18 May, 2011

Open Letter to the Alumni Association

Dear Sanctimonious Leeches and Intellectual Parasites:

I would very much like to thank you for the glossy quarterly publication in which you highlight the accomplishments of those past, present, and future graduates who you feel distinguish the grand Alma Mater in this age of for-profit degree mills and economic and educational disparity. I have always felt especially grateful to have attended because of the people I met there, student and faculty alike, who encouraged me to grow and to think and have helped me to become the fully realized human being I am in the process of becoming.

Among them, one teacher stands out more than most. And I would mention his name, but since you have never mentioned him in the aforementioned glossy publication you insist on mailing me every three months, I can only conclude that he continues to toil in the shadow of an institution that neither notices nor cares that he has set upon the world more artists and free thinkers than your College of Business has loosed successful entrepreneurs. As a matter of fact, I'm fairly certain that your College of Business – which, allowed by your President and Board of Regents, and in a premeditated and unholy fashion, swallowed whole the English Department from which I managed to graduate … twice … – has done little more for the world than set upon it an army of mediocre middle managers, all of whom were made to retrain their replacements when the companies they worked for sent all the jobs overseas.

Now, this teacher I speak of is a great poet and an amazing human being – and though that statement is a bit repetitive, I feel, nonetheless, obliged to mention both since you may not have yet made the connection. He had done none of the things that merit attention from the College of Business graduates who have risen to offices of institutional power and affluence... the poetry haters who used to pass out ruffies to sorority girls at parties the way priests hand out wafers of bread on Sunday. As a related aside, consider this: people who claim to hate poetry or to not understand it have clearly missed the point. Granted, the Modernists – Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and the like – sort screwed over those of who came after because they removed poetry from the trust of the people and deposited it in the sorry Savings and Loan otherwise known as the modern college and university system. And because of those dead sorry bastards there's a lot of even sorrier living ones who have never known that poetry is a more potent aphrodisiac than chocolate.

But this does not excuse you, leeches and parasites, from the guilt you share in the whole sale theft of the American Dream. Whole generations have come up believing they need you to succeed, and if they can't afford you that they aren't worthy. And if by success they mean living the half life of a cubicle caught middle manager, techie toiler, tax payer, and amasser of debt, then your Ponzi scheme has succeeded. You rotten sons of bitches.

Along with the glossy magazine you send me every three months with the pictures of the unknowing poster children of the apocalypse, you often send me letters asking for money... a tithe, no doubt from the income you feel like you have helped me to earn. And while I would gladly spend that $25 on beer for the teacher to whom I owe so much, or for any one of the people– poets and artists all – who have graced me with their friendship, there is very little you can do, either in your form letters or in your glossy magazine to convince me that I ought to contribute to your war coffers.

If, after receiving this letter, you still feel the need to send me the glossy magazine every three months, it's your postage, not mine; the same goes for the letters you send that have gone unanswered until now and will again after I finish. But if you have any respect – scratch that – you are at all concerned about the time wasted by the poor dumb kids you put on the phone to call and try and talk me out of the little bit of money I manage to gather up, remove my phone number from your rolls; because not only will I try and convince them they need to drop out and go find themselves, I will also try and talk them into setting the the Administration building on fire before they leave under cover of night.

You are weasels of the lowest order, the spoilers of healthy minds and rapists of good solid souls. You will get no more of me.


Mick Parsons
Mount Carroll, IL

04 May, 2011

Shit Happens (Declaration of Sloth and Indolence)

Infamy last longer than fame and is much more fun.” J. Bob Friendly

I probably shouldn't be surprised that I'm not wealthy, powerful, and affluent since I have never engaged in any activity that might lead to any of those ends. That's not to say I haven't tried to do The Right Thing from time to time. I have worked, paid taxes, joined committees. (Okay... I tend to avoid committees simply because I have never seen one do anything they were organized to accomplish, other than the over all goal of giving people something to do.) I have tried to save money, lived life on the installment plan, accrued debt like a good American. At this point, I probably have more debt than I will ever be able to pay back; and I would just like to say – to those suffering under the delusion that I am spending my entire life breaking my back and wasting my mind on paying it all back before I'm dead – that once I am dead and before I'm cremated, you're welcome to whatever I have in my pockets. By the time I die, lint and matches might actually have market value.

Hope that helps.

My wife tells me I'm ornery. And of course, she's right. I suspect this has always been the case... it's just that over the last two years I finally lost the last vestige of my failing attempts to be a respectable member of society. Walking away from teaching was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done... if only because it was The Thing That Defined Me. This isn't so unusual either. Growing up in the grand capitalist tradition, we often end up being shaped by occupation the way jello's shaped by a mold – unless, of course, you're one of those who can afford to be defined by other things – like wealth, power, and affluence. I always know when I'm speaking to someone from the upper economic class because at some point in the conversation they will assure me that they are NOT defined by their occupation... rather, it's something they use in order to define themselves by some other set of standards. They become patrons and philanthropists. They develop interests in esoteric topics, start scrap-booking clubs, take dancing lessons, cooking classes. They travel, take Carnival Cruises, in order to broaden their horizons in the way that only tourists can broaden themselves, and return convinced that there is nothing grander than a Big Mac since McDonald's is everywhere.

Probably the thing that makes me ornery is that while I do like nice things, I'm not one to attach much significance to them. There are certain creature comforts that I prefer, but I have found that these are fairly easy to find if you look hard enough and are persistent enough. Life is as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, as long as you recognize that sometimes the universe smiles on you and sometimes it laughs at you. I recently had a discussion with a good friend of mine – who I will save from the shame of being recognized as my friend by not naming him – and one of the things he mentioned was that it seemed like kids today didn't understand this aforementioned fundamental truth of the universe, often expressed by the phrase “Shit Happens.”

(It should also be noted that while this friend of mine has a couple of years and a few gray hairs on me, he in no way holds what others might perceive as my youth and inexperience against me. A circus fortune teller named Zelda the Three-Eyed Mystic once told me this is because I have an old soul... though this was the same fortune teller who assured me that I would someday find all of the wealth, power, and affluence that I deserved. Either her Magic 8 Ball told her something right, or she was thinking about somebody else... I haven't decided yet.)

Teaching is not the only job whose categorization I have excised myself from. Among the highlights:

  • I've been a factory worker, such things as computer printers, 3-D Styrofoam deer targets, Totes Slipper socks, doors for storage and transportation cubes used by the U.S. Navy, feather pillows and down filled comforters.
  • I've also worked in a soap warehouse, been a file clerk for a bank, and held various day labor jobs so numerous that I don't remember them all. I was also a receptionist in a dentist office.
  • I've been unemployed, under-employed, and have, from time to time, drawn unemployment. I see no shame in any those things... though the later does, from time to time, cause people to suspect that I'm some shiftless communist. (I have actually been called that before, as well as a host of other names I won't list here because 1. They would take up too much space, and 2. Generally the people who sling those kinds of names around are never really sure of their precise definition.)

Being the thoughtful, often ponderous person I am, I have always tried to learn something. Life is the best schooling, after all. I've learned that most people, down deep, hate their jobs. I've learned a significant number of those ended up in the jobs they have because they simply ended up there; and of those that remain, there's a startling majority who started out loving their jobs but came to hate it over time. They stay because of debt, because of the health benefits, because it's predictable, and because they don't want to have to worry about rolling over their 401K. I've also learned that my time is too valuable to me to waste on work that nourishes my body but not my mind or my soul. I like the work I'm doing now... most of the time... but that's only because I'm getting paid to write – sort of. Journalism is a form of writing that has, over the years, been much degraded; not only by a public that doesn't read, but by a corporate owned media that sees it's mission as less to inform than to give people something to chat about in the break room and to pass as viral bits on social networks.

It's a form I'm coming to enjoy very much, actually. It's not poetry, but it keeps the lights on and I like the fluidity of my schedule and the freedom I have in explores local and regional issues of interest. It's taken me almost a year of word slinging, but I'm starting to see what drew writers like Twain, Bierce, and Hemingway to this line of work. You see the best and the worst of people up close – when you're doing the job and following the story the way it ought to be followed. To be a journalist is to be loved, hated, feared, and despised – all at the same time, and often by the same person at the same time.

But since I have no interest in moving up the media ladder and working for a corporate news machine, I'm more or less stuck being one of the least respected people in the county I currently live in, until I move or until something else comes along. But, being the word obsessed person I am, I have been struggling to find the correct terminology to describe what it is that I do. The truth is, other than write, talk to people, and hang around trying to find things to write about, there's very little that I do. I'd like to think of myself as a poet, because I see poetry as having the power of all the other forms; but we aren't a culture that appreciates poetry. And while I do write poetry... it is, after all my First Form... I find that I am writing other things, and I have an interest in writing pretty much anything that holds my interest. I am leaning towards Journeyman Writer.

I have also often considered a nom de plume to save my few close relatives the stigma... but around here the greatest sympathy has to go out for my wife, who, while she loves that I'm ornery, has to occasionally remind people that she has absolutely no control over what I write, what I say, or who I offend. Though it sounds like hyperbole, I know she's nothing short of a saint, and might be the only reason I'm still alive... much to the disappointment of certain area political figures who's ire I tend to inspire. I'm also fairly certain that nothing I am currently doing will ever lead me to the path of wealth, power, and affluence that Zelda the Three-Eyed Mystic told me was waiting for me.

Oh well. I'd rather be happy than respected, and I'd rather be comfortable than well-off.