Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NCUR (a novella)

This is a third-attempt at a Rashomon experience deep in the past of Angry Dissenter and myself. After reading my version, you can go read his version and be amused at how we recall a certain moment in our past.

I. Intro

Angry Dissenter and I have been in cahoots again about another Rashomon past. This one is kindof tricky because it takes place over about a week's worth of time during the National Conference of Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Instead of the two of us reliving one particular scene, we're going to write about the more memorable moments of our trip to Montana.

Because there were numerous stories to remember about our trip to Montana, I will pick my most prominent stories to relive. These stories will be separated and indexed for neatness.

II. Setting

Time: April, 2000. I'd just graduated from MTSU with my first degree in elementary education and have started a long year of prerequisits to get into the nursing program. It was my first semester taking all science-y and math-y courses, and the transition from the ed program into the land of finite sciences left me in tears most every night. I was taking 22 semester hours, including Microbiology with a lab, Chemistry with a lab, and other such things I've since repressed. The Hater and I had been dating for six months. He says he knew I was "the one", but I hadn't yet been convinced.

Place: Missoula, Montana. More specifically, the campus of the University of Montana. This was a small college town carved between a couple of mountains. Scenic, but not very exciting. We were forced to entertain ourselves.


MTSU payed all expenses for us to attend NCUR (link above), an undergraduate research conference. This was a great educational opportunity that was free to you, if the conference accepted your paper.

The Hater submitted an abstract based on a paper he had written about Middle East politics. I, however, spent an hour writing a smart-sounding abstract for a paper that I hadn't written yet. I used every three-syllable education buzzword that I could remember. I was really excited to find out that my abstract had been selected, too. Angry Dissenter used a paper he had written for his research class in Psychology, we think.

A total of 5 students, all of whom were members or former members of the MTSU Debate Team had abstracts selected for the conference. We prepared 10-15 minute presentations for our research papers to present and defend while we were there. Dr. Vicarage went with us, and we were looking forward to prentending we were smart and taking a mini-vacation at the university's dime, not to mention gaining resume fodder.

IV. Adventures in Adult Stores, with Gumbo

The Hater, Angry Dissenter, and I were at a loss of things to do in Missoula. After looking through the city welcome book we decided the only exciting thing there would be to do would be to hike a few miles across town to the adult bookstore. So one afternoon we did.

And then after we had spent about ten minutes walking around the store, the sky started to get darker and we wondered what we'd have for supper. While hiking back we happened across a hotel with an open restaurant, or so said the sign outside.

So we went inside and realized quickly that our budget wasn't ready for an entree from this place. We ended up getting soup and sandwiches (or something equally cheap). The Hater noticed that the hotel's specialty was gumbo, and then was sorely disappointed that it was worse than condensed chicken and rice soup. He continues to whine that there was no sausage or okra or "even a gumbo broth".

He had asked if it was spicy, to which they replied that it was, and cautioned him against ordering it. He says now that water was spicier than his soup. Maybe Montana wasn't the place to seek cajun cuisine.

V. The Hills are Alive (no, really, and they tried to kill us)

There's a mountain on campus with a big white "M" on it. (Really creative, I know.) At one point during our trip, Angry Dissenter, The Hater, and I decided that we needed to climb the mountain. Besides, we had seen other people running it with their dogs, so it couldn't be that hard, right?


Now is probably a good time to mention that this was my first experience with the rocky mountains-- as opposed to homey applachia. Wow. What impressed me most about Montana was that it would be flat, like Uglyhoma, and then zoom up to the sky out of the blue. If we had mountains, they had Mountains. Serious Mountains. Jaggedy-edged, snow-capped Mountains, and we were going to climb one like everyone else.

Almost, but not quite halfway up this particular mountain The Hater started slowing down. Then wheezing. This went on for about ten more minutes hiking up the mountain. At this point he announced that he has asthma and that his inhaler was in the hotel room, down the mountain and about a three-quarters of a mile away.

Angry Dissenter was in great running shape at the time; we figured it would take him about ten-fifteen minutes to run there and back, if pushes came to shoves ... which was really too long if we were shoving already. So we sat down where we were and took pictures as if we'd climbed all the way to the top. And after The Hater caught his breath we walked back down the mountain.

Indincentally, these were the best pictures that came out of our trip to Montana.

VI. Ghost Towns

Before we left for the trip to Montana, Dr. Vicarage called a series of meetings with all of us who were going to discuss aspects of the trip. The first meeting was called, to which we all came, and spent an hour deciding what we should talk about and when to plan the next meeting. The purpose of the first meeting was to plan the second meeting.

The second meeting started, and then we began discussing what would happen at the third meeting... at which point The Hater actually started talking about not having a third meeting to discuss what would happen at the fourth meeting and so on.

We all decided that, while in Montana, we should go find a ghost town. We had several to choose from. So while we were there, we decided to find one.

We drove around for a couple of hours looking for a ghost town. Eventually we came to a random bar, in the middle of nowhere, and went inside to seek directions. We were met by a handful of nonsocial, scary people, who told us we wouldn't be able to make it to any ghost town because the roads were snowed out.

But it was April, we noted, followed by scary, blank stares. Then silence.

We left the bar without any further directions, and ended up in a smaller town on Main Street. The other people in our caravan went nuts shopping in their junk "antique" stores, and they didn't think it was funny when Angry Dissenter mused that it was just like the same junk that could've been bought in Tennessee.

VII. Bears

Dr. Vicarage just knew that there would be bears everywhere when we went on this trip. While driving the van, he'd appoint people to look out the windows and be on bear-watching-duty. Every outing was an oppotunity to go bear hunting. Seeing a bear was his main goal for taking us on the trip.

Angry Dissenter really enjoied calling random false bear sightings, and I think he did it because Dr. Vicarage would get the same look as a puppy who wanted to go outside -- his ears perked up, his eyes got really big, and his whole head would dart back and forth, looking for the bear, all the while he was also fumbing for his camera. It was mischeviously cruel, but it never lost its punchline.

Look, a bear! ... Is that a bear at the woodline? ... Bear, 12:00!

I'm sad to report we never successfully saw a bear wandering around Montana. However, their airport had a stuffed bear behind glass. I did get a picture of everybod posing with that bear, since we couldn't find any others on the trip.

Dr. Vicarage was very disappointed.

VIII. Home, but not Safe

Dr. Vicarage was known in our circle for being an awful driver. Being someone rider in the car he was driving was a life-changing experience. One scene, while he was driving about 90 mph down a windy mountain, he asked "What are all of those crosses on the side of the road?"

Without thinking I answered, That's where people have died from driving recklessly on this road, Dr. Vicarage... I coulnd't believe he'd never seen the memorial crosses before.

But that wasn't all.

Then one morning we found surprise dents in the rental van. Dr. Vicarage said he knew nothing about them, even though he was the only one with the keys... We almost missed our flight out of Montana because Dr. Vicarage had to "straighten-up" the dent with the rental people.

Back in Nashville all we lacked was finding the keys to the university van... but they were lost, and we sat on top of luggage for over an hour while Dr. Vicarage looked for them.

The drive back to school was equally scary, as we dodged between semis and family vans. At one point Dr. Vicarage drove over speed bumps and railroad tracks without breaking, and we all bounced out of our seats -- and Angry Dissenter hit his head on the ceiling of the van -- and in his true fashion, a long string of never-heard bad words sprang together out of his mouth.

We were all tired; it had been a long week.


Angry Dissenter said...

I forgot about the ghose towns. Didn't we get sapphires or something at one of them?

And Vicarge had the bear thing coming to him . . . >:)

genderist said...

We did! And The Hater says they're too gaggy for us to have fixed into a ring or something...

Liz said...

That climb to the M can really kick your butt. I know, I've tried it many times, but what a great view once you get up there.