So, I was at the bookstore yesterday, one of those chain stores with a coffee bar and multiple levels, just minding my own when I heard someone say: "How Old School are you?" I realized that this remark must have been addressed to me, since I was wearing a tee-shirt bearing the slogan: That's Right! I'm Old School! I turned to find a female, draped in violet velvets and such, sitting in a chair near the literature and poetry sections. She squinted through her cat-eye glasses and repeated the question. Having never been a fan of small talk with strangers, I mumbled a half-hearted response. "Old enough."
"I ask," she continued. "Because as a graduate student..." She went on about the ignorance of her youthful classmates, dismayed that there are aspiring filmmakers who have never heard of Frank Capra. I told her that I was no longer in school and I only bought the shirt because I'm cheap and I shop at Target. We discovered that we were both born the same year. She continued to talk to me for several minutes, about the nature of knowledge and other things. She bragged that she had read Chaucer at eleven years old. In short, she was a typical academic type, thinking she had found a kindred spirit. She had not. I basically dropped out of college to study drug addiction and performance art, full time. I learned a lot, but I lost more than I gained. I do treasure the academic friends I have, especially the ones who appreciate the fact that I am, for the most part, self-taught. But I was in no mood to bond over Shakespeare with this woman. She saw that I was on my way out of the conversation and decided to end it with a "quick joke".
"Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.... The bartender looks at him and asks: Olive or Twist?" My eyes widened and I forced a chuckle from my lungs. Like Nancy Spungeon, I didn't want to live in a universe where that is considered funny. Or maybe I just don't get it... Regardless, I walked away, thanking her for the chat and continued my shopping. I ended up buying Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski. I try to read as much as possible, but not so much that I might end up telling crappy jokes to strangers at the local bookstore. Sometimes, I regret my unfortunate education. But it's like I tell my parole officer, "It's my life, don't you forget...."