Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Yesterday: born one nephew of yours truly. James Patrick (name censored), 12 pounds and some-odd ounces; twenty-some inches long. (Height, I mean.) All are healthy. I have yet to smoke my cigar.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The First Days of School, 2007

Institute Day

The novelty of being back wore off within minutes. This alarmed me. So did the candy-ass expressions on the admins' faces as I roamed the halls of the opposite building. Normally I go between them, but since [Note: story deleted due to extreme boringness--Editor], I'll be full-time with the lower classmen.

One hour into the day and I'd managed to move several stacks of boxes across the room several times, reluctant to open them.

Two hours into the day and I'd typed up more documents and brooded in the cafeteria, surrounded by faces I didn't know and bereft of better company for the moment.

Three hours in was the first school meeting. The principal reamed us out about test scores, settled down to assure us he knew we were great, then exploded once again about "If you're so damned great, why do our scores stink?" He then lapsed into jocularity and urged all older people to go in for their colonoscopy. So it's not enough the school is up our ass...

Twenty minutes after that meeting, I wanted to go home. But then it was time for the next meeting, where my department previewed what would come up in the next meeting. The only contribution I made was to deliver a (false) phone number for colonoscopies.

An hour after that, the district meeting. Mr. Roma sat in fron of me, and didn't even acknowledge me; then he got garrulous with the guy on the other side of me. The asshole. He just made the list. Again.

The administration gave a speech, imploring us to take NCLB seriously even as we recognize its absurdity; the union reps reminded us that, even though we were "doing our all," we should still "try to do our all." Whatever that means. A tech guy got up to tell us about a meeting teaching us how to work the new phone system. "It should only last a half hour or so," he promised. "Unless it takes longer."

Then the rest of administration got up there and told us that the best way for kids and adults to succeed was to be part of a community. That means, apparently, endless tests, curriculum alignments and meetings upon meetings, but it can also include cookouts and activities (fed into by extracurriculars usually pooh-poohed in favor of study halls, but that couldn't possibly matter less). "We know what you guys are capable of," we were told, "so get on out there and get it done."

Yay team, I thought to myself in the back. Now is my phone line working yet?

As it turned out, no. That was another hour pissed away later.

Look at my attitude. Can you believe this?

Since I'm treading unfamiliar ground that's nonetheless familiar, since the old has now become the new and since everywhere I turn there's something else I have to redefine because [Note: this portion deleted due to extreme whininess--Editor], I'm in for a temperament overhaul. If I don't get one soon, there's going to be trouble.

The next two days usually take care of that. Usually. It's this time of year I remember everything that can and has gone wrong, and imagine a variety of things that could go wrong. Pointless, I admit, but then again, so are standardized tests, and they're sure not going anywhere. Once I actually attend to the hands-on business of teaching (and contrary to popular opinion, that is not always the priority in American education), that part of my psyche starts to settle down.

Anway, if you need me at school, don't call my work number. I think the outgoing message I recorded has a hex in it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Thank god Kim's nephew stayed over last night. Playing the Cool Uncle helps take my mind off the upcoming school year.

Cool uncles let the kid play video games until his brain turns to mush.

Cool uncles also allow them to play on playground equipment recklessly, and unsupervised.

I got this down.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Behold: my first home made martini. Courtesy of my brother's birthday gift.

Couldn't find a toothpick

I didn't bother to take pictures of the second, third or fourth. After the fifth onwards, I wouldn't have been able to hold the camera steady anyway.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Almost there. Eyelids heavy, blood thick and sluggish enough to make me even more stupid than normal. Sleep can't be more than a few hours away.

Today is the woman's birthday. She wanted a kayak. No, she wanted two kayaks. And nothing is good enough for my baby. So I told her, yes, you may go out and purchase kayaks using your own money and driving your own car, and if you need any help, you may call anyone you want, as long as it's not me.

Here she is, presumably buying her kayaks. I don't see them, though. Maybe she got ripped off.

go buy a boat
OK, bad idea. Not drunk, but it sounds like a good idea. Can't get drunk, though. Supposed to go out tomorrow night. After work. Right, forgot about work. This is good beer, though. Got it from Lake Geneva. Quality hops and malt, not like that domestic crap all the drones around me drink. But not me, though. Nothing but the finest for my lifestyle. Dammit, just spilled my spare Coors.

Just decided to teach nephew to box, which means I have to learn how to box within about, what, two years? That ought to be enough time. Kid could be training by three, beat the crap out of anyone he wants before he can even ditch the kid seat in the car. Sweet.

Guilty confession: last month, when I was supposed to be working on a homework assignment, I wrote a chapter of a novel. It's about an intergalactic smuggler who trafficks in people for a while, then gets mixed up in a revolution on a world on the outskirts of the galaxy. Go read it. It's gonna suck.

Seriously, I really can't sleep. This is dumb. I'm tired. I haven't slept in my own bed for a week. Slept like a rock on J&R's couch, but can't sleep in my own bed. What would a psychologist say?
Me: I spent a week away from home and slept fine on a couch, in a motel, in an easy chair. Now that I'm in my bed, and comfortably home, I can't sleep. What's my problem?
Doctor: You have insomnia. That's $500, please.
Just discovered the Instant Viewing option on Netflix, by the way. A lot of crap, but good crap. The kind of crap they used to have in the VHS shelves at Hollywood Video. Tried watching Imprint. Booring. Tried to watch The Candidate. Froze up. Tried to watch Episode I of Voltron. Freakin' awesome.

OK, I'm seriously about to whack myself over the head with a mallet with the words "Vacation is almost over, so get it in gear" burned onto it.

Possible first lines for each class on the first day this year:

--"This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me."
--"If you listen quietly, you can hear my stomach trying to eat itself."
--"Get ready to ditch your hopes and dreams now, kids. It'll make June much less painful."

Got an e-mail from an old journalism student. She got a job. Awesome! I helped make that happen. As a hotel desk clerk. Oh. Well, you probably made that happen, didn't you? Screw you.
Can't sleep. Have to go to school tomorrow and do syllabi and assignments for next week. Teaching next week. Ugh. Not ready. Wouldn't be ready if another month off. How to fineangle my way through it? Journal? SSR? Reminds me: need to stop by Office Max tomorrow and get materials. Thinking about a red gradebook this year. Obviously, I'm a professional. Need to sleep. But can't sleep. Mind racing like a...race car. Yeah, that's what it's racing like. I'm obviously the creative one in the family. Speaking of family--going to be an uncle in a week or two. Sweet. Can teach the kid baseball, football, soccer, hockey...wait, his father will probably take care of all that. OK, so what does that leave me? Teach him how to read, how to write...hell with that, dad and mom can take care of that too. So what then? Teach him how to beat a bar tab when he's old enough? Tell him embarrasing stories about the family? Tell him there's a monster under his bed that will eat him if he reveals his uncle was the one who told him about it? Oh yeah, if I get behind this wheel, it's a train wreck. Will stick to teaching kid stuff what my uncles taught me, once I remember what it was, its impact was so deep it's not readily apparent. Man, I want to sleep. Maybe a beer would help.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

JACKSON, MI--So I'm about 400 pages into Gone With the Wind, and if anyone had ever told me I'd be this hooked on a Southern Romance/epic, I'd have laughed. It's tough to get past the way Mitchell describes the blacks (with all the "capering" and "gleaming teeth smiling in pleasure" I just about want to retch), but overall I can't put it down. Every time my aunt and uncle come into a room, I'm reading this damned book. Last night, for dinner, they fed me meatloaf made with sawdust, to see if I'd notice, and all I said was, "Can you believe Rhett ran off to join the army? What a turd."

Of course, while not reading or socializing, I'm doing work for the upcoming school year. And, as always, my mind keeps pushing it away, like a kid pushing away a plate of vegetables. So as I read this book, it occurs to me, What would the same story be like if told from the blacks' perspective? I could do what John Gardner did to Beowulf with his novel, Grendel. I could win the Pulitzer! I could be famous! Let me get right on it.

Scratch that. Already done: The Wind Done Gone was published in 2001. Back to work I go.