The Daily Rant

Today I stood in the service department of a Toyota dealership and listened to someone say, “I’m not sure we have anyone here right now who can work on a Toyota.”

I ended up in this service department because my friend cut her hand at work. I took her to Walgreen’s in Laurel for bandages. When we came out of the store, my car wouldn’t start. My friend called her husband who came and gave my car a jump start. They went home. I went down the road to the Toyota dealership because I live alone, and I didn’t want to go home in a car I wasn’t sure would start the next morning.

I sort of objected to the idea that they might not be able to work on my Toyota at the Toyota dealership. Maybe I objected in a loud and cranky voice. The end result of this was that I waited around for an hour for someone to stick a new battery in my car. They charged me $150 for the battery. They didn’t bother to check my car out to determine what was wrong or what it might need. They just stuck a battery in, which I probably did need, but this was my first encounter with a dealership that didn’t bother to give the car a general checkup as matter of course. This didn’t exactly ease my state of crankiness.

The credit card machine wasn’t working. I had to write a check I wasn’t sure I could afford.

The drink machine took my money and didn’t give me a drink.

The person at the register stood there playing with a baby while a line of people waited to be helped.

I won’t go back there again. I’ll take my car to Walmart before I take it there to be serviced. I certainly won’t buy a car there. And not because everything they did was annoying when I was already stressed out over my car not starting. They lost me at “I’m not sure we have anyone here right now who can work on a Toyota.”

If you work for a Toyota dealership, this is not a sentence that should pass through your lips. It does not inspire confidence. If you own a Toyota dealership, and you hope to grow your customer base, you might want to consider keeping some Toyota certified mechanics on hand. Just a thought…

Regardless, my car does seem to be cranking now. It may take me some time yet to become uncranked.

Black Creek Photo Excursion

I might mention first that I hate having my picture taken. Hate, hate, hate.

When I was asked for a picture for my book cover, I wanted to find an old picture–from when I was about five. Instead I decided to cowgirl up and take some friends out into the woods with me to see what we could come up with. I hoped for something funny, or if not that, freakishly Southern.

Unfortunately, I hated all of the pictures because I always hate all pictures of me. However, I did force myself to pick out these three as possibilities. You can vote if you like.

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This is me sitting in front of the family vacation home. I’m sorry for you if you don’t have anything this nice. I almost didn’t put this on here because I didn’t want anyone to know how rich we are.

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This is me taking a picture of my friend David taking a picture of me. Once again I’m in front of the family vacation home. There’s no rule that says the face has to be visible in a book photo, is there?

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This one I posted yesterday. It’s me sitting in front of the gate that blocks the road to the family vacation home. I suspect the gate was erected specifically to keep me out. There’s nice stuff down there…a Yahtzee game, some canned beans, a couple a tiki torches. I don’t think my brothers wanted me getting into any of that.

Plus, there are some tiny pine trees growing inside the bbq grill. If I’d had a cookout, I could have ruined everything.

On Drunks and Preachers and Being Trailer Trash

I’ve listened to this Paul Thorn tune “Pimps and Preachers” a few times, thanks to someone who shares genetic background with me who thought I would appreciate it. I do. I do appreciate it.

If there were pimps in my childhood, I never knew it. But there were preachers by the baker’s dozen, and there were drunks. Such good drunks. If the song were “Drunks and Preachers,” I’d be right there, believing it was a song about me. Drunks do tend to take you under their wings and pass out some of the best advice you’ll ever hear, you know. They have a lot of time to think. All that time spent either working on getting drunk or working on sobering up is also sort of time spent sitting around thinking. Drunks know things, and they will impart them to you for very little effort on your own part.

And this brings me to thinking about a time when I was in a book club meeting with other teachers. We’d just read a Rick Bragg book or something of that nature, and someone said, “We’re all just one generation away from being trailer trash.”

“Speak for yourself,” I said. “I’ll never claim to be any generation removed from trailer trash. We’re talking about my people.”

And another time someone who was trying to teach me to write said, “Don’t give me that cornbread crap.”

“Write about what what you know,” he said, “but don’t write about redneck churches and cornbread people.”

Ah, well then. That leaves me without much to say.

I’ve been thinking about all that this week, the inherent snobbery of academia, I suppose. I have a degree in creative writing. I have PhD in CW, in fact. That makes me part of the snobbery, which doesn’t always fit right when you’re still hanging out in the trailer park.

I blogged a story that would not be considered literary in nature, and I felt terrible about it even at the same time that I felt great about it. No one said anything negative. I could just feel the scorn of my whole CW community on me.

This is not so different from redneck churches. This academic snobbishness, it is its own religion.

I feel the same way, in fact, when I write something that might not be considered, strictly speaking, to be “in keeping with” the church. I feel the scorn of others on me for it.

People judge each other. That’s what they do. That’s the way the world operates. If you are judged, that just makes you the same as everyone else. It just means you are getting what you have yourself given out in some other form or fashion.

But my song would not be “Drunks and Preachers” after all. It would be “Professors and Preachers,” the people who tried to steer me each in their own ways.

In the end I have rebelled against them all. I follow the advice of both and the advice of neither in my own particular way. But I owe a debt of love and gratitude, and if I could carry a tune in a five gallon bucket, I would sing them all a country cornbread song.

Tuesday the 13th

Not much to report today. I’ve been going through boxes, trying to trim down my collections of old junk. It was a failed effort for the most part.

It was part of a larger failed plan. You see, I have this urge to put together a new manuscript of poems to send out for some of the fall contests, but I don’t have enough poems and don’t have time to write enough. Or…I do have enough poems, but I don’t have enough in any single collection.

I’m not sure who made the rule, but after the first book, you have to think like that. You can’t push random samplings of your work out there for the rest of your life. You have to start organizing them into collections that make some sort of sense as collections.

Currently, I have three different new collections started, but I don’t have enough in any one collection to constitute a book length manuscript. That’s why I got this idea that I’d double up on housework and writing by culling poetic material from old notebooks.

Fail.

My old notebooks are full of crap. I hope never to have to admit to writing any of that stuff. No poems to be stolen from myself there.

I did, however, read a random journal entry that made me laugh.

My friend Shelley and I once spent 15 minutes waiting on the wrong side of the road for the bus because we couldn’t figure out which side it would be driving on. This was a rip roaring hilarious experience for us according to the one existing account.

I assume it happened in England where buses do pick you up on the other side of the road, but I won’t rule out the possibility that it may have happened in Oklahoma where Shelley and I both lived at the time. I’ve done stranger things than that right here in Mississippi.

Meanwhile I’m resigning myself to the fact that I’m not going to write 30 pages worth of new poetry in the next few weeks. But that’s okay, I still have a house to clean and an embarrassingly non-literary novel to blog.

Look for Chapter 2 on Friday. I even wrote that on my calendar: “Blog Chapter 2.”

In which case, I better quit messing around with arranging poems and get busy working on some fluff fiction.

What I learned in 2009

Inspired by Billie Hara, I’ve decided to write my own “What I learned” list.

  • I learned that retweets can serve as temporary bookmarks, reminding me of where I found ideas I want to come back to later.
  • I learned that turning 42 puts you no closer to understanding the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything.
  • I learned that the question is different for everyone.
  • I learned that I can do most anything I want, but I can’t do everything I want.
  • I learned how to install and format self-hosted WordPress blogs.
  • I learned that Einstein’s brain was stolen by the pathologist who did his autopsy.
  • I learned how to give a pill and worse to a cat.
  • I learned that I’m no good at cutting back on commitments.
  • I learned that I still love blogs best as digital writing tools despite the fact that most of the social benefits I once got from blogging now takes place on Facebook and Twitter.
  • I learned that I’m a Mac person.
  • I learned that I can easily become addicted to audiobooks.
  • I learned that I believe physics is poetry.
  • I learned that poetry is still my biggest interest.
  • I learned that after 40, poetry is about everything.
  • I learned that reading a single short story a day by a particular writer, like I did with Eudora Welty, is a very good way to absorb that writer’s voice and mindset.
  • I learned that the currency of the blog is in the individual post, but there’s nowhere to exchange that currency if you haven’t built up general name recognition and a network of potential readers somewhere.
  • I learned from my niece that other people want to be popular too and that it is considered rude not to like and comment on the Facebook walls of people who like and comment on yours.
  • I learned that not every social technology is intuitively obvious to me.  I don’t know what to do with Second Life and Google Wave, and I don’t know if I have time to find out.
  • I learned that there’s great amusement to be had in an oversized sweet potato sitting around the house as a conversation piece.
  • I learned that I can’t expect other people to share my enthusiasm for every project that comes along.
  • I learned that sometimes it’s better to speak my mind, sometimes it isn’t, and I’m unlikely to ever learn the difference.
  • I learned that it’s very difficult to say anything at all in less than 400 words.
  • I learned that tofu makes a great base for curry sauces.
  • I learned that the toughest audience is the closest audience.
  • I learned that nothing can compete with the imagination of a 4-year-old.
  • I learned that nothing is certain.
  • I learned that little things have the biggest impact despite the face that I only do it if I’m ready to overdo it.
  • I learned that I can take an interest in football if the Saints suddenly start winning (and then losing again).
  • I learned that belief in their own futures is the biggest thing students need to succeed.
  • I learned that having big goals means you are constantly going somewhere, and anywhere is better than nowhere.

I could keep going, but…this is probably more than enough.  I hope I remember to ask my students to do this next year.