Tuesday, September 23, 2003

An old freind moved to London for some purpose related to his work. He was born Seoul, Korea and grew up here. Like many asian americans he seemed to have some resentment of his parent's asianness along with a kind of superiority about Americans. His grandmother was a wonderful small woman. who had a buddhist shrine in her room at the back of the house. She was so small that she could barely reach the kitchen counter. This was awkward since she did most of the cooking for the family.
He dismissed his life the States in an article that he published on the web, saying "The whole time I wondered, where are the intellectuals in this country? If you don't go to a private or parochial school in most parts of America, you're filling in coloring books."Link
Parochial describes most of the world {(if you think of it in catholic terms.) Iraq used to be Saddam's 'parish.' If you think that way...}
In the nineties, I worked for a local college cafeteria along with a lot of bitter Iraqi ex-pats who were forced to wear the hairnet and gloves despite their engineering degrees. There were also a lot of black men who never left Pinnellas County in their whole lives.
Sounds like a powder keg. now as I speak of it. One man who worked there had a particularly irritating disposition. He seemed to take great pleasure in reprimanding the guys who worked in the dishroom. Mostly he thought that they were under achievers and short-timers although one fellow had worked there over thirty years and was the college's original dishwasher. The irritating Iraqui gentleman was there eleven years at the time and im sure that he made a reasonable salary managing the dining room all those years. He apparently used most of his earnings in his vacation when he travelled back to his homeland. most of the time he seemed eaten up about something and he was too guarded to have a real conversation with. although he seemed desperatly in need of a friend. H rebuked me constantly for working there. but his communication skills were not good. He evidently thought that I was too smart to work there. Of course I did not reveal that I would later attend the same school to pursue my bachelor's degree.
The man who hired me, used to be a gay waiter in Niew Yawk. (now his kids are in college.) He told stories about getting high in a club with some people and how as the evening wore on he realized it was Bill Murray, and the Saturday Night Live crowd. Mar/riott services hired him to wait on (then) vice president Bush senior. I got to serve people like Bill Moyers and , 'Ben and Jerry' the ice cream entrepreneurs. When I worked there I found the American intellectual was quite active. One of the campus electricians also worked as a clown. 'Skip' exudes charisma and humilty as a hurricane brings wind and rain
Another, Professor John Brown, taught night classes for adults who want to finish up their degrees even as his health was eaten away by inches. The man served up the Western tradition like a bartender. ('Another shot of Yeats's for you? Perhaps you'd like to try Seamus Heaney, not so old and grey but a bit more peaty')
Brown's wife was my Senior Thesis advisor. Dr. Susan Brown. she wrote an important paper on the subject of physics as expressed in JJ's "Ulysses."
How unfortunate for all of us that the world missed Joyce's point in this novel and Perhaps that we missed Susan's as well.. few humans grasp Bloomsday, though i'd guess that anyone from another world would hold it holy. What if it was your birth date that every one went traipsing about their own city to recall their habits and their actions? What if you went around the world? Then you'd be Dervala, but that still wouldn't make you an American intellectual, Dervala's as Irish as Joyce.
My point is that American intellectuals often seem to hold lowly positions, offering their wisdom on a first person basis to people who need the advice. They build children's museums or teach night school. My asian freind did not see them because they were his teachers, his servants and his friends.


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