Tuesday, April 20, 2004

life of buddy don, chaptur 114:
makin a friend at grad skool

funny thang bout how ye git reddy fer a new part of yer life. seems lack i gut this fear bout how i wont be good a nuff. ye mite thank i wood be confident on a counta how i had dun well as a undergrad n gut the fellowship to study overn west germany, but neethur of them facks kep me frum bein wurried i woodnt be able to do everthang ye needed to do to git thru grad skool.

fer one thang, it seemed lack ye had to have so much to do that twuz impossibull to doot all, witch that meant ye had to deecide witch thangs ye wuz a'gonna do n witch ye wuz a gonna git by without doon. later in life i figgerd twuz a way of teachin ye how to set yer priorties. aint no way to do everthang, so ye gut to do the thangs that matters most.

heres the list of thangs i had to wurry bout that fall: (1) 18th century poetry class, (2) shakespeare class, (3) literary resurch class, (4) german lit class that i wuz auditin, witch twuz the furst thang i real eyesed i wood half to let go, (5) teachin assistuntship, (6) cookin ever meal, (7) rootin fer the phillies, witch as ye mite know, they won the worl series that year n bes part of it wuz the nashnull league champeenship twixt the phillies n the houston astros, witch that wuz so good on a counta twuz a grate series n emily wuz a astros fan on a counta she had a lil crush on thar catcher name of alan ashby, n (8) havin no money lef over fer much of nuthin.

corse a list lack that dont give ye no idee of the blur it turnt the fall into.

fer one, we had to wurk as teachin assistunts, witch that meant i had to attend classes with my 'mentor,' a portly woman name of virginia with the wrinkles of a sixty year old n the red hair of a teenager. i gut to watch her conduct class n gut to grade sum of them papers n then git my gradin graded by virginia. we had to use the harbrace collidge handbook fer everthang, so i had to larn how to put lil numbers by ever miss take inny of them students made. the class met three times a week on mundys, windsdys n fridys. thay wuz papers to grad, witch virginia let me do most of that n then she wood go over my gradin to make sure i wuz on the rite track. befor the class had ended i wood half to teach em a time or two, witch twuz sumthin i could hardly wait fer n sumthin that wood keep me awake at nite wurryin.

the poetry n shakespeare classes wuz mostly fun though they tuck a lot of wurk n time. i hadnt never read so deeply bout no subjeck lack that. in that poetery class, we woodnt jes read the pomes writ by alexander pope or the play by john dryden or the prose of ben johnson, witch ye mite could wunder why we wuz readin plays n prose fer a poetry class but ye mite could say drydens plays wuz lack huge poems n ye couldnt hardly unnerstan nuthin bout the late 17th n early 18th centries without readin ben johnson. corse me n emily had dun gut carrd away over in west germany n read a lot of other thangs frum that time, mostly the novels writ by daniel defoe n laurence stern n tobias smollet n henry fielding, so that wuz a hep. but all that wuz barely the beginnin. thay wuz all these wurks by critics n skolars to read, all bout that same time period. ye kin magine how thay wuz a more books than inny student could ever git to durin a quarter.

twuz purty much the same with that shakespeare class only twuz a undergraduwait corse so ye wernt forced to read as much. me n emily read lots of them plays out loud to each other -- othello, macbeth, lear -- each takin bout half the roles. fack is, the mane thang we had in common wuz how we luved readin so much, speshly novels.

nuther thang we had to figger wuz how to feed ourself. problem thar wuz how we dint have no money fer eatin out, witch that meant sumbidy had to cook, n as emily put it one time, she couldnt hardly boil water without burnin it, so i had to cook. lucky fer me, i tuck all my classes in the mornins, the latest one bein that literary resurch class with ran frum 1:30 to 3 ever tuesdy n thursdy. i wood git home early a nuff to burn a lil bowl of theevil weed, witch thays tales that hang offn that simple statement that i hope i git to, then to play a lil piano n then to start dinner. twuz a sprizingly big part of life.

fack is, ye could git the skedule of the day frum it fer the mos part. i wood git up round 6 am at furst, make sum coffee n wait fer her to git up. she woke up round eight, grumpy n needin a cigarette. since she couldnt eat fer a while, at lease a hour or so, we wood be readin or watchin the today show. she wood generly git reddy to eat befor we had to leave out fer classes, but ifn she hadnt gut reddy by then, she did without n never once cumplaind bout it. corse, i always ate n always had sumthin reddy fer her, eethur biskits n sausage n gravy n eggs or jes biskits with butter or a egg or even jes cereal with milk. we dint hardly eat lunch on a counta thay wuznt time nor money fer it.

dinner wuz the big meal, witch i timed it so we could watch the 6:30 evenin news n the reruns of barney miller. i gut to whar i had a bakers dozen of meals i could make purty quick: (1) cornbread, beans n taters; (2) cornbread, beans n macaroni n cheese; (3) spaghetti (generly saved fer cumpny); (4) chili (also good fer cumpny); (5) pizza; (6) mexican rice, bean n eethur burritos or tacos; (7) baked taters, fish n salad; (8) fried chicken, mashed taters n green beans; (9) pot pies n salad; (10) grill cheese sandwitches n fried taters or soup; (11) one of our faverts, a rice dish with meat n onion n peppers, witch i gut that recept frum a german magazine name of fernsehwoche, witch wurd fer wurd that means 'far see week' but means tv guide jes the same; (12) pork chops n baked taters n salad; n (13) a meat, noodel, tomato n cheese dish i more or less made up after we had et sumthin such lack at astrids, witch she wuz the woman frum berlin who gut a fullbright to study at utk n we wood see her ever now n then.

i aint cumplainin bout cookin, witch i lack to cook purty good. im jes pointin out how it had its effeck on life. we gut most of our staples by shoppin at the krogers out chapman hiway, witch eli wood cum take us shoppin, but twuz a nuther thang fer perishibulls. often as not, i wood spend my afternoon shoppin fer meat or milk or eggs or whatnot. thay wuz a lil grocery run by sum arabs bout six blocks down laurel avenue n twuz a nice lil walk. so twood be a natherull thang fer me to cum home, burn the bowl, play piano, take a walk to the store, greet emily when she cum in, talk bout the day a bit, n then start fixin dinner.

it tuck a hole quarter fer me to figger out how thay wuznt no point in me trine to read in the afternoon or after dinner. by then i wuz too tired to keep much of innythang i read in my mind, so i tuck to goin to bed around 8 of a evnin n git up at 4 am sharp. it seemed lack a temporary lil change, but i been a'doin it purty much thataway ever since, only i dont need as much sleep nowadays. used to be i wonted 8 hours. then in my late 20s, seemed lack 7 wood do. now i caint lay in bed much over 6 n 1/2 hours, frum 9:30 pm to 4 am.

corse, we had to take at lease three classes, witch i had to take this class name of literary research n thats whar i gut to meet all tuther new students who wuz a'startin grad skool at the same time. turnt out thay wuz 22 students startin out on thar masters in english in the fall of 1980. as it happend, i cum into class last. twuz held in a long room with a verr long table n whenever i gut thar, thonly seat lef wuz at the far end frum the teacher. i wuz a lil sprized hadnt nobidy tuck that seat on a counta twuz clearly the secunt mos powerful place to sit. i dont know ifn ye have noticed, but it makes a differnts whar ye sit. innywho, i had the good luck of sittin at the far end of the table frum dr miller, witch he wuz one of the worls eggspurts in the poetry of sir edmund spencer.

mayhap on a counta how i sat at one end of the long table n he at tuther led to thar bein a lil frickshun twixt us. i wood be the one to questchun sum of the pinions he put out as if they wuz facks. he dint thank much of computers n dint thank they wuz a'gonna be all the useful fer resurch. in sted, we needed to larn how to use the liberry. he give us homewurk whar we had to find everthang ever publishd by a riter of our choice. i tuck raymond chandler fer mine, witch he dint thank twuz ackshul literchur. whenever i tole the class my choice, he objeckted n sed i wuz wontin to brang the 'pulp riters into the inner sanctum.' i tole him thay wuz as much good poetry in raymond chandler as thay wuz in edmund spencer n that kindly riled him.

but he had the last laff on me fer thatn on a counta tuther students wuz pickin obscure riters, witch mayhap they blonged in the inner sanctum, but thay wuznt but about ten or twelve published wurks fer most of em. we had to make a different 5" by 7" card fer each book we found. he woodnt let us use 3" by 5" cards on a counta he sed we wuz doin resurch n needed the exter room. so i wuz a lil sprized by jes how minny differnt publicayshuns raymond chandler had to his credit, speshly whenever ye gut into whut had been translated. long story short, whenever we had to brang in the cards we had collekted, my pile wuz ten times biggern innybidy elses. wursern that wuz how he give it a c+, lowest grade i had ever gut on inny wurk i had ever dun. turnt out i had missed a comma here, a period thar, n he wuz gradin on how minny errors ye made with no accountin fer how minny cards ye had used to make em.

i wuz purty riled about it, but it dint make no never mind. turnt out he had to show us the new innovayshuns with computers after all n once we gut to that, i wuz more or less in woods i knew purty good. n we had to read the thrall hibberd n holman book, witch i had been a'readin thatn frum hi skool on a counta i lacked that kinda thang. twuz a hard quarter n cum down to a final eggzam on a tuesdy, december 9. i studied lack crazy lack we all dun, but that mornin cum news that made everthang we wuz studyin seem a lil silly: john lennon had been shot to death the nite befor.

that hole quarter, i hadnt never had nuthin to do with tuther students in that class. we wuz all in competishun n seemd lack sum folks resented how i wuz older n had dun writ a novel n had dun larnt a forn langwage n wood disagree with the perfesser. i figgerd everbidy tuck me fer a arrogant know-it-all type n wuznt much i could do bout it.

innywho, that mornin we tuck the test n when twuz over, sevrul of us gatherd outside of class n talked fer the furst time. corse, twuz john lennon n the beatles we wuz talkin bout. a cuple of the fellers thar wuz frum mississippi n one of em lived close by. he sed mayhap we should go burn a number in john lennons honor, so we walked over to his place, put on sum bob dylan n talked that afternoon away. one of the fellers wuz a verr hi-strung guy who had gone to ole miss. he wood marry a turkish woman n move to the middle east before long. as i recolleck it, his name wuz steve or sean, sumthin startin with s. tuther feller wuz so full of hisself that i dint never wonta have much of nuthin to do with him. he had gone to mississippi state in starkvull n his name wuz william 'bud' rankin. purty soon bud wonted to lite a nuther joint n that wuz too much fer steve or sean, so he left to git to a class. i regretted not takin the oppertunty to leave my ownself. bud could talk n talk n talk n i wuznt all that impressd by nuthin he had to say. but i wonted to git hi n i dint never half much of nuthin to doot with.

so i made friends with him since he had im a good conneckshun n luved to shar his stash. tiz shameful to add mitt, but tiz true. n that started a friendship that lasted fer minny a year.

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