[lit-ideas] Re: Rain and the Elf man

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2010 22:03:04 -0700

Some days are satisfactory; others have a little extra fillip or snap.  Today 
had a couple of these.  J. called at lunchtime.  She had not had a particularly 
good morning and neither had I.  Time and again I had returned to the problem 
of how to reveal a chapter to students and I kept running into, "If I do it 
this way, they make take me wrong."  I don't know what J.'s difficulties were 
because there was an urgency to the call: she'd found a live broadcast of the 
Arsenal game.

There was some ignoring of ads to be done but then, there on my computer, was 
the ITV4 broadcast of Arsenal...live...complete with British ads.  These are 
not to be ignored.  One had, in some spreading tree in Africa, a pride of real 
estate agents...no idea what the product was, but funny.  Another had people in 
some small appliance store inventing a version of fussball, using hair driers 
and I can't remember what.  The spirit of the thing was so right--get into 
it...invent something...have fun.  They may even been advertising the small 
appliance store.  Who knows?

So I hadn't solved the problem of how to conduct the class, but I thought I was 
entitled to a lunch hour, so J. watched on her screen and I watched on mine, 
fully eight hundred miles apart, as Arsenal...dismantled the Portuguese 
opposition and won 6-0.  Brilliant, elegant soccer.  No fouls about it.  Just 
"move the ball so that the other side can't reach it."

I decided then to do the green thing and take public transport.  Unfortunately 
I relied on the weather forecast, which didn't mention rain.  I carried a light 
jacket, which wasn't needed on the way in, but wasn't sufficient on the way 

On tenth street the trolley wasn't running, so I walked.  I stopped into the 
audio store to see if they had any good used tuners.  I said I'd return on 
Saturday, with the one I want to trade in.  I stepped out...and into the path 
of the faculty council president...who had earlier said he wanted to talk to me 
about something. Thus, instead of "having a meeting" on Friday, we were able to 
talk the issue through as we walked.  Ideal, and quite a coincidence.  Portland 
is not a small place and we were ten blocks or more from the college.

By the time I reached the classroom I had, of course, decided on a tactic.  I 
was a little taken aback by attendance.  On Monday it was about fifty percent.  
Ditto today.  I have no inkling why, beyond the fact that the studio faculty 
are encouraging students to attend events offered by the Time Arts Festival.  
My impression is that these run in the evening, but maybe there is something in 
the afternoon?  Thus my carefully-considered solution played well to about half 
the class.  Ah, teaching! 

When I finished, the rain was coming down hard, so since L. was attending a 
lecture and dinner, I turned into the pub and had a pint and a shepherd's pie.  
Really quite good.  I read the New York Times obit column. I recommend the 
entry on Michael Burn, 97.

Then, with the trolley still not running, I hiked up towards the light rail in 
the rain and fortunately thought to call L., whose lecture was proving dull. 
"Come on up to the Hilton and we'll go home together."  On the way I passed 
Pioneer Courthouse Square where Mexicans were celebrating 200 years of 
independence with dancing and flag waving and so on.  Whatever hostility there 
is in Arizona was not in evidence.  Not a cop in view; everyone having a good 

On the top floor of the Hilton the talk was still going on, so I asked the 
bartender for a beer and looked at the wonderful view.  He seemed to want to 
chat, so that's what we did.  He was from Eritrea and when I said I knew where 
that was and what its history is, he broke into a big smile.  Everyone he 
serves apparently says, "Where?"

A Catholic, he fought with the ELF, which eventually lost out to the EPLF.  We 
had a good chat about war and its miseries.  No mention of real estate agents 
in trees, though we did get to Eritrea's soccer team, which last year played 
Kenya...and defected...again.


Carry on.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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