Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a cold wet chill has settled in on the valley, though this isn't especially surprising; november is the cold wet month, and things are often chilly to the bone. this year, more so, because my shoes aren't keeping the water out, and every time i go out in the rain, i get very cold and miserable feet. time for new shoes, and a new outlook.

but instead, on cue, i put on afel boucum, malian musician, with a kind of out-of-this-world sound, as i drive around the same old quiet streets. the town is actually quite beautiful in november, in its own peaceful way, not too many traffic hazards, except one family i know who just had a baby, right on my route, and lots of people are there, apparently, fussing over the baby; another place, the road has given way right around where i turn, and it becomes a kind of shaky experience, if i don't swing wide around it. the rest of it, pretty boring, and sometimes i crank up the african music, put the windows down, let the cold chilly rain come pouring in. nobody can even hear the music, i figure; very few people are out in the night.

i take the opportunity to drive because, unlike my wife, i find it restful. the rest of life seems so demanding, sometimes, but the car, which is virtually new, is only demanding in a subtle, gentle way. it just turned 30,000; that's demanding- take care of it, or let it go to h-. but, it runs fine and smooth, either way, and in this town, anyway, nobody's too surprised to see it.

the parking situation at the university is actually quite crazy, and involves a lot of parallel parking, some of which is impossible; also, often one is breaking the law, and has to decide which regulations can be broken and gotten away with, and which, on the other hand, will elicit a ticket in seconds. turns out everyone even affiliated with the university has to be registered, at the risk of a pretty steep fine, but even those of us with the big blue sticker have to park in the no-parking sometimes, or drive right up to a door (loading, obviously) or, park in the "police vehicle only" when dropping off or picking up young children. sometimes i park right on the crosswalk, so as to avoid sticking my bumper right in that poor cop's grill; i figure he doesn't want me double-parking, or standing in the road, waiting for something to open up, which could be forever, when people are loading young children. the children will fuss, or drop a toy; they'll drop their jacket, or they'll run away; in any case, you could be there all day. better to just pull into some god-forsaken in-betweenland and do what you have to to get out of there.

i mention this because it's still more restful than, say, getting the boys ready for bed, or, discussing with my colleagues why some poor guy is at the end of the road, and can't get what he came to the usa to get. or, walking across campus in the rain, when my shoes have holes in them, apparently.

which brings me to one last point, which i'm sure is obvious by now, and is certainly something i've said before. the whole town is so darn insular, it's like, this whole parking thing is my whole world. we have a new chancellor today; she's coming in from milwaukee, and you'd have to guess, she has very little idea how much we rely on our whole insular world for everything. it is my anger, my hope, my future and past; it's my hassle and my breeze, my destination and departure gate. getting out of it, as i did recently, just makes it seem all that much more so. if i could bend that chancellor's ear, that's what i'd tell her. sometimes we make up this stuff, just 'cause we got nothing better to do. you think we fight all the time; we get all bent out of shape because some administrator plagiarized, or went bonkers, or got caught saying something silly. lady, we get bent out of shape when one street makes our car go bump, and then, when they close a road, or a bridge, or something, all hell breaks loose.

i don't mean to disparage the place; if anything, travel has made me appreciate how lucky we are. i pull into traffic, and they go around me; some of them know who i am; they aren't surprised at my car's behavior. i keep my balance on the steering wheel; i try not to run over squirrels, and other animals that scamper off unwilling to stage a confrontation. piles of leaves reach up toward my window on both sides, making the street narrower, unless i'm willing to drive right through them, and that's a test of whether i truly believe there's nothing but leaves in all of 'em. when i was a kid, we once raked a pile of leaves into the middle of the road; then, when a car came by, we kept yelling at the pile as if some kid was in it; we yelled and yelled ("get out! get out! a car is coming!") but finally walked away as if the dumb kid just wasn't coming out. the idea, of course, was to see how long we could keep that car suspended, waiting, wondering if, by driving through the pile, he would actually kill somebody.

in those days you could actually pick up old black-and-white televisions in junk piles; people didn't want them, because the color ones had come out, and everyone rushed to get a color one, and then a better color one. you could save these televisions, and half the time you didn't even have to fix them. but what was the point? television is mostly fantasy anyway, it's like seeing christmas lights that aren't there, imagining people in piles of leaves, or pulling parking spaces out of thin air; at some point, you have to deal with what's real, and say, hey, there isn't much i could do about it. i'm just me, and there aren't that many hours in a day.

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