31 August 2005

Her First Official Freak Out

Eleven days down, one-hundred-sixty-nine to go. SIGH.....

Goddammit. Today's one of those days I wish I had someone to go home to other than the dog, someone to tell me that I'm not a total failure, I'm not a terrible person, I'm not wasting my life, and I'm not on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Also, I could use a hug.


Me: Don't just scratch the surface; go deep. Go beyond the obvious. Think outside the box.
Kurt: You stole that from Taco Bell!
Me: Excuse me?
Kurt: Except it's "eat outside the box."
Me: Oh..... okay. It was an expression before it became an advertising campaign.
Kurt: You stole it!
Me: Um. It's a phrase that means, like, don't just be normal, don't just do the obvious thing.
Kurt: Except it's "eat outside the box," right? That's what they say on Taco Bell.

Me: Argh! (after an extremely long day of chatty chatty chattyness)
Me: You guys! It's so frustrating that you're always talking, because you're SO smart, and you're SO creative, and it seriously drives me insane that you don't respect yourselves enough to listen to yourselves! You're all so intelligent and awesome and you deserve quiet time to learn to hear your own thoughts, but you need to respect yourselves enough to be quiet and trust your own thoughts.
Kids: Uh........ we're smart? We're not smart!
Me: You ARE smart, you're SO smart, and you can do so much better than this!
Jody: Um, Miss? How come 3rd period doesn't have a mission statement?
Me: I don't have a class 3rd.
Jody: Well what do you do then?
Me: That's when I go into the padded room and try to find some semblance of mental wellness!
Kids: AWESOME! I want to go in the padded room!


from a seventh grader's letter to his future self:
"I'd love for you to write me back. Thanks, your biggest fan"

from a seventh grader's letter to her past self:
"Dear Past Self, Growing up as a kid, you were pretty lame. Don't worry, because a great future is in store...."

from an 8th grader's personal mission statement:
"I am here because my parents made me. They wouldn't home school me. I guess I have to learn something.... I am going to put out 9% in all my classes. I have to put out 110% every time I nod my head to call for the gate."

from an 8th grader's letter to himself: "...just writing to give you a few pointers:
-- duck when Joey throws the rebar
-- always stand back when shooting the GI Joes with a pellet gun. It really hurts to have it ricoche in your face.
-- always be sure to carefully crawl throu the barbed wire fences, and always wear gloves when you break bottles.
Sincerely, Future You"

from an 8th grader's letter to her future self:
"Dear Future Me, You better not have any kids or I'll go into the future and beat you with a stick."

30 August 2005

Sex, Dogs, and Mama Trolls

When I was a student teacher, my mentor teacher Heather taught me a method of dealing with conflict using a mix of over-reaction and humor, so that you can make the point that a behavior is unacceptable without involving anger or blame. I find that it works well for me, which means that I'm often laughing and yelling at the same time, like "oh my GOD I cannot BELIEVE you just SAID that!! that is just WRONG!" Usually the kids kind of laugh and the offender looks embarassed and we all move on with our lives. Sometimes, though, there are situations that call for more discretion, times when you don't want to make a huge deal out of something.

Today was one of those times.

In 7th period, I looked down and saw a BRIGHT GREEN CONDOM all unrolled and shriveled up on the floor of my classroom. My first impulse was to scream, "Oh my GOD why is there a CONDOM on the FLOOR of my CLASSROOM??????"

But I said nothing. Instead I ran and hid behind my desk, trying not to giggle and/or freak out. At the very end of class, Summer and Shawna found it and threw it away for me and we talked about how sometimes it's fun to blow them up into balloons.

(Sidenote: my friend Leonard used to perform with this Social Issues Theater and would blow up a condom into a big balloon and tell the high schoolers, "If your man says it's too tight, you tell him ain't never gonna be a problem, 'cause no matter what, he ain't THIS big!")

And while Summer and Shawna were dealing with the green condom, my little gay friend Edwin came over to show me that someone had written "JUDY IS A WHORE!" [with a backward J] and "ANNA HAS ADIS!" [sic] and "JUSTIN HAS A SMALL COCK" [complete with picture] in the back of his science book.

I guess it was just Triple XXX Sex day in my room.

In the words of my dear friend Cameron, "Your kids are going to be SO FUCKED UP by the end of this year!"

Advisory this morning:

Jason: Sorry I'm late, Miss, but my dog came to school.
Me: Oh. Um...
Jason: We locked him in the courtyard!
Me: Really? Let's see. (We walk across the hall to the glass brick wall looking over the courtyard. Sure enough, there's a big yellow lab pacing around.)
Jason: He's a good dog.
Me: What's his name?
Jason: He doesn't have a name.
Me: Uh... why not?
Jason: He just showed up last night.
Me: So he's not really your dog?
Jason: Yes, but just since last night.
Me: Maybe he's just lost?
Jason: He's a good dog.
Me: He probably belongs to somebody else. Someone's probably looking for their dog, never imagining that he's locked up in the middle school courtyard.
Jason: I think I'm going to name him "Doggy."

This afternoon I listened to the other English teacher, a veteran of 25 years, take a call from a mama who made my life miserable all last year, and it was quite clear that the mama was irrationally yelling at her and finally hung up on her. It seems that the Little Darling was doing other homework in English class, so Maryanne took the paper, ripped it up, and threw it away. She kept saying, "It's inappropriate to be doing anything but English in my classroom. No, I didn't even look at the paper. The kids know that they're not allowed to do other work in English class. Well maybe you should ask your son why he was doing his math homework in English class. No, I didn't even look at it -- it was inappropriate behavior....."

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but it freaking MADE MY DAY. Not to hear Maryanne get yelled at, but to know that the mama is unreasonable no matter who is teaching her kiddo. Also it made me that much happier not to have that particular student this year, because with a mama like that, he's only going to get worse and worse. Do parents not see that attacking their kids' teachers every ten seconds just hurts the kids, in the end?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: STOP BEING SUCH SUCKY PARENTS, PEOPLE!

29 August 2005

True North

Bear with us as we find our footing on Blogger. We've been on angelfire for so many years, it's a little weird to change... it's like learning all the quirks, traditions, and inside jokes of a new family. Strange and even uncomfortable at first, but ultimately worthwhile.

And until then, enjoy the repeated pictures of Momaquilt's official mascot, Sleepy Zeke.

Say goodnight, Zeeky.

Goodnight, Zeeky.

The Reason for the Season

Today we're writing stories from the perspective of a childhood toy.

At the end of fourth period, I gave the class time to share their stories, and a little girl with big eyes and a quiet voice read a story that began, "I was the most beautiful Barbie in Wal-Mart" and ended, "My old owner pulled me off the shelf and handed me to her new baby sister. I was so happy; my time had come again."

When the girl finished reading, there was a moment of silence and then the class spontaneously burst into applause. The little girl's face lit up in shy amazement, and I shivered as goosebumps ran up my arms and across the back of my neck. THIS is why I'm a teacher!

26 August 2005

Famous (last?) words....

Hilarious teaching moment of the day, so far: Homework last night was to find at least ten quotations that inspire, interest, amuse, or enlighten you, and write them in your writer's notebook. My seventh graders did an awesome job of it, bringing in quotations from JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., & Shakespeare. My 8th graders mostly brought in commercials and slogans. (My quotation is "I'm lovin' it.")

In class today, everyone had to pick their favorite quotation to write on a card for our Inspiration Wall. The sweetest little girl in the whole 8th grade -- you know the one, the horse-loving heart-doodling soft-spoken sweetheart -- called me over and showed me her card. "Is this okay?" she asked, holding up a card that said Life is like a vacuum; it sucks.

"Ah.... no," I said, "these are going in the hallway. Keep it positive, please."

"Oh, okay!" she said agreeably.

Six or seven minutes later, I was standing at my podium and she held up her new card to me. "Is this better?" she asked. The card said simply, CARPET-MUNCHER

Okay, needless to say, I freaked out. "No!" I said, laughing and horrified. "Rip that up and throw it away right now! I'm so shocked by you!"

The little girl's eyes widened. "What? Why?"

Teasingly, I yelled, "That's so bad, Amanda! I'm traumatized! You used to be so sweet!"

"I don't even know what it means!" she said. "My brother just says it all the time!"

"It's really bad," I said.

"What did she write? What did she write?" the other kids yelled.

"Nothing!" I said. "Throw it away!"

Sweet little horse-loving Amanda asked, "What does it mean?"

"I can't tell you!" I said. "I'll lose my job! You'll go home and be all, 'My English teacher taught me this bad word today!'"

But by then, the whole class had picked it up. "What does it mean, Ms. B? Tell us, tell us!"

"I'm not telling you NOTHIN!" I said. "The horror! And you kids used to be so nice!!"

The whole thing was hilarious. I'm still laughing. Okay, but here's the worst part: I did kind of start it. Because when I was going around checking everyone's quotes, one girl (the horse-lover's best friend) had a quote that said, "What's the dilio?" which I read as WHERE'S THE DILDO? So I proceeded to freak out about that and accuse her of being all dirty when actually the problem is that I can't read.

I am the best teacher ever.

My students are going to be so, so fucked up by the year's end.

The First Days of School

August 14, 2005

My school missed making AYP by .51% POINT-FIVE-ONE Just over half a percentage point!!! And yet, all the local papers are screaming that "11 Local Schools Get Fs" If you miss something by POINT-FIVE-ONE, shouldn't that be a D minus? I mean, seriously. We were SO CLOSE! So it's 2nd year school improvement for us! Yippeester.

The one subset we missed was ELL kids writing about math. Our English Language Learners (only 1/3 of whom actually got any services from the school; the other 2/3 had parent refusal on services) can't write about the process they use in solving a math problem, and our school gets an F for the year. SO FRUSTRATING!

What I mean to say is: isn't every job in the universe easier than teaching middle school?

August 15, 2005

Today's inservice would have been far more entertaining if presented by zombies. "Align your curriculum to state standards or we'll EAT YOUR BRAAAAAAINS!"

August 17, 2005

First Day of School, Scavenger Hunt with 25 Enriched LA kids
-- Ms. B, whenever I fight my brother, I use my head! I use my KNOWLEDGE to confuse him!
-- Oh...
-- And then I hit him!

-- We're going to the teacher's lounge?
-- Awesome! We get to see where the teachers shave off their human skins!

First Day of School, 7:35 AM
(cute little 7th grader walks into my room)
Me: Who are you and why are you in here?
Him: Uh.....
Me: I mean... you shouldn't be in the building yet; you should be outside near the cafeteria.

Things to Work On Before School Starts in 20 minutes:
-- Don't joke about doing drugs, even though crack cocaine is always funny
-- Don't swear or make lewd comments around the children, especially if that jehovah's witness from summer school shows up
-- Pretend -- at least for the first day -- not to be such a bitch

August 18, 2005

Doug says, "The first day of school is the day to be The Biggest Bitch On The Planet. Especially with middle schoolers. They've got to fear you before they can love you. You can always go backwards with discipline, but it's damn-near impossible to go forwards."

Fear not, Doug. Today was the first day for the 8th graders (who already know me) and I was THE BIGGEST BITCH in room 8.... not on the planet. Not even in the school, probably. BUT. I assigned 500 word essays to every 7th grader and 750 word essays to every 8th grader, and the most common response I got from the 8th graders was, "UH! You used to be cool!" or "Remember last year, when you were NICE?"


I told them that this was the easiest assignment I'd give them all year. Now I have to make good on that promise. :-)

Also, I think the "Never Smile Before Christmas" rule should be recast officially as the "Biggest Bitch in the World" (BBW) rule. Awesome.

August 24, 2005

Steve: Death and destruction is always fun to write about.
Me: So write about it.
Steve: I can't, I'm writing about peanut butter.
Me: Surely you can write about both.
Steve: Good idea! Peanut butter and death -- Death in a Jar!

August 25, 2005

Steve: Jax is Gandhi reincarnated!
Jax: No I'm not, would Gandhi do this? (leans forward and punches Steve on the arm)
Steve: OW! Dammit, Gandhi!

August 26, 2005

Brenna: Ms. B, I want to be *JUST* like you when I grow up!
Me: Awww, that's nice.
Brenna: Yeah, I'm NEVER getting married, just like you!

23 August 2005

Welcome Home

Dreaming of a blog without advertisements....

After keeping a blog on angelfire for nearly two years, it's time for a change. A change that doesn't involve angelfire suddenly putting a bunch of advertisements all over my blog and making it all ugly and commercial. So here we are, back among friends. Lots of love.

12 August 2005

Where I am:

Today I was at school from about 10 until about 5 (I think? Maybe it was more like 5:30). I would have been there earlier this morning, but Zeke and I are having a problem with ants that has not been curtailed by multiple little Club Meds of Death I have carefully placed right in the middle of the ANT SUPERHIGHWAY that runs straight from a crack in my window frame to the end of my plant counter. When I got home from work yesterday, I went to get Zeke's food and the bag was totally covered with these little ants so naturally I freaked out and banged the bag on the counter several times to throw all the ants off it at which point they all started crawling up my arms and then for the rest of the night I couldn't shake the sensation of little ants on my skin (which, as I used to remind Ali, is a sure sign of psychosis). Plus, Zeke was hungry, and I was all anxious about feeding him, because what if ANTS get in his DOG DISH? But after stressing about this for several minutes, I remembered that he's been known to eat poop and dead rats, so surely some tiny ants in his dish will pose no real problem for him at all, right? Right?

So I fed him, I fed myself, I fielded several phone calls, checked my email, brushed more ants off my arms, refilled my water bottle, herded Zeke into the truck... all in the space of about 20 minutes. When I showed up at meditation class, I was harried, stressed, brushing ants off my face and arms, and trying to keep track of Zeke, who ran happily into the building, down the hallway, and instead of following me into Jennie's office, trotted calmly out the back door and into the little meadow. (Later, when I was Deeply Meditating, in a place of PEACE and LIGHT, Zeke came over to where I was sitting and went CHOMP on a flower I was using in my meditation, which made me giggle, and then I felt guilty for disrupting the meditation, but then it was like giggling in church, and I couldn't stop thinking about how Zeke just went CHOMP right over the pretty orange flower I was meditating with, and how non-Zen that was, only maybe it was totally zen, how should I know, and though I managed to stop giggling, I never quite got back to the hippie batik of golden peace I'd been in before Zeke CHOMPed my flower.)

But I was talking about school. And ants. When Zeke and I got home after class, laden with cheese and poison, most of the ants had disappeared, and cheerfully -- naiively -- I thought, oh they just went away! That was easy! Nevertheless, I dutifully put out the little poison hotels and went to bed.

This morning I woke up to Rushhour on the Ant Superhighway, including more ants on Zeke's food, even though I'd moved it -- the ants just moved with the food! What's up with that! -- and proceeded to scream in frustration, murder a LOT of ants, scream, and start all over with the ants-on-my-neck thing, all of which conspired to make me a half-hour later to school than I'd intended.

Clearly, the ant problem needs to be solved before school starts for real next week.

My day was busy and yet felt rather unproductive, mainly because I was more curriculum oriented than classroom-setting-up oriented, meaning that I downloaded and printed and hole-punched and binder-organized and labeled and sorted and organized and prioritized and reviewed, but at the end of the day the desks in my room were all still piled in a huge mountain in the far corner of the room, blocking my big supply cabinet which holds untold wonders (or at least, whatever I shoved in there before checking out last spring). My walls are still bare (except the postcard map, which I bullied my way into not taking down in May), my ugly silver pipe thing still exposed, my room still utterly unorganized and my entire life still in total and complete chaos. So... I'll be back tomorrow.

The drive home was just gorgeous. The sky was dark, dark blue to the east, all storm clouds and sweeping rain. The mountains were draped with varying degrees of cloud, but the little patch of sun above my truck illuminated the tawny corn and wheat fields, the bright yellow sunflowers, and the soft adobe houses against the deep blue of the sky and rich dark green of the mountains, and I was reminded of driving outside of Bratislava, with the same dark skies and bright sunflowers.


Today at school, I started panicking about remembering the names of the kids I had in my classes last year, 70 (ish) of whom I'll have again this year. I have the WORST memory for names, mainly because I psych myself out and question and second-guess and go through entire dramas in my head whenever I say someone's name. Much of this anxiety can be traced back to high school, when I called this girl Adelaid for like TWO YEARS before she snapped, "That's not my name! Stop calling me that!" (Senior year, mind you.) "WHAT?" I was truly horrified. "What's your name, then?" "Natalie!" the girl screamed, "it's NATALIE!!"

I'd been calling this girl by the wrong name since SOPHOMORE YEAR and she'd never said a word.

Do you see how a person could be permanently scarred from an experience like this?

So, Back-To-School Note To Self Number One: call everyone "hon" until early September, at least.

Also, today one of my former students (child of another teacher, doomed to hang out at school on days like this with nothing to do but hang around in Ms. Backes' room and randomly pick things up and touch them) came into my room. "Did you hear that Betty's* gone?"

[Backstory: Betty was the janitor who cleaned my classroom, and I honestly was a little scared of her. She reminded me of the house-elf in the House of Black who skivvered around and muttered to himself. "Oh, the pencil sharpener's broken? I'll make a note of it," she'd say to me, and then spend the rest of my prep period dragging around my classroom muttering, "..murblerm mellueish, show them all... askushl have the right mutterm murble." Creepy! Also I think she didn't like me, because she never washed my chalkboards. When I met the new janitor today, Kay said, "He'll wash your boards once a week!" and I got SO excited.]

"Yes, I just met the new janitor," I said. "How exciting!"

Former Student seemed shocked. "But Betty was so good!"

"Oh.... well, that's true....... but it's always exciting to have new faces around, right?"

Back-To-School Note To Self Number Two: no more expressions of your true feelings about anyone, until you're at least 20 miles out of town and/or on Christmas break.

I also learned today that I'm no longer responsible for writing IEPs. Hooray! AND the principal told me that I'm eligible to jump up to the 2nd tier of licensure after this year (not next, as we'd thought), which means that if I stay here for the 2006-2007 school year, I'll see a $10 K raise -- a year earlier than I'd thought!

Back-To-School Note To Self Number Three: Reconsider that plan to move back to the midwest just yet....

Of course, Camille and I agreed that since I come from a poverty culture, that 10K will disappear in a matter of days. "Right up your nose," Camille says, and I have to agree.

Oh, wait.

Back-To-School Note To Self Number Four: Stop joking about all the drugs you do........

*name changed to protect the weird and creepy

09 August 2005

Moments from Augusts Past....

A little bit about everything except the whole going-back-to-school thing; you shall have nothing about that.


The last glorious days of summer, and I'm already nostalgic for them. This is a quality in myself that irritates me. Overly nostalgic, fine, but could we at least wait until the very thing about which we are all nostalgic is finished happening? I always do it, too: I remember driving through the dark streets of Saint Louis Park with K a while back and thinking, "This is so nice... and in a few days, I won't be here and I won't be able to ride around with Kevin while he pretends to shift with his water bottle... how sad is that? I'm going to miss him, and I'll miss this moment... and I won't see him again for a while...."

See, and the whole time I'm thinking, oh sad, this will be over soon, I'm completely missing out on enjoying the moment for what it is. For pete's sake.

Recently I followed a link from one YA author's blog to another to another, where I found this hilarious "retro-blog," where the girl only posts journal entries from the distant past. So while other people are discussing The Sad Death Of Peter Jennings on their blogs, this girl is talking about The Tragic Death of River Phoenix, complete with Seventeen and YM collages. Hilarious.

Of course, my old journal entries are rarely funny; I've always been too thinky and weird for that. Nevertheless, for your Tuesday entertainment, I present:

Moments from Augusts Past...

August 9, 1993
I got my braces off today!!!!!!!! Definately a day to be celebrated!!

August 17, 1996
I'm writing with my brand new Fed Ex pen that I ganked from some poor customer at work today. School starts in a week and a half. Wooo. My Junior year. No, actually I'm really excited about it. I've got all these great things on my list or something. The OHS AIDS Walk team that I'm organizing (with the help of the fabulous Rebecca Fox-Blair); Pass The Green (Yaayy!!); The Chautauqua; new friends; a new and improved Panther Press; Once Upon A Mattress; my job. This Bobby McFerrin Gig!!!!; + I'm even sorta trying to write a book. Crazy. [...]

Um, what else? I have my driver's license, I cut my hair, I'm cute. I work at Ben Franklin. Aaaahh! It's actually pretty fun... sort of.

7 August 1997 -- 13:48 -- Charles DeGaule Airport
My God, it’s over. All second semester -- the anticipation, the “Oh, I’ll be in Europe for most of the summer,” the thinking -- it seemed so unreal all through the spring and June and now again, did it ever happen? Did I ever leave home? I swear, I can’t believe it’s been this long. We just left, maybe 4 days ago. I expect once I’m home, the feeling will be even stronger.
Still -- raining. From here I can see wet, black pavement under a tired and cloudy afternoon sky. Stark. Not too much like my other memories of Paris -- a colorful mélange under a strong blue sky and cheery sun.

6 August 2000 11:15 am MFA, Boston

Franz Kline
Probst I, 1960
oil on canvas

A huge canvas – bigger than my bed. White background with hints of orange and yellow, huge black and brown slashes across the canvas. The black gathers together in the bottom left corner, and swirls up across the page like a twister, a tornado. Two women behind me pause, and one says, “I could do that,” rather scornfully. I want to turn and say no, you couldn’t. To “do that” takes more passion than you’ve let yourself feel in years – maybe more than you’ve felt your whole life. To “do that” requires a confrontation of self, an awareness and acceptance of the darkness, the rage, the pain, and the truth we have within ourselves. It requires an acceptance of and a belief in the truth of one’s own voice, and the power of one’s own truth. It takes huge movement and giant feelings and trust in oneself. It takes love – the love you need to let yourself express your darkest, rawest, most primal feelings. I know I couldn’t do it – but at least I’m working on it.

3:20 am Thursday morning, 30 August 2001 White House Porch
There is no good reason for me to be awake right now. Other than: I’ve been at Bob’s, and I’m not tired, and the first day of my senior year in college is tomorrow – or today, rather, and I’ve been up for hours thinking about how everyone has changed, and all the ways we haven’t changed, too . . . I was reading my old plans and laughing and wincing and skipping over parts . . . .

Last year, Dave Bradley wrote about the duality of Molly, how on my plan I’m this rampaging mega-bitch, and then in person I’m a “Sweetie.” I embrace that duality. I’m feeling more and more confident about the Bob’s thing . . . tonight Charlie Marshall reminded me that the best managers are those who take care of themselves! Sounds like something I ought to know already. I feel nostalgic and sad for the parts of me I’ve lost along the way, for the moments I didn’t enjoy enough at the time . . . but what’s new? I always feel nostalgic and sad. Luckily, autumn is coming! My favorite! O season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

1:50 am (mountain) Thursday night 21 August 2003 – Home – ABQ

I have this phrase running through my head: “What have I got to lose? Other than, you know, everything.” I guess it’s what I told Mark Bechtel back in March – though maybe I said, “There’s nothing riding on this” not what have I got to lose. In any case, the former is what’s running through my head just now....

So there you have it: 10 years of Augusts, and I didn't change a whit. Melissa Bailey and I were just talking about that the other night; about reading our report cards from kindergarten and finding that we're exactly the same at 25 as we were at 5. Which is both troubling (don't I **EVER** get to grow up?) and reassuring (that the core, the essence, of who we are only strengthens over time, and that the world has not been enough to erase the essential characteristics that make me ME).

02 August 2005

Homeward Bound....

Today I flew home from Chicago, by way of Minneapolis. It was hot and sunny the whole way, until we flew up over the settling night back into the dusky sunset above Minnesota.

Lisa was kind enough to let me go pick up Zeke on my way home from the airport, so I wouldn't have to spend a night by myself. Thinking back over the last 8 days, not a single night passed without at least one animal sleeping on or with me. Even the nights I spent in Milwaukee (Gabby) and Chicago (Nick's weird cat Byron) found me couch-bound with critters. Byron actually slept directly on top of my chest for a time. One night I had THREE animals in my bed: Basil, Gabby, and the freaky cat who I took the liberty of renaming Pussy Galore The Spy Cat. Honestly, I was just tired of hearing my mother compare herself to King Lear. When does the madness end??

I had a looong layover in Minneapolis, and other than calling everyone I know in the cities just to say, "Hi, I'm HERE! But you can't see me, because I'm in the airport... but still, I'm HERE!" and then giggling happily --- uh, other than that, I spent several hours thinking about the spooky, elusive * * F * U * T * U * R * E * * (were this handwritten, the word would be written all up and down, with sparklies all around it, to show that I'm wiggling my hands and going oooooh when I say it). After this weekend, Chicago's on the list. I made a long list of pros and cons for Chicago and Minneapolis (or as Jennifer would say, plusses and deltas). Minneapolis won out, but only slightly. I believe that either city would be a good place for me right now. Particularly if one of my sisters starts having babies.

Honestly, Chicago. Or Minneapolis. I'll make a little home there and spend my summers in New Orleans or Prague, learning to write.

Just as soon as I learn to teach......

01 August 2005

More notes from home....

Spent the afternoon with Ila last Friday, ambling around downtown Madison. Lunch at Ian's Pizza, where we met Ian and tried two different slices of Ian's wacky pizza concoctions: macaroni & cheese and spicy bean burrito. Surprisingly they were both very good. We wandered around the square, Ila pointed out her new apartment above Mangus, and ended up on the Monona Terrace Rooftop, stretching our legs in the sun and watching the sparkling lake before us. It was a perfect Madison day, all sun and breeze, not too hot. And of course, perfect company. Leaving the terrace, Ila suggested we cross back through the hotel walkway, and I agreed happily. "Great! I do love walkways!" Ila said, "That's what I love about hanging out with you: you take me back to my highschool self, when I did things just for the fun of it."

Indeed. Coming home always involves a lot of that, for me: driving favorite old roads, walking along favorite paths, visiting restaurants and listening to radio stations that all feel like old friends. So much of my delight, when I lived in Oregon, was rooted in means to freedom: driving through the lush back roads, walking up and down State Street, going to certain restaurants (most notably Perkins...) -- anything to get me out of the house and away from school, any excuse to be alone, or to spend time with just one other person.

Saturday afternoon I drove down to Chicago to visit some Grinnell friends, primarily Nick and Chris (with whom I stayed), and happily Vivek, Adam, Rachel Clark, Kumail, Laurelin, Aja, Jarrod, Marti, Julie, and Kate (did I miss anyone?).

Spending time with Nick and Chris was awesome for a lot of reasons, but one of the coolest things, for me, was getting to talk to them about improv theory. They're both on teams at IO (formerly ImprovOlympic), one of the two most famous improv theaters in Chicago. Saturday night, the three of us went out to dinner, and then Nick and I took a cab to IO (across the street from Wrigley Stadium),
where we saw two teams (Extra Billies and Baby Wants Candy) each do a longform show, with games in between. Baby Wants Candy did an improvised musical that made the gang at Gorilla Tango look like amateurs in comparison; whereas the GT group sings funny songs, they don't put too much stress on being particularly musical, while some of the BWC songs could have been on the soundtracks to shows like Rent or Pippen, except for the fact, you know, that the actors were singing about circus freaks with hairy chests and vaginas. Overall, I was really impressed, and I'm so glad that I got the chance to see "real" improv, that I may have a broader understanding and perspective on what it is, exactly, that we're trying to create and do at GT in Albuquerque. And then, because I was lucky enough to be staying with fellow improv geeks, I got to spend time talking about the structure of the shows with Nick, analyzing them from a theoretical/structural perspective. Awesome.

I've always really admired Chris and Nick and really enjoyed talking to them when I ran into them at parties or at Saints Rest in Grinnell, but it wasn't until this weekend that I got to spend any extended amount of time with either of them, just hanging out. I'm so glad that I did. They're both perfect examples of the kinds of people I loved most in college: hilarious, smart, interesting, creative and artistically driven, open-minded, and kind.

The only exception to the kind thing was when we needed to take a bus from IO to the bar where we were meeting up with the Grinnell group, when Nick, sensing my weakness like a predator around prey, played on my mass-transit anxieties and became the Bus Bully, terrorizing me onto and then off of the bus. Nick, in his evil bus riding tactics, pushed me off the bus into the gutter and then kicked me, laughing. Clearly, he's a diabolical mastermind.

Or maybe I'm exaggerating. I mean, just a little bit. Not much though. It was traumatic, honestly.

We met up with a large group of Grinnell kids at the Hopleaf, where we took over one entire side of the upstairs room. Throughout the evening, people moved around, switching places around the table in order to talk to a number of different friends, so I moved from Vivek's lap to between Rachel and Laurelin to next to Adam, between Adam and Laurelin then Adam and Rachel, and ended the evening at the other end of the table, between Nick and Jarrod. The funny thing about the night was that even though I hadn't seen any of these friends in at least two years (and more, in some cases), it was as if no time had passed at all. Adam and I picked up our usual fighty banter, laughing about clownpants and sandmouses; Vivek and I our usual flirty banter; Rachel and I our sisterly kinship. The generosity of the group was twofold: one, the assurance that you're already in, you're already accepted and loved, and don't have to impress anyone or prove anything, and two, that you exist not only as the person you are now, but also as the person you have been. I found myself more open, laughing harder and joking more, quicker and funnier and happier than I usually feel in my "real" life, where I'm far more reserved, more polite and far less outrageous than I ever was in college. How wonderful to travel back, if only for an evening, to step back into the role of a part of me that I loved. In some ways, I felt like the best version of myself in that crowd.

Sunday afternoon, I found myself (along with Chris and Nick) helping Miss Kate Herold move from Iowa into a third story apartment a few blocks down from Nick and Chris, primarily because I hadn't seen Kate in two years and this was the only way I could spend time with her. Also, because she fed us pizza and beer in payment. It was hard work, and the humidity was worse than I remembered (I was having flashbacks to moving into Norris 4th in August of 1999), but overall it was -- not fun, exactly, but agreeable -- not a bad way to spend the afternoon. At least I got to see Kate, is what I'm saying.

Chicago seems like a fun place to be in your twenties. In contrast, Albuquerque seems really stolid somehow. kind of suburban. Maybe it's just that there aren't many Grinnellians there, not many young Grinnellians. Just as I made my peace with Minneapolis -- and then grew to love it -- a few years ago, this weekend I made my peace with Chicago, and I am beginning to see why so many of my friends and family love it. I'm officially adding it to my list of possible places to go to grad school.