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.

13 October 2005

The rusty gears of morning, and faceless, busy phones.

Last night I surprised myself. I stopped in at a local caffeine parlor on the way home from work and discovered an open mic night in full swing. There was a geezer with a slightly out-of-tune guitar playing the Woody Guthrie songbook. It looked like so much fun that I decided spontaneously to join in. I started with the Woody Guthrie song I know how to play, "Ingrid Bergman", posthumously recorded by Billy Bragg, which also happens to be my daughter's favorite song.

(My daughter. This is her. In Hawaii about a month ago. On a pool table in our beachside house, in her party dress. Take whatever "oh she's so binkery" reaction you may have, multiply it by 919,281,836 billion billion squidrillionillion, and that's me.)

Then I played one of my two political songs, "Star Wars", and then the first lullaby I wrote for Genevieve, before she was born, "Ship of Stars". I played pretty well, despite stage fright, and was well received. A gentleman urged me to submit my songs to the International Songwriting Competition, advising haste, as the deadline for submissions is tomorrow. The potential prizes are considerable, as is the honor of merely being listened to by such luminaries as Tom Waits, Loretta Lynn, Macy Gray, Amy Ray, Steve Vai and The Donnas. It costs, but what the heck. I'm entering "Star Wars" and "Ship of Stars", and if I don't win then I'll consider the entry fee to be payment for a most enjoyable evening out.

I'm thirtysomething now. I've been so many years already, each one swallowed by the next, bearing the full belly of my past as I go on masticating the present, trying to pace myself to match the speed of my digestive system.

Vocationally centered, now, in a way I've never been before. So much of me goes into being a teacher. It's exhilarating, exhausting, revitalizing, transformative. Amazing. These are not the adjectives you expect to hear from a teacher. I'm wary of boring people or coming off saccharine; it's hard for me to see myself from the outside, and I rarely know what other people are thinking. So I'm constantly checking the reception I get. Is this okay? Can I broadcast my joy? Does anyone care to hear it? Should that matter? Where is the balance?

I am so happy. Am I allowed to say that in public?

Yesterday I started class by passing around a canvas bag and opening it just wide enough for each student to poke their nose in and take a couple of deep breaths. Then I asked them to write for three minutes, without letting the editorial mind get in the way, whatever associations they had with the smell. It was a bag full of ripe Gravenstein apples I'd picked off a tree the day before, reeking of fall.

We're writing children's books now. We're going to write and illustrate and self-publish them, and read them to the first and second graders here at school, and then donate them to another school in the neighborhood.

Last week the school garden hosted a harvest fair with grilled corn and grape juice pressed on the spot and baskets of heirloom tomatoes for fifty cents and Indian-corn necklaces and me hunkering down in the dirt with the fifth-grade teacher strumming Beatles songs while a nine-year-old boy accompanied us on violin.

It's like that, this job: an ecstatic run-on sentence.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are *absolutely* allowed to say that in public. Without jinxing you, it sounds like you might be approaching fulfillment. Wonderful!

Also, every girl loves a party dress. Wait till she discovers how to twirl in it. Totally binkery.


7:25 AM  
Blogger Wesley said...

I'm so glad you're liking the job so much. It sounds like it suits you well -- and still leaves you time to be your creative and fatherly self.

Good luck with the songs. I look forward to hearing them sometime. If they're anything like the ones I have heard, you're a shoe-in.

3:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home