Posts Tagged ‘fiction’
My life is playing out exactly the opposite as I had figured it three years ago. I’d have a comfortable living, working just enough to get by. I’d spend most of the rest of my time with my laptop. I’d spend whatever was left as another bored 20-something.
Yet by Friday, I’ll have clocked almost 60 hours — a third of that time-and-a-half, some of it even double time — over five days at an unsalaried job, and I spend nearly a fifth of that time driving. For fun, I spend on average 15 hours each week playing my trombone or hanging out with other band people — especially the really old ones.
I spared a minute or two to stop by a bridal shop to buy myself a tuxedo between work and rehearsal. In the same trip, it took another minute or two to replace my belt — never buy reversible belts with a built-in hinge, because expensive does not equal reliable — and I only had the time for both errands because the stores were right on the way to band practice.
Perhaps the best illustration: Because I’m the responsible sort, or like to think so, I don’t answer my cell phone while on the road, at rehearsals, working, sleeping and showering. Save for the 12 minutes I spend waking up every morning and perhaps the better part of my weekends, it’s impossible to get ahold of me.
I’m really busy.
Because I’m not salaried, I have no work responsibilities shoved on me for over my weekends. On two days of the week, I can spend as much time as I want reading long-winded histories and long-winded fiction, checked out from my local library.
I never achieved this sort of freedom in college. Owing to professors’ busywork, my frenetic schedules and a sadly delinquent campus library, I was doing almost as much as I am now, but it never seemed to matter as much. Papers were just another hurdle, over which I’d leap; going to class was just another sand trap, around which I’d aim.
Now, working matters. Now, I don’t have to worry about artificial deadlines, arbitrary assignments, fundamentally useless paper pushing. I’m doing it for real, now, and all doors are open — that’s liberation, and it changed my whole paradigm. I hated work, but now that I’m busier than I’ve ever been, I love it.
Funny how that works out.
I read dystopias and apocalyptic fiction. Those are by far my favorite genres. The other day, I found a real gem in some fictional footnotes in one of them.
Jack London’s “The Iron Heel” quotes John Burns, a British labor leader around the turn of the century. He was visiting Chicago when a reporter asked him what he thought of the city.
Chicago is a pocket version of Hell.
Naturally, this made some headlines at the time, prompting another reporter to ask him some months later if Burns’ opinion had changed.
Why, yes. Hell is a pocket version of Chicago.
I shared this canard with my master teacher. She had her own response.
Chicago’s always been a rough town. If New York City is the Grand Dame of American cities, then Chicago is the rough-and-tumble juvenile delinquent. Even now, Chicago has an air of respectability, but that’s just a thin veneer — there’s still some roughness around the edges.
This comment inspired a series of personifications.
Boston — Matronly great aunt with some progressive whims.
Los Angeles — Irresponsibly extravagant 530-pound second cousin, whose mobile home is characterized by tchotchke and a 42-inch flat screen TV.
New Orleans — Barfly with a heart of gold, but one who will still take the guys upstairs.
San Francisco — Weird kid sister with an esoteric, artistic side and an eye for free love. May have once been a kid brother.
Washington, D.C. — Girl scout with such charisma that she gets away with having her overpriced cookies as a front for high-risk futures trading.
Any others in this tradition?