Monday, March 22, 2010

Inside The College; Or, We Get Bored Easily

The interior of Christ Church College looked like it should have been the interior for a film about a Tudor monarch. We entered via a walkway leading in from a courtyard. It was dark. Though there were plenty of windows set in the walls, the light streaming in was minimal. When my eyes adjusted, I saw beautiful stained glass windows, portraits of old college masters and a couple tapestries. I looked up and saw a few coats of arms on the ceiling high above. The entire place was beyond my abilities to describe in terms of architecture; however, I believe that the ceiling had flying buttresses. (I say that because it was the only architectural term I remember from my Medieval Studies classes.) There were crenated beams running from the walls to a large column—beyond that, I would direct you to a well-stocked photo library of Oxford.
As we walked in, both The Student and I went, “Oooo,” and stood and looked with stars in our eyes.
“Yeah,” said The Student. “I should have gone to Oxford.”
“You think you could have gotten in?”
“Oh, God no,” he said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that, in a just universe, I should have gone here.”
He spoke the truth. It was a damn shame that this wasn’t a just universe. “So,” said Dee, who hadn’t seen us stop, had walked up the stairs, and now had to come back down, “this is where they filmed parts of the college scenes in Harry Potter.”
We turned our attention to Dee. “What?” I asked.
“Never saw it,” said The Student.
I nodded and started up the stairs. The other two followed.
“Did you read the books, at least?”
The Student dug his hands into his jacket. “I haven’t had the luxury of reading anything for fun in, oh, six years.”
“Woah,” I said. “Really?”
He nodded like a man in mourning. “What with reading lists, critical interpretations, scholarly articles, and philosophical readings relating to the subjects undertaken in the literatures of different regions—nay, cultures—I can barely form a normal thought any more.”
“And you?” Dee asked.
I shrugged. “I read them when they came out. Thought they were decent, but I never thought it would be worth the time to see the movies.”
“But the cinematic brilliance—” she started.
“Pah!” shouted The Student. His objection echoed off the stone walls. We passed through a large archway at the top of the staircase and walked into a massive dining hall. The tables looked like they were about fifty yards long. At the end of the hall, there was a gigantic stained-glass window (the shapes had some significance to something or other, but, frankly, I didn’t care—we were in a dining hall). Small lamps were placed around the tops of the tables, generally one lamp for every two seats. Along the walls there hung large portraits of men wearing wigs. “Pah,” repeated The Student, a little quieter due to the glare he received from an usher. “Cinematic brilliance? Hardly. If you want cinematic brilliance, watch Kubrick.”
“Pah,” I said. “If you want cinematic brilliance, watch Spielberg.”
“Spielberg’s tripe,” The Student said.
“Your mother is tripe. Good for Kubrick, he can adapt novels.” I gave a slow clap that earned a glare from the usher.
“Pah,” said The Student.
“Pah,” I responded.
It should be clear to the reader, who is probably infinitely wiser than I, that neither The Student or I were impressed by the display of every stereotype of Oxford portrayed in this room. I wasn’t impressed because I realized that we had just paid five pounds to view a dining room. I guessed that The Student’s temporary fascination with buildings that weren’t built in the 1960s (as the University of Kent was) was fading. We left the dining room after about one minute spent scoffing at each other and, as we left, realized that Dee was still inside. We looked back in and saw her gazing around the room with a giant grin on her face. Clearly, she was a big fan of the movies.
“Still wished you went to Oxford?” I asked.
The Student scratched his chin. “Well, it would have looked nice, having a degree from Oxford. But, really, when it comes down to it, literature’s all about an individual’s perception of a work, or ‘work,’ and taking a degree is about formulating, postulating, perhaps, a critical standpoint—be it Marxist, feminist, post-modern, anything really. So it doesn’t really matter what university you attend. You know, have I ever told you my thoughts on Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’ as an Oedipal—”
“Shut up,” I said. “You’re going into literary criticism mode, and I fear that may lead to you throwing feces around the room. Stonework is a bitch to clean, and I’d rather not spend the afternoon scrubbing defecation from centuries-old college walls.”
The Student, presumably seeing the wisdom of my idea, silenced himself and we looked at a sculpture of a man named Cyril Jackson. I have no idea who this man is, but I expect that he is Michael Jackson’s ancestor—for no reason other than he was sitting, and I’d heard that, from time to time, the King of Pop enjoyed a nice sit-down.
Finally, Dee, dazed, walked out of the living room. “You could almost see the owls flying in from the roof.”
The Student turned to me with a bewildered look on his face. I shrugged. It appeared that students in the sciences were no less prone to being kids than we in the humanities. “Here,” I said, pulling a chair over from a small table in the corner, “have a seat while you gather your senses.”
“Oh,” she said. “Thank you.” She sat down, still grinning.
“So,” I said. “How bout them Yankees?”
The Student blinked. “What?”
“The Yankees. They won the Series.”
“Ah.” The Student sniffed. “I presume you don’t like the Yankees.”
I shrugged. “I’m more of an Astros fan.”
“Houston? Why in God’s name would you like them? They’re terrible. I don’t watch baseball and I know they’re terrible.”
My nostrils flared. “Gotta support the team. Home team. For it’s root, root, root for the home team.”
The Student turned his head to one side. “What? You turning into Rain Man over there?”
“I was born in Houston. You have to support your home team.”
“Please, that’s bullshit. You’re free to go with whomever you want.”
“Well maybe I want to cheer for the Astros.”
“I repeat my earlier question: Why in God’s name would you want to support one of the consistently most disappointing teams in baseball?”
“Because I believe in a little thing called loyalty.”
“More like stupidity.”
“Why you—” I raised my fist in the air and Dee jumped between the two of us.
“Okay,” she said, “let’s go.”
I dropped my fist and nodded coolly at The Student.

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