The Class of 2006 graduated from UC Santa Barbara two weeks ago, including my sister Molly. UCSB holds all of their graduations on one weekend, a decision that led to our family staying 40 miles away, in the town of Buellton, just a few miles from Solvang Danish Village.
It wasn't until arriving at the ceremony that I realized my mistake. In our haste to get out of the hotel and on the road to the university, I had neglected to put on deodorant. At first I thought, "No big deal. It's not that warm. No way this ceremony last more than two hours, right?" But ten minutes in, when I was pinning my upper arms to my sides to avoid releasing my pungent underarm stink into the atmosphere, I realized that I had unwittingly created a Stinky Sunday for myself.
I changed shirts before lunch, but the damage was already done. Stinky Sunday it was.
What would the UC Santa Barbara Class of 2006 donate to the university? I suggested a waterslide. My dad thought it would be a gigantic bong. Instead, they created an endowment to help underprivileged students, and I felt bad about mocking them. I am still holidng out hope that the students will donate something memorable to Isla Vista. Maybe an endowment for the fire department, to deal with burning couches.
We'd left my sister at about 1:30 the night before, as she promised to "continue to rage" and her roommate told us mimosas were scheduled for 7:30 AM. At this point, Molly had not yet received her official graduation name card. The next morning, when Dad asked if she'd gotten any sleep, her snap reply was, "Absolutely not."
I would not have been surprised to hear the dean announce, "Milly Kane", only to be met with snores from my napping little sister.
A girl sang what seemed to me like the slowest national anthem in history. I wish I'd timed it. The crowd of graduates was huge, and the crowd of spectators even more so. The one graduate who stood out had fashioned a large green arrow on a signpost, which read, "Here I am". The dean rhetorically asked graduates, "Don't we have the coolest chancellor in the UC system?" How the hell did they know, I wondered. Also, in regards to the coolness of UC chancellors, see faint praise, damning with.
UCSB is in the top 2% of North American schools, though Dad was more curious as to where they ranked on Playboy's list of top party school. The students followed up their half-hearted applause with delayed cheers when the dean discussed the Supreme Court's affirmative action rulings, probably because the reference came out of nowhere. Dean Non Sequitur continued with his speech, "A List of Random Shit That Happened in the Past Decade", going on to mention Enron, Hurricane Katrina, watching movies on your computer, the 2000 election, the digital revolution (?), Iraq, and cell phones. He concluded by telling graduates, "You're the greatest generation." Then Tom Brokaw and a group of grizzled WW2 vets shot him down in cold blood.
At every college graduation I have attended in California, there has always been someone outside selling tropical flowers and leis for graduates to wear/hold. Because earning your bachelor's degree is quite similar to disembarking from an Aloha Airlines jet. "What do they give graduates at the University of Hawaii?" asked Kelly. "A bunch of leaves they picked up off the ground," I told her.
The dean's introduction lasted longer than Ms. Mankiller's actual address. He went through her litany of personal tragedy: kidney transplant, lost foot, near-fatal car crash, and a two-day trips to Buellton with her parents. When she finally got up, Ms. Mankiller said, "I get a lot of interesting comments about my name". Her speech related exactly zero of these interesting comments. Instead, she dissed Suze Orman and told the graduates not to conform to society's idea of what being a woman means. Her ultimate advice to the graduates was, "Your duty as graduates is to be respectful", a welcome contrast to Dean Non Sequitur's message: "Because you have cell phones, you must defeat Hitler."
Ms. Mankiller also expressed appreciation that the university had sent an elder from the Chumash tribe to welcome her at the airport. The Chumash tribe will also be welcoming superstar Lionel Richie on July 6th and 7th. Mr. Richie also refuses to conform to society's expectation of what a woman should be.
My other sisters and I passed time writing each other Hangman puzzles, and communicating in secret code. The complicated code (A=1, B=2, C=3,..., Z=26) was developed by Megan at age 9, when she had run away from home, to the backyard. Megan and I had a great time exchanging coded messages during the ceremony, but Kelly got frustrated by our "nerd code".
"I've got a quick message for you two," she said, "So pay attention. Six. Twenty-One. Three. Eleven. Twenty-five. Fifteen. Twenty-one."
At first, I was unimpressed with the dean who read off the names. His reading seemed uninspired, almost robotic. But when he reached a string of Latino surnames, the man absolutely caught fire. He trilled his rs, really lingered over the consonants, and generally injected the proceedings with a great deal of energy. He didn't stop when the Latino names did, either. The string of Japanese names that followed got the same treatment. When they finally subbed in another pronunciador (there were over a thousand names), you could tell the crowd wanted to give him an ovation, like a workhorse starting pitcher being lifted for the closer.
El Pronunciador said Molly's name correctly, though you could tell he was disappointed by the diphthong in her last name. We broke with family tradition and did not sound airhorns when we heard her name. The family two rows behind us brought many airhorns. Ms. Mankiller spent the rest of the day playing no-limit poker. The closest anyone came to a Hangman was head and torso, plus one arm. Mimosas didn't actually happen at 7:30, as some girls opted for coffee, and others opted to skip the orange juice. Dad cracked the secret code fairly easily. And I put on deodorant twice, to no avail.