i’m afraid it might become a substitute for sleep in the next few weeks.  a few hours in a real park — grass, trees, water — have a lasting effect on you when your day-to-day life is so *urban*.

as a city-dwelling veteran, greg’s advice to me was: “i know you’re going to be busy here — but you should really try to see EVERYTHING.”  the more i’m here, the more that’s what i want to do.  every corner brings a new surprise.  everything i do, everything i see, encourages me to do and see more.  i’m cautious — if i decide to take a walk late at night, i grab some other people and several formidable-looking boys to come with me.  but i’m not scared.  even the infamous panhandlers make me laugh.  (today I saw one who houted, “hey there!” at me, as if i were an old friend.)  i’m loving every minute of it.