Tuesday, January 23, 2007

glad you didn't

i laugh a lot at work. middle school kids are riotously funny, and not in the unintentional way that little kids are. they're at an age where they're beginning to develop adult personalities. they're starting to really get irony. they have a terrific sense of the absurd, of the weird.

of course they're also testing boundaries. it's their job to push limits. it's our job to keep them safe. i have to step in frequently and quash inappropriate language and sometimes subject. i'm pretty inflexible on that point. the kids are always shocked to learn that i have music on my ipod that would not be suitable for class. the classroom, i keep telling them, is a polite environment.

one day a long time ago a bunch of eight grade boys were talking in a corner and i heard one say "well, that's a lot of titties first thing in the morning." and i was about to step in when i saw another boy lean in. "yeah," he said, "but how many of them are milkin' head?"

welcome to dairy country.

about the same time we had this one eighth grade kid who was having trouble with the standard middle school discipline. he got up in the mornings and did a man's work, went to school and then in the afternoons he went home and did a man's work at a man's wages. he was having some trouble with being treated during the day like a boy.

and because he was making a man's wages but had no housing costs, he was making buckets of money. i asked him what he planned to do with it all. "i'm going to put it away and buy myself a house and a car", he said. i said i thought it was admirable. "a lot of young guys can't see past beer and pizza", i said.

"oh, don't make fun of them things", he said. "us men, we like beer and pizza."

sweet kid. i wonder where he is now; i hope he's well. i hope he has that house and that car. i hope he's happy.

Monday, January 22, 2007


i loved fred rogers. when i was a kid i used to rush home after school to watch him and if i hurried and got the timing just right i could catch he light at the corner and beat the schoolbusses onto the street. if it sounds to you like i was driving, that's because i was. i was never interested in mr. rogers when i belonged to the target audience, but i loved him at seventeen.

why? because everything else on television in the afternoons was at the very least fun at somone else's expense, and there was fred, promoting kindness and decency.

i'll tell you something: i was at home sick the day anwar sadat was assassinated. they got the footage of the assassination in and put it right on the air, without editing it. there was blood spurting from arteries, body parts strewn about. the carnage was filmed up close. in all the subsequent airings, the worst of it was cut out, but it was still pretty horrific.

because i was sick, i felt too bad to change the channel. i was already dizzy and nauseated. and when the wave passed and i could get up, channel after channel (pre-remote) featured violence of some kind.

except for fred.

i was so happy to see him that i cried.

and a long time ago i was at a high school soccer game and a young woman on my team scored an own goal. a thing like that would have killed me, but she kept her head and kept going, scoring two goals to answer, thereby becoming the MVP for both sides. i think of her sometimes, when i've made a mistake and i have to make it better and continue on. she was to me the very picture of composure under such a situation.

and there's this kid i know who is aggressive and loud in his response to stupid stinking racism wherever he finds it. i think he actually goes out of his way to find it sometimes. he is a young man of courage and determination. i hope to be like him in that regard. he is going to stand tall and cast a long shadow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

hotel new hampshire

well, i'm over here in durham. i came for a school visit at oyster river middle school. i'm unaccustomed to travel for work; usually the farthest i travel is the cafeteria. it's a pretty long drive from home and farther from work, so i'm staying. i might could go that far tonight, but it's safer for me to stay over and rest.

maybe this is all kind of gee-whiz-look-at-that, but breakfast is pretty good and they drop a newspaper at your door in the morning. makes me feel almost like a grownup.

this aftenoon after school there was still some good light, so i went for a little light geocaching. you ust KNEW geocaching would turn up somewhere, didn't you? the snow and rain earlier this week coated durham pretty bulletproof. it was impossible most places to kick in, even with tough boots. at one place i had to buttslide down a little hill and it was a scary, bumpy ride.

at the bottom i found a recently dead squirrel. i know it was fresh because it wasn't frozen solid yet. no apparent wounds; it looked sleek and healthy, except for the part about being dead.

last night i had dinner with the Flyingfishers. she made a really good stew with chicken and sweet potato. some kind of mexican dish, i think. and monty was pretty cranky. i'd be cranky too, if i had to wear a cone on my head. he had a mystery wound. pretty nasty looking. and he looks so sad about the cone. i felt tlike i wanted my head scratched, just looking at it.

and me, i'm having a rough week. i have no idea what happened, but monday after lunch i started to feel kinda bad. i didn't know what was going to happen, but i called rumblestrip to tell her i didn't feel good. then i went to the gym and worked out like usual. all through my workout it was all i could do to keep from crying. by the time i got home, i'd had it. i was done and i didn't care. i cried for a while, but then i got my stuff together and i was heading out the door when the phone rang.

rumblestrip, of course.

"i'm coming over", she said.

and i let her do it. i'm not sure why. but she sat with me until it was time for bed. in the morning i got up and went to work. it was a hard day; it's no small thing to work a full day after a thing like that.

and darn. sitting here right now, i just felt my heart rate race. it's a problem i've been having a lot. last couple of sets of bloodwork i've had, i came back with elevated thyroid function, which is kind of surprising because i'm taking lithium, which will depress thyroid function.

come to think of it, a thing like monday could have been partly caused by thyroid problems. maybe it's worth considering.

i'll let you know how it goes. i've got to go find some dinner.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

trick question

so today this kid comes into my classroom and pursuant to another conversation, he says "i have a sister in 6th grade", and he names the feminine equivalent of his brother's name.

"so", i said, putting down my book and taking my feet off of my desk, "think carefully. this is a trick question: is that meant to insult your brother, or women in general?"

"my brother", he says.

"think again. use your logic. if calling him a girl is meant to be an insult, the implication is that girls are inherently inferior, which is kind of an insult to every woman on the planet, and we don't like it."

he listens, but does not give any indication if he hears or not. at any rate, it is the kind of thing i can say to him, because i've known him a long time and i have much respect and affection for him, which i think is mutual.

the conversation moves on to basketball, which is what he'd rather talk about, anyway.

and i stepped back and had a good look at him. i remember when he was a teeny little boy, but today he is tall and handsome. he looks for a moment like a real man, which he'll be soon enough.

i fell in love once in the produce aisle of the supermarket, over the tomatoes. the man had blue eyes and hands that were lithe and graceful. he smiled at me and we exchanged a few words and in those few seconds in my head i had already married him and borne him children.

yes, it was a surprise.

i don't know why i did not offer him my number. i kept going back all summer to see if he would return. i spent a lot of time in the produce aisle, different days, different hours. an eggplant groupie.

and then last week i was in traffic and the guy in the car behind me caught my eye. he had red hair, a red beard, red moustache. i'm partial to redheads. i was originally a redhead myself.

well, truthfully, i was bald until i was almost three, but eventually i became a redhead.

but he was kind of fretting in traffic; maybe tired, maybe late.

i love you, i thought. and it was true. i don't know where he went; i lost track of him after he got on 289. but i loved him. hoped for the best for him, sent my heart out to him.

i don't know why.

but the light turned green. i lost him. wherever he is tonight, i hope he's well.


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