Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Written While Avoiding Grading

I could return an essay in 20-30 minutes if using pencil on paper, and the students would struggle to read my not so bad handwriting.

The program TurnItIn.com allows me to leave typed feedback. This feature is applauded. It takes me 45-70 minutes to return an essay on that format. That is a great sadness.

Sometimes, not that I’m letting myself get too shook up by this, I feel like I probably haven’t taught a thing since September. But I have left many notes in many margins. Actually, that does make me want to collapse on the floor and hug myself just a bit, but I think it’s a reality many teachers must face here and there. I did not have such low esteem as a bookseller, not as a coffee server either.

Let’s talk about beer labels.

Backwoods Bastard is an ale aged in oak bourbon barrels. I’m finishing my last one from the four pack I bought last week. The copywriting on the back of the bottle notes that one might taste a “scintilla of dark fruit” in the Bastard.

Scintilla is a word I learned from Dr. MLK’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which is probably the most convincing piece of rhetoric I’ve ever read. “Scintillating” is how it appears in the Letter, at the very end. Use of that word is an example of aureation, decorated with gold.

A sense of hopelessness before typing the next paragraph. Shouldn’t you be grading instead of doing anything else? A desire for another beer, too, but I finished the beer.


B and I went to Salvation Army last Wednesday. I never miss a chance to say Salivation Army, a Nelson Algren joke, one he made after buying a piece of rope from the store to use as a belt.

I also try to make sure to always criticize the group for its shitty motto, “doing the most good.” Last time I gave them money I left a note in the envelope: “If you change your slogan to something less sanctimonious I’ll give you twice as much dough.”

But who would even read that note? A bottom level employee who must think, Oh boy, another joker. So I understand it was petty of me. And yet I do things like that—give unsolicited advice to charitable organizations—and I see the note being written by my hand, feel the venomous thought forming, and I know that it's a symptom of some subcutaneous anger or sadness.

It’s like, as I said to my therapist a few hours before, I don’t even like God, so why am I so beholden to him, and why am I so prayerful, and why this drowsy anger?

But that will take years and quantities of zines to answer. So on with the anecdote.

We were walking into the Salvation Army when we saw the duck standing in front of the automatic doors. A security guard was speaking to the duck. “Go on, get outta here. I told you already.” The guard explained that this duck was looking for a snack and had walked the floor earlier. “Of course she flies away when the police come,” the guard said, and she rolled her eyes.

In response, the duck, a female mallard, opened her mouth and let out a tiny hiss.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

At the Window

The buildings on my block are pretty, but not having to see what’s just in front of me is such a relief. It is foggy outside, which I love. The sky looks like frosted glass. And looking out the window is like looking out a window into another window, or at a photo, which I think is the dream in some way: to observe without worrying about my place in things. Maybe I’m a high-functioning agoraphobe, maybe this is just the post-election poisoning talking, or maybe I’m just an asshole.  

Before I go to bed and before I get up I worry about all of the things I have not done or that I owe. I know that this worry will not derail me because my dad has shown me that it can be handled. Still, this fog helps. And now that I have the weather cooperating with me, as it does with characters in literature, I am better able to enjoy my morning coffee and not think of whatever it is I should be doing to be some better professional version of myself.   

(Also, even with the sun, the carelessness of Goethe in this painting has always seemed to me like the epitome of relaxation.)

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Goethe at the window of his room in Rome, 1787