Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Overdue Check-up

I just spent over an hour putting in a glass block window in my basement... while Wyatt was napping... and now I've got that expandable yellow foam all over my hands and it kind of feels like dead skin. It's gross. The window, however, is very nice. It lets in a lot of light and you don't have to worry about looking up there and seeing a face. Especially since I'm tiling the once nasty shower down there. I will be showering down there. I will... probably not. But if I ever have the need to...

I've been meaning to write something about health reform, but I haven't read the bill and know very little about what's going on. So, you may ask, why do I feel I have something to say? Many reasons:

1) You know something big is happening when a random guy with a curly blonde mullet (and a scar across his throat) wants to fight you over the topic of health care reform during your wife's 30th birthday celebration.

2) "They're going to fine you $20,000 and put you in jail if you choose the wrong doctor!"

3) A bumper sticker reading "Socialism is a great idea until you run out of other people's money" next to one reading "Keep the change" with a picture of an American flag sporting a hammer and sickle on a car parked at a city building.

4) Someone framed (framed!) a political cartoon depicting a large-eared Obama kicking one of the wheels off Uncle Sam's wheelchair and hung it in the staff lunchroom.

5) Scads of elderly protesting (I caught this for a minute on the news- my father was watching) in Washington with picket signs.

6) The realization that the greatest enemy of the social revolution sparked by young people of of the 1960s were other young people of the 1960s who grew up wanting to censor the spokespeople of their generation... and still work at it.

7) The fact that many of these people trust their sons and daughters with public school teachers who work for the state, but can't imagine trusting their bodies with doctors who work for the state.

8) The fact that there are many people in the country who define themselves by what limits them.

9) The fact that the prospect of equality still scares the shit out of a lot of people and causes them to say and do many irrational things, most of which, if they had an ounce of self-awareness, might seem absurd.

10) The fact that a lot of the people who will benefit the most from health care reform are hell bent to see it fail.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Class

Between being a dad and an English teacher, I have been working with my wife on finding a new home, and I have made up my mind not to slander any persons, places, or school systems in this post.

We have rebelled against what I call "cookie-cutter" development homes, built on .360 acres or less. When I look at the symmetry of the roof lines in these developments, something dark moves within. I imagine myself as Jack Torrance running amok, laying my axe into the neighbor's SUV, their white vinyl picket fence, their perfectly sculpted topiary bushes. I think I would do fine in isolation. I think I'd have to be committed if, while looking out my kitchen window, sipping coffee, I see my neighbor some twenty feet away hosing the mud from his four-wheeler and singing along to Kid Rock's latest, glossy bit of plagiarism. If left to my own devices, I might take to glowering at my neighbor's military flags and committing small acts of civil disobedience to give members of the respective homeowner's associations something to talk about at their meetings. The thought that I might end up in such an environment has me grinding my teeth and reciting "Earthquake" by Charles Bukowski.

Considering these facts, most of the homes in Medina and Wadsworth (at least those in our price range), are Stepford Wife approved. My wife, on the other hand, feels pretty much the same way as I do about the "cookie-cutters." That said, we've been looking since April of 2008, have walked through numerous open houses, had discussions ranging from argument to lecture to rant to bargain (collective and interest based), and have learned a lot about each other's wants, but have only been able to talk seriously about two homes. We've looked at over 60. One of the two is in Wadsworth, and the only thing saving it from being too cookie-cutter is its unique interior layout and the fact that it butts up against a park. So, we would have land, but just not our land, which might be okay. However, I have suspected that this might make our dwelling the stomping ground for the obligatory passel of Stepford-brats populating the area. That and the price of this house is a little above what we've been looking at. Houses are more expensive in Wadsworth, but the taxes are much lower than in Medina.

The other house is in Marshallville. It is a large home, sits on just over two acres, and is adjacent to an old cemetery. Some people might consider this last feature undesirable, but yours truly thinks it's much cooler than an association recreation center or a community pool. My wife likes the house as well as the little ravine at the back of the property. My only hesitations come from learning 1) There are construction loans that have not been paid by the owners (I don't really know what this means or if it is a problem for potential buyers) 2) There is a sophisticated wood burning setup tied into the heating system, which means a) piles of wood and lots of smoke b) potential high heating bills without said wood and smoke 3) My drive into work will only be shortened by a minute, from 35 to 34. 4) I know nothing about Smithville schools (Green, Wayne country), other than the fact that they are rated "Effective" (as opposed to Wadsworth and Medina's "Excellent with Distinction"), or about Marshallville in general. I never know how much stock to put in those state ratings anyway.

We have both spent quote a lot of time and energy looking for our dream home, and it has been fun yet frustrating. I almost think there could be a class on homebuying. Probably, there is. I also think there should be classes on just about everything. Choosing a religion, dealing with parents (your own as well as those of your students), talking to the opposite sex, how not to be a doormat, and probably most important, how not to end up like Jack Torrance.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reading Workshop 9

If Chuck Norris were a character in your book, explain how his presence would affect the plot.

"...he would find Holden and force him to go to school by roundhouse kicking him in the face."

"Every ministry would simply become The Ministry of Chuck Norris and everyone would watch Walker: Texas Ranger on their telescreens 24/7"

"...he would kill them all in one blow using only his chin."

"...he would appear only after Jonathan Livingston Seagull attains Zen mastery and the ability to teleport."

"...he would probably turn Elizabeth Bennett into a cowboy loving bad girl and steal her from Mr. Darcey"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Youth... continued

This assignment caused all of these things to happen.

I have written fact and figures in a notebook, but I plan to ignore them for this post, and tell you instead what I have learned over the past days based upon my memory of that time. I have learned that skim milk, water and chocolate syrup all mixed together looks like dirty water when one of my students pulled this confection from his book bag, in a clear plastic water bottle, told us he filled it in a mud puddle this morning, and proceeded to drink. His presentation was on the lack of drinkable water in Africa and I'm pretty sure he could teach better than me on most days. Often I feel that I've lost my dramatic flair and have kept only the madness.

I have learned that a cosmetics company called Lush makes their products with natural materials by hand and does not test on animals. I have learned what a shampoo bar is and where to get a pretty good one should I so desire.

I have learned that women are often conscripted into rebel armies in Africa to cook. Often these women are the victims of sexual imposition and later outcast by their communities.

I have learned that the Black Hawk Down incident was caused in 1993 by American forces being dispatched by George Bush to sort out why UN foodstuffs were not reaching the Somalian citizens. Many US soldiers and many Somalian militiamen lost their lives. The leader of the Somalian troops was apprehending the foodstuffs before the people could get it. This information juxtaposed with Matt Damon's face on a flier sponsoring clean water initiatives in Africa made me wonder if American celebrities are doing more good in the world than the US Armed Forces... not out of any greater sense of duty (I'm sure the sense of duty is greater for men and women in the Armed Forces), but by the gentleness and generosity of their approach. I really think it's something else that America's wealthiest and most famous citizens have taken upon their backs the burden of confronting the world's problems. There is something wonderful in this. It makes me wish I was a celebrity so I could do something good for the world with my fame and well scrubbed face and my money. I'm planning on looking for a magnet shaped as a ribbon for my car that proclaims Support Philanthropic Celebrities.

I have really enjoyed teaching lately. Some days I think I need it more than they do.