Spin Cycle

Well, after four suicides, a homeless kid in the library, and now a "pot princess" on the cover of the NY freakin' post, I think NYU can kiss it's "prestige" factor good bye for a while. What's amazing that with all the business and communications majors, or former business and communication majors, that no one has come forth with some truly inspiring spin on the topic. Here I thought we lived in a sound bite nation.

What pisses me off is that before this year whenever I told people what I did for living, I was met with a silenced awe. Now I get asked questions like "What up with all those suicides?" or "Did you know the bobst boy? Was he one of your students?"

When I offered criticism about the would be idiocy of my students ( or more accurately willful ignorance) I was often met with disbelief, now my criticism is met with sage head nodding.

Next time I think we need to save money on the spiffy new student center and hire James Carville to do our PR.

Why I love my friends

I have a friend from grad school who calls me up every six months or so, talks to me for three hours, says we should get together, and then doesn't return my calls for another six months. He ( let's call him Blue) recently called, and I was regaling him with my latest tale of rejection.

Bunni: OK so this guy is tellin' me about the last time he almost cheated on his fiancee. He is hitting on me by using his last failed attempt at infidelity. But what happened was he was talking up some girl and he got her number and he had the affair already planned. You know it was done. And then he found out that while he was talkin' this girl up that his fiancee was in a car accident on the way home from Sherwin Williams because a paint can exploded in the back of their car. And this is how he knew he shouldn't cheat. The lord had this paint can explode in the back of his car. But now a year and a half later he has seen me and he again feels the need to dip his brush in someone else's pot, and where is the lord and his pyrotechnics? Nowhere. So apparently the lord is ok with me as an adulteress.

Blue: Jesus man, why do you even put with these tools? Listen you gotta be like the pentagon man. You gotta have an open no tool policy. You gotta say to these mother fuckers straight up, "No fuckin' tools. And I'm not just talkin' about the screwdrivers and the hammers and the obviously dangerous shit. I'm talkin' about you better not come near me with even toe nail clippers because I will shut your ass down."

Bunni: But the thing is I need to be distracted. You know, I need to go out.

Blue: No, see this is where women get things wrong. They think if they just spend time going out they are going to feel better, and so then they waste all of this time and energy and effort on going out with these fucking idiots. And then you get pissed because you've wasted all this time and effort and energy on fucking morons. No way man, save your energy.

Look, I know where you're at. You look around and you see all these weird ass couples together and you think how do they pull that off? I mean, I see it at the art openings I cover. You see some disgusting motherfuckers. And I'm not talkin about just embarassin', I'm talkin' about totally disgustin'. I mean, I don't want to think of these cats as fuckin' mammals. And then you see these fine beautiful women practically showin' off their birthcanals they are so into these guys. If I was ever sober enough, it would probably boggle my god damn mind. And I could see that and think 'That's just awful. People are ugly, and ridiculous, and worst of all fuckin' stupid.' But you know what I see when I see that? I see hope man. I see fuckin' hope. Because if the disgsustin' motherfuckers of the world can get love, we can all get love. We all got a piece comin' to us.

Bunni: Alright oh wise sage of love, who can not even manage to seduce the chick at work he's been writing love poems to for the last year, when is it coming? When is my love coming?

Blue: I don't know. Cause that shit is not like christmas. You can't put it on the calendar. But you trust me, it's comin'. Meanwhile stop fuckin' around with these tools. We gotta go out man, You gotta save your energy for when we go out.

Everything I needed to know about how to pass freshmen English I learned from Oliver North

I'm not sure why my students like to flaunt in front of me how they have failed BEFORE FINAL GRADES HAVE BEEN TURNED IN. They come into my office and jokingly talk about how my class has afforded them fabulous naps. They blithely admit they haven't done ANY of the readings. They complain about how boring the textbook is, but then admit to never having opened it in the next breath. I tell them to their face, "Please don't say this in front of me. Allow me to have plausible deniability." But no, they absolutely insist on telling me about how little work they have actually done for the course. Which insures that next semester, I will have to require more work and put in more effort and spend effort only to be thwarted again. It's like my friend who used to work at American Scientific magazine once told me, the smartest rats in the world live in NYC. The better the trap, the stronger the poison, the more labyrinthine the trap, they smarter they get about everything, but the one thing you want them to learn.

Now I'm not entirely delusional. I understand that I grew up in a peculiar setting. A setting in which educational excellence was the chief virtue. I know that the vast majority of my students don't care about what I have to teach at all. I understand that they find my class useless. I know that my assignments will be the first to be put off or neglected. I know my class is often skipped or ignored. I know my students leave to get food and then come back. I am aware.

What I do expect is that my students will at least have the intelligence not to admit any of these activities to my face. If American politics have taught us nothing, they should have at least taught the majority of Americans about the importance of plausible denialibility. Allow me to have just enough ignorance that I can go home at night and not wail into my pillow about the ineffectiveness of my effort. Is that really so much to ask?

I am exhausted. Cashed. Burnt. Done. The timer should go off because I am crispy and golden at this point. I have put in all the energy I can, and yet still my students find ways around my requirements. I make them write two questions for every reading, yet still they manage not to read the homework. I require course discussion. They still manage to find nothing to say. I require attendance, they find excuses not to come to class and when I require documentation for missing classes, they find people to forge notes. Yet the simplest tasks, like proper MLA documentation of a works cited page WHICH I HAVE BEEN REVIEWING FOR ALMOST SEVEN MONTHS NOW manages to elude them. Even simple comma usage remains a well kept secret.

Now, I would love it if my students suddenly became the intellectually curious young adults that someone is spending a great deal of money to helping them become. But I know this won't happen. I know that even one or two of them will probably not became intellectually curious. Most of them want to keep their heads down and get across the diploma line with as little work as possible. Fine, great, ok. Just don't tell me about it. Smile. And pretend.

Doesn't anyone remember the fine art of brownnosing?

Anyone? Anyone?


If my mother reads this entry, she'll kill me

Just so you know what I am willing to sacrifice for the love of you people.


My cousin (let's call him Ben) and I are named after the same person, our grandfather. He is a few years younger than I am, but as I am an only child he is the closest thing I have to a brother. He is also legally deaf. His hearing is seriously impaired and the disability, although painfully obvious to myself ( even as a nine year old child), was left undiagnosed until very late. When the disability was unearthed, his parents decided to raise him as "normally" as possible. He was not taught sign language. He was not sent to a "deaf" school, he was not, as far as I know, even introduced to anyone else who suffered a similar type fo disability. Although some minor accomodations were made, it seemed as if my aunt and uncle preferred to remain in denial about my cousin's condition.

I used to joke that since Ben and I were named for the same deceased relative and we were both disabled that we had been cursed. But where Ben and I differed was that my parents did everything possible to help me develop despite the disability. I took dance classes and worked closely with a physical therapist. I also learned very quickly to go to school administration to make sure as many accomodations could be made for me. If it was possible to put my classes close together, they were. I usually kept two sets of books to keep a lighter book bag. Finally, I got my friends to help me as much as possible. In fact, carrying me from one building to another became a competition between my friends. We even teased about getting "Bunni Iron Man" t-shirts made.

But Ben was never fully rehabilitated. While I can easily hide my disability, Ben's speech impediment remained painfully clear to himself. In addition, instead of buying him the state of art hearing aides which could help him considerable, his parents spend money on under the counter discmans and extra bread machines. Ben remained painfully shy. Apparently feeling socially isolated, he was never sent to therapy of any kind. ( Including a support group from disabled teens.) Instead of going to therapy, he was thrown onto several drug protocols including ridelin for ADHD ( I watched this kid sit in a chair and read a 500 page novel in one afternoon without moving) and prozac for depression. For a while his affect was totally flattened. Gone. You could have gotten a more dramatic response from my cubicle wall. Then, as far as I knew, the drug therapies ended.

Ben continued to be quiet. I tried to talk to him, but it seemed like when I approached him it increased his anxiety so I simply allowed him to hang out. Ben also by this time had a very healthy younger brother. This brother was dynamic and outspoken, other family members flocked to him. I became concerned, but my aunt and uncle maintained that everything in their household was near idyllic.

How my family works

What you have to understand about my family is that they don't actually talk to each other, they converse in silence about each other. Oh yes, I know all families do, but with ours it's the only mode of communication. I've never actually seen a family fight. Ever. But as soon as you leave the room, you know that someone is whispering comments, or mouthing words or casting looks or making hand gestures of some kind. It's like a Pinter play, all innuendo and drama laden pauses. So, as you can imagine, finding out the details of situations involves of a sensitivity to protocol and understanding of nuance to rival the "stool etiquette" of the court of Louis XIV.

What I didn't see coming

My mother informed me this weekend that my cousin Ben had apprehended by the authorities for what the family referred to as "pornography." As we all know, pornography in itself isn't illegal. So extrapolating from the silence of the other family members, and his arrest, he was clearly involved in "kiddie porn."

My mother, who thinks she is superwoman without the jarring red cape, immediately wanted to send money to help my cousin. My response, extremely cold hearted, was, "You really should KNOW the charge before you offer to help. Besides you don't want to alienate your brother." So I managed to talk my mother into believing that before she should offer aide, she should really understand what the charges are, what the evidence is, and so forth.

And none of these details are forth coming. No one will actually say what Ben was caught with, what he has been charged with, all we know is that he has been kicked out of his home and is now living with my grandmother.

What do I do now?

My mother has reconciled herself that she can not possibly help until she knows what she is getting herself involved in. I feel conflicted. On some level, I feel that I saw this coming. Watching him grow isolated from other people, his social anxiety intensifying with age. The lack of support from his parents. The refusal of his parents to really help him effectively deal with his disability. On another, I feel guilty. As I failed to do something more to help him. There is an indentification I feel for him. As the only other disabled member of the family, I have often defended him. My grandmother often called him lazy or money hungry, and I always came to his defense arguing that his embarassment as his disability often warped how people perceived his behavior. As a fellow disabled person, I saw how ashamed he was of speaking and how difficult it was for him to follow group conversation. And yet, I do nothing.

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