The Binder

Alternate title: Good things come in 4’s?

The professor moved out a few weeks ago. Lucky for us he didn’t go far, merely descended a dozen stairs down to his basement office. [Office being another way of saying ‘partitioned-off configuration of 4 desks.’ I had no idea when I married him that the man is a serial desk-collector.]

The time had finally come for the thing we’ve alternately discussed, ignored and dreaded for the last 4 years: applying for tenure. A nebulous concept, ‘tenure’ has always been something off in the distant future; an idea to entertain – much like being well-rested – rather than a thing to be grasped.

But then time did what time does best, it passed. Quickly. And a few blinks of an eye later we’d been living in Canadaland for 4 years and we blinked again and the harbinger of tenure application, the 6-month sabbatical, had also passed and then it was January 2013: the month I resigned myself to saying au revoir to my better half.

He went to bed at 2 or 3am most nights, sometimes 5 and once it was 7:30. He toiled in front of two, sometimes three computers. He drank more coffee than is prudent (I refused to let him drink any Monster until the very last days of the binder-scramble) and ate anything edible in his quest to stay awake.


Err….. pursuit to stay awake. The night before the deadline we had this stellar discussion as I was editing his ‘teaching philosophy.’

N: ‘What about using the word ‘quest’?’ I broached the subject delicately, figuring this man I’ve known for 2 decades would frown on the word quest.

J: ‘It’s so……..’ and he grimaced as though I’d just suggested using the philosophical equivalent of the word ‘goodies’.

J: [Asking his friend Google for a better option] ‘What about ‘pursuit’?’ he volleyed back.

N: [Thoroughly annoyed by the inanity of the conversation] ‘You know what’s another word for pursuit,’ I snarked, ‘QUEST!”

J: ‘Yeah I know, that’s what I typed into Google,’ he disclosed.

All for the sake of ‘The Binder’.


Photo Credit: jason s. johnson

‘The Binder’ being another way of saying ‘1000 pages of anything and everything the man has done in the last 8.5 years.’ Literally, one.thousand.pages. [Glad I’m not the one reviewing that!]

Editing his CV was like a walk down memory lane: remembering the 3D made-of-glue-and-wax sculptures he busied himself with on the back porch right after the Hen was born. And Fedexed to Philadelphia for an exhibit, only to discover Fedex had completely and utterly decimated the contents. The fieldtrips, the conferences, the competitions, and the countless all-nighters. The white styrofoam that filled our Indiana garage (and kept our black 1994 Volvo sitting in the driveway) and the white plastic that fills our Calgary garage (and keeps our teal 1997 Volvo sitting in the street).

I took the boys to see Jaume Plensa’s ‘Wonderland’ sculpture in front of the Bow Building yesterday. The Gort gazed at the white metal (ish) sculpture. ‘Who made that,’ he asked. ‘They probably made it at Dad’s work,’ his 5 year old brother answered, all too familiar with the craziness that emanates from the Minus Architecture Studio.

And then we blinked again and it was February 4, the day ‘The Binder’ was [finally] due. As is his habit, the professor stayed up all night. At 4am he drove to the University to print out The Binder’s contents. At 4pm he handed in his life’s work. By 4:30pm he was conked out on the couch.

For a few hours, anyway, because another [3-paper-writing] deadline loomed just around the corner, as in: seventy two hours around the corner.

‘So, funny thing,’ he called me last Friday, ‘remember that conference in Manitoba?’ I consulted my mental rolodex, and remembered the conference that I’d assumed was happening in March or April. ‘Yeah?’ I answered, waiting for the ‘funny bit’.

‘It’s next Thursday.’

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