My landlord introduces me to everyone saying, "This is Sam, my housemate. The grant writer." At first, I found this flattering, but lately it's becoming a little unnerving. My identity, it seems, is inseparable from my duty as an Americorps member.
The past week has been a Harrowing trial of orientation and job training. My colleagues are all, predictably, very well educated, adventurous individuals with some pretty impressive stories. Whenever we have to introduce ourselves, we do so going around the room, rattling off some personal details and stories and then fading in with the rest of the exceptional lot. This has not been the case for me. It seems every time I say my name, one of my superiors looks at me with an intrigued, hungry look and says, "So, you're the grant writer."
When I worked for the Iowa State Seed Lab a few winters ago I remember being introduced to all the researchers and staff. All of them were middle aged professionals in white coats. The HR woman then pointed into a corner office where a young woman in a blue bandana and grungy clothes sat slouched over her computer wearing gigantic headphones. "And that's our grant writer," said the HR woman. The grant writer waved without looking up.
That's what I feel like I'm supposed to be. Some harried goblin, squirreled away in the corner who has worked out an understanding, a pact with the world around him. Leave me the fuck alone and I will bring you Money.
My week has felt much like I imagine life must be for a priest at Notre Dame. Called to a position of peace and contemplation and surprised to find Americans at every turn. Unable to find Solace anywhere else, I've mostly locked myself in my room with A Dance With Dragons, my notebook and trying to avoid listening to Simon and Garfunkle's "I Am a Rock."
But, I have a Desk. And I've found coffee shops, bananas, bars, and Bourbon Street. Mostly I'm very happy to have a desk for the first time in my life, one where I shall conduct Work and Business. Furthermore, it is not as hot here as I thought it would be. I mentioned this to one of my colleagues, the PR woman.
"Yeah, it's a cultural thing, really. Everyone loves to complain about the heat even though it's the same heat every year," she said.
These are my very muddled thoughts right now. I have sequestered myself in the Who Dat Cafe and have spent the afternoon writing and reading. A good day by any measure. Still, this is a poor excuse for a post. Please forgive me.
I have faith that in a few weeks I will get my barring and suddenly everything will become clear. But last night my landlord told me, laughing, "You're in New Orleans now!" as if to negate all further discussion on subject of clarity. He added, "One thing I will say about this city is that it's a great place to grow. To find yourself. It's a free place. As far as the nightlife goes, alternative lifestyles, music, sex, drinks, all that stuff." Now I have a mental association between being young in New Orleans and an erection.
A few minutes later, the musician who moved in next door, also my landlord's tenant, texted him. The guy hasn't been paying rent. The landlord is prepared to change the locks. My landlord stared at the phone, baffled and angry, and then looked at me saying, "Do you know what he did today? When I asked him for rent, he gave me a poem!"
This evening I shall go out and sing karaoke. I only hope they have the Gin Blossoms, Oasis, and Counting Crows.