4 minutes later
Wednesday June 01st 2016, 10:33 pm
Filed under: family,fear,friends,grief,whatsnext,Work Tags:

4 minutes later, 4 minutes after my meaningless check in to TPT this morning, a man would shoot another man. 2 shots, apparently, to shoot and kill his engineering professor. It has been widely reported, though without any substantiation I’ve seen, that he did so over grades.

So, here, everyone – have an A. Have 52 channels of A. Because I’m not dying because I gave you a B, or a C, or a D. And YCT shouldn’t have to spend 2+ hours “locked down” in an “active shooter situation” because your euphemisms don’t hide how FUCKED UP all of this is.

The anger is replacing the fear, the frustration overrunning the helplessness, the rage rumbling against the tender and the desperate.

The anger that we allow this to happen, over and over. A school shooting a week, apparently, since Sandy Hook. But fuck numbers, fuck statistics. Anger that MY ANGER is always-already a symptom that is somehow invalidating. That it’s “hysteria” and a particular political stance. That to be angry about senseless gun death is to be hysterical, and thus wrong, and eminently dismissable.

Two and a half hours. Her students asked to give their final presentations, despite sitting on the floor in the dark, despite not being able to show their slides, despite their phones lighting up with texts and calls from loved ones intermittently. How is it possible that 15 students and a teacher, times 10, times 100, times 1000, times 2000, can be frozen in the dark, in fear? More than thirty five thousand students on campus, maybe fifty plus thousand including staff and faculty. Frozen. Talking about the Brontës in context. The context of school shootings, of senseless wholesale death because we hold these truths to be self-evident: that my right to kill you, me, and anyone else with a gun is more important than anything else.

Tomorrow, I teach the last day of metaphors and embodied language – a “Fiat Lux” class, started in response to 9/11 to get students talking about the big issues. I think we’ll analyze the metaphors at play in all of the headlines and articles. And part of me, the terrified part, is relieved the class is pass/not-pass, and everyone will pas. And part of me is so, so, so very angry that I’m afraid.

One fewer rainbow sender
Tuesday June 09th 2015, 10:50 pm
Filed under: friends,grief,Oxford Tags:

“the most irresponsibly generous person I’ve met.”
“Wise, crazy, and wonderful.”

Last night I looked at the Chagall book she gave me, as I left Oxf a decade and change ago. “From someone who does give a shit,” she signed it. I believe it was one of two art books that her father had given her. He was a stage designer, or technical theatre person of some description. That was her, though. I think she showed up to the party around midnight, well after someone had already exited the flat through the glorious front windows, through the bushes, and took with them the last shreds of my landlord’s respect and most of my security deposit. God knows where she was coming from – the Royal Shakespeare Company, I would guess, where she was doing vocals? Did she have a stage name? Light googling isn’t turning much up. But classic Helen. Here, take one of these two totally precious things (that I’m inexplicably carrying around with me) that I really, really, really want you to have.

And she really did want you to have it. We spoke several times that summer. I remember pacing around the parking lot between the co-op and the faculty housing, speaking waaay too loudly on a mobile phone when it was still novel for the US. (A novelty and an unpaid bill that would come back to haunt me despite several corporate buyouts some 5 years later at the invention of the idevice.) She sent rainbows in ridiculous ways, and tatt and good scotch, and told me I had to have a place to play my music. We never played together, probably out of my shame at not being in the league that she was at, that the other reader of this is at. A shame, really, as she judged passion, not skill, heart, not talent. (And then skill, talent when appropriate. Damn could she judge when called to.)

She sent money, too, when it all rather predictably fell apart and I needed to leave, and she and the friend made it possible to get out of the narrative that I’d been unable to disrupt before it came to the very end. I left and came back, not to Oxf, but to London. I’d go back to Ox, of course, but never with a place to call home again. I’d see her a few times in the year it took me to finish, then move to NY, to here. She always asked if I had a place to play my music. Never without the possessive pronoun. That mattered, that meant something, that absolved and forgave and gently made anything OK, even beautiful.

We’re headed out in just a few weeks. She said she had a few more weeks than that, and we were going to see her, small included. When her daughter called, she sounded just like her. The connection was terrible – I fucking hate AT&T – and I thought it _was_ her. Somethingsomethingsomething at home? No, I’m at work I said. Peacefullyinhersleep. Oh god. I’m so sorry.

And I am. Not that she minded, at the end, staggeringly generous in forgiveness as in everything else. I raise a glass of single malt, and listen to music that reminds me of you, and none of it will fill the remarkable space you made so utterly yours. What the physicists must have made of you, your eagerness to push their science into philosophy, their quantum indeterminacy into a different kind of beauty.

“I want to live, but I love the life I’ve lived, and can leave it.” May your atoms and molecules scatter and entangle interestingly. You were loved.

shower and champers
Sunday November 09th 2014, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Boozy,family,friends,himself Tags:

Not everyone was there. Hell, not everyone was invited. But for a bunch of adults, drinking and chatting, in a no-fuss no-muss cocktail party, there was an awful lot of love. Too many things to open, though we sampled a few. Some beloved books, a hand-knit hat and blanket. It is rare my heart is full, particularly feeling the presence of those absent, of knowing that people in the UK, NY, AZ, SF are no less supportive than those that happen to be local. The game of proximity, and how it shapes a life or lives.

The room is getting there, major furniture in place, decorations remaining, and the infinite amount of STUFF to be sorted, placed, stored for later or even later than that. Travelling light this is not, but hopefully not full yuppie overcompensation. It may not be a middle ground, but I aspire to vaguely less, to vaguely left, of total contemporary madness.

6 weeks. A handful of pages written, hoping to have more for the inside baseball talk the week after next, circulated, alas, all too soon. But the words will not stop because of his arrival, and though I fear being 20% dumber with exhaustion, and worse, unable to see that that is what has happened, the words, they will not stop.

En masse, gracious. Truly. And we need the promise of the group, of a wildly heterogeneous collection of people from crazy places with crazy stories, to offer that unexpected perspective, richness, fuck it, wisdom, as and when.

the cold, the dark, and the not at all silent
Friday June 27th 2014, 9:59 pm
Filed under: change,friends Tags:

10 years ago, give or take (and I know I’m different as I’m resisting looking up the details, fighting off the need to be absolutely right {though not the impulse to digress}), friends moved to Africa. To Zimbabwe, then, and later to Ghana. And now, with what must be mixed and complex feelings, away from Africa. I never made it there to visit you, which I regret, and we never made it, which we regret. But hopefully the next chapter of your border-crossing world-bettering lives will be as compelling as these past chapters. And I may never make it to the lake of neutrality, either, but it’s not because you’re not missed keenly. The silence isn’t so silent, the distance not so very distant, and the chances to cross it, though not taken as often as they should be, not wholly missed, either. But out of the lands of one set of stereotypes to the land of still others, wishing you as much adventure to come as you’ve had. Hopefully with houses that don’t try to kill you. In’sh’allah, as Bea would say. Move well.

old, friend
Sunday November 24th 2013, 12:55 am
Filed under: Berkeley,fall,friends,holidays,memory,New York Tags:

I haven’t turned here for a while, a place to express the things I can’t express so readily in other ways, an unholy cross of a pulpit and a confessional. The long dark drive back on unfamiliar freeways itself a familiar parting. Always the return, the sense that it can’t be held on to forever, that there isn’t and can’t be here. But this time, a coming back to more powerful than the coming away from. These roads of more than 20 years of emotions and lane changes. Her daughter, barely awake, waiting for her bottle to be heated, snuggling in; “rub my back,” she said, those same 20 years ago, even as she now rubs the small body of a child safely encased in striped fuzzy footed pajamas.

The past doesn’t seem to be getting any paster – everything adds up on this end, not the other one. And for all of the waxing and waning of a relationship that was _always_ cyclical, the connection that was there is there and has survived all of the ons and offs, Tuesdays and Wednesdays of a quarter of a life. And it was all, easily, readily on the table, from work to passion to ailing parts to thriving parents to second and third order details. Always, at bottom, are you still you? Who are you now? How are you now? How will you be? Are there whys to make sense of all the paths that have led here and lead alarmingly on by?

Not much wisdom to add via reflection, really. My misanthropy runs deep enough my friends are few. My few friendships run deep enough that it doesn’t really matter. She lives a life that will never be mine, and all the years we imagined how are lives would be entangled, we never could have imagined this. And yet. It’s not so very far from something we might have thought, on a dark day or a good day, on the cycle in or back out again. But it is, in a pragmatic way, but not one that takes away from the magic of the now. It is, we are, old, friend. And there is much to wonder, and so much I can’t even begin to bring up here, can’t confront, can’t discuss, can’t imagine. Tests and more tests and decisions and varieties and versions. We’ll see.

Your children are beautiful.

(Update, a few minutes later. Some lingering through old posts, this gem arose, ” I never really thought of myself as ambitious, mostly just arrogant with reasonably good reason, so it was a touch startling to hear a friend ask, “Was winning enough? Or will you get lost in trying for the next victory, the ever diminishing returns on conventional successes?” And I just fucking might. And is this a bad thing?” Before I go on to wonder about the growing apart of me and my dinner companions this evening. I don’t know if I’m lost, nor how my conventions and returns are doing, but I do know there’s more whiskey.)

A minor
Monday June 24th 2013, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,Boozy,change,friends,inner-polish-teenage-girl,seasonal,teaching Tags:

It’s all white keys and it’s sort of wistful. I really must stop being so musically lazy. A friend’s wedding in the desert by the river. A second attempt, this time with friends and family and ritual, rather than Vegas and Immigration. And two who long ago (a decade) stopped speaking to me. For lying to them? For sleeping with her? For being a self-obsessed asshole? I don’t recall (probably because I’d rather not), and though it matters, deeply, I’m not convinced it does. From finishing the last of the last Thursday to a drive on Friday and being back in today, trying to have my stars out, as it were, for the class including her son’s ex-girlfriend. Because “Young and the Restless” ran out of other sub-plots, apparently. And so another six weeks, days of talking and days of writing, evenings of reading and evenings of drinking, and Am, sounding so lovely across electric pianos and synth trumpets with articulations that will never match those in a sampler, but have me facing the keys, not the box. I don’t need analogue, really, I need only to look away from the screen, lean deeper into the headphones, and record with the impunity I lost since the first round of get it out / get it in / get it down came and went again when she wasn’t quite an ex (though I tried to leave that summer) and everybody talked to everybody (in grade school), though the two, so preciously recovered (even if the closeness is not necessarily one of many words, rather than many years) is back as a possibility. Or something. A minor, a ssociate.

Friday March 15th 2013, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,family,friends,leaving,New York,nextish,Oxford,tired Tags:

It’s too much, really. Last week’s trip marking progress and stasis, old friends, older responsibilities, newer choices. But between an old friend (the red hoodie and shiny shoes of Saturday, December 6, 2003) and the work of work (newly less work filled, situated on a continuum from Part I exams to retirement by a man freshly retired, another old man on the other side of cancer, and still a third old man, not there, on the other side of a stroke and scared as fuck), part of the trip involved confronting old ?wrongs? mistakes? ?obligations? None quite, really. A man-child, ultimately. And I did as right as I could in the hours there were, not necessarily to make sense of lifetimes, but to be real, to be me now and connect to him now and acknowledge that time has passed and mistakes made and not made, and what nexts. But part of that was always going to entail talking about it. And there, amidst grief I cannot begin to imagine, always that shifting logic, those words that impel compel repel, seduce confuse confound, persuade perdure perform. “What happened to the days of wine and roses,” ask the Wild Colonials, about whom one could ask, “what happened to the Wild Colonials” (or the subsequent two EPs that were promised)? To bed, to brunch, to work, to high school musicals.

[Update a few minutes later, in response to a text to which I will not respond: the door is _not_ open. Those 5 years were not without context; it was I, not my father, who told you I was getting married. Nor did you have PTSD; it was a bad breakup, nothing more or less. Nor are needle biopsies a fucking treatment for cancer, so stop fucking saying that you had cancer. No one reads this, and that’s for the best, but I refuse, absolutely, to do this. I will not go back down the rabbit hole.]

Thursday October 25th 2012, 11:22 pm
Filed under: damn,friends,myjobfuckingrocks,myjobfuckingsometimesdoesntrock,nextish,something new,tired,Work Tags:

Strange, really, to know when change will come. To have it be a pre-identified moment, rather than as uncertain as the possibility of change itself. Tomorrow, you will be different. Well, yes, of course, in the totally trivial ways of skin cells sloughed and hair follicles doing whatever the fuck it is hair follicles do, of a body in time moving through time, the I responsible for my actions and the gap in between. Different.

6 years, 8 months, and 2 weeks ago, I got a call. I was on my way with a friend to go skiing (for the first time in what must have been at least 15 years). NY being NY, we took the train up to Westchester, where her parents lived, and then were borrowing a car and headed up to Vermont from there. (Note: New England “mountains” are hills.) And the call came – it must have been a Friday, after school hours, as I was teaching at the time, so I imagine evening East Coast time. We were just about to finish loading things into the car and go. And a 310 area code could only mean one thing. Bless ’em, in one of the finest moments of parenting I’ve seen, they sent us up with champagne and flutes after I’d tried not to over-commit to an offer I was always going to accept. A weekend of texts and calls and emails and celebrations, of throwing my head back on chair lifts saying, “Oh my fucking god. I fucking did it. This is fucking happening.” A weekend of the storm of the century, as far as the city was concerned, and a subsidiary narrative about (now dead) pissy short angry gay episcopalian department chairs that I’ll save for another time. Oh my fucking god. I did it.

6 years, 8 months, and 2 weeks. 1 book, 4 edited chapters, 1 peer reviewed article, 1 edition/introduction for a textbook, and a few digital projects later, plus what must be close to 1,000 students, tomorrow something changes. I’m hoping it’s me. I’m hoping it’s like moving house, a chance to change the grooves, the habits, the unexamined choices that essentially dictate the day to day. I’m hoping it feels as big as it’s felt on the way up to all of this (knock on wood, or, as a half jew, just knock on anything – the wood is for christians. Speaking of which, apparently Gregory the Great is the patron saint of tenure, plus I think I have an Ismaili Muslim praying for me. What are friends for?) 6 years ago, a colleague told me he bought a grand piano and started lessons. I can afford neither, but, when all this comes out in the wash (in’sh’allah) in June, something along those lines, perhaps. A lovely evening with a man from the ford of Ox, who has made his career quite successfully in the UK. There was much talk of going the other direction, of seeing the other side. Some reminiscing, some shop talk, some more and less politic moments. But a truly nice time, a distraction from the thing that can’t be distracted from, that has me awake at nights, dreaming weird, and worried early.

“If you fear change, leave it here,” the tip jar at Wall Berlin said. Change is coming. Followed, admittedly, by a two hour university-level meeting, which is the single most obvious sign that I’ve apparently become a grown up. Pah. I still think the world missed a moment between 92 and 97 when anger could have been turned to good, rather than to rich. But that’s a rant for a different evening. Cross your fingers and your toes, pray to your gods and your deities and your ancestors. It’s showtime.

Adventures, anew
Sunday January 30th 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: departure,friends,leaving,seasonal Tags:

Another goodbye. To a friend, long-known but really only a true, close friend in the last few years since I moved back to this ridiculous, preposterous city of my birth. He’s off, to Japan, for adventures. For a new life. For an uncertain future. With admirable courage, he looked around his life, after the death of his father and the ending of a long relationship, and said ‘Fuck this. There is better to be had, more to be done’. And thus, a ticket to Tokyo, the outlines of a dozen plans, any of which (or, none, but I’m rooting for any) can make it all work, set the stage for the next stage. Another friend, his friend, my friend, the friend who was annoyed he had two friends who clearly should be friends but weren’t friends, he, too, has adventures up next. Money saved, longtime job left. Mountains to climb here, mountains to climb there, and then a planned motorcycle trip across continents, South America, maybe Africa, maybe Europe. An almost unimaginably vast adventure, where everything is always ahead, and even looking back is a looking forward, to the next thing encountered. Adventure as facing not only the unknown or unexpected or unexperienced, but as the freshness brought to that forward-looking state. And friends looking for work, one to fly east for an interview next weekend at a small liberal arts college, the other returning to the UK to finish, finally, his grad work, having overcome insane medical adversity to get there. And I? Are all my adventures past? Found a job, found love, found the yuppie track and have several olive oils and several more vinegars in a cupboard somewhere. “I want to live where I can buy duck”, someone said to me a few weeks ago. I guess I do, even if it’s never occurred to me to buy duck, nor to measure the civilization-quotient of my residence by its availability. What’s next? The clock ticks, the answers will arrive sometime in the next 18 months ago, but the answer isn’t to the ultimate question, “Should I stay or should I go now”, but rather, “You can stay or you can go now”. Certainty of choice, not of solution. And would I be happier if the choice was taken from me, adventure thrust upon me? And would I be happier if, given the choice, I chose the road never taken: thanks for the life/style and the vote of confidence, I’m off? And is it about ‘happier’? Is that what matters most, of the choices on the table? Do I still care about what it al means? Whatevs. Long ago, I wrote a farewell to a friend who went to Zimbabwe on these pages, tears in my eyes and doubt and grief in my fingers as my own uncertain future lagged a little behind his. 6+ years on, I know that thousands of miles don’t fuck with these friendships, that run ever so much deeper than distance or time. But, you will be missed, Japan-bound friend. You will be much missed, but you have made the right choice: the sky is higher, there, the horizons clearer, brighter, more meaningful. For once, the weather here matches my mood, the sound of rain on a roof and clattering down a poorly-cleared gutter. You will be missed, but you remind the rest of us that stasis isn’t the only choice.

Thursday June 17th 2010, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Boozy,exit pursued by a bear,friends,reminiscence Tags:

Or, better, fortior. A comparative, really. I think I was better at the 90s. Aesthetically and poetically, that is, but interestingly, not politically. That might be the crux of what I’ve tried to put into words for a very, very long time. In other news, it’s been old photo week here in the ‘hood, in case you haven’t been following. One, a set of three of us (four, really, but one checked out entirely) from Halloween in San Francisco many, many years ago, exploring some confusing dark fairy tale/goth line before it was quite ok to admit that not only was the rabbit hole compelling, but that Alice was hot, and there were all sorts of unspeakable things you’d like to do to her. Of the three, though, one said of the other “she was better at it than we were.”. And the object of that comment replied to my description of the photos as “amusing” with “amusing but slightly terrifying.”. Most amusingly, however, is the photo i have of her from a very drunken evening just a few years ago, well over a decade after the photos under discussion were taken. And the head tilt, the averted eyes, they’re exactly the same. Not so much with the burgundy crushed velvet dress or the thin braids or arabesques of eyeliner (curroesque. Fuuuuuck. It’s been a while since I’ve obsessed over the adjectival forms of proper names. Hey Curro. Some day I’ll show up in Madrid and we’ll drink. And maybe, Clara, you’ll pop up out of the proverbial wood works. It took me a long time to find she who dumped me. Anyways.) But, the same. Trust me. A private amusement, not at all terrifying, that i carry with me, made slightly more public here, but whatever. And in that delectable not quite irony, in that exquisitely poignant and pointed moment of connectedness, of the failures of self-perception alongside the successes of self-construction and presentation, in a pose that was a pose and yet isn’t one, I’m reminded of conversations in a London kitchen, on whether the self is created, or is continuous. And, Ms Efferevescent argued she knew who she was, and always had, and i rather imagine to this day has no doubts that what she’s done and who she is connect up very directly to who she has always been. And so, too, the posed non-poser, she who always played the game without thinking of it as a game, without thinking through the moves or countermoves, but just acted, or better, just lived. Not acted. And therein my 90s crux. I never had that, really, although in the last stretch I’ve been more of that, if only because I’ve been less of the other. Less of the incessant processing, analyzing, intellectualizing, scheming, measuring, metering, and monitoring. But this me who is as authentically me as I’ve ever been? Not really me, boys and girls, any more or less than the me who had massive and repeated crises of faith, or wondered if I was responsible for My actions, or went to yosemite with a stranger or Poland with a friend. Stable, sure, but the product of a long Mexican stand-off between facets and factions, and it’ll all go tipping or skipping down the rabbit hole again some day.