Spaces, Spaces Everywhere and Not a Spot to Park

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner bemoans the wrath that is brought upon him and his crew after he shoots the albatross that was circling around their boat. In the heat of the following days,their circumstances become dire and the mariner exclaims:

Water, water, every where,The Ancient Mariner

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

There are definitely times in each of our lives when we metaphorically shoot an albatross. We binge watch series on Netflix instead of study for a test. We pig out on ice cream instead of eating something that is actually healthy. We stay up late for no good reason and wake up groggy and irritable. Our actions have consequences. Sometimes we do something knowing wholeheartedly that it will bring ill fortune. We can’t escape the consequences of our actions. But, what if killing the albatross is the only option? What if there is no other way? Who should bear the brunt of the consequences? I am a strong believer that every man and woman is responsible for their actions and is therefore responsible for the consequences. While each person is, quoting poet William Ernest Henley, in a large part the “master[s] of [their] fate” and “captain[s] of [their] soul,” there are definitely times when the albatross has to go.

captain philips

My albatross was shot sometime around 1:00 this morning. I got to my apartment late last night. There is permit parking that is available to those who possess permits. And there is free street parking, which goes faster than a pack of gum in a middle school. Upon my arrival, all free street parking was taken. Each spot was occupied down to the trickiest parallel parking positions. Although the supply of free spots was exhausted, there were several permit spots still up for grabs. I had inquired about a parking tag before I moved in and felt pretty confident that I would be able to get one, but that was most definitely not the case. Knowing completely what I was getting myself into, I pulled up to a spot marked “Permit Parking Only.” I sat in my car for a while before taking my keys out of the ignition. “I know that parking here will result in me getting in trouble, but there is no other way.” I could empathize with the Ancient Mariner there was definitely water everywhere, but not a single drop that I could drink. I fell to the temptation of parking in the permit only parking without a permit. I went to bed and really didn’t think that much about it.

I woke up this morning and went to get something out of my car. While on my way to work this morning with a container of fried rice in one hand and my keys in the other, I discovered that my car had been booted. It wasn’t one of those cute boots you see on infants. It wouldn’t look cute in a family photo. My heart sank and I honestly heard the sound of metal hitting the blacktop. The yellow-black boot was utterly, unabashedly, and absolutely unfashionably preventing my vehicle from moving. I was a bit upset, but I did what I needed to do to get the boot off. I called the company’s very expensive shoe horn to remove the boot. I shot my albatross by staying out too late.

College towns are notorious for difficult parking customs and laws. I love when I am able to safely secure a spot for my 2003 Acura 3.2TL, or ODB as I call him. There is satisfaction in knowing that your car has a home. I understand how it feels when someone takes my spot in a parking lot, or when someone without a parking tag prevents me from parking. I’ve had nights when I’ve had to drive around for an hour looking for a spot at like midnight and managing to secure a spot a good mile away from my apartment. I have had to park in a neighborhood I’m not familiar with because some bonehead without a tag took my throne. The throne that I paid for, mind you. I get it during regular semesters. More people are around which means more cars. There is a high supply in students with cars and a very limited amount of parking spots. It’s basic economics. It makes money for both the apartment complex through selling stickers and the parking enforcement makes money through tickets, giving boots, and even impounding cars. People need money. It’s a part of life. But, I would have to argue that the summer is definitely different. There are less students. Less students equals less cars.The ratio of cars to parking spots changes as a result of graduations and move-outs.

The summer is a time of relaxation, recharging, and regeneration. There is no better time to get things in order than the summer. People drive down long coastal roads with the windows down blasting their favorite summer songs. Kids are out of school. Everyone is outside. It’s a happy time. Or at least it should be.

Getting booted, getting a ticket, or even getting impounded impedes the flow of happiness during a time when excitement and happiness abounds. Everyone should be happy. Even the institutions bend on cutting students’ pockets and dripping their debit cards dry enjoy happiness every once in a while. The happiness of both apartment complexes and parking police comes from siphoning students salaries. While this is both awful and outright unjust, there should be some way for tenants and tyrants to meet in the middle. I don’t suggest being more lenient during the leisure seasons. I’m not an advocate for anarchy. Order must be maintained, and laws must be abided by.

My plan to pursue both the purse of the parking police and the public interest will be fair to both parties. Impartial to all who own cars. I hereby propose the end-all solution to  automotive woes of students all over America.

With the institution of parking tickets, more and more people race to buy parking tags. It usually doesn’t cost that much, but due to limited parking in most college towns, these spots are finite. I feel like competition is very American. And I love America. So, the stakes should be higher when it comes to parking in a college town. Not only should the students be subject to the rules of having or not having a parking sticker, but everyone in town should be. It would create a friendly competition of who should lay claim to spots in the ever increasingly coveted car parks.
To make things interesting, each parking lot will be equipped with a keypad where each driver will input the current number of miles on their odometer for that particular day. If a car doesn’t have the requisite amount of miles, then the car cannot be parked in that spot. If drivers are able to get the needed amount of miles, then they will be granted access to the parking lot. No more parking stickers. Parking police will still be able to enforce parking laws, but instead of getting people for not being in the right spot, they will only be able to cite those who aren’t able to get a spot period. The police will be able to go around at midnight for 15 minutes and check who wasn’t able to find a spot. It will be like a giant game of musical chairs and hide and seek.

Along with this, to involve the whole community, drivers who are able to consistently drive the required amount of miles will be given discounts. Cheaper gas, cheaper tune ups, and maybe even coupons and VIP passes to restaurants. And for students, cheaper tuition and books. Sounds pretty nice, right?

With these incentives, there will also be penalties for those who aren’t able to find spots by midnight. If the parking police catch you driving past midnight still looking for a spot, they can get you and you have to pay a flat fine of $30, or a box of donuts for everyone in the car. You have to pay the fine before the sun rises that morning or else the fine is compounded. The money that is collected by the parking police will be used to build parking garages that adequately meet the needs of the community. Although this might lead to the creation of tribes and factions in the community and maybe even a civil war, it would definitely solve the parking problem. In a community like this, the albatross that we have to kill won’t be our paychecks. We’ll actually be saving money. The only albatross we would have to worry about is the OZone layer. Sure, by driving so much and using so much gas, we’d burn a hole right through the atmosphere. This might be a small sacrifice to make, but it’s definitely worth it. We might have a Mad Max: Fury Road situation on our hands if things get too out of control, but in the end if we are able to drive our cars enough to deserve a parking spot, we’ll be able to have a stress free summer, and sleep soundly at night knowing that in the morning, our cars will be safe, secure, and above all bootless.

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(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)

 

In T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” doubtful and insecure Mr. Prufrock contemplates whether he has any right to do anything in the universe especially with the presence of “a bald spot in the middle of [his] hair.” After mulling through his thoughts and the hypothetical thoughts of women regarding the pattern developing atop his head, he asks the question, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” For centuries, men (and sometimes even women) have dealt with the discomfort of the chroming of the dome. The falling of the hair follicles has been proclaimed as the demise of mankind’s capabilities of doing anything remotely cool. In an attempt to forgo the inevitability of the passing of one’s pompadour, many have resorted to covering their craniums with caps and combovers. Some succeed in securing the sensation of being seen as “not-the-guy-who-started-losing-hair”; while others flounder. Whether we like it or not, we are surrounded by Mr. Prufrocks; those whose loss likely leads them to question their quote-unquote confidence in themselves. Although there are definite drawbacks when it comes to the degradation of the dome, there are an equal amount of benefits to being bald. Through weighing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the quaint cue ball, we can see that there are numerous adages that can be said about those whose heads are hairless on top of “bald is beautiful.” And when considering the question Mr. Prufock proposes, it is imperative to understand that some of the most powerful men around lack luscious locks, yet they compensate this loss of locks with their actions.

The Bad of Being Bald

Before we get into the benefits of baldness, let us first address the negative aspects of the infamous glabrous life. The first folly of the depilated dome can be seen in the example of one of modern literature’s favorite knight errants, Don Quixote. In Miguel de Cervantes’ story of the legendary lancer Don Quixote, one of the first things that Cervantes mentions about Quixote is that he became mentally unbalanced because his brain was fried. Sunburns are bad. They hurt, they’re miserable, and they lead to peeling skin. Some people enjoy peeling skin, but no one likes when their skin is peeled. Imagine sunburning a shaven head. There’s no protective barrier between your skinhead and the violent UV rays from the sun. Baldness often leads to burnt brain, in the case of Quixote, which subsequently leads to Quixotic behavior and overall decaying of mental and ultimately physical faculties. If you are considering going chrome, I offer one piece of advice: don’t go outside when the sun’s out unless you’ve first slathered your head with the strongest sunscreen on the market, and capped your chrome with an adequate covering. Please take the necessary precautions.

Along with the prospect of brain burns, inherent with hairlessness is acquiring the title of “lucky friend” in addition to being the bald buddy. Every cohort of friends has at least one bald or balding friend. It’s essential. When the Jazz-Rockets game is close, luck (and even some prayers) is necessary. When the prayers have been offered, the next step is to go to the lucky bald friend. Everyone crowds the bald buddy and rubs his head. Not only is this practice weird, it is uncomfortable for all parties involved and is absolutely fruitless. One bald man tried rubbing his own head and this is what he said: “I rub my bald head all the time.. Don’t think it’s given me any luck .yet.” Another person said regarding the rubbing of a bald head, “eww i think its very strange if you rub a bald mans head you get good luck.i dont believe in that stuff.” Although this practice has been almost entirely devoid of fruition, some bald men had said that they rub their own heads for good luck and it works. One man declared, “I’m bald and I need to rub my own head for good luck!! lol!!” Rubbing a bald head may not be lucky for the rubber, but it might provide immense benefits to the lucky friend.

Benefits of Bald Spots

There are many reasons why being hairless is so heinous, but in actuality being glabrous is great and glamorous. You don’t ever have to worry about having a bad hair day. You can’t have bed head. You will never have to buy combs. You may still have to use shampoo and conditioner, but it’s totally your choice. And most of all, there are many successful bald men to keep you company in the event that your hair escapes your head.

Lex Luther. Former associate of Superman. He was a very successful business magnate and owner and creator of LexCorp, the incredibly lucrative aerospace engineering firm based in Metropolis. He made some of his most important life decisions immediately after losing his locks in a lab accident. Rather than moping around complaining about losing his hair, he took initiative and moved up in the world.

Walter White. Before he was Heisenberg, he had a full head of hair. This isn’t to say that men who manage to maintain their manes are less successful than those who fail to do so. Walter was a high school chemistry teacher, but it wasn’t until he got cancer that he unleashed his full potential. Although the hair loss came initially as a result of chemotherapy, he decides to keep his dome clean even after he goes into remission. As is so with Lex, Walter made himself into the man we know him as today after bic-ing his head. If it weren’t for his decision to shave his head, the crown he would later inherit as the meth kingpin of the Southwest region of the United states wouldn’t have been able to fit. He wouldn’t have made the decision to kill his rival and former boss Gustavo Fring. He wouldn’t have been able to earn sufficient funds to pay for his cancer treatments, and he wouldn’t have been as remembered as he currently is. Some say that being bald makes you blend in and get lost in the crowd. This is not so. Being bald makes people remember you even more. Once you make the choice to go chrome, people will remember your name and they will say it.

Thanos. Last on the list is one of the most powerful men in the universe. He hails from one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. Many people have been upset that the Russo Brother’s portrayal of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War isn’t true to the comics because Thanos is always shown wearing armor; particularly a helmet. Although some say that he doesn’t look as fierce as he would with a helmet or with armor, without the helmet he is able to accomplish his goal of showing what he calls “mercy” to the universe. Thanos considers Mr. Prufrock’s question, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” and answers with a resounding and universe-shaking “yes.” Of all the bald men listed, Thanos shows bald men can be successful and indeed have the commitment and drive to disturb the universe. He stands as a pillar of the band of bald brothers universally. His work ethic and commitment to a cause and his goals is definitely something to snap to.

So, whether you, or your friends suffer from acute or actual depilated dome, don’t worry too much. You’re in good company and you don’t have that much to fret about. Mr. Prufrock asks the questions, “Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?” and doesn’t give a straight answer. He states that “[he] shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.” He continues claiming that he “[hears] the mermaids singing each to each,” but he doesn’t “think they will sing for [him].” Rather than allowing the chroming of the dome to cripple your confidence, take courage in the fact that you can be successful like the aforementioned shaven yet highly outstanding men and make your mark and disturb the universe.

Frogs and Freytag’s Pyramid

What makes a story a story? Is it the characters? The plot? The lesson being taught? For something to be constituted as a story, does it have to have any of these elements? Some would say that a story is not a story without the “essentials.” Although I am a sucker for good and meaningful stories, I’d have to argue that a story doesn’t need to follow any sort of structure for it to be an enjoyable story with a moral at the end. To be completely real,in the moment, life, for example, sometimes doesn’t follow any sort of structure. We usually look back on experiences and are able to construct a narrative of what happened that most likely ends with us learning something from the experience. It isn’t until we look back that we are able to see the story. But, that discussion is for another day. To understand how a story that lack’s structure can still be a good story, we first have to understand what the structure is that most stories are built around.

Freytag’s Pyramid (Dramatic Structure)

First off, who is Freytag, and why did he make a pyramid?

freytporGustav Freytag (1816-1895) was a German author and playwright. Freytag states in his book Die Technik Das Dramas or Freytag’s Technique of the Drama: An Exposition of Dramatic Composition and Art (1863) that although Aristotle established laws regarding drama, and this includes literature as well, the rules that he made were over 2,000 years old and that the human race had “grown more than two thousand years older” (1). With humans being both older and more advanced in some ways, Freytag decided that it was high time that these rules went through a modification to fit with the times. He claims that the rules laid down by the Ancients like Aristotle were “limitation[s that] easily seem[ed] to us the death of free artistic creation.” He continues saying that “Never was a greater error” than such a system of restraints put upon storytelling (2).

So, Freytag did what anyone does that has a beef with the system. He changed it. Instead of continuing the use of a Greek sanctioned, mathematical, and mechanical set of rules, he ironically decided to change it out with his own semi-equation-like pyramid. I’m not mathematician, but this new system sure as hecks seems pretty geometric. All joking aside, this pyramid has served as the guidelines for many stories both on the stage and on the page. Think of your favorite movie, television show, or play. Let’s look at Freytag’s pyramid first to get a feel for what it’s all about.

freytag_pyramid

This structure sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I’ll throw a favorite movie of mine and we’ll see how it fits. Batman Begins.

Let’s start with the Exposition. Bruce Wayne goes to the theatre with his mom and dad. He is frightened by the bats in the play. We see that Bruce has a fear he needs to overcome. His parents decide to leave the theatre so that Bruce can feel safe. As they stroll through the wet, dark alleys of Gotham City, BAM! Inciting Incident #1 – Enter Mr. Joe Chill aka “the bad guy.” Chill attempts to rob the Waynes and fails to do so, so he shoots Thomas and Martha Wayne…  BAM! BAM!

batman_beginsBruce is left with a fear of bats, two dead parents, and a lot of heated anger toward Mr. Chill. Bruce, as an adult, decides to kill Chill once he gets out of prison. Someone else beats him to it. He runs away to Asia to join the League of Shadows. There he meets Ra’s al Ghul. Inciting Incident #2 – Bruce realizes that the League of Shadows is bad and that they want to destroy Gotham because they think Gotham is bad. Bruce Runs away and decides to overcome his fear of bats by building the Bat Cave. Rising Action – Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Shadows come to Gotham and try to destroy Gotham. Complication – Ra’s al Ghul burns down Bruce’s mansion. Bruce is upset. Climax – League of Shadows attempts to fill Gotham’s water supply with drugs that make people hallucinate and kill each other. With the help of Commissioner Gordon, Lucious, and Rachel, Bruce is able to locate Ra’s and attempts to stop him. They fight on a train. The rails are destroyed, the train crashes, the city is saved, and Ra’s al Ghul gets ghosted. Falling Action – the city needs to be fixed because of all the crazy chaos that the League insinuates. Bruce has to find a new house because his mansion is ashes. Resolution – Batman becomes the symbol of justice and safety that Gotham needs. Because of how popular Batman becomes, he gets a calling card from the Joker saying that he’d like to hang out sometime. Sequel? Fade to black. Credits.

So, most movies follow this pyramid in some way or another. If you want to test it, just plug in your favorite movie or television show and give it a whirl. But, what happens when this pyramid isn’t followed? Can the story be a good one? Or does this make the story not worth reading or watching. In some cases, a lack of structure can make a story less desirable, but in the case of Mark Twain’s 1865 short story The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County the lack of a central story and the apathy expressed by the narrator toward the only thing that resembles a story can help us see stories in a different light and recognize that not all stories need structure for them to be considered good stories.

jumping frogBeing a contemporary of Freytag, Twain was probably aware of this “new” dramatic structure. But, just like he always does, he tears it apart and shows how ridiculous it is. Twain was a master of his craft. His sharp and oftentimes stinging criticism, accompanied by his use of local and distinct dialects in his characters are among a few of the reasons why he is considered one of the greatest American authors of the 19th century. His fame and influence has survived well into the 21st century. This notoriety also comes from his breaking away from normal narratives of his time and becoming one of the leaders of American Realism in literature.

His amphibious tale does something that sets it apart from a lot of his other works. He takes Freytag’s Pyramid deconstructs it brick by brick. In this short story, Twain gives a personal narrative of how the narrator, in search of his friend’s friend Reverend Leonidas Smiley, is pranked into hearing the long winded legend of the Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County aka Dan’l Webster, as told by the tramp Simon Wheeler. After listening against his will to the story of a frog that “wanted [an] education, and could do ‘most anything,” the narrator realizes his mistake and takes his leave just before Mr. Jim Smiley is about to tell him about a “yaller one-eyed cow that didn’t have no tail, only jest a short stump like a bannanner” (104, 108). So, why is a story about a guy listening to a tramp tell story about a jumping frog worth reading? Well, the story inside the story (the one about the frog) and the narrator’s reaction to the story can help us understand how to see past a story and see real life.

The story itself has no real plot arc. The narrator gets tricked into listening to a pointless story and leaves disgruntled. But, the legend of Dan’l Webster the frog, although it ends in a very flat and unsatisfying way, follows some sort of structure. Exposition – Mr. Wheeler takes a very long time telling the narrator about Jim Smiley because he doesn’t know any Reverend Leonidas Smiley. He tells of how Jim Smiley is a betting man. Rising Action – Mr. Smiley finds a frog that can jump higher than any frog in the county. A stranger in the camp challenges Mr. Smiley’s frog to a contest to see who’s frog can jump the highest. Climax – The frog’s are primed to jump. Smiley fills Dan’l Webster “to the chin” with quail shot (don’t ask me why). Smiley and the stranger say “ready set go,” and… the stanger’s frog jumps while Resolution Dan’l Webster stays grounded. Mr. Smiley stands confounded as to why his frog didn’t jump. After dumping out the quail shots, old Dan’l Webster jumps like he did before. Smiley runs to challenge the stranger again, but isn’t able catch him. Although this story does follow the steps of Freytag’s Pyramid, it really doesn’t follow it in spirit. The resolution leaves the reader confused, a little upset, and like the narrator “lacking both time and inclination” to listen to any other stories.

The genius of this story is that it doesn’t need a story arc to be entertaining or to even present a thought provoking message to its readers. Twain, although a harsh critic of society and humans in general, shows the reality that sometimes stories don’t need to be structured to get their point across. Through subverting the structure of Freytag’s Pyramid, Twain helps us understand that sometimes life has little to no structure, even when we try to organize, plan, and prepare. When this is the case in our own lives, all we need to do is see the ridiculous “jumping frog” moments in our day and learn to laugh at the supposed structure and oftentimes lack thereof in life generally.