Temperate Evenings

The past two weeks, Margarita Mondays have been pretty notable.

After hearing so much about the weekly ritual, last week, my parents and family friends the Litkes came for the festivities. They were met with a couple of surprises, which us regulars usually call "tradition." First of all, we sit outside every week, no matter how cold it is, because it's what we do. Although my family is comprised of natives of Connecticut a significantly colder climate, I should have warned them of our location ahead of time so they could wear sufficient layers. They looked apprehensive about the seating when I first informed them, but then swore it would be fine. I suspected otherwise since there were repeated claims of "I'm not even cold" and "It's really not that bad" -- in other words, the lady doth protest too much. It's hard to not feel the cold when we're all hyper-aware of the temperature.

Which leads me to the other prominent tradition. Since we sit outside diagonally from a big bank sign that displays the time and temperature, we keep constant tabs on what the temperature is. As the night progresses, each time the temperature goes down a degree, we cheers and clink our glasses and take a sip. When the temperature is a palindrome, we take two sips. If the temperature should ever go up a degree, you have to chug your drink. My parents found this to be a riot, but I call it adapting to our environment. The more we drink, the warmer we feel, thus inversely increasing our body heat as the outer temperature drops. By the end of the night, my parents were alerting everyone if the temperature dropped, leading off the cheers. It was cute.

Fifteen to twenty of my friends showed up, and in spite of the fact that the phrase "skinny bitch" was used an inordinate amount of times, everything went smoothly. After I accidentally insinuated that Ms. Litke was old (it came out wrong, I swear), there were a couple of threats from her to tell embarrassing childhood stories that thankfully never came to fruition.

My dad insisted on paying for everyone, which was a kind gesture, but I think a somewhat odd position to be in for twenty-somethings who earn their own meager paychecks. Before he left he bought a lot of people food and more than 30 margaritas, but still found the bill to be less than he and the Litkes had paid for a dinner for four any other night out during their vacation. That seems farfetched, but between the $2 a margarita and half-price appetizers, I suppose it's quite feasible. Margarita Mondays is our thrifty heaven. I'm glad I could -- without incident -- expose my parents to our weekly routine.

This past week, we had to pay for our own margaritas. Again: $2 -- we can deal. Though we figured it would never happen, defying logic, the temperature this week actually increased a degree. Most people went about downing their drinks. Having just replenished my drink, I refused. I'm not a chugger and there was no way I could do it. I felt like a poor sport, but I'm also not one to give in to peer pressure. I was heckled and harassed, but I did not finish the drink. But kudos to all of those who bit the bullet and finished.

The highlight of the evening came at the conclusion of the night, when the restaurant goes into Club Casa mode and cheesy techno remixes come on. Allison and I grooved to some weird ditties then sat down, only to have the most amazing thing I have ever heard begin to play: my favorite song, "Zombie" by the Cranberries, but the techno version. It was simultaneously horrid and awesome. Though Allison and I are usually the only two dancing fools, all ten people there got up and screamed and boogied. We found a red carpet and soul trained down it (with outstretched zombie arms, of course) and I reveled in the serendipity of it all. Three of my favorite things in life, "Zombie," margaritas, and dorky dancing, combined to form one of the best moments of my life.

What's in my head? Euphoria.


Career Advice

This past weekend, I attended an alumni career event at my old college. To be honest, I didn't want to go. Alas, my friend Kurosh helped to organize the evening, so I felt obligated to attend. As much as I wanted to give an "I'm out of town" excuse, it's not something you can easily pull off when you're allowing said friend to stay in your room during eir visit. For that reason, I was a dutiful friend.

I didn't want to go because I anticipated it being awkward. I didn't think it was a good idea for me to give career advice to graduating seniors for a few reasons. Firstly, I don't like my job, so listening to me complain would be a bummer. Secondly, in a few months I'm going to be unemployed and searching for a place in the world, not any different than these seniors. What makes me qualified to help find a trajectory when it still eludes me? Thirdly, considering I only graduated two years ago, I kind of know these people. In these circumstances, it'd be preferable to either know them well or not know them at all. The slight familiarity adds to the awkwardness. These are people with whom I've shared mutual friends and never made an effort to get to know, people who have seen me waltz around the dining hall pants-less, and people who have spotted me at my intoxicated best at parties. And now I'm a teacher. Even I don't believe it.

I arrived to the event unapologetically fairly late and missed out on some of the mingling. Regrets, I have a few -- just not in this case. I pretty much spoke to the people I knew best, and those conversations didn't have much to do with my career, except occasionally confessing that I resigned. I contemplated networking with the other alumni in attendance to see if I could swoop up any job opportunities, but it wasn't that kind of night. Nearly half the alums who showed up were teachers. I felt bad for all of us, but at least figured that even if I gave a negative perspective of the profession, the other teachers could counter my opinion. I was continually introduced to the other teachers and kept trying to find ways to speak of our similar jobs without being overly critical. It made me uncomfortable; I felt like a phony.

Soon, the night progressed onto the speed dating round, meaning that the alumni would sit at tables and the seniors would rotate around to talk with us and get a perspective toward our fields. I contemplated making a joke of it and treating it like real speed dating by blatantly hitting on the seniors, but again, since I kind of/sort of know them, I didn't have the nerve. Fortunately, Michael Michael and Jessica joined me at a table by this point, so we collectively fielded the questions. Jessica, who owes a lot in student loans thanks to attending the college, commendably opted to come so that she could drink back her tuition in free alcohol. I tried to do the same, but I don't drink when I'm not feeling comfortable, so I barely sipped at my beer.

As people arrived at my table, I had very few constructive things to say about teaching. Ultimately, it wasn't nearly as awkward as I feared, but I don't think I was that helpful. My feedback was not nearly as constructive as it was pessimistic. My worst fear came true when one senior said, "Wait, you're an alum? I thought you've just been abroad." Meanwhile, my theory that the numerous other teachers would provide a balance to my own perspective didn't seem to hold water. Jenna sat at the other teacher table and said that the teachers were bitching about how miserable their jobs were. I'm not sure whether to feel validated or concerned that they've stuck with such a job for 10-15 years in spite of their feelings toward it.

The bigger winner of the evening was Katy. Katy showed up to the event not fully realizing it was a career thing; ey definitely wouldn't have come knowing that since ey's been between jobs for an extended period of time now. Though Katy was understandably embarrassed, a senior approached eir and gushed "I was hoping you would be here." This student had seen Katy's awesome art show and wanted to be an interior designer as well, so Katy was able to dispense legitimate advice about graduate school. Ey also had the distinction of being the only person who a student specifically wanted to see.

Once the job talk was done, we made a concentrated effort to mooch as much free booze as possible. We'll be paid for our time one way or another. Then it was time for the after party: a trip to the Uncomfortably Trashy Bar. Kurosh declared it eir favorite bar that ey's never been to. It does have a remarkable reputation. It was also Tyrus's first trip to a bar

Our fellow patrons were in rare form, particularly a woman who left nothing to the imagination. She displayed as much butt crack and cleavage as humanly possible while still wearing clothing. Occasionally her outfit would hike upwards and she would immediately tug it back down to a more revealing level. She was such a train wreck that I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She caught me staring on at least a couple of occasions and played it up by winking at me, mistaking my glares for sexual attraction rather than morbid curiosity. Since she was making out with a huge guy playing pool, but continued to send suggestive glares my way, my operating theory is that she was attempting to have her beau catch me staring and start a fight over her since she clearly needed attention.

Jenna met a better catch, a somewhat creepy leering old guy. He paid for eir to play Buck Hunter, so it wasn't all bad. Elsewhere, Jessica, in a tribute to eir absent golf arcade game-humping friend Madeleine, danced so raunchily against the video game machine that she was asked to stop. When you get called out for being low class at a bar as tacky as this one, it is nothing short of amazing.

Before we left for the Uncomfortably Trashy Bar, a college staff member asked Katy on a date. Unsure of how to decline politely, Katy instead invited em to the Uncomfortably Trashy Bar, which is highly amusing, because you should take a date to a morgue before you take them to this establishment. The person pursuing Katy's social awkwardness is striking. He thanks her profusely for bringing him to "such a nice place." And he's not sarcastic. This whole night is a total farce, but he's not picking up on the fact, so he beautifully adds to the hilarious awkwardness of the evening.

Last call comes and it's time to go home. Another reunion survived.


IgNORe This

Lately, I've been enamored with the word "nor." It has a certain flare that the word "or" lacks. Call me pessimistic, but phrasing words in the negative is just fun. If I could, I'd use the word "nor" every few minutes or so. That's not even a joke, it's an impulse that's been taking over me. I realize that feeling a necessity to use a particular word makes me a nerd. Still, it doesn't make me nearly the nerd that I am when I feel restricted by the confines of grammar. As good as "nor" feels pouring from my lips, I'm often too self-concious to say it, afraid that I'll breech the rules attached to "nor." You can't be willy-nilly loosy-goosy with "nor" like you can with the word "or." Admittedly, perhaps that's some of the appeal.

Grammar rules dictate that the word "nor" only follows the word "neither" (or at least an implied "neither") meaning that I can feel secure in my "nor" usage, so long as I'm preceding it with the word "neither." For this reason, I've been making a concerted effort to fill my speech with "neither."

These are real thoughts that consume my mind. It's not a joke, there will be no punchline to this post. I am the punchline. Goo goo g'joob. That said, I am neither the eggman nor the walrus. (Hells yeah.)


Mix Tape Folly

When I was growing up, mix tapes were the quintessential gift to noncommittally indicate your feelings to someone without having to say a word: the lyrics do the work for you. I once made a tape full of songs about someone who had secret feelings for another person as a way to shyly indicate my own feelings. On another occasion, I made a tape with angrier songs, including a Cardigans track that featured the word "whore." It was a distinct, passive aggressive message that never had to be discussed because I had plausible deniability on my side. "The song wasn't a personal attack, I just thought you'd enjoy it." It's a valid excuse, true or not, because sometimes people make mix tapes just for fun, putting no thought into the lyrical implications, hence if anyone tries to call somebody out a hidden message, ey could end up looking like the fool for reading into something that's not there. I had one friend make a tape for eir significant other featuring several songs about oral sex. Was it a subtle hint? You bet. But when confronted, ey responded indignantly to the charges, ultimately getting away with the indecent suggestion. For this reason, I always considered mix tapes to be the perfect medium for communicating something and backtracking as necessary.

One of the funnier mix tape blunders I've encountered happened to my friend in high school. For Valentine's day, he and his girlfriend exchanged mix tapes as gifts. He knew she was going to put a lot of thought into it, and attempted to do the same. Consequently, imagine his surprise when the lead off song on her tape to him was "Better Man" by Pearl Jam. Surely you remember the song...

(This video, by the way, is somewhat off-putting since it paints this tragic song as a fun sing-along.)

Naturally, the song's lyrics disconcerted my friend, particularly the refrain "She lies and says she's in love with him, can't find a better man." He asked me what I thought of its inclusion on the tape and I wasn't sure whether to be tactful or honest. I admit that it certainly didn't portray a healthy relationship, but I added that it might not mean anything since the rest of the songs were cliched and mushy. Initially he chose to just ignore the significance, although when he got in a spat with his girlfriend, he broke one of the cardinal rules of mix tape etiquette and confronted her about the song.

As it turns out, the song choice was based on a misunderstanding, not a pessimistic confession. She interpreted the words "can't find a better man" to mean "it wouldn't be possible to find a better man" rather than someone stuck in a crappy relationship. They had a good chuckle about the whole thing.

Ultimately, he broke up with her not too long after, though it wasn't related to the "Better Man" incident, unless you count the fact that she is clearly an idiot. Mix tapes are serious business.


I've Elected to Disenfranchise Them

In an effort to make my students better citizens, I teach them about the the California propositions. They're always quick to complain and point out that it's content that they should be covering in a social studies class instead, but I can justify it because on of our state Language Arts standards is to teach literacy of non-fictional functional documents. Rather than looking at a warrenty or a business letter, I chose the voter information booklet that gives factual information and arguments from both sides for all propositions on the ballot. It covers a learning objective and promotes good citizenship. Win-win!

Last year, the activity went well. Sure the kids moaned about having to read and debate, but since we covered a sexy proposition on that ballot, a proposal for an increase on cigarette taxes, there was automatic buy-in from the students who had opinions before it even started, whether or not they realized it was part of the democratic process. At the end of the lesson, I had the students vote for how they would vote, and as promised, voted in that way.

Unfortunately, none of this year's propositions were too titilating. Transportation? Term limits? Indian gaming could work were it not remarkably complicated. I chose Prop 92, dealing with lowering community college tuition, since most of my students who will be heading to college will be doing it at the junior college level and could have a direct impact on their lives.

It bored them, nonetheless. I admitted that voting isn't often glamorous, which turned them off to the concept even more. I asked how many of them intended to vote one day and in each class only a few students raised their hands. I then asked how many people did not intend to vote, and again, only a few students raised their hands. I'm reasonably sure, however, that those who can't be bothered to raise their hands will be non-voters, as such an act is the epitome of non-voting.

Most disappointing was the fact that many of my smarter students were not interested in voting. When I pressed them, they said because "my vote doesn't count," "the electoral college decides things anyway," and "what's in it for me?" I attempted to dispell the negativity, to moderate success, explaining that by forfeiting your right to vote, you allow others' votes to count more, that the electoral college is only an issue in presidential elections, and that people vote directly on issues that effect their lives.

The kids attempted to read the pamphlet but largely didn't understand it; I don't blame them, that stuff is difficult. When it came time to arguing, all of the kids were lemmings. As soon as someone offered an argument that sounded all right, they latched on to it, without considering other aspects of the issue. When I pushed them to read or think further, they backed down from the challenge, declaring it a waste of time and claiming they will never vote if they have to know so much. Ignorance

What's funny, is throughout the process of the kids just quickly saying "yes," I kept playing devil's advocate to the point where I became convinced of voting against it. The threat of money being depleted from the public K-12 education system to fund community college is the last thing that needs to happen in California. The more times I read the information, the more it became obvious to me that this solution was not the correct one. I had promised my vote to my students' decision, however, so I cast my vote in the affirmative on prop 92. I can't say that I was disappointed when I learned the next day that it had not passed, though.

All of the Indian gambling propositions passed by about 55%, which was somewhat upsetting, but I'll get over it. I can't say I'd never go to an Indian casino anyway. If they served free alcohol like in Vegas, I'd be there today even. Thankfully, the term limit proposition didn't pass, sticking it to the corrupt politicians who introduced it (one of whom was my college graduation speaker -- suck it, Fabian Nunez!) Most surprising though was that 42% of the people voted yes on the transportation proposition that even the initial supporters of the legislation were now urging people to vote against. There was not a single endorser of this proposition, and still 42% of the people said, "Uh, sure!" which goes to show that at least 42% of the voters did not even do a lick of research before casting their ballot. It makes my head hurt.

I suppose it's not all too surprising, however, given my experience with my students. I can't even force them to be informed on the issues. Their homework that night was to discuss a proposition with a registered voter and summarize the conversation in a paragraph. Some of the students seemed to have some informative discussions and it made me feel good that at least their parents had some idea what they were doing. If the students are to be believed, though, other parents gave responses like "Don't worry about that stuff until you're older," "It's only important to vote for president," and "I'm voting yes, but I don't have time to explain why." Come on, parents. If we don't get them thinking and involved now, they'll likely never choose to do so.

I don't think I'm going to preach the ideals of democracy to my students anymore. Not just because I'm disenchanted, but because I honestly don't want these people making decisions that will influence my life. There's enough numbskulls voting as it is, like hell I'm going to encourage even more such people outnumber my vote when they base their decision on a commercial or eeny-meeny-miny-mo. Sure, this mentality goes against every principle I entered the profession with, but I refuse to concede any additional power to a group of people who will abuse the privilege like every other privilege they've ever been granted. As soon as my students demonstrate they are capable of making a decision based upon reasoning, I'll share with them the secret of democracy.


Accident Prone

Since totaling my car, I've grieved a bit for my loss. Though I've had no particular attachment to my car like some people, I have shared some interesting times with it, which leads me to...

The Top Ten Moments with My Car
10. My car hit 70,000 miles.
9. I got lost, only to discover I was in the wrong city.
8. I nearly backed over a baby.
7. A rich douche made fun of my car.
6. A different rich douche got comeuppance on the freeway.
5. Nature attacked my car
4. I was erroneously pulled over for drunk driving.
3. I was "attacked" at an In-N-Out drive through.
2. A dirty couch fell out of my trunk at a busy intersection.
1. I accidentally followed a stranger home.

RIP... my car. Though most of my friends have names for their cars, "my car" always sufficed as a label for you. And I thank you for that.

And in heartless fashion: out with the old, in with the new. Last Saturday, I bought a new (used) car. The whole process made me nervous, but I think it went fine. My salesman was friendly, but not without his stereotypical used car salesman charm. He told me stories about how he sneaks into concerts without paying, how he hates Mexican people("Dude, I'm just kidding, I am Mexican, you know?"), and a lengthy account of how he got in a fight with his "fucking bitch" ex-girlfriend and she kicked him out of the car at a gas station and he had to walk several miles home -- it's my regular gas station, by the way, so now each time I fill up, I think about this sordid tale that I'd prefer to have never told. Throughout all our fairly one-sided conversation, he failed to pick up on the fact that I found his conversation obnoxious. Worse yet, he wanted to be my friend, which I thought was a sales technique, but I came to realize even after our transaction was complete, he wanted to "hang out later." He repeatedly thanked me for not being an asshole (which I can kind of understand because I bet a lot of people are unpleasant during the process of buying a car,) and invited me to his friend's art show, a musical festival, and out to eat sometime. He gave me his number and mentioned that he "already had mine" (great), but I have made no attempt to contact him.

I think I made a pretty good purchase, because my car only has 30,000 miles and is still in brand new condition. The downsides are that it has manual locks and a gas tank that holds 2/3 the amount of gas as my previous car, meaning more trips to the gas station. On the plus side, if my car should ever explode, it'll blow with with 1/3 less intensity as my previous car. Thank goodness for small favors.

I insure my new vehicle, drive it to work, and in fewer than two days of driving the car, I am rear-ended. After spending thousands of dollars on a new car, I haven't even had the thing for 48 hours when it gets smashed up from behind. Who needs two car accidents in the span of a week and a half? At least this time it wasn't my fault. The accident was low-speed and felt like a bumper car bump. I was half expecting to not see any damage, but alas, my left rear bumper was dented in. Finally, I had a nice new car, and almost instantaneously, it was marred; just my luck. I exchanged information with the driver. The driver was an auto mechanic, wearing a uniform and everything. In an act of good will, I offered to not report the incident through insurance since it appeared ey could fix it for cheaper. The driver agreed to call me the next day to set up the arrangements. The next day came and ey did not call. So I called em and left a message. Still not hearing from the driver, I had no choice but to report it to insurance just within the 48 hour deadline.

Part of me feels bad for the driver since it will now probably cost more monthly than it would take the mechanic to finish during eir lunch break, but I can't feel too bad since ey was clearly trying to work the run around on me. According to the insurance agent, the phone number the driver provided me was not a correct number. Sigh. I'll still probably have everything covered, it's just going to mean a lot of contact with two insurance companies to sort it all out.

Obviously, these accidents have made me a pretty cautious driver as of late. I am super paranoid, especially since I've received it from both ends ("That's what she said," - Heather), so I'm constantly afraid that I might collide with someone in front of me, or without warning, someone will hit me from behind.

I'm ready for some good fortune any day now.


Physical Therapy Reject

For the past several weeks, I've been going to physical therapy for my jaw problems. Before I went, I treated it like a joke. Who goes to physical therapy for eir jaw?

During my first session, I was a bit embarrassed. The waiting room was full of people with legitimate physical limitations, and there I was just normal looking -- or at least I'd like to think so. When I was finally moved to a room only to wait some more, I heard people struggling to walk and moaning in pain. I could hear the coaching, "Just give me two steps -- come on!" I had difficulty accepting how I should be at a place with people overcoming such devastating physical obstacles.

When my own training started, however, I found that maybe my sense of superiority was inflated. It was rigorous and they pushed me. Although my physical limitation was less visible than the other patients', it still merited my place in the office. Previously, I wasn't aware of just how little my jaw was capable of. For example, I can't move my jaw to the side at all, and I had no clue that that was unusual. Sure, I've seen people do it before, but I thought it was a double jointed trick, not a normal jaw movement. So when I couldn't open wide enough, that wasn't acceptable. "Push wider! Hold it!" They kept asking me to do things I couldn't do, and wanted me to do it anyway. At times, I wanted to cry. In time, I recognized that I really wasn't much different than the person in the hall struggling to take a few steps. My affliction was just more dorky.

My treatment included getting ultrasounds on my face. I thought ultrasounds were just for taking photos of fetuses, but apparently it can do something positive for my jaw, too. I haven't ruled out the possibility that it's just a big physical therapy joke, however, and that they snicker behind the scenes at the fact that they've convinced me an ultrasound is a real treatment. Or maybe they were just convinced that my jaw problems stemmed from the fact that I eat babies and their little baby body parts are

One week, when the doctor was busy, I was asked to go to the workout room to do some exercise to "reinforce my posture." I was put on some exercise equipment around people who were trying to build strength back into their limbs. I had a moral dilemma: do I work at my full capacity so that I don't look lazy, or do I hold off a bit because no one else in the room is capable of working the machines at a normal rate? Ultimately, I decided that even if the others couldn't compete in a normal gym, they were all giving it their full effort, so I decided against half-assing it and just work out like a normal person. I was told to do six repetitions of ten on a machine, which I completed quickly. The doctor didn't reappear, so as not to appear lazy, I kept going for about twenty minutes until an orderly told me not to "over do it" and put me on another machine. I was asked to do six sets of ten on that one, and again, since no one stopped me, I just kept going, this time for nearly half an hour. Finally, a different orderly came over and said, "You must have done 500 of those, you need to stop or you'll exert yourself too much!" I explained that I was here for my jaw to ease their worried mine, which earned me some stares from the semi-paralyzed people surrounding me.

That's why I always felt like the dork at physical therapy. The other patients, when they learned of my condition, didn't even pretend to be sympathetic. I could tell they were thinking, "Go home, get hit by a bus, and come back when you have a real problem." I was struggling just as hard as them, though! Well, sort of.

Recently, I learned of a friend (who has been mentioned in this blog, but will currently remain anonymous) who is also undergoing physical therapy for severely pulling eir groin. Now ey has to go in multiple times a week for such treatments as a butt massage. Wanna know how this friend pulled eir groin? By attempting a split... in celebration... while bowling... after getting a spare. At any rate, I no longer feel like the dorkiest person to ever attend physical therapy.

Though I've made progress with my exercises, this past week my doctor told me it was time to stop the therapy. I had made some progress, but seemed to hit a wall. As I had been warned from the get go, it seemed likely that my condition was not something that could be sufficiently treated by physical therapy. Next, I will be referred to an oral surgeon for some "less preferable, but necessary" treatment. Yeah, that sounds fun. I can't say I'll particularly miss the physical therapy or the stigma attached with being such a patient. Still, I resent the fact that I'm now officially a physical therapy reject. I can run faster than all of those fuckers -- why did I get cut from the team?


may i feel said he

"may i feel said he"
e.e. cummings

may i feel said he
(i'll squeal said she
just once said he)
it's fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

(let's go said he
not too far said she
what's too far said he
where you are said she)

may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she

may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you're willing said he
(but you're killing said she

but it's life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she

(tiptop said he
don't stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she

(cccome?said he
ummm said she)
you're divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)

Apparently, there's more than one way to interpret this poem. I allowed my students to select a poem of their choice on which to write an analysis essay. For students with a limited background in poetry (read: nearly everyone), I gave suggestions of several famous poets including e.e. cummings. Before diving into the essay, I asked students to write an initial interpretation of their poem. The student who selected this poem decided that it was about a brother and sister fighting. During a peer review activity, a friend interpreted it as two people getting married. When a disagreement ensued, I was called over to give my opinion. I looked at what each of them wrote, then went about reading the poem myself.

I'm not sure how they arrived at the meanings that they did. Rather than mincing words, I just blurted out, "This is about sex." Normally, I'd be a little more delicate in these situations, but I didn't want to leave any room for alternate interpretations. The kids laughed, so I simply replied, "No really, it's about sex, there's nothing else to it." The kids eagerly began rereading the poem, laughing as they discovered a smuttier comprehension. Naturally, the poem then was passed around as if it were an issue of Playboy.

Isn't it funny how 9th graders will turn anything into a sex joke, and yet when sex (albeit oddly punctuated) stares them in the face, they don't even recognize it as such?



Amidst my poetry unit, I decided to push my progressive agenda. Last summer, Jennifer had given me a packet of lesson plans developed by the United Nations. Though most of it was useless to an English teacher, there was a poem about gender that stood out to me.

Denise Levertov

Just feeling human
the way a cloud's a cloud
tinged with blue or
walking slow across the sky or
but not a Thursday cloud
formed for the anxious glance of Thursday people,
simply a cloud, whose particles
may fall Tuesday, just as well,
on anyone's springy hair, on any
taciturn winter buds it chooses
and no one say no. Human,
free for the day from roles assigned,
each with its emblem
cluttering the right hand,
scroll of words in the left.
Human, a kind of element, a fire,
an air, today.
Floating up to you I enter, or you
enter me. Or imagine
a house without doors,
open to sun or snowdrifts.

It's actually a remarkably difficult poem: I'm not sure even I understand it completely. The metaphor of being just a cloud makes sense, I suppose, but I think there are better ways to convey the message, particularly when there's no such thing as a "Thursday cloud." The part I like is when it gets to "Human, free for the day from roles assigned" since I'm all about the genderless existence. The state of being a human before a man/woman/etc is beautiful to me.

Unsurprisingly, the students didn't understand the poem or the gender connection. In actuality, the poem is about all societal labels and not just gender, but since it's paired with an article on gender inequality, I hoped they might be able to put that much together. After a lengthy period of time without a decent interpretation, I tried to provide a clue: "What if I told you that the poet is a feminist?" "What's a feminist?" someone responded. "What is a feminist?" I posed back to the class. The responses were varied, but all frightening. "They think they're better than men." "Bitches." "Don't they not shave their legs?"

I need a more accurate definition of feminism, so I picked up a dictionary and read to them that feminism is the movement for equality between men and women. I actually stole this impromptu lesson from my high school U.S. History teacher. She was widely renowned as a "feminist" and I recall thinking it was a dirty word at that age, too. When someone expressed a similar sentiment in class, she immediately went to the dictionary and pointed out what it really meant. Even if we were still skeptical about feminism, we didn't want to cop to thinking men and women aren't equal.

Back in present time, I asked, "So can men be feminists?" "Gay men can," someone guessed. Sigh. That really undermined the next statement that I tried. "Yes, men can be feminists -- of all sexual orientations -- and I consider myself a feminist. [In actuality, I never use the term to apply to myself since I feel the word suggests Feminists are people who believe that all genders should be equal. And since I believe that, I am a feminist. All right, so who else here is a feminist?" I got a couple of reluctant hands. "You don't think men and women are equal?" I pressed, anticipating at least the girls to concede this point, but it didn't happen.

These kids have some pretty antiquated views toward women.

Student: "How can they be equal? Men are stronger."
Me: "Maybe on average they're stronger, but there are some women who are stronger. I know for a fact that are women stronger than me."
Student: "But what if your life is at stake? Do you want a woman to really be a fireman."
Me: "Sure, a woman could be a firefighter. If she's strong enough to do the job, she should be hired, right?"
Student: "But no woman is strong enough."
Me: "Have you seen American Gladiators? You don't think one of those big, strong women couldn't be a firefighter?"
Student: "I'm not letting them save me!"

Student: "We already are equal, this is stupid."
Me: "I think we assume we're equal because we've made a lot of progress, but there's still plenty of inequalities."
Student: "Like...?"
Me: "Women don't make equal wages to men. Women aren't elected to political office at equal rates. We've never had a female president."
Student: "Would you really want a woman as a president?"
Me: "Of course. If half our population is women, then half of our presidents should be women."
Student: "But women are too emotional. They can't lead us through war."
Me: "You say that as though all women are emotional, and that no men are. Plus, the job of president shouldn't be to take us to war all of the time."
Student: "Women cry all of the time."
Me: "Sigh."

In all of my classes, I only have one white female student, who we'll call Erin. She's blonde and fits the airhead blonde stereotype almost too well. That said, Erin also is one of my best students. She completes all of her homework and studies, putting her at a solid A, in spite of her airhead moments. In some ways, I respect Erin because she's the only one too take an active role in the discussion about women's rights. In other ways, I want to vomit at how quickly she attempts to limit her own rights.

Erin: "I think men are better with money. When I need money, I go to my dad. My mom has to ask for money like me."
Me: "Okay, well that might be the setup in your household, but lots of families have different systems."
Erin: "But that's the way it's supposed to be! Daddies work and mommies stay at home."
Me: "What if a mommy wants to work, she should be able to, right?"
Erin: "I don't know... maybe. But a mommy's a mommy!"

One of the biggest obstacles was trying to establish the idea that feminism does not deny a woman the right to stay home and be a mommy, but instead gives her the option to do something else if she so chooses. The class' ultimate sentiment was something along the lines of "I guess, but why would you want to?" I took the slight amount of progress I could get, but wanted to hear what Erin felt before moving on.

Me: "Do you believe in equality for the genders now?"
Erin: "Um... I have to ask my Dad. I believe what he tells me to believe."

I shit you not, that's what she, verbatim. In some ways it shows a certain level of awareness, since at least she is upfront about how she forms her opinions, but certainly not total awareness, as she seems to not recognize the irony of deferring her beliefs to her male superior. It might be most frustrating since she, out of anyone, with her high grades, will actually make it to a prestigious college. She will take her education and... be a mommy. For the record, that's great, but I also wish I had a top female student who aspired to one day be the president.

As discouraging as this day was, I hold out hope; I thought feminism was crap throughout high school, and I've certainly come around on the topic. I'm crossing my fingers that life experience will help these kids to grow -- maybe Erin will one day be our first airhead president!


Color Me a Party

After living in Botswana for several months, Amy returned to California with one specific demand: Dance Party. Since ey was both the host and guest of honor, Amy also dictated a dress code requiring everyone to dress colorfully.

Sure, it looked like a rainbow vomited all over us, but fuck it if we aren't all sorts of cute.

Dance parties have never looked so bright. (And Phoebe has never looked so reptilian.)

Also, there was a lot of hula hoop action.

I claimed that I couldn't hula hoop, but either I have a foggy memory on that front or I reacquired the skill recently. Either way, I surprised at my own hip-swiveling abilities. I'm hardly a fan of photos of myself, but there have been a few epic ones over the past couple of years (limboing, being a tool at a party, participating in a relay race), and the following photo certainly ranks as well.



What's the Buzz?

Shea: "I had my picture taken with Buzz Aldrin today! He was kind of a prick. It confirms my suspicions that we never actually landed on the moon. He's grumpy because he never really got to go. I'm more convinced than ever."



My teaching career is nearing an end. By the end of the month, I had to either re-sign or resign: funny how two words that are spelled the same have such drastically different meanings. I officially submitted a letter of resignation today.

When I share the news, people ask me how it feels, to which I typically respond that it feels no different since I've known I wanted to do it for months now and it won't actually take effect for four more months.

That said, I feel like a quitter. I don't want to let the public education system defeat me. I don't want to let the [adjective deleted] students defeat me. My goal was to enter this profession to change these two powerful entities, and instead I slink away after two years having fulfilled neither. They defeated me.

It hasn't been a waste. As cliche as it might seem, I'm genuine when I say I've learned so much more than I've taught. (When I wrote that last sentence, I initially typed "so much more than I've taughted" which goes to prove my point.) I'm a reflective learner, so I'm cognizant of how I've grown and how important that's been. Unfortunately, my students largely don't take ownership of their learning like I do, which is perhaps at the root of many of the problems. It's been a major point of contention as well as the primary lesson I've tried to teach. Nothing I could teach my students would be as important as learning to love learning and the pursuit of knowledge. If I could instill that, everything else would naturally follow. But I can't.

That's the thing about intrinsic motivation: you can't force it. Even though it doesn't make sense to, I've tried.

I'll miss the inevitable anecdotes. I'll miss the summer vacations that I've never actually had the opportunity to enjoy. I'll miss having a forum to address subsequent generations. And perhaps more than anything, I'll miss being able to say I'm a teacher because that makes everything I do -- like mooning someone, for example -- all the more absurd. If it weren't for that element of irony/inappropriateness, I doubt I would have made it this long.

What's next? I'm not sure yet. (I'll accept any suggestions.) I may have given up on teaching, but I haven't given up on changing the world. I just need to find a different avenue that uses my skills to accomplish that.


I've Been a Wreck

Sorry I've been MIA for so long. It's been one of those weeks...

On Thursday, I awoke with a cough, and of course ignored it and went to work anyway. As the day progressed, my head began to throb like I don't remember it ever doing in the past and I felt feverish. By the time I was ready to admit I was unable to continue teaching for the day, it was too late to get coverage so I had to just finish out the day. I actually laid my head down on the desk and begged my students to not cause too much trouble and I would leave them alone. It sort of worked, but they weren't doing me too many favors.

One of my brighter students decided this opportunity was a good time to attack my teaching, asking "If you don't like kids, why are you a teacher?" I tried to reiterate that I was very ill and to please not hold my lack of effort against me, but the student wasn't having it and yammered on anyway. I already felt like shit and now I felt like the worst teacher ever; life couldn't get worse.

To make matters worse, I had to chaperone the basketball game after school. I tried to get out of it, knowing full well no one would be willing to take over a last minute volunteer job, so I resigned myself to being miserable for a few more hours. I was put on duty with a fellow teacher who I have avoided in the past since ey's so awkward. I admitted that I had a horrendous headache to em at the beginning of our conversation, but ey still talked to me incessantly about eir autistic kid (it struck me then that, ohmguh, this person has autism, too!) and the teacher's peculiar diet. I couldn't have been more disinterested, but I tried to be polite even though I felt like dying.

After three hours, sweet escape finally came. I got in my car, my head still throbbing, and started to cry as I was driving home. I tried to remember the last time teaching had reduced me to tears: though it breaks me down on a regular basis, I do not let it make me cry. As I was already declaring it the worst day ever, while driving on the freeway, a car a few cars in front of me hit the brakes hard, sending all the subsequent cars to do the same. There were a lot of near misses, except for me, who successfully hit the big truck in front of me. We had been going less than the speed limit since the traffic was mildly congested and I did hit the brakes, so as it was happening, I never worried for my safety. My exact thought was "crap my insurance." Immediately after it happened, I almost laughed. Go figure that on my worst day of the year, this would happen, too. Carlos, the person whose truck I hit, was extremely friendly. He had such a huge truck that I didn't even leave a mark on his vehicle. His main concern was that I was okay, which was amazing, because the last thing I needed in my state was to get chewed out by a stranger for hitting em. Though Carlos's truck was unharmed, mine sustained a good deal of damage, with one of my headlights broken and my bumper banged in. I was able to drive it away from the scene and brought it to the my dealership. They told me they don't do body work there and recommended that I leave it there and not drive it anymore in case I was doing any damage. Shea came to pick me up and I bought some medicine and knocked myself out by 7 at night.

The next day I took the day off of work because a) I couldn't drive there and b) I still felt like death. I spent most of the day sleeping in between calls to the insurance company. I was told it might be a while to get everything settled, but thankfully the company had assessed my car before the day ended. The bad news was that they declared it totaled. I objected to the term, but I guess that's insurance speak for determining that they'd rather give me the worth of the car than risk fixing it for a higher cost.

For the rest of the weekend, I flirted with the idea of being so sick that I just die, but even that didn't pull through for me.

On Monday, I received a quote of about $8000 for my "totaled" car, which was more than a fair amount, so that left me excited. I'm driving a rental car now, which is expensive, but necessary to get to work until I buy another car, an idea which terrifies me. I don't want a new car, I want that old car. I intended to drive my kids around in that car or, failing that, conceive them in that car anyway. Why did you take my car yet spare me?! Why???


Ugly People

This morning I received the world's best text message in the history of text messages from RJ:

"Dr. Phils crew is at my apt. Because my roomate's friend doesnt like ugly people"

Read RJ's less abbreviated account here.



My mom took this picture:

I want one.


Super Bowel

Yet again, I engaged in the cultural event known as the Super Bowl. Nine of us went to the bar Eric tends to watch the game. In all honesty, I went to support Eric more than either team, even though if I had favorite football teams when I was younger, it would be the Patriots and the Giants, which just goes to show how detached I am from sports. I chose to support the Giants, though, since the Patriots have won several times recently and they used the poor city of Hartford as a bargaining tool to get what they wanted from the state commonwealth of Massachusetts.

At the bar, we were in the same room as us were two notable regulars: a pervert and a murderer.

An old man with a Santa Claus beard had offered a server $500 if she'd let him go down on her. It's gross, creepy, but as Eric put it, also "a little bit admirable." Most seedy guys would want to be pleasured, not offer up such a treat. You know, if "treat" and "sexual harassment" are synonymous.

I'm going to be cautious with my description of the murderer, since the victim was a blogger who apparently badmouthed the killer online then "mysteriously" wound up poisoned. Still, it added some intrigue to have to watch your drink closely.

Even though the commercials sucked again, we had extra incentive to watch closely since Madison, our union-card-carrying professional extra, had worked on three Super Bowl commercials. Though they all aired, Madison's face never made it into the final cuts, but it added some excitement nonetheless watching the ads with a would-be celebrity.

Someone who did get face time was Donkey Lips from Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts, not to be confused with a vagina lips donkey, as seen above. Who realized Donkey Lips was still acting? I did know ey was still alive, at any rate since ey was at my friend Katie's birthday party which I attended last year. I don't think I would have recognized Donkey Lips as Donkey Lips except that Lacey pointed em out, at which point it was obvious and I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed previously. Donkey Lips was sleazy, by the way, leering at my female friends, standing in the corner of the room taking pictures of them while they danced, and commenting aloud that ey wished the house had a "stripper pole." Epitome of class, no? If you ask me, Madison should have been the one with jumper cables attached to eir nipples, ey would be perfect for this role:

The server who took over after Eric finished eir shift was pretty offensive, making unprovoked racist and homophobic jokes. I like that I hang out with people who all make faces of discomfort and judgment when such incidents occur. At least it gave the day a touch of authenticity: it just wouldn't be a notable sporting event without an outspoken bigot.

The half-time show was good, but Tom Petty nipple would have made it the best ever.

I got bored of the game pretty quickly and once the Patriots pulled ahead, I contemplated switching allegiances. I figured it would be perversely enjoyable to watch a blow out game where the Patriots destroyed the Giants in an uninteresting and awkward to watch match. Alas, the Patriots never got too far ahead, which was for the best, and it kept me rooting for team underdog through the end. The last couple minutes were enthralling. I was out of my seat cheering, not something I would have anticipated at the beginning of the game.

The end was that much sweeter since there were some underage Patriot fans sitting outside the bar watching the game who made a concoction of condiments and other gross things in a cup and vowed to collectively drink the entire thing if the Patriots lost. Suddenly, I was more of a Giants fan than ever. As a teacher, I shouldn't enjoy watching teenagers suffer. Then again, maybe it's because I'm a teacher that I enjoy watching teenagers suffer.

All in all, it was a good time. Maybe America's choice in past times isn't so bad. Perhaps I'll have to try this NASCAR thing I keep hearing about.


Proposition Party

Last night, Claire and Cecilia hosted a Proposition Party. No, not a "do you want to come home with me?" kind of proposition party, but a political proposition party. California has seven propositions on the ballet for Tuesday, and as usual, they are highly confusing. The Proposition Party is a social forum for people to come together and discuss the issues and help figure out which way to vote. Each person researches a proposition so they have something to share with the group. Frankly, I think this idea is genius, because without it I would have no idea what these propositions are about in the first place, so I commend the hosts for providing this opportunity. It's the first party I've been to in ages where I feel smarter for having attended.

What follows is an overview of why I am voting the way I am. I've done my best to consolidate it to the main influencing factors for myself, and am willing to admit that I have oversimplified and abbreviated some lengthy issues in an effort to keep it concise when each proposition could actually warrant entire essays to cover them accurately. Understand that a lot more thought has been put into it than may be indicated.

Prop 91: No. Transportation reform. Before the party, I assumed I would vote for it. Any measure to improve public transportation in our state is necessary, not only for environmental purposes, but because the system is so impractical that most people don't use it. It didn't take much research to learn that no one is in support of this proposition. The individuals who originally put this proposition into motion are now urging voters to vote no as well, since the state recently passed more progressive legislation on transportation and energy. By passing this proposition, it would be like taking a step backward. With that in mind, this became the most easy choice of all. It was fun debating its finer points before realizing this fact, however. It'll be interesting to see how many people vote "yes" on this bill, because that'll prove just how many people don't investigate these propositions at all.

Prop 92: Yes. This proposition will lower the tuition rate for California community colleges to $15 a unit. (Golly, doesn't my college tuition seem excessive now.) The general dispute seems to be that by lowering the costs for students, the government and tax payers may have to cover the difference. The opposing sides don't seem to agree on this fact, but as I see it, the government is constantly funding things it can't afford to pay for (hence our many deficits), so why not extend this mode of operation toward something as important as education? I'd like to see education be free (Go ahead, call me a socialist, I dare you!), but cheaper tuition will do in the meantime.

Prop 93:No. This proposition is about cutting politicians' tenures as the state level from fourteen to twelve year term limits. I'm all for term limits and preventing career politicians, so this measure is another one I thought I'd say yes to. The loophole in this prop, however, is that the would-be career politicians have tacked in an additional stipulation that dictates that the politicians currently in office would be able to have some of their years of service not count toward the term limits (under the "we're starting this now mentality) and in many cases would be able to finagle term limits as long as twenty years. It's a deceptive bill in that it promises term limits while actually extending the terms of current politicians. I was actually the last holdout on this issue; since I'm a fan of term limits, I was willing to accept the sneakiness of the current politicians to shorten terms in the future. But then when I found out about which specific (and despicable) politicians would stand to benefit from this passing and how they were taking the lead on this initiative, I changed my tune. Any politicians that unethical do not deserve to stay in office. So I'm saying no to send a message to the politicians that they can't get away with such crap.

Prop 94, 95, 96, 97: No. These propositions are about allowing additional slot machines to be placed in Indian casinos with each proposition essentially saying the same thing, except for four different Indian nations. I've been confused by this issue for the past month (all of the frequent political ads on television contradict each other, with the for and against ads running one after another), but before coming to the party, I leaned on the yes side. I'm still not decisively yes by any means, because I see pros and cons to this issue, but the bottom line is that there is really no accountability for how the revenues from these casinos are used. Currently, the casinos kick back funds to the Californian government and other tribes, but when you look at the figures, the money is a drop in the bucket compared to the total money brought in. In a way, the existing money coming in is just a small fee to appease the state and make it feel like it's getting something from the situation. In truth, the majority of the money goes to a consolidation of wealth. Certain tribes reap in billions of dollars and it's a case of government condoned "the rich get richer." My main reason for saying no is that by voting yes, the tribes have a contract with the state to continue the casinos under the current agreement until 2030 instead of the 2020 as is currently in place. I think we need to more thoroughly examine this system before allowing it to extend its operations further.

Anyway, like any debate, sometimes the discussion led to more questions than answers, but I'm very excited to now know what I'm voting for and having a more informed perspective when I go to the polls on Tuesday.


The Beast

Though I'm a dorky English major who loves analyzing literary elements (themes and symbols turn me on), my students are apathetic. Perhaps "apathetic" is not the right word since they're too apathetic to know what "apathetic" means, but they simply don't care. I don't expect them to convulse with excitement over how cool novels with deeper meanings are, but it would be nice to see even the remotest bit of interest in the topics to keep me going; my enthusiasm can only sustain so many blank glares.

While teaching Lord of the Flies, I hit a brick wall when I realized many of my students actually understood the symbolism at play, but still didn't care. It's one thing if they're not grasping the concept, but when it becomes clear that a good portion of them comprehend it just fine and still take no satisfaction in recognizing it. I tend to re-explain literary aspects that blow my mind when I don't discern an "A-ha!" moment from the kids; over time, I'm realized that just because they don't react, doesn't mean they're not following. Instead, they just don't care. "I get it, but so what?" a student told me recently. This opinion is frustrating to me as I cannot relate; I'm in this profession, at least in part, to inspire and share my passions with future generations. To see them dismiss what I love breaks my heart.

During a class when I received more than a couple of "So...?"s, I decided to stop my prepared lesson in its tracks. I needed to reconnect with these kids some I broke down the bigger picture of the "Beast" on the Lord of the Flies island. Though there is no physical beast, the kids create this scapegoat for their other existing fears that they cannot articulate. I elaborated on this metaphor and in order to make them apply the novel to their own lives, I challenged my students to identify the beast in their lives. Their answers appeared slowly, but with some patience and prodding, they finally opened up with some amazing things.

I have a student whose beast is the idea of college. Ey finds it so frightening, ey admits to doing poorly in school in order to purposefully sabotage eir chances of going. Another student is afraid of college because of the pressure of being the first in eir family with the potential to go college and doesn't want to screw it up. A different student worries each time an overweight relative eats because ey is afraid that this relative will soon die. One student is afraid of the apocolypse and worries that it might come at any moment, while another student likes to be certain of things and gets scared when events are out of eir control. These are not issues I've faced personally, but they're deep, and they're real.

What struck me harder were the students who identified beasts that I face, too. One student is afraid of one day paying bills and having to be responsible for eir own life. In that vain, another student does not want to ever "grow up" or not find what ey truly wants to do in life. As a shorty, I can relate to the student who is about 5'0'' if that and desperately wants to be taller. This student cites eir height as the source of eir insecurities. A different student is afraid of heart break, the same emotion I had when I read another student's confession: "My beast is people. Trying to be with people makes bonds and when bonds break it hurts and thats what really scares me. No people, no pain, that's how I deal with it."

I've been there, I am there. I shake in the face of responsibility. I worry that I'm not doing what I want in life and that I'll never get there. I'm short and am directly and indirectly limited in countless ways because of the social stigma attached -- what I wouldn't give to either be a few inches taller, or have the effects of being short disappear. And I, too, am hesitant to put myself out there with people on a deeply emotional level with people because I'm tired of being hurt. I don't want to be hurt.

I was touched by my students' displays of vulnerability. Their fears were real, and they were mine. I had to fight my instinct to plop down besides them and share my own experiences and emotions. I wanted to be vulnerable right next to them and connect on the common ground I find we routinely miss. But I couldn't. It would be unprofessional, I told myself. If I'm being honest, however, it has nothing to do with that. I'm rarely professional. These kids walk all over me already, if I openly show them my weaknesses, I'm afraid they'll take advantage of the situation, or exploit my admissions. I want to create a safe environment in my classroom, but I don't even feel safe myself.

This is my beast.