Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Last Song

It's quiet now
On your little street
With the one way sign
How many travellers, missing the sign
Came up your street.
You smiled as they kept on
Driving the wrong way

It's quiet now
You thought it'd be best
To end things here
You felt him breathe in
Your scent
He felt your fear
Still you let him in
But not too close

It's quiet now
His voice touched your resolve
And parted it with conviction
You sat open mouthed and waiting
For more food to sustain you
Too late to take back
The power you gave him
To fill you with his
Intoxicating promise

It's quiet now
The embers turned to ash
Drivers now see the one way sign
You said good-bye to the one
Who made your pulse race
And blushed your face

Too close to love, too far to touch
Was it the false Messiah?
This wild rose cannot hide her thorns
A worthy soldier would find his way
Between them

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Show and Tell


Thank-you for being here and reading my stuff! Everyone who has visited my blog and commented or thought about commenting has been part of my support team that I could not have continued this writing journey without.. I participated in NanoWrimo project this November (http://www.nanowrimo.org/), and the concept is to get 50,000 words of novel completed in one month. Things were looking really dubious for this procrastinator, but somehow I got it together after Thanksgiving.. Here is an exerpt from "Runover Dogs"..

It was a warm, late summer night with a light wind blowing through the campus trees. Noa exited her dorm and saw her friend Shoshanna sitting on some steps. 'I'm waiting for Smadar to bring my pizza.' Noa wanted to avoid the subject of classes, because Shoshanna would lay into her for not taking it seriously. She wasn't in any mood to be lectured, so she asked her friend how the linguistics classes were going. 'They taught us about bilabial fricatives. Do you know where your bilabial fricative is, Noa?' 'Not really-but I bet YOU do!' Shoshanna started laughing and Noa could only imagine what her friend was thinking. 'You coming with me to Ima's tomorrow?' Ima was their mutual friend Tsivia's mom. They met Tsivia on the kibbutz. She was a tall, friendly girl with dirty blonde Shirley Temple curls, who played the guitar, loved Suzanne Vega- and was from an orthodox family living outside of Haifa. Shoshanna would go home with her every Shabbat to spend with her family. They had 5 biological daughters, and 3 adopted ones. The goal was to have them all married off eventually. Shoshanna, being over 30 years old, was their biggest challenge. She was a large woman, and this was an unusual state of being for this culture. So with those two marks against her, age and girth, the matchmaker had to dig deep to find a Chattan for her. She came back one Shabbat and announced to Noa that she wasn't going back to the Dan's again. What happened? They fixed her up with a divorcee, she was sitting down at a table at the restaurant where they had agreed to meet at. This short bearded man with a limp walks up to her and asks if she is waiting for someone. She wasn't 100% sure he was talking to her because he had a lazy eye which was looking in an entirely diffent direction. She followed its path and saw it led to a little old man dining alone, and decided he must be speaking to her. Now she wasn't picky. The lazy eye, the one leg being shorter than the other-these things didn't bother her. But wasn't it considered in poor taste to talk about sex on the first date? Wasn't this suppossed to be a religious man? It was too much for her, and she needed a break. Smadar appeared with a slice of pizza on a plate in either hand. She was always smiling, and she had short hair and glasses and reminded Noa of a Weeble Wobble. She tripped and dropped a slice of pizza. It fell face down. 'Your pizza fell, Shoshanna!' Noa started cracking up. 'Why was that Shoshanna's slice?' 'Cause I put garlic salt on the other one.' The girls ate their pizza quietly and Noa reminisced about her shidduck last year at the yeshiva. She shuttered at the thought, and would rather die of desperate loneliness than have to relive that time. Shoshanna announces she has to get to her linguistics class. 'Watch out for flying bilabial fricatives,' Noa warns her. Smadar and Noa are sitting next to each other. There's an awkward silence, where it suddenly becomes apparent that they've never had a need to hang out together before. 'I'm going downstairs to the Moadone, do you want to come?' Noa asks. 'Iv'e never been there. Sure, I'll come.' The moadone is a bomb shelter in one of the dorm buildings converted to a late night hangout with snacks and music. Noa was intrigued with Chaim the slender senior sociology student who often worked there. He was Persian, and had mocha skin and light blue eyes. It was an unnerving combination. They got there, and as usual, there were mostly Americans hanging out. There was one Israeli girl in the middle of a group of Americans talking loudly about some bakery in a nearby neighborhood. They only baked breads and rolls, and if you came by very early in the morning, you could buy them fresh out of the ovens. Noa said she'd like to go, and before they knew it, a small group had planned to go that very morning. Noa went back to her table to get her soda. Chaim was sitting there staring at her. 'Where are you all going?' 'To get fresh bread at 5 am at the bakery. Why don't you come with us?' He made that clicking sound with his mouth that Israelis make to indicate negative. 'Why would I do that? I have fresh bread in my apartment.' Israelis were always so practical and lacking in that childlike sense of adventure that travelling Americans often had. 'But it's not warm!' Noa protested. 'Why don't you come over and I'll warm it up for you?' he said with a completely serious look on his face. Noa sensed something sinister about this man. How could you trust someone who didn't think running around Ramat Gan at 5 am in search of fresh hot bread was fun? It was probably those strange blue eyes framed by the brown skin. No, she thanked him, she's getting her hot bread the right way. 'As you wish,' he said coolly, and slunk off somewhere. She felt a coldness to the air around him, and she suddenly felt a very creepy feeling. She was so glad she was not planning on going to Chaim's house to eat his bread. She rejoined the lighter group of Americans plus Tamar the token Israeli girl. They were getting their jackets on and taking off to get the best falafel in Tel Aviv. That bread would not be ready for another six hours, and that was too long to go without eating. They waited for the #6 bus. Noa and Tamar started talking about astrology, and they realized they both had the same thick red book, 'Love Signs', by Linda Goodman. Tamar switched to Hebrew now, as she got more excited and talked faster and faster. Noa's brain raced to understand everthing this girl was saying. She could feel her Hebrew improving. The bus finally arrived, and the group sauntered on in. Before she knew it, Noa was teaching Tamar a chidren's song she had learned from Sam as a child. Tamar was thrilled to learn it. And why not? Cooka Burra was most definitely not part of a typical Israeli child's repertoire of songs. All of a sudden Tamar grabbed the string to indicate this was their stop. 'Rega! Anachnu tzricheem laredet, bavakasha!' and the bus driver pulled over. Out the group went. They were dropped off on a dark street. Tamar led, and everyone followed like baby ducklings. In the distance was the light of the little falafel stand. A 45 minute bus ride for this? Wait, Tamar assurred, you won't regret it. A little falafel guy looked weary but pleased to see this big group of customers so late at night. Tamar showed them what to do. She paid her 2 shekels and was given a pita bread with 3 hot falafel balls inside. She ate one to make more room for the salads. Then she proceeded to pile on the goods. Mini pickled eggplant, fresh baba gannouj. Sauerkraut and even french fries were fair game for this delectable treat. After everyone loaded their pitas, the group got down to the business of savoring their caches. Happiness was in the air. All agreed that this was the best falafel place in Tell Aviv. Since the buses only ran once an hour, the group headed back to the bus stop to wait for the return bus. Noa and Tamar, at 2 am, started singing Cooka Burra as a round. The others were too tired to join in. The bus finally arrived, the gang piled on. Tamar had a bus ticket. 'Pa-amaaim,' she told the bus driver, translated as 'double' meaning she was also paying for Noa's fare. Smadar wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to practice Hebrew and get a free bus ride at the same time, so she entered the bus and said 'Shloshaaim,' to the driver, translated as 'three times', eventhough that word did not exist in the Hebrew language. The ride was long, and everyone fell asleep. 'Bar Ilan!' the bus driver yelled out, not wanting to take these kids back to the central bus station. They groggily woke up and exited the bus. Tamar announced it was a perfect time to walk to the bakery. A few people were too tired and went back to the dorms. Tamar, Noa, Smadar and Daniel were the only takers. It was getting cold and the sky was overcast so there was an eery lightness to this 4 am night. They walked through some very religious neighborhoods, and saw an occasional chasid walking the street. They wondered what anyone would be doing up at this hour? The neighborhoods started getting more and more beat up looking, until finally they arrived on the block of the bakery. The main door was the size of a wall, and it was slid open allowing a good view of the operation. Noa peeked in . She saw some humongous ovens that looked pre-WWII. It was very hot in there. All of a sudden, an old man with a scaly red face and stringy white hair came out. Noa was alone with him, as her 3 friends already entered to find their precious bread. The man looked like he had come out to smoke a cigarette, but he had none. Noa felt strange, as he was standing very close to her and staring at her. She couldn't stand it anymore, and had to break the silence. 'It must be hard to work so early in the morming.' 'Oh yes,' he answered in a high-pitched hollow voice, 'Iv'e been here all night. It's very hard. Sometimes I bleed.' Bleed? That's pretty severe. Why would someone bleed while making bread? 'Here, do you want me to show you?' And the man started to unbutton his pants. 'No, thanks anyway,' Noa turned to find her friends, and just then they came out. She was so happy to see them. Tamar said it was very scary inside, but apparently not as scary as it had been outside. After Noa told of her creepy experience with the bleeding man, Tamar conceeded, 'It's really a gross place, but the bread is so good, I'd still come back.' Noa wasn't so sure any bread was worth forced viewings of bleeding ulcers. She did love the bread though. She ripped another piece of crusty bread from Tamar's bag. Nothing like steaming hot, freshly baked bread on a freezing Tel Aviv morning.
PS Yay!! I submitted my draft to nano for final word count: 50,943! I did it!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Avoiding nanoing, avoiding it all..

George Costanza has nothing on me, as I sit typing on an abandoned workstation computer. I am at my friend's job today and tomorrow, she invited me, and I thought it would be inspiring. The building is in a great spot near Central Park, perfect views of prewar architectural detailing visible from every window. I've been entrusted with the company door codes, invited to join in on the holiday pies, and introduced to the big boss and several cheerful co-workers. I can barely contain my mirth as I help myself to the break room amenities. I feel like screaming out, 'I AM A CHARLATAN! I'M NOT EVEN ON PAYROLL!!' but everyone seems content with my presence. I wonder what would happen if I kept showing up for work, day after day? Would I be placed on payroll by default? This computer was running slow, so I joked with my friend Sandra, 'Do you guys have an IT person? I can't get any work done like this..' She started dialing his extension.. 'No, I was kidding.. ' The rain just let up.. Sandra and I will be heading out for our afternoon run in the park soon.. I'm trying to remember why I found office life so painful before, this is really a hoot..

Saturday, November 03, 2007

From the annals of intuitive living..



Bless my friend who asks me on a regular basis how my intuitive living is going.. Poor soul is haunted by the same office existence that I once was shackled to.. These photos are dedicated to her, taken at the world's best pumpkin carving contest.. My entry won a ribbon.. First place for 'Adult Scene'.. ?


Monday, October 08, 2007

Me and Lily Shee

My freshman year of college I was given an assignment to interview people on their views of welfare recipients. I didn't have any solid friends yet, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. I was sitting at a table near some vending machines, and I see the pretty Asian girl from my Calculus class. We smile at each other, and I introduce myself. Then I ask her if she minded if I interviewed her for this class. She took on a serious/comic face and said, 'Uh, o-kay', in this mock dramatic tone which I was to learn was her trademark during the course of our friendship. I asked my question. 'How do you feel about people who are on welfare?' 'Oh', she answered. This time there was no acting. Her face showed a genuine look of consternation. 'They're lazy'. Her answer took me off guard and I laughed. 'Really?' I asked, giving her a chance to recant. 'Yes', she continued, 'They can get a job at McDonald's. When I was in high school, I worked all the time'. I don't know why I wanted to change her opinion. Maybe she was right. Every single one was lazy and there was no circumstance where someone could legitimately be accepting government assistance. I guess that's what triggered my defense reflex. There was such a finality about her stance. As I came to know Lily more as a friend, it was clear that all of her opinions, from men's behaviors to visiting relatives from China were either good or bad, there was never any ambiguity in her world. I found it hilarious. One time we were at the mall shopping for a dress for her to wear to her sister's wedding. 'Do you have family coming from China?' I was curious. 'Yes', she looked glum. 'Aren't you excited?' 'No. I hate my relatives. They're disgusting'. Whoa! That was so harsh. I laughed in amusement. 'Why are they disgusting?' I couldn't resist. 'They pick their nose in public. They're always embarrassing me'. Well, that was that. One day we were lounging about my apartment discussing her views on men. She had a boyfriend. An American named Bill who took her to nice restaurants and bought or made her expensive jewelry. Bill would always get mad at her because she preferred the cheap, trendy jewelry from those little jewelry kiosks at the mall. Again she surprised me with her views when she told me that she is expected to look beautiful all the time, and that if she doesn't look young and beautiful, no man will marry her. She completely believed that these two attributes were the only ones necessary for such a union. I sometimes felt like I was watching some 19th century soap opera when listening to her. I realized then that life had been hard for Lily. She said her parents always called her ugly. I met her parents. They lived in a little apartment in an all Chinese neighborhood in Queens. Her father bought this big bag of fried chicken wings on the street, we went back to their place and all sat around eating them. No one talked. Later Lily had to go to the Chinese bank to take care of some family business. Her father drove us to the bus station to return to school. The road was very bumpy and rough, and I kept bouncing out of my seat. He said something to Lily in Cantonese. She looked flatly at me and translated, 'You will lose your virginity on this ride'. I cracked up, and her father smiled at me. Over the summer I found myself with lots of idle time. Lily and I spent hours lazing around, braiding our hair and being vain. She had this other side which would come out on these such days. It was completely different than the stoic, judgmental Lily. This other side was pensive and innocent. She would talk about dreams she'd had of butterflies and reincarnation, floating through time like a candle. I didn't really know what she was talking about, I just knew that this was the only time she seemed really happy and content. I guess it was like her fantasy world. And then she met Seamus. Seamus, whose real name is Steve, looked so Irish I had to call him Seamus. We met one Winter night at Bacchus. Bacchus was the only bar in New Paltz that I felt comfortable in. It had a long wooden bar, hardwood floors and a pool table. They had over twenty beers on tap, which to me spoke of their respect for all tastes. So I was sitting there at the bar, in the midst of believing that my date had stood me up, and there was Seamus, sitting next to me. He had a wool hat on pulled down to his eyebrows like he was hiding from the world. He looked a bit abandoned himself, and as the hour approached 45 minutes from the time my date was supposed to have arrived, I felt this woolen-hatted man would be a good audience for my anguish. 'Did your date stand you up too?' I asked him. 'No. I'm here with my friend. Some guy stood you up?' He asked incredulously. 'I would never do that to you! Do you want me to call him and yell at him?' he offered. I felt better already, now that I had an ally. 'No thanks, it's fine. It's just snowing out, and I never would have driven all this way in the snow, and it's just so rude'. Seamus invited me to play pool with him and his friend. I did, and their company was greatly appreciated. We ended up going out on one date, and I decided I wasn't attracted to him. So I fixed him up with my friend Kerri, who really liked him, but there were no sparks on his end. A few months went by. Lily and I went to Bacchus one night and Seamus was there. We hung out and played pool. Lily and Seamus spoke a little. On our drive home, Lily seemed to have fallen in love with Seamus. She revealed that she has never been physically attracted to any man (not even Bill, her current boyfriend) but she felt a huge attraction to Seamus. Somehow, the attraction for Seamus became contagious, because suddenly I too had a huge crush on him! We spent the next few days discussing our mutual crushes, and since Lily and I were such good friends, we didn't seem to mind that there was only one of him but two of us. I guess we didn't think anything would materialize from this anyway. Of course we were wrong. I'm not sure exactly what happened between Lily and Seamus- I sense it never really left the fantasy stage. But something I said to Lily ended our friendship. I don't even remember what it was. Something about a lack of trust, and her being deeply insulted. She had actually already moved to California at this point, far away from me, Seamus, and the nose-picking relatives. But that was it. She couldn't be friends with someone who didn't trust her. That's the only time a man has come between any of my friendships. I'd like to find Lily again. It's been about seven years. Knowing her, she probably hasn't forgiven me yet.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Runners on the Loose

The night in question had finally arrived and of course, my desire to follow through and join Myriam for an after work Friday night drink was non-existent. Maybe it was the guilt factor- since I was cozily unemployed, I hadn't earned the right to partake in this famous American pastime of decompressing from a stressful work week. Gone were the days of inane emails from a supervisor questioning why I was two minutes late returning from break the previous day. No longer did I have to suffer through the bullying customer threatening to call his lawyer if I didn't remove the bogus charges for the phone call on his bill made to his daughter's cell phone; as he never calls her cell phone. Oh, OK, I guess someone broke into his house and called his daughter from his home. That could happen. In fact, since my joining the ranks of the happily unemployed, my only stress in the past 3 months came in the form of a hamstring injury- brought on by an overzealous attempt to complete a third track workout for the week. So I guess guilt played a role in my trying to get out of going out. Myriam is a very persuasive co-conspirator, and after shooting down the last of my feeble excuses ('But Myriam- I'm unemployed, I can't afford to go out!' 'Oh, I'll treat you to the first drink. Knowing you, that will be twice as much as you'll finish anyway', she ribbed). I finally caved. It sounded like a healthy thing to do, meeting up with a group of runners.The bar was a handsome new one in downtown Middletown, not yet tarnished by the typical boisterous crowds of the area nightlife. It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces from track and local races. Next thing you know, Myriam is whipping out her cell phone camera and delegating photographers and posers. This of course is the most frightening moment of the evening, because you never know when an unflattering photo of yourself will show up in a future newsletter or on the Sullivan Striders website. One day I was innocently viewing online photos from some recent race, and much to my shock was a photo of myself and Myriam's nephew with his arm around me! Luckily, it was a cute picture, and I didn't have a crazed, jealous boyfriend at the time, but still.. A girl could use a little warning. So next Rene, Myriam's husband, comes in. I'm very happy to see him. Rene has a thousand great stories about all the different countries he's lived in. We got onto the subject of animals speaking in Spanish. (Not sure how we got there, as I had mentioned that I was working as a literacy volunteer, and my student is definitely human, but the wine was strong..) So he was telling me his friend had a talkative parrot who would repeat everything his master said. Whenever a guest would pass the cage, the bird would scream, 'MARICON!' at him. About this time, many of the other runners started to leave. I don't know if it was the foreign cursing or maybe when you work for a living you just need more sleep- luckily this malady didn't effect all of us. So Myriam thought it was time for us to move to a different locale. Those Geminis always need new stimuli. So off we went. The new bar featured a live band, free buffet, and a really delicious Pinot Grigio. Ha, look Myriam, I'm no longer a lightweight! Somehow the subject of singles meeting other singles in the running community came up. Someone mentioned it would be a good idea if in addition to displaying your age group on your race number, your marital status should also be available. Then the women reflected for a moment on the near non-existent pool of single men in the area, and someone said, 'I guess it wouldn't make a difference', and we all burst out laughing. We spent the next few minutes brainstorming for other valuable information along these lines to be included on bib numbers. How about if a guy's a good kisser? 'Oh yeah', someone said, 'I'd like to know that up front'. Apparently, this woman had kissed a few clueless frogs. Something about a dead, frozen, open mouth. I don't know, it didn't sound very appealing to me either, but I didn't want to depress the woman any more, she sounded fairly traumatized from the experience. So the general consensus was in favor of this new category of info to be taken for upcoming races. The only problem was, who in their right mind, when filling out a race application is going to answer 'no' when asked 'are you a good kisser'? So we decided we may need to discuss this more at the upcoming Sullivan Striders meeting. Those meetings are overdue for some livelier topics, anyway. Just then Rene, not having brought up the subject of 'the great match of me and his nephew' in over a year, thought that now would be an excellent time to do so. 'You know Tamar, I recently had dinner with Jesus. He told me that when he met you, he's never had this feeling about anyone before, but he said he could really see himself having a son with you'. Now that's quite a loaded statement to feed to a woman who would one day like to have children, not to mention she was on her second glass of wine. 'Well Rene, that's really nice', I said, 'But I feel a little suspicious about the sincerity of this story, since you once mentioned to me that Jesus could really use a green card'. Rene explained this conflict by means of reinforcing why a green card would be so valuable to Jesus. Huh? Let me get back to my girls. The girls had that glassy-eyed look of 'if I have any more excitement tonight I'm liable to poke an eye out'. Myriam, Marie and I all walked to our cars. Myriam pulled out her cell phone so we could laugh at the photos again. There was one of the three of us where we were all smiling, but Marie was standing about a mile away from us, like at the last second she agreed to appear in it. We parted laughing and happy, despite the baked avocados served in the free buffet. Sometimes you really do get what you pay for, but the evening as a whole was priceless.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hatchlings: A Love Story

The sun came up and revealed the dozens of tiny eggs laying on the damp patch of sand. The eggs were from many mothers who lived within the same community, and shared the same customs, and often the very chore of raising the young into independent young turtles. Hatchling A poked his head right through his shell, looked around, and promptly started to cry as there was no one there to tend to his needs. Instantly, his mother recognized his wails as her own offspring, and came forward to tend to his needs. Feeling secure and loved, he followed her back to their den. There was a cozy fire burning, a big pot of savory stew cooking for dinner, and papa turtle sitting in his worn recliner chair smoking his pipe. Hatchling A, which they began calling Frank, sidled up to his father and listened closely to his every word. The elder tortoise loved teasing his brood. It was his nature, and indeed if too long a period went by with no teasing from Papa, his children would grow depressed, for this was how they knew that they were loved. 'Frank my son, what happened to your tail? Why, it's so short, it looks as though a confused fish mistook it for a worm, and bit it off!' Frank smiled, knowing that his father was very fond of him now. The seasons drifted one into the other, and pretty soon it was time for Frank to go out and start a family of his own. There was a rumor going around that arriving into this world on the same day as Frank was a very serious young female hatchling who lived on the other side of the island. Euridice, as she was called, grew up in an entirely different world than Frank. Her parents were very young, and didn't quite know how to care for their little hatchling. They only knew how to take care of their own needs and desires, and this they did very well. There were always half empty bottles of expensive wine sitting about the house from the previous night's party. Her father, being the traditional nomadic polygamist of his tribe, had invited his new wife to come live with them. Euridice was then given even less attention than before, and what's worse, was delegated to wait on the new wife, who wasn't much older than she was. The father was often absent due to long hours spent at the office. This was a good thing for Euridice and her siblings, as he was a moody man, and given to wild outbursts with little provocation. But the family tradition she least adored was that of the constant criticisms. Nothing was good enough for her father, and his tirades when displeased were tireless and exhausting. He could spend hours yelling about how the chicken she cooked for the family dinner was not big enough to feed the whole family, and then he would continue on until a diagram of the anatomy of a full grown chicken was mapped and drawn and hanging from the kitchen wall for all to examine. She couldn't take him too seriously, but still, she often wished that there was someone out there who might appreciate her. Despite her desires, she had a strong mistrust of most people, and who could blame her. When all you knew was criticism and contempt, where does love fit in? But she knew how to love and care for the poor and helpless creatures of the world. She was always rescuing drowning ants, and abandoned baby birds. So one day as she was searching for water for their camels, she spied a new turtle. She hid behind an acacia tree. It was Frank. The community where her family lived had several families, and it was miles away from other communities. She knew everyone well, but this turtle she had never seen before. She peeked her nose out from behind the tree to get a better look at the stranger. He had disappeared! She was so confused, and then she felt a small tug on her tail. She turned around quickly to scold whoever was annoying her (she really abhorred her tail being pulled), and there was Frank, acting non-challant and casual, though a turtle with such a short tail in her neighborhood was certainly an odd sight. 'I'd appreciate it if you refrain from grabbing my tail like that' she retorted coolly. 'If you are trying to impress me, you're not doing so well'.. Frank was not used to such a cold reception, and wasn't sure how to respond. In his world, a nice, firm tail-grabbing is just a way of starting a conversation. He started to walk backwards very slowly. Euridice noticed that the bright smile he was wearing initially had completely vanished and was replaced by a distant look of sadness. She realized that she really needed to see that smile again. She wasn't sure why, but she felt if she didn't see it again, she would die of thirst. So she abandoned her chores, and came over to Frank, and was more courteous. She told him it wasn't so terrible that he grabbed her tail, it just startled her is all. He really didn't understand her, but decided to stay and chat just the same. He didn't have turtles like Euridice in his village, and he thought her soft little shell needed someone like him to look out for it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Testing the waters again

Last week I found myself in the office of career services provided for the students at OCCC. The woman who came out of a back room didn't care that I was just a normal person walking off the street, with no affiliation to the college. I imagined being the only one to have walked in that office all week, as classes just began for the semester. Students were too busy to think about looking for a job. The woman who greeted me had a blank expression on her tawny-toned face, and warned me that if I wanted to apply for one of the full time jobs I'd have to bring in my resume and set up an appointment with her. She handed me two thick binders filled with jobs in the area. I've been very casually perusing help wanted sections over the past few months, but the same stock jobs are always there, and the dream job never is: 'Dynamic woman wanted for international travel, must be willing to learn Bantu language and train with elite runners'. I keep checking, but so far, nothing really came close to that. I leaf through pages of clerical positions, dental assistants, the same old stuff.. Then I find it: Teacher wanted for female correctional facility inmates. Why hadn't I considered this before? And why was this appealing to me? I think this is the first time I saw an ad for prison teachers.. I didn't realize prisoners had academic options. And of course the appeal was working with a new culture. I pictured organizing training runs on site, and whipping them all into shape and redemption.. With a few creative writing lessons tossed in for balance. I returned the next week for my appointment with Linda. I brought a cold with me, so I figured Linda wouldn't mind that my resume was not typed. She did. She has a choppy army drill sergeant way about her, and she looked at me deadpan, after dragging my congested self over for the appointment, and told me, 'I can't look at a resume that isn't typed'.. I've stopped taking no for an answer from people of authority a few years ago.. It still feels new and daring to challenge them, but I will never take no again, if I really believe they're being unreasonable. 'Oh, come on.. Can't you just look at it?' 'Well, I can look at it, but we won't fax it for you.. You'll have to type it up'.. 'Of course! That'll be great, thanks'.. I was relieved. It's hard to argue with gumption when your nose is clogged and threatening to leak at any moment. She went into the back to get her reading glasses, and I quickly crossed out the line I had written to fill up space under job duties at the phone company:
. Assisted customers in resolving telecommunications issues in a PSC regulated call center
. Exceeded employee sales goals
. Put up with a lot of bullshit (this one)
Good thing too, because apparently my resume writing style was not jibing with the 2007 standards. Linda went down the page with a pencil marking off everything that needed to be fixed. Her humorless demeanor didn't exactly scare me, but it made it tricky to get her assistance as I tried figuring out how to format this on their PC. I decided to lean on the 'poor sick me' tactic.. Made sure my voice cracked a little whenever I called her over.. Two hours later (for a one page resume), when she realized the position I was applying for, she offered, 'I taught at a correctional facility once'.. I was taken aback a little.. Could I really have something in common with this woman? 'Did you like it?' I asked..'It was alright'.. I prodded more, 'They were probably motivated since there's nothing else to do there'.. 'Not necessarily', she shot down my hopes.. 'Sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn't'. Wow. Another fantasy job down the drain. Well, I had a feeling teaching inmates for me would be an entirely different experience than it was for Linda. For one thing, I can't imagine her ever thinking anything about the job was blog-worthy. I finished up my resume, tucked it safely in my backpack, then turned to her: 'Thank-you so much for all your help. This has been very productive for me'. And then it happened! Her face lit up! It wasn't exactly a smile, but I saw the subtle change. I wondered how long it had been since someone appreciated Linda. I'm remembering how grim life can be when you are working in the same job day after day, year after year. I unzip my backpack and pull out my resume copy. I exit the office, and then drop the document lightly into the nearest garbage can. I walk out of the building and unto the well-groomed campus. It is a beautiful late Summer day. I find a quiet patch of grass, sit down, and prop myself up on a lone tree. I take out my slim copy of The Little Prince, and blissfully remove all previous notions of trying to be an adult.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The word 'pedagogy' gives me the whimwhams

It's all starting to make sense. The thought of being a teacher has always been slightly comforting to me, and yet another darker thought always accompanys it. Scenario in Tamar's brain whilst contemplating teaching: Oh yeah, I forgot how much I wanted to be teacher. A truly meaningful job, summers off, you can't be a teacher, you'd never be able to stand in front of a class with 30 people staring at you for 8 hours! Or: I wonder why I never became a teacher? Everyone that I meet who is a teacher seems like a genuinely good person, I can't think of a job that effects so many lives in a positive way, what if I'm strict and rigid and treat my students like they're in boot camp and they all hate me?
I've looked for inspiration as an observer in different classrooms over the years, only to leave with more doubts. The whole experience just reminded me of how incredibly boring public school can really be. But not one to give up without a good fight, I'm back to exploring the field again. I took a Literacy Volunteer training class. Three full days of instruction on how to work with adult students. There's something about learning how to teach that makes me want to poke my eye out. It feels overwhelmingly stressful, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it has to do with teaching a language. I've experienced learning a new language in Israel. It was a language/cultural immersion program called an Ulpan that was taught for 5 hours a day, six days a week. I was a terrible student. My teacher Henya would often throw the eraser at me to get me to stop talking in class. I just couldn't stay focused for so many hours. Those ridiculous drills they give you with dated dialogues were a distraction. I did end up becoming fluent later though, when I moved into an apartment with a bunch of Israeli girls. I don't know if it was the Hebrew that I absorbed from my ulpan experience, or the fact that the language I used in this environment was immediate and relevant.. One thing the Literacy Volunteer material stressed. So back to my LV student. I called him, set up an appointment for our first meeting/lesson, and set out to design a two hour lesson that would hold his interest and not have me throwing teaching material at him. I realised in a short time, one big factor in my previous negative experiences on the road to becoming a teacher: Don't wait until the last minute to prepare. There was a 200 page book I was suppossed to have read in preparation for working with ESL students. I waited until the day before my lesson to do this. Halfway through the book, I decided to just use what I already know, and put together a really interesting lesson plan, as it was too late to absorb everything from the book. I looked at my refrigerator. I have an interesting collage of articles and photos that I've collected over the years. One of my favorites is this news story about a woman in Pennsylvania who was walking to the store, and on the way there, was attacked by some man. He stabbed her, and ended up running away, leaving his knife in her back. Apparently, the back doesn't have very deciphering nerves, and she thought she was merely punched. So she continued walking to the store with the knife in her back. She bought a newspaper and a box of Oreos (one of my favorite cookies), and walked home. Later when the police were reviewing the surveillance tape, they saw five people pass right by her, oblivious to the knife in her back. OK, it's a maccabre story, but still very interesting, I thought. So I brought it to class to help Jose, my student, improve his English skills. Now our meeting spot for the lesson was a friend of mine's office building breakroom. She works with a bunch of engineers, and apparently they really love coffee. Everytime Jose would ask me a question about the stabbing, one of the engineers came in to refill his coffee cup. I remember Jose having a hard time pronouncing the two consonants 'bd' together, and he was saying the word like it had two syllables: 'stab-bed'. I had him repeat it several times quickly to get that one syllabled sound. In walked the same engineer that passed through five minutes earlier. I started wondering if maybe I should have picked a different article? Anyway, I loved my student, he was so motivated to learn, and truly appreciative of my time. Luckily for me, he shares my strange taste in reading materials. Not sure how 'relevant and immediate' crime articles are, but I believe if it's interesting, and the student's understanding is improving, then the lesson succeeded.

Monday, August 06, 2007

'How I Spent My Summer' or 'Intuitive Living'

Well, for the few readers out there who have never found themselves with a little freedom from most major responsibilities.. I'm here to tell you, it's really great. That doesn't even come close to how good it is. I think along with all the other built in milestones in your life as an adult, taking off a few months (or years) to just live intuitively should be at the top of the list. A few weeks ago I attended a creative writing workshop at Omega institute. Lynda Barry was the teacher, and she was everything a teacher, friend, parent should be, but mostly she was extremely entertaining which allowed all 70 of us to relax enough to let the writing process flow. I'm going to share three stories I wrote during the class. They were all part of a simple writing exercise where you have 7 minutes to write on some chosen theme.

1. Walks I've taken..
I am 18 years old and living on a kibbutz. It's a six month program called an ulpan for young people interested in Israeli culture and kibbutz life. My roommate's name is Tikva. (It's really Hope, and she's from Chigago, but she goes by Tikva while she's in Israel). She's invited me to come on a walk of the kibbutz' date groves. Her friend Tzvi offered to take her. He's about 80 years old, and for some reason I question his motives, to myself. I guess it's just that Tikva seems extremely naive, and probably wouldn't know a come on if that's what it was. So I went, and was kind of glad to have something to do. As we were walking, Tsvi had a huge smile on his face as he played tour guide, explaining easily the various flora. We arrived at the orchards, and were standing in front of a huge open truck with crates of dates that'd been picked that day. We sampled them. They were really good, they had a nutty-buttery flavor that I'd never experienced in a date before. We walked further. Tsvi talked on and on about the kibbutz history, Israel's history. I started feeling really sad that I didn't have a boyfriend and couldn't concentrate on a thing he was saying. Before I know it I was crying hysterically. He turned to Tikva and said in response, 'Aw, he mitga'aga'at l'ima shelah'. She misses her mother. That made me cry harder.

2. Bad Food
You are sitting on the couch listening to Anna's call to the vet. Jennifer, her big fat black cat who you love but doesn't love you, is acting strange. She's not eating. She's not using the kitty litter box. 'Yes, Hi, this is Anna Lane? My cat Jennifer has been shitting on the floor'. You can't hold back a burst of laughter. Anna just said 'shitting ' to the vet receptionist. Anna looks nervously at you, and corrects herself. 'I mean she's going to the bathroom on the floor'. She answers some more questions. Then Anna grins, remembering she just said 'shitting' to a stranger. When she gets off the phone, you have a little conversation with her about the cat. How much you love her. Anna's happy you love her, eventhough Jennifer is such a bitch, she says. 'She's not a bitch', you defend her. 'She's just shy'. You love it when you're watching TV for hours and after a very long time of cowering, Jennifer stealthily sneaks a tiny corner of your lap to rest her front paws on. Then you and Anna discuss how you can tell if meat is bad. Anna says if she's not sure if her sliced ham is bad, she'll give Jennifer a little piece. If she refuses it, she knows it's bad.

3.(This story was based on photos of people sitting in impoverished conditions)
I am sitting around the table with Jasmine, her friend Charles, and many children that have appeared from nowhere, and may live in the house. The children are Cuban, and do not understand English. Charles passes around a plate of sliced bread for us. The bread reminds me of this story my mother told me of when I was five, and she baked a loaf of white bread. She took it out of the oven and cut the end off to let it cool. I walked by the bread, and when noone was looking, grabbed my hand into the loaf and pulled out as much of the insides as I could grasp, and shoved it in my mouth. When my mother returned to the loaf, she asked what had happended to her bread? My seven year old brother Josh explained it was probably an air bubble. I asked Jasmine to translate this story for the kids as I told it. She looked very sour at me, and resentfully agreed to the task. She translated into Spanish with her English accented annoyed voice as I excitedly told the story. At the punch line, only one adult laughed. The kids looked off in different directions, not seeming to have heard a word of it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Unemployed

Someone finally took pity on me and arranged for the call center where I work to be closed down due to 'restructuring'. I've known about this for about a year, and couldn't believe my good fortune when they made the announcement during an unexpected staff meeting. I had to contain my glee, as this was not good news to all the employees.. Strangely, I've discovered that complaining vehemently on a daily basis about every aspect of your job does not mean that you have any desire to find a new one. For me though, this was the get-out-of- jail-free card I'd been waiting for. Papa kicking baby bird out of the nest, uncle sam doling out some free cash for six months.. What more could a creative dreamer who wanted to save the world and win an olympic medal ask for? Now I could get down to the business of REALLY living my life, no longer stifled by the barriers of a soul-sapping customer service job.
Two weeks into freedom, I'm perplexed as to why I'm behaving as though this is one long weekend.. I will start that new project of designing a drama program for AIDS orphans in Africa on Monday; I will draw the outline of my graphic novel chronicling the struggles to deal with anxiety disorders during my family vacation after the Ellen show; OK, maybe these projects are too big.. I could start off with something really basic yet useful in getting started.. I will just trace someone else's comic to get the feel for correct human anatomy, something I'll need for my novel.. That exercise lasts 5 minutes.. Someone calls, and before you know it, Ellen is back on, and g-d forbid I miss her conversation with 88 yr-old Gladys.. So I consult with some friends.. Writer's block is normal.. Don't worry about it.. Enjoy your time off.. Good advise, but it's hard to enjoy my time off when I'm not doing what I've promised myself I'd do as soon as I left this job that I've struggled with for the past ten years.. But I've been feeling some dizzy spells, so for now, I can abandon both Ellen and the quest for changing the world.. Can't do none of that with dizziness in the repertoire.. So off I go to the doctor's office.. Going to the doctor is always a reminder of my issues with commitment.. I go to this health hub for walk-ins.. You never get the same doctor, and I've always liked that.. This way you can't form any attachments to someone who may not be there in the future.. I had very little faith that they would be able to diagnose my dizziness, as I seem to get it once a year, and they don't really know what it is, and then it just goes away.. But a new doctor walked into my room, and she was just perfect! She read my whole history with the hub, and just seemed to be more commited to getting rid of my malady.. She even gave me a script for at-home glucose testing. That really gelled my faith in her.. Wow, she's going to have me jab a lancet in my finger twice a day- she must really like me! After getting my huge bag-o-blood-letting kit, I realized I may need a little one-on-one instruction for this.. The pharmacist was extremely obliging.. She even asked me if I wanted her to demonstrate on herself! I didn't really think that would help me overcome my own fear of doing it, so I declined, but did allow her to witness me making mini-jabs in my fingers.. How do people do this everyday, I can't imagine.. I wasn't very good at it, and the two of us had to put a chokehold on the pricked finger to extract enough blood to give a reading.. After six tries, we succeeded.. It was really a nice bonding experience with Kathy the pharmacist.. After that, I had to go to the post office.. I had some envelopes with photos in them, and wasn't sure if I put enough postage on them.. I had the clerk weigh them.. He was this really nice, stoic Asian man whom I've seen over the years.. After each one was weighed, he was really flustered that I had put too much postage on each of the three letters.. He was kind of laughing and blushing.. 'You are donating to the US Postal Service!' He really felt bad for me.. I guess I shouldn't squander my money now that I'm unemployed.. Wow, I really don't take after my mother in that respect.. Whenever postage costs increase, instead of buying new stamps, she puts a full stamp and then tears another stamp in half and puts that on there too.. I told her they will return her mail, but she swears they never have..
So today, having a feeling of accomplishment and social connectedness with the community, I feel was a good day. Maybe tomorrow I'll save the world.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Boston

Anyone who's ever run a marathon has inevitably considered the possibility of qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon. It's often the first question a fellow running pal will ask his first time marathon finisher friend: 'Did you qualify for Boston?' At 111 years old, it is the oldest marathon in the world, and holds a great deal of pride and memories for 1,000's of runners. Personally, I was never drawn to doing Boston, I guess because I'm loyal to my precious New York.. Why stray if you are satisfied? But at work this morning, I couldn't help getting swept up in the excitement that this morning's little race brought to my workstation. By the time I clicked onto the The Boston Marathon website, the men's race was already into it's third mile. There was an American in third place! I was tempted to email my friend Dick who knows everything about running trivia, but I imagined him telling me that a marathon is a very long race, and this guy has a lot of real estate to cover, and I shouldn't place any bets until they're further along into the game.. Then I checked out the women's race.. Jelena Prokopcuka, who won New York in 2005 and 2006, was again going out hard from the gun.. (Or cannon?) When I had more time to catch the details of the race, I gleaned this edible little tidbit from the Boston Marathon website:

The pack was now down to four, with Prokopcuka and Grigoryeva [the eventual winner] running side-by-side, Jeptoo and Perez right behind. By 25K, the women had whittled the finishing pace down to 2:32:44, but whenever the wind gusted everyone lined up single file behind the taller Prokopcuka. The Latvian, who lost precious training time to a bout of the flu a month ago, turned around several times, clearly annoyed at the role she was given. [Indeed! This isn't the Tour de France, ladies!]
And then later they had to say of the Russian winner:

As she made the final turn onto Boylston Street, Grigoryeva took a glance over her shoulder to check her lead. She liked what she saw. She looked again, just to make sure. She was clear, running the last mile in 5 minutes flat and grabbing a Russian flag from the crowd just before breaking the tape.

I thought that was cute.. And good timing with the flag. Maybe I have a little soft spot in my heart for Russian runners.. Afterall, my last coach did give me the nickname 'Russian Rocket'.. Hmm, I haven't been living up to that one for a while..
But back to notes on Boston.. I was looking up random results, just because I love checking out the competition.. A lot of women in my age group under 3 hours! Then I thought, let me check and see if my friend Deanna ran.. Deanna is such an incredibly talented runner, if she wasn't such a likeable person, my jealousy for her natural running ability would take precedence over a friendship. She ran the NYC marathon one year, with no serious training in 3:17.. Her speedwork consisted of running for the bus in the mornings for her 2 hour commute to work. She was always late. Even to races. One race I saw her from the starting line, and I could tell she was too late to join in, though that had been her intention. Instead she decided to join in at mile two to help pace me. I was holding about a 6:45 pace, too fast for me to be talking, but she was chatting away, giving calm updates as to where all my competition was at that stage in the race, and what I would need to do if I wanted to catch them.. All this and not even slightly laboring with her breathing.. Good thing she's so likeable.. So after her 3:17 marathon with no training, she developed all kinds of undiagnosable runner's maladies that my guess were simply a matter of her body asking for a break.. And for her to never run another marathon again without training. But she likes her marathons, and she seems to always do the Boston one.. So I looked her up, and sure enough, not only had she run it with the 50 mph winds and rain that caused the elite runners to slow down by a full 7 minutes off the course record, she ran close to the times she normally runs for a marathon.. So Deanna, this post is for you.. Thanks for inspiring .. And congratulations to anyone else who was brave enough to toe the line today for this old run. And to Jason Lehmkuhle, who started off in the top 3, ran his first 5k in 16:20, and his last in over 29 minutes.. That's one painful way to run a marathon, brother..

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"People who celebrate Valentine's Day should be pelted with shoes"

Original post written 2/15/07

This was one of the chants heard by the Hindu extremist group Shiv Sena in New Delhi, India yesterday. It's such a nice contrast of East meets West, Whitman's heart-shaped chocolates rewarded with a good swift shoe attack. I greeted the holiday with my own brand of shoe-pelting, as the heavens opened up and gave us our first big snowstorm this year. I finally had some fiber to sink my new snowshoe crampons into. After careful study of how to harness my foot into the bindings, out I went. I had planned on just walking the first half mile or so to adapt to the shoes, but after a few steps, was curious to see if running in snowshoes was as difficult as I'd heard it was. I took short choppy steps, minding to keep a wider than normal step so as not to kick my ankle.This was actually fun! I felt like a whole different athlete, a younger, less jaded version of myself. There was no clock to compete against since this was the very first time in my life that I was running in snowshoes. Then I kicked my ankle. Ow. That hurt. My legs must be getting tired. I slowed down a little. I saw a four-legged dark brown animal about 100 meters away. It looked at me a lot, and then twisted it's head behind it, as if waiting for back up. Back up arrived, and bambi trotted off into the woods, followed by five of his cohorts. I was happy to see that they didn't look graceful in the snow either. I kicked my ankle again. 'OWW!' I walked for a little bit now, but then got bored with that, and determined to pay more attention and stop kicking myself. I started thinking about this new training plan that I might start. It was designed by an Olympic running coach to lower your mile time. I was concentrating on the logistics of it, and imagining how my legs would feel running at those speeds, I was so focused on those thoughts that I forgot to focus on running wide, and kicked my ankle again hard. 'OH, GOOD NIGHT!',*someone screamed. I looked around, a little alarmed at the sudden anger, then in a hoarse voice started laughing hysterically. I laughed harder thinking about some innocent person taking a Winter stroll witnessing my mishap. I started developing this rhythm with my feet where the foot bed bounced off my heel with each step and it felt like I was alternately dribbling mini basketballs with my heels.. It made me want to run more, but I decided to stop at three miles. Over a 12-minute per mile pace, not bad for a beginner. This was a refreshing twist to my normal running repertoire. I think I'll leave the shoe-pelting to the Shiv Sena, I rather like my snowshoes.

* original quote not suitable for all audiences.. and I'm trying to change some unsavory habits, too..

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reflections of Sensitivity

During my run today, something I ate was repeating on me (that's how my Grandma Blanche used to phrase it.. 'I don't care for green peppers, they repeat on me'.. I had no idea what she was talking about at the time..) So I was wondering how I was tasting chocolate covered cherries, as I hadn't eaten any such thing that morning.. I had a delicious fresh mango and a piece of toast with marmite.. Food scientists take note.. I've discoverd the long kept secret to re-creating chocolate covered cherries! Just mix a little mango and marmite.. I then started thinking about beng vulnerable running out on the roads alone.. Not a scary kind of dangerous vulnerability, but more of an open target to bullies kind of thing.. The wind was strong, and it was more comfortable to gaze at the ground.. I was imagining the drivers passing me thinking I looked like a weirdo, and that I wasn't confident because I was looking down. I guess that's normal, as you really are vulnerable as a single runner against 2,000 lb moving vehicles. But my feelings I'm sure are not shared by every runner who takes a solo run. My anxiety (though slight, as I've done 1,000's of solo runs over the years with little negative consequence) stems from my unique insecurities that I developed as a child. Showing vulnerability was ridiculed in my upbringing. As though my family were raising a slew of soldiers in preparation for a great war. Talking with others about their sensitivities is always surprising, because our issues are so different.. It's comforting to hear that I have total confidence in the areas that they may struggle with, and vice versa. Comforting because if our issues are simply products of poor upbringing, and not concrete realities of today, we should be able to easily rid ourselves of them. That's the really amazing part. I can spill some coffee on the floor, be stressed because I now have a dirty floor, and then easily solve the problem by cleaning it up in 2 seconds. These childhood issues seem to come back no matter how many times you clean them up. One day my life is great and comfortable and I'm loved and beautiful. The next day, I'm hideous and nobody likes me and I'm stuck belching chocolate covered cherries.. But I'm really happy to find out that this is kind of how it is for all of us. I think. I really don't believe we are meant to be comfortable all the time anyway, when there is so much suffering all around us. A certain balance of both states of mind is important to be able to give compassion for others when they are struggling. I don't mean to intentionally seek out hardships. That's not even necessary, as they will naturally find you on your course of existence. I just mean to maybe recognize that struggle is an important part of the journey.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Impressing Lis

There's something so comforting and reassuring about having a routine. On most Winter evenings after work, I fly into the office bathroom to change into my running outfit, avoid the cleaning guy on my way out as he really complains a lot more than I have time to listen to.. I have a very narrow window of time between signing off from my workstation and meeting Lis or Jess by the lake for our run, so there's little room for deviation.. See, if we humans didn't instill a little rigidity into our journeys, we'd never arrive at our destinations. I was particularly enthused at the prospect of this evening's run, as I had mentioned to Lis earlier that it was suppossed to be very cold and windy this night, and I may have to don my famous pantyhose face-mask.. She said she may be too scared to run with me, but she'd try to be brave.. I told her not to be jealous as her more traditional fleece face mask trapped moisture and froze on her.. I arrived in the dark parking area where we meet, Lis was sitting in her car waiting.. She looked over and shook her head in fright. The wind and cold was a little alarming, and we didn't do a lot of talking in that hour.. I was wanting to brag more than I did about how comfortable my face was feeling, but you know, I didn't want to risk it.. It's not easy to find someone willing to brave single digit temps on a Friday night..