In Robert Penn Warren’s All The King’s Men, narrator Jack Burden makes a sudden trip from his home state of Louisiana to California (Long Beach) after hearing some really bad news. Warren uses the occasion to speak through Jack about the innate desire of all of us to go elsewhere, West in particular, when times get bad.
It’s time for me to go West for a while.
I’ve used this bit of R. P. Warren before in describing my own upcoming trip, but it fits so I’m using it again. Yesterday afternoon I made the Uptown trek to the APS School Board meeting, where a small demonstration was being made on behalf of my outgoing principal/boss Ivy Langan. The protest consisted of a few well-stated signs buffeted in a nasty wind, a TV news crew or two, and some elequent comments before the Board on the subject of Ivy Langan’s move from Jefferson in particular, and APS principal transfer decision-making in general.
And, overall, it was really depressing.
I don’t even know if I need to get into why it was depressing. At this point, simply saying the phrase “APS School Board Meeting” to the average Burque resident would almost certainly lead to an immediate bummed out feeling on the part of the hearer. The emotional impact of “APS School Board Meeting” is right up there with “Three Hour Traffic Gridlock” and “Clogged Toilet” in its ability to depress a person.
So, I went to the meeting, heard the public comments, watched the reactions of the Board members and Superintendent Beth Everitt, and immediately thought of Robert Penn Warren and going West to California.
It just so happens that I am about to start such a sojourn, with my first stop today up in the Sandias for an overnight hike. I plan on spending this evening somewhere near the summit of South Sandia Peak, looking down on the lights of the city while contemplating just how screwed up ABQ is, especially its public school administration. Then some time will pass, I’ll move on to other things mentally and maybe by the time I hit the Thermarest I’ll have forgotten all about APS.
And maybe that’s the point of traveling: processing and ultimately forgetting. Toward that end, I have a series of mental diversions ahead: from Los Angeles to Guatemala to Colorado 14ers to Las Vegas. I hope to come back in August laughing at myself for my preoccupation with silly things like the school district. I hope to come back not even remembering what the letters APS stand for.
Along the way, I thought I’d blog from this place and that, hoping not to tick off those working through the summer by rubbing it in that I’m on vacation. Or maybe I’ll just write a book, a novel, a novel about a guy disillusioned with politics, greed, ambition and intellectual insecurity. A book like All The King’s Men, but up-to-date and with an education focus.
There’s only one, very small, problem with such a plan. I’m no Robert Penn Warren. Oh well…let’s get out of town.