Me smoking.(You think it's a fantasy?)

Me smoking.
(You think it’s a fantasy?)

Boy, have I failed in my own stated purpose here. “Senescent” means getting old. Old is good. Old can be funny.

I didn’t say I’d always find topics that prove “Old can be funny.” And who’s to say everything I’ve ever written isn’t part of some huge cosmic joke?

Perhaps it’s time for an art history lesson.  That sounds like a subject I can joke about.

Yesterday I had my first session with my new trainer. That’s pretty funny. I have three reasons for beginning training. First, I want to be able to keep up with Jerome when he’s walking as part of the cardio for his training program. I love to walk. I love most to walk with him.

Second (I don’t allow students to write numbered lists). I’ve suspected for a few days my gimpy hip needs exercise, not coddling. The best it’s felt in weeks was after I walked fast (up to 3.5 mph) on the treadmill for twenty minutes. Exercise, here I come.

The third reason is philosophical. If I’m going to hang around here much longer (remember, my dad lived to 97, my mom to 92), I’d like to be at least mobile.

I don’t expect to meet or beat the family averages. None of my immediate forbears smoked (I did, ages 14 to age 35—remember Pall Mall’s?), or drank alcoholically (I did, ages 21 until I sobered up at age 41). A couple of years ago I was sitting with Dad (he was 96) in the assisted living dining room of Piedmont Gardens in Oakland. I realized all those old folks had one thing in common—they were skinny. Either you get skinny with age or you don’t age unless you’re skinny.

Mild. Fantastic.

Mild. Fantastic.

The trainer and I set goals yesterday. (Don’t you like my non sequitur from “art history lesson” to “trainer?” I’ll get to the lesson.)  A pound a week for fifteen weeks, and then (more slowly) ten more. Back to the weight I was when I lost my bloat after I got sober.

Yesterday my friend Richard Dillon put on his Facebook page a quotation from my absolute favorite academic writer, Judith Butler.

Me drinking.(Surely not a fantasy.)

Me drinking.
(Surely not a fantasy.)

Fantasy is not the opposite of reality; it is what reality forecloses, and, as a result, it defines the limits of reality . . . The critical promise of fantasy. . .  is to challenge the contingent limits of what will and will not be called reality. Fantasy is what allows us to imagine ourselves and others otherwise; it establishes the possible in excess of the real. . . —Judith Butler. “Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy,” from Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Ah! Fantasy. Trainer. Art lesson. “Fantasy is what allows us to imagine ourselves and others otherwise.” I have spent most of my life in a fantasy world. That’s generally a good thing, but not necessarily.

On Wednesday, the chair of the English Department told me they’re putting me out to pasture after spring semester, 2014. That sucks! The university’s doing it for dishonorable reasons (that is, their reasons bring dishonor to them, not to me).  Like all administrators, they’re more interested in filling out forms correctly and pleasing their customer base than in challenging anyone to think.

My fantasy is that there’s a way to change their minds. I “imagine [myself] and others otherwise.” Or not. My real fantasy is beginning to “establish[ ] the possible in excess of the real. . .” Establish the possible in excess of the real.

The possible is that, without the rules and regulations of Southern Methodist University pulling me down, I can inspire, can help someone discover something she needs to know to bring her fantasies alive. I don’t (today) know how I’m going to do that. I can teach as an adjunct in the Community College District (I’ve done that before); I can be (horrors!) a church organist again; I can try my hand at taking the time to rewrite and refine my writing so it’s not disjointed and weird and hard to follow like this.

Or I can take a painting class at a senior center and bring back the talent I apparently had in a former life. Art history lesson. I had forgotten all about it. All I will need is a brush, some paint, a canvas, and a model. I’ll bet you didn’t know about my painting life until now. See? I’m a teacher, through and through. Always.

"Standing Male Nude"Harold Knight, 1898--Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

“Standing Male Nude”
Harold Knight, 1898–Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

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