West vs. East – part 2

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In part 1 of West vs. East, I discuss the trivial issue of what we call bread brands, and the more serious issues of bad driving and pedestrian habits, and people’s rough exteriors in the East, and homelessness.

As winter approaches early this November, I’m reminded of why people may be a bit rougher around the edges in the East – the friggin’ cold. I’m used to the cold now. I lived in Kansas for 14 years and it gets very cold and windy on the plains. Last winter was mild for a cold winter, so it wasn’t too terribly difficult to get through. In San Diego where I spent the previous 13 years, the weather is warm year round. When it gets to be about 60, we grab our sweatshirts and coats and make cold noises like “brrrrrr” and grab our own arms for a hug to warm ourselves up. The sun and mild weather allows for 24/7 beach access and ocean and bay sports. The reason that people are fit in Southern California is that they can be outside year round. The sun provides a healthy dose of Vitamin D, though of course it can provide a lethal dose of melanoma if you don’t use sunscreen. In the Midwest, I learned about mall-walkers, those who didn’t have day jobs who got their winter time exercise by walking laps in malls. I haven’t seen that in the East. People just tend to hunker down and stay in as much as they can. You can’t really do anything about the cold, so life goes on. The Midwest brings frequent dangerous weather, so I saw many more people neglect their health by not going out – it’s just too cold, or icy, or snowy, or windy or a combination of all of the above.

Enough of the trivialities, the obvious differences between the West and the East. For the majority of my life, I taught composition, literature, and English as an Adjunct Professor at major universities (UNM, KU, and UCSD, SCSU), at for profit universities (Univ. of Phoenix, Ashford University), and community colleges (San Diego Mesa College and Norwalk CC). I have enough experience (more than 25 years of teaching English and well over a hundred classes, both in person and online) to fill several books, but let me tell you about the push I needed to finally say “enough of this!” and decide on a change of careers.

I got into English to be a writer. Life took me on a different path for many reasons, one of the first being that I learned in grad. school that I had an aptitude for teaching and pursued teaching as a profession. The sheer amount of grading for an English teacher was enough to keep me from pursuing just about anything else. When I started down this path, I was told by my own undergraduate professors that the field would open up, that the professors were getting older and need to be replaced. LIE #1 that I bought hook, line, and sinker. Now, my professors weren’t lying. They didn’t know major social, economic, and institutional realities would change – that universities would fill more professorships with cheap labor, namely Adjunct Faculty. I don’t have exact numbers, but at one point at San Diego Mesa College, there were 30 some full-time faculty and 160-180 active Adjunct instructors teaching anywhere from 1-3 courses a piece. Picture the world turned upside down!

An Adjunct has to make a living, so that means assignments at several universities. I knew one gentleman with a wife and a son who routinely taught 7 courses at 3 different schools each semester as well as summer school. Each course had 25-35 students, and we routinely assignment a writing each week and a major essay every two or three weeks. My colleagues were professional and they did their jobs well. The drop-rate for students at the community college was about 1/3 to 2/3rds of the students, with a good 1/3 disappearing in the last half of the semester. Most of these students would have passed, bu they just disappear, have life crises or a change of heart and don’t bother to discuss their situation with their teacher. At any rate, the problems with being an Adjunct are much bigger than the benefits, except ….

At San Diego Mesa College, as an Adjunct who was guaranteed 3 courses per term, I qualified for health insurance (thanks Union!). No money out, a good Kaiser plan – it was enough to want to keep that job for as long as possible, until the assignments started to be jeopardized by fluctuating enrollment and changing course assignment times. I don’t know why, but my standard 8:00 am class was changed to 12:00 pm, and fewer students signed up for the 12:00 pm class. Thus when a class didn’t make enrollment, it would be cut, and I would be out the monies for that class. Combine that with Ashford University (sued for Fraud by the State of California), who stopped assigning me courses one month without saying anything and I lost 3/4 of my income in a two week period. Ashford gave me a single reason – “You are better suited to teach in the College of Liberal Arts (COLA) than in the Division of General Studies (DGS).” Ashford is an online college with 5 week courses. I had been working there for more than 5 years, and with a steady 2 course overlap for more than 2 years, which amount to a steady income (no vacations), and about 1/2 my income. I figured out that “better suited to teach in the College of Liberal Arts” was code for “you are failing too many students.” Pardon me – but you accepted students without ANY pre-reqs or baseline of skills. Thus the very young military wives and 70 and 80 year old stay at home grand and great grandmothers who were sold the idea that education will change their lives so that Ashford could take their financial aid loans from the US Department of Education were not well-prepared. As such, my own standards dropped so dangerously low that I asked them merely to complete all the assignments and let me know that they could at least write an intelligible English sentence. A SENTENCE! That’s not too much to ask. So when they couldn’t, I could not see how, given a RUBRIC PROVIDED BY ASHFORD, they could possibly pass, no matter who many hours I put in (despite being told to limit my hours to only 12 hours per week per class. Ashford SUCKS! It’s a rip-off, and I’m glad to be done with that problem.

So as I moved East, I lined up two more teaching jobs, a 6-unit development writing course at a community college, a course I have taught many times, and two 3-unit Writing Argument course at a state university, followed by a single 3-unit course in the Spring.

The community college course was led by the Director. He dictated a rigorous curriculum, set up for a two-day a week class, yet I was teaching 3-days a week. I told I had to follow the curriculum to a T for the first 8 weeks, through the Midterm, and provided all handouts and assignments. Converting the course to a 3-day a week schedule was mind-boggling, despite the fact that I’m a reasonably intelligent experience teacher. I was offered no help. The IT department got my log-in credentials fouled up and for the 1st MONTH of the course, I could not even access all of my materials online. Fubar after Fubar. Turns out that the rigorous curriculum was far too rigorous. I’ve always had freedom to tailor a class to the students, but I didn’t have that luxury. These students were mute and unprepared. One student routinely slept in class and got angry when told her wasn’t going to pass and couldn’t sleep in class. One student missed every class in which an assignment was due. Students could not read, I mean, literally, had much trouble picking out topic sentences, from examples, from supporting details, even after a week of going over slides with the SAME INFORMATION on it. We studied for the midterm for 3 weeks. I didn’t teach the test, but came pretty close – “memorize this list. Know it backwards an forwards” – things like the writing process (Prewriting, Planning/Outline, Drafting, Revising, Editing). And 3 of 19 students pass the midterm, the 3 who passed with low D’s. The exam was structured for a week – 2 days of a “reading exam” followed by an in-class essay on day 3. If they scored poorly on the reading exam, they had to do better on the in-class essay portion in order to pass. If they scored better/well on the reading exam, they were said to have mastered the material and didn’t have to perform as well on the written exam. What kind of twisted grading is that?

We had one day of lecture a week, and two days of writing lab. On the day of writing lab, I was to stand at my podium and watch the screens of all the students who were sitting around the perimeter of the class next to each other. On my screen, I could see and control all of the student screens. I was expected to “keep students on task.” I could commandeer their computer screen and write “I see you aren’t working, Get working on your essay!” Babysitting. I did not take the job to babysit!

I missed 6 classes that term due to illness. I was completely stressed out -vertigo, heart palpitations, extreme stress (there was stuff going on in myt other assignment at the state university as well) and the commute was awful on top of that. (The traffic flowed toward New York city, and the last 5 miles took 3o-40 minutes due to its proximity to NYC traffic. A 30 mile trip was routinely 1 1/2 hours. Not even southern California traffic was that bad. Of course, my course met at 9:00 am. ) I only missed writing workshop days – days in which students were sitting at their computers and writing their essays – Babysitting days! They could do that without me there. I always communicated with the students, and they always knew what assignments they had to work on.

The Director found out I missed these classes, and he wasn’t happy. He had my pay docked. Only 5 students passed the final (same situation as the midterm, except that for the final, there was also a portfolio component). Because of missing classes, the Director mandated that all students must be given passing grades. Wait, what?

Let’s take a closer look. I’ve read portfolios for many years. There’s a rubric and some course goals, and a group of teachers evaluates the portfolios according to that rubric. Two passes, and the portfolio passes. One pass and one fail and the portfolio is graded by a third instructor. We make small notes to indicate what we see the student writer has adhered to or not to inform the instructor of record. During our REQUIRED final portfolio grading session, the Director sat in a chair with his feet up on the table and read the occasional essay. He required that any student we considered might get a B or A, that he read those portfolios and get to determine if they achieved Honors or not. In reading essays, he would remark, consistently, “I’m not feeling it” when he’d say a particular essay wasn’t passing. So despite a rubric – he went by his “feelings”? I’m sorry, but what a shitty director. Practice what you preach. And tailor a curriculum to your students. This particular director set those students up to fail. My BABYSITTING on those days I missed isn’t what cost unprepared students. Weeks spent going over material that was ON THE TEST, that I guided them to put on the board – they couldn’t remember that material on test day. It wasn’t just one or two students. This cohort was the least prepared class I had ever taught.

Fortunately, I only had to teach their for one semester. I have no intention of ever teaching their again, and I burned that bridge.

I have stayed in touch, off and on, with my first office mate I had as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of New Mexico. He moved to New York some years ago. When I moved east, I learned about where he lives and got in touch with him. He spent some years teaching at the same community college. He asked me what I thought of the students there, and I told him. I asked him what he thought. He offered a one-word response: dumb.

Most of my career teaching was on the West coast. I had many unmotivated students. I had many uninterested students. I had students who procrastinated too much. I had students who shot themselves in their own feet with excuses, or violating absence policies and making it so they were unable to pass. But I always viewed students as bright, capable, and able to offer something to the world.

I won’t proclaim those students as “dumb” as my old office mate has, but I know what he means. They were not ready or cut out for college, even at a community college. It didn’t help that the curriculum was set up for them to fail. What was dumb was a director who thought he was bigger and more important than the program that he was running. What was dumb is a director who didn’t trust his teachers to teach the students based on their capabilities and the teacher’s own experience. What was dumb was a director who didn’t trust his teachers to know his students. What was dumb is setting up a development writing course on the par with an English 101 honors section. Had the director noticed his own hubris just a little, maybe he could better serve students than to pass them out of a class that they clearly couldn’t handle so that they could fail further down the line.

Dumb.

Part 3 of West vs East will concern another teaching episode – a hostile student situation at a state university in which the university did not back up the instructor, did not communicate with the instructor, and let the hostile student off without any repercussions. The hostility concerned a student who was a veteran and occurred about 25 miles from Sandy Hook, the site of the devastating school shooting incident of 2012. Evidently people in Connecticut (those in charge) just don’t learn.

Until part 3 – be well. Thanks for reading.

West vs. East – part 1

Some differences between living on the West Coast vs living in the East. A West coaster sounds off.

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As I start my long-delayed career as a writer, I’m struck by just how different the West and East (coasts) are. To be fair, I don’t live on the East Coast. I live in New Haven, Conn., home of Yale University (and famous New Haven pizza, and the controversial home of the hamburger). As a West coaster, anything from New York eastward was the East coast to me. My extended family lived in Ohio – in the Eastern time zone, even though Ohio definitely aligns more with Midwest flavors. I was told upon arriving in New Haven that New York is not New England and it’s not the east coast – it’s New York, (or New Yawk, or Neu Yowk depending on who you tawk to). Be that all as it may, after a little over a year in New Haven, I’m here to detail some of the differences between the West and the East.

I consider myself a West coast writer. The obvious bias in publishing still favors the East. New York is the publishing capital of the world and has been for well over a century now. The sheer amount of Ivy Leaguers making it in the publishing field is astounding and does not give credit to the vast creativity of those who live in the West.

Sitting in my small apartment, I was day-dreaming and looking at a loaf of bread on the counter. The emblem looked the same, but on closer inspection I saw the word “Arnold” within the shafts of wheat. What is this foolishness? I’ve been buying Orowheat bread for years in San Diego. Certainly this is a mistake. Turns out it’s the same bread but branded differently. A quick search on the Internet reveals that Orowheat started in California in 1932 and Arnold started in Connecticut in 1940 and Brownberry, a third variety started in the Midwest in 1946. All three are owned by Bimbo bakeries as of 2017. That’s one small difference between West and East (and Midwest).

Southern California is as much car culture as anywhere anybody can live in. Los Angeles traffic is infamous and nothing is improving much even in sleepy L.A. suburb San Diego. But other than in the rare rainy times when Southern Californians lose the capability to drive as if their driver’s training is completely forgotten, southern Californians are really very good drivers compared to all other places I’ve driven (New Mexico, Kansas, Connecticut – representative of Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones). In Connecticut, people cannot drive, or do not drive well. Forget driving rules and laws. I’ve seen people cut across 4 lanes of busy traffic to exit the freeway. Left turns on surface streets – drivers gun out quickly and turn left BEFORE traffic goes when a light changes. They routinely flip off whoever is in front getting ready to go straight through the intersection. Because the lights are hung on wires across intersections instead of on light poles, one can’t line up in the left turn lane to wait for traffic to stop before turning left because you can’t see the light if you pull out. So you have to wait in the left turn lane for a left arrow or wait for the next light. Or you can do like the locals and gun it for a left turn before the flow of traffic starts.

People walk across intersections whenever they want or can. Pedestrian walk signs don’t align with the flow of traffic. Rather, there is a “walk” period in which traffic is stopped in all directions and the walk signs allow pedestrian crossing. That means, of course, that pedestrians walk diagonally into across the middle of the street too. Because of that, and due to the number of one way streets and No Turn on Red signs, pedestrians walk whenever they want. It’s the wild west out there in the East!

There is an attitude on the part of pedestrians too, the same brash New York/New Jersey attitude seen stereotypically on television. I found a place to park my car a couple blocks from where I live. One day, as I was approaching the small one way half circle street, onto which I must turn right off of a one way road to my parking spot, some guy was walking across the intersection. He was eating a sub sandwich wrapped in paper, and looking back over his shoulder. In other words, he didn’t see me as I stopped before turning right otherwise I’d hit him. So I stopped and waited with my blinker on. He turned and saw me looking at him as he was nearly across the street. His immediate reaction, through a mouthful of food was to say “Fuck you!” and flip me off. All because I didn’t run him down! That’s a nice introduction to the East.

Even the homeless population are much more brash in the very hot and humid summers and bitingly cold winters here in the East. In San Diego, there is a large homeless population, able to live on the streets year round due to the weather. Other than same creative signs – Need Money for Booze or Need Cash for Weed – the homeless people in New Haven are always on the move. One particular gentleman cries out “Sir! Sir! I won’t touch you” before asking for money or declaring “It’s my birthday! Can you help me get something to eat?” His birthday occurs several days during the week, rain or shine. Another doe-eyed young woman who can turn on the waterworks instantly (maybe a drama school drop-out?) approaches with a story – “Hi,” she says timidly, “can you help me, I’m seven months pregnant and …. ” She’s been seven-months pregnant for the 15 months I’ve lived here and the many times she’s approached me for help.

I started this journey as a teacher, my last year teaching freshman composition and development English at a University and Community college. Both jobs proved crazy-making, with lack of institutional support, something I never encountered in San Diego. That’s the subject of part 2 of West vs. East.

Block Identified

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For years, I’ve tried keeping a blog, writing stories and poems, keeping up a journal, and writing large projects. For the most part, I’ve been successful on a scholarly basis, and in writing creatively for occasions – birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. But a sustained creative effort for completing a chapbook of poetry, for instance, or for a selection of essays or stories has eluded me.

The personal struggle for me has been marked by making a choice between devotion to art and commitment to my family. Whenever I’ve chosen to devote myself to my art, I’ve felt undue pressure from family and friends to give them attention that draws me away from that art, rather than some kind of understanding that I’m pursuing something that enlivens me and is wrapped up in self-definition.

It’s much more than just lacking support. I’ve also had opportunities to write, but why have I not, or why have I started and abandoned project after project? Why is what I write not good enough? Who are those critics, those voices in my head, that keep me from writing?

I’m now at a point in my life where I don’t have those obstacles and have a supportive partner. But I still feel that if I dive deeply enough into this work – especially into the memoir about my family – I’ll face undue pressures to choose between being true to my work and choosing to leave that be and keep my family intact.

The forces in question have stopped my expression in many ways, drawing me away from my work. I’ve been fired from a job due to a boss’s sexist agenda, my work taken from me just as I was gaining some accolades. I had another job taken from me once I achieved recognition from a parent organization (I had a job in a science lab and redid their website and was contacted by the National Institutes of Health office that oversaw our grant who were so enthusiastic about my efforts that they wanted to use the materials in their own PR efforts). I’ve had many projects which required some buy in from a spouse, who would be all enthusiastic in the first days and then want nothing to do with the project after the first week – a situation that continued for almost 15 years until the end of that relationship. And I’ve had family members basically reject me and my efforts, which always floored me considering we were raised in an environment to express mutual support and admiration of artistic efforts.

So my road to the writing life has been a long lonely one, filled with obstacles, about which I am actively writing.

I will get beyond these blocks and make a name for myself.

Writing Anniversary

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While most people were donning costumes, carving pumpkins, and trick or treating, I was silently celebrating the start of writing my memoir. On October 31, 2018 at The Owl Shop in New Haven, CT, I began this journey, thinking it would take about 6 months. Now one year later, I estimate 6 more months of drafting and then a wholesale revision.

Like most writing projects, this has been marked by fits and starts. I started a teaching assignment at Southern Connecticut State University that was marred by disruptive students and then a hostile student. Combined with a commute to Norwalk, 30 miles that took 1 1/2 hours three days a week to teach the mutest developmental students I have ever encountered and bombard them with an unfair curriculum and babysitting, my last teaching assignments soured my otherwise successful 30+ year career in teaching composition. I would teach one more semester in the spring, to another mute group at Southern, and that would be it. Between semesters, the extreme stress of my lack of job prospects and subsequent unemployment (under-employment) led to health problems – stress! But all my health tests showed that I am healthy and strong, thank goodness.

I secured work at the Yale library, a temporary position that was turned into a longer term limited appointment, physical work with no nightly grading, a trade I was willing to make. So I lost a good 6 weeks of writing in the winter, followed by a week-long vacation in August to Belgium, my first trip to Europe, in which I did not bring work with me. That was followed by another month of struggling to get back into writing.

But here we are, the beginning of November and I’m still writing. Transitioning from an academic life to a writer’s life is the challenge I now face, a challenge that, after a year of writing, I am winning.

And I begin . . . once again.

A Word, Please.

My first post. I’m blinded by my own tears.

How many blogs have I started and let fall by the wayside, too timid or busy or not seeing the worth in blogging into the void? Now I start again, with renewed hope that I will find the rhythm and inspiration to continue. With my partner Ashley and my dog, an 11-month old Dachshund named Herman, my life is clear of the clutter and demands that have forever interrupted me. No more teaching, no more grading essays – good riddance to the grading. I’ll miss the students but not the grading. My time is my own to read and write.

I still work, of course – have to pay the rent and feed myself, but my needs are few and the distractions are gone.

I’m approaching the anniversary start date of my latest foray into writing – a memoir started October 31, 2018. About 250 draft pages in, I’m encouraged by my progress and ready for complete the task. With some luck, I estimate another 6 months to complete a full draft.

Words and writing ideas sneak up and tap me on the shoulder throughout the day. I’m surrounded by books as I work in Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, a place of grand design meant to inspire and enlighten. But now is the time to set it all down in writing.

As an academic, I’m used to writing and contemplating language. But I have dealt in finished products, not drafts. Blogging requires a voice I haven’t discovered yet. Time to set aside notions of perfection and completion. Process and perseverance must win out against all other concerns and against all odds.

Stories and titles bubble to the surface. Poems coalesce, spilling out almost daily, spreading like ornate ice crystals glittering in the late afternoon winter sun. I read daily with an eye to write.

So, a word, please…. if you will. I have stories to tell. Enjoy.

This Is Me

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Sometimes I think I’ve lived the life of the main character in Henry James’ story “The Beast in the Jungle.” I’ve been waiting for something significant to happen to me. I know something significant, something special, is waiting for me. And in my head, I have written my entire life, written down story ideas and titles on scraps of paper, enough to have my own ticker tape parade. And here I am, on the downhill slope, a life lived, unwritten.

The start was promising, I’ve always had promise, been promising. But the promise has been elusive. I was a creative writing major at San Diego State, and before I graduated, I had already served on two literary magazines. As a creative writing major and a relatively slow (methodical, deliberate, analytical) reader, I had not read enough by my estimation to be ready for grad school. My score on the Literature in English GRE Subject test was so piss poor that UCLA sent me a half sheet rejection – your GRE scores aren’t good enough. Thus, a plan was born.

At University of New Mexico, I read and read and read some more. I served on two more literary magazines, once as Editor-in-Chief. But it’s teaching where I found my passion. I was mostly shy, until I stood in front of a class where I blossomed into a teacher and a scholar. While my grad school friends did their 2 or 2 1/2 years of study, I spent 4 1/2 years reading, catching up, including a forced 6 months delay in my exams to read the gargantuan 18th century novels I have since come to love. The next time I took the GRE Literature Subject Test, I aced it and could have written the questions.

During grad school, I lived with a girlfriend who I wed less than a month before starting a Ph.D. program at The University of Kansas. We were young and made many mistakes. I made mistakes that compromised my integrity, and she … we ultimately divorced. Before that break, I was on the fast track. I already had teaching experience, and I was tapped by a Dean to serve as his T.A. for a 100 student elective course – the literature of baseball. Dean Carothers and I shared an interest in Faulkner and baseball. The divorce through me off track, and I took a year leave of absence to take care of finances and get in a better place.

During that time, I met a woman online, and within 6 weeks, she moved from Maryland to Kansas, and we moved in together. We started a relationship that would last 15 years, an instant family with a 2nd wife and a step-daughter. But I could not get back on track with my studies and finally closed the book on that chapter. So I thought a second Master’s degree in Linguistics would help, but I didn’t finish that thesis either.

I embarked on a career in educational technology, teaching myself HTML and CSS, teaching teachers how to use technology in their K-12 classrooms, and editing a newspaper feature for kids that appeared in 130 newspaper around the world. But the grant ended (and the male employees were dismissed!!), and I had to retool again. My technology background led to a second act as a web and communications expert at UC San Diego for a science lab.

During this time, my brother was stricken with major depressive disorder. My wife suffered from severe anxiety and later was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a diagnosis that was hidden from both of us. In a flash, my wife switched affections like flicking a light switch, and divorce came again, unexpectedly. At the same time, the great recession took my job. I was living on a sailboat at the time, but my life became unanchored and rudderless.

Was it all a pattern, or just bad luck? Was I doing something that led to these deadends? And where had that writer’s dream gone? The titles and ideas on scraps of paper kept – keep – piling up.

Back to school – I found work teaching online and as an Adjunct English professor at several community colleges. The daily grind of grading becoming more difficult with every essay read. And of course, another betrayal, a fraudulent online college just cut me from the staff – “you are not suited for the Division of General Studies,” code for you are flunking too many students of whom we are taking their financial aid and offering very little in return. My standards had sunk to please just be able to write a coherent sentence. If not, you cannot pass. There must be some standards. The State of California sued the college for fraud. I’m happy to not be part of that problem anymore. But the financial hit was significant.

It’s difficult to keep books on a boat. There is simply no room (thank goodness for Kindle) but I never stopped reading or learning or studying or writing in my head. Everything I experience is a potential story.

Another unconventional relationship. Another blow out break-up. Broken but still with hope, there was still time to gain my bearings and keep moving forward.

And love entered again, unconventionally, along with many challenges. Teaching (grading) became more difficult. The American Dream collapsed along with any financial security that I had only glimpsed once in my DINKy life. DINKy became SINKy – Single Income No Kids – no way to live on a boat. The winds of change whipped and thrashed through my life.

Finally, with most of the trappings of my conventional life gone, uprooted from my Southern California home, I find myself in the east, in New Haven, a new start, a new hope. All of a sudden, the writing starts overflowing and I start writing.

I’ve been surrounded by mental illness my entire life, and while I haven’t suffered the way others in my life have, I’ve definitely been affected. I’ve been derailed from my own life in trying to be there for others who could not, who would not, be there for me. Categorical rejections, extremes of narcissism, betrayal from family, friends, lovers – and still I stand.

I have stories to tell, of survival in the face of mental illness, in the face of ideals stripped from my life, of goals unachieved, of betrayals unforeseen.

In all, I’ve loved and lost 5 times, seen my family decimated by mental illness and disease, lost 3 family members to suicide, lost family due to petty squabbling over a worthless estate.

The beast in the jungle will not win the day. I’m now free to write. And I still have love to give.

I started as a would-be writer and became a teacher. I started as a husband, and am now single – but with the most sincere and loving partner I’ve ever had.

And now I am again, as I started, a writer.

Why was I spared? How have I survived the onslaught of mental illness that strikes with the jagged force of lightning throughout my family tree?

All of my childhood passions are still intact. Baseball – go Dodgers; movies – with a deep knowledge of the art; sailing – the passion that I thought would take me to the ends of the earth and the end of my life, but now I’m boatless; writing – as teacher and practitioner, and hopeful idealist. It is hope that has kept me whole, hope for understanding, for doing the right thing, for recovering my integrity and keeping it intact in the face of so much adversity. These are the things I write about.

Another suicide – the Professor who inspired me to pursue English as a career killed himself in the parking lot of the Albuquerque Airport. This professor introduced me to The Waste Land literature that would form the metaphorical backdrop of all my studies. I knew of T. S. Eliot years before I studied him, as my sister had named her dog Eliot. I learned of this professor’s death a couple of years after the fact, and a couple of years before my own brother, a reverend to the deaf, committed suicide after a 13-year odyssey of major depression.

And here I am – still standing.

The beast lurks within that jungle, hidden from view, ocassionally rumbling with a low growl. It’s time to tell my stories. If not now, when?