“I’ve already started receiving Christmas cards. It’s wonderful to get them early. I was up all night… erasing.”
– Bob Hope

This quarter is starting off quite different than what I had originally expected. The classes I’m in seem to be almost too enjoyable, and every one of them is in a different department.

Food Processing, or FSN 230, will have us learning all about the packaging of food. By the end of the quarter, one of our labs will be a “production lab” in which we will jar our own jelly, and then take home the results of that lab. The week after, we’ll be probably visiting either a winery or a brewery. My professor assures us that we won’t have to worry about driving back to campus–here’s a bus that’ll drive us to and fro. What we should be concerned about is how we’ll do in the other classes that day.

Fundamentals of Packaging, or IT 330, will be focusing on the more “engineering” aspects of packaging. One of the highlights of this class will be the project in which we design a better solution to packaging certain materials than currently exists. For example, other classes have designed clear beer kegs or pourable cereal in a plastic jug.

Color and Design, Art 133, is the final class in my Art series that has plagued me so this year. This should be the most fun quarter, though. One of the great projects we have in the class is, in groups, we will be painting backgrounds to the characters that are already painted on the walls in the Dexter building. I guess I just can’t really relate how cool this project is, in fact, I don’t know if you even know what I’m talking about from that description. It’s really cool, nevertheless.

Applications of Print in Mail Communication, GrC 470P, is my only class in my major this quarter. It’s basically about Direct Mail Marketing, or “junk mail” to those of you who, like myself, think it’s one of the most insidious forms of evil this world has ever produced. Unbelievably, this class that lasted from 6-9 pm last night didn’t once make me fall asleep. It’s taught by one of the alums of the department, who’s currently CEO of Admail, and he’s teaching the class out of his own generosity. That’s right, he’s not getting paid by the school, so I guess I just feel that he deserves my undivided attention for more reasons than most professors in my major. Not that I don’t pay attention to the others, but that this guy certainly deserves attention.

This has been quite an interesting first week for a couple other reasons too. Today is Cesar Chavez’ Birthday, which is being celebrated by our school as an official holiday. Add to that the fact that I am going to have my Thursdays free of classes this quarter and I have a two-day weekend right in the middle of this week.

Not all things are bright, though. Today, The Mooch, my favorite of Jim’s dogs, passed away. She’s been on a steady decline for the last six months, since I’ve been living here. Nonetheless, she was a great dog. I woke up this morning to the news that they were burying her in “about two minutes,” which was more than a surprise for me. Jim seems to be handling it well. He’s had Mooch for thirteen years now…

And then I had a good time at the dentist today. They talked with me a little more about the possibility of getting braces, and that it’s much better for the jaw bones if I get it done before the age of 25. I think I need to set up an insurance policy before I make a decision on that, though.

Crazy times.

So, in the last seven days:

Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco, Sacramento, Yosemite, Turlock, Los Angeles… and all points in between.

I’ve seen North America’s largest waterfall, the clearest ocean water ever in Monterey, the Wild Bush Man in San Fran, the Getty (again, but it was still awesome), a tap dancing troupe… I’ve ridden in a black Honda Civic throughout a good deal of Northern California, learning about Iron Maiden. I’ve ridden in an old school London taxi across Turlock.

Fun times.

There’s something about Santa Barbara at 3:30 in the afternoon that reminds me of everywhere else at 10 am.

This I thought as Sarah and I were strolling around that city of wonder yesterday. It was our two-year anniversary, and the arch of the courthouse was humongous, like a great hall I have read about in some Terry Goodkind fantasy novel. The morning at the Alice Keck Memorial Gardens, the afternoon at the beach riding Surrey bikes, and dinner at Palazzio’s… quite a day.

Tomorrow morning, Devon and I are beginning our road trip. My packing list includes a couple of good books, several pens and my sketchbook. I’m expecting inspiration.

Tonight, I finished my last final of the quarter. Walking to my car, it was one of those exalted times, with the fog rolling through the central coast, and Matt Bellamy screaming in my ears “Proclaim eternal victory / Come on and change the course of history / And pull us through / And this is the end / Of the world.” (In case none of you know, that’s from Muse – Apocalypse Please) It seemed quite fitting.

So, I wanted to let you all know that despite the best wishes of the California State University system, I’m still alive, and able to think.

I think I’ll celebrate with a salad.

Read Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three and Chapter Four.

Chapter Five

Afterwards, there was a hushed silence, everyone’s head bowed as if in a moment of prayer. That wasn’t it, though — certainly, it was a solemn moment, as if it was the universe resting after the Big Bang. I felt it too — all of the energy had been wrapped up in the melody and then thrown upon a burning pyre.

We all starting pouring out into the alleyway shortly after that. The sun was rising over the cityscape. I lost Davey in the crowd. No matter, I thought. I really don’t feel like talking anyway.

On the walk home, every thing in life seemed brighter. As if I was watching subtle fireworks in every molecule. Maybe it was just because I was tired as hell, but I suspect I truly changed in that basement at some point that night. That my life had just become richer somehow. I walked the entire way home wide-eyed, afraid to lose one single moment of this life I had come upon.

On my bed I could not sleep. I just stared at the ceiling and reminisced about the beginning of all time, on what colors must have existed then.

Read Chapter One, Chapter Two, and Chapter Three.

Chapter Four

My fingers rested on the keys, and somehow this all felt familiar, like I was meant to keep my fingers on that piano. A snare started a rhythm reminiscent of stars being born. Then the bass, a zombie rising from it’s grave, followed by Jason’s A-bomb sax. And that’s when it started. It was like I could see the sound, could start organizing every beat and note by their “colors.”

And thus I began; I took the main idea behind the notes of the other instruments and mixed them up to throw them back into the composition with my piano. It was as if something inside of me, something that seldom speaks, was whispering Make it lighter. Darker. Grayer! Brighter! Cooler! Warmer! and it all exploded through my knuckles, like a car chase with a backseat driver.

To say it was exhilarating would be an understatement. This was art. I was creating something that existed apart from me, like a seance, calling into life the lifeless.

I don’t know how long we stayed in that basement. In my mind, with each cymbal clash, years had passed, love had been born and died, entire civilizations were wiped out. And we played on until the end of time.

Read Chapter One and Chapter Two.

Chapter Three

The sound was deafening in this crowded basement. But it was a good deafening, the kind of deafening as from a choir, as if a team of sound-wave angels were gently prying open my chest to get to my heart. And my heart was beating. It was a savage beat which sped up with every swell of the sax, slowed down with every pluck of the bass. It felt like every sound was mixing, becoming more broken, more earthy. More real.

My eyes were closed. I didn’t know for how long. I wasn’t sleeping, just feeling as if half of my body existed here, in this basement, and the other half in someplace elsewhere, a world where columns of pure sound bounced off each other, like ripples on a foreign shore.

The song reached a crecendo, then silence. A cooldown. Jason, sax in one hand, tapped me on the shoulder. “You play keys, man? I remember you play mean keys.”

“Yeah, I can play,” I managed to croak, and then look past him to Davey, whose hand rested on an old baby grand. It was in awful shape — dust, cobwebs, the keys both black and white fading to brown. But somehow, through all that, it sparkled, calling me. And that’s why I sat down.

And here it is: My second attempt at a design for my final Art 132 project. Be warned, it’s in PDF. It’s going to be reproduced four times on the same page, each time demonstrating different color harmonies in place of the white, black and gray that you see on the PDF. I just emailed it to Chuck, and am hoping to see whether or not he likes it.

My first attempt was good, just not quite good enough for me. I had tried to tackle the problem Tuesday night, after a week of constant projects, travelling, and moving. As well as finishing my fafsa and Cal Poly Scholarship applications. Geez, I got a lot done.

So yeah, let’s hope this one is good.

————UPDATE————

An email received from Chuck, circa 9:14 pm today:

Ben,

Looks good. Go for it.

Chuck

Freakin’ A.

Today, Lee asked me how many finals I have in the next two weeks. After thinking about it for a moment, I said six. Though I might be low in that estimate. The reason for this is that all of my four classes have labs, and I think each one of those labs may have something big due for finals.

I’ve had a lot to think about this past week. I’ve had one art project due this last monday (which is always a source of stress, but it’s cool). I watched my grandparents start on their trip to Arkansas, which means it will be a little while before I or any of my family see them again. I found out my father has diabetes, and that since both he and my grandmother on his side have diabetes, my brother and I are probably at risk. I’ve thought a lot about my two-year anniversary with Sarah, which is almost two weeks away…

I’m looking forward to spring break, for a few different reasons than I usually look forward to it. Currently, Devon and I are planning on making a road trip north of San Luis, just driving for a few days, maybe going as far north as Lake Shasta or Crater Lake. We’d be staying at a few hostels on the way up, which looks exciting, especially since a few of them I’ve been looking at are at quite spectacular locations.

It makes me sad, though, because it means I probably won’t see John or Andrea or Abe this break. Or Becca, Sherry, Andrea, Ryan, Brigham, Coy, Trevor, Neil, CrisPaul, Eder, or my family. But I really feel I need to get the hell out of Dodge, see something new, spend some time with Devon, have an adventure,

but most importantly, rest. Yes, rest would be good.