Sunday, March 31, 2013


"Dude!  First day of my birthday weekend was SUCCESS!  Blacked out success!"
I laughed and kept walking.
"Awesome!" I called over my shoulder.
This guy kills me.  A twenty-something hipster that works at the bike shop by my sister's house that seems like the last person I could get along with.  

"Is there anyone in the room with you?" the robo-call sounding judge asked me on my telephone, unemployment hearing.
"Um, no."
"Are you recording this?"
"Err, no."
Should I be?
"Raise your right hand and swear to the oath."
I awkwardly raised my right hand while sitting in the Conservatory in my pajamas as robo-judge read the oath.
I could hear my ex-boss doing the same thing on a three way, speaker phone.
It was so strange that part of me wanted to commiserate with him. 

Bike Bro ran up to Holly's front porch.  And when I say ran, I mean literally scaled the slope that lines the stairs to her yard and jumped over the stairs that lead to her porch, legs and feet swayed to the right as if a skateboard was under them, but there wasn't. 
"Man so, I started out the night at Church.  Got free shots all night and kept sending half of 'em over to my hot fucking Asian ex-girlfriend that was sitting at the bar next to me.  Her boyfriend was sitting on the other side.  Man he looked pissed!".

I stood outside, shoveling bucket after bucket full of the dirt Alec and I had unearthed the day before.  It sucked.  I carried the buckets up the stairs and dumped them in the abandoned lot, then returned to fill another.  Alec would have helped me, but I deliberately took care of it while he was away from the house.  We had spent half of the previous day digging out our crumbling retaining wall and he had done the brunt of it, standing in the rain after it was dark shoveling the dirt behind the Frankenstein wall we had constructed.  I had to clear the massive fucking dirt pile that was left on the sidewalk.  I was worried about Monday.  I didn't want to get a ticket from the city. 

"Then, I went over to this punk rock show in Cabbagetown.  Man, I was working my moves!  Made out with this red headed girl all night.  She said we were crashing into people.  I woke up at my house and fuck!  It was laundry day and I didn't even have a sheet on my bed.  I looked over at her and she had all her clothes on.  Fuck!  I had all of mine on too!".

Cars were parking illegally in front of my house.  At first, I almost warned them.  But when I saw them bust out with their Easter clothes on, I figured I would talk to the police if they tried to ticket their cars.  I was definitely going to be digging dirt for a while.  They were headed to the church on the corner.
"Watch out!" I called to them, "The sidewalk is muddy and slippery!".
I was horrified that some granny in Easter whites was going to bust her ass on my muddy sidewalk.
I kept shoveling dirt.
I saw my across the street neighbors walk up in church clothes, their baby in a stroller.  They did not say hello.  I felt like an official heathen.  Yeah, clearly and unapologetically, I am not a church goer.  But, I felt like I was wearing it on my sleeve as I stood covered in filth while everyone else was dressed up in their Sunday best. 

My shoulders and elbows hurt.  I was flinging dirt everywhere.
I realized that I have been outside on many a Sunday morning without cars illegally parked for church on my street.  I had never seen my across the street neighbors outside before on the weekend that early, let alone dressed up for church.

"How old are you today?" I asked Bike Bro.
"TWENTY-FIVE!" he answered.
"Man, you want to look at my pictures from the Pink Pony?  Look at this crazy guy who took us there, said he had money....". 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Teenage Wasteland

The new student walked in again, without any sort of notebook or pencil in his hand.  He sat down and put his head on the desk.  He had done this for a couple of days.  I didn't mess with him, just spoke to him gently and tried to guide him through the assignments after the other students were at work.  It's hard to adjust to a new school.  I figured it would level out. 

Suddenly, winter struck again.  And I mean full on winter.  I put on a sixties parka that I haven't had to wear since last year and a puffy hat.  I put Lola's pink jacket on and took her for her morning pee prance around the block.  Lola was stopping traffic.  A construction crew ran at her, petting a praising her good looks.  The garbage men called out to her.  One laughed and shook his head from side to side as the truck went by.  I knew what he was laughing at.  You got a big, beautiful eighty pound pit bull and you put her in a pink jacket and prance her around the block like a princess.  That's right, I thought.  We were sensational. 

"I need referrals" the administrator's email said.  Usually, they say the opposite. 
"If you all are having problems with new Zee in your classes, give me something to work with".
I was baffled.  Yeah, the kid put his head down for a few days.  I don't write students up for that.  I call their parents.  So, I called his parents.

"Hey there, I'm Zee's Spanish teacher.  I know he's new to the school but I am a little worried because he is completely shut down, he just walks in everyday and puts his head down and doesn't interact".
His dad kept me on the phone for twenty minutes.  Things had been hard.  Pops was a travelling musician and finally decided to check back in when he felt that moms wasn't paying enough attention.  Zeek had been in a bad school district, one that I knew by name as rough.  I saw in his transcripts that he had gone from an honors student with an A/B average to failing all of his classes.  Pops said there had been trouble at the old school.  He said it was other kids bothering Zee, but for some reason, I sensed that Zee had been violent there. 
"Our school is a very caring environment," I found myself saying, and meaning it.
"We are on his side.  The only thing we want is for Zee to succeed". 
For once, what I was saying actually wasn't bullshit. 

"¿Cuando eras joven, qué te gustaba?" I asked my students, because I knew that they liked talking about the things they loved as children and because I needed their asses to speak in the past tense.  I told them about my love of the Hulk and Wonder Woman and Atari -  you know, caveman pinche seventies stuff.  Hijo de la gran puta, did I open up a can of worms. 

"They got the red ones here!" I saw a boy that looked similar to Zee saying, shaking a red power drink in his face.
"Zee, is that your brother?".
"Wow, you look exactly alike".
I kept walking.  Somehow it endeared me that his brother liked the red drinks in the vending machines at our school.  I just hoped it would rub off on Zee. 

"Someone has been drawing penises in all of the books we are reading." I told the class.
"You've seen it.  And all I have to say is fellas:  we know that you think your downstairs is neat.  Draw it on your own paper.  Ladies, am I right?  I know that we don't draw pictures of wieners.  That is not how we roll.  We don't even doodle pictures of our own body parts.  So fellas, draw it somewhere else".
The girls nodded emphatically and everyone burst into laughter.  And then... the cuando yo era joven took on a different turn....

I noted in the contact log that I had spoken with Zee's father.  Then, other teachers began adding their parts.
"He began coughing loudly and refused to take water.  Everyone was staring at him.  He began shaking and talking to himself.  I cleared the students out of the room and called an administrator to get him out".
"He refused to take his headphones off and the music was so loud that we could hear it.  I ignored him and tried to do my class.  He got up and started walking around randomly.  When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was 'checking on the kids'".
"He walked randomly up to another student and asked him if he wanted to fight.  He went to another and screamed the same thing in his face.  I tried to intercede and he called me a scaredy ass bitch".

"Okay so I was in elementary, at Oakfearn.  I looked for a book in the library about how babies were made," the blonde, popular preppie told twenty five students.
"It was so graphic!  There were like, diagrams of things I had never seen before!"
Her face was bright red with laughter as she bent over laughing.  We were all laughing.  I was almost crying.
"I still have it!"  she shrieked.  "I stole it from the Oakfearn library!". 
"Oh my God," another seconded.  "I was cleaning up my room the other day and I found my 'how babies' are made book that my parents gave me when I was little.  My mom saw me looking at it and said, 'Ohhh, you used to make your dad read that to you every night before you went to bed!'"
All of us, including our narrators were screaming and crying.  It was just so funny and fucked up. 

"I am afraid for the safety of my class"  Zee's next teacher entry said. 
I wrote my final entry.  I was starting to get nervous.  I didn't want to get shanked because this kid had a mental problem. 
"Zee entered class late and I told him he needed a late pass.  He snarled at me and left, slamming the door loudly".
I didn't mention that even my ghetto-est kids muttered "bruh, what up with him?".
"He never returned to class". 

We were reading our book outloud  in class.   They like doing it, but I was annoyed because a few kids were sleeping.  I got on their asses to get their heads up or check out and go home.  I finally touched one girl on the arm, a girl that has physical problems.  She sat up, and started heaving a wheezing.  Her eyes looked disoriented and her breath was wavering and faultering.  I held her head.
"Julie, take deep breaths.  You are okay, you are okay" I repeated over and over.  She felt hot.
It was alarming.
"Do you want me to call the nurse?" a student asked, standing with his finger on the panic button.
"Yes" I responded.
When they responded on the intercom, we all screamed 'nurse'.
Julie was gasping, heaving.  She stood up.  Her eyes were spinning in her head.  I grabbed her arm and walked her outside. 
"Hold the door open" I commanded the student at the door as I halfway carried her across the hall.
She collapsed.
The nurse and an administrator ran up.
"She's struggling to breathe.  She's disoriented.  Please let me know if you need any other information, I am returning to my class".
"Julie is safe" I told them.  

"I am writing to let you all know that Zee has been withdrawn from our school.  Thank you for your documentation, it was very helpful in the hearing" the administrator's email said. 

I felt sad.  That kid is troubled.  I was also shocked at how quickly it played out. 
My first three years of teaching were riddled with student and parental violence.  I called parole officers of students.  I was shoved by a student and had it blamed on me.   I was physically threatened by a parent in front of administrators who responded that I should 'pick my battles'.  I had students that carried a kid out of my classroom so that he could not beat up a girl.  I had a student threaten to shoot another student in the same class.
I am not used to my safety or the safety of my students being an issue. 
I still wonder where Zee will go now and if we could have helped him.

"Okay, so I was on the bus.  Everything bad happens on the bus.  There were these older boys, like eighth grade that were talking to me.  I was flattered, older kids were talking to me!"
We were laughing, the same way we had been laughing through all of the stories.
"They told me to look at this website, washington books, they wrote it on my arm".
We got a little quieter.  Why did they write it on a little girl's arm, mark her that way?
"What is it?" we asked.
"It sounds government?".
"Well, I looked it up at home" she said, laughing a little.
"All this porn came up.  And my mom walked into the room".
I knew we were supposed to laugh.  But it was uncomfortable and I saw that she was blinking her eyes rapidly.
"My mom freaked out.  She called the school and made all of my teachers have a conference.  She told them that I was looking up porn on the internet".

Her eyes darted back and forth.  They were getting red.

"I am so sorry, Kerry.  That is horrible.  I am so sorry".

It was all I could say. 
It was all I could do to make it better. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Such a Perfect Day

Everything was set.  Lola's piñata was stuffed with new toys.  The weather was beautiful.  My family brought gifts for her and was chilling in the sunny yard with beers, playing with Lola.
I heard music and was surprised, and thrilled, to see my sister's car pulling up.

"Happy first birthday!" she yelled.
"Here's your present!".  She whipped out an old bra and swung it in circles over her head and threw it.  Lola went wild.

It was a perfect day. 

I laid my head on the table in the unemployment office.  Every little glitch, which is always their fault, requires my presence and a long wait in the run down building in a strip mall on the west side. 
I had been waiting on my appeal hearing.  I even got someone to cover my class so that I could do the hearing on the phone.  I paced outside of the school, waiting for the call.  It came, fifteen minutes late, to tell me that someone didn't show up to do the hearing and that it would be rescheduled.  And somehow, I got chastised again for not answering on the first ring. 

I was tired.  I half listened to an African-American couple shoot the shit while I waited.  They had been talking a while.  An, older, sharply dressed gentleman came and sat close to them.  He wore a full suit and bow tie.

"My hair is really long when I straighten it" the woman told the man that she had been chatting with.  She had a long-ish afro pulled back in a head band. 
"You should leave it like it is" the suit man interjected. 
"Sheep are curly haired.  Goats have straight hair.  Negros are the only humans with curly hair.  Why would you want to look like a goat?  White women look like goats.  Goats:  some monkey dog thing. Them and white people have straight hair.  Satan wants you to straighten your hair".

He was a few feet away from me and probably noticed that I was white, as I was the only white person in the sea of applicants at the unemployment office.  I was amused.  So I'm a fucking goat now, old timer?

The couple nodded politely, silently, the way everyone does when confronted by a weirdo.  Slavery came up between them somehow. 
"I am Nigerian" suit man stated proudly.
"Born here of Nigerian parents" Elijah Muhammad continued.
"I was not enslaved".
He got up abruptly.

"We were not all in his situation" the male member of the couple muttered. 
"And since then and even before then, we've been our own worst enemy".
I mentally disagreed with him.  

"Hilary" the woman at the desk called out, finally.

I sprinted over. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Land of the Lost

"Dang, I hope it burn so I can warm my hands on it".

I hadn't even made it into the building when I heard the fire alarms going and the kids came filing out.  It was cold, like really fucking whip ass wind cold. We stood in the parking lot.
"I'm going to sit in my car" one of the students said quietly, opening the doors for her friend.

Other things are happening that I can't tell you about.  It is just too hard. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Junkyard Band

An ancient, yet majestic looking woman dressed entirely in royal blue, long coat, hat, everything, walked slowly into physical therapy.  Her face was smooth and devoid of hair - eyebrows, eyelashes, everything.  It didn't even look like she had hair on her head.  It was asexual, yet somehow augmented in a flattering way by the royal blue that cloaked her.  She looked like a Buddha or something, but not the fat one.

"How that shoulder?" the physical therapist asked while he squeezed my finger as I winced and writhed.
"It's bein' a boogly boo" she answered.
She raised her shoulder slightly and turned her head to speak to it.
"I told you that you was goin' to behave yesterday," she said to her raised shoulder,
"but you decided that wasn't how it was goin' to be".
She turned back to us.
"Sometimes, I just want to take it off".

The stocking cap face covering member of the Junkyard Band looked at me quietly.
"You broke your finger?" he asked.
"Yeah..." I replied, flattered that he cared, or that he even wanted to talk to me.
"And now it won't move anymore....".
"We need to chat in a minute" the therapist called to him.
That didn't sound good. 

Lola had been in her crate too long.  I raced home and tethered her outside, throwing tennis balls and toys for her to chase.  I wanted her to run around, stretch her legs, but I didn't feel like walking her.  We were having fun.  Suddenly, two off-leash dogs ran into our yard.  Like, totally in the yard.  I untethered Lola as quickly as I could and tried to drag her inside.  Her hackles were up and she was barking.  They were barking too.  They were free, she was not.

I got her in.  She was freaking out and banging on the kitchen windows with her hands.  I ran out to see what the fuck was up with those dogs.  They had collars on.  One ran down the steps at me with its hackles raised, barking violently.
"YOU'RE barking at ME!" I found myself screaming at the dog.
"Get the fuck out of here!" I yelled, rushing it.  It ran away.
I chased the other one off too.
I saw a woman calling to them, standing on the corner.  Okay, they must have broken out.  It can happen.  As pissed as I was, I didn't want to see them run over. 

Lola was despondent, running around the house, jumping at windows.  I had to go get my niece.  I took Lola in the car; I didn't want to crate her again or leave her loose in the house.  As I opened my car door, I saw the second dog still wandering the street where I had seen the owner take them both.  Apparently it wasn't a big problem to let the dogs roam, loose.  Now, I was really pissed.

Lola and I rode back to our house.   I saw the dog again and hustled her inside.  She saw it too.  And then threw up multiple times on the floor once inside. 
"What the fuck is your problem!" I yelled at the stupid bitch owner of the dogs.
"I have a really strong Pit Bull that's a little funny about other dogs.  Yours rampaged into her territory with their hackles up.  She nearly broke a window after I got her inside and now she's throwing up!  You're lucky I didn't let her have them."
"What the fuck is your problem?!" I screamed in her face.
Or, I wish I did.  

"You've been coming here for a couple of months and I hate to say it, but I am not seeing progress." the therapist told Stocking Cap.
"I still got a lot of pain..." he responded.
"It is unethical for me to keep taking your money when what I'm doing isn't working." he said professionally.
"Alicia isn't coming today, she hurts and is still in the bed." the secretary called.

"Your patients make me sad" I said quietly while he wrenched on my finger.
"I know," he responded
"but it's what I have to do".

"Castigo," I told the students,
"it means 'punishment'.  What's the worst castigo you've ever received?"
I was trying to personalize their vocabulary words.  It started out tame at first.  And then, it escalated.
"My mom locked me outside without my glasses" Ming told the class.
"My dad made me sleep in the hallway on the floor" Trina seconded. 
"They just wup me".
"They make me stand in the corner with my arms raised until I can't keep them up anymore".
"They make me choose between my blanket and the pillow on my bed, but not both".

"What the fuck?!"  I screamed.

Or, I wish I did.