Saturday, April 24, 2010

At the Intersection of Real Life and Fairy Tale

When Velvet first went off to college, Sondheim's Into the Woods provided a timely metaphor for each of us as individuals and for the two of us together as a mother/child dyad (Stonerdate 06.28.2009). The similarity remains as we approach the finale of Velvet's freshman year. I just don't know exactly which tale we are living since it seems like we've pulled in elements of a variety of fairy tales which I like to look at as a manifestation of archetypes. The thing about real life, though, is that people are such mixtures of archetypal energies that it's hard to know who is whom and what the hell is going on.

If Velvet and I are in the process of living out our own stories, then let's say:

Once Upon a Time a mother sent her son, Velvet, into the woods to seek his fortune. While he went exploring, she returned to their home in the village to develop her own story now that she had finally some peace and quiet.

Velvet ran willy nilly through the forest until he burst into a lawn surrounded by buildings called The Land of College. On the surface, The Land of College looked enough like High School to convince Velvet that he already knew all about it, so he didn't devote much time to Professors or Class. He was much too interested in the tantalizing sounds and smells coming from a big white house on the border between the Land of College and Reality. Reality is a treacherous area with things like jobs and jail.

There were many other places and people in The Land of College where Velvet might have found a peer group. There were Students in the Library, all kinds of kids with all kinds of interests in The Dorm and there were other houses on the periphery filled with Douche bags who attended the Big Beautiful Private School with which Tree Hugger Academy shared a campus. But Velvet felt most at home with the guys at Hookah House who enjoyed his company so much that he became King of the Halloween Party despite the fact that he had not pledged his eternal loyalty to The Hookahs.

Meanwhile, the mother was connecting with her essential nature. She rediscovered her own internal landscape which looked remarkably like The Hundred Acre Wood.

She determined that she was very likely related to Ewoks - fuzzy little round creatures whose strengths are often overlooked by more powerful characters in the big, wide world. Walking in the park, she came across a man who was either a troll or someone whose inner beauty was trapped inside a beast. She examined him thoroughly and concluded he must be a nasty troll. She had lived so long among Ewoks, Hobbits and other characters who had their flaws but were basically Okay that she didn't quite believe Trolls and Assholes could come into her neck of the woods. They were Real, but in far away places like Corporations and Congress. In the Hundred Acre Wood, there were pontificating and gloomy folks like Owl and Eeyore, but no trolls. Even Buzz Kill and Vagina Dentata have inner beauty. Something had to be done, so she huffed and puffed and made him disappear.

All this thinking about Ewoks and Assholes brings us pretty much to the present day in our story. I have been on a spiritual quest. Velvet seems to have been having a high time in Never Never Land, but maybe he was on a spiritual quest too.

Looking at Life, The Universe and Everything through the lens of Story, then we see that sometimes the plot is driven by events and other times by character - but the story is in the character's response to events.

When Velvet got arrested the other day, aspects of his character must have come shining through because the police officers who were on the scene are on Velvet's side. In addition to the PoliceMom, who arranged for EMS to examine him so there would be a medical record and who told me herself that he was very polite and has learned his lesson, Velvet now has an endorsement from another officer. Thursday evening in the dining hall, a university policeman approached Velvet. He had been at the scene on the night in question and told Velvet that he was very sorry things had gone down that way for Velvet, but he left the university cops no choice when he wouldn't reveal the name of his friend. The policeman then said that when he was Velvet's age, he'd have done the same thing and gave the boy his card.

I'm thinking that the University cops are giving us a few hints on how to proceed through the judicial review. Since Velvet is still learning how to multitask, I'm headed up to Tree Hugger in the morning to arrange for a judicial advisor from the school. Once Velvet gives him the information we've received off the record and the reports that he has collected from the city cops and the EMS, he can give Velvet some pointers. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to meet with this advisor and find out exactly how he can help Velvet. We'll also see the lawyer Buzz Kill found through the legal service that is available through the university to full time students. That lawyer already has copies of the documentation and predicts that the city cops will dismiss the charges against Velvet as long as he stays out of trouble for 6 - 12 months.

In Reality, however, there will be no repercussions for the Douchers. According to my mother, that particular fraternity has had a reputation for being thugs since she and my father were in college fifty years ago. And the fact of the matter is that those are the very same thugs on Wall Street who are jacking off and robbing us blind at the same time.

It's the same thing as I learned when I was going through all that bullshit about Ass-Wholes (complete and total assholes, according to Woody). When you look at character, you often find that individuals and corporations often display the same fundamentally awful traits. What you find in both cases are arrogance, egotism, self-absorption and general douchebaggery that manifests itself as a collective disregard for community which is replaced by dedication to individual agendas founded on the notion of their own superiority.

I can't blame Velvet and his buddy for wanting to harass the Douchers. Hopefully this experience has shown them that they need to save their energy and talents for bigger battles. The Establishment protects The Douchers - that's why they could assault a scrawny white boy and get a ride home while he got arrested. But there are glimmers of hope for our side, occasionally, such as when a cop on his dinner break slips a kid his card.

It's nice for a mother when the officers at the scene have complimentary and pleasant things to say about her son, but I have had to institute some rules for Velvet:
  • No getting high before 9:00 pm except on weekends - and even then homework needs to be done. Sunday counts as a school night.
  • No more getting arrested unless it's for protesting social injustice, particularly War. Civil Rights and the Environment are also okay, but some knowledgeable grown up should be in charge. Somebody at least as experienced with this stuff as Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.
  • Cumulative GPA better be good enough to stay in school. He's already on Academic Probation from last semester, for crying out loud.
I know that he looks at rules in much the same way as Captain John Sparrow looked at the Pirate Code, but I really mean it about no more getting arrested.

The Judicial Review is on May 3rd, and Buzz Kill is going up to be with Velvet. I'm told that infractions against the student code of behavior such as Velvet's typically require community service and a reflective essay that must be read to next year's incoming freshman at orientation. Somehow I don't believe Velvet is going to become a Cautionary Tale. He seized the opportunity to get those dang brownies out of the freezer when I was forced to dispute Buzz Kill's assertion that the IRS is after him because of my insistence that the child and spousal support be paid on time. I thought those brownies were in the freezer until yesterday when Velvet himself told me he used them as social capital over at Hookah House. Apparently, the boys had a bake sale to offset the fine levied against the house as a result of the incident with the Douchers. It may be that Velvet has been smooth enough throughout this episode that his name can remain Velvet for the time being. We'll see if his grades are satisfactory.

As it happens, May 3rd is also the day Jack Daniels arrives. Frankly, I'm kind of glad for all the distraction Velvet is providing since I'm so overwhelmed by the idea that a man I've never met is getting on an airplane next week for the specific purpose of meeting me, and he'll be staying here with me to boot - I can barely manage to think about it for more than two seconds without feeling an inner scream starting to build.

I'll scream my head off in the car on the way back from Tree Hugger.

It gets even more intense because, as it happens, last week Jack Daniels got a phone call out of the blue from the synod for Metro New York. Some church in the suburbs has been looking for a preacher for nearly a year, and now Jack Daniels has a job interview on Wednesday. As a confirmed Bokonist, all I can say is: Busy, busy, busy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Velvet! I am not looking forward to the college years with our daughter. We have something for you on our blog. :)

April 24, 2010 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger intelliwench said...

"May you live in interesting times."


April 24, 2010 at 4:15 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Kerry, I am honored and delighted and look forward to passing it on.
Intelli - when's your birthday?

April 24, 2010 at 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Oh pal, you've got your head screwed on right.

It all reminds me of when my daughter and a bunch of her friends left high school one afternoon to protest (er, something, can't remember exactly) and some of them got arrested. And I was really irked with daughter and friends because they didn't think first.

Sure - a few years before that I had pulled said daughter and her sister out of grade school one afternoon to march in a protest against the province that was pulling more funding from education. And certainly social action was seen, in our home, as a valiant pursuit.

But I suppose what I was trying to explain to the highschool version of the kid was that you have to have the means to hold up your flag. You need some knowledge and judgement and abilty to justify. Sure those girls were justified in their protest - but they couldn't articulate it.

Anyway, your "Velvet College Rules" reminded me of that.

PS - re: the man coming on a plane to see you - it all started in the mind/head/heart - can't come up with a better reason than that, can you?

April 24, 2010 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Jenn - I am quite sure that it's a good idea. I'm just spazzing, that's all.

April 24, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger intelliwench said...

'Twas yesterday, and a good time was had. I'm not done celebrating, though -- taking a solo vacation on the Cape before I have to pick intellikid up in Boston the 6th. I "say" I'm going to stay out of trouble :-)

April 24, 2010 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger PENolan said...

May trouble find you, then, in the very best ways.

April 25, 2010 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Gail said...


Okay, first, te beginning of this great post nees tobe published as it's own 'short story' in a magazine so get on that straight away. ok? It is SO good.

Now, I ma a tad older than you and I have seen a lot and done a lot and met a lot of Mothers,, and YOU are simply the best. :-)

I am rooting for you and Velvet on the 3rd and for all good things with you and JD whom, for some reason, with very little knowledge, I adore him. :-)

Love and respect to you

April 25, 2010 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger PENolan said...

Gail, the funny thing about it is that my mother feels exactly the same way about Jack Daniels as you do.

I'm off to Tree Hugger in about an hour and am happy to say I got a $210/night hotel for $57 on Priceline. I doubt I'll save any money, though, since it has a bar.

Big Kiss

April 25, 2010 at 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Spazzing in a good way, I'm sure! Have fun.

April 26, 2010 at 4:39 PM  

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