Ric Vrana, 1/2/2012

Current Occupation: Planner for a Metropolitan Transit Agency. Also, part-time adjunct Professor of Urban Planning at a State University

Former Occupation(s): Going back in time from the present… Professor, Planning Intern, Electrician, Longshoreman, Warehouseman, Water Treatment Plant Operator, Mail room boy, Day Laborer, Apparatus Mechanic, Car-hop, Dishwasher.

Contact Information: Born in New York City, my family moved to Northeast Ohio when I was still a kid. Growing up in the NEOh, I played football because I wanted to be in the gene pool and broke more bones than I scored points. Despite making my way through college in the wave of working class kids that hit the state universities in the 1970s, it was perfectly obvious I was destined for a succession of labor and low paying jobs. In my mid twenties, divorced and working night shifts, I moved west and landed in Seattle where I worked on the waterfront and began writing and performing poetry in the local scene. I fell in with a bad crowd and wound up in graduate school, however, where I looked like I was competent and so was groomed for an academic profession. I toiled in the professoriate for a dozen or more years until I realized that my graduate students were getting better jobs for more pay than me. After doing a stint in the minor leagues (teaching at the community college and working on a few pitches) I finally got a job planning, instead of teaching people to plan. Old habits die hard, however, and I was asked to teach in the planning program part time. Meanwhile, I still write and perform in the local Portland Scene.


Gresham City Hall

I sit in an empty conference room in the Gresham City Hall.

A meeting I was to attend apparently was cancelled.

Only I showed up and everyone else here is imaginary.

Not all the fluorescent lights are on but the blinds are open.

Yellow morning pours into a sterile room of chairs and gray tables.

Everything is quiet and no one knows I am here.

I should return immediately to my own office, a train ride away

get back to all my other duties, but, it occurs to me

I’m being paid either way

and no one at my end

will know the meeting didn’t happen.

I gaze out the window. Employees precipitate from the parking lot.

The life of the suburban city stirs, soundless through triple pane glass.

A mother pushes a stroller, kids skateboard,

a truck is loaded for something in no particular hurry.

I walk to the other side of the room, look at maps on the wall,

planning maps, zoning maps, maps of proposed transportation projects.

With my Sharpie, I make a few discrete corrections. It is possible

by this one act I have accomplished more than this meeting would have.

After a decent interval of quiet contemplation I make ready to leave

approve my own agenda, pass a few resolutions

refer something to a committee of one, but forget to write it down.

On my way out, I’ll tell the receptionist

the meeting was a success.


back to WORK

  1. I had the good fortune of a similar meeting – before there was email and cellphones, and I wrote a fictitious report of the meeting for my supervisor, telling him the participants approved my plan. He wrote back to proceed and bring in the contracts, which I did. Instant action instead of endless meetings. The role of the other meeting participants, had they bothered to show up, was to object and postpone. When the contracts were signed they were all happy to have their new copiers, although they would have argued the deal to death and complain endlessly about their old copiers.

    I suppose I could have been fired, and the cheers rebounded from the hallways.

  2. Sucessful poem! “With my Sharpie, I make a few discrete corrections. It is possible

    by this one act I have accomplished more than this meeting would have” Love this truth! Beaurocracy denies most accomplishment!

  3. Thanks for your comments. I’m waiting to see if anybody who ordinarily would have been at one of these meetings reads this. C’mon. You know who you are.

  4. Oh Dr. Vrana, you are still the understated humorous proffesor I remember from so many years ago. Glad I came across your post.

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