Kirk Basement Lab: Pragacz's lair

By Hazel Schaeffer

Perhaps more of a dungeon than a workspace, the Kirk Basement Lab is furnished with two slit-windows (only one of which is boarded-up), low ceilings and bright florescent lighting. The door connecting the lab to the upstairs of Kirk locks behind you. Surprisingly, some have made this basement lair home. Because the lab is rarely crowed, has card-access and is open 24 hours, it has become a favored place of seniors to work, especially on their capstone and honors theses.A cluttered desk in the center of the room demands attention. The desk, and the floor beneath it, are littered with stacks of books, hundreds of printed out articles and even a backpack, shirt and a cheese wrapper. These are the possessions of Andy Pragacz ’10, the creator of The Mac Weekly Frag-ments opinion column. Perhaps not coincidentally, the first column of his that I read was partially about -if I can make the bold claim to actually understand any if it-how the moon might as well be made out of cheese.

Andy walked into the lab after his honor’s defense with a cardboard box and a bottle of olive oil, but he assured me that these things would not remain in the lab with the rest of his items.

The Mac Weekly: So why did you move in down here?

Andy Pragacz: I definitely didn’t intend to. It’s for convenience. I mean, look at all this crap, I can’t move this every time that I go somewhere.

TMW: Do you do all your work here?

AP: Yeah. I work two jobs so I do all of my studying at night. This being 24 hours, it’s nice. The library gets loud and you can’t leave stuff there. I also did my taxes down here.

TMW: What are these boxes [stacked next to your desk] for?

AP: I was trying to finish my thesis, and I decided that I needed another table. At one point I had a circle of papers around the desk.

TMW: And the olive oil?

AP: It was for my [honors] defense. I was serving wine and olives and cheese and olive oil. The olive oil doesn’t really belong to the desk.

TMW: So it’s not going to stay here?

AP: No, it’s going to leave. Hopefully all these things are going to leave eventually. Occasionally I actually clean, the papers get organized. There’s still some remnants of it at the bottom. [He digs under the back corner under the desk until he uncovers a neat stack of papers.]

People have this image that you can’t leave [things around] because they’ll get stolen. I’ve never had fucking shit stolen. People leave things at my desk for me. These post-its [gestures to a book], I don’t know where they came from. I didn’t buy them, they just appeared on my desk one day.

TMW: Does this environment affect how you write? Could Frag-ments have been written anywhere else?

AP: No, no, no. This was the first place that I got exposed to the type of literature and people that became very important to me, a lot of critical theory type stuff. You got radical politics over there. [The Info Shop is also in Kirk basement]. That space became very important to me, and that’s the reason I wrote Frag-ments.

During finals week [last year], it was probably the best time of my life. I was working for like 30 hours straight, without sleeping, mostly. I’d forget to eat and have a Jimmy John’s sandwich at my desk for five hours and have to force myself to take two bites. But everyone would go outside for cigarette breaks, there would be ten of us outside smoking. Everyone down here smokes, by the way. I remember having a conversation outside for two hours, and this is in the middle of finals. We’d be up talking about. Badiou’s perception of politics, just ridiculous shit. I realized this is what makes good scholars, good critical theory and good research. It has very little to do with you as a person and probably less to do with the literature [you read]. It has a lot more to do with the community. Frag-ments is straight from the KBL, and I always write it in the KBL. To me, [the column] is a representation of the space. Because for some reason that’s what happens here. I think it has something to do with the fact [that the KBL] is open 24 hours. Card access is also a big deal because a lot of people live off campus, and the smoking culture [the fact that everyone is a smoker].

TMW: Anything else you’d like to add about the wonder that is the KBL?

AP: I heard a rumor over the summer they were going to turn the KBL into the home of MacBike. I would appeal to any powers that may be considering re-purposing the space, that’s a very bad idea. That would be a travesty of the utmost degree.

TMW: To unleash these people on the library?

AP: To unleash these people on the library, and they were considering turning the [former] Turck Out Room into a 24 hour computer lab, which I feel would be a disaster. Freshman don’t need a 24 hour computer lab. Seniors who don’t have a D-key and don’t want to deal with freshman need one. Are you a freshman?

TMW: I’m not a freshman.

AP: One of the reasons the space is so nice is that it’s mostly upper classmen that come here.

TMW: I like working here because of the unused printers.

AP: Well you have to come here at the right time. Monday, they’re good. Probably Thursday they’ll be bad. Friday they’re okay. And there’s only one Mac and a couple of PC’s that print. And you can only printed single-sided. I think they do that on purpose because they [the lab assistants] know that as Mac students, it makes us feel very guilty. I don’t feel guilty. I need to print. [To fellow Kirkites] How does it make you feel when you can only print single-sided?

Kyle Archer: [Sarcastically] Personally, I hate the earth. And since there are no windows where I can see the outside, I don’t really care about the earth because it could look like garbage and I would never know.

AP: It doesn’t stop me either. I’ve printed my 73-page thesis like seven times here. I don’t care.

TMW: Why is that window boarded up? Ambiance?

AP: No, I think it’s for the. uh, I don’t know. That [pointing to the other window] is the only place you can see outside. You never know what time it is, which makes it easy to work.

TMW: So it’s the new Adderall? Or is it the original Adderall?

Yeah. Bright florescent lights that are right above your head, yeah. I can touch them when I stand up. Which makes it very hard to fall asleep.

KA: Hey, are you ready for finals week when all the food starts to pile up?

AP: That’s the best time. Always leftovers.

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