Monday, September 26, 2005

Looking For Home

Here's an essay in the current Chronicle, from a woman on the tenure-track who has gone on the market again, even though she likes her job, because she hates where she lives.

This was where I was, four years ago -- on the tenure-track, in a city I hated, Charlotte, NC -- overcrowded, over-priced, traffic snarls 24/7, filthy air, filthy weather (it did have good parks and libraries, as well as good bookstores and restaurants and malls -- but because my lousy job paid so badly, and had such horrible health insurance, we were always too poor to buy anything or to eat out). I was also in a job I hated, though, at a university that was rapidly rotting on the vine. So I feel her pain.

We moved here, to Arkansas, to a job I like much better -- better work, better students, better administration, better pay, slightly better health insurance.

It is in Arkansas, though. And while I have nothing against Arkansas, per se, if I had listed the top six places in the world I wanted to live in, Arkansas would not, in fact, have made the cut. And if I had to live in Arkansas? Fort Smith would not be my town of choice.

My students know their town sucks too. They ask me, sometimes, "What are you doing here?"

These are students who are planning to be English professors. (I'm the English advisor. They ask me this while we are having That Talk about their future.)

I smile at them, kindly. I say, "Child. When you have got your doctorate? And you are on the hunt? You will go where the job is. Lo, it is so."

However. mr. delagar hates it here.

I don't actually much like the Fort either.

It is hot here, six or seven months out of the year.

It is pollen-filled and dusty and sticky here, all the time.

People here think nothing of littering. Apparently no one here ever heard of Keep America Beautiful. Littering is Just Okay With Folk in the Fort.

Nothing in the Fort is either attractive or intersting to look at in its own right -- architecture is not a thing folk in the Fort think of when they are building, for the most part. I think when folk in the Fort are building, they think of erector sets and shoe boxes. That is all I can reckon for what they turn up with.

Everyone -- well, almost everyone -- in the Fort is a Christian. A White-Bread White American Christian. Who has a Personal Relationship with the Lord. And thinks you do too. And thinks this is good and normal. Who will get upset if you put God, A Poem by James Fenton up on your office door. No, I mean really upset. Like they will go crying to your Chair about it. The big babies.

No good movies come here. Only stupid slasher movies. If a good movie does by accident come here, it only stays one week and you never notice it is here until it is gone.

Despite the fact that this is a small town, the traffic is abysmal, because the roads suck and the folk can't drive -- all of them tailgate, for instance. I attribute this to their religion. They're all Christian (see above) and know that this is not the only world. So I might as well be living in a huge town with bad traffic.

No snow. It's the freaking south.

Bugs. It's the freaking south.

Racism. It's the freaking south.

Also: it's the freaking south.

So yes, we've also been considering moving on. Except: the Other Liberal Professor is here, along with Miles, the kid's intended, not to mention Mick, and the kid's other friends are here, and the kid' s Montessori school is here, and our Writing Group is here, and where else would I find a job I liked this much?

(mr. delagar points out he has no job here at all, not counting his online teaching gig. Well.)

I suppose academics almost always are looking over the horizon. Because somewhere there will be that that perfect job in the perfect town. Where there isn't any traffic and there are wonderful bookstores, two of them, right in town, and the administration is sane and the people aren't loons and everyone rides bicycles to the grocery and recycles and loves folk music and Billy Bragg as much as I do and there are parks every six blocks and it's up in the mountains with plenty of hiking trails and twenty-seven inches of snow every winter. Oh yes, and a house for rent with four bedrooms for six hundred dollars a months.



Unknown said...

Fayetteville? Might be better. But I know what you mean about the South. Yuck. Here, I'm hating the cost of living. I'm in a much smaller house which costs so much there's no way I could ever stop working. But I love my job and the christians here understand that not everyone is a christian.

Unknown said...

P.S. I know lots of people in the Fayetteville English department, including the chair.

zelda1 said...

Fayetteville is much nicer than the Fort, I know, been to both places. The thing about the Hill versus the Fort is simple, it is much more liberal here than there and here people are less likely to flip you the bird if you accidently look at them wrong. That sums it up. Oh yeah, better book stores, better library, and a great view.

Diane said...

No snow is one of the things I like about the South. And racism is rampant all over the country. The religion thing is a pain, though.