The plight of an aspiring funnyman

By Kyle Walton

Ryan Clay works nights. Five a week to be exact, 8-10 hours each depending on the amount of orders after 11 p.m. He’s good at his job, at least better than the two GMs who held it before him, an emotionally unstable and largely incompetent woman, and a heroin junkie who found himself in trouble with the law after being accused of making off with $30,000 of store money. Clay was promoted from lead delivery driver after that fiasco. So far, other than a “bogus DUI conviction where [he] wasn’t even high,” Clay has managed to avoid any enormous scandals.

One night, at the pizza shop, the doorbell rang, an overly drawn-out, “ding-ding-ding-DONG-ding, ding DONG, DING,” which indicated a customer had just entered. Clay whipped around to face him before joyously exclaiming, “Welcome to Domino’s!”

Later, he sat in the filing office jotting something down in a tattered yellow spiral notebook, the kind you’d find at Dollar Tree in the clearance bin.

“What do you think of this?” he said. He cleared his throat and held the blue and red scribbles in his right hand. I wondered as he read his sketch scripts, how it was that such a man found himself as the nightly manager of a franchise pizza shop. Surely, he had more potential in other areas that interested him. “We’re doing a news report,” Clay said. “I’m sitting there behind the desk in a suit and tie, but like, no pants because they’re supposed to be under the desk, but I

wasn’t informed that you could see my legs under the desk on camera, so the camera guy tells me. I act all embarrassed but then I just get really mad at the camera guy for rolling without telling me that. There’s this ridiculous fight where I just start throwing [stuff] at him, but the whole time I’m not wearing pants.”

An obnoxious buzzer rang. Clay threw on his apron, hurriedly tied its strings in a loose knot behind his back, and approached the cooking line. He glanced up at the order screen. He suddenly looked irritated.

He hurried into the walk-in refrigerator and emerged with a semi-frozen bag of pre-packed alfredo sauce. After snipping the edge of the bag with a pair of scissors, he wrung its contents into a plastic bottle.

“I was never supposed to be here, man,” he said. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t know what happened.” He screwed a plastic lid onto the bottle and rushed back to the front of the shop.

“I went to KU on an engineering scholarship, but it wasn’t for me, it made me miserable you know? Like, why should I care? Now I’m here,” Clay said, “Drugs happened, weed, coke, addies, you name it, alcohol especially.”

An hour passed before he began to run through his closing tasks. He scraped away at dried sauce and burnt cheese, recorded inventory on his clipboard, counted up the till and sent the computer

system through its daily shut-down. After mopping the floor, he exited through the shop’s back door and locked up. It was just past 1 a.m.

“You want to come to my place for a bit?” he asked as he jumped in his dented-up Pontiac Grand Prix and turned the key, once, twice, three times before it fired up. He lit a cigarette and slammed the door. “Follow me, I’m not far.”

We pulled onto a pitch-black side street and immediately started up a steep, winding hill. Our vehicles were surrounded by dense forest. We pulled onto a gravel lot near a small, one-floor home. A few broken-down cars, some pieces of plywood, some weathered tarps, and even a porcelain bathroom sink and bathtub filled with twigs and leaves, ornamented the yard.

Clay emerged from his car, his cigarette butt still planted between his thin lips and his yellow notebook in his right hand. He flicked his cigarette onto his sidewalk and stomped it out. “Come on in, man,” he said. “The only one here is our dog Rota. Don’t worry, she’s a total sweetheart.”

I entered the dimly lit home and immediately noticed the kitchen. It was nothing but a concrete floor, a shelf full of liquor, a strange mannequin dressed in what appeared to be World War II era military gear, and to my surprise, a dirt bike. The refrigerator next to the door had been layered in Krylon paint, allowing its surface to double as a chalkboard. Someone had been hard at work there, as it was decorated with a frightening, red-eyed, grim reaper illustration. The kitchen appliances were joined together by a yellow counter-top.

A brown and white Pitbull, having heard the door open, ran out. “Rota! How are you! It’s so good to see you.” Clay said. He patted, hugged, and kissed the densely muscled animal. “See, I told you she’s a sweetheart.”

I followed him down the hall and into his bedroom. Clothing and Domino’s boxes littered the floor.

He walked to his closest and slid open the doors. Inside it stood a wooden bookshelf so tall it nearly reached the ceiling, and it was as wide as the closet itself. It was completely filled with spiral notebooks, not all of them yellow, but most of them tattered. He slid tonight’s notebook into the shelf alongside the others.

“They’re all full of my stuff. Some of them stand-up routines, but most of them scripts for my sketch show, Ryan’s Realm.”

I was astounded to realize that at 27, having dropped out of school years ago, that Clay had been splitting his energy between managing a Domino’s and toiling away on countless comedic aspirations.

“Hopefully, as soon as I get all the equipment, I can start filming something,” Clay said, “I just hope I’ll have the time.”

Rock Band for a night

By Sarah-Lyn Subhan

It was Wednesday night and various gamers had once again gathered in the Multipurpose Room in the Student Union Building. Collectively, they are known as the Gamers of Kutztown University or GOKU, for short. Their meeting time was not scheduled to begin until 7 p.m., but most were already set up and playing by 6:45 p.m. People started to trickle in at the magic hour, but the turnout was significantly less than at the last meeting. It had been loud, lively and overwhelming, but tonight was the opposite. Maybe it was the stress of imminent finals that kept them home, or maybe it was the torrential downpour and fear for the safety of their electronic devices.

I had not been at the meeting long when the high pitch scream of a guitar filled the air. It swallowed the other soft sounds and drowned out the pouring rain beating down on the roof. A few heads turned towards the stage at the back of the small auditorium and then quickly lost interest. A college student sat in front of the one of the larger televisions in the room with a fake guitar in his hands. An audience of empty gray plastic chairs surrounded him. The player’s bright orange Aeropostale zip-up jacket stood out among the neutral backdrop of the room. He held the neck of the guitar in his right hand. His fingers rhythmically keyed the six different colored buttons on the neck as they appeared on the screen. His left hand held the guitar’s body where his thumb strummed a plastic switch. The buttons on the neck and the switch needed to be pressed simultaneously for the game to give credit for the action. The prerecorded crowd cheered as the song continued uninterrupted. The player in orange hardly ever missed a note. He was playing Rock Band.

He was soon joined on the second guitar by Colton, the manager of the Rock Band station, and another guy wearing a burgundy letterman jacket. He adjusted the microphone to accommodate his height, but he still needed to bend his knees. Pressing his mouth to the microphone, Letterman jacket began to sing the opening of “Sweet Child O’Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. His voice was low and pitchy. The lyrics of the song zipped across the top of the TV. Normal eyes could barely keep up with the constant flow of words, but not the singer. He did not stumble once.

I made myself a member of their audience as the song neared the end. “Where do we go now? No, no, no, no, no, no, sweet child of mine.” The audience in the game cheered. The game cut to a scene of the generic background characters in the back of limo buying fast food. It then cut back to the extensive list of available songs that could be played. The songs were organized alphabetically by song title.

The lineup switched. Colton left for another game and Letterman jacket took up the guitar. A new player entered the game- Leslie was short and had to adjust the microphone to its lowest height and even that was too high for her to reach when she sat. She scooted the seat as close to the microphone as she could. She took off her blue puffer coat and draped it across the back of her chair before picking a song. The other songs had allowed the guitar players a moment to adjust to the speed of the song. This one was different. The players jumped right into “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trashmen. “A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird…” The well-known and repetitive tune had everyone tapping their feet, but Leslie took the song to another level by pumping her arms up and down to the rhythm of the song. “Com-a ma mau papa com-a mau mau,” she sang with enviable confidence. When the song had ended, she went to join the Just Dance Competition. She would switch between the two stations for the rest of the night.

Another new player entered the game to play guitar. Of three modes he chose easy, however his skill level was beyond that. It soon became apparent that he could play with little effort. The band was now a guitar player short. While holding the guitar, Letterman jacket asked all within earshot, “Is anybody singing?” I declined, but reluctantly agreed to play a guitar. It was clunky and awkward to hold. Little did I know, I was holding it incorrectly the entire time. I could not count the years since I had last played, but the regret was immediately recognizable. There were more buttons on the neck than I had fingers for, and the width of the neck needed my entire hand to support it. This left my fingers in an uncomfortable, claw-like position.

Watching the other players carelessly hitting the buttons at the right moment made the game look easy. How difficult could it actually be? The answer became apparent as I struggled to press the buttons as they appeared on screen. If there was one button to be pressed, it was usually done at the correct time. If two were needed, I could usually only press one. Sometimes I was not able to press either. The songs I played required my complete attention, yet I still managed to play poorly. Luckily, our three scores were not combined into one final score.

My hand quickly started feeling the effect of the game. After three, tortuously long, three-minute songs, I had to hand the guitar over to another player. I was afraid that if I did not stop then, my hand would remain a claw forever. The other guitar player had been playing for twice as long without stopping. When I inquired about his resilience he shrugged and said, “You get used to it.” I was disappointed. I had wanted more practical advice.

After flying hot air balloons and confronting snake charmers, worldwide traveler now finds niche selling goods at SUB

By Sarah-Lyn Subhan

Visitors to the student union building go to the sluggish Bear’s Den Starbucks, the scarcely used information desk, ever-popular Cub Café and down the stairs to the all-encompassing bookstore. But on some days just after the information desk, and just before the stairs, a middle-aged man with short silver hair will sit with a table of colorful merchandise in front of him. Beside him might be a newspaper or two, a lunch box, and a thermos of coffee.

His intense blue eyes watch you carefully as you pass by, but he won’t speak unless you approach. Once you are in front of him, Scott Martin, the man behind the table, will undoubtedly try to sell you something.

The five-by-five tiled mosaics, the patterns of which he helps design, are produced in Pennsylvania. The most desired turquoise pattern design which he said is “Popular with the women.” He explained that Windex will keep the tiles clean. However, the other merchandise he imports from abroad. The beaded bracelets and belts, as well as small beaded animal keychains, he imports from India, Indonesia and Peru. He is also familiar with terms like “chunky” to describe a thicker and heavily beaded bracelet.

If asked about anything that he is not selling, he will look uncertain and confused, but then he will spill the rich history of his adventures.

Martin is an importer and the son of an importer. He used to import for a company before he became his own boss. He has been to many different countries: Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nepal, India, and Thailand are just a few. He doesn’t include Canada. Nepal is his favorite place because one day he could be in the jungle and the next, hiking the Himalayas.

He talked about the Himalayan Mountains. He described everything being clear. Reaching out with his hands, he described grabbing at the air and said that the clouds above the mountains were so close you could almost reach out and touch them.

As much as he loves Nepal, Peru has a special place in his heart as the first trip abroad he took with his wife. After his wife went home, Martin stayed in the jungle for two more weeks by himself.

He spoke of a time he went to India and was cornered by a snake charmer. He had no money to tip the man, but since neither understood what the other was saying the snake charmer assumed Martin was being cheap. The snake charmer commanded his snake to stare Martin down. Martin was yelling and begging for his traveling companion to lend him some money to which he only responded with laughter.

Not all of his adventures occurred abroad. In addition to being a world traveler, Martin was also a hot air balloon pilot for nearly 10 years. He entered and won races in Philadelphia and New

Jersey. His most exciting tale was from when he took his aunt on a seemingly innocent day, while up in the air, Martin’s balloon became unstable and he had to make an emergency landing in a prison yard. There the prisoners helped him bring the balloon to the ground. In an instant, police surrounded the outside of the prison and the inside, where the balloon had landed. Martin said that as he was trying to explain the situation to the police, his aunt was throwing out compliments. “She was standing there saying, ‘Oh, this is such a lovely prison.”

Regardless of where he is going, whether by plane or balloon, Martin is a traveler by trade. He said he’s going to keep traveling until he can’t walk anymore, and that he’s going to keep coming to Kutztown for as long as he can.

“I want to inspire students to travel,” he said.

The many worlds of Rohrbach Library, a living and breathing building that never sleeps

By Rachel Smith

1:55 p.m.

The library appears to be standing slightly taller today as the flurries fall furiously around its body. It is the Sunday before Thanksgiving break and Mother Nature has apparently decided that today would be an ideal day for the first snowfall of the season. The wind swirls the flurries in every direction, making it impossible not to feel the coolness of winter coming our way. I walk up towards the entrance and join the other six students who are waiting patiently to feel the warmth from within the library. A short brown-haired girl clasps her hands and brings them to her mouth in attempt to warm them; I wonder if it is helping. A sharp click suddenly comes from the front doors.

2:00 p.m.

Heads turn swiftly first, and then the bodies follow toward the sound while gliding to the entrance in one single motion. After a quick hello and a nod towards the reference librarian holding the front door open for me, I step into the library and make my way to the quiet zone on the second floor. Walking up the steps, I make a few glances around the main floor. It is obvious that everyone has decided to stay in and work on their assignments, rather than brave the drafty and snowy weather- a smart choice it seems. All of the tables and chairs in the section are open, making it incredibly easy to choose where to sit. I decide on a rather large, blue chair that looks incredibly enticing which happens to be facing the long, rectangular window with a wonderful view of the flurries coming down outside. Time moves by quickly and I am soon joined by two young men with their game faces on. They decide on a small table not too far from me, shake the snow off their jackets as they sit down and get right to their work. It does not take long before

small intimate whispers are exchanged between the them, making it difficult to understand their conversation even when I am sitting so close.

“Do you know when the big basketball game is?”

“I think it’s on Wednesday,” his friend replies skeptically as he continues to type frantically on his laptop’s keyboard.

The questioner gazes out the large window in front of him, taking in his friend’s response carefully. He sighs deeply before digging back into his work that is before him. I finish up the document that I am working and decide it is time for a cup of joe. After gathering up my things, I walk back downstairs towards the Book & Brew in the center of the main collection.

3:30 p.m.

The Book & Brew coffee shop offers a hot cup of joe, tasty and delicious treats and ready-to-go sandwiches to satisfy many students’ hunger needs. With a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, I walk over to the computer lab on the main floor and decide to spend some time between the groups of students that have walked in since the library has opened. There is a tall, blonde tech guy with his head inside of one of the printers; maybe it is a paper jam. A few students are beginning to gather around him, looking just as puzzled as he is.

“Sorry guys, it’ll just be another minute or so. I almost have it, I think,” the tech guy says with his head still inside the printer door.

I quickly catch one of the student’s eyes roll as the tech guy makes his statement. He catches my stare and turns his head away from the situation happening before him; obviously infuriated with the printer or perhaps the tech guy. After settling into a chair at one of the Lenovo desktops, I am welcomed by a surprisingly loud conversation happening across from me between a guy and a girl.

“Have you finished the assignment for O’Malley’s class yet? It was due on Friday,” the girl explains with a concerned look on her face.

He slowly turns his head towards her with a disapproving stare, “No Katelyn, I haven’t. I had like, four other things due that day and that didn’t make the cut. Plus, it’s only worth like, 10% of our final grade? It can’t be that important.”

Katelyn’s face falls as she turns and faces her computer screen. She does not answer him.

“Did you finish it?” he pushes.

“Yes, I did. I spent a lot of time on it. Unlike you, I need all of the points I can get,” she says with a sharp tone.

I shake my head disapprovingly as the conversation continues between the two. Is everyone starting to break down? There are still a few weeks left in the semester, I think to myself. One glance towards the printer tells me that the issue has not been resolved yet, and now it is starting to produce a strange clunking noise. There is a sudden rush of students coming from the entrance, all making their way towards the computer lab I am in; it is about to get busy in here. Soon they are sitting at their computers, typing on the keyboards like the world is ending tomorrow. I pause from my work for a moment to observe the panicked looks, the frantic sips of coffee in between typed sentences, and the deep sighs from those who have not started their work yet. The differences of the student’s preparedness for the last few weeks of the semester are always interesting to watch, especially with those who are like me and wait till the last minute to finish their work.

4:35 p.m.

After deciding it was time for a change in location, I head towards the staircase to the Curriculum Materials Center (CMC.) The large and spacious seating area on the ground floor is

inviting to large groups for friends to socialize and to catch up on the latest gossip around campus. About halfway down, a group of obnoxious voices suddenly appears, acting as one. They seem unaware of the volume at which they are speaking. I take my time as I pass by the “Greek” tables—what most of the other students know it as—and see that they have joined two tables together to create a massive one, and see what bits of conversation I can pick up from them.

“I had a month to do it, and I didn’t do it,” one girl says.

“Why hasn’t he texted me back yet? It’s been three days,” another cries.

“What’s the assignment supposed to look like? Am I doing it right?” one guy asks.

My head stays low as I make my way towards the CMC, pretending that I had not just been listening to their conversations. The CMC seems brighter than usual this afternoon, but maybe that is just because of my lack of sleep the night before. There are three students sitting at individual tables as I enter the area and take a seat by the Library Science Collection. It does not take long for me to realize how quiet it is today. Swift typing sounds come from one student across the room, while a hand of another student brushes against the paper that they are writing on. An older student quietly sips on his coffee, while staring at his laptop screen. The small bag beside him makes a loud crunch as he reaches his hand inside to grab a chip. I take out my laptop out of my bag in an attempt to finish my assignment before it starts getting dark out. A quick glance to the window shows signs that the day is already descending.

5:15 p.m.

The chip guy starts packing up his things, leaving me the only one left in the CMC. I rub my eyes and lift my arms above my head to stretch out my back. I do not need to know what time it is because my stomach starts to rumble. Just a few more adjustments on my assignment

and it will be complete. The evening supervisor passes by the table, says hello, and asks if I am leaving so soon.

“Yes, I just finished my assignment for tomorrow, and now it’s time to go home and eat,” I reply.

She nods in agreement and wishes me luck on my journey home. I trek up the all-too-familiar steps and exit the front doors. The Rohrbach Library is a beacon and a home for many on campus, and as the snow falls, it shows its strength and warmth to those who find shelter in it. The cloud nine library bubble that I was in suddenly pops, and I am back down on the ground, greeted by a gentle snowfall coming from the sky. I hold out my hand and breathe in the cool winter air that has welcomed its presence in Kutztown.

Protest and the City

By Shelby Slifer

Carly Butera steps foot in New York City. She has been there before, but this time it is for a different experience. In about four short hours, she will be seeing a play, “The Falsettos,” among of a group of classmates. While she has attended such an outing before, there is always a difference in each trip.

As she traverses through the concrete jungle, she goes with the flow of the city. The sky slowly begins to lose its light as the sun sets earlier. Fall lessens the time but not the energy. Just three and a half hours after she steps foot off the bus, she finds herself amid a commotion. It is confusion at first until the words become more and more clear. Caught off guard, she feels herself shoved away and nearly into a shop window. Seizing the moment, she unlocks the screen of her cellphone. Her thumb taps upon the Facebook application, soon finding her way to live so she can broadcast to her friends.

“F – – – white supremacists!”

“Hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Trump has got to go!”

“He is not my president,” the protestors chant. Simple, yet catchy. A snare drum sounded rat-a-tat in the background. She hears it all and finds herself cornered, unable to move from the spot she is in.

“For those of you who can hear me, I’m cornered on the streets from this,” Carly films away, unable to move as the line has barricaded her where she was.

“People, united…” their voices fade off as the Doppler effect takes hold, the sound waves of their voices drifting away as their feet carry them down the street. Carly keeps her phone on, recording moment by moment the events that are taking place.

“So that was a little, uh, scary, coming down the street. Um, I’m in the middle of Times Square and uh, people who are unhappy Trump is their president are coming down the street. They were chanting, they have signs. All this crazy stuff,” She continues to record. The camera flips back to her face, showcasing her serious look; eyes trained forward as she watches out in front of her to make sure that she does not bump into anyone.

“Um, I’m not saying these are my views, I’m literally just standing in the middle of Times Square and I happen to have my phone on and that’s what came down and cornered me into right next door where the white sign is,” Carly distances herself from the opinions of the protestors. While she is open to everyone’s views, she remains neutral. Where it is clear many care about Donald Trump winning the presidential race, she chooses to hope for the best. It does not matter to her who won, only that they will be successful. She wanders forward, reporting moment by moment as the crowd moves forward, passionate and filled with fire. Her heart pounds; the idea of mob mentality runs high. She is afraid but keeps wandering onward. The lights from the city dazzle brilliantly, glistening and hued in the drizzle.

The energy from NYC, this fire, is very unlike that back at home. At school, there is a somberness that took over, a quietness resonating from the core of shock that took over the campus. Most of the students and professors that morning before she left were wandering, seemingly still processing what had just happened in their country. The dismal atmosphere is reflected by the gray sky that looms above, threatening with rain as does later in the day. Just one hundred miles away, the people have taken that and collated this very same emotion into an outcry.

It is just half an hour later, 7:05 p.m. now, as she continues her journey through Times Square. During the three hours, she has explored the city and gone to visit a few wonders she

found in a shop or two; she is especially looking for Midtown Comics in search of comic issues with a Native American main character. Before long, there is a chorus of voices raised together in a chant. She recognizes the chorus with slight apprehension due to the fear she felt earlier. She reaches back for her phone to go back on live, recording the moment as a piece of history unfolds before her eyes once again. “Oh it’s happening again?” Carly rhetorically asks, having just braved through the other wall of people. The night has been rainy and an uncomfortable medium shifting between warm and chilly.

“Not my president!” A mixture of male and female voices fill the air of the already noisy streets.

“Is this a different one?” her brain searches aloud for answers as she watches on. Nearby by a loud bloop bloop jingles from a cop car as a warning to the protestors not to get out of line. Uniformed guards are on call nearby, ready to use whatever force necessary should the protest become violent. Unlike before, however, it is more calm.

“NYPD are keeping…bystanders. This is continuing to be a peaceful protest,” she explains the sound to her audience as she keeps filming. Her hands hold the camera steady, watching on through the lens as the crowd snakes through the streets with picket signs. Her own words get lost of the loud chant of the crowd.

“Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Donald Trump, go away.”

“A lot bigger than the one.”

“I’m not part of the protest. Standing in the middle of Times Square,” Carly reaffirms from earlier. She continues filming the train of people who are marching against the decision to elect Donald Trump as president.

With just about twenty minutes left until the doors open, she tracks her way back to the theater. Lights dazzle brilliantly, especially in the rain as the dim hue is reflected in the droplets. Bodies swarm around in the lively city. It is dark and getting later, but the spirit is as much alive as it was even when they had arrived earlier at 3 p.m.

Directly after the play, they will be on their way back, the two-hour commute, to their college. The electrifying energy of the city will dissolve back into the communal spirit of the college campus. On time, she meanders up to the familiar faces of her peers from the university. They jovially greet her beneath the underpass, glowing from the theater’s lights aside them. Dozens of others have (and continue to) file in, ready for the opening of the doors to get in to be seated for the play: “The Falsettos.” The city is much sweeter smelling at this part; no sewage wafting up through the graters. Outside of the Walter Kerr theater, they wait, tickets in hand.

With a benign deviousness etched into her features, she addresses her friends, talking about their time in the city up until this exact moment: “What are you talking about, I didn’t get into any trouble.”

Deep inside the Writing Center, tutors seek to improve work one word at a time

By Antaneyah Johnson

I entered the Writing Center.

There was a chalkboard that had their schedule in white colors mixed with dark blue and purple. Connected to that was the section titled “Today’s Tutors” where the names were posted below along with symbols of the cross, the Jewish symbol, and Yin and Yang.

At the desk, there was a young woman, looking earnestly at the computer. She had burgundy hair and wore black shirt and a skirt. Whether it was important documents or a homework assignment, I was not sure. She gave me a cold, piercing look and I shuttered.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

I took a deep breath and explained my situation, but I felt like I was blabbering when it came to covering the final story for class. The woman with the burgundy hair lifted her eyebrow, but she let me pass so that I could sit in the back.

There were four tables and two chairs. As I scanned the room, I watched two women sitting side by side. A laptop was placed in front of the student as they became immersed in the paper.

“And this, comma where,” the girl student said.

Meanwhile, the tutor with the burgundy hair was with a young male student. He came in not too long after I arrived, explaining to the woman with the burgundy hair that his professor

sent him for comma splices in his essay. She happily got up from the computer to help him. Now they were looking at the man’s paper. “Eighth and seventh you have to take tests,” the burgundy haired tutor said.

“Yeah, my dad told me that he had to take tests when he was young,” the male student said. “So maybe.”

Time continued on and the burgundy-haired tutor explained to him that the male student could create two sentences instead of one.

“So again, I can make two sentences?” the male student asked.

“A semi colon would replace a comma splice, so here this is a comma splice. So semicolons connect,” the burgundy tutor replied.

“So it really doesn’t matter if it’s a period or a semicolon, it connects?” the boy student said. She nodded.

As they continued their work, the piano coming from the music room began to slowly make the room vibrate. Simultaneously, the table with the second tutor and her student began to loudly chatter.

It is now 3:06 in the afternoon, and another male student entered. He clutched his laptop, bag swung over his back. He wore jeans, sneakers, a bright red/orange hat and a hoodie.

“May I help you?” the same woman with the burgundy hair asked.

The man said that this was his 3:30 and asked if he could wait here. The woman said yes, and briefly looked at me, before sitting in the third desk far away from me. Three tables filled, one to go.

At around 6 p.m. I went into the Writing Center, again. It was mostly the same, but for two new things that I noticed. On the far right, there was a microwave where the tutors could heat up their food. There was a different female student at the desk. This woman was in her early 20s and wore a pair of thin glasses and a ponytail. She also wore a light grey sweater and jeans. The second tutor was a tall male, with his dark brown hair combed to the left side of his face. Although he said hi to me, I could not help but notice the exotic tattoos that covered both of his arms. The image of a young woman wearing a wolf’s head was the most impressive out of all of them.

The female at the desk smiled warmly at me, and I explained my project again. This time, I was able to catch their names. The female tutor’s name was Christina Galdi and the male tutor’s name was Edward Probasco, but liked to be called “Eddie” for short. Gathering my things, I walked towards the table and sat down. I wanted to see what would happen for the next hour or so, due to it being both late at night and cold. However, a female student entered and after a few minutes of talking, went to one of the tables. Christina waited and followed to help her.

As the two women continued to talk before getting started, I noticed the female student taking out her work. Christina leaned closer to the student, looking at the work and made sure that she gave her all of her attention. Time passed and a male student entered. Eddie gave him a warm smile, quickly sitting up to make sure that he would get his full attention. Nonchalantly, he shrugged and went over to Eddie.

For the male student, it was about a poem that needed to be analyzed for Frank O’Hara.

“Yea maybe I should put this for there?” the male student asked. Eddie hummed.

“Um-you can do that,” Eddie said. “But, what I might think of is-this is just an example you don’t-because I think- …”

Meanwhile, Christina and the female student worked on a personal reflection paper.

“Get a higher level of education,” Christina said. “So then you can say in America-you know-because I wanted to get a higher education.”

“Doesn’t it seem that America,” the female student asked.

While trying to gather all of the information, suddenly a group of students walked past the Writing Center. Since the door remained open, the students’ voices from outside echoed throughout the room, causing a cacophony which continued until it eventually died down. After the female student left, I interviewed Christina Galdi. After she agreed, she walked back to the desk and sat on the chair, legs crossed.

“We have a Facebook page and info sessions,” Galdi explained. “Where the professors will have us come in and explain about the Writing Center. During midterms and finals, we will be in the library where we just do sessions because that’s where most of the kids will be during finals. So we do little things here and there to be like- ‘Hey we’re here guys,’ but there’s only so much we can do for people who don’t come.” Christina also explained that it was a great feeling wanting to help out students during their time of need. She believed that nobody started off as a great writer, and she wanted to do her best.

The same went for Eddie when he explained that helping students improving on their craft was the greatest feeling in the world. When he first got accepted into joining the Writing Center, he was ecstatic.

“I was super excited,” Eddie said. “I wanted to be a part of the Writing Center last year, so I really wanted to see what it was like. I remember I was working at my last job at the General Nutrition Center and I immediately told my boss ‘Well, I’m done!’” Then, he laughed.

KU student tries to unlock mystery of Fred the truck driver

By Jennifer Brown

I suspected Fred was lying to me. I saw him passing through the store like a phantom, behind the racks of wolf t-shirts and car chargers, and then he vanished, having either gone upstairs to the trucker’s lounge or into the dimly lit Huddle House restaurant. Fred had told me he would be leaving for Omaha, but he was still there, at the Flying J truck stop in Frystown, Pennsylvania.

Fred has the face of a sailor, like Popeye. His skin is pitted and rough, but his medium size, and slightly hunched back makes him more approachable. It is easy to envision him tossing fish into crates or gutting a big wet salmon upon his knee. But he’s not a fisherman or a sailor. He’s been an OTR Owner-Operator truck driver for the past 33 years. Or so he said.

A couple days earlier, I first approached Fred on my lunch break. He was sitting on a bench next to the back entrance, where the Huddle House employees often stand and smoke cigarettes. He barely let me finish explaining that I’m a cashier, but also a college student who needed to interview someone for a school assignment, when he blurted out, “You can interview me.”

He was leaning back, watching the sun go down into the horizon past the Big G Express and Conway trucks parked at Idle Air. He wore a navy blue t-shirt, well-fitted jeans, and white generic-brand sneakers. A baseball cap cast a shadow over his eyes, and his gray hair stuck out the back like broom bristles. I wanted to examine the logo on his

hat more closely, but didn’t yet have the courage. I noticed that there wasn’t a mark of dirt or motor oil on Fred, unlike other truck drivers.

“How ya doin’?” he said to everyone who passed by him and made eye contact.

I first asked Fred how he felt about being a truck driver.

“I hate it,” he said, as he continued to watch the trucks sail by like ships.

Fred told me he holds an M.A. in education.

“You’re gonna laugh,” he said. “I graduated from Boston College.”

After college, Fred said he taught physical education at Public School 38 in Queens, New York, where he grew up. It was 1968 and teachers only made $7,800 a year. So Fred decided to get his CDL and make the “big bucks.”

“My parents were ready to kill me,” he said.

He crossed his legs, and leaned towards me. He asked a cocky looking man in a backwards hat for a cigarette, and the man thought for a moment with a frown, and then handed him a smoke. With a grin and a Pall Mall 100 crunched between his toothless gums, Fred talked about the time he ate breakfast with Jennifer Lopez at a place in the Bronx, called Maglio’s.

“I asked if she wanted to go for a ride in my truck, but she said she already had a boyfriend,” Fred said. He moved to the edge of the bench and hung his head.

“It’s a very, very lonely job. All you do is smoke, drink coffee, and listen to the radio. It’s exciting and new, the first year, but then it gets old.”

He has two kids, 33-year-old twins named Jason and Jaime, who live in California and Ohio. He was sad to say that he often missed his kids’ sporting events when he was

on the road. His wife, who only went with him once because she couldn’t handle the need to be driving constantly, passed away nine years ago.

“She was a good lady,” he said as smoke poured out of his mouth.

He told me he had been working on finding another woman, but hasn’t had any luck.

A week after my first encounter with Fred, I ran into him on my way from the employee break room. He seemed to be standing in the center of the store, with no purpose. He was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and his face was covered with gray stubble. He asked me what grade I got on my paper, and I told him that I wasn’t sure yet.

“You’ll get an A,” he said. “And if not, I’ll smack your teacher around,” and with that he swept his hands across each other with a smacking sound.

The next evening, a Friday night, I got called into work. Again, I saw Fred, and I couldn’t help but to wonder – if he was telling the truth at all about anything I asked him, when did he actually work?

During my lunch break, Fred and I sat at a small table in front of Subway, surrounded by the perpetual sent of thawed-out lettuce and tomato. A chunky toddler laughed and ran in circles near our feet, and truckers as diverse as a wagon of squashes passed by as Fred greeted each one with a “How ya doin’?”

I knew I had to find out the truth about his trucking career, but I feared the mutual embarrassment if I caught him in a lie. I tried to ease into the topic, and I asked him what kind of things he hauled.

He was turned sideways in his chair, facing the heart of the store rather than me, with his arm up over the back of the chair.

“Little bit of everything. Whatever they give you.”

“What was the last thing you hauled?” I ask.

“Computer parts.”

“When and where was that?”

It took him a few moments to reply, and he folded his hands together as if he was praying, searching for the answer.

“Phoenix, Arizona,” he said. “The last week in September.”

I thought he had last gone to Omaha.

After a few moments of silence while I fiddled with my pen and struggled to think of a way to get Fred to be honest with me, he said, “Do you know what else I haul?”

I stopped chewing. “What’s that?”

He looked at me with his old blue eyes. “Prostitutes.”

I almost choked on my eggroll, and couldn’t help but to laugh. Then it seemed that I couldn’t stop laughing, I started to panic that I’d never stop, or that a piece of cabbage would lodge in my throat.

“Put that in there,” he continued, pointing a short finger at my notebook. “That’ll give you an A.”

He then told me that his favorite truck stop is in Dallas, where they have prostitutes that are midgets, but they have a hard time getting up in the truck. “You only have to pay half the price.”

He watched me, to see if I’d laugh. I laughed, but it sounded as forced as it felt, and I asked about his grown children, whom he only sees twice a year.

“I aggravate them, and then I leave.”

I finally asked him if his truck is in the lot, in hope that he’d invite me to take a look for the sake of my assignment. But he simply said that it is out there, and that was all. I told him that I’d like to see his truck, but that I didn’t want to be intrusive.

“I like that word,” he said. “Intrusive. That brought the college out of you.”

Later that night, Fred told me and the other cashier, that someone stole his PhilMor coffee mug, and I finally found the courage to look closely at his hat and I noticed that it said “High-Way Ministries” above a picture of a red truck with a cross on top of it. I asked him what it meant, and he told me that he supports drivers with problems — family problems, sex problems, prostitution problems.

Suddenly, it all clicked in my head – there is a Mobile Chapel permanently parked in the lot, near Idle Air. Fred said he is a “big christian,” that he is “very much into Christianity, ” and I had to think for a moment — is the Mobile Chapel Fred’s “truck”? Why did he lie to me all this time?

Before I could ask, Fred was gone. He returned about a half hour later with a brand new PhilMor mug in hand, claiming with a smile and heavy eyes, that the manager said he could have it. Seeing no other customers around, Fred used the opportunity to sing and dance in the empty space in front of the fuel desk. He leaned forward and snapped his fingers and bobbed his head while he sang, “I don’t remember what time it was…I don’t remember what day it was…” and he rocked back and forth to his a capella version of the song “More Today Than Yesterday.”

Something had caused Fred to dance in the middle of a truck stop as if he were in 1969, holding a joint in his hand instead of a plastic thermos. In that moment I watched him, not as if he were a trucker or a tall-tale-teller or an old lonely man, but as if he were

youth – pure, mischievous youth, and I was far from Omaha, far from Boston College, and far away from a cash register.

One KU writer’s quest to solve the mystery of Pow-Wow in Berks County

By Jennifer Brown

Alice remembered the time she was five years old and she bumped her arm into a hot iron. Her grandfather waved his hand over her arm and said something she couldn’t understand, something likely in Pennsylvania Dutch.

“It just got better,” said Alice, a local woman with puffy blonde hair, whom I spoke to while in Renninger’s Farmers’ Market.

At least fifty years had passed since Alice was a little girl with a burnt arm. She drank her iced tea in quick sips between words as if she had confessed something that had happened to her yesterday, something she was hesitant to reveal, yet proud of. It was magic that had healed her and she knew it.

Her grandfather was a Pow-Wow healer.

Patrick James Dugan wrote in his piece “The Origin and Practicion of Pow-Wow Among the Pennsylvania Germans,” which can be found at, that Pow-Wow is faith-healing, and that the Pow-Wow practitioner is “more closely allied with theology than medicine and feels he is a mediator between patient and God.” Although Pow-Wow, also known as braucherei, is rooted in Christianity, when I asked locals what they knew about it, they seemed to busy their hands with whatever they could, as if I had asked them about a dark secret.

Marilyn, an older woman who sells shoofly pies and other homemade desserts in the farmer’s market could only think of Native American pow-wows when I asked her if she’s ever heard of it. She sent me over to the Jehovah’s Witnesses table to speak to Norman, a man in a

muddy green suit and with the face of a game show host. He slid to the edge of his folding chair and rubbed his hands together when I asked him what he knew about pow-wow.

“Looking from a Bible’s point of view it would be witchcraft,” he said with a grave expression.

Yet, it seemed that everyone’s grandfather or grandmother had practiced pow-wow, or that they knew someone who had practiced it long ago.

“Let’s say someone’s hand hurts or something like that,” said Randy, Alice’s husband whose grandfather also practiced pow-wow, “someone would say some kind of words and it’s supposed to heal it…They would always say something you couldn’t understand.”

At Dietrich’s Meats, a woman with red-framed glasses in a Christmas apron told me the story of how her father was born weighing only three pounds back in 1935, and her grandmother, a pow-wow practitioner, saved him with herbs.

“There was always someone in the neighborhood who you would know and who’d get herbs and help heal you,” she said as she removed pineapple-shaped hunks of smoked meat from the countertop.

She suggested that I track down a woman name Jesse Tobin, who practices pow-wow and who owns a mushroom farm with her husband Matthew Sichler.

Jesse Tobin lives on Blue Rocks Road in Lenhartsville, which is about twelve miles northwest of KU. Jesse agreed to meet with me, but asked if I’d mind if she cleaned out her refrigerator during the interview, and she warned me that I’d be greeted by her pit-bull, Otis.

I feared that my 2000 Chevy Impala wouldn’t make it up the winding, rocky driveway that lead to Jesse’s house. It seemed that she lived at the very top of a mountain, with a driveway that felt to be at least a mile long, and I wondered how they survived during a blizzard.

When I finally reached the end of the driveway and parked my car, I first noticed a greenhouse-like structure with a pipe on its roof which blew puffs of smoke into the white sky to my left, and then I noticed Jesse’s home to my right – a cozy, log-cabin-styled home.

The step to the back door was a large, flat rock. After I tapped on the door, I heard Otis bark. When the door opened, I immediately held out my palm for Otis, and he sniffed it with his broad muzzle, his tail wagging, then soon looked past me to the more interesting world among the trees. He wore a bright orange vest which reminded me of a life jacket.

Jesse is in her early thirties and has long brown hair and glasses. She looked familiar to me, although I couldn’t think of a time or place I may have seen her before.

Upon entering her home, I was stunned by its rustic beauty. She and her husband had built the home from scrap materials, though it felt and looked like something that had been built over a hundred years ago.

I was standing in the kitchen, a room painted in different shades of green and lined with aged wooden cabinetry. The lighting was soft and dim like candlelight and made the space appear to be larger than it really was. In front of me was an old upright piano, and to my left an antique stove which was used as a space for thick loaves of bread and large jars filled with something orange; a working gas stove stood adjacent to it. The center island was topped with slate and covered with various shaped jars, bottles, and gourds. Cast iron skillets hung from heart-shaped hooks, which were nailed to a thick wooden beam. Jesse and Matthew had hit the beam with an ax to give it a weathered appearance.

For as long as Jesse could remember, she had always been interested in medicine men, witches, and fairies. When she found out that there was some sort of tradition in in her culture, she “jumped right in.”

Jesse had graduated from Kutztown High School in 1999 and then Prescott College in Arizona with a degree in the healing arts. After school, she decided to study Pow-Wow under Dennis Boyer, a man from Hereford Township and author of a book titled Once upon a Hex: a Spiritual Ecology of the Pennsylvania Germans.

According to Jesse, braucherei is a European version of Asian medicine, but it’s not just medicine, it’s magical theory. It’s a system of symbols. She waved her hands around as she told me how modern-day scholars of the tradition “whitewash it.”

“They want to take everything out of it that couldn’t be Christian,” she said.

Jesse stood across from me, with her coffee mug and a quart of half and half, and I watched her speak as I sat on a stool, Otis brushing past my legs like a furry shark now and then.

“White is water,” she said as she smacked her hand against the chalkboard tabletop. “Red is blood…is fire…is sanguine.” She again pounded her hand on the island, with a smile. “It’s hardwired. Those are our symbols.”

She pointed out that I was using symbols as I hurried to keep up with her in my notebook.

I told Jesse that the topic of powwow seemed to be a touchy subject when I asked around about it. It was a relief to finally find someone who was comfortable discussing Pow-Wow, whether it contained Christian elements or not.

“It’s always been a touchy subject,” she said. “It has been since it started. People were hard-lined against it since they got off the boat…Can they find pagan elements in it? Sure. I can find that in Christmas dinner.”

Jesse’s two-year-old son started to cry for noodles, so Jesse turned the knob to her gas stove, blew into the burner’s flame, and prepared to boil water in a saucepan.

“Some Christians embrace it, some don’t,” she said as she dumped the spiraled pasta into the boiling water.

Jesse’s son whipped the empty macaroni and cheese box to the floor and stomped his tiny feet.

“Sweetie, they’re not done yet,” she told him.

One example of a powwow ritual was taking a red string and measuring the height of a child with a disease like asthma, followed by throwing the string into a fire. When the child would grow to be past the height of the string, the asthma would go away.

After her son finished his plate of noodles, Jesse started to scrub the saucepan and other dishes with a blue sponge. The pale December light filtered through the window and danced with the steam rising from the hot sink water.

I asked her what she thought made Pow-Wow work.

“I don’t know,” she said with a shrug. “And I don’t care. If it’s a placebo effect, cool. They don’t have to take meds that’ll hurt their bodies. If there’s a god, cool. I just don’t care. If it works, it works.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “That’s my perspective.”

Jesse carried her son back upstairs to watch “Sesame Street.”

“Did you have some nice noodles?” she said to him, her voice trailing off around the corner.

When she returned a few moments later, she told me how her mentor Dennis believed it worked because of the Holy Spirit. Jesse tied her hair back into a bun.

“Even if the Holy Spirit turns out to be a bunch of electrons or subatomic particles that’s fine. I’m not the kind of person who gets hung up on titles or words. It’s more about intention.”