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When I walk down the Lawn on May 18 it will have been three years, eight months, and 23 days since I moved to Charlottesville, marking the longest I, an Air Force brat, have ever lived in one place. It's a place I'll be sad to leave, but one I'll be lucky enough to take with me. The people I've met and the lessons I've learned have left an indelible mark on me, and because of my experiences here I leave the University of Virginia a better man.
IT'S DEC. 25, a day I've anticipated for the past 364. I wake up early - before my five other family members - and softly creep downstairs, an ongoing ritual from my childhood. I turn on the lights on the Christmas tree, pour a cup of milk, and simply sit on the couch taking in the holiday morning. The tree still smells freshly-cut, and the presents are untouched, a far cry from the mess of wrapping paper that soon will be left in a pile of scraps. My mind drifts back over the fall semester of my third year at the University. I can't believe so much happened so fast. I look outside at the snow falling on the wood pile in the backyard. It's nearly completely covered, but I still know what's underneath.
SINCE Sept. 11, the majority of Americans have been faced with tough decisions in their lives. Having never experienced such a large-scale national loss as occurred as a result of the terrorist attacks, we had no standard of how long to mourn, how much to mourn, and, most importantly, how long to wait before moving on with our lives. But as the two-month mark approaches, most people would say - as well they should - that they have started to attempt to go back to the way things were before the attacks. Thankfully, the city of New York is moving on as well.
THE AFTERMATH of the Sept. 11 tragedy has been a tough time, but one full of hope. The nightmare wrought by terrorists turned into a dream come true as the American people came together as one family to help those in need. Malls closed down for blood drives. People donated extra clothes and food. Citizens placed money in countless collection boxes. Even here at the University, virtually every club and organization helped the cause.
AS THE bus driver told us all - 100 bleary-eyed students reluctantly heading off to our 9:30 a.m. class - to pack in as tight as possible, there was no way we students knew that at that same moment, the nation was changed forever. Class went by as if it were a standard Tuesday. My professor lectured on game theory and moral hazard. I thought I heard an absurd amount of cell phone rings disturbing the max capacity lecture hall. Walking toward Newcomb Hall after class, everyone I passed was saying the same thing: "Did you hear about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center?" I had no idea the full scale of this disaster.
IT'S EASY to go through your time at the University without wondering how things used to be. In some cases it may not matter; a new student center is coming soon, as is an improved basketball arena. But you often might not even know what you're missing. Such is the case for economics majors.
I CAN SAY that I was on ESPN my first year at the University of Virginia. It was the nationally televised football game between the Cavaliers and perennially-evil Florida State. This game welcomed back wide receiver Peter Warrick from his two-week hiatus - a result of his theft of clothing from a Tallahassee Dillards. In a flash of humor and ingenuity, my hallmates and I painted our bare chests to read "#9 STOLE OUR SHIRTS," and conspicuously lined the South Hill - directly in front of the video cameras. I was the second "O."
TWO RECENT events remind us that every time something bad happens in this world, people love to regurgitate the same crap over and over again in order "effect change." When a child opens fire on his classmates, Americans shout, "Pass stricter gun control laws!" and, "Punish the parents for neglect." When crimes occur at the University, students cry out, "Install more blue phones," and police urge us to "walk in groups." For awhile, I accepted these battle cries in hopes they would somehow make a difference. But it wasn't until last week when a friend of mine was assaulted as she walked home to Lambeth that I realized these cries are tired.
IF YOU haven't heard anything about the upcoming vote on the Honor Committee's proposed changes to the honor system, then you've either been living under a rock or have been riddled with the winter flu that's going around. Students will get a chance to vote on the four referenda the week of Feb. 26-Mar. 1. It's no secret that many members of the University community are vying for support for or against the referenda. Throw into the mix the recent hoopla surrounding whether or not the Board of Visitors "scripted" the changes back in 1999, and you've got yourself a University that is as full of honor talk as it is Dave Matthews Band excitement.
EVERY time you think you've seen the lowest of the low, the most ridiculous of the ridiculous, and the most frightening of the frightening, along comes something far worse. "Police Academy 8" was just one cop training movie too many. Boy bands should have died out after New Kids on the Block moved away. And now comes the new Fox reality show "Temptation Island." It is not only a sickening ripoff that mixes "Survivor" with "Jerry Springer," but a creation even lower than FOX's usual fare.
I CAN JUST see it now. A majestic, towering, perfectly symmetrical tree dominating the entire space around it in the main entrance. It is beautifully adorned with the perfect combination of sparkling tinsel, shining balls and synchronized flashing lights. Delicate crystal ornaments hang effortlessly from its luscious branches. It truly is something out of an upscale department store, and it's right there as soon as you open the door.
DO THESE questions sound familiar?
WHEN YOU buy a new car, you can shop around before making your final decision. Music stores have listening stations so you can sample the newest CD's before throwing down $15. Movie reviews let you know which films are hits and which are stinkers.
AUSTIN, Tex. - In the hill country of Texas, the song "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" resonated throughout the thin steel walls of Hangar One at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The crowd murmured in anticipation, tapping their feet to the soulful rhythm of the music. Suddenly, the music stopped, the lights dimmed, and the Texans fell silent. Dubya's plane had landed, his bus was near. Texas Chairman Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams stepped up to the microphone, and with a booming voice shouted the question that most certainly was on everyone's mind. "Who let the dogs out?" came his baritone.
AUSTIN, TX - When I think about Texas, a few things usually come to mind. It's hot. It's big. The people are extra friendly. Everyone wears cowboy boots. The atmosphere is always laid back. You're either a conservative or a reactionary. Boy, was I ever wrong.
ANGRY people can attack the wrong thing and miss the real point. My mother used to punish me and my brother both for something only one of us did. Bigots stereotype against an entire race based on a few bad individual experiences. And sometimes people lash out against a proposed law simply because it is associated with things they think are bad.
SOME PHRASES just are contradictions in terms. You park in a driveway but drive on a parkway. Study breaks are breaks from studying but smoking breaks are breaks for smoking. Boy bands aren't made up of boys and certainly aren't bands. In much the same way, Reading Days, although meant to be relaxing days set aside for reading, don't involve any reading except of the TV Guide or pizza coupons.
PEOPLE come up with great ideas all the time. But as great as these ideas are, they can only succeed if someone takes the time to work through the issues surrounding them. Someone had to debate whether to freeze or refrigerate Jell-O. Chocolate and peanut butter tastes much better than chocolate and butter. Luckily, someone put an elevator in the Eiffel Tower. In much the same way, the plan to keep Clemons Library open 24 hours a day is a good one, but various problems must be addressed before the new schedule is enacted.
AMERICANS are the best. At everything. We are the superior nation; we are the richest and the most powerful. All other nations want to be like us. We win the most summer Olympic medals every four years, and do so by a large margin. And we know we're so cool. There's nothing to worry about there. All we have to worry about is whether or not everyone else knows how great we are.
DESPITE all my mom's quirks, I love that woman. She bakes me pies. She still calls me her "baby." And last week, she sent me a stack of newspaper clippings in hopes of swaying my presidential vote.