18 December 2020

0 [insert laughter]

 


ten months of teaching without laughter. 

i laugh at myself. they can see and hear me laughing at myself. sometimes i see them laugh. but they are always on mute. 

no one is going to unmute themselves to audibly laugh. 

i know that. i think i may have already written about that here. that would be really fucking weird, let's be real. 

but i honestly didn't realize how much i miss that-- a classroom full of laughter-- until the other day. 

it has been so quiet, this semester just past. 

we have adapted. we have forged on. learning has occurred. teaching is happening. 

but it is so fucking quiet. 

i dress loud. i emote. i put on a damn good show. and they show up (well, some of them). 

teaching is happening. some learning has occurred. 

they are writing. 

i feel like by the sheer force of my personality, hauling us all into this moment, they are still writing. 

by my personality-- sweet jesus, my personality is so fucking tired and bereft-- i have brought us here. by the force of it. 

because this is all, on some level i can't quite access because i am numb, forced. it is performance. it comes at a cost. (it comes at the cost of all of the phone calls i have not returned.) 

but they are still writing. when i left them, they were writing. when i left them, so many of them expressed gratitude to have had the opportunity to keep writing. 

i tell myself that is all that matters. i teach writing and they are writing and i am reading what they write so they are experiencing what it feels like to have your writing taken seriously. they are experiencing what it feels like to have someone take you seriously as a writer. for the 13 weeks of these short, sad semesters, they can-- at the very least-- feel they have been read. 

ultimately, that's probably all i've ever felt i've given them, even in years past. (is it passed or past? i teach writing and i fucking do not know.)

i give them the gift of being read. 

which is not inconsequential. i would argue, it's quite a fucking lot. because why write if not with the awareness of-- if not always the expectation (though i confess, for me at least, the expectation has always, even since i was a very young girl, been there)-- of being read. 

i have never dreaded a semester so much as i currently dread spring 2021. 

maybe because spring 2020 was so appalling, so painful. 

maybe because the break between winter and spring is never ever enough, even in the good times. 

and, as i've reminded my students often these past few months, we are not living in good times. 

three weeks is not enough to sit with the grief, to process. to hold, to rest and recover. 

three weeks is not enough to reconstitute myself as a human being, much less as a writer and a thinker. 

three weeks is not enough to prep two sets of classes and prepare six course websites. 

three weeks is not enough. 

i need a month, AT LEAST. alone (with claude), reading and thinking and writing by the light of my christmas trees and walking in the early morning in my city, awaking. 

i need a month, AT LEAST, of not having to perform care work and trauma-informed pedagogy. 

as we say in my family, these are our various breads and butters. trauma and care. this is a framework that everything that has come before has prepared me to work within.

i'm aware this is maybe also the core, the meaning, of my whole life-- these kids. and their voices, meeting trauma with care. 

whenever i would try to talk about my feelings in the mid-2010s, garebear would deflect and say it's not all about you. and i knew it wasn't. and i see now how that was a defensive rhetorical move, a move intended to protect himself, because he was not able to go to there. and, surely, yes, there are times i have made it all about me. 

but i just-- and maybe this is pure flattery, maybe i'm a horrible human being who tilts narratives to gratify my own pride and make everything about myself whilst pretending it is about others--. i just, in so many of the things i have done (the jackie book, teaching, i don't know what else but surely a list of two things is long enough for you right now...) feel like i'm preparing the way. 

is a john the baptist complex a thing? 

i freely admit, i probably have that. 

I AM NOT THE ONE!!!!!!! 

i know that. i have known that for quite some time. 

but the one, the ten/the twenty/fifty/ninety/417/1202029/2238493. they are coming. they are rising up. i have seen them. 

it has been my very great privilege to see them, to read them. 

three weeks is not enough. to repair, to restore oneself for the gravity, the difficulty of the work we have to do. it is not. 

we had a union social meeting tonight for the holiday break. celebrating the end of the semester. six people showed up. 

after my teeny tiny class at nyu-dc this semester, i am convinced that six people is the perfect class size. 

we've had so many meetings this term, because we're preparing a labor action, but this is the first one where our mics were on. 

the meetings usually last an hour. this one lasted two and a half. 

and there was laughter. there was so much laughter. 

earlier today, i wrote the student who stays in touch with me from AU. she is not singing; i am not writing. and then i wrote one of the two professors from undergrad whom i stay in touch with. and i told her about the laughing. i told her how i feel like things are going pretty well but i've realized i so desperately miss the laughter. 

i can do zoom. i am maybe even thriving. when i returned to the US from london, burvil told me i should consider a job in local tv. well, baby, i've gone international. 

come spring 2021, i'll be playing twelve shows a week, all around the world. 

what i remember about the screening of a silent film-- the title of which i cannot remember-- that we had to watch in MAPH is that it was completely, utterly exhausting. in my whole young life at that point in 2003, i had never been so tired as i was after that. 

my defense mechanism is humor. my primary pedagogical tool is humor. i am, they all agree on ratemyprofessor.com, exceedingly nice. my niceness, it derives from being a generally humane person but also from my ability to handle all of this bullshit with a delicate and light and comedic touch. 

nine months, no laughs. 

three weeks is not enough to recover from the deprivation. 

three weeks is not enough before we all have to take the stage again. 

three weeks is not enough, i am not ready, i cannot pave the way if i am a depleted husk of a human being. 

it is a sin that teachers are not seen as essential workers. 

it is a sin that we are in the situation we are in right now. 

i crave joy. 

i hunger for laughs. 

i teach a whole class on helping students find their voices and what they are learning is that, when they are not speaking-- when they are not actively contributing to the discussion-- they must mute themselves. 

unbridled laughter. that is all i want for christmas. and more than three weeks to reconcile myself to the fact that that is not a gift i'm going to get. 


04 December 2020

0 i am failing

flailing? it's quite unclear. 

nanette sent me an ornament and some body/facial glitter. i opened them we skyped with her kid on thanksgiving day. 

i spent five thanksgivings away from my parents, like three of them with nanette, so this is totally not a big deal. 

i show her kid my christmas trees. i put on a sparkly duster solely for this occasion. 

he looks at me like i am magic. in this moment, i feel like magic. 

i feel like all my people's children see me. i feel like my students see me. when i am not on camera now, i feel like a dark hole. 

i wrote a thing. it's 600+ words over the limit. but, really, is this a time for limits? i feel capacious. i feel simultaneously dead inside and capacious. i would like to use all of the words at my disposal. 

the other day, i had a therapy session with a therapist whom, as it turns out i cannot afford. openly, i wept. this felt like progress. 

today, i reached the end of writing the thing. and i sobbed. 

hard.

for multiple minutes. 

and this too felt like progress. 

this is really hard. all of it. 

claude looks at me like he wants something. he asks to be loved and then he runs away. 

nanette sent body glitter, specifically for application to my eyelids. 

i put on a sequin catsuit and a significant portion of my rings and take a selfie in the bathroom and i just look like someone who has put on a catsuit and a lot of rings and posed under an unforgiving light for no reason. 

the glitter, it is not visible at this time. 

i feel like i'm failing so many people. i am not watching marco polos. i am not returning calls. 

i am not my best self. 

and then i have a zoom with a student whose grandfather died, and she shows up thirty minutes late, and i am there, and she gives me all manner of explanations and i shush her and tell her how i think i've already told her about how ruth died in 1999, and how i got a D in chemistry and my whole world was rocked in ways that have only been brought into the light during the pandemic. and i can tell she is grateful that we are occupying a space in which she is believed and explanations are not needed and her best is not expected.

i am failing all over the place but i can show up here. i can show up for the people who show me their writing. 

i tell students at one institution that a student at another institution has covid, and i see the only person who is on camera visibly flinch. 

we are all of us connected. the tissues of experience and germs bind us in ways of which we have, previously, had the luxury of remaining aware. 

there are so many emails that have slipped through the cracks. and that is just among my students. never mind my friends. 

in the union, we're planning a party for december 18th. i sent a link to a bustle article about work zooms and remarked about the sucessfulness of breakouts in my classes, so now i'm to be made a co-host. 

it puts into perspective how much i long for the house-warming party that was meant to happen last march. the birthday spectacle that was meant to occur in may. it puts into perspective all that has been lost. 

i am aware of what has been lost. i sit with what has been lost. 

all semester, my students have been submitting weekly rants. i see the panorama. people, it is awful. 

and yet we go on. and yet, i am the cohost of a work zoom on december 18th because i enjoy rearranging zoom breakouts at random. something i'm quite sure my students detest. 

the discombobulation, it is total. so maybe, just maybe, we've come to expect it. 

the thing i didn't tell the therapist i cannot afford was that i am bracing, always. i have been bracing since 2016. not because of trump but because of immigration. 

the date passed without comment. folded into thanksgiving. 

november 29th. 

the day i left the uk. the day i repatriated. the day i became someone else, forcibly, via the state. 

the thing i wrote about, the thing i finished today which went way over its word count, was about force, federal force. and trauma, and memorialization. 

i finished it. by which i do not mean that i wrote the last sentence and installed a period but rather than i filled in the details, drew in the lines around which i'd been drawing, and tied it up in the middle so it could lead into an end. 

and i sobbed. weeping was not enough. i've wept on the streets, walking up 16th, home from the BLM memorial. this was sobs. for i'm not entirely sure what. 

for the loss of life. for mj. for burvil. for the shitshow in which we currently find ourselves mired. my loneliness. for the reality that, in living, we will all die. for the other reality that, in living, we find ourselves stuck in a situation characterized by appalling iniquities. 

nannette sent an ornament and body glitter. i put on rings and a black sequin catsuit that has yet to leave the house and took pictures of myself in the bathroom mirror in an attempt to capture an image that accurately conveyed the awesomeness of the glitter with which she gifted me. 

none of them did. 

everything is inadequate. 

nothing is enough.

i am failing. 

things fall apart. 

there are not words.

and yet............

19 November 2020

0 mj

died on monday.

i can't really think about it or talk about it much less write about it because it opens up a whole world i don't really want to go into. 

a time in my life from which, i now note, a surprisingly high number of people are gone. 

a time pre-blog. 

a time that, when i heard he had died, i looked back on as a time of great difficulty, a time when i wasn't particularly happy. 

it was with horror, upon thinking that, that i realized how much of my adulthood i would characterize in that way. how much of it has been unhappy. 

this is not to say it's been devoid of moments of joy. it is not at all to say that. 

just that it's been difficult. perhaps in a way that adulthood is typically difficult. 

his life was very difficult. 

i know this because he had boundary issues, and the whole time i worked for him, he leaned on me emotionally in ways that, as a 23-year-old, felt extremely difficult to cope with. 

i wonder if this is not just because i was 23 but also because we were unhappy at the same time, and maybe also in different but not disconnected ways. 

he had more energy than anyone i've ever known. connected to that, he drank more coffee than anyone i've ever known. 

we went to multiple formal events during the years i worked for him, and yet the only photograph immediately at hand is one from 2013, where i look exhausted and my hair is awkward-- in an ongoing struggle to segue from a pixie to a bob. we'd had a long, tiring conversation. often, we had long, tiring conversations, and i left him feeling depleted. that my working for him pre-dated my coffee addiction astounds me. i do not know how i survived. 

truly, he drove me bonkers. his jitteriness, the way he picked at the skin on his hands, the way he asked about my five year plan. 

in that photograph from 2013, he looks like himself. he has always looked like himself. 

not true. at some point, we unearthed a box of old photographs from the company, and there he was, sometime in the 80s or 90s, looking plump, still recognizable but not the svelte man we all knew. and we exclaimed aloud, WOW! because, even then, it was hard to imagine he hadn't always been this version of himself. because he was so totally, so completely himself. one of those people you cannot imagine as a child, because their expression of self as an adult is so total that it seems an impossibility they would've sprung forth as anything else. 

(i, in contrast, am probably easily imaginable as a child, my pursuits and expressions being, still, so child-like.)

i cannot believe he is gone. i cannot bear he is gone. this person i've not texted in the last two months. not since i texted to tell him i'd gotten the job at howard. thank god i told him that. 

insert all the clichés-- too soon, such a tragedy, so unexpected, etc., etc., etc. 

there was a dinner once, a lunch actually, at some place that served fancy dinners. we were there for someone's birthday, maybe mine, and he lifted his water to toast me, telling the table that one day they'd all work for me at time magazine. (this was a time when time meant something far more than it does now.)

when i left memphis to move to chicago, i worked for him for another year, but he gave me a going away present. a block of marble with my name on it and the word "Author" underneath. 

this was in 2005, 2006. he knew i was writing because, when he met me at the starbucks at the corner of poplar and kirby for our first interview, i was editing my own jackie book.  

we met at the starbucks at the corner of poplar and kirby repeatedly in the years after, even after i no longer worked for him. 

the last time i saw him, was sometime in the winter of 2018. i'd applied for the job at graceland and not yet heard back. i had no teaching. i felt adrift. 

we met at la baguette, because the starbucks at the corner of poplar and kirby-- our starbucks-- had closed. 

i have two students from memphis this semester. they've registered to be in my class again in spring. 

that seems like a non sequitur but, somehow, it isn't. 

he used to clap his hands together and say, with a note of mischievousness-- like we were really pulling one over on the people in charge-- "now we're cooking with gasoline."

i started as his secretary and so i used to write his emails, i learned to mimic his voice and write as him (and whew, lawd, that's a whole other post-- what we do with the men whose voices we used to write in). his business correspondence always concluded the same way: Keep the Faith. 

god, he drove me bonkers. i was so unhappy, so often, while working for him. and yet i recognize is as the gift that it was. and i loved him, absolutely, with my whole battered heart. 

16 November 2020

0 true story

"was that a point made on the crown or in an article from last week's new yorker?" is a question i just asked myself.

worryingly, the answer remains uncertain.

08 November 2020

 

01 November 2020

0 i should be writing about the protest fence

because there's an abstract due for a blog on popular memory and protest, and i'mma propose an article on the lafayette square fence. but the thing is that writing about the protest fence means:

(1) writing-- which my teaching brain seldom allows and about which my pandemic brain has proven especially unforgiving. 

(2) remembering-- all of the the things. 

    (A) the heat hanging in the room, the leftover birthday cake in the freezer, the new cat asleep on the chair, the whirring of the helicopters as they sat lowlowlow in the air three blocks over. 

    (B) the live footage on cnn. 

       (i) the attorney general surveying the field.

       (ii) the protesters moving back. 

       (iii) the military advancing.

       (iv) the screams.

       (v) the gas. 

       (vi) the message to garebear and debo.*

*the historical record has been altered by my accidental own liking of this my message when i went back to take this screenshot [insert eyeroll here].

                (a) i was referring to the state-sanctioned gassing of protesters. 

                (b) garebear was talking about preparing cat food. 

        (vii) the helicopters.

                (a) so like the helicopters in london after london bridge. 

                (b) so like the helicopters in london after grenfell.

(3) for weeks now, i've been bracing for

        (i) tuesday's helicopters.          

        (ii) wednesday's helicopters.

        (iii) thursday's helicopters.

        (iv) friday's helicopters.

        (v) saturday's helicopters.

        (vi) sunday's helicopters. 

        (vii) etc.

        (viii) etc., etc.

(4) the protest fence was vandalized last monday night. apparently by people celebrating the seating of amy coney barrett on the supreme court. the other day, the washington post published a piece on the woman who has been curating the fence all this year. 

    (i) i'm pretty sure this is the woman who was down there when i went this morning to take pictures of the reconstructed protest. 

    (2) i wonder if she's sleeping there now. 

    (3) i circled back, after taking my pictures, and walked by again and i want to say something, to ask if it was her, but i turned right at the first crosswalk instead of the second and walked home. 

        (a) because i didn't know what to say. 

        (b) because i didn't know how to thank her for what she'd done. 

        (c) because i knew she'd not done it for me. 

(5) look at how thoroughly i've fucked up this outline. 

(6) in november 2005, just before thanksgiving, i think, donovan and i went to new york to see u2. somehow, we wound up down by the WTC site. i was trying to explain this to my father today. i was describing how there were photographs and signs affixed to the fencing. and he said, well, yeah, because people were trying to find their people, and i said, no, no, this was years later, 2005, this their memorial. and he just looked at me kind of funny, maybe because it didn't square with the general sense of aftermath. 

    (A) af·ter·math /ˈaftərˌmaTH/ noun: the consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.

    (b) expected duration: approximately 1 month after the unpleasantness. 

(7) i think the fence interests me because it is a national expression at a local level. 

    (a) but also because it has lasted far longer than most people probably realize. 

        (i) ya'll prolly think the fence is gone-- much less the photographs of people murdered by police.  

        (B) let us all renew our faith in the power of page protectors to withstand the elements. 

(8) this has no ending, so i will simply say that, in today's sermon, janelle monáe was twice referred to as a "modern day prophet."

APPENDIX:
























13 October 2020

0 and ha

 

some years ago i dated someone who, i see now, was quite heavily emotionally invested in scientific racism. 

it was maybe hard to see that then because he was british and affected a stereotypically british unemotional affect. so these were dispassionate arguments on his side, as he repeatedly played the devil's advocate in our discussions of the sciences versus the humanities. he could unemotionally argue, purely for argument's sake, the ideas of charles murray. i passionately disagreed and felt, tbh, my arguments were less valid by virtue of that passion. 

at the time, these conversations often annoyed me, even as i felt they, just as often, helped clarify and strengthen my own thinking. 

they annoyed me because i don't think the devil needs advocates. and because i do not like to argue for argument's sake. 

i've come back to these conversations quite a lot, over the last few years, in teaching first year college students how to produce arguments. because i want them to argue for things they believe in. and i want them to start their argument from a place wherein their own humanity is pre-established and accepted and unquestioned. 

i've also come to see more clearly the devil needs no advocates, and those playing at doing his work are truly not worth our time. 

in my classroom, at least, we do not waste our time making arguments about our right to exist. because it is a fact that we already do. 

anyway, i think about those conversations with that man in relation to these things sometimes but i only appreciated their maybe more long-term value today... a morning i woke up to discover that i'd assigned malcolm gladwell's rather insidious 2007 new yorker article on IQ fundamentalism in conjunction with a reading on credibility of sources. 

turns out: I AM A GENIUS. 

also, full disclosure: i'd not read gladwell's article in advance so, in making this pairing, i did not fully know its insidiousness and how completely it would embody the problems of credibility i wanted to raise in class. so my genius, it is largely accidental. 

have i reached a stage where i, unconsciously, know what i am doing better than i realize or am i just very very lucky in the way that a class on objectivity was followed by a reading of a piece that, due to its objectivity, seems to far too warmly embrace scientific racism? 

i think it's luck. very overly educated and widely read luck, but luck all the same.

still, thanks to those conversations with that man, thanks to all those arguments i made against scientific racism in 2018, lo here we are today: the copy of the history of white people pulled off the shelf; a brief introduction to charles a. murray, white nationalist, at the ready; and a discussion of gladwell's use of abelist language set to go. 

none of this is purely theoretical. none of it is abstract. 

06 October 2020

0 ya'll

what a time to be alive. 

what a time to be ten blocks away from the WH.

WHAT A WEEK TO BE TEACHING NEWS ANALYSIS!!!!!



28 September 2020

0 your plant is reaching out, trying to find the sun

i inherited a zz plant last may. like all plants, so it seems, this one is billed by everyone on the internet as "indestructible." and, like so many of the "indestructible" plants i have encountered in my life, it is clearly my unconscious desire to take that as a dare and kill this thing. 

***

i went down a rabbit hole the other day looking for viktor petrenko's mid-90s exhibition routine choreographed to salt 'n' peppa's "whatta man." 

this does not, apparently, exist on the internet. still. i have been looking for nigh on a decade and the internet has yet to provide. 

i did however, through this, stumble across bechke and petrov's silver medal winning performance in albertville. which i remember, for some reason AS THOUGH IT WERE YESTERDAY. 

why? some combo of the tchaikovsky, excessive VHS re-watching, scott hamilton's singular focus on bechke and almost total indifference to petrov, plus the moment in the middle, in the voiceover, where verne (? what was that dude's name?) says "these are difficult times in the former Soviet Union" (troyer? verne troyer? NO. that was mini-me.) and waxes on about hard russian times while totally ignoring the ongoing gorgeous performance (LUNDQUIST. VERNE LUNDQUIST, ladies and gentlemen). 

still, all these years later, when i hear tchaikovsky's "pax de deux" from the nutcracker, i think of this performance and how sad it is that bechke and petrov came in second, and so they did not win the house. 

***

according to the internet, zz plants hate sun. and they love sun. 

the internet is confusing. 

nothing is true and everything is possible!

why is no one making the argument that zz plants are in love/hate with the sun?

***

debo had to have another surgery today, related to her fall. because, due to unauthorized use of q-tips and a neti-pot, she wound up poking new holes into her broken, reconstructed nose. 

she returns home in the facial swaddling utilized when one has a face-lift. 

the pineapples on her shirt aggressively express a joy we do not feel.

***

one of my students finished out their rant of the week (because the only thing i insist on in this assignment is that they take up ALL OF THE SPACE THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN) with seven lines on the redness of strawberries. 

this afternoon, i went to the market and the strawberries were on sale, two for one. 

tomorrow, i already know, in every class (because, 95% likely, this person is in the last class of the day), i'll give a shout-out to whoever used strawberries to take up all of the space, and thank them for this small kindness. 

***

claude is doing something, bathroom-wise, that remains a mystery. but random streaks of a chocolate mousse that is not chocolate mousse keep appearing around the flat. 

not cool, man. not cool. 

***

THIS IS NOT DETECTIVE FICTION 101, i tell my students. 

we are not writing mysteries, i remind them.

BE SPECIFIC.

***

would i respond to this tchaikovsky piece were it not connected, in my brain, my heart, to that bechke and petrov routine? 

i'm trying to remember back to when k.clen and i went to see the nutcracker on horseback, back when i lived in chicago. i do not remember weeping when this song played. i do not even recall it being played. (though maybe, maybe, i kind of do? the horseback rider looked like delta burke. i remember that. i remember feeling a kinship with her. is it because she rode to this song? or is it because she looked like delta burke and that is all it takes?) 

the thing is, whenever i have heard it before, this song-- because i spent a decade forgetting and being surprised whenever i was reminded where it's from-- and especially when i hear it now, i know that with that crescendo at 3:00, he is lifting her in the air for that one handed thing. 

and at 3:12, she is landing that triple salcow (fuck you, scott hamilton for negging her by pointing out the "slight hesitation." i would hesitate. you would hesitate. she landed it as it is meant to be landed and it is GLORIOUS, sir, sit down.)

and when she lands it her mouth flies open and SHE BEAMS. 

(writing this, i know i am, first, going to send it to debo for approval to violate her privacy and publish and she is [hopefully] going to say "yes" and [when she does] it is going to feel like this moment at 3:00, where tchaikovsky's notes go down and then they go up, ominously, before breaking free at the precise moment when petrov holds bechke aloft in the air by one hand AND SHE IS AT LIBERTY TO FLY. [are we not all awaiting similar permission?])

***

i'm always torn between tchaikovsky and beethoven. tchaikovsky because i took/failed ballet and played the piano. beethoven because i've a hearing impairment. 

whenever i had ear surgery, when all the packing was still in it, my piano practicing was lit. because i fancied it felt different. 

whether it actually did or if this was just a story i told myself, i'm not sure. but i'd sit there in my pajamas, ear full of packing and stitches and bandages, and feel like the notes felt different. 

the piano of my childhood still sits at garebear and debo's. i think, without saying it aloud, we have reached a consensus to let it die. 

the hammers and strings, they are tired. 

aren't we all. 

***

the zz plant, allegedly, doesn't need direct light. 

but in lieu of it, it drops its leaves and grows upwards. it grows in search of the light. "your plant is reaching out, trying to find the sun," says someone on the internet in response to a photograph that captures the state of my own zz plant. 

your plant is reaching out, trying to find the sun.

don't we all. 

***

this is my new habit. 

don't we all. aren't we all. 

debo says something desperate about, i don't know... truly, i have no example. but she makes some remark about something totally unrelated to the pandemic or our stuckness, and i say "don't we all" or "aren't we all." 

and, always, she laughs. it is a reliable laugh. like whenever i use the word madcap. she laughs then too. 

i do this more often because i love her laugh. 

***

online teaching is exhausting because no one ever laughs. they are all muted. 

no one is going to unmute to laugh. that would be weird. i know this. 

and i'm not going to make them turn on their cameras so i can see them laugh. that would be unfair, selfish. i know that too. 

and so there are these days where i just throw laugh lines down the empty alley. 

and i know they're connecting, i know they're out there and they know i'm on their side, because i am the receiver of their rants and their thoughts on strawberries. i know, all evidence to the contrary, this is not a one way street. they tell me strawberries are red and we have established such a relationship that i am then moved to go out and buy a carton and also to tell them that i did so and to thank them. that's capitalism, but it's also connection.

i go to the market for milk and i walk out of my way to look at the strawberry display-- which is in such a weird place by the dairy and not in the more logical aisle of fruits-- and i buy two cartons (because they're BOGO) with the knowledge that i will eat and enjoy them but also an awareness that i will tell this story the following day and somehow, across the miles and the wires, if whoever it is that wrote that rant shows up for class tomorrow, they will feel seen in a way that is unique to this moment. 

***

god, this sounds so stupid. 

i feel so stupid writing it. 

but, true story, it feels like it matters so fucking much. 

***

the zz plant, from what i can gather, love/hates the sun. don't we all :) 

denied the light, it reaches out to find it. 

currently, i am staying in touch with a student from spring semester and a colleague from summer teaching. the colleague sends links to articles about trump and our impending doom. the former student writes about the difficulties of online college. she tells me she's not singing. 

in my reply, i'll tell her i'm not writing. 

***

they won the silver medal, bechke and petrov. 

SILVER?! for this tchaikovsky masterpiece. but then, suraya bonaly is a rockstar and she didn't even medal that year, so clearly the system is broken. we've a tendency, as americans, to blame the russian judge, but AMERICA. take your responsibility. you have done this. you are to blame. stand up and take your credit. 

i love it when the women smile, when their blade hits the ice and their mouth blows open in this just irrepressible grin. 

i just finished teaching a unit on description. i just asked a student to make 100% sure there were no sensations of taste involved in their experience of the gathering at the supreme court for RGB's wake, so i'm aware of the inadequacy of that image above, as well as the unnecessary repetition of the word "just." (the thing about teaching is it really highlights all of the ways in which you, personally, fail.) 

i wonder if they say anything, the figure skaters, the women. if there's an exclamation of "YES!!!!" that we can't hear because of the music over the PA. like, if the music weren't playing, would figure skating sound like tennis? 

no, really, i want to know. would it? 

have they been shouting and grunting and screaming all along and we've just not heard their cries because the music is pumped out too loud so as to emphasize the delicacy of their white femininity?

(for me, the men in figure skating-- bless-- have always been ancillary. it is, for me, a sport through which women find a way out.) 

***

my zz plant is approximately 3 feet tall. the original one. i've recently procured another and, god go with it, i will do my best. 

they both live in the window now, under the light of the sequined curtains. 

***

my students tell me they love my "background." 

which is my home. 

the only room i have. after years of displacement and instability. 

the room in which i eat and binge watch and read and teach and grade and do yoga and sleep. 

the room i borrow from some faceless corporate agency for $1175 every month (+$35 for claude). 

thank god i had the foresight to buy a convertible couch! 

in their rants they write: i love your background. 

in my replies, i tell them to watch out for my musical chairs-ing of the plants and books. because i want them to be there, to be present, to be entertained. and in this weird world we live in i somehow imagine my rotating new plants onstage will be the thing that brings them in at 9:40 am. 

but i so want them to be clear on the fact that i am 100% here for them, that we are all of us here, that this is real. it really, really, i assure you, it really is real.

i cannot stress that enough. 

this is real. this is really happening. 

when we were in a classroom, it was intense. 

i said this in april. already, ALREADY, before all of this, it felt like life and death. 

now. 

NOW. 

people. 

PEOPLE. 

before, way way back in the way back of last april, we were the band on titanic

now. 

NOW. 

NOW?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

NOW!!?!??!?!?!?!?!~!?!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!!??!? 

now. now, we are those people, those people that, just looking at them and based on how limited their lines are, you already know they are doomed. those people hanging onto the edge with their fingertips, knuckles gone white, gripping the side of the boat as it slides down into the atlantic. 

think of me as the man in whose eyes rose dewitt bukater looked before he let go. 

you remember that guy? we all of us who saw that movie remember that guy. the one who let go and bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced and bounced down the deck as he fell into the freezing waters to die. 

hi. 

it me. 

A FEAT OF COMPUTER-GENERATE IMAGERY, the critics called it. 

hey, me again, along with all of my comrades. 

we are not a pretty picture so you may be tempted to look away but DO NOT DO IT. i command you. listen to the teacher: LOOK AT US.

we come to you every tuesday/thursday and/or every monday/wednesday/friday as a feat of computer-generated imagery but we are here, we are real, we also are in our homes pasting on our smiles, throwing laughs down the alley. 

we are here. this is us. 

c'mon, you loved that show, right? lookit!!

THIS IS US.

***

the plant though. in the window. against the light of the sequin curtains. 

i am curious to see where it will go. i so very much want it to survive. it brings me no pleasure to kill things and these plants, they make me feel i am really here so i kinda need them to really live. 

the plants and claude and his chocolate moussey butt (wtf even is happening there?!), please note: we are, all of us, here, a feat of computer-generated imagery tho we may appear. 

***

we're relaxing this week, in all of my classes. recovering from our various submitted essays (which i, beleaguered pandemic teacher, now have to figure out how to equitably grade in the midst of a pandemic/civil rights movement/impending civil war/decline of empire... and, for the record, i am in no way being facetious).  

i want to call it our week of rest and relaxation but that seems frightfully close to my year of rest and relaxation and that is not our vibe. 

i screened the jackie white house tour in a class today (for the third and, hopefully, final time in 2020) and a student asked whether he could put up portraits of jay z and wutang clan when he got to the white house because abraham lincoln just wasn't really his vibe. and i replied, earnestly, yes! though there's also the family quarters which is more private and where you can really cut loose in your redecorating. 

currently, i am living for a moment when that student is in the white house and that picture of jay z and beyoncé in front of duchess meghan's portrait hangs in what used to be called The People's House.

till then... 

***

i'm participating in a panel on friday. 

confession: i have not yet read the book. (hannah, if you're reading this, i'mma LOVE IT and be fully prepared, I SWEAR!!)

this is a teachable moment. in a rant, a student asked how i'm doing and i confessed that i'm procrastinating on my reading because i've horrible reading comprehension and so now i have to read double-quick. 

again, i do not know who asked me this. i've not seen enough of their faces to know who they are though i care about them with all of my heart. 

***

they're sitting by the air conditioner, the zz plants. IS THE AIR CONDITIONER KILLING THEM? are they too cold??! i do not know. 

i was too hot, so this is where we are now. 

it's good to sit back and assess...

debo is wearing the bandages of a person who just had a facelift. 

it's back in the 80s outside, so the AC is on again for the first time in maybe a month. 

claude sits next to the computer, looking away. god knows what is happening with his butt. 

tomorrow, i will welcome 65 people into my bedroom and we will rest and relax and do i do not yet know what for 80 minutes. 

elena bechke is 54 and a figure skating coach in north carolina. in 1992, she won the silver medal in the XVI olympic winter games. 

verne lundquist lives!

so does scott hamilton! 

my zz plants are... too soon to tell. 

but, still, they set down their leaves and they reach for the light. 

it is autumn. the sun sets sooner. my wish has not changed since last spring. 

i've no words to offer but these, a blessing for this semester we all find ourselves in, if you will:

may whatever god there is bring justice for breonna taylor and brandon webber. and may we all of us bear witness, and hold on, and keep writing, all of us, always, always writing. in the darkness, lifted aloft on the wings of our ancestors, reaching for the sun in whatever fashion, whatever way we can muster, may we find the courage and the strength to continue writing, through the war we are in and the war still to come, writing forever and ever, chins up and tits out, onwards. amen.

0 this is

 hands down the most extraordinary sermon i've ever heard



20 September 2020

0 i forget how close i am sometimes

 you can't even see it here. 


it's there, i promise. 

when i'm walking to the grocery store, two blocks from my apartment, i cross this street and look over my shoulder to the left and there it is, plainly visible, even without my glasses. 


it's only ten blocks away. 

he's only ten blocks away. 

i was describing to nanette how it felt yesterday and i said i was reminded of a lunch she and i had at senate house after trump's election. where we just kind of sat in the twilight of the cafe and sighed in dread. 

i remember that, on that day, we also talked make-up. and that that provided some relief from the state of the world and the hellish thing she was going through and my father's prostate cancer. and the nagging sensation that things were about to get a hell of a lot worse. 

friday night felt a bit like a walk down bad memories lane. a bit like the night of the pussy tape, a bit like election night 2016, a bit like the days of kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, a bit like the weird terror that descended on this last march 11th, and the agitated stuckness that accompanied the protests and the subsequent occupation this june. 

all memories linked by the sensation of needing to simultaneously throw up, sleep, sob, and scream. 

i went to see the RBG documentary with garebear. he rarely goes to the movies and i don't quite remember how i coerced him. something about father/daughter bonding probably. 

there was some part of the documentary that made me cry. not because it was sad. but it communicated something about gender oppression.

this happens rarely enough in films that i remain highly sensitive to the feeling it prompts-- a prickling of the skin, a flushing of the cheeks, tears, slow at first but then falling faster-- not out of pain but recognition. 

suffragette. the florida project. the RBG documentary. these are the films that have made me feel this way. 

we watched the RBG documentary again, as a family, during that fortnight from hell when burvil lived with us, before we moved her into the care home. a fortnight which was, quite honestly, maybe the worst thing garebear, debo, and i have endured together as a family unit, while also being an unspeakably precious time in retrospect, because we will likely, none of us, ever spend that much time with burvil again. 

she kept getting distracted and confused, while we were watching the movie. the only time she was silent was a stretch of the film devoted to ginsburg's marriage and her love for marty.  

the kavanaugh hearings started a few days later. 

i've been thinking a lot about janet reno, who died a few days before the 2016 election. and hillary being a joyous badass in the rain

last week, in my howard classes, we spent nearly the whole time talking about the work of audre lorde. in my effort to bring her out of the fog of History and remind them she was a living, breathing, awesome person, i played them a clip from her speech, "the transformation of silence into language and action." i woke up saturday with her voice ringing in my head.