April 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
The problem with the blog post I am responding to is not that the author is a racist. The problem is two-fold. First, this post is trying to capitalize on the death of Eve Carson, which it misunderstands. Second, this post proves that the Trayvon Martin tragedy did not become the teaching moment it should have been.
As far as the misunderstanding of Eve Carson’s death is concerned, the title is the strongest piece of evidence. “Eve Was Unarmed. She Wasn’t Wearing a Hoodie. She Was Murdered. Are You Angry?” clearly implies that there are people who weren’t angry about Eve Carson’s brutal murder. If such people exist, I have yet to find them. The post seems to be outraged at the lack of attention directed towards Eve’s murder, which was in fact a national news story.
The author is right, there were no “protests, marches, and outraged politicians.” Instead there were scholarships being funded, events organized, and inspiration being immortalized. It is as if the author thinks it is unfair that Eve’s friends didn’t have to deal with the media zoo, or that Eve’s parents didn’t have to stare down Geraldo Rivera. Frankly, it’s unfair that Trayvon’s do. Eve didn’t need to become a nationally trending hashtag to become a constant reminder to the entire UNC community of how good a student can be and how fragile that goodness is.
But there is a more sinister side to Eve’s memory that this article brings to light. Because Eve’s name has become a sort of buzzword on UNC’s campus, the use of it has become any easy way to grab attention. This title, as long and awkward as it was, made anyone in the UNC community stop and take a second look. I don’t know if this post went viral anywhere other than UNC, but even that is too much.
Beyond all the ethical reasons not to use Eve’s death to get more hits, there is the simple, more important, fact that it is a bad example. Regardless of who was used to make the author’s point, the point remains the same: “Why is it only about race if the victim is black?” The post-race message of the blog post is that we should regard all violence with an equitable color-blind disgust, but Eve Carson was killed by men who sought to profit from her and Trayvon Martin was killed because only because of how he appeared to his murderer. The murders were equally senseless and awful, but they are very different. You cannot claim that Atwater and Lovette were equally motivated by race as Zimmerman was without claiming that race is synonymous with socio-economic status. Unfortunately, the author is all too willing to make that claim. To make this claim is not racist—that is a word that is much too easy to throw around—it is proof that the biggest problem with race right now is how hard it is to prove it is a problem.
I only wrote this response because of how clearly the post in question proves that, despite the moment of reckoning presented by the horrible death of Trayvon Martin, everyone has left feeling like they were proved right. Those who believe that race plays a major role in injustice in our country were given another tragic example. Those who believe that race would be an issue of the past if it weren’t for a few loud radicals on either side were given the indignant noise they could have predicted. No one has left with a changed mind.
 This essay is a response to the post below. I am linking it despite my hesitations because, frankly, I hate to give it any more views: http://lettersfromawhoremongerswife.com/2012/03/28/eve-was-unarmed-she-wasnt-wearing-a-hoodie-she-was-murdered-are-you-angry/
 Here’s a CNN article from the time of the killing: http://web.archive.org/web/20080310234431/http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/03/06/unc.student.killed/
 Certainly most of this post’s readers found the long and detailed description of who Eve Carson was unnecessary.
March 25, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Youth Angst Society hosts monthly readings in the Bull’s Head Bookshop thanks in large part to the Bookshop’s generous support.
This reading features The Salad Days contributors Katherine Proctor, Alex Karsten, and Peter Szulc as MC. This reading also features Duncan Culbreth, Kyle Rosko, Meredith Jones, Ben Miller, Maria Carlos, Madison Bakalar, and Davis Muma.
For more information, check out the YAS Facebook page.
February 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
A few degrees separate the rain
from a unique romantic opportunity
that the couple I’m walking past
can’t wait to take, but does so anyway.
I should hurry, look at my phone,
give them some sign it’s all right,
go ahead, instead of trying
to share their soggy velvet night.
They take turns watching me,
each other, and fielding soft fly
balls on the slushy sidewalk
near the empty dormitory.
It might only snow once this year:
one chance for them to kiss
with each individual snowflake
once again rain on their face.
February 24, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Youth Angst Society hosts monthly readings in the Bull’s Head Bookshop thanks in large part to their generous support
This reading features The Salad Days contributors Katherine Proctor, Tom Macarte, and Peter Szulc. The reading also features Greg Halloran, Emily Palmer, and Ben Miller.
For more information, check out the YAS Facebook page.
January 30, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
Texas heat doesn’t creep in
like pot smoke through air ducts.
It’s already in the room when you get here
and it slaps you on the back
with the “Howd’” of a bearded uncle.
Breakthrough is fourteen-hour workdays
and fourteen-year old kids
and that’s not even counting the years
of grading and lesson planning.
It’s our first Taos party and our second weekend;
I get to the dining hall late from dinner downtown.
There are no RAs to worry about and no one
sober enough to play ping-pong, and I feel left alone
on the couches next to the stacked cups
with the empty tequila bottle shaped like a gun.
We are only here for the summer, but I still
want to be a Taosian. I want to do my labor well
and fuck up the 21st Street Motherfuckers,
but summer’s not softball season, and frankly
I could care less about a Corndogs soccer jersey.
The ground floor entrance, by the laundry, smells
like a bathroom. In the one upstairs,
someone got a haircut and missed the trashcan.
It’s old enough to be Bruce, the maintenance
man’s, from before he went gray.
My week is planned out and its Wednesday,
so I try and find someone and volley before
my Midnight Alice shift. The Taosians are drinking
leftover sangria out of a chafer and leaving
orange rinds to rot in the sink. Soon, I can put
industrial dishwasher and teaching
experience on my curriculum vitae.
We bucket-brigade pass the ping pong table
from the party basement to the dining hall,
but it gets sabered-champagne-bottle sticky
and I can’t find the ball in the recycled beers.
Up on the sundeck they play King’s Cup
with Franzia. Drinking always makes me thirsty.
I hold a Sprite, and it’s not orange, but the belltower
is lit visible above the construction. He couldn’t have
hit me from here, though I am on Guadalupe.
I wake up naked over the sheets and
it’s still dark out but I knock to know
if Bruce is in the Jack-and-Jill and
the thermometer on the window reads 87.
I run a fever and cold water over my armpits
this morning, and no longer care that
I can’t control the water temperature.
Sure, it’s dry heat, but who gives a fuck
about humidity in this five-story
cinder-block crock-pot? No, people
didn’t used to live like this, it’s how they died.
The program coordinator starts worrying sometime
between my summer bronchitis and Allie’s kidney
failure. We hold an impromptu meeting in the dining hall.
They are on the couches listening, and I think I’m
leaving, and they were right the whole time.
I decided to set an example and move to the Super,
still buzzed on sweet-tea caffeine
and missed penalties, all packed in an hour,
but I thought we could survive anything,
carrying too many suitcases to close the door.
It was Katie’s birthday, but we were too hot for drinking.
The dining hall, still cool somehow, looked hung over
in the morning: mattresses with no sheets on the table,
the lucky ones on the couches, the others on the floor.
Before I woke up, at five-thirty, we were all there
sweating together. That’s what a party should be.
January 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
The first time she let
Charlie Brown kick the football
we were on the futon
and Anthony Bourdain
was on the TV eating durian.
I was glad she had something
to watch while I hurried
down the hall humming
the hymn I learned
from Martha Stewart.
I had come back to her
in a new ponytail,
and I was trying to find words,
but she had already
changed the channel.
December 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Translated by Alex Karsten
Let’s love and live, my Lesbia,
and let’s sell all the whispers
of the stern businessmen
for exactly a penny a share.
The sun can die and rise again,
but on the death of our short light—
night is an eternal sleep.
Deposit for me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
and a second thousand, and a second hundred,
and another thousand, and another hundred:
when we’ve made a nice round sum,
let’s shred the statements and forget the balance
so no thief, searching through my garbage,
will find it and sulk on the curb,
jealous of such a large number.
Originally Written by Gaius Valerius Catullus
Vivamus mea Lesbia atque amemus
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis
soles occidere et redire possunt
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux
nox est perpetua una dormienda
da mi basia mille deinde centum
dein mille altera dein secunda centum
deinde usque altera mille deinde centum
dein cum milia multa fecerimus
conturbabimus illa ne sciamus
aut ne quis malus inuidere possit
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum
December 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
For those of you who don’t know, I wear an intricate outfit to UNC sporting events. It came together piece by piece; first, I made the plunge and bought the tux jacket with the tails, then I saw the mask in the store window and had to have it, then my mom saw the argyle pants on the internet, etc. Looking back, what started out as a few quirky pieces of clothing to wear on gameday became a full-fledged persona within the course of my first semester.
Obviously, since I am writing about it here openly, I have no qualms with people knowing it is me underneath the mask. But when it is game-day, I don’t take it off. Once I leave my dorm room with it on, it stays on, including for eating, so most people who aren’t my facebook friends don’t know who I am. This is the kind of freedom that psychology textbooks warn about. I could write a whole different piece about the reactions people have when I wear the mask, but they generally fall into two categories: 1) small children getting scared and hiding behind their parents 2) old people saying funny things like “Nice face.” My M.O. on gameday since midway through my freshman year has been to just walk around campus, get pumped up by the band, and let large groups of middle school cheerleaders take pictures with me.
This is fun. This is going to sound pretty arrogant, but more than just fun, it makes me kind of famous in a weird way. People said they recognized me all the time before asking for my picture, but I only fully realized my notoriety when I was stopped before the Duke football game by a lady who noticed that I had gotten new pants. I also once received a picture mail from my mother with a picture of my own face (sort of) on my own TV. I have also gotten to ring the Victory Bell.
So fun wasn’t the only reason I did it. In fact, I have noticed that wearing my accoutrements was getting less and less fun. My mask is over a year old and it has gotten to smelling like it. My jacket, which I got at a thrift store, has become even nastier than when I first bought it in all of its polyester glory. I’ve been getting headaches. I would leave games exhausted and excited just to peel it off of my sweaty head. But more than that, I have realized that the mask persona that I had grown into was the strong, silent type. I was an incredibly vocal fan in high-school with my own too-eloquent brand of fan humor, but somehow the mask had been covering that up. But between my persona and my physical difficulties, I found myself brooding as I watched games. I was not wearing the mask because it made me a better fan; I was wearing the mask because I felt like it was expected of me.
It got to the point where I decided that I just couldn’t do it any more. When I went back to Raleigh for Thanksgiving, I left the mask and the tux at home. I went to a UNC basketball game dressed like Alex Karsten for the first time ever, and I loved it. I was almost surprised that no one stopped me on my way to the game to shake my hand or take a picture, but I was perfectly fine discussing the tragic demise of my Lions with Reilly uninterrupted.
That’s not to say that the mask is gone for good, or even for this season: the tux is in the dry-cleaners as we speak and I will be hand-washing the mask over Christmas break. But I needed to leave it home to assert Alex’s dominance over the masked man, to prove to myself that I am capable of going to a game as myself, and to remember why I wear the stuff in the first place.
 I have one hard and fast rule about eating with the mask: no sauces.
 Here’s a semi-outdated wikipedia page about the Victory Bell. The guy told me I was the only student he has ever let ring it. I let myself believe this is true.
 A personal favorite: “Sir, I know that you are cognizant of the fact that his actions were in violation of the previously agreed upon code of conduct!” All said in the same time span as my neighbor screamed “Bullshit, ref!”
 I mean tragic quite literally in the they are the protagonist of a Greek tragedy and committing stupid penalties is their hamartia sort of way. Not the banal tragic just means sad sort of way,
 Right, Mom?
November 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
By Alex Karsten
Please don’t walk in from your date
and tell me you know loneliness
because she decided not to ride the bus
the extra stop to have a few more minutes
with you. That was being alone.
Don’t tell me you really felt loneliness
riding your bike back to our room
because her roommate was clearly
only acting like it was okay for you to stay.
I think you just were cold without your jacket
and now you need some sleep.
Go respond to her text goodnight.
Please don’t try to convince me
that loneliness is thinking it will help
to repeat her name every time
you fall asleep, not even forgetting for naps.
No, loneliness is in the morning,
when you’re not sure if you’re not just dreaming
your morning routine, and you can’t stop thinking
of when you were both on the couch,
finally alone, and was that the last time
she really meant it when she kissed you?