by Snezana Zabic
When I got home this afternoon, I made myself some instant miso soup, a salad of mixed greens, and I microwaved the mushroom- and ricotta-filled pasta from yesterday. For dessert, I tried a matcha cream mochi which, once out of the container and bitten into, didn’t look like the morsel pictured on the package, which lured me at Seafood City earlier today, and it didn’t approach the taste I had imagined. When I see pretty pictures in aisles lit with fluorescence, I forget I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth.
My hunger satiated, I was free to do whatever I pleased. It being the first day of class for one of my online courses, my first thought was that I’d check out the discussion board. Then I remembered my resolution: no teaching or grading at home. So I got up and filled a canvas tote–a book, a notebook, a pencil, my phone, and a very old and seemingly indestructible 100% polyester serape I bought at a Goodwill back in my grad school years–and headed to Loyola Beach to wait for the dusk there. After a short walk down my leafy street, I was face to face with the lake, the red sun hanging low and warming my back. It took me a while to realize that the seagull a few feet away from me wasn’t a contemplative loner, taking a few steps here, a few steps there, but that his or her wing was deformed, most likely out of commission.
Just a week from today, all of my other fall courses will have started. In addition to the online course for the University of Maryland, I teach in physical classrooms at Loyola University Chicago, Malcolm X College, and at the Chicago Academy for the Arts, a private high school. I’m a part of the statistic that says that about 75% of higher ed faculty are non-tenure-track, usually not full time, and usually with no benefits (check all three for me). Most of us patch together a very busy working schedule out of several very part-time gigs.
At the moment, I am content. My spousal comrade does have a full-time job with benefits, and that includes our health, vision, and dental insurance. I have to pay the full price for my part of the insurance premium, but the coverage is still cheaper and more comprehensive than Obamacare would be for someone like me. We even enjoy what we do more than most workers in today’s economy.
As an adjunct, I don’t get an office at any of the institutions where I teach, I just get access to a desk for a few hours a week, so I used to take it for granted that I’d do most of my prep and grading at home.
But I decided to no longer let my precarious work invade the 600 sq ft Nick and I share. At home, I’ll work on what I call my own stuff, from editing Packingtown Review to writing my poetry, prose, and songs, to playing guitar. No money is involved in these endeavors, no employers or employees or customers, just friends making something out of nothing.
I have a small, light laptop, and the city will be this adjunct’s office from now on: I’ll prep and grade in libraries, cafes, and museums. It’s where you’ll find all of us gig-economy, service-industry, get-your-hands-dirty, “creative-industry” lumpen proletarians: making you drinks, checking you in and out, cleaning your public spaces, grading your papers, answering your emails. Today, after my eye exam, I went to City News Cafe where Donna makes the best pour-over in the city, served with two of her famous truffles. Tomorrow, it will be the Museum of Contemporary Arts, free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays.
Let’s see how long all of this will last.
From The Jungle by Upton Sinclair:
“Christmas Eve–he had forgotten it entirely! There was a breaking of floodgates, a whirl of new memories and new griefs rushing into his mind. In far Lithuania they had celebrated Christmas; and it came to him as if it had been yesterday–himself a little child, with his lost brother and his dead father in the cabin–in the deep black forest, where the snow fell all day and all night and buried them from the world. It was too far off for Santa Claus in Lithuania, but it was not too far for peace and good will to men, for the wonder-bearing vision of the Christ Child. And even in Packingtown they had not forgotten it–some gleam of it had never failed to break their darkness. Last Christmas Eve and all Christmas Day Jurgis had toiled on the killing beds, and Ona at wrapping hams, and still they had found strength enough to take the children for a walk upon the avenue, to see the store windows all decorated with Christmas trees and ablaze with electric lights. In one window there would be live geese, in another marvels in sugar–pink and white canes big enough for ogres, and cakes with cherubs upon them; in a third there would be rows of fat yellow turkeys, decorated with rosettes, and rabbits and squirrels hanging; in a fourth would be a fairyland of toys–lovely dolls with pink dresses, and woolly sheep and drums and soldier hats. Nor did they have to go without their share of all this, either. The last time they had had a big basket with them and all their Christmas marketing to do–a roast of pork and a cabbage and some rye bread, and a pair of mittens for Ona, and a rubber doll that squeaked, and a little green cornucopia full of candy to be hung from the gas jet and gazed at by half a dozen pairs of longing eyes.”
Our special reunion issue is live!
In act 3, we hit Trouble! Volume 3 is edited in late 2011, but the press won’t release it for free. The usual sources of funding all rummage for change and turn up nothing. Instead of close to ten grand, we have zero dollars.
Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?
And so we end up with a lost issue.
But like Paisley Park vaults, the deepest recesses of our digital file cabinets have spit out this super rare and raw demo: the PTR3 PDF! It may not look pretty, but it teems with literary treasures.
Exactly ten years ago, an airy nothing of a journal got a local habitation and a name: University of Illinois at Chicago and Packingtown Review. Its inaugural issue came out in 2009.
Three hundred copies of the book sit on private and public bookshelves. If you don’t possess this rarity, we got you: a PDF is here for you to download, print, and share: here is PTR1!
By Kris Summerson
Our contributor Ashley Warren has a new book out now via The Open Book Press. You can read Warren’s poem “Black Substance” in one of our previous issues; when you read Tiny Coffins, you’ll find out how the poem was transformed in the context of a memoir.
The title Tiny Coffins drew me in immediately, as it paints a curious, yet sad image in my mind. The book, an experimental memoir composed of lyric chapters that read like poems, tells the harrowing journey of a woman watching her mother suffer under the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. The book portrays nostalgia, pain, growth, and a mother-daughter relationship put to the ultimate test.
Warren’s poem-chapters are full of raw emotion, and often a powerful last line knocked the breath out of me. The narrator’s voice is very frank: it draws you into the conversation and, at times, you almost feel like you’re invading her privacy. But through the words, her pain is your pain. Each poem-chapter bleeds into the next with a flow of a lifetime full of memories, lists of lessons, and moments of pain mixed with solace.
From beginning to end, the entire book comes full circle in a range of emotions and the story of life. When I finished reading, the only thing I wanted to do was to call my mom, which is a luxury I still have and will cherish.