A Matter of Degrees
miss september lives it up -- after all, she is a california coed -- but she's dead serious about getting that ph.d. after her name
The Cal State campus in Los Angeles is a nice, quiet place for 25,000 kids to study, and Geri Glass seems to blend in easily. She's there to learn, and she talks earnestly about the Ph.D. in English that she plans to get. Geri hopes to teach on the college level (she likes to picture herself running a class and promises, "I'll be rough"). She also mentions the extra degree -- in law -- that she might go after, just for fun, "and to get my juris doctorate." But while Geri moves with the crowd on campus, she's a loner away from it. She grew up that way because wherever she lived, she knew she wouldn't be there long enough to make any lasting friendships. Her dad, a phone-company engineer who kept bidding for (and getting) better assignments, moved from Phoenix, where Geri was born 24 years ago, to Southern California, then Northern California, Washington and Idaho, where she was graduated from high school -- and got off the Glass family express. She headed for Pasadena and two years of junior college, then took off with a trio of buddies, one of whom had a private plane, and flew all over the Western states and Mexico, having a good time and -- believe it or not -- looking for properties to invest in. Geri had saved a lot of pennies from years of waitressing, tutoring high school students and occasionally working as a model for an advertising photographer; she chose to convert those savings into some beach-front land near Monterey Bay (which she hopes to sell shortly) and a down payment on a brand-new, furnished condominium in Acapulco that she shares with several other investors. Geri owns the condominium for two months of the year -- January and February, the height of the season. If she could afford the time off, she'd vacation there herself, but this winter she'll be an absentee landlady. After making her investments, she went back to school -- she's been at it a year and a half now and will get her B.A. in a few months -- and back to Pasadena. She lives there by herself ("That's the only way to fly") and is quick to volunteer that she isn't a great housekeeper. She can cook -- gourmet dishes, in fact -- and sew well enough, but she likes to exercise her freedom by not hanging up her clothes and not doing the dishes. She has also collected so many books that they've long since overflowed their containers: a big steamer trunk and several packing boxes. "It's ridiculous," admits Geri, in her Southwestern accent. "I've got to break down and buy a bookcase, or else I'll need a second apartment just for my books." The volumes -- many of them rare, acquired at swap meets or by browsing around -- take turns accompanying Geri wherever she goes, even to parties. Though she'd prefer a tome by some 19th Century storyteller such as Hardy or Balzac, she claims to be a compulsive reader who'll pick up and pore over "almost anything -- even a shopping list." Well, it does make sense for a loner to read a lot, especially if she's planning to get a Ph.D. and maybe a few more degrees. But if Geri seems a bit of a bookworm, she also has -- as she likes to point out -- the Gemini's dual personality: solitary yet sociable, academic yet adventurous. It's a winning combination.
Photography by Mario Casilli