Crazy in the ear

I have a crazy ear infection in both ears. Meaning I can’t hear well — it sounds like I have earmuffs on constantly. Plus my jaw feels all locked up.The major joint in the jaw is apparently next-door neighbors with the ear, so I’m hoping that little bonus feature goes away quick-like when my ear medicine starts to work. My doctor is down the street from me in a little storefront; I called about the infection today and he saw me like two hours later. The doctor and his nurse remember my name, and I’ve only been in there a few times. These things are comforting. But also a little weird because then I’m less anonymous. And my gross bodily ailments are being taken care of by people who know me on a first-name basis and could pass me on the street (or in the grocery store! — I’m inspecting granny smith apples, Dr. Olson is sniffing cataloupe) and be like, “Hi, Lindsay. How’s that pus draining these days?”

Fall every time

Chicago, you seduce me every fall. I remember first arriving at Northwestern and thinking how it was possible the rest of the world was not flocking to this paradise. Every day is 70 degrees, with a honey sun and a sky-blue lake. Why do you fuck so badly with my emotions? In a few months I will curse you, I will rue the day I met you, with your biting wintry breath breathing down my back and slipping under my collar. I already DO regret meeting you and falling for your devious ways. But now, I am madly, deeply in love. I can walk down the street and hear someone practicing an aria, or some form of opera — are they all arias? And then a few houses down, it’s piano, some song filters out to the street, and then on the corner, it’s saxophone. And the whole street is its own medley of open-windowed jams. What? Are we in Paris? To what do we owe this luxury? Earlier this week my new theater group rehearsed in an immaculate art space that used to be an auto garage — with art-covered walls painted orange and mustard; the old garage door open to let in the breeze through long white silk curtains — Are we in Cuba? To what do we owe this luxury? Damn it Chicago. DAMN IT, I can’t leave you, and I hate you and I love you.

That day I even petted the cat whom I dread

For your perusal and amusement: This collection of short stories, written by Buffalo, New York fifth-graders in 1931. (Thanks to Patrick for the tip-off!) For example:

A Beautiful Sight

One drowsy day as I sat looking out of the window I beheld a beautiful sight. Up in a tree I saw a mother robin and some tiny babies. The little infants were cuddled closely to their mother with their beaks open. The mother was very excited because she had a large worm in her mouth. The sight looked so beautiful against the blossoms that I forgot to do my work. That day I even petted the cat whom I dread.

Helen Friedman

School No. 41

Report from the underside of the rock

I was listening to NPR over the weekend, while Kevin and I drove to and from the little patch of nature I described yesterday, and learned that Nestle is pumping water out of streams in Michigan, effectively pumping them dry, and making money off of it. There’s a lawsuit in process. 

I honestly thought bottled water came from… I dunno where I thought it came from. I never thought about it. Things are so much simpler when living under a rock. Though I’m sure a corporation will be along momentarily to sell my rock for its mineral content.

City girl country girl

Maybe I’m trying too hard to live a pastoral existence that isn’t really possible in this city. Yesterday we woke up early and went to the farmer’s market, where everything was insanely expensive, though the strawberry jam is killer, it’s true. And this morning we drove to a nature preserve that was actually the grounds of the Argonne National Laboratory — dunno what they do there, something involving x-rays — and waded through the little creek, sat near the little waterfall, watched an angelic blonde toddler throw rocks at her older brother with squeals of glee. We left in search of pie. Which I imagined would be simple, stop at any diner in town; they’ve gotta have pie. We ended up driving through a generic, beat-down suburb Kevin aptly described as “cached” and finding no pie, and then getting into the city only to be honked at and bossed around by annoying city cars and again, finding no pie because I just decided to go home. I’m trying to re-create Northern Michigan. Or maybe Vermont. Though I’ve never been to Vermont. I’m just trying to get the city grit off. Even just stopping by a waterfall for ten minutes felt like a huge release of pressure. I thought I’d be a city girl forever. Apparently I’m longing for trees. And pie.

Self first

I’m reading a book by Ram Dass, The Only Dance There Is.

He’s a former psychotherapist who — after an initial LSD-fueled spiritual awakening in 1961, became a hard-core spiritual practioner in India — and began to give talks about what he’d learned. The book is mostly transcriptions of his talks, and it reads like a rambling dinner conversation with an old friend who has just discovered something he considers miraculous.

I’m also re-working a play that mentions my time as a public school teacher. And I just went to a conference of super-geniuses and ultra-achievers who are designing income-boosting well pumps for small farms in the third world, creating ground-breaking modular homes to avert a redux of Katrina, drafting laws to stop the rampant poisoning of our rivers and oceans.

There’s a lot I want to do before the curtains close and I’m turned into ashes and dust, so this all converged into an interesting paradox. Ram Dass writes that one must first work on oneself, in order to effect change:

When I was in India in the temple… I was meditating and I felt this great feeling of well-being and calmness and I thought, ‘What am I doing here? Why aren’t I back on the front lines? … Why aren’t I back doing what I believe, you know, protesting against injustice and so on? Am I copping out? Is this like a rear battle rest station?…’ Then I began to see that staying alone in that room at that moment was confronting me with an internal battle which was much fiercer than any external battle I had ever fought before. And until I had found some way to get through that internal battle, all I could do was get sucked into external manifestations of it in such a way as to perpetuate them. Right? I began to see that it was absolutely imperative in terms of socially responsible, effective behavior that I work on myself sufficiently so that I could look at any human being and see that place in them behind whatever their melodrama is, be it Nixon or a hippie or Mao or Hitler or Schweitzer or Mahatma Gandhi or whatever the person’s trip is… Until I was centered enough, till I was in that place myself, i couldn’t really know that place in other beings. I saw that, finally, my responsibility was to work on myself.

And after much consideration, I agree with him. I think I was too scattered and stressed out to be effective as a teacher. I’ve worked at organizations where the leadership was so entrenched in their own psychological issues, the entire staff structure had to devise elaborate interpersonal work-arounds instead of fulfilling the organization’s stated mission. I think the people I saw at the conference were so successful because they lacked great self-doubt or the laziness that comes from self-doubt — they jumped at opportunities without internal strings attached. And I’ve got strings. Oh, do I. So it’s time to work on those.