Department Of The Partridge Of The Week
It’s that time of the year again. As has become a tradition much maligned anticipated in our neighborhood, moiself is hosting a different Partridge, every week, in my front yard. 
Can you identify this week’s guest Partridge?
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Department Of Dissing Remembering The Dead
Dateline: 11-21-23. Longtime friend and college apartment-mate SB posted a link (on social media) to an obituary: HG, a fiction writer and one of our college’s part-time professors, had died at age 99.
SB’s post sent me on the express train to memory-ville, and I commented with the first thought that came to mind when I read the news:
“Didn’t know he was still alive.”
But I’d edited moiself’s reaction, which was, in its entirety:
“Didn’t know he was still alive…
I’d assumed he’d died decades ago,
crushed under the massive weight of his own self-regard.”
If I’d read HG’s obituary (I didn’t), I’m sure I’d have run across the compliments from those who liked HG and/or his work. Still, I doubt that any of the praise and adoration typically cast upon the departed would have equaled or exceeded HG’s own high opinion of himself.
I’d not taken a class from HG, but two of my college apartment mates (SB, and GG) did, during Winter quarter of SB’s and my sophomore year. During that quarter moiself heard their stories of HG’s class. Then, one oh-so-memorable night, I met HG when he came to dinner at our apartment, after which I thanked the gods and my lucky stars – none of which I believed in  – that I was not in his class.
Y’all may be thinking, Wait a minute: a professor came to his student’s apartment, for dinner – for any reason? How did that happen?
Yep, he did. And there’s a wee bit o’ backstory to the how did that happen part.
Fall quarter of my sophomore year I took a beginning Creative Writing class. During the last weeks of class its professor, FT, encouraged me to sign up for another CW course, this one taught by HG: You have to apply for this class, by submitting a sample of your writing – check with the English department but really, any of your stories that you submitted in my class will get you in. HG’s class was considered the next step up for those interested in writing fiction, FT told me, and he thought that that was the class for me (It’s obvious you’re no beginner). I thanked FT for his compliment and encouragement, but told him that although his CW class satisfied a requirement and had fit into my schedule – not that I didn’t enjoy every moment! – I didn’t have room in my schedule for another class that either wasn’t required for my major or didn’t satisfy another degree requirement.
But you will have room for it – this class will be taught in the evening, FT countered. He asked me about my major. When I told FT that I was pre-law,  he affably ribbed me (You’re a writer, not a lawyer). During the next couple of weeks FT kept asking me if I’d signed up for HG’s class. I knew his persistence in the matter was in fact a compliment, but I didn’t like revealing my financial situation to those whose business it wasn’t. The fourth or fifth time FT asked me if I needed a suggestion as to which story to submit for HG’s class application, I told him the truth. It wasn’t just the class time I had to juggle; I was working to put myself through school. My days were busy with classes and with my two jobs: my official job at the library, at which I worked both day and evening shifts, and my “unofficial” (read: under the table) job, typing term and research papers for other students  . And I needed time for my own homework and papers and a sanity-preserving social life….
My teacher’s persistence hit a nerve. I loved writing fiction, and he knew it – what better excuse to take the time to do so than to have a class where it was required? A day or two before the deadline I went to the English department, filled out the very brief application for HG’s class, and gave The Secretary In Charge Of Such Things my sample story. The secretary told me that HG would read the applicants’ stories by a certain date, and that I should check back on that day for the return of my story and the enrollment decision.
I had not asked FT which of my stories he thought I should use. I decided to submit the one both FT and my CW classmates had voted as “the best,” in a class contest organized by FT. Years later I would look back upon that contest win (which I found somewhat flattering and mostly embarrassing) as my introduction to that most ubiquitous and vile literary publishing practice: contests, for any and everything, on any and every subject (even on the personal and/or demographic characteristic of the writer), so that you – along with any and every writer, it seems – can, eventually, declare yourself to be “an award winning writer.” 
Once again, I digress.
Two of my apartment mates, SB and GG, also applied to HG’s class. I assumed that the majority of the applicants would be the Serious Writer® wannabes: pale young men in black turtlenecks who would be submitting their imitative, Cheever/Roth/Updike-styled novel excerpts in which their descriptions of suburban angst, vacant sexual encounters, and hipster misogyny would be mistaken for edgy, clear-eyed commentary on contemporary American mores. I decided to go for something different. Figuring HG would like a reprieve from all the derivative, Great American Novel aspirational prose, I submitted something shorter, and humorous (the story which had won my class’s contest).
When I returned to the English department on the appointed day the secretary flipped through the stack of students’ stories on her desk, handed me my mine, and said that I had not been chosen for the class. I quickly flipped through the pages; my story was unmarked. “Did HG give a note – any feedback, about why he didn’t like my story?” I asked. “No,” she said, “it’s not that he didn’t like it. He didn’t read it.”
“He didn’t even *read* it?” I sputtered. The secretary’s eyes radiated equal parts pity and frustration as she pointed to several other stories in the pile, stories whose paper clips were stretched much further apart than the one holding my manuscript pages together. “He didn’t read those stories, either. All of these” – she gestured at the manuscript in my hand, then at the bulging tomes on her desk – “violated the guidelines.” She reached into a manilla folder on her desk from which she withdrew the guidelines for HG’s class’s story submissions. She placed the paper in front of me and tapped her index finger over the second line of the guidelines, as if trying to gain the attention of a third grader with ADHD. I saw that the guidelines, which I’d not bothered to check, were that stories had to be between 1500 and 4000 words.  My story, as per the word count listed in the upper right corner of the title page, was 200 words short.
Part of me was embarrassed that I had been so careless and cavalier; part of me was relieved that I wouldn’t have to do even more time/schedule juggling. Another part of me was soon to become amused beyond expectation, when SB and GG both made it into HG’s class and began relating their experiences therein.
After the first meeting of HG’s class, when SB shared her rundown of her classmates, it turned out I was right about the guys in black turtlenecks. By week two of HG’s class, I’d noticed something else about the attire of another of HG’s students – a something else which both amused and confused me, as it was GG’s…outfits.
As GG left that evening for HG’s class I stopped moiself from asking if she was skipping class and going to a party instead. Week three, there it was again. If this had been happening in modern times the present, I would’ve been surreptitiously taking pictures of her with my cell phone and having a petty giggle about it later with my boyfriend. Instead, by weeks three and four I made sure to invite “witnesses” – select male friends who also knew GG – over to our apartment, 30 minutes or so before GG left for class. Their observations confirmed that it wasn’t just my imagination: no matter what GG had been wearing during the day, she, uh, pimped her ride, as those wacky kids of today say. Translation: she upscaled her clothing and makeup for HG’s class.
I tried to come up with a defense for GG to counter my friends’ snickered theories – which were all variations on the theme that either HG was flirting with/hitting on GG and she was responding to his attentions, or that *she* was the one soliciting her professor’s attention.  Maybe it’s…subconscious? But soft-fuzzy, form-fitting sweaters, perfectly coiffed hair, makeup and *lipstick* (this was the late 70s; students didn’t dress up for anything, certainly not for class, and although GG had always spent a lot of time on her hair, there was no other class for which she wore *lipstick*)? Such frills do not unintentionally adorn a person. Subconscious?
When SB would leave for HG’s class she’d look like her normal self (attractive, casually attired, jeans-and-tee student), while GG looked as if she were going to an audition for a glamour camp counselor. And the more stories SB and GG told about HG’s class, the more I squirmed to consider that my witness-friends’ observations might be spot on.
The winter quarter rolled on; then one weekend GG announced that professor HG would be coming to our apartment for dinner later that week. She would make dinner, and she wanted all four of us (SB, moiself, and our fourth apartment mate, LM) to be there. Ummm…okay…? GG was obviously eager to host HG; I tried to be supportive, and feigned enthusiasm even as I wondered why, after full day’s work (or maybe not; I didn’t know HG’s schedule), a grown-ass professor would want to spend time (and have to eat an amateurishly cooked dinner) with four undergraduates…. Ah, yes. Make that, four twenty-year-old *female* undergraduates.
Moiself’s curiosity was stoked; I no longer needed to feign interest in meeting SB’s and GG’s professor. Assuming my cultural anthropologist mode throughout the before/during/after dinner banter, I spent the evening taking mental notes more than I participated in the conversation.  Oh, did I mistakenly type, conversation? It was more of a presentation, just short of a lecture, from HG. HG was obviously used to and expectant of female adoration. He evidently and thoroughly enjoyed holding court, attempting to impart his…what was he attempting to impart? Yeah, okay, he’s been to so many Esalen Institute and other Big Sur retreats he’s lost count, but how indiscreet can he be to think that we are interested in his opinion of Joan Baez’s sexual preferences? Every story he told practically megaphoned,
Can you believe how cool I am, who I’ve rubbed shoulders
(and other body parts) with; what I have seen and done…
and here I am, in *your* apartment, you lucky lasses !
HG was SB’s and GG’s teacher. What did he teach that night? Although I found HG’s demeanor and anecdotes jaw-droppingly pretentious at the time, my recollection of them did serve me, eventually. Many years later I modeled a character in one of my stories after HG: “Patrick Glasson,” a professor of creative writing. The story’s protagonist, Colleen Kiernan, a student in Glasson’s Advanced Fiction Seminar, incurs Glasson’s thinly disguised wrath by challenging his critiques, not being deferential to him, and mostly by being different from the rest of the graduate students in his class, the “pretty young things and scowling young men” who either worshipped Glasson or feared him. In this excerpt, Colleen approaches Glasson at the end of the class to discuss one of her stories.
…. Glasson tossed Colleen’s manuscript on top of his desk. “What is this?”
Colleen Kiernan fingered the hollow between her collarbones. “The title is on the first page.”
The professor snorted. “So it is.”
Pretty young things and scowling young men gathered their papers and book packs. Colleen’s Seminar in Advanced Fiction comrades scuttled off to their three o’clock classes, pretending not to notice that, once again, their guru and his apostate were at his desk, at odds.
“It’s unfinished, obviously. You said initial drafts were acceptable if…”
“I should have chosen a smaller facility. A class of thirteen hardly fills this cavernous hall, which might explain the echo. I hear myself reiterating our group’s paradigm — our mantra, if you will. If you want to be ordinary, write ordinary.” Professor Glasson exhaled lustily. “No academic preparation is needed for mainstream publication. There are a plethora of How to Write A Damn Fine Novel tutorials. Check the trade magazines.”
“Check the trades.” Colleen feigned writing a memo to herself. “Almost forgot that one.” She set her briefcase on Glasson’s desk, and caught the glint in his bleary eyes. He made no attempt to mask his disdain for the tatty brown canvas attaché Colleen favored over the jewel-toned, Gore Tex shoulder bags that were the totes of choice for pretty young things.
“As I was saying, you said drafts were…”
“This is no class for the conventional. What I have been saying, what they are saying…” Glasson tapped his hirsute finger on the stack of books atop his desk, “is as profound as it is simple. Tell the stories that need telling.” Glasson steepled his fingertips in front of his nose. “If you’d been paying attention you’d have picked up at least the concept of narrative nuance. Post-Joycean streams of interior monologue do not a nuance make.”
Narrative nuance? Hard to discern these past weeks, over the thunderous crash of names dropping from lofty, literary heights. The adventures of Patrick Glasson, erstwhile Swingin’ Sixties Author and B-list celebrity. How many names fell from the Big Sur retreat, where our hero encountered a celebrated folk singer from yon times, and discovered that the angelic soprano was a lesbian predator who pursued pretty young things with banshee-like ferocity?…. We mustn’t forget our hero’s dialogue with the bards frequenting a Bay Area pub notorious for its clientele of IRA sympathizers, said pub having been named for an exploit of his, recorded in his first novel, in which he, his third wife, and a gaggle of second generation Beats revitalized San Francisco’s waning sex-for-poetry scene.
Reverent gazes, front and center. Imagine the thrill of being Him, back then.
Cutting to the chase: moiself found HG to be the most pompous, preening, gossipy, arrogant, name-dropping lech I’d ever met. He was blatantly “after” GG; his practiced air of seduction gave me the impression that he’d pursued other females in his CW classes and would continue to do so. The charm and panache he oozed seemed habitual; thus, he even (if ever-so-briefly) focused his powers of seduction on LM and moiself  after he caught LM shooting me a sympathetic eye roll when I failed to sufficiently mute my WTF snort at the end of one of HG’s I-did-this-really-cool-thing/know-these-really-cool-people stories. And by trying to win LM and I over, HG revealed his cards: he was one of *those* kind of men. Those Kind Of Men generally view and deal with womenfolk in one of three ways. There are women they want to fuck, women they don’t want to fuck, and women who remind them of their (or other people’s) mothers. HG wasn’t sexually interested in LM or moiself ; still, we were females, and had presented him with a challenge by indicating that we were in not in awe of his mere presence nor dazzled by his attentions.
What better way to secure the attentions of Pretty Young Things® who have an honest interest in creative writing than by telling them that he, a Published Author ® , thought that they had potential as a writer? HG essentially broadcasted that modus operandi. My feminist sensibilities were both annoyed and embarrassed by GG’s evident hero-worship…and a part of my heart ached for her. GG had asked me to read several of the stories she’d written for HG’s class assignments. I honestly liked the majority of what she showed me, even as I cringed on her behalf to imagine what HG was saying to her – how, in so many words and/or gestures and body language, he was giving her the impression that it was getting into her prose, and not into her pants, which interested him the most.
I hadn’t thought of that HG story in some time. Today we have more information regarding gender exploitation and what in people’s backgrounds and circumstances makes them vulnerable to abuse (or to being the abuser). I wish I’d had a more nuanced understanding of the situation, other than what went through my mind at the time, when I was concurrently concerned for and judgmental of a friend (“HG is a lecherous douchebag; why doesn’t GG see it?!”).
The MeToo movement brought the HG story to mind, and had me briefly wondering: if HG were still alive, would he be subject to scrutiny and outing from former students? Or maybe…whether or not HG offered grades/privileges for sexual attention, maybe he was just a run of the mill/par for the course, approaching middle-age, narcissistic skirt-chaser, unaware of and/or unconcerned with the power imbalance dynamics and ethical violations inherent in pursuing his female students?
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Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
( Taslima Nasrin, Bangladeshi author, physician, civil rights and freethought and feminist activist, living in exile since 1994,
after receiving repeated death threats from Islamists and Al Qaeda-linked extremists. )
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May you be able to speak your mind sans death threats;
May you have no heroes to worship;
May you always remember to check the *#!?%#* guidelines (geesh!);
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 Specifically, in our pear tree.
 Although it would be years until I was “out” as being religion-free, I was always openly “lucky star” free.
 Specifically, a Criminal Justice major.
 Looking back, I should have charged so much more for typing the papers for those students whose handwriting was practically illegible (surprisingly, they were mostly engineering majors, not pre-med).
 I lampooned the phenomena in one of the few non-fiction pieces I’ve published, the essay, “You Can Be (Or Already Are) An Award-Winning Writer!” One editor to whom I submitted the essay said he liked it very much and wanted to publish it, but was overruled by his fellow journal editors, and because of that he felt he should warn me that “this will be impossible to publish — everyone (as in, literary journals and magazines) has a contest !!! and they do not have a sense of humor about that…or themselves….” Despite his warning I kept submitting the piece, and it was published twice, once heavily edited to remove much of the contest-related snark, and the second time in its original form.
 Or the range may have been 1200 – 4500… I can’t remember the exact numbers, only that in my rush to be concise and clever I’d forgotten to check the guidelines.
 One of them “asked around,” he told me, and had heard that HG had a reputation for…that.
 Yes, it can and has happened.
 Although not for a second did I think he would have been interested in us.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org