Term’s started: so many tangents while I dangle the details of my Vegas trip like an enticing and sexy carrot

(my last term ever as an undergrad and at this university!)

and you know I always update more when I ought to be doing anything but. And a real update is overdue. First it was finals and I had to study, then finals was over and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in front of a computer, then I got my grades back and I passed and am set to graduate and was too busy celebrating and working to write, then I went to Vegas. Which deserves an update all for itself so more on that another day.

But this is my last-hurrah term, my term to take two final good classes to rinse the last few abysmal months of underachieving undergrads and uninspired instructors (I think one of them may have been basically brain-damaged, if not -dead) out my brain. One class with the Peripatetic Professor of my Middle East classes last year (this one is imperialism) and the last with the Beautiful Professor. I have to redeem myself with him too, his commentary on my last paper still burns. Entertaining but sloppy. It was, but knowing he’s right only makes it worse.

By Sunday night the only people who’d posted responses to the discussion thread were his fan girls (that’s me included) and a random guy. I was still in Vegas during the first class, but that seemed absurd, and also likely to get the class canceled.

Texted my friend and fellow fangirl, as his grad student advisee she ought to know.

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She concluded that the rest of us were invisible to her, as lowly undergrads. There’s three of his fangirls in the class, plus a smattering of senior auditors, two guys looking to take an easy A[1], and a sociology major whose look of baffled pain has us placing bets on whether she drops this week or next.

K gave me my birthday present–late, but not as late as mine to her:

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“I wonder if I’m the only grad student.”

“I think we had already established that you are. Yours is a high and lonely destiny.” I tried to channel as much Uncle Andrew as I could.

K rolled her eyes. “Nice Narnia shoutout, nerd.”

But you note that she caught it! Frenz.

Promise to update with salacious stories about Vegas and all the pictures I haven’t posted yet next.

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1-They’re wrong, but entertaining. One of them put his hand up and asked “What about the salt?”*

*-the course is Yiddish film and the movie was Ost und West, and the salt in question was something to do with a ritual (I can’t remember because I wasn’t taking notes, I was too busy comparing it to Twilight 2–benighted lover sees wavering phantom head of beloved in front of them, see what I mean? equally hilarious as a device in 1923 or now–and there you go, I’m entertaining but sloppy)

BUT

the question itself caused a flashback to my seminar on Early Modern England last year: My friend was giving a presentation on women and sociability and the role of gossip/slander; predictably enough the accusation of whoredom was very common. She finished up and,

“What about the bastards?” said Awful John. Awful John deserves a better descriptive, something like Halfwit, Stupid, Vacant, but my New Years resolution was to be kinder, so.

I choked back a laugh.

Emily looked a little stunned but explained that, though “whore” was a common pejorative, it didn’t necessarily mean that the woman in question was indeed a whore or having crowds of wee little ones out (or in, plenty of married whores) of wedlock. &c&c&c

“But, what about the bastards?” he asked again. “There weren’t any?”

We all had to give four presentations a term, and Awful John’s were the highlight. He strang together words chosen apparently at random, with key words that would be repeated throughout (the key words changed from presentation to presentation) but none of which cohered into a full sentence. I transcribed one of his presentations so I could do a dramatic re-enactment for the girl I was seeing, a stolid and deeply matter-of-fact water sign who thought I was prone to exaggeration for comic effect (I am, but). That didn’t last (romances based solely on bone structure never do), but luckily the notes did:

Redefined freedom. Faith. Prosperity. Revolt in the revolution, fascinating. Radical ideas. Throughout the text it emphasizes a lot of aspects of you know, things that were happening around.” (I guess that one is a full sentence.) “Thus the title. A struggle for power. First revolution…”

Here my notes broke in to comment on prof. “Dr L looking increasingly severe and prune faced. Now doing her nails. !!! omg”

“Movements substantially up until the Restoration Hill emphasizes the English radicalism that ensues as the result of movements. English radicalism. Radicals like Gerard. Emphasis. Authority of church, social superiors.”

See? School is fun. I can only hope What About The Salt is as entertaining as Simple John.

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Perils of summer school

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Class every morning and work every night. Killing time til 1am when I have permission to leave and studying for tomorrow’s test.
Only lapdance I’ve had so far was a guy who told me it’d be better if we were smoking rock with his tongue so far up me that it came out my mouth while my girlfriend got eaten out from behind by her boyfriend. Direct quote.
What do you even say to that? I said it sounded like he should be at the swingers club instead, and he agreed.

Exotic beauty, faux-rientalism, and racists, in class and out

For a while when I first started dancing the meanest thing I ever heard was “You look Jewish.”  Worse, “You look like Barbra Streisand.” The “You look Jewish” is actually negligible, but once I heard “Barbra Streisand” I knew what they were really saying was “You have a big nose.” Cause it’s true, I do.

Then a lesbian customer at the Russian club told me (in response to, “Hey, how’s it going?”) that she didn’t like me, or my music, or the way I danced, or what I was wearing, which had the triple result of A) knocking weird Barbra Streisand comparisons out of the running for meanest comments, B) prejudicing me for years against female customers, something that only working at my current club has shaken, and most immediately, C) getting her ass kicked out because this was 2005 and I was a bitchy minor with an overly indulgent Russian boss.

Then I dyed my hair black and the constant commentary was on how exotic I looked.  “Are you Persian?” men would ask me.

Russian?

Ukrainian?

Persian?

Iranian?

This culminated–after I’d grown out the black, by the way–in my penultimate strip club compliment (just under, “you’re like one of those old fashioned whores, a hooker with a heart of gold! that’s what you are!” which wins for playing to all my favourite tropes and also because it was offered in the spirit of Matthew Salinger, age one, urging a luncheon companion to accept a cool lima bean. ie, sweetly.)

“You have the dusky beauty of a Turkish harem girl.”

People. If I was any less dusky I’d be clear. I will now tell you something that I usually either charge for or throw in as a freebie with a lapdance, and that is that–long crooked Barbra Streisand/Jewish nose to the contrary, and despite what I huskily tell customers in the Russian that I remember–my ethnic origins are almost entirely second generation Irish. My family was fresh off the boat in the forties.  Until I moved west, we still had giant family reunions involving an older relation’s accordion and music that they probably play on that Thistle and Shamrock program. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about it’s because you don’t listen to enough NPR and/or your city’s NPR is better funded than mine.)

My nose is the result of genetics, exacerbated by a light that fell off the ceiling (at a strip club, while I was onstage) and broke it.  It causes me at least four sinus infections a year, including the one I’m suffering from now, and has the dubious side bonus of serving as a blank screen for customers to project weird orientalist fetishes on to. Which I then try to divert/indulge by reciting Russian poetry.

I had a really tall, cute customer the other day tell me he picked me because I was a Jew too. He said it with such certainty.  I guess technically he’s not wrong; my mom converted in the seventies from being some kind of Christian. We lit the candles on Friday and I can still mumble Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu… I love Channukah! But I don’t think that’s what he meant.

I didn’t disabuse him, either.  Instead we talked about how I skipped Passover to work and what he does for work.

I was going to write the bulk of this anyway but then this girl in my American Jews class going off the other day.

If I haven’t already made this clear, I like quiet or at the very least for ignorant assholes to shut up and not involve me in their process or lives so I can continue to pretend that I’m living the Spain scenes in Morvern Callar to the best of my ability.  I would say that at least 80% of my brain at any given moment is in a fantasyland where Nabokov is still alive and everyone has the moral compass of Henry James. I realise these are two dead white men, but you love who you love. I mean, right?

So this girl–who, I’ll be candid, I already feel mildly tormented by her because of her inability to stop treating class like it’s WS 101 and sharing her personal growth and pains with the class[1]–she’s talking and My Darling Instructor is late to class or something, and she’s continuing a conversation, about being racist. I guess they call this the Jew class, which is like, maybe whatever?  I have my shtetl Jew class, my jewish history class, my Israel/Palestine class, sometimes syllables are hard.  I get it.  But just to make sure she’s crossed the line from not-very-questionable-Ironic-Racism into Shut-the-fuck-up-asshole, she continues,

“I was watching this woman park in front of my work, and she kept turning the wheel, pulling forward, back, forward, back, and I was like–” face of eye-rolling comic disgust, “–and then she opened the door and not to be a big racist,but.”

Don’t you want to be like A) TOO LATE and B) BUT WHAT?  I mean really.

I am a coward and did not say either of those things, except in my head.

PS, I’m back.  I missed you.

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1- Some of her consciousness growth is marginally on topic, but there was this one time where she was talking about a SUPER bulletin board display that made her feel personally attacked that made my eyes roll so hard it hurt.  I know, I didn’t see the display in question, but there’s a difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism that, uh, it just seems like some people get confused by. I mean obviously anti-semitism and anti-zionism can come hand in hand, and who am I to be questioning who is hurt by what?  I’m an asshole.

The perks of being a stripper

There are a lot of them–and some severe downsides–but the biggest perk, or anyway the one I find myself daydreaming about in class, is the freedom to walk away from the stupid things people say if they aren’t also paying you to listen.
Jewish history there’s this… I don’t know what she is. I mean she’s christian, clearly, but I’m not sure what she’s doing there short of providing exasperating comic relief. A few weeks ago in a discussion about Sephardic mysticism the phrase “godhead” came up.
Her hand shot into the air. “that’s the Trinity, right?”
We all stared at her.
“The father, son, and holy ghost!” she clarified impatiently. The word “duh” was buried just below the surface. My friend Eli was all, someone didn’t do the readings, which is redeemingly hilarious but Come On, we were already like five weeks into class.
So last class we’re now on the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom, I have some familiarity with this from a seminar I took on the shtetl last year. We’re talking about how governance was a little bit messy, the Westernized Catholic-polish noblemen and the vast tracts of land inhabited mostly by peasantry and how Jews moved in as a sort of pre-fab middle class, with some scots and other Protestants picking up the slack–so okay, I didn’t take notes on the entire conversation because I didn’t know she was going to spout another idiocy until her hand shot up. That’s a warning sign right there.
“so the peasants were all Jews too.”
More blank stares.
“if the noblemen were catholic and the Jews were Jewish, and the peasants weren’t catholic, they were Jews too, right?”[1]
I don’t know, I just don’t. Moments like that, where class is derailed for a while while we try to figure out where the long disused rails of her one track mind have ended up and reroute them, they make me think kind of longingly of work and the girl who didn’t know the difference between Israel and Islam and how she had to give me a dollar just for that one interaction of listening to her be ignorant. And then I got to walk away. None of this ten tedious weeks of accruing thousands in debt to listen to someone ramble and derail four hours a week.

Just to end on a bright note, my early modern England seminar has hands down the most excited and interested and funny group of people, who are constantly saying things that make me laugh. One guy, short and brawny and curly haired, with a pointed goatee (I think some people, myself included, take on visual cues of our interests. So he looks like Essex and I tease my hair into an 18th century bouffant) gave a presentation on pirates, beginning solemnly with, “you can count on one hand the number of serious pirate scholars out there, and still have fingers left over.”
ok.

1- maybe you think I’m being a pedantic b and are wondering why this isn’t a valid question–the peasants of Poland-Lithuania, like um the majority of people in eastern Europe and Russia, were eastern orthodox. Or just “orthodox”. All of which is a) something she should know anyway at this point, like knowing there’s a lot of Islamic people in the middle east and b) it was in the fucking readings.

practical applications

In class with my favourite professor, a dapper, intelligent, and sometimes hilarious professor of Jewish history (I would go straight for him if only he weren’t gay), we are covering medieval Jewry under the Islamic empire. For all intents and purposes my focus is on early modern England during the Reformation and seventeenth century, even though my actual long term interest is queer identity and family structure during the eighteenth century. There aren’t many (maybe any) eighteenth century classes offered at my school. So I’ll have to figure that one out later. For right now my focus is Early Modern England, and I love it. My EME seminar is one of the highlights of my week, along with Friday nights at the club and any time spent with a quad soy latte and my dog.

But this guy is my favourite professor, his class on the shtetl last year was the highlight of a very rough winter. And I can’t stop my interest from roving. So here I am in Jewish history, Jews in Europe from about the Medieval period on. Because it’s a survey course I was afraid people would say a lot of stupid things (in the next post where I bother to talk about school I’ll tell you about stupid shit undergraduates say) but this is truly up there with my EME seminar on all-time high class interest and participation.

So we’re on the Islamic period, talking about the Karaites, Saadia Gaon, his Book of the Eloquence of the Language of the Hebrews, and the influence of intellectual Islam on the Jewish thinkers, the spread of this idea that you can have Reason and Revelation united: Revelation as the short cut, the word of God, and philosophy as the incredibly long and tedious way of arriving at the same conclusion for yourself. Thrilling stuff. Especially when you compare the belief system of Antique Israelites to the other denomination I spend the most time with, CoE and Calvinists. The emphasis on faith and works could not be more different. Sort of.

He spreads his arms wide. “It’s legit!” He picks up his coffee mug. “I’ll see you next class. Don’t forget the readings.”

The day goes by, I do whatever it is I do when I’m not at school or work (more coffee, extensive time at the bookstore or library, yoga, maybe a pedicure) and head in to work. It starts off slow but I get a few dances, which is nice. There’s a tall dark and handsome guy at the bar who I walk up to.

“How’s it going?”

He shrugs. “Good, good. How are you?”

I don’t know, bored, hungry, chilly, not really in the mood for small talk. Want a dance? “I’m great! A little chilly, but warming up.”

“Fell, look fat you are fearing.”

“Bikinis in January are an occupational hazard. Where are you from?”

“Israel.”

“Oh really? Have you been here long?”

“A few weeks.”

“And is this your first time at [club name redacted! duh!]?”

“Yes.”

“Then you haven’t had a [club] lap dance before! are you ready?”

“I don’t belief in that.” He hesitates, asks, “Can I speak honestly fith you?”

If you were wondering, this is always a bad sign and you should always say no to this question, at least in a club, but in the spirit of honest intellectual inquiry I say valiantly, “Of course!”

“I think this is very degrading. I don’t like it.”

I can’t even engage with this. “Okay, well, I hope you have a great night!” I pat his shoulder.

The next time I see him it’s three hours later and he’s sitting at my rack with some annoying female customers. One of them throws a dollar at me and shrieks, “Isn’t he so cute? He’s from Islam!”

The man from Israel and I share a glance; probably the only thing we will ever share. Because hanging out in a strip club with girls who are A) not working and B) don’t know the difference between Islam and Israel is inherently less degrading than talking to strippers.

“Islam?” I ask her. “Really?”

She bristles at me. “Yes, why.”

“Because Islam is a faith and Israel is a state? A place one can be from and, incidentally, where he is actually from?” Then, because it will make me laugh even if it makes no one else laugh, I add, “I learned all about it in class today!”

Practical applications for the degree I’m going into debt for: lecturing strip club customers in the difference between a religion and a country.

Class to work.

In class today we had a guest speaker, a curator from the local art museum. Her lecture, on Japanese block prints, was lively and interesting; I’ve gotten lucky this term with the good lecturers.

She paused at a faintly tinted print of a couple embracing under a cherry blossom tree:

…Erotica, of course, was the cash cow of the print industry. For better or worse [name of museum redacted] has almost none… I think you can trace that to the interests of our donors. This print is from early on in a folio; as in this image here they generally begin with almost genteel foreplay while later on it will move to more athletic prowess. These two: the woman, almost certainly a courtesan, acting modest and retiring, while the man entreats her–I can’t really read you the top bit on this page, but I assure you that nine or ten pages in the dialogue has for the most part dwindled to ‘ooooh’.

For no good reason it reminded me of a particularly pointless conversation with a customer a few weeks ago.

He didn’t seem like an especially good prospect, but his friend–currently in the bathroom–did. We watched the usual suspects hop up on stage and then one of them face planted in the other girls lap. Various lesbianic poses ensued, and a worthwhile amount of dollars flowed.

“Wow,” my companion said. “Yikes! You must be so horned up! And those two!”

“What?” I asked, more to get reassurance that he had in fact spoken out loud the phrase “horned up” than because I hadn’t heard him.

“It just must get you all so worked up to work here! They must be so horned up!” He stared at the two on stage again, one of them inverted on the pole while the other stood, face in the pole girl’s crotch.

It looked like work to me, strenuous and mildly uncomfortable, hanging upside down while your friend gave you head for a few minutes, then moving to the next pose, maybe tongues half way out for one of those lesbian kisses that cry out for a man to do the job right. It wasn’t hot, it was stage germs and random girl ass germs and money germs and bacteria and even more tedious: performative lesbianism for not enough money, dollar bills to be having unsafe sex amidst other peoples ass germs. “killjoy” I thought.

Totally,” I assured him. “We are totally… horned up. Like all the time. We even have pillow fights back there sometimes. Naked ones. And we giggle.”

“Wow,” he said again, looking deeply satisfied.

Ooooh.