Monday, February 28, 2011

the five-year-old told us, upon being picked up at school on friday, that he had swallowed a marble at the suggestion of his friend. there were aspects of the story that changed, and were unbelievable to begin with, so we were wary about it and wondered whether just to take him in and have him thoroughly "imaged" the end we just watched. and checked to see if "this too shall pass" far, not yet.

also on friday came word that there would be a possible tornado spawned in a system coming through sunday night, in the middle of the night. interestingly they were exactly right about that and sunday night, actually monday morning at about 2 am, a storm came through and the siren sounded though i never got any actual evidence that a real tornado came of it. this was devastating for those who are unable to sleep when they worry, but not so bad for me, who actually worries better in my sleep, and get back to sleep easily so as to encourage the process. needless to say though we all were a little bleary in the morning and somehow i forgot to bring my glasses to work, thus meaning i have to do this (which i can do without seeing) as opposed to doing e-mail and dealing with actual business.

it's a grind, the whole work-day thing, with no glasses, trying to squint at things that really matter, but i'll try to keep it a secret, as the day goes on, by not bumping into things or staring blankly into things i just can't make out. the doctor has given us a reprieve on the five-year-old- wait, they say, let things happen, eventually you will forget about it and it will find its natural way out, everything will be ok. one guy said, be glad it wasn't a toy soldier, the kind that is holding a gun out so that it would scrape all the way down, and leave you sore in the places it had trouble fitting through. if it was going to block his breathing, it already would have; if not, we may never know about it but who cares? this too shall pass, we assume, life goes on, he gets older and presumably a little wiser about the things his friends suggest.

time sneaks up, and i'll be going to new orleans soon, on a gonzo mission to my annual conference that will include seeing old friends and turning straight around because my wife will be on crutches, recovering from knee surgery. it causes stress, just thinking about it. but what else is new...the croci sit there waiting; it's cold and raining, remnants of the storm still passing through; the air is cold and wet, and the memory of a midnight shiver at the bottom of a storm shelter, in a slightly moldy and damp place, ah but this would be better than being in a house that was tumbling. my wife speaks wistfully of california and oceanfront places where you not only hear the beach, but don't have to live with this tenuous reality. ah yes but i suppose you can come unhinged entirely out there, and just fall into the ocean, with the slightest bit of earthquaky provocation, and then what? i suppose every place has its hazards, and being out of sleep on a given monday, is probably a recoverable malady.

Friday, February 25, 2011

it rained hard and long here, so we thought it might flood parts of the town as it often does and you'd have to take the long way around to avoid losing a car in the wash. basements get flooded; sometimes it pours down into low-lying houses and people have messes to clean up for days. we are lucky to live on a hill so after we got our last groceries, were able to just stay home and not worry about it. i started thinking about my novel, but, like most of them, it's a bit mired in about chapter seven; actually i have to say, there's hope for this one, but it might need major revision, and that would require time i still don't have.

instead i've had the remains of the flu which is still, even now several weeks later, still hanging around. my wife also, who blasted her flu with the tamaflu anti-virus medicine, was spared the twenty-pound sinus that i've been carrying around, but still had recovery issues, needed a lot of sleep, and didn't feel well. the boys are now pretty much healthy, but we keep a wary eye on them as they are the ones that usually start it all out, and i'm pretty sure that's how it happened this time.

so i'm wondering how an earthquake could center itself on the oldest church in a town that is clearly named after this church, so that, of all the places in the world, the world's attention focuses on the town of christchurch and the people who are now buried in it, quite a few, the best i can figure. i can't say there's any rhyme or reason to how things happen. in the iowa city tornado a few years back it ravaged quite a few places selectively, so that one sorority would be totally destroyed and the one next to it untouched; the rival churches in town (one german, one irish, and one czech) also getting varying results, leading some to believe (i'm sure) that it wasn't a coincidence. either it's a coincidence, or it isn't. or, it isn't a coincidence, but it has nothing to do with whatever church you've chosen to call your own, or temple, as the case may be. we cast a wary eye for the hand of a purposeful god, but god's purpose may have more to do with the rocks underneath, and the water table, or some experimental nuclear bomb that was set off in the south pacific many generations ago and still hasn't worked its way through the infrastructure.

so i'm going through life with this 20-pound-sinus head, and putting a lot of things on the shelf, like the novel, and the batch of stories, and some projects i'd like to get started, some musical and some related to making movies with my own music. but i did pull together a page of my dad's photography, because that's one thing i can do, and that is almost done, almost gathered what i had; i came to appreciate his sense of composition and the way he used it. his nature photography seemed to culminate in the galapagos islands, where he suddenly found animals that weren't shy of humans, and he was able to walk right up to them and snap, whenever he wanted. this reminds me, really, that i've only scratched the surface here, and put up about thirty of the ones i have on hand, and even then it's barely representative. but it's what i've got, and, now that it's on the surface (cloud surface anyway), it's easier to use as pop, which he has basically given permission for. i've become his publicist. and he is aware that my philosophy is somewhat akin to that of andy warhol: use it. go for what's popular; get it around. i started with an abe lincoln that, believe it or not, had some obama-hope reds and blues in it, though it came from a real mt. rushmore. i had success with that. more could be done; i'm stewing on it. of course i also have rolls of my own photography, mostly of siuc and the surrounding area, and it's poorly catalogued, but rather sits on desktops of various computers, of which we often forget the passwords. it's a really urgent and yet wide and extensive job that will have to be done to get all this stuff in one place, and i'd like to put some of it in calendars, so that next year i'll have something to show for it.

o blog, you are the repository of my dreams, and i swear i put some good ones on here, then turn my back often for months or even years and forget i'd ever even thought of them. but othere, i put here, and they actually come to fruition, for all it takes is a little hard work, sometimes spread over years, and/or interrupted for months at a time by some stupid project or other; like the book of stories which is at this moment interrupted by the novel. or the recording project which is interrupted basically by the fact that i need to reorganize the room a little better, so i can use it a little better...but there's a chance i can actually do this. and a good chance that, having written it down here, i've more or less made a promise to myself.

so to the reader, i'm sorry to appear to leave you out - if any of this really happens, i'll surely let you in on it. the rain seems to have subsided, leaving a very cold and wet street, and empty and very quiet town; the university cooks in the days with the people it tries to process and graduate and run through the mill, and the plants more or less parching from neglect as people work so hard they tend to ignore other living beings. it comes down to the end of the week, and there i am, with my parched plants, and i've noticed them all along, but hardly even had a minute to walk down the hallway and get a spot of water for them...

and now here it is, almost one in the morning, the rain has left our street, and left behind a bit of a touchy, bitter wind, and it was a stray dog holiday, by that i mean it had been presidents day (what i like to call precedents day), back on monday, but everyone forgot and put their garbage out on thursday (when it should have waited a day) and i saw the neighbors' garbage on the curb, in the morning as i was getting dressed, and forgetting precedents day also put our garbage out also, where it sat an entire day until just now when, as i blog, an entire can keeled over and made a loud sound on the wet road as the garbage fell over with it. so my question, really, is, should i go out there, late as it is, and correct the matter - or, should i assume that whatever stray dogs there are, somewhere - they'll know, it's an annual stray dog holiday, a tradition that goes back beyond abe's birthday, pulaski day, columbus day, all those ones that people forget about but that are real nonetheless. if the city is celebrating, but you forgot to celebrate, you have no one to blame but yourself, and your garbage will be everybody's business for at least a day. that is, unless you go pick it up, at one a - m.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

it's like i passed the baton along to my wife: i was sick with the flu for a few days, and just as i resurface, down she goes. just in time to arrive in the office to find piles of papers and grading, stuff waiting for me; the same at home, responsibility for kids out of school or getting them to what school there is. no rest for the weary; it was a nasty flu, with shaking, shivering, slight fever, feeling like a truck ran me over, for a few days. but it was nice to stay home, and enjoy a peaceful house as spring kind of gently pushed winter out of the way.

we pull out onto the country road with the four soldiers off there to the right, and the bleak treeless spring makes the shell of the building all the more apparent, now that we know it's there; it stands looking out over the empty fields, guarding them, as the geese shift around above, deciding which lakes to settle in or whether to head up north again. i don't worry about it much anymore, but i always cast a glance; it still amazes me that i'd never seen it, didn't even know it was there for over sixteen years. now, the four soldiers are a kind of sign, they and the dirt road heading over the slight rise, the iron fence blocking the way. i'm capable of letting sleeping ghosts lie. or whatever...maybe a better way of saying it is, i'm too busy to disturb them. it occurred to me, one day when i was sick, and i was at my own stoop, and i actually had the time, but i was so sick, so weary...what kind of time is that? i went back to bed.

i work on my novel a little; maybe i promised i'd show you, but haven't shown you yet. it wasn't a secret. it's just that i usually don't make it past six or seven chapters, and this one is also threatening to go under for lack of plan or clear direction. i have to admit, i hadn't worked out the entire plot, before starting; maybe i should have, but i was more inspired to start, than to work out the plan. so far, it hasn't been an issue; it's been coming along ok. but it won't keep coming along, if i don't figure out where it's going.

then, the light of the last few days, an old friend of mine, dave morice, who i've mentioned in this blog i believe, befriended me on facebook, which he barely uses not to mention exploits. he, the great actualist, dr. alphabet himself, known for writing poetry across bridges, down from the top of iowa city's one six-story building, and now, having written a 10,000-page poem, at the same time, maybe, figured out who i was, an old acquaintance from the seventies, and friended me; i'm honored. this poem must have taken him all these years to write; i can't imagine; i know that it's entirely downloadable and free, which is another amazing feat; and that he, like me, still maintains that the center of the universe is actually iowa city, rather than, say, carbondale, or maybe chicago. it's the center not only because its name itself is an oxymoron (though kansas city and oklahoma city would still be in the race) - but also because it's attracted this steady stream of writers and anti-writers, wordsmiths all, who set up shop and keep it cranking, and, it's on the iowa river, a most intensely beautiful rolling river-valley countryside, the most beautiful natural environment i've ever seen, though slightly despoiled by excessive fertilizer, pesticide and cowpens. dave, i'm happy to say, never let himself be pushed out of the place, as i did, inadvertently; he's still there, and he even has someone who digs up old actualist pictures and uploads them on his site; i know, then, that actualism is alive, whether or not there is now 10,000 pages more of it.

he wrote a poem, many years back, that i found and threw into an online ring, a place which was soliciting best poems to put out in esl/efl classes. i'll find it. it was short, elegant, to the point; it looked out over a bleak horizon, and said, words can do it. they can make you feel, sometimes, what others feel. that's all you can ask.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

home with a sick child today, but i'm actually lucky in this regard, because this is his second day (he's nine) and my wife is covering the vast majority of it. i'm only home for a few hours this morning, but even that sets me on edge, away from my office computer, away from the piles of work i have to do. it snows sideways outside. i said that to my wife this morning, "it's snowing sideways," and she said, is that something you learned up in iowa? as if it's a crazy thing people say about the snow. but no, i was actually just describing what i saw, and, it's been like that for a while. it doesn't seem to land unless you have a vertical windshield. it's all over the neighborhood but not all over the ground.

i missed the super bowl, entirely consumed by huge stacks of papers and exams that were of very low quality. finally the impossibility of my teaching situation overwhelmed me and i wrote a long and careful e-mail about how my students can't do the task in front of them. the son was sick at the super bowl also so i let him watch what he wanted to watch, and skipped it. i wondered if i could watch only the commercials, which, actually, i think i can, but i'll probably skip that too. just too busy. the fun of watching grown men pummel themselves to death from repeated concussion has kind of worn away. if i could convince myself that it was a sport with occasional injury, like baseball, that would be different. it's a blood sport, people die. they die, and they die with muddled brains full of commas (i swear, that's what it looks like)...and, i can't be part of watching it. commercials are good, and sometimes interesting. but cartoons are good too.

my wife is home; my day will start. a lot going on on my class weblogs as i try to get them organized. do not let them slip into obscurity...

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

everyone's talking about the weather, but it's not because there's nothing else to talk about; it's more that the weather itself is pretty unusual. a foot or two to the north, the west, and the south, thundersnow, snowmageddon, this kind of stuff is unusual even in the midwest. of course we are so far south, and so far east, that it barely pushed us around, but it has been snowing for several days, these enormous flakes that go mostly sideways and never really land, or, if they do, never really pile up. and it is pretty cold out there, at least for here.

i was thinking about how important blogging is to me, but i realize that i have very few genuine readers and i'm not climbing up the popularity charts. there's so much i don't say, because i don't want to; i fiercely protect the privacy of my wife and kids, who don't especially want me blabbing anything, and yet they are just about my whole life so if you really wanted to know how's it going or what i do all day, that would just about cover it. and then there's work; if i were brutally honest about that, everybody would be reading this maybe, but i would be using my blogging skills to find another job, since brutal honesty would clear me out of my protective bubble that i use to enjoy the place and the teaching, day in, day out. it's actually enjoyable, i'm in a time i'd call grammargeddon, i'm making or overseeing six or seven grammar exams throughout the program, so it's pretty busy. people cheat like fish. they don't know grammar. they have trouble reading. we fly through our book. they can't believe we don't slow down and walk them through everything.

the snow blows sideways everywhere, and gets up into the door handles of the van which means we load children through the back or the front sometimes, and that's not good, but kia says more doorhandles are in the mail and the whole thing is a big recall disaster with busted doors all over winter country. the kids actually like it but the problem is, they have to crawl over so much junk to get in and out that all kinds of stuff is endangered, kinds of food that are balanced precariously on jumper cables, old cans of soda that could spill and cause spontaneous generation. in chicago, where people abandoned their cars on lakeshore drive, where the airport's been closed for days and where they had a high of minus nine, i imagine i would have survived, but i'd have trouble abandoning a car, don't know what i'd do without it. abandogeddon, i guess....the end of the world as we know it.

so, i don't tell you about the boys, i don't tell you about work; i don't tell you university gossip although i can tell you, whether you shoe the horse or shovel after it, a one-horse town pretty much has the same smell all over it, and a plentiful supply to keep us all shoveling for years to come; the latest is about some ag guy who got way up into one of the highest posts, second only to the chancellor, and then apparently seemed to just lose it and bail on the job; i of course have no idea, never even met the guy, small town that it is, and can only say that the official story made very little sense. let's also say that down where i am, a million things to do and no time to do it, i blog to let off steam, to keep the creative juices from gasping their last breath, whereas up there, plenty of time but lots of pressure, you have to keep a lid on it so tight, you like to pop just about anytime. and that's how i am now; it's time for bed; i sleep late and wake early, practice music and do dishes & laundry, try to recharge my cell phone for simplicity's sake, if i didn't have one it would be cellphonageddon. bottom line: when the smell of horse looms over one's life, like a pitchfork in a moralistic grant wood painting, then the fantasies that slip out one's side window when the snowplow salt truck comes the other way, crowds you into the shoulder, that's what you're going to hear about. i actually think about my writing a little, this happens when i swim, which i do at noon regularly, or at least as often as possible, but my shoulders have been hurting from a rollerskating accident about a month ago, and you're not going to hear about the long slow road of having it ache but basically put itself back together again, right before i teach four hours in a row or all hell breaks loose and eases up around nine or ten at night; sometimes the clocktower is bonging way up directly above the pool, but i don't hear it, deep in the bowels of the building where the pool's own machinery drowns out the sound. it's clocktowageddon, because if i don't make it there by noon, it's about all over in terms of getting enough exercise to make the whole thing worthwhile, but, the fact is, with the snow blowing around the way it is, the whole town all blizzarded up and trying to keep the power on, and contain the heat, a little ache is the least of my worries, and jammed-up van doors, that's just security, barely even worth writing about. it'll be van-doorageddon, the end of the world as we know it, if that last door freezes up, and i need a 'stention cord and a hairdryer, just to get started in the morning.