Governor’s School

26 08 2010

Way the hell back in summer of 1991, when I was a rising senior at Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville, Arkansas. I had the great opportunity to participate in Arkansas Governor’s School. My area of specialty was English and it was in there that I met my roommate for the then 6-week long program, a guy who would later become my roommate for my freshman year at college and the best man at my wedding. It was also at Governor’s School that I decided where I’d go to college: Hendrix, which is the campus where AGS is held.

I recently got an email from a life-long friend of mine who also went to Governor’s School herself regarding a survey of former AGS attendees about how it affected their life. I’d say ultimately it didn’t do much over the long-haul and was more of an influence in the general, big-picture sense much as how my elementary education shaped my life in ways that are, today, pretty much invisible. Yet, I would never had traded that experience for the world. It was a place that said I was smart and good at English, my favorite subject. I had a great time there. Most of what I remember is me being a complete idiot. I don’t think I was especially smart, but people kept telling me I was and that felt pretty nice. It was high drama with nerds. Fun stuff.

The email came about 4 days ago. Then, yesterday, remarkably, I ran into my “Area II” teacher from AGS randomly in the Nashville Public Library. His name is Bill Haymes and Area II was something I personally referred to as “group therapy.” It was the touchy-feely part of the AGS program, but was also an important experience. Bill was the perfect teacher for it, too. He’s the type of guy who seems so peace with himself. He’s a musician (2 CDs on sale here) and just generally a super guy. I had completely forgotten that he lived in Nashville, but now that I think on it, I remember running into him once before about 11 or 12 years ago when we lived here before. Regardless, I was floored by the chance meeting and despite a few awkward comments by yours truly-this is something I do; put on the spot, I have a tendency to say really odd things-I was genuinely happy to see him and have, for a moment, that connection to my summer experiences from 19 years before. Oh Library, is there anything you can’t do?

It’s so strange how a theme or an idea or the memory of a place can seem to randomly enter your life from multiple angles. No rhyme or reason to it, but it feels like the universe is nudging you in the ribs with a cosmic elbow and pointing dramatically and demanding to be acknowledged.

Packing my Library

10 07 2010

This is probably the worst time to start a new blog and that’s why I’m doing it. It’s doing things the hard way.

We’re packing up our home and getting ready to move 800 miles to Nashville after living in State College, PA for the last 10 years. I’m surrounded by boxes, rolls of tape, and a metric ton of assorted knick-knacks I haven’t seen or thought about in what seems like ages, even though it’s only been 3 years since our last move.

The deepest impact so far is coming from packing up my books. I maintained a pretty impressive library of high-falutin’ German literature books and a fairly-good-sized-for-graduate-school library of books on theory, mostly psychoanalysis from my old homeboy Lacan and those who came later and Frankfurt School, Benjamin (probably my favorite of all) and Adorno, a mish-mosh of postcolonialism, and a healthy dash of Foucault. Less remarkably, they haven’t seen much use in the last few years and with each one, I blow off a cloud of dust and whisk away the spiderwebs.

This feels really, really real now. It feels significant, in a way. I was reminded, as I was putting a copy of Benjamin’s Arcades Project into one of the boxes of the essay he wrote, “Unpacking my Library” in Illuminations:

Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.

For Benjamin, he was unpacking his books from wooden crates, allowing them after 2 light-less years to once again see the light of day. The disarray and chaos crystallized for him into a whole meaningful arrangement of ideas about what it means to him to be a book collector and on what the relationship is of the collector to the thing collected and, well, you get the idea. It was moment of chaos, but order was formed out of the disarray, even before they were put on shelves.

I’m not comparing myself to Benjamin by any stretch. I’m just reflecting now on what it means to be boxing my books up after they actually have been sitting on shelves, unused long enough to gather an inch of dust and spiderwebs. This manipulation of them is the first they’ve had in a good long while. But as I put them down to sleep in their cardboard coffins (more like mass graves, I just need a little lye to throw on them), I remember how much I loved them (and I still do). Even writing this, this inspiration, immediately leapt into my head as I went through the process, my thoughts lingering on all of the Benjamin I read over those early years of grad school and how much, in retrospect, I really enjoyed being that person.

I’m not that person anymore, but that person is still around in me. I enjoy who I am now, too, of course, but it’s just different. I think at the time I felt more sophisticated than I do now, divorced as I was from the concerns of the everyday, from having to deal with diapers and daycares and parenting and cooking healthy but delicious dinners, but really I was just insulated from it. It’s very clear to me that I’m a different person now than I was 6 or 7 years ago, but then, that’s the reason for this move. It’s time for us to shuffle off into a new life and packing and the resurgence of the memories of who I was and who I’ve become and who I will be are what give this moment some significance for me. Without this move, I might’ve missed it. It’s a good time to reflect.

We’re saying goodbye to a lot of things, but this has been the week for that. How terrible it was that we had to say goodbye to our 15 year old Schnauzer, Pirate, last Thursday when he passed away. Our hearts are broken over that and part of this move feels like we’re leaving him behind. We’re saying goodbye to a lot of places we adored, to the birthplace of our children and to a community that we had become a part of. The realization I’m coming to is that we take a lot of that with us still.

It’s been suggested that I part with some of the books that I won’t use. I’ll probably never admit again to not using these books, though, even if they just sit there for long periods. I’m promising myself now to look at them more and remember, once they are unpacked again in a few months. I’d rather sell the Harry Potters out there. I like my make-me-feel-smart books and I’ll keep them, thank you very much.

And welcome to my new blog. I’m pretty sure this will be the only post with Benjamin or Frankfurt School or anything that artsy-fartsy for a while, but figured I’d get it out of the way. It’s part of who I am.