Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fresh Ink

Writer's block. Lackluster. Uninspired. Listless. Insipid. Crestfallen.

The Rime of the Modern Mariner is thirsting for nourishment. My inspiration is sterile. My writing is fruitless. Growing conditions seem fine at first- I begin to plant a seed. But then I get disenchanted. I never do anything to nourish the roots. My friends, I'm afraid the day has come. It is the very day the music died. Drove my chevy to the levee. But....{you know the rest}.....the levy was dry....

It would be unfair to blame my lackluster imagination and writer's block on Carolina (nothing can be finer than Carolina in the mo-o-orning, don't you know?) No, that wouldn't be fair. New York lends itself to poetry and stimulation every single solitary day, the city was my muse, but so was South Africa and so was Spain and so was Thailand and so was Guatemala. Geography has nothing to do with it. It's really just.... me.

So now that I am done beating myself up, and nursing my proverbial black eye, I am just making things up as I go for the sake of resurrecting my written word. This is the part where my blog is supposed to come to some sort of climactic crescendo. Did you ever listen to "Rock Me" by Great White? Well I can't stop listening to it lately. There is this release in the song. Where every lyric, every beat, every acoustic stroke leads up to this....this...this magic. This upsurge. This power.

I think my blog used to do that.

So I suppose I could write these languid stories of the past month:
* My trip to Wilmington with my friend Douglas. Pretty little seaside town. Front Street Microbrewery with the $1.99 Oatmeal stout. Ghost tour with kitschy guide dressed in a weird costume.
* My trip to Houston to visit my friend JoAnn and go to her Flight Attendant Halloween party with her. Meeting sweet Michelle, her other BFF who flies out of Newark. Drinking wine. Laughing.
* My trip back to New York to get dental work done. Spending Halloween weekend sauntering around the Village. Poking my head into little shops and drinking coffee. Having bloody mary's and mimosas for the weekend brunches that I miss so much. Dinner with friends on the Upper East Side. The actual dental procedure (which took TWO days- left side of my mouth Monday, right side on Tuesday). Lots of Novocaine, some bloody gums, and plenty of drool for the day. (And absolutely no vicodin, unfortunately.)
* My upcoming trip to Ohio this weekend for my sister-in-laws baby shower. Seeing my family, visiting some old friends from college.

Patchy fragments in my head. There just aren't stories yet.

When will there be stories? Poor Douglas, my sweet sweet friend must be the absolute most patient friend in the world. I call him and tell him my stories. My grandiose ideas. My plans. My goals. And I whine about writer's block, about the south, about what I wish I were doing instead of....this. He listens. And he also picks me up from the airport in my car, which he has filled with gas. My lord, I don't think anyone has done anything so sweet for me in my entire life. When I came back home from trips before, I would stand on a cold gray train platform at Newark Liberty Airport. Wait for a train that took 50 minutes to come after 11 PM. A crowded train without any seats or smiling faces. Just a one-way trip to the gritty Penn Station where I catch another train, even more crowded than the last. But there Doug was at RDU waiting just for me, with a warm car, right at curbside. And a tank full of gas. I have spent yeaaars flying into lonely LaGuardia or Newark at midnight or overwhelming Kennedy, and taking public transportation back into the city, during the wee hours of the night when all the weirdos shared the ride with me. Drugged up junkies, needles falling out of their pockets, exposing themselves and begging me for money. (But I still miss it like crazy.)

In my mind, I paint a picture. It is framed by the Manhattan skyline. In the painting, it depicts me picking up my life as I knew it in New York. Me and Kitty. Perhaps throw Douglas into that picture, but unfortunately Doug is staying put right here in North Carolina and has no intention of ever going to the northeast again. (At one point Doug lived in Hoboken, just across the water from me, but he doesn't miss it so much.)

I am indeed going back. I will stay here for awhile and work here in NC, as I have made a commitment to stay and build a department at my job. I've got some awesome opportunities on the horizon; things that I have never dreamed of doing in my career like partnering with a development company to build a new student residence facility. I am learning so much and so grateful for the opportunity. But this will not be my permanent home. The south leaves me impatient and longing for more. I miss my friends. I miss the hustle and bustle of the city. I miss the restaurants and the pubs and the convenience of everything just around the corner. I miss the cobblestone streets downtown. I miss the diversity. I miss bloody mary's and mimosas at brunch.

I don't enjoy the strip malls and chain restaurants and the cookie-cutter looking buildings of *this* place. What I do love are the challenges and the eye-opening quirks of my job. I have students who reveal shocking sentiments when they meet with me. Things like "Black people always cause problems." or "People from other countries are stupid." Students' parents call me and complain about their son's roommate and surely their son can't be the one doing anything wrong because they are Christians! That seems to be the stock reason that students and their parents give when they are trying to justify why they are exempt from all wrong-doing. Frankly, I don't see how that is relevant to their behavior. Oh- and the best: "I can't live with a gay roommate because I am a Christian." I cringe. I bite my lip. And then I think of the irony of it all. If I get angry and think of the student as stupid, then doesn't that make me just as judgmental as that student?? So that leaves me another option: I try to be developmental with them (as opposed to taking them by the shoulder and shaking their dimwitted, uncultured little souls as hard as possible), and I recognize that perhaps they just need more time to develop and to learn and to accept and to understand the way the world works.

The xenophobic, racist, and homophobic attitudes indeed stun me. But it is helping me to reach all sorts of new levels and methods for providing enlightenment and sharing stories to aid them in learning. I recognize I can't change the way they think, but I also understand college student development theory and recognize that students in these early vectors of development will mature and progress to a higher level of thinking.

I knew it was the south. I knew it was the bible belt. But I thought that the "Research Triangle" area would be a little bit more progressive. So my time in the south will be good research for me as well. Look, the northeast part of Ohio wasn't the be-all, end-all for cultural nor ethnic diversity, but I went to college in a fairly diverse area. And then I left. So that I could learn. Which I did. I lived most of my adult life in THE mecca of cultural, racial, sexual orientation, and religious multiplicity. So it is good for me to be exposed to a part of the country that is different from that. It is doing wonders for my own personal and professional development and understanding.

Aside from being developmental, I also enjoy being a wise-ass with students who make ignorant remarks. With a straight face, my response to these folks is usually that I am gay, Jewish, Chinese and black (sometimes I throw in paraplegic for good measure) so as a person of ethnic, religious, and racial minority their reasoning is clearly lost on me.

Conversely, my sarcasm is lost on them.

....whew.....This blog is becoming quite deep for being uninspired. Perhaps there was a lot on my mind, after all. And also for the record- not allllll students in NC have attitudes and thought-patterns like the one described above. In fact, many are very bright and well-enlightened. Only a few behave as I described. And those are the ones who stand out. And who give me material for blogs.

3 comments:

Dara said...

I'm glad that you're finally sharing your Jewish/Chinese/Black side with others...I was tired of keeping it a secret.

wee said...

love you.

Greg said...

Kinda sounds like as your physical environment simplifies, you're looking inward for inspiration. Nothing wrong with that! And it sounds like you're processing cultural changes/differences with class -- more than many of us could say, I'm sure.

Keep your chin up!