Monday, November 8, 2010

How My Torch Was Extinguished

My absolute favorite teacher was an English professor I had when I was a wee lassie of twenty years old.  I was spending my first ever summer away from home.  A good friend and I stayed in our rented shit hole of an apartment in Burlington and sublet our two roommates' rooms to two very hot Harvard guys.  The place was the dive to end all dives, but we were incredibly happy there and had one of the best summers ever.

One of the ways that I had justified spending the summer away from home was by getting a full-time job at the medical library and by taking a couple of classes.  I'm sure that my parents knew I was up to no-good shenanigans 90% of the time, but as long as I earned my own money and got decent grades they turned a blind eye to my hard-partying ways.

The class I had selected was called, "Beauty, Sublimity, and Epiphany," and it turned out to be the best class I ever took in my four years at UVM.  I loved the books, I loved the laid-back feeling of the summer class, and above all... I loved the professor.  Oh, my... did I ever love my professor.

He was young (mid-30's), attractive, soft-spoken and relaxed, extremely intelligent, and funny.  He was a published author; in fact, one of the books he'd written was about following the Grateful Dead.  Twenty- year-old Bev was a'swoooooning, let me tell you.

The only thing that kept my crush from reaching full-blown epic proportions was his hair.  It sounds superficial, I know, but the man had a mullet down to the middle of his back.  Very tidy, very well-maintained, but... a mullet is a mullet is a mullet.

Because of the hair, I never allowed myself to think of him "in that way."  Weird, I know.  Plus, he was my professor, and I was busy sowing my wild oats and being supremely immature, so I just never officially crushed on him.  I just kind of, you know, idolized him.

Some of the books he selected for us to read and discuss are still my favorites to this very day.  He introduced me to Raymond Carver, Don Delillo, and the concept of writing with a growing undercurrent of foreboding that is palpable yet hard to pinpoint.  Learning how and what to read helped me become a better writer, and I still think of things he said and taught me to this day - 15 years later.

In my Senior year I ended up taking another one of his classes, but that one was a very small honors class about Restoration comedies.  We ended up in powdered wigs, waving fans, and speaking like fops, which was fun and all, but nowhere near as deep and meaningful to me as the first class of his that I'd taken.

The last time I saw him was just after I'd graduated.  We bumped into each other while browsing in Barnes & Noble and he told me that his girlfriend was pregnant.  I congratulated him and was sincerely happy for him, and less than a year later I moved away and began my life as a "grown-up."

Over the years I've thought of him often. 

In short, after all these years, I'd put him on a pedestal and always imagined that he was still at UVM wearing cardigans with leather patches on the elbows, still writing, still molding young minds, still rocking his mullet.

The other night, for some odd reason, I decided to google him.  I don't even know why.  His name came up immediately, and it brought me to what I first thought was a blog.  I smiled - oh, the irony!  My beloved professor is also a blogoholic just like me!

Then I read a little bit more, and it turns out it's a political blog written by him to document his campaign and new job... in politics.  As a politician.  A state senator, to be exact.

See you on deck, Senator!

At least he ditched the mullet.

I'm not sure if you guys know this about me or not, but I'm not a huge fan of politicians.  Sure, maybe my old prof is trying to do "good," and I know I would have voted for him if I lived in the state (because praise Jebus, he's a bleeding heart like me), but the mere fact that he is now a schmoozing, fund-raising, potentially-two-faced politician makes me uneasy.

I hope he still has a severe case of, "Stickittothemaneosis."

The good news is that he has published a few more novels since then, some of which have even won awards.  He still teaches at UVM.  He writes so beautifully -- I just hope he uses his powers for good and not evil.

I'll bet that he is one of the "good ones."  I couldn't bring myself to read too much of his political blog, but it's clear that he has been a very busy guy over these past 15 years.  I am happy for him and proud of his success, but my initial (admittedly rather baffling) reaction was disappointment.  Weird, huh?

I don't understand it myself.


Mala said...

googling old professors? NEVER! *shifting eyes*
*sigh* My own classroom crush rocked an odd mullet-y 'do. What's up? Of course he was an audio engineer, so.....

I totally get the disappointment. I mean, what's up with his handshake? Are you sure he had a GIRLfriend?

Bev said...

LOL! Mala, I noticed that too. Extra disappointment points for a limp-wristed handshake. What up with THAT?

Samsmama said...

I can turn the other way where many things are concerned and, trust me, I have. But a mullet? Nope. Deal breaker. The handshake too, now that you've mentioned it.

Last time I googled somebody out of curiosity the first thing to pop us was hit obituary. Good times.

Frank Irwin said...

When I saw the title of this post, I thought it was going to be a TMI post, but then realized that it's not yet Thursday.

You went to school to learn how to write? Good, now I don't feel so bad. ;-)

middle child said...

Your reaction seems perfectly normal to me. Have you ever read a wonderful book and then seen the movie which is so very diappointing? It is because of what our minds form and hold dear. You can still appreciate the man that he was. Peace.

Bev said...

Ugh, Mary! That's far worse than finding out he's a politician. I'm sorry.

Frank - Aww, thanks! You are too good to me - please don't ever stop. (twss)

No TMI here, sadly. I just realized how bizarre it is to realize that his kid must be 15 years old by now. Eek!

Middle Child - Thank you for understanding! I felt so guilty as I was writing this out this morning. I don't want to be judgmental towards his chosen occupation; I want to believe he's a do-gooder who is joining them because he can't beat them. But who knows? I'll just choose to remember what he taught me about English, which is a lot.

CaliforniaMG said...

I remember him! I took his class on William Kennedy and his Albany novels, which I took because I grew up in Albany. I also remember you telling me you crushed on him, which I thought was weird because of...his ridiculous hair! How weird that he's a politician now. Ick.

Bev said...

M, you do? How awesome is that! I didn't remember that you'd taken one of his classes. I do remember hanging out with you quite a bit that summer, though.

That was the summer I split my lip after we'd been getting drunk and doing the Macarena while standing on top of the furniture.

It may also have been the summer that you had to clean my massive foot wound while we were... severely impaired.


Doc said...

You took that pic from Indiana Jones, AWESOME!!

Elliott said...

My high school physics teacher ran for president several times before setting his sights a little lower, like senate and state board of education, but he was sort of insane. And, as it turns out, when Googling his name, I find that he has passed away as well. He garnered a whopping 405 votes in the '92 presidential election, against Clinton's 1,041,066. SOOO close.

He was more in the combover category, rather than mullet. (He also lived in his car during the week, and would walk down the hall at school shaving.)

I have no idea what this has to do with your happy little post, I think I might be having a brain hemorrhage.

Just a small one.

Frank Irwin said...

Elliot, Pat Paulsen was your high school physics teacher? Awesome!

Elliott said...

Pat Paulsen was FAR more successful than my teacher. And probably had a better sense of humor.

Had Mr. Paulsen been my physics teacher, somehow I doubt one student would have pushed him down the stairs, breaking his hip, while another hit him with his car. (There was some debate as to whether the same student did both...Mr. Hem would kick him out of class every day as soon as he walked in.)

Elliott said...

Update - I googled the student's name, and the top hit was an America's Most Wanted profile page. When I insert a middle initial, it goes from the AMW drug dealer to a hit on a sex offender.

Bev said...

Doc, yes! I was waiting for someone to mention that. :)

Elliott - I, personally, LOVE your little brain hemorrhages. They make me smile and often LOL, so keep it up, mkay?

That teacher sounds like a character and a HALF! The part about shaving at school made me think of Election.

And wow... such violence in your H.S. Good to know the perps are back out there on the streets, doing what they do best. :-/

Mala said...

"That's far worse than finding out he's a politician" - depends who you're Googling. Trust.

Cary said...

You're disappointed because the mullet is gone. I would be. Every time a mullet dies, the earth trembles and the Furies rage, and we all lose a bit of our souls.

wv: mebeero

"Day-o, Day-o
Daylight come and me wanna drink mebeer-o"

CaliforniaMG said...

Ahhhh, Bev, I remember that summer so well. Actually, a lot of it is lost in a thick haze of greenish, sweet smelling smoke, but I do remember the night you split your lip. Good times indeed.