My Favorite Year

My son is in second grade and today he asked me what my favorite year [in school] had been. It was an interesting question; I’d never really thought about it. When I did try to answer, I found it easier to pick out the bad years than the good.

Seventh and eighth grades (ages 12 to 14) I recall as being difficult. Not in terms of curriculum; I always found school itself remarkably easy. But those were emotionally problematic years. We had moved and I had trouble settling into my new surroundings. School was school was school but the other students were different from what I was used to, and they mostly all knew each other, and it didn’t help that those were awkward years involving things like braces on my teeth.

Somewhere between eighth grade and moving on to high school, though, I found my place. Maybe because our high school consisted of two middle school populations, and so at that point everyone was dealing with new faces. I did all right until my junior year. To this day, that counts as the worst, most painful year of my life: September 1992 through the summer of 1993. The lingering effects were felt as my senior year began, but by the time we got through to graduation I had cleared away the worst of it and was looking forward to going away to university.

(And I have my high school reunion coming up in June . . .)

“But did you like college?” my son asked, and I told him I did. “I was good at it,” I said, which is true. University life afforded a freedom and independence that I craved, and I enjoyed starting fresh and learning to be myself without the constructs of my classmates or even my immediate family defining me. There was no one to say who I should be or how I should act, no one around in the sea of faces who had preconceived notions about me. As an only child I already knew how to be comfortable alone with myself, but at university I learned how to be comfortable being myself around others. I made some of my best friends during my undergraduate years. (Not so much as a grad student, but that’s a very different dynamic and my schools were very different as well, the first being a massive university with a beautiful, sprawling campus, the second a college bound by a dense and compact city. It was good, perhaps, to have both kinds of experiences.)

My son wants to skip some grades and go to college early, is trying to decide between Stanford and Cal Tech. (For the record, he’s eight years old.) He’s certainly smart enough, but he’ll need to focus a bit more. Or get a fencing scholarship. Which means he really needs to practice fencing more. It’s that careful balance that parents must maintain: encouraging their children while still managing their expectations. Which is why when my son asked me which were my best school years, the diplomatic answer was, “Some are always better than others. In school and in life. You just enjoy when you can and get through the less fun stuff as quickly as possible. Because there will always be another good year coming.”

Weddings

I was trying to remember all the weddings I’ve ever been to. Some random online article (I can’t be bothered to find it and link to it now) had listed all the types of weddings people go to, like ones where you are really good friends with the groom and don’t really like the bride, or where you dated one of them once, or maybe you’re a childhood friend and now have nothing in common with the person . . . And then there are theme weddings and hippie weddings and all that kind of thing.

Of course, my first weddings were family. I was really young (three? five?) when someone on my mother’s side got married. So young I can’t even remember who it was. Her brother? Her cousin? I know we flew to Alaska to attend. And I think my grandmother had made me a dress for the occasion (she used to sew lots of clothes for me).

And then when I was, I dunno, eight or nine maybe, my cousin on my father’s side got married. And I do remember having this white blouse and floral skirt to wear to that one.

mandabodice2And then for a long time no one got married, or if they did I didn’t attend. It wasn’t until I was an undergrad that things began to pick up. My high school friend Andrea got married at a Renaissance Faire. There’s your theme wedding for you. And then several of my college friends tied the knot immediately after graduation. Brooke and Rudy had been dating for something like seven years, and Garrett and Brenna had only just met but had one of those love-at-first-sight kind of things going, and my roommate Anne married Brian (who’d actually once asked me out before going for Anne, but it wasn’t at all awkward).

I was actually a bride’s maid for Brooke, though I think it was only to make up the numbers since we weren’t actually all that close. But she was another of my roommates (there were four of us, and they were all very active in the church, so I think all the weddings had something to do with that). In fact, my other roommate Christine also got married, but I didn’t end up attending that wedding. I think I’d already moved away by then.

It’s funny because I’d always wanted to be a bride’s maid, though I’d never had any dreams of being a bride. It was the idea of being someone’s friend in that way that appealed to me. My plan, however, had been to never get married. I was going to be too focused on my work for that. At my wedding reception, my best friend/maid of honor would remind me in her toast: “You once told me you were going to sail around the world and never talk to anybody.” Yes, that’s sounds like me.

Brenna and Garrett actually had the nicest wedding, and by that I don’t mean fancy. I actually mean the exact opposite. Maybe they fall under the “hippie” category, but they didn’t have much money but also didn’t want to wait (you know, because of all that church stuff), so they kept it extremely simple. They held their wedding out at some kind of national park, or maybe it was a ranch, but wherever it was, it was lovely. And every household brought a dish for the buffet meal. So they only ended up needing a cake, and I think they sprang for a chocolate fountain too. No flowers as I recall; I think Brenna wore a garland of dried ones in her hair, though. And the pavilion was strung with lots of little lights, probably from someone’s Christmas supply. But the feeling at that wedding, the community, was amazing. I’ve never been to any big, fancy wedding and come away with such a wonderful sense of contentment.

The last of the weddings I attended during this busy period was my cousin Christopher’s. It was a Catholic wedding, very long, and I’d only met the bride once, and she’d been rude to me then. Since Christopher had always been one of my favorite cousins, this may fall into that whole “not approving of the bride” category. Anyway, there’s something to be said for a wedding where you know and/or are related to most of the guests. Built-in company means it’s generally less awkward on the whole, though on the flip side one has a hard time getting away and catching a few moments to oneself.

The only other wedding I’ve attended since then, aside from my own, would be that of my best friend. Actually, she’s had two . . . I was a bride’s maid at the first, which took place just a couple weeks after my own wedding. The second was some years later and was definitely a hippie wedding, as it took place at the Cathedral of Junk. I suppose I should not be sorry I was not asked to stand with my friend the second time around; I lived far away, and it was a very casual affair.

And that’s it for weddings. I count nine, an even ten if you include my own. Sometimes I think there should be more, but then again I wouldn’t want to be invited to just any old ceremony, the kind where there are 300 or more guests, where you’re only an acquaintance or distantly related. Weddings should be for and with and about those closest to you. They should mean something, not be an excuse for an oversized party. If you want to throw a party, do. But make your wedding something more by making it something less, if you know what I mean.

Well, but that’s just me. And maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to more weddings. Though, come to think of it, I really do have a small circle of friends, about half unmarried. So maybe there just aren’t that many weddings to be had.

This Is Me: (Part XII: Asperger’s)

It’s been suggested that I use my ability to articulate to explain or describe Asperger’s. And that’s really not possible because of course everyone with Asperger’s is an individual; we’re all different and we do things differently and feel things differently, even if we do have things in common. One might just as easily ask a single human being to speak to the experience of being a human being—how could they? One can only speak for oneself. Anything else is generalization.

But I’ll do my best to guide you through my life as someone with Asperger’s. And perhaps some of what I say will resonate for others who have it.

Of course, I didn’t know I had Asperger’s when I was a kid. Back then, it wasn’t something people looked out for, parents or medical professionals. So then people always ask me, “But you knew you were different, right?” Well . . . Not really. I mean, it wasn’t something I thought about. I was so absorbed in the things that interested me—the books, the TV shows I liked, the movies I watched over and over—that I sort of had blinders on in terms of the wider world. I believe it’s not uncommon for people on “The Spectrum” to develop these kinds of obsessive interests. We just need things we can focus on. That’s how we’re built.

As to being different, there were definite moments when the fact I was different was tossed in front of me so that I had to face it. Often this was because someone literally said things like, “You’re weird.” (Even my mother was known to say this; she was honestly worried about me, why I wasn’t more social, etc.) These comments were like darts in me; they hurt and I would want to cry. But later, in private, I would often pull that dart from whence it pierced me and examine it. Why was I weird? In what way(s)? And did it matter enough to me to change?

The truth is, I liked the things I liked, and I didn’t want to stop liking them, nor did I know how to hide my enthusiasm for them. And here I became very lucky, or blessed—however you like to think of these things. Because I had two good friends who were willing to go along with the weird stuff I liked. And I had a father who was willing to listen and discuss these things, too. (And later I would use my power of words to get others to like things like Watership Down.)

Still, the amount of energy and intensity I devoted to my interests . . . I think it exhausted my friends a bit. And that intensity sometimes spilled over to include them, making them part of my obsession, and that was almost certainly a bit frightening for them, too. But somewhere, somehow I learned how to pull back. Compose myself. I think this is because I found approval so important. Not from my friends or peers, but from the adults around me: my parents, my teachers, my best friend’s mom. I don’t know why this was (or is), but the desire for approval motivated me to, well, behave.

I knew what was expected of me. Adults made it pretty clear: sit, be quiet, do your work. Maybe that’s why I liked them more than my unpredictable peers who never would say exactly what they wanted or required of me in order for me to be “liked.” Adults had rules, and those I could learn and follow. My classmates had rules, too, I think, but they were not clear cut. They made no sense to me, and I could not be bothered to expend the energy to try and learn and understand them.

In this way I became a model student and the pet of various teachers. Which probably didn’t help me much in the eyes of my fellow students, but I had my blinders on and didn’t care. Except on the occasions someone was outright mean to me, I was oblivious. And when other kids were nice to me, I was bewildered. I did not know how to respond to kindness from a peer, and I think that probably made me seem even more strange and cold and aloof and maybe even just plain bitchy.

This is the bottom line for someone like me: we need things to be concrete, logical. We want very much to win your love and approval, but if there are no definite ways to do that, we are at a loss. And then, when people do profess to like or love us, we can’t figure out why or how we did it. The whole world for us is a strange social experiment.

And yet we aren’t without feeling. We just don’t know how to show it appropriately. My mother used to say I was “tenderhearted.” And I am. I can cry for days about something on the news if I let myself think about it too much. If I put myself in someone else’s shoes, someone hurting, a victim, I am devastated. I had to teach myself to not think about these things. Like a psychic teaching himself to turn off his ability to read others’ minds.

When I was in school, part of the pilot program I was in was designed to determine our strengths. Mine were words/communication and “perception.” A sort of ability to see into people. So many articles say people with Asperger’s can’t read people, so either I’m different or we can but we do it differently than is typical. Or we learn, like with the empathy, to turn it off. Or maybe we’re just so damn focused on those other interests that we don’t bother with the people around us. My guess is that happens a lot.

But really, it’s the rules again. It’s Sherlock Holmes-ing your way through. I predicted Amy Poehler and Will Arnett’s breakup months before it happened. How? By watching the way they stood next to one another. Their body language was very clear. There are rules that apply almost universally, and people with Asperger’s are very good with things like that. If they can be bothered.

It’s why the teachers had me pegged to be either a district attorney or a criminal profiler. It’s what made me a great peer counselor in high school. Funny, isn’t it? That the girl who used to teasingly be referred to as “Data” (from ST:TNG) was the one the kids would come see early in the morning, creeping to her table, their heads ducked. They would sit and tell me all about the troubles at home, problems with teachers, etc. And I would nod and listen and only if/when I perceived they wanted a response or advice would I give it. And then they’d go buy me a cinnamon sugar doughnut as compensation for my time.

I began taking psychology classes my freshman year at university. Part of the curriculum was for students to go be tested themselves in various studies. I was used to having my IQ checked every couple years, so that bit was a breeze. But then one day a professor called me in and said, “We think you have Asperger’s.”

I didn’t know what that was. He said it was on the autism spectrum. At that time, the general view of autism was that people who had it sat in the corner and drooled, so of course I said, “No I don’t!” But then they explained it to me . . . And I said, “Well, then my dad must have it too.” And they said that was possible, maybe even likely.

And then I said, “So?”

Because having a name for it doesn’t change anything. I am who I am. I could hold up Asperger’s as some kind of excuse for acting the way I do, but I don’t want to. Maybe it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh, there’s a reason for all this.” But even if there wasn’t . . . The end result is the same. Me. Being me. Different and weird and focused and intense. Supremely logical but also terribly sensitive. Withdrawn because pain is unbearable and even a slight criticism cuts deeply. With a need for personal space and regular time alone. And with a sense of humor few others understand.

This is only a slice of what it means to have Asperger’s. And this, again, is only my personal experience. Sometimes, after having known a person a while, I’ll mention that I have it. They always say, “Really?! I never would have known.” And that’s because a person is a person is a person. We’re all quirky. No matter what name you give those quirks.

This Is Me: (Part VII: Anorexia)

I’m going to skip ahead a bit here to late 1992. My junior year of high school. It was a disaster, remains possibly the worst year of my life (1992–1993). I won’t go into the reasons why (sorry, some things aren’t for sharing), but the end result was a desire to disappear. It’s a desire that has never completely gone away, either; though I long to be heard and to have my work recognized, I simultaneously am made hugely uncomfortable by that kind of attention.

In any case, I more or less stopped eating. I had always been average in size, maybe a little more than (got as heavy as size 12 in school, have been as heavy as size 14, though I’m happily now back to a 6/8—US sizes here). But I also was not one to dress in very revealing clothes, aside from one pair of red shorts that was a favorite with the boys (they nicknamed me “Legs,” which oddly enough had been my mother’s nickname in the Navy). I was more of a “classic” dresser, jeans and t-shirts were my staples, and if they were now a bit bigger on me, no one noticed. After all, I was the quiet student that did not attract much attention, aside from some very special teachers who took interest in me.

It wasn’t difficult to avoid eating. I worked most evenings after school and would come home and fend for myself for dinner (or not, as became the norm). It got even easier once I was away at university. Dorm food wasn’t all that appealing anyway.

My closest college friends even had a standard joke: “Oh, Methos ate an apple back in the Bronze Age, she won’t be hungry for a few more years.” (The joke is predicated on Highlander: The Series, “Methos” being a character from the show and my college nickname.)

But really, eating with friends meant taking tiny bites and then pushing food around on my plate until it looked convincingly like more of it was missing. If we were at a restaurant, I would simply get a to-go box, toss it in my fridge, then throw it all out a couple days later.

What saved me was I had the best job ever. I worked in a family-owned store that made photocopies, did graphic arts work, typed papers for students, sold school supplies . . . Our big seasons were (a) start of term, when professors would have us photocopy materials for classes, and (b) dissertation season, because we were recommended by the university as one of the places to get dissertations copied and bound.

The people I worked for and with were remarkable. The couple who owned the place all but adopted me and a couple of the other students working for them; at one point they let me have their car for a week while they were going to be on vacation. Then there was the second manager Brian and his wife, and between them and the owners, they all made it a point to be sure I ate. Regularly.

This manifested in several ways. For one, every Friday we ordered lunch from Texadelphia up the street. It was impossible for me to fake eating a huge cheesesteak . . . And I’ll admit, I didn’t really want to. The food was really good.

Then, about once a month or so we all went out after work together. Sometimes just down to Hole in the Wall, sometimes farther afield, but again, it wasn’t possible to only pretend to eat. They were watching. They knew.

Finally, Brian and his wife made it a point to invite me over for dinner semi-regularly, and take me out about once per weekend too. I’m a good Southern girl, and when people cook for you, you eat it. That’s only polite.

But I think what brought my appetite back, however slowly, was knowing people cared whether I did eat or not. My college friends hadn’t, or maybe they just never knew how bad it truly was, but the people at Longhorn Copies had.

To this day, the best job I’ve ever had. To work in a place where you don’t mind getting up and going in, knowing you’re going to spend the day with people you (mostly) like—and it was like family, there being people who would get on your nerves, and yet you couldn’t help loving them all anyway. That’s not something many people get to experience in the working world, or even in life at large.

Longhorn Copies is gone now, closed some years after I left for grad school. But I’m still in touch with many of my former co-workers. And Brian and his wife are my oldest son’s godparents.

As for not eating, well . . . I have turns. When I’m in a down cycle, I do sometimes stop eating, but then come around to forcing myself to eat. Like today, even just a roll with some butter. And soda. I have a terrible soda habit. But it’s something, and something is better than nothing.

I’m still unpacking boxes in my office. Yes, even two or more months after moving into the house! But today I had the great good fortune to find my original papers in Dr Douglass Parker’s Parageography course at UT Austin. I kept everything from that course, which I took in the spring of 1998, my last semester as an undergraduate. So I have the syllabus, all the original assignments, my papers, and Doc Parker’s wondrous collection of bits and pieces of his own world, which was (still is, I suppose) known as High Thefarie.

But especially sweet is to see his handwriting and his encouragement for my work. At a time when I’m feeling a little low, it’s a small blessing to remember he believed in me as a writer. He kept asking me when I was going to turn my world of AElit into something—books or whatever. (I did incorporate some of it into my graduate thesis.) But Doc Parker knew as much as anyone, if not more, all the tinkering and long hours that goes into building a world from scratch. I think he was hoping I’d move faster than he had done.

I like to think he’d at least have liked my e-books, which I’m pleased to say continue to sell relatively well; already in the first 10 days of August I’ve sold more than I did in all of July. I need to keep working—Doc Parker would be telling me to get on with it—but I’m feeling a bit scattershot of late. There have been many setbacks and disappointments, and I’m having trouble gathering all my threads again.

The Winedale Parting Song

Shakespeare at Winedale is a Shakespeare program through the University of Texas at Austin of which I am proud to be an alumna. I believe it’s grown since I was there, but back then (if not still now) we lived in an old farm house and spent many late hours sitting on the porch and singing. “Rocky Raccoon” was a favorite for some reason, and of course “I Will Survive,” as well as “A Lover and His Lass” and “Sigh No More.” But on the last night, tradition calls for the Winedale Parting Song:

I want to linger
A little longer
A little longer here with you

It’s such a lovely night
It doesn’t seem quite right
That it should be my last with you

And as the years go by
I’ll think of you and sigh
This is goodnight and not goodbye

Proof I Cannot Write Poetry

I’m going to show my underskirts here a bit. I’ve said a few times that I’m no good at writing poetry (though I have had a couple poems published in very nice journals—these were the exceptions that proved the rule). Now, as I continue to unpack the boxes stacked in my office, I have come across an old notepad wherein I used to scribble bad poems when bored with my editing job. Since my editing job was mostly very busy, the notepad is mostly filled with notes about the books I worked on and not many poems. Count this as a mercy. And to prove to you that my poetry is quite terrible, here is something dated 5 June 2004:

several small universes inhabit
your eyes, I see them when I peer
at the photograph of you, the one
where you’re leaning against the brick wall.

impossible, I call you, understanding
if I insisted on thinking of jam
as what you would call a pencil—if
we could not agree on even the words—we would be
unable to name our feelings and they would be lost.

I do not use love lightly.

small universes, I say, and the stars there
are winking out.

WTF? I really don’t know what was going on there. I’m not even sure whether I was writing about an actual photograph or something imagined. There’s a second page, but I’ll spare you; in any case, it’s not clear if the next page is part of the same poem or is something else again.

In the same notepad I have a series of notes titled “Blogging the 77th Annual Academy Awards.” It’s very surreal to read out of context.

Now here, in modest defense, is a poem I wrote while an undergrad, and because my poetry instructor really liked it, I feel less self-conscious about posting it here:

Welcome
to the Requiem.
Would you care to sit
On the left
Or the right?
This is the panegyric,
N’est-ce pas?
And then the reception
at the mausoleum.
You will be attending,
I assume?
Then I shall save you a seat;
You can eat
next to Rey and Dawn.
(They were in the fire
of 1863 and may
Bore you with their stories.)
Or perhaps you would rather
Dine with Cousin James, although
you may find his company
somewhat funereal.
(His fall from grace
upset him greatly.)
I suggest you take tea
at Davida’s table. (She
is not cheerful but
her scones make up for it.)
What’s that? Oh, you
won’t be able to stay
for tea, you say?
Well, give my best
to the firmament.

Looking at it now, I’m not sure why my poetry instructor was so enthusiastic. Unless it’s simply that, confronted with my other efforts, she suspected this one might be as good as she could hope for. (Though her exact note was: “Wherever you got this, go back for more.” If only it were so easy for a writer to do that!)

Open the Channel

I’ve done a few little Tarot readings—and I’m crap at reading cards, I have to use a host of resources to try and work it all out—but several of them have come up lately with this . . . I don’t know, what do readings do? Suggest? Intimate? Declare? . . . Anyway, the long and short has been that I’m somehow designed to take information from the ether and translate it for the masses. Like Moses on the Mount, I suppose. “Prophet” has come up in a few interpretations, and talk of my having “access to the Divine.”

Well, I don’t take any of that too seriously, but it does make me think of my writing. Which isn’t prophetic by any stretch, but I have noticed I have two distinct modes when writing: active, conscious effort and a sort of “other” mode. And when I’m in the other mode, it’s almost like automatic writing or something, except that I don’t feel possessed at all, I’m just tapping into something, like a jet stream of inspiration. Maybe that’s what people mean when they talk about their muses, but for me it’s more like an idiot savantism.

I wrote a poem in college (don’t know why I bothered to take poetry writing; I can write anything but poetry), and when my instructor handed it back, she’d written this note on it: “Wherever you got this, go back for more.” And I thought, If I could, I would, Sister. But the thing about these flashes or whatever . . . They’re like rides, but they can’t ever be scheduled, and most of the time I never remember them later. I wait at the station for the train. Sometimes I force the issue and jump on any ol’ train but I don’t go anywhere interesting. But when the right train comes along . . . At the end, I’m back home and can’t recall anything about the trip, but I’ve got a bunch of written work as a souvenir. That poem the instructor liked so much? I have this vague memory of being at a friend’s house when I wrote it. And most of the time after having written something like that—something that came from “out there”—I can’t even remember that much about where or when it was written. It’s like I wake up and find it and wonder where it came from.

Of course, the same thing happens to me when I’m on stage. I can’t remember any performance, and so I always feel bad when people come congratulate and thank me after a show.

Maybe I have a disorder. I probably have several, actually.

There hasn’t been much by way of inspiration lately. No trains at the station. So I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, which is to bully my way through the writing I’m trying to get done. Else nothing gets done at all.

Chasing Victory

I plan to have the Nike of Samothrace in my garden.

Let me see if I can explain this without sounding like a complete and utter nerd . . . Well, no, I can’t. So I’ll just own up. When I was a child—we’re talking ages 7 through about 11—my idea of fun during the summer break was to choose a topic and research it extensively at the local library. I would check out stacks and stacks of books on whatever subject I’d chosen, and I’d keep notebooks of information until, at the end of the summer, I would write a lengthy report. These reports were not just reiterations of what I’d learned, though; I sprinkled them with my own ideas about the matter at hand. And sometimes I’d also write stories.

You see, my love of writing in any and all forms began very early.

So the Nike of Samothrace came up one summer when I was studying ancient Greek and Roman culture and mythology. Now, I’ve always loved classical history (minored in it as an undergrad), and I’ve always loved angels (because I think they’re pretty—not cherubs, though, which I find irritating). And to a seven-year-old girl, the Nike of Samothrace, though headless, embodies an ethereal beauty. So while I loved many of the ancient statues I witnessed in all those books, the Nike held a special place in my heart. Angel + Goddess, it occupied the sweet spot in the Venn Diagram of my soul. (Yes, I really did just say that. I am a nerd.)

That might have been enough, but then my summer sitter (the woman who watched me during the summer while my parents worked) took her church youth group, all high schoolers, on a tour of UT Austin, and since she couldn’t just ditch me, I got to go too. The campus made quite an impact on me, but I was especially wowed by the Harry Ransom Center. They had a Gutenberg Bible, for one thing. And also: a plaster cast of the Nike of Samothrace.

When I saw that, I vowed I would attend UT. (And, yes, I did. After being accepted at places like Oberlin and UCLA, I still went to UT. When I get something in my head, folks, I don’t let go easily.)

When I was 22, I visited the Louvre for the first time, and I only had one item on my agenda. The Mona Lisa? Bah. My goal was to see the Nike of Samothrace. And when I got to that staircase . . . Well, I almost wept, I was so happy to see her.

So now we’ve come to the point where I admit I’ve always dreamed of the kind of yard and garden where I can have benches and statues. And that will become a reality for me at the end of May. So I’ve been looking at websites featuring various fountains and statues and bistro sets, &c. And I found one that has a Nike of Samothrace. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before to have her for my very own. But now that I’ve realized I can, I’m determined to, as they say in the ads, just do it.

I only hope a headless, winged woman in the yard doesn’t frighten the kids.

Things I Used to Do as an Undergraduate . . .

. . . Some of Which Would Probably Get Me Arrested Today
 

Talk to blackbirds. In French. (I still do this. No risk of arrest, though a crow once stole an earring.)

Run up to campus tour groups and yell, “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” . . . then run away.

Use a French accent in the library, pretending to be a foreign exchange student so the desk clerks would take pity on me and go find my books for me, thereby saving me the trouble.

Put on my “Scully” suit, hold a hand to my ear as if on a com, and run between the campus buildings glancing up at the roofs and saying loudly, “I don’t see him! I don’t see him!” (It was really fun to watch everyone start looking.)

Get to class really early, before anyone was in, and leave random business cards at just a few desks. The cards read, “Archangel Gabriel: Messenger Service, Baby Sales & Judgment Day Counseling”—Again, hugely amusing to watch people react when they found them.

“Raptor” my dorm mates.

Dive in and out of open dorm rooms with a water gun, shooting people while humming the theme to Mission: Impossible.

Put on a rock star wig, some glittery eye makeup, and a gold hoop earring and pretend to be “Ollie” from the Olive Branch Band. In fact, I once did this at the mall, using a banana as a phone, while a friend filmed it.

Put on my cloak and “haunt” the campus late at night. Sometimes I’d go into buildings that were still open and frighten the cleaning crews.