Saturnalia, with Trees



The day before Thanksgiving, the City of Chicago came by and plunked two young trees in front of our house, curbside.  When we moved here, there was a single great big old maple in front that annihilated Angus, my old car, in April of 2006.  They chopped the whole thing down about a month later, and it took this long for them to get around to replacing it.  The new trees are Thornless Cockspur Hawthornes.  I looked them up; they will be covered with lovely white flowers in spring, which are described as “malodorous,” “unpleasantly scented,” and just plain “stinky”, and in fall, they will produce clusters of beautiful purple berries which will then drop all over our current cars.


There’s some metaphor there for my current life, in problematic beauty, but I don’t want to reach too hard to find it.  My astrology friend says that I am in “pre-Saturn-return” and that my life will continue on in upheaval and uncertainty through 2012.  Cheerful news. Maybe I should stop blogging till then (if there is a then then).


Here’s an amusing link thanks to Sara A via Facebook.  The scary thing is that I remember reading the book “Junior Miss” in my junior high library; though I don’t remember the content at all, I do remember this very cover illustration. It was what girls my age were supposed to aspire to. I imagine she Got The Boy due to her sterling and innocent character, which was also the be-all and end-all of our ideal futures.

Th-that’s all, folks.  I am resting up, doing some work, and trying not to dread most of the next two weeks. Or the next four years, for that matter. Onward.




4:09 pm

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh…mercifully, there’s no faculty meeting today, so I began five entire days off, late last night.  There’s work to do, yes, loads of it, but it’s my work, for my future, on my time. Tomorrow, I will willingly journey to the suburbs for the annual Triptophan Fest with Paul’s family.


7:22 pm

This semester’s just…been…killing me (again, with the exception of my time with students, and a few other folks…you know who you are, I hope; I thank you so much for helping me through it).


7:28 pm

But, finally, I have come up with A Plan, or at least a plan on how to make a plan.

And that feels very, very good.



On an odd note, I joined Facebook two days ago, specifically to be able to become a member of a group that I think is very important.  The surprise is that I like it, in general, though I have to guard against it becoming (as one friend concisely put it) a timesuck. My only previous exposure to ‘social networking’ was looking at a couple of friends’ pages on MySpace, and being totally repelled by it; hence the surprise.  I also finally joined LinkedIn, though I haven’t had time yet to compile my profile…


8:19 pm

Wishing you all good days, good company and good eating tomorrow, whether you do the US Thanksgiving thang or not..

Things, Things and More Things


I’ve been in my office at UnNamed College for just about ten years.  It’s packed to the ceiling with teaching materials: literally thousands of teaching handouts I’ve created over the years, book samples of all kinds, small demo paper sculptures and samples, plaster molds and other armature materials, materials and tools for bookmaking demonstrations, and reference books; as well as artwork and gifts from generations of students, visiting artists and colleagues who are now mostly long-gone.

Now, all faculty offices are being moved to a bright shiny new stable of much smaller enclosures, in a building down the street.  I’ve got to sort through everything, and divide it into:

(1) Things that go to the new office (not much, since I don’t actually teach in that building).

(2) Things that I will need to teach my spring classes; for those I will have a shelf and a filing cabinet drawer in an space in the building where my current office is, where I do teach. This, and a single computer, will be shared by all faculty. None of us will have a private on-site space. Oh, and I’ll have a personal flat file drawer in one of the studios.

(3) Things that need to come home with me because they will be useful for future endeavors, or because they have other value to me (like the art), plus furniture and lamps and other things I brought in originally, when the school didn’t buy such things for the non-tenured.

(4) Materials and tools that belong to the school that have always been kept in my office.

(5 and 6) Things to give away and Things to throw away.

Add a seventh task: making space in my home office, bindery or storage for what will come home, before it arrives.  The deadlines?  December 15th for the move to the new office, and I’ve promised to be out of the old one by the 19th.  My final class is on December 12. It is the sorting, not the actual moving, that will take up monumental amounts of time, and that needs to be done during the last two weeks of the semester.

So, in addition to the usual insanity of the end of the semester, holiday-type obligations, 1000 letters of reference to write and a huge mountain of application deadlines, I’ve got this move.  But, I don’t know how to effectively help people learn to make and/or manipulate Things without Things to show, and I probably wouldn’t be teaching such Things if I didn’t make Things myself, and it takes a lot of Things to make my Things…


…Of A Lesser Goddess?


  1. I read an article on the impossibility of enforcing Affirmative Action in academic enrollment. Even if racial or cultural questions are not legally permitted to be asked, admissions officers can assume a great deal simply by the applicant’s name, home address, high school demographic, parents’ colleges (or lack thereof), extracurricular memberships, and so on. Therefore, impartiality is essentially a myth.  Since it’s the academic job hunt season, when I need to decide at what point in the process I will reveal my deafness, the similar difficulties in enforcing ADA* laws (and in attempting to conceal a ‘disability’ until I’ve had a chance to demonstrate what I can actually do) immediately struck me.  You can’t legislate equity if people in power don’t actively, genuinely want it.  The only thing these laws can do is to give some recourse in situations where discrimination is utterly blatant and ironclad, with witnesses, and such situations are depressingly easy to sidestep.
  2. I had yet another e-mail snafu this week.  E-mail (or text messaging) is my phone, my primary mode of communication.  I had intended to write a strong argument, to build a case.  The response, as it so often is, was that my message was ‘angry’.  Hearing people want to communicate in the only way that’s comfortable for them, by voice, so they can make judgments on, or be reassured by, tone and inflection. (A huge part of one faculty job interview I had last year was not a discussion of my accomplishments or abilities, but focused instead on the fact that it was so frustrating for ‘them’ to communicate with me.  I was told, “I never can tell what you’re thinking!”  What I was thinking, at least during that ordeal, was “Hey! Read…My…Words.”) I used to think that e-mail was the great equalizer, that it leveled the playing field.  Not so, in a hearing world.  (And, I have found that many educators, like doctors who make terrible patients, often refuse to be educated.)
  3. My ‘el novel’ this week (I devour one or two a week while commuting) is “Talk Talk”, the first thing I’ve ever read by T. Coraghessan Boyle.  It’s about a deaf woman who becomes a victim of identity theft.  Boyle writes painfully accurate descriptions of a voice that isn’t heard by the speaker herself: “…voice like an electric drill…even hollower and more startling than usual…toneless…chopped and elided syllables…”  You get the idea (and I’m only on page 117).  I can’t really hear my voice. I feel it in my throat and skull.  I’m often asked where I’m from, or what my accent is.  A close friend recently told me, apologetically, that my voice gets sloppy, slurry and ‘low-class’ at times (which made me cringe).  Another friend, a deafened Ph.D. and ADA advocate, constantly recommends speech therapy as our hearing lessens. In an article she wrote last summer, she stated that this is necessary because hearing people most often interpret our voices as projecting either lack of interest in what’s being said, or as…anger.  So, even if I could hear on a phone, I’d be damned if I could, and am damned cuz I can’t. (Add in perplexed, frustrated facial expressions as I try to simultaneously lip-read five or six people who routinely insist on all talking at once, and I’m doubly damned).
  4. As I talk (or e-mail) with far-flung friends about my determination to improve my circumstances, I have heard (or read) several times, “Just be glad you have a job, any job, in these times!”  Sadly, that advice has come exclusively from deafened friends.  The unspoken message here is: we are ‘lesser’…we should settle, be content, never strive or take risks, because we are broken. 

That, I just cannot accept.   I would rather live in constant battle than stagnate in such a fearful, closed existence.  To do that would make me as angry as so many people already think I am.

*Americans with Disabilities Act

It Begins


Yes.  That is snow.  That is snow shot against the street light in our alley, and it’s that dark at 5:30 pm.  But, I did get some full-spectrum lightbulbs, thanks to the sage advice of a writer friend in the Pacific Northwest (where, another friend who lives there said, the streetlights came on at 2:30 in the afternoon this week), and they actually do seem to help.  I’m feeling better, and the snow looked quite beautiful coming down (even if the photo doesn’t). Now I’ll work on the puppy and the winning lottery ticket and the whisky, not necessarily in that order.

Well, my friends aren’t pathetic…


…even if I’m feeling that I am.  My life has degenerated into the late-semester drudgery of not owning any of my own time.  Except (as always) when I’m directly involved with students, I’m either stuck in retrograde or busting my butt on trying to discover a hidden pathway to an unforeseeable future. Meanwhile, my present slides by, virtually unnoticed.

My ‘high points’ have become things like taking down the show in Evanston yesterday, and in so doing, getting to take Lake Shore Drive in to work from there, instead of I-90.  My simple pleasure in the change of view quickly smacked me in the face, as I realized just how freakin’ pathetic that was.  Hell, last week, it was playing with a cute puppy who visited work…I’m just grasping at anything outside the grinding, relentless, stagnant routine.


So, it’s good to get news from Friends Who Have Lives; it’s even better when good people get the recognition they deserve.  Rich Orloff’s off-off Broadway play has been getting rave reviews during its short initial run.  Funny As A Crutch is actually nine short plays about disability, and the five actor cast, who play multiple roles, are all talented disabled folk.

Here are some of those reviews: The NY Times, Back Stage, and my favorite at

Rich’s decision to write these plays may explain why, in all the residencies I’ve had over the years, he is the one and only playwright (or screenwriter or librettist) who has ever asked me to participate in a reading of one of his works.  I loved doing it, and that play was so offbeat, poignant and kick-ass funny that if I were anywhere near Manhattan, I’d be in this audience in a heartbeat. If you’re there, go!  But do it quickly; the play closes on November 23.

And, Doug Stapleton got a lovely review in F magazine for The Leaf and the Page.  It’s rare for curators to get reviewed (unless they’re getting trashed) instead of the individual artworks, so this much-deserved bit of recognition is especially appreciated by this ‘curatee’.  

Even I got an unexpected mention in a recent article about the Jaffe Collection, which I suppose isn’t bad when the collection contains 12,000 books.  It was very nice, but not enough to shake me out of my current funk.  Maybe I need to check into getting a full-spectrum lamp, a new bottle of aged single malt, my own new puppy, a winning lottery ticket, or maybe an effective kick in the butt…but that can only come from someone who I don’t want to kick first.



Hypothetical Hmmm…


My last election-related observation (I think) is to marvel at people who profess themselves to be quite progressive by virtue of having supported Obama, but who, in daily practice, regularly employ the techniques of all that is most despicable in the same old, same old:  cronyism, disappearances, secret dealings, outright lies, scare tactics, covert maneuvering to push personal profitable agendas. 

Ah, well.  Such is hubris, and hubris comes far too quickly to political connivers large and small, and even more easily to their hangers-on. The only comfort in that is that eventually and inevitably, nemesis arrives as well.


In the meantime, my wee world is back to waiting for The Word on several hopeful irons I’ve got in the currently sputtering, smoky economic fire.  Friday, I got e-mail from a place I’d sort-of taken for granted for a short winter break residency; now it appears that that assumption was my bad (or perhaps my own form of hubris?).  The economy has also forced changes on their part which may make those plans far less feasible for me now.  Could be that I will actually stay home, and undertake one of the improvement projects on the house that I’ve had on the back burner for, oh, several years…and try to make my tiny cold basement studio work for me as well.

There are five weeks left in the semester, including the short Thanksgiving week…far too late to apply for any alternative winter break situations.


California Contradiction


 When I wrote the last post on election night, I did not know of  California’s passing of proposition 8. It’s so ironic that the state whose  electoral votes put Obama’s presidency into certainty, simultaneously  voted in favor of open discrimination and inequality. 

 “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place  where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our  founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our  democracy, tonight is your answer…

 It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and  Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight,  disabled and not disabled*…” – from Obama’s speech 11/4/08



(*I like to title this last group the temporarily abled).



I’m still in shock.  No recounts, no voter fraud, no days of waiting. A clear and swift victory; and, yes: hope.  And I am actually, for the first time in a very, very long time, proud of this country tonight.


The Obama election night rally was held a very brief walk from where I work.  I took a few minutes between my class and a faculty/ staff meeting to check things out, watching the news crews and secret servicemen and the hundreds of extra police. But since I wasn’t a ticket holder, and it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near the rally (and can’t hear), I reluctantly decided I’d need to go home and resort to television (with captioning). All classes that began after 3pm were canceled, and the school’s buildings were locked down promptly at 6. I hung around for a good while, though, in the dark, mild evening, watching the crowds pour in, and just feeling the palpable, crackling energy of possibility, and of history being made.


obamartinis2  video1