19 April, 2016

Old friends, new soil, and starting over

Lay this unto your breast: Old friends, like old swords, still are trusted best. -- John Webster

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.  -- Jean-Paul Sartre

Many demolitions are actually renovations. - Rumi

You're not the same as you were before. You were much more... muchier. You've lost your muchness. -- The Mad Hatter


What I'm worth here: one stale donut, probably left by grad
students who don't know how to clean.
Eden is built one shovel full  at a time. 

Yesterday I was out in my front yard, digging up the grass layer in a 4x5* plot of ground for a garden expansion. We've talked about this expansion for about two and a half years but, for one reason or another, hadn't gotten around to it.**

It's really unfair to call what now grows in our front yard grass. It's more like a picker's pack of weeds: three-leaf clover, crab grass, and the remnant of what used to be, I think, a flower bed. In characteristic fashion, the previous owners, The Beamus's*** chose to fill everything in with the cheapest fill they could find. Underneath the picker's pack of green weeds there's a lot of clay (not surprising for the region) with a mixture of plastic bits, pieces of walkway brick, and other debris I'm not sure I want to identify.

I haven't cleared a space of ground like that in more than a couple of years. This time last year, between my foot problems and the stabbing leg muscle cramps woke me up out of a dead sleep or would strike after any kind of physical exertion, I wouldn't have been able to tackle the project and hope to finish it. But this year, I did it -- because of some smart medical advice, some more attention to my own health, and the fact that I'm too damn stubborn to let the machinations of darkness win that easily.

Yes, the previous statement is dramatic. But I'm probably in a dramatic mood because today is my last at the University of Louisville, home to the corrupt as hell but still as of yet untouchable Dr. James Ramsey, in Kentucky, where our tiny tin pot fascist governor is going after higher ed ^ like  Richard "The Iceman" Kulinski.

My end of the semester exodus from this campus will most likely mark an end to my time in higher
The All-Seeing Eye above my cubicle. I'm leaving it for the
next inhabitant. I rarely feel lonely with it watching me.
Always. Always watching me. Like a tender,
patronizing, fascist
education. And while I'd like to claim I am marching out by choice and kicking the dirt off my work boots for its repudiation of me, the fact is these Institutional and Harrowed Halls have spit me out.

There's no room here for a guy like me. I make all the wrong kinds of noise and annoy all the wrong kind of people, in spite of the fact that I consistently do my job.  I've worked to improve my lot and the lot of other part-time cogs^^ like me, but all that's happened around here is nothing. A large swell of a wave, lots of potential energy biting to go kinetic, and then...

NOTHING.


Nada.
Nunca.
A pile of old dog shit in a KFC bucket.

After my retaliatory bum's rush from KCTCS, the drive to make any improvements dried up and disappeared because there was no one willing to step up be the next standard bearer.^^^

Part of my mistake has been, I think, my desire to behave like a far more diplomatic person than I actually am. When I try to act in a way incongruous with my basic nature, things always, naturally, go askew.

I am not a diplomat. I am not the person to go in and reach a compromise that satisfies no one and placates everyone. I am a contrarian. I come from a long line of contrarians. I'm a wrecking ball. I'm an embodiment of the whirlwind. Time and experience haven't dulled this about me, nor do I expect them to any time soon.

I was reminded of this recently, when a friend from my graduate school days, Stephanie, came in to River City for a conference. We met for drinks at one of my favorite downtown dives and talked for several hours. I've always had a soft spot for Stephanie. We're cut from a similar contrarian cloth. That's not to say we see the world in precisely the same way. But she reminded me that there's a necessity to calling out injustice, to standing up to bullies, to aiming for a higher moral and ethical standard. Old friends are good precisely because they can

  1. keep us honest, and 
  2. they have a longer view of our lives than we do sometimes, as we are stuck living day to day.

So, yes. I'm starting over. Again. I've gotten pretty good at it, actually. I'm armed with the same weapons that have gotten me here. Eden is built one shovel full at a time. Sometimes I shovel cheap fill. Sometimes I shovel shit. It all turns to fertile soil eventually. And as I move forward, I know I'm not working towards some Sunday morning Meet the Press commercial retirement fantasy. Poets and contrarians never retire.

I'm not investing in my retirement. I'm training for the next fight.
________________________________________________________
* Not precise. Yes, I eye-balled it. And it's a little crooked. That's what second growing seasons are for.
** Last year was a busy year. The year before that, we were broke, or damn near. Some plans have to wait for the situation to present themselves.
***May their names be struck from the book of careful homeowners.
^Yes, I'm aware of the lawsuit being organized by Andy "Don't call me Baby" Beshear. Keep in mind that under his Daddy, former governor Steven "At least I'm not Ernie Fletcher"  Beshear, the state budget cut higher education 10 times in a dozen years. Truth: Democrats like an uneducated population, too.
^^Because from an institutional view, that's all any of us are. Cogs that can be replaced. Usually with a less expensive one that's made out of plastic and manufactured in a sweatshop.
^^^ In classic military strategies, standard bearers marched ahead with the drummers to embolden the foot soldiers. NOTE: Standard bearers usually died first. It's a strategy of demoralization that still mostly works.


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