Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 6)

imageAs it turned out, Mac was correct. The college on the common had no interest in running a rural outpost, they simply needed to keep the college on the hill on its feet while they made plans to strip it of all its usable parts. Colm was the perfect interim; his cantankerous approach to any issue proved to be a perfect diversion, his intermittent charm sufficient enough to assuage the curious, deflect the angry and unnerve the feint of heart. 

While overseeing the little college’s day to day operations, the death rattle eventually grew loud enough so that even Colm, who held out some hope that he might actually be named the college’s eighth president, had to concede that he’d been played. A reasonable man would have accepted the reality of the situation with some anger, but ultimately with a grudging acknowledgement that financial duplicity is now at the core of higher education. 

But Colm has never been a reasonable man.

And so Colm, Mac and Turdling decided to draw on the rebellious spirit that is at the heart of Vermont’s history. Like three dyspeptic Green Mountain boys, they decided to commit career suicide, designing and implementing a plan that would guarantee their expulsion from the louche fraternity of empty suits, timid academics and self-absorbed cabinet ministers who run the college on the common. Our heroes realized that they weren’t bound by any loyalty to an elite nursery school for the spawn of striving Babbitts (the college on the common), so they decided to act out of a devotion to the principles of the college on the hill (Mac), a belief in the importance of a liberal education (Turdling) and the desire to monkey fuck the fraudulent (Colm).

It all started with an email.

Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 5)

0E7FC7EA-6487-49E0-875A-6DB16C8DA1FDTurdling
I never should have come up here.
Colm
No-one asked you to make the trip, you decided to show up.
Turdling
You called me begging for supplies.
Colm
To drop them off, I told Mac you’d be good for that, I didn’t think you’d stick around.
Turdling
You thought I’d drive up here with your alcoholic care package and then, what, drive off?
Colm
I thought you’d fuck off to New Hampshire or something.
Turdling
(Pointing towards the window) You mean New Hampshire over there?
Mac
That’s funny/
Colm
Look, I’ve got a job to do here.
Turdling
I’d be happy to let you do it, but I’m stuck here now, no-one’s going anywhere.
Colm
We’re all aware of that.
Turdling 
OK, so I do have some experience in higher education, I could be a help, hell I went to a tiny New England college, I know the challenges here.
Mac
What tiny college?
Turdling
Bowdoin.
Mac
You think this place is like Bowdoin?
Turdling
Not exactly of course/
Mac
Not at all. Look, you two seem OK and being holed up with you for a few weeks isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever been sentenced to, but you really don’t have a clue what’s going on here do you?
Colm
What are you talking about?
Mac
This, the college, the plague, an empty campus.  Tell me something, don’t you think it’s a little curious that you read about your appointment before they’d talked to you about it?
Colm
The college is run like a start up security agency, I gave up trying to figure it out long ago.
Mac
Let me tell you something, you, and your friend because he’s trapped, are here to look after the trees now that the crops been picked. If they wanted someone to actually run the place they would have called a consulting firm, found a corporate ballbreaker with some higher ed experience and put them in place to clean house. No, they’re buying time. And that’s why you’re here.

A New Force Emerges

imageWhile the Colm/Mac/Turdling troika remains locked down in Vermont, a powerful figure has emerged in the negotiations to decide how the college will educate the young in the fall. The absence of a plague precedent, coupled with the enigmatic nature of the college’s president, created a vacuum of leadership, one that was quickly filled by  the College’s former VP for Branding Enforcement, Vestibule Plowden-Wardlow.

Vestibule, who seems to have a bottomless stash of statement glasses and matching shawls, is now the point person in a gang war involving parents who write checks, students who take out unrepayable loans, a faculty broken by Zoom and soulless administrators desperate to hang onto their pointless sinecures. As is the case with most bloated corporate entities, Vestibule has managed to fail upwards and was recently appointed Chancellor of De-Densification, a puzzling, empty title that, bizarrely, comes with a certain amount of power.

It’s now Vestibule’s job to figure out how to make the fall semester happen, and her first move was to hire her husband Bartolo’s educational consulting firm in a desperate attempt to keep negotiations from devolving into a 19th century south Asian border war. She presented her initial take on the semester in a Zoomapalooza late last week, fresh from her daily Bokwa workout, using a live shot of an ant farm as her background.  It didn’t go well.

Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 4)

 

Image1

In the upstairs office, Mac is seated at a table. He is banging something out on an ancient typewriter. Seated at the desk is Colm looking at a computer screen. Turdling is looking through a window on the far side of the office.  Mac types away for a minute, then stops, pulls the paper from the typewriter, and begins reading it over.

Colm

Please tell me that’s it with the typewriter.

Mac

Afraid not. I can finish this up downstairs if I’m really getting on your tits.

Colm

No, it’s all right, I just never thought I’d hear that sound ever again is all.

Turdling

(Pointing towards the window) Is that New Hampshire?

Mac

New Hampshire is east.

Turdling

So is that New Hampshire?

Colm

The fucking sun is setting.

Turdling

Yea, I see/

Colm

/Through the window, so that’s west, isn’t it.

Turdling

It was a question, remember there are no stupid questions.

Colm

There are lots of stupid fucking questions.

Mac, looking at the paper he just typed, begins to laugh, then:

Mac

This is going to be a long slog if you two are already going at it. We’ve only been together for three days.

Turdling

I never should have come up here.

Colm

No-one asked you to make the trip, you decided to show up.

Turdling

You called me begging for supplies.

Colm

To drop them off, I told Mac you’d be good for that, I didn’t think you’d stick around.

Turdling

You thought I’d drive up here with your alcoholic care package and then, what, drive off?

Colm

I thought you’d fuck off to New Hampshire or something.

Turdling

(Pointing towards the window) You mean New Hampshire over there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 3)

gander

It turns out Mac had a winding, eclectic career path.  A college hockey star in the 50s, he graduated and spent three seasons as a backup goalkeeper with the Providence Reds, a minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers.  His career peaked when he was called up to the parent club as a last minute replacement for the injured Gump Worsley.  Mac got a call in Providence, was told to get to New York and arrived four hours and two speeding tickets later only to be told that Gump had decided to wear a mask to protect his broken nose and would take to the ice after all.  Mac watched the game from the bench and was sent back to Providence the next day.

A knee injury put an end to his hockey career, so he moved to New York with a college pal into a $75 a month studio in the West Village. He planned to write a novel but after banging out a meandering hundred pages decided that his talents lay elsewhere.  A favour called in got him an interview at The Village Voice where he started out proofing the classified pages, loading trucks and covering the overnight desk.  He left after a few years, took a job with the New York Times, eventually becoming Chief of Correspondents, a job perfectly suited to his collegial nature.  He was adored by everyone, became a mentor to young, talented writers without an ivy league pedigree, especially if they were members of a group traditionally underrepresented in the newsroom.  He did this not because it was politically fashionable—it wasn’t at the time—but because his sturdy Quaker upbringing made it clear that it was the right thing to do.

After living and working in New York though the 60s and 70s he was  looking to start the next chapter of his life when a friend told him about the opening at the little college on the hill.  His appointment as the 5th president of the college was met with universal approval, and his tenure was legendary.  And now here I was, trapped with Mac and Colm—although I didn’t know it yet—in an old farmhouse on a hill in southern Vermont.

Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 2)

marlboro aralI made my way up the staircase and into Colm’s  office.  Colm, feet up on the desk, welcomed me to Vermont and introduced me to an older guy leaning against a column on the far side of the office.

Colm

I hope you haven’t arrived empty handed.

Turdling

Supplies are in the car.

Colm

Splendid.  A.E. this is Mac, he’s my. . . Have we come up with a title yet?

Mac

I was thinking Special Envoy has a nice ring.  Hugh MacLean, nice to meet you.

Turdling

Hugh.

Mac

Mac. Only my mother calls me Hugh.

Colm

They told me I could hire someone to help me run things.  Mac was the guy everyone recommended.

Turdling

What’s your connection to this place?

Mac

I used to sit at that desk.

Turdling

You were. . . Here, before?

Colm

Mac was the president of the college for 15 years, knows all about it. I had to work like hell to get him to take the job.

Mac

I haven’t actually accepted anything yet.

Colm

That’s a formality, you’re here, we’re working. . .

Mac

That’s a bit of a stretch.

 

Green Mountain Quarantine (Part 1)

Marlboro arielI arrived at the little college on the hill intending to visit Colm for a day or two, and to then head to New York for a week of recreational self abuse. Colm asked that I bring along a load of provisions, as: “everything worth having is an hour’s drive from this fucking place.” I remembered how vinegary Colm can get when deprived of favored food and drink,  so in a move that proved to be providential beyond all reckoning, I drove up to the college laden with jars of pickled onions, prosciutto stuffed jalapenos, olives, two bags of lemons, tins of herring, oysters and sardines, a case of National Bohemian beer, three baguettes wrapped in newspaper and enough gin and scotch to, well, keep from having to drive down the mountain for more gin and scotch any time soon.

The campus suggests a northern New England resort circa 1957: perfect little white clapboarded buildings with green trim, a large central building that looks like a converted barn—I learned that this is the dining hall—and a rambling farmhouse that is the nerve center of the college. In a text the day before Colm told me to look for the farmhouse and head upstairs to his second floor office.  No need to check in with anyone, the side door opens up to a flight of stairs, the office is at the top.

I stood in the visitor parking lot looking out over what seemed like all of southern Vermont and thought: I could get used to a place like this.

Colm is Now President

la-et-cm-endgame-play-review-20160502-snapAfter purchasing a floundering liberal arts college, you can read about it starting here, our college made a series of curious decisions, not the least of which was appointing Colm as the interim president of their new acquisition.  Our president made the announcement of Colm’s investiture through his YouTube channel, his sonorous voice backed by muffled EDM beats.  Mention was made of Colm’s history with the college and his “dynamic leadership style.”  Then, inexplicably, the president recited some Tennyson, spit a few Eminem lyrics, and closed with what sounded like muffled drumming.  It was unclear if this was electronically generated or if the president was simply moved to a percussive coda. All of this was news to Colm, who heard about it from me when I ran into him on Tremont St.

Turdling

Congratulations Mr. President.

Colm

What?

Turdling

The new gig.

Colm

What the fuck are you talking about?

Turdling

You’re kidding me, right?

Colm

Be clear/

Turdling

/I just watched a presidential dance mix on YouTube announcing you as the interim president of that little college on the hill.

Colm

I said I’d think about it, I didn’t say yes.

Turdling

Well it’s done now.

Colm

Jesus.

At this point I should probably make it clear that the announcement of Colm’s ascendency came in mid January, back when the world was green.  A series of hasty, ill-considered decisions led to Colm finding himself in Vermont at precisely the wrong time, and he has been trapped here, quarantined, since mid March.  I say trapped here because  in a move of stunningly bad timing I showed up for a visit two days before the entire eastern seaboard became a no fly zone.  So here we are, “two shaggy punters,” to quote Colm, trapped at an abandoned college with a skeleton crew of support staff.

 

 

 

“Hey Colm, We Bought a College!” (Part 5)

tree

Turdling

Just because we bought a college doesn’t mean we should keep it.

Colm

I don’t know, there are a lot of creative uses for an empty college, and this one, Christ, it’s perfect.

Turdling

For what?

Colm

I don’t know exactly, but think about it, a woodsy enclave, clapboarded yurts, a pond. It’s a Robert Frost wet dream.

Turdling

You’re not suggesting that we keep it open are you?

Colm

Might not be such a bad idea.

Turdling

We’re not going to oversee operations of a nearly bankrupt college in Vermont.

Colm

Don’t be too certain, it’d be an ideal place to banish tenured deadwood. Imagine if we shipped off The Poet to a northern sinecure and freed up space here for actual human teachers.

Turdling

You know, that’s not a bad idea.

Colm

It’s a fucking great idea.  Send The Poet, Vestibule, a brace of anxiety dogs and all the fucking useless, suited twats who infest this place to the north woods. It’d be a remake of The Shining by February.

 Turdling

I’m not sure that would attract many students.

Colm

Then make it a work release opportunity for semi-violent felons, a medium security college. They get a taste of the classics, no fences, just modest detention with peacocks roaming the perimeter.

Turdling

It’s Vermont.

Colm

We’ll breed a hardier strain.  I think this is something we should propose.

 

 

 

 

“Hey Colm, We bought a College!” (Part 4)

robotTurdling

So that’s it, we own a college?

Colm

Yes.

Turdling

It doesn’t seem like something that should happen.

Colm

It was a desperation move on their part, an attempt to remain viable.

Turdling

As a college?

Colm

Yes, otherwise they’re in the shitter.

Turdling

It’s strange though, to think of a college as a commodity.

Colm

Have you been paying attention?

Turdling

To what?

Colm

To the reality of the way colleges are forced to operate these days.

Turdling

I’m not unaware/

Colm

/Ahhh, so you are aware.

Turdling

Yes, but I’m a college professor, the financial side of things isn’t interesting to me.

Colm

That’s pretty clear.

Turdling

Come on, who gives a shit really, I mean, that’s not why we do this.

Colm

That’s true Lochinvar, but you can’t be above this sort of shit, not anymore. There are fewer bodies available, that is the demographic reality, and the ones who are out there aren’t reading the Romantic poets for four years, they’re banking on a degree in digital animal husbandry. These sorts of colleges are finding themselves well fucked.

Turdling

OK, so what’s in it for us, financially, if that’s all it is.

Colm

Among other things, the leavings of their endowment.

Turdling

It can’t be that much.

Colm

It isn’t, but it’s enough to help finance our insatiable hunger for local real estate.

Turdling

So part of our focus is ratfucking tenants out of downtown office space so we can move in?

Colm

It always has been.

Turdling

With the meager holdings of a nearly bankrupt art college.

Colm

You’re missing several key points dear.  First off, they are a liberal arts college, we are an art college.

Turdling

The difference being what?

Colm

They have a long-standing commitment to intellectual inquiry, we teach off brand marketing to the sullen embryos of suburban twats, there’s an enormous difference.