When I first got my full-time job at the community college where I have spent almost eight years, I rode in a taxi to the airport to return home for a visit. The driver asked what I did for work. I once read a story about the director John Sayles and his hitchhiking days and about how his life changed when he started saying he was an actor and writer as an answer to that question. So I try to say writer when I am asked, although sometimes I feel like a total douchebag and revert to professor although I am considering scrapping this answer as well and saying something different each time if only to hone my creative skills. That day, so grateful that I finally had a job after many years of piecing together rag-ass bits of work, I said that I taught writing at the community college. That must make you pretty smart or something, he said. You must think you're something special. I looked at the man in front, his fraying jacket, bright red nose, and teeth that had seen as much care as mine have (which is to say very little), and shook my head. Actually, I'm a writer, I said, thinking of Mr. Sayles. Then why you got a job? Writers are supposed to write, not work.
I laughed. Here I had been struggling for many years, both to work and write, and now the man in the driver's seat was telling me that I was doing it wrong. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion. Two schools of thought, the man said, and I could hardly wait to hear his take. One is that you can't write when you're starving. The second is that you don't have motivation to write if you're not starving. I thought about all the things I had done to keep going -- the mind-numbing jobs, the car that had run on a donut tire for almost a year, recycling cans for money for lunch, and was never so relieved to be in that first school of thought for that moment. The cab ride to the airport lasted forever and a day; I could have written a story during it, an escapist fantasy about a woman that never had to define herself for anybody, that could be all things to all people, but mostly to herself. But instead I wished myself invisible. If I could have pulled that off, as the driver said, I would have thought I was something special.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I am pregnant with certain deaths/ of women who dreamed that the lover would strike like lightning and/ throw them over the saddle and carry them off./ It was the ambulance that came." Marge Piercy
Drinking novel suggestion: Small Changes Marge Piercy
Benedictions and Maledictions
For readers who watch The Sopranos: Question of the day-- Which character(s) do you identify with the most on the show?