Having been instructed by the doctor to take yesterday off, I find myself in the midst of a three-day weekend that I wasn’t seeking, but I guess I need. There’s just been so much to do, doggone it. Fortunately, Mrs. M has added some truly lovely yellow wallpaper to the den, and… what was I saying?
As I mentioned last time, I’ve been hit by a succession of ailments over the last three weeks, but finally reached the point midweek that I knew I had to get something better than the over-the-counter stopgaps on which I’ve relied. Alas, there seems to be an abundance of creeping crud in the Mondoville environs, and my doctor wasn’t able to work me in until Thursday after class. So when I got there, I got an official imprimatur for what I pretty much suspected — that I had two different infections, each singly bothersome, but leaving me pretty debilitated in combination. I do feel as though I’ve made some progress over the last day or two, and I’ve got until Monday morning to keep getting better, so there we are.
At the same time, I find myself filled with anxiety about the classes I’ve missed over the past weeks. The odd thing is that because of my schedule, pretty much all the classes I’ve missed have been MWF, so my TTh class is perking along just fine, thanks. Still, I feel guilty about missing work. Remember, I’m the guy who had this lady for a mom:
In October of 1990, she was in the hospital for what proved to be a pulmonary embolism. At some point during her stay, the doctors asked her about the heart attack that her tests indicated she had suffered at one point. She didn’t know what they were talking about — she hadn’t had a heart attack. Then, as they checked old records, they narrowed it down to a specific range of dates, and she said, “Oh! That‘s what that was. Well, hell, if I had known it was a heart attack, I wouldn’t have gone back to work the next day.”
I suppose I should be grateful to work somewhere that allows me the time to recover, and I am, but I still inherited enough of the ethos from my parents and grandparents (like my maternal grandfather, who described mandatory retirement after 38 years in the fire department (and who had worked from the age of nine until he turned 70) as “being fired.”) that I feel guilty for needing to use it. And knowing that no one is served if I push myself to breaking doesn’t seem to ease the feeling that I’m slacking and cheating my kids out of attention, even though, like everyone at the college, I’m dancing as fast as I can. But I’m recovering, and that’s good.
Although I had already been to see the doctor on Thursday, I did have one more thing to do that evening before I could sleep in on Friday. Fortunately, it was less of a chore than a pleasure, as I served as interlocutor for the evening with Lawrence Block at the Newberry Opera House. About 180 people showed up for the hour-long event, and I think everyone had a good time. I talked to El Bee about his development as a writer, the satisfactions of his work, and life in the college racket, among other topics. There was even time to field some questions from the audience, and a line of people afterwards to get autographs, photos, and the like.
It has been quite a few years since my journalism days, but I was pleased to see that I can do a pleasant interview. In these situations, I see my role as being like that of the offensive lineman I once was — to give the “skill player” (in this case, the interview’s subject) the opportunity and the space to be the star. Or perhaps a better analogy would come from my years playing in various bands. I’m in the rhythm section, on the back line, and my job is to work for the benefit of the song. Of course, when you’re backing a great performer — and LB has done this enough times to know his style — the job is pretty easy.
My academic career has had numerous personal highlights along the way, and while the topper will always be having the Spawn read Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” aloud in my Brit Survey class, this was a wonderful experience. Thanks to Mr. Block for being such a terrific interview, and to my colleagues in Mondoville’s English program for letting me take the gig.
I think I’ll wrap it up at this point, but why not throw in a bit of music? From Santa Barbara, CA, the Dovers cut four singles between the fall of 1965 and the spring of 1966. All of them disappeared more or less without a ripple, but later collectors unearthed them and shared them with the Pebbles and Nuggets fans of the world. While their “What Am I Going to Do” appeared on the Nuggets box set, I actually like this one better. The A-side to their final single, this is “She’s Not Just Anybody,” and it’s all sorts of cool yearning in under one-minute-fifty (despite the listed time on the label).
See you soon!