Monday, March 3, 2014

Cherry Blossom Festival? Really? When?

Archetypically, Spring personified is a gentle, young, slightly shy, supple-limbed girl whose blossoming into warm full womanhood concurs with the failing heart and ever-slowing cold breaths of Old Man Winter. I've news for you. A sweet little Spring replete with Zephyrus at her side blowing bubbles will not cut it this year. Here we are in the month of March, and this year's Old Man Winter has not yet even paused to sit in his rocking chair, nor has Time intervened. Highlighting moot points in a sea of bitter-cold white, Time's right-hand calendars become useless. In fact, as of this very day, Old Man Winter is still bizarrely running around, hurling icy obscenities, yanking on himself and ejaculating all over the place. In case you haven't noticed, this particular Winter is a dysfunctional breed. Well beyond the scope of epistemologically-balanced counseling, he has no sense of boundaries or propriety. Perhaps it is we who've bred him: some sort of chemical cialis/viagra in the mix, akin to the petrochemicals released into the atmosphere causing global warming which is giving the son of a bitch an unheard of extra staying power. And in this context, it's going to take a special, hybrid, Amazon-like Spring to take this guy out. What's needed is a butch, she-male cop of a Spring; a tough dike who can take this megalomaniac to the ground with one hand, grab the elephant gun with the other, and drive several tranquilizing darts into his overactive butt while she reads him the riot act.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Generation Why Not

When I pause to reflect upon the collective difference(s)which characterize human generations and thus distinguish one from another, I have a feeling in my osteo-penalized bones that this year's batch of sixth graders at the middle school where I teach (or present the illusion of teaching) is both qualitatively and quantitatively unlike the current crop of seventh graders, or for that matter, markedly dissimilar from any generation of homo sapiens with whom I am even remotely familiar, going back as far as the pleistocene era. Indeed. If the most pre-recent generation of human beings has been dubbed "generation why," replete with its reputation for computer savviness and "wired in" status, I would assert the cut-off point for "generation why" would be approximately the birth year of 2001. Thereafter, I would call those individuals who are born in subsequent years to the present and not yet thirteen years of age, or for that matter even near teen mentality, rather than "generation why", "generation why not." This batch of humanity seems clueless.
That said, it is March. We have been in school since late August. A Gifted and Talented sixth grade student raised his hand this past week after completing a drill and asked, "Do we need to put our names on our papers?" I should have said, "No, not at all. When I bring your papers home tonight, provided there is a full moon, I will stand at the top of the stairs with all three sixth-grade Gifted and Talented class sets. I will chant aloud in runes. I will count to three, and I will then throw all of the papers up in the air. The ones that land on the top step will earn 'A's,' the ones below them will earn 'B's,' and so on, until the ones at the bottom earn 'E's.' " Both the knowledge that the student(s) likely would not fully grasp this remark's cynicism despite the students' purported Gifted and Talented status coupled with the knowledge that lawsuits are very costly preempted me from making any such comment.
Recently, one of my colleagues who teaches science was preparing her sixth graders for a lab. She reminded them that they would need to measure three yards along the/a school hallway floor prior to conducting the actual experiment. One student raised his hand. "Yes?" she responded. "How can we measure three yards when we only have one yardstick?" the student asked. (I ask you to suspend your disbelief. This really happened. "Really?") Another student piped up, eager to help, "Yeah, we'll need two more yardsticks."
On a separate occasion a couple of months ago, I took the healthy risk of having sixth grade students score one anothers' vocabulary matching activities. The purpose of this activity was to give students an opportunity to experience both the newer words' definitions and the same testing format which would be used during an exam one week later. I then told students to take these papers home to study along with their flashcards and so forth for their upcoming vocabulary exam. The activity seemed to go without a hitch; students scored each others' papers, and everything would have been on the up and up, until at the end of scoring one student raised his hand and asserted, "I can't study someone else's paper." I paused, looked at him quizzically, and with the deliberate lack of emotion worthy of a janitor, jailor, or subway announcer, intoned, "You give the papers back."
Perhaps "generation why not's" cumulative cluelessness is an indirect result of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9-11, surmising that the tacit but clear directive, "shut thinking/feeling off, because it/they hurt(s)" has been psycologically infused within the members of this most recent generation vis-a-vis mother's milk. Maybe their tribal mindlessness is a direct manifestation of the numb fallout of having parents and extended family members stationed overseas, coupled with a national divorce rate that for the first time in American history significantly exceeds the national marital rate. This hereby marks the singular time that I echo the selfsame tune that seems the mantra of "generation why not:" "I don't know." Of course, one need remember that I am seeing "generation why not" through the lens of the daily school English teacher, which may or may not have some bearing on my proclivity to be appalled by the continual, erosive, and atavistic behavioral absurdity which I witness all too often in my classroom among my sixth graders. Nota bene: rarely, if at all, among my seventh graders, many of whom I also taught as sixth graders last year, do I ever see such cognitive discontinuity, such that I have a modicum of comparability between said generations. In other words, I'm onto something.
Post script, March 24rd. I have been absent two weeks from school due to surgery on my sinuses. In that time I have received several communiques from various sources at school including colleagues, parents, and seventh grade students. While I have been gone many of my seventh graders, especially the boys, have been testing my substitute teacher with heedless abandon. While these aberrent youth shall suffer the inglorious indignation of having lunch detention with me yet among their peers in the cafeteria upon my return (perhaps one should have the worst two behavioral cases hold my hands on the walk down to the cafe, set the table, provide flowers, and wait upon the well and appropriately behaved), provocative behaviors of substitute teachers are certainly, while inappropriate and unacceptable, relatively normal ways that middle school students channel their anxiety and need for attention in the wake of the absence of someone (we hope) who plays at least some role of merit in their lives. Meanwhile, not to be outdone but relatively normal in their own ways, the seventh grade girls have expressed concern about spring fashion, who's "going out" with whom and "getting the guy" (which I find to be a stitch because none of these children even drive yet--and it's a good thing) neon colored feathers for their hair, and sadly, but of course, not gaining or losing weight. During my two-week lapse, what have those on the apparent dawn of a new era, the twenty-first century entrants, the sixth graders been doing? Per confidential memo from the school nurse, swallowing buckeyballs ("makth me look lik I have a pierthed tongue"). At this point I feel that I have made a grievous error conferring this planetary litter of offspring with the name "Generation Why Not." In light of this most recent development in which whole groups of prepubescent individuals swallow little magnetic lead balls and then proceed via ambulance in the majority of cases to the emergency room for the surgical removal of little magnetic lead balls (or in the minority of cases to a dentist because said little magnetic lead balls have knocked out one or more of their pearly whites), I must rescind this title, instead deeming this brood simply, "Generation Not."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lysistrata Walks

Response to Mr. Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, on his Editorial in the Washington Post of Sunday, July 10, 2011, Regarding the Iconization of Women Who Have Affairs with Married Men

Dear Mr. Warren,

I find myself quite agreeing with you initially upon reading your editorial concerning women whose husbands have extra-marital affairs.
Yet since when did the full responsibility for holding a marriage together fall solely upon the wife? Isn't a marriage a partnership? Conspicuously absent in your editorial is the call for the mobilization of husbands. Shame on you: the president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. It is indeed revealing you do not assert that it is as much the man who needs to take responsibility for the sad and ever-increasingly frequent evolution of the "home-wrecker" to pedestal dweller as is the wife. Further, the lack of male solicitation for this cause in your editorial is likely as disturbing to me as is your purported concern with the violated wives' passivity.
Of course a wife should not let go of her husband. After all: she is his wife. Or is she? Once he's committed adultery, the converse stands to reason: when, and not if, she does let him go (to/for another woman, or in some cases, for another man), she chooses to no longer be his wife. This is the choice that she has once the husband has made the choice to violate his wife, and I emphasize, truly, it is her choice. Your logic is distressingly similar to that of radical individuals who would insist a woman who is impregnated by a rapist keep the baby with no regard for the will of the woman, the life of the baby, nor the soul of either being. For the woman, whom in your myopic view of this topic too easily capitulates and throws in the towel on the relationship, the adulterer husband isn't worth the fight, and it takes as much courage sometimes to admit this as it does to try to stay and tough it out. The wife may have low self-esteem, be experiencing emotional, mental, and/or physical crisis, and the husband's behavior only serves to further confirm the negative for her; and in such context, she rightfully wants and needs to choose her battle(s) carefully. If she is, in addition to trying to hold herself together, raising children, and/or is taking care of an elderly parent or parents, for example, why should she mobilize herself for a man whom she can no longer perceive to be a decent husband, let alone partner, if he consciously chooses to expend his affections upon another? If she is alone, then isn't she really alone? Why pretend? Why fight for someone that isn't even really there, isn't emotionally available, while one's heart is still beating, one is capable of loving, and the clock is ticking?
Your call for mobilization of solely women isn't as much a call for wives to fight for someone as a call for them to fight for something: the institution of marriage. And that, sir, with all due respect, is an irresponsible tautology. Until the day that husbands themselves mobilize to support wives, women will continue to walk. Or in the immortal words of D.J. Cee: "It take two to make a thing go right."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

This Road Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us

I was accelerating down York Road toward Lower Glencoe on my bike the other day, helmet on, heart filled with glee. To my left the sunlight was filtering through the trees, creating a richter-tape of jagged tree shadow printout on the road: glorious. Immeasurable freedom of the senses is found in accelerating freefall velocity at forty plus miles an hour. Yet I purposely remained in the right margin of the road, though Maryland State traffic law clearly maintains that a bicycle is just as much a vehicle as a car, and therefore, technically, I had and have the right to be riding on the road. Now, mind you, the right margin of York Road is not unlike the surface of the moon, pockmarked and cratered, not nearly as nice as the newly paved asphalt of the main road. However, for the sake of both boundaries and safety I remained in the rough. Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard a rather corpulent four-by-four come upon my left rear, and subsequently its invasive honk, or more precisely, the glaring ugliness of the driver manifested in the sound of his staccato horn. I jumped like a dog for a biscuit: no easy rebound of the central nervous system when one's feet are clipped into her pedals which are still turning at over forty miles per hour. Further, I surprised myself: I ignored him. "I'm not in his way," I mused, remaining very cool and logical. "Why did he honk? Surely he'll pass me, now," I thought.

I thought wrong.

Now, nearly alongside me (I could see the truck was a hefty white four-by-four Dodge Ram), he honked AGAIN and leered down upon me. That did it. So much for cool logic. I did what any red-blooded cyclist does when she is infuriated: I gave him the finger.

He pealed out in front of me, his truck screeching as he briefly accelerated, then screeching again as he brought the truck to a halt about one-hundred yards in front of me on the steepest part of the downhill yet and directly in my way.

I could try to go around him, but of course, he could still tangle with me. After all, the simple,inexorable laws of physics dictate that when and if an accelerating bicyclist on a bicycle has some sort of, er, let's say, "interaction" with a driver in a truck, the truck and therefore its driver will always win.

I could simply stop, but again, at forty miles per hour or more, the chances of flying over the handlebars were about fifty-fifty. And indeed, for she who is clipped in, Confucius say "she who stop bike short with hands take bike along on her feet...heheheh, vewwwwyyy twickyyyy...." ...but not an option.

I was so angry (and all of the above had flown through my head in about five seconds) that I slowed deliberately and consistently over about seventy-five yards, brought my bike to a halt and unclipped in about ten (seconds).

During that ten seconds, the driver exited his truck, slammed his door shut, and stood beside the door with his arms folded. I found myself rapidly approaching the O-K Corral at high noon. I saw that this man had on a wife-beater t-shirt with fully tatooed arms, and from his posture, he seemed bent on bullying and intimidating those who dared to cross either his path or him. Pity the fool.

Understand, the audial effect of the sound of a pair of bike clips, under ordinary circumstances, say, walking into a store or across the gym floor to a stationary bike, is a sort of a dull, annoying "clomp clomp clomp." However, on this particular occasion, when first one clip hit the road with a sharp, metallic "cling!" and then the other, "clang!," it was nothing short of a scene from "True Grit." ...and into the saloon she goes, spurs resonating on the bar room floor, hands on hips, and says in a low voice, "Apparently this road ain't big enough for the both of us..."


He shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, uneasily cocking his head with uncertainty, unprepared for this unforeseen meeting of aggression with aggression, seemingly decided that no woman was going to talk to him in this way, regained his false bravado, clenched both his fists, took two steps toward me, and rasped, "I was tryin to warn ya, sister!"

It was the two steps toward me and his clenched fists that put me over the edge of any last vestage of self control. I exploded in full-blown rage. Perceiving his latest maneuver as a direct physical threat, I astonished myself by taking four steps forward toward both him and his truck, and again, there was the warning, slow, deliberate, metallic "Cling! Clang! Cling! Clang!" of clips hitting asphalt. I leaned toward him ( I was only about ten feet from him at this point), and I said in a low, yet resonant growl of a voice that I didn't even know I possessed, "And does this make you feel like the big man in your big truck? Is this what makes you feel strong and powerful, like a big man? Because you don't know who you're honking at, mister."

"Look, bitch! I honked to let you know I was coming up on you! I could knock you out right here, right now, n' I don't need my truck to do it!" Yet he didn't move.


He didn't know what to say. He stood absolutely dumbfounded.


His evil eyes suddenly lit up with deluded pleasure at an unforeseen possibility. "You don't have a license, do you? Huh, bitch?"

Eliminating any remaining space between us, I clipped directly up to him, looked him straight in his eyes, and I again responded quietly, slowly, and deliberately, as if I had never yelled at all, " You're right. I don't have a license. But you do." I gazed intently at the license plate on the back of his truck. "And if you don't leave immediately, I am going to take my phone from my saddle bag and I am going to call the police. And they will track you down like a dog in the street. Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yay. You're done. You're so done." I glared at him silently for a couple of seconds, then turned crisply and began to walk sharply back to my bike, my clips still sounding out their wild west warnings.

Defeated, he rapidly and wordlessly got into his truck, slammed the door shut, and peeled out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"If He Moves In, I Tell Ya, It'll Ruin the Neighborhood..."

Why is is that even in this day and age, there are certain white people who will still vehemently point an accusatory finger at an aspiring black or Latino family (from behind the privacy of their curtained living room window, of course) that is trying to move from the inner city into a better, typically suburban neighborhood (typically theirs), and yet these same people will not, cannot or choose not to recognize that the advent of Lance Armstrong's arrival on the triathlon scene in Kona in 2011 or 2012 is a real blight? Even and indeed ironically with a black president in the White House that many of these triathletic people elected, they still nurture their own private paroxysms of negativity regarding how a "minority" family's presence will lower property values, bring ghetto behaviors 'round here, inter alia, while in a stunning reversal of true and valuable discernment (some prefer to call it discrimination) they welcome Armstrong to Kona: the bringer of poor sportsmanship, rancor, divisiveness, corporate businessmen (who've never swum more than twenty-five yards or rode a bike more than a mile) calling the shots, Media Carta, and some would even say, doping. Further, isn't it wild, yet germaine that all of these, er, "benefits" that Lance brings are exactly what purportedly takes a neighborhood, er, in this case, a sport, down? Wake up, triathletic community. This is precisely the ish that drove the Tarahumara back to the canyons, per Christopher McDougall's book "Born to Run." There is a reason that the Ironman takes place on the big island of Hawaii, in the water and over the lava beds sacred to Pele, the Goddess of Fire. The relative obscurity of this location, I believe, perhaps naively, but I believe, is to foster the spiritual aspect of the sport, and to bring out the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual best in and of the human beings who aspire to complete this challenge. Now the introduction, nay, the forceful entry of Mister "You Aren't My Father!" seems to threaten the very spirituality, purity, and balanced foundation of the sport. The very best, Rhadamanthine outcome would be for Lance to lose to some young upstart who recites poetry, loves his ONE woman, and laughs. Oh: and who is, of course, a "minority."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Miracle of Sufficiency

On September 4 of this soon-to-die year of 2009, I lost my mother to leukemia. It has been a good while since I last posted anything. As I muddle through the passage as best as one can and through this tunnel of winter, it feels as though one is somehow giving birth to herself. The process is not always easy, more often painful.
On Christmas Eve, perhaps for the first time in my life, I was completely content to be at home, alone, not needing, not seeking anything, working at the bead table, and to know that my own sons, for whom cakes were rising in the oven, filling the apartment with the most wonderful smells to be shared on Christmas day together, are their own, great persons, and that this is a good life. I was serenely delighted to not have gone out shopping in a desperate frenzy of spending. I was humbled and grateful to have reached this place. "This must be the way Joseph and Mary felt that night in Bethlehem," I mused. "There they were on the road, in the vortex of a collectively superimposed taxonomy of values, really, preparing to go up and be counted for the census, for tax purposes, with this great, external, societal onus upon them, and a spiritual new life within, about to enter the world, and all they needed was a place to be...ok." A simple thought, of course, but splendid: the miracle of sufficiency.
Similarly, drawing from Hebrew lore derived from another archetypal, very human experience of this same, deadshort-day, dark time of year, Hannukkah is considered by many Jewish people to be the celebration of the Maccabees' guerilla-warfare led defeat of the Syrians and the celebration of the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus. Yet it seems to me that the true celebration lies not in the outcome of war, for war is really not at all a salutiferous event, but in the strange and awesome occurrence beheld afterward as a shining example of the miracle of sufficiency: the scant amount of oil that the Jewish people managed to forage to rekindle the holy flame at the altar (symbolizing the connection between the human and the divine--the gift of life) somehow proved to be enough to burn for eight days and nights or until more oil was brought to ensure the tenability of the flame, ostensibly, forever. It seems no accident that at this same time the metaphoric struggle to preserve light and life occurs it is at the time of the winter solstice. The message is so clear: Peace lies not in the realm of thought, nor in hopes for greater things. I fold my arms about me, as angels fold their wings. Merry Christmas. Happy Hannukkah. Happy Holidays, wherever you are, and joy to all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

...and Lay Flat (to Dry)

If you haven't already, check out the washing instructions on most athletic gear. Like I, you've likely memorized the robotic tag directions (before smugly ripping the nasty, itchy little inhibitory bit of chicanery out of its seam and hurling it with satisfaction into the trash, where it belongs- certainly not at the base of a human neck, or pecking at one's waist): MACHINE WASH COLD, HANG OR LAY FLAT TO DRY. What are the manufacturers thinking when they make this clothing? Perhaps they are...preoccupied with maintaining the precious, synthetic veneer of the fabric? God knows. They certainly aren't thinking about how quickly bacteria spreads.
Take, for example,a quality pair of cycling shorts. They have a crotch pad for cushioning, yes? They're built to help the wearer remain on the bike, whose proportionally much-larger-than-the-narrow-Isthmus-of-Panama-seat bedonkidonk will be there for a good, long while. And during that long while, it is highly probable that the rider will sweat, and ooze, in the words of Dr. Strangelove, "precious, bodily fluids." These "precious bodily fluids" will seep into the crotchpad of those shorts. Why would one invite, yea, prolong the inevitable growth of bacteria in the shorts (and in the very area of the shorts that is indeed most sensitive for human beings) by washing them delicately in cold water after a ride? Does cold water kill bacteria? I mean, unless you are Lance Armstrong or Connie Carpenter and you can afford to buy a pair of cycling shorts at about a hundred dollars a pop and throw them away at the end of a ride, I have news for you: a delicate cold water wash minus the heat of the dryer is merely going to spread that bacteria all around. Mmm, mm, good.
The same thing is true for swimsuits, running shorts, and the like.
Lest you do not understand, in graphic terms, the consequences of the habitual, ritual, and perpetual cold-water wash of sporting apparel, let me further 'splain, Lucy, 'splain.
Staph bacteria is highly contagious; there are whole mutant forms of staph growing in many of the gymnasiums and locker rooms of this country, undetected, which are totally resistant to all of the classes and types of antibiotics made by and known to man. A person himself or herself may be very clean and have superb hygiene; however, let that person sit on a locker room bench which incidentally has even a spore of staph on its surface in those sweaty cycling shorts or tights after a spinning class and then go home and naively follow the manufacturer's instructions for washing. Hmm. Let's see, cool water, no dryer, and I see a huge boil, at the very least, on this person's rear end in a couple of weeks. Worse: I see a serious cyclist with normal abrasion (from riding so much) literally having said staph bacteria ground into his/her genital area on consecutive rides and a trip to the emergency room which may or may not resolve the now life-threatening infection. How do I know this? I've seen it happen to someone I love, and it is frightening, and it is unnecessary.
The manufacturers of sporting apparel must be mandated by congress to change their tags to include updated information and washing instructions for wearers of their pieces. Corporations that produce clothing for athletes should be required to issue a health warning (much like the tobacco companies must publish on the side of each box or carton of cigarettes)regarding the vulnerability of the fabric to bacteria growth when subjected to human warmth and moisture, along with specific instructions to wash the garment in hot water and dry it thoroughly in a hot dryer EACH TIME the piece is used. Further, manufacturers need to purposely cut the articles of clothing that they make and sell at least one size larger on purpose and indicate in the tag that this is done to ensure room for shrinkage. If the buyer then chooses to still purchase an article of athletic garb that fits at the time of purchase, he/she does so at his/her own risk.