August 26th, 2008

The Zombie

Meanwhile, Back At The Mansion...

August 25 -  Life back at The Mansion was not what most would consider to be a typical college experience, but, then, the Joe Kubert School was an atypical college, so that makes sense.  Oh, some of it was to be expected, like the Great Window Open/Window Closed Roommate Debate, the Punk jam-band that loudly "practiced" all night long, and the whole "who has been eating my food from the communal fridge?" thing.  Other things, though, were very strange.  

Look!  A kitty!  That cat became both a source of comfort and omen of forboding for me...

Being that 1984-1985 was the first year of boarding students in The Mansion, some growing pains could be expected.  The most obvious "pain" was the lack of amenities.  There were just two toilets for all thirty or more students, and only three shower stalls in a joint shower room.  Hallways were poorly lit, and most rooms had only banks of blinky, epileptic-fit inducing overhead fluorescent lights.  There wasn't even furniture!  In spite of this, we were told that the entire first floor (minus the RA quarters) was open for us to set up drawing easels ONLY.  No "TV" room (no cable anyway), no community room, just "space" for easels.  Within a day or so, all corners of the few rooms were only about ten guys.  The rest of us had to find space in our dorms for workstations.  

My bed in our dorm room.  Not a lot of room in there, as you can see.
That's the edge of Dave's bed in the bottom right corner of the pic.

That worked for a while, but, for me, was soon counterproductive as first roommate Dave and I would always veer off into long discussions of comics rather than get anything done.  I knew that we each needed time alone so that we could finish assignments, not to mention to just have a little privacy.  Determined, I started searching The Mansion for hidden rooms or large closets or whatever, hoping to find a little corner of my own somewhere.  The only possibility was either the weird vintage "mini-Mansion" that had stood on the grounds since the original owners lived there (not a
real option, since it was little more than a playhouse or tool shed...but it was still cool), or the basement.  The thing was, well, that would take a lot of work.  For whatever reason, the basement had been literally filled, right up the stairway and everything, with junk.  I think that it happened when the school elements were removed to the new location, and some of it was just too broken or otherwise worthless to move, so it got tossed aside, eventually filling the cellar.  Of course, this was right at the time of a few lengthy garbage-collector strikes, so it's also possible that this was the only option.  Whatever it was, it was my only hope.  A little unauthorized probing determined that there were still working lights down there, and clearly a semi-finished room of some sort at the bottom of the stairs.  The next day, I asked Joe himself if he'd have any objection to me cleaning out - carving out - a workspace down there.  Shocked and bemused, he said "If you want to clean all of that up, be my guest!"  So, I bought some industrial-strength garbage bags, leather workgloves, and a worklight with a long cord and, after every night's homework (which generally took three to six hours to produce), I waded in.  As it turned out, very little of the garbage was actually "garbage."  Most of it was "stuff," like magazines, broken frames, newspapers, pieces of lamps, warped matting board, damaged furniture, and emptied boxes and other packaging.  Little by little, night after night, I made progress.  Best of all, as I worked, I began to find some pretty neat stuff.  I found several very nice, but loose, drawing desk tops, shelving, even old comics and photo reference files.  Again, I asked Joe if I could use, or just flat out have, whatever I found.  He said "We threw it out, so it's fair game.  Enjoy!"  Eventually, I had organized and/or cleaned out the entire basement.  It was much more extensive than I'd at first imagined.  That first "room" was basically a central hall from which several rooms spurred off.  To one side was what I called The Meter Room (and fans of the short-lived animated series Mission Hill will get a chuckle out of that, even though my Meter Room, which was filled with meters, electrical fuse boxes, and pipe junctions, came before theirs).  On the other side was a large, L-shaped room, one end of which which became my "studio."  It eventually became known, at least in part, as the mysterious Negative Zone.  Behind the stairs was a door to a very large, dinner-hall like space, which had an adjoining hallway/closet that led to a secret stairway and external exit.  I had thought about using the large room for my office, but, thinking of others, I proposed that it be used for all Mansion students.  If I had claimed that space as mine, none of the ensuing troubles would have started.  Instead, in that selfless decision, the seeds of my own doom were sowed!  More later.  Here is your next Joe Kubert School Upper-Classman During John's 1984-1985 School Year of The Day -  Jeffrey Bethune!