Thursday, February 2, 2012

Looking at Factories Does Weird Things to Me

This is how I know I am a great girlfriend, but would make a terrible mom. The old cat went on a piss rampage last night, pissed in every single spot that Young Cat likes to hang out in. As I was stuffing ammonia soaked workout pants and childhood blankets into garbage bags, I was furious. When I was done, and settled on the couch to watch Sherlock, Old Cat came over looking for love, and I had very little in my heart for her at the moment, but I cuddled her anyway. Because she's a cat. She acted out because she was angry, like a 2 yr old bites. If I were to yell at her or try and punish her? She's not going to get it, the two events won't be connected in her mind at all, she'll just be more upset. So I just loved her. But also, see she doesn't know this part, I'm making plans to give her away to a home where she'll be happier. So the lesson is, I won't yell at you, I'll put up with you until an opportune moment to give you away. You can give boys away, but you can't give children away.

 The no yelling part is a development for me. I used to yell all the time. Now I understand that if you're doing something that warrants me yelling at you, you are actually just distracting me from paying attention to things that aren't you.

 The other day some friends and I went by the Ford complex, to look at the demolition of one of the plants. Whenever I go peeking around someplace I'm not really supposed to be, I like to have a cover story in my pocket. I've never had to use one, but the most convincing lie is the one you've already thought up. There were big signs all over the fence about not taking photos, so I imagined a scenario where I told the cops that my boyfriend's grandfather used to work at the plant, and he's in a nursing home now, so I was just taking photos to show him because we try to keep him interested in things, or encourage him to talk about his life. I don't have a boyfriend, and there is no mythical grandfather (I say mythic, because I've never had a grandfather and I can't even imagine what THAT whole thing is like), and also I don't know that showing an old dying man pictures of the place where he worked for forty years being torn down is exactly an altruistic maneuver.

 But, as it happens with stories I make up, I thought a lot about what this fake grandfather's life might have been like. Working in the Ford plant is a pretty awesome job to get, particularly in Cleveland. The entire city of Brookpark was built up by guys working at the Ford plant, and the Tank plant, and their families who would save up for above ground pools in the backyard, and send their kids to Kent State or OSU or Tri-C. Then all their kids would be like, FUCK working in factories, let's go be marketing majors or teach preschool. So then new people would come in to work at the plant, and later move into the now old ranch homes and shotgun two bedroom houses, and all the old people would retire and work on their show cars in their backyards and complain about the neighborhood going downhill. Suburbs are crazy like that. My experience with Brookpark is basically only when I was a young girl dating David, and used to hang out on his parent's wooden back patio singing Wilco songs with him, and that one time I went with his Mom, Dad, and Grandfather to Olive Garden for Sunday dinner.

 I think there's something special about the old American post war suburb. It's got a beige and blonde beauty of it's own. It isn't poor and falling down (though they are getting there), but it's also not tree-lined and intellectual. It's the vague place in between where neilsen boxes go and car dealerships clone themselves and everyone's daughter is healthy, leggy like a colt, and squirrel cheeked. I love Brookpark Rd, which is a stretch of cheap bars, cheaper restaurants, cemeteries, auto repair shops, strip clubs, roller skating rinks, and manufacturing. Manufacturing is the thing that built the South Side. It's all so very normal and American Dream Potholed. Us city kids, we don't pay enough attention to the South Side. Probably cause it's more interesting if you don't let the people who live there start talking about what they hate.

 That's true of all of America though. Stop telling me what you hate America, tell me what you love. Cause I hate your hate, and I don't see how we're ever going to be friends if you don't let it go.

The other thing I thought about, looking through the barbed wire at the rubble of a foundry, is the College Dream. I don't think everyone should go to college. I think it's unrealistic. Not everyone is going to get a great job because they put themselves in debt. If you don't want a 4 year degree specifically for a particular career, then why not trade schools? Why not certifications? My friend and I disagreed on this, she thinks everyone should go even if it's just for a general liberal arts degree because it makes them more cultured. Oh man, that gets me rankled more than anything. I say, look, I don't have a degree, I'm cultured. I'm arguably more cultured than a lot of people with degrees that I've met. It's because my childhood made me love learning, so I'm capable of doing it independently, I seek it out. If you want everyone to be more cultured, then focus on the kids, teach them how to want to be curious and smart. That way even if they can't afford college, they can enjoy being interested in life, they can have PERSPECTIVE. Teach them to love to read, that's basically the key to everything. Three of the most financially successful people I know don't have degrees. How you do in life depends on what kind of person you are, qualities defined and settled when you are very young. People who want to go to college will. Don't assume everyone should. There are a million ways to have a happy life. If you are a shitty unimaginative person, getting a degree just makes you a shitty unimaginative person in debt.

 What I'm saying is that there is a set of general qualities it's assumed you get from college no matter your major, and I think we should be teaching these qualities a lot earlier. How to network. How to focus. Time management. Goal setting. Listening. Rational, logical thought. Why spend 80,000 dollars on a communications B.A. you don't really care about, just so you can end up working the same mid range white collar job with health benefits I do now? That's stupid if you don't have 80,000 to spend. That insurance company didn't hire you and your degree because they think your knowledge of Early American history is useful to them. So let's define those qualities they did assume your degree meant, and give those to everyone without selling our young people into slavery to the banks.

 I'm not arguing that college isn't great, I think all learning is great. I wish every single person in this country could afford to go college. That is never going to happen. I just spent a lot of time and effort myself applying to go back to school, because what I want to do is be a better writer. That's something you can go to school for. But we can't afford to get a college degree in just anything at all, because we're supposed to. Wait till you know what it is you want it for, till you have a purpose for it. Or make it a hell of a lot cheaper, one of the two.

 I feel that we spend too much money on expectations of life. College. Weddings. Cars. Houses. The expectation that everyone can be the same kind of middle class. That is a dying thing, a short lived post war fantasy. The creation of the label of middle class is an inherent acknowledgement that there will always be a lower class. There are not that many openings in the middle class, folks. It's a lifestyle that has an occupancy limit. And here's where I might go on a rant about socialism, but let's leave that be. Point is, look where it's gotten us, the tv dream. Look how unhappy and stressed out everyone is, how depressed and desperate and struggling. Look at the black hole of credit we live in.

 I mean, really what's happening here (emotionally I mean, to me, why I'm on about this) is when you find out I don't have a degree, and you're surprised? And I see that judgement enter your eyes, your expectations of my intelligence lowering? It's insulting and it makes me sad. Because intelligence and credentials are not the same thing, you should know that. I want to go to school because I have a specific skill I want to learn, not because it's going to make me a superior person. I am already a superior person, because my parents took pains to make me that way. Doing that for every child when they are young is the next step to be a better society, not because it will get them all to college but because it will make them better people.

 This post did not end up where I thought it would. Also, now probably an admissions person will read this and think "she thinks college is not necessary!?". Oh Admissions Person, you have no idea how necessary college is for me, right now, promise. Do you see the sentence structuring in this post? Horrid. I'm just saying, I don't regret the fact that I waited until I had a clearly defined endgame. Because now I understand how the world works, a little better anyways. PERSPECTIVE.


  1. ... I love you... not like in that creepy internet stalker way but I love you because you are strong and able to articulate your passions so well...

  2. ".... Because intelligence and credentials are not the same thing, you should know that. I want to go to school because I have a specific skill I want to learn, not because it's going to make me a superior person. I am already a superior person, because my parents took pains to make me that way. Doing that for every child when they are young is the next step to be a better society, not because it will get them all to college but because it will make them better people."

    YES. Working in academia and seeing the false promises of prosperity marketed to first-generation college-goers, the pursuit of this dream that might have been a reality for our parents' generation but definitely isn't for ours, the way that people value credentials over work ethic, integrity, and competence, and just the way that things are going really starts to bum me out when I start thinking about it and how screwed up it is. I really wonder what's going to be left for the next generation of kids whose parents were raised by parents who valued the wrong things.

    I'm sorry I'm dropping bombs of negativity here, but this whole post really hit me in a way that's really good.

  3. This post nails it, B. Kudos, kudos, kudos!

  4. Another brilliant post! I want to say: Yes! What she said!

  5. Mr husband...who is in admissions in a university....stands with you. We have often talked about what is really needed for a majority of people is training for a career and or job....and that is often NOT what you get at university.


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