Thursday, April 27, 2006

Shock and Awe with J.D. Salinger

One of my favorite times of the year is now, when I get to teach The Catcher in the Rye. My sophomores love it, I get to swear a lot, they don't complain about reading every night, and they actually discuss the hell out of it. What I don't love is how old it makes me feel. Here are the words I have already had to explain thus far, and we are only on Chapter 9:

David Copperfield: They think it's the magician; I have to tell them about the Dickens character.
rocks: They think Ernie Morrow's mom is a cocaine fiend rather than a diamond junkie.
give the time to: They think it's odd Holden is upset about telling someone the hour of the day;I love the look on their faces when they finally figure out it's a euphemism for sex.
falsies: They always think it's fake fingernails rather than padding for a bra.
grippe: They have absolutely no idea what this is.
traveling incognito: They have no reference for this whatsoever.

Today, we discussed the chapter wherein Holden decides to call up Faith Cavendish, the girl "who doesn't mind doing it once in a while". I started discussion by saying that Holden, after viewing the goings-on in the seedy hotel, was starting to feel horny. Suddenly, I noticed that there was a side conversation going on at my right. I turned around and said, "What's up over here?" A few of the boys looked a little sheepish. A girl near them was grinning. I waited, smiling. "What? Come on!" One of the boys piped up, "Mrs. D., it's just that...well,...when you say that word..." I was puzzled. "What word?" I asked. He reddened. I knew instantly. "HORNY? You think it sounds odd to hear me say HORNY?" He and a few other boys ducked their heads. Several students laughed.

One boy said, "I didn't think they used that word BACK THEN."


They are so young.

But it's nice to know that I can freak 'em out just by saying "horny." Wait till further on in the book. I think I'll read a few later chapters out loud, just so they can hear me say "fuck."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I Live in a Parallel Universe

Today is my last day of Spring Break. I have spent it doing very useful things, and doing those things in my jammies. I have put a turkey in the oven, changed my clothes closet over from heavy serious winter garments to lighter, sherbety-colored springy attire, and even made inroads into the sea of papers that ebb ever closer to drowning my keyboard entirely. Looking to take a break from it all, at one point I wandered into the livingroom where my eldest was conferring with his father, who was in danger of nodding off in the recliner.

Eldest: Dad! We have more cap room than anyone else in the league. But we need a running back really bad.
Father: Hmm. Is Ruben Droughns available?
Eldest: Good idea. (Pause.) He's in the last year of his contract. The Jets have him locked up.
Father: Well. So then. Not gonna do us any good.

I did a quick U-turn and headed off into the other room to check on the younger son. As I neared the doorway, I heard explosions and gunfire. I could have sworn I heard the phrase "jerry rotter."

Me: (to back of son's head) Sam! What are you doing?
Sam: (without turning around, expressionless) Shooting people.

I am boring. I play FreeCell. But right now, it's time to baste.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Buddy System, Revamped

This isn't a warm fuzzy post about my childhood. It's political. Just thought I'd warn you up front.

I was browsing the blogs this morning (see "necessaries" in sidebar) and had one of those intense nodding sessions over defective yeti's latest post. In case you haven't yet taken my sage advice and linked over to his blog, he's a Seattle writer who posts on a wide variety of things including games, books, and politics, all with a dose of average-guy humor. Anyway, the catalyst for my nodding was his post about gay marriage.

Yet, it isn't really about gay marriage. It's about marriage, and how the government shouldn't be involved in it as an institution, gay or straight. He posits that perhaps the term itself--marriage--is the issue. He suggests new nomenclature: the buddy system. And the post is off. Intelligently and humorously. I'm really not doing it justice, you know. Now you have to go read it. Here's the link. Go!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Carnival of the Mundane: Belly up to the Buffet

Carnival time again; this time it was hosted at Daisy Mae's blog . I'm a bit late with my invite, but don't worry--it's a smorgasbord. You can just grab a plate, find your place in line, and start sampling all the best bits from an array of blogs that celebrate the Seinfeld-esque moments that make up our lives. Take your time; the stuff'll stay hot.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I Ain't A-Scared Of You!

If the producers and directors of horror films were smart, they'd have their test audiences comprised solely of moms. Because we know scary. We confront it every day; moreover, we stare it down and kick its ass. It is part of our on-the-job training, and even playing with dollies does little to ready us for when it rears its ugly head.

Consider: the labor and delivery room. Not only do we propel, through sheer brute force, a human being averaging 8 pounds and 20 inches out of our bodies, but while we are attempting to do so, someone is sticking his/her fingers inside us, strapping machinery to us, and, in my case, leading in a pack of student nurses to interview us and ask us questions during the entire event and then admonishing us when we are a teensy weensy bit less than polite.

Then, at various times throughout Momhood, we are vomited on, snotted on, peed on, diarrhea-ed on, and forced to deal with "boo-boos", some of which require a trip to the Emergency Room, also known as "The Department of Motor Vehicles Medical Center", where we see the extras from Central Casting for The Night of the Living Dead. After we get home, we get to clean all these bodily fluids up, while retching on our own.

And, because of our supernatural diagnostic powers, we are subjected to a barrage of horrific encounters almost continually if we have teenagers, a species well-known for its low grossness threshhold.

Teen: Mom, taste this.
Mom: Why?
Teen: Just taste it.
Mom: But I don't want any.
Teen: You don't have to eat it, just taste it.
Mom: Good God! Okay, fine! (tastes it.) There. It's good. Why?
Teen: It smelled funny. I thought it might be rotten and I wasn't sure.

And it's not just our palates that are assailed. Our vision is assaulted as well:

Teen: (in bathroom, calling): Mom! (pauses imperceptibly) MOM!!!!!
Mom: (rushes in) What?! What's the matter?
Teen: Is there something on my back?
Mom: What? Is that all? You sounded like you were bleeding to death.
Teen: I can feel something gross on my back but I can't get it.
Mom: Let me see....Eeew! It's a huge zit. Just leave it alone.
Teen: Mom! I know it's back there. It's gross. You have to get it.
Mom: I don't want to touch it. Yuck.
Teen: Mom! Please. You have to. I don't want my new American Eagle shirt to even touch it.
Mom: I'll put a band-aid on it, then.
Teen: Mom, come on! You have to. Just squeeze it real quick.
Mom: (Sighs) Okay. Brace yourself. (Squeezes) Ugh!
Teen: Ouch! Oh my God! Mom! Geeze! What the Heck!!!!

And this is the same child who, upon entering and seeing that I am watching "Dr 90210", the plastic surgery show on the Style Network, says, "Oh my God, Mom, how can you watch all that blood and guts and crap?".

If Moms wrote the script for a horror movie, can you imagine what it would be? Mine, now that my kids are 18 and 21, would be one in which the boys never left home but got some low-life trashy wenches from the Fundamentalist Right "in trouble" and tried to live here with their babies, played country music at top volume, spoke with bad grammar, and brought yappy dogs into my house. Seriously scary stuff, that.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"Words, Words! They're All We Have to Go On!"

I suppose it's because I'm an English teacher and avid reader and writer, but dialects fascinate me. My ears really perk up when I hear people use different words than I use for common everyday objects. (Even that last sentence can prove interesting: some people say their ears "prick up.") Sometimes, I can even locate the general region of where the person lived or was raised by a few key words in their common usage vocabulary.

In my house, we sat on the davenport. You might have had a sofa, or a couch. I blame my mother for that one. She was "Pennsylvania Dutch", and she gave us lots of odd words. We never picked up or tidied up. We redded up the house. We didn't vacuum, either. We ran the sweeper. We didn't eat dinner; we ate supper for the evening meal. On Sunday, our largest meal was in the afternoon, and it was called Sunday Dinner. We didn't use a washcloth to wash up, we used a washrag. And we played in the sandbox with a bucket, not a pail.

My friends across the street had a parent from West Virginia, so they were all screwed up. They got their groceries in a sack, not a paper bag. When one of them got an electrical shock from the outlet, she said she got a poke. She called my braids "pigtails". When she asked her grandmother permission to go with me on my paper route, she said she had to ask her "Ma-Maw" to go on my root. I had never heard of a Ma-Maw and no one had ever pronounced "route" (which I had always said like it rhymed with "about") as if it rhymed with "toot."

But then, I had my own Grandma who called green peppers "mangoes" for whatever reason, and called all saucepans "dippers." She was from Wiggletown, Ohio, which isn't even there anymore, to my knowledge. They probably were incorporated into another small town without them even knowing it, largely owing to the fact that the Wiggletownians couldn't communicate effectively. ;-)

My brother-in-law, who was born in Ohio but transplanted to New Jersey, calls jeans dungarees and calls rubber bands gum bands. He calls carbonated beverages soda, whereas in Ohio, they are commonly called pop, which I cannot bring myself to say. It sounds ridiculous, so I say soda also even though I have never lived in the East.

Once in a while, I give trivia questions for extra credit in my English classes. One day, I asked what a davenport was. Only two students got it right. And both of them knew it because of their grandmothers. A fact which they didn't need to share with me. But they did. At which time I felt a new wrinkle sprout.

This language of ours is so captivating. It is what unifies us, yet it is what makes us unique. It can mark us as readily as a brand to a trained ear. I have become almost a collector of the nuances of English, and it is a lifelong obsession.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Because if We Can't Laugh, then We'll Explode

I've had to edit this post and take out the embedded video. I couldn't figure out how to monkey with the code to stop it from playing automatically every time my blog would load. But it was darned funny, so if you want to go see it at, you still can. It's right here .

Sorry for any inconvenience, especially for those of you who access The Dept. at work. It was really starting to piss me off, too!

But funny! The guy is funny.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

On Spring

Spring is trying its best to arrive in Northeast Ohio. The Cleveland Indians baseball team is having its home opener tomorrow, and the forecast is 53 with a 100% chance of rain. (I can remember sending my son off to a home opener one year wearing a parka and snowpants. He had to clear several inches of snow off the bleachers and froze before the 5th inning. I suppose getting a little wet is preferable to frostbite.) I am frantic for 70s and sun. I want to put away, once and for all, my winter coat and sweaters. I want to stop carrying my personal space heater when traveling from room to room at the high school. I want my hands to stop looking like a corpse's, all white with purply fingertips from the cold, even indoors.

The house on the corner has some crocuses, but they don't count. I've seen them poking through snow before, stubbornly heralding a premature Spring. The chubby robins in my yard jockeying for position with the squirrels aren't encouraging, either. Around this area, a few hardy ones winter over and can be seen huddled under the eaves in February. Nope--I want lilacs and thunderstorms. I want a rainbow. I want to hear the music from the popsicle truck. I want to see the cilantro start feathering up in my herb garden. I want to smell that wetly green aroma first thing in the morning when I sneak out in my short jammies to get the Sunday paper off the front walk. I want to start complaining about all the tree buds being tracked into the house and all over the carpets. I want all the storm windows open in the house and the cats sitting with their noses up against the screens.

I want to wear my light blue pointy shoes. I want to break out my pink leather Etienne Aigner bag. I want to wear short sleeves again. I want to wear a dress or skirt with no pantyhose. (Hell, I want to be able to wear a dress or skirt and not get goosebumps!) I want to wear light, flirty clothes and a lighter, flirtier mood.

Spring arrives too late and leaves too soon here in NE Ohio. We pine for it; we yearn for it; we wish for it as avidly as a lover does her beloved. When it arrives, we almost weep. We wallow in it for the briefest of moments that it lasts.

Spring in NE Ohio is unpredictable and mercurial. It is like your friend who dyes her hair a different color every month and goes to a tarot reader. She disappears, perhaps, for weeks or months at a time, but you don't really hold her accountable; that's just the way she is. When she does show up, you just pick right up where you left off. No questions asked, no baggage or recriminations. It's just her way. And you have the best times with her. You do wild, adventurous things with her that you wouldn't do with anyone else. And you don't care, either. You don't get to spend a lot of time with her, but the time you do spend is golden. That's Spring.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I implore your patience. The dreaded Infected Head Syndrome turned out to be a killer. I missed 8 days of school and was really flattened. I am sick of doctors, of drugs, and of my bathrobe. I will return soon with a genuine post. Check back in a few days. I'm just now getting used to being vertical for more than an hour at a time, and the teachers among you can appreciate the workload I am buried under. (And for 4 of those days--No Sub! The horror of it all.)

Thanks, and I'll see you in a day or two.
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