This anecdote I forgot to pass on to you happened on my last visit to New Orleans, a week before the hurricane: My friend, Professor Romance aka Dr. Sympathetic, and I were in the French Quarter, drinking absinthes at the Pirate's Cove or Pirate's Alley or whatever the hell the place is called where the guy dresses like a pirate and serves absinthe, and while waiting at the bar for our drinks to be made, I eavesdropped on a conversation between an older, drunken Australian man, his much younger woman friend, and a twentysomething douchebag of the particularly noxious fratboy/hippie/world-traveling, cultural sophisticate triptych of shame whose dubious European accent occasionally slipped, revealing an American one. Or maybe the American accent was the dubious part. Either way, he was working some kind of affectation that had become malignant and all-encompassing, eventually swallowing up any trace of the personality that had birthed it. This conversation was mildly nauseating, mostly because each person was trying to one-up the other in a game of Let's See Whose Traveled the World the Most and Become the Most Intellectually and Culturally Enlightened, but I was in a good mood, they were mostly harmless, and I wasn't feeling any hate. I was feeling the love, baby. I was in the Big Easy, drinking and eating from sunup to sundown. I had dinner twice. It was a good day. I keep listening in. Dubious Euro Boy starts talking about Japan. He says he lives in Austin, is a UT student, but every summer he goes to Tokyo and teaches English to Japanese children. He goes on and on about how the Japanese experience has enriched him, wonderful, Japan, excellent, amazing, blah blah blah. Then his cell phone rings and a classic moment of unintentional hilarity ensues:
Euro Boy, looking at the number of the caller: "Sorry, guys. I've got to take this call. It's my sensei."
Euro Boy, answering phone and walking out of the bar, looking pensive, serious, and deeply touched: "Moshe-moshe."
I had an extended laughing fit, exacerbated by trying not to laugh at the poor doofus. God bless that ridiculous dork.
I took the GRE last week. I did pretty well. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter now. The sole reason I took it was so I could apply to one particular film studies program at one particular university. I have no real desire to attend grad school anywhere else for any reason. I don't want to be a college professor, and I have an extreme distaste for academic writing and the insularities, irrelevancies, pretensions, and Dungeons and Dragons-style games of oneupsmanship that seem to dominate most graduate schools, though there are loads of exceptions, I have friends who get a lot out of their grad programs, and it's still preferable to a money-chasing careerist nine-to-five lifestyle even at its worst. This particular program is run by a professor and writer whose books, ideas, taste, and classroom methods appeal to me greatly. It's the only film program that teaches what I value in ways I find valuable. It places zero value on academic theory and jargon, sociologic and symbolic readings of film, or junky pop-culture entertainment. Instead, all value is placed on art (which is an academic dirty word) as a form of experience, not some puzzle or message to figure out or "get" or theorize about or throw a sociopolitical net on top of but as a new way of understanding, experiencing, feeling, and expressing what it's like to be a human being. Unfortunately, this professor is not well liked at his university because what he teaches is not academically fashionable. Changes he disagrees with are being made to the program, so he resigned. This will be his last year. So now my goal of the last two years has been rendered moot. I'm back to square zero. I was so caught up in studying for the GRE and preparing my application, I almost forgot I'm still unemployed. I've hit rock bottom. I have nothing going for me right now. It's actually not that depressing. A few months ago, I was waking up in the morning in a sweaty panic because I was having so much trouble finding a job. Now I don't give a shit. I don't give a shit about anything, and it feels good. My grad school plans are fucked, my job situation is fucked, and in a few more months, my checking and savings accounts will be fucked. I don't give a shit. I've got real freedom right now. It probably won't last. This is what I care about: My wife, family, friends, books, music, movies, art, writing, good food, good drinks, living. When I get a job, hopefully it won't depress the hell out of me, but they always do. Now that grad school's out, I want to get a house and a dog and a cat and continue to read, listen to music, watch movies, write, eat, drink, hang out with my friends, maybe luck into a job that doesn't disgust me, travel a little bit. That sounds good to me. That sounds like what I want to do until I'm dead. Too bad the university I wanted to attend will probably end up teaching classes about the representation of lesbianism on TV's "Friends" and the religious symbolism of "The Matrix" and churning out students who go on to write books like "Digital Diasporics: Reimaging Africanity in Cyberspace" (actual book title) that five other academics will read, but my life goes on. At least I'm not floating in a two-foot pool of feces-ridden water in New Orleans, am I right? Something will happen to me eventually. I will once again receive a steady paycheck and hopefully luck into having a meaningful life.
Reading: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser