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 Allie’s Greatest Fits, over an ice cream trip to McDonald’s that no one had mentioned but 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, doesn’t it?

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. Registered & Protected YQN5-XGD1-KWGW-SDBA



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 One 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 Two 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 One 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 One, 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. 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 Random.

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 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 made me pretty sure he wanted me to shut the hell up. Indeed, 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 there in the kitchen, announces that she is shutting the door. Headspace restored.

Being = Grading

It’s time to rant incoherently online; I’ve earned it, damn it. So, to interrupt the latest and possibly-most-ridiculous Trump shitstorm (i.e. 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 when I catch 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 amazing nonfiction lit. And I am, contrary to the style of this rant, quite lucid. But for tonight, I am ceremoniously putting the Presentable Prof. persona to sleep. Am I not entitled to my own verbal diarrhea, posted in public without paragraph breaks, no matter how disingenuously I ponder over it? As a defender of respectable and logical academic discourse, I hereby claim the right to just fucking lose it sometimes. Comma comma comma, citation citation citation.


Prof. A


So on a side note before I begin, it turns out that one of the pillows Jason and I got Mom for Christmas when I was just old enough to drive to Walmart actually makes a great surface for my Kindle & keyboard. Tragically, only now do I realize I didn’t bring my eyedrops; furthermore, I will need to pace around the house and snack and stretch before I can resume typing. Surely I can squeeze out an intro paragraph first? That is not at all certain. It was a long drive to Pennsylvania.

Broadly speaking, what were the questions or concerns that best characterize your journey?

  • Isn’t M.I.A. the most interesting artist to have been discovered in the year of our lord, 2016?  Of course “Paper Planes” back when it was current, playing regularly on the radio…I found it unusually catchy for what I figured was some hip-hop mashup, but I never looked further till I was in another state, in another life. I waited from Lansing, where things were generally shitty though with certain bright spots (neighbors and grad school), through a second life in Ann Arbor (in a second and shorter-lived tenure at Starbucks, this time as a barista with almost zero ambitions towards shifthood, biking to work on days I didn’t teach–yes, that second run in A2 was when all the Prof stuff started, when picking up Writing Center hours as well as two classes in a semester was making it Big Time) to where I’m at now–Maryland–to look up M.I.A. And Jesus, it’s a revolution. 
  • It started small, listening a few times to her debut, Arular, with barely a notion of which album “Paper Planes” fell on–just heard that track while playing the artist on shuffle (via Google Play). Then, on the way to PA for Thanksgiving, Mary was talking about a coworker named Maya and I thought, that’s what we could listen to…
  • And then it was M.I.A radio on Play, with detours to Santigold, Rye Rye, Azaelia Banks, Peaches (one of Mary’s scandelous old favorites), N.A.S.A, Thunderheist, Lady Sovereign, and, I just remembered, someone named Kreayshawn . . . 
  • Ultimately, though, music for me became a choice between Metal and M.I.A. 
  • But then because I still listened to CocoRosie radio, Emily Wells came up. 
  • . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

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 suck her up too 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, she 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 on call; no walk for them tonight. Registered & Protected 


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…