Saturday, June 30, 2012

the little guy, after a morning of swimming hard and practicing his new skill of jumping into the water, fell asleep after lunch, exhausted. it's 105, maybe, outside, has been for a couple of days, and this makes going anywhere difficult, even getting out of this low comfortable chair, directly under a large ceiling fan, in the cool back room, virtually impossible. i have a lot to do, packing mostly, but also updating e pluribus haiku and printing my new book boxcars on walnut (which must come out before i leave carbondale) but instead i'm indulging my ongoing passion for catching wild stuff on my phone and updating it directly. a couple rounds of instagram's yellow sun and hefe function and it's kind of like saturate, you get a wild color and a little black rim around the picture. so i drop this stuff on the boxcars site, also my work blog and even the pop art gallerie. at the same time i'm hauling in old photos from a clunker computer and getting ready to clean out my work computer which i should have said goodbye to on Friday, my last day of work. instead i had a party with workmates, ate carrot cake, reminisced about old times, and shoveled a few more students through the system either passing or failing or some combination of the two. i have a lot to say about work but ima wait 'til the dust clears a little, ima spill it out gently on the work blog, keep this one for purer thoughts like why i'm glad i'm not in northern minnesota now. true, the weather is haywire everywhere, and minnesota is drowning in it, whereas texas is normal or even mild, for whatever that's worth, but my idea is, now's the time, after eighteen years of it, i learned a lot, and being one who puts it all out there, now's the time to do it. the sooner the better. mulling over a lubbock site, which i would call rearview mirror, and which would be anywhere from similar to what the boxcars site is to carbondale, to much more of a useful resource that actually seeks traffic and plays a role in the community. trouble is, i've never even been there yet, so it might not do to just jump in there and start spouting, when i have nothing to say. but that's just a matter of time. i'm collecting resources already, and need a place to put them. texas repubs reject the teaching of critical thinking in the schools. textbook makers put jefferson back in the textbooks. etcetera. at work a huge retirement party was very sweet, but interrupted days and days of going through files and dumping almost everything, taking posters down, etc. and finally i left the place in a mess, hoping somehow to get some boxes of stuff out of there in the 105 degree heat: not going to happen, at least not right away. i'm home, i'm calm, the boy is down, i hope it stays that way, i'm in no special hurry to go out anywhere, everywhere i turn, it's just more packin anyway. my wife brought home a fourth kitty; this one is called 'little bird' for the moment. pictures will follow. i wouldn't mind giving away any of the first three, though the one-eyed sneezer kind of captured my heart, she gets up on my lap every time i have a cup of coffee, never fails to remind me who's loyal to me, who's watching out. even as i sit here, dogs and cats both hang around watchfully. they know someone new is in the house; they await our moves; they don't want us to forget, they knew us when.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

so i'm packing, as they say, getting ready to move to texas in about a month, and in between classes i sometimes stare at my computer, or reach out to papers or books or shelves where things need to be pulled off and sorted. whole files of one particular class might go down all at once, like a file full of writing lessons going back eighteen years, nevertheless haven't used them recently and probably won't. a whole class in the recycle bin. soon comes all the little grading sheets with every single student's name on it. should i keep those? they are full of little numbers and grades for every different activity. i might actually need the names. below you see pictures of places i go; these days i whip out my phone and just take pictures of everything. i'm finding various ways of playing with it when i get home and i haven't even scratched the surface of free apps that my son showed me one day. he's ten and sometimes mumbles about how he lost his data (sounds like dadda), and i remind him he's lucky he didn't lose his daddy. the other one tears around like a maniac on a sugar campaign. my wife has saved another kitty; we're up to four and she readily admits two was our limit. so out there at castle park you see the shrine, first picture below, the father makes it to his son after constructing an entire park in his honor. his son was like sixteen when he got into an accident and slipped from our fingers right near that spot. fathers will always wonder what they did or to be more exact, what they could have done differently. it's possible a kid could have driven too fast with no possible influence from his father whatsoever. but it doesn't matter. the father will wonder forever, build him a park, construct a shrine, get people to erect fantasy statues. at the beach we watch the turtle lazily crossing the buoy line into the people area; then he gets a little look on his face and dives under this time disappearing. the question is really whether he recognizes "people area" and "turtle area" as most of us people do. he is not really interested in biting the people, they don't taste any better than a beach ball, i imagine. he sure gives us a look though. the grass is dry and crackly; the water is still cool; days are clear and hot, too dry already. local fire chief, about a year ago this huge opera house burnt to the ground right downtown in his little town. worst thing was, his son was standing by the main wall when it collapsed and killed him. the father has spent the year developing training programs so that all firemen know when a wall will collapse; the title of these programs has something to do with reading walls; this appeals to me because i am all about reading other stuff, like reading turtles, or reading clouds, but it never occurred to me to read walls. and it occurred to me how many times a day he'd wish he'd taught his son how to read that wall. i can't imagine living with that kind of pain. he is however at least making this world better, by his actions. it shall not be in vain, he figures. this kid is in my office; he has gotten to my level somehow, without anywhere close to the skills to succeed. he really needs to pass, he says. his scholarship will run out; his time is limited. somehow he waited too long to actually learn how to read. some of my students remind me: i'm leaving, i could give them any grade, why does it matter to me. it matters because i don't give people like this a good grade, i just don't. it's a tragedy, though; he's somebody's son, he's a kid, i might in fact be ruining his life or his hope to get where he wants, in the u.s. educational battlefield. my frustration slips out; he has caught me between classes, and now i'm late. not that it matters; i'm leaving. i'm on my last round of classes. i'll be glad to get away from this kind of weight. how did he get here? why is this my problem? i like the guy. but there's not much i can do, it seems. moving him along sure won't solve the problem. at the beach a kid asks me about my favorite animal and i say turtles of course, but that's partly, i realize, because that turtle is right there virtually in earshot. frogs are ok too, we decide, and there are all these other ones i haven't even considered. some kids with a net try to scare these tiny fish into the net, over by the buoys, and some little girl calls that corner over by the turtle area, devil's corner. what makes it that, i wonder, when it's cool at the bottom where it slips into the turtle area, and two lines of buoys come together. the lake is the lake, there isn't that much special about any given part of it at all, maybe. it's all in the mind though. you could be swimming along, head a little above water, and along comes the turtle and pops his head up and looks right at you. that turtle comes straight from the pleistocene, in that he hasn't changed much, unlike us people, who moved right on through the agricultural era into industrial and whence into info from which i now speak to you. and what does the turtle know about all this? maybe one reason he pops his head up is, he figures, those people are up to something, and darned if i'll ever find out what the heck it is.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

another day at the lake, and this time i got the park-diagonal sign, and had boys with me, who snapped the corn as we drove by but this wasn't as good as getting out and getting a still picture. it was father's day, and here i had all the boys, older and younger, out there with the turtle and the sun and this big old tree that eventually i snapped a picture of. you have these experiences with wildlife - the turtle ambles over to check you out, a bug on the tree is exactly the same color as the tree itself, a deer on the road stops two cars, going different directions, for a shared moment in time; this is something that i'd probably forget, except that i record it right here in this blog. but even the blog, well, it buries stuff like this by time, and unless you happened to remember that it happened in june 2012, you'll forget that too. or maybe you link to it and mark it, the post where i talk about chance encounters. one time i was relatively inspired, and wrote a very simple piece about my dreams, and about how many of them would never come to pass, but i harbored them anyway, kept them alive deep inside myself, just in case there would be an opportunity someday. and i named some of them, unrealistic as they are. traveling through africa, scandinavia, or maybe the buddhist temples of myanmar; the south pacific; a linguistics book, a novel, that kind of stuff. well it so happened that somebody happened along this blog and it really touched her (?) and she (he) even wrote something to that effect. now for the most part this blog is boring drivel, unless you know me well, in which case it's still boring drivel, though you might get some of my jokes. but i practice my writing here, and every once in a while there's an intersection of something serious, or even meaningful, and somebody who happens to read it. i suppose it happens every once in a while. more cleaning out of the office; papers that go back eighteen years, magnetic poetry that is homemade out of old nasty political memos from the nineties. i oughta go into the magnetic poetry business, but i can't imagine it will ever come back into style, or that the right combination of words will ever be found, with which to make the perfect poetry. a combination of the alcoholics anonymous (words like Friend of Bill) and these nasty old memos got me through for a few years. there were some other ones that were basically bugs, or beetles, on magnets. they would occasionally fall and get vacuumed up i assume on weekends or whenever they do that. lately the jackhammers have reached a feverish pitch, getting louder as the day goes by and even at its loudest when it was almost five and they should be letting up for gods sake. couldn't clean out the old files because the ten-year-old was up there using the computer. he of course thinks the office is a wonderland of cool things to see and do, he generally gets a free treat in the deal. his summer has become making origamis, making origami movies, and following us up to the office to play on computers. life could be worse. late at night, i park in my favorite chair under a large fan and, cool and rested, jump stuff onto facebook, onto these blogs, onto whatever. my little phone makes half-pop arts and i end up with some junk on the phone, because i never delete much and sometimes i even upload it twice. but sometimes i lose it, on the phone or the computer, unable to remember where it gets uploaded to or how to find it. i go back looking for it and find all kinds of stuff. it's kind of like when you're stopped by a train, and these old cars come by with weird names or canadian names or better yet, canadien, in french, then an old boxcar comes by and it's tagged with this wild message, who knows what it says, it's from a completely different world though it may only be in a single color or maybe two. and this completely different world is a peek into some city kid's view, deep in the yards in the middle of the night, little did he know that the car he was tagging would be heading down the cornfields, along the river, down to new orleans and back maybe, crossing lazily the main street of some small town where people are stopped, or may not even be paying attention. but if they see it, they could read just about anything into it, not knowing the tagger's code, or or anything else, even the fact that one boxcar is in french, totally beyond them. the sun shines off the bare steel rail where someone crushed a dime a little while back, and pretty soon the train is gone and life goes back to normal, or at least, what folks considered normal. nobody asked the bystander. drive safe, i'd tell ya. drive safe, but park diagonal.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

this post, my thousandth, comes in the midst of a pop-art bonanza - pop art here, on facebook, on my carbondale site, on the gallerie, and just about anywhere else i can send it. what happened is i got an iphone, and, while it was hand-me-down, had other contacts on it, etc., the ability to unite posterizing (albeit limited), walking around, uploading, changing the shade of people (instagramming), etc., it was too much to resist. for one thing, i've been teaching for eighteen years, the obsession for over-grading and taking it all to seriously, i'm beginning to let go of it a little. second, as i try to sort through mountains of stuff, at home and in the office, it's a little overwhelming. i don't mind throwing a ton of it away, really i don't. sometimes i feel like i should look at it first. it did survive quite a bit, after all. at the lake i whipped out the iphone and snapped the turtle, but i missed the park-diagonal sign. then i saw the corn on the ag-farm road, on the way back, and remembered, i needed a picture of that too, maybe next time. while i was driving, with kids, a nice car started flashing its lights frantically and stopped dead in the road right in front of me. i stopped also and rolled down my window to ask what was wrong. nothing, the woman said, but there's a deer right there. sure enough, it was right on the other side of her, gazing passively at us, but kind of on the edge of the wood; if we'd either one of us made a move, she'd be gone. needed a picture of that too, i'm sure, but maybe i can still get one. saw at least one more on the same trip; they're all over the place. downtown i concentrated on boxcars but they were all moving, and i didn't have a chance to make sure they were on walnut street; the title of my new book is boxcars on walnut, as unfinished as it is, i decided to wrap it up and make it a print quick before i left. i could conceivably squak a few more out of myself but i'm so frantically moving and tending to folks, it's kind of drained out of me. it'll be my third this year; i finished e pluribus 2012 and printed it; i got a story in the burg: a writer's diner and now this. not bad for a year in which all hell else is broken loose & i'm literally unable now, to keep writing at all. but hell yeah am i breaking out on the pop art. it's the advantage of living in several media. my son, 20, wrote an excellent book about weaving and it reminds me of falling behind on my quilts; there are three in danger of falling off the edge, but i'm determined to save them. they are, after all, for grandchildren who will remain in illinois when we are gone. a moment in time, when i'm going southwest, they are learning to walk, clothes are coming out of the closet in bundles, certain quilt squares in danger of being lost in the shuffle. this shall not come to pass. a house in texas awaits us, urban, old, with character, and some traffic, but it looks like it will be a change of venue, by at least four states though it's the same time zone, barely. it's drier. they don't scare me when they say it gets over a hundred. when it gets over a hundred humidity, then i'll go the other way. in this case, i'll just go to minnesota on vacation. tanner stumbled by us while we were downtown, hanging around the old trains that they park there supposedly for museum purposes; tanner took a pee on the wheels right there downtown, he was drunker than i've ever seen him though lord knows he's been out of money for at least fifteen years and i can't imagine how he keeps coming up with it. he's only what about twenty eight but now looks to be maybe sixty, half dead, he's forgotten that he's right in front of a kid. and me, i'm kind of a kid too. but i focus on the train statue, see below, haul in some pop art, i'm moving on, can't be bogged down trying to save this poor soul, wish i could help. some of this, i'm a just have to leave behind. and that's all there is...happy the way, this blog remains with several rules: it is primarily for the proper unloading of my inner self, i don't really compromise for the sake of harvesting a better audience, nor do i compromise the names of my children and loved ones for any reason. so it could be splashier, i realize, juicier, or whatever, but it's not, because i plan on coming back through this way sometime, and i'm really not about putting on an act. this one here is the real me, the small letters are to distinguish from formal writing, but every word is the truth, the best i know it and can remember it, and deep inside, in italics, you'll find the true stories of the days i was out there, really, coulda gone any direction, any time. may there be a thousand more, and hopefully i can dredge up a few more true ones for the collection. just thought another one recently, it happens every once in a while, i'm not in a frame of mind to work on it at the moment, but basically, this blog holds them all. and no, it probably won't go commercial, except maybe in my own wierd little way, maybe advertising some of my own stuff. if even. chou

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

as i come down to only a couple of weeks left at work before i officially retire, it's almost as if the building i'm in is screaming at me. that's right, the people are all being really nice, and even the weather is nice, but the building itself is going bonkers. the workers directly outside start up at odd hours with their jackhammer right while i'm trying to teach. they've broken gas mains twice and we get e-mails about possible evacuation. once the lights went all the way off, and i was way back in my cave-room which is technologically very nice, except that, with no electricity, it was very dark. a colleague suggested that the workers had busted the gas mains out of latent hostility for the academic culture or merely the fact that we teach every day, and they are out there digging in the dirt etc. i didn't buy it. for one thing, if i was out there digging in the dirt, i'd bust a gas main too, just out of sheer cluelessness. it's easy to bust a gas main. it's easy to bust two or three of them. i've come to saying that in fact they are making a round concrete flowerbed, raised up off the center, so as to provide a venue for the skateboarders who have been in the shadows for years as i enter and exit the building in the afternoons and evenings. these guys love the concrete edges, the flat spots, the angular concrete drabness of the place which of course make an arched back, a rounded skateboard, and a bloody knee all the more colorful by providing a backdrop. in a perfect world the university would say to them: we need you to provide the entertainment; we will provide the venue and not bother you when your wheels chew up the concrete, as long as you fall once in a while and remind us that we aren't young anymore, and are lucky to have a steady job in this drab, angular, flat, concrete behemoth of a building. i used to complain about the flat roof, the leaks, the moldy carpet, the incredibly gray pocked surface of the walls but in fact it got me to getting my camera out and taking pictures of the trees and plants, the live things that would appear in front of it, and i also wrote "abstract and concrete" which tells a little ironically about teaching concepts in a building such as this. i don't know if i will or could collect all this documentation, it's out there, it's in this blog to some degree, it's also on youtube where i put this a few years back; it's around, but now i'm remembering all that & thinking, this building is one of the things i'll miss. now you see, i have a cell phone, and first thing i pop-arted it and started up again with my documentation. i can't resist. this drab old building is screaming out at me. in the hallway by my office is an old garbage can with a simon sticker, see below. this sticker is faded and yellow, maybe thirty years old, predates me by about twelve, but when it's poparted, it can be any of several colors. somebody pointed out, i'd survived a number of crises, whole eras. this is what i notice as i take out my files and dump them into the recycling bins. if i had time i'd slow down and read some of it, but time is already running out; i only have an hour or so a day to devote to pitching and sorting, and even that, i'm too tired to do. i take a break and go get another cup of coffee. it seems like we, cesl, and the construction guys are about the only ones around. construction fences, boarded up walkways that have become concrete tunnels, dust from cement and constuction of a nearby building, trucks pulling out as i get my putt-putt out of a sun-baked parking lot. i'm trying to teach too. you can pitch the paper; there's tons of it, and it was just waiting to be pitched. the concrete, though, has gotten under my skin, it's become a part of me. in its splotchy, flat-roofed kind of way, especially when you come to the glass, and you look at the reflection in it, and what do you see but more splotchy gray concrete. it's like i'm looking right back into my own soul, but even the color, any color, is just an illusion, a little pop art created by a camera. in reality there's no color no color at all, just shades of gray.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

today there was another gas leak caused by the construction guys who are digging up in front of our building, and pouring concrete in a rounded wall where there will be a flower garden. they have ruptured a gas main twice and later this afternoon the power went off; it's possible they did that too. i'm not so mad at them; if i were out there jackhammering I'm sure i'd rupture a gas main too. unfortunately I had to teach anyway. some people claimed they could even smell it. i've become sentimental in the last days of my working here as i've been emptying out whole file cabinets, shelves of books, old pictures, etc. and can only do it when i have time, after i've finished preparing my classes but before i actually teach them from 12:40 to 4:45 every day. it's really a grind and always has been, but it's given me a lifetime of memories and stories, close friends, people who admire me from afar. today for example i leaned back, took two pop art photo-booth photos of myself in my own unruly office, and posted them. "likes" poured in from around the world. it was a moment, frozen in time, looking at myself in what is left of my office, even as i tear it apart. i'll put that picture here as soon as i can. i've been somewhat frustrated in the photo department. supposedly google closed picnik so that it could get us all on google plus to use what they had there. ok so i went there, but they no longer have posterize, my favorite function. so there's this free app, you can do it on your own camera, maybe i'll try that. but the camera has been taking very low-quality photos it seems, maybe i don't know how to focus it. i'm such a rube. other friends instagram stuff left and right. i however can't seem to download a single free app without crashing the phone. i've taken to saying that the workers, rather than spending thousands beautifying or focusing on the appearance while teachers aren't being paid, are actually making a skateboard arena where skateboarders can go in circles above the flowers, jumping up and down on the new concrete wall. in this vision the university works with the eternal skateboarders to find the ideal thing for them to ruin, the best concrete corner for them to wear down, the most beautiful site and venue for them to practice their skills. in return they stop menacing people who walk in the breezeway and don't want to be laid upon. in other words everyone works together to make the perfect venue for everyone. but in truth i doubt this will ever happen; instead somebody will get very upset with the skaters as we can only guess, start jumping up there and trying out the new flower bed. i remember my little walk across campus when there were beautifying worker-guys all over the place, and i passed up the chance to scrawl my name in the fresh concrete. in a sense, eighteen years of hard teaching, and i'm still totally quiet. i walk by them, and say hello, and i'm glad i'm not straining my back out there in the southern illinois summer. my office, half torn apart, is comfortable, even when, as they did today, they turn off the aircon to avoid poisoning us. down in our classroom, which is a kind of technological cave, with a beautiful projector and wireless-mouse computer, and a small thin table, the lights went off and stayed off for maybe ten minutes. it was enough for me to cancel class; my students were holding up their phones to see each other. i tried to finish business and gave up. in some of the nearby rooms they were holding class, because they had some daylight to work with, having windows. i had an excuse, and used it to let them go. i'm beginning to let go, myself, toward the end of my last classes. i've always worked hard; i've had them work hard; there's a fever pitch of homework and exercises flying by as i grade whole stacks late at night and try to assign more in the day; it's only that window at lunch hour these days (when i used to swim) that i take a breath, get a cup of coffee, look around, pop art myself maybe, try to grab a piece of what i'm living every day, quick before it's gone. i'll miss it, no doubt about it. texas will be a new and different place, with a new and different routine, hopefully.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

i was in harrisburg recently, actually i was there several times, but it occurred to me that hey, i'm moving to texas, and there's this police chief here with the exact same name as me, so i went into the police office and called on the "police phone" and they found him for me, and he came up, and we stood there facing each other and talked for a little while. i really liked the guy. people like to put an e at the end of the name, he said, and this is true, it's got 3 e's already but they like to put another one on there. he told a little about the tornado in town. he said he wasn't the chief, he rotated out of that job, he works nights, and that's the way he likes it. the only reason he was in the paper with the tornado, was that he was one of the first responders. to get to harrisburg you cross this big beautiful lake, but there are a lot of stoplights and then you go through marion, which is all torn up and takes forever. then on the other side of marion it gets wide and beautiful, looks like texas, no houses, just grassy fields. and they let you go 65 even though it's not an interstate, that's kind of rare in these parts i guess. in harrisburg the roads are different because they finished the bypass, and it's clear a tornado has come through and done some damage. it's also clear that a way smaller town, isolated and all, just lives at a different wavelength. people just look at you, not sure why they don't know who you are. here in town i had to walk over to the other side of campus to get a special paycheck because they'd made a mistake so i set out during lunch on a fantastic, beautiful day to walk across campus. construction everywhere; they're beautifying, and it's all cosmetic, but they sure are out there. it always seems like some of these guys are hanging out in their trucks; half the time, they aren't doing much. but they are getting paid, and that to some degree is what is keeping the economy afloat, it's a tenuous world. for a minute, i felt like asking them if i could carve my name in the fresh concrete of the sidewalk they'd just laid out. it's not like i haven't made my mark, i've been around eighteen years. i have a fear, i guess, that when i'm gone, life will go on, and eventually they'll forget me. the workers look out of their trucks somewhat grimly. times are tough here. maybe they know the state's 85 bill in the hole, university is contracting, there will be fewer sidewalks to pour maybe, seems like they can't hire enough teachers either. they did give me the paycheck though. the money's still good as far as i know. i look around at the area with an urgency now because the time will come when i just up and leave. it's pretty, some days, mighty hot and steamy others, but on the pretty ones i go out and sit, try to breathe in some of the ambience. i worked so hard, while i was here, that i didn't really see it much. i've got tons of packing to do, sorting, pitching, giving away, but things got a bit busy, i got tired, now i just want to go out & sit, drink a cup of coffee, think about it for a minute. the mailman goes by in his boxy truck on a slow roll; i remember what they said about the depression and how everyone was jealous of him, because he's the only one with a secure job. times get tough, a lot of folks like me just clear out and go where there's work. or where there's an economy, and it's a little easier. some folks just hunker down, live on less, get by & take care of themselves. it's like, there's a bit more crime, you get used to scarcity, the folks with a chance just peel off the side and go off, and who remains? the od, the ones with no momentum, the ones who couldn't imagine leaving, they've got nowhere else to go. 85 billion, how'd it get that way? the state put two governors in jail and it cost a fortune to hire enough lawyers to pull it off and during that time those governors and their friends just spent money and gave stuff away, and nobody was running the place really, and oops there goes 85 bill. really the whole north is kind of like that, michigan, ohio, pennsylvania, lots of union dudes, lots of healthcare, lots of folks not doing much anymore, all the work has gone down south & the young people have gone with it, i guess. too bad; it's nice up here, with the green, the water, the lakes, the winter, such as it is. i'll miss it. one guy says to me, i'd never move anyplace that joined the confederacy. i had to think for a minute because it seemed to me, texas was confederate, but it was its own country too. or whatever. nevertheless, it kind of has the upper hand now, all the jobs are down there, up here folks are waiting for times to get better, and they might not. how are they going to find 85 bill? all i can say is, i took my share of it, sure, but i worked for every penny of it. i'm sure other folks feel the same way.