June 4, 2003
Post #1645 – 20030604
My friend Catherine and I discovered your books in 6th grade, and read all of them. She gave me a copy of Chicago Days, Hoboken Nights for Hannukah, which turned out to be my favorite book. I have read it many times, have much of it memorized, once performed the part about egg creams as a monologue, and I read it to my friends when they feel stressed about exams. In sixth grade we also started a newspaper, called Yer Grandmother’s Mustache, a name which we stole from one of the insults used in Alan Mendelson, the Boy from Mars. I am sorry about that, but it was only a tribute to your work. No one else really liked the newspaper, but we made everyone read it anyway, and thought it was hilarious. The articles were absurb bordering on nauseating. Anyway, now I am somehow 20 years old, and I need some advice. Unlike you, I resisted my temptation to pursue the arts and I am studying mechanical engineering, with the eventual goal of working on some worthwhile environmental technology. However, I’m afraid that the last two years of endless problem sets and technical lectures are making me boring. I try to do art projects and wear my umbrella hat as often as possible, but I still have this suffocating feeling as if I’m already surrounded by the three and a half walls of the dreaded cubicle. I am sorry to say that very few of the other engineering students here offer me very much in the way of insipiration and amusement, and I still have to deal with them for two more years. They are humorless and think I am weird. But if this stuff I’m doing makes me become like them, maybe then I will finally fit in. Now that is a terrifying thought. Catherine is currently enjoying herself in opera-singing school. Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. I have a lot more I’d like to tell you or ask about, but I shouldn’t assume that you’re interested in my whole life just because I’m one of your many, many fans. I just wanted you to know that your books have been a big part of my life, and I still reread them periodically, and think about them freqently. Once in a while I still like to say, “I’m not about to spend two and a half dollars to watch some guy packing anchovies for four hours” when an appropriate time arrives.
OK, you asked, so I'll tell you. All college students are boring. Students of the various arts even moreso than engineering ones, I suspect. The fact that you find yourself boring is a very good sign that your taste and critical faculties are intact. The fact that you find the other engineering students boring is because they are--but if you had to hang out with drama students, or painting students, to pick a couple of examples, you'd be really seriously dangerously bored. Two years will go by like no time, and then things will get increasingly better. If we had had this conversation 40 years ago, I might have switched to engineering.
Don't actually go to work as an engineer, of course. That should go without saying.
When I am appointed Arts Czar I plan to abolish all college-credit arts courses and degrees.
Glad you brought all this up.