Well the semester has begun and it is truly a wild ride this time around, let me tell you! Here is why:
– due to how various sabbaticals and parental leaves have played out, this semester I am the ONLY member of my area in residence. This means everyone comes to me with questions about my area I can’t answer because I barely know anything because I’m also the most junior member of my area AND I don’t teach our majors. It also means I’m on the hook for advising our weirdly huge incoming cohort. Lord if you could see me hunched over at my computer every time someone asks me a question I don’t understand! “Alexa, what is a ‘curriculum management system’ and how do I log into it”
– the biennial conference my friend and I put on has fallen ‘pon this semester as well, with all the madness that that entails
– somehow everything I have written in the past 2 years is finally being published now at this exact moment and so there are tons of revisions and fact-checking reports. The fact-checking on one of these articles was terrifying. It was amazing, I was in awe of this person’s attention to detail. They caught things like “in the block quote on p. 22 there is a comma after the word ‘there.’ In the original 1976 source that comma is there but in the revised 2008 edition there is no comma, but the footnote cites the original source.” There are like 10 pages of these notes. Cut to me sobbing in combined terror and glorious awe in the face of this Dark Lord, someone with a brain and skill set so different from mine as to comprise almost a different kind of human altogether, a herald of our future perfection. A job I could never do and would never be allowed to do! It’s interesting because I truly DON’T CARE about those kinds of details, and yet it’s true that this is scholarship and we are supposed to be accurate. So my knowledge of reality bucks against what I actually give a shit about. As is so often the case. Anyway, now I remember two years ago my colleague telling me that the editing at this journal is “intense” and now I get it. And you know what, it’s awesome. Someone is keeping me from embarrassing myself (hopefully)!
– teaching two grad seminars at once, which again is an evil born of the necessity of the aforementioned sabbaticals and leaves, and which is mentally difficult. I love teaching them but it is very hard to remember what we have talked about in one seminar vs. in the other, and also seminars (for me anyway) take roughly 100 times the amount of prep time as my undergrad classes. PLUS our grad students are really smart this year! I can’t bullshit them!!
– half of my tenure file is due THIS SPRING (can you believe how time flies) and so there are workshops and meetings and moments of sheer horror for example when the union gave me a flash drive with sample personal statements from past tenure cases and they are so much longer than I was picturing. The longest one is THIRTY THREE PAGES SINGLE SPACED. The shortest is seven. I was thinking more like two. So now I gotta figure out how to write a thousand pages about my own genius. Luckily I am a Leo–how do Virgos get this shit done?? They’re not narcissistic enough! Jesus Lord
– I guess that’s all the stuff that’s unusual this year, the rest is just the normal mayhem. I kind of love it even as it takes a toll on my body and mind. It’s so funny how we are not even 3 weeks in and already in the halls when you meet a colleague you both just look at each other with wide eyes and shake your heads like “no, no, I cannot explain the sheer horror I am going through.” Also I’m really noticing how bananas our students’ lives are. For example I teach a class until 8 at night at which point I go home and literally collapse on the couch and my husband sort of coaxes tacos into my mouth as I sleep. Not my students! NONE OF THEM go home after class. They either have rehearsal or they’re going to the practice room or they’re copying scores for their TAship. And they’re all in HIGH SPIRITS, whistling down the hall, yelling goodnight to me, joshing one another about various intricacies of the conservatory lifestyle I don’t understand. After I’ve just made them talk about Hegel for three hours (not literally Hegel). Lord alive! They’re amazing.
I am also in my version of high spirits. I love to work punishingly and live unhealthily, because of all that stuff Max Weber says! Yesterday I planned two classes, revised my article in accordance with the 10 page discrepancy report, sent it in, then canned six jars of peaches and seven jars of tomatoes, then made fancy ramen. FEELING GREAT, knock on wood.
We went to the county fair because Gary has decided that our favorite holiday is Halloween and the county fair helps us start the process of getting in the Halloween spirit (because of fall). For weeks he’d been looking forward to it, specifically to riding the “Haunted Mansion” ride that’s like a little train you sit in and it takes you through a haunted house where stuff jumps out and scares you. “It will mark the beginning of the Halloween season for us,” he decided. I’ve never wanted to ride on this ride as I famously hate being scared in this manner. He kept saying “come on, you know it won’t be as scary as Hereditary,” which is true but the quality of terror between those two experiences is different, and one is compelling to me and one isn’t. Still, because marriage is about compromise, I said okay.
The great day arrived. We drove to the fairgrounds, parked, paid our TWENTY DOLLARS EACH to enter the fair, and went immediately to the fried dough stand where throwing caution to the wind I got my own whole one instead of stealing bites from my husband which he hates but accepts (see above re compromise). I felt very sick but regretted nothing. Then we made our way immediately to the haunted ride. It was closed. We stood regarding it for awhile. The outside was spray-painted with a very confusing mural, depicting what appeared to be zombies sitting in a classroom staring lustfully at the teacher, who–due to not having green skin–did not seem to be a zombie, but was dressed like a dominatrix or something, with a book propped on her knees. On the chalkboard behind them was a drawing of a hand holding a plate of brains and it said TODAY’S LESSON. We talked about this for awhile, trying to parse this image while waiting for the ride to open. It didn’t open. We could see the guy in charge of this ride eating something out of a styrofoam container but he was making no move to begin his shift. Around us the fair was slowly grinding into life. Two carnies were polishing the fun slide. Another was ordering curly fries at a booth and joking with the person inside. Our guy finished his food and got up to throw it away and started yelling obscenities at the old lady in the ticket booth, who was apparently hassling him about something. “GO FUCK YOURSELF” he yelled, with a snarl of genuine hate on his face. “Lets go to the monkey business ride” said Gary.
We went to the monkey business ride, which was not a ride but rather a fun house, with the weird mirrors and the mirror maze and such. Like everything at this fair, it was extraordinarily janky, the mirrors mended with black duct tape and such. We handed over our tickets and went inside. The mirror maze was interesting. Then you go upstairs and look in the mirrors that make you look fat or skinny or like your head is floating upside down above your body. Then that’s the end of it and you get out by sliding down a slide. I haven’t been on a slide in probably a decade and my body had forgotten how to do it. The slide itself was only about 8 feet long but I immediately got all twisted around and burned my elbow. Remember slide burns? They hurt LIKE HELL. I was so sad. Damn old monkey business ride!
At this point the haunted house ride was open and the mad carnie was grudgingly taking people’s tickets and letting them on. Sidenote: the carny life seems a hard one. It’s amazing that that is still a life people can lead. It seems so brutal and I bet they are paid so little. Living in trailers out behind the Ferris wheel, trailers I’m sure they have to provide themselves. It just doesn’t seem fun and I would like to know if they have a union or how their labor is accounted for. I particularly wondered this after our experience on the haunted ride.
As we stood in line waiting, we were a bit confused, because he was only letting one car go at a time, rather than the whole train of them. He’d put two people in a car, press the button, the car would disappear, and then he’d run off somewhere. Then there’d be screaming and recorded scary noises and stuff, and the car would come out the other side and he’d reappear and load up the next car. Huh, we thought. We also noticed the ride was literally 10 seconds long. “You can do it honey,” Gary said, reassuringly patting my hand.
We got loaded into our car. I noticed that on the back of the sign indicating how many tickets the ride cost, someone had written in sharpie the simple phrase DARK RIDE. What did my future hold? Perhaps this WOULD be as scary as Hereditary! Gary gripped my hand and began giggling in anticipatory delight. The carny pressed the button and our car began its journey into the hellish darkness beyond which no mortal may peer without being forever changed. Immediately as our car rounded the corner to begin the journey proper, it stalled and began making a horrible grinding noise. Gary was shrieking with laughter, yelling IT’S STUCK, WE’RE STUCK. We rocked back and forth trying to get our car back on the track. Then we began moving again! Suddenly Gary shrieked in ACTUAL TERROR, which made me shriek, but I didn’t know what we were shrieking about because honestly the “ride” was just a plywood tunnel spray-painted black, with sunlight filtering through from the outside, and all I saw was a grimy monster mask that was nailed to one of the walls. Gary was laughing harder now. The car continued around another corner and came out the other side and we got out and staggered away.
“Did you see what happened?” Gary asked
“No, why did you scream??” I asked
It turned out that the ride was actually broken–the track was broken or something–so every single car that went through it had to be MANUALLY PUSHED. So our guy was pressing the button to start the ride, then rushing around the back into the tunnel, where he put on a scary mask and then just pushed the car through the ride himself. What made Gary scream was looking over his shoulder and seeing the guy there two inches away. Something that was not meant to be part of the ride, but that was legitimately fucking terrifying.
We laughed so hard but also I just kept thinking, Jesus that guy is going to do that all night long? Why is his ride broken–is it his responsibility to pay to get it fixed or something? What kind of arcane exploitative labor agreements does this place enforce? I felt bad for how hard we were laughing but also what was funny was the weeks of build up about how scary this ride was gonna be vs. what the reality was. I said it was like a haunted house ride that Homer Simpson would cook up in the yard to try to bilk neighborhood kids.
Anyway then two other guys let us ride the Ferris wheel by ourselves and then we went home. “I don’t feel like that was the fair experience I was looking for” said Gary. But that’s life isn’t it!