Bettah blahg now…

…because I don’t know when I’ll next get the time and access.  My immediate next-few-days future is uncertain – more on that in a moment.

My class minus three people who went…somewhere?… at the end.

The PBI class finished tonight, and I can honestly say, it was a blast.  Crazily intense energy ruled over the whole shebang, not just in my class, but I went for a relatively self-motivated, individualized approach and so we were a wildly experimental, noisy, productive madhouse (which I admit is my favorite way to roll). I think everyone got something out of it, and that is good, and I know a number of people got a great deal, because they told me so.  And I knew way back in February and up until I got here that PBI would be kind of a trial by fire for me, because I had never been here before; indeed, there were some things that I didn’t learn about till today (that often, instructors can and will go back and teach at night, that I could pop into other classrooms if I wanted, things like that). Regardless, I enjoyed it immensely (in spite of a continuing, significantly lessened tolerance for sound; alas, it is decidedly time to visit the audiologist). I would be very pleased to do this again.  Paper and Book Intensive is indeed an appropriate title!

The classroom transformed from chaos to clean almost immediately at 4:30, and I had lots of volunteer help loading the car.  Tomorrow is a wrap-up day, with a show and tell session after breakfast (where I will properly document the work, I hope: the one drawback has been intense humidity which doesn’t aid the drying of paste. Many folks left with damp work,  to rig up drying weights in their rooms tonight).  Then, there’s an auction and a banquet in the evening, and beginning at 3 am on Thursday, everyone disperses to the four winds.

When I originally planned the trip, I had five days after the end of PBI plus two days driving time to get to Cleveland in time to prep for my next class at the Morgan (which Tom says is full).  I thought that would be the genuine vacation I’ve been craving, and I would wander around beautiful Maine a wee bit. Then a month ago I learned that I had to be back in Chicago for two days before I teach at the Morgan.  Fine:  I planned to drive from Maine to Cleveland, park my car, fly home for two days, fly back and then drive home after the class (and the Listening de-install).  After I got here, those dates became uncertain, and then they were re-confirmed yesterday morning…just enough frustrating waffling so that airfares are now prohibitively expensive. Grrr.  So now it looks like I’m driving back to Chicago…three days on the road. Even so, I thought at least I could have Thursday to wander by staying in the Machias motel that night, but now the weather report says rain all day.  Sigh.

Now I am triply glad that I snagged Velma and returned to the Jasper Beach with her on Sunday after dinner. It was a gorgeous day, she is lovely, fun, rich company…and I got a surprise, too: big islands in the bay that were completely hidden in fog during the last visit, even when the fog seemed to have lifted!  We got our feet caressed and toyed with by the Atlantic, collected smooth bindery weights and lovely small pieces of jasper, amassed lots of tiny sharp rocks in our shoes, laughed, talked, and watched a beautiful sunset.  Sadly, this may be all of Maine I get to have this time…I’m very glad I got to spend it with Velma!  And maybe I will go get lobstah for breakfast on Thursday…

DownEast, FullSpeed

I got so excited when I saw this view after driving driving driving in Maine rain, four hours of it; and then the Atlantic, the mist!  I still had a few hours to drive, but I felt much better about it (and the rain stopped, finally, so the windshield wipers weren’t hypnotizing me. It was a loooooong drive: up thru NY, across Massachusetts almost to Boston, then on up north through New Hampshire and Maine, nearly to Canada).

I spoke too soon about rain in the last blog – it never did at WSW, until right at the very end of the class, when there was a 15 minute deluge. Then some good downpours on Saturday. Instead, we got the full brunt of the heat wave, consecutive days of 105 degrees.  This was an extremely intent group of women, and they worked relentlessly, days and nights. They voted not to stop on the last day for things like looking at each others work or group shots.  It was just five days of work work work work work then – bang – we cleaned up the studio, and it was done.  We used lots of fiber, too.

At the end of the second day, with the reports of the coming heat, WSW moved the big stack dryer out to the porch, and moved in more work tables. Still, one woman, Amy, chose to work out on the porch table the entire time (so she’s not in these snapshots). I don’t know how she survived it; I was steam- cooking kozo outside right next to her every day, too. But she got a lot done and really liked what she did. I had a bit of a difficult time; the heat hit me hard.  But I managed to make these odd things as demos; no idea where they’re headed, but I am intrigued, and thinking about pursuing them:

So I stayed over on Saturday, ran a million errands, packed and loaded into the night, hit the road early Sunday and now, Machias and PBI at long last, after years and years of hearing great things about it. I’m still working in my spare time and being as social as I can with my ridiculous overbooking and ears that seem to have reached a new low in sound tolerance during the past week. PBI is definitely about connecting, in a fine way, and it’s a very lovely group of folks, so I hope to get these my extra things finished quickly.  I’m loving meeting new folks, many of whom I’ve known about or have had electronic communications with for years. Right now, though, I’m out of words, so here’s an interesting feature of Machias; the name means Little Bad Falls, so titled by the original inhabitants.  There is a broad, swift-looking but relatively calm river, that’s suddenly broken by a rock island into three jagged waterfalls that cannot be captured in one photo, and then it calmly re-assembles into a lower broad river again, and heads out to Machias Bay and the ocean, about four miles away. A busy bridge carrying all the traffic into town spans the rocky island and the falls, but there’s a little park with observation decks, a gazebo and a footbridge  over one set of falls just below.  The air smells of the sea and I love that.

West side o’ the big bridge, with kayakers pulling over to portage.

East side, with the park’s footbridge.

Looking back at the bridge into town, from the park deck…

…and to the east, from the footbridge.  Nice.

I love the stairs.  Around that bend, the river goes on a wee bit to the bay and the sea. I haven’t been there yet. I can’t wait. Oh!  And I finally met Velma in person, hooray!  And she shot the giant blueberry that I didn’t stop for on the way here!

…and quirks.

I’m not having the best of times right now; not terrible but not great either.  I’ll be on the road in one week, moving around for six weeks, and I’m way behind on what I need and want to have accomplished before I get in the car.  A large part of this is due to a lingering, very nasty cough left over from whatever hit me when returning from Cleveland that continues to deplete my energy.

But I am so pleased to say that Jeff Chiplis seems to be recovering like the champion he is.  I’ve been following along on Walking Thin Ice; Smith is covering everything thoroughly, and providing all the links to all the information; thank you, Smith.  I’m also checking Jeff’s CaringBridge site daily. It’s the second time I’ve experienced one of these.  They are absolutely great (Smith’s blog has the link).  And I really liked this from Smith: Jeff’s backstory written from a totally Cleveland viewpoint by cartoonist Derf (scroll down to ‘gunning down artists’ – though ‘RIP quicksand Jesus’ is pretty good too. I might have to start following this; have always liked his comics).  I was hoping to time my initial trip east to be able to stop and visit Jeff in the hospital, but if I can’t lose the cough, I won’t; I might be a very bad risk for him for infection at the moment.

This bit sums up how things are for me personally right now: I went out with friends on Tuesday night and had one too many excellent drinks, but got home decorously and safely in the wee hours; remembered to park on the other side of the street for street-cleaning, remembered to finish some little chores for the morning, went to bed, woke fine and refreshed, did the morning’s nitpicky work, then headed downtown for a long important meeting, remembering to collect and bring along all sorts of minutiae.  Got to the office, opened up my hearing aid case, and: It. Was. EMPTY!  So I spent three hours with my hands cupped behind my ears, reading lips, asking for multiple repeats, resorting to written notes when I just couldn’t get it, and feeling utterly stupid.  By the end, I was exhausted as if I’d been digging ditches with my fingernails for days.  Home and the hearing aids were on the passenger seat of my car, carefully wrapped in a bandana after leaving the bar. Sigh.

The reception for Listening (and Premiering Print Portfolios) is tonight; wish I could be there, even coughing and deaf.


10pm Friday finally ended weeks and weeks of all-out labor.  After the insanity of working with one big show, which delayed everything I needed to do for two of my own, I got to work. Had a schedule.  But, still: unbelievable random oddity inserted itself, like malfunctioning hearing aids and yet even more ill-willed crap and extra hours and hours spent dealing with both. Somehow, though, I reached a new level of patience, and a new hard cold level of determination, and pushed on through it all, though with very little sleep at the end. 

Yesterday was a huge THUD. Today is, incredibly, a sunny day I will spend un-neglecting my poor gardens, something I can hardly believe.  And the homestretch is finally here; just twelve more days.


Where I was last May and am, in spirit, now.

Links to shows: The Women’s Studio Workshop listing should read NEA Paper Residency, not (ha!) Ceramics, and I’m quoted in the Marking Time writeup (from my juror’s essay, also written while sleep-deprived).

…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

Austin Be Ausome


Austin is quite nice, and a lot of that is due to the gallery’s owner/ director.  I like her a lot, and I’m staying at her lovely house.  The Friday night event was much fun, even though I was quite fried. It was very well attended, and rather than being a panel discussion, the three of us artists who were in attendance spoke about our work and answered questions; and a printmaking expert and faculty/ administrator from UT spoke about the two artists who could not be here.  (And a few pieces of mine sold, always good).

It was, however, horrid for hearing; just awful, but deafness was a part of my talk (since all my work is ultimately related to my reality) and so, folk were pretty accommodating and understanding.  A great huge group of us then went upstairs to eat at a gigantic table in an even noisier restaurant. The person who sat next to me was also hard-of-hearing, and very nice, so we had a good time talking.  I could not, for the life of me, hear anyone else, even a very interesting artist who sat  directly across the table from me, who I wanted to talk with.  Oh well.

Yesterday, we went to the gallery and I shot the show and then worked on editing the slideshow images for the two talks at UT tomorrow; then Judy (my hostess) took me to see the wonderfully-named Slugfest, a beautifully-equipped printmaking/ bookbinding studio/ gallery cooperative.  I’d met some of the folks the night before.  They had fabulous and varied tools, plus two cats and a land tortoise, too. Nice.

Then Judy dropped me off in the UT campus area of Austin, and she went back to the gallery for an event, a group of opera supporters who were having a champagne tasting.  I went exploring in rather stupendous heat, then walked down to the gallery when the opera event was supposed to end; it ran over for another 90 minutes or so, though.  Then we went and had delicious barbequed brisket in a great funky place where everything was home-made, and Judy drove me to see The Bats*.  I’m obsessed with them.  But we got there too late, so she drove me around downtown Austin for a bit, pointing out various landmarks and sites, and then we stopped at another gallery, owned by a friend of hers, for the tail end of an opening.  Folk are very friendly here.

Today, we’re just hanging out (I’m glad, I need a little slowdown, and Judy has a lovely garden), and later we’ll go to Whole Foods (which originated here in Austin), put together a picnic, and go early to find a good spot to see The Bats.

Gallery Shoal Creek window

*There is a huge colony of bats that have adopted a bridge in downtown Austin as their seasonal cave.  They fly out from under it each evening at dusk, a la’ Carlsbad Caverns, and though it’s a tourist thing to do, I’ve just gotta see this.  I’m fascinated by most situations when nature takes over manmade things (with the possible exceptions of rats and cockroaches). 

Auf To Austin

Been a whirlwind week, with lots of chaos, discoveries, validations and realizations.  I’m way behind on my e-mail and I’m off to Austin momentarily; will speak in two classes at University of Texas on Monday and then fly back.  Here’s how I discovered what I’m doing tonight!  (I knew I was there for an event, but somehow thought it would just be the standard gallery schmooze. This is actually much, much better, in terms of hearing!)

Three hours of sleep last night, and a hope for three more on the plane.

Luggage, Politicians and an Alien

Day Seven Of The Missing Bag:

Calls to Virgin Atlantic’s U.S. baggage claim department in 6 days: 14 

Promised Delivery Dates: 3

Delivery date promises not kept: 3

Promises to return phone calls after looking up my bag’s status: 11

Phone calls actually returned: 1

E-Mails to Virgin Atlantic: 4

Unanswered e-mails to Virgin Atlantic: 4

Bags returned: 0

A very nice friend in Scotland read the Blahg and offered to call Virgin Atlantic for me from the UK. I decided instead to ask Paul to call from here.  Even though I knew it was inevitable that he’d get hot with these people, at least I’d have a chance to discover if I’ve been missing anything critical during all my calls. And, I’d have a respite from folks who have no idea how to interact with a deafened person, even when clearly told how to help.  (Believe me, I would NOT be calling if there were any other possible method of contact, but no one answers Virgin’s e-mail.  On their web site, they do list some kind of Deaf access, but only if you are inside the UK.)

At first they refused to give Paul any information because he was not me, even though he had all the info, claim numbers, etc. (so I imagine it would have gone worse for my friend in Scotland). He spent several minutes explaining that I had asked him to call because I can’t hear.

Then we went through several tedious minutes of this: Virgin Atlantic lady asks Paul a question.  He repeats it to me, and hands me the phone.  I answer, and then hand the phone back to him.  Each time he got the phone back, the woman would already be talking a mile a minute, and it took several more minutes simply to convince her to wait for a half-second while I handed him the phone.  Finally, she concluded that I had, indeed, asked Paul to call.

They talked for a long time.  At one point, I walked into the kitchen and caught this: “So, you are telling me that, in seven days, not one person in your company has been able to contact any other person from your own office in the third largest city in the United States?”  Pause.  “Well, could you tell me this: as a citizen of the world, wouldn’t you say that is a crappy way to do business?”  (Sure enough, a short while later, they got into it, and one of them hung up on the other).

I laughed, but right then I knew: hearing or not hearing doesn’t matter.  They have no idea where the bag is, and I doubt that they have ever had any idea where it is. I’ll keep calling and e-mailing, but after this, unless something spectacularly strange occurs, I’ll quit writing about it. I‘ll let you know if the bag comes back.

I sincerely hope it does, at some point.  I’m saddest about a couple of gifts from folks in Lewis, and about things I’d been bringing for folks here.  (And of course, the whisky).

The thing that makes me the angriest is this: if Virgin Atlantic had admitted to being part of the Deathrow baggage chaos in the first place, yes, I’d still have been upset. But I’d also have accepted my lot much earlier in the week, and gone about replacing the items I need for my next trip much less stressfully than it will now be, at the last minute.  Instead, I wasted my time waiting for “assured” deliveries that were pure fiction. Obviously, the people I’ve been talking to are low level, taking orders from higher up; some of the incomprehensible noise, Paul tells me, is due to the fact that they are responding to questions by reading a script. I can only conclude that they were simply told to tell wronged customers anything, including fictitious delivery dates, to appease us momentarily.

The Bag Episode is a microcosmic example of so many things I’ve gone through recently, and the root of things we’re all constantly going through, globally.

Why, why, why do corporations and politicians (both governmental and academic), at the first sign of a problem, immediately turn to The Lie? 

Do they actually believe that what they’re trying to gloss over will never be revealed, that lies will not eventually be seen? 

Why is the honest admission of a mistake seen as revealing a weakness, as something to hide? 

Why is the “solution” inevitably something that makes a bad situation worse?  

These are things I have never and will never understand.  Which just goes to show you, I probably am an alien, and an old, still hopelessly naive one at that.  



Do NOT fly Virgin Atlantic, addendum

So, I post the last blog, then go out to dinner with a friend.  She tells me the horrendous Heathrow Terminal Five story, which I had not read while in Scotland…Deathrow has just sent several thousand missing bags from its new terminal 5 to Italy to be sorted.  We wonder why they didn’t just bring the Italian sorters to Deathrow.  I try to remember which terminal I flew into, but can’t.  I had only had three hours of sleep when I began the journey.  All I can remember is being jolted around in a crammed bus, deep in the underbelly of Deathrow, to get from one terminal to the next, intensely craving coffee.  Thankfully, my friend and I move on to many more subjects, most of them pleasanter.

My cell phone never rings all evening.

At 1am, Chicago time, I think, aha!  Maybe no one at Virgin Atlantic has returned my calls because of the time difference.  Maybe I’ve just been dealing with an incompetent night shift these past six days. Hope springs eternal. I call.  A man with the most incomprehensible accent yet answers.  I tell him I’m deaf and ask him to speak slower and he has to repeat what he’s said (he doesn’t slow down at all) five times before I catch a word.  The word is: Chicago.  

I ask, “Was the bag sent to Chicago?”  He unleashes a flood of sound, none of which I understand. I say, “As I said, I’m deaf.  Can you please just answer yes or no, was the bag sent to Chicago?” Another flood of sound.  “Stop!”  I say.  I say again, “I’m deaf and I can’t understand you. I need you to answer by simply saying Yes or No.” He spews forth yet another barrage of words, of noise.  “NO!  Stop!  Please…answer…with…one…word.  Was…the…bag…sent…to…Chicago, Yes..or…No?”  And he simply yammers on yet again.  

I give up.  For tonight.