Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"I will be your preacher teacher


anything you have in mind."

Just what the fuck is George Michael talking about? Yes, the George Michael pictured stage left, who, by any reasonable guess, appears to be smelling himself on the cover of the album which this song can be found.

Let's break this down just a little: so the first half of the sentence is an offer of mentoring, while the second half is thick with pervish innuendo. Was this George Michael's way of posting for a sexual intern, like they used to have in the olden days? Was he hoping to find an orphan to teach everything he knows about arm pits, namely his arm pit? Who knows. Oldest mystery ever told. Moving on to the real posting...

location: dublin
statistics: 2:1 (ratio)
2 (completely superfluous references to screwing in this chapter from a book of advice for new teachers)
about 15 (chapters left to write)

Soooo me and my friend All-Star, who I've been close with since we worked and lived together in Yosemite National Park some ten years ago, are working on a book of practical advice for new teachers. We're calling it 'So You Wanna Be An F'in Teacher?' (As you might have guessed, All-Star is also a teacher, him in rough and tumbling Oakland).

The nexus of the project was a conversation we had with our buddy Mose (also a Yosemite alum, by the way), who was on the eve of his first year teaching. Over pints we told him all the things they should have taught him in teacher school. I was taking notes on napkins, and by the end of 3 rounds I had a list of about 75 chapters. It was one of the most satisfying and organic artistic/writing moments of my life.

As the title of the collection suggests, the advice leans toward the raw, the stuff no professor with dignity would say out loud. Completed chapters include 'Teach Hungover,' 'Don't Be Afraid to Threaten to Knock a Student Out,' and 'Quit and Go to Law School, You Jerk.' So we're not exactly playing by the rules. And that's a good thing.

Anyway, I just wrote a new chapter. It's not the best one by a long shot, just the most recent. Thought I'd share with the group.

MAKE POSITIVE CALLS HOME

It is (I hope) as close as you will get to hearing the sound of one of your student's parents having an orgasm.
The sound?
When you make a 'call home,' and the parent realizes you called for no other reason than to praise their child.
The noise is like a mix between a dove's coo, a kitten's prrr, and the audio to this month's top rated youporn.com clip (the one with the Asian kid and the ladyboy).
In a word, it is inspiring.
On the night when I do my parent calls I make sure to keep a 2:1 positive to negative call ratio. The benefits of a call home are generally self-evident, but a few anyhow:
- Works toward getting both the parents and the students on your side.
- Shows that you care.
- Wins redeemable points with the students. (i.e., 'Billy, remember that nice call I made to your dad, the one that got him to forget about your crystal meth addiction for an hour? Yeah. Now shut up and do your work.')
- Opens a channel of communication should you need to make a critical call later in the term.
- These conversatioins tend to turn into a gush-fest of sorts. You praise the child, the parent praises you, and we're all in love again. Quite simply, these conversations are rays of light. I've had positive calls home that practically ended with the teenagers-in-love tango of 'You hang up...' 'No, you hang up...' 'We'll do it together...' 'You didn't hang up!' 'Neither did you!'

So use that parent contact list you made on the first day of school for good rather than the typical evil. The self-esteem of your students, their parents, and yourself will be better for it.
- 30-

Monday, July 21, 2008

Goat Men

location Béal Atha'n Ghaorthaidh Ballingeary
statistics n/a

‘It’s time, Jesse,’ he says, and I know just what he means.

Wellingtons. Blue bucket red bucket bottles. The metal contraption that holds four bottles at once because lord knows we can’t very well ask the goats to form an orderly line. The Lassie dogs look up with hope, see the equipment, and bow their heads. We climb the hill. The herd charges the gates.

The oldest one’s tats hang heavy, one shorter than the other, the nub done in by a case of gangrene that nearly killed her last year. The five kids, all white as clouds, nuzzle together by the latch. They learn quickly, these. The one spotted like a brown cow watches us with one eye. The farmer swears- no, he thinks- that the brown one can watch the hill with the one eye and us with the other.

‘They get mad when we’re late,’ he grumbles at me.

Over coffee at the restaurant in the hippy town on the way to the farm I told him that I like goats. ‘They’re ornery, have a real mind of their own, and I like that,’ I said.

‘We’ll get along just fine then,’ he returned, earnestly.

We do the high knee dance through the gates to keep the girls from barging through to the two boys next door. 'What will happen if we let them through?'

'They'll fuck, and it's not time for that.' It's not season and plus, they haven't consumed enough of the apple cider vinegar the farmer has been mixing into their feed to produce more (profitable) female offspring. Apparently, the Y sperm hate acid, they shudder from the taste of it.

But now: it's time. The farmer drags the old one into the barn by the ears. They hate having their ears pulled. The young ones don’t like it when you mess with the pubescent pile of bones spilling out between their eyes.

‘What’s a rookie mistake?’ I ask as the farmer settles down for the evening milking.

‘Pulling.’

The goat’s neck is strapped with a leather dog collar to the post. The farmer squeezes and I’m shocked by the force with which the milk shoots out. Tsssssss! It is foamy and warm. Thick grey cobwebs that look as strong as uneven bars hang between the rafters. I dip the plastic cup I snuck out from the kitchen into the blue bucket. It tastes good. Goat milk is the healthiest for babies, country doctors say. Both to get babies to grow and to get them to sleep. Milk just like this: unpasteurized, unfiltered, not from an animal to a tank to a truck to a refrigerator to a back seat to a smaller refrigerator to a bottle.

Like this: Tsssssssss! From pink flesh to pink lips.

Parker and I feed the kids first. They bully and fight. We keep the bottles waist high to emulate their mothers’ tats. I swear that Number 26 looks at me with genuine longing as I feed him.

Later. It’s so dark I can’t see the road and for reasons uncrystallized, ungraspable at the moment I want to cry.

I am running and something of the darkness overtakes me. Thoughts spill out ungoverned. Most pass. One sticks: eternal sunshine of my spotty mind.

My lungs beat their desperate cadence against my ribs. Still here, motherfucker. We’re not going to let you die, motherfucker.

I still dream about my dad every night and I want to cry.

I had to leave my boys in Cape Town before I was ready. Days after my best friend told me he was Positive and I promised I would be there for him but my sister, when I told her I was going to miss the funeral she wouldn’t stop crying, she could barely get the words out:

‘Dad needs you,’ she said. Even though dad was dead she said it again in the thin space between heaves.

‘Dad needs you.’

We don’t talk anymore, my sister and I, and I don’t know why.

I speak more to my dad, in my dreams, than I did the six months before he died. In my dreams I hold him every chance I get. I hold his hands, I rest my head on his shoulder. I tell him I’m sorry so many times and I grip him so hard that I wake myself up.

I’m on a ship on the lake that spills from the North Sea. I’m on a train past the sheep fields with my mouth wide open. I’m in Amsterdam on the floor of a hotel, tucked between the bed and the wall, stoned and shaking. I am nowhere. I am in bed with a Hungarian whose boyfriend is in Barcelona. I fall asleep next to a Swede and she snores against my neck and she must be lonely, she’s holding me so.

I am nowhere and he is everywhere.

I like the second one better and I believe the second one.

‘Where should I run?’ I asked the farmer.

‘Run the lights,’ he said.

So I do. Down the dark dirt road. Past the grocery store that has no blueberries and the bar next door and the bridge that is the end of the farmer’s world. I run until there are no more lights and it is no longer safe.

Finally- and if I said this before I was lying- but I am finally falling. The buried me is rising from eggshells and compost and fresh dirt and is meeting the me to whom the gift of gravity has been returned. The zombie me, the version you’ve known of me since February (or long before? since we met? since the beginning?) cannot fight both fronts. I am forced to love myself and I do.

While the farmer was still milking I dropped to my knees on the flakes of red sandstone. One-two-threefourfive the kids formed a semi-circle around me. I lifted my hood and I butted their heads. I could feel their back legs straining as they pressed. None of us moved- the balance of opposing forces- and I knew that, some day, I would be a goat man too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My mom is reading my blog


location inis mor, aran island, ireland
statistics 2 (eyes, watching, judging)

Sooo, it turns out that my mother is now reading my blog. She asked if she could. I said yes, so technically it's my fault. But now there's no turning back. I either have to swallow hard and continue to write like myself, or I have to go all domesticated up in dis piece.

Let's see how long I can play it straight:

A DAY IN MY LIFE HERE AT THE HOSTEL
* Morning. *
This morning I bit into a tangerine and it tasted funny, dry. I looked down and there was a tiny greenish/pink worm emerging from the new crater in its home. It wiggled either its tushy or its head at me. Who knows which. I decided it was the worm's rightful home, put the fruit down, and then started drafting a list of the demands that I would later nail into the glass door of the Spar.

After breakfast I was supposed to be painting Room 12 'water lily,' which apparently is some shade of yellow. At first they told me the room would be pink. I got excited about painting the whole thing- walls, floor, ceiling- pink. Then I would add a sub-woofer that played a constant, dull heartbeat. I asked a girl I work with, Annie, if she had anything umbilical I could borrow, but she had nothing to offer. I took pride in maybe being the first person in history to ever use the word 'umbilical' as an adjective, so...

(Hold on. See, knowing my mom is reading this is fucking everything up. Above is a picture of my mom. (Still want to read, mom? Yah bahastahd?!?!))

Anyway. All this scheming to construct a womb themed dorm room got me thinking about how much I want a sleep pod like everyone uses in Jah-pan.

Which led me to watching The Last Samurai. I found two dvd options here at the hostel: The Last Samurai and Frasier. Yesterday I tore through Frasier like Geraldo entering Al Capone's hidden tomb. Except Frasier really paid off for me. In spades. I'm telling you. That dog should have won a Pulitzer or something. Moving on, it embarrasses me how inspiring I find The Last Samurai to be. CLEARLY it inspired me to great heights, including writing a blog that includes a joke about a (undoubtedly now dead) tv dog winning an award for writing.

*Afternoon*
There was still no paint so I checked out the communal fridge and ate a bunch of whipped cream from the can. I offered some to Annie, who declined. But she's home schooled so you can't blame her for being out of her fucking mind. Who doesn't like eating whipped cream from the can? Immigrants, faggots, and home schoolers. That's who.

(I'm sorry.)

Then I wrote emails and the like for far too long. I wrote this to my friend Lindsay:

"oh, and the next time i see you i'm going to take all my jewelry off, put it in a neat pile, and we're going to rumble.

jesser

ps
and after i win the fight, i'm going to steal your neat pile of jewelry."
This is a reference to our friend Davide, who liked to tell this particular fight story, where he always made sure to emphasize the piles of jewelry with zero shreds of irony or self-awareness. This still makes me chuckle. How'd he know they even liked the same style of jewelry? And ring sizes, what of that? I do see where he's coming from, though. If I was in a street fight and my chandelier earrings got knotted with my adversary's ankle bracelet, man oh man, would I be embarrassed.

I also "chatted" with the girl I've only met once a year ago but none-the-less am spending multiple hundreds of dollars to fly to my sister's wedding in August in St. Louis. She has to be out of her mind too, this smart and lovely girl. Top 5 reasons she must be crazy:
1. Any rational person can plainly see that I must be crazy for buying her that ticket, so she is crazy by association.
2. She knows about my dad, and how I'm walking my sister down the aisle... talk about an intense first date. For crying out loud.
3. She's very tall. (And y'all KNOW how I feelz about tall bitches.)
4. Her name is Angela, and she was born at the peak of the Who's the Boss madness that swept the western hemisphere during the 80s. The only reason a father would do this is to be able to refer to his own child as 'Angeler,' like Tony did in the show. And, ahem, I think I've proven my point and I don't even need a 5.

*Evening*
I was caught eating cookie dough ice cream straight from the bin. And then I was ashamed.

I also emailed the nudist goat farmer who I'm staying with next week. God bless us nudist goat farmers, one and all.

And now I'm supposed to be writing about the organic farming movement in Ireland. Hence, this: stalling. I will leave you with what might be the first paragraph:
If the organic movement is to succeed in Ireland, it will need the help of naked goat milkers, modern day white slaves, mono-syllabic Ukrainian men who treat their young French co-workers like beaten-down wives, babies that don't cry and rotten little farm girls, a butterfly genocide, silk suit wearing lobbyists, sell-out vegetarians, brothers and sisters saying Rosaries as they're huddled in the corner of their thatched houses during storms, pig races, synthetic ewe vaginae, and, most importantly, the kind of widespread fear and panic not seen in this country since the Great Potato Famine of 1845.