Cooper Chronicles: I.7

(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.)

we’ve been starstruck!!  

as i was reading my architecture history homework for the next day, i heard a noise of screaming and stomping of feet up the staircase, growing increasingly louder.  a few seconds later, pete and raquel burst in the door screaming a bunch of jibberish —

“SARA-EMILY-OMIGOSH-YOU-WON’T-BELIEVE-SHAQ-MCDONALDS-JUST-NOW!!”  they had been in mcdonalds when they saw an unusually large figure at the counter — a closer inspection revealed that it was, in fact, *the* shaquille o’neal of NBA fame.  he was with his wife, MTV veejay Idalis, ordering an extra-value meal right next door to the dorms.  pete had his camera and snapped a few pictures.  i wasn’t *that* impressed, but maybe you had to be there.

stars are everywhere in the village.  dave saw mel gibson on the corner a few weeks ago; pete and al saw a famous boxer and damon wayans at a club in the same night; and damien swears he saw claire danes, but i think he’s just trying to make me jealous.  (i *love* claire danes. )  seeing these household names on your block really makes you feel like you’re in the middle of something great, important, cutting-edge.  or maybe just like an incredibly uncool gawker.  (depends on your point of view.) 

the studio has almost become my second home here.  last sunday i spent some serious time there in preparation for our crit on tuesday.  it was while i was drawing a closeup model of our joint that i realized something astounding: i was *really* enjoying this.  i’ve never taken a drafting class, and they don’t offer any at cooper.  they expect you, not to have learned previously, but to learn as you go along.  get the supplies and experiment with them.  ask the more advanced students if you need help.  and above all, don’t shy away from something just because you don’t know how to do it. 

i really like that mentality.  what better way to learn how to do something really well?  architecture students are their own worst critics, and we can tell when something looks professional and when it looks half-baked.  it’s completely different from anything i’ve ever done, and i love it.  i love the newness of it, and i love learning how to do it — and most of all, i love the creative process that goes into each assignment.  there’s no formula for building the joint; we have to invent one.  that’s what’s so cool about it.

anyway, after 4 hours of studio time, i took a break and went out with a group of friends to celebrate pete’s birthday.  we walked to an adorable little italian restaurant called “tanti baci” (“many kisses” in italian) and had a really good, fresh, inexpensive dinner.  on the way home we stopped at Smoothie King, which is run by a bunch of new york boys that act really “tough-guy,” but are actually pretty nice.  oh, and they make the most incredible fresh-fruit shakes you will ever taste.  mmmmmm. 

the next day was spent entirely working on our project.  raquel and i walked to Space Surplus Metal, a tiny shop smack in the heart of Chinatown, to get some hollow aluminum tubing for the model.  the people were from india and very, very courteous (“you the ones that just call?  aluminum?  just one moment please — ” with lots of nodding and smiling), but the metal didn’t come cheap — the cost of the whole model, including the wood and screws, amounted to over $100.  (it reminded me of a cartoon that our roommate and R.A. kerry drew on our message board: a picture of peter cooper saying, “cooper is free!  except for books, supplies, food, room and board, transportation, personal expenses … “) 

we returned to the studio and stayed in the shop until 10 pm when it closed.  the model was almost finished, and we worked on drawings late into the night.  at 12:30 the guard came to chase us all out.  raquel and i panicked — we still had work to do!  we consulted with steve, a fourth-year friend of ours that was wise to the ways of cooper.  his advice: “hide.”  so we crouched under his desks at the far end of the room, stifling giggles and feeling a bit like guilty children hiding from their parents and certain punishment.  (as we were hiding, steve grumbled: “at other schools, kids get in trouble for drugs, shootings, and skipping class — at cooper, we get yelled at for working too much!”)  if you don’t hide and refuse to leave, you have to write your name on a paper that they pass around, and the papers land on the dean’s desk — and you *do* get yelled at.  i finished around 3:30 and sneaked out, following steve’s advice and feigning deafness to the guard’s questions on the way out. (“excuse me, miss?  hello?  HELLO?” )

the next morning, there was no rest for the weary: raquel and i got up and went to the Met on an assignment for architecture history class.  the teachers here delight in sending us all over the city just because they *can*.  in most college-towns, the farthest they could send you would be to the gas station on the corner; but here in the great city of new york, there’s any number of educational sights to see.  (not that we mind.  hey, it’s an excuse to get out.)  upon returning, we nervously put the finishing touches on our model and pinned up our work in the crit room. 

after being ripped apart at the last critique, we had no idea what to expect.  it was a tremendous relief, therefore, to have our hours and hours of hard work praised with as much vigor as they had been disdained last time.  we had worked a lot harder and put a lot more energy into this project, and they all loved it.  abraham used the word “beautiful” so many times i lost count.  they were intrigued by all of our “test” models and encouraged us to develop all of them, not just the main one (although they loved it).  they praised my drawings (i had spent 8 hours on one and 5 on another) and thanked *us* for our efforts.  i could have kissed that man!  raquel and i were flying high — we sat there for the rest of the critique, gripping each other’s arms, trying to suppress our huge smiles of satisfaction.  our work had paid off — as abraham put it so eloquently, “you don’t work hard, you don’t learn shit.”

wednesday’s architecture history lecture was really interesting; that class has become my new favorite.  reading about the egyptians and greeks and how their styles of architecture came about is really fascinating to me — i think it’s taken the place of the history classes that i loved so much in high school.  on the way home i went to the union square greenmarket to satiate my graving for fresh salad — i ended up getting a “few other things,” forgetting that it was quite a walk back home.  my bags gained a couple of pounds, it seemed, with each street i crossed; by the time i got there, it felt like my arms had stretched a few more inches.  :) that night in drawing class we had a contortionist model.  it took a few tries for me to be able to draw her without wincing at her positions — positions i was *sure* the human body had not been intended to take.

my church has a few services every week, and although i usually can’t make it to the evening ones, i love to go early in the day.  so on thursday, i was there for a 9 AM service — although i couldn’t stay for the whole thing, it was a good way to start my morning.  then it was off to english class to watch the much-anticipated “much ado about nothing,” starring kenneth branagh — a near-religious experience in itself.  :)  after lunch and an art-history lecture, i dashed uptown to fulfill a drawing assignment — going to the central park zoo to sketch monkeys.  i got there 20 minutes before closing, but found that they sell the last ticket a half hour before closing time.  luckily, i had only wasted 2 subway tokens and 40 minutes — it could have been worse.  things got a little confusing after that, though — i had to go to the NYU library, look up “snow monkey,” ask three or four librarians where the magazines were, go to the microfilm archive, scroll through old issues of “discover”, and print out pictures to draw from. luckily, dave had come with me, so he helped me unravel the complexities of the computer system; otherwise, i think i would have done something rash out of frustration.  just goes to show you what procrastination will do … 

friday brought much excitement with it: it was my first time seeing my family since move-in day.  they got here around 4 and took a tour of the studio and shop (my dad was drooling!) looked at my projects, acted amazed, took lots of pictures (“now hold up the joint and smile, honey”) and did all of those wonderful, embarassing things that families do.  i didn’t realize how much i had missed them.  my sense of “oren humor” was sadly depleted, i discovered; more than once they laughed at me for taking their jokes seriously.  it took almost a full day for me to remember what “sarcasm” was.  :) 

that night we went out to dinner with youth-pastor greg; after hearing about mars 2112, they all wanted to see it for themselves.  they had a great time, especially elliot, who spent time in the arcade (i didn’t even know they had one, but leave it to him to find it!), and greg, who had fun hitting on all the martian women.  after dinner we walked through times square and made a mental list of all the shows we wanted to see.  (ha!)  my sis spent the night with me in my apartment. 

the next morning, beth (my friend from baltimore, who’s stydying dance at juilliard) came over and the six of us drove up to St. Vladimir’s seminary for “education day.”  we had a time finding the place — my mom, after insisting the directions said to turn RIGHT, suddenly realized she was looking at the wrong set.  we didn’t let her hear the end of that one.  of course, greg was the main attraction at St. Vlad’s, but there were discussions, talks, ethnic foods and services throughout the day.  Holy Cross (my home church) sent up a busload of people, and i was overjoyed to see so many of them in one day — much of the time was spent catching up on all the craziness i had missed.  the day was chilly, a foreshadowing of the infamous NY winters to come, but it warmed to the rekindling of friendships.

that night we did some midtown exploring and ate at a diner (in an effort to placate the members of the family with *less* adventurous taste).  abby stayed with me again, and we hung out with my friends in the dorms — even going for a late-night ben & jerry’s run with us.  i can’t wait until she sees the light and comes to cooper union with me.  :)  this morning we witnessed an amazing spectacle at church: at least 18 clergy members, including three bishops, processing around the altar and into the sanctuary.  it was rather imposing — i think elliot might have regretted his decision to volunteer as altar boy for the morning.  he looked a little overwhelmed up there in the sea of white and gold and green vestments swirling around him.  of course, Father Christopher made us all feel at home despite all the pomp and circumstance.  (“this is NOT a normal Sunday!” he reassurred my dad as he greeted him.)

well, just as i thought these letters were starting to get to a more normal length … oh well.  such is the fate of a long-winded girl with a good memory for detail.  thanks for sticking around for the end.  tune in next week for more adventure, excitement and romance (?) …