Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Action Station

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So Law School #2 just came through. When a door closes a window opens? Maria, what is it you cahn't face?

Big State U Law School just let me know I was accepted for fall semester. Big State U is a top 25 law school and 1/2 the price of any other law school anywhere because I qualify for in-state tuition. My Texas friend says his shoulder slump for me is lifting. Now gf and I have to decide how we feel about me 150 miles away. Not exactly long distance, but not exactly home. Not exactly an academic job, with its semipermanent separation of the two of us, but 3 years of semester-length distance. An agricultural campus in the middle of cornfields. Phone intimacies. My 175K mile car on a wing and a prayer for 3 more years. The flat darkness of the deep midwest on one's own.

Today lunch at the culinary school featured shrimp etouffee, cooked at an "Action Station." I like the Action Station. You watch the chefs in action, tossing the contents of their pans over big gas flames. A line begins to form. You wait. One young chef eyes the crowd and shouts nervously for reinforcements. She never looks directly at us but feels us watching her hungrily as she tosses the shrimp, first in clarified butter, then in a roux-based tomato sauce, then onto rice. She tops the whole thing with scallions and hands it over with a flourish. I love watching her flip the shrimp in the pan. When I bite into my etouffee, the shrimp pop against my teeth.

Today my freshmen begin to understand, dimly, that this first paper coming due might be harder than the ones they wrote in high school. They are boisterous and good-natured. I show them editorials from the NY Times and joke with them about how my class is probably the only news they have time for. They shake their heads at 1pm and tell me they'll be in class till 11 that night. My class at 90 minutes is one of their shortest. In their other classes they'll have an hour or more of lecture followed by three or four hours in the kitchen.

Sometimes, one or two of them will argue with me. One might turn around the questions I ask; another challenges the slant of an op-ed piece I project on the board. I feel like the newspaper reader in a cigar factory, keeping people informed who are busy working long hours. We cruise the editorials for topics that might interest them and forms of argument they might use. This week is a definition paper. Eventually, they will have to propose solutions.

I watch them stir uneasily at the injustice of sending soldiers into war with bad body armor. They tilt their heads at the idea of Fox News inventing A War on Christmas. They look off in the distance at the scandal of a minimum wage that is only $5.15 an hour. They seem to want to speak. I watch their minds yawn, crouch, and stretch. Their eyes gleam between the desk rows, like the sleepy eyes of lions.


What Now? said...

Congrats on the law school acceptance! I know there are still lots of questions about how to make this work, but this is definitely good news.

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

The lector analogy is a nice one here. When we update it to the contemporary situation, do you feel it changes? The lector was ultimately deemed a danger because the factory workers got angry at the injustices of the wealthy class. Nowadays, our leaders can do all sorts of terrible things without anyone worrying about regular people getting angry (even if they are in a learning environment).

Anonymous said...


Half the price...six times the distance...phone calls, summers, some weekends, and a better life out the other end. I guess it comes down to an actual career change.

I have the security of tenure AND lawyer envy as I contemplate having to manufacture an outside offer to get a real raise, can't bear the thought of trying anywhere I can't imagine going, find it hard to imagine the rest of my life here AND find it hard to face moving again.

Sometimes, being an academic feels a lot like opting for an abusive relationship with someone who looks really beautiful in the right light. You think that her heart must be in the right place. It's just not a place where you get to be with her, most of the time.

lucyrain said...

Oh, S. The acceptance is wonderful news! As for the challenges that accompany it, the fates will find a way.

Sfrajett said...

Thanks for the good wishes and support. You all are consistently awesome.

I'd love to be the lector who catalyzes, though i can't decide whether my sleepy lions are waking up or going under, and mostly i fear the latter. But their energy and optimism makes me hopeful.

I love the image of academia as an abusive/withholding lover you can't leave because your projections about her are so beautiful. Which means it's really about you, about each of us, which is why it's so lonely and masochistic and attractive. So damn attractive. Sigh.

Winter said...

Masochistic oh yeah! Perhaps my love affair with academia is one reason why I don't seem able to make it work with other lovers.

My students are just getting over the upsetting realisation that A level essays are not good enough at undergraduate level. They'll live.

Anyway, congrats again on the acceptance.