wayan buschman

"I literally go here"


Hey. It’s me, Catherine Sinow. If you read this magazine, you might recognize my name, as this is my 19th Cipher article (and probably last, since I’m graduating on December 17th). So I figured I have the right to do something that Cipher’s militant editing team would otherwise totally shut down: tell a highly irrelevant personal anecdote about something that happened four years ago.

I need to start by saying that my college counselor pitched college to me as the most utopian place in the known universe. In his vision, every college student is joyful, social, involved, and studious at all times. Oh—and diverse. Don’t forget the diversity. His words: “If you are a black lesbian amputee, you can go hang out with other black lesbian amputees—at the wonderful place known as College!™” 

So I applied and got into Colorado College, packed my bags and went. But by the time I finished my first block, things had pretty much gone to hell. My experiences ranged from dull to terrifying. I was in the middle of a mind-numbing beginning Spanish FYE, during which I went to the Baca campus and got food poisoning and had to listen to my classmates tell rape jokes. Back at campus, a peeping tom snuck into Loomis and took over-the-stall pics of girls showering—in the very bathroom I used regularly. He went to prison. And then this happened:

Friday night of my first block break, I decided to celebrate the completion of my very first block. I had made one decent friend so far: my hallmate Tiffany (fake name), a soft-spoken physics major who lived in a highly organized dorm room with someone else named Tiffany (fake name, but they had the same name). We ate dinner downtown at the Melting Pot, where I learned that mediocrity and luxury can and do coexist. We sat in a tiny couple’s booth and boiled our own meat skewers in the pots glued to the table. We were both paleo at the time (the last I heard, she continues to be paleo), so we skipped the chocolate fondue. The waiter was awkward-cute and had a tattoo sleeve. He snapped our picture before we departed (see below).

Tiffany and I were a little afraid of walking home downtown after midnight, but our fears were soothed when we saw how bustling Tejon Street was. It was so bustling that, as I remember it, we strutted down the street in our high heels. But in reality, we were only wearing sneakers.

catherine map.jpg


Campus was dark and empty when we got back. At this point, things get a little complicated logistically, so please refer to the diagram. We entered campus via the Armstrong parking lot (A), with plans to walk back to our dorm, Loomis (B). All of a sudden, a grey compact SUV pulled up behind us on Cache La Poudre Street (C). Two chubby dudes in their 30s or 40s sat in the front seat, windows rolled down. The driver yelled at us in a sleazy voice:

“Hey ladies! You want a ride somewhere, or you just gonna walk home?” I deduced that this was a standard catcaller, probably typical of Colorado Springs.

“No,” stammered Tiffany, the more timid of the two of us. But I, fresh out of a crazy gap year in which I had to flee from stalkers in Ecuadorian marketplaces, was feeling a little more aggressive.

“Fuck off!” I yelled.

They drove away. On edge, Tiffany and I continued our walk to Loomis. “Don’t worry. I’ve got my pepper spray and mountain safety whistle,” said Tiffany. She was a very prepared individual.

We began to walk along the Armstrong sidewalk (D) toward Loomis (B), nervous but still pretty confident that we would get home alive. Within a minute, though, we spotted a car creeping down Cascade (E), its headlights like two cat eyes.

“Is that…them?” she said.

“No, that would be ridiculous,” I said. But five seconds later, we realized the cold, savage truth: “It’s them.”

Suddenly, the car turned up onto the curb and zoomed down the Armstrong sidewalk (D), straight toward us. Tiffany screamed, “Run to Slocum (F)!” So we ran. It felt slow and surreal, like trying to run through water. I learned what an adrenaline surge felt like in that moment, but after ten seconds I learned that it can only get you so far, since my lungs were getting parched fast. Maybe my body wasn’t fully convinced that this was life-threatening, and it was saving the ultimate adrenaline experience for running into a mountain lion while camping (this has not yet happened, as I hate camping).

As we were running for our lives, Tiffany started blowing on her mountain whistle. This was not your ordinary safety whistle that people get in handouts during student orientation. It was about as loud as a fire alarm. All over Slocum, darkened windows flicked into brightness and we glimpsed confused residents in their underwear.

After 30 seconds of running (it felt way longer), we finally burst into the Slocum anteroom (G). I turned around and saw the two men from the car rush toward the anteroom from outside. And that’s when it became clear. They had little radios on their pockets. Their beige-collared shirts had patches that read “Campus Safety.” The guys chasing us in a car were actually Campus Safety the entire time.

Now here’s the tricky part. Tiffany and I, being new to the school, didn’t know that a Loomis resident couldn’t swipe into Slocum after 10pm. As I was realizing the true identities of the men who had been chasing us, Tiffany, who hadn’t yet turned around to see who they were, was desperately trying and failing to swipe her card against the sensor box. 

One of the guys was short and pudgy with brown stubble. I don’t remember what the other one looked like. Pudgy opened his mouth and said this sentence:

“My name is Richard Newman [fake name], and you don’t tell me to fuck off!”

“Dude,” I said. “We literally thought you were rapists.” Tiffany hid behind me, just now realizing it had been Campus Safety the entire time.

“You don’t belong here!” he spat back. “I knew when you said ‘fuck off’ that you weren’t CC students!”

I took my Gold Card out of my pocket and stuck it in his face. “I literally go here,” I said.

Before she had realized that it was Campus Safety, Tiffany had called 911. I grabbed her wrist and tugged it a bit to encourage her to walk back home with me. She followed me, phone still to her ear. I have no clue where the officers went. I think they probably just hung out in the anteroom and talked about how stupid millennials yell “fuck off” to mighty superiors like Richard Newman.

Tiffany and I walked into the night, past the parked SUV that had just made us run for our lives (I). It was only then I could see the dim, forest green letters printed on the side of the car: “Campus Safety.” I twitched my eyebrows. We went back to Loomis (B) and went to bed in our respective rooms.

The next morning I woke up to a phone call from then-head of Campus Safety, Oliver Holt (fake name), who I later found out had also called my mom. That’s how serious it was. I have no clue how he found out about the incident. Oliver wanted to meet with me ASAP.

He apologized, but it was clear that he was just trying to do damage control. Oliver made excuses for Richard Newman, claiming that he was just trying to be friendly (he did admit that Richard Newman had failed at this endeavor). He also promised that everyone was about to undergo excellent staff training. I suggested that they change the color of the Campus Safety car so that people could actually see that it was the Campus Safety car. They finally did this about three years later.

The next week, I got a follow-up email from Oliver Holt. An excerpt:

“We also called a mandatory meeting with all Safety staff last Thursday morning to discuss a number of issues related to making sure that our focus remains at all times on the welfare of our students, on providing excellent customer service, on the importance of language in our interactions with others, and the importance of making good decisions…although we did not discuss your incident in particular, we spent quite a bit of time talking about what good customer service looks like.”

This didn’t do much to assure me; the damage was done. I only realized how destroyed my relationship with Campus Safety was three years later, at a dorm hall meeting. My RA asked everyone if they had Campus Safety in their phones; I was the only one in the room who didn’t. Whenever people mention “Campus Safety,” I only hear “Campus Danger.”

So yes. This happened. To an innocent freshman, here at the luxurious institution known as Colorado College. Richard Newman got demoted and had to ride a bike. Neither he, nor Oliver Holt, work here anymore.

The thing is, I don’t mean to diss Campus Safety. I’m sure they’ve done a lot of great things for people over the years (although I have no clue what these things are, since I never used Campus Safety’s services due to my aforementioned incident). 

What I’m really saying is: no, college isn’t the diverse, studious, blissful knowledge utopia that my college counselor sold me on. But he was right about one thing: college is eventful. Though I may have not experienced the “hall bowling” he described (I forget what he said it was, but I think it involved using humans as bowling balls), I have experienced a lot of chaotic events. There was the time a friend and I bought “gas and bloating relief tea” at Mountain Mama and snuck packets into the tea box in Rastall throughout an entire semester. There was the time another friend and I broadcasted our SOCC show through a fire drill, not even bothering to plug our ears. And then there was the time that my coworkers hacked into a suspicious email account and tried to frame me for sending weird emails because the account had Google searched the name of my high school. (It’s a long story—you can email me for the whole thing.) And of course, there was that time that Campus Safety made me run for my life. 

I don’t regret any of this. I’ve come to love it. College may not be the wonderland I was promised, but I think chaos is the next best thing. Now, though, I must say goodbye to this strange life. I will soon leave CC and walk into the horizon of adulthood, a sterile purgatory where everyone works at a desk and has to remember to take out their trash in the evening. Or so I’m told.

Performing for Ourselves


I am walking down the hill, out of the bubble of Horace Mann Ivy League Preparatory School and into the rest of the world. I have just enough time between classes to walk to David’s house, smoke a spliff, and listen to whatever new music he’ll make me listen to. His grimy Bronx apartment is a welcome reverie after my high school’s pit of anxiety. I open the unlocked door of his apartment and creep into his room. He’s sitting where he always is, legs crossed at his desk, hammering at his Korg keyboard. The sound coming out of his headphones is audible from five feet away. At four hundred dollars, the keyboard is by far the most expensive thing he owns, and more precious to him than anything. He’s hunched over, barefoot, his hair and hoodie unwashed. As always, it takes him a few moments to notice me. I wait, not wanting to break his musical trance, and sit on the edge of his bed.

Suddenly, he turns around. “Kat! Listen to this shit.” Still half-entranced, he rips out his headphones and lets the beat bump through the speakers. It’s mediocre.

“Dude! Fucking sick,” I say, “who are you writing this for?” 

“Akilah wrote something last night, needs a beat. I’m trying to get it on SoundCloud before the show this weekend.”

I almost flinch—I’d entirely forgotten that we were going to perform. 

I feign excitement: “Oh sick, yeah, I’ve been working on some poems, I’ll send them to you.” David doesn’t need any more negativity surrounding the performance.

At the biggest show we ever played, only twelve people were in the audience. We had been practicing for weeks. My piece was by far the easiest—I read a couple of old poems and helped the musicians move their equipment. David’s jobs were far harder. He was the one responsible for organizing group practice. It took place in the Sweatshop, a twenty-dollar-per-hour studio in Bushwick, away from the ears of complaining neighbors. He was the one who had to fight with venue managers over the money we had to scrounge up to use the space. Most importantly, he had to keep us from turning our anxiety and anger against each other. FreeThe was a hotheaded DIY group, a collection of artists desperate for success. Bickering was inevitable, just another part of the operation.

It took me a while to comprehend why he put so much effort and suffering into what would end up being a mediocre, unpopulated show. As a side performer—primarily just a friend who was invited to participate—I always felt distant from the group’s drama. From my perspective, it was almost depressing to watch. It was pretty clear that no one in FreeThe was about to make it big.

Recently, I asked Jake, a fellow former FreeThe musician and longtime friend, why he thought David worked so hard for the group. “No idea,” he replied. Jake, like me, left the intensity of New York for the quiet emptiness of Colorado. I think he still harbors some resentment for the city and its people. 

“It’s like, when we performed,” he continued, “it would just be going terribly and we knew it was going terribly but we just had to pretend it was all okay. We just had sit there and cringe.” I was surprised to hear him speak so negatively of FreeThe. “Why didn’t you quit earlier?” I asked. “They’re good people and I need good people to practice with,” Jake said, before changing the subject. 

After David and I finished our spliff, the initial edge of pre-show anxiety disappeared, and my excitement was a bit less forced. He continued to work on the beat as I leaned back and listened, willing it to be better, desperately hoping for him to succeed. Perhaps it was just my affection for him and my own wishful thinking, but after fifteen more minutes of work, the beat sounded halfway decent. I lay back on the bed, soaking up a bit more of David’s ardor before trudging back to class.

Jake’s answer to my question was unsatisfying, so I’ve been searching for a better one. Why did David work so hard for what he must have known wouldn’t succeed?

Only recently, now that I’m more than halfway across the country and dearly missing FreeThe, have I begun to realize that the question of “why” never even entered anyone’s head. We only wondered “how.” The group’s need to make art was not up for question. Our only focus was finding a way to do what we needed to do. 

That’s why we put on shows: It gave us a deadline, a tangible reason to get together and practice. Though most FreeThe members would deny this (they’re as haughty as most artists are), the show didn’t matter nearly as much as the practice. We did it for the process, for the actual production of art. The show itself was only a byproduct.

In David’s case, there is another factor that can’t be overlooked. Before FreeThe, back when I only knew him as an older guy with a slightly predatory reputation, he was a weed, cocaine, and acid dealer. He’s only told me the story of his downfall in various hesitant, drunk fragments—it’s a touchy subject for him. Essentially, he was robbed of a few thousand dollars’ worth of drugs and needed to get the money back fast. After making some bad decisions to get money quickly, he wound up at Rikers Island prison for a brief period of time. Since getting out, he’s remained relatively clean and has only worked legal jobs. 

FreeThe was partially a distraction, something to fill David’s time so that he didn’t feel as compelled to return to the drug scene. I also believe, though, that being responsible for something made him feel better about himself. Like a parent raising a child, David could focus on the successes and failures of FreeThe to distract from his own. 

The next Saturday, I was back at David’s house, clumsily taking apart a drum kit and preparing it for the nearly two-hour long subway journey to the Lower East Side. Most of FreeThe was also at David’s house, leaving little room to move around the tiny apartment. An air of excitement filled the small space as everyone hyped each other up.

I kept to the side, alone with the cumbersome drum kit—I didn’t want to bring down their energy with my anxiety. Performing has always been tough for me, though not for the reasons that Jake expressed. Once I begin to read my poetry, my fear dissipates. Every moment until then, though, is painful. 

Swallowing my stress, I began hauling the drums past the broken elevator and down the stairs, allowing myself a moment alone before the inevitable ordeal of performing. 

As bad as my anxiety in that moment was, it was far from the worst it’s been. In seventh grade, I shared a piece of writing with a large group of people for the first time, and became so overwhelmed with fear that I cried. I ended up having to leave the dingy public library auditorium. Years later, after winning a competition for a piece I wrote, I was so anxious about reading it publicly that at the last minute I backed out of my opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall. Instead of going to the ceremony, I watched a live stream of it with my parents. I remember staring at the screen, still dressed up in preparation to perform, filled with regret. I decided to never let it happen again.

Like me, David and the rest of FreeThe were kids on the cusp of being “real artists,” willing to put in whatever amount of pain and effort required to make something beautiful. Also like me, they often failed to actually do so. Either way, they were there to force me to continue to try, and I was there to force them. They gave me the tough love I needed. Once or twice, Jake angrily yelled at me to “stop being a little bitch, Kat” when I tried to get out of performing. At the time, I hated him for it. His aggression felt cruel, and amidst the group’s usual bickering, I took his insults personally. But I realize now how much that anger helped me. Nothing but the bitter desire to prove him wrong could have made me get up and perform. 

The subway ride from David’s house in the Bronx to the lower Manhattan venue must have taken an hour and a half, and with a drum kit, keyboard, guitar, and pedalboard in hand, it was a hellish excursion. Some of the other passengers smiled at us, though I’m not sure if they smiled because of the absurdity of the scene or out of warmth and respect for visibly struggling musicians. Either way, their joy was a welcome sight. Most people were far ruder, disregarding the preciousness of our equipment and callously kicking or bumping into it. I’m sure that for people like David, whose keyboard was his pride and joy, their behavior was heinous. 

Finally making it to the venue was barely a relief. Moments after we got there, David was already arguing with the manager.
By 8 p.m., the drama had peaked. The issue of the venue fee had led David and the bar manager into a near-physical screaming match. Money was often the root of our fights with venues. Usually, a band will pay a certain amount of money to play at a venue, and the money is returned after ticket sales. At this particular show, the venue refused to return the hundred dollars that we had barely managed to scrape together from painful extra working hours. We couldn’t afford to lose that money.

Not all of New York’s teenage performance groups go through this struggle. Certain groups whose families have the money to support their music can easily afford to spare a hundred dollars. Often, they can spare even more, which gives them the option to play at bigger venues with better advertisement and regular crowds. Money isn’t the only key to success in DIY, but it certainly helps, and our lack of money certainly put us at a disadvantage in the harsh competition of the New York music scene.

New York is overcrowded with talented people trying to make it, to stand out against the masses of equally talented performers. The city is simply too physically dense to accommodate us all. Because of this, performers are forced to appeal to the economic interests of venues, which, as much as they want to help the art scene, also need to sustain themselves financially. 

For the most part, we made an effort to resist the atmosphere of tension and remain supportive towards each other. But sometimes we would slip up and let the stress get the best of us. Someone would give five dollars less than another person would, and bickering would ensue.

David left the bar in a huff. Half the group left with him to offer comfort and solutions, while the other half, including myself, stayed inside with the equipment. None of the people who left were allowed back inside. The bouncer became a barrier between the two halves of FreeThe. 

When an hour passed, no solution had been reached and we were halfway into our time slot. Out of boredom and the unavoidable urge to continue making art, we began our show unplugged, with only half of the group, and without an audience. We played for each other and for ourselves, channeling the frustration right back into the work. We improvised. A guy with minimal drum experience played a box drum. I recalled my childhood ballet classes and danced. I read poems over a girl’s singing. People picked up instruments they’d never used before. Ultimately, we just messed around, giving in to the chaos of our failed show, relishing the freedom it granted us.

Half out of tradition, half out of an attempt to console ourselves for the objective failure of our show, we decided to leave the venue and get drunk. With money we didn’t make from the gig, we bought pizza and beer and migrated to our usual corner of Tompkins Square Park. It was a bit too cold and late to be hanging outside, so the park was deserted apart from our group and our equipment. Our little caravan, dwarfed by all the gear, huddled in the slight shelter that the drum kit and guitar cases provided.

No one was talking. After our moment of failure, each of us was deeply involved in our own internal debate. Why do I do this? Why am I wasting so much money? So much effort?

“I still think I should have socked that guy,” said David.

“Yeah, no shit,” said Jake. There was a pause before we all started to laugh. For the first time, I realized the comedy in the scene. I saw my underdressed and shivering friends hugging their instruments, sitting in a circle on the pavement for no real reason, pouting like children.

David mentioned something about an open venue in a couple weeks but was quickly cut off by a communal groan. 

“Ok, fine. I’ll shut up.”

Infinite Jawn

Infinite Jawn

Article by Jason Edelstein; art by Wayan Buschman

I fell victim to a linguistic virus during my sophomore year of college. It ate away at my vocabulary and left me and the people I interacted with in a hazy state of ambiguity, never knowing exactly what I was saying. Due to the severity of the virus, my memory of this period in my life is disordered and vague. But, having since recovered, I’ll try my best to describe how this jawn happened. 

On Punching Nazis

On Punching Nazis

Article by Catherine Sinow; art by Caroline Li

Swastikas and rainbow flags don’t usually go together. But at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ rights rally this past July, a swastika-sporting man almost flew under the radar. The man, in a green hat with a Reichsadler pin, was scribbling on a notepad and taking photos as transgender activists proudly took the stand at City Hall—he was “taking down names and descriptions,” said Gabe Palcic, Chair of the Colorado Springs Socialists, a group present at the rally. “And if it’s a person wearing a swastika, obviously that’s going to be [used for] something malevolent.”

Jared Polis' Pink Ceiling

Jared Polis' Pink Ceiling

Article by Nathan Makela; art by Wayan Buschman

I discovered Congressman Jared Polis one afternoon while I was on the prowl—not for hookups, but for gay role models. As a gay man myself, with a disappointingly small amount of high-profile gay people to look up to, I find myself prowling quite often. Polis was brought into my periphery because he is the representative from Colorado’s 2nd congressional district. I have only lived in the state for about three years, but it’s good to know there are more of us out there.