Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

09 August 2007

So I've obviously been dragging ass with this site for a long time now. It's too bad; back in the day, a couple of years ago, I was full of commentary. Not so much anymore. These days, it almost never occurs to me to update, and when I do think about it I just feel guilty. And life's too short to feel guilty about a website. So this is farewell . . . for now.

Some of the reasons why Ipecac Aperitif has fallen by the wayside:

1. I hate the new "improved" version of Blogger, which streamlines/dumbs down the whole process so that few of the idiosyncratic details I once employed are still available.

2. I've been working on a four-year-old Mac, which is so slow (despite DSL) that trying to upload images from my camera is virtually impossible, let alone putting any of them on the site. That would be why I haven't updated Baby Pictures in more than a year.

3. I haven't been writing as much in general since I became a teacher/dad, and I'm about to become more of both.

3A. School starts next Wednesday and I'm back in high school after three years away, back in public education after two years in the tender care of a well-funded private school, back to classes of 30 kids instead of 16, back to a state-mandated textbook and one prep period a day instead of three, back to having to lock everything up and write referrals because I'm teaching kids who haven't had enough adults model empathy and intellectual curiosity for them. Got a beautiful classroom, and I get to teach drama for the first time in my life, and I think it'll be a good year; but it's bound to require a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of energy. Teaching always does.

3B. Then there's parenthood. Genevieve is three and way more than a handful. Not in a bouncing-off-the-walls, destroying-everything, constantly-throwing-tantrums kind of way; more like in a not-being-able-to-be-parted-from-us-for-more-than-three-seconds, play-with-me-endlessly kind of way. The cute way. But relentlessly so. Guilt about neglecting this website can't compare to guilt over wanting to find the OFF switch on my daughter so I can have an uninterrupted conversation or a moment of intimacy with my wife. Cos, you know, she won't be three forever; she won't adore us forever; if we miss this it won't come back, and she's an actual person, not a concept, someone who'll bear deep psychological scars if we get selfish and ignore her because we're not in the mood for joyous innocence. Now take that and add a newborn girl, someone whose complete and utter neediness will make Genevieve look like Ayn Rand. Oh the love. Oh the exhaustion. Oh the demise of adult leisure time.

4. Even without 3A and 3B, I'd be backing away from the Internet. It's a solitary activity, however interconnected with the whole world it may be. Solitary and sedentary. That's easy for me; I've been doing that all my life, intellectual only child that I am. But apparently I want something more, or I wouldn't have structured my life the way I have. The trend seems to be away from the conceptual, toward the real -- though never absolutely, because there are no absolutes and besides reality is just a concept and what if the Matrix was a documentary and everything but me is an illusion designed to keep me docile while sentient viruses use my semiconscious body as an energy source? So there's that. Yeah, I'll keep frequenting the sites of my friends, a couple of saucy political weblogs, Homestar Runner and the Kingdom of Loathing, though probably less often than before. I'm looking for balance. Trying to feel less crazy. Letting go of some juvenile obsessions. Learning how not to live entirely in my brain.

Footnote to #s 1 and 2: I recently bought a new (cheap) PC, my first foray out of the Mac ghetto; it's a lot faster, and once I get my bearings I'll see about finding an alternative to the lameness of Blogger. It's time for new digs and a new name.

Those of you Faithful Readers whom I count among my friends will get an e-mail update when the new digs have been established; likewise, you'll get pictures etc. when the new baby arrives in October. If you're unsure of your friend status, feel free to drop me a line and let me know you'd like to be notified. I'll also post a link to the new site here, once it's up and running. Don't hold your breath, though. It might be a while.

Before I go, here are some recommendations of stuff I've enjoyed recently:

For all of you grammar nerds out there, the page of unnecessary quotation marks, and for all of you savage misanthropes, the page of passive-aggressive notes.

For fans of juvenile halfway-incomprehensible garage-rock humor, here's my favorite new band. My favorite track is "Good Girl Yes, Bad Girl No".

For those who have yet to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior: The God Hatch.

For those who appreciate Rube Goldberg cleverness, a marble machine that almost makes me want to buy a Honda.

For those ready to tackle a sublimely creepy, subversively funny, disturbingly erotic, overwhelmingly complex, totally original novel, I highly recommend the astonishing House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.

For those who either don't have an allergy to Michael Moore or are willing to consider the possibility of overcoming it, go see Sicko. He's not in it much; it's not obnoxious; it made me laugh and cry and grit my teeth in anger.

Okay, that's it for now. Um...yeah. I should end with a joke. Some of you -- those of you who knew Jared Gutekunst -- already know this one.

What's yellow and bumpy and swims in the ocean?

Moby Corn.


05 July 2007

Bong hits 4 Jesus. Bong hits 4 Jesus. Bong hits, bong hits, bong hits 4 Jesus.* What does that even mean?

A) Jesus is sick and he needs medical marijuana. Donations would be appreciated.
B) Jesus is dead and that's sad and we should all smoke a bowl in his honor.
C) Smoking pot is highly recommended, and it comes with a free bonus: Jesus.
D) Bong hits are in fact beings who support the political/religious success of Jesus.
E) Someone named Bong is engaged in hitting, which he does on behalf of Jesus.
F) I like raising my middle finger, but I don't quite know what to do with it once it's up there. Also, I can't spell the word "for".

Yeah, so it's not just the unfettered free speech of the KKK and Jerry Falwell that we liberals have to defend, it's yutzes like this kid. It's not just offensive speech we have to allow, it's clumsy cheekiness like that of Mr. Frederick. What he did was rude and unimaginative, but no more so than the blatherings of Michael Savage or Ann Coulter.

[* By the way, the page I referenced for this story was on Wikipedia. A whole lot of people give Wikipedia shit, because it's so easy to do when you don't have a full picture of how it actually works. Read this.]

Anyway, last week my local latte-liberal daily ran an editorial in support of First Amendment rights, and received this response from a man in Santa Rosa named Michael Flanagan:

Your editorial, "Taking a hit", promotes free speech rights for children under 18 and supports the child with the banner "Bong hits 4 Jesus." Why?

It is often stated that with freedoms come responsibility. Certainly many American have taken on that responsibility and courageously died in wars defending our freedoms, and free speech is foremost of all the freedoms that we hold dear. Are children under the age of 18 ready to assume the responsibility that comes with free speech? Are we parents to give our teenagers a carte blanche to do and say whatever they wish? Part of our job as parents is to guide our children down the proper path, and that includes teaching them what is appropriate to say.

I'd be interested to know how active and influential the parents of "Bong hits 4 Jesus" were in leading their teenager down the proper path, though in this day and age, some parents think that dope and bong hits are the proper path.

I snorted so loudly upon reading this that Marla suggested I go write a reply. I did, and it appeared in the paper this week. I wrote:

Letter writer Michael Flanagan of Santa Rosa is to be commended for his thoughtful rebuttal Friday to your editorial concerning the "Bong hits 4 Jesus" kid. As he points out, many Americans have died to defend our right to free speech; clearly, they have thereby demonstrated the responsibility to exercise that right, although their deaths do present some logistical difficulties.

But those were adults. Those under the age of 18 have not made such a sacrifice and should not be trusted to speak their minds without the approval of their elders.

As everyone knows, with the arrival of one's 18th birthday comes a sudden metamorphosis into a being of maturity and wisdom -- one who knows, without being told, what is "appropriate to say." Flanagan, who was lucky enough to have been guided down "the proper path", knows that appropriate speech is limited to that which offends no one.

Surely, that is what our brave soldiers have fought and died for.

22 June 2007

Today we had an ultrasound done and got to see some foetal porn. They sent us home with two wide-open crotch shots and a face silhouetted in silver static. Nose at the same slope as Genevieve's. The crashing, sucking thunder of a four-chambered heart, visible on the monitor, quivering like a jellyfish. All systems go.

A little girl.

Girl on film. Girl in my lap. Woman on the table. Female dog at home in the livingroom. House full of estrogen and me, still, with the one and only Y chromosome. Why? It's always been this way. I am most at ease in a room full of females, most myself. I must admit I wanted a son, as I did the first time around, only more so since this will be my last child. Sake of variety, and also my greater familiarity with the experience of being a guy. Would have been nice. But being the father of a little girl is pretty freaking awesome, so it's all good.

It's those dowries that are going to kill me. I'd better start investing in goats and oxen.

22 May 2007

. . . well, no. Not really. Not yet.

And yet, as the sign in my classroom says, "Create the change you want to see." Or see the change you want to create.

20 May 2007

Three weeks left of school. Early mornings and late nights, driving in the dark, working, grading papers, gliding down toward the valley of summer on a wave that crests at graduation day. Between now and then I will be completely in the teaching zone and almost certainly not posting here.

Then comes summer. Things will change this summer. I'm going to get some sleep, I'm going to find a job, I'm going to have time to be with my family, I'm going to have time to write more often. I need to write more. Too much of my writing lately has been private, often in the manner of an exorcism. I have an idea for a children's book that I'd like to write, inspired by the way that Genevieve craves story and the way I've learned to improvise plots on the fly. I want to get a good recording of my music, perhaps out at Nonesuch where I used to go to school. Down in the redwoods by the little creek on a low wooden platform, long beams of sunlight in the fragrant shade, me and my guitar and the water and some really fine audio.

That's a summer project. Then there's figuring out how to approach this teaching gig differently, so that it doesn't overwhelm me and prompt me to react with self-sabotaging behavior. I love teaching. It's what I want to do. This year, for reasons that still are far from clear to me, teaching was hell. It was good too, educational, worth my time — still hell.

My brain is a fascinating apparatus that works beautifully in many ways, but there are flaws in the design. Some people have a high-maintenance body: the morbidly obese, say, or the gravely ill. I have a low-maintenance body — eat or don't eat whatever I want, whenever I want, stay slender regardless of exercise — but a high-maintenance mind. Much energy is expended hauling it out of ditches. Major construction is now underway on the neural infrastructure, however; look for significant repairs to be made this summer.

This summer. Two weeks from now, the day after I return from whitewater rafting with my 8th graders, Genevieve will turn 3. The number of magic wishes. She's incredible and I can't wait to be with her all day, every day, for weeks at a time. I can't keep up with all the wild invention of her speech. I want to remember everything, but it floods past me like tall grass in a high wind.

She's making up her own stories now, deep into roleplaying, weaving in her latest threads of culture. Her current top picks for the daily Post-Nap Video Hour With Papa are Kiki's Delivery Service, Wallace and Gromit, and a National Geographic special on Siberian tigers. (She is frequently a tiger these days. Her birthday party invitations show a growling tiger cub in a party hat. Genevieve often comes to the table as a ferocious tiger who masticates her protein with what the video narrator soberly intones are "jaws so massive, they can crack the spine of a wild boar with a single bite.") She likes to read a book I just brought home from the library book sale, an old Scholastic from 1967 called Animal Doctors: What Do They Do? This is, like, the ideal book for Genevieve, who was already passionately interested in veterinary medicine. Her favorite song is still "She'll Be Comin' 'Round The Mountain", a number that never fails to make her shake her booty round the room.

On Mother's Day we visited a goat farm. Genevieve got to pet a baby goat that had been born that morning, and we watched the goats get milked. Oh My God.

Marla's belly is growing; there is a noticeable pooch of belly, and when I put my hand on the pooch there's something resilient inside, a firm-walled womb in there.

The themes of Genevieve's play these days are three: Birth, Death and Pain. Does that sound grim? Not to me, but then I think it's less grim to engage with those subjects than it is to avoid them.

Games we play over and over these days:

Hatching From An Egg. Evvy gets under some blankets and I go walking loudly through the jungle. "Oh my goodness, what's this? It appears to be an egg. I wonder what kind of creature is going to hatch out of this egg. I guess I'll just have to wait and see. Oh! I see a crack! There's an eye peeking out..." and so forth until she reveals herself to be a baby crocodile, or horse, or kitten. This game must be repeated immediately, mere seconds after the revelation.

Checked By A Doctor. An animal needs to be checked. That animal may be stuffed, or it may be Evvy, or it may be me. But one way or another, someone's getting checked by someone else. The symptoms will be described. Tools will be applied with care to the affected area. At some point, a band-aid will be employed. Medicine will be made available. The patient will be urged to rest and avoid lifting heavy objects for a couple of days.

Evvy: I'm not breeving!
Papa: OH NO! Call 911, run and get help! You, stay here and help me get her on her back. You're going to be okay, miss. Can you breathe?
Evvy: No-I-can't-breeve-I'm-not-breeving.
Papa (pressing down on her ribcage): One, two, three, four, five. (Pause. Papa presses his ear to her chest.) OH NO! We've lost the pulse! Where the hell is that ambulance? Hang in there, miss. (More chest presses, more counting. Papa blows into her mouth.) Come on, fight! Fight! I'm not going to lose you, dammit! Thank god, here are those . . . things that you rub together and make some electricity, and it, like, shocks your heart into beating again. I forget what they're called. But I have some of them, and I'm building up the charge. Okay, here I go. Clear! (Papa puts those imaginary whatever-those-things-are on Evvy's chest.) Thoomp. Are you breathing now?
Evvy: Yeah. No, no I'm not breeving still.
Papa: Clear! Thoomp. There, now your heart is beating. Now you are coming back to life. Now you will start to cough, and sit up, and say it is all better. And everyone will cheer.

Evvy's Delivery Service. Evvy is pregnant. Something is bulging underneath her shirt, and it must be a baby that's ready to come out. Is she going to do it at the hospital or at home? Will it be a vaginal or a C-section birth? Is it a breech baby? All of these questions are considered, and then the baby is born. It gets a bath, a towel dries it off, and then the mama gets to hold it and give it boobah. (Evvy herself has been off the boobah for months now, and is sleeping by herself for most if not all of the night. During sleep is the only time she still wears diapers. She is a Big Girl Now, and when she turns 3 in a couple of weeks, she will get to try some gum for the first time.)

Dying. Sometimes, people die. And animals die. That's just how it is. Plants die, too. Everything gets born and everything dies. It's okay to die, just like it's okay to get born. You can't really do anything about either one. When it's time to get here, you get here. When it's time to leave, you leave. In between, you get to make all kinds of decisions, like: cremation or burial? What color is the urn or casket? Where will the remains be returned to the earth? What will people say at the funeral? Genevieve isn't thinking about much of that yet, but she's well on her way to forming her own totally healthy fascination with the riddle of death. Sometimes Papa has to get buried. Sometimes a cherry tree grows on top of him.

24 April 2007

OK. If I don't post sometime in the next hour or so, I will have officially neglected this Algonquin-Round-Table-of-One for more than a month. And that Just Won't Do.

Why have I been away? Combo platter. Hardcore teaching entrée with heaping sides of stupid goddamned depression, exhaustion, lack of inspiration and reprioritization of "free time". And the few times I've sat down to write something, all I can think of is that combo platter, so then I think better of it and go read the latest XKCD.

Anyway: for those of you who have not yet heard the Exciting News...

...come early October, Genevieve is going to become a big sister.

It's official: Marla is pregnant. We got the ultrasound photos today, but the real proof came a couple of weeks ago when she felt compelled to drink sauerkraut juice straight from the jar. You just can't fake that kind of thing.

So yeah, Baby #2 is on the way, which is cool and exciting and scary. I'm looking for a teaching job for next year, and I will get one because I'm good enough and smart enough and, um, the tip jar at Open Mic Night won't quite cut it with TWO KIDS to support. Woo hoo! If love itself were both edible and capable of generating electricity, I'd already be set. Such is, regrettably, not the case.

I'm pretty sure we're going to determine gender in advance this time, simply because this is the last kid either of us wants to have and there's something to be said for variety of experience. We already know what it's like to be surprised on Birth Day; now we can find out what it's like to know in advance. We'll keep it a secret from the rest of the world, though, so that we don't get inundated with pink or blue.

So there's that.

It's the fourth quarter; I have five weeks left of classes, and then a four-day whitewater rafting trip with my eighth grade students, and then graduation. It's poetry season. I know what I'm doing, I'm totally into it, and bizarrely, so are my students. I gave them the customary spiel: "How many of you really love poetry? Raise your hand if you read poetry on your own, not for a school assignment but because you really love it. Okay, a few of you. Now raise your hand if you listen to music. Keep it raised if the music has words. Keep it raised if this music is important to you. Guess what? You really love poetry."

Then we made a list of our favorite poets on the board. Here's what the 11-14 year olds in my neck of the woods are listening to these days:

The Dead Milkmen
The Dead Kennedys
The Sex Pistols
Joni Mitchell
Jimi Hendrix
Guns 'n' Roses
Cheap Trick
Snow Patrol
Linkin Park
Snoop Dogg
Tori Amos
Blue October
The Arctic Monkeys
10,000 Maniacs
Sheryl Crow
Maroon 5
The Rolling Stones
Green Day
Christina Aguilera
The Hush Sound
Bob Marley
Elton John
Pink Floyd
Jimmy Buffett
Bob Dylan
Jack Johnson
The Who
Suzanne Vega
The Jackson 5
The Police
Breaking Benjamin
Death Cab For Cutie
The Postal Service
Billy Talent
Operation Ivy
Nerve Agents
Smashing Pumpkins
Tom Waits (OK, this one's mine)
The Beatles
Tupac Shakur
Gwen Stefani
Hello Goodbye
Presidents of the United States of America
Amy Winehouse
Counting Crows
Biggie Smalls
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Reel Big Fish
The Alec-tric 5
The Ramones
The Pixies
The Sofa Kings
Modest Mouse
Nelly Furtado
Led Zeppelin
The Alan Parsons Project

Nicely eclectic, I'd say. Fairly good taste all round, although Linkin Park...well, I'll say no more. But yeah, not too bad for tweens. So now everyone's getting a turn to bring in a favorite song and play it in class while we all look at the lyrics; then we deconstruct it. Assonance, consonance, metaphor, internal rhyme, meter, imagery, theme, thesis. Good stuff. I kicked things off with Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Cory", followed by the updated version written and performed by Paul Simon with Art Garfunkel.

For a further update, check out the super-hi-tech Richard Cory Interactive Adventure.

And then there's the Bertolt Brecht RPG, which is perfect for kids' parties.

While we're being like that, "that" being a degeneration into disturbing linkage as a form of anticlimactic denouement, it may be comforting to know that God is A-OK with buggery.

He's probably not OK with Nazi leprechauns, though. At least, I really hope he's not.

Um, I can't think of a good segue into this one. Which, if you're cool enough to appreciate it, is itself a really hip segue. And now, all things squid.

24 March 2007

Awright, awright a'ready! Here I am: rock you like a hurricane.

Is what, you know, I'm going to do. Eventually. When I'm ready.

Last week was the four-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. The war has now lasted half as long as my marriage. I went to a gathering in the plaza downtown on Monday evening.

We stood in a big circle as dusk fell, and some of us came forward into the circle to say or sing something. I stepped in and said:

Thank you for coming here. I find it helpful to come to gatherings like this, because they help to remind me that I'm not alone in how I feel about this war. The tide of public sentiment has shifted in our direction, but it has taken too much time, moved too slowly, cost too many lives.

Four years ago, I was part of the largest anti-war protest in history. Somewhere between six and thirty million people worldwide took to the streets on the same day to send a clear, unified, unmistakable message of disapproval from the world community. I was in San Francisco, and I heard Martin Sheen speak. He said: "None of us can stop this war. There is only one guy that can do that, and he lives in the White House."

Of course he was right, and as we know, that guy didn't so much as twitch in the face of this unprecedented level of dissent. He just didn't care. We had no guns, money or oil, so we were not part of his equation. The will of the people is unimportant to him. He is the decider, a deeply insecure man who, like many children of aristocrats, is terrified of being rendered powerless. He has been taught never to show weakness, and to him that means never flinching, never wavering, never giving in. He will not listen to us.

I understood that four years ago, and something in me died. We've been lucky in that we've never before had to deal with a president as bad as this one. But democracy will be challenged eventually; like children, the leaders of the world will keep pushing the boundaries of our tolerance, checking to see if we really mean what we say. When democracy is challenged, we defend it or it dies. George W. Bush is the bully who says: No, I won't stop. Make me. Go ahead. What are you going to do about it? Stop talking and make me.

Gatherings like this can only be the beginning of something else, a shot in the arm to provide the energy to get the real work done. Do we really want to stop the war? What are we prepared to do?
Do we believe that voting is enough — do we believe that our votes matter? Or is there something more that must be done?

I don't know the answer, and I don't believe the best answer can be a monologue. No one person can know the will of the people. But I know that people are dying because of the man in charge of this country; I know that their deaths are horrible and unnecessary and spawn further deaths, further violence. I know that the killing can and will be stopped; the only question is when. The only question is how long we will allow it to continue before we can stand it no longer. When we are resolved to end the reign of George W. Bush by trial and impeachment, the war will be over. When our actions bring about the justice that we know in our hearts has been denied, we will have moved beyond protest and into revolution.

Revolution is not a dirty word. It is the foundation of this country, but it is no antique; it is our birthright, and was long before the United States were formed. The overthrow of tyranny is not a privilege. It is a responsibility — difficult, dangerous, essential, and immediate. It is upon us now. Let us seize it.

04 March 2007

It's still burning in my mind. I watched it three or four days ago, and I can't stop thinking about it. Art can be great for lots of different reasons, but my favorite reason is that it sometimes redefines the boundaries of your awareness. So much of the way we change is invisible, unmeasurable, which is good, but still there is a sense of loss I feel at how much I've forgotten. And a hard, beautiful, painful, exquisite pleasure/regret when memory stutters out punctuation on the page of my brain.

Memory is not just the record of your experience. Memory is notoriously unreliable, and that is because it is a story, fiction, which is not to say false. Awareness is subjectivity. I think, therefore I am not you. And yet when you show me something I've never seen, I recognize it. Why is that?

The film is George Washington. Don't ask any questions, just put it in your queue or rent it at the local store, or even buy it sight unseen, because it's that good. I'll reimburse you immediately if you feel your money was wasted.

I know I recently rhapsodized about Junebug, so this doesn't seem like a new thing, but it is. Junebug is a very good movie. Very, very good. George Washington is something else. I've never seen anything like it. I am fiercely opposed to any attempt to summarize it. I don't want it to become anything other than what it already is. It popped like a firework in my brain, and I want you to have that experience, too.

If you need anything further, I refer you to Roger Ebert's review, which does it about as much justice as any verbal description could, which is to say virtually none. By the way, when you watch it, be sure to check out the extras and catch the short film A Day With The Boys by Clu Gulager, which was one of the inspirations for George Washington. You'll never see it anywhere else, and it's amazing, hallucinatory, brilliant. There are some things that words can't do.

01 March 2007

Crazy, crazy world. Crazy, crazy times.
Crazy, crazy world. Crazy, crazy times.
Hang up your chair to better sleep,
Clear the floor to dance.
Sweep the rug into the fireplace.

I don't even know what to say. It's complicated. I find myself saying that to the students, urgently: that people are complicated, that when they write their stories they should complicate the central figure to make him, or her, seem more real. Real people have all kinds of crazy shit running through their heads (I don't say this part to the kids). Some of us have dangerously crazy shit and are in positions of great power, and choose to send thousands to their death in a vain attempt to satisfy some macho crotch-itch. (I don't have anyone particular in mind when I say that; I'm just sayin'.) Some of us have crazy shit that wouldn't be so dangerous if we didn't deny its existence so vigorously. Some of us have crazy shit that overflows despite our best efforts and, um, complicates things.

I find myself in a profoundly complicated and contradictory state of mind lately, a state of mind nearly incapable of self-definition, a weird blend of everything's-fine and dread. It's hard to tell what's real sometimes. That's never been easy for me, actually; I'm frequently brought up short by the realization of how inaccurately I perceive reality. When one's emotional state literally shifts with the weather, it's difficult -- and dangerous -- to believe the assumptions of one's own mind.

But everything's fine. And that's reality, too. Things keep changing, and you move into the changes as best you can, and if the moment you're in isn't one you enjoy, that's okay; it's about to change. If you're euphoric, don't get attached to it. You're in control. You have no control. Accentuate the positive. Acknowledge the darkness. Deal with your shit. Don't dwell on your shit. You fucked up. You're a good person.

My friend Kumar Lewis died about a year ago, and I'll be going to the ceremony a month from now. We both played the lead, Eugene, in a dual-cast high school production of Brighton Beach Memoirs. We weren't deep friends and I never got to know him particularly well, but there was a lot of camaraderie between us, and I liked him. He had a generous heart, and this kind of goofy, naive, pseudosuave, self-deprecating, easygoing manner that was both annoying and totally charming. I'm sorry that he died.

I haven't been able to bring myself to start looking for a job yet, but I know that I need to. Soon. Things are complicated. That's okay, though, because -- well, it's complicated. But let's just say that life decides to shower you with a shitstorm; it has been known to happen. What do you do? I don't know what you do. What I do is go crazy, and do my best to ride the craziness instead of letting it ride me.

I'm so tired. I've been staying up every night writing, crashing into sleep and out of it too early in the morning. Somehow I can't seem to stop.

It turns out that the book my eighth graders just read has a sex scene in chapter 15 that I overlooked. It's sweet and specific and brief, and not a particularly important event in terms of the plot. Some of the kids were a bit shocked when they discovered it, and when word spread, they had about fifteen minutes of reading and giggling. Then we all moved on. Until a mother found out...

Tune in next week for the next episode of: Felix Helix, Purveyor of Prurient Pornography to Pious Pipsqueaks!


11 February 2007

My first exposure to the term came in college, in the words of a friend who said, in reference to the architecture of the highrise dorms in which we all lived: "In a feng shui sense, we are all clusterfucked."

"Clusterfuck" would be an awesome band name, but like so many band names (i.e. "Cradle of Filth"), the aesthetics of the terminology are preferable to the reality they may be imagined to describe. When I tell you that I am currently embroiled in what feels remarkably like a clusterfuck, I don't mean to draw a comparison to, say, the people of Darfur, who are in a situation that renders my current inconveniences positively trivial in their impact; still, somehow, despite an awareness of my relative good fortune in the larger scheme of things, I remain terrifically bummed out.

A clusterfuck, as I understand it, refers to the tendency that bummers have to accrue once they get started. So when I was told on Friday afternoon that I would not be receiving a contract for next year in my teacher's mailbox, all the other bummers in the neighborhood -- a neighborhood, I say again, fortunately far distant from those in Darfur -- pricked up their ears and started to roll my way. Now that I'm facing the loss of the best teaching job I'll probably ever have, I also get to experience a sore throat, insomnia, torrential rain, and standing water on the floor of my car via a mysterious leak that has also affected the computer such that the little "bong bong bong" noise, which normally indicates that I've failed to fasten my seatbelt, now continues to sound even after I've turned off the motor and shut all the doors. It's been bong bong bonging for hours now. The battery will probably die. It's Sunday and my mechanic is out of town.


At least there's my DVD player, which, though lately it has taken to spontaneously refusing to recognize the existence of discs inserted into it (alternately claiming "No Disc" and "Bad Disc"), is currently accepting them. I'm taking tomorrow off. I'm hoping it will last through then.

This too shall pass. A few years ago, I lost my first teaching job under similar clusterfucky circumstances, except that instead of having a car that freaked out I had a car that was stolen out of my driveway. Out of that sucky season came the birth of my daughter and a life that led me to a job I liked even better. So who knows? You stay alive and all kinds of interesting, though not always pleasant, shit happens.

"If you're going through Hell, keep going." --Winston Churchill

08 February 2007

Three disturbing things:

Disturbing Thing #1: I don't have a TV, and I'm probably a little bit too proud of that fact; ditto the fact that I don't understand the rules or the appeal of football. So hell no I didn't watch the Superbowl. Two of my least favorite things in the world -- watching overpaid jocks hurt each other and watching advertisements -- together in unholy union? Uh no uh thanks. But apparently a lot of people are into that sort of thing. And ultimately I'm a "you can go your own way, as long as I can go mine" kind of guy. But I've got my limits, and Snickers went too far. Watch this and be fucking outraged.

Disturbing Thing #2: People get upset about games like "Grand Theft Auto" not just because they're morally reprehensible (beat up hookers for fun!) but because they're popular. If no one played them, who would care? And yet, despite the fact that few people ever played it and even fewer remember it, I'd say that "Custer's Revenge" has got to be the worst video game ever.

Disturbing Thing #3: This one is the good kind of disturbing. Weird and unsettling, but not at all hateful. Just beautiful and creepy.

04 February 2007

Instead of nothing to say, I have three things to say.

1. Marla went to the grocery store today and came back with groceries, including, among other things, a surprise for me. It was a bar of pear-flavored dark chocolate. The paper box it comes in bears the legend Intense Pear. When I came home from the city tonight and went up to my aerie to watch a movie, I switched on a light and saw the box, and thought it said Intense Fear.

I'm still going to eat it, though.

2. I watch a lot of movies, and not all of them are good ones. Most of them are pretty good, some are awful, and a few are transcendent. One of the things I love most in life is the feeling I get when I sit down to watch something I know nothing about, or think I know something about but actually don't, and find myself surprised by what I'm seeing. And as I keep watching, the surprise keeps blossoming until it hits the sweet spot and I know I'm watching something I really love. A couple of years ago it was Me and You and Everyone We Know, which I don't think anyone else dug quite as much as I did. Tonight's movie was Junebug, which I had heard was good; I read the blurb on the back of the box and it told me nothing; I steeled myself for another ho-hum independent-movie blah-blah; I found myself a little bit surprised, then a lot surprised, then bushwhacked and moved and nearly crying and most of all happy. Don't ask any questions or do any research, and don't pay any attention to anything I've said so far; don't have expectations. Just see it.

3. Genevieve is getting more creative and more ornery and more impossibly beautiful all the time. She has entered a phase in which, periodically and for no apparent reason, she will put her arm over her eyes when I enter the room so she can't see me, tell me to go away, and say that she doesn't like me. (Ggkk! That's my heart you just ripped out of my chest and stomped on!) And then two seconds later, or less, she'll be kissing me goodnight and telling me that she hopes I dream that I'm a kite flying up into the clouds with a kitten on my back. Can a soul get whiplash? Answer: Yes. Do I comprehend that her emotional states flow through her like a winter river and that it's useless to get attached to any of them and that ultimately she understands and mirrors my deep love for her? Totally. It's remarkable what you can know and not feel.

OK, that's three things. Here's another: Blogger is revamping the parameters of the templates that no-charge websites like this one follow, and I'm not at all fond of the changes. It's simpler, and more "user-friendly", if a user is defined as someone who doesn't understand basic HTML, but I find it unnecessarily restrictive. For example, I no longer have the option to create a title for individual posts. The new template they're urging me to adopt also doesn't allow for things like the "Baby Pictures" image in the sidebar that links to a separate post when visitors click on it. It's kinda dumb and I don't get why they set it up that way. End bitch session.

Um, here's another thing. (I guess this is a Douglas Adams-style trilogy.) January is a bastard month and I'm glad it's over. I got the norovirus or something a lot like it, missed work for ten days or so, ended up in the hospital on a morphine drip to keep me from screaming about the phantom stiletto in my stomach, and, when I finally got back to school, re-entered a state of overwhelming depression I thought I'd finally shaken. Yes, I will let go of January. Any takers? Anyone? Tell you what, I'm just going to set it down here and walk away. Take your time.