Friday January 12th 2018, 10:59 pm
Filed under: exit,grief,obits Tags:

It’s too soon for words. I don’t have them, just a hole in my heart and an impossibly tangible sense of the absence of a body in my life, and a toddler who is very unsure about what we’re trying to say and to not say. Farewell, inherited poodle. You are loved.

Moral calculus
Tuesday May 23rd 2017, 11:26 pm
Filed under: fear,grief,teaching Tags:

They were unconvinced. It is, frankly, not Lakoff’s finest. There are some truths, but he’s too eager to make them systemic, totalizing, rather than doing his best work – poking small holes in other people’s bubbles. So, moral economies, positive actions and debt repayments. Before frames, even. So we did an analysis of the Manchester bomber’s possible calculus. And the horror of seeing everything as quantifiable, the cost (metaphor not intended) was too much.

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.

pride and despair

An odd mix, really.  The work has been ragged of late.  But the UC Berkeley protests today, locking themselves into Wheeler Hall, home of the English Dept, and holding it for hours, making it national news.  Building on 9/24, but with the added horror of yesterday’s fee hikes.  Not that I’m not proud of UCLA, too, for the few thousand protesters at Covel Commons for the Regents’ meeting, and the occupiers of Campbell Hall (although, the tutoring building?  really?  odd choice, folks.).  Plus a shout out to the Davis and Santa Cruz occupiers of buildings various and sundry (and the Asst Professor at Davis helping organize, the ballsy fucker).  But I don’t know what my place is in all of this.   I don’t know what my untelevised revolution is supposed to look like, at this point.  I long to have been up at Berkeley for today’s shit, but all I did yesterday was sit down with the occupiers of Campbell Hall and have a five minute chat to thank them for putting themselves on the line.  Is that all?  How do I want to be counted?

[update, 3 hours, a bottle of wine, and two generous glasses of fine single malt scotch later.]  An email to a Berkeley long ago ex, and an email to a colleague’s husband, asking if he has an email for a Berkeley long ago friend (who happens to be the ex’s ex, but that’s complicated, not worth telling, and not particularly telling, from a perspective of detail.).  Still proud of the protests, still don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do, but as I was just telling the dog (and, as YCTNW is asleep in bed, I mean that literally) no one  cares what I do tomorrow.  I’m panicked about finishing my book, because when you divide months by chapters, Xeno’s paradox kicks in and it looks as if you can’t get there from here.  The flip side, of course, is that no one gives a flying fuck what I do tomorrow.  I can nostalg (a new verb! hah!), I can email various and sundry whilst in my cups.  YCTNW and I have vague late morning plans, I have a friend to pick up from the airport at half-one, and we have half seven dinner with a coworker + husband of YCTNW’s.  None of which have anything to do with my book, with how I get there from here.  I wanted a life in which process wouldn’t be held against me, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Tuesday June 09th 2009, 10:39 am
Filed under: grief,memory,sober,tired Tags:

Huh.  Didn’t see that one coming.  I used the faulty messenger/telephone of the malicious, scandalous, untrue, or vaguely scandal-scented on Friday, to communicate to (insert better acronym, euphemism, quasi-personal identifier than I can come up with here).  Knowing it, indeed, intending it, to come back around.  Which it indeed accomplished, three-quarters of a pot of coffee in this morning.  Professional stuff (which wasn’t all that significant) aside, unexpected tidbits include 1) in a relationship, and 2) recently suffered a similar tragedy to that which beset an over-educated over-funded friend unexpectedly absent from the big day, lo those (ummm) two and a half months back.   I know it’s utterly irrational, but hearkens back, for those of you who know, to the traumatic last months of the endgame a mere 6 years ago, but my first reaction was “it can’t be mine.  how is it possible it’s mine.  i don’t want this, like this, not now.”  I managed to wade through the impossibilities, my own innocence, if that makes any sense, so I could figure out what I was supposed to be feeling in relation to the tragedy.  Which is deep sympathy – I know how much she wants, has wanted, this, and how hard it must be to have this happen far enough into it all to be emotionally and spiritually crushing.  A sympathy I didn’t feel, last time, too deeply embedded in my own very complex reactions to the same situation, but my very different role in it.  (Apologies if I’m being too obscure [or, not obscure enough] about all of this; names have been changed, etc., but still….)  Anyway, aware of and uncomfortable about the issue for other reasons, to remain still vaguer, but an interesting re-visit to an emotional past that doesn’t, in fact, factor in to an emotional present.  I’m so sorry, for the present tense grief.

it’s all relative
Tuesday June 10th 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: Boozy,friends,grief,Oxford,reminiscence Tags:

Friends, concerned whether my cancer scare was in fact cancer, or a scare. Friend, whose scare was cancerous, and ain’t free yet. Drunk-ish, and emphatically tired, I confront the fact I ain’t done yet. It feels done, it seems done, summer is in the air and the air holds the promise of error, of a future out-of-bounds, of uncertainty and possibility and rest. But I, emphatically, ain’t done. Papers to grade, a final to finish, then a final to grade, then still more papers to grade, then a talk to give. Then done. By the time I hit the UK, I’m done. Despite an odd imperative to reminisce, premature in its siren call to find “whatever happened to” and “does so-and-so remember when”….A premature reminiscence, might I add….

Damn, Tone, Lebanese and Musar would be perfect. My treat. Several bottles of the latter, for that matter. I’m sorry not in the pity sense, but because I’m so fucking proud of you, proud of your effort to knock the diss out and get your bidness done. And I’m rooting for you to do so, regardless of sturgeon’s and their nefarious incisions. You’ve been strong for so many years, keep it up, bitch. That magic viagra of the soul you seem to have – keep popping it. It ain’t all good, but you’ll do, any day.

and you shall know me by
Saturday April 26th 2008, 9:18 am
Filed under: friends,grief,hangover,holidays,tired Tags:

Umm. I dunno, exactly. Not a legacy, per se, but at least by some combination of the good I’ve done set alongside the,err, umm, not so good. It’s seder night here at the farm, although there’s a mild hangover to clear up, first. Then mad list-making, shopping, house-cleaning, and cooking, although for a mere 9 (rather than 11, 15, 22…the various numbers of seders past.). A friend of YCT’s unexpectedly here as a houseguest – one of a two-academic couple, facing the trauma of ambitions and desires that don’t align. Such grief, and no good answers to be had. A friend in Berkeley, remarking that his girlfriend of four years has only ever known him while he was “on the market,” as the phrase goes. (I much prefer the English “putting in for” a post, or position, or even job. Retail rather than wholesale, baby, a nation of [academic] shopkeepers.) Amongst all of the other costs of pursuing a dream, a job that we love to do (and to the student (who I assume has no idea this exists) who interviewed me about tenure for the campus newspaper, thank you for closing with that quotation), is precisely that – knowing what we want to do. Which makes the pain of not being able to do it at all, or not being able to do it how or where we want, that much more painful. It’s an identity profession – doctor, lawyer, plumber, carpenter, contractor, gardener – and when we “can’t get a job AS an xxxx” then we confront separating the years of work to assume the mantle from the desire that motivated the work in the first place.

Jesus H. Christ on the cross, I’m babbling. Not really through the first cup of coffee. To review: seder tonight, YCT’s friend is having a tough time of a situation I thank the stars above that it isn’t a plague that was visited upon me (see what I did there? See?), my heart has been unhardened for a while now (….), and, umm, yeah. Missing the people with whom this tradition started, with whom I’ve shared this in the past. You’re here, in some form, tonight.

grief, unexpected
Thursday December 06th 2007, 2:43 am
Filed under: bastard,damn,departure,exit,exit pursued by a bear,grief,leaving Tags:

I should have known things were going all too well.  A colleague is departing.  Doesn’t that sound nice and clinical and not at all a big deal?  Better, perhaps, “the senior colleague who has generously mentored me, and become in short order a true friend, is leaving for pastures proverbially, though certainly not literally, greener.”  Fuuuuuuuuucccccccccckkkkkkk.  Having spent entirely too many late nights in the office (Fri, Sat, Mon, Tues) leading up to the talk this afternoon (it went fine. B+, I think) and reading these damn hiring files (meeting tomorrow at noon), I’m gonna go home and drink me a bottle of wine.