Monthly Archives: September 2022
I wrote about an English professor of mine who wasn’t thrilled about having me in her class . Of that incident in my life I remember only a few moments during her office hours , how her hair was pulled back tightly behind her head , how she regretted the university rules that said it was too late by the time of the conference to have me drop the class , how she didn’t appreciate my satirical essay about Nixon/Beowulf .
I got a comment from a fellow blogger that said he’d had teachers like that . That’s where talent goes to die , he said . He had a point . ( In this particular case , though , he gives me too much credit . I’m pretty sure the Nixon/Beowulf essay was an all-around disaster . On the other hand , it may have been an incredible work of genius , now long -lost to the ages ! We’ll never know . )
After fifteen or twenty years of teaching I decided to take two night classes at Cal State LA . One was the use of audio-visual equipment in the classroom and the other was a beginning photography class . Somehow they were tied together , so when I got kicked out of one I was kicked out of both .
I know the rules . Students who missed two classes in a row were subject to being ejected from the class .
As it happened , the teacher of the audio-visual equipment class wouldn’t get around to showing us the equipment until she had lectured for the first three class sessions . As it happened , my in-laws had their sixtieth wedding anniversary on one of those class days , so I attended instead of going to class . The other class date was my mother’s birthday , so……. same thing .
I figured that I wasn’t really in the class to hear her wisdom or to get a foundational understanding of what we were all doing there one night each week . Besides , her first lecture was extremely boring , so I knew that I wouldn’t be missing much over the following two weeks .
Ah ! , but rules is rules ! When I came to class the following week , having made my way down the freeway and managed to find a parking spot and made a short trek to the classroom , the teacher called me outside . ” Daniel ! “, she said , and beckoned me with her finger , so I stepped outside the room . The other students , all adults , waited inside . ” You missed two classes in a row .” She then tried to impress upon me that I would never be able to make up the brilliant material in her two missed lectures , how it was such important information , so uniquely presented , and that I would be forever deprived of this necessary knowledge , etc.
A fellow classmate , a JPL ( Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena ) engineer in his sixties , stood behind her and , in pantomime , enthusiastically and hilariously mocked each of her statements . I understood him to mean that my hunch had been right , that those lectures were , more or less , filler before we got into the meat of the class . I tried not to react to his gestures and to maintain an appropriately serious expression while she admonished me .
But rules is rules and she wasn’t about to change her mind on the matter . I got a strong sense that I had offended her teacher ego and that was that . I’d been teaching long enough by then to be familiar with teacher egos . I think that English professor’s teacher ego had been insulted , too . No getting around a bruised ego in some cases .
I accepted her expulsion . I told her calmly that had she been in my class , however , I wouldn’t have kicked her out of the class . The JPL engineer suddenly looked surprised and shocked . We were all working adults there , after all , some teachers but other professions represented , too . No one needed college credit or whatever . It was all a bit silly to be chewed out and then tossed out , like a rehearsal for some schoolyard melodrama .
I walked back to my car in the dark and drove home . Missing the audio-visual class was really no big deal for me . I regretted missing the photography class , though . That might have been fun .
Well , a friend of mine published a poem on-line recently and I noticed the phrase “blue beer” towards the end . Beer gets my attention every time , I have to admit . The rest of the rather short poem conjured up residual memories of that old Irish writer , James Joyce . In both cases , I couldn’t understand a word of it .
You may have heard of him , James Joyce . Not too many people I know actually read much of what he wrote though , or maybe any of what he wrote . I tried to read Ulysses three or four times , I think , and abandoned the effort each time . Ah , I know a couple of people who managed a read , but I won’t reveal their names . You never know these days : harassing phone calls — death threats ! I’ll just let them go on with their lives with no more interference than what naturally occurs in their lives .
John Huston made a film which I like called The Dead . The setting is a dinner party in Dublin in the early part of the 20th Century . Theoretically it’s based on a James Joyce short story of the same name , but I haven’t recognized too much similarity between the film and the story . I read the story a few times and have seen the film a few times . You know , just to be sure . Not being a literary genius myself , I have to weigh these things a few times before I make any conclusions or declarations .
My university English professors , in all fairness I have to reveal , were generally not thrilled to have me as one of their undergraduate students . I don’t blame them . One of them conferred with each of her students before each grading time and I remember sitting in her little office amazed at how tightly she had fastened her hair back behind her head . It pulled at her forehead and it looked painful . After I sat down , as her opening comment she said , ” Well , it’s too late to drop my class ! ” I told her that I had no intention of dropping her class . She looked disappointed . I was watching her forehead stretching between strands of her hair and wondered if she were in pain .
Later I figured that indeed she was in some pain , but not due to her tightly pulled hair . We had been studying the old tale Beowulf . The assignment had been to write about ” the good and bad in Beowulf “, and we were admonished to reference specific examples of the good and bad in Beowulf . If you don’t know Beowulf , it’s an old tale of Norse people . There was something about Beowulf’s mother ………….. I don’t know any more about Beowulf , but it is apparently important to know about Beowulf . And , I think , his mother . At least it was important to Professor Tight-hair when I was an undergraduate . Maybe she’d done her thesis on Beowulf .
I read the damn story three times trying to find specific moments when good and/or bad was mentioned . I may have found one . Maybe two . So , what was I to do ? Not being the literary genius I maybe should have been striving to be , I decided to write a satirical tale involving Richard Nixon . I think Haldeman was in there , too , and Ehrlichman , and that old Attorney General of his whose name now escapes me . I don’t remember my story at all , but I got a kick out of it , I remember , at the time .
Professor Tight-hair , however , didn’t . She would have kicked me out of her class if she could have , or insisted that I drop the class . What was I trying to do , after all , make fun of her chosen profession ? Unfortunately , the conference was three or four days past the deadline to drop classes , so she was stuck with me .
So I’m buying beer today at the Grocery Outlet , and there are a couple of guys in the beer and wine area , too . One of them is hunting for peanut butter stout . With no luck . I made a suggestion about where the peanut butter stout might be . I also offered my opinion about peanut butter stout . The guy’s friend said , ” It’s his favorite beer .” Peanut butter stout ?
If I were James Joyce I might be able to make a story about this ; but I’m not .
I began watching an Irish film called Bloom . Bloom —– you know —- one of Joyce’s characters . I’m not completely giving up on James Joyce quite yet . And if Beowulf , by chance , happens to come in to the Grocery Outlet or Trader Joe’s , and is perusing the beer shelves , I’d talk to him . I’d ask him about his mother . I’d ask carefully , because there was something with the mother that wasn’t so good , as I remember , although I can’t pinpoint just what that was .
Did he kill his mother ? Well , maybe I shouldn’t ask him about her after all .
I should read that poem again involving blue beer . Must have some special meaning , ” blue beer “. If I were a literary genius then I’d know , I think , but I blew my chances of that way back with the Beowulf vs. Nixon case , I guess . And , by the way , apropos of nothing , if I spot James Joyce in the beer aisle some day and he’s looking for peanut butter stout , I’d finally give up on him once and for all . I don’t understand too much of his particular genius anyway , I admit , but I know non compos mentis when I see it .
He might , on the other hand , ask me if I know where they keep the blue beer . That’d be something for me to consider .
On July 11 at a Grapevine truck stop a Brinks truck was robbed of it’s entire load of jewelry and expensive watches . It was parked at the Flying J . One Brinks driver was inside the restaurant having a snack and the other was snoozing inside the sleeping compartment of the truck when thieves cut the rear lock of the truck and took the loot .
There is some legal wrangling about the value of the stuff. Brinks claims it was not worth more than a little over $8,000,000 . Some other estimates range to about 100 million bucks. Several jewelers had their wares in the truck which was coming down from the Bay area and carting merchandise , evidently , from trade show to trade show . The Grapevine , by the way , is just north of Los Angeles . It’s a mostly unpopulated mountain pass between the Central Valley of California and the greater Los Angeles area .
I am reminded of the robbery of a watch a few months ago that happened one day in a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant . Two or three guys walked in , approached the man wearing a $500,000 wristwatch , and took it at gunpoint . A woman in the restaurant was wounded by some random bullet fired by I don’t remember whom . Seems to me that I think they got the watch back a few months later , but I might be wrong on that .
Today I was reading in the newspaper about a series of thirty or so robberies occurring in the nearby city of Glendale ( or was it Burbank ? ) . A couple in a car , sometimes accompanied by children in the backseat , approaches seniors walking alone either along the streets or in parking lots and steals their jewelry . The crooks pretend to be asking directions or something to get the person to approach . Sometimes the crooks hug the person while stealing their jewelry . They even sometimes replace the stolen jewelry with cheap jewelry . Often the victims don’t realize at the moment that they are being robbed . Local police are warning seniors to walk in groups and to be aware that these thieves are active in the area .
I have to admit that I was unaware that there are such things a $500,000 watches . Or , for that matter , that there are million dollar truckloads of jewelry travelling along our highways . And since I don’t wear jewelry , other than my wedding ring , I wouldn’t think that I’d attract the roving jewelry thieves ( even if I was walking around in Glendale ( or , perhaps , Burbank ). I’m pretty sure that thieves wouldn’t really crave my Timex watch , originally bought for ten dollars and now with the third cheap imitation-leather band .
If it’s not one thing then it’s another , I guess . Pick your poison . Everyone these days seems to have something to grouse about ( grouse ? okey , change it to “bleat” if you like ) . The end of the world is coming . Even some generally positive friends of mine say it’s all over now. For good . Things won’t get any better . We’re all doomed . The world is coming to an end .
I used to see a lot of cartoons with bearded beatniks carrying signs with versions of : ” THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR “. Well , in the 1950s and sixties the end was most likely coming from an atomic blast . We all had to practice for a Commie nuclear attack in grade school while listening to those Friday air raid sirens wail . Well , at first polio was a big threat , too ; but then came the vaccine that soon eliminated that particular threat . I know , polio is beginning to spread again in this country because some people think vaccines are the work of the devil or some kind of secret plot to steal our freedoms or a globalist plot to take over our minds . Or whatever .
By the way , along with what I’ve written above , I saw some information lately about celebrities and internet “influencers” who flaunt their wealth over the internet being robbed. Home invasions . Thieves are getting more sophisticated about such techniques , the police say . Be careful .
And Rolls Royce is relatively soon to come out with an all-electric car . I’m not going to drive mine around town . That would be like painting a big target on my back . Like putting a neon sign on the top of the Rolls : COME STEAL SOMETHING . WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR , THE END OF THE WORLD ? Besides , the thieves would just get irritated when they discovered that my watch is an old Timex with a cheap band and that I don’t wear any gold or diamonds , rubies , sapphires , not even designer clothes .
The end is near.