Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

you might as well call this 'flint and nineteenth' blog, my wife says, since every post you're obsessed with that darn intersection. it's true, i have a kind of morbid fascination, drawn out in photojournalism, and a running interest in the steady stream of accidents on that corner. this morning i'm riding to work and the glass is all strewn out in the crosswalk, shining in the morning sun; this is the little square glass chips that come out of a car's windshield when you broadside it as someone did to a car on sunday. would have taken a picture, but the timing wasn't right; i couldn't get the camera out and use it in the time i had. but i got to work only to find out that my good friend's husband was the victim of that one; he'd been broadsided by a guy who ran the light pure and simple, due to texting or whatever, and he was lucky he wasn't hurt or killed, or his child wasn't in the car.

had my two grown boys to town for the holidays, and we had an excellent thanksgiving, due entirely to my wife who doesn't let me get near anything except maybe the potato peels, and then we shot out to las cruces on friday only to return on saturday, me and a van full of four boys. couldn't resist, of course, stopping at white sands (see below), which is on the way; we stopped there on the way, then again on the way back, got a lot of white sands on this trip. the fine white sand, sledding, dry herb bushes, delicate; i felt like we were in danger of sunburn, since the sun reflected up so sharply that it hurt our eyes. a lot of people were wandering around the place. it occurred to me that it was black friday, white sands on black friday, and i resolved a few things. one, black friday is the lowest possible day of the vilest american commercialism, people slugging each other over shopping issues, people waiting in line all night for the chance to buy some dumb thing, people going out on thanksgiving itself, because they just can't wait for the stores to open. as a result of this crass overbearing light-show heavy-traffic commercial mentality i am in the habit of drawing inward in the month of december, using my personal resolve to get through it sanely and get presents that are either useful, reasonable or homemade, or even some combination of the above, and stay out of malls altogether. but the white sands, the pure fine-grained of it, is so fine, so light, so pure, it was kind of an all-saints day kind of event, you could say the opposite of the standing-in-line-punch-thy-neighbor kind of event. it was awesome.

come back to town, and it occurred to me that the road had been quieter than usual; since flint goes right into campus, and nobody was going into campus, there was actually a lull there, and a couple days, thanksgiving included, of almost no traffic. by last night of course, it had picked up again; they're all back, of course, and the pressure is on. finals, next friday. the question of what to put on a calendar, if anything (jim leverett's photography, maybe), the possibility of bundling up more short stories for another book. i'm a little behind, as usual. decorations have flung up around the neighborhood; they couldn't wait until thanksgiving. it's the season, and the cool nights are bathed in different colors as people around town get their deco pumping. i myself wait, i try to get my wife onboard, i keep the lights to a minimum, i put illuminaria, the real stuff with sand in a bag and a candle, out on the curb on christmas eve. and that's it; it takes a lot of effort, but it's worth it.

the road to las cruces from here goes down to brownfield, over to artesia, and up the back of the rockies into a town called cloudcroft new mexico, high in the mountains, then drops straight down into alamogordo before going past white sands, across the organs, and into las cruces. long stretches of it were barren but quite beautiful. artesia actually smelled like oil fields, and had beautiful trees in a quaint downtown, but the downtown was full of crows or some such bird that made a horrible racket as we tried to find a place to eat. finally we found the "wellhead" restaurant, all decked out in oil-rig pictures, kind of a wild place, though people were friendly. people were friendly in the mountains too, up near cloudcroft, though the top had been burned off of one or two; that was definitely a back-road, cowboy type of place. no smell of oil up there, it was all mountainside, woodsy, ranching kind of place. it was clear that when the snow came, i might want to take a different route. coming back, the boys drove, but i couldn't get my eyes off the road, and we rolled back into texas and into the city, glad to be home, and getting back into what routine we have.

then again, i've started using boston and nineteenth, though that intersection is little better than flint and nineteenth. it might be a different kind of obsession, this intersection being over by the dorms and all; it's been a little rowdy in the past, urban, dangerous, in fact a guy cut me off this morning, just veered right, directly in front of me, but it doesn't have the sheer number of accidents that flint and nineteenth has, as far as i know. i'd like to do a study, why exactly one intersection could be so much worse. or, what does it take before you simply build a pedestrian walkway that goes over the darn thing. it's worth thinking about, but i'm not taking it up with the city of lubbock anytime in the near future, or if i do, i'll take it up on the lubbock blog. they have enough problems, and so do i.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

there's an ice cream shop that's done up all in fifties, like a buddy holly place; in fact it commemorates buddy holly as he is still big in this town, his home town; it has a juke box in the corner which was running the whole time we were there. i'm not sure if someone had put a few bucks in it, and let the kids press numbers randomly, or it was on an endless loop of johnny cash, beach boys, buddy holly, elvis. the kids had shakes and the soccer coach handed out medals; they'd won second place.

out on the corner they had another huge accident over the weekend, but we were busy and didn't really go look; we could see the fire engine though from a block away and at one point these tow trucks brought wrecked cars right past our house. the tree guys were at our house most of the weekend removing the top part of this enormous elm, maybe seven feet wide, that was hanging over our house and the neighbor's. they knocked out the internet in the process so we were out internet most of the weekend, but I figured it was a fair deal, an internet holiday for a couple of days, in honor of a tree that was maybe seventy years old or so. it drove the eleven-year-old nuts. he really needed the internet.

i on the other hand had papers to grade all weekend, papers about endangered languages and unknown or even made up languages, abroriginal or indigenous languages, etc. i also read about linguistic forensics and whether spanglish should be considered its own language. i hardly went anywhere. even when there was an accident on the corner, i was reading papers. the chainsaws went on all weekend, and i read papers.

at one point it even rained, which is really unusual for here, and i noticed that there were clouds in the sky. i do go for walks at night, long ones around the park. if it's raining or it's wet i notice that, and i notice the stars, which are slightly more than i'd see if i did the same thing in carbondale. sometimes you see people parked near the park, in their trucks, doing their phones, or whatever. they're attracted by the dead ends, the endless field, the lack of traffic.

my own crossing of nineteenth has been orderly, without incident. cars are respectful and let me go my way. saw a dead squirrel on flint this morning, and then, some bike rider who had to do about twenty revolutions to move one foot, was kind of weaving in the road, but traffic let him by too, and it was no incident for me. this town is letting me pass, as if i belonged here, as if it was the most natural place in the world, but, for my part, i need to keep my weight down, stay alive, live to see another walk sign.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

how's life at the corner, they asked me at the lab, knowing full well i'm obsessed by the crossing of this seven-lane road with cars going every which direction, many of whose drivers tend not to see or care about bikers or pedestrians. in fact it's been a pretty mellow week, four days almost without incident, maybe it's the cold weather, everyone's on their best behavior.

in fact there had been a big accident about a week ago, and then on saturday they blocked the street off between here and there, and on sunday i decided to take advantage; since it was an art studio tour, and the big huge house on the corner was showing art, it was my opportunity to go see the place, and i did. this house is one of many north-facing mansions on 19th street and it takes up maybe four or five lots, but that's not unusual for 19th street, and i happened to know that everyone was mad at the owners for remodeling or something, but it wasn't quite clear to me, and still isn't, what they had done, or how it had changed.

the place was so opulent that to some degree i couldn't adjust my eyes. the owner, ddr, was allowing five different artists to show work in there; it wasn't clear to me if she was one of them, or was just a benevolent collector. she was definitely a collector; she had tons of statues, fancy bookshelves, pieces of art, etc., many of which were from peru and south america. being south american, in many cases they featured the virgin mary.

but in fact i crossed my line of opulence very early on, when the very first room i steeped into had about a dozen finely-made, shapely glass decorative sculptures, and they happened to all be in the afternoon light on an old, fancy table. right on that table there was more art and high-class stuff than i could focus my eyes on, and it just got worse from there. one guy had carved elaborate crosses out of twisted wood, but had also made, by hand, two harps and a hammered-dulcimer; the dulcimer had a cross in it as well. with south american art, one can argue that everything good and south american was religious, as it all tended to go toward the church, but, with this cross-making dude, i think it was more pure lubbock. he made 'em, and people bought 'em, and it was working.

there was a lot of traffic tonight, right outside the house; we live on a busy street and now that traffic's not blocked, they come right on through here, often not worried about a speed limit. we hear a lot of ambulances and there have been a number of accidents in the neighborhood. it's definitely a city; one can walk out on the park, or around the park, and see stars, and have a nice stiff texas breeze, then it's the busy street to get home and the fireplace's gentle crackle against the sound of the cars outside. the animals pace and start in various shades of excitement, depending on what they think they'll get. people look forward to the coming break. the tennis coach said, next week this time, you'll all be eating turkey and watching the cowboys beat the redskins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ok so they blocked off the street again, flint between nineteenth and twentieth, and this time it was for the studio tour which apparently passes through this one house up on nineteenth and that warranted them closing this one block of a very busy flint, because a lot of people were coming and going from that little place.

now those houses up on nineteenth are mansions, and by virtue of buying one, you subject yourself to public scrutiny and criticism about how you renovate, rebuild, etc. but i am new to the neighborhood, not only can't imagine what it's like to live up there on nineteenth, but also am not about to criticize anyone for any of the various things people do. i might actually go on this tour, being that i'm obsessed with the neighborhood and all, and obviously they are letting some part of it be open to the public. art, i believe, is also involved.

was proud of myself that i didn't go bonkers when there was another big accident up there, didn't let it get to me too much, yet this is because i'm way over-exposed on that corner anyway, i've been doing nothing but taking pictures of it for a week. and yet it seems to be having its moment in the sun. two accidents, and a studio tour, and blocking it off twice, unexpected silence for a while in the afternoon, a dearth of traffic. and this was very nice.

went out for another long walk in the neighborhood; a cool wet wind was coming in from the north; i'm wearing my shoes these days because my feet are worn to bloody. in the park the trees make it very calm; the wild sky changes, and if it's clear i see lots of stars. tonight, not clear; clouds poured in with their moisture. one side of it is flint, rather busy. i like that, though; it's my own street, i'm home, i don't feel like i have to explain myself. i've seen remarkably little of lubbock, the surrounding area, the towns, the plain, the canyons. but i've seen this little park, and the corner, a block the other way. i'm doing microfamiliarity first.

relatives are curious about moving to texas. i say, keep in mind, it's 70/30 romney country, even in the city, but there are lots of jobs, good weather, nice dry sun. water will last about 20 years tops. we have to find another way of capturing what's up there, and not letting people throw it away, on their lawns. or, we'll all end up killing each other for it.

plenty of jobs, even writing; they have newspapers, and those are looking for writers. and proofreading too. lots of people here, good economy, things happening. if i could get my music scene going, i'd enjoy it more though. a little west texas sawing would do my soul good. i'm a keep looking, there's got to be something. chou, g'night.

Friday, November 09, 2012

big accident tonight at flint and nineteenth, the big corner one block away where i stress out every day as i cross, sometimes four or six times a day, on a bicycle. this was at dinnertime; a policeman came and blocked the street in front of our house, one block away, and the red and blue lights flashed into the house during dinner and bathed the hearth with its purple glow. i went out to see what i could see up the street without actually going up there. a couple came by walking their dog, a setter which was very friendly to the policeman. the policeman didn't know what had happened; when the man said it was probably students, the policeman said it could have been anyone. i liked that. not too quick to judge.

it was a whopper though, and we could see a firetruck and some large tow vehicles come through; the street was blocked for forty minutes or so. i was quick to point out that this was the very intersection that i have been obsessed with for several weeks, but, i didn't really have the rubberneck spirit to go and get all the details, or actually seek out more stress by knowing a little more about everyone whose life was dramatically altered at that corner. or, i could have gotten more pictures, these nighttime shots with red and blue, action shots, whatever. i resisted; i've had enough. one result of my obsession is that as i walk around, i feel ok about it; i don't have excess anxiety. it is what it is; it's where i live. police and ambulances come & go; i rest. we're going out for ice cream, the other direction.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

there were two incidents that worked together to shake my confidence at the great corner this week, though overall i was lucky, as far as i was concerned, people were more polite than usual and more than willing to let me, a simple bicyclist, ride through the intersection. the first was that the sign that i press to make the walk sign flash, was unexpectedly knocked over, on the ground (see above), for no apparent reason, more than once. by now it has been replaced with a more solid post, and a new button, and i assume it works and i appreciate the city's timely response. but it was knocked over was as if, after someone's bashing into it, it was never the same again, and just couldn't stand on its own. i would lean over to press my button, sure that the button itself still worked; it might have.

then the day of the accident, i may have told this story, but it's stuck with me for some reason, a car, coming toward me to my left but leaving me plenty of time for me to cross the street, because i have the walk sign, and he's late turning left, well he starts to smash into these pieces of car and the pieces are flying out from beneath his wheels and toward me. they are a kind of aluminum-shiny color like they are the housing of a car's lights, metal alloy but very thin and brittle and crackly when you run them over. but nevertheless they are more or less flying toward me and you don't want to run over this stuff when you drive a car, let alone a bike. i dodge the pieces much as you dodge raindrops. there's only so much you can do. now i feel drained, like i need to rest and nurse my wounds, post pictures, reflect on my limited and banal existence. or better yet, play music.

then, i put this picture of a barn, right up against the english building where i work. it's my favorite place on campus. the problem is, they renovated the barn, painted it, made it shipshape and perfect-colored. i'll explain why that's a problem.

first of all, it reminded me of my grandpa, because of the mix of ornate, staid academia and farm-country functionality and barn shape. this was an ag college much as iowa state was where my grandpa would show us around. i heard a tour guide saying to a group of perspective students that it was traditionally called the "financial aid office" because there was this habit of bringing and creating food there through the ag program and any truly hungry students could hang out there and alwsys get fed. it was because of that sentimental attachment that, when they built new english buildings (as the one shown) and other new buildings around it, that the students got upset and didn't want them tearing the barn down. when told that they'd have to raise thirty grand (or some such amount) to save it, lo and behold, the students raised it.

but by renovating it, and painting it so carefully, they have now removed some of its character, its gentle paint-peeling farm-country essence, and that to me is somewhat sad. i don't want to criticize the university; i realize they do what they have to do, and had to make it look good, but, ah well, too bad, so much for the true farm country hanging in there right in the center of campus.

on the other side of that english building they've started a new construction project, an autism center, and that has caused dust and inconvenience and you-name-it. this is where i work, though. this is my new home. i have to find a way to fit in; i'm struggling. my patience has worn thin with the university politics scene; i can't bear to do what i have to, to keep my professional head above water. people are treating me ok, it's just that i'm tired of doing what i've done for twenty years. i'm still searching. i'm hoping to land a place, similar but different, that will really suit me. then maybe i wouldn't have to ride my bike so much.
new story:

A Little Off

enjoy! comments welcome as usual.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

this is the only city, top hundred in the nation, that would vote 70/30 romney, but its county did. and that's fairly liberal for west texas, where some counties went 78/20, 83/16, etc. poll watchers encourage you to vote straight republican and lots of people do. libertarians often got maybe ten, fifteen. but one democrat won in lubbock county. he was running against a guy named ysidro guiterrez; there must have been something wrong there. it seemed like you had to go out of your way to find a democrat on the ballot.

at the corner, corner of flint and nineteenth, bane of my existence, there was an accident this afternoon. cars turned left in front of me but one car had to wait for me as i had a green light on my bike. he saw me; he waited, he slowed down and let me pedal hard up the crosswalk quick while i could. but he ran over little metal shards of car as he drove forward and these flew out into the street. some flew toward me. but that wasn't the danger, the danger was that a car was approaching on the other side, where i couldn't see it. he, fortunately, saw me too. the presence of the police i think made everyone on their best behavior. they wanted it calm so they could watch what was going on.

nights i sometimes work on my pop art or work on renovating my dad's photography page which sometimes takes a long time, because i kind of have to set it up and get in the mood, have time. i'm also walking a lot at night, 830 or 9, i might walk two or three miles barefoot in the park. lots of stars and fresh air out there, but dog poop too if you don't look down or even if you do. thought about the election last night when i went out. wisconsin and p-a had already gone obama when i went. it was coming down to ohio. i was pretty sure that if wisconsin went obama, iowa and minnesota would follow. ohio, apparently, was down to cuyahoga county.

the legalizing of marijuana will usher in a new era in the social history of the usa, with a generation, about thirteen now, wondering why the dare policemen made it sound like crack cocaine. the heavy medical restrictions were just the first step; now, as far as i can tell, it's entirely legal in some places; this is a trend, unstoppable i would guess. i hope texas eases off. we hear these stories of people getting life in jail for a samll quantity, then, hundred people die a year in the prisons, randomly and by whoever happens to be in the wrong place. maybe it's better to keep the pot-heads out of there, so that everybody is at their best behavior and full capacity, and fewer people will die. just dreaming. got my texas driver's license today, i'm full citizen of this place, no restrictions. but i don't even want to drive. i want to stay home and write more stories, which i'm doing. i'll keep you posted.

finally, things are happening on the professional front too. my main concern is the degree that technology impedes or influences language learning, but i'm researching lots of new media and, for example, emoticons which i never use and which apparently are flying all over the place in texting in general. or what about the differences between facebook, twitter, and phone-texting? i feel like studying emoticons only; it's broad enough; it's a kind of hieroglyphics; it's an interesting thing to be an expert on. i could call them "the new hieroglyphics"...check out their distribution, etc.

on facebook, i feel like gloating about the election. it went well for me; actually, i was proud that the usa pulled it off without outrageous ballot-stuffing, voter disenfranchisement, civil war etc. only trump seemed to be in for a civil war, he can fight one with his hair maybe. i myself am turning back to the rest of my life, such as it is, with special care toward flint and nineteenth, such as it is.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

it's the high holidays; followers of this blog may recognize that once a year, early november, i pile on you with expositions of all the various holidays, hallowe'en, all saints' day, all souls' day, day of the dead, guy fawkes day, sadie hawkins day, election day, you name it, they're all thrown in there together. to me, the most glorious thing is the weather, which in illinois finally cooled off, got clearer, with a bit of wet thrown in after six months of dry. here it seems mixed, but the sky is blue, well it's always blue, and it's definitely a bit cooler with a sense of winter coming.

after hallowe'en which is pretty heavily overdone, costumes and pumpkins cleaned out of the stores by mid-september, people overdressed in ghoulish stuff, i can't say this is my favorite, because i'm not big on candy and i don't care for that way of exorcising one's fears. but saints' day and souls' day are different. largely ignored in this country, combined in others, day of the dead is actually souls' day, tonight, and this is the one where you really pray for the souls of the dead so that they might go where you want them to rather than the other direction. when the weather is clear and beautiful and i go out for a walk in this enormous park near us, with lots of wide grasses and a big honking full moon over everything, i'm thinking about some of these souls and how, in this holiday, we really admit that we don't have control, and don't know what's going to happen to all these people. that's what i like about it. it's not that i think my prayers are going to make any difference, it's more that i think it's about the only holiday given over to humility and not knowing...

they say that the day of the dead is a huge deal here because of the large mexican population and the festive way that it really reaches everyone; it's one way they can teach us about their culture, get kids involved, and everyone can participate and see the difference. i haven't availed myself of these cultural opportunities, but i did go for a walk; i have to take care of myself first. i also haven't played a whole lot of music, haven't seen the "depot" part of town, haven't got out to the country much. ah, but i've made some peace with the neighborhood, where i do a lot of biking and walking, and where i know the alleys and know some good places to duck out of the street if a boy wants to go pee. in the park, you have to watch out for sticky things that prong into your foot and also the fact that there's quite a bit of dog poop which one could actually step on, as i generally walk a couple of miles barefoot, but i take my chances and enjoy the fact that i actually see more stars than i used to see in my tiny town in illinois. i figure it's because the entire mississippi valley had a lot of cloud cover, but it was generally way up there, either that or it was that we lived so close to the center of town that the chicago-style streetlights just shut everything off. whatever it is, we're out on the plains now, the wind blows, the clear fresh air comes right down into the city where i need it.

got back on the web recently to check on things i should be keeping up better with. i noticed several things which are quite lively developments especially in fields i've been interested in for quite some time. one, there's a grammar revival in this country. it could be that the saturation with bad grammar has finally caused a backlash; the fact that facebook and twitter make misspellings and its/it's there/their so common, to the point of distraction for some people, and they're fighting back hard and making some noise, and it's a kind of grammar revival, culturally i mean. second, this one company, which i will misspell as grmrly, has done an incredible thing: it's tossed millions into advertising over the last couple of years, and it has captured, by its own estimate, three million customers. this is online writing software that will s supposedly help your writing; i think for native speakers at least, it's clearly of value. i'm not necessarily opposed to someone throwing millions at the grammar problem; i'm curious, of course, as to where they got their money, and what's in it for them; but, i also think they are in the right place at the right time, due to number one. and i think that eventually they'll get those millions back. now from my point of view what's important is not so much what you can pay for, but what the computer will do and does every day to every single user: the green lines, and red lines of word's grammar-check itself. but i've just begun to study that. and finally, third, is the texting revolution: the world is beginning to understand and deal with it, and realize that in many ways it can be another language, and that the world has changed for good, is not going back, and the cell-phone companies are sitting on a gold mine. not that i care about gold. it looks to me as if i'll die with enough, and that puts me in an unusual position, i can say what i want, and don't necessarily have to sell out to the highest bidder.

which is partly why i started writing, unexplainably, about this poor dude who stole 77 mil from his company the other day about six years ago, the case is still on my mind, that poor guy will end up in my novel, i swear.

but i can't go much farther without remembering an old colleague, a friend of mine, had her troubles for sure, but also had a lot of life in her, a love of teaching, a good spirit. wanted to come back to illinois but i was unable to help her get a job there; she died in minneapolis in the middle of october, unexpectedly, at the age of 43 i believe. rest in peace, veronica devine.