All I Want Is A Room Somewhere: the Radical Hits the Road

October 9, 2007, 8:35 pm

I flew out of Teeny Airport this morning, this time at a reasonable hour, which you can do if someone else has invited you for a visit and a travel agent is making the arrangements. I changed planes in Connector City and continued on to Mini Airport, which is in the middle of either a midwestern, an eastern or a southern state, depending on how you think of those categories. Or this place. Anyway, it is a super big research university, surrounded by very, very beautiful country. I am here for two days of talking to folks, and then I go on to another city, where I will meet with wads of my scholarly peers at the Annual Meeting. I will also have dinner with the Mother of the Radical (otherwise known as MOtheR, or the Maternal Unit), which I am looking forward to, as we have not had a sitdown since August. A convention is an excellent time for seeing relatives, I have found. It is not such a bad idea to break up the scholarly meeting thing to have dinner with someone entirely unconnected to academic life; and it is not so bad to set boundaries on visits with your relatives by having to return to the scholarly meeting. Otherwise you might just forget and move back in with them.

I could never figure out why, now many years ago, they moved the AHA to January from its formerly terrific date, two days after Christmas. Now it just screws up January break, whereas before it was a great reason to beetle out of the hideous hols. I am told it was the women’s caucus who did this, because the professional pressure combined with the family pressure was too great. But this makes no sense. Why wouldn’t women want to leave home immediately and get a lovely hotel room all by themselves after that hellish event, otherwise known as “family Christmas?” I think it must have been the patriarchy that was responsible in some way, and as usual, the patriarchy has cleverly put out the disinformation that women are to blame.

But back to the here and now — there is a football shrine behind my hotel, which pleases me immensely, and is very exotic for those of who are used to Zenith culture and Zenith ways. At Zenith they have shrines to — like, a Veggie Burger, or something.

Busy as I have been, you would hardly think that I would regard a road trip with great pleasure but, aside from leaving my domestic life behind for a bit too long and the inconvenience of figuring out what clothes I will need as the temperature drops steadily over the next four days, I do regard this trip with pleasure. First of all, it is just a nice break, and it’s nice to be invited somewhere. I get to present some work to some people who truly seem to be interested in it, see a friend who is also a former student, and then go on to another hotel where lots of my friends will be milling around, who will have drinks in their hands as the day wears on, and who will solicitously make sure that I get one too. But second of all, there is no better way to get a lot of work done than on planes and trains, and in motel rooms. You bring a finite amount of stuff, and you just slog away at it until its done. As you finish things, you throw the paperwork away. In between giving talks and such, you read novels, catch up on all the magazines that have been coming into your house that you haven’t had time for, and watch the Netflix movies that have been sitting on top of the TV for three weeks. You grade stacks of papers, with the TV tuned to ESPN. You catch up on your email. And your blog.

In fact, it has occurred to me that it could really improve my life to find a nice motel in Shoreline, and just check in once in a while. There should be a budget line devoted to this for every department or program chair, and of course now that everyone has wireless internet and cell phones, you wouldn’t really even be out of touch or not working. You would just be in — well, seclusion. Like nuns, or Howard Hughes, or the Wizard of Oz.

New President has asked for New Ideas that we can Raise Money Around, and after I see whether they will agree to making my program a department (or agree to even think about it), I’m going to offer this one up. It’s got legs for anyone that is or has been an administrator, don’t you think?

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