Monday, September 07, 2009

End of Summer

The end of summer has come. It's not really a time of total change for me at this point, since I'm a working woman now, but a lot of people around me are going to school either as faculty, staff or students, and the weather has already cooled a few degrees--rather suddenly, so it may soar up again at some point--I still feel a little stirring within.

Autumn in Virginia is idyllic. The air is cool, but gentle, the leaves slowly turn to rampant reds, yellows and oranges, the mountains settle into beautiful veils of fog. In Kansas, the weather's unpredictable: I've experience 80 degree heat in November and snow in April. When I was in college (here in Virginia), my mother once phoned me and told me about a tornado in October. That was also the day a patriarch of Tabor College passed away--that was the proper way for him to go, she told me. His name was Orlando, a name I've always liked; it seemed to have portended him for greatness. Summer, winter, spring and fall in New York have already been immortalized in this blog way too much for your eyes.

One change is happening for me, I think. I believe my little book, that is now twice the size as the original draft, is about to be finished. Now I'm going to have to send it out into the cold world and see if it can find a home. I'd love that home to be in a particular publishing house, where I have a tenuous relationship with an editor, but I can't lean on that. I'm going to have to get an agent. There were a few one of my workshop professors recommended to me. I'll try for those first. There is also one who had a connection with a woman from MMF.

We'll see what happens. Maybe this fall will be more than glorious nature-wise. Or not.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ridiculous Manna

This may as well be a ridiculous post--I think my avoidance of this blog has to do with my fear of sounding ridiculous (and probably some laziness as well).

I've been thinking about how uncaring life is--not necessarily a new thought to the human race. Life seems not to care about one's situation and needs. If you get dumped, life screams past. If you are bypassed by a job opportunity, life continues on without pause. If you have a book that never finds its end, life acts like it doesn't remember you, even if you've met on several occassions and have had long, supposedly intimate conversations.

This feeling has been dogging me the past few months, for a few reasons:
  1. I've now been in Virginia for over a year, and I'm still unsure of why exactly I'm here.
  2. I turned 30 last October and I'm frustrated that I haven't become the child genius authoress I'd hoped to become at age 18.
  3. My book might never leave the confines of my laptop and the world will not be the worse for it.
  4. I realize why I miss New York so much.
The last point has only come to me lately. I used to think it was the public transportation, the crowded-yet-lonely walks to work or wherever, the options that woo you here or there were the reasons for my lust. But now I know. When you are in New York, you get this sensation that you are always on the cusp of something big; that tomorrow might bring something fabulous or deflating and you can't predict what it will be; that every loser in the city has a chance at transforming into something beyond measure.

I know it's all a myth. But it's a beguiling myth.

In Harrisonburg, one is always aware of the concreteness of life. People dream here, of course, but they are concrete dreams: creating a food co-op, buying land and building a McMansion or an earth-friendly dwelling, writing or creating beautiful pieces of prose or art that won't interest anyone outside this sphere (and not because of their lack of greatness, but because there are too many artists and writers in the world and someone has to be ignored), having babies and sewing and forming a safe nest for those things. I'm trying to have those dreams; I have the feeling that I'd be much happier if I did. Then maybe I wouldn't mind slogging to work every Monday through Friday--I'd be content with my scribbling whether or not a publisher accepts it because she is willing to take a chance on it even in this failing economy--I would cheerfully take those pills that protect me from my friendly enemy Seizure and could cause birth defects if I want to have a baby.

What is annoying about the above is that it's so unoriginal, and is probably why white, middle-class citizens like myself are depressed so often. What is also annoying is that for some reason I don't rail against fate or God or whatever for all this. In fact, I can't ever get rid of that notion that there is something larger looming over our existence. I'd rather be an atheist, because then I'd have something concrete to hold onto. But it's in my blood and it isn't going anywhere.

Tom once said that my faith is a very pragmatic, farm sort of faith. You believe in God, he said, but you know you've still got to plant the crops. I think he's right. There's no point in waiting on bended knee, because winter is coming and you can't count on God giving you manna.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I'm sitting beneath a ceiling fan and looking outside into the heat of the day. It's been one of the hottest in awhile: 86 Fahrenheit, which isn't too hot comparatively. This whole weekend I've been staying inside with fans or out under my canopy of trees that nearly covers the extent of my backyard (a very small one, mind you). Right now I'm watching the trees and houses that block my view of the mountains to the west. The trees are fluttering and covering themselves and are thankful they're once again protected from piercing eyes. In the winter, deciduous trees are so ugly here. I take that back, a good many are ugly. For some reason beyond comprehension, people around here don't trim their trees; they hack off their limbs so that in the cold months they look like crooked sticks thrust into the ground. I have yet to discover why people do this. In the summer they sprout little tufts of leaves, but they still look awkward among the rest on the block. I feel sorry for them, because they had no choice in the matter.

There is one ugly tree that I love even though it's ugly. There is a twisted old thing in front of a rather bad-looking set of housing projects. I pass this tree after I walk up from the cemetery just off of Route 33. It turns in every direction possible; the limbs are carved into lines like veins and reaches for Reservoir Street. I imagine if it didn't have roots it would grasp that dirty little street and carry it off.

The mountains are always beautiful. Now that the summer sun lights the valley until 9 or so, I get to walk towards them every day after work. The light from the sky or clouds shoot out behind the relief of their particular skyline. I can never bet what kind of color the mountains or the sky will be on a given day.

I've been blessed by good skylines in both of my jobs since grad school. In New York there was always the skyline of Manhattan to welcome my tired feet after a day of teaching. Now I have the promise of mountains to welcome my computer-eyes after a day of staring at machines, projectors and so forth. They are so different, yet they bring up the same question each time I look upon them: Why would you want to leave this place? How can anyone let themselves leave New York and push themselves west? How could anyone in the past desire to push past those mountains that cradled them with comfortable summers?

I guess I wouldn't have made a very good pioneer back in the day. If I were persecuted, then I'd go, but I don't think I'd have wherewithal otherwise.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

rainy day people

Today Tom and I went on a bus ride to the most saddest of places: the Harrisonburg Valley Mall.

Actually, we were out there to buy spices from an Indian Food shop, but since the bus only comes every hour, we had to wait somewhere--and somewhere cool, because it was crazy humid. So, we went, cruised the stores full of stuff no one really needed but somehow I felt the need to buy anyway. I know, I know. Liberal hippie green elite beliefs. I know. We finally sat in the food court near the bus stop and smelled the tempting smells: fresh-baked pretzels, MSG Chinese food, coffee and an aroma that's usual for all malls: a kind of cross between that new car smell and something going a bit sour. The whole place just seemed sad. Everyone in their looked tired and shell-shocked and dressed in tight shirts and short shorts whether they were ten or fifty.

When I was in high school and middle school, the mall was The Place to Go. The Wichita Towne East (yes, that's not a typo--maybe they've dropped the e by now, who knows) mall had everything one could desire: clothes, food, books and the hope that some cute boys would notice us. The mall got even cooler when one of my friends got a car. Then we could go alone to Wichita, the biggest city in most of Kansas. It was an hour away, but that didn't seem much. Gas and space didn't cross minds. Rock Road was the main drag as far as shopping went. Downtown was pretty much a ghost town, though I remember a Christian coffee shop I went to a time or too. I can't recall the name--The Rock or something. But Rock Road was where the hipness was. It also was populated by these row houses and apartments that seemed so cosmopolitan to me. I figured the people who lived there had it all: good looks, a great boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, money, a car, and maybe a swimming pool.

I think that may have been part of my fascination with New York. Almost everyone lived in apartments. Living in an apartment mean something I couldn't quite verbalize. Even now, as I look at my house that is at least five times as big as our apartment in Harlem, I feel a little less cooler than I had been during those years that are now past and gone until something happens that will resurrect it.

Anyway, the mall in Harrisonburg had nothing of the glamour of Wichita's mall. The East Mall, at least. There was (perhaps still is) a Towne West Mall, but no one ever went there. It was in a "bad" part of the city, and when you did go there it was barren and full of people that seemed so sad. This is how Harrisonburg's mall felt to me today.

The bus came and we rode it to Food Lion, a big grocery chain in Virginia, and walked home. We did stop at Jess', a local greasy spoon downtown with the best fries around and the only place I can eat a hotdog without shame. We began to walk home. It started to sprinkle just before we came to 42. Then it started pouring. And blow some serious wind. Just as we crossed 42 it hit hard. I'm from Kansas, so I know wind. I often pooh pooh wind in Virginia, but this was a serious wind. My umbrella (they'd talked about rain on the radio before we left) was totally destroyed. At one point I was literally pushed back a few feet. I was sure there was a tornado approaching. We stumbled on, and I kept trying to look for a funnel cloud, but the rain was too blinding. As we approached our house, the sun came out. By the time we walked up the steps the light was blinding, the wind simply playing in the trees. Tom was soaked. I was soaked. The only part of my body that was dry was a patch on my backside. It glowed in the bathroom light as I peeled off my sticky skirt. My skirt was hand-dyed, so my legs were a pale pink from the russet that had played with my ankles before the rain pelted it against my legs and feet like a dog that circles you again and again, so happy to see you it doesn't understand your discomfort as its body sweeps and swirls around you.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


It's only these last few years that I've really gotten a sense of place. The stories I sent in for grad school attempted to have stories that were good but have no place in particular to ground them in. I realized at Sarah Lawrence that exactly the opposite is needed to really engage the reader. I think it's a bit funny that now all my writing (on this blog and otherwise) depends on the place, that place is a character in the plot, not just an empty stage in a cheap off off off offff Broadway production. At least with the aforesaid cheap production, the writer can pull the audience in with words (if he or she has an ounce of talent) and make them truly see a setting. In prose of any kind, if you don't pull a reader in with a few words telling them where they're at, getting them to stick around is tough.

One of my teachers at Sarah Lawrence, the glorious Carolyn Ferrell, said the importance of place can be valuable in making a story not only entertaining, but in making it timeless. She gave the example of Seinfeld. In Seinfeld, New York is a part of the story. It is something to be dealt with, not ignored. That's how it differs from, say, Friends. Although I am a fan, Friends doesn't have the same power because the setting, though also in New York, doesn't interact with the storyline. It could just as easily be Chicago, Seattle, San Fransisco, etc. I have a feeling that Seinfeld episodes will still be airing after Friends has gathered dust in the DVD bin at Goodwill.

It really does all come back to Seinfeld.

It seems strange that I'm just beginning to realize this, since my life these last ten years have been wrapped in place. I grew up in Kansas, moved to Virginia for college, then moved to New York as a volunteer (a place I have written way too many posts about), then back to Harrisonburg for a job. I guess it partially is because age (I say this at the ripe age of 29). When I went to college, EMU was a insular little place that seemed like a ship rather than a place. Though I lived there, I still returned to my dock of Kansas for long periods of time. Though I stayed there a year after graduation, I was dealing with my surgery and had a lot of friends who were still at EMU, so it felt like I was still in college. When I moved to New York, it seemed a bit transient place to me, because as far as I knew, we wouldn't be there for more than a year or so. It wasn't until I realized through my workshops and moving from white white downtown to Harlem how much a place totally changes things. And now that I'm back in Harrisonburg, it's really reared its uncomfortable head again.

I believe Willa Cather didn't write about Nebraska until she'd moved away. She needed space from that place. I've felt the same about my writing. It wasn't until I wrote one story set in Kansas and saw how people were eager to know more that I realized that place was so important. I never wanted to write about Mennonites or Kansas until I was at school in Westchester County, a thirty minute train ride from New York.

So, in five or so years I'll write about New York beyond my blog. But then, I don't know if I'll want to be away from it that long. There I go again, pining for New York.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

plants and death (figurative and otherwise)

I believe I may be a plant killer. Some plants that more or less survived my awkward care in New York have lost their green. I'm unsure why. I suppose it has to do with simple sunlight. In our old place, there was a lot of sunlight because we had a huge picture window. Now, I have always hated picture windows, mostly because they are in those horrible ranch houses that line the streets of so many towns in America. But I am beginning to see the pluses in them. I have begun to take them out and set them on the patio during the day, and retrieve them at night. It's still a bit cold at night, and I feel they are somewhat lonely outside. I'm hoping that will work.

I've been reading an excellent book of short stories, The Family Markowitz, by Allegra Goodman. One of the editors at FSG suggested I read it for guidance in reworking my collection to be more novel-esque. In this book, there is one character, Ed, who is kind of a horrible person, but I like him more and more. He's an academic who studies Middle East politics, and in this particular story he is being interviewed about a book he wrote on the subject. At one point, the interviewer asked him about whether he thought the attack on the World Trade Center could be excused. Now, my thoughts were of the recent attack on the WTC, and I was a bit disturbed by his glib response--but then I realized this was written in 1996, so although still disturbed not quite so. Although, now that I think of it, that's pretty cold of me, to be less disturbed by one bombing over another. I guess that is what time does, at least to me.

Addendum: I wrote the above earlier. Since then, my plants are perking up, and Tom and I are also the proud parents of six tomato plants in addition to my other plants. We have left all of them out since we bought the tomatoes (since the tomatoes are in three five-gallon buckets) except for last night. The weather people were warning us about frost, so we huffed them inside--they seemed happy to be inside, but even happier to return to their true home this morning.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


For the past few days I've been missing New York a lot.

I don't know where this came from. I mean, I always miss New York, but in a much more controlled way. Maybe it's the spring warmth. It's nice and warm here in spurts, and I'm thinking about how New York really becomes New Yorkish in summer. Summer in New York is really disgusting in a lot of ways. It is no wonder that people who had the means back in the days before air conditioning fled the city. It is no wonder that people who have the means now flee the city. The subways are stifling, buses are sweaty, everyone pares down to their skivvies (whether or not they have the bodies for it), etc. But it also is a time when you can sit in a park, watch people, sip a soda and read a good book next to a drug addict nodding out. It is a time when you can wander the city just to wander without the discomfort of bulky winter coats and scarves.

Not to say Harrisonburg doesn't have its charms. Today Tom and I walked to the tiny farmer's market, bought some plants I'm hoping will survive our care, walked to another plant sale, then walked to a thrift store, Gift and Thrift (have I mentioned that it's the best place for used furniture?), then to EMU to sit on the grass and wonder where all the students are. There's another walk we take after I get off work. It takes us through downtown up through a large cemetery that was started in 1850. I look at the gravestones, the things that Tom refers to, via Hamlet, as the marble jaws, and read the dates, and try to figure out how old they were when they died. Sounds morbid, but I find it somehow relaxing. Only the ones of children are the really sad. There's one near the entrance of a small boy, whose grave is surrounded by a little garden of tulips. I can see the loving work of a mama or a grandma creating this spot for someone who probably tramped around in dirt and laughed a lot.

And I actually like Harrisonburg. I think I like it even more this time around. As I walked the grass of EMU, I remembered all the times I crossed the lawns in a hurry for something or other, and I realize I didn't really know the city I lived in at all. The smell of the grass, the actual smell, made me feel like I was back in that time--and I didn't miss it at all. I miss the people, but not that time. I guess that's probably a good thing.

I like Harrisonburg, and I've even got into a routine here that is slowly getting more satisfying. I'm writing more (not on this blog, unfortunately) than I have since grad school, trying to get this damn book finished. But I think the actual realization of this routine has cemented me into this place, so I look longingly back to New York, to my New York routine.

One time my sister-in-law said something quite profound: you can't have everything you want in one place, but you can be happy in the place you are at. That's a bad paraphrase, but that's the gist of what she said.

So, I'm trying to keep that in mind.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

how the mighty...

Well, there's some scuttlebut in Albany. If you don't already know, the governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, has been caught trying to procure a lady of the night in DC. My first verbal reaction was: What the fuck? I think a lot of people had the same reaction. In his bid for governor, Spitzer promised change and a new way of thinking, etc. I and 70% (according to NPR) of New York State was enamored by his winds of change. Now he's become another scheister politician. How do these people get the idea that they won't be found out? Are they that delusional? Could he have waited a few years with his pants zipped up instead of down?

Friday, February 15, 2008

manhattan blues

I really miss New York.

Tonight I've been a little down for various reasons. One of which is the above statement. I guess it's because Tom is moving down here tomorrow. I'm glad that he's coming, obviously. More than glad. But it also means my connection with New York has closed for good.

I thought I'd cheer myself up by watching Woody Allen's "Manhattan," but it only made me feel worse. There's one part at the end where Woody Allen's character, Harold, is running past Gramarcy Park. And for one brief second I felt that I was there with him, running beside those buildings that once were my own.

It's so stupid, to care that much for a place. And it's so stereotypical, this mooning about New York. There are plenty of beautiful places in this world--one of which I'm sitting in at this very moment--but this fascination with that little piece of earth really gets at that deep place I never knew existed until now.

I have this sinking feeling that I'll never feel at home anywhere else. I hope that's not true, but I feel it anyway. I thought that this move would bring me to my "settle down" place. But now I wonder if it's possible, really. Once you've breathed that toxic air it may be impossible to become a person who settles down. All I could think while I watched "Manhattan" was: I'll come back. Someday.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

a prodigal daughter, of sorts

Much has happened since the last time I graced your computer screens. The single major thing is that I've moved back to Harrisonburg, VA, the home of my alma mater, Eastern Mennonite University. How this came to pass is both long and boring. Basically, a job I'd applied for at Rosetta Stone (a language learning software company), a year ago (and was turned down) opened again back in December. I applied again, and so here I am.

My job is a writer in the content development department. I'm in the middle of training, so I feel somewhat useless, but I suppose it'll eventually pass. I've been at the job for about three weeks, sans Tom. He's in New York until the 16th, when he (along with my brothers) will move our worldly goods from our evil studio in Harlem to our angelic two-bedroom on Shenandoah Ave. Right now I'm sort of rattling around in the house. I have a borrowed mattress, a borrowed desk, a chair and a sofa (which just arrived this afternoon, thanks to BJV's husband and two of his brothers) to fill a rather large (to me) house. I'm probably paying way too much in rent for this place, but compared to New York, it's a steal. It's less than a 10 minute walk from work and downtown (which boasts three coffee shops, a thrift store, a wine shop, a weird neo new age shop, a decent pizza joint and a pretty good restaurant), has a nice porch, a little backyard patio and (most importantly) a washer and dryer! No more hauling laundry to the basement early in the morning so we can beat the old ladies and their mountains of laundry! No more dealing with security guards who close the laundry room early! No more weird guys lurking around the basement making suggestive comments!

It was hard to say goodbye to New York--harder than expected. I found myself crying when I said goodbye to Lady L. I came close to weeping when Tom saw me off at the airport. As she left our apartment, Lady L said that if anyone really knew how hard certain decisions would be, no one would ever do anything at all. Which is probably true.

We decided to do this for many reasons: my current job sucked (as much as liked my students), Tom was feeling burnt out from dealing with users, we couldn't save any money, etc. And Harrisonburg has a lot of friends to return to. And, as my little brother pointed out, New York will always be there. Which is comforting. I watched Angels in America last night, and it made me happy (despite the sadness in the play) to see places that I loved again.

I'm getting back into the swing of things here. I have an after-work routine. The coffee shop I'm in right now has free wireless. I work with people that are as weird and misfit as I am. I don't understand why there aren't more people walking around or visiting the coffee shop (what the fuck do people do around here, anyway?), but that's a question I'll leave to the sages. Once Tom arrives things will improve. I don't like having an entire house to myself. It seems rather wasteful. If I was single, I would choose an apartment over a house any day of the week. Americans are space hogs, I've decided.

Friday, August 10, 2007

long time no blog

As usual, I haven't blogged for quite some time. So, I thought I'd make an appearance.

Last week, Tom and I went to Kansas to visit my parents. It was a nice visit. We basically did nothing the whole time--and it was a good thing. After the last few months of craziness, we were ready for the quiet streets, Sonic runs, lazing by the lake and strawberry rhubarb pie.

The one thing about this trip is the fact that I sort of was thrust into the past at times. I ran into my old music teacher on the second day of our visit. It was weird, since I hadn't spoken to him since I graduated from high school (ten years ago!). I didn't even recognize him at first. He had gone completely gray and had a serious drawl I don't remember him having back when I was in school. I told Tom later that I couldn't believe he had such a strong hold on me then. I was really involved with music and theater, and he used my love for it to his advantage. He pit me against another girl quite often, and me being the sensitive teenager took a lot of it to heart. He even tried it on me when I saw him last week. He mentioned her and how she was doing dinner theater in Wichita. Which is better than I remember hearing about her in the past. It didn't really phase me, however. I mean, I live in New York. I also saw my Kindergarten teacher and the grandmother of two of the kids I babysat when I was younger.

I saw a few old friends. Other than the beautiful Princess Di (who isn't really an 'old' friend, since we keep up with each others' lives--we had a nice talk one evening on my mom's front porch), I didn't get a real picture of what their lives were like. Everyone seemed to be having babies! And they just seemed in a different place entirely. One or two didn't even seem to want to talk to me, even though in high school we spent hours at a time together. It really bothered me--still does somewhat. Not that I expected a huge welcome, but a few moments of time wouldn't have hurt.

What can you do? Nothing, I expect.

But we're back now. School starts again next week. Both of us are off till Tuesday. We've done some sightseeing and hanging out and sleeping in. (The other day we went to two museums--one about Asian Biblical art and the other was about sex. The sex one was just ridiculous. Not worth the 14 bucks. Last night we sat with a friend on a bench near the Park and noticed a trash can was smoking. Our friend, Lady L, called 311 (different from 911) and soon a little police mobile and a fire truck came and put it out.) It's been a good break. Too short, as usual.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


For the first time in the five years we have lived in the Greatest City in the World, Tom and I braved the crowd and stood by the East River to watch the Macy's fireworks.

Not that we hadn't seen them before. In other years we used to climb to the roof of Menno House. After we moved away from that realm, we were a little anti-fireworks, so we went to an empty bar (I had a stiff margarita) and watched them on TV. What was funny about that is we were close enough to hear the boom and crackle of said fireworks. The next year we sat far away in Central Park on a very sticky night. Our friend, Lady L met us there, and she suddenly wanted to go see, so we hurried to the subway--only to sit and wait for the train for an extraoridinary amount of time. By the time we surfaced, we saw everyone leaving.

This year we stood on the FDR highway for about two hours with some other friends of ours: Master Zanderoc and Mistress Szenga. They'd decided that since they were probably moving back to that mythical land called California within the next year, it was time to see them up close. And we tagged along.

The fireworks were pretty good. Worth the foot-hurting wait, though I was a bit tired of them by the end. Come on, come on, I thought, get to the grand finale already. There were these cool ones that kind of floated and dove over the water. I don't understand fireworks already, but that seemed pretty amazing.

I am glad we went, though sometimes I feel the hokey ones I went to in the past were better in some way. Or at least the anticipation was greater. I guess that comes from being a kid. One of the first Fourths I remember was a visit with an uncle's fiancee's family. I basically remember her little brothers or cousins lighting these worm-like things that writhed and struggled on the patio. Another memorable Fourth was when some high school friends and I climbed into a giant pre-SUV and headed for the fireworks in Peabody. Somehow we got lost and wandered the back roads for a long long time. I remember seeing them from a distance. We never actually made it to Peabody. A final memory (at least for this blog) was one summer between my Sophomore/Junior year of college. A bunch of us climbed the Hill behind campus and watched the various firework shows in the Shenandoah Valley.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Time has told me...You're a rare rare find...A troubled cure...For a troubled mind.

I'm in a weird mood today. I feel really awake for the first time in a week, and as I sat waiting for the water to boil, everything seemed clearer, sharper than usual.

Part of this may be one or all of three things:

I've finally had a decent night's sleep

I finally am wearing my contacts after being forced into glasses from all the pollen

I'm listening to Nick Drake--who can't feel weird listening to his voice?

Or it may be this:

Yesterday I filed a report of plagiarism on one of my students who is in my College English I. She had taken not one, but two essays off the internet. I was immediately suspicious by the perfection of grammar and semi-colons--not to mention the voice. When you've read enough work by second language students, there's a rhythm they all have. Even if it's understandable--even if it's pretty good, there is that tenor only such students have.

I saw her in the learning center and confronted her in my "office"--otherwise known as a cubicle. She's a second language student, and though her writing (when unplagiarized--which I know from her exam work) is passable, she doesn't really understand English, if that makes any sense--so she didn't really understand what I said. She kept saying, Can I write it another time? I said no, she would lose 200 points from her final grade. She asked: Will I fail? Maybe, I said. She didn't really care, it seemed, about the gravity of the offence--she only cared if she would pass the class.

The crazy thing about this, is I handed out a four-page treatise on plagiarism in on Wednesday. And I explained everything in it. I asked her if she'd read it--she didn't even know what I was talking about.

I don't think the treatise meant much to a lot of my students. I gave examples of plagiarism where people modified the work ever so slightly. Many of them said: But it's different! One of my students said, If I take an entire essay off the internet but make sure you know who wrote it, would you consider it plagiarism?

Or it may be this:

I stopped at a local drugstore before I got on the train last night. As I walked through the door, someone behind me said, Miss, miss! I turned. A middle aged man with gray-blond hair held out a folded scrap of paper. Here miss, he said, handing the paper to me. I thought it was something I'd dropped, so I took it and put it in my pocket. When I had a chance to look at it, it said Call Me. Gene. And had a phone number.

I'm not quite sure why a man would think a woman would actually call, but I was propositioned a few weeks back by a man near my school, so stranger things can happen. Once again, I was heading home. This guy was walking towards me with a bag of Chinese food in hand. Hi, he said. Hi, I said. I actually stopped, because he was South Asian and several of the male teachers are from that region, so I thought this guy might be one of them. And somehow he recognized me.

Do I know you? I said, once I realized he wasn't one of the teachers.

Maybe, he said.

I got uncomfortable and said, Well, I need to go.

Do you want to hook up? he said. I'm over at the Sheraton right here, so if you want to come up...

He said he was at the Sheraton like he was staying the Ritz or something.

Ah, no, I said, walking away.

It's not like I was wearing anything that would scream sexy to him, especially with all the skinny minis in couchie skirts around him. Maybe my blouse was open too far. Who knows? Last night I was wearing very boring dress pants and a blazer. What about me is attractive to middle aged men? Well, the proposition guy was probably 35ish...

Friday, May 18, 2007


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I've loved this poem since I first read it in college. I think it was in Omar Eby's 19th Century Fiction class. I even memorized it, though I couldn't recite it now for the life of me.

It's been a very long time since I've graced this site--more than likely the only audience is my family--family does that sort of thing. A lot has happened, though, not really interesting to blog about. I've been crazy busy with teaching. I've taken on two ESL classes, a Business Communication class and College English I. It's been nice having the more "college-like" classes. I love ESL, but it is nice to do something new. And, it strengthens my resume! So, I've come upon the usual student-teacher conflicts: students have offered me cakes for passing the class, have shown up with the assignments unfinished and are shocked when I deduct their points, a student came to me last week and talked about taking care of her children and how she'll be late to class a lot (which I understand) and maybe she won't write the essays...I had to set her right on that one! But there are good things, too. Students are constantly giving me fruit and hugs; students who were in my classes last semester and aren't this semester bemoan the fact that I'm not their it's good and bad and everything in between.

I'm not sure where this blog is going, or how Ozymandias has anything to do with my teaching life. I tried to teach it to my College English students. I think they just thought I was looney, since most of them are former ESL students. I had more sucess with an Edward P. Jones short story, "The First Day." I think they really could identify with the single mom and her (possibly illegitimate) daughter. I'm teaching argumentative essays the next couple of weeks, and I'm going to attempt to show them how it's done not only in writing but in film. I may be showing An Inconvenient Truth next week--if I can get my act together. I've been swimming around on the internet looking for lesson plans (and there are tons), but all of them are science oriented, not studying how Al Gore sets up his argument. (If anyone out there is reading this and knows of something related, please tell me!)

I guess I just have an affection for old Ozy. It's nice to know that the things that are so important now just aren't so important in the grand scheme. It takes off the stress, you know?

Monday, March 26, 2007

kosher coke

Tom discovered something that is hard to find, even in New York: kosher Coca-Cola. It has sugar in it (no fructose whatever it's called), for observant Jews during Passover. He found it on the West Side and brought home a 2-litre bottle. (You know it's kosher from the yellow cap.) He tried to find cans, to no avail. We opened it the other night to try it: it's very sweet and thick. The aftertaste reminds me of diet pop. But I discovered a few minutes ago it has a side-benefit (beyond the purity with God): it keeps the fizz long after it's opened. We drank from it on Friday, and it has been sitting in the fridge since then. The fizz factor has always been a downside to buying a large bottle of pop. We just don't drink enough to get it consumed before the carbonation leaves! I'm wondering how it does it. Maybe it's the sugar, maybe it's the Lord--who knows?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

sing along in new york

Last night after a long afternoon of grading quizzes and essays, I went to a little Karaoke party on 3rd and 27th. It was a good deal: you get an endless supply of beer, wine or sake; sushi and other appetizers for a fixed price and two hours of Karaoke-ing in a private room. The sake was watered down (which explained why they set a whole liter on the table), but it was fairly decent as was the sushi. I had never done Karaoke before (other than once in high school when a friend had some VHS tape that played maybe five songs), and its a little unnerving at first, singing your favorite tunes to bad music and weird background settings, but the more sake you drink, the more fun it gets. It was so fun, we paid for another hour--and there were some votes for another after that, but those who were slightly more sober than everyone else said no, though sadly.

It was one of those night when I fell in love with New York again. I suppose you can do this in millions of other places in the States, but something about doing it in Manhattan on a rainy Saturday night just seems more special than anywhere else.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

coffee houses and buses

Note: I wrote this blog some time ago. I don't know why I never posted it.

I've spent almost six hours in the last two days in two different coffee houses. (I spent yesterday grading 30 finals and today calculating the final grades.) One on Irving called 71 and the other on 14th St called Gregory's Coffee. You sit by real imbeciles, by and large. Yesterday, I got what is usually a primo spot in 71: this little window seat table in the corner. I very rarely have scored this place. But, the two people next to me were rather annoying. They were both in their early to mid thirties, and they were talking about the "next big thing" they were going to do with their lives. I don't think they were very well acquainted. There was a lot of blase flirting going on, and in true Sex and the City fashion, exchanged business cards. When I first sat down, the woman was going on and on about how she loved music, but she didn't want to work in the music world; she was afraid it would make her hate it. The guy talked about how he might turn out to be a guy who owned a drug store or something.

I know that just whatever it is I'll do will be great, he said. He did not say this in a facetious manner.

Then they talked about MySpace. It's so dangerous, she said, in all seriousness. I think relationships should be face to face.

They finally left. Soon a different pair showed up: a NYU student and her Upper West Side mother. The chick was complaining about how she didn't have any money so she couldn't see movies, and the mom was telling her about the pros and cons of the movies she'd seen. I could tell the mom was one of those women who used to be a total cheerleader type. Just the way she talked and was so positive about the minutest things--not to mention the bleached hair and "trying to be young again" makeup. AND THEN, the rather fat father (obviously some kind of Wall St. person) came in and wrote the poor NYU chick a nice fat little check so she could pay her credit card bill.

On the bus I saw a man who looked like an older version of Michael Douglas in the movie, "Wonderboys." He was obviously going to a peace meeting--he had all the paraphernalia: ragged backpack covered in pins shouting for various peace struggles, a pair of high water pants, Birkenstocks and a well-worn stocking cap. My guess was correct, because he talked to some guy about being late to a meeting (he certainly wasn't going to a corporate meeting) and got off on 3rd and 1st. The Catholic Worker house is there. That and the War Resister's League on Lexington are the center of the universe for peace work in New York.

is this irony?

After my rather snobby bit about cars vs. public transportation, I was hit by a rather annoying story as far as public transportation goes:

I left for work, as usual, at 9:30 a.m. I don't have class until 11:30 but you never know when you'll get to Flushing because the 7 (the only way there, unless you take a bus) is notoriously slow, so I leave two hours before every day. I got to Times Square and all was dandy until we were under the river between Manhattan and Queens. The train stopped. Which wasn't entirely unusual, so I didn't think anything of it. But several minutes passed. Finally the conductor said there was some kind of trouble, he didn't know what, was up ahead. Eventually we moved but were stopped again and again. After a while, the conductor said there was a huge amount of debris on the tracks at 82nd Street (the 7 is an elevated train through most of Queens and the wind was atrocious yesterday). All trains were stopping at 61st-Woodside (about 50 blocks from where I needed to be). By the time we reached that stop it was 10:45. I called the school and explained my predicament, and they were cool with it, but my students were going to make presentations so I really needed to be there. When we reached the last stop, we were told we could get on Long Island Railroad for free or take buses to Flushing. I tried to take the train, but got on the wrong side and saw it leave from afar. Then I tried the bus but the buses were packed and destined to be slow. There were car service cars, but a lot of them were price gouging because of the incident. I managed to find a car that only charged 4 bucks, so I snatched that one up. Actually, the car found me. I was an obvious target, wandering around cars, peeking into the windows of black Sedans. The driver was very nice. What should have been a 10-15 minute drive turned into nearly half an hour because of the traffic and Con Ed doing construction everywhere. I got to school around 11:45.

It all worked out, and it makes me laugh now, but it was very annoying then.

As a side note, a woman was snorting dope or something beside me on the train the entire time. What makes me laugh about that was that she was mean to everyone else in the car but me. She turned to me at one point and said, I'm really sorry. I said, Sorry about what? She said, About what I'm doing. She indicated the little bag clutched in her hands and the straw she was using like a spoon to bring it to her nose. It's alright, I said. Don't worry about it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

hiatus of sorts

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she chided me for not updating this blog since late January. I feel bad about this, but it couldn't be helped. My life has been crazy these last few weeks. I went from having no employment to teaching three language classes because other teachers left mid-semester. I hate taking over classes, especially since I'm doing it rather blindly. I've only gotten previous grades, etc. from ONE of the teachers, plus I've never taught one of the classes once taught by someone who left under slightly murky circumstances.

But, anyway, enough griping.

Tom and I went down to Virginia this weekend to see his parents who live in a suburban yet rural part of the state. It was good to walk around in the woods (I found this little tiny creek that ran into a bog. It was very restful to listen to the chatter of the creek and feel the silence that surrounded it), see the lunar eclipse and just sleep, but we were both glad to return to the city and not have to drive a car.

You really are isolated in most parts of the US if you don't drive. But in New York City, for the most part, you can get anywhere in the city with a bus or a subway ride. It may take longer to get places (which can be a pain--it takes an hour and a half for me to go 10 miles to work) but it gives you a freedom you wouldn't have if you were sans car.
This has been a boring post. I'll do better next time...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

red books

Another brief but vivid dream came to me last night:

I found myself in a store that sold both used/damaged housewares (pillows, sheets, etc.) and used books. I sat in front of this huge bookshelf inhabited by both red-stained pillows and equally stained (and worn to the fringes) books. I filled an old backpack--one I used to use in college--with books and pillows. Everything I touched grew a grimy red. It wasn't blood, but more like paint that hasn't' quite dried. When the bag was full, I sat and looked at my booty.

I don't need these, I thought, pulling out some pillows.

Or these. I removed several books.

Just before I woke up, my bag was completely empty.

I realized just a few minutes ago that maybe the red of the books and pillows were pulled out of something I used to see whenever I took the M1 home at night. There used to be a building near 57th Street that was brightly lit at all times. The windows revealed bookcase after bookcase of red books. Every time I passed this building I looked for these books, wondering what the red books were for. Then one night, the bookshelves were empty. Not a single book was left.
I wonder and wonder about these books. Where they journeyed to. What their goal was in the end.