Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Eternal Vagaries of Dwinelle Hall and That Green Bescherelle

This is a very precious Southernism:  I'm having me a day.

I could just leave it at that.

But really, continuing with the leitmotif made famous by elle est belle la seine la seine elle est belle, "whose blog is it, anyway?" -- I feel like telling you the gist of one of my recurring nightmares.  The gist, that's all.  Were "gist" a word favored by Joe Friday, you'd be reading:  "All we want is the gist, ma'am."

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

So I'm sleeping the sleep of the innocent when the past hijacks my brain and I'm strolling down Telegraph Avenue toward campus.  having just opened a lucrative checking account at the Bank of America, I swing a right onto Bancroft, wiping out an entire Street Vendor Free Enterprise Zone [SVFEZ] with my various forms of rolling luggage.  By the time I hit Piedmont and climbed the steps to the International House, my face is bright red and my curls are fetchingly damp.

There's no rest for the weary, however, so I leave my bags with a pleasant young Arab and head over to Dwinelle Hall for an orientation meeting with a 1970's version of Fabio before teaching my first scheduled Very Important Class on the fourth floor of that austere educational edifice.

You need to know that:

Dwinelle houses the departments of classics, rhetoric, linguistics, history, comparative literature, South and Southeast Asian studies, film studies, French, German, Italian studies, Scandinavian, Slavic languages, Spanish and Portuguese, and gender and women's studies.
Who knows, that might be important to the plot.  I run a tight nightmare.

Yeah, that's how I roll.

[Oh, God.  Yes, I'll stop.  For once, the Reader on My Shoulder prevails... and has gone in search of something for stomach acid.]

[Oh, and, he says, "...and for a headache, for a GD headache..."]

There are a few new details in this recurrence of the nightmare, most notably that I've also stopped at a hair cuttery along the way and am inexplicably blonde.  I'm also carrying a tennis racket and am obsessed with detailing a return of service plan for some tennis match that the dream doesn't yet allow me to fully envision.

Blonde.  I am blonde.
Wait!  There were those odd under hair highlights, of a color yet to be determined. My memory hazes over and my eyes cross when I try to recall the hair of this recurrent nightmare.  But blonde, yes, I was blonde, with something extra twerking below my shimmering outer locks.

[Reader on My Shoulder just left.  Slowly, leaning on the bedside table, grabbing at the wall as if it had handles.  Oh, wait, it does!  "Twerking?  Are you shittin' me?  Twerking?"]

Well, screw my readership, then!  No, not YOU!  Just HIM!  And all of you born-blondes with naturally occuring RHYTHMIC underhair color schematics?

Eat my grits.

I knew I was a little dehydrated, but I didn't think it was that bad. Or is this chronic, degenerative, neurological pain disorder in control of my keyboard, mwa ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa!?

Anyway. This is still bothering me, this walk back down the hill, head half full of pedagogical mneumonic lifesavers, but the other half teeming with tennis strategies and freaked out by the fact that I'm now carrying, as I should be, a Brunello Cucinelli triple gussetted briefcase, in which I've that well worn, much loved, long gone, green Bescherelle, and a David Oscarson "Lily" fountain pen... plus a Snauwaert Ergonom (graphite) which ought to be universally, galactically, against the rules of sporting decorum.

Wow.  I had no clue any of that was going on between my ears.  I haven't thought of that Bescherelle, certainly haven't even uttered the word "Bescherelle," in eons.  And do I really care about briefcases or fountain pens?  And tennis rackets?

Well, yes.  But not like THAT!  Except for maybe the tennis racket part...

Much more important? Extra- super- galactically important?

How far behind the damned service line do I need to be?  Or is this a really lousy player, maybe some famous dreamy person competing in their first oneiric tennis competition, who is just going to dink it over the net, then jump up and down, laugh and throw a party?

Yes, well, yeah.  Okay, so I get through the nightmare orientation session, which seems remarkably short (don't you LOVE dream versions of tedious crap?), and get my teaching assignments.  French literature in various forms, mostly, plus a remarkably important French One Grammar class. 

On the fourth floor of Dwinelle Hall.
There is no fourth floor of Dwinelle Hall, a building which anyone who knows it will describe as "bizarre." 

I suppose continuing the narration might take forever, and subject my more devoted Readers, as well as the bevy of forensic psychiatrists analyzing my texts in the name of "national security," to mind-numbing ennui.  So I'll give you what is called the "short" version:

I got kicked out of the International House, and so hit the streets of Berkeley again, bags in tow, searching -- in a daze of nocturnal lighting -- for an apartment, but only finding offers to take in a roommate, which, sadly, I had to turn down.  (For dream reasons unaccessable at the present time.)

My students were unable to be taught, as they were unable to be found, since the fourth floor of Dwinelle does not exist, in my nightmare as in every day University of California life.

My hair required some touch-up trimming and dye action, so I returned to a hair salon.  It was located, not on Telegraph or Durant or Bancroft, but on a Vegas-like section of Shattuck.  Upstairs, the chic salon, where not just the hair stylists consulted on my case, but even hair stylist interns vehemently opined in the large group meeting that ensued... before I did a quick change job and headed downstairs, where there was, of course, a huge installation of tennis courts, styled after the All-England Championship venue, Wimbledon.

Nota bene:  The Wimbledon championships are known, in our neighborhood, as "Wimpleton," a typical variant of the English pronunciation in Tête de Hergé, particularly west of the Lone Alp and when the speaker is in a singularly imperative mood.
My first round match was a breeze, and left no dream impact. However, the beginning of my second round match, which turned out to be the quarterfinals, was marred by the tragedy of the huge hole in my graphite bit of grotesquerie, that twisted Snauwaert Ergonom.

One of the hair stylists saved the day by loaning me an autographed mint condition Wilson Jack Kramer... meaning that I had the smallest head on the courts, both literally, and even more literally, in terms of racket size.  Given that it was a true nightmare (remember the savagely separated and lost professor and students? my eviction from the I-House?), I got to "relive" one of the tragedies of my UNDEFEATED high school tennis career -- being in a USTA regional doubles final and choking, developing back spasms so vicious I could not serve to save my life.  (Or my friendship with my doubles partner.)

The nightmare slowed to a snail's pace during my quarterfinal match, each service fault magnified in my experience, and highlighted for the partiers and hair salon patrons of Shattuck Avenue's hottest night spot.

Interspersed throughout these events were encounters with students, some as I remember them, some now grown to a middling age, on steps, in libraries, Sproul Plaza, at poetry readings, and a few smiling and nodding as we sat together in audiences, listening to important people, smart people, some of whom changed my life...

Except when I am at the mercy of a somnolent past, a hearty ego, and the eternal vagaries of Dwinelle Hall.

It was nice to feel the tiny heft and the equally tangible huge significance of that green Bescherelle *.

From Our Island Home

*****  **********  *****  

Louis-Nicolas Bescherelle (10 June 1802, Paris – 1883, Paris) was a French lexicographer and grammarian.

With help from his brother Henri, he wrote "Le Véritable Manuel des conjugaisons ou la science des conjugaisons mise à la portée de tout le monde", a reference guide to French verb conjugation, in 1842. The book became so important that his last name is used as a noun to refer to any French conjugation book.

© 2013 L. Ryan Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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