Let's begin in Houston, where Lauren and Nick pick me up from the airport. I was hungry and tired, so we tried to make dinner plans on the way back to Rice. I couldn't remember where the hell Cali Sandwich Shop was, and no one knew whether it still existed anyway, but we came to the conclusion that even if it did, it would be closed soon. After much deliberation, I settled on Mai's, not having had a vermicelli bowl in, quite literally, years.
Nick took the scenic route, showing me various parts of Houston I had not seen for a while. On entering Mai's, I hugged the crap out of Shari (enshanam) and calmly greeted Nathan. Soon after getting a table, we were joined by Liz and Andyr. I honored my hug pact with Liz. And then, to my surprise, there was a Jonathan (barilosopher)! He had not expected to have time to see me.
Seating order, from the left corner: Andyr, Nathan, Shari, Jonathan, around to Nick, Lauren, me, Liz.
Conversations abounded, from my commenting that Andyr was wearing the same shirt he'd worn when I met him a couple years ago to Jonathan's explaining the process for his doctoral thesis in philosophy. My charbroiled chicken vermicelli bowl was quite yummy but not as filling as it could have been, which made me even more receptive to Shari's suggestion of an Amy's run. I had even brought my Amy's shirt! To wear tomorrow.
After we spent around three hours dividing the check (I was back at Rice, oh yes), Liz and Andyr, who preferred Cold Stone, departed, and the rest of us hit Amy's. I exclaimed in glee when I saw that they had Cop Stop, and I think the girl behind the counter looked at me funny. I still tried some of the other unfamiliar flavors, like Pop Tart, which was...ice cream with Pop Tarts in it. Cop Stop, though, was coffee ice cream with pieces of donut in it. So great and so original and so Amy's. Nick got a gigantic malt, which was the smallest size they had. Lauren noted that she didn't really like the taste of malt but still liked drinking it. I took a sip and noted that I didn't like the taste of malt nor drinking it.
Then we headed back to Rice, my wonderfully awesome home for four years. We parked by Hanszen to drop off my stuff. As we walked, I motioned to the grass and trees on our left and remarked that the majority of the people on campus had no idea that there used to be a whole college there. Oh, Old Wiess. We had some good times.
Nick lived on the fifth floor of the Hanszen Old Section. He introduced me to his roommate, who had just gotten back from Korea. Nick and I had been roommates before, for a very short while. Except we were more like...deskmates, since he never actually slept there. And he was hardly ever in the room. But it was still a bond between us, and he was happy for us to be roommates once again. Although he wouldn't be sleeping there. Or hardly ever be in the room.
Lauren returned from her room with the Dresden Dolls DVD, so we went to the TV room to revel in its glory. Nick tried to get the surround sound to work but to no avail. Meanwhile, Lauren told us about the little "Day in the Life Of" documentary, the most memorable part of which was the interview of a little nine-year-old girl who was taking drum lessons with Brian Viglione. When she grew up, she wanted to be a "drummist."
The concert performances were pretty awesome. Amanda Palmer doesn't shave her armpits, and Brian Viglione has killer arms. Total badass. In contrast to the badassness onscreen was the sweetness of our position on the couch, with Lauren sitting between us and holding one of our hands in each of hers.
We sat around and discussed things when we finished watching. A cute girl walked in with The Blues Brothers and Monty Python and the Holy Grail to watch, and we engaged her in conversation. Looking at the DVD, she mistook Amanda Palmer for a man at first. Lauren shared with her the drummist story. While she didn't mind if we watched the movies with her, we had other things to do. Homework for them and seeing people for me.
Nick gave me his ID so I could get back into Hanszen, and I made my way to Valhalla. As I crossed the academic quad, I discovered that HOLY SHIT THEY CUT DOWN THE HEDGES. It was so fucking weird. Noooooooo. I know they'll grow back, but it still looks so horrible.
Valhalla gave me Laura (leowwaaa) and, to my pleasant surprise, Jennie!! I had just been thinking of her recently because I had stumbled across a classic Jennie quote I had written down for posterity ("Fuck you, calculator, with your 'I like gravity, and I like to fall.'"). As it turned out, she'd thought of me recently too. I also met her husband and their dog, Milo, and Laura's dog, Jet. The dogs were the same breed as Queen Elizabeth's, I think. They were very hyper and liked beer. The dogs, not the girls. Though the girls liked beer too.
We went outside to be able to talk better, and the dogs chased each other around as if they were on a playdate. Laura explained that the name Jet was a compromise since Trey really wanted to name his son Jetfighter (and I was there when he first had this inspiration at Mission Burrito), but Laura wasn't having that kid, so here was a dog, but Jetfighter wasn't really a dog name. Sometimes, though, Laura would call him Jetfighter when Trey wasn't around.
It was fun to see Laura and Jennie again, but my time was short, and I had other people to see, so I bid them adieu. But not before we all jumped the hedges since it was so fucking easy now.
Tim was in the bottom of the New Section tower. I knocked on the door. Emily (tigeremme) answered. I gave her a hug. So good to see her. Others in attendance were Shari, Hsing-Hui, Andyr, Geoff, Rey, Nathan, and Bob. They were playing Speed Scrabble, which I joined and got reamed at.
But then we switched to Dirty Speed Scrabble, which was like Speed Scrabble except, well, the words had to be dirty. If they weren't obviously dirty, you had to make a good case for it, and this led to a triumphantly successful joke.
It was early on in the game, and Andyr formed tip, saying, "Tip, as in the tip of my penis." I saw a Y on the board, and without really thinking about whether I knew Andyr well enough (all of, what, a few hours?) to make such a joke, I stole his letters and created pity, saying, "Pity, as in pity for the size of your penis."
We laughed for a solid minute, I think. And then there was that brief respite of silence where you try to move on with your life...and then we burst out laughing again. These are the moments I live for, people. Emily said she had a new muscle because of it.
I got another good one off later when Emily and Hsing-Hui were posing for a picture. Andyr was making the same joke I was thinking but in a roundabout way I didn't pick up on. Thus, when I let out an "I thought they were gonna make out," Rey responded with, "Thank you, Captain Obvious."
After a beat, I replied, "I've been promoted?"
I remarked to Shari that I should have thought of that joke years ago, and she said I could still use it three or four more times in different company so it still sounded fresh. She was very happy that I was there, as it was like three years ago and the present colliding in happy goodness. So happy was she that she gave me the new Phils CD as a late birthday present, yay!
Some new people were introduced to "Lazy Sunday." It was not the last time I would watch it this weekend.
One last tidbit of cleverness I want to preserve: there was talk of kittens IMing each other, and I dubbed it "Instant Meowssenger." Rey liked it.
The night was a lot of fun and a good throwback to my days at Rice. If I had a better memory, there would be an even more detailed play-by-play. But alas, earwax.
I said goodbye to Emily. We tried to do one of those secret handshake things with the clutching and the snapping, but I suck. I'm still good at hugging, though.
As I left, Rey said something ridiculous that made me respond, "Oh, Rice," which felt like a good exit line.
The next morning, I took a shower in the fourth-floor bathroom, which I'm not sure I'd ever done before. I think I'd always gone down to the third floor. Since most everyone was in class, I was on my own to wander around. In the Commons, I ran into Ian, who promised he was keeping it real at Hanszen. Nick had told me that Glynda, our college coordinator, was retiring, so I wanted to see her, but she was with someone, so I headed out to my futile quest to see professors. No luck with Dennis or Dr. Mitchell.
Shari had told me that Fondren was being renovated, so I went inside. They had moved things around a bit, and there were some places that were still being renovated, but the major difference was on the fifth floor, which had been completely taken over by the Connexions project. So many of my former classrooms were now bizarre office-type things. The room my last creative writing class was in was in shambles, pipes everywhere. Woe.
Shari had always told me to check out the RMC. Entering, I ran into Ajit. The chances of my running into people I knew become increasingly slim each year. This was the last year that would be likely, really, since all the people who were freshmen when I was a senior would be graduating. But it's still a cool experience to go back to your old digs not as a student, so I recommend taking advantage of those couple years after you graduate when you'd actually know a whole lot of people still there when you returned.
To my surprise, though, I was pretty sure I also saw the cute girl with the movies from the previous night. Rice is small, yo.
The convenience store was totally different. The Subway was gone, replaced with both some 13th Street Deli thing and a Smoothie King.
Professional curiosity led me to the revamped campus bookstore, which had been bought by Barnes and Noble. I had fun seeing several books that we sold at MBS as well. Also, there were, like, little couches to sit on downstairs!
I looked around some more and sat down for a bit by the entrance. Deciding that the girl, who was reading Lehninger's Principles of Biochemistry, was the girl from last night, I asked if she enjoyed her movies. She said yes. And then we made out. Or not.
Off to try the band hall for Chuck, but he was not there. I left my signature on the whiteboard.
I gave the English department one last go. No Dr. Mitchell, still no Dennis. I noticed that Dr. Levander was now director of the Center for Cultural Studies, wow! She was moving up in the world. I knocked on her door, and I heard a "Can I help you?" across the hall. And there she was, in a meeting. She said she was in a meeting but did I want to make an appointment and her language made me feel like she didn't remember me, so I said, "I'm Sunil, I was in your class..." But she totally remembered me. We made an appointment for 11.
I killed time for a while in the English department lounge, which was only for students. Hey, I'm an English major alum!
Around 11, I headed back to Dr. Levander's office. She was just finishing up her meeting. I must mention that Dr. Levander is really pretty. Probably the hottest professor I had at Rice. She reminded me of an actress I couldn't put my finger on. Or a blonde schnappycat. We had a good time catching up. I told her about my job search, and she told me to forward her my résumé. I was all, "You...know people in the pharmaceutical industry?" She said that her role as director of the CCS put her in contact with a lot of people in the med center across the street. She's met people she would never think she would meet. We reminisced about the class, which was one of my favorite classes at Rice (The Gothic and Constructions of National Identity in U.S. Literature). I told her about reading half of Absalom, Absalom! in one day and how it fried my brain, but in a good way. She mentioned that the English major had changed a bit, and rather than requiring survey courses, they offer seminars in literary criticism. She was teaching one this semester that was structured like the Gothic class. I told her she could tell them about my Absalom experience.
She had to get ready for another meeting, so I went back to Hanszen and packed up. What do you know, there was that cute girl for the third time. I met Lauren and Nick downstairs for lunch. I poked my head in Glynda's office, but she was again talking to someone, but this time she noticed me and called as I tried to leave. Fortuitously enough, this was actually her last day, so I had come just in time to wish her luck on her retirement.
When Nick tried to buy me lunch with his card, the cafeteria worker actually recognized me! "Long time no see," she said. I'm not sure, but I think she may have comped my lunch ("I've got it," she said). Aw, I love when cafeteria workers recognize me. For lunch, I grabbed a chicken kabob, a slice of pizza, some potatoes, a few chicken fingers, and a salad.
Eating lunch, we mused on the number of whole pizzas we had eaten during our time at Rice. Because it was always there. Even if everything else sucked, you couldn't go wrong with pizza! Some days were one-slice days, and others were two-slice days.
Approximately right on time, eirefaerie called, and I tried to help her navigate in my direction. I'd gotten her in a position to park and was telling her how to get to me when I saw Dennis walking toward the Commons. I called for him and totally hung up on Erin. He was glad to see me but only had a short time, which was fine because I only had a short time as well. I filled him in on my current status with the leaving grad school early and looking for a job and not having written fiction in over two goddamn years. I needed this conversation because I had had a dream a week or so ago that I'd told him what I was up to and he was really disappointed in me. It was not a good dream. But in real life, he was not disappointed in me. Yay.
Erin found her way to me on her own. She was wearing her FOIL shirt. We hugged. I introduced her to the people at the table, and there was some talking, and I finished my lunch, and then there was the leaving of people.
Then, Erin and I were on our way to Austin.