25 September, 2013

Gator People Live in The River: Moth Slammin'

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. -- Hannah Arendt

The problem with performing is that it's addictive.

In spite of a marathon day working at the Writing Center, Amanda and I made it to Headliner's for the monthly Moth StorySlam. This month's topic: TRUST. I'd been mulling over a story -- one I have written about here regarding my pocket knife, traveling by bus, and life in our ever burgeoning Police State -- and I think I told it fairly well. I like being on stage, whether I'm telling a story or reading poetry or trying to pick a song on some stringed instrument. It's a free space. It's a public space. It can sometimes be an extremely lonely space.

The evening's highlight, however, was when Amanda took the stage and killed it... beating out a mexican cyclist, a cross-dresser, a dick joke, and me.

People who know me know I am patently non-competitive, except for when I get suckered into a game of Monolopy (It brings out the lingering shred of a petty capitalist that I've been starving out of existence for some time now.) Art culture is itself competitive, and writers are some of the more spiteful bunch, beat out only by the visual arts because of it's cold commodification of the soul. Generally you are given or assigned a role as leader or as follower. I decided some years ago that I would do neither and go my own way. Sometimes I cross paths with other art folk. Mostly I stick to comfortable bars, cozy coffee shops, and anything that sounds like fun. If I'm happy and I'm having fun I figure I have at least half a leg up on the folks who would hold my happiness for ransom at the cost of a paycheck and a weak promise of retirement.

Last night was fun. It was fun because even though I was too mentally tired to be nervous, I got on stage and told a story I wanted to tell. It was especially fun because I got to leave on the arm of the best storyteller in the room.

And it reinforeced for me that even though art culture is a shark tank, I don't have to be a shark to be happy. All I have to do is be happy, whether I'm on stage or off.

20 September, 2013

Gator People Live in the River, Interlude: Updates and Distractions

Here we are now entertain us / I feel stupid and contagious / Here we are now entertain us - Nirvana

Let be be finale of seem./ The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.  - Wallace Stevens

The good news is that the quality of current college freshmen is such that they no longer feel the need to laugh at my jokes when they aren't funny. Of course, on the whole they believe it's my job to either entertain them so they can forget they're in class or to forget they're in class and pass them on since they already know everything.

And I'm one who respects and understands experience as a teacher. And I'm one who realizes that even the most self-entitled, insulated 18 year old has some experience from which to draw. The issue is that while most 18 year olds know some things, they believe they already know everything because they have learned how to affect cynicism and wear beanies.

On the upside, I'm either past the age or past good looking enough to where the girls don't try and flirt with me to improve their grades.

... glass half full and all that, after all...

But on the whole, higher ed is pretty much the same as when I left it, and I find odd comfort in this dysfunctional fact. I survive the cognitive dissonance caused by the outright deception of admissions people and the conflict of purpose among my colleagues by remembering that I did not build this screwed up machine. I am merely trying to dance on the edge of the conveyor belt.

A few updates:

  • I am officially "in the system" at U of L.
  • I have replaced my stolen phone and even updated to an underwhelming iOS7.
  • I am learning to play the banjo.
I am also tinkering with the idea of another chapbook and plotting another run at the story gathering project.

13 September, 2013

Gator People Live In The River: Schlubbus Interruptus

He that is robbed, not wanting what is stol'n, Let him not know't, and he's not robbed at all. - Shakespeare

I was planning on writing about tomatoes.

No. Really. The gauntlet being thrown down, Amanda and I cooked down and froze, liquified, or canned 50 pounds of tomatoes. Of course, 50 pounds of tomatoes  preprocessed takes up a hell of a lot more space and seems more onerous than 50 pounds of post-processed tomatoes. And the scope of it all would probably be more impressive had I elected to use pint jars instead of quart jars for the shelf stable maters that are currently occupying shelf space in the basement. 

But alas, Dear Readers, that is not the tale I am allotted to tell today, because my phone was stolen, along with the picture of the tomatoes that I was planning on using.

Not to be thwarted, however, I will replace it with an albeit less useful, but more plot-driven and predictable stand-in.

I walked into the Writing Center this past Tuesday -- one of my jobby jobs -- and it was slammed. I was all of two minutes late because of a brief stopover at the Iroquois Branch of the Free Louisville Library. Between that and an unexpected illness, the Center was unmanned for all of those two minutes, during which time everything went to hell. There was only one scheduled tutoring appointment, but the internet was down and no could print or check Facebook (gasp!). 

There were some actual writing issues that people had questions about, and I was fluttering around between students, answering questions, and trying my best to portray an IT Guy (WHICH I AM NOT NOW NOR EVER SHALL BE). It's understandable that students could be easily confused, since the Writing Center is configured like a computer lab, thanks to the fascist tactics of the IT Department and their Draconian insistence that straight rows of computers make for functional space in a Humanities driven Writing Center. They are not known for their interpersonal skills and therefore do not understand or intuit that a Writing Center is a place meant to foster communication, not to be a farm of computer banks where the sex deprived can pleasure themselves to uploaded episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.

I will admit, I should have kept a better eye on my phone. But I did not. At some point between 3:57m and 4:15pm, my phone grew legs, walked out the door, boarded a bus to 3rd Street and Kingston, and later ended up on Hale Ave on the west side. According to the GPS tracker the address is somewhere around this quaint meth den:

Of course, I made a report to campus security. Not because I expected to get my phone back, but to establish a paper trail in case the schlub who stole my phone decided to go on a technology-grabbing frenzy.

Now, if you know me, I have a sort of ethical flexibility when it comes to theft. For me, it's all about context. People stealing for food or shelter don't bother me. Legalized corporate or government sanctioned theft offends me deeply. And if you know me, you also know that I am perfectly content without a cell phone and keep one primarily because there are still a few people who would like to be able to get in touch with me. 

(And NO. They are not ALL bill collecting parasites.)  

(When I'm Out and About, I turn it off frequently, as much to free myself of it as to save the battery.)

I was bothered less by the actual theft of the phone -- let's be honest, it was probably only a matter of time -- than by the fact that a student stole it. Yes, it's a downtown campus in what some people consider a dangerous part of River City. Yes, I am aware that not everyone holds my view on the ethics of stealing.  And yes, I have been betrayed by a student before. Higher education is shark tank, not a kiddie pool. 

But I do insist on holding to my ideals. Otherwise, why have them? Ideals are not necessarily reflective of what happens. They are reflective of what ought to happen.

And that a student stole from me -- a student I was probably helping with a writing problem or half-heartedly trying to help with a tech issue I am not trained nor interested in being trained for -- was and is more of a violation than the theft of the phone.

The other thing that offends and violates me is the sheer stupidity of the schlub. I prefer not to use the term "thief" because that implies a level of intelligence that is nonexistent in this case. 

Politicians are thieves. Lawyers are thieves. Bankers are thieves. 

Schlubs who pinch my phone and think that I will not find a way to make them regret it are not thieves. They are schlubs and do not deserve my consideration.

I was able to lock the phone and track it within a block of their residence. The phone also has another function: I set it to beep loudly for two minutes every time they turned it on. The phone also has another function - setting a text message to display on the lock screen. 

I used that as an opportunity to communicate with them. Or taunt them, if you will.

But after a full 12 hours or so of insulting him, his mother, and pointing out his precise location, I got bored and set the phone to erase. I may not get my phone back, but they won't get access to any of my shit -- including the picture of our canned maters, which I was going to proudly post. 

It is important to point out, however that in spite of the sheer schlubbiness of the schlub, that two different people -- neither of whom are related to me -- offered to let me use their old phones until I get a new one. The negative effect of a single schlub does not stand a chance against the positive impact of two genuinely nice people -- which, believe it or not, reflects my deeper idealism more than any metaphor I can conjure.

09 September, 2013

Gator People Live In The River, Update; One Step Closer to Persona Sum Grata

Gator People Live In the River, 4: Persona Non Grata Chimichanga

I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad Wizard. - L. Frank Baum

Back in the saddle again, as it were. The academic year is officially in full swing and I am back at what one of my former professors, Layne Neeper liked to call The Salt Mines. He was not only referring to teaching, of course. You don't work in higher education -- or institutional education in general -- and have the luck to be limited only to teaching. There are the politics of the thing to contend with. And whether you're a GOPper, a Dem, a Libber, a Fibber, a Tea Bagger, a part-time word slinger, or a rodeo clown, you can not escape the politics. Even those who claim to be apolitical are impacted by the systemic dysfunction that often parades as professionalism.

I am still not yet a real person at the University of Louisville. The latest snafu involved some a policy gap between the Great and Powerful Oz (U of L) and the most monolithic of institutions, the Department of Homeland Security. (Or, if you like, the Wicked Witch of the West.)

I'm not entirely new to the misfunctional nature of large universities. Arizona State University is itself an exercise in how to tread water in the middle of the desert. Sometimes my annoyance at how things don't work is misinterpreted as a lack of understanding or a sense of entitlement. The truth is that while I expect the great machinations to not function, I choose to maintain my idealism by holding onto the notion that we can do better inspite of a general attitude of benign neglect.

Update 9 September:

In the process of fighting an unjust parking citation -- unjust because were I an actual persona pro grata in the eyes of the university, I would have had a parking pass and would not have been at risk for being slapped with said citation for Failure to Display Proper Parking Decal -- I managed to get an actual Faculty/Staff Parking Decal in addition to not having to pay the citation. 

While this is progress of sorts, do not mistake that for the university's official recognition of my existence. I am, at the time of this writing, still an undocumented worker. All the work, none of the glory, and I still have to pay the same rate to park as someone who is full time and/or tenured.

Mayhap it will fall to future generations of Part-timers to find justice for this inequity.

In the mean time, I have to cut this short so I can go fight for a parking space. Save peace and love for the future. In a world in which might makes right and in which I drive a pick-up truck with large tires, there is no mercy for tenured folk in fiberglass new-age hippie mobiles.

[Feel free to read some sort of politically attuned message into the previous statement.]

Also, feel free to stop by Iron Belly, a blog of my new poetry, some prose, and whatever else I feel like posting there... though it will be mostly poetry.

Don't worry,though, Dear and Faithful Readers.  I'm not going anywhere.

Thanks and Gawd Bless.