After our beagle burst back inside from barking at those mean old thorny bushes again, he dug right into and upended the fabric bin that Allie had filled with every rope and bone she’d extracted from under the couches. This tidying up had served as her final act during the ending credits of a temper tantrum, filed under Kid 2’s Greatest Fits, over an ice cream trip to McDonald’s that no one had mentioned yet had popped so persuasively into her brain. Since she was already flat on the floor she could see just where to train the broomstick Mama must’ve handed her for just this purpose.

Some of the things she said during this fit, a minute of which was filmed for kicks: “I’m gonna get rid of Oliver and I’m gonna get rid of Mama.” “I’m gonna tape your mouth shut.” That puts the little note she left for me this morning into a rather different context…

Nah, she’s a sweet kid. She unleashes her Heavenly Creatures id and moves on with her life, taking her shower and brushing her chompers for Mama without complaint while I host my Comp II seminar downstairs. Students from Baltimore to East Texas overhear not shouting and slamming but laughing and rambling.



Those little things, not one of them recurring, but I am reminded of them–does that mean they recur? Am I putting them back into circulation…do they need autonomy to qualify as recurring…

I need to feel this soft little nostalgic pain over a place I’ve never been. Or a cold antipathy for a place that’s stuck in its request at the last minute.


Sunday Aimless Sunday

And here opens up a Sunday without a purpose. Excited? You know that Sunday I spent with a Moleskin at Goose Park scratching out notes for a critical essay on Wuthering Heights while Kid 1 was in daycare now characterizes the later years of my academic study of literature: spirited and reckless. Writing just as much to get away with every weird point that sprung upon my overread brain as to penetrate the mysteries of the centerless text. So today what has happened is that I woke up thinking about the latest trio of discussion boards I am contractually bound to say hello to while instead just diving with my coffee into a new novel before getting up to whack the weeds while Kid 2 swung under a tree in the opposite yard. But wait, it couldn’t have been a Sunday at Goose Park because what daycare is open on a Sunday? Still, the feeling is real; thus a Sunday it was.

I was going to say something about why the space in which I wrote after our first life in Ann Arbor, A Hideous Title, only survived the two or three years that we spent in Lansing…and how that space was the next and final step in that literary tomfoolery…but then Kid 1 asked if she could cook up some Mac N Cheese. This hallowed dish that she used to pronounce with a toddler emphasis bordering on the sinister (MAC N CHEESE) she is now (finally) able to make for herself without catching its box on fire. So while that train of thought started up, Kid 1, waiting for the water to boil, stood around in the kitchen making her random noises in response to whatever the hell was on her phone.

Generally, this honor’s-roll 12-year-old has two modes while at home: Grumpy-Butt and Random-Chaos. While one assumes her emotional range is rich and her mental state complex, her outward bipolarity can have the effect of renewing the old philosophical question: How can I be certain that another being, separate from myself and distinctly beyond the reach of my own subjectivity, does in fact experience pain or joy like I know I do? Though it is heartening to know that she does not require a smartphone or tablet to go full-tilt rando.

She will, on a Saturday night, audibly narrate in her quiet bedroom something about which I have zero knowledge but to which I can compare the performances I have myself made, such as when I brought some literary theory (Chaucer and the Subject of History) to my dad’s house between five and ten years ago. The way he yelled upstairs to ask if I’d figured out how to turn on the jets of the new tub I was sitting in convinced me he wanted me to shut the hell up. In my late twenties I was too old for such stentorian gibber-jabber; I’d forgotten to respect the other’s headspace. But now my daughter, blurting out a bunch of bunk in the kitchen, announces that she’s shutting the door. Headspace restored.


Being = Grading

It’s time to rant incoherently online, to put the Presentable Prof. (defender of respectable and logical academic discourse) persona to sleep, claiming verbal diarrhea posted in public without paragraph breaks. Comma comma comma, citation citation citation. I’ve earned it. So to interrupt the latest and possibly-most-ridiculous Trump shitstorm (Comey-firing) as well as my own ill-fated, all-week & late-night Final Grades marathon, I’d like thank the following, without which I would’ve spent these days hollering unprofessional unpleasantries at my laptop: coffee-M.I.A.-coffee-Slayer-coffee-M.I.A., as well as my drumset sitting nearby in my study for whenever I caught a plagiarist. And now that there’s no hope in hell I’ll meet my deadline: Lana Del Rey and merlot. (I am more specific on the wine than the coffee. Why?) See I’m at the point where, in a comment to a Texas student’s essay on Open Carry, I find myself searching Mary Karr’s badass memoir The Liar’s Club for that line about how every Texan knows how to…well, here it is: “In Texas any four-year-old knew you didn’t point a firearm at a live creature unless you wanted it dead. Even a busted, empty gun got handled like a snake.” (And then the author’s mother spends the next epoch pointing an unnecessarily swanky pistol at her drunken husband while deflating him with a merciless rhapsody on how fucking worthless he is.) So for the moment I’m all for Open Carry in the state that produces such trenchant nonfiction lit. 


They Are the Ones Who Knock

I had taken leave of my office to fetch the Exacto Knife to cut a sharp little cord off my latest candidate for Acceptable Office Chair when the doorbell rang. The No Solicitors sign hasn’t been working lately. Yesterday it was two guys in dress shirts, belts & slacks, carrying tablets. We let them walk away. But today at 2:30, it was a dark-haired young woman in a tank top and jeans carrying a cigarette whose smoke was brought right into the living room by our “kid fan,” the magical conductor in the hallway ceiling that draws such currents from the windows and doors that we once had our five-year-old convinced it would lift her up and outta the house if she didn’t behave. So this lady, what, had she lost her dog, her child?

No, she wanted to know if we were in the market for landscaping or any other lawn services.

I gave her the standard line: We rent this house we don’t own it, we don’t cover that end of things. Which was not a very forthright thing to say to a stranger who wore no landscaping garb and presented no landscaping brochure but did bring smoke into our home. She said OK and turned back down the sidewalk; I shut the door.

Wife and I compared notes on her sketchy demeanor and likely objective. Personally, I found her to be more dazed and maybe sad than sketchy, as if not sure herself just how she came to be knocking on doors with this particular offer on a sunny afternoon. Our guess was that she was scraping around for drug money, scoping out houses to burglarize, or both.

So with a thoughtful air, Wife picked up her keys and said she’d be right back.

Five minutes later she returned with a report that the woman’s partner was a tall dude with reddish hair who sat in a blue Toyota truck looking sketchily this way and that while his lady friend knocked on doors. They’d been followed down the road and had their license number recorded; now they were getting themselves reported to the non-emergency police.

The dogs, sound asleep, are still on call; no walk for them tonight!



Just flirting with Hindi since two nights ago–with the Mango app, free via the public library. Picked up volume A of The Longman Anthology of World Literature, containing the Ramayana and bits of the Mahabharata, that we read in the Non-Western Lit course I sort of taught a few years ago. What was the name of the documentary series we watched to put it all in context? Hosted by a thin British guy exploring the realms where dance told the birth of the world and statues were doused with colors; later, in China, climbing a sacred mountain behind a thinner Chinese guy with a cig in his mouth…

Ah, The Story of India. YouTube it.