Friday, January 15, 2010

Irvine Voodoo

Last night someone knocked on my door around 11 p.m. As I was idling around in my boxers, I didn't hurry to answer it. When I did, I saw a tiny neighbor of mine with her even tinier daughter, and a thick-bodied middle aged one. My neighbor started talking in her clear high voice. She doesn't have an accent but is obviously not a native speaker.

I know you have a cat, she said. We see her in your window. I was wondering if we could use your cat for something.

I stared at her, wondering what exactly she wanted to use my cat for. The middle-aged women nodded and smiled.

My daughter has this problem with her eye, my neighbor said. I looked at her gurgling daughter and saw a sty over her left eye. My neighbor kept talking.

My aunt is visiting us, she said. My aunt says that if we rub a cat over my daughter's eye, this thing will go away.

The aunt continued to nod happily.

I shrugged and went to get my cat, which I handed over to the aunt. She took Wheezy's tail and began to rub it over the child's eye while chanting rapidly in Spanish. When she finished chanting, she returned Wheezy.

My neighbor laughed.

I don't think it will hurt anything, she said. And who knows?

We said goodnight.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Making Sheep at Yale

Pretty good piece on the kinds of sheep that end up at Ivy League schools (although we got a lot of livestock here too).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

First Campus Walk

My first look at the campus almost sent to the airport and the next flight home. Construction started here in the early-1960s and most of the important buildings were designed by a famous Brutalist architect, Jorge Perierra. The exciting new building material for the Brutalists was concrete and I walked buy one concrete monolith after another. In most of the buildings, all other materials - glass, iron, wood, you name it - had been completely marginalized. A standard feature was to have tiny windows sunken into bulging concrete dormers so that only meager light could ever leak through. Few of the buildings grouped together coherently, mostly they just stood, isolated, glowering down at me.
The stark setting rejected human beings. It didn't help that most students hadn't shown up yet so that it was even quieter and sterile than usual. California bought this land, cheap, from a real estate corporation looking to develop the region. The campus represents the perfect partnership of state and corporate interest, but there doesn't seem to be much place for people in it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Soccer Surrealism

I've been playing soccer with a group of Persian guys in what seems to be a rollerblade hockey rink. It's a face game, wall bouncing off the walls and the perimeter fence.

Last time we played I asked one of the guys where I could find a grass game.

I'm new here, I said.

Are you a freshman? He said.

It occurred to me that my freshman year came before he was born.

A Slight Improvement on Brooklyn

Hummingbirds are the pigeons of Irvine.
Rabbits are the rats.
Three rabbits live in the bushes below my window. At night they sit for hours on the grass outside their burrows, not eating, not moving, just staring into space. I watch them there and the narrow shadows of their leporid profiles.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Instilling Values

The university works to introduce upper-class leisure activities to grad students. Rock climbing, surfing, personal trainers, rowing... For future doctors, lawyers, engineers.
In the humanities if you get to be a full professor, these can be your hobbies as well: of course, there are fewer and fewer full professors every day...

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Time Is It on Bedford Av e?

A half-dozen times a day, I find myself counting ahead three hours so I'll know what time it really is.