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Thursday, May 26, 2005


This was not how I expected my three years of teaching at a small liberal arts college to end.

A week ago today, I walked into the all-girls dormitory carrying a homemade bouquet of flowers. I walked in alone and lurked about the corners for a bit before climbing the stairs.

Twenty minutes later, I sat in the dim light of the dorm lounge, trying to wipe away tears.

Leaving has been more difficult than I expected.

When we decided to light out for the territory, how my students felt about me and how I felt about my students was not a significant factor. Certainly I accounted for my love of teaching and the possibility that I may never teach college students again. However, my students as people, as individuals, as humans that had a personal connection to me--and I to them--that never really concerned me.

Instead, the last weeks of school have been a surprising series of touching and painful gestures from students both close to me and what I would have guessed were mere acquaintances.

Such gestures are not common for me. Even in anonymous course evaluations, students are rarely effusive in their praise nor particularly vitriolic in their condemnation: "Nice guy." "Funny." "Grades unfairly." "Could be better prepared."

Yet leaving for good, instead of the mere summer break, has embolden them, and their words and gestures have left me both speechless and aching to tell them how grateful and indebted I am to them.

A short slide show:

The student that I taught for one semester, a non-English major, stops me in the hall to express her disappointment. She decided to take another English course next year because of me.

Three students whom I taught in various classes from my first semester at Dana, nearly always in one class or another, sitting side-by-side for my very last class ever.

One of the above three hands me a long and touching note, remembering my first blasphemous remark on the first day of class, and the gradual realization that much of what he is was in part because of me.

The quiet student--who seemed stunned at her grade on her first exam last semester, but by spring was dazzling me with her wit and inventiveness in creative writing--sitting in my office and perhaps coming to the realization that she was indeed much smarter, much more creative, and much much more deserving than her current circumstances offered.

One of the leaders of his graduating class standing next to me in his regalia discussing our plans to travel across the country--a journey that seemed tedious when first presented, but now seems quite exciting for me.

The babysitting student--who this semester survived both a terrible accident and unrelated surgery to return and perform brilliantly in one of my courses--lying on my couch with Ciela sleeping quietly next to her when Judy and I returned from dinner. On her cheek, a small scar from the accident that seems to speak to some sort of fragility about choices made and lost and that holds such power, pain and beauty that I sometimes find myself unable to look directly at her. And seeing Ciela, the ultimate impetus for leaving in the arms of someone that pulls unrelently back, a memorial of near loss and a sentry standing at this ache for one more year of teaching bright and eager students.

( And good lord, I know that I'm taking a young woman's horribly bad luck and mutating it into a personal symbol for my leaving, and but that it just makes the physical beauty that much more seering and personal for me. In her, I cannot help but regret the abandonment, the lost opportunity to work with someone so talented and intelligent. Such a person is not so easily set aside and apparently, I cannot do so without investing in her something far more than any of us are comfortable with. So J. my apologies for the mawkish sentiment above and for turning you into a symbol of my newfound regret at leaving. Send me any English paper in the next year, and I'll happily edit it and provide you with any guidance gratis.)

And lastly, the awkward, foolishly sentimental moment in the girls dorm. The premier of a student-directed movie in which I nararrated and played a small role as myself. The two auteurs, students of mine, conceived of the idea after I finished teaching excerpts from Thoreau's Walden. They approached me with the idea of the film and asked, at first, just for my participation, but then generously allowed me to suggest they expand and deepen their idea into something more significant. The end result was humorous, satiric, quite clever and well-produced. None of which was enough to bring me to tears until they closed the credits by dedicating the film to the college and then to me.

Crying in the lounge of the girls dorm.

Even during my own college years, I never sunk so low.

To K and H, M, Wisconsin M, G, Mo, D and J and all my students, I would like to say thank you. One: pre-emptively for not suing me for possibly exposing you in the public forum. And two; for providing me with the final memory of my time in Nebraska. Many of you want to accredit me with far more than I am worth. We who teach, teach under an illusion (if not delusion) that we are shaping young minds. In fact, we stand on a house of cards that holds true only because of the desire of the students to change. I had very little to do with where you are now. I merely showed you what you could do. Thanking me is like Picasso thanking the superintendent for "Guernica" Picasso didn't paint in the dark; and if I did anything, it was merely to turn on the lights.

But thank you, nonetheless, for the remarkably kind comments and for the opportunity to teach you. Much of the job is tedious grading, committee meetings, attendence records, re-reading of dull material (god save the puritans). But nearly every minute in the classroom was, for me, invigorating, exhilirating and exhausting. I once wrote on this blog that teaching seemed to be 90 minutes of stand-up comedy. You all were a fabulous audience. I bless you: more life. My heart beats for all of you.


Friday, May 20, 2005

real eyes

real eyes

Ciela 3:30am


--Look what I can do.


"Okay, sweetheart, go to sleep now."

--NOOO! I'm not done yet.


"Shhh. Go to sleep."

--WAIT. It's not over yet. Watch this!


"Shhh. Go to sleep."

--Oh. Now you made me mess up. I gotta start over.


Ciela 6:30am

Ciela 6:30am

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Threes meme

Better things to do during a final.Pilgrim/Heretic: Threes meme

3 names you go by:
Scotty boy

3 screen names you have had:
Gould's Fish
(those are the only two, I think)

3 physical things you like about yourself:
my cool new short haircut (sorry Judy)
my sooo cute dimple in my chin
that fact that I can see

3 physical things you don't like about yourself:
crooked teeth
weak chin (except for that really cute dimple
gut that never seems to shrink

3 parts of your heritage:

3 things you are wearing right now:
watch with built in compass
wedding ring
Belleview Hills running t-shirt

3 Favorite bands/Musical artists:
Waco Brothers
Richard Thompson
Ani DiFranco

3 favorite songs (not chosen from above favorite bands, just for variety):
"You are listening to Los Angeles" Soul Coughing
"Jesus, etc" Wilco
The first six songs on Volo Volo Poi Dog Pondering

3 things you want in a relationship:

3 physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to you:

3 of your favorite hobbies:
trying to play guitar

3 things you want to do really badly right now:
be finished with the semester (and perhaps academia in general)
go biking
write emails to people

3 things that scare you:
the rising tide of fundamentalism
my retirement fund
a-frame ladders with an extension (but only if I'm climbing them. If I'm on the ground, I can handle them being in the same room. I mean, this isn't some sort of weird phobia thing)

3 of your everyday essentials:
the morning paper (no matter how crappy the local paper is)
[can't think of anything of some sort, kissing my wife and daughter, a nice bowel movement?]

3 careers you have considered/are considering:
psychologist (dropped that in a hurry)
actor (gave it a go in college)
urban planner/architect (still holds that allure)

3 places you want to go on vacation:
Back to Italy

3 kids' names you like:
Ciela (of course)
Roux (one that didn't quite make it to her birth certificate)

3 things you want to do before you die:
write a novel
seriously, learn how to play that damn guitar
see Ciela go to college

3 ways you are stereotypically a boy:
almost never wear make-up
like playing sports and then drinking beer afterwords
almost never cry (except after republican victories)

3 ways you are stereotypically a chick:
blog (apparently)
like to dance
wearing frilly undewear

3 celeb crushes:
Winona Ryder
Natalie Portman
Naomie Klein

3 people I would like to see take this quiz now:
The three people that actually read my blog.



A few blogs on my list were doing this jo(e)'s page:, Playing School, Irreverently:), so I threw mine in.

House of Mirth: Brief Encounter: Alix Ohlin

House of Mirth: Brief Encounter: Alix Ohlin

Friday, May 13, 2005

Relevant History: Journeyman again

Relevant History: Journeyman again

From the front lines of my home state and my now-home state

In Kentucky, a report on one of the standard bearers in the "war against christianity." Dr. Hager's Family Values and in Nebraska, good news from Lincoln--The independent judiciary overthrows Nebraska's ban on gay marriage. The language of the ban was so retrograde, one wouuldn't be surprised to see the last sentence read "And that goes for niggers too, goddammit!" Federal court strikes down anti-gay-union law

On The Media- Walk-on Story, Runaway Coverage

So none of my students who are sitting on late papers turned them in today, so I get a brief break. Check this transcript between Brooke Gladstone of On the Media and Jonathan Klein, president of CNN. When the president of CNN, who is calling for more hard-hitting in-depth news equates the Runaway Bride with democracy in Lebanon, we can easily understand the sorry state of our "informed" citizenry.


You scored as Postmodernist. Postmodernism is the belief in complete
open interpretation.
You see the universe as a collection of information with
varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you;
even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation.
Meaning relies on context and even the language you use
to describe things should be subject to analysis.



Cultural Creative














What is Your World View?
created with

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


I deleted your email message. Without saving your address. Or Greg's. Please don't forget me. Resend. I'm out here. Here.

Delays Delays Delays

Oh sure, some of you right away assume I've reverted back to attacking the Republicans. Actually, they are doing a fine job of eating their young (and old, straight and gay--Let's hear it for Spokane. Seriously, I want to move to a city that exposes its conservative right wing gay hypocrit via an internet sting at Miiiy kind of town, Spokane is...MIIIY kind of town. I wonder why that didn't come up as my city of choice. I probably didn't answer the question about closeted bigots.)

No, rather the title refers to delays in answering anyone's email. As you can imagine, Judy and I are a bit preoccupied with moving. And those of you who are academics know how tightly scheduled the end of the semester is. For the last few days its been grading papers, calling movers, looking at rental properties, etc. etc. etc.

All this is to say that the plums were really good.

No, all this is to say that I apologize to all those who've emailed me about the move and asked questions. I have good intentions of answering them each afternoon at work. But apparently Dana exists in some sort of time anomaly where the late morning begins a normal transition to the early afternoon but there is a moment where the continuum falters and the sequence following 12:30pm is not, as one would expect, 12:31pm but rather 4:48pm. It surprises me every time.

Tonight, after a frantic spell of grading American Lit papers all morning and three squeezed into the time between creative writing and my afternoon class, then a few more in the afternoon, I came home and took a run through Omaha. There is nothing more refreshing than the fragrent breezes of garbage day eve on a hot late spring day.

We took pictures, but I've gained so much weight since Ciela was born, that my ISP couldn't handle the bandwith necessary to upload the photo.

The house

(I wish blogger would finally get on the stick and allow safari users to do rich text--"house" should be in blue)

So the first buyer ran away. Left at the alter. Piecing together information gathered from our realtor and the inspector, she may have had her father (the "handyman" of the family) convince her that the house was shoddy or too risky. He, apparently, is the guy who mucked up our shower. The very nice inspector came by and fixed it the next day--v. apologetic for it happening.

But our superagent realtor placed rapid phone calls in sequential and perhaps even simultaneous order and came up with an identical offer from one of the interested parties that lost out the first time around. They came by for a quick 3rd (4th?) look and then faxed over a contract with a higher offer. I think they were afraid we'd put it back on the market and get an even higher price.

So now we are awaiting a visit from their inspector. We are acting on the assumption that the house is sold. We've moved on to arranging for movers and dates. We have a very complicated matrix in which Judy and Ciela travel to a number of undisclosed locations while I somehow manage to move a house of furniture and two cars across the plains, mountains and desert to Scottsdale.

Presumably, in the near future, Judy, Ciela and I will drive to San Diego--a short 5 hour trip from Phoenix, I believe. When that happens, I will have driven across the entire United States of America: coast to coast.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blind Date, Part II

Word has it from out agent that the buyer of our house did not realize that the finished attic was not on the grid. That is, the central heat and air do not service that level of the house. We never said it did, but now Judy and I are anxiously awaiting the response from the post-inspection briefing. The inspection can only negate the contract for major structural flaws we refuse to repair. Does this count as a major structural flaw? I mean, it is the structure itself. By definition, it can neither be flawed or flawed. It is a priori. But, it could be moot if the buyer simply has to have three bedrooms and cannot gamble that a space heater will cut it in February.

They also have concerns about the water pressure. So do we. We've lived with it for three years. It's an 80 year old house. It isn't perfect. Three years ago our inspector (this same one, ironically enough) told us that the only real way to increase the pressure would be to replace all the pipes out to the main line. But he or the buyer screwed up the shower faucet--apparently in the belief that if you wrench it far enough, the water pressure will increase. So I have to fix that regardless of the contract status.

We are holding our breath. The buyer laid down a significant amount of earnest money, so we stand to clear some extra cash if they bolt (provided that none of the above counts as a structural flaw that can/should be fixed). Of course, that means everything is open again. We had two other good offers. I hope they haven't purchased anything yet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Never should have left


American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Chicago

70% Philadelphia

65% New York City

60% Boston

60% Los Angeles

Monday, May 02, 2005

Ciela shows off her new trick

Ciela shows off her new trick

Playing with her cousin Jack

Playing with her cousin Jack


I haven't stared at the phone this much since high school. Why doesn't she call? Should I call? Is it too soon? I shouldn't have said what I said. I ruined it. She's not interested any more.

Last night at 9:30pm we were pretty sure we had sold the house. We had an open house from 1-3 and then had three offers over the asking price. It seemed like a good night. We were pleased. We made some minor alterations to the contract and accepted the highest offer.

Now it's 2:30 and no one's called. We should be home free. Literally. But no one's called.

For 10 days we've been strangers in our own home. Our furniture-- properities in a set. Judy, Ciela and I -- characters sent off stage with only moments notice. For ten days we were ordered out of our house so strangers could poke at our underbeams, lift up our bedskirts, finger our drains. All very humiliating.

Then yesterday someone chose us. But now they won't call.

I really hate blind dates.

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