Thursday, December 29, 2005

Paging Darwin...Charles Darwin...

This from the waiting room of my latest visit to the orthopedic surgeon:

The woman in the completely unnecessarily big hat with the silver holly sprig affixed to its brim leaned over and said to the girl in the pajama bottoms:

I'm not sayin' your dad's dumb or anything. It's just when I look at his dog, I see so much of them in each other's eyes, it scares me. Him and George are so much alike, ya know?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Give Me Your Tired...

To all of my readers who work in retail, I just want to say:

"Aww, come here and put up your feet! Here's a big fluffy comforter and a bottomless martini. Was it horrid out there yesterday? Were there big ole meanies returning things without receipts and acting vicious and bitchy? Was their "Christmas Spirit" so gone it was like Britney Spears' career? Poor babies!"

December 26th must be the worst day in the lives of all customer service cashiers and retail supervisors. (I have personally never worked in retail unless you count a three-week stint in the pet department at a Clarkins store one summer, which was heaven for me. Shortly after that, I got a job as a bank teller and that put me through college, and let me tell you, nothing is worse than people and their money, unless of course, it is people returning things the day after Christmas, but I digress--big surprise.)

My point--and I do have one--is to say that I salute my retail-working readers. I hope yesterday was not hellacious to the point of suicidal for you. Soon, the initial wave of crabby returns will be over and you can get back to normalcy. Which, I imagine, will mean marking down all the winter items to 75% off since it is time to put out bikinis, patio furniture, and sunblock. It is, after all, almost January.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Isn't It Ironic? Won't He Think?

Just can't let this one go...

Is it only me, or is this more than ironic? We've been beaten about the head with pat Christian slogans by crabby God Warriors: "He's the reason for the season" and "Don't take Christ out of Christmas!". They start a national flapdoodle by boycotting their darling Wal*Mart for saying "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". They even have scores of de rigeur rubber wristbands made up for their cause (see my 12.11 post). Yet, the mega-evangelical churches are closed on Christmas! Oh, but it's true!

You'd think that this year would be the Bible-belters dream! Jesus's birthday on a Sunday! They sure could show the rest of the heathens how a real Christian Christmas is done! They could gather in their churches, sing some hymns real loud, wave their hands in the air, exalt and all that--really get their merry on. They could really bask in the glow of the reason for the season. They would definitely have Christ right there, smack dab in the middle of Christmas, for sure. But no. Instead, they are closing so that members can be at home, like the rest of the pagans, celebrating with their families.

Boy, that sure sounds like the way most of the rest of the non-evangelical Christian world will be celebrating Christmas, doesn't it? Kind of a letdown, I think.

Boy, those evangelicals. They sure made a big deal out of nothin'. Merry Xmas to them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Separated at Birth?

It took me the whole 13 weeks, but I finally figured out who Randal Pinkett on The Apprentice reminds me of:

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

When THINK Is a Four-Letter Word

Don't teenagers have opinions anymore? About anything? I know--I'm the high school teacher; I should know the answer to that one.

Based upon my observation in the classroom lately, I'd have to say no. They don't. They don't have any opinions about anything, and they don't think much about anything, either. (Besides themselves, which is to be expected at that age. Don't take it personally.)

No, I didn't have a bad day at school today. I had a good day, albeit a quiet one. That's what got me to thinking about this. Has standardized testing and garbage like No Child Left Behind turned our kids into automatons who just wait for the right answer to be given to them so that they can burp it back out to us on The Test? Consider: Students ask a question. I try to guide them into thinking toward possible answers. Know what they do? They sit there, waiting patiently and staring blankly until I just give up and give them the answer. Or tell them exactly where to find it in text. And I teach honors.

One hallmark of an honors English student is that they internalize literature: they find a commonality in the work and their own experience. That aspect can be a thematic one, a character trait, whatever. Now, they just read the story and pronounce it either "boring" or "gay" or "okay" and then submit to its being picked apart for theme, mood, tone, etc. When I attempt to draw them into discussion by being deliberately provocative or downright misleading, they silently ignore the bait. And when I finally pin them down to give an answer, they are afraid to be wrong. Can you imagine? Who cares if you're wrong? What could possibly happen? I ask them. In my class, I reward risk and thought, so if you are wrong, be gloriously wrong! Go down in a blaze of flaming wrongness! I will applaud you! Yet, it's like mental dentistry in there.

And it's not just with literature. It's everything. They just want to cut to the chase, get what's going to be on the test, and then with whatever time is left over, talk to their friends. Period. The Microwave Education for the Broadband Generation. I have no idea what they think about anything, and I wonder if they do, either. I wonder (A) if they know what they think , and (B) if they think about anything.

It's getting really difficult, and often painful, to get them to discover either one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Get off My Back.

I think if one more helpful newsperson tells me how many more shopping days there are until Christmas, I'm going to explode.

That's really all for now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

DoN Extends Seasonal Wishes to the Majority

For being in the majority and having yourselves amply represented in the White House, you Christians sure are getting to be a big bunch of crabasses. Yeah, you heard me. CRAB-ASSES.

Every time I turn around, the Christians are griping about something. Some guy ripped up his Christmas card from the White House because it said "Happy Holidays" on it, not "Merry Christmas." This, despite the fact that right inside it quotes a psalm. A Catholic guy from some right-wing organization said it was a disappointment that the Angel of Death (Bush) was kowtowing to political correctness rather than stand up for his faith and acknowledge the base that put him into office.

Not very Merry.

And now, you spleen-venters can put it right out there and show everyone just how pissed off you really are. All you God Warriors can order a wristband to put the rest of the heathens in their place! How dare anyone offer the inclusive "Happy Holidays!" to a grocery shopper? The hell with that! Let that customer celebrate his or her so-called "festival of lights" in their own country; this is the United States of America, and here, we celebrate Christmas, by God. And don't get us started on those made-up holidays like Kwaanzaa or whatever.

Not very Christian.

To all of you so-called Christians who have such an attitude, I say this: it's time to take the Christ out of Christian for people like you. From now on, you are to be known as Xians. Because people like you, who exclude homosexuals; who exclude other people from a warm and kind greeting regardless of what they celebrate; who bomb and protest clinics rather than take care of unwanted babies who are already here; who exclude anyone and are intolerant and smug and act distinctly unlike Christ, are not Christians in any sense of His word.

So, to all you Xians: MERRY XMAS !!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Imagine There's No Lennon

Twenty-five years ago tonight, John Lennon was murdered in the street.

I was in college, a senior at Bowling Green State University, taking my last on-campus classes before going home to do my student teaching. I woke to the news the following Tuesday. I grew up with the Beatles (see my previous post), and I couldn't believe it. John Lennon! I thought of my sister, Patti. John Lennon, gone. It didn't seem possible. Or fair. An odd thought crossed my mind: I had always held out hope for a Beatles reunion. Not any more. I got ready for my Romantic Poetry class and, on the way there, I could hear people talking about the shocking news.

We sat in the classroom in University Hall, waiting for Dr. Wolfe to come in, and some of us talked about John Lennon. A few got pretty dramatic about it. Some people didn't seem affected at all. After about ten minutes we noticed the time; it was unusual for Dr. Wolfe, a short, sweet, and "Underdog-as-Shoeshine-Boy" type man, to keep us waiting. Someone mentioned the Fifteen Minute Wait for a Full Professor Rule. We waited. Finally, in rushed Dr. Wolfe, pink-faced and disheveled. We were stunned. It was obvious that he had been crying. He stood at the front of the classroom and struggled to compose himself. "I cannot possibly conduct class today," he said, gulping for deep, jagged breaths. "They're shooting poets now."

And a sob broke free as he turned and left the room.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sister, Sister

My older sister doesn't read this blog, so this post isn't a shameless ploy to curry her favor. It won't land me a Christmas present from her, either. I was just thinking about the benefits of having a sister who is about a half-dozen years older than I am.

1. She was in her early teens for Beatlemania. I became a Beatle fan by osmosis. I know all the lyrics to all Beatle songs. John, Paul, George, and Ringo stared down at me from the walls and ceiling of the room I shared with Patti for years. I loved George; she worshipped John. We knew we were the coolest because we didn't fall into the trap of loving Paul like all the other girls.

2. She was an English major. I read books no one else my age ever heard of. I read A Streetcar Named Desire when I was 13. I read Nicholas and Alexandra when I was 14. I read Jane Eyre 4 times before I was even in high school and loved it. I became an English teacher because of her.

3. She wore cool bikini underwear. My mother consistently bought me ugly full-length cotton briefs that came in white, pale pink, and pale blue. Patti bought slippery nylon bikini panties with interesting prints like pandas, stripes, plaid, and the days of the week. One memorable set had big satin fruit appliques right on the fronts. I used to really piss her off by taking her underwear and wearing it, but I always felt so different in her panties.

4. She left all her college books at home. I read the poetry anthologies like it was my job. I read her notes and annotations. Sometimes, I stole her thoughts and ideas and made them mine until I developed my own.

5. She listened to some great music. I grew up with not just the Beatles, but Carly Simon, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Yes, Three Dog Night, Dusty Springfield, Neil Diamond, and The Hollies. I remember the Christmas she asked for and got a portable record player and that summer, she and my brother joined the Record Club of America. They got 13 albums for a penny and then had to buy just a certain amount more for a year. We were surrounded by music that year. We sang "Momma Told Me Not To Come" by Three Dog Night so loud that we got yelled at. "Want some whiskey in your water, sugar in your tea..."

6. She had her 4 kids well before I started my own family of 2. I could watch her parent and take it from there. She lived close enough so that I could drive over there with my own kids and let the cousins bounce off each other while she and I commiserated. During the heat wave and drought of '88 in NE Ohio, she had air conditioning and I didn't, so we spent a lot of time over there, me with a 3-month-old and three-year-old, and her kids ranging in age from about 6 to 2. We'd plop 'em in the wading pool, fry awhile ourselves, then everybody would go in and rest, snack, then repeat. I learned that kids will eat anything if you turn it into a dip.

7. She ages gracefully. She doesn't sweat the small stuff, and she says as she gets older, more stuff gets smaller. She really prioritizes. Almost ruthlessly, and I admire that. This woman cuts a lot of the shit loose. I continue to take a lesson.

Patti and I shared a room for about 15 years, I guess. For part of that time, we even shared a double bed. She put up with some snoring, and I put up with her incessant, illegal late-night reading. I was a slob most of the time, and she nagged at me about it all of the time. I wonder if she laughs about the irony of it now: she's very casual about her home, and I'm a neat freak about my house and classroom. Funny how things turn out. And what's more, should see my panties.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Dick the Halls with Balls of Holly

I am all about the live Christmas tree, but this year really tested my resolve in that arena. It was 30 degrees Saturday, I was not feeling real chipper, and our usual tree place did not have large (8-9') blue spruce or Frasier firs and I am not a fan of the Scotch pine. So we went to a little stand in nearby Grafton and its sole proprietor, who happened to be the uncle of one of my students, said he'd unwrap, thaw out, and "get ready" a few big Frasiers for us if we came back in a few hours.

Well, we did, and basically bought a tree sight unseen as this guy's idea of getting a tree ready for us was to unwrap it and lay it on the pavement.

Big mistake.

We got the tree home, hoping it would "drop" and assume the traditional Christmas tree shape: graduated tiers of branches going from small to large as you look from top to bottom. Not this tree. This tree stubbornly held on to a more rounded, compact shape. I kept looking at it, wondering what it reminded me of. And finally, I had it.

It was a 9-foot evergreen phallus.

My husband and I kept trying to judiciously trim it and help it along, but it stubbornly refused to become the familiar Christmas tree shape. We both bitterly complained and tossed epithets its way. We begrudgingly strung lights and did our best to put a star at its...tip.

Our 20-year old son valiantly tried to jolly us along and in true Linus Van Pelt fashion (a la "A Charlie Brown's Christmas Special") tried to make the best of this ridiculous tree. Finally, though, he lost his patience. With us. "Stop being so fucking negative about this goddam Christmas tree!" he said. "Once we get our ornaments and tinsel on it, it will look great. Now shut the hell up."

Overcome with the sense of the absurd, we decided to run with it. The usual "back of the tree" ornaments (you know those! every family has them!) are now at the front. All handmade ornaments are in prominent places. Sam's Cheerio and pipecleaner wreath? Front and center! The tongue depressor Rudolph? Eye level, baby! The black Santa from the dollar store? Come on! Right under a light and in the front!

So, if you want to see a major pine erection, come to northeast Ohio for the holidays. It's in my living room, and it's illuminated.
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