Yes, Easter candy. Maybe they should just have a section of the store that is designated "holidays" and keep the candy and tchotckes for all seasons all the time there?
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
In the store, a woman passed me, frantically looking for some last minute Christmas item. "Where is the Christmas stuff?" she wondered.
Yes, where was the Christmas stuff? In the place where the holiday items are usually displayed, we found this:
Monday, December 28, 2009
As I sat down for my morning coffee and internet browse, I heard yelling out in the hall. At first I thought it was the usual "fuck you!" "No, fuck you!" followed by a slamming door that usually punctuates the end of a private fight; but no door slammed and the yelling continued.
After a minute, I went to my door to listen. The fight seemed to be about her family not respecting him, but he didn't "give a fuck what those muthafuckas think. Those n---as don't respect me, I don't respect them." I started to get tense. "Maybe they are on their way out," I thought, imagining them taking this spat down the elevator, through the lobby and out to the car or bus stop. "Or perhaps they are on the way in," I considered. "Of course, if they are standing outside of her family's apartment, isn't this a little rude?" My parents used to get into pretty much similar fights in the car outside of places they were visiting, so either scenario didn't seem that unusual.
The yelling continued, with no sign of resolution, so I peeked out. The man was standing in the hallway in his jeans and no shirt. He looked to be about six feet tall or more -- I'm a horrible judge of height, but he stood much higher in relation to his doorway than I did in mine. The women was in the hallway in shorts and white t-shirt. They looked as if they had just gotten out of bed.
Her voice had gone down by this time. I think she said something about wanting to make a call, but he had her phone. She said that she would go down to the lobby and use the phone there. She walked toward the elevators, pushed the button and waited. He went back into the apartment. When he returned to the hall, he yelled something like, "Fine! Here's your phone! Here's your phone! Come get your goddamn phone!"
Then he threw it at her. It smashed on the floor.
I backed into my apartment. By this time, I wondered if I should call 911. Had it escalated enough to call the police? I didn't want to be the white girl calling the police on a black man; but I also didn't want to be the person who stood by and let a woman get beaten. Should I call someone affiliated with the apartment complex? Then, I saw the list of "numbers to call" issued by management. One had a number for "noisy neighbors." "Perfect!" I thought. "They will come up to check out the situation and maybe it will calm him down."I dialed. Outside, the yelling had stopped.
The woman who answered took time to tell me "Merry Christmas."
"I think we have a domestic violence situation up here," I said. I told her that the neighbors were in the hall having a fight, that he threw a cell phone at her, and that it had been getting worse.
"Where are they now?" she asked.
"They've gone back into the apartment for now," I said. "But isn't that when things get worse?"
"Well," she said. "If they've gone back in, then they have probably settled down. We can't do anything about what people do in their apartments."
Before I could find a polite way to say "bullshit," the yelling started up again outside. With the phone in my hand, I stepped out into the hall.
"He's started up again," I said. "I think she might be in danger."
"Yes, I hear yelling," the woman on the phone said.
"Yes, they've started fighting again," I repeated. I stepped back into my apartment because I couldn't hear the woman on the phone over his yelling.
"Oh, it's stopped," she said.
"No, it hasn't," I said. "I'm back in my apartment."
"Well, if it's stopped, then the fight is probably settling down," she said. "Give it 15 more minutes. We don't want to have to call the police."
"Thank you," I said to her, and hung up. "The next call is 911," I said to myself. "She was useless."
During this time, I had commented about the proceedings on Twitter. Prof. Susurro gave me some good advice about being careful in case weapons got involved and on bearing witness if the cops came since the couple involved were p.o.c. Believe it or not -- especially considering my stories about my family -- I hadn't even considered the weapon angle.
I took my phone and went out into the hall again. I wasn't sure if I should go up to them. Part of me wondered if the woman would consider my interference helpful or if I would just be a nosy white lady who couldn't mind her own damn business. Most of me, however, was afraid that the guy would hurt me. Instead, I opted to stand there in the hall with my phone in the hopes that a witness would make the guy calm down. I heard and saw some of the other neighbors peek out of their apartments, too. I hoped that they would come out and join me, but I couldn't catch anyone's eye. I hoped that they called the same number I had, or the police.
The guy certainly thought they had, and that didn't phase him a bit. "I know someone's called the police on a n-----," he yelled at the woman. "These white bitches, Sarah Palin muthafuckas spying on us."
Sarah Palin? That hurt.
"Sarah Palin would bring out her shotgun if she were here," I thought.
At this point, the guy was standing in his doorway yelling back to the woman, who was now inside of the apartment. He started yelling at her about how "bitches" were the abusive ones, taking all of men's money and smoking the hall up with "bud" (now I know where it's been coming from) and then crying "abuse" when the man put his foot down. "I'm the abused one here," he shouted.
At this point, she seemed to be trying to leave, but she had his cell phone. He wouldn't let her leave and demanded his cell phone back. Then he told her that the "white bitches" were watching. "Yeah," he yelled, "the neighbors are all out in the hall watching our asses."
She poked her head out and looked up and down the hall. I waved and held up my phone, hoping she would take that as a friendly, helpful gesture to her. I kept wondering if I should interfere, but was still afraid that this guy would hurt me or retaliate later. I knew calling the same number as before wouldn't do any good. That woman couldn't even attend to the part about "noisy neighbors," which was her job. Nor did she seem aware of the fact that our leases say that illegal activity is forbidden inside of the units, and beating your girlfriend falls under the category of "illegal." Yet, calling the police still seemed too extreme; and, again, if I called the police, this guy might retaliate.
"Dammit," I thought, "this guy is intimidating both his girlfriend and me."
The woman seemed to be pleading with the guy to go back into the apartment so that their disagreement wouldn't be public. Now that I'm thinking about it, she probably had already been doing that, using the threat that someone might call the police, which was the reason he brought up the police in the first place. The guy kept resisting her, but his voice gradually lowered. Finally, he went into the apartment and I heard the door close.
Their apartment is the next one over from mine, but a stairwell separates the walls. If anything happened inside of the apartment, I couldn't hear. I heard nothing else for the rest of the day or since.
I'm pissed. I'm pissed at him for acting like that, for intimidating his girlfriend, for yelling, and throwing her phone. I'm pissed at my neighbors for not stepping outside like I did. If we were all in the hall, we might have used the force of our presence to shut the guy down (or he would have just yelled at all of us, too). I'm pissed at the woman who answered the phone for being lazy, dismissing my fears of violence, and for not at least doing something about the public fight.
I'm pissed at some primal feminist core, too. The day started with a neighbor threatening his girlfriend, and ended with the stories about the gun-freaks in Texas and my nephew playing a game in which he beats on prostitutes. I see a direct connection between my nephew and this guy yelling in the hall. I see that the men in these scenarios all have some sense of entitlement to violence -- especially violence against women. This entitlement is tacitly approved of -- or at least feared by -- by-standers precisely because it involves violence. This entitlement is passed on from one generation to the next because "it's just a game" or "boys will be boys" or "I was treated this way to, so it's no big deal" or "it's my Constitutional right." I'm pissed that I've always known this.
No, I'm not pissed. I'm furious.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
So why is this post titled "Christmas Drama and Idiocy" you ask? Well, Christmas was relaxing as long as I stayed completely cut off from the rest of the world. When the rest of the world poked its head into my life, drama and idiocy followed.
When my family called -- and I should have known better than to pick up the phone, because family always brings the drama and idiocy -- I learned three pieces of information. The first piece involved the drama. My brother who lives in Florida is separated from his wife after a long year of drama that involved their son, the Spider, being diagnosed with Aspergers, her overdosing on alcohol and prescription drugs, her entrance into rehab and subsequently an extramarital affair, and finally she and my brother separating (which, given the state of their marriage for the past decade, should have happened long ago).
I think she also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or something of that sort, too; but she comes from a family (much like my own) that thinks that any sort of mental illness is a personal failing that the afflicted should just "get over" without any help from therapy or modern pharmaceuticals. So, it's not like she has any support in that department, and probably hates herself for being "weak."
That is the context. Because of her troubles, and because my brother can hire more expensive lawyers, my brother has custody of the Spider and she has visitation on weekends and alternate holidays. Christmas was her turn, but she fell off the wagon before Thanksgiving, and her holiday visit was cut down from a whole week to something like the weekend before Christmas. When my brother called to say he was on his way to pick up the Spider at the end of the weekend, she was already on the road to her family's house in Texas with the Spider in tow. For a brief period earlier in the week, my brother thought she had kidnapped the Spider because she wouldn't answer any of his messages (of course, to be fair, they were probably angry, threatening messages).
Now, it looks like she just wanted her kid for Christmas, so took him. The fact that she would piss off my brother was icing on the cake. She just didn't consider that she might be getting herself into some legal trouble because all of the visitation agreements are part of the separation settlement. Meanwhile, my brother promptly found a pit bull of a lawyer and filed for divorce. I predict he will become involved in Men's Rights Activism in the future. I predict that my family will support him in this.
That was the drama part of the call from my family. The idiocy part came with the information relayed in my last post about people in Texas stockpiling weapons and ammunition because a black president is one of the signs of the apocalypse. The idiocy part also came when I spoke with my sister-in-law, Rosie. Rosie told me that my nephew, Boudreau, likes playing the video game "Grand Theft Auto."* Specifically, he likes "blowing shit up and beating on prostitutes." He is five years old. FIVE.
As Digger and Dykewife asked on Twitter, why is a five year old playing "Grand Theft Auto"? Don't they have parental warnings? Where are his parents' heads? To answer in reverse order, up their asses; yes, there are parental warnings, but the parents have to heed them for the warnings to work; and because his dad -- my brother -- thinks that it is a cool game and having a five year old "bitch-slap hos" is funny.
To be fair to Rosie, she doesn't mind the "blowing shit up" part of the game, but she really really hates the "bitch-slap hos" part of the game. Why doesn't she stop it? Well, she has tried, but then my brother steps in, and they get into a fight, and she just doesn't have the energy for all of that since she has to go to work, go to class, clean the house, discipline the child, discipline Boudreau, and on and on. Their marriage is not as equitable as she hoped or he thinks it is. I predict divorce at some later stage. They've come very close more than once in the past five years.
This was the family drama, and you can probably see some of the underlying issues of misogyny, acceptance of violence, particularly violence against women, and the way that the children involved are being taught that women are "bitches and hos," lesser creatures who serve men in one way or another, or deviant if they cross men in one way or another. You can also see why I prefer to spend holidays at my own home, with movies, knitting, and books. Perhaps I should also refrain from answering the phone!
ETA: One last bit of idiocy. My brother asked about the Gentleman Caller. His summation was, "as long as he's employed and a man, it's o.k." Do we need to enumerate all of the things wrong in that patriarchal homophobic sentence?
*For the uninitiated -- and I've only heard of this game, never seen nor played it -- it allows the player to not only steal cars, but beat and murder other characters, and to solicit and rape prostitutes. Sex workers have protested this because "Children are more likely to imitate a character whom they identify with." Ironically, in this matter, they have allies in the nefarious extreme Christian group, The Family.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
"Ya'll are the third place I been to," he told the cashier. "All the others were sold out."
"Yeah," said the cashier. "We been having a good run of it. People been stocking up on guns and ammo since Obama was elected. Can't keep much on the shelf."
"Heh! Somebody's making a buck offa this," my brother snorted. "You think that maybe the manufacturers are making people all paranoid and shit because they might sell more product?"
The cashier stared at him blankly.
Then my brother told me how our dittohead cousin, who never touched a weapon in his life before last January, now has pistols and rifles and assault weapons stashed in his house. *This cousin lives in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city, one in which a certain former president lives, on a house that he had custom built on two suburban lots. He is married to a very wealthy accountant and hasn't worked for wages in 20 years. Yeah, his world is the very definition of oppressed. So oppressed that he needs an arsenal for protection against the president of the United States.
"You gotta wonder what's going through people's heads," my brother said "They're all thinking zombies are gonna attack or Obama's gonna take their guns or some crazy shit."
"Equally likely scenarios, I'm sure," I said.
"No shit," he said. "No shit."
*ED: I edited this to take out some stuff that, when I saw it on the screen, made me question some of my classist assumptions.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Seems that, along with Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch (and myself), Frederick Douglass was no fan of Christmas. Here is what he writes of the celebration under slavery:
Needless to say, Douglass was a temperance man. I'm not sure if I buy his conclusions here. I do buy that the drunken holiday did act as a safety valve. Woe be to the master who did not allow this holiday, as the overseer at Chatham Manor in Virginia discovered when he ordered slaves back to work to early in 1805. A rebellion did ensue. Still, did a drunken revelry really serve to convince slaves that "we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum"? Note his use of the pronoun "we." Did that fleeting thought pass through young Frederick Bailey's mind one hung-over morning? Did the thought shock him?
My term of actual service to Mr. Edward Covey ended on Christmas day, 1833. The days between Christmas and New Year's day are allowed as holidays; and, accordingly, we were not required to perform any labor, more than to feed and take care of the stock. This time we regarded as our own, by the grace of our masters; and we therefore used or abused it nearly as we pleased. Those of us who had families at a distance, were generally allowed to spend the whole six days in their society. This time, however, was spent in various ways. The sober, staid, thinking and industrious ones of our number would employ themselves in making corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars, and baskets; and another class of us would spend the time in hunting opossums,* hares, and coons. But by far the larger part engaged in such sports and merriments as ball playing, wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing, and drinking whiskey; and this latter mode of spending the time was by far the most agreeable tot he feelings of our masters. A slave who would work during the holidays was considered by our masters as scarcely deserving them. He was regarded as one who rejected the favor of his master. It was deemed a disgrace not to get drunk at Christmas; and he was regarded as lazy indeed, who had not provided himself with the necessary means, during the year, to get whisky enough to last him through Christmas.
From what I know of the effect of these holidays upon the slave, I believe them to be among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection. Were the slaveholders at once to abandon this practice, I have not the slightest doubt it would lead to an immediate insurrection among the slaves. These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity. But for these, the slave would be forced up to the wildest desperation; and woe betide the slaveholder, the day he ventures to remove or hinder the operation of those conductors! I warn him that, in such an event, a spirit will go forth in their midst, more to be dreaded than the most appalling earthquake.
The holidays are part and parcel of the gross fraud, wrong, and inhumanity of slavery. They are professedly a custom established by the benevolence of the slaveholders; but I undertake to say, it is the result of selfishness, and one of the grossest frauds committed upon the down-trodden slave. They do not give the slaves this time because they would not like to have their work during its continuance, but because they know it would be unsafe to deprive them of it. this will be seen by the fact, that the slaveholders like to have their slaves spend those days just in such a manner as to make them as glad of their ending as of their beginning. Their object sees to be, to disgust their slaves with freedom, by plunging them into the lowest depths of dissipation. For instance, the slaveholders not only like to see the slave drink of his own accord, but will adopt various plans to make drunk. One plan is, to make bets on their slaves, as to who can drink the most whisky without getting drunk; and in this way they succeed in getting whole multitudes to drink to excess. Thus, when the slave asks for virtuous freedom, the cunning slaveholder, knowing his ignorance, cheats him with a dose of vicious dissipation, artfully labelled with the name of liberty. The most of us used to drink it down, and the result was just what might be supposed: many of us weer led to think that there was little to choose between liberty and slavery. We felt, and very properly too, that we had almost as well be slaves to man as to rum. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field, -- feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, form what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery
Even as this drunken Christmas served the master, it was also the common way among rural communities of celebrating the yuletide before the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the urban middle classes began to seize cultural control of the holiday to develop a more sober, family-centered holiday.
The abolitionists, too, were part of this. The annual Boston Anti-slavery Fair was held just before Christmas each year, and they promoted the wares as excellent gifts. Gift-giving in those days was not the capitalist free-for-all, equating presents with love, as it is today. Instead, people exchanged thoughtful, practical gifts, such as books. The Liberty Bell, an annual collection of anti-slavery poem, stories, and essays, was one of those "gift books." The Anti-slavery Fair also featured one of the early Christmas tree displays.
Douglass himself aspired to the urban middle class. Over the years, he grew to shun many of the features of African-American folk life, regarding them as "primitive." This passage above indicates his adoption of that middle class ethic of work, even on the holidays (something to which many academics can relate), and temperance (something to which many academics do not relate), as well as his rejection of much of the rural traditions of Christmas. He directly indicts the drinking, but he classifies drinking with the "ball-playing, wrestling, running foot-races, fiddling, dancing." All, again, were features of the rural celebration.
This is a rich passage about Christmas. Douglass describes a slave celebration on the Eastern Shore. He also explains a means of mastery, of control through rewards rather than punishments. Yet, in his tone, he reveals his own adoption of temperance, the transformation of his own sensibilities, and the transformation of the holiday of Christmas itself.
You can find the description in Chapter X of the Narrative. It occurs in the chapter in which Douglass describes his life at Edward Covey's plantation, where he was sent to be "broken." The passage appears directly after his fight with Covey.
I ripped off all of the Christmas stuff from Stephen Nissenbaum's The Battle for Christmas.
Happy Holiday to everyone!** With all due respect to Douglass, I will be having a decidedly un-temperate day.
* Hee! He mentions hunting 'possum.
**Yeah, I use the Happy Holiday -- inclusion is not a war, and I like the alliteration.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
When I first started this blog, I tried writing a story about a particular Christmas involving a dead opossum and a couple of friends. The story was a first draft. By "first draft," I don't mean "my best effort so far, and now I'm going to fly it by an audience to get feedback." I mean "shitty first draft." I had planned to revise it into a proper first draft and repost it today; but, alas, grading has occupied my every waking moment for the past week. (We are, I must admit, lucky in that we have an unusually long amount of time to get our grades turned in. I think it is related to the 5/5 load and unionization.) This means that, sadly, I do not have a proper first draft. I will, instead, post a slightly more evolved version of a shitty first draft, just to see where I've taken it. This time, I've changed the names to grant myself literary license -- and to protect the obnoxious.
Today is December 23rd. Many years ago, over a decade I am astounded to realize, some friends and I decided to dub this the day of Festivus. It was the year after the Seinfeld "Festivus" episode aired, and were were an embittered set, nauseated by sentimentality, undergoing break-ups, divorces, and bad marriages, or simply along for the ride. We had a particular reason for choosing December 23rd, and that reason has a story.
The story started one early September evening in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. A group of us were gathered on the porch at George's house. By “us,” I mean myself, Emily, and Emily's husband, Bubba. Emily and I were graduate students in history. George was a large, hairy history professor of Sicilian descent and the red Che Guevara banner in his office. We were all gathered for the occasion of cheering me up after a nasty break-up with the latest link in my Chain of Fools. Beer and wine flowed liberally, and George passed around cigars to whomever would smoke them.
Just as I was learning that cigars taste just as nasty as they smell, and Emily was learning that she liked a little buzz, and Bubba was trying not to mind that Emily had a buzz, and George was leaning back in his lawn chair like an impresario, his wife Sue walked out of the front door and gave a little yelp. “Oh look,” she exclaimed, “a baby opossum!” Sure enough, just where she pointed, a football-sized opossum had climbed up the trunk of a sapling growing at the corner of the porch. The creature settled itself onto a branch and peered into the light at us.
We all cooed at the creature, and marvelled that it was not as ugly as the full-grown opossums who populated the neighborhood, knocking over garbage cans nightly for sumptuous feasts. George, however, was unmoved. He launched into a full-scale indictment of the entire opossum species. These were the creatures crawling in the walls of his house. They kept him awake all night. They clawed at the walls. They ate the garbage. Evil they were, he proclaimed. Evil.
“Look at those beady little eyes,” he said, “those sharp little teeth.” He bared his own. “They want blood.”
“’Possum aren’t carnivorous,” Emily laughed.
“Oh yes they are,” insisted George, focusing his “Manson glare” on the baby opossum. “He’s just waiting me to drop my guard, then he’ll jump me. They move like lighting, you know.”
“’Possum don’t attack, you nutwad,” said Emily. “Why the hell do you think they call it ‘playin’ ‘possum’? Because they want you to think they are dead and go away.”
“Oh, no,” said George, “they’re trying to lure you closer. Then, they attack.”
Thus, the conversation proceeded, much to the mirth of everyone in attendance, particularly George’s ten-year-old son, Joey. Joey and Bubba, in fact, conspired to tease George at every opportunity, shaking bushes and tossing tortilla chips from hiding places. Even after the party broke up, and for the next three months, George became known as the fierce ‘possum hunter, a giant gorilla of a man afraid that the opossum were digging their way through the walls of his bedroom to slaughter him in his bed then snack on his Bruno Maglis.
During those next three months, several things would happen that would alter all of our futures, most especially the opossum’s. First, Emily and Bubba split up. Both being students with tiny paychecks, neither could afford to move out of their one bedroom apartment in an unsavory section of town. George saw how stricken Emily was on the day after she and Bubba had agreed to part. He empathized perhaps a little more than he cared to admit with the predicament of living with someone whom you no longer love, so invited Emily to stay at his house. Fortunately, both his wife and son liked the idea as well. Emily then saved a little money, and she and I got an apartment together in a complex known as the “graduate student ghetto” in a funkier part of town.
Second, George located the nest of the opossum in the wall behind his sofa in his living room. His landlord had removed an old-fashioned heater from the wall, leaving an uncovered and unfinished nook . George pulled and tugged at the sheet rock and exposed boards to get a glimpse of his quarry’s lair. Then, he went to the last remaining independently -owned hardware store in America and found the most potent rat killer that the place sold. He took a huge chunk of the poison and wadded it up with some bread, rolling it into a deadly ball of dough the size of his fist. Then, he shoved it through the boards. “That’ll get him,” George snarled triumphantly. I’m not sure, but I think that he rubbed his hands together like a villain in a melodrama.
One Sunday, not long after, I sat down on the sofa, right in front of the nook. I relaxed, ready to watch the Simpsons, and full of ravioli. I almost had seconds on the ravioli when I caught a whiff of the most foul odor I had ever smelled outside of a Girl Scout latrine. I shook my head and the scent seemed to subside for a moment. Then, it returned in another wave, and another.
“Jeez!” I exclaimed, covering my nose and leaning forward. “George! Where was it you put that poison ball, again?”
“Right there,” he said, pointing to the nook behind my head.
“That’s what I thought,” I said. “I think you got him. It smells like something died here.”
“Nah,” George shook his head. “The ‘possum would have eaten the ball and crawled outside to die. You’re smelling the musk from his nest.”
“Not with all of the poison you put in that thing,” said Emily. “You could’ve killed an elephant. That poor ‘possum probably took one bite and rolled over dead.”
“Dear god!” I said, surprised that the very air itself was not turning a sick shade of green. “I can’t take it.” I moved to the far side of the room and gulped big breaths of air from the open window.
“Oh, I won’t mind it,” said Sue. She sat down in my vacated place. Two seconds later, she hopped up. “That is pretty bad,” she said, and left the room.
“Ya’ll are too girly,” said Emily, and took the seat by the nook. She inhaled deeply. “Yeah,” she admitted, “it’s pretty bad. But ‘possum musk stinks.” I think her eyes watered a bit, but she didn’t give up the seat.
Later that week, I prepared to head out for Baton Rouge to visit my aunt for Christmas. In those days, on the eve of Christmas Eve, I’d drive over to her house so that I could spend Christmas Eve at the bonfires on the levee in Lutcher. As I drug my suitcase through the living room, I found Emily slumped on the edge of the one comfortable chair. Her face crinkled up in disgust. She shook her head.
“The ‘possum is dead,” she announced.
Emily had awakened that morning to a phone call that began, “You’re from the country. You know how to get rid of dead critters.” George, apparently, had decided to take a nap on the sofa the evening before. The smell had become so powerful that his grip on his musky nest story had weakened. The next morning, he moved the sofa away from the wall, and began to pull away the boards in the nook. There, he found a grim sight.
Much as George had originally planned, the opossum had taken the bait, eaten the poisoned ball of dough, and began to crawl out of the house. It had died half-way through the act. When George had pulled away the boards, he saw the hind end of the dead opossum. “This should be easy,” he thought, gripped the opossum’s butt and gave it a tug; but nature had taken its course. The corpse had swelled and was wedged into place. That was when he called Emily.
Now, she sat on the only comfortable chair in our living room, facing a day of dead opossum.
“Man, I’m sorry,” I said. “Have a Merry Christmas?”
“Oh, yeah,” she replied.
I left and had a wonderful time at my aunt’s house. When I returned on Christmas day, Emily told me just how merry her eve of Christmas Eve had been.
Emily arrived at George’s house to be greeted by such a wretched scent that she swore she could see the air turn brown. “And not just the usual Houston brown, either,” she added. George and Joey stood in front of the nook, wearing bandannas over their mouths and noses like two bandits. The opossum’s rear stuck up and its tail looked a bit loose.
“Isn’t it disgusting!” said Joey, gleefully bouncing up and down.
“You know, they have people who will come out here and take care of this for you, dumbass” Emily told George.
“I’m not paying some guy $50 to haul off a dead ‘possum when I can do it myself,” said George.
“And I can see you’re doing a damn fine job of it, too,” said Emily. “How long have you been working on this?”
“Shut up and pull,” said George.
So, Emily pulled her own blue bandanna over her face, held her breath, and gripped the ‘possum’s tail.
“Please tell me that the tail did not come off,” I begged her, at this point in her story.
“Oh, no, it didn’t come off,” she said, “I wasn’t about to pull on it that hard.”
Joey’s enthusiasm had to be reigned in, however. “Pull harder!” he shouted in the background. “Let me try.” They stopped him when the tail started to separate from the body.
George tugged on the hind feet. Emily had a go at the tail again. Joey pulled on the hips. Around and around, they took turns for the next hour or two. Then, they ordered pizza. When the delivery boy arrived, they offered him a chance at a tug. The delivery boy experienced at delivering to crack houses, dorm room, and flop houses, said, “sure.” Then he saw the bloated butt of the opossum and the stray bits of fur floating around the corpse, and inhaled the brown air. He blanched. “Naw, that’s o.k.,” he said, and took his tip and ran.
After lunch, Joey got bored. A dead opossum stuck in a wall only holds so much entertainment for kids these days. He went over to a friend’s house to play. A phone call from him a few minutes later announced that he would be spending the night there.
Finally, at about four thirty that afternoon. Emily handed George the Yellow Pages. “Call,” she ordered him. George opened his mouth to protest. “It’s almost five,” Emily continued. “Do you want to have this smell here all night? ‘Cause you ain’t staying at my place, Mr. Great White Hunter.” George’s shoulders dropped. He hung his head. “Here’s the phone,” she said, and thrust the already ringing receiver into his hand.
“I’m not white,” George sniffed. He had always labored under the insistence that people of Italian descent, especially Sicilians, were not white, so Emily’s insult stung the worst.
Ten minutes later, the exterminators arrived. One of the two men reached into the gap around the opossum, gave the body a little twist, and pulled the corpse out in one piece. “It took them all of five minutes,” George exclaimed. “Five minutes! They charged me 250 bucks for five minutes of work!”
“And worth every penny,” said Emily.
“What a scam,” insisted George. “I should go into business doing that.”
“You would be so successful, too,” said Emily.
“At least people would feel that they got their money’s worth from me,” he sniffed.
Thus began the short-lived tradition of the Christmas ‘Possum. The next year, we incorporated the opossum into our Christmas decorations. Inspired by a Seinfeld episode in which George’s father describes the celebration of “Festivus (for the rest of us),” we set up an aluminum pole in our living room, which Emily topped with her blue bandanna. Beneath the pole sat a stuffed toy opossum that I had found at a market in South Carolina. When George first saw it, he shrieked and grabbed his chest. “The Ghost of Christmas Past,” said Emily.
Eventually, George and Sue divorced, and Emily and George began dating. When Emily and George broke up, Emily moved to Colorado and George began to date a succession of the wrong women. After twenty years of plotting to leave Houston, I finally moved on to a life elsewhere.
A few years later, when I was in That Place, in New England, I saw an opossum running across the docks at the river. In a fit of nostalgia, I told someone the Christmas ‘possum story. I forgot that people there thought the story typical of Texas. It fits their image of hunting-mad people who bungle after helpless furry game. Dick Cheney didn’t help matters much with his quail escapade of the previous summer.
In any case, I had this story in mind when I started this blog. This is now it’s second shitty draft. I haven’t found a satisfying ending for it, perhaps because the ending is clouded by the reality of what came after, the way Emily and George ended up, the way our friendships ended. That’s the problem with writing stories from life if you haven’t yet figured out what they mean. They start, they flow, and then you have to manufacture an end. The reality of the end of this one ends up sad for all with the dead opossum and the dead friendships. Nonetheless, that period of time, of Festivus and Opposum Christmases, took each of us, Emily, George and me, through a leap in our lives.
Perhaps next year's version will have a proper ending.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Those are stairs in there, under the footprints.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Then, they had to get up the ramp to get out. The snowplows don't do ramps.
This poor schmuck, who is out there digging and digging and digging to unstick his car, spent 30 minutes just getting that far. He pulled out of the garage, got about 5 feet up the ramp, and slid back down. He put his car in reverse and backed into the garage. About two minutes later, he came barrelling out again. He got up another couple of feet, fishtailed, and then backed down. Again, about two minutes later, he made another try. This time, he started sliding side to side. Three people showed up about then, and started to dig him out. They cleared the snow to the top of the ramp and spread salt. They left, and the guy started back up the ramp.
Where he met the pile pushed there by the snowplow. So, here he is, digging himself out.: This is what I'm facing when I decide to venture forth:
Saturday, December 19, 2009
This is the view further out, lovely and quiet. The lack of traffic also helps. The fuzzieness of the image is a result of the falling snow, which makes you want to meditate. Close to the buildings, with the updrafts, the flakes fly in all directions, down, up, left, right, diagonally.
Of course, if you look to the far right of the image, about half way down, you can imagine that the little ones probably want to come in.
ETA: I probably shouldn't be so glib. Public transportation is shutting down at 3 pm today because of the rapid accumulation of snow. They can keep neither the 3rd rail nor many of the roads clear for long enough to be passable.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Look closer. They really expect a helluva storm don't they?:
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Rest assured, I asked our faculty council president if they did indeed want "feedback," or were we supposed to fawn all over the plan or keep our mouths shut. She said, "we are expected to give our feedback on this stupid plan for Big Brother to have full control." I knew that I was in.
Now before anyone gets their knickers in a bunch about, "but shouldn't all sections of a course be the same? Is it right that one teacher is going off on one thing and another is going off on another and what about the old deadwood?" First, most of your stereotypical deadwood -- if they exist -- won't use a word processor, much less teach an entire course online. Second, we aren't talking about ensuring that everyone teaching the U.S. history survey includes the American Revolution, or World War II, or anything like that. We are talking EXACTLY THE SAME.
According to this plan, a Team Leader -- who will get the dubious title of "coordinator," but actually will be acting like a combination of a chair and Big Brother -- will design the course. She (and, at our school, we have far more "shes" teaching than "hes" teaching) will write all of the assignments, write all of the exams, make up all of the lessons, choose ALL of the readings (not just the textbooks, but also the supplemental readings, the online resources, and so forth), and generally create her own class from the bottom up.
That's not the bad part. That's what everyone does. No, the bad part is that, in order to save on the cost of training new faculty for the online platform and in order to save on the cost of paying the faculty extra to design their course -- an argument for which I would have much more sympathy if the online learning department was actually paying for that instead of failing to inform anyone that faculty are supposed to be paid for that (a long story that ends with everyone in the meeting pissed off because they were bilked out of about a full semester's worth of pay by the online learning department -- but I digress -- the bad part is that any other faculty teaching that class will now have to use that very same class and will have absolutely NO authority or power to change even a word on the syllabus.
Maybe I'm being unfair. The non-designing instructors CAN change things, they just have to go to the designing instructor. The designing instructor then calls a meeting of the "team." The team then debates the change. Then, if the change is accepted, everyone must adopt the change. A year later.
This is how the consultant explained it. "The coordinator will design the course, set everything up," she said. "The other instructors on the team will still be doing just what teachers do. They will have contact with the students and they will grade assignments."
Already pissed off because I had only moments before found out that I was supposed to have been payed not double, but quadruple what I was paid for developing four separate courses, I said, "that's not what a teacher does. That's what a t.a. does."
"No," she said, "you still grade and meet with students."
"I also design my own course," I said. "This is the online equivalent of me going to a new teacher and saying, 'here are my lectures, my assignments and my tests. You have to use these and you can't do anything new or different.'"
I continued, "We have highly talented, highly educated, highly experienced people working for us -- even as adjuncts! I don't want to make them my t.a.s I don't want to lose the unique perspective that they bring to their classes. For instance, we have an adjunct who can teach the Civil Rights Movement using popular music and hip hop. He can weave the history of hip hop through his entire course. He can't do that under this plan. You are killing the creativity and intellectual expertise that makes these courses interesting to teach or take."
"Well, he can still do that," she said. "He'd just have to go design his own course."
"But you wouldn't pay him to do that," I said, "so where's the incentive? Where's the incentive to teach any of these courses, aside from being desperate for the money and maybe a line on the c.v.?"
"Well," she said, "he could get around the designed course by e-mailing students directly or using the discussion boards."
"A teacher shouldn't have to 'get around' anything in their own course," I said. "What we are talking about here is academic freedom."
A chemistry professor, who has had to teach in this way, jumped in and slammed the whole program herself. "All I did was grade," she said. "I only had student privileges in the course site. I'm the teacher! I've been a teacher for 25 years!" Then, she went into great detail about how this whole plan deteriorates the quality of teaching.
Other faculty in the meeting proposed the idea of an adaptable template. A template course set up in order to have the flexibility to assign someone an online class at the last minute, without freaking them out with the prospect of designing a whole class from scratch; but allowing that new instructor to change as much, if not all, of the class as she goes along. I'm cool with that. Heck, I have a vested interest in that what with my trouble in being the only person at our campus who can teach online. The faculty council president is in the same position in her own department. We aren't unreasonable, but we also know a stupid idea when we see one.
The biology teacher who proposed this might as well have said, "and then let us pass out joints and cocktails to everyone." The consultant looked horrified. At least she put the ideas in the notes to take back to Big Brother (the flexible template, not the joints and cocktails -- although that would be cool, too).
That, or she wrote, "Trouble makers at the hippie campus. Schedule for extermination."
By the time she left, we had eviscerated this whole plan, and proposed solutions to the gaps left by that evisceration. The consultant was not happy. I supposed I'd be unhappy, too, if I had spent many hours in many committee meetings revising many drafts of this proposal that now lay bleeding on the table.
Of course, in those meetings, I would also want actual educators who had actually taught actual classes online more recently than ten years ago (as opposed to sitting on so many committees and holding so many special assignments and administrative positions that they hadn't seen the inside of any sort of classroom since the 1990s). I would also want to actually ask actual faculty about their actual concerns, rather than anticipate them, and be aware of -- oh, I don't know -- academic freedom and the fact that there is some level of individual intellectual and creative innovation in the job of teaching. We don't all just grade papers, you know. That's like thinking all a librarian does is check books out; or all a tech person does is load software onto computers.
One last thing. One of the driving forces behind this plan has to do with the cost of training and development, as I mention above. Setting aside the fact that the online learning department has exhibited ethics so bad that they border on criminality in regard to paying for this training and development, I wanted to see a cost analysis of this whole scheme. You know, an assessment of their outcomes.
How much did the development of this draft plan cost? How much will implementation cost? How much has the usual course of training and development cost during this same period of time? After all, the online learning department will only pay for the development of a limited number of courses in any one discipline as it is. If the difference between the current practice and the development and implementation of the new plan favors the current practice, how long until the new plan has recovered the difference? In other words, is all of this b.s. going to actually be worth it, or are they just throwing that "cost" explanation out in order to shut us up -- it is the budgetary equivalent of "OMG will no one think of the children!" or "family values!" In other words, it's the sort of thing you really can't argue against, especially in a budgetary crunch.
Much like that Fellowship Coordinator who is slandering me without evidence (because she deleted it herself), there was no evidence available to us on the cost of this thing.
As the Church Lady would say: "isn't that conveeeenient?"
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Why, oh, why did I think it could end there?
Somewhere along the line the dean decided that a panel discussion on a saintly U.S. president would be a good idea for an event during Black History Month. A colleague at another campus and I were supposed to comprise that panel -- forget that I do not specialize in political history, presidential history, or great, straight, white male history (you know, "real" history). Or hagiography. "What the heck?" I thought, "I could talk about Douglass and Lincoln or the very overlooked story of Lincoln's evolution on issues of race and nineteenth century attitudes toward race. It might even be a little bit fun."
Then, somewhere in the course of about four e-mails that passed among people while I was at (of all ironies) my analyst's office, the original idea disappeared and something completely different took its place. My colleague and I were dropped from the panel, replaced by as yet unnamed outside speakers, and I was put in charge.
"Oh hell no!" I said to myself. "I am not an organizer; and I sure don't want to organize someone else's brainchild."
I sent an e-mail declining to be in charge of it. That was ignored and I was told that I would be given help. In fact, I was told, I should contact that Fellowship woman for help. Wouldn't that be a good idea? Am I crazy for being the only one who sees that contacting her would be a very NOT good idea? Why would I willingly enter into a relationship with a woman who is slandering me "confidentially" to anyone who will listen? "Rehabilitation" mission or not, this woman has proved herself to be completely unethical and toxic.
Then, the colleague who was supposed to be helping in the first place backed out. This panel was not going to be on his campus, so he no longer had an interest in it. I was supposed to help -- in fact, organize -- the panel when he thought it was on his campus. But, on my campus? Oh, no. No help there.
With me now in charge, I started suggesting people whom we might contact. One of the people I suggested has written a book that included an interpretation of the public displays of hero-worship of the saintly president. His interpretation was less than laudatory. He was one of three historians whom I suggested. In response to my suggestions, I received a long, repetitive e-mail ignoring the other names on the list and telling me in great detail that this particular one would not do. The author of the e-mail is completely unfamiliar with his work; but, based on the title, he might not say lots of laudatory things, and we don't want anyone who might be critical of the subject on this panel. Just people who will talk about "complexities."
Understand that, last year, it was o.k. to bring in a speaker who perpetuated flat out lies in his presentation -- and to pay him for these lies. It was also o.k. to bring in journalists masquerading as historians and pay them, too; and don't I dare be all snobby and suggest that perhaps their interpretations are out-of-date, cliche'd and unoriginal.
I've already learned that, in regard to the saintly president, most people can only handle debates of this level of "complexity": "he was brilliant and genius." "No, he was genius and brilliant." "I have to respectfully disagree. He was brilliant and genius." "Well, if you look at his address to Congress, you will see that he was genius and brilliant." Then maybe someone else will pipe in with, "I think you are both wrong. He was fantastic." You get the drift?
"Complexities" mean that you include points of view that say he was brilliant, points of view that say he was genius, and points of view that say he was fantastic. Not points of view that might say he was perhaps not predestined to be the Great Emancipator, or that his status as the Great Emancipator might have been more a result of a series of pragmatic decisions than his emergence from the womb as the Bringer of Justice.
"Complexities" also means that you don't allow panelists to suggest that people who commemorate him in Stalinist statuary -- or worse, Norman Rockwellian statuary --may be engaging more in hero-worship than in historical interpretation. They know what they are doing, dammit, so how dare I be all snobby and suggest (or allow others to suggest) that their interpretations might not be the ONLY interpretation.*
This now makes three times in one year that my expertise as a historian was solicited in an academic environment; and, in return, I received lectures on what history is supposed to be by people who hold no degrees -- not even B.A.s -- in the subject.
They do, however, watch the History Channel. So, it's totally the same thing, right?
Before I could tactfully address any objections and refocus the discussion, I learned a small fact that makes invitations to any scholars moot: There is no money for this endeavor. I am supposed to get people to speak at our little school, on a subject connected to Black History, in the midst of Black History Month, for zero dollars. I don't even have money for pizza to make sure that students show up. (Seriously, why has no one here figured out that, other than having the class meet at the speaker's presentation, students will only show up if there is free food? Does no one remember grad school?)
Worse, they don't understand why I would be embarrassed to ask professional, published, even famous historians to volunteer their time. I think it is part of that commitment to "Excellence Without Money" that is sweeping the education systems. Gentleman Caller says this is typical of an attitude that historians -- or really any scholar in the humanities, or any scholar at all -- do what they do because it is fun, not because they have bills to pay. We should be so thrilled that anyone wants to hear us talk that we will do it for free because we are just that dedicated. He then points out that he doesn't go to his mechanic and say "Hey, since you like your job so much, and so many gearheads out there would kill to have it, could you just fix my car without pay this time? You know, just for the fun of the work?" In a way, it's like saying, "what you do has no value."
Which, I suppose, is somewhat akin to the attitude that I get when my expertise is dismissed because it doesn't fit into someone else's agenda, despite the fact that they wanted me to agree with them precisely because I have that expertise. One has to do with respect, the other has to do with payment.
Anyway, to summarize: a panel that I agreed to sit on became a panel that I was supposed to help organize but not sit on, which became a panel that I was supposed to organize with help, which became a panel that I was supposed to organize alone, which became a panel that I was supposed to organize alone ensuring that the panelists do not have challenging ideas; and I'm supposed to do all of this organizing without a dime. Heck, this damn panel wasn't even my idea in the first place, and I don't think it is a particularly good or original idea for a panel, anyway.
After all, who focuses a panel on a white person during Black History Month at a school with an approximately 80% black student population? Sure, the white person was a president who did help civil rights; but is that the story we want to tell black students in a month devoted to black history? That white people are the liberators of the downtrodden races?** That's pure Stuff White People Do: put themselves at the center of the struggle for racial justice and not allow any critique of that narrative.
What was the whole purpose of my involvement in this mess in the first place? To "rehabilitate" my "reputation" to one person who has been slandering me for no discernible reason and to another person who is in no way in the chain of command above me (and whom I have never met), neither of whom appear in my normal, functioning work life.
Did I just slip down a rabbit hole or fall through a looking glass without noticing?
I suppose I shall cowgirl up and, first, tell the dean that my hands are tied until I can be guaranteed some funding. Then, should money be forthcoming, see if I can wrestle some measure of creative and intellectual control over the contents. If money isn't forthcoming, I could wash my hands of the matter, or work with my other contact and give a little talk or facilitate a little discussion from the angle of my own choosing. There has to be more than one way to rise above the influence of an overgrown adolescent, right?
*In a poor effort to be circumspect, I've left out the detail that the occassion for this panel is the exhibition of a new statue commemorating St. President's delivery of one of his speeches. From what I could tell -- but I could be wrong -- it was commissioned by some sort of Sons of Great Heroes organization. It actually could be an excellent statue; but actual discussion over it's representation is verboten. Unless, of couse, said discussion goes: "It's brilliant and genius," "No, no, it's genius and brilliant."
**Incidentally, the verboten author makes just that same argument against a statue of St. President that depicts him in a standing position liberating African Americans in a supplicant position.
UPDATE: Yea! I told the dean that most speakers will expect an honorarium, that it would only be professional to offer one, and she said that she would find the cash. One obstacle overcome -- maybe. Now, to find someone who can speak on something interesting, not "St. President was brilliant and great."
UPDATE #2: Gradually, through yet more e-mails, things seem to be not as dire as when I wrote this last night. Having a project dumped on me in the middle of the end-of-semester stressfest, and then being presented with several roadblocks to that project, all to appease ridiculous people in a ridiculous situation, tends to make me very bitchy and negative. I don't need help with either!
Now, I have to figure out my best end-game here and work toward that in a graceful manner. My end-game is most decidedly not to "rehabilitate my image," but to present a smart, interesting panel of actual historians that will get the St. Presidentophiles to consider new ideas -- and to get experience in negotiating my way through internal funding sources and event logistics. That is, to learn the type of skills that will help me survive anywhere.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Please stop referring to the job of teaching as "delivering education." What a horrid melding of technocratic and educratic language! Did you use a Mad Lib to come up with that expression? Perhaps I should be grateful that you haven't used a more Orwellian term, given all of the kant about "collaboration" and "faculty participation." Whatever the origins, perhaps you are unaware that I don't "deliver" education, I educate. Or try to.
I know, I'm splitting hairs. What do mere words matter? Whether we've always been at war with Eurasia or Eastasia isn't the point, right? The point is that we've always been at war. Whether we deliver education or educate doesn't matter, just so long as the students all walk away as satisfied customers.
Still, do you see the difference between the two? One suggests that we give the students the "education" in a brown box and say "sign here, I will stamp your name as having received the education, and you can pick up your degree." The other suggests an interaction, a level of expertise on the part of the instructor to communicate complicated ideas and specialized information, to challenge the student's understanding of the world through this communication. "Delivery" suggests passivity, "education" suggests action. If you do not see the difference, perhaps you should go evaluate your EdD-granting institution -- you know, run an outcomes assessment on them -- to see if they actually have any idea what "education" means. (Am I presuming too much in thinking that you have a doctorate? I have been condescended to by so many people holding decades old masters degrees of late, but I still hold out hope that an actual doctor will condescend to me.)
I know that many students think that they are purchasing a grade or a credential rather than the opportunity to learn new ways of thinking about the world. We don't need to encourage this fallacy by referring to educators as if they are FedEx delivering diplomas.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Why now? Why -- what is it, five, six -- months later, when everyone should have moved on? Well, it seems that not everyone has moved on yet. The Infamous Infernal Internal Fellowship Coordinator has not simply been saying catty things about me to the current gender studies' coordinator. No, no. Our old nemesis has actually been running a smear campaign against me all over her own campus. She, it seems, has been telling anyone and everyone --
"confidentially," mind you -- that I'm abusive, inappropriate, threatening, and trouble. She uses a few other words, too. None favorable. These are just the ones that I remember.
Why, oh, why can I not use my power for good?!
Sadly, she seems to have smeared me to such a degree that now certain administrators at her campus aren't sure that I should be the gender studies coordinator at my campus. Remember, of course, that gender studies at my campus involves something like four instructors with as many classes and no budget. There isn't a whole heck of a lot to actually coordinate. In other words, this is not a high-profile, high-responsibility job (hence, I'm cool with taking on the position, and equally cool with letting it go).
Also, understand that these administrators are not at my campus. In fact, I don't think that I've ever met any of them in person, and I know that they couldn't pick me out of a line-up. They are judging me merely by what the Coordinator says and little else.
On my campus, however, people cast a jaundiced eye toward anything coming out of that other campus. They know the culture of "everything is perfect! Isn't everything perfect? Oh, look! The Emperor is wearing such a lovely outfit today, isn't he?" They also know me.
"Clio?" my dean asked, when told that I am a destructive pariah. "Are you sure?"
The dean then did a little background work, asking other people who know me and work with me if they had ever noticed such vicious behavior. "Clio?" they asked. "Are you kidding?"
So, today, the dean and I had a little chat about all of this, and I told her my side of the story.* She was a bit astounded at what I had gone through, and not at all pleased by the behavior of the Coordinator, especially the bit about censoring me and about attributing words and feelings to other people when they did not say those words or express those feelings. As I told the story to the dean, I found myself a bit astounded, too. What idiocy! What paranoia! Who pursues a vendetta against a person who is in no way a threat, with whom they have no contact whatsoever? (Do I even want to know?)
Fortunately, the dean backs me up. She knows the Coordinator and has a bit of an understanding of her personality. In fact, she struggled to find a diplomatic way to describe the Coordinator and finally settled on, "she tends to blow things way out of proportion."
That was also not the first time that I had heard that about the Coordinator.
The dean has already been defending me, and indicated that she intends to continue to do so. She also gave me suggestions about ways to "rehabilitate" my "image" to the administrators at that other campus. I resent this a bit because, let's face it, I think that they -- or at least the Coordinator -- need to rehabilitate their image with me. Still, this is the hand that I've been dealt, and I will play it with ease. After all, the dean wasn't suggesting that I do anything that requires me to kiss up to anyone. She just suggested that I do some of the things that I already do, like facilitate discussion and give presentations on my research, but to make sure that more, key people know about it in order to demonstrate the cognitive dissonance between the Coordinator's depiction of me and the reality of me. I already have allies willing to help with this. Allies who have narrowly missed walking down this road in these shoes themselves.
After the meeting, I was a bit angry. Not furious, pissed off, "hold me back or I'll hurt the bitch" angry. Nor, "I suck, I'm a horrible, delusional person" angry. No, this was more an indignation, an annoyance that I have to deal with something more appropriate to a junior high social clique.
The annoyance passed and now I'm actually quite amused. How does the saying go? "The fights are so vicious because the stakes are so low." What a sad little woman this Coordinator is. What a silly little game she's playing. Anyone who knows me or comes in contact with me can figure out something akin to reality for themselves.
Now, I'm feeling a bit like I should do a Superior Dance.
*Incidentally, this dean is not the one that I met with at the beginning of the summer -- the one who granted me a stay of execution by allowing me out of the fellowship. That dean has gone on to bigger and better things. The current dean is her replacement. She is proving to be much cooler and better at administering than the previous dean, who was pretty damn solid herself.