My Brother is in Afghanistan, the Dog Poops in the Afternoon, and I am the Government: in which all your tax dollars go to Twilight marathons.

Prepare to feel deceived.

The title of my blog, “Musings of an Unemployed English Major,”* is a lie.

…okay, “inaccurate” might be a better word than “lie,” and as much as I loath to toot my own horn, I don’t think this inaccuracy injures my overall credibility. At the time of the blog’s inception, I was not telling a lie when I proclaimed myself to be unemployed (save for occasional, few-and-far-between house-sitting gigs, and getting paid under the table to escort the neighbor’s dog around the block for his midday bowel movement). It wasn't until last September, when I went into the payroll office at my school and filled out a bunch of paperwork, that the title officially became inaccurate. These days, not only do I work…

I work for the government.

I tutor English at a community college, which is financed partially by student fees, and a-lot-ly by those crazy kids in Sacramento doing their darnedest to run the state. If you were to do something highly illegal (which I wouldn’t encourage at all), and sneak into Payroll to rifle through their files and find the paperwork I filled out that day, my government employee status might be especially evident to you when you find the oath I signed to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

I want YOU to identify the independent clause.
My very best friend, the Anarchist, asked me if this meant I was to physically assault any unpatriotic nebbish I might encounter on the street. And, well… no. Just, no. All the violence stuff is more up my brother’s alley, who made a VERY SIMILAR PLEDGE when he joined the army about two years ago. But I'm an English tutor, and English tutors don’t suit up in fatigues and polish guns when they defend the Constitution.

Even though I can confidently assert how not to do my job, I can’t confidently assert how an English tutor properly fulfills the “Oath of Allegiance” required for employment at our fine a-lot-ly government-funded establishment. I’ve been helping students defend their papers from scrambled theses and run-on sentences, but when it comes to protecting the Constitution, I am amiss.

The oath is worded with such authority and idealism, I’ve often found myself in a tailspin of endless guilt for neglecting the duties it prescribes. This provokes the grandiosity gland (a close sister of the eject button for any rational conceptions of how the world works) in the tempestuous organ that is my brain, and the thinking mutates as such:

I work for the government. Therefore, I am the government. Or part of it. Well, this is a democracy, so, ideally, everyone’s participating in government affairs. The government belongs to the people. I think I’m mostly a person. I am the government. This calls for a Slurpee. (Can you follow that? My shrink couldn’t.)

Therefore, America, your government is not working for you.

Your government is not defending the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.

Your government would prefer to watch the Twilight movies with her fellow, floundering, twenty-something chum to mock the poor quality of cinema and abysmal emotional intelligence of its characters so that they may feel superior and compensate for their shortcomings.

Your government is on Team Edward.

BUT NEVER FEAR, AMERICA! My priorities will shift! I will start exploring how an English tutor is to go about supporting and defending the Constitution in a new blog! Although I currently teem with ambition for departing on this odyssey of wholesome patriotism, I’m sure I will publish posts far less than I wish to if I have any modicum of a healthy desire to pass math.

UPDATE (May 30, 2013):  The proposed project has since been pronounced dead.
ANOTHER UPDATE (May 31, 2013):  The title of this blog has been changed to something more accurate.


I Stole God's TV (and a good time wasn't had by all)

The character Sarah Goldfarb, from Hurbert Selby Junior’s novel Requiem for a Dream (and Darren Aronofsky’s film adaptation), loves her son very much, even though he’s a junkie who keeps stealing her television set. Over and over again, the junkie son and his junkie friend take the TV and pawn it for money to buy heroin. Every time this happens, Sarah dutifully leaves her apartment and buys it back. But what’s more peculiar is that every time this happens, it doesn’t make Sarah love her son any less. Because of this, Sarah Goldfarb is like God.

She’s not 100% like God, of course. I don’t think God is addicted to diet pills or squanders much of the day watching a gratuitous amount of infomercials – although, I do believe he manifests in and works through all living beings, including but not exclusive to addicts of any variety. I also believe that God is love. This is something I have in common with the author of 1 John, a small but powerful book you can find toward the end of the New Testament. God cannot help but to love, because God is love. The fourth chapter (v.10) (NIV) says that:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I bring this up as a belated rebuttal to one of my beautiful buddies when he said, “Why do you see it as a problem when you purposefully and repeatedly ‘sin,’ Kathryn? If you enjoy it, and Jesus forgives you, why not? It’s not like God’s going to stop loving you.” He’s right about the God-forgiving-me/God-loving-me thing: God is love. God cannot help but to love. God pours out his love indiscriminately, recklessly, infinitely.

But I don’t like me when I steal God’s TV.

My conscience hurts when I am so consumed with the pursuit of experiencing a minor, fleeting feeling of exhilaration, comfort, or what have you by means that God has made clear in my heart he would strongly prefer that I not partake in. God doesn’t encourage me to indulge in anything I want whenever I want it – especially if it’s something as blatantly destructive as heroin. Consider the example C.S. Lewis gave of who God is not:

“We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven, as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all.’”*

Because if I tell God, “Thanks for the capacity to feel happiness, now I will exercise it by stealing your TV many times over,” and I claim to have any inkling of love for the Lord in return… Do you see the problem with this picture? It makes me inconsiderate. It makes me self-serving and advantageous. It makes me a lot of things. A lot of things I don’t want to be.

I would strongly prefer to not be the kind of person who has no trouble being overtly inconsiderate toward someone else. It doesn’t matter if “someone else” happens to be someone I’m head over heels for, or someone whose company I find very difficult to enjoy. From time to time my words and actions may contradict this, but when it comes down to the wire, I’d prefer not to be a jerk.

* The Problem Pain


Ayn Rand's Space Ship: in which the Tragic Gamer Kid's shameless audacity gets him what he thinks he needs.

This time last year, on Monday evenings, you could find me in a small classroom on the second floor of the Liberal Arts building at my school. My best friend, the Anarchist, had a class on the first floor – a class taught by one of those subversive professors who will start talking louder to compensate for the complacency of others. One of those professors who pulls back society’s curtains so that his students may catch a glimpse of its pretension, its pitfalls, its capitalist corruption… the whole, miserable, bureaucratic, human-rights-violating shebang. One of those professors who teaches classes from which students are sent home under a heavy black cloud, looking like they got the wind knocked out of them, and experiencing a touch of resentment that the blissful ignorance they enjoyed at the breakfast table that morning is lost. Or at least the students who cared.


On these Monday nights of yore, my history class on the second story would get out earlier than the Anarchist’s, so I would sit and wait on the concrete outside Professor Subversion’s room. Sometimes he walk outside after clicking “play” on a YouTube video or DVD to run to his office or something, see me sitting there, and invite me to go inside and watch it.

One night, I left history, turned on my family’s “emergency” cell phone, and stuck it in my sweatshirt pocket as I descended the stairs. I was starting across the LA building’s quad when I saw the Tragic Gamer Kid standing outside the closed door of Professor Subversion’s classroom. As much as I’ve waxed about lecture hall logistics and inconvenient truths, this story is really centered on the Tragic Gamer Kid (and the cell phone).

Sorry if you feel misled.

Being the Anarchist’s senior by not much, and my junior by a little more than not much, the Tragic Gamer Kid wasn’t a kid per se. But he did play a lot of video games, and shouted his life’s narratives as if they were as tragic, important, and ignored as the ones Professor Subversion would speak of with increasing volume.

The Tragic Gamer Kid… actually, we’ll call him Horatio, because “Tragic Gamer Kid” is cumbersome …was supposed to be in his Farsi class in the next building over, but, no. Horatio was here, the light from the door’s tiny window illuminating his face, and his fingers that twinkled and pointed to places he wasn’t supposed to be.

I knew exactly what Horatio was doing. He did the same to me last week.

“Horatio!” Although I wanted to get his attention, I also didn’t want to disrupt any classes, and he was all the way across the quad. My voice came out mangled and croaking, a confused stage whisper. I broke into a run, which prompted the family “emergency” phone – which I frequently carried because, to my small, self-serving mind, aimless texting with the Anarchist and the Fundamentalist Atheist were equivalent enough to emergencies – to bounce out of my pocket. Its major parts cleanly cracked away from each other when it hit the pavement.

I paused, torn. It’s not like the quad was teeming with collegiates like it was during the daytime, but there was still something uneasy about the notion of leaving cell phone innards on the ground in the dark. As I stooped to pick up the closest piece I could locate, I realized that rescuing the cell phone and stopping Horatio weren’t possible.

If it weren’t for that phone, I swear, I could have stopped him. Because in the modicum of time I spent in conflict over the splattered device, Horatio made his move. When I looked up again, his hand was on the doorknob, and me and my mangled croaks of, “HORATIO! HORATIO!” weren’t even close to half-way across the quad. He disappeared into the room.

From what I’ve been told, it transpired like this:

When Horatio initially entered, Professor Subversion offered, “Would you like to take a seat? We’re about to watch a video…”

Horatio stopped the professor, saying, “Excuse me, Mr. Subversion,” then pointed at my best friend when he addressed him: “Anarchist.”

“What do you want, Horatio?” It’s hard to tell if the Anarchist couldn’t help but to laugh at the absurdity at the time of the event, or it was just him laughing as he recounted to me later.

“We need to talk after class,” Horatio said, still pointing at the Anarchist.

“This couldn’t wait until later, Horatio?”

“No. See you then,” Horatio said, and left.

Although the Tragic Gamer Kid had never been a student of his, Professor Subversion knew Horatio well enough have an acceptance that, That’s Horatio. He’ll do what he wants… and resume where he left off.

Horatio was exiting the classroom when I finally caught up to him. “Horatio!”


“You’re helping me find the pieces of my cell phone!”

I’ll give Horatio this much – he didn’t bail on me while I groped around on the cement. After he returned to Farsi class, with the image of him exceeding the threshold replaying in my mind, it struck me how extraordinarily human Horatio was: a parable, an extreme illustration of what I either actually look like, or of what I am afraid I’ll look like when I ask for help.

Horatio needed a lot of help, to levels at which he would be obnoxious in seeking it. It was a battle to maintain boundaries while in his company. Once any desire to leave was expressed, Horatio would do his best to manipulate his guests into staying longer. Suckers like me (or the Anarchist, although he wasn’t a sucker for as long as I was) would get stuck in phone “conversations” that would last upwards to four or five hours, with nary a word in edgewise. The average call would begin with Horatio complaining about girl problems, which would turn into confident and searing statements that all girls in California were c-nts and whores, or how everyone and their mother were bottom-feeding “betas.” Then it might end with some long verbal dissertation of how Mexico has an “inefficient culture,” why the Germans should have won the war, or how all of Horatio's problems could be attributed to Ayn Rand.

Horatio the Tragic Gamer Kid, makes me not want to ask for help, because I don’t want be obnoxious and overstep my boundaries, blinded by a personal audacity I can’t even tell is there, and misjudging exactly how urgent my First World problems are not. I don’t want to do that if I can help it. I’m not saying all of Horatio’s problems were First World or trivial – I’m just saying that if I need to ask for help, I don’t want to be more of a bother than I can avoid.

At the same time, I have to admit that I also admire Horatio’s boldness in asking for help. At some point, life’s going to rip me a new one (or at least it’ll feel that way) in ways where I can’t deal it by myself, and I’m going to need to go to someone and say, “I need help.” You know, situations like...

Where did the “emergency” cell phone charger go?
What the hell is wrong with my car defroster?
All these people showed up at my house! Would you happen to have any bread I could feed them with?
My space ship crash-landed and got stuck in the mud!
My girlfriend just left me, and she was the only one who knew how to make the baby's diarrhea go away!
I have two broken arms / a bad case of vertigo / suicide ideation / a burst appendix, may I impose on you to give me a ride to the hospital?
I told my friend, who’s in the hospital because she broke both her arms / got a bad case of vertigo / told everyone she’d eat three bottles of sleeping pills and was serious / her appendix burst, that I’d bring her clean socks and underwear, but her parents aren’t home like we thought they’d be. Do you have a key to her house?

I guess it comes down to some things that are obvious, and simple enough: knowing what’s truly worth making a spectacle out of yourself and interrupting Professor Subversion’s lecture, realizing you may very well annoy someone when you ask for help but that shouldn’t be the reason why you decide against it, and empathizing when someone goes to very stupid lengths to get you to help dislodge their space ship from the mud.

What does it come down to for you? Do you know of any special trick to make diarrhea go away? What do you think of Ayn Rand? Would you ask Ayn Rand to help you fix your space ship? How about my ex-girlfriend?