2016, Archives, October 2016, The MFA Years

October in Three Acts


Ryan my waiter is “happy having me.”

I’ve just downed an 11 dollar burger with bacon and blue cheese. Food is fuel and fast and should be, why else eat?

Redskins vs. Saints. Lions vs. Panther. Cubs vs. Indians. There are 300 TVs. Half blare Trump. Players are kneeling for the anthem, but their screen time has obviously been cut by owners and media outlets. The FBI have sided against Hillary. Drones vs. Yemeni hospitals. Who wins America? Sundays. I used to enjoy the flipping the pages of a newspaper.

Today, “the Oregon Militia” have been claimed innocent, white guys with guns protecting an amendment. Meanwhile natives are being rounded up and beaten for trespassing on their own land. Their beef is water and the 13 million people below them that don’t mind or care that the extract economy is running oil pipes under their water source. They side with consuming more. Their temple is a mall and Chinese plastic is better than anything else. Trump Trump Trump will bring back coal mining, manufacturing, cars plants, his orange face will fix everything and who care if he might be the first president to go to court, holding office, over the assault of a 13 year old girl. Touchdown


Scene One: You like to walk. 40 minutes, an hour a day. Sometime with headphones, sometimes naked ear yearning a train whistle, no one walks in Albuquerque, except the drugged or insane. At least three times a week, a passing car or truck, mostly a truck with young men, scream out the window—YOU ARE WALKING! At first and sometimes still, you are scared and angry, mull over the words, which are almost always the same, the vehicle, the escape routes. The truck stops. “Yeah, I’m walking,” you say half heartedly. “KEEP FUCKING WALKING!” Rubber peels and the truck goes up Route 66—did you know the city is cutting down all the trees and putting in a tram-line to help walkers?—federal money. Homophobia? Hate pedestrians? This is simple boredom and you don’t need to wonder where it comes from because it’s everywhere. Getting yelled at from cars becomes your hobby. Guns enter the mind.

Scene Two: On weekends, The MFA, (and this blog) feels like a job. Any job. The job you got. The one that is taking over your life, making you paranoid and less confident and immobile. And the money is bad. Then you read Benedict Kiely’s Proxopera and Bad Things Happen by Kris Bertin and the inter-library loan service that you want to marry emails saying more books have arrived just for you and you want to keep this job forever especially if it was only reading and nothing else.          

Scene Three: You are reading and trying to review Take This Stallion by Anais Duplan. You cannot put the book down. But you know it’s not for you. All internet slang and pop culture references and Martha and Oprah and TMZ and Kim (Kardashian?) And you like it and want to understand it and then like a green chile shoved up your nose you think you could be in Lisbon or Bologna or Barcelona and legal and delivering mail or throwing pizzas or some simple government job where you could write all afternoon why try so hard to fit in and understand?


Scene One: An immigrant is not a migrant so why not fuck off home? A Russian friend mentions:

RF- Have you ever noticed, no one uses knives or forks here?

YOU- Yeah, kinda, there is a lot of finger food, more efficient.

RF- Seems barbaric.

YOU- Tip of the iceberg, tip of the iceberg.

A week later at another  burger bar. Long table chatting and laughing, discussing the boundary between fiction and non, prose poem and flash, essay and memoir, you know the talk, beer flowing, fun. The Russian friend orders a salad. It arrives with only a fork.

RF- Do you mind if I have a knife?  

WAITER- A knife? (making a cutting gesture)

RF- Yes please.

WAITER- With salad? Sure, whatever you need.

The waiter returns with a 9-inch serrated Rambo-esque hunting knife that could butcher an obese pig. The Russian smiles. Is this what dramatists refer to as the private becoming public? Maybe you were the Russian. Maybe it’s all a dream. Maybe Anne Carson spiked your burger.

Scene Two: You’re walking from your Joyce seminar to your D.H. Lawrence seminar. God bless university life. Yes, Joyce and Lawrence are back to back and they kinda do your head in, but makes for very sensuous and discombobulating Thursdays. You run into a cohort, who you kinda like. You descend stairs together hoping there is time to piss:

CH- I hear you’re applying for fellowship X.

YOU- I am.

CH- It’s really competitive.

YOU- I know.

CH- Cohort Z said you are not going to get it.

YOU- Thanks man.

CH- I didn’t say it. Cohort Z said it. He did.

YOU- Why tell me? Is this small talk?

CH- I’m just telling you what he said. He said it. You won’t get it.

YOU- Thanks man.

You enter class. An older white man rants over the blatantly racism in The Plumed Serpent, a xenophobic diatribe. He wins his own argument.

Scene Three: You load texts with links. All you want is to curate, no spotlight grubber you prefer the back of the house aiming the beam. Notes come to you saying you are hiding but all you want to do is quote and indicate and site and step into the wings to drink water and listen to the audience laugh at other comedians who do anything to be at the top of their game. Some say think of your audience when you write, others say don’t.


Scene One: You think about Halloween. Unless you’re a kid or a parent, you wonder about the point. We wear costumes everyday. Bills are due the next. Yet, choosing to have fun is important, as important as mood or attitude or which book to pick up or adjective to lay down.

Scene Two: You think of your department and faculty. You ask for a recommendation letter. It arrives an hour later. You ask for another. It arrives three hours later. Who are these people fighting the good fight? Coming through for you consistently just because you are here and they can. You decide to give more to your students. Push them harder, be more organized, give more notes, lift them up the totem pole. Ask about Halloween.

Scene Three: You return to Facebook and Twitter and The Guardian and wonder is it their job to control your mood? You started angry and wrote till the end and now feel better, even if the time is gone and the story is not crystalline. Your frustrations come from inside and the inner-judge that pounds the gavel on your heart trying to flatten your soul like a pudgy chicken breast into Milanese cheapo filet just won’t cut mustard, because Ryan, your server for the 15-minute meal, “is happy to have you.”

 Epilogue: You think you want to be elsewhere, but there are Trump rallies there too. The goal for November is to listen deeper. Think less. Edit more.


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