Here’s the story in a nutshell…
My grades in high school proved that I wasn’t exactly Rhodes Scholar material, so I was destined to begin my college career at a JC. Due to a number of interwoven factors (mainly my parents’ desire for me to become independent and the terms of my financial sustenance), I ended up at Sierra College in Rocklin, about 25 miles northeast of Sacramento. Sierra was one of the only JC’s in northern California that had dormitories, and that’s where I lived during my first couple of years there.

It was a weird time, at first, mainly because I was so disoriented. Nearly all my amigos locos were still up in Redding, save for Pecos (who was at Sac State) and Pepe (at UC Davis). I had suddenly been thrust into a strange alien environment where I was the only person who didn’t drive a monster truck and worship the Steve Miller Band.
At first, it was horrible living with all those tarheads. There were few girls there, and most of them had Copenhagen circles in their jeans pockets. Awesome.
It was as if I was being punished for all those times I drew pictures in class instead of paying attention. Ultimately, though, I came to realize that being exposed to all these different types of people – even extremely wack people – forced me to develop much better social skills.

I will have to expand upon my experiences in the dorm in a later entry (under a more appropriate topic), and will be sure to cover my experiences with Amon, my cro-magnon roommate (and, of course, Numb John).

School-wise, Sierra was actually pretty darn respectable. I would have to say that I learned more, had better instructors, and just generally had a better experience (educationally speaking) there than I did at Sonoma State or even CSUS later on. The teachers there were mostly level-headed people that actually taught things, instead of being rabid activists interested solely in the indoctrination of their students (as was the case at the universities).

I did have one teacher at Sierra who would have been right at home on the university level. Mr. Rogers, my Political Science instructor, was an outspoken Socialist who used his classroom to preach the gospel of Lenin under the guise of teaching Political Science. Like so many other esteemed educators, he eloquently taught that virtually every known problem in the modern world could be traced back to the Reagan administration and/or Newt Gingrich.
Initially, few people ever challenged anything he said and just absorbed everything with wide-eyed apathy. Because of this, he started getting bolder and bolder in his assertions, taking his twisted teaching a little further each class period. He was always trying to prove how “progressive” he was, always being sure to mention that he had gay friends and that he hung out with black people a lot. He even went so far as to tell us that he didn’t like white people, somehow overlooking the fact that he himself was a middle-aged, fat pasty white guy.

After a couple of months of tolerating his rants, a few people in the class started to question and then openly challenge his arguments with basic factual information. I even got in on it, being kind of a smart alec and all – but I knew what I was talking about. I had gotten so charged up in class that I would go and research the stuff in the library. It got pretty intense at times, because when it came down to examining cold hard facts, Mr. Rogers was almost always proven wrong… and when this happened, he got PISSED. Nevertheless, the class forced us all to examine our political allegiances with a little more scrutiny than we’d expected, and that was a good thing. Mister Rogers remained in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, but many of his students emerged from his class a bit stronger and wiser.

I was sure he would fail me. He didn’t like me one bit, and on more than one occasion roared in anger over stuff I said to him in class. Surprisingly, I got a B, which is exactly what I deserved. He may have been a Marxist and a terrible teacher, but at least he was fair.

I had an Intermediate Sculpture class that my friend (and then roommate) Todd took with me. It was cool, but I barely passed because nearly every time we went, he would convince me to ditch class with him to go play pool. We’d go back to the dorm and spend the next two hours “playin’ stick” while listening to Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. I had made a tape with both albums on it, and I think we listened to it every single time we played. It was like a ritual, three times a week. I didn’t do much sculpture that semester, but got pretty darn good at pool.

As the end of the semester neared, we realized that we should probably check in to see if we had any hope of passing the class. It was one of those pointless classes that didn’t really require much work or participation, and as it turned out each student only had to turn in 3 works for the final grade.
Knowing that art teachers are typically very touchy-feely and quick to celebrate mediocrity, Todd and I both decided to do our 3 projects each – all in one day.
We went in there on a Saturday and just started throwing stuff together. I made this weird thing with balloons filled with plaster of Paris, which I figured ought to earn a few points for originality. We both made some weird sculptures with clay and stuff, and I finished off with a big carving of a fist that I made out of a giant block of styrofoam. It was totally random.
By the end of the weekend we had more or less completed our works, and they were actually cooler than what most of our classmates had spent the past five months working on. We ended up getting B’s in the class, and we celebrated by playing one last game of stick.

Due to too many games of pool and just generally being a slacker, I spent a little more time than I’d originally planned at Sierra. When I was ‘done’ and ready to transfer to Sonoma State, I was informed by my counselor that I didn’t have sufficient math credits to transfer. They let me transfer anyway, under the condition that I agreed to take a math course within a year.

Once I got in at Sonoma and started picking my classes, I found that all the math classes were full – so I figured I’d just take one the next semester. Well, I decided to transfer to CSUS after only one semester there, so I never took the math course.

I soon found out that the only way I’d be able to continue on to CSUS was for me to take some kind of math class in summer school. I agreed to do so and enrolled in the summer school program, knowing full well that my parents would castrate me if I fouled up my progress toward graduation any more than I already had.
Unfortunately, when it came time to sign up for the classes, all the Basic Math for Retards classes filled up instantly – and I was out of luck. I had to find some kind of math class, but what? I was a total math idiot, so whatever it was would have to be pretty low caliber.
Finally, I found a math class that had one vacancy: Intermediate Statistics. I signed up, fully aware that I had zero chance of passing the class. I figured I might as well give it my best shot; at least my folks would have some sympathy for me if I tried.

I was buried from day one. I understood nothing, but forced myself to take notes anyway. My notebook was soon filled with greek letters, equations that took up two pages, and notes from the lecture. For once, I didn’t draw or daydream in class. I did all the homework, even though my answers were almost always wrong. The teacher was extremely cool, and knew that I was struggling – so he would answer my questions after class when I needed him to.
I was still almost completely lost, though, and kept trying to figure out why I couldn’t seem to learn this stuff. When it came time for the final, I think I had a D minus. I had to get a C or better in the class in order to get the transfer credit, so I was pretty discouraged. Nevertheless, I decided to go for it as best I could.

The night before the final, I made a strong pot of coffee. I pored over my textbook and notes and homework for hours, and finally things started clicking. I actually began to understand the stuff… I couldn’t believe it. It was as if the whole entire class suddenly made sense to me. I studied and studied and read and wrote sample equations all through the night until my eyes wouldn’t stay open any more. I went to sleep around 4:00 in the morning, totally exhausted – but stoked, because I now understood Intermediate Statistics. Assuming I was conscious for the final, I was going to kick some booty.

…And that I did. I got a high B on the final, effectively boosting my grade up to the C that I needed. The teacher was astonished, and so was I. I was free and clear to transfer to CSUS as planned.