Saturday, May 16, 2015

Edgewater 5

Major Major, Billy Pilgrim and Huckleberry Finn

It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll GO to hell"--and tore it up.” 
 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

“Major Major never sees anyone in his office while he's in his office.”  ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

“Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time.”  Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

I enrolled with every intention of studying Graphic Design (an art major) but Kurt Vonnegut was the first author I remember who really made me think about storytelling. Ironically, it was his “unstuck in time” device that helped me understand that a good story doesn’t need to be linear.  Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is such a wonderful story that challenges how one might think about morality through a character who by conventional judgment of the time was considered uncivilized. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller presents predicaments of war in a story of his main character Yossarian’s circumstances. All this (and more) was introduced to me in some of those early “required” English 
courses.  

I eventually found myself a double major: Graphic Design (Art) and Creative Writing (English). I became a champion of liberal arts. I learned too late how impractical it was. What would it mean to have a Bachelor of Arts Degree with such a double major? My parents were focused only on completion of a legitimate four-year degree. They were not interested in any other time-table and were not supportive of indecision if it meant any delays in finishing college. This was not a time for reflection in any more than a  prescribed amount of time. Greg was a talented photographer but discovered that the male/female ratios in education classes improved his odds socially. Further, he found a part time job that introduced him to the special needs population through the City of Miami Department of Parks & Recreation. He quickly earned designation as a Rec Spec III (a recreational specialist) and he qualified himself to escort retarded citizens in a big yellow school bus with a chauffer license. The job and the license permitted him to chauffer and supervise these special citizens. 

Meanwhile I began to think of myself as a Renaissance Man. My dual major allowed me to navigate coursework in art history, literature, painting and design. Greg has less intellectual curiosity than I do but while he studied fundamentals of education, child psychology and sociology he made acceptable progress as a degree seeking freshman.


We were lucky kids from Edgewater Drive, St. Luke and Lakewood High who selected South Florida and the U because it was a short drive from Key Biscayne where our parents owned property that allowed them to be snow birds. And our uncle Andrew was chairman of the Art Department. And it seemed as good a place as any to find yourself in four years of academic pursuits.   

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