Friday, November 26, 2004

Well, one down, three papers to go (and one last batch of 110X essays to mark). They're supposed to be publishable!?! Well, it's a nice theory... December 15th is going to feel pretty good, let me tell you.

It's a little weird to look at the calendar and realize that it's November 26th, you've spent three months doing little outside of academics, and all you have to show for it so far is *one* mark from way back in September. It's always seemed a little stupid that it all comes down to your ability to condense everything into a couple papers in a two week period, but hey, so it goes. It's fun handing them in...

But yeah, holidays are going to be great. I've got a couple days in the 'loo after all this blows over (16th-19th?)... and I've heard tell of a certain movie marathon involving a Peter Jackson trilogy. Then home for a rest. Also, tentative plans are to get on the overseas ESL train for a year or two (starting next fall) while I figure out what subject my next degree will be in... so if you have any leads, I'm starting to send out feelers. About ESL, not--well heck, degrees too. Have pen, will travel and/or write things down for grades or food.

Also, hats off to Kirk and the hard work he and Gerry Hart put into the Alberta Liberal campaign. Walk a little taller; you've earned it. We owe you.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It was a cold and rainy walk back from class today, so I decided what the heck. I'll put on a pair of dry socks and write some stuff down.

I was considering yesterday whether it was valid to say that I hate Novembers. I've had a surprising string of extremely uninspiring Novembers lately. I suppose February isn't exactly sunshine, and by my upcoming logic April isn't so great either, but truly, November and I go way back. It's the exponential curve of the Arts degree workload. Oh don't worry, I'll save you all the gory details; the generalities and comparisons are meaningless anyway and yeah, yeah, we all have work to do. It's just that, I really don't have any memories of November that aren't just a smear of stress on the windscreen of life, usually involving me locked in a room for three consecutive weeks, drinking Cokes and sheperding commas into an MLA-approved pig-pen. Remembrance Day just doesn't take over the shopping malls like Halloween and Christmas do, and besides, I'm usually weighed down by my own petty concerns. Six hundred words, three hours, thirteen percent reduction of average... that other, personal kind of math. The only difference with the Master's is that now I'm marking papers and wow, at least it's reassuring that I don't write *that* bad anymore.

Bah, but that's all mechanics, and finally, finally, they don't care about mechanics as much anymore. I've sat through some mighty fine seminars in the past few months, and it's been great to deeply engage with the pulse of human thought as it appears and evolves through literature. Plus, Kingston has a lot of pubs. Really really nice pubs. And there's still nothing quite like tossing back a few (well, iced teas) deep into the night, swapping injury stories, brushes-with-celebrity stories, and oh-my-goodness-did-you-hear-the-one-about-that-professor stories. As bubbles go, I'm living in a vibrant one.

All of which means I'm really liking it here. Headspace and workspace and carapace (okay, I got nothing) are all hard to maintain, but the instability of everything makes it all seem more real. It's kind of fun being messed in the head all the time. I kind of enjoy coming back from class with a pounding headache, bustling through throngs of fellow students, sifting through a chaos of mental ideas. All I need is a cardigan sweater, poofy white hair, and an armful of rolled manuscripts, and you could call me Professor Penner.

None of which means you could get me to do a PhD in a million years (at least, not within the next seventeen months or so). I wasn't kidding about wanting my November back.

But my typically introverted school-mindset aside, life's been good. We passed our cleaning inspection with flying colours (remember the landlady?), the plant clipping I stole from the kitchen-eater back at Brighton is taking over our south-facing window, and a random smart-alec grocery comment in class led to a vast exodus of four in Gramps, with brief layovers in random parking-lots, back-streets, and an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet on the way to grocery heaven. Caution got thrown to the winds, and once again Christmas break is going to involve a Donny and a Vaughn and a car for several thousand western-facing kilometres, should Donny a) want to come and b) not have a thesis to hand in. I even managed to play some computer games last week (NetHack is possibly the most challenging, most addictive, and probably best RPG ever made), and pulled an all-nighter reading a novel that wasn't even on the course list, suggested or otherwise. Housemate Jonathon Bowman, who is contentedly no longer enrolled in this crazy Master's thing, keeps renting good movies that I have no choice but to be distracted by, and gosh-darn-it, who knew that Squash could be such a fun sport? Let's face it, as long as I don't think too much about the uncertain void of next year's plans, life's been pretty fun, straightforward, and full of interesting moments.

Of course, I miss Waterloo. And by Waterloo I mean poker, nintendo, bible studies, potlucks, movies, and all the people that go with them. And no, not in that order. Hopefully I'll have some time between my last paper and the next road trip to drop by and catch up with everyone sucked up by the vaccuum of Not-School. I'm like, two months behind on my emailing and six months behind on seeing people, but I'll do what I can. So don't worry: if you're still reading this, I'm glad that you haven't forgotten about me. I miss you all and will make it back to 110, 209, 60, and all those other glorious numbers sometime soon. For now, twenty-six papers to mark, an eight-pager to write, a seminar to prepare, and a half-price graduate student night at The Toucan to get to yet tonight. Adios!
In the library: thirteen books
grace my left, fourteen others
pile my right.
Eliot, if nothing else
you've taken up a lot of person hours.

The pressure builds in my head.

Line-broken thoughts
become a pressure-release valve:
      gaped jaws speak orange as engines heat spewing
      burnt steam, pen-charred papers blast a billowing
      gravel roar and dry pistons grind as--
the nib nicks various limbs and I have pen on my face.
I twitch, the table bucks, and suddenly my
academic stacks lean as
Eliot-thought teeters
at the edge of real life:
trapped in tiny, throbbing book-bodies,
hearts thumping at the five foot drop.

I leave them there.

It won't be I who decides their fate.

I cross the street, heading for home:
so much to unlearn,
so much Eliot.