09 May 2007

The Sweet Escape

I have left behind the meshugas of the year-end dramas of Cold City U., with crabby professor politics and exhausted passive-aggressive recriminations, for a mini-break in Big Eastern City with Mr. Gordo. This is the first time we have seen each other since Christmas, which we both agree is too long between visits. But one has work, responsibilities, meetings, other tensions and directions in one’s life that pull and demand attention, and which have prevented us, remarkably, from planning a visit through the winter and spring. In retrospect, this strikes me as a bit nuts, which is one of the reasons why I am here now, leaving school a few days before the official end of term (although after the conclusion of classes and submission of grades). I have to return to Cold City for a couple of weeks at the end of the month for (what else?) meetings, then back to Big Eastern City for a more prolonged visit, after that I’m off to California for a teaching gig (the long green, baby), back to the East Coast, then a return late summer to Cold City. A lot of traveling, which on one hand is exciting in a sort of Jackie Susann way, but on the other is exhausting just thinking about it.

I feel I never have time to read in Cold City, torn as I am between appointments, classes, and drive time, but in here in Mr. Gordo's EasyBake, high above the hullabaloo of the urban street, I finally have time to curl up with the books I have neglected for months. I have been re-reading Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, which I initially read over Christmas, and have begun Ian Buruma’s Murder in Amsterdam, about the assassination of Theo Van Gogh and the tense cultural politics of Islam in Europe. I am not sure about the logic of toggling between the two, as on the surface they seem thematically disconnected, but they are both intriguing to me as parables of the personal and the social in a tense socio-historical moment.

I am a worrier. I worry about my health, little concerns that I wake with, but resolve over the course of a day. I worry about my career: where is that goddamned book already!? I worry about my job: how do I placate the forces around me that are not necessarily rational? How do I myself trigger reactions both positive and negative in who I am, who I must be? What are the depths of my own “magical thinking” regarding meritocracy and performance, in the power of the institution to protect me? Why do I seem to occasionally forget my own knowledges about the institution, including the viciousness of its defense of its own structures of power and influence (a point made by Mahku on the telephone the other night)?

Can the academy accommodate my particular thinking, or should I strike out for new frontiers? (Mr. Gordo is considering a job offer in Puerto Rico: Is there room for me in this cultural organization as well?) Will I be forced to do this (Baruma’s disquisition on the limits of thinking vis-à-vis differential paradigms seems crucial here, in an oblique way)? As always, one tries to do one’s best and respond astutely to the challenges of life and profession, but at the end of the semester, when it seems everything has gone to shit, it is hard to be so equivocal. The larger problem here, the equation that remains to be solved, is how to resist becoming a slave while offering enough verisimilitude to slip under the wire. I remain unsure of my talent in relation to this task.

When does “playing the game” slip into becoming a part of the game itself (in the worst sense possible)? When patterns repeat, do we really know how to respond using our knowledge base, or do the very dynamics of the game assure a repeat, an endless loop of unhappiness and disappointment? These gnomic questions are obviously related to some sort of materiality, but I remain somewhat confused as to their answers. Of course, perhaps I just have the bad luck of knowing more than my fair share of lunatics.

An unpleasant aspect of living in multiple cartographic worlds is that one feels restless and strange everywhere. My professional life, ostensibly contained within the bounds of the superhighway that circumscribes Cold City, has followed me here via email and telephone and worry. The emotional life with “Mr. Gordo and Friends” that resides in Big Eastern City and its hinterlands echoes in the loneliness of the solitary flat halfway across the country, with its technological simulacra of emotive connection: the car, the computer, the telephone, the office; in the social interruptions of another life elsewhere that prevent a full assimilation to Cold City. This diagram of lines and tensions doesn’t even include California and Québec, which also draw me out (string me along?). Prancilla characterises aspects of my life as a holding pattern that yet is moving along. Instead of interrogating this dynamic stasis, for now I am just going with it, or as Didion once described, I am currently living on “dice theory.”

From The White Album:

I did meet one of the principals in another Los Angeles County murder trial during those years: Linda Kasabian, star witness for the prosecution in what was commonly known as the Manson trial. I once asked Linda what she thought about the apparently chance sequence of events which had brought her first to the Spahn Movie Ranch and then to the Sybil Brand Institute for Women on charges, later dropped, of murdering Sharon Tate Polanski, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Voytek Frykowski, Steven Parent and Rosemary and Leno LaBianca. “Everything was to teach me something,” Linda said. Linda did not believe that chance was without pattern. Linda operated on what I later recognized as dice theory, and so, during the years I am talking about, did I.


JoannaO said...

Bon voyage, mon cher. For some reason, my messages have been spamulated, so I hope this one gets through with my good wishes.

Natalia said...

I so love Didion. Really. Love. And the only think stopping me from yelling my head out to my students is that I am leaving for Greece in a week.