I woke today to the satisfying news that the New York Mets are in first place in the National League East. Of course, they’ve only played one game but remain undefeated to hold the top spot. This enticed the hasty-generalization side of my many fallacies to declare them World Series-ready. I watched the Mets religiously from 1969 to 1975. And now they are in first place! Bring it on.
I arrived at the college after a brief gaze at a fine sunrise across the Atlantic, a quick stop for a cup of some Mexican blend coffee, and a couple empenadas, and got a head start on reading student rough drafts. I knew the day would move well, what with the Mets and the sunrise and the coffee and all.
One thing: this week is the Lit fest at the college. I won’t digress about the pathetic lack of advertising, the scheduling of the four invited readers at lunch time each day when people are usually eating and the night students who would want to attend can’t, including my advanced writing students, or the fact when I tried to find out what room in the student center the student open mic would be (scheduled for the same time as one of the featured readers by the way) I couldn’t find a poster or email anywhere so I had to go to the college’s event page. And I won’t take up any space mentioning that when I did get to the event page I read the biography of a close friend of mine, Tim, who is reading today (at lunch) on another campus, only to see the bio had to have been several years old as it failed to mention his latest book, the fact his previous book was a finalist for the National Book Award, and failed to mention that the man is the fucking poet laureate for the State! Neglected that entirely.
But I did discover where the student reading on my campus was and decided to go because it was the only event today which also included a table of fruit, brownies, and lemonade. But wait. Another email indicated that one of the vice presidents had a q and a going on at the same time in the same building discussing issues I thought I should probably hear. Fine planning, no?
So I went to the student reading, texting my apologies to my friend the poet visiting the other campus where I knew he would have a great crowd so I didn’t mind missing to support the likely to be low-attended student reading.
There were five people. They all must have happened upon the college’s homepage. How else would they know? The moderator, a faculty member, started the event by reading someone else’s song lyrics off of her phone. I knew I did not belong there. I knew that my frustration arose from not being a part of the committee which comes under the umbrella of the International Education Department instead of something literary like, I don’t know, English, so I had no right to complain about something I am not a part of, so I finished my brownie and fruit and lemonade and left for the VP meeting.
Digression: Walt Whitman wrote a beautiful poem called, “When I heard the learned astronomer,” in which he describes being at a lecture where he literally can’t breathe, feels faint and anxious and suffocating, until he leaves and finds brilliance and peace by looking at the stars. Yes, that’s me at all meetings, all events really, where people don’t stay on task or read lyrics off of their phones.
So I sat at the VP meeting (where no food was to be found so I didn’t take my coat off) and quickly I noted the entire conversation was dominated by two faculty members offering anecdotes about students in their online courses. My mind started to wander. Out of respect for the VP who went to Alfred University just a half hour drive from St Bonaventure where I went and at the same time, I stuck it out a bit, but my mind wandered. At first I focused on some large cormorant in the lake outside and even managed to snap a pic without anyone noticing. I stared at him a long time, wishing I were home on the bay, walking along the sand and watching osprey move in and out as they built their nests. I do much better outside, I have a strong attention span for nature and paths through woods, and soft bay breezes. They can talk to me all afternoon and I won’t miss a thing.
It made me wonder, really wonder, what I was doing there to begin with. I’ve been on so many paths in my life, and I’m more than a little lucky to say most of them have been excellent experiences from health clubs to hotels to pilgrimages and train rides to bouncing in and out of so many places I can’t imagine how I have managed to stay in this place for this long, nearly thirty years. Certainly teaching college affords me time off enough to travel, and writing has enabled me to meet so many amazing people around the world, which all makes coming back to my small office on this large campus with tens of thousands of students much more easily digestible. But still, when I hear these learned professors, when I, sitting, listen to them talking about what angles to take in teaching and how to chart and graph accomplishments, how suddenly ill I become, until I need to excuse myself and go outside.
My colleague continued when I decided to leave, but as I stood I noticed the “Wall of Quotes” on the other side of the room, including large painted sayings from the likes of King, Ghandi, and others, when my eyes settled on the one closest to me.
“If you don’t know where you are going,
you might end up someplace else”
Wow, I so ended up someplace else. There is no better way to say it. Thanks Yogi for that.
Yogi. Who managed the Mets from 1972-1975. The Mets, who are still undefeated this season.