The KyleJacobean Era: in which I should have mentioned Arsenal

Yikes! So this needs some work. But it is an experiment: I've been reading a lot of Tom Wolfe. He wrote in the late sixties about various groups and their lifestyles. At first I wondered (in dismay) why we Westovarians did not live more like THAT, but I decided that, though we are not hooking down LSD until we are out of our gourds, we still have a lifestyle. This is my shot at documenting some of it. I'd love to hear your comments.

They are a part of the first generation since World War II to be worse off financially than their parents. The money-soaked air of the sixties and nineties has dried up.

Previous generations have been able to slough adulthood—they live the LIFE. Hippies, Surfbums, The Whole Sick Crew. Escaping the job market—meat market! humans as goods—by working only occasionally and making it because there was money in the US bloodline and oil in the ground.

Whitworth grads! Bright-eyed straight out of an incubation of Mind and Heart. Children of intentional development who know words like mentor and s, d, or t groups. S.T.D.? not an issue with this crowd. An education not extended so far as the curious ailments of Body.

Three sit under the florescent lights of the kitchen. The Westovarians or Satellite Persons (WOSPs) expand to fill houses and duplexes built in the seventies—wallpaperophiles, have landlords ranging from uninvolved to bedfellows. They put down their 300 a month and have space, ah space enough to fit their crap... smooth their crap to a fine dusting over everything. Annie Dugas and Amy Brown had spent a month after graduation looking for a job—willing to take almost anything. They considered serving coffee as bikini-clad baristas, diapering and bathing the elderly, and booking hotel reservations for truckers. Dugas went from one interview to another churning through her vast assortment of sundresses and brightly-colored scarves. Amy researched obscure companies and slid between job search sites in hope that some sorry menial position might accept her with open arms. Carrie Bowers talked to some folks she knew and got seven jobs.

But what is there to afford? WOSPs know the kindly benefits of approving parents: plane tickets home, cell phone and car insurance covered, a quick influx of money if it really gets That Bad. But of course, there is beer to afford. Really good beer. From towns that ducked away into the mountains. Beers with body and complexity—oh the deep love of complexity. Beers from the bottle and on tap, from Germany, Belgium, Colorado, and Oregon. Porter, Stout, Hops! bliss.

The best of consumption for this crew.

Jon Fox sits in the coffee shop. He wears earmuff Houston-we-have-liftoff-type headphones—the kind that block the outside howyou’vebeens? and goodtoseeyous which is necessary because WOSPs listen to music with full concentration. Lyrics, composition, complexity (Complexity!), and unintelligible words make good music. They focus to enjoy it. Their music habits are quite free thanks to grooveshark and Jon Fox, whose source of the tremendous bulk of his collection is a touch mysterious. They speak of it with reverence. You think Jon has more Bony Bear?

Dugas thumps her hands against her Subaru steering wheel to the likes of Keisha, popular. . . state-school music. The WOSPs concede to this as a quirk of hers on the account of her big hair (a muggy spot in the brain the same area that would cue her for appropriate times to laugh). Jon Fox hopes that she will someday drop her defiant Taylor Swift fanhood and get down to the serious business that is listening to his Top Ten of the Decade.

And you should see the books they read. Ones by verbose theologians and existentialists, by authors with gaggles of consonants in their last names, and by the rascaliest new eggheads and the dustiest old stuffs. They read for pleasure, sure, but they read to EXPAND. To become, ever increasingly, the coolest and cleverest person they know, with the best sounding questions and comments in class. ... er, life.

See, that’s the thing. They work hard. Concentrate. On the things that other people consume in their time off work. The WOSP thinks, “Once I am cool enough, clever enough, well-rounded, bolstered Heart and Mind with the right tastes and insights and topics of conversation, then OH THEN! The rest of the best people will come find me with opportunity, with a job, and with a fine recognition for what I’ve accomplished.” The warm and encouraging $30-thousand-per-year light from Whitworth persists in their memories and self-perceptions.

For now, the false work of minimum wage jobs to cover expenses—somebody’s got to buy Spaten Optimater. And the occasional eeking out of a résumé, but what’s the use? The only way this crew looks good on paper is if they are creating a piece of art—if they’re writing something that’s worth reading in the first place.



Note: I thought about putting this extended quote from Tom Wolfe’s essay, The Hair Boys, in small font à la Kyle Ritter imitating Barth (so Tyson says). But then I remembered how taxing it is to read that tiny stuff.

“There is something almost feminine about these boys. I refer to the high-piled, perfect coiffure, the attention to a fashion silhouette—the way the sweaters create big, soft, full lines, with the pants and shoes giving dramatic contrast, being narrow and thin. Of course, it is feminine only in comparison to the conventional adult standards for men. In another age—it is curiously close to what the men in power, the real movers and shakers, all wore. I am talking about seventeenth-century England.

“At that point the suits of the most powerful men consisted of doublets, breeches and stockings. The doublets, like the Hair Boys’ sweaters, had no lapels. They were full in the arms, and they were by the standards of today feminine, made from various weaves of silk—satins, damasks, velvets, and so forth—or cloths were gold and silver threads, and laces and braids, and ribbons. The perukes, or periwigs, those ornate curled wigs men wore, were very much like the bouffant coiffures of the Hair Boys today, something very set and stylized and high fashion. The breeches, stockings, and buckled shoes gave the same dramatic contrast the Hair Boys try to achieve.

“All these court styles of the seventeenth century, and in fact, most of the styles recorded from the eighteenth century on back, symbolized some charismatic role. The ornate court fashions did not symbolize the job of ruling the country, but the majesty of the role, the godly rights, and so forth. A few styles from before 1800 still hang on in this country, and they all symbolize some charismatic—that is to say, god-inspired—role in life, Justice, Mercy, Wisdom. The gowns judges wear today date from the fifteenth century. The dresses nuns still wear are what widows wore in mourning in the sixteenth century. The mortarboards students graduate in are still versions of sixteenth-century scholars; caps.

“The biggest revolution in men’s fashions came in the nineteenth century with the industrial revolution. It happened in stages, but gradually men began to dress not for a role—Ruler, Man of God, Warrior, Savant, Carrier of Justice—but for a job. The rising business class simplified dress, partly as reaction against court life, partly for practical reasons, expense, for one. The coat, shorter and with a collar and a lot of pockets, replaced the doublet. Trousers replaced the breeches and stockings. Plain fabrics came in.

“The fit of the clothes, not the cut, became the most important thing, fitting it to the measurements of the body. In court fashions, using heavy silks, it was not the measurements of, say, a doublet that counted, but the cut—the big flare of the sleeves, the flare of the skirt, flare, they like flare. The same—cute over fit—is true of women’s fashions today.

“But in men’s clothes—one can see the drastic change the nineteenth-century business styles brought by looking in any office today. A woman in the office, an $80-a-week stenographer even, is not in there dressed to look like a stenographer. She, no less than a movie star, dresses to look like a woman—her role in life, as she sees it. But the men dress for jobs. They dress first to look like lawyers, bankers, sales managers, or messengers or janitors or window washers. Only secondarily, sort of by the way, does what they wear stress whatever role they have...as men.

“After World War II, a number of sets of young men in California began to drop out of the rationalized job system and create their own statuspheres. In every case they made a point of devising new fashions, role changes, to symbolize their new life styles. These were the beats, the mortorcycle gangs, the car kids, and, more recently, the rock ‘n’ roll kids, the surfers, and, of course, the hippies. The hell with the jobs they had or might ever get. They wanted roles, as Rebels, Swingers, Artists, Poets, Mystics, Tigers of the Internal Combustion Engine, Monks of the Sea, anything that would be dramatic, exciting, not powerful or useful or efficient, but . . . yes! a little bit divine, right out of the old godhead of the hero.”

Also Note: Wolfe wrote this in ’68. And the similarities between the Hair Boys and the Hipsters of today—tight pants, track jackets, and hair.


if you care about what other people think of you, you'll become their prisoner.

well, i haven't written much lately, Amy's done a wonderful job wearing the pants of this tri-blog relationship. i thought i'd throw in a few words. i try to entertain 4th and 5th graders. so this is what i see.

Dante, Amante, Quinton, Adam, and Koby refuse to listen to anything expect rap. Adam, the only white kid in that list, will listen to rock music occasionally. The one requirement is that there is (amp)le screaming, and shouting, and blaring of noise.

Dante wants to know why Veronica, a white girl, wears a shirt that has the word P.E.A.C.E printed in glitter letters. Haven't white people had enough peace already? Why do they want more? Adrian likes to fight. it's the only thing he talks about. what did you do in school? got in a fist fight. why did you do that? because it's fun. it's fun to hurt people? yeah.

Austin wears a puffy jacket, puffs puffs puffs it up, and never looks a woman leader in the eye. You'll ask him to stop banging on the piano. He'll stop banging on the piano in an animated, resentful bluster, promising you that he'll never do what you tell him to do.

Jaylyn repeats the same question twenty times. can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? jaylyn, i heard you. please stop asking me. snack is coming in a few minutes. a smile. can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack? can i have snack?

Dylan is angry. his venom cry is always everything is broken. everything is broken. Everyone hates him, no one wants to be his friend. people win at games to hurt him. He knows all the rules of four square. He even knows the secret rule of the cactus. He sang to me, There was an old man named Michael Finnigan, Who caught a cold and couldn't get well again.
Then he died, and had to begin again. Poor old Michael Finnigan. Begin again.

Jaylani is the strongest, largest kid present. She's not fat at all. well, she has a tummy, but that is all. she's smart too. she doesn't think so. she wants a rocket scientist to come in and speak about space, but she's afraid he'll just use smart words and be boring.

kaylynn always says she's going to throw up. then she tells you she just threw up blood. then she asks you for 'seconds', 'thirds', and 'fourths', on snacks. pink is her favorite color.

Myra will get a note from school saying that she did something wrong. she'll cry four an hour. literally. an entire hour she will sit and cry and refuse to utter a word.

they hate to read.


A Foot and a Half of Snow Down

Calling my parents, Kevin, Brittany to tell them of Lee’s death was the second time in my life I’ve laughed about horrible news. It’s shocking. It’s a bad joke. And the surprising thing wasn’t really Lee’s age. See; I had known him for as long as I can remember, and dying just wasn’t his thing. It seems to violate conservation of energy that someone so active and giddy, borderline hyper, could be still. I mean, he wasn’t even quiet when he slept. His freshman year roommate, Jon Fox, will support this claim.

Lee graduated from Whitworth in three years. He crammed in like 20 credit hours per semester and, of course, came with about 30 credits he had earned in high school. Eventually he was going to move back to Colorado. He’d live somewhere like Silver Cliff, out in the dry country next to the mountains. There would not be many people around, and it’d stay cool. Lee hated heat – he had enough of his own. He was a giant heat generator. I can see him wiping sweat off his brow with his thick fingers. The beds in his house would have quilts on them – this is accurate; I’m not being sappy. He’d fish, wear Carhartts, and squeeze water out of stones.

The fall of freshman year I felt homesick. It was around Thanksgiving break. I went to Lee’s room in Warren – nobody listened to country at Whitworth! So we sat on his bed with the blue-jean quilt (I told you.), and we listened to and sang country songs. This was the “that’s the good stuff,” “God blessed the broken road,” “well, I’m gonna miss her” era. He liked Brad Paisley (or hated him, the details are fuzzy); I liked Garth Brooks. I suggested “save a horse. Ride a cowboy,” and he was disappointed in me. He pulled a pecan pie out of his mini fridge, and we ate it straight out of the tin.

We played on a Frisbee team together. The man could not throw a backhand. He fell once during a game; he was in the end zone. I’m pretty sure he caught the bee. He came up bleeding underneath one eye where he had landed on a pinecone.

Lee took me to look for a geocache in the back forty, crashing through the underbrush. I was wearing my white dancing skirt and flip-flops. He, of course, was wearing a button-up Hawaiian-print shirt, cargo shorts, and Chacos.

He was obnoxiously enthusiastic. When we were at Whitworth, he’d annoy me with his brazen love for Colorado. When we were at home, he’d annoy me with his cheerleading about Whitworth.

Sophomore year I did Whitworth’s Triathlite. I was running up the hill behind Grave’s gym, and I saw Lee and Kevin cheering me on at the top. Kevin was dressed like Kevin, normally. And Lee had on a kilt and knee socks. He was waving a full-size Colorado flag attached to a pool cue like Mel Gibson did in The Patriot – only Gibson’s, as you remember, was an American flag, and they were in a battle for the independence of their country. They met me again close to the finish line, and Lee handed the flag off to me so I could run with it victoriously through the loop.

He liked coffee. He was a real man and liked coffee. I appreciate that.

Since Lee’s died, I’ve heard accounts of him and seen pictures. There are parts of him that I missed completely. There are many pictures on Facebook of him dancing, not by himself, mind you, but always with girls. He was like an undercover ladies’ man. Sly, very sly.

We’ve always just done stuff together, and I’ve missed his cerebral side. Amanda Carlson read, during his memorial service at Whitworth, an email he sent to Amber Craft. I had no idea he could write so precisely or thought in terms like that. Here’s part of what he wrote:

“I’ve been reading the gospels a lot this week, reading stories where Jesus heals the sick and mourns the dead. I’m learning a lot about the ministry of presence, of entering into the crap-storm that is this sinful world, walking alongside the broken-hearted, sharing their broken-heartedness fully. Jesus didn’t worry about ministry tactics, or his role in all that, or hell, even that he was going to raise Lazarus in a few minutes. He embraced the brokenness as just that... and he freaking wept....
“I have to relate a story, though, of how God is working in me right now. I went to Ash Wednesday very down and very angry at God, pissed at sin and brokenness, pissed at life. But God, in that gentle manner He uses when we need gentleness, gave me hope. Not joy, but hope of joy. While we sat inside, marked with the dirty ashes of our sin and brokenness, God laid out a blanket of freshly fallen snow, reminding me that, while the dirty and broken still exists, God covers over all of that with his grace and love. Hmm. As if to prove a point, we now have a foot and a half of snow down, with more on the way in the next day or two. Apparently, God’s grace doesn’t just cover us, but covers us abundantly. That’s my prayer, at least. Talk with you soon.
-- Lee”
February 21, 2010

Before this year, I had been in the same city as Lee. I could always get his help or company. And even with him in Cheyenne and me in Spokane, I could call him if, say, my car alarm went off on accident again and I couldn’t remember how to switch it off. And now I can’t call him. And he’s in heaven, but I don’t really know where that is. And that’s hard.

The first time I went paintballing, I was nervous about getting hit. Lee told me, “Just walk down that road a little, and I’ll shoot you.” Thanks, Lee.

And mundane’s ok. I guess, for now, that’s what we’ve got. Bits of everyday life. What God gives us. Lee was thirteen pounds when he was born.


What to do?

Without constant homework assignments and social activities to keep me busy, I’m thinking about the ways I can spend my time. This is a rest-of-life sort of thing. In the US we spend a lot of our time at work. What are good ways of spending our time off?

There were two guys in my basketball class last Jan term who said that they spent three hours working out every day. It was a hobby “with great benefits.”

I read a David Foster Wallace essay on television that said that, on average, Americans spend six hours a day watching the tube. Three hours of weights and cardio doesn’t seem so bad as long as it’s a substitute for six hours of TV.

I’ve broken down positive activities into some categories. If you can think of an activity that does not fit into one of these, then please add a new category. I’ve got: fixing, preserving, adding, and observing. Each of these categories can be either personal or communal.

Preserving includes all those things we do to perpetuate what’s already happening. I think we spend most of our time on this. Communal preserving is doing the dishes (if you live with other people), parenting, etc. Personal preserving is making enough money to live on, staying healthy, and keeping in touch with friends.

Fixing requires something to be broken or in the red. Communal fixing includes: saving the world, the green movement, fighting injustices, etc. Personal fixing could be weight loss, a night of heavy drinking, or doing whatever to relax or unwind.

Adding is like fixing. The difference is that fixing adds from a negative to zero, and adding starts from zero and increases. Art is generally addition. Communal adding is creating anything for other people: a meal, a painting, a piece of music, etc. Personal adding includes education, reading, and whatever else adds to your character or abilities.

Observing only applies to activities that are not for one’s own benefit. So I guess it has to be communal. You are observing when you are paying respect or noticing details because the thing has details or deserves respect. It’s reading a book because it’s beautiful – not in order to educate or amuse yourself. It’s listening in order to create space for something to be said.

I’ve listed the categories in order of appearance in life. (I really mean life after college. In college, the primary thing we spend our time doing is personal adding.)

A list of non-rhetorical questions:
Is this how it should be?
What would life look like if the order were different?
Is one category better than another? Is communal better than personal?

I’m just kicking this around today and would like to know what you think.