Friday, December 21, 2007

The Long Weekend

After having a couple year's worth of adventures in a semester, I am back at Absurdist Paradise. A new situation to be sure -- but very much absurdist. To sum up: An academic jumps off track to live with her lover and cat in a cozy RV by a duck pond on the way outskirts of Urban Home City. (I hear the pond is stocked with fish, so we won't starve.) I'm calling this period of my life The Long Weekend (yes, this is what the movie or TV show will be called), because the RV is called a Weekender. I'm sure it was never meant for full-time use. Tough luck. This is where we are for now.

Internet is spotty at Duck Pond Campground. There's some internet guru there, of course, but the range on his wireless pretty much sucks. We're likely going to buy him an antenna to boost the signal. If that fails, Absurdist Lover (aka Love and OPL) is preparing to lay hundreds of feet of ethernet cable -- all so I can keep YOU updated on our (mis)adventures. Okay, so he really wants to "show me" World of Warcraft. Uh-huh. Been there, done that. Have I told you about my game-addict ex-husband? Well, Absurdist Lover is not like that. (And if he is, then I'll have more time to blog! So there!)

So my goal for spring semester is to keep myself underemployed with adjunct or other part-time work (test prep centers? language schools?) while I figure out whether I want to jump onto the Casey Jones tenure track or find something else that will allow me to have more of a personal life or what. But more important, I'm going to write. In an RV. While I figure out what to do with my life. With the man I love. And a cat. Oy.

Because we don't have internet at Duck Pond, I'm currently at the Corporation. I worked on my comps in one of these big chairs, listening to the steaming of milk for overpriced over-delineated just-as-you-like-it coffees. I'm in a town on the outskirts of Urban Home City where there are Corporations at every strip mall. It's pretty scary. This place reminds me so much of the suburb where I grew up. Out the window from where I'm sitting, I can see the scrawny trees propped up with dowels in the center island of a wide street -- the tract house development on a slight rise on the other side. The kids have nowhere to go but down to the local pizza place to hang out. The people who can afford to be sitting here in Starbucks on a weekday afternoon, even right before a holiday, are not the ones who live in those houses. People who live in those houses don't have the freedom of independent wealth or the kinds of jobs that would allow them to work at home. Those people are tied to jobs they serve everyday -- and probably not in the academy. I don't want to be them, those people who spend more time in their cars and offices than at home. Of course, I have no idea how make the kind of life I would like to have. I would like to have a small house with a big garden someday, but I'm getting to an age where I better work toward "someday" soon, if I'm serious.

Right now, I've just gotten off a plane, unpacked my bags, and settled in to the RV. I haven't even seen my folks yet. Absurdist Lover and I haven't had any time to figure out what we're doing. Maybe after we get home from Dreadful Conference we'll be able to figure things out.

***Update 3:12pm, mere seconds after I pressed publish***

A guy just came up to me and started talking Mac. When he asked me whether I used it for work, I said yes -- of course I realized that I'm actually unemployed and had to explain that I was "between things" right now, but said I was a writer and professor. And he recommended this Guru seminar (the second person to recommend it), then I asked if he were a writer. He said he'd written like "15 books -- nonfiction. That's not writing -- those are just long term-papers. Fiction -- that's writing."

Even in Suburban Ticky-Tacky Houses, there are crazy writers. I stand corrected.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Five Loved Books of 2007: A Meme

Jane D. over at Unnoted Unseen Unsung notes that the National Book Critic's Circle recommends five books per month. This list is derived from asking "What 2007 books have you read that you have truly loved?" to writers, critics, and book lovers. I am a writer and book lover. And most of you fit one of those descriptors. So it's our turn.

My 2007 is not everyone's 2007 -- the books I discovered in 2007 are not the same as books that came out in 2007. But these are books that I came to love this year. Here goes:
  1. Possession by A.S. Byatt: I laughed, I smirked, I cried, I bawled.
  2. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: Okay, so this is not The Poisonwood Bible. In fact, I started this book five different times since I bought it in hardcover when it came out and couldn't really get sucked in. Then finally, I got sucked in. I did find that there was a fair amount of environmental information in the book, which I found interesting but didn't need. I'm always interested in the balance of information/position-taking and story in a given novel, especially because I love novels that have political content. I don't know what I think of the balance here, but I definitely lived with this book for a good long time -- and even now remember the old man who got jealous of the scarecrow looking inappropriately at his neighbor's legs!
  3. Traveling Mercies and Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott: I needed these books. I just needed them. My life is so strange and odd, it's nice to hear about someone who is totally as neurotic as I am trying to live a good life. I'm not a Christian, but I found that Lamott's Jesus was the good and generous within ourselves -- and you don't have to be a devout or born again Christian to want to live your life centered in the generous, good, divine part of ourselves.
  4. On Writing by Stephen King: Lamott and King together gave me permission to write -- again. King has also given me this vision of being a poor near-starving writer typing like mad in a trailer, a vision I'm taking way too seriously about now. But there it is.
  5. I can't think of a fifth! What's that about??? I've been reading, but this is about books I've loved. I'm screwing up my own meme. Nuts. I guess the closest right now would be Helen Fox's Listening to the World: Cultural Issues in Academic Writing. I did not finish the book, but I've referenced it in conversations something like 87 times. That may not be love, but it's certainly some form of mild worship.

I'm tapping five people for the Five Loved Books of 2007 Meme: Maude Lebowski, Jane D., Hilaire, Medieval Woman (because she needs something else to think about other than the obvious), and Sisyphus.

Happy Blogoversary!

Happy anniversary, dear blog, dear Absurdist Paradise! It was a year ago today that I first decided that I needed a place to vent about and try to make sense of the absurdity, at that time of the job search process, then dissertating, then counting down to Adventure U. Then there's basically been this Absurdist Paradise radio silence, where I haven't felt like I could risk publicizing what was going on with me.

In that blogoversary spirit, I went back and read some of my earliest posts. It occurs to me how so much can happen in a year. I'm in a very different place (literally and figuratively) from where I was last year. If anything, I'm more, rather than less, conflicted about tenure-track academic life. I realize that this makes me a class-A ingrate, considering my incredible luck; on the other hand, I'm not sure that the luck I've had has led me to feeling useful and worthwhile in the world (which I figure is as close to happiness as I dare ask, work, or hope for). Moreover, the nature of my luck made me have to choose, as many academics do, between having a job and having a life. (I'm choosing life.) In looking back at the early posts, I see also that even back then I was intermittently thinking about some of my biggest concerns now -- no, not the job market, but who I was/am as an academic versus as a writer. I've gained a great deal in grad school, including a sense that I can write about certain topics that are important to me and that I may even have something important to say about the experiences that my education and interests have made it possible for me to have. But I'm also extremely grateful for this little academic train hiatus I've built for myself where I can choose to go forward or make a course correction. Most of all, I want to write. I've always wanted to write. And my birthday is coming up -- one of those big birthdays that seem portentous. The refrain in my head goes like this: I've known I wanted to write and wanted to be a writer for twenty-eight years now, since I found out from the bio on the back of a Judy Blume book that it was possible to be a writer and not be dead, with my manuscripts all neatly awaiting publication in my desk. I've wasted enough time. Enough already. Maspeek! Chalas!

So friends, I'm off to the do the impossible. I am yet again moving. This time, I'm moving to Urban Home City, off to a real adventure in being with the man I love, writing, and trying to figure out what to do (fit myself to the tenure track? academic administration? writing/editing? becoming a totally successful novelist/screenwriter almost overnight? being an underemployed overeducated "artiste" when I am entirely too old to do so?) that will support me in living a whole life I can blossom in and support the dreams and growth of my man. Academic or not, I'm sure the absurdity will continue.

By the way, what is up with the damn Wiki? Who would maliciously rip down a democratic and altruistic space that makes many of us feel like we have some control over our lives? Creeps. By the way, I have an interview at Dreadful Conference. My Man is coming with me. I don't know what he'll think of it all. I'm sure the madcap adventures will continue. I hope you'll come with me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Seven, Seven, Seven into the Future

Though I've had this blog for a year and used to be an avid blogger, I have only for the first time been tagged for a meme! It is the ubiquitous Seven Random Things about Me meme -- and darling Maude Lebowski is the one who dun it.

Here are the rules:

The rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
(I'm sorry, but shouldn't that be person "who" tagged you? Forgive me; I've been grading.)
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
(Come on! If I've been tagged, there is practically no one in the blogoverse who has not been tagged.)
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. On it. (Uh huh.)

So here are some weird facts about me:

  1. Apropos of the title of this post, when I was a child in the '70s, I loved The Steve Miller Band's song "Fly Like an Eagle." (Also, The Kinks's "Lola," though my mother worried about me loving that song.) Maybe it was too much Sesame Street and "today was brought to you by the letters X and Z and by the number seven," but I was convinced that part of the song went: "Seven, seven, seven. . .into the future."
  2. Connected to this is that my parents were very young when they had me. So I grew up with parents who were alternately Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists, avid bowling team bowlers with trophies all over the house (including the special joke one given to my mother when she bowled a season pregnant), and rally racers. After Urban Cowboy came out, I babysat my much-younger sister on the weekends when it was imperative that my parents had to go "ride the bull." This said, I still sometimes forget about all this and wonder why I don't fit in with the status quo. Then I remember.
  3. Further connected to this is that recently my wonderful bashert, OPL told me that I'm one of those crazy people who don't know they're crazy. (Okay, so I asked him and he said: "a little." "Really? I'm one of those people?" I asked again. He said: "a little.") The really crazy thing is that this makes me feel better. When I was young, I feared being normal and average. I needn't have bothered. For the last couple years, I feel like I've been pouring lifeblood into the project of being "presentable" ("a vegetable," goes the next line in the super-fab "Logical Song" by Supertramp). It's exhausting. The seams of this "presentable" costume are so frayed, I must look like the Scarecrow without a Brain.
  4. The strange thing isn't that I am divorced but that I was ever married. People who know me now (and didn't then) can never remember that I spent ten years with someone. That's how single I seem, I guess. And I no longer remember what it felt like to be married. Could it have been that my marriage was just like having a roommate around?
  5. In the last three stressful work environments that I've been in (which is to say the last three work environments I've been in), part of my coping strategy has been imagining my work as a TV series with long, complex and totally over-the-top storylines. Grad school was simply called "English" and featured a homeless grad student who slept on a cot in his office and showered at the gym, a hapless new grad student who had terrible teaching nightmares and whose teaching scenes would be shot like acid trips, and the scheming social climber grad student who was alternately screwing professors and students in her office. In my previous work environment, the series starred Martian engineers, a drug-dealing cat who slapped his owner around, a boss who seemed incredibly competent to all and sundry but secretly freaked out and shot up under her desk, and the graphic artist who was turning into a fly who was the only one who could see the boss as she was: totally and completely freaking out all the time. Of course, all the characters were based on someone real. Right now I'm working on a movie. I'm keeping this one to myself for now. I still need its good healing mojo.
  6. Contrary to my sarcastic and cheeky affect, I'm a total romantic, loving Jane Austen movies (and, of course, the novels, though really they are all about money and virtue, which I find satisfying for my heart and my head) and a sweet and much-beloved British comedy series called As Time Goes By, about two people who meet up again thirty-eight years after their romance abruptly ended. I also love old-fashioned things like needlepoint and cross-stitch. I'm sarcastic and self-effacing as a defense because I'm sort of embarrassed about my old-fashionedness. At the same time, I have totally liberal views about relationships and gender roles. In theory. In practice? I still think the man should be the one to smell the milk to see whether it's gone off.
  7. For many, going to grad school and pursuing the life of the mind and the uncertain life of a grad student-turned-professor is a dream that requires a giant leap of faith. But I worry that it's a way for me to cop out and give myself an excuse to not try to live out my dreams. I've sought out structure and security in my life. What's more structured (if not secure) than the tenure track? Leaving that sure-step future is, I think, a bigger leap of faith for me. It's scary.