Thursday, April 19, 2007

The sweet misery of free ice cream

Yesterday, I waited in line with thousands of other people to get free ice cream at Ben and Jerry's in the Upper West Side. I'm not sure if the delicious frozen treats were worth the volley of verbal abuse. You should have seen the ice cream servers screaming at everyone! "WHO WANTS CHOCOLATE? I KNOW SOMEONE SAID STRAWBERRY!!! MOVE THE LINE ALONG!! GET MOVING!! WHICH ONE OF YOU SAID CHERRY GARCIA!! MOVE YOUR BUTTS RIGHT NOW!!'' When I finally got to the front of the line, I was sure that the server was going to start pounding on me for no reason or at least lob a big lump of ice cream on top of me. "WHAT DO YOU WANT??"" she roared. "Cherry Garcia,'' I replied, sheepishly. She reached into the vat and scooped me up a big wedge of ice cream and practically stuffed the cone up my nose. I grabbed up my treat and got out of there as fast as I could. In the ice cream servers' defense, they had to wait on an endless crowd of mopy, rain-drenched people and they probably got carpal tunnel syndrome from all the scooping. The other weird thing was the line itself: A kid, no older than 11, took it upon himself to herd the line into single file. He would not let my wife and I pass by until he was sure that we were walking in an orderly fashion. This sort of behavior scares me. Pre-teens are supposed to resist authority and not behave in such a crypto-fascist way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Graduating, sort of

When I was checking out grad schools, I crashed on the floor of a fiction writer who took me to a protest the next day while dressed up as a cow. (He was protesting the cost of tuition. The cow suit was relevant to the protest. It's a long story.) It's hard to believe that three years have passed since the angry-cow incident. These are my final days in the Columbia MFA program. I will definitely miss homework (reading two books every week) and having a dozen or so smart and dedicated people close-edit my work. I'll also miss the study alcoves at Columbia, the lectures about crazy short stories, the constant visits from writers and the occasional beery hangouts at Toast and the Amsterdam Lounge. This has been great (and the three years have gone by in a flash.) I'm grateful that the program has given me a chance to teach Ivy League freshmen, work as a research assistant to an NY Times editor and shape a full-length manuscript. Now I'm marking the end of my time here with a little get-together this weekend in the Upper-Upper Westside. I guess this means that I am graduating -- though that isn't true technically (I'm still fiddling with the thesis and probably won't do the graduation "walk'' in June.)