Stretched — in a good way

I’m producing a show that combines improv and writing. This means we are improvising and then writing as those characters. Lemme tell you. I have written so much, so long, so hard, so voluminously from my own voice, that I’m finding it very tough to write from a character’s perspective. This is not a bad thing. My co-worker, Dr. C., is learning jazz progressions from old South Side musicians who practice in the auditorium of our school every Wednesday. He’s a self-trained rock musician, and now he’s learning a whole new strata of music that’s highly complex and roots-deep. He said it was like finding a whole new gear on your bicycle. I’m hoping this will be similar.

Today I’ve got Jeff’s voice in my head, calm and serious, goofy and upbeat, earnest lines punctuated by silliness.

Just…. keep…. going…

Spring break is only 5 teaching days away. I swear to you, I cannot even imagine making it to spring break. That seems like a far-off, distant golden horizon. I am coming to realizations lately… one is: I don’t like schools. In general. As a place to work. I like thinking about schools, I like children, I like books. I do not like working in a school. Simple-sounding, yet somehow that fact has not seemed so concrete in my mind until now.

Putting together the show is occupying the better parts of my mind, and how lucky is that? We are all so fortunate to be here, Chicago. (Shut up, the other voices say, can you be less cheesy for approximately 5 seconds while we all get our bearings?)

Last night I celebrated my friend Tony’s birthday at Friar Tuck’s, a bar where I once saw someone get hit over the head with a bottle. Luckily, nothing that dramatic happened this time. Actually, the most dramatic moments was self-created, performing a sing-along-in-your-car version of Absolutely (Story of a Girl) with Jeff. I remembered the summer that song was new, which I spent in Cincinnati, driving to work with the girls who hated me, pouring my daylight hours into a job that I could not stand. Singing it with Jeff was cathartic. We’re a good team.


Maybe when you’re doing Something You Love, you don’t mind that you’re too busy to watch TV or answer e-mails. Maybe you keep yourself organized so that The Things that You Love will work better. Maybe you stay healthy so you can do The Things That You Love. Maybe that’s why people who are the busiest can also be the happiest.

The brain says…

I’m home now, on a Friday night, a little out of my wits, avoiding a bacchanal-style party with a genuine narcoleptic trance setting in, reading my own palm with the veins in my hands and the clear path to intuition cut wide by the non-interference of rational thought with irrational thought. Today was something of a mess. We took a field trip to see a play, The Chalk Garden (google it yourself, I ain’t fixin’ to link it) at Northlight theater. There were white kids there, and Hispanic kids, from the North Side, and as Michael said, “They’re looking at us like we’re a statue or something. Like they never seen black people before.” And maybe they haven’t, Michael, maybe they haven’t. They all wanted to stop at McDonald’s on the way back, but we didn’t really have time, so they were all mad. It was like giving someone a present and then having them throw it down for lack of sweet-ass wrapping paper, and you being all like, “Excuse me? I gave you a new hand blender. Why are you so volatile?” And having them be like, “Well. I wanted yellow striped wrapping paper. So. Forget you.”

That’s right.

I’ve also got Caleb’s voice in my head, a smooth stoner tone that flies into fits of anxious childlike glee and then falls back down to monotone haze. I am maybe typing with his cadence stuck in my thoughts. I am maybe not making sense.

this week has been

the longest, most action-packed week. for st. patty’s day, matt and i went to the neighborhood dive and filled up on guiness, cabbage, potatoes and carrots… sunday was improv and then an attempt to see a play with caleb but we walked in on an audition instead (sunday shows were at 3 and not 8pm), and they wouldn’t let us audition, tho a friendly bearded bear-man was sympathetic…. monday was a talk about viola spolin (grandmother of improv!) at the downtown library, tuesday was the vagina monologues starring becca, wednesday was learning to play chords on jeff’s guitar, thursday is today — i ran my very first rehearsal for the improv show i’m putting together. it combines improv and writing. i am, for the moment, floating on a small cloud of glee. tomorrow is a field trip to skokie. yes, skokie, where we will see a play about white british people. i am telling you. the kids will be able to relate so well. hey, i didn’t choose which theater would give us free tickets. i just wanted to get out of the building.

An hour that was cool

Had my first good hour at work today…. the other teacher who shares my room, Dr. C., brought in his electric bass guitar and jammed out with one of the seniors who plays piano. When they played, I improvised lyrics about Mountain Dew, break-ups and not being able to keep track of the pens you lend out. We sat on the stage in the auditorium, and I couldn’t help but reel back to how I personally survived the high school experience (the first time, as a teenager). Basically I just sealed myself into a bubble of creative, quirky types and forgot about everyone else.

I think it made me stronger, to learn early on that sometimes other people’s opinions must simply be ignored. It’s something I forgot along the way but am remembering now, in these hostile times, as everyone basically looks straight through me and could care less whether I am speaking or not. I wonder if it’s fun to completely ignore someone and yet, they’re still speaking. This happens to me all the time.

No Child Left with Enough Room to Write

Instructions for an Illinois standardized test for what to do if students can’t fit their essay into the allotted space in the answer booklet….

“If a student runs out of space for an extended response and used additional paper, please do the following:

1) Make a photocopy of what the student has written on the answer document.
2) Erase the area where the response was written.
3) Transfer the information from the photocopy back into the document including what was written on the additional paper to fit in the area for that response. (This may be done by an adult but must be copied verbatim).
4) The photocopied response and the additiona paper must be sent back with the used materials.
5) If a student wrote their response in ink and cannot erase, follow steps 1, 3 and 4 above in a new answer document, then transfer all other completed test answers.”

And people wonder why teachers are so low on time.


Today was spring in Chicago — I biked down Clark St. suddenly enveloped in banjo sounds; someone hanging out his window and playing to the street… women in bright African cloths, a little kid carrying a gallon jug of milk on his shoulder, homeless men nestled amongst their bags, lesbian couples holding hands, brigades of hipsters in vintage t-shirts, loud and free on a 60-degree day.

It was a good Saturday. Most days are hard, the weeks are slow. March. What.

I am being cut from my job in June, they say. I now understand how “sick” and “tired” go together in our lexicon.

Luckily Eric was in town last weekend to distract. We went to the Signature Room of the Hancock Building and watched the sunset, jetted off to an opera (fantastico, by the way), and then decompressed at Standee’s diner. The next day we hit up the deli. Bob got new glasses with gold rims, and there is a new section of imported foods where an old freezer used to be, but all else is the same. They were out of spice cookies, so I got a chocolate chip cookie instead. Oddly, the last time I had a chocolate chip cookie there was also in March.

The Teaching of English

Caleb brought me a present. It’s a book called The Teaching of High School English, by J.N. Hook, a man who taught high school for exactly two years before moving on to teach college. It went into five print editions, and contains such gems as the following: “Improving Vocal Quality: Almost certainly among your students there will be a fairly large number whose vocal quality is poor. The three defects you will find are throatiness, thinness, and either nasality or denasality.” Thank goodness this no longer falls inside the spectrum of what I have to worry about.

Had one of the most bizarre conversations ever with a former teacher at the adjoining school in my building. He went to a charter school and describes it as a paradise beyond paradise.

My high school boyfriend is coming to visit this weekend. We are going to an opera. I will report back.