Arriving…and that Aftermath: MFA Road Trip Days 2&3

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

The internet here isn’t very good at all. It’s spotty, and frankly sucks from time to time. Fortunately, there hasn’t been much time to really sit and wait for the little blue wheel to stop spinning and load the page. Things have been pretty non-stop here in quaint Ashland, OH since I arrived.

I awoke Saturday morning to see that the rain had followed me from North Carolina. Not buckets–at least not all the time–but certainly steady enough to be annoying. I woke earlier than I had to, but I really wasn’t looking forward to too many more hours in the Super 8, so I checked out and headed out to fuel up–the car and me. Gas was followed by a Tim Horton’s trip for morning donuts and coffee, which I lingered on, knowing I couldn’t really leave Columbus until 11, since check-in on campus didn’t open until noon.

Time properly killed, I hopped in my car and braved the weaving and winding treachery that was I-71N, before meandering off onto a side road or two and finding myself on the Ashland University campus. To be fair, the entrance was rather unassuming, but I was quickly able to find the Student Center, park and check-in. It took some time to navigate the stretch of College Street where my home-away-from-home was supposedly located; and in fact I passed by the building several times before I realized where I was supposed to go. Finding the place, I lugged my stuff inside and selected one of the beds. The apartment was smaller than I’d hoped, and not the 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom job I’d expected. Yessir, there are four grown men sharing one bathroom. This will be interesting, I’ve no doubt.

I met Scott first, who arrived after I had gone into town for lunch at a small, literal hole-in-the-wall pub. It’s his second summer and he’s in creative non-fiction. Very friendly guy. He let me follow him around for the last day or so while I got a feel for the place. Joe showed up a few hours later, a first-year poet like myself, who has been pretty quiet and to himself so far. Still a very nice guy. Doug showed up last, just a little before we were set to leave for the night’s dinner–and first official meet-and-greet with the program’s professors and fellow students–and he’s here defending his thesis in poetry and preparing to earn his degree. We’ve got a wide array of ages and backgrounds in this tiny place, but I think we’ll co-exist pretty well. Scott and I have already hit it off pretty well, and we hung out with a few people he met during the last summer at a local bar called O’Bryan’s, and then hung out in the apartment of our fellow students. Mostly I just listened to stories, but it was cool to feel like I was a part of the group already.

Sunday was a late start, especially compared to what I’m used to, as our first scheduled event (I’m living and dying by this schedule for the next two weeks, it seems) was new student orientation at 11am. Here the first-year students were explained how the program works and were overwhelmed by the sudden magnitude of what we’d gotten ourselves into. Make no mistake, there will be a lot of work to do over the next two years; and while I’m looking forward to the challenge, I’ve no doubt it will not be without its difficulties.

From there, we ate in the dining hall for lunch. The food here has been pretty good so far, which has been refreshing, with a pretty solid variety. It’s nice not to have to think about when and what I’ll eat. I just show up and eat what’s there. It’s one of those small things I miss from being in college the first time and that wasn’t a part of my MA program at UNCC, so I really appreciate being able to live this way, even if it’s only for two weeks. After lunch was a craft seminar, where we get to hear from various professors about various methods and concepts for writing. This first one felt long, but there were some ideas in there that I connected with. I think that as the days go by, I’ll start to get a better feel for the flow of the day, so this first one was tough. Once that was finished, Scott and I went over to the fitness center on campus and I got in some much needed training. I’ve been less diligent about my fitness in the last few weeks, so I’m hoping that I can get back on track while I’m here. Big news: new back squat PR of 300#!

Dinner was next, followed by a reading from one of the visiting writers on campus with us for the residency, Brian Doyle. I had never heard of him, so I had no idea what to expect, but he was phenomenal. He was very witty and an excellent speaker, although it wasn’t so much a reading as it was him talking and telling stories. I am definitely going to be buying some of his books and seeing how his voice comes through on the page (this concept fascinates me to no end).

And now here I am back in our little apartment with the pink tub and engaging with the world outside of central Ohio. I’m looking forward to launching into our classes/workshops tomorrow and really digging into the meat of the residency. I’ve met a bunch of interesting people so far, and am excited about who I’m going to continue to meet as the residency marches on. Mostly, I’m excited to see how I’m going to grow over these weeks, not just as a writer, but as a human being. I’ve no doubt there’s lots in store for me.

God bless,

Robert

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