Welcome to late-summer of 2001, Portland Maine. This is my first week of college at Maine College of Art, my first time living out of my parents' shadows and I'm completely alone out here. I'm one of only a few native Mainers in the Freshman Class, almost everyone in here is from a different State or another country. 3D Design class just started about 15 minutes ago, then some stoner-chick runs into the room yelling about New York City being on fire: We laugh, at first. She grabs three people to come with her to the Mr Bagel across the road from the Porteous Building, and there it is on the TV, BOTH of the World Trade Center towers are burning.
THAT was such a serious "Oh-Shit" moment, I didn't think it was real. It had to be either a sick joke or a mistake, I ran back into the Porteous Building, grabbed my stuff from the classroom and stormed out: At least half of my family, including my Father, are from New York City and the surrounding areas (Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc...)
I'm walking quickly back to the Holbrook Dormitory, I walk right past some dude I've never seen before: He's just standing there playing a long bamboo flute.
I get it, people are panicking left and right, I pass two other students who are in tears: Maybe someone was just trying to do something to distract people from the violence on TV, or maybe this was just something this guy did for fun from time to time: Just stand outside and play his flute, side-walk musicians are nothing new in Portland (although these days they are entirely too rare.)
I don't think there were any classes the following day, the Dean decided to hold a student forum to talk about what just happened to the world, The morning of September 12th amounted to little more than a bunch of hipsters arguing with each-other. There was talk of war, activism, charities and disaster relief. One or two students who came here from New York had tried to get home to their families, I was still waiting to hear back about two of my cousins (I found out later that day they were in Brooklyn and they were unharmed.)
I walked out halfway through the ordeal: From where I was sitting, this "Student Forum" was quickly becoming an Ad-Hominem driven farce and I wanted no part of it.
I just wanted to quietly kill some time alone, so I wandered from shop to shop on Congress Street just looking at stuff. One shop was selling the kind of hats worn by little old ladies, another only sold varying types of Irish imported goods. I came across the same strange dude standing in the same strange spot only this time it looked like he was talking to two women standing on either side of him, he made eye contact with me and I gave a friendly nod: I don't know this guy, but I see no reason to be impolite.
This continued for weeks, once regular class schedules resumed: I'd walk past his little shop and say hi, most of the time he'd say hi back to me. As time passed, it became ever clearer to me that my leather-clad metal head self was not welcome among certain circles (the vegan-nazi hipster types that M.E.C.A. is still known for catering to.) At least three or four times a week I'd come back to my dorm-room to find PeTA pamphlets, and on some occasions flyers, jammed under my door. At least EVERY night of the week, my spoiled cunt of a roommate would bring groups of her party-buddies over late at night while I was busy either trying to study or just trying to sleep: Despite the fact that our first day of Freshman Orientation we both signed a mutual roommate agreement indicating we'd each give the other a "courtesy notice" of 24 hours before having company over.
This is the very same chick that accused me of stealing and using HER kitchen-wares without any evidence to back it up, despite the fact that I had just purchased brand new ones for myself the week prior AND kept the recepit: LOL!
Some manner of non-academic escape was, as with anyone in similar circumstances I suppose, absolutely inevitable. All my class-mates ever seemed to want to do was either go drink or go off to concerts of bands I'd never heard of before: I guess obnoxious hipsters were being obnoxious hipsters long before obnoxious hipster memes on the internet made the world known regarding obnoxious hipsters. This strange dude on Congress Street, who had a name but called himself "Z" for short, offered a pay-by-donation Tae-Bo style workout class after class hours: Perfect! I show up twice a week and pay whatever I can afford to, sans OBNOXIOUS FUCKING HIPSTERS!
Things worked out great for about a month and a half of this, eventually I was coming back to my room to find more and more of my stuff occasionally being vandalized. At first I didn't say anything to the M.E.C.A. staff because I didn't think they would help me: Then one fine evening it literally took a screaming fit before people finally got the message that I was getting sick of this, a BRAND NEW message-board that I put on my door was been completely filled to capacity with not-so-clever dick-drawings ALL OVER AND THROUGH IT.
Meanwhile nobody in the dorm says or does anything to the chick who flips out on drugs, breaks into peoples' rooms and destroys THEIR property (and for some really weird reason mine was the only room NOT broken into.) so I guess that made it okay in their eyes.
I wanted to quit and go home, but something was compelling me to stay. I was worn down to the point that I could barely keep awake during class, I avoided damn near everyone until it was time for my OTHER classes, but even then my participation was just-for-show. After enough harassment from my dorm-mates, I just had almost no energy left and I think Z noticed.
He told me that with some new ideas and a change in attitude I could realize my full potential, whatever that meant. Around this time I had struggled enough with Christianity to give it the boot all together and pick up something else, it just seemed obvious to me at the time.
After all, Z not only led the workout class but also a small Wiccan Circle.
All this simply could NOT have been a coincidence, could it?
Stay tuned for the next installment of the series...