Protected: Add Junk

In 2006 I finished my Masters degree and got a position at a mid-sized Midwestern university.  Officially my title was “Artist in Residence,” for the music department but I figured out pretty quickly that I was a glorified adjunct.   My duties included teaching private music lessons and classes, performing, recruiting, and I could optionally pick up extra classes to augment my salary.  Considering my salary was a whopping $16,000, I chose to augment it as much as I could. What surprised me was not the money; going from my stipend in graduate school to the salary as an artist in residence was a pay increase.  What caught me completely off guard was the culture and environment.  Grad school had been a little chaotic, but there was a pleasant (and necessary) margin of error as I learned the ropes.  When I entered the halls of my new job, I had no mentor, no support, no office, no supplies…  and no margin of error.  Basically it was a desert.  At least until it came time for those inevitable errors that come in your first year of teaching.  Then I had no shortage of feedback, and little of that was pleasant. I tried to contact other adjuncts, other artist-residents to form some sort of support group, or to at least learn something, but that wasn’t a success either.  Everyone had been pitted against each other, competing for class contracts, posting fliers in the hall to get students into their sections over other teachers’ sections.  As I learned, sections of various classes were added to the schedule and adjuncts hired, and any class...

Rolling in 3rd

As he rounded the corner Dan rolled the throttle open on his 1986 Honda 450.  It wasn’t a big motorcycle, but it responded with an intoxicating surge of firm and willing power.  It’s said that motorcycles, far more than cars, have a personality and a spirit.  Dan hadn’t named her, but he knew she was a she, and he knew that she rode like a dream. Some days that dream was of the pleasant variety, like the dream where you are awarded a prize, or you find yourself engaged with a beautiful lover… we don’t talk about those dreams, but we shouldn’t take them for granted either.  Some days, the motorcycle was the other kind of dream: perhaps one where you show up at school naked despite having graduated decades ago, or one where Stephen King has been called in for creative advice. Today was of the first variety, and like the dreams of imaginary lovers and un-looked-for awards, it was not taken for granted.  When Dan was 10 or 11 he would push his Huffy Thunder Road up the long hill, the one that led up to the county gravel pit.  Once at the top he’d survey the long grated-earth road back to the bottom, weigh anchor and sail down to his fortune.  Every good day on the motorcycle was an echo of this day. As the Honda picked up speed he eased off the gas and coasted into the next turn, scanning the road and kicking the shifter down to 3rd.  Climbing the next hill the engine let out a satisfying roar, which was followed by a...

Studies in 3rd Person

Dan dropped himself unceremoniously into the overstuffed leather chair that occupied the prime real-estate of the living room.  This was the leather chair that looked just-so-comfortable, but always made his neck hurt. Still, it was under the lamp, and next to the window, and sore neck or not, that’s where he wanted to sit. He drew open a book, something about coffee and slavery, and made a few faces for the itch inside his nose.  A few minutes later he realized he wasn’t reading the book at all.  Instead he was on Mars.  Or a mountaintop somewhere, or in 2003. He took a breath and went back to the descriptions of coffee pickers, corrupt government officials, oppression and slavery, and all sorts of other things that go along with the peopling of the West.  But no sooner had he started, his mind wandered again to the “out there.”  The road, the horizon. He dropped the book in his lap.  Then with a sigh he tucked the bookmark back in and stood up.  A mild crick had already snuck into his neck.  Fishing his laptop out of the crevice in the couch, he looked up his bank account balance and mumbled something about moving to Germany, or becoming a professional potter, or going to work in the office at the local symphony.  But rightly pinpointing the wanderlust as just that, not angst about his job, he closed the computer. After a few laps around the apartment and he was back in the living room, staring at the chair.  He listened briefly to the rain pattering on the side of the...

As Predicted by the Prophet

To be honest, my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet, so the first title I wrote was “As Predicted by the Profit.”  And the funny thing is, that title isn’t so far from the subject either. The subject is money.  When I graduated from undergrad and got my first full time job, it took about a year before I was financially… fluent? Fluid?  Functional?  I’m not sure what F word I’m trying to pick there, I just know that for most of undergrad and afterwards I thought of my financial situation with a different kind of F word: one I won’t use in front of my mom. So, it was with a little surprise that a year or so after my first initiation into the ranks of the working shlub that I realized I wasn’t constantly freaked out about being able to cover my bills.  It’s not that I hadn’t been able to pay before, but it was always just a balancing act to get it all paid, even living as meagerly as I did at the time. When my little brother graduated some years ago, I remember offering him some bit of (what I thought was) sage advice.  He, like me, is a programmer, and figured out that programmers can make pretty decent money.  So as he was finishing undergrad and starting a job, he was gazing with starry eyes at the sheer size of a full time paycheck, and immediately started mentally buying sports cars.  I told him he needed to wait a year before he made any big decisions.  It would take a solid year before he...