I received a text from my brother Ryan last week while browsing through the comic stacks at the local Barnes & Noble. A few blocks down the road, Kevin was training for football season at his high school; the heat index that day had risen well above a hundred, adding another complaint to his daily list of grievances: stupid weather inserting itself between annoying little sisters and stupid women who drive foreign automobiles. Anticipating a long drive home, I had decided to slip inside the bookstore for an iced tea and a scone when my phone rang. The following conversation resulted:
Ryan: “Murph! Listen to Bolero by Ravel! The essence of awesomeness! Listen to it loud!”
Me: “Okay, I’ll see if I can find it at home. My phone doesn’t seem to see it. Try Requiem for a Tower. It’s like peering at God’s personal playlist.” Continue reading
So I should probably mention that I detest public speaking. Had I chosen to enlist as a coal miner, model, or French mime this phobia would not be a problem and in the case of uh . . . mime-ery an attribute; yet teaching necessitates standing before a class of over-stimulated youth and – unfortunately – talking.
Fancying myself Sherlock Holmes (seriously for ten consecutive years, I donned a hunting cap, pipe, and syringe – I was nothing if not authentic) I approached society with a polite but friendly reticence, preferring the company of a few close friends and family to crowded bars and orgies. The rest of the family were more extroverted: Dad and Katie could find themselves stranded amid the snow-capped wastes of, say . . . . Siberia and make fifty new friends within the hour. They’re born on stage. I always chose to work behind the curtain, making others look good while hoisting props and managing the fires; to paraphrase Prufrock, no Prince Hamlet, am I, indeed.
This is not to suggest that I possessed no skills whatsoever in the profession. Somehow my own inherent nervousness in the classroom seasoned my lessons with an honest excitement that cannot be duplicated by an 80-year old professor who recites his lessons with the same enthusiasm a twelve-year-old recites the Code of Conduct.
Moreover, it helped that my level of maturity synched well with the kids. My lessons on chemistry were peppered with references to alchemy, talks of wizardry, potion-making, philosopher’s stones, and turning lead into gold. I compared the strategies of the British army in the Revolutionary War to turn-based RPGs like Final Fantasy VI. Wanted posters in Assassin’s Creed formed a good foundation for ‘memory’ in the immune system: “The more posters around, the easier it is for white blood cells to find culprits.” Nearly every lesson on photons, force, and philosophy referenced films: “Back to the Future,” “Star Wars,” or Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Continue reading
“So Bree, are you excited about Florida?”
“OHMYGOSH, IamSOOOready,” my little sister screamed, practically hurling her book to the floor of the car. “Can’t wait. Can’t wait to be done with school, with homework, with teachers, with Maryland. All of it.”
“Amen,” I nodded. The past few weeks at work had tested most of the school’s parents, students and teachers to the breaking point. Rumors of our middle school closing due to low attendance had filtered through the hallways and classrooms like an airborne plague. Only seven families had reenlisted for the new school year, and the administration had given no indication about the school’s survival to anyone, postponing any announcements until they could reevaluate their financial situation (i.e. drink heavily and pray their Powerball tickets pay out). The kids, like sharks, sensed the blood in the water and were whipped into a frenzy. Most in fact were already leaving for other schools and so what was the purpose of behaving when discipline no longer mattered? Continue reading
“All I’m saying is that any guy my age would . . . be attracted to her seashells.”
Kevin walked ahead of us along the path that bordered the canal. In the dark, none of us managed to catch a smile, just the hint of embarrassed laughter, which of course told us he was serious. We had just left Fantasmic, one of Disney World’s late-night shows, where Mickey Mouse battles the forces of evil equipped with geysers, fireworks and pyrotechnics. It’s a show designed for kids. Yet amid the visual distractions and explosions, viewers searching for fragments of story would be better tested finding a scrap of personality from Disney’s main mouse.
“I ask you,” Kev asked afterwards. “When’s the last time you laughed at a Mickey cartoon, huh? That’s right. Never. During the show, did anyone root for the ‘hero?'” Continue reading