As I prepared to leave the house, wearing from a night without much sleep, thanks to the epic battle between Zenne (nervous Nellie) and Kenne (Queen of Manners). I noticed that my purse felt a little bit heavy. I also noticed there was some yelling going on inside my purse – and then I realized that Hacıyatmaz (Hah-jee-yacht-mahz) was rocking and rolling his way around the bottom of the purse, bumping into the entire chorus of dancing lady puppets. You may remember that this is a new puppet – not made of paper – but instead made of wood and very-roly-poly wood at that. He was causing a lot of bruising and wrinkling of the wax paper and leather puppets – who were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Kenne was yelling down into the purse for him to roll on outta there. Zenne was weeping with nerves and even Hacivad Bey and Yehuda Rebbe were looking, well, a bit unglued. Karagöz, of course, was taking in the scene from my left shoulder with true glee, taking a siesta of sorts, as everyone else was making the chaos for once. I wondered if my fairy godmother, Perihan Hanım would make an appearance. So far, she was a no show.
Ignoring the chaos as best I could, I drove to work, still deciding which of two scarves to wear – both of them lying in the seat next to me. One was a lavender wool scarf with amazing glittery beads – given to me by two amazing students – very much part of my increasingly eclectic style (as I approach tenure, my personality is coming back out a bit). The other was a conservative teal, just in case I decided to be more mainstream . Don’t want to freak anyone out. I had the same debate going on about the earrings. It’s days like these that I really HATE that clothes and appearance matter so much. I am so tired about worrying about it. I fantasized about bringing back the purple hair of my youth. Of course, all of this was meaningless distraction for the real event that was about to take place in a VERY FORMAL academic meeting room at my university.
As the car made the turn onto the highway that skirts the ocean – the light was fantastic and bright. Breaking my New Year’s resolution to have an anti-Starbuck’s coffee pledge, as they put my friends out of business years ago in the Midwest ( a local coffee roaster) and as they are stupidly expensive, I actually used a drive through to purchase a massive green tea latte which I thought would settle my stomach a bit. Sipping the frothy green milk, I felt myself relax along the familiar commute, full of curves and turns – but none as lovely as the one that goes by the Ocean for a good long stretch. As I wound onto the rotary, my green tea latte took a nose dive – and alien-blood-looking green tea latte began to shoot all over the floor of my car as my purse fell over.
Screaming in horror, I yanked my purse out of the way from below the passenger seat, saved the remainder of the overpriced drink and managed not to get into a rotary accident or land the car into the incoming tide. In this midst of this cacophony, out rolled Hacıyatmaz onto the floor of the car. And he rolled, back and forth, forth and back – saying – “you may be going up for tenure today, but you cannot forget to nurture your other side, the writer’s side, I will not let you forget. Don’t forget, don’t forget, don’t forget…” And as if stuck in a loop, he just kept on saying “don’t forget” for the rest of the ride. Bebe Ruhi, the tiny puppet with Dwarfism (see above in the image), he launched into a series of questions “Why is he saying don’t forget? Maybe you need to not forget something ,what do you think it is? Do you think this means you should give up academia and be a writer if this puppet here is so adamant? But why would you give up something you love and are good at – teaching and doing data analysis?” It went on and on, and I started to feel exhausted. The puppets commenced a screaming battle – and I decided to take my mind elsewhere – trying to blank it out as best I could. I got my revenge as I parked the car.
Perihan Hanım was suddenly present. “Hacıyatmaz and Bebe Ruhi – we value you and even love you – but you need to stay in the car for this one – even if it does smell like spilled green tea latte everywhere.” Waving her magic wand, I was suddenly outside of the car with the puppets – but sans Hacıyatmaz the roly-poly reminder bot. “Thank you, Perihan Hanım, for taking care of that, now, do you have the power to help me calm down a bit?” Stroking my shoulder lovingly before she dematerialized into thin wintry air, she said, “I am afraid this is part of the process, you need to do the rest by yourself – just do your best to keep this lot of puppets in order.”
And before I knew it, I was being seated at the head of a long table by the Chairman of the Tenure Committee, trying to ignore Kenne who was making a last-ditch effort to get me to do a complicated bow as if I was in the Sultan’s palace. I was also trying to ignore the puppets who were all lined up on my shoulders, pulling Karagöz down into the purse so that he would not misbehave on this important day. Zenne, the nervous Nellie, was making my throat shake a bit as I gave my opening statement, but I noticed that Mercan Bey, the Arabian spice trader, encouraged her to drink a spice-infused relaxation drink which helped a lot after a few minutes. As the questions rolled in – many easy to field – some a bit harder, I could hear Karagöz weighing in a bit. When I was asked a truly inconsequential question about a “technology tip sheet” I made for non-tech-savvy senior faculty, he screeched “Really, they are asking THAT? Come on, I mean REALLY who cares about that in the larger scheme of things” and I did not let it trip me up as I graciously answered the question, though I thought it was a fairly useless one. As another question rolled in – one that was either designed to test my diplomacy skills or seek support for a particular tenure committee member’s opposition to the growth of the graduate school, he yelled out “Watch out – danger ahead – don’t step in the mess, m’lady! He wants your head! He wants you dead!” and I only took this as warning to be thoughtful in the quick second I had to compose an answer.
As the hearing went on towards the end point, I felt the presence of Esma, the little hippie puppet, but not through her voice, through the cloud of jasmine and rose petals that were starting to fly out of her ears – this only happens when she is happy and things are going well – really well. As the committee member to my right asked me “Professor, I can see from how you are talking to us that you are what they call a born teacher – can you tell me how you have developed yourself nonetheless as a teacher here since 2005?” the cloud of flowers thickened, and I had a sense that this was all going to be fine. After thanking the committee member for her comment, the woman turned to me and said “I look forward to working with you in the future, professor” at which point Esma fainted of happiness and fell splat on the table, flowers and all. I tried not to notice so that the committee would not think I was responding to internal stimuli, a sure sign of schizophrenia. The little chorus of dancing ladies was on top of it, though, piling out of the purse behind me and climbing up the chair to cart her away on a cot.
Soon enough the questions were over and I was asked to step out of the room where a short murmuring discussion ensued – I tried to hear what they were saying – but could not. During these minutes – that seemed like eons - the puppets focused on restraining Karagöz who was yelling and wriggling like mad. I think he was pretty anxious. Hacivad Bey and Yehuda Rebbe were sitting in silence on my shoulders, murmuring prayers. Esma had recovered and was meditating in earnest for me. And soon the door swung open – the gregarious chair of the committee emerging with arms akimbo, saying “congratulations!” As I walked back into the room, I saw Perihan Hanım at the side wall – and she whispered “see, you did it all yourself, I knew you could.”
- Kenne and Zenne keep me up all night (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Writamatrix and Hacıyatmaz: On the rote hard labor and love of writing (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- On the 7th day of Christmas: Meet Zenne, nervous nellie like a bowl of jelly (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Puppet laryngitis: On stories, (Turkish) soldiers and writing: Part II (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- The Twelve Days of Christmas: Karagöz puppet-style (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- Strike a pose: Puppets gone fashionista in the middle of the night! (slowly-by-slowly.com)
- A Karagözi intervention after multitasking with meatballs (slowly-by-slowly.com)