Good Things That Have Happened To Me, Bad Things That Have Happened To Me

Ryler Dustin

Apr 02, 2011

Three years sounded like an eternity when I first showed up in the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. But the time has flown by - a real hurricane of bizarre and beautiful encounters that have left me wondering, Dude, where's my car? So, in the interest of sorting out all the strange events of my life in this city, I thought I'd make a brief list. Good Thing: not having a car. It's been nice to lower my carbon footprint and avoid the hassle of perpetually repairing a vehicle. I've become more knowledgeable about road bike maintenance and feel good about representing cycling in a city that considers filling up at the pump "buying local." Bad Thing: not having a car. Houston's intense heat and humidity can make biking more than a couple of miles an almost spiritual experience. And the city is designed for motor vehicles (especially gigantic trucks with oversized tires and immaculate polish jobs) which can make a cyclist feel like he's holding the line against an evil alliance of climate and culture. Good Thing: learning to eat healthy. No one in my family cooked, and my Bellingham roommates and I subsisted almost entirely on canned food, quesadillas, and Pabst. Since living on my own in Houston, I've learned to cook reasonable, healthy meals for myself. I even began to snack on healthy food like fresh blueberries and spinach salad. Bad Thing: internal organ pain. Fall semester of this year, I came down with a flu that turned into a lower back ache, then, a couple of nights later, sharp, fluttering pain that bombarded my kidneys every two or three seconds. I called my mom, a nurse, at the emergency clinic. She promptly suggested that the most likely source of my symptoms was an STD. I was relieved - sort of - to find out that I had kidney stones. It turns out that the most common type of kidney stones affects men between twenty and thirty, and are correlated with the consumption of blueberries and spinach. Fortunately, the stones dissolved inside my bladder, so I didn't have to pass them like Tom Hanks in The Green Mile. I only had to endure a couple of days of them moving painfully through the tiny tubules of my kidneys. Good thing: Sam Amadon's cat-leap. I was over at Sam's house with a few of our friends. He began snorting and hissing at the top of a small staircase. It was clear that whatever was about to happen was important: he waited, growing more and more catlike, until everyone was watching. He curled his back and, to everyone's surprise, leapt out from the staircase. He seemed suspended for a moment of supernatural grace, then crashed to the floor. When he recovered and rose to his feet, he was Sam again, bipedal, smiling shyly. But for a moment, he had been something else. Bad thing: being attacked on the street. Two hours after I'd returned from a tour performing slam poetry on the East Coast, I was attacked just half a block from my apartment. Fortunately, only one of the five large guys was actually assaulting me. I managed to stop a passing car before my assailant landed any blows, but my empty backpack had been stolen. I was never asked for my wallet, and I still don't know the reason for the attack. The worst part of it was, I'd been on the phone with my mom, who had been frantic until I managed to call her back. Good thing: getting into yoga. Lajla Cline's donation-only yoga class is one of the best unofficial parts of being in the University of Houston's English Department. A graduate of literature, Lajla offers these classes every Sunday at four at Pralaya Yoga, 2303 Dunlavy St. She'll be leaving Houston soon, but is planning to find a replacement to take over the class. Bad thing: serious property problems. At the beginning of my second semester - shortly after I was attacked - mold began to spread in my apartment in the wake of Hurricane Ike, and I had to move suddenly. Several friends have had disastrous flea infestations, and, this year, my girlfriend suffered from a complete failure of her plumbing system. I'm talking about the plumbing in her house, not kidney stones. Good Thing: free food in the English Department. I have to offer a special thanks to our Advising Assistant, Jessica Torres, who is proactive about letting me know whenever something's up for grabs. Bad Thing: Saying Goodbye. Despite some unusual setbacks, my time here has been wonderful because of the people I've met: my peers in the Creative Writing Department, and the faculty members who've helped guide my development as a writer. I'm not sure what the future holds for me -I certainly couldn't have guessed what was in store three years ago - and I might stay here for a while to see if the city and I can make amends. But as many of the friends I've made here leave, I want to say thanks for making the lows higher and the highs higher still. That might sound like last year's weather report for Houston, but what I mean is, it won't be the same without you.