[Like all writers across America, I’ve been working on my application for an Amtrak Writing Residency, and the week before I was recovering from a writing conference. What this means for you, is back-to-back flashbacks. I’m getting back on the writing horse this coming week. Promise.]
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Last night I watched Walk the Line, and it occurred to me that the main reason Johnny & June Carter Cash had time to write songs, make up prison identities, get high, divorce their spouses, fall in love with each other and play to an audience is because to supplement their creative inclinations they did NOT have to grade 85 papers four times a semester. They didn’t have students stopping by their offices telling them stories so sad (and unfortunately true) that they then had to shut the door and have a cry once the student left.
They didn’t have to go to faculty meetings.
I fear I’ve just opened up a portal in the universe wherein my job will be sucked because it sounds as if I’m ungrateful and I don’t like it. [Oh, 2006 Beth, you have no idea what havoc you just wreaked!] Before that happens, let me say I DO like it. I really do. I’d prefer a book on the bestseller list so successful that I could buy Neverland Ranch, but barring that, my job is the best way to supplement a creative lifestyle. Of course no one is going to make a biopic of my life. Even Joaquin and Reese are now entitled to their very own E! True Hollywood Story episodes, but the life of a writing lecturer is never going to make the big or small screen.
When I have three stacks of papers to grade, it seems insurmountable. It’s as if I’ve never graded before & I can’t imagine how I’ll ever slog through them. I think of all the things I need to do like organize my files or weed my books or put my photos in decorative boxes. I eat food I’m not hungry for. I get bitchy and want to smack a lot of different people who probably don’t deserve it.
Like for instance, people who aren’t concise when they speak. People who, before they will ever give you the first line of their story so you can decide how interested you are in it, will spend five minutes trying to figure out if it (whatever ‘it’ is) happened on Monday or Tuesday. People who talk slow and pause between words. People who talk about their neighbors that I’ve never met. People who think how much head lettuce costs at Kroger is a valid topic of conversation. None of these things is worthy of my wrath, but when I have stacks of papers to grade and minimal time to spend on my own thoughts, I don’t want the air crowded up with stuff that doesn’t matter. Just–please in the name of all that is holy–cut to the chase. You missed class because your tire went flat? Tell me that. One sentence. Thank you for sharing–now please step away from my office door. In the time it takes me to listen to the average why-my-paper-is-late excuse, I could have written a companion piece to “Burning Ring of Fire.”
Other reasons I’m crabby today: my dearly beloved purple iMac died. I haven’t had a technician look at it to perform last rites, but I know a death rattle when I hear it. This one, for instance, sounds like the fan purring but the hard drive not engaging. And no magical Mac chime to let me know all is well in the universe. I use it only for email and playing Snood while listening on the phone to people who commit one of the conversational sins in the above paragraph, but I love it. It’s so grapey. So roundy. Has been there with me thru the good and bad.
I’m trying not to think about all the files that are on it that aren’t backed up that I have likely lost. This is no one’s fault but my own and it disappoints me that when I learned this lesson seven years ago it didn’t stick.
When a computer dies, it’s like a place got sucked up into heaven that you can no longer visit. My mother has my old Mac Performa–it is, essentially, the one I bought in grad school in 1994 with a few minor modifications. Sometimes I turn it on and have memories wash over me of life from that time. (A much slower time.) Papers written. Emails shared with the two people I knew who actually HAD email. Wallpapers that decorated my life. Strange men talked to before a lot of women had clawed their way online, which made me a hotter commodity than I have ever been at any other time in my life. It’s like revisiting a playground from a school you used to attend. Not that I have first-hand experience with this–the playground of my youth is now a parking lot.
No movies are going to be made about this kind of loss either.