Ode to Persephone: A Post about the Families We Make

Persephone had a rough day yesterday.

First: no single person, man, queer, woman, etc likes to go to parties alone, especially a birthday party for a 1 year old child in which everyone is practically coupled up. As we hurtle inelegantly toward 40, we wonder: what is wrong (or right) about us that makes us single? Is it wrong to want something like a partner? And is it too late to make a family, at least of the bio kind?

Second: Persephone’s boss is a true blue shitbag who deserves a place in a special circle of hell. At every turn, he’s there to stymie Persephone, actively putting up resistance to any form of support for her. It’s tiring. Persephone deserves a break; she shouldn’t have to fight for every damn thing. Even the plants (the bougainvillea) fight, so come on.

I tell Persephone sometimes that we need something a break big time… something that will lift us up, but nothing ever seems in sight. We wonder how long the fight will last; I want to have the right words to tell Persephone, but she calls a spade a spade: we are so powerless. What can we do? All I can offer is a humble desert home and hope she will feel comfortable enough to return in any state under any condition knowing that there is a meal and a place for her here if she wants it. All I know is that Persephone has done and will continue to do great things; I continue to hope that Persephone will find strength to believe in her intellect and her follow-through, that there still exists possibility and wonder in her career, in her romantic life, and in the next phases of what I know will be a rich, rewarding, and fulfilling life.

Re-Entry Blues

Back from the Bay Area Trip.

Lost two games (first 6-2; I sprayed so many UFEs; the next 7-5)… the best play I saved for last with Ella 4.5. We won 6-4. Man we were on; very few errors; we hit some clean winners and difficult shots left and right. Ella was particularly impressive in the return of service game against a really difficult server. He’s quite inspirational that way. Whenever I play with him, I feel no stress. He always feels pressure I think to win no matter what, but he found a way to relax and swing. It was really awesome, but then tragedy struck: after we got off the court, one of our good friends, the Doc, lost his footing, landed on his arm/elbow, fractured part of the arm AND dislocated it, an injury so severe that the doctor in the ER asked: were you in a car accident? The whole incident was traumatic for everyone to say the least. He’s going to be okay, but the healing process will be long and The Doc said he’s not sure he’ll be back on the court anytime soon, which is really difficult to hear.

Some highlights from the trip:

1.) The day after the arm incident, Ella 4.5 hosted and the Doc, Mochi, Catlover, and myself were hanging out. I think I suck at playing the guitar. I’m just self taught. Well it didn’t matter. Catlover had brought his guitar from his classes and I eventually took over and we sang a shitload of songs and it was good, a way to get the mind off of stress and pain, I hope.

2.) Hanging with Ella 4.5 reminds me that I have friends back in the Bay, but to add some wonderful things about this trip in particular is that I had Persephone on the Inland Empire side to pick me up. It’s maybe the first time in ten or more years that I have had rides on both sides of the airport: true blue extended family members who are willing to drive the distance for you. I feel lucky to have anyone not get tired of me right away, so thank you.

3.) Re-entry = that feeling you get when you’re back from vacation, back from a place you like a lot and wish you could stay a lot longer. It’s always hard to come back here, where it’s hot and dusty and where I feel like I’ve been exiled against my power. I know I’m lucky: I still have a job, I still get paid, I still can put food on the table, but.. there’s still so much more I want. The yogis who teach me say to “let it go,” but striving is my way of improving my life. It’s really what my family taught me: don’t take less than what you deserve because you can achieve if you put effort; you can even surprise yourself if you are really committed. My father, though being such a hardass, will always have the luxury of being able to say that he instilled a kind of work ethic into his children that will have made them survivors. That’s no small feat.

Calling out into the Darkness

I really miss the heyday of blogging. It seems to have come and gone so quickly. In any case, I’m sitting at the airport. Usually, this time is very productive for me, as I can sit and just catch up on things, but I’m so stuck on this revision that I haven’t been able to do any hard core thinking, but here are some things I’ve been thinking about, struggling with, etc..

1.) I have a revision due for American Literary History by the ending of this month; I think I have a legitimate shot at getting this piece through, but the revision suggestions I got were not actually that useful after all is “read” and done. Now I’m not sure what to do: I guess I can try to place the article elsewhere, but… it seems like such a waste of my time you know, having done all of this reading and extra analysis on the novel (totally 8 pages at this point).

2.) I’m heading up to the Bay to complete one last meeting with a graduate student, play a lot of tennis (many games on Sunday), then also get braces tightened. A micropin came loose in my mouth, so my brace tightening this time around is going to be lengthier and more painful.

3.) My flight was delayed about 2.5 hours, which sucks. They didn’t notify of the delay until 3 p.m. about 20 minutes AFTER I had already left for the airport; gotta love airline service like that…


Hitting the Benchmark

One of the things I’ve always struggled with in this job is the “benchmark.” How much am I supposed to produce in a single day?  What is normal? What isn’t? When have I slacked?  Sometimes it’s just hard to tell. I’ve been reading a lot animal studies and then this amazing book on barbed wire:

This book just really kills it, reading the history of barbed wire in the expansion of the American West, its use in wars (Boer and WW1) in particular and its perfect symmetry with the machine gun (the economy of death production), and then its use in internment and concentration camps. The invention of barbed wire was perfect for biopolitics and necropolitics: it helped regulate life through its containment of cattle, while also helped produce death through its ability to impede motion on the battlefield, thus giving any enemy time to prepare if there was an offensive occurring. Barbed wire was lightweight, easy to produce, thus highly economical and perfect for capitalist profitmakers.

But, on other things:

1.) I’m reunited with Persephone today, which will be joyous. Our time will be shortlived as I head up to the Bay to hit with Ella 4.5 on Saturday + brace tightening duties. On Sunday, we’ll play some games. I’m sort of NOT looking forward to the games because I’m just not match steady. I got some new strings; the tennis racket I’ve been using mostly is an open pattern, which means you generate more power, but you also break more strings.

2.) When I get back from this next trip, I’m going to try to structure my days a bit better, make myself get out of the house and into my office on campus (where it will be cooler).

3.) This summer has been a real challenge; I keep thinking back to my first summer in the Bay Area. It was really hot that summer; I didn’t get out much except to work. I didn’t have a social life really, but I started running again then. It’s funny how life sort of works in chunks. I hadn’t run that regularly because my knee had been bothering me, but that the first summer that the knee issue started to really get better. That summer was the first really that I started to get fit in a way that defined the rest of my time there. It is really easy to get fit in the bay area: the weather permits most activities and everyone likes to eat healthy. The challenge in Riverside is mostly the opposite: the weather DOES not permit much working out outside and the emphasis on nutrition is obviously not quite the same. I realize that to adapt here, my goals and approach have to shift. The one thing that’s bothering me is not finding a studio I like: the thing about Yoga Belly up in the Bay Area was that there were a LOT of great instructors, so you could get different styles of teaching. I’ve noticed in Riverside that the same teachers teach the same days at the same times; if you go at noon, for instance, you’re always going to get the same instructor.

I can’t do basic binds that I used to be able to anymore because I don’t go to yoga regularly and that realization is a bit jarring.

Blogging must be dead and Other Things To Ponder

Thoughts and issues from the last couple of days:

1.) I went back to an Eastern grip on my tennis forehand today because of the hand pain. I don’t care what that coach says right now: I’d rather play without pain and suck than be awesome and play with pain. I had a lot of fun today at my lesson. I was hitting well; didn’t miss volleys or overheads and got on the “king” side of the court a bunch of times.

2.) I’ve gained some weight due to lack of cardio exercise, but I don’t really know what to do about it. I don’t like all this excess stomach fat, but you know… my family has always been a little bit stout. Maybe I’m just owning up to my genetics instead of feeling like I have to constantly fight it… In any case, the excess weight isn’t really a problem. After all, it’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone; not that anyone would ever be impressed in any case.

3.) I’ve finished watching this show called In Treatment:

Basically I love this show because it’s a bunch of people getting psychoanalyzed. Psychoanalysis is this interesting way of thinking about life by making it far more than what’s surface level. I think most of it is a bunch of hooey half the time, but what’s intriguing to me on the show is the antagonistic nature of analysis in general. The psychotherapists seem to push on the buttons of their patients as a way to “get through” to them. I know that if I were in therapy and having to deal with a therapist like that, I’d get fucking pissed and never come back LOL. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that the therapists on the show really want to push their patients… I guess it’s good in a way because it makes it so that you either really have to stand your ground or consider the possibility that someone other than yourself has a better view of you than you do. Either way, it requires a lot of deep thought.

4.) I tried reading this really difficult book today. It’s on the topic of posthumanism, a term that I think is overused in general right now. I read really diligently for over two hours and have no idea what the fuck the argument was for many of the chapters. I have to read this book because it’s part of what was requested of me for a revise and resubmit.

5.) Received ANOTHER revise and resubmit. There are so many ways that revise and resubmits should just NOT be used in academia or in peer reviewed journals. It’s a bullshit way of extending the publication timeline without giving the author a sense that they can be groomed to write a paper that can be published. Why not just ACCEPT the damn article and push for revisions that you think they can do over the course of a given amount of time? It’s just bullshit. Utter bullshit. I’m tired of the revise and resubmit; it needs to ELIMINATED> Reject me or accept me but don’t put me in fucking limbo. Academia is bad enough already.

Just Venting

So, another rough week. Here are some highlights and issues:

1.) Developing tendonitis in the gripping palm of tennis hand: this issue is a direct result of a change in grip that I was told to try. I’m taking off of tennis for four days, which is a monumental amount of time. I’m sad and annoyed.

2.) My lower back has been killing me, even though I’ve been pretty good about yoga. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I’ve been doing all the things I normally do to help it out and nothing is working.

3.) I have an atypical mole/ dark spot that I need to get checked out… I hate that shit; it stresses me out, you know? I’m sure it’s nothing, but still…  with my luck.

4.) I haven’t run in 3 weeks. Today around sunset I’m going to aim to do a 2 or 3 mile slow jog; I’m going to try to re-integrate short jogs into my day because the summer is a tough slog, sometimes, just structuring the day to get the most out of it.

The Crazy Week in Review

1.) Allergic reaction to something I ate: throat swelling, rash, lethargy, stomach pain, nausea. Lays me out for a full day afterword.

2.) Skip out on family July 4th BBQ: in my defense, I was still feeling tired due to #1, but I also have been feeling depressed in general. Family stuff can make me feel like the black sheep. Old, sad, and alone LOL. Mom packs me home with more fruit than one person can eat. Maybe she’s hoping that I’m not really alone. Well, too bad.

3.) Tennis stuff: I won a social doubles game with a random pairing. I held serve all three times I was up AND I hit a number of backhand winners down the line. Person at the gym who goes to my tennis classes who has a wicked fast forehand asks me if I’m going to do more tournaments this summer. He can’t believe I only hit for fun and have no USTA rating. Best moment in my week.

4.) Two exes contact me within the space of two weeks, one of whom I haven’t heard from in about four years.

5.) I met up for the second time with the Baker. Still not sure where that is going, but making out is a good thing.

6.) Still working on the fucking tenure file. It’s like bad fungal infection that won’t go away.

On Writing on Critical Writing

This morning I figured I would write about something that I’ve been having trouble with: any production of new research or writing.

I’m working on a big revision of the second book for a couple of reasons:

#1: Gays can get married. This change actually influences my argument a lot because part of my claim was about the “impossibility” of the marriage plot, which is just untrue.

#2: I have made a major revision to my book, which requires me to include a huge theory chapter up front. This is the kind of book chapter/ research chunk I’ve never really done before because I sort of find it monotonous and unwieldy. I’m struggling with all the moving parts; it sort of feels like I’m creating something out of a patchwork. The narrative doesn’t become clear until later on… then you have to go back and do some crazy revision.

I know I can do it; I just have to do it.

So much to catch up on… but so little desire to write…

I’ve been trying to get the place ready for Persephone’s visit, but in the meantime, the biggest things that happened in the last week:

1.) Hanging out with Ella 4.5: We have been weathering a minor social crisis related to tennis that has spiraled into something of a drama. Suffice it to say that I had an amazing time in the Bay Area, playing tennis with him. We did not manage to win our games, but I realize how I need to improve: more aggressive net play. I also discovered I was playing some tennis on a broken frame. The sad part was the set we got to tiebreak was with the broken frame racket. Ella 4.5 is a true blue friend, and I expect many further adventures in life with him! =)

2.) A pipe burst to my toilet. It flooded into my bedroom. It sucked. I had to use every available blanket and towel to create a “wall” to soak up water, as I bailed out 3 inches of wetness from the flood and into the shower. Apparently, the valve was screwed onto tight on the last pipe connector AND the water valve to shut off water to the toilet was broken.

3.) I finished my classes and grading. Not enough resources for these students. Where does all that tuition money go? I’d take a 25% reduction in pay if the administrators would follow suit, so we could have smaller class sizes and more TAs. In. A. Heartbeat.

4.) I read a book that is perhaps one of the best books I have read in my entire life. I am gutted. I will probably not be able to read this book again. It’s called A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. The frustration is that I can’t talk to anyone about it really because no one has read it. Did I say I’m gutted?

I was trying to tell Persephone about what it was that gutted me so much. I fell in love with these characters. One, in particular, I wanted him to win; I wanted him to heal; I wanted him to find love again; I wanted him to be a phoenix constantly rising from the ashes, but he had risen so many times. How many times can a being be called to stand up again. This question is the one Yanagihara is grappling with: I would have wanted the novel to say that the capacity for resilience is endless, but such an axiom is simply untrue. We’re mortal. We break. And then we break again. Parts of the body that break are often more liable to injury because the scar tissue is simply not as strong there anymore.

And of course the thing of it all is: such characters are fictional, yet sometimes I realize I feel more for these imagined beings than I do for the person driving in the car next to me, who cuts me off. It’s a strange state of affairs, our lives, this place, the way we can be taught to feel or to unfeel.

To Poop in One’s Toilet and Other Luxuries

I’m sitting here waiting for the plumber.

I said to myself: if there is a god, the plumber will come in the early part of the 1-5 p.m. window. It’s currently 4:26 p.m. and I have not had an update call on when the plumber will arrive, which supports my thesis that I am in some form of hell in which I think it may not be hell, but still is hell. It’s perhaps the worst kind of hell because it’s a mindfuck kind of hell.

In this hell, you cannot poop in your own toilet because you had to shut the water off. You were only able to find the water shut off valve with the help of a neighbor, and not until the water had flooded the bathroom and out into the bedroom, watterlogging the carpet. You had to call a carpet cleaner, who came over only to tell you that he cannot clean your carpet because there is no running water. You call the plumber service to discover that the plumber is guaranteed to come between 1-5 p.m. Of course it is 4:28 p.m. With your luck and in your version of hell, the plumber will arrive at 4:59 p.m. You will basically have waited all day because there is no one who can wait in your place, because you live alone and haven’t made any friends here who could cover you in case you needed to take a shit in a bathroom that actually works.