Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Wish me a happy birthday

Today is my birthday. I am 41. I know that you really want to express yourself glowingly. Luckily, I’m easy to please.

Just like my author page on Facebook. That’s the gift that will return wonderful karma and wit back to you a million times over:

Generosity is only one click away.

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I have to buy pants

It’s come down to it. I can no longer bring any of the trousers or jeans I own to the seamstress. I have to go out and buy another pair of pants.

This is always a terrible realization. It means I’ll have to enter a store. I can’t simply buy jeans online. That only prolongs the process because you have to try them on at home, look at yourself, and then send them back to repeat the cycle 80 times. That’s how many pairs of pants I have to try on before I find one that fits. I don’t have a “size” I can buy. They’re all damn different on me. And all clothing looks terrible unless it’s tailored.

So…entering a store. “Can I help you with anything?” Yes. Do you have a pair of pants that will not crumble at the crotch and whose buttons will stay on for at least ten years? You do you have a pair of pants that can withstand regular washings and bike riding? These are rhetorical questions. You don’t have anything like that. All you have are trousers whose crotches will crumble and whose buttons will end up rolling down the sidewalk.

Wandering about the clusterfuck of the store. Price tags. All of them scream: “We’re ripping you off.” Everything around me is made in a sweatshop. Everything, from the fabrics to the buttons.  People are dying all because my society does not allow me to walk around naked. I’m also not really allowed to walk around in a robe, which I would do if it didn’t mean attracting attention to myself. Pants are a tragedy on the male body. There is no place inside them to be.

Continuing on in the store. Here are all the people. All of them in the act of desiring things. You can feel their desire radiating from them like heat from a stream of lava. I’m always frightened by the shoppers who fondle what they might buy. So many of them rub fabrics. Why does it take so many shapes and colors and designs to satisfy them? Why are there 65 different pairs of socks? Why are there so many different cuts of clothing? Boot cut? What the fuck is that? And here’s some guy who came in with boots. But he goes straight for the skinny jeans. No one tells him, “Hey, smart guy. You need the boot cut. It’s meant for you. Buy it or take those boots off, poseur.”

Now, I’ve found some pants. I have to try them on. Good lord. Mirrors. Mirrors that show me my own ass. My profile. Magnifying mirrors that expose my pores and nose hairs. How is it legal for me to appear in public?

Ok, I guess I’ll take these. They kinda fit. (Really, I’m buying them just to keep from trying on anything else.)

Pay for them. I always feel horrible when I have to exchange money for something. I feel much better buying things for others; at least there is potential for these people to feel joy. The act of buying for myself is an act of masochism. Here, I’ve worked for this money but I never get to keep any of it. I am simply a filter, a vessel, a passage: money moves through my bank account into the bank accounts of others. They win and I lose. What do I get out of the deal? Fucking pants. These jeans will be worthless so soon as I walk out of this store, and they barely fit. Within a short time they will fall apart, and I will need new ones. To buy pants is to have sex with the universe’s state of impermanence.

It is also to examine your own contribution to the speedy destruction of a planet.

This is what frightens me about stores: the pitch that you have a choice inside them. What choice do you have? To avoid prison, you must have pants, and to buy pants you must give away some portion of your worth, often to people who loathe you and laugh at you, think you’re a sucker for falling prey to their meticulously constructed marketing program, a scam designed by experts in psychology and desire. If you buy the black jeans or the brown corduroys, the result is the same.

No store in Chicago will accept a kind trade of home-grown tomatoes for pants. No one will accept a short story in exchange for socks. There is no one in the city that sells clothing made from cotton they grew in their back yard, fabric woven in their garage. You must always exchange money for something made in a way you know is destroying the earth. The alternative is to spend even more money, and this only for a pair of pants that destroys the earth in a slightly different way. This is not a choice. If you think it is, I have a condo you should like to buy.

So, there it is. Pants tell me I’m ugly, I’ve been tricked and I’m destroying myself. Wear, wash, discard, repeat.

Self-Portrait


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What Students Really Need to Hear

A teacher speaks out.

AFFECTIVE LIVING

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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Advice for parents of college students

This week’s installment of True Community, my column about men and education, doesn’t really offer any advice, so I’ll do it here. Parents, don’t call your children’s professors to offer excuses or discuss what can be done about grades. It will most often backfire.

I hope you’ll read about the phone call I got from a mom last week. The article’s titled My Son Got Arrested But It’s Not His Fault.

Rail


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College graduate who drives a taxi

This week, I got driven to work by a taxi driver who actually graduated from the college where I teach. He earned his liberal arts associates degree in 2003 and has been toiling through the remainder of a math and teaching degree ever since. I was so moved by his story that I profiled him in this week’s True Community, which I hope you’ll read and share.

taxi

 

Photo by Antony Mayfield.


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Teen pregnancy epidemic

Today’s True Community article deals with teen pregnancy, an issue that’s very important to me, and not merely as an educator. I’m using an extreme word, epidemic, in the title of this blog post perhaps unfairly; efforts to bring down the teen pregnancy rate have been working, and currently we’re at historic lows for all US ethnic and racial groups.

Still, in my environment I see it all the time, and it causes problems we’re all familiar with. I really think we need a shift in the consciousness surrounding our concept of sex education. We have to get over our puritanical point of view and give people information that can keep them from making poor decisions.

This week I profile a pair of students that I had some time ago. Their stories are sad but important. I hope you’ll check it out.

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Photo by Mike Baird