Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Monday, January 30, 2006


I hope that this will be my last blog for awhile that isn't titled by an interjection. It's a cute theme, but I'd like to just get through the bottleneck and then have a nice little lie-down and a cup of tea and a quiet read, if that's all right with the world. Anyway. Bags are not packed, but everything that's going in them is hung in order and ready to go. Shoes need to be shined (with shakey hands, so I can't wear anything I care about.) Lesson plan needs to be finalized--can I argue that a tragic universe is organized by the principles of moira while a comic one is organized by the principles of tyche? I think I can, but must make sure. (You're starting to be glad you won't be at the lecture, aren't you? Don't worry--I'll be cool about my presentation of obscure Greek terms--I tend to use references to The Simpsons and Family Guy to make my points.) I'm remembering to breathe (thanks, ArticulateDad, I had forgotten) and now it's really just a question of getting to the airport ontime and then...then it's in God's hands. Well, and mine. And the students in the class. And the people I'm meeting. And...you know what? I'm f***ed. (Kidding! Kidding! At worst, at worst, I'm "taken out for a nice dinner and subjected to some inappropriately heavy petting on the cabride home.") Will report back when/if I return...

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Well, the countdown is definitely getting into the interesting numbers. I leave on Tuesday at noon-ish, and to judge by my intinerary, I'll spend the next two days meeting every one at the university up to and including the janitorial staff. Which is good, actually, since the more people one meets, the more sense of a place one gets. I've pulled together something like a lecture--need to flesh it out a bit, but I've got Montaigne and skepticism and the nature of error in a humanistic/comic universe and all kinds of fancy stuff to bring in, so maybe they'll come away thinking of me as something other than a complete f***ing idiot. I have to admit, I really am still a little thrown by the change of topics. I mean, I know the play I've been assigned--I can do it. It's just that my head was so very into the other play that I'm still pulling it into the proper sphere (or out of the improper orifice, if you want to get smutty, and shame on you if you do.) Anyway, I may post over the next couple of panicky days, I may not. Ora pro me...

Friday, January 27, 2006


OK OK OK OK OK OK...I'm not panicking, I'm not panicking, I'm not panicking...Just found out that the play I'd been expecting to lecture on during my campus interview is not in fact the play I'll be expected to be lecturing on. Nobody's fault--the schedule said one thing and the progress of the class said another. Which is how classes should be--the fluidity of the group dynamic needs to supercede the structure of the preliminary model. (You'd never guess that I was an English Lit. guy, would you? Well, actually, I used to have an idiot savant relationship to physics. Bombed in every science and math class I ever took in high school, then suddenly, senior year, I took physics--and, I kind you not, I did not get a single question wrong. Not on a homework assignment, not on an in-class exercise, not on a test or an exam. Not. One. The teacher was flummoxed--which was impressive, since he'd be a professor of physics at Tehran University--escaped when the Shah fell and the Ayatollah was killing all the smart secularists--and especially so when, as he put it, "I don't understand--you've gotten the right answer to this question, but I've never seen it solved this way before!" Fascinating, and a little sad--if I'd known about my talent there, I might have gone in a completely different direction in life--majoring in physics rather than Theatre--and who knows where that would have led me? I'd like to meet the parallel-universe version of myself to find out what happened. Anyway--)

Point is, the play that I've prepped to teach to within an inch of its life? Not gonna be lecturing on it. And now I've got only a couple of days to pull together something truly dazzling on a completely different play...now, I'm brilliant, and cool, and I work well under pressure--used to do improv comedy, don't you know--but man...this better be the last curve ball I get thrown in a bit, dammit. I'm serious. I want this job.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Trying, TRYING To Be Healthy

Mentally speaking. It's not easy. I'm realizing, as I move towards the campus visit, how very comfortable I've become in just accepting my anxiety and the attendant depression. Which suggests that there needs to be another stage beyond that of the last stage of grief. When I first was diagnosed with depression, I went through mini-versions of all the usual--denial, fear, anger, bargaining, and then, finally, I accepted that, yes, I was a depressive, and probably would be for most of my life. Which is a seductive and poisonous frame of mind to linger in. Because if you accept being a depressive, then doing anything about it--making the effort to not let it run your mental life, becomes much more elusive. "Well, of course I'm miserable--I'm a depressive, I'm supposed to be miserable." Easy to think that. And so one sinks into the torpor that ensures that when depression hits, you just sit back and accept it.

But that's nonsense. Depression isn't an inevitability--and one has an enormous control over the intensity and frequency with which it intrudes into one's life. So rather than just sighing heavily and saying, "Well, it'll pass in time," I'm trying--trying--to confront it. To say, "No, it will pass because I'm going to face it, fiercely and logically and without self-pity--it will pass because I evict it, not because I allow it to ruin my life for a few weeks rather than do something about it."

But--high, whiny voice--it's hard. I confront it, and it diminishes, and then I have to think about other things, and it comes creeping back again. And I confront it, and it slinks away, and as soon as my back is turned, there it is again. It's quite tiring--I feel like I have to keep one eye always peeled for that grim cloud, and the distraction makes other things--like teaching or prepping that nightmare-long paper on Marlowe's Tamburlaine for my mock job-talk (which I'm delivering this afternoon, much to my exhausted non-delight--aaagh--see?!--immediately I go to a negative, 'woe-is-me' anticipation of the event--wrong! wrong! wrong!--what I should be saying is, "Well, at least it's better than having to listen to a nightmare-long paper on Tamburlaine"--right? No? Still bad and self-compromising? Dammit!!!)--anyway, point is, I'm trying. Small steps. Small, small steps. (Tiny, but heartfelt growl of frustration...)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Oh, Boy.

Had a bad moment--well, 'spell,' really, just now--I got tired--really, really tired in the middle of a lecture. That never happens. Lecturing is the thing that picks me up--in the same way that intense exercise gives you an out-of-the-body rush of endorphins, a really great lecture where all my synapses are firing and I'm coming up spontaneously with ideas that are so brilliant that I'm not even sure that I'm the one thinking of them--the ancients used to think of themselves as infused with the spirits of gods or demons when they really got onto an oratorical roll, and I know what they meant--it's a thing that leaves me feeling about 20 pounds lighter and in an infinitely better mood than when I went in.

But today, I stumbled mid-way through. Just felt the wind go out of my sails. Why, I'm not sure. I was teaching the second of two sections--giving, in short, the same lecture that I'd given the day before, so some of the spontaneity had gone out of it--and once again, I slept briefly and badly--and I'm still anxious and tense and thus muscularly clenched all the time--but really, that's all happened to me before, and I've still been a thoroughbred on the turf during class. Not today. Sigh. I suppose I just need to suck it up and exercise a lot this afternoon so that I can go to bed early and really sleep, hard, for an extra couple of hours, and catch up on the REM sleep I'm losing by these jolt-awakes. Maybe that'll help. Or, you know, I could just drink more and not worry about anything at all...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bad Sleep = Bad Sign

Normally, I'm quite a good sleeper--insomnia occasionally, but nothing absurd, and usually it happens on days that I've napped extensively, so it's not too hard to find the causative link there. But last night I woke up at least four times--those sudden "oh my God something horrible is happening" jerk-awakes that are just no damn fun, especially since you have to wake up enough to realize that, no, nothing is immediately wrong externally (except for the fact that clearly something is internally), and then you have to get back to sleep while worrying about what that internal glitch might be. And when I woke up fully--no need for the alarm clock this morning--I realized what it is: the campus visit. It's coming. This time next week I'll be packing. I'm going. It's real. And the 'clench' has begun. Travel. Scrutiny. Performance. Oh my. Plus, plus I continue to not hear from any of the other schools I interviewed with...and the longer I wait, the less likely it is that they'll call...Sigh. So I have reasons to be anxious and depressed. But--and I suppose this is good, in a perverse way--I have reasons to be anxious and depressed. At least I'm not wandering around in a muddled fog, feeling helpless in the face of ignorance as to that cause of my jumpy bleakness. Or bleak jumpiness. Not sure which. Sigh. And this is only the beginning...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

B*tch, B*tch, B*tch...What Do You Mean, You're Bored?

A person who shall remain nameless but who is rather dear to me commented the other day, in review of my blog: "You complain a lot." I must have looked wounded, because she quickly revised, "Well--you vent." Which is better, to be sure. But not entirely. The negativity factor 'round these parts is, I admit, strikingly high. A glance at other blogs in my particular genre (overeducated academic types balancing personal and professional needs) shows that my colleagues do seem to have the ability to mention, every so often, something that they enjoy or at least find less than soul-scarringly offensive. Not so much, here. And perhaps that's a bit of a downer. A little vitriol goes a long way, and past a certain point, you just sound like the crusty-haired guy outside Starbucks with spittle in the corner of his mouth and a cardboard sign around his neck that explains that the reason he needs your spare change is that the CIA stole the impulse control portion of his brain and swapped in that of an evil clone. (You should, by the way, make a point of talking to him--he's got stories to tell, that man.)

So I'm trying to figure out A. why I'm so relentlessly bitter, and B. how to lighten things up.

On the A. front, I'm just in a perpetual mood of serious pissed-offed-ness these days. It has much, much to do with personal troubles I choose not to discuss, but in which I feel I was severely and unfairly d*cked over by someone who should have been better than that. And since my life remains in a state of numbed-shock-alternatating-with-grief-and-loneliness as a result, ehhhh...I'm a little tetchy. Not an excuse, just an explanation. Similarly, I've just started with a new shrink, whom I enjoy quite a bit (though I'm not sure I can afford her--damn insurance non-coverage!)--well, not 'enjoy'--but she's very blunt and smart, and she's forcing me to stop "exploring my feelings" and actually put a bridle on the little bastards. After our first session, when I'd explained my thinking about myself in the articulate detail for which I am justly famous, she checked over her notes, nodded as if confirming her diagnosis, then looked me in the eye and calmly said, "Well, I think you should know that, thinking the way you do, having the view of yourself and the world that you do, it is quite literally impossible for you to be happy. At all." Zoinks! O...K...I mean, she's right, but geez, to come right out and say it??? So, I got work to do in the attic, and it's unpleasant. Hence, crankiness.

Plus, I tend towards the comic herein (well, towards attempting the comic--as someone else who shall remain nameless often tells me, I'm not funny--though this is usually after a witticism I've made at her expense, so she's scarcely unbiased), and happiness and cheer do not lend themselves to comedy. The Three Stooges are only funny when they're pissed off and beating the living s*** out of each other. Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny are only funny when they're trying to get each other killed. If these guys just trotted out the tea cart and exchanged compliments over scones, you'd change the channel. Same here. If I have a brilliant moment or two in class where I win both laughs and enlightenment by comparing the Virgilian Underworld to Disneyland (and yes, I did that), who the hell wants to hear about that? "Pat yourself on the back a little more, you smug bastard," you'd think, and rightly so.

Which brings us to B.--how, given these stumbling blocks, do I cheer up things around here? Ideas? Suggestions? 'Cause frankly, I got nothing...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Gay Cowboys Eating Pudding

Little joke for you South Park aficianados, there. And I'm sure I'm not the first (or the millionth) to make it. Anyway--

Does it speak ill of me that I simply do not want to see Brokeback Mountain? I mean, as one born and raised in the City of the Angels, I've spent most of my life in the company of men--good friends, many of them--best friends in some cases--discovering, denying, indulging furtively in, denying again, indulging less furtively in, agonizing over, kinda enjoying, doing everything they can to avoid, and finally embracing their homosexuality. It really just isn't a story I need to see fictionalized. I'm sure their angst and torment and eye-opening discoveries are lovingly shot and lit, beautifully paced, and well written. But do I really have to give a good goddamn about these fictional versions of real people I know? I think not. I have already sat through this movie; it's just that my version didn't have chaps and boots and horses. Well, actually, come to think of it...No horses, though.

The fact of the matter is, narrative needs to be, I don't know, mildly original to be diverting. For me, at least. I mean, I can certainly understand why gay men might want to see this movie--after all, the success of staggeringly s***ty movies in the African-African community based solely on the fact that they're written by and star African-Americans argues that 'target audiences' can make a film--that communities denied cultural representation will flock to see any version of themselves onscreen--and if it's not an obnoxious or condescending version, so much the better. So if gay men want to see themselves portrayed as something other than the neutred 'best friend' godawful Nora Ephron movies, hey, I'm all for it.

But the film's not just big in the Rainbow-flagged circle. Presumably this is a film that's succeeding more widely because film critics have universally told us that it's brilliant. But they said that about Million Dollar Baby. And A Beautiful Mind. And Cinderella Man. And...sleepy yet? I know I am. These movies weren't brilliant--they just didn't suck. (Except for A Beautiful Mind: a more panderingly manipulative piece of tripe never crawled across the screen. Take it from one who knows: insanity is not cinematically compelling--go f*** yourself, Ron Howard.) And I can smell "it doesn't suck" on this movie. And I just...don't...care.

Look: I don't need to see another "plucky hero(ine) struggles against fashionable illness" movie. I don't need to see another Holocaust movie. (Trust me, ADL, we're not going to forget anytime soon. Honest.) I don't need to see another "tortured genius triumphs over/succumbs to substance abuse/the burden of his/her own genius" movie. (Yes, Ray Charles chased the dragon, Iris Murdoch went squirrelly, Jackson Pollack used a steering wheel the way he used a paintbrush, and Virginia Woolf drowned in the river, pulled to the bottom by the weight of her own nose. AND???) Stop. Making. These. Movies. Stop making movies that we wouldn't care about if you didn't tell us we had to. It's tiresome. Too much ink has been spilled on the wretched nature of the mindless blockbuster--and yes, everything Michael Bay touches is pitch, and we who see it are defiled thereby. But nobody talks about the "good movies" that leave us feeling just as hollow, just as frustrated, just as cheated out of our nearly 10 bucks. Stop making "important" movies. Stop making "good" movies. Stop making movies that critics will fawn over just because they'll feel guilty if they don't. (I mean, please--gay men? Cowboy setting? Could any self-respecting movie critic rip on this film without immediately receiving a hundred angry e-mails comparing him to the murderers of Matthew Shepherd? I think not.)

I know the Academy will vote for it. I know that tearful acceptance speeches pleading for people to hear its 'beautiful message of tolerance' will be made. I know that metrosexuals will suddenly feel an urge to buy stetsons. But count me out. If I want to experience the aestheticized misery of being gay in a bigoted world, I'll go reread Maurice or Giovanni's Room. Movies are supposed to take me away from my annoyances--this kind of flick just fuels them. There, I said it. Let the screams of "homophobe" fly.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Dispositional Update: My humors have taken a swing from the Melancholic to the Choleric. Just plain old ill-tempered-ness and impatience with, frankly, everything and everyone, who are, of course, in conspiracy against me--or so the voices in my head (who all sound strangely like my third-grade French instructor who introduced me to the concept of inappropriate touching) tell me. But really, what I'm ticked off at, is the mood itself. Choler? Again??? When, I ask you, do I get to be Sanguine? Never? Really? Well, could I at least be Phlegmatic? They seem nice and relaxed! No? So I'm stuck between Dreamy Depressive Philosophical Bleak Bergman-esque Imaginative Untethered Whiny Narcissistic Self-Pitying Gloom and Angry Irritable Impulsive Knee-Jerk-ish Cranky Obnoxious Tempermental Snarling? These are my choices? Feeling like an extroverted jerk or an introverted jerk? Crap. Somebody pass me a jar of leeches--I need to draw out the black bile and the spleen, but leave the blood, OK, guys? I need that stuff.

But as it is, I find myself, as I listen to Sense and Sensibility on CD during my lengthy commutes, barking at Marianne to snap the hell out of it and grow the hell up--yes, Willoughby is a duplicitous prick, of course he is, he's your first boyfriend--all first boyfriends are duplicitous pricks! Just suck it up and get over it--and stop reading so much damn poetry! And as for you, Elinor: you know, 'stoic forbearance' is nice up to a point, but after about twelve chapters, I think we all feel the desire to force your head into a bucket of water until the bubbles stop, you god-d***ed saint.

Hmm. Come to think of it--that may be why I'm in this mood. Damn you, Austen!

S*** What I Gotta Do Over the Next Few Days

1. Finish reading "Song of Myself."
2. Shot of Jack Daniels to take the taste of Whitman out of my mouth.
3. Draw up lesson plans for teaching "Song of Myself."
4. Second (and possibly third) shot of Jack Daniels to ease the guilt of forcing Whitman on unsuspecting freshmen.
5. Finish prepping lesson plan for campus visit. This will involve reading not only the play I've been assigned, but 'background' reading as well. Pleasant enough, but--
6. Fourth shot of Jack Daniels to take the edge off of my nerves over upcoming campus visit.
7. Nap. Detox.
8. Continue to read Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Yes, I know it's three volumes and eighty bajillion pages long, but that's no excuse.
9. Congratulate myself on not pursuing an activity (see #8) that requires a shot of Jack Daniels afterwards. Shot of Jack Daniels to celebrate.
10. Exercise.
11. Shot of Jack Daniels to rehydrate after exercise.
12. Continue to compile list of 'things I like about myself' as per new therapist's instructions. Shot of Jack Daniels to facilitate. Find it surprisingly easy afterwards, if "I'm f***ing awesome" and "I don't take s*** from no one" consitute acceptable entries. Many typos, but who gives a flying f***? F*** it.
13. Shot of Jack Daniels--Just Because, OK? And what the f*** are you looking at?!
14. Find bed, or softer portion of floor. Sleep, trying not to lie on my back, since that's how you asphyxiate on your own vomit.
15. Wake up. Realize that waking up was not a good idea. Return to sleep, only mildly concerned that I can recall nothing of the previous 24 hours.
16. Scream at drummer next door to knock it the f*** off.
17. Realize that there is no drummer next door, and that that's my head.
18. Summon will to rise. Brush teeth. Brush tongue. Brush roof of mouth. Gargle with Windex, which seems to be the only thing that will remove the aftertaste of sludge.
19. Realize that gargling with Windex hurts quite a lot. Realize that I'm a pathetic loser, alone and hungover and accomplishing nothing with my life. Long, long crying jag.
20. Drive to Costco. For some reason, we're out of Jack Daniels.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dullness, With Continued Dullness Throughout The Week

Just not a damned thing of interest going on. I'm gingerly prepping my lecture for my campus visit--though do I prepare a full-blown formal 'lecture' or do I prep myself for a Socratic chat with students? The latter prospect worries me, as I will be a stranger and they will, understandably, be reticent about speaking or making eye contact. (Those of you who teach will know what I mean--students don't trust you until maybe, maybe the third week, when they realize that those 'humorous' comments you've been making are, in fact, safe to laugh at.) Decisions, decisions. And of course, I have to prep my questions for the folks who'll be giving me the final look-see, but frankly, I'm so eager for the job that I want to just blurt out "Anything! I'll take anything! An outdoor office! A 12-course teaching load! Publishing expected every other week! Anything, I tell you! Anything!" That would, I suspect, be undignified.

Meantime, I continue to teach--though distractedly. Aeneid this week (yahoo!), Leaves of Grass next week (considerably subdued response, indicating the suppression of an "Oh God NO" response--apologies to Whitman fans out there, but deliberately masturbatory prose should either be properly pornographic, or what's the point?). And on we go. Sigh. I'm starting once again to dive into Gibbon's Decline and Fall--it's just one of those books I have to have read, and which I do enjoy reading, but life keeps coming along to pull me away with other commitments. Still, if I could make it through Herodotus, Thucydides, Tacitus, Livy, and Suetonius, I suppose I owe to myself to read the guy who tells the rest of the story, yes?

Monday, January 16, 2006

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Frankly, I've little excuse or motivation to blog today--I've just spent the better part of the past four days pursuing la dolce far niente and rather enjoying doing so. How niente, you ask? Pretty close to total--I mean, I didn't even read trash fiction, which is something I tend to do even while in a persistent vegetative state, so there you go. Of course, on two of the previous three days, I've had ("had"?! "been fortunate enough") to be taken out for staggeringly expensive meals: Pacific Dining Car (a tradition among the men in my immediate family is that we ring in the New Year by a lunch-visit thereto--no women allowed, it's strictly a 'guy thing'), and Moonshadows, overlooking the surf in Malibu. Much vodka/gin (depending on whether I'm ordering gimlets--vodka--or martinis--gin) and wine was consumed--hell, I had port at the end of both meals, as well as desserts that contained the word 'souffle' (though one was 'souffle cake,' which to me is like 'eggless omelet,' but whatever, it was good.) Point being, a lot of sleeping in the next day was called for--I've never understood the phrase "I feel liverish" before, but as I'm entering my later 30s, I'm starting to. So dozing and TV/DVD watching has been the order of the 3-day weekend (and what better way to celebrate the legacy of a man of boundless energy and political activity than to spend the day commemorating him doing f***-all, I ask you?)

Still, I have to abandon my hedonistic ways. I'm getting lazy, both mentally and physically, and my latest physical exam produced warning signs that I can't ignore, given my family history. So, I rather suspect that this weekend was my last hurrah for a bit, and that from hereon in I have to actually shop for food that's good for me, and exercise before I eat it, and read challenging works of criticism and classical philosophy/history rather than, as my mother puts it, "studying the inside of my eyelids for a few hours." Sigh. I know I'll feel better for having swapped over to clean living, but torpor is just so...seductive. Ah, the Deadly Sin of Sloth. There's so much to be said for it. No wonder I didn't want to blog today.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Campus Visit Anon

I don't normally do requests, because...well, frankly, because I never actually get requests. But since abdme has asked, I'm happy to elaborate: early in December, I had a phone interview with a Southern Research University--unlike some of my fellow academics, I actually prefer phone interviews. For one thing, you can have them in your bathrobe and bunny slippers. (And yes, I actually own a pair, thanks to my friend/roommate/landlord--though to his credit and mine, they are Killer Bunny Slippers, huge jagged-fanged things that derive from the Rosetta Stone of Nerd Comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I mostly wear them in front of new acquaintances, just to make sure they know they're dealing with a geek-addled eccentric.) For another--and this is more personal--I'm just not that good in interview situations. Apparently I'm very intense. (I know, you're thinking, You? Intense? Get out! But no, it's true.) And such intensity--I get too enthusiastic about whatever it is I'm talking about and just...go off--appears to be off-putting. Also, I'm simultaneously incredibly awkward and self-conscious, so I tend to twist my body into pretzel-like shapes of body-space defensiveness--all told, not a pretty picture. But over the phone, said picture is eliminated, and I come across as breezy and charming. Or so I'm told.

Anyway, it must be true in some sort, because said phone interview led to my being asked about a week later for a campus visit late this month. Details as to what I'll be expected to do are still hazy--though early reports indicate that rather than giving a paper, I'll be expected to teach an upper-division class, probably in Shakespeare. This..is...good. If I shine anywhere in life (a big "if"), it's in front of a class. I get to be the best version of myself: confident, smart, witty, charismatic, charming, entertaining, erudite, and enlightening. I get, in short, to rock. (I know, this sounds megalomaniacal, but my new shrink has insisted that I identify three things that are good about myself every day in an effort to combat my crippling self-loathing, so I'm just building up a repertoire.) And the chance to do Shakespeare makes it all the better--I'll get to recite monologues from memory--get to act, which always seems to wow 'em--and show that I can really, you know, teach. So, hopes are, miraculously enough, high. One never knows what the competition will be like, and I rather expect, given the number of applicants and the fact we're down to the final three, that it will be stiff. But I'm in the running, and it's a free trip to a lovely part of the country, and it's a chance to teach--and that...is always a good thing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Crankiness Ebbs

Having recovered from my hangover nicely--my students were actually rather intimidated by my surly, Byronic manner, so I was able to snarl and grimace my way through the hour and a half without challenge or interruption. Unpleasant of me, perhaps, but it's better to be feared than be loved, as good old Niccolo reminds us.

It strikes me that I haven't fulminated properly against something larger than the circumstances of my own life in quite awhile. While political blogs are, for the most part, stridently unreadable--yes, yes, we all know that Bush is the Anti-Christ and that Secular Liberalism is in fact the Sign of the Apocalypse, could we change the subject please???--there's something to be said for saying something about the world outside one's own sphere of activity.

Nothing, however, comes to mind these days. Perhaps it's just that leaping back into a full-time teaching schedule has rattled me into a state of emotional exhaustion from which I'm unable to arouse the appropriate level of ironic spleen, but the fact is that as I limp home at the end of the day, I'm inclined to collapse in front of televison (or, if I'm particularly good, to get on the treadmill in front of television) or computer screen and just jack myself into the electronic feed of mindless pablum. Mmmm...CSI...24...House...

I'm trying to be good and work a little bit on the novel each day, though again, being creative and giving a rat's butt about characters who exist only in my fevered imagination (except it isn't fevered--it's torpid) is rather difficult. (Whiny little bastard, ain't I?) Still, following my 20-minute rule, I press on. Feebly.

But none of this is to the point--which, in itself, is the point. (Ooo, I'm clever.) I really can't spend my time ripping on the wiretapping scandal, or Abramoff's multiple pleas of guilty (you've gotta know that every time he pleads guilty to another crime, that's another Congressional individual who has to change his shorts, given what kind of canary-like singing--or rat-like ratting out--he must be trading for leniency), or whether Alito will single-handedly make abortion punishable by stoning (he won't, people--I'll say it again and again--the Supreme Court hates to overturn precedent--because it makes it that much easier for their own precedents to be overturned--trust me, Roe v. Wade isn't going anywhere). I just can't quite summon the bilious 'oomph' to make myself amusing on these subjects. So for the time being, I shall continue to focus squarely on the most important thing in the whole wide universe: me. And since I'm plagued by a bi-polar tendency towards self-aggrandisement and self-loathing, it should be quite a ride...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


No talking above a whisper.

No sudden movements.

In fact, no talking and no movement whatsoever. There was wine. Then whiskey. Then calvados. Then some serious lying down while I felt the movement of the world as it revolved around the sun. And this morning, there is bright, bright, lasik-surgery bright sunlight. And traffic noise. And a taste I can't quite identify in my mouth but which I'd swear has something to do with the process of radioactive decay.

And I have to teach. This should be...amusing. Tomorrow. Today, nothing is amusing. At all. Groan...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Day of Terror, Day of Doom

No, not really. Just my birthday, with its usual intimations of futility (and mortality, just because I'm a traditionalist.) Suddenly alone again, holidays are going to suck for awhile, though I must acknowledge that the presence of friends (some of whom treated me to a lovely feast last night), fulfilling work (teaching is a tonic to me, can't say why, but I'm not about to argue with it), and family helps a lot. Still, it would be nice to have this be the year in which I get The Job, just so I don't have to be staring at 40 (still a few years off, but still) and contemplating a life in which I have no *place*. But I'm resolved not to be gloomy. No, that's a lie. I'm going to be damned gloomy, and enjoy it. It's my party, and I'll sulk if I want to...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I am "It," Apparently

According to abdme (http://probablyedandme.blogspot.com/), I am now tagged with another "meme." Unfortunately, I am hampered in my ability to become un-tagged, inasmuch as I do not know five other bloggers. (Actually, that's not entirely true, since the powers-that-be at the Composition office are demanding that I force my students to create blogs and submit weekly entries, which I think violates the 6th Amendment, but nevermind.) So while I will gladly submit to the onus of being "It" and revealing 5 weird things about myself (might as well just say "5 things about myself"), I think I have to break this cyber-based chain letter. My regrets and apologies.


5 Weird Things About Me:

1. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of and obsession with Musical Theater, yet I am not gay.
2. I have owned a Cuisinart for almost 9 years, and I have never used it once.
3. I'm actually more comfortable wearing a tie than not wearing one. Yes, even in bed.
4. I lapse into cloying baby-talk around all furry pet-like animals. Trust me, if you knew me, you'd find this arrestingly incongruous. (Strangely, I do not lapse into baby-talk around actual babies, to whom I speak as if they're fellow 30-somethings at a cocktail party.)
5. When I lecture, I stare at the floor and, while pacing, place my feet into intricate patterns on the squares of linoleum (or whatever kind of flooring there is--carpet drives me nuts, but even there, I'll find some way to draw protractor-precise geometrical shapes with my feet. How this must look to my students, I've no idea.)

There are, needless to say, far weirder things about myself that I could share, but you don't want me to; believe me, you just don't.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Two Down...

Rejection #2 came in. I don't feel terribly conversational about it. This one was less of a long-shot than the first--the first I could write off as something I probably wasn't going to get anyway--this one, I thought I had a shot at--the interview went very well--friendly, smooth answers to their questions, laughter at my jokes, etc. I don't know. "You can never tell," right? But this one stings harder than the first, and now I'm starting to be afraid to check my e-mail. I think of what it means not to get hired, again. I think of facing another round of the hiring process. And I want to--well, not weep, I'm just not a crier--but crawl back into bed and let oblivion take over. But I can't, of course. Too much work to do. Five more potential "yes"es to go. But one more rejection establishes a pattern, and I'm just not quite secure enough to be the guy who can, after seven rejections, say, laughing, "Can you believe it! Seven rejections! Man, I must have worn the wrong cologne on that trip!" I suppose it would be nice to be that guy. Perhaps I should work on it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bad News

I just received my first post-MLA rejection e-mail. One interviewing committee has given me the thumbs-down. Depressing? Well, a bit, of course. On the other hand, it was inevitable that somebody wasn't going to ask me for a campus visit, and indeed that several somebodies would and will not. Still, we all want to be wanted, and one down narrows the list of possibilities, and all that. Sigh. Shrug. Attempt at stoic forbearance.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Loomings and a Post-Mortem

The new quarter begins on Friday--don't ask, quarter system and the administration is trying to make up for class time lost to holidays--and I'm simply not ready for it. I know, I know, I said that the start of classes would be a good thing, and it will--but I'd like One More Week, please. No? Fine. It's just that I'm still tired--it's incredibly self-indulgently feeble of me to say so, but I still haven't recovered from Washington. Which was an interesting experience, now that I'm in some state to talk about it. Some of you will have been to the Modern Language Association convention and will know what I'm talking about; some won't, and you're the only ones who need to read this. (Did I say "need"? My, but I'm arrogant.) Thing is, all the interviews are held in suites spread out through 2 or 3 hotels. (One hotel was a 12 dollar cabride away from the others, which meant I had to fork over about 36 bucks a day just to make it to where I needed to be, which doesn't sound like much except I'm, you know, perpetually broke.) So all the interviewees--all those fresh-faced, newly-minted Ph.D.s gather in the huge, huge lobbies of these hotels, waiting (they're usually at least a couple hours early--nerves, you see) to be summoned to a 30+ minute gauntlet of interrogation which may determine The Rest Of Their Lives. They are, to put it one way, stressed. To put it another, it's like walking into the waiting area for Room 101 from 1984. Everybody's jumpy--there's no place to sit, and I mean no place, the whole lobby is a seething mass of misery, so people wander, forlorn, looking for some quiet corner to curl up in and weep, or else open up their folder/dossier (everyone carries one) and review for the fourteen billionth time their letters of application (what did I claim to be able to do?) and just...pulse with agonized anticipation. Not a happy place. Come to think of it, perhaps the Hell for academics is this: a perpetual MLA convention, with the promise of release from perdition if one aces the interview, but the clock doesn't move, and the elevators are too full to get on, and the house phones don't work so you can't call up to find which room you're suppose to be at, and you've lost your dossier, and this is forever...Yeah, that's good. I like that.

Personally, I simply wasn't as miserable as I thought I'd be. The sight I've just described knocked me out of my own head a bit, and I realized that I really, really didn't want to be one of those people. So instead, I stalked a seat, found one, and sat with my coffee and a copy of Gaiman's Neverwhere, and just relaxed and enjoyed the read, realizing that, hey, I know my stuff, and if I don't, a few minutes of cramming is not going to supply this deficiency. And as a result, I was, I think, more at ease than virtually everyone else. (Which, by the way, should tell you how bad it was--if I walk into a very crowded, very large room, and I'm the most relaxed person there...you know you're in a horrible, horrible place.)

But it was still quite draining. I may have been confident that I could jump through the interlocutorial hoops, and so I could, but I still had to do the jumping. And travel always wigs me out. And so I'm still a bit tired, and not really ready to realign my formidable intellect (irony alert) to the business of teaching just now. Yet I must. So. Off to do reading and lesson plans and whatnot. Fun and frivolity, commented Eeyore, as he cropped another thistle.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years Day

--and frankly, do we care? Should we? I don't--it mostly means that I've got to remember to write a different year on my checks. I know it's pretentiously cliche' to remark that the demarcation of time is culturally specific and therefore objectively random and that one's life does not change between the 31st and the 1st and that treating a year as a contained unit in one's life is just as silly as treating a few notes in a symphony as significant to the whole and so on and so forth--yet I agree with all of this.

New Year's (kind of like my birthday, which follows hard upon) is a time that for a long while I've expected to be much more of an event and experience than it ever proves to be. The televised countdown (which in the age of satellite TV occurs at 9:00 here on the West Coast, which means that our own midnight seems repetitive and anti-climactic) just doesn't do anything for me, because you get to the scream "Happy New Year" and then...what? Well, if you're with someone appropriate, you kiss, and that's nice, but then...what? It's not as if the end of one year opens the floodgates for a slew of new experiences that were just being held back by those last few minutes of December. It's just another day (to quote the consistently underrated Oingo Boingo). Go to bed, wake up, and nothing's changed. (Unless you've had drunken New Year's Eve sex with a total stranger and no protection--then life might get real interesting real fast.)

I suppose what redeems it as a holiday is the fact that--I think instinctively--it's a holiday that marks the shift from the Family Oriented shenanigans of Christmas (or Hannukah, or what have you) to shenanigans based around Friends. Because, having spent New Year's with both, I rather think that New Year's was meant to be spent with Friends--with peers, rather than parents (or children.) There might be something to the idea of a moment to pause with those of your own time of life--to look around at the faces of your second, voluntary family--and be aware of the journey you're on, and that it's the presence of each other that makes that journey worthwhile most of the time.

Didn't have that experience this year, needless to say--but not having it this year made me realize this--so maybe next year, I'll remember, and be less of a snarky jerk about the holiday.

Yeah, I know, probably not. You know how New Year's resolutions always turn out.