Time Is An Illusion That Helps Things Make Sense

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

I came to Pittsburgh for the first time when I was about 14 or 15 years old. My father is a Steelers fan, surprisingly there are a lot of Steelers fans strewn about New England, and my mother had gotten him two tickets for a Steelers’ home game. So the three of us drove the 8 hours to the steel city. While my parents watched the game I was in our hotel room playing Pokemon Emerald using an emulator on my phone. We did all of the touristy stuff that weekend, we took the bus tour and visited the incline, and then we made the 8-hour trip back home. I never thought I would see Pittsburgh again.

My senior year of high school I had no clue where I wanted to go to college. I knew I didn’t have the grades to go to Fordham, my number one pick, and I knew I wasn’t going to wrestle in college, though I still held onto the hope that I might. I really was lost in the sea of college recruiters. At the college fair in my high school’s auditorium, a recruiter from Duquesne talked to me. I didn’t know anything about the college, and I didn’t really care. The recruiter seemed nice enough, the photos looked cool, and one of my friends was a freshman there at the time. Why not add it to my list of applications?

Of all the colleges I applied to, three were affordable enough to be reasonable. Fordham and Drexel wanted upwards of 70,000 dollars, so that was just a non-starter. What was left was Elizabethtown, some college in Virginia whose name I can’t remember, and Duquesne.

I visited the Virginia college. They had a decent D3 wrestling program, but the vibes of the campus were just…off-putting. The campus was on a multi-hundred-acre piece of property in the woods, but apparently if you ventured too deep you might run into some moonshiners who wouldn’t take too kindly to your explorations. This came straight from my tour guide, and as he said it I could hear banjos playing in my mind. I don’t like banjos. Worst of all, this college did not have any majors that I was interested in. If I were to have chosen this nameless college, it would have been solely to continue my wrestling career and there was no guarantee that I would ever make it on the team. Of my three options, I knew this would not be a real contender.

I visited Elizabethtown, or E-town as its students called it. E-town seemed nice. It was a small campus, but all the buildings looked up to date. It had some good programs that I might have been interested in. It had a low-tier D3 wrestling team that I thought could use a heavyweight. Truly, the only downside to E-town was that it was smack dab in the middle of Amish country. I don’t have anything against the Amish, they seem like nice people, but when I thought about where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life, my four years of true personal growth and development, cornfields didn’t seem like the optimal place. I left E-town less dissatisfied than the Virginia college. It was a real contender.

Duquesne’s acceptance letter came later than all of the others. I had forgotten that I had even applied to Duquesne, but the acceptance came with a scholarship on par with E-town’s, so it was worth a look. I think it was near St. Paddy’s day weekend that my father and I took the trip west to Pittsburgh. We did the tour of the college, I thought it was a nice campus even though it wasn’t as big as the Virginia college’s nor as clean looking as E-town’s. The programs looked better than E-town’s, how could a rural college ever compete with a city college in the areas of multimedia production? Everything seemed good, but Duquesne didn’t have a wrestling program. That was a pretty big con to me. I left the official tour leaning towards E-town.

My father and I departed once I got to St. Anne’s hall. I was going to spend the night with my friend who was already enrolled at Duquesne as a freshman. Our plan was to chill and watch the D1 wrestling championship that was being televised. The night went as planned until he got summoned by some of his frat bros. He was a pledge at the time, and whenever the frat brothers called, he had to answer. Thus ensued a wild night which, with the hindsight of a 22-year-old was not that wild, but to a 17-year-old from a rural town in Connecticut was an absolute ball. I left that weekend with a sense that I had found where I’d spend the next four years of my life. I never thought that Pittsburgh would be where I’d end up, but life has a habit of taking you where you least expect.

I came back to Pittsburgh a week before classes started my freshman year. I was a part of the multicultural program that let freshman come in early. It was scary at first. I’d been away from home and amongst strangers dozens of times before, but this was different. I had anxiety doing the most basic things like going to the meetings that they had set up for the multicultural students or going to the dining hall. I was kind of a wreck just waiting for my roommate and everyone else to arrive.

My roommate had been a part of Duquesne’s Spiritan program, so with him came a connection to a bunch of people that I would have otherwise never interacted with. Immediately, I was fortunate enough to start the year off with a strong group of friends. Freshman year was an adventure. From the fights me and my roommate would get into, the shenanigans that we would find ourselves in all throughout the city, there wasn’t a single day that was boring. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

My sophomore year, nearly all of those friends had left Duquesne. All that remained was one or two people from that initial squad, but we persevered. We still found ourselves fighting and getting into shenanigans. By the end of that year, they had left too.

Junior year I got an apartment off campus. That whole year seems like a blur. My friends at that point came from outside of Duquesne and college had solidified itself into being the place of learning that it always should have been. Senior year came, with the second half being the you know what. I had to take another year to finish up my classes, and here I am.

Barring any failure on my part, of which I never rule out the possibility of, I’m going to graduate in two weeks. The stories and experiences I have from my time at Duquesne could fill up a whole book. I have my regrets and I have my cherished memories. I don’t know what’s next. In many ways, I am no different from the boy I was playing Pokemon in the Hilton at the Waterfront. Maybe some thread of my life in these past four years that I never thought would be important again will play a major role in my future. I am no different than that boy who went to Virginia, or E-town, or Duquesne for the first time. I have so many possibilities before me, and I have no clue which to choose. I am no different than that boy who came to campus a week early. I’m nervous about this new stage of my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that I love this city, Pittsburgh will always and forever be the place I draw my love, my creativity, and my hope from. I know that I chose correctly in coming to Duquesne, not because of the classes (though my professors have all been wonderful people), not because of the deep Christian roots (that was never even a part of the equation for me), but because of the growth that it allowed for me to have. Finally, I know that the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had with them, whether good or bad, are more valuable than any degree on the planet.

So with this last blog post I say: sayonara to Duquesne. It’s been real, it’s been fun, it’s been real fun, and you and I will always be back then.

And They Don’t Stop Coming

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

My mother is a nurse. When the vaccine was first released to the public, she was among the first able to get it. Randomly she received a text from one of her supervisors that a spot had opened up and that if she could make it to the hospital after work (she works from home), then she could receive her first dose. I was excited for her; I’d assume that for every twenty something without a pre-existing condition our biggest fear throughout this pandemic has been accidently killing our parents by spreading Covid to them. With this first dose, 25% of my fear vanished. Then a month later, she received her second dose and my anxiety was down to 50%.

Being vaccinated, the state of Connecticut asked her to volunteer her time to give out vaccines. Without hesitation, she signed up for as many days as she could. I, being a vain youngster, asked her if she would be compensated at all for this, surely spending your weekends jabbing people in the arm deserved some sort of pay, but no she would not be paid. I would remark every day before she went out to volunteer, “you know, they should at least give the families of the volunteers first picks on missed appointments, it would be a shame for them to throw out a perfectly good shot.” I really wanted some of that sweet sweet vaccine if you could not tell by now.

My plan did not work, I was never able to get squeezed into a missed appointment. Slowly but surely, every willing member of my family was able to get a vaccine. At first my sister and then my father got their shots, all the while I searched every day for an open appointment. On a technicality I was a part of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania’s first phase list of eligibility. Who knew that being obese and smoking would work out in my favor? Still, months past and no appointment was ever found.

I started doing DoorDash to make some quick cash on the weekends. At the end of my first weekend I got an email from DoorDash corporate. Food delivery drivers are considered essential workers. “Great,” I thought, “now I have even more of a reason to get the vaccine.” A lot of the pharmacies that I was checking wouldn’t let me through to make an appointment with my “pre-existing conditions”, but now I could get through to all of them with my essential worker status. Yet still, every website I checked had zero availability from now until the end of eternity. I was resigned to the fact that it might be until the end of this year that I would be able to get my hands on a magnificent vial of Moderna, a fabulous piece of Pfizer or that jewel that is Johnson & Johnson. That is until last week.

Last week, I received an email from a Pennsylvania government address. It announced a two-day vaccine clinic. I checked the available times and to my surprise, every single timeslot was open. I scheduled my appointment; I never knew that hitting confirm on a website could cause such emotion. I was so close to being able to be free of Covid-19. Obviously, you still have to be careful even after you receive that vaccine, but still, knowing that you can’t die from one of the most infectious diseases to ever pop out of modern history is a feeling like no other.

So, the day of my appointment I left forty minutes early. With fifteen minutes to spare, I hit the exit to Monroeville. And oh boy, have I grown a new spot in my heart for hate. Monroeville’s traffic situation feels as though it was built by a guy who has never used a road before. Seriously, I think that I’d rather drive through downtown Manhattan before I ever drive through Monroeville again. The line to take the exit from the highway stretched back at least a half mile. Absolutely ridiculous. And the traffic wasn’t even for the vaccine clinic, those were just average people choosing to either live or do business in Monroeville. I’d never been there before, so I can’t tell you if this was an anomaly or not, but seriously at least a trillion dollars of Biden’s infrastructure bill needs to be focused on just Monroeville alone. Alright, rant over.

I get to my appointment thirty minutes late and I’m freaking out. In my head, I think that I’ve just blown my best chance at getting a vaccine. I get guided by National Guard members to an open parking lot, find a space and run to the office building that had been repurposed into an absolute vaccine administering machine. I walk through the metal detector, get searched by a woman with one of those metal detector wands that you usually encounter at concerts, which I thought was redundant. If I already passed one metal detector, what are you really going to find with the wand detector? I wait in line, getting beckoned through random doors which lead to more lines which in turn lead to more doors and lines. I finally reach a kind woman sitting in front of an iPad who was able to check me in. I told her I was late, to which she replied that I didn’t even need an appointment to get vaccinated. Cool.

I get motioned to another kind woman who rechecked my details, rubbed my arm with an alcohol swab and boom, I was vaccinated. They gave me my card and a little reusable shopping bag and had me wait in a large room full of chairs to see if I would have a reaction. My fifteen minutes passed with no reaction and I left. On the way out, I saw that the line had nearly quadrupled in size. When I arrived, the line started past the metal detectors. When I left, the line was deep into the parking lot. But the wait, no matter how long, would be worth it. After this one shot, we would all be free of the fear that this last year has had hung over it.

My two days afterwards I had some mild reactions, nothing too bad but enough to where I basically just slept the days away. Then I was good. I obviously still have to wait the fourteen days from getting the shot to be completely in the clear, but a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve always taken this pandemic seriously, from the beginning I’ve been worried about getting it and spreading it, but of the two, as selfish as it sounds, getting it has always been the scarier hypothetical. I know that I’m young and statistically I could beat it, but the fact that I could end up being one of the young ones whose lungs fill up and just drops always scared the living hell out of me. So finally, for the first time in a year, I could live without constantly thinking about my own mortality.

Since then, my mind has been freer than usual, that is until, I learned that I might develop blood clots now. Now it is back to the constant thoughts about my own mortality.

“This is what you wanted to do right?”

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

My relationship with editing in all forms is a love/hate one. I hate editing. It’s tedious work. Especially when working with sound, the small nuances that you have to focus on are infuriating. You spend a full hour chopping up a five-minute sound bite, getting rid of every awkward pause and noisy breath. Then you add a compressor to that soundbite, trying to control the dynamics of the voice recording. Maybe at one point you accentuated a syllable in a weird way so you’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t sound too loud comparative to the rest of the syllables. Alright, the soundbite is compressed, it is time to add an EQ. Using the EQ, you remove all the harsh frequencies in the high end of the voice recording, you completely shut out all of the underlying low-end frequencies so that there is no “muddiness” to your voice. Cool, this soundbite is starting to sound professional. To finish it all up, you add a tiny bit of reverb to give the voice some ambience. Nothing too crazy, not a room or a hall reverb, but just a little bit of reverb to make the soundbite not sound too dry.

For that five minutes of sound, you’ve just spent an hour and a half. From here on out it shouldn’t be too bad. You have all of the settings that you used for the compressor, EQ and reverb already, so now all you have to do is cut up the rest of the soundbites, another ten minutes of sound, and you’re good. So, you spend an hour and a half chopping up the rest of the sound bites, getting rid of every awkward pause and noisy breath. You add a compressor, you use an EQ to get rid of unwanted frequencies, you add a reverb for some ambience. This doesn’t take much time at all because, again, you already have all the settings saved from that first soundbite. It’s done. You’ve completed the project. You get up, make yourself some coffee, sit back down, and listen to the whole project. You’re sure that it is ready to be exported and posted to Spotify, but not giving it a listen would be bad juju.

So, you listen to the whole thing and…it sounds whack. The different soundbites don’t sound the same at all. It sounds like each soundbite was recorded in a different room using different microphones. In reality, each soundbite was recorded in the same room with the same microphone, the only variable that changed was the distance that you were to the microphone and the energy that you personally brought into the recording. So now you have to go into each different soundbite and mess with the compressor settings. In one it might need to be less aggressive, in another it might not be aggressive enough. The EQ is generally the same all around still, but with the compressor being changed now the reverb needs to be adjusted. You spend another hour just trying to get everything to sound as similar as possible, but at this point you’ve been listening to the same sounds on repeat for a combined four hours give or take, your ears just cannot tell the difference anymore. Deaf doesn’t feel like the right way to describe it, it’s more like your ears have gone blind.

At this point there is only one thing you can do. Get up and do something else, anything else, so long as it doesn’t require you to listen too intently. Go for a run, fold some laundry, write a paper, whatever it is you have to do just do it. Come back to the audio software no less than three hours later, listen to it all again. Spend another hour trying to tweak the settings across your project. Forget about the fact that you can use compression on the whole project, that might help. Oh no, that actually made it kind of worse never mind. Use automation to painstakingly go through and control the volume of the project. Realize that you’re using studio headphones and that most people probably won’t be able to hear or even care about the subtle nuances that you are trying to fix. Export the thing to Spotify and get another cup of coffee. You’ve successfully finished this podcast.

I finally won an argument.

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

In the fall of 2019 I met a student at Duquesne. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Pete.

 I met Pete, well, I don’t really remember how exactly I met Pete. Maybe it was in a class, or he was a friend of a friend, or maybe we just hit it off chatting outside of College Hall. Regardless, Pete and I become pretty good friends. We were both seniors, but he was nearly six years older than me.

He knew everything. Or at least it seemed like that to me. He read every book assigned to him in his classes cover to cover and even consumed further material. He had an answer or argument for everything, from political theory to fighting games, boxing to hip hop.

Pete and I would spend all of our free time sitting at the table in front of College Hall; from the moments before our first classes to our lasts. We would sit there and argue about any topic that two people could argue on. We didn’t argue out of anger, we argued out of pure love for the art of argument.

The spring semester of 2020 finally arrived, and though it was too cold for anyone with a shred of sense to sit outside, Pete and I were out there. At this time, I know for sure that we shared a class together, it was short story fiction workshop 3.

The first two months of the semester rolled by as they tend to; slow in the moment yet dangerously blurred in hindsight. All the while, I kept seeing videos. Hospitals being built overnight in China only to be overrun with infected patients upon opening. Nurses and doctors crying as they were being overwhelmed by the influx of unbreathing patients in Italy. I was scared, I knew that this was it, this was the big one.

I brought up the coronavirus with Pete. I knew if anyone could change my mind on the intense anxiety I was feeling about the looming crisis, it would be him. He laughed, he shook his head, he told me that I was worrying about nothing. He said that, even though he rarely agreed with the current (at the time) POTUS, that he was right on this. Covid-19 was just a beefy flu, we don’t freak out about the flu, so why freak out about this? I called him dumb. I called him insane. I sighted the number of infections and deaths, I showed him the videos of bodies being carried out of hospitals by the truckloads in other countries. It still didn’t change his mind. That night, I went to my usual grocery store and stocked up on every can of fruits, vegetables and tuna that I could. I bought as much soup and pasta as I could fit in my cart. I did not buy any additional toilet paper, which in hindsight was a major folly. By that point the citizens of Australia were already going through a toilet paper shortage, I should have seen the toilet paper craze reaching our shores as well.

A few days later, Pete and I had class together. There was a buzz on campus that day. It seemed as though the amount of covid cases was really starting to pick up. New York City was on the verge of catastrophe. Surely, a lockdown was coming. I asked Pete once more for his thoughts on all of this, and again he shook his head and said that this was all nothing. In his mind, if classes were interrupted for a lockdown then it would be a waste of his money spent on tuition.

We walked into class, sat down, and got to critiquing. I can’t remember the story we were supposed to have read for that class to save my life. What I do remember was the sound of an email being received by my MacBook. The pounding of my heart as I read the words.

Our professor stopped class the moment we told her. We all asked her questions that she would have had zero answers to. We knew she didn’t know, she was an adjunct professor, not the president, but in that moment we just wanted answers. We needed answers. Pete just shook his head and proclaimed that this was nonsense, a waste of his money, and an unnecessary break after having just gotten back from spring break. We would all return for in person classes within a couple weeks and realize how foolish this all was.

I haven’t spoken to or seen Pete since that day. Our lack of communication is not out of malice or ill will. The craze and confusion of the early days of the pandemic didn’t leave me much mental power to think to send him a text or a call, and now with so much time having passed, it feels awkward to message him out of the blue.

This post has nothing to do with my internship by the way. If you are waiting for some tie in to the D.U. Quark, there isn’t one. I saw everyone else reminiscing about our morbid one-year pandemic anniversary and thought I would use this time to gloat.

I was right Pete.

I told you so.

Who’s that syndrome? Not the imposter.

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

The biggest thing that the younger generation is facing as they enter the job force is the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

I don’t have any empirical data for this, but this is my blog space so just bear with me.

The Gen Z population (which is what I and my colleagues are considered) grew up in the aftermath of 9/11. Even the oldest of us “Zoomers” were just entering the first grade. The destruction of the World Trade Center shook the global economy. A lot of us don’t remember the world before fear had planted itself firmly in the hive mind that is American culture.

Most of us were in middle school when the 2008 financial crisis hit. We were too young to understand what a recession meant, but I’m sure that we at least felt the financial ruins reverberate through our families, our friends and our communities.

The world seemed to balance out a little bit after that. Sure, things still weren’t the same, but we didn’t know the difference and things had fallen into the groove of a new normal. Then came March 2020.

Last year was the year I was supposed to graduate. Some time mismanagement on my end and a few un-fortuitous class cancellations brought me to being a fifth-year senior. At first, I was jealous of my friends who were graduating and entering real life, but then the pandemic came into our world and caused financial havoc the likes of which were never before seen in modern times. Joblessness was at an all-time high and even now, a year later, things aren’t the same.

 What does this all mean? Why am I bringing this all up? Well, I guess I’m just trying to give a little bit of perspective as to how weird it is being us. The generations before us generally grew up in a bountiful world that showed no ends to the fruits it beared. We grew up in a bountiful world as well, but the end always seemed in sight. The looming threat of collapse was always on the outskirts of our view, and with each developmental stage its visage become clearer.

I think our generation has and will continue to have a weird relationship with jobs. In our lifetimes, jobs have become a commodity. So how is it that we can, in good faith, chase after those jobs? Most of the open positions in the various industries in which we hope to work require no less than three years of experience, in my searches I have yet to find a job outside of retail or fast food that was truly an “entry level” position. It is at this point that Imposter Syndrome sets.

So I’m glad for the opportunity to be able to write and produce Quarky for the D.U. Quark. There that’s where this was all heading.

Being able to actually have a piece of content, on Spotify, that I can say I produced. That I can say I wrote. That I can say I edited. It’s a good feeling. It is proof that I’m capable, that the five years of college I’ve endured wasn’t just a fly-by half decade. It doesn’t change the fact that the future will be perilous and full of unforeseen dangers, but at least I’ll be able to more confidently get a job.

Thank God that people were really disinterested in playwriting.

By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern

Originally, I was supposed to be reading and writing plays right about now. The plan was to take Playwriting Workshop, but that all changed a week before the semester started. There is no greater bedlam for a college senior than having a required class cancelled a mere seven days before the start of the final stretch. It is the same type of rush that one experiences three hours into a 400 mile drive, realizing that they left the keys to their apartment back at their parents’ house. Though I live for that type of disfunction, it was a relief to find the spare key that is my internship at the D.U. Quark.

Before I found my passion for writing and content creation, I wanted to be a chemist. Or an astronomer. A physicist? Maybe even a biologist. In the misty confusion that is trying to decide your college major while still in high school, I knew I wanted to be a scientist. Whatever subject I was required to take throughout all the science classes in my life, I loved. There is a sweet simplicity to the subject. Hydrogen will always be Hydrogen; a femur will always be a femur. No matter what, Ohm’s law will always be V=IR. There is something noble, almost romantic, about trying to discover the fundamental truths of the universe, whether it be the makeup of the cells in our bodies or stars in distant solar systems.

Ultimately, as you might have surmised from my bio, I did not choose to become a scientist. I am quite content in learning the universal truths instead of discovering them for myself, but there will always be a part of me that wished I had become a chemist. Or an astronomer. A physicist? Maybe even a biologist. So even though the plan was not initially to be an intern for the D.U. Quark, I am very glad that somehow I have made my way back to the wonderful world of science in my own terms.

The work I’m doing for this internship truly is an amalgamation of my passions. The columns I have planned for the Quark use the many journalistic skills I’ve learned throughout my time at Duquesne, what I have planned to write is no different than what I would write for a newspaper. The Quarky podcast is a way for me to write off reading scientific articles while allowing me to flex my sound design muscles. The work is piling up now in week two of this internship, but I have found this work to be a blessing. It is not often that we get to do work that we find interesting or fulfilling, for some folks meaningful work is a Holy Grail never to be attained yet always searched for, so it is not lost on me just how lucky I am to be doing something that I find thoroughly enjoyable.

Thank God that people were really disinterested in playwriting.