EXCHANGE AROUND THE POND BRANCHES OF LEARNING COAXING CATS BALANCING ACT ON THE TOWN ARTS UMASS GATHERINGS/ EXTENDED FAMILY GREAT SPORT NORTH 40 Third dream theme Still anxious after all these years UMass haunts my dreams. Twenty-eight years after I attended my last class, I still have three recurring dreams/nightmares. In the first dream, I am wandering a three-story building looking for my classroom. All the rooms are filled with students, although none are recognizable to me. I cannot find my classroom. I am sweating.      In the second one, I am in my dorm room looking for my course schedule. I cannot find it. I go to some sort of gray administration-type building, hoping somebody there has it. Nobody there will talk to me. I do not know what to do. I start to run out of the building but I can’t find the door. I am sweating.      In the third, I am lost in the textbook annex, looking for my books. Stacks and stacks of books surround me. Panic sets in as I discover I have not nearly enough money to buy them. I want to buy them, but I can’t. I am sweating.      Now, still sleepless after all these years, I may not be able to shake the first two dreams, but I think I have a chance to erase the third. I work at a newspaper near the campus, I have a credit card, I am financially stable. I’ll go back to the textbook annex, browse the stacks, and buy whatever I feel like.      I go there in the middle of the week and am allowed to roam the stacks by myself. I think this is great until I start browsing and begin to feel like I’m in one of my dreams again. Questions begin to bother me.      Two math titles jump out at me: Discrete Mathematics and its Application, (\$102 new), and Partial Differential Equations, (\$75 new). Why are they being discrete? Why are they offering only partial equations? What are they withholding from us?      I turn the corner and see another one, Mathematics: One of the Liberal Arts, (\$76.95 new). Really? A liberal art? Have they changed the rules?      I begin to sweat. But I soldier on, although the prices are also beginning to bother me.      I am drawn to Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, (\$89.35 new). On its cover is a drawing of a cat with an outstretched paw. Why? Is this cat real? And where’s its box? By looking at the cat, have I changed the nature of the book? Have I made the cost go up?      I begin to sweat. I shrug it off and soldier on.      And I see lower prices: Don’t Shoot the Dog! (\$12.95 new). Presentations of Self in Everyday Life (\$11.95 new). Making Ethical Decisions (\$6.95 new). I can afford these!      But I already know I shouldn’t shoot the dog. I already know how to present myself in everyday life. And how can such an important book as making ethical decisions cost only \$6.95? Am I doing the right thing by buying such a cheap book? I begin to sweat.      I keep walking the stacks. I pump myself up by telling myself if I can help publish a daily newspaper surely I can overcome my textbook anxiety.      Then I see it: How the News Makes Us Dumb. \$10.99 new.      The temperature seems to plummet. I cannot even sweat. I am falling. The stacks of books are tumbling on top of me. I am succumbing to the textbook horror.      But as darkness envelopes me, one last title catches my eye: Splendid Slippers: A Thousand Years of an Erotic Tradition. And only \$24.95 new!      I am saved. I reach for my credit card. I am happy. So happy, I decide I do not even need that textbook. I leave the annex, a bounce in my step if no books in my hand. I cannot wait to go to sleep tonight. – Lou Groccia ’73 [top of page]
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