Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yet Another Day

Anthony is a typical nine year old. He has a deep fascination with Star Wars, bodily functions, and Bakugan. He talks to himself out loud as he plays with his Legos; he blushes and stammers when you mention his crush on Valeria; he can make a sword out of anything; and he is late for the bus.

Anthony likes the bus, even when he doesn't get to sit next to Noah, and it's even better when he gets a window seat. The fifteen minute ride is a giddy mix of laughter, name calling, Pokemon card exchange, profanity (both real and imagined), Velcro rips, and coughing; but, as the bus pulls into the parking lot, the mood changes dramatically.

Principal X is already outside, with his bullhorn, shouting suggestions to the children on how they might more efficiently move from the bus to their classrooms. Anthony ignores these useful suggestions (walk, don't talk, let's go, right to class) and heads straight for the bathroom. He doesn't have to go, but the boys can usually squeeze in a pretty good water fight before class. The door is locked. It turns out that the custodian is absent again and the bathroom doors will remain closed for a while. Now Anthony has to go.

First thing you notice about room 16 is that every square inch of wall is covered. There are number lines, class rules, punctuation cartoons, poems about responsibility and squirrels, target words, the Denelian alphabet, and countless references to state standards; large, incomprehensible, and showing a lack of imagination that would make Soviet Russia blush.

Anthony is barely in his seat when Principal X's voice comes over the loud speaker. He is reminding teachers that it is no longer enough that the child is in the classroom when the bell rings but that they must be seated. Any child not seated should be marked tardy and sent to the office. This is a relatively new rule and, when combined with the wrought iron gate that surrounds the perimeter of the school, gives the place a warm, prisony feel.

Anthony's school takes the 'Vitamin C' approach to teaching. You see, at some point in our history a group of aging hippies decided that it was a good idea to inundate their bodies with massive doses of vitamin c; the premise being that there couldn't possibly be too much of this particular good thing. Shortly thereafter some actual scientists took a look at this idea and found that the body can, in reality, only absorb so much and then quite reasonably discards what it can't use in the form of waste.

The corollary is that every minute of every school day is accounted for, apportioned, and meticulously filled. The white boards of all the teachers have the day mapped out, in that unnervingly precise script that they all seem to possess, according to the chunks of time that are to be devoted to each activity. This is the type of approach that appeals to frustrated, half-bright adults who have long since forgotten what it was like to be a child. The fact that this accumulation of activities, and whatever knowledge they are designed to impart, far exceeds the saturation point of any child is utterly lost on these bureaucratically conditioned go-getters. They are also oblivious to the form of waste that this tact will ultimately produce, while the children seem to have some fairly clear ideas.

Miss D spends three minutes going over the difference between right and left, and adjusting the children's hands, before launching into the Pledge of Allegiance. Anthony was going to sneak the word 'poop' in, but Cassie was watching and she always tattles. Miss D is in a foul mood because they just added a mandatory meeting after school and this, combined with her two other scheduled meetings, will put her squarely in the jaws of rush hour traffic. She is very worried about having a job next year.

Anthony stares at a large, orange reading book entitled: Delights. He is supposed to read a story about a sad dog that doesn't appreciate a healthy diet. In the end the dog is rehabilitated, with the help of some of some wise gophers, and all is well. Anthony thinks he liked it, but trying to translate it into a "story hill" makes his neck hurt. And why wouldn't it? A story hill is just the latest in a long line of well intentioned gimmicks that seem designed to be as unengaging as humanly possible. They are also noticeably ephemeral. Three years ago classrooms were filled with chatter about "text to self" and "text to text" references and three years from now there will probably be multi-colored orangutans spouting various phonemes to the tune of Who let the Dogs Out? in high-def; and, still, no one will know what the hell is going on.

The principal's voice comes over the loud speakers again. He lets everyone know that, although it has been raining a little, they will still have outdoor recess. The children cheer and don't seem to hear as the principal goes on. "So, be careful out there. It is wet and I don't want to see anybody running or jumping or playing on the grass or any of the play structures or with a ball or rope of any kind. Have fun."

For the last three days Elijah has brought a dirty plastic Safeway bag filled with Cheetos and red licorice that his step-father, who clearly hadn't read the story about the sad dog and wise gophers, had prepared for him. He and Anthony quickly gorge until they become dizzy and short of breath and take on the appearance of prom-bound oompa loompas. Then the bell rings and they line up.

In elementary school, no ritual is as reverently observed as that of the class line. The process of getting children into, and then maintaining, a line has taken on all the earmarks of a cargo cult fetish replete with solemn incantation (Is this a line? This is not a line. Is this a line?) and human sacrifice (OK Brenda, go to the office. You will not destroy my line.) And so the children are marched off to Excel.

Excel is one of the many acronym laden programs that teachers are supposed to use in place of actual teaching. They are ubiquitous. They are adored. They are also big business and have mission statements like:

C1. Students will access, use and communicate information from a variety of technologies.
Division 1 1.1 access and retrieve appropriate information from electronic sources for a specific inquiry
1.2 process information from more than one source to retell what has been discovered
Division 2 2.2 organize information gathered from the Internet, or an electronic source, by selecting and recording the data in logical files or categories; and by communicating effectively, through appropriate forms, such as speeches, reports and multimedia presentations, applying information technologies that serve particular audiences and purposes

Much money changes hands and the perpetually bewildered feel productive, but, functionally, these programs are to teaching what a suit of armor is to bowling; painful and irrelevant.

Mrs. G is the mean teacher and when she hears any noise above a whisper she makes an explosive noise that sounds very much like a chicken swallowing a cat. Anthony is terrified of her and, consequently, of math. She also has a gift for making the merely dull seem overwhelmingly complicated. At the end of Excel, her white board is a confusion of arrows, double arrows, sweeping X and O covered arcs, and incomprehensible symbols that have been semi-erased and smeared across basic addition problems. Anthony breathes easier as he leaves her room.

Lunch. For those of you who are old enough, who may remember drive-in movie theaters and the heat-lamped delicacies that awaited you during intermission; you have some idea. For those of you who have had the good fortune to stay at one of our many correctional facilities; you have an exact idea. To spend any more time making fun of the food would be like beating Rush Limbaugh to death with a chainsaw; temporarily fun, but a little too easy and ultimately unnecessary. Suffice it to say that Anthony picked at his half frozen taco pocket for a couple of minutes and then downed a pint of chocolate milk and bolted out for recess.

One nice touch is that teachers have taken to posting standardized test results on the wall. The students are divided into five categories: far below basic, below basic, basic, proficient, and advanced. The student numbers are placed into the column that reflects their testing proficiency. There is one chart for math and one for language arts. Orwell would appreciate the 'language arts' touch; Anthony does not. His number is below basic on math and basic on the other. Even though it is just his number, he knows that every body else knows whose number is whose. If asked, he would tell you he feels defeated.

Miss D is in a much better mood. Her late meeting was rescheduled and the girl's decided it would be a good day for happy hour at Aqui's. She is now in the process of trying to describe the Civil War but becomes flustered when she can't remember whether the North was in favor of or against slavery. Last week she said that the San Francisco Bay was no deeper than five feet at any point. Anthony looks over at Mr. S, the guy who works with the wheel chair kids, and tries to make something of his cringing, angry body language.

The rest of the school day is a blur of not doing art, or music, or having time to digest what one is supposed to have learned. He vaguely remembers attending an assembly, something on the dangers of dodgeball, that was presented by a colorful group of smiling neuters, but can't remember if it happened on that day or another. After school, there is the indignity of homework club and the forced frivolity of KidPlay, and then the late bell rings, adrenaline courses through his veins, and he is back on the bus.

Anthony gets home around 4:00 pm. A thing called a lunchable is on the kitchen counter. It consists of three circular pads of half baked dough that can be covered with ketchup, cheese, and raw pepperoni, to simulate pizza. It also comes with a raisin box sized container of juice, a bag of skittles, and a coupon for Flintstones chewable vitamins.

Anthony puts a disc into his Xbox 360, sits down in front of the TV, and earnestly sets about killing everything that comes across his path.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Three Short Poems About Blenders

The window is shut but you keep talking,
your tongue folded into origami nonsense,
and I will never love you.

could you sense not hearing me walk in,
metal fingers clutching at the insolent ice,
brush your hair back,
rush your black robe,
meant to take care of that insolent glass,
could you not sense hearing him walk out?

The open box leans waiting in the corner,
purged of its moment and contents,
and I will always leave you.

i mean to touch her
to take from her what is mine,
hours of ours in the soft scream,
until she knows i am a serious man
and gray clouds clutter her eyes and release her consent

i mean to place her
in her immaculate shrine,
piece by piece of her cool gleam,
until she glows within that vermilion lamp
and red seas stagger her lies and reveal her intent

She looked away when
I brought it home.
Barely able to balance her checkbook
She had something like a fine heart.

Please do not think this is your fault

She filled the room,
I pulled away then.
Barely able to maintain our balance
She had nothing like a delicate metre.

I cannot see to see

She stopped herself,
abrupt, mid-sentence,
and dissolved our selves like sand.

She leaked out through
My finest mind.
Openly braced against her outlook
She had fallen into herself.

I was never meant to be a part of this

She created things,
I could not see.
Openly unable to sustain her valence
She held nothing more than her and me.

Please do not think this is your fault

stopped herself,
abrupt, mid-sentence,
and dissolved our lives like sand.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Love's Executioner

What do you want?

Whatever it is, it has been collected, collated, and circulated for you through the delicate sensibilities of the nearly ubiquitous Craigslist. A broken microwave oven with a dolphin painted on it? in Atlanta has two. You can get both, plus shipping, for under a hundred dollars. He seems reasonable. Calves hurt? in Cairo has a paste that his grandmother makes out of parsnips, mustard seed, rendered cat, and mercury. He is willing to trade a 6 oz. jar for a Walkman, but I already sold my Walkman last year for eleven dollars. I needed stamps. Besides, my calves are actually more stiff than painful. And, anyway, I am looking for something else. I want love.

Craigslist provides an impressive array of options: women seeking men, men seeking women, each seeking their own, platonic, casual, the mysteriously titled misc romance, and missed connections. Since each journey begins with a single step, regardless of whether or not one is being carried by our Lord and Savior (Jesus Christ), I clicked my first ad.

Women Seeking Men

Ummm - 40 - (hayward / castro valley)

Unicorn you are
In my hotel, four star,
Where sheets of clouds trammel
Your heart, so ample,

So amply I ride
Through your eyes, I sighed,
Where Love cannot see
Past your heart, I say,

I am Me.

You: Sensitive, shy, literate, financially stable, 40 something man with piercing eyes and angular features. People say you look like Charles Brolin. You love the outdoors but can snuggle in front of the TV when necessary. You love the arts but are not pretentious. Macrame? You are open to all that life has to offer from science, like astrology and homeopathic medicine, to spirituality and all that The Great Earth Goddess has placed before us. Do you exist?!

Me: BBW, 40 something photographer who isn't very photogenic; I know, it's ironic :) I have seven wonderful cats and three children. People say I look like Meg Ryan. I have long black hair and large mahogany eyes and lustrous olive skin. I like to read and write poetry (Dickons, Nabakoff) but I can also find time for giggling and jumping. White wine is my passion. I get frisky after my fifth glass... so WATCH OUT!!! I am also a subject of the prophet Esmerelda.

Us: I hope! :)

OK. 0 for 1. Maybe a younger girl is in order.

indie? tattoos? - 20 (aptos)

heyy. i am looking for a guy. she didn't want to post up on here caause it'd be "stupid". we'll see about that when i show up with you by my side! haha. okaaaay.
lol 420 friendly.......
20yrs old, 5'2, average body, snake bites, nose ring
i like latinos and mixed guys.
idk im super open minded super down for any type of fun
im not a slut nor a skank i think sexual talk is a turn off
comin off too strong just makes me sick
welp yeah i wanna be spoilded and i wanna spoil whom ever i end up with
shit atleast my my fone bill thats all lol
i am a Pisces so if that scares you don't reply.
hmmmmm ps i lik pics tooooo.

OK. 0 for 2. Maybe two women are in order.

Women Seeking Women

[Editor's note: I am a much beloved figure in the lesbian community; similar to Larry David. From the butch to the bois to the studs to the softbutch to the bi to the bi-curious, I am here for them. They know that and accept me as one of their own. Consequently, finding a pleasant lesbian couple with which to connect is not as preposterous as it may, at first, appear. Of course I will have to help get them together first, but this is the type of work I was born to do.]

Cute queer for flirty dates... - 28 - (San Francisco)

Curvy activist, new to the area, looking for like-minded serious long term relationship. No bi curious, no men...

femme loves femmes - 40 - (san rafael)

I would love to meet a friendly, intelligent women. Someone I could share my life with; my pleasures, my pain, my activism. Honesty, warmth, compassion, spiritual depth. I know you are out there. No bi curious, no men...

OK. This next one looks promising.

Sexy Sexy Bifemale Seeking Lipstick Lesbian Girlfriend - 22 - (downtown / civic / van ness) pic

Hi This is Butterfly... I'm a pretty bifem activist who is into friends, love, whatever. I have a big heart and am pretty much open to anything. No bi curious, no men...

Yikes! What a politicized community. OK. 0 for 3, 0 for 4, 0 for 5. Maybe a man is in order.

Men Seeking Men

looking for asian with smooth ass and small dick - 33 - (sf)

asian home alone looking for top guy will host - 35 - (south san francisco)

Wanna get naked together? - (petaluma)

Horny Hot Bi Bottom+++ - 28 - (haight ashbury) pic

Short (or skinny) guy, big package? - (Sonoma County)

Suck pig/cock nurse - 40 - (cole valley / ashbury hts)

OK. The above is a more or less random sample of the first part of the first page I came across. There is a definite change in tone here. I am not a Sociologist, but I can observe and report.

First, there appears to be an animal-related lexicography, present in most ads, that would make even George Orwell go running for his Big Book of Gay Idioms. Bears, pigs, snakes, and mythical beasts of every variety lunge out at you from virtually every post.

" ... stocky, bearish, daddy, growling, untamed, chubby, husky, etc... big bellies and fur a +."

"... Soul, pig, animal, romantic, oink, 7.5cut, 5'6. Hosting SF. . Will respond to pics and corn."

" From the caverns of the Isle of Mann I hear the Dragon's song and Excalibur becomes unsheathed. I am The Lizard King!"

Second, although there were elements of role playing in the other sections, they take on a more direct, and specific, manner here.

" I want you to come into my house and pretend that you are a burglar that I walked in on. Then I want you to tie me up, carve a Star of David on my shoulder, and cum in my hair. After that you should take off your mask and reveal that you are my uncle who has just been released from prison. Then you should take my answering machine and leave."

Third, there is a striking difference between the post-coital expectations of the male and the female ads.

" The door will be open. Come in, jack off onto my knee, and then go away. No kissing, no eye contact, no talking."

There really exists no female equivalent. The women seeking men ad that reads: " I want you to come to my house and lick my pussy and then disappear," does not exist; not even on Craigslist Las Vegas.

In all fairness there were plenty of ads that were intelligent, sometimes poignant, efforts at meeting a person for a loving relationship. Good luck to them. Bring a compass.

OK. 0 for 6 through 0 for 12. Maybe a casual meeting is in order.

Casual Encounters

After a seventy minute hot bleach shower and the removal of my eyes I am ready to move on.

OK. 0 for 12 1/2. Maybe a less specific approach is in order.

Misc Romance

OK. Not nearly as mysterious as I was hoping. Reasonably sane people who are smart enough, or experienced enough, to avoid the other sections. Sure, there was the occasional Dominican Hurdler Seeks TBoy For Unauthorized Salmon Fishing ad, but it was the anomaly. Actually, there is a forty year old lady in Foster City who likes prog rock and who is very pretty. I might hit her up once my eyes heal.

OK. 1/2 for 12 1/2. Maybe I already met my soul-mate.

Missed Connections

Chatted in line at Trader Joes - Tuesday 3/30 - 31 - (oakland rockridge / claremont)

You were buying aioli and I was wearing a shirt. You said something to the cashier, but I knew you meant it for me. Call me at sixfive3 ohseven22. I love you.

33 Bus Saturday morning around 10:00 - m4m - 25 - (castro / upper market)

We both got on at the 18th and Castro stop. You got off on Potrero near McDonalds. We smiled at each other throughout the trip. I have nice teeth. I wanted to come over and say hi but felt awkward since we were on the bus. I have dark hair I guess.

OK. 1/2 for 13 1/2 and 1/2 for 14 1/2. If she isn't in the first two, then it isn't meant to be. I may have decreased my odds by making one of them a m4m, but I have never been big on math. And so, another soul-mate free Saturday morning ends in shame. Well, not shame exactly; I just like that line. Actually, I stole it from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and paraphrased it for my own use. Any women out there like MST3K? No?