Sunday, December 13, 2009

Notes on a holiday party

One must make an appearance. This is the holiday party, an open house, with visitors to the office, with foods you would never make at home, broccoli casserole, sausage balls, apple stack cake, standard holiday fare in this part of the country. Accidentally, I’ve blocked myself in. I will have to ask the man next to me to let me out. People are chewing in the noisy way people do, and talking about…well, I never know. A favorite childhood memory, one is asking a man who grew up in another country. This sounds like an interview but there is a subtext. I know this because she told me so. The others at the table are saying something about sports, then politics, then television, then Christmas decorations. I can’t keep up. How many minutes? I eat the small sandwich, and wrap up another one for later. No one is talking about work. I don’t know how…

Except that sometimes I do, its own kind of problem.

Sometimes I fit in (almost). Confusion ensues.

The room is swarming with syllables. It sounds like

I’ve never known broccoli. Not in the noisy way. Ask the one there, interviewing the table. Who grew? Tell me the other casserole subtext. The sandwiched minutes, then memory, then television, all stacked. Someone visited Keep, or planned to prefer decorations in the small sportsway. Another standard, accidentally blocked. But you would never know how many. She told, all open apperance. Next, at home, as in another country, childhood, work.

The stories sounds make in the room are about something like a parallel party. It exists, I promise you. Imagination and real life are not separate things. For several weeks I have thought about the meaning of things. Of college. I meant to say years. There is a way of talking, a way of writing, another standard. There is a way of blocking the others, and not accidentally, which makes succeeding its own kind of problem. The reasons for being on one side or the other often have more to do with privilege than character or intention. I meant to say university. What types of responsibility are implied?

This is called “living in your head” or “being in your own world.” But the door is open, at least sometimes. You read too much. There are thinkers and doers. That’s what she said. Participation was thought to consist of playing, which was defined by someone else, and in the adult world participation means working when it is time to work, and not at the other times, and there are rules about this which constantly shift and no announcement is made.

On “play,” the shapes and colors fall into patterns of threes, disappearing in bursts and electrified lines. A game played alone, but also with others, at great distances. Who is excluded? Anyone who lacks a computer and/or internet access. A broadband connection is also necessary for speed, for getting the best scores. Anyone without sufficient hand-eye coordination to make the game worthwhile. Anyone without at least one fully operational (standard) hand or assistive equipment to compensate. Primarily, the poor and the disabled. Surely there are others I haven’t thought of too. This is the nature of privilege, taking some work to see it.

Academic writing is another kind of game. There are rules that must be observed, there are scores. To play, one requires access to an extensive library online or otherwise. Access is granted with employment by or enrollment in an institution of higher education, or with a large sum of money, or with physical location near a good library and considerable time to spend there. In any case, time is needed, free from activities required for survival. The basic needs for food and shelter must be met. It is easy to see how frivolous or impossible, how absurd it might all look without these conditions fulfilled.

One is saying a lake in Tennessee. One is recalling a holiday play about fighting. Two are debating the merits of reality television. I have a thought or two on these. The time to say it has passed. Lately, my favorite shows are about competition between chefs and people who can’t throw anything away. There is a fictional show I should mention, but that could come later.

Now it is time, and he understands the caged look, letting me go.

How many minutes? Five. Something like five.

Apple cake. What was that person thinking, eating, not talking, then saying two words, apparently at the wrong time, drawing a curious stare in response, standing in the middle of things, walking in circles, leaving, gone? This is the question I’ve answered that nobody asked.

Back in my office, I work on a proposal until I am calm and focused. I build a case based on exclusion and the right to participate. After awhile, I return with Squawkers McCaw. We visit each table, he wishes coworkers and guests a good season. Most everyone here knows him well. It is an excellent workplace and I am happy here most of the time. Fully included. I signify this with a series of chirps and trills. Several people chirp back.

Seven, I think. That makes the goal for the next one eight.


  1. This is beautiful...I mean, the writing is beautiful, the way you express yourself. Thank you for articulating some of your world.

  2. I love this. :)

    Marie S.

  3. You express yourself so beautifully.

    Hey Bev & Squawkers! Chirp! Trrrrll!

  4. Very nice.

    I wish I had a Squawkers.

  5. I know what you mean. As I told Miss Baggs, I think I'm _mostly_ normal, but that kind of party really gets on my nerves. If attending such, I run my social scripts, handshaking, etc., then gravitate to the buffet and bar so as to chow down and drink up. With any luck, there'll be something interesting in the room, and some kindred soul will show up next to me while I'm contemplating it, and we'll have a good talk about something we care about. If that fails, hey, at least I got some food and drink!

  6. Great writing!

    Now I'm wanting to try to make an apple stack, with two people in the house to eat it. :) Haven't had one in many years. Most appealing-sounding thing about the whole thing, really.

  7. Happy holidays, Bev.

    Thank you for sharing your videos, your writings, and glimpses into your world. :-)

  8. Some of us circles are not so comfortable at this kind of party either:). Wish I had a friend like Squawker to help me through.


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