Mirah Blows

I'm still an innocent when it comes to the live music scene. While I have friends like Preston who grew up, perhaps even lived and died by the shows ey attended, that was not a part of my reality. As a teenager in Connecticut, going to shows was unheard of. If anyone came to play, it was some big name who appealed to the white, upper-class crowd willing to pay out big bucks to an artist willing to make the trip to Connecticut. It was just big venues featuring popular artists. Consequently, I saw the Goo Goo Dolls with Third Eye Blind, and the Counting Crows with John Mayer, not exactly shows that give you indy cred or inspire you to keep pursuing live music in the future.

For this reason, I find it to be quite a big deal whenever I go to live shows at all. I try to be very selective in my choices, mostly limiting myself to bands I know I'll like like the Go! Team. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, there is always a catch, as I inevitably run into problems while seeing otherwise great artists like the Polyphonic Spree, Bishop Allen, and 90 Proof. In a way, concerts stress me out in the same way that going to the movies does, since I feel trapped in a situation I can't easily excuse myself from or multi-task during. On this past Friday night when I am invited to go see a concert, I am a bit torn: though I want to see one of the acts, the Blow (pictured at top right), towards the headliner, Mirah, I feel... well... more on Mirah later. Ultimately, I opt in, but it's not the easiest of decisions.

While waiting in line for tickets, Katy and Stacy bring us a pizza for dinner. Collectively, we eat everything except one remaining slice. We try to offer the last piece to the any one of the hundred people standing by us, yet not one would take us up on the offer. This is why I dislike LA scenesters with their too cool for school attitudes and eating disorders, acting like they're too good for a stranger's pizza. (We couldn't find any homeless people on Hollywood Blvd. for that matter.) Fine, we'll throw the pizza out, y'all just lick the edible body glitter off your arm for nourishment.

Once inside the venue but before the show starts, Katy receives a phone call which informs eir that a lifelong friend had died in an avalanche a few hours earlier. Naturally, this event puts a significant damper on the evening. I haven't realized that death by avalanche is a real occurrence and not just a soap opera plot. To eir credit, Katy is remarkably strong and holds it together pretty well, vowing to think positively of the great life eir friend had rather than dwelling on its end. With this news, I'm not sure any of us can have enjoyed the opening band, High Places, even if it are good. High Places features a xylophone and female vocals, which seems cool in concept, but each song sounds like the one before it. At least High Places isn't one big marijuana joke as I initially suspected, because that sure gets old. (On a side note, I've been teaching Emily Dickinson's poem "We Never Know How High We Are" and the stoner jokes just won't stop, though I suppose the actual theme of achievement is not something that would resonate with most of these kids.)

Next is The Blow, one of my favorite musical acts that I've been introduced to in the past year when I heard Madeleine playing it off eir computer. Though I like all of the dance beat-packed tracks, I am particularly taken by the song "Parentheses," being a Claremont Grammarian and all. With cute lyrics like "When you're holding me/We make a pair of parentheses" and "If something in the deli aisle makes you cry/Of course I'll put my arms around you and walk you outside/Through the sliding doors - why would I mind?" how can one resist? Check out the official karaoke-inspired video here:

The performer, Khaela, walks out on stage wearing all white, to which the audience coos that ey looks "like an angel." Actually, the Blow looks ridiculous in the outfit -- not that I'm complaining, as that is my aesthetic of choice. The Blow's set is well worthwhile, though hardly what I was expecting since there is probably more talking by Khaela than music, highlighting eir background in performance art. Never before have I heard an artist so thoroughly explain the origination and meaning of eir songs; having previously found many of the Blow's lyrics ambiguous, the stories are a real treat. Plus, they're entertaining to boot. Khaela is pretty frank about eir neuroses, making eir relatable. Eir musings about attempting to write a song about the entire universe straddle the line between profound and absurd, which I feel is a remarkably honest place to be. I am impressed with eir commentary on relationships, existentialism, fulfillment, and sexuality, and it will definitely enhance the way I listen to the Blow's music in the future. During this set, I no longer perceive the audience to be annoying scenesters, but part of a heavenly blend of androgyny and bisexuality.

The audience goes back to being obnoxious for me, however, with the start of Mirah. I have a lot of friends who dig Mirah, but I find eir to be quite dull. I feel as though Mirah is someone I should like since ey fits the mold of a sweet-voiced, folky songwriter that I usually enjoy. Previously, I've seen Mirah perform at Kohoutek, but I couldn't get into it. What I recall most is that at that show, Mirah debuted a song from eir (then) upcoming album all about bugs. The song was little more than a list of insects and I actually felt embarrassed for eir.

This time, however, I go into the Mirah set with an open mind. Earlier in the day, I've learned that Mirah once spent the night in my bedroom. Not while I was in it, mind you, but back when Mirah was less successful, ey did a local performance and was offered overnight accommodations at my house, or more specifically, my room. I came to this concert hoping to fall in love with Mirah so I could brag that this great indy-rock superstar had slept in my room as some sort of brush with fame story.

Well, that doesn't happen. Her set is still dull. So dull, in fact, that an intoxicated Amy gets on eir cellphone and unknowingly talks loudly through one of Mirah's quiet tunes until I finally remove eir to the lobby before someone beats eir up. (That's still my favorite part of the night.) How dull is the show? Well, considering I've come to the show with a bunch of Mirah fans and this group unanimously elected to leave the concert less than halfway through her set, I think that says it all. Frankly, even if Mirah begs to get back in my bed, I'm not sure I'll accept.

I'm not giving up on live shows by any means, but I think I'll continue being discretionary about which ones I attend in the future.



I will be the first to admit my enjoyment of Jackass is pretty out of character. I dislike comedic displays of violence -- or violence of any nature for that matter. Still, as someone who likes being a part of dumb hijinks, I oddly find myself respecting the Jackass participants for slamming their testicles in books in the name of an adventure. Sure it's stupid, but it's definitely interesting.

When Jackass first debuted, it received a lot of flack for creating media that would provoke copycats. Various kids died or injured themselves trying to replicate stunts that were never meant to be performed in the first place. I never minded too much because I believed that society benefits from stupid kids kicking the bucket. Heck, as a teacher, I still believe that. As I saw it, intelligent people would not be susceptible to such idiotic behavior.

I saw the first Jackass movie when it came out my freshman year of college. A whole bunch of us went, but only Jenna, Amelia, and I got tickets because it sold out. Consequently, we had to sit in the front of the theater and absorb the blood, vomit, and nudity far more up close than necessary. The whole experience riled me up to the point where I became aggressive. I wanted to jump, play, and hurt.

After the film, Amelia excused eirself toward the restroom, at which point Jenna and I conferred. We would run across the lobby right toward Amelia and smash into eir from both sides. 1, 2, 3, go! We sprinted toward an unsuspecting Amelia as onlooking movie-goers watched in curiosity. Simultaneously, we bum rushed eir, smashing our bodies against both sides of Amelia's body, projecting eir forward and off of eir feet. We giggled like the little jackasses we were as Amelia took an unexpected tumble. Accidentally, however, we had also gone bowling, since the knocked-over Amelia also took down an eight year old kid walking in front of eir.

Startled, a confused and embarrassed Amelia apologized to the kid's family as both individuals picked themselves off the ground. Jenna and I, also a bit embarrassed to have caused collateral damage, distanced ourselves while laughing nervously. We spotted a theater security guard approaching us, so Jenna sprinted to the bathroom to hide. I was about to make a similar move, then decided a true Jackass needs to take responsibility for the actions and decided to accept the punishment. Fortunately, the security guard was hardly intimidating. Ey told me, "I know you just came out of that aggressive movie, but you can't do that. You need to be careful. You can't let a movie make you do things like that." If I hadn't already realized that by simply nodding and apologizing there would be no consequences, I would have argued. I wanted to argue that I wasn't one of those kids. I'm not one of those of those idiotic kids that lets a movie make me do something stupid.

But wasn't I one of those kids? Sure, it was a "joke," but what I wasn't able to accept then was that in a way I was one of those kids. Maybe I didn't light myself on fire, but I was influenced by the film. Sometimes when I start to feel intellectually superior to someone, I try to remind myself that just because I didn't try to ski off my roof, I'm capable of jackdumbass decisions, too.


String Cheese

While eating string cheese, I unexpectedly sneeze. Kalboom! A small chunk of cheese flies out of my nose. I'm certain that's it from my nose and not my mouth since the said chunk is attached to a string of snot still dangling from my nostril. It has been resurrected as a new type of string cheese. I pop the cheese back in my mouth for a second, more successful opportunity at digestion.


The Asian Mr. [Kevin]

I have a student who defines eir own life through being Asian. "Asians don't do that." "Asians wouldn't know that." This student also lobbies for an A+ (and to eir credit, actually works for it) explaining that it's because ey has Asian parents. "You know what Asian parents are like." "No I don't," I respond. Technically, I am aware of the stereotypes, but I don't want to perpetuate them, so I fiend ignorant. "If you had Asian parents, you'd understand," the student says.

Though I like this student, the constant Asian identification bothers me a bit, because I'd like to have my students see beyond their racial identities and embrace characteristics that establish them as individuals rather than just a blanket stereotype. After the student makes a comment about how Asian people "always" behave, I share my perspective. The student doesn't love it, "Oh, Mr. [Kevin], don't be jealous of Asians. We're going to turn you into an Asian." "What does that mean?" I ask. The student never really has an answer, but from time to time, ey repeats the idea that ey will "turn me Asian."

Well, the time has finally come. Two days ago, my student presents me with photographic evidence that I have been turned into an Asian:

Regardless of my personal race theories, this photoshop is hysterical. I burst out laughing. The eyes really make it look like an entirely different person. ("Whose eyes are those?" another student asks. "I don't know, some Asian chick," the Asian student responds.) It is one of the more bizarre yet amusing gifts (I say that as if I've received plenty -- not) I have ever received from a student.


I'm Still Employed

I'm still employed.

This is slightly surprising, since over the course of two days, the following questionable offenses occurred:

1. I ask for a student whose "street name" is "Gigglez" to be quiet for the third time in as many minutes. Gigglez apologizes then continues speaking to a friend anyway. Absolutely exasperated, I contort my body in order to indicate my frustration, wrapping one arm around my back and my other bent over my shoulder. Gigglez glared at me perplexed as I held my contorted posture for emphasis. "What are you doing?" Gigglez asks. "I'm putting myself in an interesting position just for you," I reply. Before it even occurs to me to "That's what she said" myself, I hear giggles (the laughter, not the person) across my classroom. I want to burst out laughing at my own accidental innuendo, but I'm trying to make a serious point, so I keep a straight face... until I ultimately burst out laughing.

2. From time to time, I draw pictures of what I'm talking about since most students are visual learners. I have to preface these sketches with the fact that I am not and will never be their art teacher, but when I draw a pig's head on a stick with flies buzzing around it, a symbol from Lord of the Flies, my students are actually impressed. I acknowledge that it is better than most of my drawings, but the students try to tell me it is a good rendering in general. I tell them to stop sucking up, but having fun, the students continue. "Geez, you guys are so good at kissing my butt today, I'm going to give you all points in my grade book." I go to my electronic grade book and add an assignment called "Kissing My Butt." The students think it's funny, but can't believe I am actually doing it. "My mom checks that [online]," a student cautions. "So?" I respond, pretending not to care. "Wouldn't that be illegal?" another asks. "Only in this school would students assume kissing a teacher's butt is a crime," I lament. After a bit more discussion, I see that a few students are arguing that it's illegal since they are taking the phrase "kissing my butt" to be literal, prompting a necessary lesson on figurative language.

3. In another class, while discussing the same symbol and flies' propensity for swarming dead animal carcasses, someone asks why flies like poop. I explain that since it is food waste, the flies are able to take nutrients from it. Then, worried that I might have given the wrong impression, I elaborate that since it has gone through the human body, it has expelled all the things our body doesn't need, so it wouldn't be a healthy thing to eat your own poop. A student finally asks, "Why are you talking about this? Do you really think any of us are going to eat our own poop?" "It wouldn't be the dumbest thing some of you have done," I counter. For the record, yes, I talked about eating poop, yes, I implied that I was concerned some of my students might try to do so, and yes, I meant it.

4. In yet another class entirely, I am getting ready to show the last part of the 1990 film adaptation of Lord of the Flies, for which the students had to get permission slips because of mild violence and profanity. As I try to introduce the clip, I lose my cool at a group of students who don't give a crud about their education or life or anything really except being obnoxious. I scream at them, "I'm sick of your..." I catch myself before swearing, then reconsider. "No, I'm going to say it: I'm sick of your shit!" Everyone reacts in an astonished manner, since I rarely if ever swear in class. I rationalize my choice of words by explaining, "If we went through all the trouble of having your parents sign a form giving you permission to hear the 'S' word, we might as well get as much use out of it while we can."

Yup, still employed, but it's becoming increasingly confounding as to why.


Martin Luther King Day

Kevin: You know your boss is racist if you don't get Martin Luther King day off.
Katie: I don't have Monday off.
Kevin: (surprised) You don't have Martin Luther King day off?
Katie: Actually, I do, I just don't like what he stands for, so I'm going to work anyways.

It was a joke! Happy MLK day, friends. Celebrate with our favorite little singer, Angela.



P: My old friend [deleted] is becoming a famous musician. He grew up in my town and we smoked pot together a couple of times.
K: Wow.
P: They interviewed him on NPR, so it's a big deal.
K: Yeah, but he's a pothead.
P: Not anymore.
K: Did he find Jesus?
P: No, he found coke.


A Thoreau Reflection

After complaining enough about my classes, I have finally been thrown a bone and got permission to visit other classrooms in my area on Wednesday to see how it's done. I jumped at the opportunity, since it meant a day of paid work where I could leave my darlings with a substitute and have a change of pace for a day.

This day was prepared by a teaching coach and they planned an itinerary for me to visit some of the best and most well-managed classrooms the local schools had to offer.

My first classroom visitation was quite shocking. The teacher sat at the front of the class while sipping coffee and read questions aloud about The Odyssey. Four undoubtedly bright students eagerly shouted out the answers to each question. The other twenty kids, however, learned nothing. A few kids actually got in a fight, pushing each other into walls in the corner. This went either unnoticed or ignored by the teacher. Kids shouted, texted, and slept, but as long as four students were giving the answers, the teacher mustered forward, never leaving eir perch. I can run a classroom like this one, I thought the point of this visit was to see a model of one that was better.

The next classroom was even worse. There wasn't fighting, but in the span of an hour, all that was accomplished was attendance, a homework check, and using ten random vocabulary words in sentences. A whole period went by with next to nothing being accomplished, what's the point of a classroom without education? The teaching coach asked for my opinion after the class and I tried to think of positive things to say, but then I looked like a fool when the coach admitted that that was an example of some pretty shitty teaching. I had been thinking that the whole time, but then why was I taken to this classroom as an example?

The following two classrooms were also underwhelming. They were both fairly well managed, but they were junior high schools, so the kids aren't quite as rude and defiant to begin with. The teaching was not bad, but not particularly good either for that matter. In a seventh grade math class, a student named Jackie noticed me sitting in the back and asked the teacher if I was a new student. The class laughed. The teacher asked, "Does he look like he's in seventh grade?" I was afraid of the answer. "Kind of." Sigh. I know I look young, but a seventh grader? Really? "Would a seventh grader wear a tie and not expect to get beaten up?" the teacher asked. Jackie flashed a large obnoxious smile my way. Jackie was poking fun at me and knew it. Jackie also thought any number divided by itself was zero, so I'd still say I'm smarter.

Overall, I wanted to laugh. Did this experience show me that my own trials in teaching are not unique and that even classrooms deemed "the best" have countless flaws. Has the California public education system settled for the smallest of standards? Do barely adequate or somewhat functional classrooms constitute great ones? What I witnessed simultaneously made me feel not so bad about my own situation, but also soured me to the hopelessness of the profession altogether.

There was only one other classroom I visited on that day, a high school class for students still mastering the English language. Before the class, the teacher told me ey would be teaching transcendentalism. Internally, I laughed. I can't teach my language learners a haiku, let alone something as intense as transcendentalism. My English teacher in high school, widely regarded to be one of the best, gave me no real accessible understanding of what the movement was. This teacher, however, broke it down in pretty simple terms, but didn't sacrifice the depth of thought ey expected the students to have on the subject. Ey challenged the students to apply the concepts to their own lives.

Though I was supposed to be observing the lesson, I more so absorbed it, participating in it rather than above it. I found the whole thing inspirational as both an educator and, more importantly, an individual. I'm not going to pretend that the students were digging it as much as I was, but they were paying attention and trying, so it was impressive all the same. Meanwhile, I was in the back having my mind re-blown over Thoreau's revolutionary approach to life. The teacher's enthusiasm excited the English major dork in me.

What it all boils down to is that I, too, want to live my "life deliberately." I had such intentions when I first entered the profession, but then the wealth of mitigating factors prevents me from that transcendental life of simplicity. I feel I have little control over the outcome for my students' knowledge and behavior. It makes me feel a little better to know that 4/5 "good" teachers seem to be not much better than where I'm at. It makes me feel even better to know that there's at least one person who can do it well and deliberately, because if I'm not going to be doing this job, someone's got to.


Jaws 2

The internet is a good place to discuss one's personal health issues, right?

Things have developed with my jaw condition. Last week, I went in for an MRI. I might be the only person in the world who was excited for eir MRI scan, since it meant missing a day of school. I went to the hospital and was almost late for my appointment because I went right by the office marked Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Soon after, it occurred to me that those words are what MRI is an acronym for; only then did I realize I had no idea what I was getting into and started worrying a little bit.

I laid down and had a cube of some sort stuffed into my mouth to keep my jaw propped open; if my jaw should have easily handled this situation, the resulting pain was proof that something wasn't right. I was slid into a tiny space, wherein I felt like I was in a coffin. I was given headphones to drown out the noise of the machine, but it played far more ads than music, so it wasn't remotely comforting. It all proved inconsequential since the machine's roar was far too deafening to even hear the advertisements. Having been instructed to stay completely still, I was careful not to move an inch. After about ten minutes, I was pulled out of the machine, only to be told I was moving too much, so they would have to start over. Since I had been extra careful not to move in the first place, I was ultra paranoid about the situation when I was rolled back into my tomb. Of course, my back was sore and stiff and I developed the need to itch places I couldn't move to reach. Furthermore, with the block in my mouth, I couldn't swallow properly: that's a horrendous circumstance to endure for more than forty-five minutes. I couldn't have been happier when it finally ended, as it was definitely one of my worse experiences in recent history, leaving my mouth in pain for the remainder of the day. This is why no one looks forward to MRIs.

Today I got to go in for a follow up with the doctor who analyzed my scans. This doctor does not have a bedside manner, instead greeting me with "It's really not good." I gave an awkward look while still trying to keep a smile on my face, and ey asked, "What, are you surprised?" Well I guess not, I responded.

Basically, this isn't just typical TMJ. My jaw is actually out of whack (this being a highly medical term) and there is no real treatment for this sort of thing. The doctor recounted the history of jaw surgeries with me, explaining that twenty years ago they did experimental joint replacement of the jaw since it had been successful with other joints like knees, but apparently since the jaw is so frequently used, the replacement joints inevitably crumbled and broke leading to major medical malpractice lawsuits and scaring professionals from experimenting in this area further. In fewer words, surgery is not a real option.

Since treatment is not an option, the doctor has had me approved for physical therapy in order to slow the deterioration of my jaw. Once a week I will go in and exercise the joint, trying to work it into a better condition. Since going to physical therapy at the age of twenty-four seems immensely depressing and most likely extremely dorky to be doing mouth exercises, I think I'm going to refer to my appointments as "going to the gym" and wear a headband branded with a Nike* swish to demonstrate my commitment to fitness.

Who knew a jaw could cause so many problems? This is totally karma for me laughing at a classmate who had to get eir jaw wired shut in 6th grade after a kickball accident.

* Just kidding, of course. Boycott Nike for their unfair labor practices abroad.


Paper Towel Art

Each Christmas Eve eve, Briel kindly hosts a party (with latkas!) for members of our high school class that were smart enough to escape Connecticut, but are back for the holidays. This year, the party didn't have a theme, but if it did, it was paper towels. Yes, you read that correctly.

As people slowly filtered into the party, Briel regaled us with a tale of eir special curly hair shampoo. (Don't worry, Briel, I promise it was interesting. Really.) The bottle of shampoo dictates that users dry their hair not with a towel, but either a t-shirt or paper towels. Briel opts for paper towels, leaving a fallen forest in eir curly head's wake. The point of the story was that, consequently, Briel is often out of paper towels? I think? At any rate, this factoid became relevant when Bill opened an oversized bottle of beer and its contents comically exploded all over the kitchen. Multiple people requested paper towels, yet there were none. It wasn't all bad, though: Briel's hair did look especially nice.

A while later, Briel's mom returned home from shopping with a jumbo pack of paper towels. Score! Party on! Thereafter, the existence of paper towels was all but forgotten -- the sign of a successful party, I reckon, until the guests slowly dispersed and the night wound down. That's when I spotted the paper towels again. Large text bubbles were all over the paper towel packaging announcing that the towels featured the artwork of Jennifer Brinley. Who? I was intrigued for two reasons: I've never thought about the "art" on disposable products before, let alone who makes such art, and also who is this Jennifer Brinley to be so famous to have eir name prominently displayed on the wrapping as if to entice people to buy it. A third equally strong reason might be the fact that I had been drinking egg nog and rum, rendering just about anything intriguing.

Further examination of the Sparkle Paper Towels led me to find this graphic on the shrink wrap:

How naive I was to assume that paper towel purchasers are just interested in cleaning spills; apparently they also have a deep desire to read a trite biography about the paper towels' artist, too. I might go so far as to say that buyers of paper towels are not really homemakers, but patrons of the arts.

Finally, I decide to take a peek at the art. I mean, maybe it really is good. But look. Look! This is what all the fuss is about?

Try not to be distracted by my face (if I ever make that face in public again, please stop me), and look at the paper towel. It's colored lines and circles. If I hadn't read about the artist beforehand, I would have dismissed the design as crappy clipart. I mean what is this shit?

"Le Chef"? "La Soup Du Jour"? Is that a reference to eir supposed French inspiration? Jennifer Brinley gets heralded for this crap? You can check out the rest of the noteworthy designs at Sparkle Towels. My favorite is the one titled Dessert featuring asterisks, cupcakes, and the phrases "Yummy!" and "More please!"

I sort of doubted that Jennifer Brinley is a serious artist from the cute blurb in eir bio mentioning that ey paints "in between dog walks." If you're an artist, art should be your top priority. For further confirmation, we googled Jennifer Brinley, and found eir work on Art.com, which sounded really prestigious until I realized it's a commercial site devoted to selling any art rather than recognizing good art. Jennifer Brinley's artwork makes me want to expel things from my body that I would need paper towels to clean up.

Let's examine a series of Jennifer Brinley's work. Rather than talent, I see vapidness.

I actually find this artwork offensive in its promotion of flippant female stereotypes. It's as if Jennifer Brinley is pandering to this Sex and the City brand of feminism where women are reduced to their proclivities toward shopping and being pampered, yet own up to it. It might even be more offensive than that shit called art on the paper towels.

Some artists look to make profound statements and get hung in the Guggenheim. Other artists look to mass produce typical art and get hung next to the kitchen sink. Jennifer Brinley falls in the latter category and is not fit to wipe the grime off my toilet.

Good party, though!


do you like the (weird boy)

I found this note in my classroom. I'm not sure who the author or subject is, but I think that only makes it more amusing.

In case a transcription is necessary, it reads:
do you like the (weird boy)
I thought you Did
Do you think hes weird
is he Gay!

The refrain of "Oh!" after each question is precious, as if the answer (perhaps delivered orally or through gesture) to each inquiry proved shocking.


Driving Me Crazy

Which is more awkward?

While driving on the freeway, I see what I believe is my coworker's car in the lane to my right a few cars up. Since my lane is moving faster, I eventually am next to the car. It is my coworker! That is most definitely eir long grey hair and side profile. I wave for a few seconds until my coworker sees me. My coworker turns and gives me a perplexed glare -- perhaps because, though that was my coworker's profile, that wasn't my coworker from the front. It's just a stranger at whom I've waved and is now apparently creeped out. The stranger is now trying to both avoid further contact with me, while at the same time sneaking a peek trying to verify whether ey might know some weirdo half eir age. I have the good fortune of my lane moving quicker so I can escape ahead and avoid the situation. That is, until maybe forty seconds later when a traffic jam forces all motorists to stop and inch forward when my coworker's doppelganger (well, profile doppelganger) gets stuck next to me as we pretend not to keep checking whether the other person is looking at the other. This scenario continues for approximately seven painful minutes.


Three days later, I see a different coworker on the same freeway driving in the lane directly to my left -- or so I think. Wary of my last mistake, I give em a long look over before deciding I am yet again having a case of mistaken identity. Spotting the stranger turning to notice me, I quickly turn my head away so as not to appear as though I am staring. For the next few minutes as we are side by side, out of the corner of my eye, I sense that this person is looking at me, but I refuse to turn in fear of a repeat performance of my other blunder. The following day at a morning meeting, the coworker I thought I saw the previous evening confronts me. "How come you acted like you didn't know me when we were driving yesterday?" "What?" I say, unconvincingly pretending I don't know to what ey is referring. "You were on the 15 at like 5." "I don't remember seeing you," I stammer. "I saw you look right at me! Then you kept ignoring me each time I tried to say hi. What was that about?" "I..." I don't want to lie, so I choose my words carefully. "If I recognized you, I would have said hi." "All right..." the coworker says, "You don't have to be shy."

From now on, I keep my eyes on the road and only on the road.


Return to Margarita Mondays

This past Monday Morning was the hardest day to get out of bed and go to work. Just like last year, after having a delightful two week reprieve from my precious students, the reality of having to get back to the daily grind is unbearable. Also similar to last year, the first day back went just fine, meaning I worked myself into a panic for no reason -- fancy that.

It helped that the first day back was a Monday, which means a Margarita Monday, of course. Having that knowledge helped get me through the day. Michael Michael even posted a note on our door as a morning reminder that although we were dreading this day, we had that evening to look forward to, which proved to be a major confidence builder.

In truth, I've been longing for a Margarita Monday for three weeks. Margarita Monday is like Christmas, but better because it happens every week. Over vacation, I kept waiting to return to my favorite haunt, with the complete understanding that by the time I'd reach that day, I'd be back to teaching -- a mixed blessing. Though RJ brought me to margaritas on New Year's Eve in NYC and it was amazingly fun in its own right, it just wasn't the same.

Three weeks ago, we all did Margarita Monday right for the 2007 blowout. Not only was it the last one of the year, but it was also Sisco's birthday, so there were streamers, cake, and additional celebration. Many of us found ourselves tipsy and practiced the Christmas carols we never got around to singing the previous weekend. About twenty of us entered the building and delivered our favorite bartender a card while singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" (let me tell you, you haven't heard the song until you've heard it with nearly two dozen varied yet intoxicated interpretations of how to sing the "glooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrria" part) and made a spectacle of ourselves in front of the restaurant's other patrons - you know, kind of like every week.

For once, we weren't the biggest spectacle, however. Someone we don't know vomited next to the bar and managed to fall in it. The bartender shared this anecdote with Allison, Christine, and I a bit later and I said, "At least we have the decency to wait until we get home to throw up!" and we all chuckled heartily as though we were far superior to the person rolling in eir own spew. After making my joke, I commented that it was remarkable, perhaps miraculous that for the number of people who get smashed on a weekly basis that no one has actually vomited on the premises. At that point, Allison whispered that someone we know and love threw up in the parking lot the week prior. At any rate, I'm sure this person at least had the decency not to fall in it afterwards, right Stacy?

Fast forward to this past week. Though we didn't have 30 people like last time, it was still a hoot. Michael Michael employed an unnatural segue in order to force me to tell my Zolar X story since ey enjoys when I make a fool of myself. Last time this story came up at a Margarita Monday, Jessica shot margarita through eir nose and it bled. I actually found out that Zolar X a few months back appeared on The Next Great American Band, a television show just like American Idol but for bands and with a fraction of the audience. The band was clearly not given a fair shot, instead put on TV to be something weird for people to laugh at. Still, exposure is exposure I suppose:

I also had the opportunity to show everyone my stigmata, which I forgot to mention that during my New Year's post. While RJ, Ted, and I walked to a party, we stopped to do pull ups on a structural bar. I was in no condition to exercise and don't believe I even accomplished one, but in the process I managed to simultaneously impale the center of both of my palms, bleeding from both. Naturally, I quickly made the Jesus connection, but was too afraid to articulate it at the time, out of fear that I might start believing it. Nevertheless, small marks still remain as a sign of my religious experience.

Somehow the party got brought back to my place later on. We sipped on delicious hot chocolate and peppermint shnopps and white russians, which Michael Michael is a brilliant bastard for concocting. Somehow, during the mayhem, my new IPod wound up in the freezer. I drank far more than necessary at a little before 1, people actually told this old teacher that I needed to go to bed.

I need to amend an earlier statement. Tuesday morning was the most difficult day to get out of bed.



My New Year's Eve was a real trip -- a trip to New York City, specifically. Technically, the big day began for me at midnight (as in 24 hours before the ball dropped) when I was at a bar with Briel and eir "brown friends" (have no fear, they were all Caucasian). The bar featured a list of hundreds of thematic shots like "The Dominatrix" and "A Punch in the Face." The contents of any given shot were a mystery until you ordered it, some people wound up with tabasco sauce in theirs, so I played it safe by ordering "Peppermint Patty." The true rewards went to the adventurous orderers, however. Briel got the "Harry Potter" which was first lit on fire with a magic wand; Briel's friend got my personal favorite, the "Top Gun," where upon they put an aviator hat on eir head and interrupted the music in the bar to play "Highway to the Danger Zone." Afterwards, we made our way to a 24-hour diner where I got a plate of chicken fingers I couldn't finish. Not wanting to pay 50 cents for the take out bin, I wrapped my remaining chicken finger in a napkin and put it in my coat pocket, earning a mixed reaction of chagrin and amusement from the "brown friends." I was afraid on the way home, however, that the scent of chicken my disproportionally attract bums on the 'bway. All Briel asked was that I wouldn't accidentally leave the chicken in eir house, which of course is exactly what I did the following morning. Whoops! Thanks for the hospitality, Briel, enjoy the finest appendage of a chicken.

A bit before noon, I took the 'bway to meet up with RJ. I was hesitant to get off at a stop that I'm still not sure whether was the right place for me to get off, and ended up having the doors close on my backpack, clearly identifying me as a tourist. I got a bunch of glares and I tried to lighten the situation by saying, "Well looks like I get to keep riding with you!" At last, the doors reopened to free my bag and I sprinted out in embarrassment.

After seeing eir apartment, conveniently located next to a garden provided by Bette Midler (don't salivate all at once now, unless it's on the plants, it keeps them healthy), RJ and I walked about 40 blocks to a rare NYC place that serves stiff $3 drinks. I expressed a bit of concern toward starting to drink at 2 in the afternoon, but since I didn't have to drive and it was a holiday, I was convinced otherwise. We stayed there for a couple hours and when we got up to move again, I nearly couldn't stand. We then walked to another bar that served frozen margaritas (it was a Monday after all) that came on a recommendation from West Coast Margarita Monday-er Spencer. There, Ted joined up with us, and after three margaritas and a complimentary holiday shot, I was ready for 2008 to just be here already; I didn't have much party left in me.

Afterwards, we got on the 'bway and shared a car with some 40-year-olds decked out in cheesy New Year's apparrel. I struck up a conversation with one of them; it was eir birthday. We chatted plasantly for a few stops, slapping each other's knees in playful glee. Oddly, that was probably the closest I came to getting a New Year's Eve kiss. I can only successfully flirt in remarkably inappropriate situations.

After parting ways with my love, we went to meet Michael Michael at eir brother's hotel, but since it was close to Times Square, the blocks were barricaded. While being blocked, Ted had a bag of $60 worth of unopened alcohol confiscated from em by a police officer. Unwilling to lose so much in an unfair situation, Ted pulled off a master feat of heroics by grabbing the bag back from the officer and fleeing. Certainly a risky, drunk move, but one that paid off, fortunately. Proof of a room key finally gained us entrance to the blocks where a mob of impatient other people were not permitted to go. Who's suddenly a New Year's hot shot? Who's stumbling while ey walks past the other suckers? This guy!

The party was fun, but I warned people I couldn't accept any alcohol without the risk of vomiting. We stayed there for a while, then Ted brought RJ and I to another party several blocks away. I'm sure it would have been more fun were I not too intoxicated to effectively communicate with strangers. Still, it was worth going to if only for the peanut butter and chocolate fudge. We watched the ball drop on the television, which struck me as particularly perplexing considering we could have relocated less than a mile away and seen it with our own eyes. Shortly after that, I found a DVD in between couch cushions entitled Preparing for the GRE and thought it would be hilarious to discreetly start playing it on the television. The party's host caught me in the process, however, and I heard people whispering "Who is this guy?" at which point I started feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed. I tried to get RJ to leave with me, and though ey kept saying yes, ey never got up to move, so I finally just left.

I couldn't find the original hotel, however, and walked and walked unsuccessfully. After about an hour of frantically searching, I realized I was cold, because I was no longer wearing my coat. Shoot, I had left my coat at that other party, which was also troublesome for me to find. Twice, I asked for help from strangers, but both times they didn't speak English. The third person I asked was friendly and linked arms with me and took me to where I needed to go. I retrieved my coat and found RJ had already left. I made another attempt to find the hotel where Jessica and Michael Michael were. Finally, I found it. I went to the elevator, where upon hotel security followed me to the second floor. "Where are you going?" ey asked. "The 33rd floor," I answered. "There is no 33rd floor here," ey explained. I felt like an idiot, since this was not the right hotel, but the security person was so kind in the way ey escorted me off the premises, I felt a little better. At last, I stumbled (literally and figuratively) upon the right place just as Michael Michael and Jessica exited the building to come find me. I had been lost and wandering a 10 block radius for about two hours and was exhausted.

While a party went on inside, I promptly fell asleep in an armchair. At 4 am, I woke up and was so perplexed by one person's unflagging energy that I had to ask how ey did it. This person had no qualms admitting ey was on Adderall. Only then did I realize that a lot of people were actually on Adderall; I had been offered some earlier, but laughed at it, assuming it was a joke.

Meanwhile, RJ had similarly gotten lost on the streets of NYC. A small posse went out to locate em, but never found em. Somehow, RJ must have made it home as ey woke up in eir own bed, but none of us are sure how ey managed it. Apparently, Ted also managed to get lost, ending up on an island (what or where that means, I'm still not sure exactly) with a man who claimed his wife had kicked him out and called the police after he refused to have sex with her. Alas, sequences of events that would probably make for amazingly entertaining stories are most likely forever lost due to hazy memory.

At about 6 am, Jessica, Michael Michael, and I went to stay in Jessica's friend's room. Only Jessica's friend wasn't there. Flash Light was there, though. Flash Light is a conceptual artist who lives amongst piles of junk and unconventional art and rents a room out to Jessica's friend. Never in a million years would I guess I'd end my night at a place like this one; the full oddness of the situation didn't actually strike me until the morning's semi-sobriety.

So that was my New Year's Eve. Maybe a bit to eventful, but a stark contrast from last year's New Year's Evein solitude in Utah. Next year, I'm going to shoot for something in between.


An Odd Connecticut Adventure

I went to visit Phoebe a few days ago. For quite some time, we've discussed the necessity of us joining forces in our home state and having an odd Connecticut adventure. Before I arrived at Phoebe's coastal town, ey called to tell me it was the perfect time to come since eir family had been discussing the functions of a semicolon and wanted my expertise on the matter. Fortunately, I'm a big enough dork to be excited by such things. Phoebe's town is cute -- quaint with a touch of wealth, just as you'd picture the shore communities of Connecticut. The family greeted me warmly and Phoebe's dad was immediately a ham, introducing me to eir new Women in Waders calendar.

If this calendar were hanging in my house, it would be January all year round. The head wrap that fisherbabe is sporting is intriguing. Is she supposed to appear Muslim? I kind of doubt it, considering if the designer gave a hoot about diversity, ey would feature at least one non-Caucasian model. Regardless, it's hilarious.

Though my parents kindly served me a 4 o'clock steak dinner before sending me off on the train, Phoebe's family did not eat until after 9 o'clock the menu featured pasta and ham, a meal right up my alley. Only once we sat down did I notice the small dish of ham placed next to me. Apparently, no one else was having ham, just me. That was a definite attempt to pander to my penchant for ham, and though appreciated, was also a wee bit awkward. "We're serving ham; by the way it's only for you!"

After dinner, Phoebe brought up the intended plans for the night: a trip to the Eel Pot Tavern, a bar frequented exclusively by local crusty fisherpeople. I agreed that that would be the perfect odd Connecticut adventure and looked forward to reveling in what would amount to us being in a fish-out-of-water situation. (Of course the pun was intended there.) I hoped to make conversation with some frosty bearded fellow about my favorite Woman in Waders. Alas, Phoebe's sibling, Robin, had conflicting plans. Robin wanted nothing more than to watch Housesitter, starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. At first I thought I knew the film, only to discover I was thinking of a different film featuring the pair -- a dynamite duo, those two. The more Robin described it, the worse it sounded, but eir sheer determination finally won me over. I'm not sure I've ever encountered anyone wanting to see a specific movie so desperately, particularly one with only a 44% approval at Rotten Tomatoes. Nevertheless, the resolve won me over -- I wanted to see Housesitter! Robin called the video store, but they did not have the title in stock. For shame! Dejected we took a trip to the docks and poked around for dead bodies. The docks had frozen over, so we skated up and down them on our sneakers. I'm not sure whether that sounds fun or not, but it was, and pretty much exemplifies diversion in Connecticut.

It turned out the roads were too icy to make it to the Eel Pot (boo! but we will make it there one day, I am as determined as Robin is to see Housesitter!) and on our drive back from the docks, we stopped to look at a sports field, a valiant attempt to at least show me some local hot spot. Just as we were about to get out of the car, both Robin and Phoebe suddenly freaked out about who might be lurking in the darkness, so Robin flashed the headlights and sped off with our car. We may not have "got shocked" (our term for getting drunk at the Eel Pot), but we were a bit slap happy, so I found it particularly amusing to watch two locals try to show off their town and grow inexplicably terrified in the process.

Once home, we gathered around the television to watch Father of the Bride because Robin was still fixing for some Steve Martin. I would probably demonstrate some intellectual snobbery toward this affinity, had I not previously had a semicolon discussion with Robin earlier and deemed her remarkably smart. Though Robin had seen F.O.T.B at least fifteen times previously, she still wanted to enjoy the film in silence, a request with which I did not oblige. Sorry, but I can't do it. I also became a bit too disinterested/tired to finish F.O.T.B., though I'm sure Housesitter is much better.

Oddly enough, this description is as accurate of a portrayal of life in Connecticut as I could ever provide, particularly in response to the oft-asked "What do you do for fun in Connecticut?" Ironic pornographic images, ham, impromptu ice skating, plans diverted by snow, and more Steve Martin than you can shake a fishing rod at.