DANCING IN DAVIS
By Joanne Aartman ’93
The years I lived and studied in Davis were some of the best years of my life. The small-town atmosphere of the city and campus made for a cozy home away from home. When I reminisce about my life in Davis, I think of Unitrans taking me to and from campus, coffee breaks at the Coffee House with its snickerdoodle cookies, hours spent in the library’s map room (a nice, quiet place to study), my apartment on Alvarado Avenue, Friday nights at the Grad.
And the joy of spring in Davis.
Having grown up in Southern California, I had not really experienced seasons until living in Davis. Winter quarter meant jeans, wool sweaters, rain jackets and boots in order to trek across the muddy campus from one class to another. If people dared to venture out, they most likely went to Woodstock’s to eat pizza and absorb the waves of heat flowing from the ovens.
With greenery replacing mud and sunlight replacing gloom, spring quarter would begin. My friends and I were more than ready for sun rays and fresh air. Spring quarter meant not only sitting outdoors but reuniting with the campus community. The pleasant weather enticed many to make a habit of eating lunch on campus. I recall scheduling my classes for spring with two priorities: no classes before 10 a.m. and no classes between noon and 1 p.m.—allowing an hour for lunch. Everyday books in backpack and blue Coffee House mug in hand, I quickened my pace from Voorhies or Wellman Hall across the Quad to join my friends.
We took turns finding a table. Once our spot was secured, I battled the traffic inside, as I inspected the daily goods. I usually let the aroma of the teriyaki chicken, pizza or soup in a bread bowl help me decide. If the daily salad was topped with creamy dill dressing, I bypassed the usual process, ordered some salad, grabbed some focaccia bread—warm and fresh with oregano and basil—and filled my mug with Coke. Then I joined my friends at our table. Our conversations revolved around classes, research papers, events of the prior weekend and plans for the next weekend.
As spring quarter progressed, long sleeves disappeared and shorts made their debut. The Quad filled with noontime picnickers and sunbathers. I recall one sunny afternoon, when the Coffee House’s prime seats were filled to capacity, a man appeared, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a jean vest, listening to a yellow Walkman and dancing in the middle area of the outside patio where everyone could watch. The music must have had a good beat because his groove was quick and funky. My friends and I watched him for a bit, but then we returned to our prior conversation.
A few days later, the dancing man reappeared. Again, he caught everyone’s attention. This time, he danced for a longer period of time. He would stop, take a break, then return for an encore. These appearances by dancing man—as we came to call him—continued for the duration of that spring quarter. He did not keep a regular schedule, but he did dance at least once a week around the noon hour for a brief period of time. We enjoyed his appearances and would watch out for him.
Dancing man entertained us, and he gave us an escape from the stress of our undergraduate studies; we knew that soon we’d be back in a classroom taking notes or exams. He wasn’t concerned with appearances; he did what he wanted to do. As a result, he made our spring quarter that much more enjoyable and interesting.
Today I’m back in the classroom, but on the other side of the desk. I teach English at a community college to students who want to transfer to a university, like I once did, and receive a B.A. degree.
The English courses I teach are structured to prepare students for those blue book exams, research essays and difficult reading assignments—the skills they’ll need if they go on, as I hope they will, to study at a university like UC Davis. They are the experiences that gave me the background and expertise I need to be effective in the classroom. They are the skills that will also help my students be successful in life.
I hope all of my students have a challenging—and yes, stressful—undergraduate experience. And I hope that they, too, will experience those moments of fun, those good times that they will always remember—like dancing in the spring in Davis.
graduated from UC Davis in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and from California State University, Long Beach, in 1999 with a master’s degree in English. She lives in Whittier and teaches English at East Los Angeles College.
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