Dickinson’s is next weekend. Maybe I’ll go, but I’m still on the fence. Going would involve transcending the increasingly codependent relationship I have with my parents when I’m back east, and then a four-hundred mile trip, because derp derp. This weekend is also when Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia, which I’m afraid may be a clusterfuck even for through rail traffic just because SEPTA is a primary party to the logistics.
The Insurance Schmuck is going, and he’s bringing his current girlfriend (at least his tenth one, excluding obviously one-off fuck buddy setups, since I first met him). His attendance is a mixed blessing. He’s almost certainly talked me up to chica, so that much will be helpful. On the other hand, when I first told him that I might (again, might) go to Homecoming last week, he immediately started shrieking like a bobby soxer who had just laid eyes on Sinatra for the first time. It’ll be a pain in the ass if he goes stage five clinger on me again. I don’t want him sucking all the air out of the room when I’m trying to catch up with people I last saw a decade ago.
There’s no way in hell I can explain my relationship with him; I can barely understand it myself. By his own reckoning he and I are both weird, and that’s why we need each other. Wow Much codependent Very dr phil. Seriously, codependents love the hell out of me.
That said, I know what to expect from the Insurance Schmuck. It’s other Dickinsonians, sometimes ones I expected to know better because they proclaim higher principles than he’d ever entertain, who blindside me with high-hat cruelty. I’m homeless and I work odd jobs. I’ve fallen into the reserve army of unpersons, walking administrative nonentities, that Anglo-American society has become so skilled at creating in recent decades. At least I’m only a partial unperson: being largely shut out of credit, permanent housing, and most job markets but not retail banking counts as privilege. Check that shit on me, if you like.
The problem with this shit isn’t just that it’s intrinsically stressful and so forth. Many Americans have ended up in similar enough circumstances to be sympathetic and sensible, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet them from time to time. Few of these righteous ever went to Dickinson. Damned if I know how I’ll explain my circumstances to these fart-sniffing social climbers without getting them all butthurt that I harshed their yuppie mellow. Demographically, I’m intermittently homeless, SDF in the politically correct French parlance, although, God bless California and its laws on residential intent, I remain registered to vote in Eureka and domiciled in Rancho Cordova, or something like that, no matter how little time I spend in either place, and you can bet your flatbill cracker cap that I spend only as long as it takes the next light rail train to arrive in that banlieue shithole. Even if I hadn’t gone to college, I’d probably know that that was not a run-on sentence because, yes, Virginia, there are literate non-matriculants, too. And I’d know fewer supercilious blatnoy shitheads who like to kick a man when he’s down, especially when he’s one of their own, it seems. Less of the Hampton pastel crowd, too–you know, white Capri pants, pink corduroy, a closet full of Lacoste, that kind of shit. Dickinson’s tidewater cool change crowd is about evenly split between class acts and insufferable tools. Market of Choice dresses its clerks like that, but with more khaki, and it makes me want to do a Ghomeshi strangle job on whoever brought that shit west of the hundredth parallel. An upstanding citizenry would coldcock anyone trying to take the Market of Choice aesthetic off Cape Cod.
Shit, I’m starting to sound like I grew up wicked South with Whitey Bulger and the gang. But it’s true that Dickinsonians wouldn’t be so fucking full of themselves if less polished turds made their fart-sniffing superiority unpleasant. The problem is that, as an institution, Dickinson College has been very deliberately crafted to protect its students and alumni from all humility. It recruits Young Turk asshats and forms them with endless propaganda about their superiority as Dickinsonians. At least it did when I was there. Maybe only a third or a fifth of students fall for much of this insultingly transparent happy horseshit, but that’s more than enough to poison the well for the silent majority. Like much of American higher education, it’s a racket, although it happens to harbor a number of top-notch academic departments parallel to the racketeering apparatus. Endowment and annual fund disbursements certainly help fund these departments, but this isn’t really their purpose. Hell, the main avowed purpose of alumni giving around there is Joel Osteen-style advance tithing in the hope of securing favor from a periacademic Tammany Hall racket.
It’s an operation that would benefit from a civil RICO investigation, and no, I am not being tongue-in-cheek about that. Bill Durden was basically a middling robber baron who dressed up like Orville Redenbacher, a man who made millions while living in a White House-style mansion and then, upon his retirement, had the nerve to compare himself to unemployed recent graduates since he, too, was looking for work. Well bitch please, the rest of us didn’t have the opportunity to strip an employer’s assets for over a decade with the assent of the trustees. That was a Marie Antoinette moment coming out of an institution that was bound to have such a moment sooner rather than later. Dickinson’s academic departments, its nominal raison d’être, are subsidiaries of a parent institution that has exactly the ethics of a cancerous tumor. In any institution, someone must attend to these crass temporalities, but Dickinson has had the exceedingly poor taste and poor ethics to attend to them openly, to treat them as a badge of honor for all entangled with them. It’s fucking gross. It’s an affront to the very notion of liberal arts scholarship. Any illiterate constituent who hasn’t registered to vote but is all like, “Yo, the Sac city government is hella corrupt, dawg,” is more engaged with the liberal arts than these socially climbing alumni fuckheads who keep giving Dickinson charitable donations (sic) because it gives them a prestige boner. Some niggas don’t even have anything to do with their kids, but at least they also don’t have anything to do with trying to get in on an educational racket, either. As an umbrella institution, Dickinson isn’t designed to encourage critical thinking, but to kill it dead in the interest of its own aggrandizement. That’s damning.
Of course, the whole idea of this racket is that it will keep those in its midst from turning into poors. In case you were wondering about the efficacy or intelligence of this arrangement, it hasn’t fucking worked for me, but of course Dickinson’s nonacademic apparatus is run by people who don’t even know how to buy off their own organization’s dissidents. These dipshits fancy themselves the beneficiaries of a vigorous meritocracy, so they generally consider it gauche to directly set up floundering graduates in jobs, the way the truly rich and powerful do for their coked-up twenty-something scions under corporate auspices. Unless, that is, the parents of the precious snowflake pay Dickinson $50,000 for a sinecure for their daughter; that’s cool. The objection is to direct placement without HR runarounds as a general practice, because that would call into question the supreme quality of Dickinson’s practical education, and would also be more expensive than doing nothing useful for unemployed grads. Honestly, an organization as flagrantly corrupt as Dickinson is ill-advised to let one alumnus fall through the cracks without extending a no-questions-asked job offer, at least to do something menial for menial earnings. Realize that this is a racket whose disgruntled victims are generally literate. They promised us the world, so it doesn’t reflect well on them when they back out after the fact, tell us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, and deliver us absolutely nothing.
There are mob organizations that are more responsive than this to their disgruntled scions and hangers-on.
The Insurance Schmuck is really into this disingenuous, tacit corruption. It turns out that his new girlfriend is a local news anchor. It’s no wonder she’s dating a top-performing insurance salesman. These TV chicks never shack up with a man who does something normal for a living, like a grocery store manager or an electrical lineman or a nurse. They’re always holding out for some smooth wanker who will allow them to do everything in their power to concentrate their society’s wealth in a hypergamous endgame that spells dystopia for the little people. The extended Dickinson family always has room for another hypergamous, socially climbing in-law. The Insurance Schmuck’s new girlfriend is probably a cool enough person in private, but Lord knows she’s spending her career in a crooked game, and I’m damn well saving any love for the players instead. We have too much cheerleading game-face bullshit and Glengarry Glen Ross scheming in this country, and I can’t stand pretending that the parties to this cultural toxicity are living honorably.
I’m still on the fence about whether or not I should go to Homecoming. It’s really a question of how well I can tolerate pissing off thin-skinned yuppies by not being a mealymouthed piece of shit. Many people make dear friends in federal prison, too, but does that mean that it makes any sense to go to a reunion at Lompoc Camp? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t.
But at least if I don’t go back to my old school, I can still go back to my old Steely Dan deep tracks, and back to agricultural stoop labor, I guess. Somebody has to do that work.