by Greg Baysans

Poet X
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A Real Education

          "It is equal to living in a tragic land 
           To live in a tragic time." 
                                                      -- Wallace Stevens, "Dry Loaf" 

"It would start 
with a thirsty 
stiff out 
on the town with his 
back pay, 
into the half-bars/ 
called boarding houses 
and hard 
on the heels of 
whiskey, women and 
song. But 
the ceiling would 
start to 
spin, his legs 
obey, and oblivion 
moved in like 
a fog. He 
would awaken on 
a ship at sea." 

BCTI has eight campuses, 
the main one near Seattle, Washington, 
another in Beaverton, a suburb of 
Portland, Oregon. 
BCTI's first program,
called Integrated Computer
Applications, is 
seven and a half months long. 
"There are employment 
specialists at BCTI who 
assist you with employment 
search before you leave and 
for a year after you graduate," 
a brochure reads. 
Plaques on the walls attest to 
a placement rate of over 90% 
for BCTI's placement specialists.

"Of all the Enron 
mementos, John Olson 
may have the best 
one. Olson, an analyst 
who has been a long-time 
skeptic about the 
company's once- 
stratospheric stock 
price, has 
a handwritten note 
that the Enron chairman, 
Kenneth L. Lay, sent 
to Olson's boss, 
Donald Sanders. 'Don -- 
John Olson has been wrong 
about Enron 
for over 10 years 
and is still 
wrong,' Lay wrote. 
'But he is 
consistant (sic). Ken' 
When Sanders showed him the note, 
Olson recalls shrugging. 
'You know that I'm old and 
I'm worthless,' 
he said, 'but at least 
I can spell 
"consistent".' " 

Tuition is $10,000 for the first 
program. The school 
will loan you half of that, 
the government 
the other half, 
since you are currently 
unemployed and penniless. 
Sign here. 

In 1997, more than 
a thousand black farmers 
filed suit against the 
U.S. Department of Agriculture 
alleging discrimination. 
"Under President Reagan, 
the Department dismantled 
its civil rights enforcement 
leaving bias complaints to 
mostly go unaddressed." 

"He's not sure 
precisely when 
the notion to bury 
school buses 
into his head, 
but he calls it 
the best anger 
regimen on the planet." 
There are now five buses 
sticking out of the ground, 
one in a neighbor's yard, 
one after the other, tail 
or nose in the air. 

From the BCTI typing manual: 
"Thoughts for the Day" (excerpted) -- 

"2. Sometimes leaning (sic) is 
'a blinding flash of the obvious' 
-- be there to remember it (sic, 
run-on sentence)!" 

"19. You cannot motivate others 
unless you are motivated yourself 
(followed by no period, yet 
the next line begins '20.')" 

"31. (which is smaller and in italics 
whereas the list starts out with 
numbers not in italics) Honesty 
is the first chapter in the book 
of wisdom. -- Thomas Jefferson" 

"62. (again italics) A winner 
is (with "is" in bold for 
no reason, the rest of the sentence 
not bold) a person who asks questions 
and listens 
to the answer; a loser never listens." 

"71. Style is the man himself 
[ (open bracket but no matching 
close bracket) and the woman herself." 

"84. We don't see things 
as they are, (comma, sic; 
should be a period, but 
should also be checked 
against the subsequently named 
source) we see things as we 
are. -- Apidis (sic, sic, sic!) Nin" 

"87. Learn from the mistakes 
of others -- you can never 
live long enough 
to make them all yourself" 
(again, no period; this manual 
has obviously been prepared 
by someone who is begging 
the example.) 

"100. (Where the indent starts 
to go one digit deeper 
is on the last line of 
text from item 99, a format 
error) The man [woman] 
who makes no mistakes 
(I was happy to see matching 
brackets around 'woman') 
does not usually make anything. 
-- Edward John Phelps" 

"108. Hard work is the best 
a man [person] 
(sic, man is first amended 
with 'woman,' then with 'person', 
showing inconsistent editing) 
can make. -- Charles Schwab 
(followed by 109. No text. 
The end of the list.)" 

"He had been 
Shanghaied, addled 
with a drugged drink, 
into an alley or 
through a trap door 
to an underground 
leading to the 
harbor, bundled 
in a blanket 
and sold 
for a few dollars 
to a captain 
in need of a crew." 

BCTI's first program 
has five parts to it, and in 
the fourth you will learn 
to prepare a manual, 
much like the typing manual, 
a review of the Micro- 
soft Office applications 
you have learned. 
One hour each day 
(or night) is spent 
typing. This is a business letter. 
It is important to 
write business letters 
to appear 
A Daily Review 
(some have typos) is found 
"online" and often reviews 
proofreading and 
business letter grammar, 
so important for success. 

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman 
ruled that the black farmers could 
pursue a class action lawsuit. 
Litigants were awarded $50,000, 
tax-free ($15,000 also sent 
to the IRS to offset the taxes), but some litigants 
were charged taxes nonetheless and were pursued by the 
IRS (but this isn't at all about how the government 
found a way to give itself tax money on damages for 
which it was responsible). 

"He holds up 
a white pharmacy bag holding 
a dozen empty anti-depressant 
pill containers. Larry Eaton 
promises to bury 
a bus a month until 
his neighborhood, 
next to a women's prison (still 
under construction), is 
rezoned. Frustrations 
over the prison have 
a personal toll, shredded 
a romance, shoved him 
into a funk that 
cut his earnings to 
nearly nothing." 

On a train trip in 1998, 
I was reading Ted Hughes 
as a woman behind me got drunk. 
"I teach high school English," 
she was trying to be friendly. 
"What are you reading? Poetry? 
I don't know anyone who reads 
poetry. He was married to 
Sylvia who?" 

"This Day In History" (covered most days 
at BCTI) more from the typing manual: 

"Silly but true facts" 
(excerpted again) -- 

"The worlds (sic -- or 
has someone finally abolished 
the apostrophe 
and not told me about it?) 
oldest piece of chewing gum 
is over 9000 years old!" 

"Some ribbon worms will 
eat themselves if they 
cant (sic; it really has been 
abolished -- or these worms 
have a language all their own) 
find any food." 

"Eskimo ice cream is neither icy, 
(sic: comma; the grammar and punctuation 
review was a difficult topic for most 
fellow students and most instructors, 
even those who had graduated from college) 
or (sic; neither/or? neither/or? 
neither/nor) creamy." 

"Slugs have 4 (the numeral, 
not the word spelled out 
as the textbooks we received 
as part of our education 
instruct us to do with 
numbers under ten) noses!"

When some black farmers 
began getting checks for 
$50,000, their neighbors 
wondered where was theirs. 
Most hadn't heard about the case 
until after the fact. Others 
wanted to file on behalf of 
relatives now deceased. 
A deadline was created by which 
time a "Late Claim Affidavit" 
(explaining why the claimant 
was not part of the original 
class action lawsuit) needed 
to be filed and approved 
before those persons could 
then submit a claim to 
be approved or rejected. 

The shredding of Enron documents? 
A reconstruction? 
From these pieces 
I can only ascertain what 
this is not about. This is 
not about Enron, not about Shanghaiing, 
not about BCTI or proofreading. 
This is not about anti- 
depressants or education 
and not about how 
the only place for poets 
in the 21st century 
is in advertising 
where the masses 
don't know they're 
being fed poetry or 
they'd squirm. 

"Portland was known 
as the worst 
port on the West Coast 
for Shanghaiing, 
putting even 
wicked San Francisco 
in the shade. Portland 
was vice-ridden and corrupt." 
"Eaton snapped 
at a meeting in which 
an employee of an area 
sand and gravel company 
with prison contracts 
was elected committee 
(to consider property 
rezoning) chairman." 

An exhibit from the Portland 
Art Museum in the late 90s 
toured the country with a statue 
of a poet king from ancient Egypt 
who wrote, "the wicked prosper and 
the good are trampled and used." 

"Keyboarding Tongue Twisters" 
(excerpted) -- 

"Around the rugged rocks 
the ragged rascal ran" 
(ran away with the period 
at the end of that sentence 
and two others on the 
same page!)

"Lily ladies 
('ladles' would make 
a nice tongue twister 
but it clearly says 'ladies') 
little Letty's lentil soup." 

About this same time (the late 90s 
until 2001), there was a proposed action 
called "40 Acres and a Mule" which would be awarded to 
the heirs of freed slaves. Some were told to call the 
toll-free line for Black Farmers Litigation. Those who 
expressed an interest in filing for 
the Black Farmers case 
were told that the deadline had passed 
but the case may be reopened. 
What is your name? Social security number? 
And the data base grew. 
Some callers call in every week. 
The phones are manned by temp employees 
(no vacation pay, no health benefits, 
temp employees are all the corporate 
rage) dispensing facts for lawyers, 
barely earning minimum wage. I am one.

What energy is to Enron, 
education to BCTI.... 
A McGuffin to Hitchcock. 
A Stonehenge of buses. 

My supervisor (ten years ago, 
at my first job in Portland) 
said I had "slipped through the cracks," 
why I was paid thirteen dollars 
an hour to a co-worker's twenty-one. 
He was hired two years after me. 

"Nobody knows how many men 
were Shanghaied out of Portland, 
but the numbers 
probably ran to the thousands. 
Many of the boarding houses 
were owned by  
the Shanghaiers, or 
'crimps' as they were 
Crimps usually got $30 to 
$50 per man, a tidy sum 
at the time." 

"Eaton set out to match 
the $300,000 mini-mansions 
just to the north. 
The landscaping 
cost $11,000 (before buses)." 

A scam group toured the south, 
held meetings for those interested. 
"If you'd like to sign up 
for the 40 Acres and a Mule 
or Black Farmers Litigations, 
show up, give us 500 dollars 
and fill out these papers." 
There is no fee to join 
a class action lawsuit. 
The next day they'd moved on 
to River City, Iowa. Next 
stop, Bridgetown, Oregon. 

"Your BCTI loan has been sold to E-Plus Financial 
Services. I can't help you with that. Melinda, 
the placement specialist who worked with you, 
no longer works here at BCTI nor do 
the teachers whose names you list 
as job references. And that generous loan 
from the government? 
You owe that to them, not to us. 
Would you like that number? 
How else might I help you?" 
My four (of four) classmates  
signed statements acknowledging that, 
despite dismal attendance records, 
each was satisfied enough with their 
to accept their certificates.

Page 57: 
"How to Bath (sic) a Cat" 

Eaton, on vacation in Hawaii, 
stared for hours at cable access, 
a local city council meeting. 
"Just like Portland." 

"Black Farmers Litigation, 
this is Greg. May I 
help you?" "I'm calling to 
check on my status." 
"Your Late Claim Affidavit 
is still with the Arbitrator. 
Call back in a month." 
"But I've been calling for 
over a year." 60,000 received, 
6,000 Late Claim Affidavits 
had been expected. "And 
I sold the last tractor to 
get the $500," she continues.

"BCTI will teach you competitive 
skills much in demand in 
today's workplace." My class manual 
was returned from BCTI's 
"printing" (photo-copying) 
department. Rectos appear as versos 
and the versos rectos. 

"'Pretty soon
there'll be nothing but 
big yellow toothpicks 
poking out of the ground 
all around 
Eaton says." 

"'This is a case 
of business fraud,' said 
Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., who 
sits on a Congressional panel 
looking into Enron 
which paid $55 million 
in 'retention' bonuses 
to about 500 employees 
before filing for 
Chapter 11 (protection)." 

A handwritten note 
from Chris Butler, 
BCTI Beaverton campus director, 
"Dear Greg, 
Thank you for taking the time 
to bring to my attention the 
errors you found in our newest 
typing manual. I have to agree with 
you that the English 
language is very precise and an 
'amazing efficient tool' as 
you said (I had typed 
"amazingly" or would have 
added a comma)." 
The note ends, "Proofreading 
skills is (sic) an art (no comma) 
and I'm happy to find 
a student like yourself who 
understands and realizes 
what an art it is. 
Thanks again Greg 
(sic, no commas on 
either side of my name) 
for your letter. 
Sincerely, Chris" 
(a quaint swash under his name) 
(The typing manual remains on the shelf 
and in use, uncorrected, 
three months later.) 

I must have slipped 
through the cracks 
to an underground tunnel 
which leads to the harbor. 

The placement specialists at BCTI 
have given me the name of a temp agency 
that has a part-time job. 20 hours a week! I'll be 
answering phone calls, not something I 
trained at BCTI for, 
but it could be interesting. 
My phone rings. It's the government 
loan office wanting money. 

(Feb. 2002)


This poem includes "samples" from the following 
news items: Shanghaiing article, by Joseph B. Frazier, 
The Associated Press, April 22, 2001; Bus protest 
article, by Dana Tims, The (Portland) Oregonian, 2002; 
Gordon Smith quote, by Tom Detzel, The Oregonian, 
Feb. 6, 2002; Black Farmers info, by Michael A. 
Fletcher, Washington Post staff, January 6, 1999; 
Enron memento article, by John Schwarz, New York 
Times News Service, 2002.

P.S. After being under investigation for several years, 
BCTI closed several campuses, including the one in 
Beaverton, in February, 2005, without giving 
students required notice and without being publicly 
charged with wrongdoing. 

The title refers to something my mother would say 
to me and my siblings when threatening a spanking, 
"I'll give you a real education." -- gcb