Humor column: Where are your campus’s cleanest bathrooms?

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When I see lines of people waiting to get into Best Buy on Black Friday, I always wonder if they’re by themselves, and if so, how do they go to the bathroom?  Do they wear adult diapers or do they fast? Do they call for backup?

Bathrooms are awesome. 

Growing up, if my family and I were on the road, we always stopped at McDonald’s to do our business (if not do business) because the bathrooms were usually clean.  (We would probably need a permission slip at Starbucks now, though maybe a tall latte would buy us a few minutes of peeing privileges.)

Whenever I get to wherever I’m going, I always have to go, which is rather annoying.  That’s what happens when you drink a lot of water—just like you try to eat healthy and get e-coli from the lettuce, but no ramifications from the greasy burger. 

Which is why I’m happy that the Writing Lab is now in Building 4. 

Going to the bathroom in Building 1 (if you’re unlucky enough to be at the Math Lab on Sunday) is like going into one of those gas station bathrooms where you have to use a key attached to a jacked-up hubcap.

That said, there are other campus bathrooms that could use a little attention to detail.

If you’re using the tutoring lab in Building 6, you want to be careful and not shut the door too hard in the handicapped stall of the ladies’ room because the sanitary napkin receptacle will fall off and give you a jolt.  You also want to wash your hands very fast, as the water stays on for about two seconds (and that’s not the two-second rule you want to follow). 

There are certain things all bathrooms should have, like lots of TP.  I haven’t sat on a bare toilet seat in a public place since, well, since I was a little girl and Grandma told me not to. You know those passive-aggressive little signs like “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie?” Well, if the seat is dry, there might be dried pee you can’t see. 

No thanks.  

I need at least six sheets of separation.

I get really pissed (pardon the pun) when you can’t get the toilet paper out, and it just comes off in squares—the amount Sheryl Crow says you should use to save the environment. 

And then you have those people who like to leave their calling card; I always skip that stall.

Honestly, a stall should have a shelf (or a hook somewhere) for you to hang your purse and any other belongings, so you don’t have to put them on the floor; they should also have doors that you can push, not pull, to get in. 

Building 4 has windowsills in their handicapped stalls (can you tell I love handicapped stalls?) to set your stuff.  Hopefully, a real handicapped person won’t be giving you the stinkeye when you get out.

Building 4 also has hand dryers, but no paper towel dispenser in the handicapped stall.  

At least you can push the door open with your foot.  Pull dirty, push clean. That’s how all main bathroom doors should be. 

The library’s bathrooms are some of the best on campus.  The gym (when it’s actually open) works in a pinch, though when you walk in, the people there can tell you aren’t working out, and you feel like a fattie. 

Sometimes, in Building 14, you come across the Post-Its from the Active Minds group (like “You are awesomesauce!”) stuck to the bathroom mirror like mini pep talks.  This makes the bathroom more interesting.

Powerful flushers, hand-drying choices, faucets that aren’t on a timer, and hooks galore are the hallmarks of a great bathroom anywhere.  

During those times that you have just fifteen minutes between classes, it’s nice to have a place to park and unload where you don’t feel like you’ve just left Wal-Mart at three in the morning.

That’s the rundown for the women’s bathrooms. As for the men’s, I really couldn’t say.  We haven’t become that gender-fluid yet.

Originally published in the November/December 2018 issue of The Corsair, Pensacola State College’s student newspaper; first place winner in the humor category at the FCSPA State Publications.

Makeup on Empty Space: Poetry Reading Night

“Poetry can be a transmission to help you notice things.”
–Anne Waldman, 22 April 2017, Pensacola State College, at The Lyceum

Last night, I attended a poetry reading by poet, Anne Waldman, whose workshop I attended Friday.  I don’t write about these things so much to report, but rather to highlight the impact the event had on me.

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Anne’s son, Ambrose Bye, played the piano, which added to the ambiance, and behind them, flashed images of what she called a “family album”, or “honorary album”–pictures of poets, brain diagrams (which the medical student in me appreciated), indigenous peoples, nature (and perhaps environmental devastation–I’m not sure), so one could say that Anne had the three “poeias” down (words, music, images). 

One of the lines that captured me was “her century needed her to see above the height of the grass” which conjured up images of antitheses to anti-Christs (the latter who may always come in the form of a man).

Her poetry was written (and performed, rather than recited) in a woman’s spirit.  It wasn’t even her words so much that moved me, but the musicality of her words.  At heart, I am a storyteller; I like characters, and so many of my poems read like stories, so I saw, or rather heard, the expression of poetry in a new way.

The only thing that wasn’t for me were the chants, because it reminded me of speaking in tongues (except hers weren’t creepy).

She opened with singing the “Anthropocene Blues,” which sounded like an old-time religion church hymn.  (Btw, anthropocene is the name for the geological time we’re living in, where mankind has a significant impact on the environment.)

She also spoke on the theme of “archive,” which she defined as “an antithesis to a war on memory.”  We are living in a technological age where our words will be out there forever, which makes me very happy as a writer, but probably wouldn’t if I were a politician.  Politicians often wage a “war on memory” by trying to con their constituents/employers, saying they never said (insert inflammatory statement) if they did, as there is usually video to back it up.

Her poem on suffering was recited in a way that made me think of bullets being shot or bombs being dropped in rapid succession.  No, we don’t want to be seen as the age when people were killing each other or destroying the planet, though every age since the beginning of time can claim the mantle of the former.  We just have the power now to execute the latter.

One of Anne’s refrains was “pushing against the darkness”; I think of poetry as a way of illuminating the world.  It is the color where there is only black-and-white.  (The movie Pleasantville comes to mind.)

She recited what she called a “feminist love poem” about the g-spot (reminiscent of an apostrophe poem), which she described as a “genie trapped in a bottle.”

I concur.

I learned that the manatee is related to the elephant, and what human doesn’t love a herbivorous animal and one that won’t kill you for the hell of it?  She made a good point about man having no use for the manatee, which I took as an allegory for how humans judge one another’s worth–by their perceived usefulness or productivity (even to them).

Because racehorses have use for man, men breed them.

There was a question-and-answer session at the end, and, as Jamey Jones, the local Poet Laureate put it, “Anne really cares.”  She believes in her work, and that poets can change the world.

I will say that it already has, for is not the Bible a book of poetry?  Does that mean something has to be packaged as religion, or absolute truth, to change the world?

Something to think about.

About myself, and poetry: What I learned at an Anne Waldman workshop

“Out of a very small thing you can create a whole world…it can be as modest as a book of matches.”
–Anne Waldman, 21 April 2017, Pensacola State College

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a poetry workshop given by renowned poet, Anne Waldman.  My poetry class, taught by local Pensacola Poet Laureate, Jamey Jones, is studying “Fast Speaking Woman.”

I must admit, my initial reaction of Woman was one of bewilderment.  It was like a book of spells or chants.  However, upon recursive reading, and especially after reading it aloud in class, I grew to appreciate this pocket book of list poems (and essays) in the same way I appreciated Shakespeare.

I see Woman as performance poetry—something to be shared, not read in solitude.  It is a litany of the “everywoman.”

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Me, holding my autographed copy. 

I think the problem with poetry is that only other poets (or faculty from English Departments) read it or listen to it, unlike novels, which even the worst non-writers will read.

Perhaps it’s because one can speed through a book and “get it,” but with poetry, one must slow down (even if the poet is a “fast-speaking woman”).  After all, we live in a world where captions and headlines are the most read items in the newspapers.

I’ve never been interested in being part of a book club, but there is something about poetry that brings people together—perhaps because of the very personal nature of the art form.  Books are inside me, but I am inside my poems.

Even though I am majoring in Health Information Technology, I need writing in my life to help me stay awake enough to do the work that will help me support my family, even as the arts support me.

~

We are living in an exciting time.  “We’re all feeling the interconnectedness of our world,” Anne said.  She went on to talk about multiverses and exoplanets and all the information and knowledge (or access to knowledge) available to us.  Even just learning a new word has inspired me to write an entire work, such as this one:  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/jolie-laide

Furthermore, she said it was an exciting time to be an investigative, or field, poet; as for me, I will stick to writing about “the verities”—the things that transcend time.

Though my primary focus is a career in one of the STEM fields, art is (almost) as essential to me as breathing, for can you imagine a life without art or music or poetry?  These things are like that last moment of twilight.

Anne said, “I want to live in a reality where I can create another world.”  This resonated with me.  Perhaps growing up in near poverty, I, like Francie Nolan (from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), created multiple universes I could slip into at will.  I could be anywhere at any time. This was my way of “having it all” (and all at once).

~

Anne had us write a genealogy poem (how many times have I had to tell people I am NOT named after the cake and pie lady?).  It is not spelled the same (Sarah Lea, not Sara Lee).  The fun was in the sharing.

She also taught us of the three “poieias” (which I had never heard of because I am not an egghead, though I wish I were):

Logopoeia:  words
Melopoiea:  music
Phanopoeia:  image

She explained the philosophy (rather than the structure, which I’ve always found to be a bit of a drag) of a haiku:

Heaven (5 syllables)
Earth (7 syllables)
Man (5 syllables; man connects the first two lines)

I appreciate this form now (though my Irish heart will always have a fondness for the limerick).

I also learned about different poetic art forms, where it isn’t just about content but the way the words look on a page (think concrete poems).  She mentioned a Guillaume Apollinaire who wrote a poem about rain, the words written like rain dripping down the page.

One of the scribblings produced from this workshop came to me in the form of a mere “thought poem,” which I call, “A New Era.”

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I like the idea of “creating something beyond your own lifetime,” as Anne said.  That’s one of the many reasons I love technology, for I like to think of my blog as a portal to earthly immortality.  Long after I pass away and my soul has been perfected in one of God’s many mansions, I pray that my stories will live on in this alternate universe we call cyberspace.

~

“The purpose of art is to help the world wake up to itself,” Anne said.

My art has awakened me to myself.  I am not quite the same person I was when I went back to school more than two years ago at the age of thirty-two, as a newlywed and new mom.  I’ve gained some self-confidence that was lacking, for I didn’t have enough to feel confident about.  I’ve conquered, for the most part, my fear of public speaking (sans the extemporaneous kind), and my motto has become, “Aw, what the hell?”

It is a motto that has served me well.

 

From Literature to Journalism: Writing for Two

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Last week, I got to read my poem, “When the World Went Deaf” (https://sarahleastories.com/2019/12/08/when-the-world-went-deaf/), to a group of student artists and faculty at the unveiling of The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College’s annual student journal. Ironically, I was asked to read the piece that didn’t win last year’s collegiate writing contest and not the piece that won, which was a short story I had originally written for myslexia magazine (a UK publication).

Figuring it was a quintessential American story, I submitted it to the writing contest, because what college student wouldn’t want to read about what happens when a girl sneaks in pot brownies and spikes the punch at a Mormon potluck?

It was a humor story, of course, which has become my favorite to write (as well as read). I’ve found that during my time in college, I am not only evolving as a person but also as a writer and speaker/storyteller.

Creative writing will always be my first love, because I don’t have to depend upon anyone else to give me the story; if I do need to conduct research, I can find it with a few clicks or hang out in the archives at the local university.

I will always be a writer first and a reporter second, but more on that later.

Last time I read my poetry, I opened with a joke. This time, I ended the reading with an explanation of what inspired the poem, which adds context and a more personal touch.

I have unilateral hearing loss, and I know I’ve missed out on things (which is why I am a shameless eavesdropper). I probably look quite apt when someone is speaking, because I have to make a conscious effort to listen. That’s why I don’t notice people snoring behind me—I am too focused on what’s in front of me.

On “When the World Went Deaf,” I wondered what life would be like, how humans would adapt, if everyone was like me, more than I was like me (i.e. completely deaf). The film Perfect Sense, which epitomizes the cliché, “poetry in motion,” also inspired me.
I made sure to plug my story; when you use the words Mormons and pot (and mention that it was a first-place winner), you just might get people to read it.

I invited my mom because there was free food, and it was nice to have someone there who loved me. When my husband tells me he’s proud of me, it means a lot, but it doesn’t carry the same weight as when my parents say it; it’s not because I love them more, it’s just that way (I think) because we all have an inner child that never grows up.
We grow up, innately wanting to please our parents.

~

The next day was our journalism workshop.

So this Michael Koretzky (http://www.koretzky.com/) was the VIP, wearing a Che Guevera shirt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Che_Guevara) with a monocle hanging from his neck. As soon as I saw him, I thought, this guy looks a bit intimidating (I usually only see other women as intimidating).

Within the first ten minutes, I could tell he was the type of person to psychoanalyze you, and that puts me on my guard. He didn’t care about our names—he just wanted to know what we did for the paper (some people didn’t know!), where we saw ourselves in 5-10 years (some were still figuring that out), and our favorite genetic/communicable disease (I chose Huntington’s chorea, because I’ve written two poems on it). https://sarahleastories.com/2015/04/02/poem-a-day-writers-digest-challenge-2-theme-secret/.

Some he referred to by our “favorite” diseases (glad I chose one most non-medical students have never heard of), but never by our name. I’m the type of person who feels humanized when people use my name, so I wasn’t crazy about this tactic, but it was creative. It did spark some interesting conversation, so perhaps that was the intent.

He said the people who had quick answers are those who are always reassessing what others think about them. I’m not sure that’s true, but I will say I don’t always ask certain questions because of the Mark Twain quote about opening your mouth and looking like a fool, so maybe there was a little bit of truth to that. I don’t even like it when my husband reads me, but that’s the poker player in him. I don’t like to be studied (just admired).

Ten years ago, I would’ve burst into tears when he pulled up my story on green living and said it was good writing, but shitty reporting (which I still don’t understand, as I had three good student quotes on things they did to be more environmentally-conscious). However, I didn’t have any pictures, and that is something I’ve learned—take your own or arrange for a photographer. Instead, a bunch of lame graphics/clipart were used, and I think that’s something we need to get away from.

But on the shitty reporting. I will be the first to admit, I am much more a writer than I am a reporter. I am still learning, but reporting includes stills and video now I still think the reporting was good, but what I gathered was that I was supposed to find someone on campus who did something outlandish to be green; I would then profile that one person, and I say, I much prefer to prearrange to interview one person than go out and get quotes from strangers. I like in-depth profiles, but where to find these people? My eyes and ears are wide open—maybe I should hang around the biology department. I don’t know. I think what I need to do is find the story, rather than write the story, and build the narrative around it.

Koretzky went into detail about all the different ways you could write for companies without being a journalism major. That would be something I would do freelance, but my primary career will be working in a hospital or clinic in an administrative capacity until my creative writing pays off (i.e. I become a best-selling novelist or win the lottery and buy a million copies of my book).

I like writing “the verities” that Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson who visited our Corsair class, talked about. I write the kind of writing that transcends time.

That said, I believe all kinds of writing are important, and so I want to become better. Reporting has helped me become more comfortable with others, and learn how to ask good questions. I’ve had experiences writing for the paper I would never have gotten just writing my own thing. I am not a news junkie, which I believe you must be if you want to be a journalist.

However, I wouldn’t mind writing for a newspaper as a correspondent on a freelance basis, or what I call citizen journalism.

I never have a problem with finding ideas for my writing, but for my reporting—that is a challenge.

So even though I don’t want to become a journalist, I want to become the best reporter I can become while doing it for the paper.

Koretzky helped us discover that our largest problem was communication. We don’t always make the meetings or collaborate; most of us work independently. I prefer to just write the story and let them do with it what they may. I don’t hang out in the Corsair office; I already work in an office all day during work-study. I prefer to work remotely, but I do show up for the meetings. However, I do need face-time once in awhile. The only thing that drives me crazy is when the meeting doesn’t start on time and its just dead time, wasted time.

The workshop was a good (if lengthy) experience; I learned a great deal and got more motivated. Did you know that group photos suck because they’re boring? Journalism doesn’t have to be fair. There was a great shot of a girl in the geology club climbing a rock, and it wasn’t used, but rather a posed group shot was. I am also a fan of including negative space in a photo and overlaying text in that space, because I do that with my poetry sometimes. (I call it “phoetry,” which is just a little too precious.)

One of his best lines was about talking about your own media—not someone else’s. We all discuss our favorite shows on Netflix, books we’re reading, etc. Let’s give that same attention to the content we create.