Tag Archives: Liberal Arts

After Two Years of Blogging, Your Guess is Still as Good as Mine

toastWordPress reminded me that today is my two-year blogiversary. I missed last year’s for the obvious reasons (grad school applications, Macbeth, mud wrestling, etc.). Today, though, I slide two years into the past when I was surrounded by the mess of my education: Beloved, essays on the Holocaust, a textbook on linguistics, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, and drafts of my own poetry. The liberal arts defined my life, but lacked definition; in a confused fervor I wrote my first blog post asking simply, why get a liberal education in the first place?

Two years have gone by. I created this blog to explore the liberal arts generally, the life of a wannabe writer specifically. At varying times, it has served as an open journal, editorial, bully pulpit, and archive of my writing. I started out posting short vignettes satirizing myself as a freshman, but moved on to better creative writing, philosophy, travelogues, history, and humor. If my blog feels eclectic, it’s only because my brain is eclectic. I move rapidly from Steinbeck to colonial Egypt to writing a short story. This blog is one part journal, one part art, and one part scholarship, with three extra parts marked “miscellaneous.” I strive to make sure no two posts are alike, which may be a bad idea when blogging is supposed to be about consistency and ritual, two qualities I lack.

I’ve explored numerous moments in my life on this blog: I mourned Pete Seeger, challenged myself to write a poem every day each April, founded a photography business, announced publications, had breakfast in Ireland, lunch in Jerome, dinner in Wisconsin, went to my first big fancy writing conference, broke up with my hometown of twenty years for graduate school in Nebraska.

For the most part, though, I’ve read, and written about what I read, and read what others wrote about what I wrote about what I read. An endless reading list is the bedrock of any good liberal education.

Liberal Education

On this blog, I’ve also reached many half-baked conclusions, but one thing has remained clear post after post: a good liberal education is worthless if it stays inside the classroom. Sitting around reading and writing is no way to be a writer, if it’s all I do. I have to experiment with baking or acting, work for a charity, travel, read for a literary journal. I should traverse the gridlock of cities, the innards of bars, the vast organs of campsites. My blog may be ineffectively unconventional; the only binding theme is the continual mess of my lifelong education and my desire to be a writer. But I know blogging has made me a better writer, a more considerate reader, a more confident thinker. It’s been an eclectic two years. I hope the next two will be even more eclectic.


Why a liberal education? Your guess is as good as mine, and I mean that. If you’re engaged in the liberal arts, especially outside of academia, let me know in the comments what you study or write or create, and why.


The Ghost of the Liberal Arts Building

A very seasonal short story about Karl, who wonders if the Liberal Arts building is haunted.

October 29, 2011

LAThe other night I was in the Liberal Arts building talking to Dr. Corddry about my paper and what classes to take next semester. I was there late cause his class is already late to begin with, and his office hours got pushed to the absolute latest at night they could be. I left his room planning on taking a creative writing class and another literature class with him, and that’s when I saw my friend Vince sitting on one of the horrible benches in the halls. Vince is a weird guy. He never wears anything on his feet, and he has a knack for finding situations where he gets free food. It’s like a sixth sense or a fifth element or whatever that movie with the alien kid was called. He always smells like coconuts, and he thinks the FBI is spying on him, which might actually be true given how paranoid he is.
I asked him what he was doing.
“I got stuck in here cause a skinwalker is chasing me.”
“A skinwalker?”
“Yeah, like the shape-shifting monsters. I was outside enjoying a smoke, and suddenly this big hairy guy pops out from the bushes and tries to kill me. I ran as fast as I could.”
Behind me, Dr. Corddry locked up his office and walked away, putting on a baseball cap and using his tie to wipe food from his mouth, like he always did.
“So you get chased by a big hairy monster, and the first place you think to go is Liberal Arts?”
Vince shrugged. “It’s safer than out there. You know, Maxwell vanished, too. Maybe the skinwalkers got him. Maybe he was eaten or something.”
“You sure it was a skinwalker, and not, like, one of the janitors or something? They can be pretty scary sometimes, especially late at night.”
I said I’d walk with him back to Cowden. He’s kinda paranoid, to be honest. Maybe that’s a good thing, cause the janitors and librarians and RAs all steal things from the lost and found and sell them for liquor or cigarettes, but he was more paranoid than usual. So I thought, maybe he really did see a giant hairy monster, but that could describe like twenty dudes in my psychology class. We got to the first floor of Liberal Arts. They have these motion-sensor lights that turn off when nobody’s around and turn on the second you walk past them. Only this time, the lights didn’t turn on. All we had were the red exit signs to light up the hall. We were in almost total darkness. I said they must be broken, but Vince, whose bare feet kept making slapping sounds when he walked on the tiles, said it was the skinwalker.
“They always cut off the power first,” he said, “to mess with us first.”
“That’s what aliens do.”
“Maybe there’s an alien invasion, too.”
We went to the front door, and the lights were still broken. I gotta be honest, Liberal Arts is already a pretty spooky building in the day, but at night, it’s way creepier. Nobody was around, not even the janitors. Vince kept foot-slapping on the floor, but stopped suddenly.
“Maybe I should use my phone for a light.”
“Good idea.”
We both took our our phones, but the lights barely did any use. So we put them back and just went in the darkness, which we were actually starting to adjust to. Then I heard a door open behind us. We turned around, not wanting to make any noise. For like ten minutes, we didn’t move or breathe. Maybe Liberal Arts really was haunted, I thought. Or maybe it was zombies, or something. We kept going, but Vince tried not to make any noise when he walked.
When we got to the front doors, I heard somebody grumbling. Then the doors opened, and in the red exit-sign lights, I saw the person in the gorilla suit who’d been chasing me since September. That’s when I realized, that’s what Vince meant when he said he saw a skinwalker. He screamed and turned around, but slipped because his feet didn’t have any grip cause I guess he keeps them smooth and silky or something, and fell to the floor. I tried helping him up, but the gorilla lumbered forward. Then Vince, the stupid jerk, pulled me down with him, and kicked me closer to the gorilla. He got up and ran, but slipped again.
The gorilla stood over me. How the hell does NAU get away with this sort of thing? Broken lights, no security guards, weirdos who where gorilla costumes.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Seriously, I see you like everywhere. You’re in Cowden and Cline and everywhere else I go. What’s your deal?” Of course those would be my last words.
The gorilla grabbed my legs and dragged me across the tiles. What the hell! Who does that? I slid pretty well, though, cause they just polished the floor, I guess, so it wasn’t actually that uncomfortable. Then he took me to this corner with snack machines that glow brightly, and stepped back. I was sure he was going to kill me or eat me or stuff me into the snack machine one limb at a time, but then he took the gorilla head off.
And it was Maxwell! I thought the lost-and-found people killed him, but he was alive! But then I remembered that it was kinda my fault the lost-and-found people hunted him down in the first place.
“You stupid jackass,” he said. I was so glad he wasn’t going to stab me with a broken soda can that I agreed with him completely. He ranted for a bit, cause he found out it was me who stole the pot he was supposed to drop off for the lost-and-found people, and how he had to go into hiding.
“So have you been the gorilla all along?” I asked.
“No. The real gorilla person is temporarily indisposed right now.”
“Well, how can I pay you back? I lost one of the joints. I still have the other.”
“Give me what you have and pay me back in double.”
I did some math in my head that took like five minutes.
“Is that like three joints, then?”
He also did some math in his head.
“Close enough.”
I was glad Maxwell was still technically alive, and that I didn’t have to die yet.
Down the hall, I heard slapping and screaming. Vince came running down the hallway shouting, and he jumped over one of the gray plastic tables at us. He had a cross in one hand and a linguistics book in the other (cause those linguistics text books can kill people, and probably have). He tripped again, threw the cross at Maxwell, and then dropped the book. The cross bounced off his furry gorilla shoulders, and we glared at him. The lights came back on, and Vince saw that it was Maxwell. He screamed that it was Maxwell’s ghost haunting the Liberal Arts building, but we convinced him that Maxwell was just alive, and not the living dead.
So that’s how my night went. I owed Maxwell like a million cigarettes. But he never really told me what happened to the person who normally wore the gorilla suit. I guess I’ll never know, unless the person comes back for the costume or for revenge or something.
That’s my life. Good luck with your own.