Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Alternative to College

Frank Zappa got me into college. His own view on higher education was unfavorable, at least to him. Going to the library was enough, but FZ was an autodidact. Others, like myself, needed the evacuation capability that secondary education provided. For some, the money spent on tuition could be used for a second-hand car and the security deposit on an apartment (and I assure you, that's just as much part of any stable person's cirriculum as ANYTHING).

But no, when you're saddled in the middle of a mountain town, there's really no plausible way that getting a job, an apartment and spending your free time to your art would yield anything but frustration and a drinking problem. Seen it happen.

Thankfully, I'm not the first one to notice and my high school had a guidance counselor that went BONGO FURY every September with the new senior class. It was warfare for this guy and I appreciate it. There was a strict time-table - do the SAT's, even if they're bullshit; send away for info. Dude hooked me up with some North East colleges. I don't think anyone in our class got into someplace with PRESTIGE. He knew out reach.

One of the entrance essays involved YOUR HERO. Colleges always wanted to find out about who the kids idolized. Must be a weeding method. Being that I went for the all blobulous field of ENGLISH, with that CREATIVE bent, it probably didn't matter who my HERO was so long it wasn't Ted Bundy.

Mutant I was, I penned out how FZ influenced me at the early age. It was true, since I found him when I needed a weird role model, someone with odd hair and strange music that seemed both in tune with my natural growth but distorted enough for my own individual set-up. I made that known in the third paragraph, how FZ taught me it was okay to disagree with your heroes (a lesson I treasure to this day.) Back then, I had different views about the merits of church and religion - we agree that manipulative behaviors preying upon the easily influenced are POOR, if not TERRIBLE and DANGEROUS. But I've always had some sense that there's some goodness to this whole GOD thing, even if it wasn't completely known. It's probably one of those strange things - having someone to teach you how to think for yourself.

Essays written, checkes cut and applications filled out, my chances were bet and mailed. Strange enough, I ended up getting into the handful I applied, thanks to a decent standardized score and enough personality to charm my way into the ACCEPTED pile on the registrar's desk.

My NUMBAH ONE school, which I admit was that because it offered a SPECIFIC 'creative writing' major for the undergraduates, surprised me. The other schools send congratulation letters. 'Congratulations, Strange Jason. You didn't chump it and we want you to SHOW UP if you want to.' But this place had a hand-written note on the margins.

'I didn't know people your age were into Frank Zappa.'

Be still my heart.

I'm a fan of higher education, having liked it so much that I did it twice. I would reccomend it to anyone who has some interests. FZ didn't SCREW AROUND when it came to life and I think college is a way to specialize those interests you KNOW you want to follow all your life.

This central Pennsylvanian school was a strange experience. I got into the radio station since MUSIC IS THE BEST and opened every show with 'Rubber shirt.' Came up with a cheesy radio DEEJAE name and rocked it. Found some bands that I liked so much, I still listen to them today. Got kicked off of my radio show for calling Pat Buchanan a 'Nazi-rat bastard.' When we left the freshmen dorm, my roommate and I unscrewed the back of the mirror and wrote messages for the future. Ugly as I was, I put down the MUSIC IS THE BEST credo. Information is not Knowledge. Knowledge is not Wisdom. Truth is not Beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. MUSIC IS THE BEST.

Bought 'Broadway the Harday' in Pennsylvania because I couldn't stop listening to 'Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk,' downloaded off of one of the Naspter clones that floated around the place. WinMX or AudioGalaxy. Those odds and ends p2ps were nice because I could find odd things mislabled and wrongly tagged. I heard the version of 'King Kong' from 'Tis the Season to be Jelly,' thinking it was just a live bootleg I would never find again when my computer shat the bed.

When the writing department, the TWO whole professors (one poet, one writer) turned out to be shitheads, and the bills started to pile up, I moved back home and finished the degree at a state university. The Pennsylvania school did do something very important - I met a Pirate Queen lit professor who taught english comp. with a collie (NOT a poodle,) and who saw that I had this flair for writing. She did her best to encourage me to follow it. In the first creative peice, I had FZ and a version of me shooting the shit in whatever constituted heaven I had back then. Everyone didn't know that these bodies were floating in space and wondered when I did a 'flip' if I was doing any of that DOPE FIEND behavior. There were High School teachers who helped me get my start, but back then, I didn't trust anyone in high school. It took that first college professor to tell me that I wasn't full of shit and that I should keep going to help me out. FZ didn't need that since he had the WILLPOWER and confidence that it didn't matter if he got approval or not. Maybe he getting in touch with Varese over that phone call was enough. Maybe Varese was the Pirate that FZ needed.

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