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Neither to join nor follow

Mary,

Nice to see you. I’m not much a fb user these days. I had a year and some when I was working on other things, promoting my book, and teaching. I wasted a great deal of time here. But this summer, work picked up and I was out building bridges, walking beams, welding, and so on. (I’m a union ironworker, as well as Ph.D. candidate in American Environmental History and American Literature, as well as, as well as, etc.). The decision was between using my off-work time for dissertation and writing, or wasting it on fb.

Thank Whatever that I made the right decision.

This year I returned to teaching (JCCC and Penn Valley. I want to get that dissertation completed and finish up my second book. the first, Seldom Seen: A Journey into the Great Plains, was a great success for the University of Nebraska Press, and they want the second. The return to school has already paid off well, as I turn in the first several chapters of the next book next week. Of course, nothing is set in stone. Academic press books go through a tough peer review process, and it’s just as likely that U of NE won’t publish the book as they will.

I’ve roughed in two chapters of the dissertation, and it will just take concentration to get those polished and to my dissertation director. My classes this year will allow me to give that the attention it needs. I have my lectures written, and with some new scholarship, I have little to do do prepare for those classes. That doesn’t mean that school is not work. In fact, it’s tons. But having the groundwork complete makes my downtime much easier to devote to dissertation and creative pursuits.

The dissertation is important for other reasons than just getting a doctorate. JCCC will take me full-time with doctorate. Penn Valley is just waiting for more money and will be more likely to take me on with as a Ph.D., though they don’t demand it. Frankly, both institutions have their good points, and there are only good points to talk about.

As it is, I love being an ironworker and will have the doctorate in my pocket in case neither institution has room for the likes of me. Ironwork is young man’s work, and I am often the oldest guy on a bridge. Reinforcing ironwork, especially, is more physically demanding and building bridges is the hardest work a person can do. (I say person because we have sisters in the trade, and they do just fine.)

Having the doctor makes me more likely to have a paying option (books don’t pay) when ironwork becomes too much for the body–perhaps adjunct teaching while I write books, perhaps a job at a small college or community college. I love teaching history and, maybe, English in the future. Community college presents special challenges that I don’t have at a university. On the other hand, a four-year college or university is easier and more academic teaching, leaving more time for creative pursuits.

Fortunately, I don’t have to make many decisions now. I’m in good shape now and have a few more years in the trade. But who knows? Ironwork wears bodies out quickly, and especially older ones. I joined the union when I was 45, and though I’ve done heavy labor most of my life, I came into the trade with bones and joints that had yet worn through.

Plus, I don’t even really know or understand what a career is. I have always just wanted to be a writer. I get easily distracted, like, what am I going to do today, distracted. Journalist, editor, book editor, ironworker, etc., has taken me far afield from just sitting down and doing what I should. But, even in my most frustrating moments, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Meanwhile, I have a nineteen-year-old daughter. Her mom and I never married (thank Whatever). The kid’s off this summer working in Yellowstone National Park at one of the restaurants in the park. I married twelve years ago, after a long tour of loves, lovers, and relationships. It’s often the greatest thing that’s happened. We adopted my four-year-old nephew, now our eight-year-old son. He’s a great kid. The sad part of the story is that my sister is in the throes of the family diseases and went down the meth hole. Unfortunately, she’s still down there.

Hands full, I look at fb very infrequently these days, and mostly to keep in practice as a socialist iconoclast smartass. With the forces of reaction taking hold of the nation, dissent and smartassism will become even more fun, interesting, and important. My goal is to be arrested as a threat to the minds of the common people. After all, I’m not a joiner or follower, with the exception of being a strong union man. And why follow when I work for the good of the neglected by getting people riled up?

Plus, having had a rough, partially criminal past, I have a great deal of sympathy for those excluded from the mainstream–workers, prisoners, immigrants, irreligious, underprivileged, etc. I find that those seeking votes, money, or fame–particularly in the recent wave of reactionary and visceral political climate–have little patience for the ordinary people who make up 90 percent of who we Americans are.

As far as reunions go, please let me know how things develop. I’m overextended in my various pursuits or might be willing to help gather people around the cause. High school was a fucking nightmare, and when I left, I didn’t look back. But now having run into a few people from that time, I find them to be interesting and fun to be around. I think I’d like to spend an evening walking around, having chats with folks to see what they have done and are becoming.

My best to you and yours. Please keep in touch.

Patrick

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