Monthly Archives: June 2011

Exotic

My main accomplishment this weekend was driving a Ford F-150. They threw the keys to me and said, “Take the truck!” My honor did not permit me to say I was terrified to drive this enormous, automatic transmission vehicle, the location of whose hand brake and gear shift were not immediately evident. I succeeded at the endeavor, however, and I feel quite accomplished. The Ford F-150 I drove was red.

Saturday my Creole speaking yard man and I laid flooring for five straight hours. Usually on Saturdays I listen to WWOZ but I was on my way to deeper bayous later so I pointed the radio to KRVS which has a truly excellent show, the Zydeco Stomp. With the Zydeco Stomp and your host Herman Fuselier you can “have a bon temps” even laying flooring in the heat. When we finished he changed into snakeskin cowboy boots, because he was going to a dance.

I pulled out a dry bag and put some things in it, and transported myself to the Basin where we traveled nine miles in canoes, which was quite primordial. What most impressed me was that although the boats are in fact low to the water, the the moonlight created the illusion that the water was far below the prows. In the slow water among dark trees with the glowing we had entered another world.

It was late when we reached our destination. At the dock there were flat bottomed motorboats just putting in, country men going frogging at midnight (and out of season). They were happy, leaning back and smiling to the sky as the boats slid down the ramp. Then they were off into the mist, leaving quiet wakes — trails through the world that wavelets traced, then blurred.

Axé.

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Jess

This exhibit took place in New York in 2008. It was a rare event and I would have liked to go.

Axé.

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Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down

whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

–R.D., 1960

We had and received other books, borrowed or given or bought, but The Opening of the Field was the first book we received by someone we knew, directly from them. I could not read yet but I could recognize the capital letters on the cover. I understood that a field was opening and that there were presences in it.

I can still see the old Victorian house with the narrow staircases, Jess’ studio with the thick paint, Robert’s illustrated books and fanciful ink drawings, and my amazement at the spinach pasta they served, because it was green.

Toddler Z: It is very nice of you to have taken the trouble to find green pasta for us. In fact, it is very nice of you to even realize that this would so amuse children.
Robert Duncan: I am pleased that you appreciate the green pasta, but you must realize I did not buy it especially for you! I eat green pasta often, on my own, to amuse myself!

That caused me to fall in love with Robert Duncan. He liked this and wrote my name in one of his Victorian children’s books. I am looking at it now.

I never really got into his poetry too much because unfairly I find it too-too, too much under the influence of all those Victorian and Edwardian children’s books he had, too psychedelic, too religious, too dependent on ideas like the Queen Under the Hill, too reminiscent of Songs from the Wood, and so on.

Still I see the field opening.

Axé.

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A Good Point

“‘Wait for better times.’ That’s what the slaves always hear. ‘This is only temporary….‘” Part of the problem does seem to be that Gloria Steinem and others got as moderate as they needed to to still be seen as “reasonable,” and ended up saying nothing. “Wait for better times” is also precisely what my most incompetent chair would say when I pointed out that hir (in)activity had turned two positions into revolving doors.

By that time many strange things had happened, and my eyes were already wider than saucers. I therefore did not decode the sentence and accepted the idea that it was I who was impatient. Ze had suffered greatly and it was my turn, my field’s turn to sacrifice. (Ze was a Full; I was on the tenure track.) I thought, well, in this universe, perhaps that is true. Ze won prizes, and I got stalled.

“Wait for better times.” The truth is that that is what the slaves always hear. My yogic statement for this hour is that in that sense, the sense of the right time to strike, the right time to make a change, the right time to finish, the right time to get something done — in that sense “better times” are always now; they have always just arrived.

Axé.

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Natalie Zemon Davis

It has been a beautiful day here in Maringouin, heat index 104, not as hot as yesterday and I am starting to feel better than I did. In radio news, Historiann‘s software has a glitch which prevents me from posting, so I want to say here that I totally agree with this post.

*

“In this profession each person is allowed one eccentricity,” said the chair of my PhD examination committee, “and you have already used yours, since you are a woman. This examination is excellent; if you maintain a conventional enough persona, you can have a brilliant career.” I wish it were this simple.

“I cannot imagine anyone would discriminate against me based upon my choice to emphasize my status as a mother,” said one of our graduate students; “That would be so unfair.” I am glad we now inhabit a world in which it is possible to even entertain this thought.

*

As an undergraduate I took a class from Natalie Davis, who was a fascinating and dynamic lecturer. Once her husband flew in from New York and met her after class — yes, they were commuting academics. Was it difficult? we asked. The difficulty was doing this with children, she said. With direct flights and enough salary to pay for these and the telephone, it was entirely possible. They had tried having one home base and a studio for the other person, but this had not worked. Both had to be at home where their job was, so both homes had to be home bases — especially since there were children.

I was raised with the idea that you could not be married and have a career. Employers would reject married women, and marriages would reject women with careers. Natalie Davis was one of the exceptions. Disaster struck many finishing graduate students in my program. There was a running joke about being served diplomas and divorce papers on the same day, and it was unwise to let employers know you were married. Things have improved a lot since those days.

“Our two institutions are not working hard enough at coordinating our two teaching schedules, and it is unfair” does not, however, seem like a reasonable complaint to me or like a feminist issue. (Am I missing something?)

*

As I say, it is a beautiful day in Maringouin. My friend says I should add the MBA to my JD plan, and this might indeed solve some of the problems with it. I really like the reading I am doing and I like my work, but I have had another piece rejected. I would like to live in town and meet people and not be so poor.

(Is this terribly selfish? I keep being told I am robbing my field of the contributions I could still make, and I remember that chair of my PhD examination committee saying, “You can have a brilliant career.” I have determined, however, that the idea that you can write yourself to an ideal job for you is one of the lies professors tell each other, and I am not willing to entertain it again.)

The academic interest I have that crosses over into law is the construction of “race.” The origin of my interest in the JD was some work on the prison industrial complex. I am interested in this in the US and in the global context, and I am interested in globalization and trade; anti-dumping litigation fascinates me in theory at least. (I am thinking about these things so as to hone my plans and prepare to talk to people.)

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Clarissa gets my yogi-like study attitude. This pleases me because it, and not discipline (do not misunderstand: scheduling is good but it is far more superficial) is what I have been trying to regain through this blog. Since my decline began I have tried to ramp things up via discipline because that is the standard advice, but it was never the problem.

Didion reminds us that it is not just a question of discipline, it is work circumstances. I say it is good to be reminded of that because it is true, but that my own discouragement does not even come from work circumstances but from advice as to what to do about these:

From Reeducation: everything is not all right; there is something wrong with you; that you cannot see you are fatally flawed is proof that you are; you should not be doing so well; not to be reactive is to be unfeeling; you should be in more pain; your life should not be in as good order as it is; you should be feeling more powerless.
From Time Managers: who are you to think you know what you want to do, or should do with your project? who are you to think you know how to estimate timelines on any project? stop doubting your directors and managers — don’t be lazy — write what you are told is meet — obey!

I do not know whether I can escape Maringouin; I do not know to what extent my problem really is Maringouin; I do not know whether my problem is actual lack of interest in field or whether it is the obligation to feel a lack of interest — when I was a child all the adults were assistant professors and perhaps part of showing they were worthy was to strike disaffected poses. I do know that I associate academic jobs with verbal and emotional abuse and unbearable pain.

*

I am still practicing, still attempting to acquire the skill of not saying to myself the things Reeducation and the Time Managers told me. It is strange that I am trying on and practicing the belief in the right to health and the right not to self-harm given that earlier in life, I did not doubt my right to these rights.

Axé.

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Diva, the Film

Axé.

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Technicalities

1 – 1680 x 1050 is the resolution my external monitor wants; without it, it goes to sleep. This computer does not offer such a high resolution, but will work with the external monitor at a much lower resolution. Fora indicate this may be a difficult compatibility issue to resolve. I am bored.

2 – The painters are now fixing bad work, so much furniture is moved again and I do not really have anywhere to sleep. There is a hip new hotel and if I were not in debt to the painters and undesirous of spending more, I would go to it. I am bored.

3 – I still have to do the kitchen floor and it means making the yard man, who is going to help me, help me do it right. He already doesn’t want us to measure from the center of the room or put flooring under the appliances, but I do and I am willing to do what it takes to do it right. It was exhausting explaining this and insisting upon it. I am bored.

4 – It took hours to help this yard man get a plane ticket and the operation is not over yet. He has a daughter in college and I am sure she knows how to buy a plane ticket on line with a debit card (he wants to pay cash, but does not want to pay the $30 ticketing fee you have if you buy in person, and does not use a computer – hence the drama). I am bored.

5 – My friend wants a technical explanation of why, in Spanish, you say “la oí cantar” and not “la oí cantando” (I heard her sing / I heard her singing, but “la oí cantar” really covers both of these). I am not a grammarian or a linguist and all I have to say is that this is one of the many uses of the infinitive in Spanish that we don’t have in English. Does anyone have a more technical explanation?

Lament – I guess I could find an explanation of this grammar point myself but I have already spent enough time explaining to the yard man that it really is true, flights leaving in the middle of the day are a little more expensive than morning and evening ones. That was already a large dose of having to insist and repeat to someone, “this really is the situation.”

Fatigue – The summer looked bright at one point but I am tired. This has to do with being imprisoned in a house within which I am also displaced, with having to argue about work quality and money, and with having to explain things, and explain and explain. It will be better when the house is calm again, and mine again.

Huis Clos – It helps to work out but I want fresh air. It helps to do academic work except that I have so much pain transferred onto this that it is hard to see the work itself without leaving the country and pretending I am myself as I was before I got so traumatized. It would help to get an acceptance letter of some kind.

It would help if we knew for certain our libraries will keep access to at least some databases. I would feel less anxious if I had more equity and more savings. LSAT preparation would help more than it does if I were more optimistic about financing law school and about the job market than I am.

Relief – I think I will go and rent canoes Saturday. I think I will call up some well established, energetic full professors in more prosperous departments and invite them to lunch, so I can catch that vibration of stable verve some of them have. I am reminding myself that LSAT preparation and everything else related to work is a form of Buddhist meditation, an end in itself first. Like being at the beach.

Axé.

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