Friday, March 1, 2013

Kirk Gorrie: "So it goes."


"All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber."
‑Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5
NEWS reached Rebel Girl yesterday that Kirk Gorrie, a longtime IVC adjunct instructor in English, had passed away. He'd been, as they say, struggling with cancer. 

Rebel Girl thinks that Kirk had taught at IVC almost as long as she has—though official reports say 10 years. That doesn't seem quite right.  

Still, however long it was, he was one of her colleagues who she admired and respected for his attitude in the classroom and out, a kind and warm spirit with a distinctive laugh she can still hear.

Kirk taught part time here and at Golden West, Santa Ana and other area colleges. He embodied that slogan: part-time teacher, full-time professional.  Like so many, Kirk, a fine instructor, should have got a full-time position, but that's another story for another time. Kirk certainly recognized the inequities in a system that relies on balancing budgets on the labor of part-time workers.

At IVC, he often taught Writing 2, the final comp class in the sequence and Rebel Girl never hesitated to recommend him to any student who asked because Kirk could teach them all, and teach them well. Not everyone can do that. Not Rebel Girl, for instance. She is not the best teacher for every student. 

Kirk was fond of Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and George Orwell, those big fellas from the last century whose spirits were shaped by what they'd seen during wartime and who came home to write about it. In their last conversation, Reb mentioned to Kirk that she always liked to know that somewhere on campus, every semester, Kirk Gorrie was teaching Kurt Vonnegut to a classroom of students, that this was right and good as as it should be, that it somehow made us more of a college.


Rebel Girl would see his students around campus with their paperbacks of Slaughterhouse 5—in the writing center, in the A-quad, hunched over on some cold concrete bench waiting for class to start, bent over the book, reading, reading, reading. 

     She'd ask them (she's like that): "Which class is that for?"
     She'd get the answer:  "Professor Gorrie's."  
     "How's it going?"
     "Good, real good."
     "How's the book?"
     "Great."
     And they'd go back to it.

"I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.
"I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that."
             ‑Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 5
Someone is going to have to step up and start teaching Vonnegut so that somewhere on campus, in some classroom, Kurt Vonnegut is being read and Kirk Gorrie is being remembered.

• • •

This poem of Ray Carver's is not perfect for the occasion (Carver was a recovering alcoholic—Kirk was not an alcoholic) but its spirit captures something one of Reb's wise colleagues reminded her of: "Kirk would say that he had 10 years after his first diagnosis, time to see his children grow up. He was grateful for that."
Gravy
‑Raymond Carver
No other word will do. For that's what it was. Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. "Don't weep for me,"
he said to his friends. "I'm a lucky man.
I've had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure gravy. And don't forget it."

*

We—and his students—were lucky to know Kirk Gorrie. 

So it goes. 

*

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

A touching remembrance of somebody who burned brightly because he was, well, smarter! And a reader, and not just a clerk to the Ed Biz. Insisting on the urgency of the American canon of alternative political fiction (Vonnegut, Heller) is so important as they are so embarrassing to the Empire, and so honest in their humorous and wicked truth-telling. Lucky students to have been introduced to the enduring life-long skill of funny, angry and critically essential literature. It can make your life have meaning, and likely did.

Anonymous said...

He was a good guy.

Anonymous said...

The Carver poem is perfect. We should all have some gravy in our lives and know that we do. So - who going to teach Vonnegut?

Anonymous said...

He worked hard - here and at the other colleges. Very conscientious. Devoted to his students and his family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I will miss him. He always took the time to ask me how my son was doing and was happy about the latest news I reported to him. My son had him for Wr.2 here at IVC. He is a beautiful person! I will miss you friend!

Beth Sanchez

Anonymous said...

We live and work so quietly together. Years pass. We need to take more time together. Kirk was a good man, one of the best. This was easy to tell.

Anonymous said...

A celebration of Kirk Gorrie's life will take place on March 23rd at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian-Universalist Church located at 2845 Mesa Verde Dr. East in Costa Mesa.

I wish we had a campus newspaper where this information could be made available to students. I know his former students would like to know about this. Please pass the word.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit late, but I was really looking forward on taking his English class next year in 2014. He told me how I was bright child that I completely baffled him in writing. At first, my impression of him was that he was a jerk and insensitive to his students, but I was wrong. In my preference, my interpretation of him leads to misinterpretation. Thanks to Mr. Gorrie, I am cabable of writing a decent story without many grammatical mistake. I am sad to say that such a great teacher was passed away. I can only hope for Mr. Gorrie to rest in peace and that his very existence rest in our memories until the end of our lives. ~By T. V.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words about Kirk. He is missed.

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