Is the ugliness of stuff here a function of a lack of money, or is it merely a practical aesthetic?

I’m now, again, hearing a dog pain-whine coming from S___’s — not sure what’s going on there.

And back to housing — I thought yesterday at 5, while burning papers, … that [my grandparents] never really had that much money. They’ve always just scraped by. They had a farm, yes, but they have often/mostly (always?) done things on the cheap — like Papa’s machine shed built from scraps, mismatching metal, etc. — or this upstairs on the house, built from plywood removed from a restaurant demolition. Not that these ways are wrong, but then Papa also doesn’t maintain things well — partly because he’s old, partly because he’s got no money, and partly because it’s probably just his nature. … I’ve heard [my grandma] say, at times, and not so often lately, that she wants the farm to look nice. I recall her making a point years ago about mowing up to the buildings, not having grassy edges everywhere. But, I mean, is the ugliness of stuff here a function of a lack of money, or is it merely a practical aesthetic (a non-aesthetic?) that doesn’t care what stuff looks like so long as it holds together? (the engineer mindset, though even some engineers are move into neatness)

[From journal of Sat., 28 May 2011, J141, pages 67-68]

Housing is consumable

Housing is consumable. I know it’ll take more money than just the mortgage and taxes. There will be necessary maintenance and also style upgrades (for ourselves or for selling it, making it appeal to buyers) and I don’t have that kind of money now — we have very little savings, so we get the home warranty and other insurance. In Out of Africa, I watched yesterday, Meryl Streep as Isak Dinesen says “insurance is for pessimists” after her coffee barn burned down. Yeah, I can agree with that. I do believe in the value of insurance — protect against the downside. I had a moment Thursday, walking around M’s office building, where I thought, what if we let house insurance lapse and then house got destroyed? What a huge hole that’d be. There’d be no money to rebuild. How hard that’s gotta be for people who lose their house, through foreclosure or whatever — yikes. That’s grim.

I watched Out of Africa yesterday early afternoon. It’s a nicely slow-paced movie. Reminded me of how she didn’t have any TV or radio living on that Kenyan farm, and how I could go a few days without TV or other media myself — my annual summer attempt at a media fast. Eh, not a bad idea, really — and yesterday, though, just to get myself to let down, was intentionally — eh — I was choosing to watch TV, Out of Africa and then Wayne’s World 2 (lot of jokes there are also used in later Mike Myers stuff: the eye joke, not being able to look away, like the mole joke in Austin Powers 3, and blatant movie allusions — Garth after sex [acts] like Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot, and The Graduate ending — not really funny, just merely a reference) and so, that’s OK. You know — I kinda wanted to let go of the need to go. So I sorta told myself to indulge. Does that make sense?

Well, so, where was I? Oh, yes — consumable housing: no, we don’t have much cash now. We wouldn’t be able to upgrade much now, so I’m counting on the fact that we’ll make more money in the future — that it’ll get easier to pay the mortgage because I’ll keep getting raises (for another 8 years, at least, even if there’s no raise in the base pay, which hopefully there will be, once economy recovers).

[From journal of Sat., 28 May 2011, J141, page 64-66]

That’s a rhetorical technique he’s using

M said Friday, no, I can’t recall the day — maybe Thursday — but M had said [a lawyer colleague of hers ] acts put-out, put-upon, in court. That’s a rhetorical technique he’s using, I said. She told me the next day (Thursday, I think — I said it Wednesday at her office before we went for Mexican food) — M said it was a good idea of mine — that it helped her to think of what he was doing as a rhetorical technique. Oh, we were driving up River Road when M said that. I was picturing it in my head as Route 72 near vet clinic, west-bound.

[From journal of Sat., 28 May 2011, Journal 141, page 58-9]

Listening rather than talking: Notes from Feb. 2004

§ Listening to conversations, looking for assumptions, possibilities — You can’t advocate all is relative (because that’s not a relative-truth statement) but you can keep an open mind to multiple possible interpretations. Further: it’s not even that you have to be actively looking for things, observations, or even personal directions.

I’m learning you don’t have to be active, only open, receptive to the suggestions that appear in your mind — they’re a little bit subtle, not always obvious, so it helps to be open to them, listening rather than talking. [19 Feb. 2004]

§ Noticing T’s hands: If I had just noticed him and mentally said, “there’s T__,” I wouldn’t have looked closely enough to observe something new and unexpected about him. Saying “there’s T__” is, M said, a kind of prejudging, and to observe freely is an act of nonjudgment. [19 Feb. 2004]

§ A few days ago, when snow just beginning to melt, walking Gracie at night, melted spots looked like hieroglyphs painted on the snow, and walking around the edge of [my neighboring uncle]’s white pines, it didn’t seem there were trees there — there was the snow on left and a complete dark void on right. Walking Gracie this Monday morning, in dark, we tried to stick to high ground — water everywhere, but puddles and streams in low ground. [23 Feb. 2004]

§ Are students fundamentally passive, liking to be shown things, to be told a story (whether students are sitting down or involved in the demo)? Or is student passivity not fundamental but merely contextual or cultural — maybe in this culture, students are passive. The nature of schooling is external — being judged. [24 Feb. 2004]

§ “Controversial views are professionally sexy,” writes Jane Tompkins [here, I think, about college professors, I think]. I’m not sure what is professionally sexy about teaching high school — being a winning coach? [24 Feb. 2004]

§ Not only is there no privacy at school, there’s almost no time in the day to think by yourself. The way high school is set up, it’s relentlessly public and also relentlessly “productive,” or intentional. There’s no downtime for kids or teachers. You’re supposed to be busy all period, all day long, and only 25 minutes for lunch, so that too is a hurry. “Idle hands are the devil’s playground” or whatever the old-fashioned saying is. [26 Feb. 2004]

§ At first, it feels like a relief to be near the completion of the yearbook. But then I think, maybe it will even out my emotions, and my stress if I don’t make a big deal out of this. If getting done isn’t a big deal, then not having it done (earlier in year) won’t be big deals either. [27 Feb. 2004]

§ [One student’s name or another student’s name] or both said [colleague] C.S. said something in her class about me talking too much in our [teacher-education] class, something about when Hagemann starts talking, everyone sits back, puts down their pencil — apparently they’re settling in for my “dissertation.” I’m not saying that’s impossible for me, but I don’t recall doing that during those classes. Only a few times did I speak, and only once did I go on for more than a socially acceptable length, or so I thought. Although it is an interesting question — Mom and others accuse [a certain someone] of not reading signals and going on too long. [My grandpa] says I talk lots, but that’s because I enjoy conversing, not because I trap people who want to leave (I think, anyway). I’m not so blind to signals. “Mind Wide Open” guy on NPR last night said some people (autistic, but not only those) can’t read those people signals, but they can learn to do that. Listening to my comment, maybe this is what C.S. means: I don’t always just spit out my point. But I feel my points are a bit nuanced, require support, not just opinion. And anyway, why worry about what C.S. thinks of me? I didn’t think much of her comments, either, and I didn’t talk about her in my classes.  [27 Feb. 2004]

§ How it makes me nervous to have kids [students] with idle time — as if I’m just taking on the teacher personality attributes. [27 Feb. 2004]

§ Maybe it’s not that I say too much; maybe I’m just too intense? Just too much for some people — lots of these other teachers aren’t as interested in deep conversations as I am, M is, D is, C.L. was, etc. [29 Feb. 2004]

[Entries above from Pocket Page notebook #93, 18 Feb.-29 Feb. 2004]

Sammy this morning rolled on a dead possum

Sammy this morning rolled on a dead possum in the former pasture. I was taking pics of red-wing black bird. And what else? I’m hungry. And Papa’s van’s outside, running, waiting to go to church. It got quiet — did Papa shut if off?

M said her mom, as they were sitting on street bench Friday night, made the comment, after someone drove by with a loud muffler, “what else did you get for Xmas?” I said Mrs. B would be hilarious, in that cranky old person way, if she wasn’t so much into the positive thinking.

Back at 8:58, after taking video of some bird songs and making cereal (well, washing a bowl for cereal). So — what else is there to talk about today? The world’s still here — but the fear of the idea of end of world is sticking with me, a little — a sign I am a little obsessive. M’s taking laundry downstairs to wash.

[From journal of Sun., 22 May 2011, Journal 141, page 5-6]

Movies are specific things — conversations are so much more open than that

What else was I saying? Oh, that movies are specific things — unique, one-off entities — conversations are so much more open than that.

Telling M about finding the Gracie papers yesterday, I said if she had [word unclear], we wouldn’t have gotten the “little fool” Sam (I’m conscious of being a bit mean to him — then I recalled that he can’t read). And I don’t mean to be harsh on the boy. It’s just he’s more of a goof than Gracie was. I love the goof — Gracie was more devious.

See, and I’m off ideas and talking dog personalities — and that’s fine, fun. Conversations can veer from fun to serious and whatever. And blerg — this is the beauty of the journals — they can be anything, you know!

And that’s what I’m getting at. I’m not making some story that I’m claiming has some profound (mythic) power (of redemption, some idea of growth, or something). {And smart people like reading new ideas (like Eagleman’s book, like Borges) — for smart people, ideas are fun (to a point —  as [my uncle G.] said once when he was with me, we have plenty of ideas )} And I’m not claiming my ideas have theoretical power/value (ideas vs. conversations), and I’m not making some pre-planned work of art (movie or novel or whatever — anything intended, planned).

It’s just, it’s — I sorta don’t even want to call it a public text — rather than call attention to it publicly, I’d almost rather somebody find it accidentally. Say, hide my tests in a bookstore or library shelf or at a doctor’s office — something to disrupt expectations, well, but not overtly — subtly. I mean, if I give a reading, I’m calling attention to my text. Actually, I’m defining it as a public text, I’m claiming it’s a complete work — and there are theories and expectations people have for complete works that they may not have for found documents — texts whose contexts are unclear. (And I don’t mean this in a cleverness way — I wouldn’t try to be super-sneaky like Banksy, that whole cheesily simple mystery of his real identity.)

But I’m saying that such a practice, such a way of presenting my writing — such a format would allow me to not put an ending boundary on it. No sense of “this is done.” It might be more like a conversation, and I’d have a sense of not knowing if and where and when and by whom it was ever found and read. And yet, the fact that I’ve already had this idea means it’s sorta done already for me (I mean, I could do it, but it’s not a final answer. There is no final answer in art!) — onto new ideas!

I mean, I don’t really have any particular thing to say to anybody — no arguments to try to convince others, no story to tell — will people take this in the way I’d like them to? (Maybe that’s the challenge of all art for others?)

[From journal of Weds., 1 June 2011, Journal 141, page 126-8  ]

A dog looked like a slow-moving, handleless mop head

I’m not sure what to do about my sleepiness — it seems unnatural and if it keeps up, … but maybe I didn’t really relax over the summer and I finally hit some kind of wall. And maybe now that I’m as old as I’ve ever been, I need more sleep — or, I can’t get by for weeks of 6-hour- or 7-hour-per-night sleep. …

In that dream-house (a shack, really, floors were uneven, power outlets seemed sketchy — it really wasn’t a place anyone should be living), they (the three older ones) allowed someone — a poor guy? — to crash there. And there was a sad little long-haired dog — a spaniel, maybe, with matted hair — looked like a slow-moving, handleless mop head. Old packaging, too, in house — a 1981 phone book. Brother N was young and briefly at some other house, as if he were making delivery.

[Colleague] J.H. told me I was drinking wine with her in her dream. She told me this yesterday after, apropos of nothing, asking me if I like wine.

These last 2-3 days have felt weird, unnatural — especially at work. These last three work days have seemed to take long times. I wonder if others go through school this way most of their days — which would be sad. I wonder what this would look like to write it — a grim day as compared to a feeling-better day — it might just be a grim piece of writing. Though I could write a sample day in the life of me as teacher.

Thought about how Kerouac’s stories, his lifestyle, make more sense for someone who has no job or family — that is kinda the collegian’s lifestyle. But he doesn’t have much to say about getting along with individuals at work, say, or neighbors, or boredom, or all those adult problems/questions. He writes about religion because that’s one of the few things he can talk about (like retirees in general turning to religion? ) since he lacks a job, routine, family or other typical-adult experiences to write about. … It’s the workers, not the retirees or Kerouacs, who care for things and people.

[From journal of Thurs., 19 Sept. 2019, Journal 308, page 253-5]

I’d like to show the fun of the creative mindset

Yeah — my book. I looked at Best American Essays 1999 in my classroom, in a box near the printer, last evening and thought that I don’t really want to be published in a book like that. I don’t want to be praised for a performance — a one-off essay feels like a performance. I prefer book-length format for myself, for my work, I think, to let my voice come across, my sensibility. I don’t really want to convince people of any idea. If anything, I’d like to show the fun of the creative mindset. But, I don’t know. I could be fun, but not relentlessly so. Whatever man — don’t fret this.

[From journal of Thurs., 17 Nov. 2016, Journal 239, pages 233]

I’m an idiot sometimes. Too much of the time, anyway

… She assured me she and all her people are real “achievement-oriented” people. Sure glad I’m not.

And that depressed me. I don’t want to talk newspapers all the damn weekend. I’m not a hyper journalist. Not that I don’t want to talk newspapers, I do, but not that seriously. Hell, even the coach said she wanted to stop talking shop and just go drink. That made me laugh in sympathy.

And that’s not even all. P__ came back today. She’d been to the office Monday, I guess, but I missed her. I don’t know — she got back from Guatemala. I haven’t seen her since we danced (fast style, you know — well, she and Ryan danced and I made an idiot of myself with athletic and clumsy gyrations). She came in and came to me sitting at the computer, and I wasn’t enthralled to see her. I just wasn’t, somehow. She was pretty and smiling and all, but she was just in to say hi, not to really talk, and she had short-haired Boy-O in tow, standing near the door looking bored while she talked to us (Boy-O could’ve been a brother, I don’t know). I wanted to tell her how it has sucked this summer …

But I know P____ doesn’t like me. We could never be a couple, because 1) she doesn’t love me, and 2) even if she did, the religion thing wouldn’t work out.

But I guess the biggest thing, and maybe the burr under my saddle that is the basis for the whole funk, is that I’m an idiot sometimes. Too much of the time, anyway. I just say dumb f***ing things — like to R__ about B____ Street being the crime center, and it was in his … police report and how crime is always on that street and I laughed and he just f***ing walked away, treating me like the biggest f***ing idiot, the social outcast who doesn’t know when to shut up, and suddenly my laugh sounded hollow and fake.

But it obviously isn’t just R__. I’ve been very judgmental lately, of others and myself. With others: I had all these opinions against [people from a certain college], and somehow felt I needed to share my judgments with others — which is the process of taking others into confidence, creating an “us” and opposing to us this “other.” This of course assumes the person I tell my thoughts to will think and judge as I do, will see the other as the odd one, not me — and will not see me as petty and negative. It isn’t the case that this is always true.

[From journal of Thurs., 27 July 1995, Journal 10, page 159-162]

We’re not about creativity. This is journalism.

They’re not my words. Some are others’ words and the rest are common words — everyone’s words. I just put words in order — yeah, it’s my order, maybe. 

I’m not bitter about my life — when I said “except [M] and my garden, my life sucks.” I’m not whining here. I’m just dissatisfied with how my construction turned out. I used to say last fall I was making — constructing — my life: apartment, job, etc. I’m just not happy with my (art) work at this point. I’d knock all the blocks down and start over if I could. New design. 

G. H., UI soybean scientist, said he does a literature survey to see what’s been done before and he thought I’d want to do the same thing [for my agriculture newspaper story]. Sorry, nope, I said. We assume that our readers don’t read other magazines. It’s not like we’re donating our unique piece to the overall knowledge puzzle, like scientists or artists do. We’re not about creativity. This is journalism. Each publication does the same thing — and it’s not as if we all are really so unique in our reporting or out approaches/slants or writing. We’re not separate voices. We’re homogenous and numerous, each starting from scratch — but not really, because we all (all the journalists of ag mags, for instance)  talk to same sources. 

[From journal of 16 May 1997, Journal 17, page 123-4]