This weekend is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Massacre here on campus. The year before I got this job, this event made national headlines for basically turning into a Bacchanalian nightmare of drunk undergrads rampaging like a massive, lumbering tornado cutting a swath of destruction across much of campus and the surrounding communities, where actual grownups unfortunately are trying to live with their families (to quote one of my students: “It’s not MY fault those people were STUPID enough to buy houses right by campus!” Lord). Basically the day after I told everyone I’d taken the job, this happened, and I got a hundred emails about it. However, having lived in Iowa City for three years, nothing of this nature can ever surprise me again, and so all that happened was that my resolve not to live in the town that surrounds this campus was strengthened. And now indeed I live 40 minutes away, in a town that I strongly doubt a single student from this school has ever been to in their lives. ANYWAY, it has been fun eavesdropping on my students as they discuss this year’s SPD festivities. After the riot happened, the school took extreme, draconian measures to insure it wouldn’t happen again. These measures include things like: the big concert that happens at this event now starts at TEN IN THE MORNING (instead of at night); ALL parking on campus OF ALL KINDS is strictly forbidden for the entire weekend (in hopes of preventing rabble-rousers from off-campus from coming); and I assume campus police presence will be ratcheted up to pants-shitting levels of intensity. Students have responded to all this with everything from amusement to likening their treatment to the treatment of Civil Rights protesters (please definitely read the comments. My personal favorite:

Get used to it slaves!….and btw everyone drinking themselves stupid on St Patricks day are celebrating their fucking enslavement you idiots! St Patricks day was about ridding Ireland of snakes…the serpent was symbolic for the Tuatha De Danann who were the Divine Immortals…so you fucking idiots are celebrating the day the church took the Divinity from the people of Ireland and enslaved them under religion…smh…humans can be such fucking morons.


Anyway, some of my students were discussing ways to get drunk in time for the concert at 10 a.m. without it feeling “too gross,” so in my opinion these counter measures–which I just learned the school has spent $330,000 on, a.k.a. “full scholarships for six students,” are probably not going to be super effective. All this is just to say that I would not come to campus tomorrow if you literally paid me a million dollars and made me King of the Moon.

Speaking of tornados cutting swaths of destruction through quaint New England communities, there was a tornado in my town on Monday night! Technically it was classed as a “weak tornado,” a weather designation I had not previously been aware of. But still, even a weak tornado is pretty fucking epic, it turns out! It apparently had a path of destruction that was 5 miles long and half a mile wide; our house was smack in the middle of that zone.

It was intense. We were awoken at 1:30 in the morning by a wind that was beyond any wind I have ever heard. I grew up on a mountaintop in the San Juans of Colorado and I have NEVER experienced winds like this. Not even close. The whole house was rattling and shaking. The wind sounded like an animal–and not a high-pitched whiny animal, but like a gigantic buffalo or something. It had a deep and profound voice. It was so intense that there were several moments when we were thinking the windows would blow in; I was thinking about going down into the basement but nihilism won out. At one point there was a terrific BANG and we leapt out of bed and ran to the front door and peered out. Everything looked insane. I was thinking the power lines would come down any second. I realized the banging was our screen door, which was being whipped to and fro with indescribable violence, like a giant invisible hand was just slamming it over and over again in a rage. I opened the door and stuck both my arms out to catch the screen door on its next slam, and screamed when it came. It was like fighting with a ghost. I ran out briefly in my socks to see if power lines were down; they weren’t, but the possibility of getting hit and wounded by flying debris was VERY real. We locked everything up tight and went back to bed and lay there wide-eyed, holding hands, for I don’t know how long, until we fell asleep and/or the wind died down.

In the morning I got up and was sipping coffee in the kitchen with a kind of smug survivor’s look on my face, but then I glanced out the window into our backyard and screamed again!! OH NO. A mighty hemlock tree that had previously cast a whole corner of our backyard in shade was now lying athwart our fence, which was in turn splintered in several places. Worse than this was the fact that the tree had not fallen in our yard alone, but had managed to fall also in THREE different neighbors’ yards. Oh dear!

Then I did a really bad job in dealing with it. It was my job to deal with it because it was my day off teaching, whereas my old man had to teach. We take turns dealing with crises depending on who is home on whatever day on which the crisis occurs. My old man is a lot better at methodically and thoughtfully dealing with crises, though, whereas I panic and just feel like I have to get it dealt with AT ONCE. I felt this doubly so given that the tree was effectively invading three of our neighbors’ spaces. I googled and found a tree service in town, and called it, and they said they’d send some guys right out. Then I ran around to all three neighbors’ houses and left notes on the doors saying I was aware that a giant hemlock tree was now inside of their property and here is my phone number and I promise it will be dealt with soon. Then the guys came. They were totally sketchy guys who I did not like; this was my first bad experience with big strong straight-talking new england men who come do muscle work at my house! Every previous one has been amazing, so I guess I was due for a bad one. These guys seemed like just creeps off the street. They didn’t introduce themselves or explain anything to me. They insisted that the whole tree would have to be ripped out because otherwise it would die and fall on the neighbor’s house. They said they’d chop the tree into firewood chunks, and haul away all the brush. They quoted me a price that seemed pretty high, but I really really wanted to get it done soon and none of the other tree guys I had called had answered the phone, so I said, okay. They said they’d be back at 8:45 on thursday morning. I said we wouldn’t be here but would leave a check in the mailbox.

They called Thursday at noon to say they were “on the way.” Then I didn’t hear anything else from them. My old man texted me when he got home to say they had torn down a big section of our fence and left it laying in the neighbor’s garden; hacked the broken-off tree into enormous stumps more suitable for sitting on than for burning in a fire; they had not hauled away the brush; and, most bafflingly, they had left the rest of the tree standing, which they had insisted was a bad idea (and taking out the whole tree was, in the first place, why the quoted price had been so high). I was livid. How dare these creeps spoil my hitherto glowing impression of the hardworking strong men of new england, who had been treating me with such honesty and straightforward right dealsmanship? I called the guy who owns the company and explained the work that had been done/not done, and then asked somewhat passive-aggressively “so, are they coming back to finish the job or….?” the guy said “ugh, well, they are NOW” (I read his irritation as being directed as his workers, not at me personally, but I could be wrong). I said “look, I don’t want those same guys coming back. Do you have better guys you could send?” He said “Yeah, I’ll send another crew. Don’t worry.”

I have no idea what to expect and am pretty nervous about it.

The cruel punchline is that my dad BEGGED us to take his chainsaw when we moved to New England and we were insistently opposed to it. “Don’t be crazy, Dad,” we said, “we don’t need that chainsaw, it’s dangerous.” Now within six months of buying a house we are both filled with regret. That chainsaw would be so goddamn handy right now. I’m not telling my dad, as he would be heartbroken. Why are parents always right?? It is tedious.

Today at 4:00 begins Life Day, when we don’t check our email and we try not to talk about our students, and we do 3 loads of laundry and clean our house and do other chores and stay up late watching Pulp Fiction (holds up surprisingly well) and drinking our HOMEMADE CIDER (honestly tastes good; much better after a few days of chilling in the fridge than it was sucked directly out of a plastic hose in the basement).

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4 Responses to Snapshots

  1. dv says:

    Pulp Fiction is a genuine cinema classic.

  2. Juli says:

    Those blarney blowout links make me feel so hungover and sick. I am so glad that I’m not 18-23 anymore.

  3. Leander says:

    Holy crap! I’m sorry about the tornado! This is probably very naive of me to say, but it seems like you’re amassing some good karma with this house? I mean, it seems like after this year of everything that was about to go wrong going wrong, you’ll be set for a while?

  4. Mary R says:

    Chainsaws are the dishwasher of yard tools IMO. And they’re not that expensive.

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