Thursday, March 05, 2009

Such a rollercoaster of a week!

This Monday, I was delighted to help introduce Sheela Free at the launch for her first book of poetry Of Fractured Clocks, Bones and Windshields. I met Sheila last year when I spoke at San Bernardino Valley College's Humanities Day; she is an English professor there, and we had a wonderful, energizing conversation about teaching and writing and the senses following my talk. She later sent me some of her poems by email, and I was moved by their raw, from-the-gut power. She had never published her work before, and asked for my advice. I had an intuitive sense that she should send her poems to Plain View Press, a small publisher in Austin, Texas committed to melding art and social change. Sheela pulled a manuscript together, sent it off, and much to our mutual thrill, Plain View wanted to publish it.

The launch was held in the same room where Sheela and I met last year. The auditorium was packed with her friends and family and students and colleagues, everyone so excited. Several people gave introductory remarks; when I gave mine, I mentioned how I felt a bit like a matchmaker or a midwife, helping the book find its way into the world (although of course it was the book, not me, that was the true propelling force). I am so proud of Sheela and so happy that I could help make such a celebratory day possible. Her reading was one of the most exciting I've ever attended; she made her poems participatory--she had all of us snapping and clapping in rhythm, doing call-and-response, standing up and pretending to hold a strap on a bus as she read a poem about her mother riding the bus to work (her mother was in the audience, beaming with pride.) She read with such passion, such humor and grace. It was truly awesome to behold.

The next morning, I was still coasting on the energy of the event when I got some not so happy news--because of the budget crisis in CA, there are no classes available for adjunct lecturers like myself at UCR next academic year. UCR is my main source of income, so this (while not unexpected) was quite a blow. So many people I know have been affected by the economic downtown, and of course now it has hit home more than ever. I trust that I'll be okay--already, other possibilities are percolating--but my heart aches for those who have lost jobs and don't know where to turn.

One thing I'm hoping is that this scary economic climate will help us remember the power of community. Friends have been talking recently about putting together a sort of co-op where we'd share food from one another's gardens, have weekly communal meals, etc. When my kids were little and we lived in Family Student Housing at UCR, we would often have neighborhood meals, each family bringing a course, and it was a way to save money and share in community--everyone was in the same boat then, poor but hopeful, and as many of us are in the same boat now, there are great opportunities for helping one another out (and keeping hope alive.) Sheela's reading was another wonderful example of the power of community--much of Sheela's work is rooted in unimaginable grief, and I could feel the room supporting her, buoying her, as she shared poems about losing her daughter, celebrating with her as she shared poems about the pleasures of delicious, sizzling dosas. It may be a cliche, but it feels truer than ever right now: when we can share our sorrow, it becomes easier to bear; when we can share our joy, our joy multiplies. Thanks for letting me do both here.


Rachel said...


I am appalled at all the cuts being made to education. Education must be the last thing we ever cut, because cuts in education today will really bite us back in a generation. I do hope you can find a way to keep money flowing in - but it won't be easy in this economy.

I'm losing hope, however, because California, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that spending millions on a theocratic legislation to oppress a specific group of people is a far more worthy goal than getting the economy going. I'm, of course, talking about Proposition 8. Prop 8 also took away millions of dollars that the gay marriage tourism would've generated for the state.

But that's how people seem to want it. And this is the exact same way that the various extremely homophobic theocracies of Central America have become the economic hellholes that they are today. California will follow the steps of Guatemala and El Salvador (where murdering a transwoman will earn you praises from the police chief as the defender of morality - and manhood, if you're male) the way things are developing.

I thought we were supposed to bring in immigrants in order to give them a shot at the American dream and for them to contribute constructively to us - not so that they can impose their primitive morality and economy on us. I'm especially sick and tired of the Korean-Americans blabbering BS about my Hyundai ($$$ for the Commies running its labor union) and its Kwan Yin-themed vanity plate (false deity), and if this is what our immigration policy is about, I want none of it.

Unless this mentality is fixed once and for all (and I do believe that the rampant political correctness of the progressive community bears part of the blame), there will not be a future for California. I'm already looking into business opportunities out of state and abroad, so that I won't have to be beholden to a specific location anymore - at which point, I'll leave California.

I do hope something will work out sooner than later for you. I am glad that I have good government contracts right now, sparing me from having to worry about paying my bills. I wish I could even hire you (and I think I can), but (1) the Riverside - La Puente commute will be a killer, (2) the setting isn't conducive to creativity, and (3) all the reactionary crap in the construction industry will drive you nuts - even if it's said in Spanish, Korean, or some other language rather than English.


Rachel said...


I'm not talking about a job as a laborer (even though it pays Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wages, which are several times the real marketplace prevailing wages in California today, and equivalent to union pay scales).

I need office help, and even though I just hired one, I'll eventually need another in a few months. English proficiency is a must, though it's really difficult to find people with adequate English proficiency these days.

But then, I don't think pushing bureaucratic paperwork is conducive to creativity. :( It explains my heavily explanatory writing style - something you know too well.


Laraine Herring said...

I love you, Gayle.

alexisyael said...

hey Gayle!

I've just figured out google reader and am catching up on your life via the blog. I'm so sorry to hear the loss of your job at UCR! Hopefully the academic world will be on its feet again soon (we're dealing with similar - but not as scary - stuff here in AL).

Community is exactly the ingredient we need right now. Your community-making abilities are very inspiring to me!

gayle said...

Aw, thanks so much, Rachel and Laraine and Alexis--I'm so grateful for all of your support. So incredibly generous of you to offer me a future job, Rachel--I think I'll be okay, but it's good to know I have a safety net. :)

Thanks again,