After a lengthy flight from Frankfurt to Michigan, with a change to a regional carrier in Detroit, I arrived in Kalamazoo jet-lagged and exhausted, but happy.
I had with me three copies of my paper, one in my suitcase, the second in my briefcase, and the third artfully folded and stored on my person. I had made the additional precautionary arrangement of sending copies to the chair of my session, to each of the participants in the session, and to myself poste restante in Kalamazoo. There would be no danger that “Cultural Semiotics, Semi(n)ology and Semiotics: scientia omnis aut est de signis aut de rebus significatis: Text, Textuality and Semiosis” would not be delivered.
In the cab, on the way from the airport to the college, I tried to engage the driver, a rustic lout with a thick roll of fat on the back of his neck, in conversation.
“What is that beguiling music,” I asked, refering to the countrified Götterdämmerung issuing from the speakers behind my head.
“Toby Keith,” was his only reply.
The driver deposited me at the college. It was Thursday evening and only a few of the other participants had arrived, so I checked into my room, hoping to sleep until morning.
To say that the accomodations were Spartan would be to traduce the ancient Greeks. Indeed, only someone who had grown up in the Eastern Bloc could fully appreciate the soul-deadening, life-sucking nature of the dormitories at Western Michigan University.
My tiny room, recently vacated by students who had majored in Filth, was floored in worn commercial linoleum, and was furnished with a pair of sagging bunkbeds and cheap plywood chairs and desks.
I shared a single bathroom with an elderly Jesuit professor of history, who stank of whiskey and Burma Shave. He kept me awake most of the night by alternately praying the Rosary and singing “The Cliffs of Moher”
“Your disgrace for me, has brought up shame on my behalf,” he shouted in something approaching a lilting scream, “What we’ve seen so far feels like you’re tearing up my scars”
The next morning, the full enormity of my errors became apparent when I stepped outside to find people in homemade armor shouting “Forsooth!” and bashing each other with wooden swords.
Tomorrow, dear readers, I shall continue my story.