I have a possibly unnatural hero-worship towards several of the professors and teachers I’ve studied under during my life. These people are the true rock stars who never receive the glory befitting them.
Today I was told that one of my favorite English teachers, Larry Thompson (or as we called him, Uncle Larry), died. This was especially hard news for me. This man saved me during a particular traumatic year of my life. He was there for me when my father died the Fall semester of my freshman year supporting me and keeping my spirits up. He also kept me in college when I was raped less then 9 months after my father died. When I missed weeks of classes he tracked me down, pulled my mind and body out of my tragedy, and personally went to each of my professors getting me back in their good graces which kept me from failing out. I will be indebted to him for as long as I live.
Larry taught with such humor and bravado that some people in the small Texas town where I received my associate’s degree took him as offensive. If he loved you, he called you lard-ass. If he really loved you, he called you lard.
The first day of class he came in, carrying a beaten leather satchel, wearing a madras shirt and floral Bermuda shorts with dark socks and sandals, and then he climbed on top of his desk. Standing on the desk he preceded to deliver (without any introduction) Shakespeare’s Saint Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V. The speech ended in a vibrant slur of words and emotion as he catapulted his nearly 400 pound frame off the desk landing somewhat gracefully on the floor. I loved him from that day on.
He also taught me the simple truths about and fundamentals of writing. Larry would say that he hated people who claimed to be writers but when you asked them what they have written or were writing they would say they haven’t written anything yet, but they have these great ideas. Great ideas make you a philosopher, not a writer. His students also learned about plot-puking and how the word “a lot” is a transvestite (it’s not really a word … it’s a non-word that dresses up as a real word). If a student had the audacity to use “a lot” in a piece of fiction Larry would write transvestite in huge red letters across the offensive word. And plot-puking was just writing for the sake of writing. Get it on the page: that is what was most important. Revision is where a writer could sift through the peas and carrots finding what was good amidst the yuck.
Nearly 20 years later I still carry Larry’s lessons with me. The Monday night he died I was teaching a class of playwrights. I told them the difference between a writer and a philosopher. I shared his theories of plot puking: the importance of getting your ideas on the page. In sharing his theories his memory is defined. My student’s responsive faces assure me of this.
Causes Kali Meister Supports
Sexual Assault Crisis Centers, Amnesty International, West Memphis 3, Doctors Without Borders, GLTB Activism