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2006-10-19 - 9:33 a.m.

Grading papers during down time at the big job, doing the weekly lesson plan at home when I'd rather be sleeping or eating or reading and what makes it worth it is what happened last night. Once a semester, I'm supposed to have one-on-one student conferences and I've always liked them. Each student gets ten or fifteen minutes and I hand them back an essay with a grade and lots of ink on it and at the end, I always ask if they have any questions. Most of them don't but some of them do and it's great because when they ask questions it's obvious which parts of the class they've got down cold and which parts they have no idea what the hell I'm talking about. At these conferences, I can take their hang up aside or isolate it and, you know, try to kick it in its ass. Sometimes it doesn't happen; their brain is blocking whatever it is I'm saying and my brian can't find a new way to say it is what I'm saying because I'm geting older and I increasingly think my way is the right way and, to quote my brothers from when I was about seven, so face. I only rarely get frustrated and when I do it's with talking and text messaging and bullshit like that.

So Michael comes for his appointment, and he's got a friend with him. Michael's a skinny black kid but he looks tough like all skinny black kids from the city do. He always wears a Yankees hat and the bill is very straight and he's left the gold-colored sticker on the top. His friend is dressed like him, but when Michael moved to the side, I saw that he was an Indian guy. I recognized him, but it took me a few seconds.

"I recognize you," I said.
"Hi, professor," he said, and though I am not a professor I usually don't correct it when I hear it.
"You're going to have to remind me," I said, "No, wait, it's Raghu, right?"
Michael sat down and I gave him his paper and I was glad that he got one of the highest grades (a ninety). Raghu hung out by the door for a moment. He'd grown a short beard.
"Have you taken any creative writing classes yet?" I'd recommended he take a personal narrative class. I knew he was a typical Indian college student in a lot of ways: he was a science major and his parents I'm sure expected very specific things out of him. I wanted to let him know there was other stuff in college.
"Not yet," he said. "I think I need a permission."
"Let me know if you need one and I'll take care of it," I said.
I turned to Michael. "Are you keeping track of this guy?" I tilted my head toward Raghu.
"He recommended I take your class," he said. Raghu nodded his head and that made me feel good.
Reminder, for the thousandth time: a touch of positive reinforcement goes miles. Reminder: select the best of each week's work and read it aloud, with names removed. Reminder: Think about what makes you fly and spread it around.

Nothing to do today at the job. And maybe nothing tomorrow, either. I'm working on doing a all-over revise of the collection. I hope it's getting better. I can't tell, but I want to be done with it. Can't, of course, rightfully be done with it when there are soft spots in it, but I'd like to write about something else. Like the guy who gets struck by lightning. I'd also like to write about a character who has a process: a pretty strict, not unpleasant routine that gets disrupted.

Stupid politics has me hooked. I check the election tracker every day. I'm a sucker for anything that shows red and blue states, some of them pink and some of them North Carolina blue.

Finishing "Angela's Ashes." It's a good story. I can see why it sold so many copies. No reflection, or hardly any, and just straight here's-what-happened. Sure. I had a dream I was eating fried bread in Ireland and drinking weak tea made from used teabags. I don't know what fried bread is, really, but they eat the ass out of it.

My dad's birthday's today. I ordered him a vintage-style Pirates hat from online: the yellow cap with the black bill. He got a bear permit. If he gets one he wants to make a rug. I just want to see one, preferably alive and not running at me.

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