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Mario Weddell

(Illustration Mario Weddell/The Observer; Paul Schmid/Seattle Times/MCT)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: May 7, 2012

It’s tough to dump someone. I’ve handed out my share of unhappy endings—I am a masseuse of misery. I’ve had tearful, sobbing breakups and screaming, hour-long ragers. I’ve done the measured-tones, apologetic breakup, and the silent, unofficial, time-has-passed-us-by breakup. I even had that embarrassing text message breakup years ago, when I received a message that read, “Are you going to dump me?” after she kissed someone else, and I learned that being honest and direct was the only way to make things final.

I texted her back, “Well, yeah.” Things weren’t going well anyway.

With years of experience on my résumé, I’ve realized breakups follow a pattern. My split this weekend was no different. Still, I was unprepared, because this time, I had to dump an apartment broker. And it wasn’t easy. Somehow, I figured a realtor would be better at coming to terms with reality, but the only thing real was his desperation to save our relationship: namely, his desire to have me (and my roommates) rent his apartment.

Our appointment was at noon, in Brooklyn. The roommates and I (who I will now just refer to as “I,” for clarity) stood outside the building for several minutes, waiting for the realtor (who I’ll now dub “Weepy”) to show us the four-bedroom apartment. But no one was there.

I called Weepy. No response—the first inklings of a shady lover, no longer gung-ho about maintaining constant communication. Okay. I would wait.

More minutes passed. I called twice more, and still he did not answer. I paced a bit, mentally. Had I been stood up? Maybe it was time to give up and leave.

It echoed those first weeks of doubt in a dying relationship. I knew I should end it, but the hope that things would get better kept me frozen. Finally, the harsh reality presented itself, in the form of a mustachioed tenant taking out the trash.

“Hey,” Mustachio said to us. “Are you looking at the upstairs apartment? Just so you know, the landlady is a crazy bitch. The worst landlady I’ve ever had. That’s why I’m leaving, and that’s why the first-floor tenant is leaving.”

That settled it. I had spent enough time waiting for Weepy to show me he cared, he was a bad communicator and my mother-in-law was going to make our marriage awful if we ever got to that point, anyway. I walked away.

Five minutes later, Weepy called me. He begged me to come back. I told him I had waited 20 minutes, and I had other appointments; there were bigger fish in the sea, I could do better. Sorry, thanks for your time, Weepy, and have a nice weekend. He understood, and wished me well.

A clean break. You finally catch your breath after you drop the bomb and think it’s over. But after the split, there are still the passive-aggressive arguments and the active-aggressive comments that keep it going—the radiation after the bomb.

Five minutes later, a text message from Weepy was buzzing on my phone.

“Mario Thanks for wasting my time I came all the way from queens to meet u and I was here at noon exactly there was no one outside so I went 2blocks away and u couldn’t wait??????!!!”

There it was—the desperation, the anger and the spiteful disbelief that I could be so cruel. How could I throw away everything we had together? Did our email thread mean nothing?

And, in typical heartbreaker fashion, I tried to keep things rational and mature. I had to keep emotions out of it, and I had to resist the urge to point out his hypocrisy (he expected me to wait 20 minutes, but couldn’t wait until 12:02 before wandering off). So I texted him back, to keep things cordial.

“Our intention wasn’t to waste your time. Sorry. I called 3 times to no response, and you could have called me. You got my number via email.”

So there it was. And I believed that would be the end. As one always believes, in naïve foolishness. But Weepy replied minutes later.

“I didn’t have it with me but I was talking with the tenant when you called U could leave me a message let me know that you’re leaving I was there at noon and u probably came few min after I was few blocks down Bedford,” explained Weepy.

It was the “you-led-me-on” response. I should have given him an indication that things were not working out. I should have told him how I felt at the beginning, so this would not feel so abrupt. How could he have known if there were no signs?

But of course there were signs. I had tried reaching out to him. When I tried to broach the topic, he was distant. He was unresponsive. So now, after trying too hard for too long, my decision was final. I had to be blunt with Weepy.

“Your lack of an apology affirms our decision to not do business with you. I don’t know what else to tell you other than this response was not appropriate. We felt we wasted our time too, and I already apologized to you. Why would you want tenants like us, anyway?”

It was a classic response, to tell Weepy that it never would have worked out, anyway. If he couldn’t handle a five-second breakup, how could he ever handle a lease-long commitment? And if I was such a terrible person, he should be glad we weren’t together.

Almost an hour later, Weepy pulled himself together long enough to send a short and sweet message.

“Well let me km now if u still want to see it It’s ok,” he replied. He was forgiving me. He was in denial. Maybe we could give it another shot, once I realized I needed him.

So, following the pattern of breakups, I didn’t respond. Maybe one day, time would heal our wounds, but not now; we were damaged goods. He had to move on, and I wasn’t helping by constantly responding. I cut him out.

And then, a day later, I met someone else.

He has an apartment in Harlem I’d like to rent.

(Mario Weddell/The Observer)
Mario will leave Fordham with an undergraduate degree and four years’ worth of captivating stories to share. (Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: May 2, 2012

After four years of college, I’ve learned some things.

I know that wasn’t a groundbreaking first sentence, but years from now we’ll probably see that on a university brochure somewhere. It’s definitely a selling point. In these four years, I learned a little about myself, a bit about other people, many Wikipedia facts and nothing about sleep. Mostly I’ve learned that I want to slow down.

Throughout high school, I was the pedal-to-the-metal guy who had his morning commute calculated down to the millisecond. I preferred to eat fast, drive fast and walk fast. I did everything fast.

If I gave myself too much time to relax, I got in trouble. I was the guy who couldn’t show up to class too early or he would stick all the teacher’s pencils in the ceiling before she arrived. I was the kid who finished his assignment too fast, then snuck into the student activities office when no one was looking and created a huge poster commemorating himself as the “Student of the Day.” I was bored. So I preferred running late because that never gave me enough time to do anything stupid. At least that’s what I tell myself, since mostly I just never got enough sleep to be on time.

But now, I hate rushing. Sometimes when I’m behind schedule, running down the street, I pray that a bus will graze me. Not tragically, just enough to give me an excuse to take an hour-long detour through Central Park, and still seem like a hero for showing up late. I value time more now.

I’ve learned that I like talking to people who are older than me. I never used to take the time to actually listen to someone. I engaged in conversations the same way that people order food for delivery. It didn’t really occur to me until a few years ago that professors are just older students, and parents are just children who have children. I know that may seem obvious to some people, but it came as a shock to me.

All the best conversations I’ve had in New York have involved older people who had some knowledge to share. I remember the night my friends and I met a Quaker on the sidewalk who explained why an “Irish coffee, no coffee” was the best drink to order when going to a new bar. He also explained that Viagra was great for men over 50, because now he could make his wife un-mad at him again when they argued. He told us that getting old is great because nobody remembers what is true anymore, so lying gets easier.

I’ve learned a bit about relationships. Despite this high-octane world of short-lived romances we think we live in, everybody still wants to feel special. I have friends who think that getting with a stranger at a party is the most exhilarating thing that could happen to them, but nobody ever seems too proud when that does happen.

Maybe we’re afraid of intensity. We like to imagine that velocity and intensity mean the same thing in this world, but they don’t. There’s a reason epic film moments occur in slow motion. Few things are more intense than fully experiencing all the moments in a measure of time. Really getting to know someone is scary. It’s exhilarating, too.

I’ve realized that the idea of success in New York is different from everywhere else. Here, we picture success in extremes. You have to be the best at something. Everywhere else I’ve been, success just meant moving to New York.

I’m not very good at saying goodbye. I usually end phone conversations by saying, “I’m going to hang up now.” At parties I bounce between groups of people, quietly moving on to the next group when I’ve run out of things to say. Then I can tell the same stories and hope nobody from the first group notices.

I’m saying goodbye now, but I haven’t run out of things to say.

The swanky Bowery Poetry Club & Café is one of New York’s hidden treasures. Patrons can see live music and poetry readings on the club’s stage and enjoy coffee and drinks. (Sofia Alvarez/The Observer)
The swanky Bowery Poetry Club & Café is one of New York’s hidden treasures. Patrons can see live music and poetry readings on the club’s stage and enjoy coffee and drinks. (Sofia Alvarez/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor and Asst. Photo Editor
Published: April 18, 2012

The word “poet” often evokes an image of a half-mad, romantic recluse—an absinthe-guzzling scribe in a candlelit room penning intimate lyrics to a lost Lenore. But even Edgar Allan Poe did not choose to make his poetry an entirely private affair. What purpose does an excellent poem serve if no one gets to appreciate it?

During the month of April, readers and writers have the opportunity to make their love for poetry a public affair. Here is a guide to celebrate National Poetry Month, featuring the Bowery Poetry Club, and some additional ways to wax poetic in New York City.

Bowery Poetry Club & Café

(Sofia Alvarez/The Observer)

Behind an unassuming green façade, the Bowery Poetry Club provides a space for those who love poetry, those who are poets and those who are either of the first two, but just don’t know it. One step through the front door reveals a cozy café with wood floors and posters of poetic heroes spread across the dark brick walls. Off to the side, a staircase bears words from a Pablo Neruda poem painted on each step. The ceilings are high and the air smells like ground coffee. Jazz from a Charles Mingus album bounces around the room.

A few more steps to the end of the café, through some black curtains, the café becomes a bar. More poetry memorabilia adorns the walls, like Ginsberg’s translation of a Japanese haiku painted on the wall, and old portraits of writers.

Further along, past the bar, is an open space full of chairs, finally coming to a stop at a raised stage with the words “Bowery Poetry Club” hanging on a banner. This is a multi-purpose stage.

Every Tuesday night, the club hosts a workshop for aspiring poets, a performance by an established poet and then a competitive poetry slam. “Urbana [Poetry Slam] on Tuesday nights is probably the best for students to check out,” café manager Grace Kalambay said. “They have a ‘Wordshop’ before the slam, and the featured poet that night runs it and gives them tips on how they work.” These featured poets are often big names in contemporary poetry or have published works.

Students pay a five dollar cover charge to get in, discounted from the usual eight dollars, and have an opportunity to be a part of the competition. Ryan Ramirez, manager and sound DJ, explained that audience members determine the outcome of the Urbana Poetry Slam.

“If [students] come to the slam, they can be judges,” Ramirez said. “We pick five people from the audience—objective and fresh faces—to hold up scorecards and rate the performers to determine who advances to the next round.”

On Monday nights the stage belongs to actor, writer and poetry legend Taylor Mead. The 87-year-old Beat poet has

made a name for himself after a long (and still) thriving career in New York City. “He’s legit, he’s been around,” Ramirez said. “He was hanging out with Warhol and Ginsberg and those guys back in the day. He’s one of the last of that crowd.”

Mead, it seems, is also the reason for the music selection on the speakers. “He’ll get up on stage with his stereo, play some Mingus and then do some talking,” Ramirez

(Sofia Alvarez/The Observer)

said. “He’ll read poetry; some of it is pretty sexual. He’s wild.”

After “The Taylor Mead Show”, it’s time for Monday Night Bingo. This is not the typical bingo night for grandmothers (unless they happen to be as edgy as Mead). Instead, it’s a game hosted by “Mr. Murray Hill and drag queen Linda Simpson,” during happy hour with “cheap booze, sex jokes, drag queens, and fart machines,” according to the event pamphlet. A bingo card is two dollars for the entire night and players can win prizes, including a real cash jackpot.

Once players have downed some spirits to raise their spirits, the “NYC Talent” open mic night begins. Crowd members can sign up before the show to perform and showcase their talents amongst featured performers, including known comedians, writers and other artists.

The Bowery Poetry Club is built for artists and poets, and it’s built for sharing. Step in, order a coffee. Sip it, pen a poem. Then walk to the bar. Take a couple shots. Muster the courage to get on stage, and embrace National Poetry Month.


Located: 308 Bowery St., between Bleecker and Houston.
A few blocks from the B/D train stop at Broadway-Lafayette.

Don’t Miss:

Monday nights- $5 cover charge for students, all ages

  • 6:30 p.m.-7 p.m., The Taylor Mead Show
  • 7 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Bingo! ($2 to play)
  • 10 p.m.-2 a.m., NYC Talent

Tuesday nights- $5 cover charge for students,

  • 6:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m., Wordshop
  • 7:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Urbana Poetry Slam.

Located: 236 East 3rd St., between Avenue B and Avenue C.

Nuyorican hosts various slam poetry events and hip-hop and jazz performances.
A few blocks from the F train stop at 2 Ave.

Don’t Miss:
Friday nights – $10, all ages

  • 10:00 p.m., The Nuyorican Friday Night Poetry Slam.

Located: 85 East 4th St., between Bowery and 2 Ave.

This Ukrainian-socialist-themed bar is a popular literary hub for those who like to get wordy.
A few blocks from the N/R train stop at 8 St. NYU.

Don’t Miss:
Monday nights –Free admission, 21+

  • 7 p.m.-9 p.m., Monday Night Poetry readings

“Tell Me More,” a program on National Public Radio, asks writers to Tweet their poetry (no more than 140 characters), with the hash tag “#TMMPoetry.” The program will select poems to play on air during National Poetry Month. More info at www.npr.org.

My grandfather, Ferd Thomas (Mar 7, 1924 - Mar 25, 2012), died of colon cancer. His house was built into a desert hill. (Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor
Published: March 28, 2012

My grandfather died of cancer this weekend in Arizona. I didn’t grow up around him; I didn’t even meet him until I was seven. This may seem strange, but my own father was adopted and didn’t learn of his biological father until 1997. Although I didn’t know my grandfather until then, I probably spoke to him more than my other relatives as an adult.

My grandfather, Ferd Thomas (Mar 7, 1924 - Mar 25, 2012). (Mario Weddell/The Observer)

I didn’t really grow up around any of my extended family, so I only saw my relatives twice a year at most. When you’re little, those vacations lasting 10 days in a year of 365 often carry the weight of dental checkups as the adults look you over; someone may comment on how large your teeth are coming in, and your mom makes a joke about you eating carrots. You stand there with bony knees and say that you do like eating carrots, and everyone chuckles, and you smile with dopey pride, unaware that your sincerity is amusing.

The adults are nice, but you’re shy each time you meet them, since they don’t know the names of your new friends, and you don’t remember where the bathroom is in their home. Often, you wonder why it takes everyone so long to drink coffee after dinner. They tell stories they’ve forgotten individually, so they take turns piecing them back together between each nostalgic sip. You laugh at a detail that was not the punch line, and someone tussles your hair absent-mindedly. You aren’t old enough to have any stories as long as theirs, so you’re mostly quiet.

The first time I met my grandfather, my family drove across the desert from west Texas to central Arizona. He lived in a home he had built into the side of a hill. There was a saguaro cactus on his dirt-covered roof, and green artificial turf carpeting in the living room. He had acres and acres of desert, sprinkled with construction machinery and roads he had carved through the rocks.

A day after meeting him, I went exploring the property. I soon found myself standing on a rock over a rattlesnake den, hearing the hisses and warnings of their angry tails. I called for help, and he ran over with a shovel. He grabbed my arm and pulled me off the rock, then flipped it over and cut their heads off. It seemed my newly discovered grandfather was a madman.

He was a storyteller. He spoke fast through loose dentures, with the voice of an older man who has learned that people usually won’t listen to every word you say anyway, so just go for it. I was at the age when I was becoming aware of possessing a sense of humor, something that is often intertwined with fledgling confidence and an ability to respond to questions with full sentences. I met this man at the same time as my parents met him, so for the first time, we could all be a little shy together. They lacked the advantage of years of familiarity that they had with our other relatives, and I followed my new grandfather’s winding tales more closely with my young ears than they could.

Through the next 15 years, I saw him more often than my other relatives, who lived further away in California and Mexico, making cheaper road trips less feasible for everyone. Sometimes my grandfather would call and say he’d be visiting in seven hours.

He didn’t know me as a baby, which meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty for getting older around him. I think that’s one of the hardest things about growing up. Your parents remember when you were just getting started, so sometimes they still view your behavior as an extension of the choices their growing five-year-old is making. On the other hand, my grandfather often looked at me and wondered why I wasn’t a man yet.

When he was diagnosed with colon cancer, I called him and spoke to him, not about family or the specifics of his cancer or anything we already knew about each other, but just as men. We just spoke about life. He said he was okay with dying, because he had done enough in his life to feel like he had done enough.

He never went to college, but he thought he would have been sharp enough to go if he could sit through it. He said college was probably for dummies, but maybe I was one of those dummies who could sit through it. People were different, so as long as they did what they wanted, that was probably what they should be doing. It was probably the closest he ever came to approving of any kind of school. He said it didn’t really matter what we did in the long run, as long as we felt like we did something.

Maybe he wasn’t such a madman after all.

In first grade, a piece of paper sliced through the eye of Mario Weddell, FCLC ’12, and he had to wear an eye patch for a while. (Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)
In first grade, a piece of paper sliced through the eye of Mario Weddell, FCLC ’12, and he had to wear an eye patch for a while. (Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor
Published: March 7, 2012

I got a paper cut in my eye in the first grade. That means a piece of paper wounded me by creating a small incision in my eyeball, when I was six. I repeated my statement to assure you that I am fully aware of how serious a claim this is.

Paper cuts are terrible because they hurt in so many ways. Obviously, there’s the physical pain of having something razor-like slice through your nerves. But there’s also the sorrow of realizing how pathetic you are, a flesh-and-bone Goliath humbled by a paper David. And there’s the two-week paranoia that follows, when you turn all pages very slowly. All in all, paper cuts are the ultimate everyday injury, because they are so subtle and shameful (I’m sure there are other injuries involving genitalia that I’ve chosen to ignore).

I was sitting at my cubby (or whatever the cute name for child desks is), and another student, Michelle, was walking around, handing out classwork. Because I was sitting and she was standing, her hands were at my eye level. The classwork she was holding was made of paper. I hope you see where this is going.

She handed me my assignment, but she didn’t let go. I tugged on it, and she tugged back. I tugged harder, and she let go, causing me to propel the sheet of paper into my own face and across my eye. It was her fault.

And then the pain came. All the pain of the outside world, this universe of trial and error, disappointment and death, sensed an opening in my defenses and flooded into my eye. I let out a tea-kettle-whistle sort of moan and grabbed my face. I couldn’t even open my uninjured eye, because the light was hurting my brain. I was hyperventilating very quietly.

Another student alerted the teacher that I was hurt. Thinking it was nothing too serious, she told me to go to the nurse. She realized it was serious when I tried to run out of the room with my eyes covered, but instead ran into a desk and fell over it. The rest of the story I experienced blindly.

I felt strong arms lift me and cradle me like a belly-up kitten. Powerful strides pounded down the hallway, and then up the stairs to the second floor, to the nurse’s office.

We entered the office, and the nurse asked me to open my eye. I guess that makes sense, but when it’s your eye it feels like the stupidest request she could have made. I summoned all my strength and attempted to raise the two-ton steel defense wall I had clamped down to guard the breach, but my eyelid refused. I told her that Michelle had cut my eye with a piece of paper. I made sure to repeat Michelle’s name several times in the hopes that she would be drawn and quartered by the time my eye healed.

Then the nurse told me to go lay on the little bed behind the curtain until my dad arrived. I had always dreamed of lying behind that curtain, so it wasn’t too bad. A half hour later, I heard the footsteps I knew so well, echoing down the hall. I felt my breath slowly return to normal. In my head, I could see his black work shoes stepping into the nurse’s office, and her directing him to where I lay.

He opened the curtain. “Hey, Tiger.”

He hugged me and I was engulfed by my favorite smell in the world. His deodorant mingled with light perspiration and the hints of shaving cream from earlier that morning. I could feel the warmth coming off his shirt, from driving in the summer heat of his green Toyota Tercel, and I knew everything would be okay (as long as Michelle was appropriately punished).

I sat in his car with my hands over my face. Even the slight glow of the sun coming through my eyelid was excruciating. We went to the eye doctor. The doctor forced my eye open and poked around. He put those nasty dilation drops into both of my eyes, magnifying the pain. It was not fun. He made some dumb jokes about how painful school is for little boys. I loved school. He said something about Michelle having a crush on me. I hated him.

He sent me home with a patch over my eye. I did love pirates, so I felt like the universe was finally showing remorse. I tried to open my eyes. The dilation drops made it impossible to see, so, using the mental map I had of the house, I wandered over to the TV and turned it on. I had the channels memorized so I switched it to some cartoon station.

I tried to open my eyes again. No go. I decided to just listen. Bugs Bunny was on. He said, “Eh, what’s up, Doc?” and I chuckled. Then he said it again. And again.

I never realized how weak the dialogue is on Looney Tunes. I sat there and moped for two weeks.


(Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)
(Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: February 22, 2012

a hint of warmth from a winter flame,
this ember gasps with pulsing light.
not quite dead, as I remember
a bright glow full upon my face—
but a memory replaced by time
and ash and grime and smokey layers.
an urn of present pleasures past,
the prayers of future fuels untapped
line the chimney walls with hymnal soot
of dirty restless dreams uncertain
and postponed til passing spring renewed
the temperature inside my skin.
the fireplace for months forsaken
collected filth until the changing
seasons seat me here once again
before the brick-laid pit of flame.

now again beneath the blanket
the couch beats with companion hearts,
but rhythmic differences unsheathe
the blade that sets them now apart.
my own is calm and winter-rested—
dormant long enough to balm
the burns that may have shown
in summer when my sleeves were short.
but hers, a rabbit seeking shelter:
panting breaths with tendons taut,
not certain that the safety lies
in abandoning back-shoulder glances
and springing full-speed through the brush.
nor do I know the option wiser
since hiding only lasts so long.
before the snows fall on the pyre,
she remains preoccupied by fire.


The desire to take one’s pants off in a crowded bar is surprisingly contagious. But is anyone really surprised? (Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)
The desire to take one’s pants off in a crowded bar is surprisingly contagious. But is anyone really surprised? (Photo Illustration by Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: February 15, 2012

If you’re confident, you can get away with a lot. That’s especially true in New York.  This city respects people who know what they’re doing, even if they’re just pretending. I kept the power of confidence in mind the other night, when my friends (“Bonnie” and “Clyde”) and I started a pants-less revolution at a bar near Lincoln Center.

We were celebrating the Giants’ Super Bowl victory, blue face paint and all, and went out for a few drinks after the game. The night was pretty calm, until Bonnie told me that the last time they were at this bar, Clyde wore his jeans around his ankles for an hour, and nobody had noticed. It sounded like a challenge. I accepted.

I stood around in my boxers for a half hour, unnoticed. I even ordered a drink, and had a full conversation with a guy who remained oblivious until Clyde couldn’t take it anymore, and told him to look at my white thighs. I was invisible to everyone else. It was frustrating in a sense, because half the thrill of doing something stupid is the fear of being caught with your pants down.

But I didn’t just want to match Clyde’s accomplishment; I wanted to surpass it. The lack of awareness in the bar was becoming a joke. So I started dancing, to see if I could get away with it. And I did for a while, so Clyde pulled down his jeans and started dancing, too. Bonnie declined because, as she put it, she wasn’t wearing the right underwear for this sort of thing. Finally, a woman approached us.

“What are you guys doing?” she asked. I didn’t know what to say so I pointed at Clyde. Clyde said something unconvincing about the Giants winning. Bonnie saved us by calmly explaining that this was a pants-free zone. The woman nodded. Then something magical happened. She took her pants off. Bonnie told the woman’s boyfriend to join us, but he responded with, “No underwear,” and flashed his nether-cheeks at Bonnie. He possessed an entirely different brand of confidence, one that we weren’t quite ready to attain, so we didn’t push it further.

And then a young man saw us. And he took his pants off. And he was wearing a Speedo or something, which made his support that much more meaningful. A few minutes later, Bonnie convinced another inquisitive lady to join us, citing advantages in mobility, temperature and general mood. More people were starting to notice the dance-sans-pants by our table, and we looked so confident that they couldn’t help but loosen their belts. Bonnie found a large t-shirt and put it over her underwear so she could join us.

There were about eight of us at this point, rebelling against decency and sensibility by exposing our thighs to the world. Like any revolution though, there were detractors who supported the old ways. An uptight aristocrat in a North Face coat told us to pull our pants up. He was quickly booed and chased away, as Clyde informed him that the pants-free zone happened to coincide with the hater-free zone. We had strength in numbers.

Still, as the revolution gained ground and our notoriety increased, new problems surfaced. Newer recruits were a bit odd. One man kept trying to show everyone how he was “flopping around like a deep sea fish” in his boxers. As Bonnie put it, “…we saw some fin, unfortunately.” And the mayhem didn’t stop there.

Someone was doing pushups. People were posing for group pictures. A young woman started spanking an older woman. It seemed like we were losing control, and any minute now, the governing power would sniff us out and put a stop to the movement. Finally, the bartender noticed.

He caught my eye across the room. He pointed at my pants around my ankles, and put his hands out as if to say, “What the hell are you doing?” This was it, the moment when our cause would come crashing down on the Robespierres of legwear. The end was near. I had to act fast.

I mustered all the confidence I could, pointed at his pants fastened around the waist and put my hands out in the same judgmental fashion. My response was clear: “No, what the hell are YOU doing?” A thoughtful look came over him. I held my breath. Then he shrugged, looked at his co-worker and dropped his pants.

(Mario Weddell/The Observer)
(Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: February 1, 2012

I guess with all the time I spend
Looking past your eyes and that
I really should just vocalize
Whatever’s on my mind
The facts, poured fast,
Like whiskey straight
But I hate those pauses when
It seems I’m caught
Trying to find a way to phrase
Every thought where the causes
Aren’t pure but
Born out of a desire to wind
The truth in a way so we’ll both
Just nod at the effects and
Then I’ll say,
“Does that make sense?”
And you’ll empathize
And that’s how it will end
Since I was mostly looking up
Or anywhere putting all together
Furtive, disguised thoughts
Until I settle on the last honest sentence
Tethered out of lies but revealing enough
Of the general feeling
Just muffled out of context

I’m reeling, tough and restless
Absorbing the place, intently
The floor, the wall, the ceiling, my hands
But never your face or gaze
Or you’d understand and catch me
Get me in a chokehold
My downfall is your clever
Way of leaning in to see
If I blink and get so tense
I draw the curtains on the meaning
And you sense the way I think
Because I have such vocal eyes
That as I stall you’ll realize
I’ve said nothing at all

And besides I’ve always felt
That people like the way I write
More than my speaking anyway
Because when I talk I scramble
For the least decisive word
But written words
And accidents
Are thought to not occur
So this way I seem honest
Pure and more sincere
Prolific with confessions
A frank and open man
Terrific and so brave
And damn it all I’m sure you will
Demand in conversation
What the hell’s the meaning
So really all I have to say is
The poem’s nothing specific

But still my flaws
They fling themselves
Off my fingers to the page
And I curse them as they dive
Survive, stare at me and sing
You’re jealous, you’re naïve
You’re a little boy in mud
Believing you’re untouchable
Collected with your toys
But when you’re scared
Your blood goes hot
At things you’ve not expected
Like a new kid on the block
Getting some attention
And unthreatened you
Seem kind enough
But when you are endangered
You’re critical, embittered
Angry, harsh and cynical
Your smile gets so hard to find
With venom in your bite

And you said something
While you laughed the way
At times you do with me
I love how he’s so funny
So as it is expected
I replied with spiteful haste
Something to the effect of
He’s stupid and I hate him
Too serious and decisive
And totally unhesitant
Now I am reflecting
Those words that I directed
To somewhere I felt threatened
Were mostly meant for me
And my boyish insecurities
Dirty and defensive
On scraped and stupid knees


Believe it or not, this could have been the face of a married man. (Courtesy of Jim Weddell)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: February 1, 2012

When I met my first girlfriend, I was four years old. I use the word “met” because I really had nothing to do with us becoming a couple. She claimed me on the first day of preschool; I was just an innocent bystander.

Believe it or not, this could have been the face of a married man. (Courtesy of Jim Weddell)

The boys were on one side of the room; I was sitting on the floor, building Lincoln Log cabins with my best friend in the whole world, Sam, whom I had met an hour previous. He liked dinosaurs, too.

While we were playing, the girls were sitting in a circle on the other side of the room, being mysterious. We were oblivious as the girls discussed classroom romances, an indicator of the love-life dynamic in the years to come—dopey men, unaware of the important conversations that take place amongst women who give them too much credit anyway. Clueless, an instinctual urge told me to continue stacking blocks and banging sticks together, as my cave ancestors had done in their day, when I heard the question from across the room: “Who’s your boyfriend?”

Sensing danger, but not fully comprehending its power, I lifted my head in time to see a blond-haired girl aim her index finger straight at me, like she was choosing a puppy in an animal shelter. The other girls turned to assess our newly formed relationship. I stared stupidly back at them, and they giggled. The more mature girls nodded their approval, and turned away.

Her name was Maura. She was 35 pounds of finger-painting, freeze-tagging charm, and I accepted her challenge. I would sit next to her when we made Mother’s Day cards. I would lend her my favorite crayon. I would be her friend that was a boy. Whatever that meant. I would not take her crackers.

Unfortunately, my first girlfriend was also accompanied by my first love triangle, completed by a 40-pound terror named Tyler.

Tyler hated me with every inch of his bony body, and expressed his love for Maura by punishing me for the next two years of my preschool life. For a young boy unable to adequately express his emotions, it was still very clear how he felt. In lieu of saying, “I am jealous,” he opted to push me off the top of the slide. Instead of holding Maura’s hand as they shared a fluorescent-lit snack over a bottle of juice, he held my hair as he ran through the playground.

It didn’t help that the teachers thought Maura and I were adorable, and Tyler just didn’t like that “Maura and Mario” looked better on a wedding invitation. He pushed me into chairs whenever he could. He broke my crayons, and I silently accepted his abuse as something that just came with the territory of an unsolicited romance. One day though, I snapped.

Tyler was following me around at recess, poking the back of my head. I asked him to stop. He didn’t stop, so I turned around and punched him in the stomach. It made me sad; I was never a fighter. But the teacher who was supposed to keep order in the playground was ecstatic, and told the story to my dad that afternoon, complete with Mike Tyson references and Notre Dame Fighting Irish poses. Tyler never bothered me after that. I assume Maura and I continued to be happy, but I don’t remember much about us after the day our triangle became a straight line.

Time passed, and Maura faded. Oops. I don’t mean that she died. I mean that we went to different elementary schools and forgot about each other. But sometimes I look back and think, what if you only get one soul mate? There aren’t many people you can sit with while eating glue, and what if my one shot became just another victim of public school district zoning laws?

I fantasize about meeting her 10 years from now. I’ll be in the park, sitting on a blanket and reading a book. A blonde woman will walk up to me and say, “Mario? Is it really you? Oh my God, it is! I almost didn’t recognize you without your bowl haircut.”

Then she’ll sit down and slip her hand into mine, and it will be like nothing changed. We’ll curl up in a blanket and watch the sunset. She’ll reach into her purse and pull out a small bottle, and we’ll take turns eating the Elmer’s glue.

It may be your money, but the bank will find a way to take it from you in any clever way they know how.
It may be your money, but the bank will find a way to take it from you in any clever way they know how. (Fatima Shabbir/The Observer)

Features Co-Editor & Asst. Photo Editor
Published: October 19th, 2011

“Here’s an idea! How’s about we charge them money for spending money, unless they have a lot of money? You know, so if they can afford to pay the excess fees, we won’t make them pay the fees. But if they don’t have a lot of money, and they just spent the little money they had, they should have to give us some more money. It’ll be funny.”

I assume this was the reasoning when Bank of America announced their new debit card policy: consumers who use their debit cards to make purchases would have to pay a five dollar monthly fee. That means if you want to use your card to buy groceries or to pay for a cab or maybe to buy a ski mask to rob a bank, a five dollar fee will be charged to your account.

This is supposed to go into effect early next year, unless the cardholder has a premium or privilege account, in which case the fee does not apply. That makes sense, because banks don’t want to lose their clients who have more money. It makes a lot of sense.

So what are my options? I could switch banks, use cash for purchases or swipe my credit card.

With more banks looking to hit their clients with service fees (Wells Fargo and Chase, to name a couple), I’m not looking to join another Henry F. Potter-esque bank (Don’t know who Henry F. Potter is? See “It’s A Wonderful Life.”). My best bet would be to join a credit union. Credit unions are non-for-profit, meaning they exist to serve their members, not to maximize profits for shareholders. That’s incredibly reasonable.

Unfortunately, I’m probably not going to switch anytime soon. Credit unions tend to be local and since I can only work part time as a student, I need my parents to pay my rent. That means money from Texas sometimes magically appears in my New York ATMs. So I’m stuck with Bank of America, for now.

The fee isn’t outrageous. I could find a way to save an extra five dollars a month. For example, if I chew my food less, I won’t have to brush my teeth as often, prolonging the life of my toothbrush, saving me money on a replacement. It’s easy to save money.

But I don’t want to change my behavior for a bank. The principle is outrageous. And, as we all know, banks usually take an interest in the principal of their clients, so I have a right to be upset. A little bank humor there.

The bank wants me to use cash to buy things. Or even better, credit cards, because they profit if I mess up on a payment. Unfortunately, it’s against my personal code to pay for things with cash anymore. To the bank, using cash makes sense, but to me, it only makes cents.

Since I don’t carry a change purse, the pennies and nickels I get stuck with after a purchase just find their way into a jar on my shelf. It brings a new meaning to the term “old money.” By the time I gather enough pennies to make a trip to the bank worthwhile, my penny has probably decreased in value.

The day I realized that a debit card allowed me to pay for things to the exact amount was a glorious day in my financial journey. Besides, according to the U.S. Mint, the cost of making a penny in 2008 was 1.7 cents. It’s illogical. I can’t get behind such a backwards system.

The argument for penny preservation is rooted in a fear of change. Ironic, I know. Simply put, a lot of people like Abraham Lincoln’s head on their coin. Hell, I’ll put his picture on my debit card if it means I don’t have to use cash. Besides, I’d rather not have a full wallet if I get mugged.

If I can’t use my debit card, and using cash is preposterous, I’m stuck with credit cards.

Still, paying for everything with a credit card can be just as risky. If I don’t pay my bill in time, I have to deal with tough interest rates (since I’m a non-premium, unprivileged student) that only support the money-grubbing banks further. Again, banks are a lot more accommodating for people who have a lot of friends named Benjamin. My closest friend is named Ramen.

I can’t use my debit card and switching banks is out of the question for now. It seems that it’s time to make a choice. Cash or credit? Either way, I’m getting robbed, right?

I guess I can at least decide who I want my mugger to be: a guy in a hoodie, holding a knife or a guy in a suit, holding a pen. Maybe I can put all my pennies in a sock and use that as a weapon. Cash it is.