by Jeffrey Murrell


Can you believe they sent me back here, man?
They want me to get add-on certification in field procedure.
Shit! I spent five, back-breaking years for my degree;
Now, that's not enough for them--they want another year.
I got in six weeks ago--it trips me out coming in from the east.
It's a long ride however you come in, but it's particularly long that way.
Maybe it's the mountains that stretch the ride out so long from that direction.
It's kind of weird how all the time spent on the road to this place
is spent through the middle of rolling prairie expanses.
But then, just as you are approaching the city,
here come those big purple mountains up at you from the west,
and you wind up the sides of them on that highway to finally see
something that looks out of place--the top of that big skyscraper
downtown peeks over the snow caps at you with a steel grey eye.
Then, as you creep up and around some more, you finally get over those mountains
and you start down into the valley, at last to find
civilization's in safe proximity to travelers in-bound.
It's so neat how all those tall buildings spill down the sides of those mountains
like a wave of highrises washing into a lake of little neighborhoods.
How did they build all those monsters up the western wall of the canyon?
But better to ask is why they built them that way;
it looks as if they must have gotten tired of it, though,
or maybe there just wasn't enough room up there for any more
buildings--too bad you can't see the skyline from the east, you know?

This place is known as the region's economic hub
and legal and governmental seat,
but everybody knows it's really on the map
for its outstanding university.
It's obvious how much they prize this school;
the university tower rises so high on its own
so far removed to the west of the downtown skyscrapers,
overlooking the dominion of our college home.
Did you ever take a tour of the U's tower,
and take the elevator all the way to the top
to the observation platform on the roof?
It's dangerous up there; if you fell it'd be quite a drop!
But it's got such a great view of the valley and the city,
and the mountains and wide blue sky;
Did you ever notice how it stands as a sort of monument
to the native culture, and how they were before they got settled from outside?
I love all those pretty mosaics and reliefs
depicting native-culture aspects of living,
showing how they once lived in tents, and
roamed around hunting and fishing.
It's a very fitting thing for the university to honor.
Such a place of learning has a duty to remember and respect
those upon whose bones its campus and community rest today,
though it also paradoxically serves as a monument to conquest.

And how far did you manage to come with your studies?
I can't remember--was it two or three years?
It's not easy finishing up an education!
(Especially when your attention's always on girls and beer!)
But you know, I can't figure out what's with education anyway;
everybody always talks so damned much about it
and just how much you need college to succeed.
But they never tell you how to get the shit!
A good education is the "key" to success.
Man, I just hate hearing that kind of crap.
It's as if all you need is a degree, and you're set,
"Congratulations! Everything'll be great in your life," bla, bla, bla!
And I can see their point--IF YOU DO FANTASTICALLY WELL.
But if you do below average, or even average, it seems,
then your chances of success are as if you never went to college,
and your chances are only as good as before you busted your ass for the degree!
For the average/below-average graduate,
those doors to success stay locked up tight.
Though your key may have cost you a fortune to cut,
it won't unlock any doors if it's not cut right!
It's really such a herculean gamble to take,
spending all the money and time to get through college;
No wonder it's hard to convince people it's what they "need."
(All the sacrifice and frustration's for nothing if you don't do well.)
I think just getting a college diploma says something;
it puts one ahead of the pack of humankind
because college grads are still not a dime a dozen,
even though that's what the big corporations would like!
But it's such a shame how a college education
really only serves to furnish convenient numbers
and other such objective benchmarks so
prospective reviewers have something by which to measure
you without having to use their busy heads,
and waste precious time on something as mundane
as making an extremely important determination about your life
and about your future and good name.

And then there are those pathetic few among us
who try to beat the game by cheating;
you know, the ones who seem so very, very smart,
but who somehow just avoid all the things
one needs to get done in order to get a diploma.
They want all the bonafide recognition and stuff a college degree confers,
But they're either too lazy, too indecisive or
too damned high on themselves and thinking that they deserve
to be recognized as some sort of exception to the rule;
Now, those types just really piss me off!
They drop out way before they're done,
but still go out and look for jobs like ours thinking they're good enough.
No, man--I'll tell you what,
if I have to play this game from start to finish
to get a half-way decent job in this country,
then everyone else who wants a good job should have to play it.
You know what I mean? (I know I sound strung out.)
Shit--if those kinds were as gifted as they want everyone to think,
then they'd have no problem fulfilling the requirements,
and paying the same dues as those of us who get the degrees.
They should just be able to go in with all their brains
and just get it the hell over with!
For crying out loud--I'm far from being a genius,
but that's just what I did.
I mean, if you're having trouble just deciding what to concentrate in,
just get any specialty as soon as you can,
and get the damned piece of paper
so there's at least something you have
to take out into the world with you to justify such airs.
And it doesn't have to be in anything directly related
to whatever claim to fame you think you can stake;
you just need it for evidence to show people that you've played
the game just like them, and that you can be trusted
to finish what the hell you manage to start,
and that you've got the strong character
that they are all really secretly looking for.
It's a big, secret club they all have, you know?
But none of them realizes that they all play such roles
in hiring and firing, and admitting and denying,
out in the network of the real world.
But those cheaters all know about it,
and they play the world as if they're all so on the ball
despite the fact that they haven't proven themselves
quite like those of us who haven't let ourselves fall.
So I think if those types don't finish their educations,
they really must be kind of STUPID.
As long as they keep avoiding the degree requirements,
they'll be frustrated, knowing that they could do it.

But nowadays, the first degree's just half the story.
Just look at me--to get promoted, I have to play some MORE!
Yeah, it makes me feel like giving up sometimes.

I worked so hard to get through the first, now here's ANOTHER locked door.
It makes me want to puke, to be quite frank.
But what can I do? It's the way life works.
At least this is another fun party town.
I'll do the minimum to get by, and just play really hard so it won't hurt.
I'll do the extra time, I'll get the second degree,
but I'm going out as much as I can to party
and meet new chicks and just have fun,
before I really lose it and go crazy.
I'm not going to suffer that misery for this shit again.
I still have a few friends here finishing up their degrees;
I'll hang out with them between classes,
and for once, I'll do as I please.

Man, there are too many good memories in this place to waste time again,
getting all serious and shit with the books!
Do you remember when we were introduced back at high school?
I was really leery of your big tough-man looks;
I had seen you strutting around on campus like big shit
(even though you're not exactly tall),
and I thought you must have been one of the biggest assholes around.
But to my surprise, you really weren't at all.
But before Crazy Child introduced us that night,
I never wanted anything to do with you!
Yeah, me and him were out in his little red buggymobile,
and he wanted to go check out what you were up to.
I couldn't believe you hung out with him!
He wasn't exactly, well, "cool," you know.
But I thought he was great fun to hang around;
he'd come pick me up in that buggy, and we'd get up and go!
And he piloted that thing around here at college so wildly,
I thought it was going to bust up sometimes!
And we'd be listening to loud tunes and doing drugs,
and out committing delinquent little crimes.
But never until after we hooked up with you!

Man, you just about got our asses in such a jam
sometimes with your outrageous ideas.
And, oh! The things you would do without giving a damn
about what could have ever happened to whom!
Sometimes, you just went too far, my friend.
Sometimes, you just took such needless, careless risks;
you'd employ such dangerous means to achieve such worthless ends.
And I don't know what it was with you and guns.
You always used to love to play with them loaded, and to shoot stuff up.
At least the military got that shit out of your system.
(Well, at least it's not as bad as it once was.)
And Crazy Child--man, I don't know what's up with him.
I think he was really going flaky on us there for a while.
Maybe it was just too many damned drugs;
yeah, for some time, he was really getting wild.

But now he's mellowed out a lot.
You already know how it was I who introduced him to his one great love,
and she's been so very good for him.
She cleaned him all up and got him off the drugs.
I think he owes her bigtime for helping him out,
'cause that's got to be a hell of a big job!
He's just never been able to get along without someone else's help;
Lucky for him now, that's just what he's got.
But I wish the two of them would quit smoking now.
And, for crying out loud, they need to lose some weight!
Crazy Child was never fat back in school,
but maybe it's just coming naturally with age.
And I'm getting thinner, my face is so hollow;
grey hairs are starting to pepper my head.
At least I've been able to escape having wrinkles,
maybe 'cause I've escaped a few times from being wed!
Getting married used to appeal to me.
But as I've grown older, it's become far less appealing.
Hell, I'm still a good looker, and I've got my share of girlfriends,
so what do I need to get married for really?
And besides, marriages just don't seem to last long at all these days.
Yeah, some can be dreamers and have all kinds of expectations
about how their marriages are going to last forever.
But for me, divorce statistics reinforce my reluctance and hesitation.

It's all enough to make us lose our minds!
But I'm lucky to have some wonderful friends like you two.

Yeah, you and Crazy Child make life a little bit easier to
bear, even though sometimes you two are such fools!
I like to consider myself as some kind of stabilizing agent
which has been brought about naturally to dilute your idiocy.
(That makes me feel important and strong,
'cause there are two of you idiots working against me!)
But I really think the three of us make a perfect blend,
you know, like sour, sweet and salt.

The problem is, I can't figure out which one of us is which.
We're all mixed together like an ethereal people-malt,
each one of our flavors important to the whole taste,
but each one masked by the others.
And if you would take one away,
the mixture could become so flat and separated and tasteless or even bitter.
Yes, we may remain apart from each other for long stretches,
but each one of us is always in the other ones,
in memories and letters and photos,
in our hearts and minds and souls and stuff.
We're just like these big metal buildings hiding to the west of the hills, just out of sight in one direction,
but standing tall and glisteningly visible in the sunshine from all others;
And big buildings, like people, must someday fall
to the effects of time, neglect or carelessness.
And when one of them does, their skyline is wounded
with a big empty hole,
and their collective value is forever diminished.

Well, I hope you're doing all right, man.
(You know, you could look some people up I know there!)
I don't know how soon I'll be coming to visit,
but I'll write again soon. Until then, take care.