Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Consider the rock lobster

I had a very strange night last night. A local group holds poetry readings once a month, consisting of two chosen speakers and an open set. Last night's speakers were students from the Prose and Poetry Creative Writing courses up at the school. As I taught many of these students in my first year teaching here, I wanted to make the effort to go see them read.

The night began strangely, which should have told me it would end strangely. I had imagined, for some reason, that it began at seven, and arrived slightly belatedly at the bar. A sign on the front door told me it had been moved from the Classy Jazz Bar to the Generic British Pub down the road. Upon arriving at the Generic British Pub, I quickly realized that the event actually wasn't going to start for another hour.

The logical thing to do would have been to leave, perhaps drop in on a friend or a sister in the vicinity, or even get a coffee...but instead I decided to sit at the bar and have a pint. I wound up talking to a man the same age as my father for the better part of the hour; I know this because I asked him about the Masonic symbol on his fleece vest. (Masons are sworn to protect the chastity of the daughters of fellow Masons, so I figured I'd throw out the "My dad's the Past Master at his Lodge" line to head off the flirtatious direction of the conversation.) It wound up being a surprisingly interesting conversation; he told me that he disagreed with the Order of the Eastern Star because of their male-centric mandate.

Eventually people showed up; we went upstairs. Poems and prose were read--some very good, some not very good. A former NHL player showed up to read from his recently published book of hockey related poetry in the style of Robert Service. Everyone else drank beer; I had decided to drive so was abstaining. We [meaning me, Colleague, Friend of Colleague, Keen Student, and Girlfriend of Keen Student] eventually decided to move to the Generically Friendly Bar With Delicious Food, where we crammed ourselves into a very small booth.

As often happens in such situations, we wound up having about six different conversations simultaneously. Everything Colleague said came back to David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest at some point, which was quite funny--poetry, religion, hockey, destiny, depression, life at the tiny northern university. Colleague's friend is a documentary filmmaker, and we wound up having the most intense conversation--the kind you can only have with someone you've just met; the kind where one party is completely drunk and the other is stone sober.

The conversation was interesting. I had met Friend of Colleague a few days before at the year end social for our graduating students, and had sort of assumed that Friend of Colleague either wouldn't remember me or wouldn't like me, and had based my interaction with him on that. I tend to be flippant when I feel out of my depth in social settings; I also, unfortunately, think that I'm quite witty, which can be a bad combination. Friend of Colleague is very much the same. The unfortunate part is that everything we talked about was something that could only be discussed in earnest, so little by little, we needed to take down our defenses. I don't know that I've ever had such a long conversation with someone who uses language the way that I do, who constantly disassembles to avoid letting people in. And then, a propos of nothing, he said something to me that completely astounded me--and all of my defenses were gone. I don't know if that's ever happened to me before.

I don't often choose to speak about what I believe, but one of the things that I do believe is in purpose and order, and that wherever I go is where I am meant to be. Thus, I am left to wonder why I needed to hear someone say that right now...

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