Classes start back next Wednesday, but as I enjoy a few more days (mostly) off, here’s a little of this and that.
I’m starting to get back into work mode, having put my syllabi together this afternoon. I’m teaching two sections of Froshcomp, a section of BritLit (Caedmon to Spenser), and a creative writing fiction workshop. The Spawn will be in the last of these, despite the fact that it begins at the obscene hour of 9:25 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In point of fact, I’m not sure the Spawn realized that they even made a 9:25 in the morning, but she has resolved to tough it out. Of such stern stuff were the pioneers made. (Heaven forbid she take the Brit class — it’s at 8.) And no, I don’t think of myself as a morning person. I started teaching the early classes when I got to Mondoville, both because I was the new guy and because I could give the Spawn a ride to her classes and then zip over to campus, allowing my colleagues a little extra sack or travel time. I’m now the senior member in the English program, but I’m used to the relatively early shift, and usually enjoy being free after lunch, so there we are.
Today was the first afternoon I’ve spent in the office in a few weeks, but I was glad to get behind my desk again. That probably indicates that I’m where I should be.
Although HELLSNOW 18(TM applied for and pending) is not expected to reach this far west, coastal areas down here are feeling some effects, with a friend of mine near Charleston reporting that they have five inches of snow already. Here in Mondoville, the bigger issue continues to be the cold, with lows in the teens and highs only a few degrees above freezing. I’m not laughing at my neighbors — they don’t laugh at me when I stay indoors all summer — but on the other hand, they always seem a bit startled by my lack of horror during cold weather.
For example, when I went to the office today, I was wearing khaki slacks and a U of KY T-shirt. I didn’t bother with a coat — I was walking from a heated car to a heated building, no more than 40 yards total, and the temperature was likely in the mid-30s. (Also, of course, I’m, um, better insulated than most folks.) I ran into my buddy Justin as I crossed the parking lot, and we stood there talking for a moment before heading into my building. As it happened, one of the building services managers walked by, saw us, and said, “Come on, Warren — a T-shirt?”
“Hey,” I said, “I’m wearing long pants.” We laughed and he headed on. Afterward, Justin mentioned that one of the custodians had wondered aloud this morning if “Dr. Moore was wearing shorts today.” You’d think I was in a Jack London story or something.
Speaking of the South, I was tweeting with a friend of mine on New Year’s Day as it became increasingly clear that the NCAA football championship was going to be an all-SEC affair. And even when it isn’t, we tend to see that the center of college football gravity seems to be located in the old Confederacy year in and year out. There are a few other places that take the game Very Seriously (Ohio, Nebraska), but I think the culture down here is centered around the college game in ways that the rest of the country just doesn’t get (or is too sane to embrace, depending on one’s viewpoint.)
Part of it, of course, is that folks in this part of the country are used to being downrated — scorned, seen as backward, the antithesis of whatever is clever and progressive. So when there’s something we can do well, we cling to it and elevate its importance in everyday life — sometimes more than we should.
And that brings me to my second point. I wonder occasionally if a reason the South produces a disproportionate number of top-flight football players is because there are fewer opportunities for success in other areas here. As a corollary, I wonder if we think of our young men as more… expendable? … than folks in other regions, and encourage them to become contemporary gladiators accordingly. I have friends and colleagues who shudder at the thought of their sons or grandsons playing football. Are they taking a longer view of their kids’ lives? Perhaps, but at the same time, I suspect that this is related to the idea that their social mobility and status are not as contingent on sports (particularly high-risk sports) as other folks’ status may be. And I also wonder if that’s a contributing factor to the disproportionate number of Southerners in our military. If we have the impression that our lives and health are of low value, is it surprising that we’re more willing to risk both?
I don’t know — I’m thinking out loud here. But I’d be interested in hearing what you think.
A few of the people I know have been talking about New Year’s resolutions. I try to avoid them, as I’m too likely to see them as potential failures and sources of guilt, and I bear enough of that as it stands. (Yes, I know that the vast majority of it is self-imposed, but it’s there nonetheless, and I don’t know how to shrug it away.)
But if I have one this year, I guess it’s going to be to write more, and to write longer. Maybe not The Next Novel, but maybe steps to bring one within sight. We shall see.
On another creative front, I’m hoping to have some musical news sometime in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.
And since I mentioned music, this is as good a time as any to close, and I’ll do it with a country song. I actually first heard this on the Dr. Demento show when I was in junior high school. It appears on one of the CDs I got for Christmas, but I didn’t recognize it until I heard it. The song was recorded by Eddie Noack, a hard-living honky-tonk performer who became a hard-drinking music exec before dying of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 47. He’s buried in Nashville, in the same cemetery as my parents. While Noack wrote his share of songs, he didn’t write this one, which was penned by Leon Payne. Known as “the Blind Balladeer,” Payne lost his vision as a child, but went on to compose a number of hits during his brief life (he died at 52, my current age) — most notably “Lost Highway,” a hit for Hank Williams.
This song wasn’t a hit for anyone. But for those of us with a certain cast of mind, it should have been. Enjoy.
See you soon!