Saturday, September 21, 2013

Livin' the Life

In which, after texting my partner a very exciting message about our three-year-old's most recent potty training success, I shove my phone in my pocket, crushing a forgotten goldfish cracker I stashed there earlier after pretending to eat it out of a grubby kid paw. It don't get much more glamorous than the #momlife, I tells ya.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fandom as Social Lubricant

Some of you know that I have spent the past year thinking about/observing/participating in/kinda sorta blogging about fan communities. (At some point maybe I’ll write about that here if anyone cares, although most days I am not even sure if I do…)

For me, my personal experience of fandom—with the exception of my ill-fated trip this summer to Comic-Con (another future post possibility; see previous caveat)—has been exclusively virtual. I know some other people who like what I like, but literally not one other person who identifies as a “fan” of the things I love and, uh, “study.”

Recently, however, my fannishness has come in handy in some unexpected ways. To wit:

There is an Accounting professor I am collaborating with on a couple of programs at work. He’s a…challenging personality, shall we say, and our working relationship can be difficult and tedious. He’s also British, a detail which was neither here nor there until a couple of weeks ago when he stopped by my cubicle and noticed my collection of Doctor Who fan art. He confessed his childhood love of classic Who and told me that his daughters are equally devoted to the series in its current incarnation. We talked about Steven Moffat and weeping angels and the selection of the new Doctor. (He even confessed, to my amazement, his deeply held conviction that the 12th Doctor should have been a woman.) To say it was a refreshing departure from our usual chats, which usually consist of his anti-union rants, tirades against various university bureaucratic processes, and demands for more  money from my department, would be a massive understatement. Since then, he brings up Doctor Who nearly every time we see one another. Connection: forged. Fandom FTW!

Meanwhile, the teaching side of my job has brought me into contact with a living, breathing IRL example of the Tumblr fangirls in whose communities I’ve been lurking. Some of you might have seen my tweet about the girl in the front row in the Doctor Who t-shirt on the first night of class. A media use survey revealed that she is not just a Who lover, but a Superwholockian (a member of the sisterhood of fandoms: Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock). That I saw her DW t-shirt and raised her a TARDIS iPhone case + included in my syllabus a section on fan communities clued her in that I would “get” her interests. She approached me for a chat during the break in our second class, and has been permanently perched by my desk before and after class ever since. (She’s even following me on Tumblr, which is…weird, but oh well.) I’ve thus far resisted the urge to scoop her up into a jar and scream, “Let me study yoooooouuu!!” and our mutual fannishness has alleviated some of the usual interpersonal awkwardness that I feel with students at the beginning of each semester.

Fandom: better than alcohol for facilitating social interaction, with the added advantage of not having to be drunk at work. #WINNING

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The High Life

Laying on my couch, in the dark, listening to Paul Simon, realizing I could very well never see my dad alive again. Ah, another joyful Sunday night.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Wild Blue Yonder

I've always loved flying. I have a hazy memory of being two years old and flying for the first time from Wisconsin to Tennessee. My dad used to take me to watch planes land and take-off at Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. These days, my job has me on a plane (more than I'd like, at times), and I still find myself thrilled watching the comings and goings of aircraft (despite the sometimes wretched service).

It's with this background that I discovered the JetHead Blog. Written by a professional pilot, the blog is a fascinating, well written look into the inside of the airline industry. Want to know what it's like to land a jumbo jet at SFO? Boom. Want to know how market forces are decimating the pilot corps? Depressingly, that's there too. But woven through it all is the joy of flying, the pride of being a pilot, and stunning vistas from the cockpit.

Have a read. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013


You have no idea how happy this makes me. Gang of Four.

"He'd Send In the Army"

"I Found That Essence Rare"

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Hotdish

1# ground lamb
1 sweet onion
A good number of mushrooms
2 cups beef broth
1.5 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 TBS cornstarch
Half bag of tater tots
Tilamook Cheddar Cheese
Salt, pepper

Set the oven to broil.
Brown the lamb. Salt, pepper.
Slice the onion and mushrooms.
Drain the fat off the meat, reserve.
Throw the tots under the broiler.
Get the butter melted in a separate pan. When it's melted, pour in the lamb fat. When foaming, whisk in the flour and cornstarch to make a roux.
When lamb is brown, set it aside, add some oil and/or butter to the pan and saute the onions.
How are those tots doing? You're not trying to cook them through, just defrost them and toast them up a bit. Pull them when they are ready.
Add the beef broth to the roux when it is brown and you don't smell flour. Whisk, whisk, whisk. You're going for a thinkish gravy. Salt, pepper.
When the onions are brown, throw the mushrooms in the pan. Maybe add some more butter, why not? Salt, pepper.
Grate cheese.
When the onions, mushrooms and gravy are ready, put the onions and mushrooms in the bottom of a casserole dish. Put the meat on top. Then pour the gravy in, pile the tots on top. Pile the cheese on top of that. Put the dish in a 350 oven for 45-60 mins.

Drink stout throughout. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The more things change...

I'll be headed down in a little bit for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I'm sad, but not surprised, that we'll be marching for the same damn things they marched for in 1963.

Timidly dipping my toes in the water...

...of blogging with others who (whom? Jesus, I should know this) I find palm-swea-inducing, intimidatingly smart.

Solidcitizen asked me if I wanted to write here, I said yes (all the while frantically trying to quell the butterflies of inadequacy beating the shit out of my innards) so here I am.

Not sure what I'll contribute or how, but I am with company I deeply respect and would love to impress (or at the very least, not embarrass), so I'll try to make it not suck.

Since folks are kind of touching on the job thing, and life changes in general, I think I can jump in on that train of thought, as I've had some BIG life changes in recent years, and am pondering a BIG change in terms of my career as well.

And the lucky seven regular readers (as solid put it) will get to come along for the ride.

More to come. Need to let my brain marinate a little longer, and to probably get over myself a little more.

In the meantime, a meme to sum me up, to some extent:

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lex Can Just Keep It To Himself

If you're thinking that a double live album by Jane's Addiction would totally be worth $28, please think again.

Not only does it sound muddy with buried vocals, but Perry Farrell does little bits between the songs that had my lady friend calling him a pretentious asshole. And she's married to me, so she knows from pretentious assholes.


That moment at work where you realize you are working on the right things, but approaching them with all the wrong assumptions.

Consider this a placeholder and a promise of a longer post to come about my philosophical differences with/ideological objections to the work I am doing in my present position.

But, getting back to a conversation we were having earlier, this is a thought I would feel more comfortable completing after we move into our new digs or, if we're staying here at Ye Olde Blogspot, after I adopt a more pseudonymous nom de post.

To be continued...

Four on the Floor


Solidcitizen texted me last night asking me if I'd consider writing again at the OG, and then told me to take a gander. It could have been a Pink-Floyd-minus-Roger-Waters-style nostalgia cash-in, I suppose. But no, the band is truly back together. And it struck me that I actually DID miss the camaraderie and the exercising of the old writing muscle (beyond the strictures of 140 characters) of the way-back-when.

So fuck yeah, I'll start blogging again. And as a tentative first step back into the deep end, I'll let you know what's been in the intervening years (assuming you haven't been able to piece it together).

  1. Worrying about debt - both personally and professionally, to the point where I'm very likely to ask my doctor about Xanax on my next visit.
  2. Parenting a child with Asperger's Syndrome - a big joy with some challenges thrown in. Nine times out of ten it manifests as drawing some sort of really smart or profound connection. The tenth is usually a socially inappropriate display. 
  3. Being an engaged member of the community - I'll be honest: it took me a long time to feel connected to our little burg near the Capitol City. Like until last year. But now I really do feel like this is home to me, with good friends and a community of support. It's nice to feel that grounding again. And, like a real live adult, I've become involved in community organizations, like being a member of the board of our pool co-op (which has all the teeth-grinding of a regular governing board with the added irritation of being populated by hippies (including myself in that)).
  4. Indian cooking - my saag paneer and pork vindaloo really do bring all the boys to the yard.
  5. Learning guitar riffs - especially sloppy riffs. You'd be surprised how much fun it is to play 70s era Aerosmith.
It's good to be back.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Today I attended my institution’s first-ever new lecturer orientation. It was kinda awesome for a number of reasons.

First, talk about a good idea that is long overdue. More than two thirds of all instruction on our campus is delivered by lecturers. New tenure-track folks get two full days of orientation, as well as ongoing workshops and support activities throughout their first year. But apparently up until now it was assumed that NTT folks didn’t particularly need any information to acquaint them with campus or one another or any available resources. We need these things, one would assume, like we need a living wage or job security or respect, which is to say, not at all. Lecturers, unlike our tenure-line brethren, are capable of figuring everything out without a lot of hand-holding. That’s why we get paid the big bu…oh. Right. Nevermind…

Anyway, the point I was building up to is that previously getting new lecturers on board was the purview of the hiring department. And, as a former very dis-oriented lecturer, I can tell you that some departments seriously could not care less about this responsibility. When I was hired on in DEPARTMENT X, I got one email about my office assignment and another about where to pick up a key and not one thing more. I had no contract, no information about how to get an ID or activate my email account or access my class roster, no guidelines about university requirements for syllabi or how to order textbooks or how to set up my course in the campus LMS, no information about the technology available in the classrooms or how to use it, no introduction to campus resources for faculty or students. I met exactly one person: the department secretary. I had been teaching for three weeks before I met the woman I thought was the department chair; a week after that I learned that she hadn’t been chair since the following spring., which is probably why she never responded to any of my emails. One month in a meet & greet was planned to introduce the faculty and students to the 2 new TTs and 2 new lecturers. It was scheduled during the time that my class met. My class that met once a week. At night. I learned about the lecturer evaluation procedure when I was informed that my review portfolio, which I had never heard of, was two days late. My contract for the semester showed up in my department mailbox during finals week. So yeah, I’d say some formal mechanism for getting lecturers up and running is pretty fucking vitally necessary.

So, even though I’m not technically new and DEPARTMENT Y, to their credit, takes welcoming new NTT folks much more seriously than that other department, I went to orientation. I met other lecturers! I learned a lot that I didn’t know, even after having taught here previously and working on campus full time since January and learning things secondhand by nature of being a faculty spouse! They let us mingle with the privileged ones at the faculty reception! I got handouts! Useful ones! And invitations to future workshops!

I actually left feeling like a faculty member with a day job instead of…whatever it is that I usually think I am [insert self-deprecating comment here; bonus points for incorporating the words "failed" and "academic"]

Yeah, so it was a pretty good day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blogspot Frustration

I am having a dickens of a time blogging on the blogspot on my ipad. I cannot upload photos or youtubes. Any thoughts about transferring to the wordpress? The obvious url seems to be available.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scene from a SW Coffeshop

Large gentleman in front of me at the Starbucks wearing a bright blue Adidas shirt, shorts, socks, sandals (hey, that's my look!). As he's getting coffee, woman personing the espresso machine says "Hey Frank, how was your weekend?"

The man I take to be named Frank replies, "Oh I had to work on my car this weekend, so not much happening."

"Oh, what's wrong with your car?" the friendly barista asks.

"That's what I had to figure out!" said Frank. "My Infinity was running really rough. Turns out, a friend I lent it to put the wrong kinda gas in it. That's a tastey fix, I tell ya."

This is what I know at this point. Man is named Frank, he dresses casually at 7 in the morning, he is a regular at Starbucks, he drives an Infinity and he has a friend who put gas in the Infinity that is so wrong that Frank had to siphon the gas out. What kind of gas is this? I am wondering.

"Oh, that's horrible," the barista says with an actual measure of concern in her voice.

"Yeah, I got her running, but I gotta change the plugs, I think they're all fouled up from that bad gas. Then I did the front brakes on my Porsche."

"Wow, that's a lot of car repair."

"Yeah, then I replaced the front axel on my Pathfinder."

"How many cars to you have Frank?"

I should point out here that Frank, a man I think I could spend weeks following, observing, and learning from, has taken the lid off the sugar pourer and dumped about a quarter of the container into his 20 ounce coffee (I know it has an Italian name. Not knowing the names of the Starbucks products is the only way I can look myself in the review mirror when I get back in the car), he then adds a health amount of cream, stirs, tastes, and retakes the lid off the surgar to add more. Frank.

"I've got four. My wife has a Mercedes," says Frank.

"We're a three car family," says the barista who has, for reasons more mysterious than that gas conumdrum decided to compete with Frank. "Well, two cars and a scooter."

"Scooters don't count," I hear Frank say as I make my way out the door and into the slightly less colorful world that lies on the outside of my local Starbucks.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Sunday

What is solid up to on this fine Sunday, you are probably asking yourself. I'm making smoked pork neck chili, drinking Modelo Especials, reading the internet, and repeatedly listening to Billy Joel's Cold Spring Harbor.

 Had a visit from a special lady friend yesterday and went out for drinks with friends. Fine times had.

Lady friend and I went house shopping here in the pdx. This process is complicated by two factors. Given that we have no idea where G might be working when she arrives for good, we don't know where to look. I work in what I call South Portland, so any place remotely cool is a bit of a traffic challenge for me. If she lives here too, well then, Southtown living it is. If, however, she was working in the northern reaches, then we'd be happy to live there.

Complicating factor number 2 is that we are not actually going to be buying a house here anytime soon, so we are less shopping for houses than we are shopping for types of houses in neighborhoods we wouldn't mind living in maybe.

 We were heartend by two things - it's twos today! - one, that of the six houses we walked through, we would have been happy buying four of them. That's slightly not fair in that one of them was at the tippy-top of our price range so "we totally would have bought that amazing house we could only have theoretically afforded" probably shouldn't count.

The second thing that was cool was that lady friend and I were in perfect sync with one another. We liked the same things, we hated the same things, we ranked all the houses the same. I was more willing to dwell on the fruitless nature of ranking houses that are on the market a year before we are actually looking to buy, but it makes the eventual move here more realistic, so I backed off.

If we absolutely had to buy a house like in a month or something because I got a job and she was packing the house, we would have bid on a lovely house near Mississippi. It was so great I sort of questioned the price tag because it was beyond reasonable. I described it to the realator as "low" - digression, those that know me may be amazed that I talk to realators now. It is rare, but I am growing - he prefered to describe it as "priced to move." I gave him a hat tip for playing the game, but I'm still not sure exactly why it was low. I would have been tempted to bid above asking and that's where lady friend and I would part ways.

We looked at another great house up in the SW hills. It was modern, huge windows, spacious, beautiful. High side of price range and up in the hills, so a bit inaccessable inconvient maybe for friends to visit. Kind of like up Hendrix for you Eugeneians. We really liked it, but it seemed like a house that people in their mid 50s buy because they don't care about the city and want some peace and quiet, dammit. The tax bill was also huge - solid pays attention to these things now too - because many of the other houses in the neighborhood were seven figure houses, so we have to pay more to be rich types. And for the zoo, the realator explained. I wasn't sure what that meant, but retreating to comfortable ground, I nodded along.

House number 1
House number 2

Friday, August 16, 2013

There Are Lasers in the Jungle, Somewhere

There are three reasons that Paul Simon's Graceland the first album played on my new record player. 1. It reminds me of Lex. He taught me that records are the coolest. He probably didn't know he did this, as he and I have had some complicated conversations about anything he does that smacks of hipsterdom. He was right, I was wrong. As anyone reading this stupid blog knows, Lex is the shit. 2. Longtime readers of this blog will recognize that the titular song of the album contain sentiments that resonate with some of my personal history on this blog. There, that was obscure enough. 3. It's not half bad.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Small Victories

I think you all would have been proud of me today.

I went into a ridiculous work situation armed with nothing more than a fake smile and "It's Just a Fucking Job" and, despite being repeatedly thrown under the bus and used as a pawn in game of petty political posturing, tumbled out the other side relatively unscathed. For the first time in a long time I was (mostly) able to sit back and observe the shit that the monkeys around the conference room table were flinging at each other in a (more or less) detached way and just laugh quietly to myself about how fucking pointless and stupid and not at all relevant to my life it all was.

And, when all was said and done and this same room full of assclowns pulled the dick move of giving me a fucking round of applause in recognition of my contributions, as if that somehow made up for them having spent the previous three hours selling my ass out for their own selfish ends, I managed to keep smiling and not tell even one of them to go fuck themselves with a dry erase marker.

A+ for taking one for the team. Give me a gold fucking star.

Why the Umbrella, I Have to Ask

People who know me understand why I am going to end up here for dinner tonight despite my best intentions. Yes, I love me some fried chicken, but damn if I don't love that logo. It doesn't hurt that they offer a half order of giblets - liver, gizzards, heart - for $6. I am assuming that they will be breaded and fried. Don't worry fans, a dinner of fried chicken will have me back to depressed blogging in no time!

It Gets Worse, It Gets Better

Is it going to get worse as it gets better?


That's a pretty abstract statement, what does it mean?

The path out of depression and isolation is necessarily routed through landscapes of anxiety that run as hot or hotter than anything in your long anxious history.  There's just no way around it.  You are more active and asking more from yourself and from the universe than you have felt safe doing for years.  Soon more and more people will join in this cultural economy of raised expectations and personal attachments.  They will telephone you because they want things for you and from you. 

You should expect that it is going to feel a bit like falling down an elevator shaft a lot of the time, but take heart: your very specific form of bad feeling is objective proof that you're lot in life is improving. 

Certainly you can understand how counter-intuitive this seems, sounds and feels.

Certainly I can, but I thought you fancied yourself at home with (negative) dialectics?

Shucks! I should have seen that coming.  That's just another example of how my ramped up anxiety around communication and connectivity clouds my experience of what you call forward progress. 

Perhaps.  You are swimming against the current of decades-old constellations of thought and behavior.  You should expect to feel more overwhelmed and not less for some time, even as you are surely moving forward.  

You mentioned swimming.  I try to swim at least 6 days a week lately at public pools.  It is socially awkward, often rather chilly and I have never gotten over my visceral aversion to the process of lowering myself into the water.  Worse, I swim at least as far as reaching oxygen debt, thus guaranteeing heavy breathing and hyperventilation that powerfully evoke my brand of panic attacks.  Everything about my daily swims brings with it some suffering and yet my swims are the centerpieces of my day.  I am more myself flailing in those chilly pools than I am on a stage or in my study.  When I swim I face discomfort head-on because my own counter-intuitive investment in resuming a half-ambitious, livable life dictates that I do.


Are you making fun of me?

No, exercise is good and you should be proud of your efforts. 

Obviously you're making fun of me.  Are you at all concerned that your message - it gets worse before it gets better - will piggyback on longstanding white-ethnic Catholic moralism inside of me?  Anxiety is uncomfortable, we can all agree, but it is no danger whatsoever compared to the moralism and defeatism of my negative self-talk. 

You sound afraid. 

Well, now it's my turn to congratulate you on your insight.   The physicality of anxiety can wash my days in tremors, trembles and chattering teeth, but I seem to be capable of swimming my laps and doing a certain amount of fledgling scholarly stuff regardless.  However, there are genres of negative self-talk available to me which, once triggered, can lead me on almost weeks-long benders of alternating self-attacks and hibernation.  I am afraid that this better/worse dogma incentivizes my telling myself to disregard my surface anxiety in the name of a larger cause in much the same way that I willfully undermined myself and under-reported my distress during traumatic periods of my life.  I am still paying a very high price for times when I thought the "right" thing to do was disregard my own discomfort and thereby degrade my own sense of importance.

That was then.  You are no longer surrounded by the same bad actors. You've learned some new moves.  

Oh,  I've learned some new moves.  If anything I have learned to distrust my personal interpretation of psychic events.  I believe you people when you tell me I'm doing better, even up to the point that doing better in a way means feeling worse.   I guess this means that for the time being there is only a minimal amount of gain to be gotten from talking of my distress with intimates and friends?

Reporting your anxiety is like turning on a white noise machine for people and expecting them to respond.  Reporting negative self-talk is likely to enable promiscuous phoning to the Emergency Room.  You should talk instead about your swimming or your band, the weather or what kind of podcasts you listen to.  Maybe even a little Oregon ballot initiative Politics? 

On this we can agree. There is a woozy hunger out there for my penetrating analyses of Initiative and Referenda politics in Oregon.   It can be titillating, if not transgressive, to plum obscurantist politics while regularly undertaking waves of bodily anxiety, dissociative flights and near-panics.  Lately I'm amazed by how much I accomplish daily, considering how my impression of the day is usually given over to recalling my symptoms and not my good works. 

Maybe you need to give yourself some credit. 

Maybe I need to feel less every day like the Face-hugger from Alien is crawling, tendril by tendril, outta my backside, up my body and towards my skull.  If that feeling went away I could surely learn to take it a little bit more fucking easy. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Save Me

It feels a bit like we here at the OG are on somewhat of a similar trajectory, no? Lex writes about returning to grad school and I find myself (potentially, probably) returning to the classroom in one and a half weeks.

I got a surprise offer today to teach a class in the Women’s Studies department at my present institution. Gender, Identity & Pop Culture: my first, my most frequently taught, my most loved course. A pretty fucking nice surprise, that. I said yes, of course.

Even more surprising, the WMST gig wasn’t the first teaching offer I got this week. This was offer one of four. None of them was a sure thing (and, due to contractual obligations to my full-time non-teaching day job, I can only accept one of them anyway), but it’s the first “maybe” I’ve encountered after a long, long dry spell.

I guess what I am getting at, if I allow myself to feel optimistic, is that this has the makings of a much more significant turn of events—not just a temporary return to the classroom, but possibly a return to teaching. If the budget situation is actually turning around and there is finally new hiring again on campus and there is a reasonable expectation of regular work, I could tell this job that I loathe to go fuck itself and happily rejoin the ranks of impoverished contingent academic labor.

And, of course, this being me, I have cruised right past acknowledging that this is all wild speculation and skipped straight to thinking about what this purely hypothetical turn of events might mean.

Could this be the exit that I am so desperately seeking? My last career move (not that I really had any good options at the time) was a huge mistake and I just. want. out. Escape fantasy? Probably. Although maybe, on a positive note, it might also translate into fewer hours spent fantasizing about stabbing myself or my co-workers.

Isn’t it also likely that I am setting myself up (again) by trying to make this somehow more than just a long shot job prospect? Haven’t I learned the perils of tying my identity to my occupation? Every day I try to remind myself, “Fuck it, it’s just a job.” You know, unless it’s that job, in which case it’s totally a measure of my self-worth. (And on the days when that job kind of sucks? Or when the reality of returning to living paycheck to paycheck comes back to bite me in the ass because, after all, that job really doesn’t pay for shit? Or when something inevitably happens to remind me that a not insignificant number of my faculty “colleagues” pretty much believe that if you’re not tenure-track you’re not shit? How will that whole defining myself based on my job thing be working out for me then?) I could end up hating that job, too (and hating myself more) just because I went into it with unhealthy and unrealistic expectations.

I’ve obviously got a lot of shit that needs sorting out. But it’s so much easier to ignore it all and think about how my make-believe job prospects are going to change my life, right?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Diasporic OG

How does one return to one's birthplace after one has long since read and accepted Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again?

The question isn't academic. Well, it kind of is:  I ask because I am in the process of processing my way back into graduate school after a long medical leave.   I ask because I, like Ash and Solid, have certain positive associations with the academic milieu despite also harboring some hard-earned ambivalence.  I ask because nostalgia isn't really available to somebody as anxious as I am, but living my life inside a mirrored cave of apocalyptic self-doubt and drab self-loathing has after months and months finally culminated in my feeling the need to make a move.  (Of course I have all kinds of feelings, but after much anger/fear/shame and a lot of hard work my urge to resume living has sharpened itself from a mere psychic sensation into something more like, shit, a belief.)

So I'm moving, flailing, backstroking, flouncing.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish between the concrete and the symbolic, between place and time, between my own desires/anxieties and those of others.  It's a mess and, like Ash wrote, equal parts lonely and boring.  But it's better than the lonelier and boring-er confines of a stigma'd life lived out of bounds, out of work and out of sorts. 

After moving to Michigan and before my great depression I had many occasions to fly "back" to Oregon for work or school.  Each time I returned I felt a certain lightening - even from the inside of the cheesy airport - as if it were somehow possible for a place and its associated people and memories to welcome me into myself.  I hope to Christ I don't feel that same ease when I visit Oregon again, because it would only be the pinging of false hope.  There are good times ahead in my medium-term future,  but not very many easy ones.   (The easy times went under-appreciated while I was living them and weren't even ever really that comfortable anyway. Anxiety can be dull or diverting but it's never comfortable.)    I cannot go home again but I must once again go to my real and imagined Oregon. 

These trying times need metaphors, archetypes, tropes.  And so it is that I, like my OG colleagues, find myself shopping for terms of self-understanding.  Am I "returning" to myself or is this a "new beginning"?  I am fearful of both metaphors but I am conscious that life without a worldview is madness in itself: boring, lonely.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grad School Ruined My Life: Part One

In the spirit of "tweeting longer,"which was the informal pledge I made when I asked to re-join our little community, I am going to continue the thoughts I started expressing on lex's post here. (And, if I may pat myself on the back for small steps toward much-needed progress, I did so without waiting to be prompted/encouraged by one of you. For that matter, I should note that I volunteered to come back to the blog without pulling any passive aggressive insecure bullshit moves like sitting around hoping one of you would ask me to first. Is it sad that I consider these things growth in any sense of the word? Yes. Yes it is. But hey, that's where I'm at right now, y'know?)

As I started saying in that comment, I have not felt that I truly fit in anywhere nor felt any real sense of community since I left Eugene and finished grad school. I should note, for the record, that I am not even remotely a nostalgic person--at least not in the sense of looking back at any point in my life and wishing to relive the "good old days." I've never wanted to get stuck in one place/one moment in time and stay there, unchanged, forever. So it's not that I want to go back to that time and place; I just want elements of what made it so satisfying to be part of my life again.

Those of you who know me are painfully aware of how invested I seem to be in self-defining as a Failed Academic and how much time I spend bitching and moaning over the (bad in hindsight) professional choices I have made. There's a lot to unpack in that endless stream of whining. But one part of it is directly related to what I am talking about--my belief, possibly (probably?) hopelessly flawed, that if I had stayed "on track" with my academic ambitions I would still have the community I miss so much, at least in some form. (I know that's not exactly true because I felt lonely and isolated during the three years I was TT faculty, too. But less so, definitely. Nevertheless, it is unquestionably the case that I have felt like an outsider since I left academia. Could be coincidence. In the end, does it really matter?)

With my colleagues (insert snarky solidcitizen comment here) or neighbors or various random folks who now fill the parts of my life that other grad students from my department or from the union used to fill, I always have this acute sense of being...wrong. Weird. Different in a bad way. Like I just can't seem to find anything other than surface level circumstantial similarity in common with anyone. I can't ever progress beyond small talk or shop talk, and even that seems to require pretending to care about things that don't really interest me like sports or shopping or crap American teevee or whatever scandal passes for "news" on whatever shitty news outlet people watch/read or omigodmyhusbandissuchajerkdontchaknow. No, actually I don't know. I don't know what the fuck any of you are thinking or feeling or care about. I seriously have no. fucking. idea. how to actually integrate myself into your world. So I spend a lot of time in my own head. And it's lonely in here. Also, frankly, rather boring.

That's why I am here, I guess. That's why I stay on Twitter, more or less carrying on a conversation with myself. I like to pretend that there is a community out there, some place I might actually belong, where someone who is not my partner might actually be interested in what I am thinking about.

So, shall we begin?

Cheap Joke About Billy Beer

I'm at a conference in Atlanta. As is my habit when visiting a hotel room, I like to peruse the city guidebooks that are often provided in the night stand or desk drawer. The Atlanta book has an article about the beer scene here in A-town, which I naturally read, being a beer guy myself. 

It seems that in the not too distant past, mentioning the beer scene in Atlanta would have drawn either blank stares or gawfaws from the afficianado of the suds. No longer, I am informed. These days Atlanta can be fairly compared to the great beer cities of America, - Portland, San Franciso, Denver, and Boston. The basis of this newfound respectabilty can, again I am only told as I have not yet had a great Atlanta beer, be found in the fact that Atlanta and "nearby" Athens [70 miles] have between them nine breweries. Nine! For the record Eugene and nearby Springfield have ten breweries.

My point, however, is not to mock Atlanta. My point is to question that list of great beer cities. Are those America's great beer cities? What do you think are the five great beer cities in America? Here's my list:

1. Portland
2. Bend, OR
3. Denver
4. Seattle
5. Milwaukee

I don't have the time to justify my choices. I invite you to tell me why I am wrong.

Friday, August 9, 2013


It's good to blog again.  Even just conjuring the ghost of the OG's once-estimable audience frees me up from the perils of whatever ruminative "insights" can get forged out of isolation. 

If you go to enough therapy for the right reasons, you become suspicious of insight and the false hopes attached.  Insight is for bedwetters and wayward spouses and people trying to quit smoking - folks for whom therapy is a mere pit stop.  Maybe I won't have to keep meeting Frannie in the motel room every other Wednesday if I just really sit with my grief over my father's apathy!

Therapists pay the bills and patients get better all the time from these medium-term exercises in knowing and grieving and accepting, etc.  But the process has nothing to do with my life and times.  While I am far too self-conscious not to bring my reflexivity with me everywhere I go - and far too pretentious not to confuse over-reading my environs with a necessary and beneficial form of personal alertness - I have nonetheless all but abandoned the formulaic contours of memory and narrative for what is I daresay a more materialist and data-driven set of behavioral tactics and strategies.  It is not enough for me to dwell upon an imperfect past, to grieve and/or "move on."  Perhaps it's not particularly helpful to take up that work at all. 

But then, I want to write again!  And what does it mean to write in a post-insight mode? Well, I suppose I could just take up the old polemics (i.e., Trotskyism is dumb/awesome, Laclau is awesome, man-sandals are dumb, Facebook is dumb).  God knows snark needn't be insightful.   And surely there will be time for telling you more about why I don't like things that I don't like.  But I hope there will be more than that. 

Writing for this blog brings me closer to Oregon.  Some years ago I made two bold decisions, getting married and leaving Oregon abruptly for a state where I had no prospects and very few friends.  One of those decisions turned out better than the other, and it pains me to recall the anguished looks from so many friends who politely watched me leave town without the degree I had chased semi-fervently until that point.  (Similarly it pains me to have to ponder leaving Michigan, where I have worked hard to make a rock band and good new friends. But I wish I still lived in Oregon, notwithstanding all the ghosts therein. I can still taste the beer and smell the hippies and I miss being the guitar player in the fucking Squids.)

One makes decisions and comes to regret some of them, but if I have survived this long for any reason it is to rise above the false friend of retrospective insight that chases after fully- and semi-momentous events.  That I might have made a mistake and could have known better is not as real as the laps I will be swimming later today, nor as real as an effort, like this OG revival, to unleash my personal history upon the present tense and make of memories something more than nostalgic quicksand.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Meeting of the Minds

My apartment is where my OCD can run free a bit. Before I leave in the morning:

Shower curtain closed.
Shower mat straightened.
Toothpaste squeezed from the bottom of the tube.
Dirty laundry in basket.
Ironing board put away (which means ironing before showering, so the iron has time to cool).
Coffee table parallel to couch. Couch and chair at right angle.
Calendar turned over.
Dishes done.
Stove top cleaned.
If leaving for more than three days, garbage and recycling empty, floor swept and wiped. Coffee grounds on garbage can lid means a cleaning. Can left out to remind me to put a new bag in when I get back. Doors closed, windows shut and locked, curtains lowered.

My apartment is where my apprehension about my body can run free a bit. My bathroom has two mirrors at right angles to each other, which means post-shower I get me spread over two mirrors. I think of my wife. I remind myself I owe her an apology. I pledge to do better. I fail.

All right here in my little apartment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Orange Flyer on the Door

I recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Portland, OR. It is my first time living by myself. It feels weird. Not so much the living by myself, but living in an apartment complex with people who, judging by the spare glances in the parking lot and laundry room, are all in their late 20s. I did not live in an apartment complex when I was in my late 20s. I was married with a kid, in grad school. Me, not the kid. She's a senior in high school this year. We bought a house when I was 28 or 29. I know we lived there in late 2001 because I put a flag up on 9-11. I don't know who these people are. What are their lives like? What do they dream of? I know so little about them, my fellow Barbur Heights denizens. I'm sure they work. They all own mid-level cars. Some of them bike. My neighbor upstairs showers every morning at 5:30 am, which makes a very effective alarm clock. I could make my guesses. I cold speculate on how you end up in a semi-suburban Portland apartment complex at 27. I don't. I just wish them the best.

It has occurred to me, of course, that if anyone bothered to think about the 41 year-old, apparently single, overweight guy driving a new car who moved in with absolutely no furniture and a picture of his wife and daughter, well it wouldn't take much of an imagination to guess that I am newly divorced. Life in a spiral. On the way down. I'm not, but that would be the logical guess. I take some consolation from the fact that no one actually thinks of me. I live in my box from six to six and am free to be what I will. The apartment complex is no smoking. Absolutely no smoking. The parking lot is not distance enough, but the sidewalk is ok. I returned from a road trip to find a note about this policy taped to my door.
There is absolutely **NO SMOKING** permitted on the property. That includes on your back patio, and that includes your guests. If you need to smoke, please step out to the curb.
I've no idea if the apartment manager, T, put this on every door, or if I was the only one to get one. I don't smoke, nor do my guests. It's been three days and I still worry. Does she think I was smoking? Were there butts on my patio from a previous tenant? They're doing work on the siding and I know people have been on the patio. Am in trouble? I feel like I should call. Clarify. Explain. I have this need to have this woman who I have only met the once not thinking ill of me. Not thinking of me at all is fine. Thinking that I am breaking the rules, that I am somehow bad is not.

Maybe I need to tell her that I am not a lonely divorced guy who smokes Winston's. I have wife, a house, a good marriage. I don't smoke. I have a job. A good paying one. I am not the guy you think I am. I am not the guy my father was. Cause there's a guy I can judge. There's someone who I know about. There's the guy you're looking for. I am not him and won't be. My life can't turn on that dime. I won't wake up one day and have everything be different. My employer is not going to up and announce a massive wage cut. My wife isn't going to leave me. My kid won't mock and pity me. Those things are double plus unpossible for me. Because I am a good guy. I'm doing everything right. I try. That's all it takes, right?

For now, I am letting it go and telling myself everyone got the flyer and no one is thinking that I have done anything wrong here. For now. I may send an email tomorrow, just so she knows.

Being Realistic, Then and Now

'Was a time it was nearly impossible to lose your phone because people didn't try to wear or otherwise harness their phones.  (That was back when telephones were asked to act like furniture and not like our personal lifestyle squires.) 

Similarly there was a time when people were too deluded or polite or empirical (sic) to make explicit the presumption that their role in a conversation was to distinguish between what's real and what's false. Not anymore.

Nowadays there is a saying or tic that's nearly as popular conversationally as coughing and otherwise punctuating speech: people introducing their opinions by saying "The Reality Is.."

'The reality is'?!?

Nowadays people are casual about their communications cutting straight to the sacred point that separates falsehood and facticity.
I'm as big a fan of horse racing as anybody is, Mort, but the reality is that we don't make enough receipts at the stable to fund the community center. 

People say I'm a jack of all trades, Hans, but the reality is I just turn out to be brilliant at everything I try. 
 I "credit" Rudy Giuliani with being my first sighting/hearing of "The reality is...," but like all great syntactic-semantic outbreaks the phrase is bigger than any of its originators.  Indeed, the phrase defines its speaker moreso than distinguishing whatever phrase it sets up.  (Too true: when you evoke reality for the sake of emphasis you emphasize some wayward reality principle over your personal take-home point.)

What's worst is that the prevalence of "reality talk" in personal and popular media affirms the stodgy marxian assumption that the victory of one kind of postmodern constructivism brings with it fuck-all worth celebrating in the culture (living wages would help.)  So, the felling of earlier notions of objectivity and T-ruth has resulted only in the littering of human conversations with fantasy league exercises in enunciating what's "real"?  Everyday linguistic positioning is now playfully imbued with a dead modernity's certitude?  I'll stop short of getting into how ironic that is or isn't but I'll probably end up dry-heaving tonight anyway. 

Is Anybody Out There?

Do people still do blogs? I am thinking about making a project of reviving my fucking blogging if you can believe that. Lemme know if you think it's a workable idea.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back-Saddled In These Comfy Confines...

I must confess in the form of a question...uh, okay?

Is it okay if, acknowledging whatsoever and whatever inevitabilities and potential non-disasters might obtain given 16 uninterrupted years of Democrat rule, uh...? Is it okay if, after thoroughly acknowledging whose "turn" it is and isn't, and who "deserves" what..., uh?

Is it okay if I acknowledge that it's bad form for me to begin pondering 2016 already? Is it okay if I apologize in advance that admit I must, I will need about three years to begin the painful, threshing, public work of pretending I want Hillary Clinton to be the president of our nation?