Month: November 2006


I had the full-on pre-Thanksgiving busiest-travel-day-of-the-year experience yesterday. I was English department staff duty officer, so I made the rounds with the keys and the clipboard and made sure everything was locked up and secure in our building at COB, and then it was off to the races: drive across the Hudson to the train station, Metro North local rail into Grand Central, subway shuttle to Times Square and then the 1 train south to 37th and Penn Station, where I picked up Amtrak to DC on a train so full it wasn’t even worth bothering to look for a seat, and spent the whole trip grading papers in the café car. Throngs and lines and crushes of people everywhere, and I’m thankful today that it all went off relatively smoothly.

I’m thankful for other things, as well.

  1. My students, who yesterday were even more high-spirited, engaged, smart, and dedicated than usual, but who always make my time in the classroom the best part of the job of teaching writing.
  2. My new job, for the opportunity that it offers me to make a genuine difference in ways that I might not have elsewhere — an opportunity that I’ve been capitalizing on, about which I’ll have more to say soon.
  3. My family, who I’m happy to be seeing after not having seen them for far too long.
  4. Tink and Zeugma, who have a couple of competent cat-sitters looking after them in New York.
  5. And, finally, before this gets too cloying, I’m grateful for my friend Jason’s invocation of those kindergarten crayon-drawn trace-the-hand Thanksgiving turkeys in this lovely bit of holiday snark:

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Ankle Deep

All that rain, all that rain.

On the bad side: My back yard slopes toward my house.

On the good side: I’d put most stuff in the basement up on wood, to avoid water problems.

On the bad side: I didn’t put it high enough.

On the good side: I was at least somewhat smart in stacking things; less important at the bottom, more important at the top.

On the bad side: There’s still a lot of stuff in the basement.

On the good side: The sump pump works.

On the bad side: I didn’t get home to plug it in until 6 PM.

I did a lot of work down in the basement last night. Usually, the girls are pretty curious about the basement; last night, I left the basement door open to let them discourage their own curiosity, in the hopes that seeing a flooded basement might make them less eager to try and dart down there any other time I open the door.

No such luck.

After I’ve done as much as I can with my ankle-deep flooded basement, I come back upstairs to shower and wash dishes and grade papers and dry off, and when I come back downstairs from my shower, there’s my intrepid explorer Zeugma, licking each of her four paws dry up to the knee.

God bless her.

The Massacree

I’m home from the office by 1630 Friday and there’s the long low sound of ripped air, the irregular trapezoid delta-vee shadow passing over my driveway, and I look up in time to see that serrated black triangle cross the sky above my house. The town’s already a zoo: traffic backed up in every direction; gray and blue Air Force colors out on the streets mixed in with the Army black and gold. Game time is 2000 hours.

Somewhere around 1910, my attorney fishtails across my driveway on two wheels in a baby-blue 74 Gran Torino and skids to a stop in my front yard, pulls a six-pack of Bud tallboys and a handful of nitrous oxide cartridges from the front seat, and lurches up to my front door. Tink and Zeugma are eager to see her again, but after last time, the guns and the flask don’t come in the house, so I talk her into leaving them in the trunk, and she greets the girls and then we walk through Highland Falls (population 3,600) to campus (student body 4,400) and the stadium (capacity 40,000, and it’s about two thirds full).

Michie Stadium exterior

We pass an Avenger static display on the way in, which seems clever given the match-up, and then my attorney points up to the Air Force and Army jump teams parachuting into the stadium with the wind off the Hudson whipping across the field.

The Corps of Cadets at right

Inside, it’s loud, with the Corps of Cadets all on their feet in a single solid olive-drab bloc, and it’s cold, and my attorney’s extremely disgruntled that she didn’t bring her flask. The game doesn’t do much to improve her disposition: Air Force is up early, and then Army throws interception after interception so it’s 14-0, 21-0, and then Army fumbles on a punt return and gives up a safety, and even when Air Force fumbles they fumble it into the end zone and recover for a touchdown. By the time we left at half-time, I could confidently say it was the absolute worst half of football I have ever witnessed.

Scoreboard at half time 42 to nothing

Which I guess itself is something worth seeing, although I sure hope not to see it again here.


Each day this week, my campus is seeing 11:57 overflights by F-16s, C-5s, KC-135s, UH-60s, A-10s, a B-52, and a B-2. And, well, yeah, you’d think it’s a pretty nice way for them to officially observe my 37th birthday today, even if I’m somewhat ambivalent about the cultural and economic implications of such over-the-top militarism. (Amherst is right now feeling far more distant than a three-hour car ride, and I’m somewhat ambivalent about that, too.) But no, it’s actually for the Army-Air Force football game on Friday night, which should be quite a spectacle, perhaps improved only by my Thompsonian attorney’s agreement to join me in the stands. I’ll do my best to remain sufficiently un-bent to render a report that night concerning the degrees (or distressing lack) of what Dr. HST might have called the decadence and depravity of sport among the service academies, but if past experience is any indicator, the pre- and post-game tailgating should be pretty dang good.

Here’s the thing: I remember Jenny grumping about game day, and I’ve felt the same way on game days here when traffic backs up two miles from every gate (where they have to do security checks and such, since it’s both a military base and a college campus), but then again, being in and on campus during such times is an exhilarating feeling, in ways I haven’t encountered much before. Here, where my students are so ridiculously overscheduled (they’re up at 5:20 doing homework, cleaning the barracks, getting their uniforms in order; classes start at 7:30 and end at 3:50; they’ve got athletics and dinner until 7:30, lights out at midnight), an alcohol-free football game where nobody’s yelling at them is the equivalent of a bacchanal. And as committed as the cadets have shown themselves to be to their intellectual education, I figure it’s the least I can do to meet them halfway; to engage the spirit as well as the intellect; to commit myself to some cadet fun outside the classroom as well as cadet education inside the classroom.

And, well, it’s gonna be a big fun spectacle, too.