The hardest thing about blogging is feeling like you have the energy to care. Like, it's 1030 at night. Do I feel like caring? Or would it be easier to get drunk and watch the Family Guy? Followed by Will and Grace, then Dharma and Greg?
My friend who teaches at Elite University in town forwarded me the latest Chronicle thing by Famous Dean, where he bitched and moaned about retiring. Talked about working in a laundromat, or selling pencils. So sorry that it's hard to care when I, too, am leaving my job, perhaps to sell pencils on some corner next to him in a Florida beach town.
Imagine our conversation. He'd maybe ask how long I had been there, because he wouldn't remember seeing me or meeting me or sitting in meetings with me at our university. I'd be tan by then, so he'd assume I'd been in Florida a while. I'd tell him that I was an artist doing a performance piece, selling pencils to call attention to the commodification and devaluation of creativity. He'd tell me that he was selling pencils to prove that creativity was meaningless. We'd argue, but it would trail off quickly, becaue the sun is so hot and Stanley is so disinterested in ideas now. He'd tell me he was too old and too rich and too tired to care, that he had made messes everywhere he'd gone and it still hadn't made him happy. I'd tell him I'd tried not to make messes everywhere I'd gone and it hadn't made me happy either. He'd snore, slumped over on the brilliant sidewalk, a little person in summer clothes, waiting for his wife to fetch him. Meantime wife is running wild through Parrot Village, leading a charge of 19-year-olds earnestly trying to follow her directive to throw off civilization while writing papers about it. She's stripped down to her bra, and made up some kind of war whoop that resembles a mourning dove being sodomized. People stare, but no one will stop her--not with the demographic galloping at her heels. Especially if she tells them she's doing research for her book.
Both of them are collecting pensions, and both of them face the days stretching long and empty before them, towards forgetfulness, warm hours in the sun, death. When I was in grad school I taught his wife's essays to my freshmen comp students and wondered what places like their hip private university were like, where Famous Dean gathered together a cast of stars, where all those theoretical minds lived and thought and breathed in one place. I remember what it felt like to hope you could someday be in a place like that, talk to people like that, be someone like that thinking with those people. It seemed like heaven. Like Paradise.
Now we are all selling pencils, in some way or another. This makes us equals. Oddly, we both turn and trudge slowly away from this world we have in common. He has lived here a lifetime; I've moved more ambivalently in and out of it for 20 years. If I had the energy I could think about what this really means, and what the significance of the whole enterprise is, academia at the twilight of itself, the end of the century, this point in my life. But it takes so much energy to care. The TV has been off for a whole half hour, my glass is empty, and I'm weary of talking, writing, my job, Famous Dean, the state of civilization, the Florida beaches. Will and Grace is on, and I'm feeling languid, lazy, and so deliciously tired.