John Belushi in "Animal House"
Two things happened recently: I turned 30, and a University of Iowa teaching assistant accidentally emailed pornographic pictures of herself and her boyfriend to her class.
I bring this up only because Chicago and I are on a friends-with-benefits basis for the next year while I'm at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, taking classes and teaching. So when news broke of a TA emailing students amateur porn shots, basically everyone I knew texted me to see if I'd gotten fired.
"Stephen, you know the Internet is not the place for that sort of behavior. —Love, Grandma"
No, people. That was not me. I'm also not Iowa's other famous instant Gawker headline-creator, @vodka_samm, who got arrested for running onto the field during a football game and blew a .314 on her Breathalyzer test, which Gary Busey's fermenting corpse couldn't manage.
Turning 30 just when I stepped back into this madness has created an interesting situation. On the one hand, I never thought I'd be 30. The first RedEye I ever picked up when I moved to Chicago had a Page 4 column by some guy whining about being 30, and I was like, "Bwaha! Screw that guy. Suck on some dentures with all the other 30-year-olds, you Walter Matthau-looking punk-ass. Who turns 30? Eat a Cialis, 'Mummy Returns.'"
Then it happened to me.
Yet even as I basically lived my life like I never left undergrad, now I'm actually spending much of my time at the paragon of the debauched Midwest university campus, the No. 1 party school in the nation (according to the frat boy who puked on the sidewalk outside my apartment). My entire program depends on me showing up at this bar, the Fox Head, after class on Tuesdays and crushing PBRs till closing. I mean these 22-year-olds at SpoCo aren't going to make out with themselves, for God's sake! They need my help.
While my friends get married, have children, buy houses, get life insurance, start retirement accounts, run for public office and learn how to prepare meals other than microwavable hot dogs, I have embarked upon a state of arrested development so profoundly all-encompassing that I sleepwalk to the backyard in the middle of the night and begin drinking cheap beer, throwing cinder blocks over my head and calling to the imaginary friends around me, "Bro! That was a great cinder block throw, bro."
That's why I couldn't do the typical, obligatory, "Oh God, I'm 30, but hey, it's actually pretty cool to be 30 because I'm wiser and have gained great perspective on life and love" column.
I have gained no perspective. I am not wise.
Examining the controversial definitional problems of world literature, the inconsistencies of apolitical aid programs filling the humanitarian vacuum after a transnational disaster and mastering the craft of producing fiction for the psychologically sophisticated reader must only be the beginning. I must find a prestigious, historic program that produces masters and giants. What I really need is a cohort of serious, like-minded people intent on perfecting their skillset and networking with some of the finest intellects in their field.
It's decided. Next week, I rush Sig Chi.
RedEye special contributor Stephen Markley is the author of "The Great Dysmorphia" and "Publish This Book."
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