>>> The Scholarly Tabloid
By staff writer Et Nola
July 23, 2006

Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?”

Some people get mugged on the way to work while others merely get shot and/or stabbed (proof that we can’t all be “winners”). Not here in San Francisco though. Here, there’s a very high chance you’ll be struck alright, but by visuals uncommon to most of the country. In fact, I was struck by a rainbow—and it was fabulous.

While riding the street car (or cable car for all those Tony Bennett fans out there), a billboard caught my eye. It wasn’t so much the fact that there was a guy holding the receiver of a telephone and leering at the general populace—no, that didn’t quite catch me. It’d have to be the large bold text that seemed to say “are you gay?” Whoops, did I type “seem to say”? What I meant was “directly inquired in large letters.” There’s something to be said for advertising that gets people thinking.

“I have only a faint idea of who I am. I’m either destined for a life of public service, writing, or leading the privateer forces in the Pirate/Ninja War of 2020.”

As a marketing major, I can imagine that if consumers (aka bi-curious individuals) were timid, the billboard would be the sign Ace of Base once sang so cheerily about during the 90’s. The odd thing is that such “open” inquiries into some of our deepest concerns (i.e. sexual orientation/uncertainty) happens to be a rare occurrence outside the collegiate community. While I applaud the gay community for showing its members (and potential members) support, I begin to wonder why the rest of our society can’t better engage the ubiquitous search for identity. The gays can’t have all the ideas (off-Broadway).

Before admonishing social groups for their inability to be supportive in aiding each of our individual quests for self-identification (that’s one hell of an introductory clause by the way), I’d like to say that I can see why it’s so hard to help people discover who they are without forcing it upon them. In fact, one of the hardest things about college happens to be the search for identity (or determining whether you’ll actually show up for that 6:30pm class since it is only once a week… *see the end of the column for the answer).

Despite the difficulties of the task, it remains important to proceed anyway. Just because it’s tough to perform open-heart surgery or to keep a straight face when hearing “Governator” Schwarzenegger speak, doesn’t mean it is impossible*, but it is a process. I imagine open heart surgery to be an easier process than the latter. Part of what makes the process so difficult is that everyone around us has some preconceived notion of who we are or what we are all about. It’s difficult to simply “be yourself” when you aren’t even the person you think you are.

Luckily, I came across the secret while downing a bowl of Cocoa Krispies: you just have to be honest to yourself. Do what really makes you happy, and you’re bound to uncover more about what is truly you and what is merely a façade. Damn that cereal was good. I’m not saying it granted omniscience, but I ate it out of the Bucket of Truth (unmitigated, unadulterated, and immutable). Now, allow me to descend the soapbox.

To be honest, I have only a faint idea of who I am. In fact, there’s a pool going that I’m either destined for a life of public service, writing, or leading the privateer forces in the Pirate/Ninja War of 2020 (thanks for that last option, guys). Even though I’m not certain where it is I’m heading (for example, I’ve traveled through over 23 of the 48 continental states in the past year), I’m pretty sure I can take the Ninja Army should it attack any time soon. The fact that pirates have recently been depicted in film while ninjas remain alarmingly unseen would certainly be a concern.

Pirating aside, I’m at a loss as to where I’ll be in the coming months. If you have any information, call Unsolved Mysteries and tell Robert Stack I sent ya. Despite all of the uncertainty of where I’m headed, I’m content with the process. Lots of it sucks, but we can all attest to having a shitty “multi-year period of uncertainty,” particularly if you’re still alive. On the bright side, I just got a letter in the mail saying I “may be a winner*.” They have no idea how right they are.

Before leaving New Orleans, I honestly felt at a loss for what/where I’d be headed to next. Truthfully, there was a paralysis within that impeded me from taking even the slightest step forward. Hell, I could scarcely type sentences about the situation around me because I honestly couldn’t decide what mattered more: telling the story or telling my story.

Telling the story of New Orleans in the aftermath brought up a lot of complexities that a single column makes difficult to render wholly. Telling my story seemed similarly complex, but I could leave out details because I care less about what readers think of me, and more of what they think of my city. At the same time, even I didn’t know what to think of my city. It wasn’t the same any longer. Sometimes the weather changes moods. Other times the weather changes the face of the earth. Sometimes the weather changes you.

In the end, I remain somewhat of a drifter, living out my childhood dreams from Quantum Leap, minus all the science (just because we can’t get missile interceptors to work doesn’t mean we can’t get quantum mechanics down to an exact science—I mean, it is at last a science, right?*). I say to hell with living vicariously though—I’m living through me, whoever the hell that guy is.

*Probably not.