Up until the recent chapter, I have been talking about the specific Journeys I’ve made through various aspects of my Life. Those things which influenced my world views and spirituality, as well as those people, events and things which helped form my musical philosophy. The final chapters will talk about three actual environments which have had an all around impact on me, for a variety of reasons. While writing this book, it was really hard to discern which things have shaped me most. Sometimes it seems like everything around me at a given moment kinda makes up who I am. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d have much of a left hand left if I sat down and wrote about every single thing that I have experienced in Life. So here it is, in no particular order. Starting with Temple University.
Those four short years of college were four years of exponential growth in all aspects of my life. It was the end of one chapter, and the beginning of a Journey into Self Understanding. It was like waking up to the realization of my own uniqueness, and how I can contribute to the world by just being myself. I wouldn’t say I figured it all out in college. I’m still a work in progress. But Temple was an environment which provided a way for me to discover this new version of myself. If it wasn’t for the experiences I had here, I could have been in a cubicle somewhere in Philly; instead of writing these very words from a place I’ve learned to call home: Ryugasaki.
Let me start off by saying this: Unless you are pursuing a career in medicine, law, a highly technical field in the sciences, or want to take the scholarly route, a college degree doesn’t hold much value anymore. I can confidently say that I could have learned everything I was taught in my major from the copious online sources of free education. Even still, if I had another go at it I probably would take the college route again. I am in debt up to my eyeballs but I don’t regret it. The experiences a diverse college campus thrust you into are more valuable than all the textbook learning that “might” occur in the meantime.
So I went into debt for an unforgettable experience. This is why I believe, even with tuition soaring and debts becoming higher, high school graduates are still choosing college over self-education. The awesomeness of college is brainwashed into our minds at a young age. Even my mom would tell me that college was the best time of her life. Of course, college isn’t a great experience for everyone, but I knew very few people who absolutely hated it. As with most things in Life, the experience is what you make it.
Like most freshmen males I rolled up to 1300 in August 2009 thinking I was the shit. This was my home turf. I wasn’t like most of these googly eyed out-of-towners, taking pictures in front of every building and statue on campus. I had been around Temple University a few times before move-in day; my high school was only a few blocks away from here at 17th and Girard. Over the next semester, that quiet, know-it-all egotism would be washed away. But not immediately. Mind you I was a film major in my freshman year. If there ever was a college major overrun with Kanye West clones, this would be it. I had never been in a lecture hall filled with so many people who thought their ish didn’t stank. Even the teacher assistants—whom were mostly international grad students—held a kind of air of authority. As if they held some secret knowledge of film theory that only they had access to.
Fortunately I had an awesome roommate named Tyler. He was also a film major, but didn’t fit the mold of the rest of our peers. I could tell he really had a love and passion for filmmaking. Yet he didn’t let his ego cloud his vision when doing a project. We would always help each other out with our respective projects. As I drifted away from production upon switching majors in my sophomore year, we would take time at least once a month to watch films. He probably doesn’t know it, but these monthly rituals kept my eye for good filmmaking from closing. Although I am no longer was as passionate as he was about production, during these times I was reminded of why I became interested in film in the first place. If you’re reading this Tyler, best of luck in Los Angeles! I miss you man!
In addition to having Tyler as a roommate (and Mike Peco popping in like everyday), the 1300 dormitory was a melting pot of cultures, ideas, off-beat characters, and free thinkers. Our wing had an “open door” policy. Meaning that if you left your door open, anyone was pretty much welcome to come in and chat. Tyler and I lived on the far end of the wing, so no one really came around. But a great deal of our peers towards the front end had their doors swung wide open. One of the more popular dorms in this area was Sherry and Amelia’s. Known for their almost daily late-night “tea parties.”
Sherry and I originally met at J.R. Masterman, a magnet middle school. We’d play tag from 5th to 8th grade until we both graduated and went to separate high schools. I never heard from her in those four years. It wasn’t like Facebook was that popular in middle school (if it even existed). If you didn’t have someone’s phone number or AIM screen name, good luck getting in touch with them. When the summer before college approached it was almost too coincidental that I would run into Sherry so often after not seeing her for years. It was like these surprise run-ins were a sign that we would grow to become very close friends in the coming year. As any one of Sherry’s friends will undoubtedly say, “She comes into your life outta nowhere, instantly becomes your closest confidant, and then just vanishes.” There is something magical about that woman.
Due to her majestic personality, and Amelia’s free-spirited nature, all different kinds of unique kids would come to the tea parties. There was never a set schedule for them, the get-togethers would occur as spontaneously as the two who hosted them. Religion, science, philosophy, drugs, relationships, music, sex, etc.: no topic was off limits. Listening to these exchanges, sipping chai tea out of my mega-sized mug, I’d think to myself, “This is really college. This is what my mom meant.”
Not realizing I was thinking aloud, Sherry would chime in, “I know right? This is awesome, let’s have another tea party tomorrow night!”
“But I have a 20-page paper due the day after tomorrow…”
“No worries, Malc. This is college, right? After tomorrow’s tea we can pull an all-nighter at the TECH and finish those papers!”
You see what I mean? She just had that kind of effect on people.
Thanks to those tea parties I began to meet, for the first time, like-minded thinkers. From middle school up into high school I always felt like I didn’t exactly fit in with everyone else. There were things I was interested in that none of my good friends at the time found appealing. During those late nights in Sherry and Amelia’s dorm, I met peeps who shared my interest in picking apart the details in MF DOOM’s lyrics. People who shared in interest in Outer Space. Temple “night” Owls who wouldn’t mind staying up ‘til 3:00AM in heated philosophical debate. I was learning about myself. I was learning about the world. I was growing. And I could recognize and feel this growth.
A few of the tea party regulars also took an Honors English class with me two times a week. Upon signing up for this I didn’t read the course description. Really, most of the courses I took my first semester were chosen mainly because I wanted a four-day weekend. I knew “Thirsty Thursdays” was the most poppin’ night on Temple’s campus and the only thing I wanted to worry about Friday morning was making it to my cake desk job. When I arrived that first day, it was like nothing I ever expected a classroom to be like.
“Okay class, think of some curse words and shout them out to me.”
There was a brief nervous pause. Finally, one student in the back of the class stuttered out, “f- f- fuck.” The rest of us joined suit as the professor wrote all the words on the board. Upon finishing, he said, “We will be using these words very often in class. If you feel uncomfortable about this, I suggest dropping the class.”
This was not going to be the average English class.
On the required reading list were books like Tropic of Cancer, The History of Sexuality, and works on sexual repression by Freud. Every book, if it wasn’t exclusively about sex, still included particular incidents of graphic sexual imagery within it. Yet as the semester went on. I began to realize that this course was deeper than penises entering vaginas (or other places).
A lot of the novels we read were at one point banned in various countries, or were key works in initiating literary movements. The writing styles of many authors we read were just so different from anything I had ever seen before. When I read Tropic of Cancer I could feel Henry Miller’s pen racing up and down the paper. It seemed so unedited; sentences going on endlessly. Pure consciousness associating with the Universe. Yet it didn’t feel so random as it sounds. His writing had a flow. A weird coherence after you took it all in. Just like a freestyle. If the F. Scott Fitzgerald I read in high school was Roaring 20s Duke Ellington, Miller was Sun Ra. It was out there. (Now that I think about it, Sun Ra wouldn’t find being compared to a white guy too appealing.)
I began to see why these boundary breaking writers also tended to write sexually charged novels. Sex: probably the most privately done act among human beings. A time where, in essence, one reveals the entirety of themselves to another. Under low lights and behind closed doors, repressed desires surface and Self exchanges with Self. There is no plan or structured layout to this sex thing. Everyone has their own unique desires and ideas about doing it. The authors of the novels weren’t using the MLA or any other style guides when they were making these novels. They were doing what they desired; what “felt good.” When writing free associatively—in a manner lacking repression—it only makes sense that sex would arise often in their works.
The only thing constant about sexual activity is that there is a beginning, a middle, a climax, and the denouement. How one gets there is up to their own desires. Sound familiar? Yeah, it’s the backbone to any story ever told by humankind: the Plot. A connection I had never realized until our professor made us write a paper on it. I can go on and on about this one class. The nights I spent powering through Foucault, having my mind blown daily in the classroom. It was college. And it was sexy.