Sunday, December 24, 2006

Whine with your Christmas Dinner

The other night I ate Christmas dinner with my wife and all of her uncles and cousins and such. My wife's mother's side of the family of is amazingly close and very friendly. It blows me away how my wife can ask, "What is Uncle Bruce's favorite dessert called again?"

And then one of her cousins will pipe up, "If it's that super-chocolaty cake from The DoDo (restaurant) then it is Lundegras." And my wife continues, "Yes, Lundegras. That's right."

Or that my wife thinks to ask, "Did you guys get a new countertop in here? This seems different?" And even though we only visit most of the family at their homes about once a year, they respond, "Yes, that is a new countertop." It astounds me that they are so genuinely caring and interested in eachother.

We ate some ham and potatos. There were tables set up upstairs where a television was playing the movie "Christmas Vacation" but the chairs were all taken so we went down to the basement where more tables were set up and a TV was playing the movie "A Christmas Story." I said, "Yes, I love this movie. I love how TBS plays it 24 hours a day on Christmas Eve."

And one of Eleanor's cousins said, "We were just talking about that." It turned out that, of 8 people in the room, 2 did not like the movie "A Christmas Story." One wife turned on her husband, "How can you not like this movie? Listen to the language." And he pushed the issue further by saying he also didn't care for the movie "Christmas Vacation." His wife told him he had no soul. The other hold-out is the son of a very prominent Utah Car Dealer. He said, "I've just never liked this movie.... ever since I was a little kid." And I said, "That just makes me think that you have a strange association with this movie... That you didn't like something in your childhood and for some reason you are taking it out against this film."

His wife seemed to think it was a funny remark but the guy just shrugged it off. That whole family is great and I had a good time there. We went to Bruce's for dessert. I tried one bite of that cake and now I don't need to eat any more chocolate for a year or two. It was so potent.

But while we were eating dessert, another of my wife's cousins came and sat by us. I don't know what to make of the guy and I think that I say that because all of my instincts tell me... well... that he sucks. He is a nice guy with a good heart and he has never done me any wrong. I think it stems from the fact that his father is very wealthy and that everything is handed to him. That does not make him bad, it's just that he doesn't use these opportunities to their potential.

I remember one time, my wife's little brothers were kind of bragging to me about him. They proudly said, "He's played the guitar for a couple of years but now he says he isn't going to play the guitar anymore because IT IS TOO EASY." To me, that is a completely ridiculous statement. If Jimi Hendrix was to say, "I'm not going to play this guitar anymore because it is too easy." That would be one thing. But for someone who has only played a year or two to say that is like saying, "I'm not going to write novels anymore because Microsoft Word is too easy to use. I no longer strive to make the world's best mac and cheese because the microwave has taken away the challenge of the true culinary art." Copying other peoples songs is easy. But try writing your own song and then compare it to something that Zeppelin or John Lennon wrote and then see if you don't suck somethin' fierce.

Anyway, this cousin likes to be the center of attention. The whole family usually just goes bowling for Christmas but I think this year they wanted to do something that allowed everyone to have a conversation without people yelling at them, "Hey! It's your turn to bowl! C'mon, don't you see the name POO up there on the scorecard? That's you!" Last year, this cousin showed up to bowling in a vintage track suit with a Micheal Bolton shirt and a headband. He rolled a lot of gutter balls and he made sure people noticed.

He is currently working on a PhD in English at one of Utah's finer universities. He also teaches several courses to undergrads. Because after he decided he didn't want to play the guitar anymore, he decided he wanted to be a professor. And he has enough money that he can pretty much do whatever he wants. So we were asking him about teaching and he kept trying to change the subject. My wife said to him, "Emmett likes to write, you should talk about it."

He said, "No. You wouldn't care about anything I write. It's just junk. I know what they want to hear. I think it's stupid but they all tell me it's what they want and then they give me more fellowship money. I mean, the last thing I wrote was about snow globes. I just write whatever crap I want and they like it."

I asked him what classes he teaches. He said he just finished "Introduction to American Literature." I've taken American Literature and I even got a good grade. I asked him what authors he used for the class. He spouted off about five names and I didn't recognize a single one of them. Most of them sounded Russian, but they weren't names like Tolstoy or anything. He said that he didn't really know who they were and that he had never read them. He read them for the first time at the same time his students did and then he says he just acted like he knew everything about it when they discussed it in class.

I have actually read some of his writing. His father is co-owner of a certain "Utah" magazine and his father gave him a job as a writer for this magazine. He wrote about how he and his friends went hiking out in the desert even though people told them it was dangerous; About his friends and their corresponding nick-names; And too much about how his "blasted" GPS unit gave him no end of trouble. It read like a bad high-school essay, akin to a paper on "My First Hunt."

I know that I talk too much about how I do not believe in our education system, especially higher-education, but this guy is the embodiment of my complaint. He has no talent, he doesn't care about what he does, he stands for nothing. And yet, he leads. He teaches. He recieves the accolades. It makes me ill to think that it is such a struggle for me to make arrangements to utilize this supreme path to a better future (school) and to know that this guy is running the show. He makes up the game and doles out the points at his whim, despite the financial costs to the students who show up expecting a real education.

The cousin talked as though he was entertaining us. As though we would laugh at how effortless it all was for him. How it was a big joke on everyone for his amusement and he was allowing us to peek inside his funhouse. But really that talk just confirmed my worst feelings about the "opportunities" people are given in America. Sorry, but I will continue to move furniture and focus on my kids rather than take out loans and jump through hoops to bank my future on these ass-monkeys.

In the background there is a voice in all of our heads saying: Flieswithoutwings is jealous. What horrible jealousy. He's been consumed by the green-eyed monster.

Maybe. Sort of. I can be competitive. I can dream of an easier life. But if I was really jealous and wanted to outdo this boy at his own game then I would probably hassle my own father about becoming co-owner of a small magazine so I could write a montly article and letting me move into his house and eat his food so I can sit around not reading books and not drawing out concepts that should be important to us on a personal level or as people who live together on this world. Just as easily as he, I could make a spectacle of myself without actually having anything to say. I could look a part but not be the part, if that is what I found fulfilling. I don't feel that me and this guy are on the same level. I wouldn't trade what I have for what he has.

I want to love this guy because he is my family and he means no harm but that does not mean that people like him are not central to everything that I think is wrong with our society.

1 comment:

ShootingStar said...

This blog sums up everything that is wrong with post-graduate work in English literature. Absolutely nothing seems relevent to anything meaningful that is going on in the world. It is all theory-based, abstract, crap. Even writing classes can be a little irrelevant--though not so abstract since they are based on practical application of writing skills.

I often think I chose the wrong field of study if I want to make a difference. It is disheartening, but I'm doing my best to make it mean something. and I've never written about snow globes.