Archive for February 2009
Let me get this out of the way right now: The only reason I’m blogging is to get myself warmed-up for a night of writing. And I haven’t blogged for three weeks. That, and I feel some strange sense of loyalty to the nice people who follow this blog. That means you, Stacy Mittel-Wisnewski. Remember that time you came to my play, and I pointed you out in the audience? It’s hard to believe that was 7 years ago.
I am of two minds with my thesis. One is that I’m not going to finish it on time. I have about 6, maybe 7, weeks, and it seems like there’s too much left to do. Each time I meet with Sandi, I have a little panic attack and feel like I need to pop some Klonopin. It’s not her; it’s me. She finds a lot for me to work on– all good stuff. So I work on it. Then I work on whatever parts she didn’t look at when we met, send them to her, and we talk about those next time. Anyhow… we met Monday afternoon. She had the first half of the piece, had a ton of stuff for me to consider and rework, but noted that it’s in pretty good shape. Yay for me. It just feels like I have more to do in the next 2 months than I can get done.
But my other mind says it’s almost in the bag. I’ve done so much, and come so far, that all I need to do is focus hard for the next 6-7 weeks, and it will all come together. Then I can submit it, graduate, and throw a big party for my Master of Creative Writing degree and my 39th birthday at the same time. June 20. Mark your calendar. Not only that, but I’ll submit the manuscript to a few places, and they’ll fight over who gets to publish it. Then I’ll take some time off (like a year or two….) before getting into the doctoral program for creative writing at UW-Milwaukee. And they’ll take me. I went to Northwestern. I wrote a published piece of literary journalism about Mensa. I wrote an experimental piece about learning how to hit a baseball that is simply brilliant. They’ll take me despite the broken arm I have sustained from patting myself so vigorously on the back.
I say “all I need to do is focus hard for the next 6-7 weeks…” like it’s just as easy to do as it is to say it. It’s not. I’m already focused about as tight as I can be. Any tighter, and I might break my focusing devices. But who knows? Maybe this is only what I think my focus threshold is. Maybe I need to break it and go so far beyond what I thought it was that I find the true meaning behind what it means to be focused and dedicated. That happened once before, in the very play I mentioned that my friend Stacy came to see 7 years ago. I thought I knew what it meant to be exhausted, until I worked on that play. I shattered my previous threshold of exhaustion, and the areas to be discovered beyond it were full of wisdom and understanding the likes of which I had never known. The play changed me significantly because of that. It feels like this thesis is doing the same thing. It already has, and it has not yet released me from its jaws.
Never go into combat without your weapon. It’s something I have told my junior-level College Placement students over and over since the start of the school year. Not only are you going to need your weapon, but you need to make sure its cleaned, loaded, and properly sighted so you don’t have to worry about any operating issues in the thick of the action.
Saturday, I went into combat without heeding my own advice. I camped out at Panera in Round Lake, ate some lunch, checked some email, and formatted Sgt. Danger’s latest communication for blogging. By the time I got focused, I was half-way through my first battery. See, I bought a brand-new laptop when I started the writing program. I bought a nice backpack to haul it, a security cable to lock it down, and a spare battery. All of the accoutrements were designed so as to be ready to fly off and write within one minute (no exaggeration- I wanted to be able to be packed and gone in sixty seconds flat), and then not worry about where I was going to work because two batteries would see me through about five hours of writing. Sounds like a perfect plan, huh?
It usually is. Unless you drain both your batteries and forget to recharge the spare. Unless you pack up and leave your power cord sitting on your desk at home, so when your first battery runs out you don’t even have a means to plug into anything even if you move to a different table at Panera.
I’ve never done something so “rookie” before in my life. The most I’ve done is leave my mouse sitting at home on my desk. That’s no biggie, though, because my laptop has a touchpad. I don’t like to use it, but I can when needed. It makes the whole writing process slow down, requiring me to think about psychomotor skills I don’t want to think about while swimming in a sea of cognitive processes.
So that’s what happened. I zipped home, grabbed my cord, and then trucked over to the local Caribou Coffee, which is always choice #2 when things aren’t happening at Panera.
I’ve started to think that I’m becoming too much of a diva with writing, like everything has to be perfectly balanced and I have to be totally in tune to do my best writing. It didn’t used to be like this, but then again I wasn’t always writing for Northwestern and saddling myself with a thesis that has exacted a huge toll on my time, energy, and emotions. I guess it’s a sign of me stepping up my game so I don’t disappoint my thesis advisor, my second reader, or Jim.
Nathan Geist is currently serving as a Chaplain Assistant in the Army. He is a 2005 graduate of Zion-Benton Township High School, has studied for 3 years at Southern Illinois University, and recently appeared in the film The Promotion. Sgt. Geist will appear as a periodic contributor to The Seeker throughout the next year as he fulfills a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Today, for my faithful, I ask that you pray for the troops as a whole. As Bandee just said, right now, it’s cold here, and I agree with him that the cold truly is an awesome thing. But in no time, things are going to start heating up, and it will be common news for us to hear about our fellow soldiers going home early in a coffin. The cold has protected us a great deal, but the winter is thawing, and the blood of spring is right around the corner. As for Bandee, the next time he goes through Saydabad, I doubt he’s going to be as lucky as he was this time… he knows it, too. So, may God be with all of our troops as we enter the long stretch of warmth ahead.
I’ll be plain with you: the only reason I’m a member of Sam’s Club is because Costco is too far away. My sister assures me that I can be a member on her extended plan for free because she works for Costco; however, I have declined her offer on several ocassions because the nearest Costco is too far away for it to be practical for me to shop there. I have encouraged her to offer the freeness to someone who would make better use of it than I.
“Making better use of it” is what I’m writing about, Sam’s Club. I would like to see you make better use of the personnel you have guarding the entrance to the Gurnee Sam’s Club. Surely you can find a better way for him to earn his wages than by having him check if every person who enters the store is a member. This policy is so asinine that I have decided to make a sport of defying it. I walk right past the guard; sometimes I look at him when he asks me to show my membership card. I usually quip, “Oh, no thanks. I already have one.”
See, Sam’s Club, I don’t have to be a member to shop at your store. You specified that I can shop the pharmacy and the liquor department without being a member. So, I don’t need your guard stopping me– he can just assume that I’m going to either the pharmacy or the liquor department. In fact, if you continue with this policy, I most likely will be using goods from both locations in tandem to help me forget how ridiculous and unnecessary it is for you to stop me and ask me for my membership card each time I come to your store.
Sam’s Club, have you ever visited your Vernon Hills store? It’s nice. It’s clean and the staff has had a pleasant demeanor on the few occasions I’ve visited. Guess what? They’ve never asked me to show my membership card at the entrance. If this policy is so important, why is it so different 10 miles south of my local Sam’s? I’ve noticed that it seems fewer minorities shop at the Vernon Hills location. Does that have anything to do with the difference in policies between the two stores? Are there more minorities at the Gurnee location, so you have to make sure everybody is legitimate?
Will you at least promise me that you will train your guards so they know why they are stopping every person who enters the store? I’ve asked them why they stop me, and they have answered, “We’re just supposed to. To be sure you’re a member.” I don’t have to be a member! Remember? My sister explained to me that your policy is probably a matter of keeping the competition at bay. You don’t want them to come in, analyze your prices, and make adjustments that make it harder for you to sell your merchandise. But what’s to keep me from doing the same thing if I’m a member? Surely you can’t stop me from reporting your price on the 12-pack of Le Seur Peas to the suits at Costco corporate headquarters in Issaquah, Washington. Besides, can’t a competitor get on your website and check prices?
My sister also said that people try to sneak by without a membership card. They will ask to borrow the card of the next person in line, or try to con a manager into letting them through “because I forgot my card at home.” Here’s an idea: Don’t let somebody do that. If he screwed around in your store long enough to shop and then tries to sneak by, call the cops. Have them make a record of the trespass, and then ban the perpetrator from the store and put his name on file so he can’t get a membership. Society will take care of itself; pretty soon, word will be out that you don’t mess with Sam’s Club. But I’m not like that, Sam’s Club– I have a membership. So why do I have to be subjected to your ridiculous rule that implies that I am the type of person who would trespass and take advantage of you? I especially won’t tolerate it when it is different 10 miles south.
I hope you think about this, Sam’s Club. You can expect me to continue to walk right past your guards so long as you insist on maintaining an unnecessary, arbitrary rule that is disrespectful to your honest customers.