Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Starring Goofus and Gallant"

A few days after his surgery, Mr. Jocelyn’s Groom hit the skids emotionally, a not uncommon occurrence as the body detoxifies from all that anesthesia and hospital food. In the face of day after day in bed, with two more weeks before he’s allowed to take a soothing bath, and a month or more before he’s able to exercise, a certain natural depression has set in. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I am the brilliant, glowing delight of his life, my very presence offering up all the balm of Vaseline on a chafing crotch, yet I’ve been busy taking out the compost and recycling and folding heaps of laundry and chauffering the kids to Girl Scouts and karate and teaching classes and making tacos and frittatas…which means I only ever sit down and look him square in the face after 9 p.m.

Sweet Nurse Cherry Ames, but that makes for some long, lonely hours of convalescence for Our Hero.

Fortunately, all it took was the projection of a “Groom Needs Cribbage Companions” bat signal into the night sky, and our troops of friends and family have rallied ‘round his tender frame and swollen package. He’s been telephoned and cribbaged and Quiddlered and Mexican Train dominoed into distraction. All these pitcher-inners have been the highlight of the week for us.
Of course, because I'm a licensed member of Life's Rich Pageant, I’ve had other highlights:

1) I had one of those crazy-ass hangnails that is painful and long—a real sweater snagger—and, stuck in a situation with no nail clipper, nevertheless managed to use my ferocious incisors to gnaw it off, with only minimal blood loss. Snap.

2) The local microbrewery has just put out its seasonal recipe, an Old Man Winter Warmer Ale, which is essentially a barley wine. It’s artisanal stuff, and I am like the National Endowment for the Arts in my semi-constant, passive/aggressive support of creative efforts. I’ll drink their ale. But only sometimes, when it pleases me. This week, it done gone please me veddy much. Other weeks, I save my support for a crucifix floating in urine.

3) One golden day that I'll call Wednesday, I ran nearly seven miles on the treadmill at the Y, enjoying every minute and setting a PR for that distance. Of course, I was only able to hit that mark due to my immersion in celebrity gossip mags. Thank you, Brangelina, for keeping your twins out of sight and making the tabloids wonder if you’ve eaten them (slow roasted on a spit makes infants particularly tender). I read that story during mile five, which flew by. Jessica Simpson’s high-waisted jeans eased me through the last crippling quarter mile. All I need to get to the finish line is a size 6 frame packed into size 4 denim.

4) Niblet and I reveled in our first visit of the year to one of my happiest winter diversions: the local pack ice. The lad (who also goes by "Paco" around the house these days) got to use his homemade ice picks and scale Everests of jumbled slabs, until scurvy eventually set in and, after a last-ditch attempt to secure help by leaping across ice floes to Wisconsin, well, we collapsed, but not before scratching out, in an echo of arctic explorer Robert Scott, the final words of "For God's sake look after our people."

Of course, since Niblet's six years old, by "people," he meant his Star Wars Lego Anikin Skywalker and a host of Playmobil soldiers. Okay, and an Ariel The Mermaid Barbie that he sleeps with but nobody needs to ever ask about, so just shut up already and look after them like he asked in his final letter, unless that's just too hard for you, Mrs. Poncy-Who-Sits-In-Her-Warm-House-While-Some-Of-Us-Explorers-Risk-Our-Lives-To-Um-Well-Er-Walk-On-Ice.

Despite the dangers, we did have a good afternoon sliding around this junk:

Paco has been wanting a pet. I pointed at that rock and told him I'd gotten him a woolly mammoth at Petco. He totally bought it, and now we have to drive back there every day and drop an offering of 100 pounds of willow and fir boughs into a ginormous doggie bowl.

Just as scurvy threatened to team up with rickets and anemia and end the expedition for good, Niblet and I cleverly resorted to cannibalism, ate each others' ear lobes as appetizers, and found the steam to drive home.

There, while we broke the freeze off our paws and watched Groom wincingly pack another bag of snow to his manlies,


restrained ourselves

from telling him

in breathless detail


the glory that he's missing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Four Days Out, and It's Still the Size of a Whoopie Cushion"

Last week, possessed by all-too-familiar body image demons, I got in a funk, wherein I stomped around and moaned to Groom, "I just can't lose these damn seven pounds. You know I want to blame it on my tortoise-like metabolism, but, yea, it might be more honest just to label it my Wine Weight. Poop, poop, poop, I hate this. I hate being hungry all day and still never losing a pound. Blah, blah, blah, blech, blech, blech, feh, meh, waaaaah."

In response, Groom threatened to throw the scale out the window, assured me people don't gasp in horror when I walk by, and we moved on with our lives.


The next day.

Groomeo-Groomeo went into the clinic for a quick and easy 45-minute elective surgery, one aimed at controlling global population, particularly within our house. Basically, he went in to have his vas deferens tightened and resurfaced.

An hour later, he was home, and as he stood there, peppily recounting to me the procedure, things changed.

Suddenly. Dramatically.

Eight hours later, freshly back from the hospital, I sent out a quick email rundown to select friends and family:

So if you've ever seen a Hallmark card that reads "Sorry About Your Botched Vasectomy!!!", go back now and purchase it. Then write "Jocelyn's Groom, c/o St. Luke's Hospital, Duluth" on the envelope and mail that sucker.

Yea, having a vasectomy is supposedly an easy in-and-out-of-the-clinic-in-under-an-hour procedure...but when you then get home and start holding forth about how it all went fine, while at the same time your expensive Kavu pants are suddenly drenched with a waterfall of blood...well, then, the "easy" procedure takes on something called "complications."

Within minutes, you find yourself laying on the bedroom floor on a stack of towels, holding three washcloths and a bag of ice to your Boy Parts as you ask your wife to bring you "some of those pad things you wear every month; I need something that really staunches the flow of blood."

Thirty seconds later, you might advise your wife to call the doc, who, upon hearing of the amount of blood smeared all over the floors of the second story of your home, tells the wife to "pack your husband in a plastic bag if you need to, but get him back up here, fast."

When you get back to the clinic, the doc will try to lance your cantaloupian groinal region with a scalpel repeatedly as he notes that he's not seen this type of problem after a vasectomy before. He will excuse himself from the room to talk to the urologist. He will return to the room minutes later and tell you they're expecting you at the ER downtown.

A quick slide down the hill, and you will be in a wheelchair and heading to the operating room at the hospital within six minutes of walking through the doors. By the time your wife hands over your insurance card, they'll have told you "in our parts, we call this an eggplant scrotum." They are very apt in their description.

Eight minutes after you enter the ER, you are in the operating room FOR FOUR FREAKING HOURS.

During all this, a sainted neighbor has watched, read to, fed, and tucked in your children. The low point of the evening occurs when your wife realizes she's just read every magazine in the waiting room, including the AARP periodical. She slaps herself when she realizes she enjoyed an article about alleviating joint pain.

A bit before nine p.m., lovely nurses secret your wife into the recovery room to see you before she heads home to Children of Love. You tell your wife, "I'm pretty confused. I feel like I've been run over." You eat lots of ice chips.

So it's a night in the hospital for Vasectomy Man, complete with complimentary drains in your scrotal sack, plus the bonus of a catheter. But they stopped all the bleeding and tell you there will be no long-term effects.

Despite this assurance to the Males of the World, you would like to urge them to consider continuing their fertility until they die, even if it means they have 24 children.

On that note, the tired wife, who has typed up this acccount, retires to her bottle of Shiraz.


The next day, we found out that, for some fluke reason, his vasectomy stitches had popped and caused the arteries on both sides down there to bleed buckets. While he ended up not needing a transfusion, his hemoglobin was low the next day, so Groom ended up spending two nights in the hospital.

He's been home two days now, hobbling around in his pajama pants, asking me periodically to fill another Ziploc bag with snow (the perfect anti-inflammatory). While he's planning a shuffle outside and down to the corner someday soon, just to take the air, it will still be some time before he drives or wears pants with a zipper.

After all the hullabaloo, we did have a lovely moment, though, on Saturday, when I bent down,

kissed his cheek,

and thanked him for finding exactly the right technique to help me

lose five pounds in two days.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Making the Case"

While there are sparks in my marriage, they're of the "Baby, you so hot I gots to dab the nape of my neck with a moist sponge just to keep off you" variety more than "You swollen gonad, the very sound of your voice is like the tines of a fork screeching down a chalkboard that has been shellacked with aluminum foil and broken sea shells, a sound that makes me want to shriek to the heavens as I snap the fork and yank your head off."

You see, with both of us descending from Northern European stock, Groomeo and I tend towards a certain levelness (as well as a fondness for the combination of vodka and sleeping in snowbanks). Subsequently, we don't really fight.

Indeed, our marital sparks don't fly during fiery exchanges, wherein I throw a wooden spoon from the spaghetti sauce at my husband, and he dodges it, resulting in smears of sauce on the wall behind him that we then watch dry, over the course of ensuing months, to a crisp brittleness, a process matched only by the creeping desiccation of love in our hearts. Fortuitously, the Groom and the Jocey aren't left mopping up sauce--or the pieces of our shattered dreams dipped into a soggy tempura of tears.

Mostly, we look at each other, mutually exasperated, and roll our eyes at kid drama; or we bust a lung guffawing at Flight of the Conchords; or we say "yummmmm" really loudly when we take the first bite of homefries at dinner time; or we ask "How was your ski?" when the other comes into the house covered tip to toe with ice crystals and a hint of frostbite on the nose; or we band together to point out the flaws of people not in our presence; or we wonder aloud why we stopped listening to Liz Phair for a couple of years; or we go into manic-duo-folding-laundry mode before bedtime in an effort to make-go-away the five loads of rumpled clothes that obscure our mattress; or we stand behind our new digital camera and push buttons, noting repeatedly, "Nope, I don't know what that one does, either."

Me likey him. He likey me. It's that easy.

In fact, we live in such monotonous harmony that we were surprised, a few weeks ago, to stumble across a sideways sort of marital disagreement.

See, last month, I went out for drinkies with The Ladies (this one time, I don't actually mean my breasts when I type "The Ladies"; I mean actual people. They have breasts, though, some of them mighty pert. That's part of what makes 'em ladies. That, and their unnatural fixation with shoes). My dinner that evening consisted of foodstuffs taken directly from the nutritional pyramid's recommended blocks of Ultimate Nachos and Big Boat Stout.

Back at home, on kid duty, Groom had a bachelor's meal: leftover chili heaped onto a bed of noodles, all ladeled over a baked potato.

The next morning, as I held my aching head and heard what he'd eaten, I could muster up only a rousing "Blech and more blech. Noodles on a baked potato? Way to carbo-load. Go out and run for three hours now, Marathon Man. Get me some ibuprofen--and a medicinal martini--while you're at it."

"You shudder, but it was really good," he maintained. "I'd seen somewhere that there's actually a dish like that called 'Cincinnati Chili,' so I thought I'd try it."

"There is not such a thing anywhere, ever, on Planet Earthy. And you should not have done that thing to your food. Swear to Gross Meals Anonymous, but no one ever would willingly put all those things together and shovel them into their pie hole. No such thing exists. Stop being a big liar."

"It was good, and I know I saw the recipe in Gourmet or somewhere."

Continuing to elucidate my feelings with all possible ration, I yelled, "You did not go and do bad things to food like that on purpose! And we all know that foo-foo poncey magazine Gourmet is a big story-maker-upper just like you, Mr. Liarpanties."

Ready to take me on, and well aware of my despair over students who write research papers in which all sources on the Works Cited page begin with "wiki-," Groom got a glint in his eye.

"I, uh, just need about five minutes upstairs," he called out, heading for the computer. Moments later, I heard him muttering to himself, "Creating a Wikipedia entry about 'Cinncinati Chili' couldn't take longer than five minutes, right?"

Overhearing him, I bellered, "You are SO busted. You can't try to be right by making up your own Wikipedia page to show me! I cry foul! Step away from the computer, you aggressor against juried and peer reviewed academia!"

Once I stopped tackling him--whoops, sparks were starting to fly!--he gasped, "I can too make up my own Wikipedia pages for anything I ever need to prove to you, like the fact that an entire city in the U.S. does put chili over noodles."

Hey, wait. Just chili over noodles? I was already down with that part.

In truth, it was the last step, of hefting the chili-noodles onto a baked potato, that had made me incredulous. I mean, no one needs the baked potato in there when you've already got the warm, soft clouds of flour and salt called, in some exotic climes, pasta. That's where the whole thing got dummm. But chili and noodles? Yea. Duh.

At this point, Groom clarified: "I was only saying that 'Cinncinati Chili' is chili over noodles. It so happened I was really hungry last night, so I decided to have a baked potato, too, and then I didn't want to dirty two dishes, so I put it all in the same bowl. I wasn't saying they also do the potato part waaaay over there in Ohio. I would never try to sell you on the potato."

Oh. Well.


Once we calmed down a bit and regrouped after The Great Potato Misunderstanding of Late-2008, calming our breaths to a mere 20 a minute, I realized we'd entered a new era. Groom was, after almost ten years, ready to wrangle:

"I'll be better prepared next time, you know. I'm going to make up the Wikipedia page first, and then I'm going to tell you that astronauts can't cry correctly in space. If they get distressed, say, by an overly-full diaper, their tears--unbound by gravity--only fly upwards, straight into their eyes...unless they are clever enough to hold a cup near the eye region and capture the tears (with quick little squirrel hands) and mix them with Tang. This gives them a refreshing beverage that only ten people have ever drunk. True fact. You can look it up."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Blind-sided and Gobsmacked"

It was just a regular day, suddenly sucking.

Very fatigued that morning, I managed to dress myself, even hooking my bra--not just letting The Ladies dangle and flap in the wind. I even managed to apply a little slap and hairspray, getting in costume to mimic an adult.

Exiting the house, the door slammed shut, and in that nanosecond, I had a realization: I felt in my pockets. No keys. No way to drive the car. No way to get back into the house.

Scrambling and ringing doorbells 'round the neighborhood, I found a neighbor who could give me a lift; during the drive, I heard about how her marriage is over, for reals this time, and she and the kids will be out by spring; getting to campus, I found Groom (who was working the art show) and hollered breathlessly at him not to leave; then I ran into my classroom eight minutes late and hollered at them not to leave before hitching a ride home with Groom, and, moments later, turning around to drive back to the college, getting there just in time to gather up the comma activities I'd gotten my class working on in the midst of my 18-mile dash; finally, at noon exactly, dabbing the sweat from my forehead, I hit a curriculum meeting.

While I sweated and dabbed, our household had the son of a thirty-four-year-old woman who'd just had a double masectomy over for playdate. Two hours later, our pregnant neighbor slid off the road and had to go into hospital for monitoring, which meant we got to entertain her three-year-old daughter for the evening.

By the time 10 p.m. hit, the kids had just gotten to bed; we'd just eaten pesto; Groom had slapped his prone form onto the bed; and it was off to teach my online classes.

Grading a research paper on how Jenny McCarthy cured her son of autism, I found my inner self rejecting all post-post-post modern ironic conditioning. What other possible reaction was there, when grading a college-level research paper on how Jenny McCarthy cured her son of autism--and network stations went off the air--than to tune into The Cosby Show?

Two decades after tolerating an episode, I, to my simultaneous horror and surprise, watched the show avidly. I found it timeless and smart and realistic and brave. It had characters sitting down and talking to each other, in a relatively-unscripted fashion, in five-minute exchanges. It had self-deprication. It had style.

Surreally, I saw myself reacting positively to the show I should mock; I saw myself respecting an easy target. I hardly knew myself. Where'd. my. beyotch. go?

During that episode, I found myself more surprised than I had been by the day of hurting mothers and missing car keys. I found myself moved, barely breathing, taken back to a moment of fundamental admiration and amazement: I found myself, having just weathered 18 minutes of Vanessa and Denise fighting over a purple sweater, well,

I found myself crying.

In this episode, the entire Brooklyn brownstoned family had been fraught with rammies, butting up against each other. A tentative peace had been struck, but all of them, in their shoulder pads and lame' fabrics, were still stomping around a bit. Then, as they walked through the living room, a voice reached them from the television.

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends."

Whatzthat, Scooby?

The Huxtables, plus one pasty white Midwestern girl on a futon, lurched to a stop.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

Cliff, Clair, and I smoothed down our gelled hair and listened harder, the day's hassles falling away.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'"

We sat down on the couch together, me shouldering in against Theo (who never should have gotten his ear pierced without telling his parents), riveted by astonishment. Something wondrous was happening.

"With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."

Holy Zeke. I may have slammed into the classroom that morning, panting and cussing and apologizing to students for being late, explaining about having hitch-hiked a ride. At lunch, my husband may have fed Pokemon mac 'n cheese to the son of an stricken woman who had been forced chose to have both of her breasts cut off. At dinner, we may have hosted the soon-to-be big sister neighbor girl, whose mom--six months pregnant--was taken hostage by her car as it careened into a bank of trees. We may have found ourselves exhausted and hungry and overwhelmed by 10 p.m.

I may have found myself going to work, grading papers in my online classes, at midnight. I may have felt achey, physically and emotionally, from the cruddy day.

But this?

"And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true."

Well hell.

I, who always chafed at the Pledge of Allegiance, was humbled. I had a flash of recalling that I am nothing, yet I am part of everything.

Cuddling in, I held Rudi Huxtable on my lap, and she was soft and smelled of biscuits. And, as I twirled one of her braids, how could I even fake being cool? I was hanging with the Huxtables, sharing in miraculous rhetoric. We were just people, united across decades and networks, held rapt by truth and beauty and words of justice.

Adjusting Rudi on my lap, I admired Denise's bangles, patted Theo's be-sweatered back, and continued to cry.

"...when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

My worst day wasn't even on the same continuum as this Best Day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Ashen, Ashen, I Bawl and Fall Down"

For the event of Niblet's birth, we bartered for the services of a local doula (if you can't buy the time of a lesbian who works at the Environmental Protection Agency for the price of a gallon bag of frozen pesto and a six-course feast including hand-made butternut ravioli...then it's time to kvetch about the state of the economy). "Doula" is a Greek word meaning "she who will dive into a uterus to pull out the remaining piece of a placenta when everybody else in the room is more concerned with taking APGAR scores."

A doula is kind of a labor assistant, someone who tells the nurses to back-the-eff-off if they're clacking too much in your face, someone who suggests that a pair of feet dug into one's lumbar might be just the ticket to relieve back labor. Some doulas also create written narratives of the labor and delivery, just in case you want to recall at a later time that one of the blood vessels in your eye burst during the pushing.

Our doula, Anne, was cool. When Niblet maneuvered into a bad-bad-no-no position a couple weeks before his due date, she researched various stretches and lunges I could do to get him to shift back. It didn't work, but, as a faux-academic, I can always appreciate failed research.

On the day of Niblet's delivery, when I worked for eleven hours to pass his 10+-pound body, which was posterior facing instead of the preferred-anterior position, I kind of, um, stalled out. I was done and ready to wait until he and I both died, whereupon we could romp together in a heaven much like the scene in 1977's James at Sixteen when James had a crush on Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson, and they ran towards each other across a flower-filled meadow. Pretty much, I was ready to be Lance Kerwin, and my unborn baby was cast as Melissa Sue.

But then the damn doula refocused me and told me to lower my vocalizing out of the high-and-ineffective-wounded-puppy range, to drop it more into a gravelly and powerful "This-is-the-big-one-I'm-coming-Elizabeth" Fred Sandford plaint. So I started grunting real low-like and forcing my breath to do some work. It was a pretty remarkable sound of channeled pain.

Fat lot of good it, and the doula, did. Fancy-schmancy labor assistants and their blather about breathing. I'll tell you how to get a damn baby out of you: let a well-paid team of carpenters take their blades to you and cut the thing out.

Now that worked. They hacked me open, and out came Melissa Sue.

Who knew, however, that nearly six years later I'd be giving the low, primal, Sanfordian groans a curtain call...all due to that same Melissa Sue (now a little boy in kindergarten)?

Who knew that I'd be carrying his 54-pound body towards the bunk bed one night and step on this, a much-coveted ring that I'd picked up off the floor already at least twenty-nineteen times that week:

Of course, I was barefoot, and the ring was turned sword side up. Impaled, dropping Melissa Sue, crazy with the pain, I yanked on it.

The ring didn't budge.

I pulled again, harder, trying to get the sword to yield my foot flesh.

Arrrgh, maties, but it hung tight.

For a nano-second, I wondered what kind of boot Steve Madden makes that could accommodate foot-with-pirate-ring-growing-like-a-barnacle-out-of-the-sole.

If it meant new boots, I might be able to live with the thing.

Contemplating my options, I also hopped around wildly and--apparently--emitted a familiarly deep and extended moan of pain.

Generally, cries of pain are ignored in our house, as they are all overblown act, put on by the drama queens that live with my husband and daughter. But in this case, Groom detected a different tenor. He heard the doula keen. He knew my pain was real and that carpenters might need to be called in.

In fact, he was so convinced actual pain was happening that he dropped his chef's knife (thankfully not into his foot; I could have told him that would hurt like a mudder-effer) and raced up the stairs, hollering, "Are you okay?"

At the moment he crested the stairs, I was delivered of a healthy pirate ring. It popped out with a flourish and belched a weak cry. As when Niblet was born, I managed to heave out the words "That. Hurt. Me. A. Lot. That. Should. Not. Happen. Anymore."

Crankily, I hobbled into the bathroom and scrounged for the Bactine and gauze. That's been Niblet's legacy to me: blood and gauze and misplaced toys and despairing cries. Several times now, he liked to have killed me.

This week, as as the lad turns six, I am twirling dizzily in the circle of life. His birth gave me a new noise to make; six years later, I trotted it out again. In six more years, when he's twelve, he'll whack me in the head with a remote control in a fit of pique. He shall make me groan again, and often.


Of course.

Without him there would be

no moon that looks like a "sleeping banana,"

no snowman called Puffy made out of cotton balls and M & M's,

no cadre of stuffed kitties named Star, Butterscotch, Strikes, Jingles, and Flash,

no body made prone with laughter over "sufferin' succotash,"

no science "conspiriments" of growing "jiggly crystals that look like the sunset,"

no Baby Paco who is learning to walk (a character he inhabits through much of the day),

no fried eggs and frozen blueberries for lunch,

no heap of broken junk in the basement for "when Dad learns to weld, and we make a robot,"

no one asking Girl to hold him on her lap and groom his hair "like chimpanzees do,"

no one humming "Allouette" under his breath while throwing a bowling ball at Optimus Prime,

no one naming his betta fish Anikin,

no one seranading me with a song that goes "this is my soft leeetle weenis,"

no one climbing into the bed every morning to hug my cranky body to wakefulness,

no one who moves through the world just as I do, a perfect partner in hyper-sensitivity and goof-ass-ish-ness.
Thus, at the end of an extended visceral growl, I have discovered

there couldn't be a more perfect pain.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Una Mas Mindy"

The new semester looms, and while I attempt to ramp up the performance energy that is required to stand up in front of 25 dull-eyed under-the-table texters and actually get them to look towards the front of the room occasionally, I find myself missing last semester's crop of students already. I mean, I was used to them; I knew their stories. I knew Jake was mad at his mom for selling his quad (for those of you in the crowd who lean more towards Sarte, Mendelssohn, and cross-stiching than environmental destruction: a quad is a four-wheeled all-terrainish vehicle that is very loud and mud-inducing and not at all something Sarte and Mendelssohn would have ridden tandem on, even though their even attempting that would have required Jean-Paul to participate in a grave-digging caper under cover of darkness, during which he and a pick axe would have worked through the night to exhume Medelssohn's decaying corpse from Trinity Cemetery in Berlin, and really, if we're being frank, I tend to think Sartre would have been too paralyzed by existential angst to carry out the deed; one shovel full of earth, and he'd have been whining about all endeavors being "on principle doomed to failure." Plus, he was a puss of the highest order and had virtually no upper body strength). I knew Elsie was finding happiness now that she'd left the ballet, a place where "community" consisted of everyone sticking their fingers down their throats in unison. I knew Katie and her mom were still sharing a bedroom at her uncle's house. I knew Chris had shaved his head, gotten a black eye, and peed in his own closet while drunk (events that comprised "October" for him). I knew underground-punk fan Ross had had his car broken into and all his music stolen. Oh, yea, and his textbooks. But mostly, he wanted his Kill Mosh F*** Destroy bootlegs back. I knew Obe hadn't spoken to his father for five years. I knew Jon had gone to court in November because he'd "broken some stuff"; I knew this same Jon had recently been elected a student body senator. I knew Brianna used to be on swim team but now thought she was fat. I knew Amy liked only her boyfriend and Burger King since returning from two tours in Iraq. I knew Tamara volunteered at an elementary school's kid connection program.

These were my peeps. We talked about thesis statements and ribbed each other and peer reviewed papers and gave each other rides home. We were cool.

Now, next week, I face tromping into a classroom full of an entirely new crop of 25 dull-eyed under-the-table texters. Certainly, I'll wear my tap shoes and full Vegas showgirl headpiece, but still. It's hard to break through their studied indifference. I know a couple of weeks in, when I've mocked myself and them enough, we'll loosen up and slide into the "coherence through use of transitions" party zone.

Until then, I'll miss the room full of last semester's weebles. One in particular.

You know who.


She squeaked through my class with a C, and she's not taking the next level of composition, which relegates her to the ranks of the other 5,000 students I've had in my teaching career: a fond memory. Fortunately, because Mindy herself was so vivid, my memories of her will be, as well. One of the last times I saw her, we had this exchange:

Mindy: So my boyfriend, the butthead loser, is going to jail.

Me: Oh, that sucks. Do you need a "file-in-a-cake" recipe, so you can bust him out? I have a great one, handed down from my grandma.

Mindy: Huh? I don't even have a stove since the landlord took it, plus I cut off all my nails, so I don't have to file them anymore. I kinda spice them up now, though, with these little glitter stickers that I put on each finger. You likey?

Me: I do. I do. You should send some of those to Posh Spice. She'd appreciate the fashion upgrade. So what's up with your boyfriend again?

Mindy: He got pulled over again and nailed for all his driving without a license tickets that he never dealt with. They arrested him, and the judge is sending him away for a minimum of 30 days, but it might even be 60. At least it won't be two months. That would've just been nasty.

Me: Wow. So that's going to really stress out your relationship, I'd guess. I mean, hasn't he been driving you to school and taking you to drop off your daughter at her daddy's grandma's house for babysitting and stuff?

Mindy: Yea, he drives me sometimes, but mostly he goes out and buys $300 track suits and watches cable all day while he gets stoned. He gets so pissed at me when I yell at him for not getting food again. And the big thing about his going to jail is that they won't let me see him, and he had our rent money on him. So how am I supposed to pay the rent this month?

Me: Really? Can't you just go in and explain the situation and see if maybe the nice coppies would slip you a few hundred out of your boyfriend's wallet? Isn't that how the judicial system works?

Mindy: Nope. I'm screwed.

Me: Well crud, honey. And of course all of this is coming down right during final exams.

Mindy: Okay, I totally shouldn't say this, but I'm actually kind of relieved that he's gone. It's like, I actually want to be in my apartment now. I actually like hanging out with my daughter. It's so much easier when he's not around. I can't wait to clean the place and make some mac and cheese. Truth is, I hope the judge gives him the 60 days, so my vacation can last longer.

Me: I hope the judge gives him 90 days, and in that time, you find a new apartment and a way to pay for it and leave no forwarding address.

Mindy: Wow, that would be harsh. Then he couldn't find me. He's my boyfriend. That would just be wrong. Oh no, my baby's gotta come home to me.
As the next semester starts to swing, and a new crop of students and I launch ourselves into the swirl of apostrophes and brainstorming and developing paragraphs, my secret hope is that Mindy recalls a few of our classroom discussions about logic, applies them to her own life, and wraps her waiting arms around herself instead of the recently-sprung loser butthead.

And on that note, wiping a quiet tear from my eye with one of her essays--the one she wrote about how it's better to live with someone than live alone--I raise a bong of tribute to Mindy.

Me (inhaling): May you (cough cough) have a (choke gasp) better year (hark gargle) in 2009 than you did (flagglequacken) in 2008. And if (exhaling dramatically) you can't find the tits to dump the loser, may you at least get your fuel pump fixed (pounding chest).

To Mindy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

"Suprisingly Inferior Tamales"

I intend to type short, declarative statements.

We just got back from 12 days in southern California. I had virtually no Internet access there. So I missed blogging and reading and such. But I put my feet in the Pacific and watched whales leap and had a ginger lemon mojito. I got by.

Now I'm home. The new semester gears up in two days. Astonishing heaps of Teva sandals, just-delivered Christmas mail, and soiled undies await my attention.

Thus, I will type only short, declarative statements. The trip was great. We hung with my mom. We visited with dear friends. We went to our first American Girl store--one of four in the U.S. My friend who took us there noted that, upon her first visit to such a place, she understood as never before why Al-Qaida would want to bomb us. She was standing smack dab in the midst of all of our too much, too big, too slick, too smug-ness. She got it. Then, moments later, she spotted her first Samantha & Nellie doll set and was lost in a different kind of romance. I was struck similarly. Like good Americans, we threw dollars at their open cash registers while ducking and covering.

Meh. Short, declarative statements are tough. I re-focus. We also had grand kid days at Sea World and Legoland. We hiked in Palm Springs. We toured the Universal Studios back lot and stood in Whoville and next to the Bates Motel.

Lacking more time to type declaratively, I give you the pictorial overview:

Lots of places looked like this. These aren't birches, Sven.

On Christmas, we spent a good part of the afternoon swimming in the pool at my mom's apartment complex. Because it's an "over-55" place, the elderlies insist that the pool is heated to 80 degrees, or they refuse to attend the water aerobics class. Thus, even though it poured rain on us, we were plenty warm. And airborne. And, in the case of Groom, scary-faced.

This is the inner courtyard of the stunning Mission Inn, part of downtown Riverside. We'd heard Riverside is the armpit of southern California, but personally, I thought it was great. Some nice workers at The Coffee Bean across the street from the Inn handed me a peanut butter cookie with a Reese's smashed on top, too. I could live in such an armpit.

A little drive down to Temecula took us to the "house" of Professor Phinneas Pennypickle. Visitors get to explore his inventions. Niblet and I took this balloon to a place called Oz. Then a house fell on me, and he became munchkin mayor.

Gyroscopes can make you spinny.

We spent an afternoon visiting a couple of beaches between Carlsbad and San Diego. Girl loved it, except when we asked her to do a Baywatch run, and she fell and skinned her knee. And we'd thought the waves were dramatic.

As it turns out, all a five-year-old boy needs is a stick and an ocean. And a change of clothes.

This shizz will leap out of the water at you when you go to Sea World. After we snapped this photo, that beast ate the boy. One gulp. Followed by a polite round of applause from appreciative onlookers.

Shut up already that I burst into tears the first time the music swelled and Shamu swept up into the air like that. Shut. Your. Fuzzbuster.

After we snapped this photo, that beast ate the trainer. One gulp. Followed by a polite round of applause from appreciative onlookers.

This panoodling cactus lives in the Old Town part of San Diego. In the Old Town part of San Diego, if you're driving a mini-van, don't park in a spot for RV's. You'll get a $50 ticket.

Word has it.

Legoland is the best art museum I've visited in an age. Thomas Kinkade could not even make this dragon out of legos.

For awhile now, Girl has wanted a baby brother. In a few years, she'll want a new mother. For one brief moment, she had both. I hope she enjoyed it, 'cause neither ain't happenin' no other way, no how.

Yea. I KNOW.

We also went to Pasadena to stay a night with my mom's friend, Tom. He's an eccentric, but I want his house and art (there's a Darth Vader made out of legos in the guest bath) and furniture. He can keep his eccentricity. I'm sure I wouldn't know where to put it.

One of my college roomies lives in L.A. and squeezed that li'l honey there out of her loins last April. I've advised her to never take Baby to Sea World. A dolphin would gulp her as an hors d'oeuvres, for sure.

Niblet likes to smoke a little reefer before he cuddles A Teensy.

The mountains around Palm Springs do go up. If you comment about this picture, please note loudly how good my pal Jim looks. He's all strung out about "being fat." He should have been more worried about my kicking his sleek ass at Scrabble that day.

You do know that the skies taken on heavenly aspect, and majestic vistas unfold whenever Groom is around, right?

The holidays passed.

A new year began.

Rather than embracing it as a time of change or new beginnings, I am hoping fervently for a continuation of the same.

More. Of exactly this.

For a long, long time.