do neither what i say nor do
Tuesday June 04th 2019, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,Boozy,change,exit,myjobfuckingrocks,myjobfuckingsometimesdoesntrock,narrative,nextish Tags:

This in fact describes Himself and some spectacularly shitty evenings of late. But that’s not today’s topic. I’ve been asked to give the faculty graduation speech. I have no fucking idea what to say. Or, more accurately, I thought I had a few ideas, but dinner with a few colleagues and a handful of graduate students this evening and they all thought it was all wrong. OK. Fair enough. I’ve got 10 days. Some suggestions to watch various graduation speeches of this and that. OK. Fair enough.

Except, I’m the opening act. I’m not the big, inspiring, forgive all your student debt, famous person speech. I’m the guy who goes before that person. I’ve been in such a rubbish place for a while now that the standing joke has become reality. “It’s not too late to go to law school. Maybe as the environment changes and the waters rise you’ll all die terribly and then you won’t have to worry about it.”

The graduate students all suggested some version of “the you we know is great, be that person.” I suppose that’s fair, though the specific nature of the self-constructedness for a reading group on Finnegans Fucking Wake isn’t a self I trot out universally, so, “be the version of you we think we know, be honest about your pragmatism, and if in doubt just spew medieval facts at them,” offers only limited help.

How to be myself to students that know a me that is such a strange slice of who I think I am or who I thought I’d be? Or, if this is the moment to peel back the layers and be a little more of a person as we send them out into the world that, frankly, they all fucking live in already given how nuts the world is and how thin the wall of academia has become, how permeable the not so ivory tower, which layers? Turtles all the way down, onions all the way through.

I’ve got quotes for mother fucking ages. Randomly browsing poetry for some inspiring shit. I’ve no idea what I want to say, what 22 year old me wanted to hear, or SHOULD have heard, or could possibly have heard. Nothing. There’s nothing anyone could have told me. Which is a shame, as I’m actually listening now.

Food hall, street food
Monday September 11th 2017, 1:11 pm
Filed under: libraries,myjobfuckingrocks,something new Tags:

“Copenhagen Street Food,” it said on the map. Clearly a ridiculous place, I thought, and well worth avoiding. But the guide on the first-ever-tourist-boat-I’ve-ever-fucking-taken-don’t-judge-me-you-try-traveling-with-a-two-year-old suggested it had a good vibe, and the bodies were packed (on the admittedly unusual sunny day we managed for said boat). Cue happiness, in the form of duck-and-fries and a fine dark ale. Go there. Eat well. Be warm and festive.

The “treasures” exhibit was empty. I hadn’t really thought through it – Marina Abramović’s “Treasures” at the Royal Library. I’ve worked my manuscript mojo there, and done the doing that needed doing to make this trip the done thing. After handing my watch and my phone (“Marina wants you to be outside of time”), and taking the key, and then using the second key for a cubby hole for my boots (“Marina wants you to be comfortable”), I went in…..and it was empty. Me, headphones, voices in my ears, and the treasures of the Danish Royal Library. Saxo Grammatico, the Inca conquest book, Maimonides and Gregory of Tours, Soren K. and Ghandi, Tycho Brahe and Linnaeus, Mozart and Audubon, some sagas and some other shit. Apparently a timer rings after 80 minutes, but I was keenly aware that I had to get back to YCT and small. As luxurious as it was to just listen. But it made it clear how much of a premium time is. All those thoughts, all those journals, all those years traveling and hunting authentic local spots for a beer, and a book, and a corner to write in my black journals – an abundance, a hyper-abundance, an embarrassment of time (a murder of crows). I listened. I sat on the chairs, climbed on the elevated bunkbeds, farted loudly and scratched my feet through the holes in my socks. And eyed the 7th century Gregory, the 12th century bible, the 13th century Jewish philosopher, the 19th century large printed books, the intimate letters from Soren K. to whomever (5 degrees from the Nippel somethingorrather bridge (which I’ve crossed daily since arriving) through a spyglass) and H.C. Andersen (his ardent but restrained passions undone slightly by this weekend’s Guardian article featuring letters in which Dickens declared him a bore). Dunno. YCT, small, totally new city. Time together, time lived in the present without the extra time to meta-present, to reflect. A few more days, remarkably, followed by another country/city, even more remarkably.

More art. More gray. More time.

Platitudes and Attitudes
Sunday June 18th 2017, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,myjobfuckingrocks,nextish,seasonal,summer Tags:

20 Fucking Years. 20 years ago, it was outside, in the Greek Theater. A hot fucking day, particularly by Bay Area standards. I don’t remember much – the guest speaker was one of the founders of the ?Center for Independent Living, a heavily disabled man in a full body respirator who had finished college. It was inspiring, in principle, but very difficult to understand. Add a flask of vodka and the buzz of it all on a hot ?late May day, a party which followed, and some complicated, possibly questionable decisions that followed that, followed by a paper on medieval religious history, followed by a series of even more complicated, definitely questionable decisions over a summer neither weird nor good, just next (oh! And a lost pair of expensive sunglasses! At Wall Berlin, no less), and, comparatively, today was much easier. Dog poop, child poop, trains and duplo and kicking a ball around, a few speeches, a handful of hugs, a commute on freeways through a city I still resent but have also grown to appreciate, rely on, inhabit. Fancy medieval clothes in scarlet, a sense of pleasure on behalf of the students and families.

Is it enough? We certainly try to justify it to ourselves as such. That what we do is much, much more than doing nothing. More than buying things, selling things, building things, fixing things, marketing things, or organizing or negotiating some aspect of any of those activities. I’ve no idea, really. It makes it easier to sleep, thinking the university matters, the public-ness of it matters, that teaching them to read, speak, and write critically about words and ideas matters. (Or, trying to. I don’t need them to love what I love. I do need them to care about something.) Everything rings a bit hollow on these days, overshadowed by the realness of the experience they’re having. So grown up and so young, so excited and so somber. Was I wearing the pull-chain choker? Or the one made out of nuts and bolts wired together? That picture with the Campanile in the background the last known whereabouts of those sunglasses. Gone. Like this impossible year, and like that summer 20 years ago, things happen fast.

Wednesday May 03rd 2017, 1:23 pm
Filed under: can't make that shit up,HelLA,himself,myjobfuckingrocks,nostalgia,whatsnext Tags:

I’m headed up to Santa Barbara to give a paper this weekend. The thing I’m most excited about for my most-expenses-paid, two nights in a beautiful beach town with good food and wine, plus a chance to chat with clever colleagues about work I love? Two nights of uninterrupted sleep. How times change.

10 years
Thursday February 11th 2016, 1:20 pm
Filed under: memory,myjobfuckingrocks Tags:

Ten years since he called, a few hours from now. But when I logged in here, a reminder that the last comment was by Helen, much missed. Trying to get work done, and the small leaves rather less time for reflection than used to be the case. A phone call from a reality TV production company making the day slightly surreal, though not as exciting as last week’s Pussy Riot spotting. Fuck it. 10 years. “I can’t fucking believe it,” I said, “oh my fucking god,” I said, throwing my head back and staring in wonder up at the sky. I had a future, then, a thing that came next. A strange thing not to have had before then, really. But so it goes. Cheers, all.


And so the last weekend of a decade passes thusly. Errands, work, walk, drinks. Eat, narrative, more narrative. Walk, errands, play, narrative, eat, drink. Bustling, walk, music, drinks, eat, narrative, drink.

Much reflecting of late, as the decade ticks around again, but he looks up at me. Not much by way of conclusion, nor thoughts that add up to anything in particular. I’ll take it, I guess.


Buying him that $14 dollar gimlet was the best money I’ve ever spent. He talked shit. I nodded, smiled. He talked trash about her. I nodded, smiled. I win, motherfucker, and you not only know it, but raised a gimlet to it at the beginning of our evening. Cheers.

no easier
Wednesday July 02nd 2014, 10:10 pm
Filed under: money,myjobfuckingrocks,myjobfuckingsometimesdoesntrock Tags:

not that it’s so very hard, really, but a request, made long ago at someone’s suggestion, didn’t pan out. A dangerous precedent, apparently, which is bullshit speak for “we can’t reward those who make up for the mismanagement of others.” But ain’t no thang – I stopped counting on this long ago, and stopped counting it not long after that.

A shiny new gadget with which to type on my slightly less shiny, slightly less new gadget. It will take some getting used to, but it’s a fuck of a lot faster than the poke-n-pray of a touchscreen. Not totally convinced I want to write a book on it, but then I probably shouldn’t write a book sprawled on my couch, listening to Nick Drake, a bottle of wine deep in the evening.

Night two of ?eleven or so, meetings in the morning where I work, meetings in the afternoon where I’ll be working, pups before, in between, and after. No writing done, of course, as that would be too useful. But tomorrow, writing, piano, maybe an early feature on analog synthesis, and drinks with my piano teacher. As you do. As you were.

New / Old

A month missed. Less fussed. A new tattoo, the first in 16 years. Compensating? I don’t really give a fuck. Starting the cap-in-hand rounds anew and with renewed vigour, but first two old things to sort, and then something new. Même chose, bitches.

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.