Lemon-Scented Bivouac  

Fatherly and, eventually, teacherly blather. Also: graphic design, baseball, synthetic fabrics, jug band music and, lord help us, the occasional politics.

Monday, May 10, 2004  

Trying to find my way back here ...

-- While loafing in the outfield of Agren Park here on Vashon, surrounded by woods, I hear one of the players on my crappy new softball team shout out, "Honey, are Ashley's dance shoes on the front seat of the Subaru?" On the other hand, our opponents and their many Parking Lot Friends are some weird, mossy mixture of jocks and stoners, who reach second base on a screaming line drive, stick out their tongues and flip odd signs at each other. Welcome to the Island.

-- Among the 12,340 thoughts about teaching that I haven't posted because I didn't post the first one and felt behind: You don't get to have the magic conversation. That one that cools off the student who sobs uncontrollably when stressed out, or the one who wants to be a Leader Man but instead gets caught shooting rubber bands, or the one whose parents are just divorced or may have a disease or are lonely -- you don't get to put your arms around them and say the magic thing that heals all wounds. In fact, you barely register. You just try to shine steadily, all day all year long, so the kids can see their footing as they go past you.

-- It's hard not to believe that even if we are not perfect our vocations are, or at least that some vocation is. I feel that way, without realizing it, about teaching. If you master the greater goals of teaching you are headed towards a place of completion, a natural culmination for a Mind Forever Voyaging. In fact, public school teaching may be a mostly-random assemblage of unrelated skills, most of which are bureaucratic in nature. That is if public school teaching is not, as John Taylor Gatto would have it, wrongdoing.

-- Elliott is drawing, talking and cracking jokes now. He's ticking off major milestones and he has a real personality of his own, albeit one that gets fixated sometimes. He looks like this:

  posted by Andy @ 9:15 PM §

Thursday, March 25, 2004  

Odd times.

Have begun student teaching without putting much pressure on myself (and, thank my cooperating teacher, without much pressure from her). The first four days have been fun. I try something, listen to the students' responses to it, think about it, come up with an idea during breakfast or in the shower, then try out that idea that day. I was going to say it reminds me of what Bernardo Bertolucci (I think) said: That his ideal state would be to dream something, then get up and film it the next day. Only I would like it to be the students' dream and not my own.

But I'm also reading John Taylor Gatto, who not only speaks the truth but also speaks the kind that I feel in my guts that I should have known all along (or did without realizing it). This is terrible and wonderful stuff for a beginning teacher. Listen:

No one believes anymore that scientists are trained in science classes or politicians in civics classes or poets in English classes. The truth is that schools don't really teach anything except how to obey orders...Teachers do care and do work very hard, but the institution they work for is psychopathic; it has no conscience."

Which sums up my waning experiences in teaching school. It's a painful, constricted, non-experiential training in how to be a junior bureaucrat; and most of my classmates (this is awful to say, I suppose) are impressively compliant with the whole project. They're scared now, completely incapable of asserting their own ideas; they'll make perfect lower-level functionaries later on. They'll tell kids what to do; they'll try to force one tiny, pointless, overdetermined context-free activity after another on their kids, who will undoubtedly grow up to feel tiny, pointless, overdetermined and context-free.

And so it goes.

In other news, we now live on Vashon and watch great blue heron. I saw the moon and Jupiter in one gulp of the binoculars last night; they were a thumb's width apart. Elliott is one year old and has such a roster of new skills they'd be outdated by the time I finished typing this. He's ... oh, I won't try. He's a little blast of a boy.

And here's a photo (thanks to friend Susan for taking this):

  posted by Andy @ 4:09 PM §

Friday, February 20, 2004  

The house is stacked, boxed (mostly) and ready (mostly) to be fed into the mouth of tomorrow's large moving truck. Lotsa old memories for this cat of feeding households into giant trucks (what'd he say? I think he's saying he moved a lot when he was young.) My parents had actually-old antique furniture that wasn't held together by hex bolts and therefore couldn't be taken apart in a trice or at all. We, with our Ikea life, can flatten down to the point of only wafers of air among our belongings.

Anyway, the thought of jamming yet another truck's piehole gives me a sigh and that's about all. Onward.

A few days ago I threw out everything, just about. All my paperwork, just about. At one point years ago I read or heard that designers are supposed to save ten of everything they've done, so downstairs I trundled boxes full of ten of every stinkin newspaper I ever designed. Now I don't design newspapers and don't mean to ever again, so away into the recycling bin they all went. Away went the old report cards, and the postcards. Into the bin with every school newspaper I was part of or mentioned in, away with old letters and company newsletters. So nice. The recycling bin declares a limit of 200 pounds and I think I may have crossed that limit. Just tons, it feels like, of dead memories -- or not quite dead, but only exactly as meaningful as they can be on their own power.

I think I used to suspect that my biographer or curator would want all these artifacts. I didn't think it that literally, but it felt like that -- that someone would watch and weep to find out that I threw out the diary in which I wrote four entries when I was 10. Then the biographer became me, much older, in the autumn of years paging through the find the names of coworkers or classmates I didn't much care about to begin with; or looking for insights into my juvenile psyche. Then I told my older self he was free not to care. In fact, I encouraged him to get out of the house and go talk to people, even strangers, rather than read about banalities just because they were old banalities that happened to me. I think my older self is grateful.

So goodbye to all that. Elliott is about to speak, or about to walk, or about to walk speaking and speak walking, the way he already has in my dreams. We're about to occupy Vashon Island and I'm about to start student teaching. Dana got bit on the finger by a cat and we need a screen and some wood for our new stove and spring is coming. Up and down the scale, from large to trivial, there are things to do, perhaps even to do well.

So goodbye to the past. Also goodbye to this blog for a while -- probably summer, at least. I can't hear back from you anymore (comments dead) this way, so call me when you can. The new number is (206) 567-5817 so call us. Sleep in our spare room or camp in our backyard. Do well yourself.

  posted by Andy @ 10:21 PM §

Friday, January 30, 2004  

If I'm under cover and out of sight lately, it's because I'm contemplating an imminent period in which I won't have five seconds' space to misplace a task. Strangely, I think these soon-to-be-busy periods are when I'm most out of the world; substitute whichever theory you'd like to make that make sense.

Of course, out of it these days, what with Baby sleeping on my chest and Baby demanding concentrated watching when I'm not in school, involves a ton of wasted motion. Hence I have no time to waste on frivolities yet somehow today I re-watched Finding Nemo and cut a path through several chapters of a book I'd already read.

Oh and, while you're here -- John Kerry? Oh cripes, oy gevalt, etc. I don't have the words -- not because the words would be incredibly angry but because they'd be just deflated. Kerry's an opaque dork, a clumsy Northeasterner, a guy whose words nullify each other as they drift out his mouth -- which reminds me -- look what can happen (scroll down) 16 years after you bungle being a presidential candidate:

Michael is the Director of “Amtrac” and is passionate about trains. He is very strongly in favor of expanding our train system, and points out that the technology is already here and gave us examples of Japan and Europe’s success with their “Bullet Trains”. He feels that with a little public investment in capital and use of existing routes, we could make a real improvement in our transportation system.

Perhaps he also would like to see more involvement in the local senior center, and should be congratulated for his fine work organizing "Stamp Out Litter September."

Of course, I'll vote for Kerry, but Edwards is the one who can win. Blogger won't let me take down poor Howard Dean from my sidebar. I still like a lot of Howie's statements, but the bulldoggy-doctor thing doesn't jibe with the fact that voters hire likeable inoffensive candidates (just you stop looking at Richard Nixon when I say that).

I just can't stand that mysterious cramp in the Democratic nominating process that gives us these lachrymose oafs to represent us. Clinton aside (and Clinton continues to seem like the space alien in this storyline), it's been a parade of them going back to McGovern (or maybe Humphrey; I don't know). Just give us one guy that doesn't do that pitiful-looking two-thumbs-up thing. Maybe in 2008, okay?

  posted by Andy @ 10:58 PM §

Tuesday, January 20, 2004  


Hello. Let me introduce myself to you. I am Mr. Bob Abplanalp, CEO of Precision Valve and your guest blog editor for today. Here are some of the things I wish to share from today's modern Interweb:

Poop Jokes
The Valve Manufacturers of America: History of the Valve Industry
The results of my Google search for "Yngwie Malmsteen nachos"

I thank you for your time and appreciate your continued support of the valve industry.

  posted by Andy @ 8:12 PM §

Friday, January 16, 2004  

Just found, on this page, a fine sentence for starting a novel of your choosing. Adapt at will; just thank me sometime:

While she was working on the painting, the wind became so strong that it blew the painting into a crevice 100 feet deep.

  posted by Andy @ 8:53 AM §

Wednesday, January 14, 2004  

34 today. If I haven't yet come to feel like an adult -- and I haven't really -- it may not happen. Just to make everything easier, I assume that no one else really feels like an adult either; they're just not telling anyone.

I don't really think that's true -- I know some extremely controlled people with day planners who have clearly put childish things very far from their minds. I don't actually take any particular pride in not being one of those people. I just don't understand them very well. I still feel basically wiggly and unpolished. But sometimes I notice: damn, that's an adult face in the mirror.

  posted by Andy @ 10:00 PM §

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