A Tiryaki Haze on the first day of school


Tiryaki, the opium addict puppet, thanks to Emin Senyer's website for image

It’s the first day of the spring semester.  As one of my students put it in an email last week, “you are going to need to find all of us – little pebbles in the forest – wash us off, put us in order and enliven us again.”  Sighing as I read her words, “yes,” I thought, “I will have to do that – but who is going to do that for me?” After her email, I resorted to an M.-focused weekend – he deserved that after all of these years chasing tenure. 

However, it was the spirit of Tiryaki, the little Karagoz puppet who is an opium addict, who is nodding off most of the time, who awoke me to day and reminded me of the pebbles to be collected.  “Tiryaki,” I said, who is going to find ME in the forest? Who is going to clean ME off?  Who is going to enliven ME?”  Taking a big fat toke of the joint he was working on (in between his opium binges), he threw his head back and with a knowing glance, blew smoke in M.’s direction. 

M. was otherwise engaged in the early morning rush to get out the door, but I thought about what M. always advises me to do with my students, and it is always said this way:

“In Turkey, the students have MUCH more respect for the teachers – you should not coddle to their feelings so much.  BUT you should grade them more easily than you do.  You should give more As (top grades).”

As I wound my way through snow and slush-infused traffic for almost two hours, cursing my commute the whole way, in between fantasizing about retiring early to Bozcaada or some other such Turkish place, I thought about how to apply M.’s advice to ME for a change.

Maybe now that the tenure committee has made their recommendation to the Provost to keep me for life, well, maybe now I can start to respect MY time, respect MY body by sleeping and eating enough and at the right times, MY sanity, etc.  And as for giving more As?  Well, maybe I need to reduce the numbers of things I am involved in, so that I can give MYSELF more As.  Tiryaki’s call to arms – which wasn’t REALLY a call to smoking opium – was to tune out a bit – and I suppose there is a lesson in that for this workaholic. 

I didn’t like the Tiryaki haze that overtook me today – it even lasted after caffeine intake, lunch and teaching – the adrenalin rush of teaching just never showed up.  So, Tiryaki has me right proper, hook, line and sinker, to use the fishing analogy.  So, I guess my task at the moment is to learn what I can from the haze, embrace the haze.



A little………….


Return of the Writeamatrix (who compares Turkish and U.S. academe)

Here is my writeamatrix - she looks an awful lot like The Corporate Dominatrix, who you can read about here - note she is carrying a briefcase (image thanks to The Corporate Dominatrix)

I quickly slurp down my cay, anticipating the whipcracking Writeamatrix to crack me up any moment now.  As you may recall, she is the academic dominatrix in my head who wants me to, in no uncertain terms, GET BACK TO WORK.  Before I know what has hit me, I feel the sting of her whip. “Not in your head, slackerific, right here in your face!”

I expect (hope, wish?) that Karagöz will hop up with a “talk to the hand” or some such in-your-face-back remark, but all I can hear is some muffled sniveling in the corner of the closet.  The writeamatrix has trapped him there, underneath the floor-washing bucket, and he is at risk of smelling oh-so-pine fresh if he is in there for much longer.

“Get up and get going!”  she says, her whip making the tone change unnecessary.  I hop up, and before long am hustling an even-sleepy dog (which is unusual when the beach is nearby) out the door and down the stairs in the middle of a windstorm. Clearly, it is time to walk the dog!

My dog running around on a poop-a-thon during a sandstorm on the Provincetown Beach

The wind is fierce and sand is getting in my eyes and nose as the writeamatrix walks me across the Provincetown Beach, bootcamp-style.  “Productive academics MUST get exercise and you are so slackerific you hardly do that anymore – this explains the reduction in your PRODUCTIVITY.”

With this last word of proclamation, she cracked her whip harder and harder, my self-esteem crumbling, thoughts of anxiety medicine and antacids racing through my head at breakneck pace.  I didn’t know what to say to her.  She, however, knew JUST what to say to ME.

“Last year this time, you had 7 manuscripts under review – and what do you have now? One piddly, pathetic one that you think will get rejected anyway.  What about what matters? What about all of those suicidal foster kids that nobody has talked about before,  YOU have to rise UP! YOU have to write about them! YOU need to draw attention to their plight!  Walk, yes, you may walk now, but you need to do this so that you are ready to SIT DOWN and WRITE.  Do you remember the AIS phenomenon that your mentor told you about?”

A whip cracked

Image via Wikipedia

“Um, the AIN phenomenon? I’m sorry, writeamatrix, I have forgotten” I say, cowering a bit.  “ASS-IN-SEAT as the famous Dr. JC used to say.  That is what gets the job done.  You use to be really good at that – but not anymore.  You think that now, because you have tenure, you can slack off? Not so!”  In addition to cracking the whip, she pushed me forward with her boot – or was it hte wind? “Yes, of course, writeamatrix, how silly – I mean – how STUPID – of me to forget about that.”

“Stupid? Stupid is a KIND word. You American academics, you have it easy.  In Turkey…(“Oh,” I thought, “I didn’t realize the writeamatrix was Turkish?”)…don’t interrupt me!  In Turkey, you slave through the doctoral process, and you have MANY more stages to go through with MANY more requirements than you have here in this inferior nation.  Turkish academics are the BEST in the world.” I am beginning to realize that the writeamatrix is not only Turkish, but she is like the set of characters I meet who are over-the-top pro-Turkish, you know, the Turks make the best (fill in the blank from food to rockets) and the Turks invented the first (fill in the blank) and the Turks do (fill in the blank) better than anyone – it is a definite type.

All of a sudden, here on this sandy Cape Cod beach where I am picking up poop in turkuaz-colored bags, I realize that the writeamatrix is not only Turkish but is also channeling the voice of my sister-in-law, who is famous (to me) for asking “when will you become a REAL professor?”  I always felt hurt when she said this, answering, “um, I already am one?” to which she would inevitably reply “you have only just received your doctorate, you don’t even know what you are getting into – mwah hah-hah-hah (think evil witch-ish laugh)!”

Of course, is my sister-in-law (or the writeamatrix, for that matter) an academic? Well, I know my sister-in-law isn’t, but that doesn’t stop her from repeatedly explaining to me that in Turkey, first you are an asistant doçent, then a yardimci doçent, then a doçent and finally a profesor – all of which involves six or so years of work to achieve each status, exams, papers to be defended and the mastery of one language other than Turkish before reaching the final level…clearly a tremendous amount of work.  In my world, tenure brings me to the “associate professor” level, akin to doçent (if Wikipedia’s commentary on the topic is to be believed) and I have only been at it for 12 years…and only partial conversational language capabilities in Spanish, my best aside from English.  What I have, though, is the freedom from the allegedly nepotistic-extraordenaire Turkish academic system, where you are sunk without major as in MAJ-AH contacts…of course, we have elements of this phenomenon in the U.S., but as I have chosen a teaching university, I am somewhat protected from all that as my life is not driven by the gerbil-wheel of grant dollar seeking.  But still, I want to be good enough, to good enough work, respectable enough work – and not slack.

So, when my sister-in-law launches into this, or when the Writeamatrix appears, it is easy to feel not-good-enough, something I always wrestle with anyway (see Peggy McIntosh’s work on the academic imposter syndrome that women experience).  It’s a constant battle and I am trying to get a foothold on just being satisfied enough.  Not that I am trying to live up to my parents’ academic and research careers or anything…but I am putting it on myself, not them on me.  The Writeamatrix is mine all mine, a creation of me, I suppose.  Whether I like it or not, I have to deal with her.  Hopefully, the relentless Hacıyatmaz will help me to balance her out.

So this was how my morning walk went, the Writeamatrix hassling me as I ran after my dog who was having a poop-a-thon on the beach.  Meanwhile, Hacıyatmaz was rolling and rocking his way along, insistent on helping me fight fire with fire, not giving up on me as he seeks to find a different kind of balance between my academic and my personal writing.  But for now, the Writeamatrix is winning out, as is the poop.

The Writematrix Makes Her Presence Known (even Karagöz is cowering)

The Writeamatrix returned on a dark and stormy night - in an old fashioned ship - and she is pissed! (Image thanks to this link)

It’s about 3 a.m., the wind is blowing fiercely outside.  I can hear the ocean from here – even though it is across the street.  The waves are crashing on the sea wall.  It is a comforting moment to feel the warmth of my bed, the wind railing over the head – and most importantly – on the other side of the roof.   I feel the warmth of my dog on my feet and remember that I am visiting Provincetown on Cape Cod without M. to do some business later today.  I feel relaxed, as, after all, I have made it through my tenure hearing.  And then I remember all of the work that I have to do to get ready for the semester.  And then I hear the crash.  It makes my heart lurch in that “is this finally a heart attack” kind of way…

The dog jumps up off of my feet and starts to bark.

Karagöz is fomenting riot.

Yehuda Rebbe is trying to get his yarmulke on straight in case we have to evacuate.

Hacivad Bey is remaining calm, but looking around furtively

Esma is trying to calm the chorus of dancing lady puppets who are tumbling out of the purse.

Kenne the Queen of manners and maintained order is reading the evacuation plan out loud to no avail – she is calling for the ladies to don their robe-du-chambres so that they will be able to maintain their honor in the middle of the night.

Zenne the nervous nellie is literally a bowl of jelly.

Mercan Bey is gathering up his spice stash so that he does not lose his livelihood.

Generally, the entire troupe of puppets are in a jumble – screaming and pushing eachother to get out of the house (they think it is another earthquake – even though they are far from Turkey these days, they are still connected by a spirit thread to their homeland, and feel the pain of winter in Van this year after the earthquake).

Bebe Ruhi is strangely quiet, this usual questionner, but soon he poses a question – “do you think SOMEBODY caused that crash to get our attention?”

And I stop and think, as my brain catches up with my adrenalin in the deep dark night light and soon they, and I, and the dog, realize that this is not an earthquake, and it is not a crash from the wind in the attic – it is – well – it is SHE.

Who is SHE you may ask?

Here is my writeamatrix - she looks an awful lot like The Corporate Dominatrix, who you can read about here - note she is carrying a briefcase (image thanks to The Corporate Dominatrix at this link)

SHE is the writeamatrix – the intoxicating academic whipcracker who has been on vacation in the Tierra del Fuego conducting research about the hardships of Magellan’s voyage and how these might be applied to torturing me into producing more scholarship.

She has entered the house through the kitchen vent in the roof.  I later learn that she blew in from Provincetown harbor and directly into the attic – using her magically strong whip to push the removable panel in the closet onto the floor, thus the crash.

And then the whip began cracking on the floor, and cracking, and cracking louder and louder until she worked her tiny self through the closet, into the living room and up into my bed.

“Hacıyatmaz, you had better get your roly-poly self out of the way.  I don’t want to hear one squeak from you.  Enough of this ‘creative writing’ crap that you encourage m’lady to engage in.  From here on out you are not m’lady anymore, you are slackerific to me, nameless and worthless.  As I have just returned from vacation, I will have mercy on your slackerific self.  You may sleep until sunrise, at 7:03 a.m.  You may then get up and walk the dog – return and make a to-do list.  You will eat breakfast and make your work with your contractor and CAD designing as fast as possible.  I will not tolerate long, dawdles on this front.  There will be no beach visit with the dog in the afternoon.  You will go STRAIGHT to work.  You will not go home until you have produced the final syllabus for Spring 2012 and finished that manuscript on suicidal foster youth (so much for M.’s hope that I might move towards “happiness studies” in the posts-tenure phase).  Got it?  I want to hear nothing more about Rumi and writing and likening that to tripe-washing.”  She glowed in the dark in a creepy way – she is, you see, made out of glow-in-the-dark dominoes, representing something about the quantitative data analysis I do as part of my academic work (e.g. numbers).  Her weird domino skin is akin to the artwork of David Machs (see this link)

A dominatrix made of dominoes - the writeamatrix's skin looks like this, by the artist David Machs (see this link for image attribution)

Meekly, I mustered a “yes, miss, I mean, Miss Writeamatrix, I will do it.”  My heart raced until my dog came and curled up next to me, making an M. replacement, and eventually his warmth lulled me back to sleep, until 7:02 a.m. when the little chorus of dancing ladies made a chain from the kitchen to the bedroom and delivered a glass of çay to me, just in the nick of time.  She’s back…but I have a feeling she is going to be in for a run for her money (and her whip) as Esma is eyeing her with a great deal of defiant skepticism.  Instead of roses and jasmine flowers exuding from her ears (which happens when she is happy), she is shooting out sharp, tropical ginger flowers and birds of paradise.  She’s not messing around either, this little hippie poet.  Hold your horses ladies and gents, we’re in for a hippie-writeamatrix battle.