Wednesday, September 29, 2004


There is something to be said for a rut.

Not a rut in the sense of what stags do, though there is certainly something to be said for this, too.

Yesterday, I got to the bus station early and was able to spend some time waiting for the bus to get moving in contrast to my usual pounding on the door to get it to stop. The driver, a man of indeterminate age and from some place in deepest indeterminate Asia, was humming to himself, greeting the people out of the rain onto the bus, wiping down the steering wheel and instruments with a soft cloth, and ticking things off slowly on a checklist. When we left, he drove leisurely and without malice towards the bumper crop of idiots between Georgetown and my stop. He managed to snake through traffic and drop me off early, which got him a thank you and me a slightly hysterical laugh in return.

Utterly happy in his task, if not outwardly happy in his job. In a rut, but making the best of it.

I haven’t managed to get many groceries this week, so all I have to eat are eggs. I made two hardboiled and had a beer, which would be the greatest peasant’s dinner ever if not for two things- a good deal of Vietnamese hot sauce, which I’ve been putting on everything lately, and some ginger cookies, which I wouldn’t even have if not for the advice of a kind person grocery shopping with me. Otherwise, a meal that is simple, unchanged for thousands of years of human consumption, and really damn satisfying.

I read some of my book, went for a walk, and realized that I am truly happy right now, in this calm between the various sturms and drangs. Later I’ll be dodging missiles and dissertations, but right now I’m comfortably supporting a simple life and I can’t think of anything directly important to complain of. This might seem not exactly newsworthy, but sometimes knowing that only the passage of a large period of time is going to massively change your life is a happy thought in itself and worthy of sharing, if only to give hope to people in ruts that have become prisons.

There is something to be said for a rut; they’re difficult to get out of but provide a good view of what’s ahead and behind. There is peace in that.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

People United for Sane Fashion

Part social experiment, part personal jihad, People United for Sane Fashion is the shadow organization that I have created to combat my inability to deal with undergraduates confronting me with my advanced age.

Those that have not been on a college campus or high school grounds, malls often enough, or at dining places of cheap price and late hours might not know what this organization is about.

Essentially, youth fashion co-opts personal ironic statements- wearing your visor at an unnatural angle, fluffing out a miniskirt to make it flap open seductively in some extremely select cases, or, most egregiously, turning the collar of a polo or dress shirt up. These personal statements are rendered cool/in/desirable and are imitated by those unwilling to make personal statements on their own but willing to bank on the status conferred by possibly being the originator of said ironic statement. Turning up your collar and wearing Top Gun sunglasses is funny; it reminds us of a time gone by. The sin of this joke is in its being told too often. Suddenly, too many people are walking punchlines and the style becomes popular.

At this point, the statement has become a badge. The badge must be worn, in order to conform to guidelines issued by major publications and television. Suddenly, the lone person in New York who thought he or she would be the first one to pop their collar is awash in a sea of idiots who have their collars turned up much in the way a sweetly retarded neighborhood child might have directions to home and a phone number pinned to their shirt. It's a sign of helplessness to the larger society, but somehow comforting to the wearer.

I am too old to put up with this.

Thusly, the following simple fliers have been posted around my campus:

You look like an idiot with your collar turned up like that.

Your visor is upside-down and backwards. Something is horribly, horribly wrong.

Permission to wear aviator sunglasses, Tower. Permission denied, ghostrider.

It's not your fault. No one looks good in a pleated miniskirt.

Thou shalt not wear what Paris and Ashton wear, for they are abominations.

No one woke up this morning wanting to read something scrawled across your ass.

At the bottom of each flier is "People United for Sane Fashion" and an email address:

I thought that pointing out some simple truths might do something to change the situation, and it has. I also thought the email address would mean people who wanted to defend their choice in dress to me had a means to do so.

The end result has been this- after two weeks of posting fliers, a limited victory has been achieved. The fliers are torn down fairly regularly, but there has been a sharp decrease in the sightings of the aforementioned grievances-to-the-eyes. There have been no emails asking for a frank discussion of values, but instead there have been four or five heartfelt testaments to the cause (you rock, etc.). On posting the wall, which is pictured below, an effort was made to make the statement too big to tear down without someone noticing. Someone has written "End cookie-cutter fashion" on it, however.

As for PUS, since I am the cabal and there was no rush to swell the ranks, I don't think any more posters will be necessary. Until the next wave of faddish nonsense sweeps through. Then, the truth must return for all who have turned aside from its sustaining embrace.

My identity has been withheld to protect me from retribution.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Those Who Can, Teach.

There is a lot to be said for the joys of being a teacher. I was a teacher for three years, teaching English to children of immigrants, autistic kids, and anyone who needed extra attention.

But if you asked me to remember the faces and names of every teacher I've ever had, I would fail. There are some that stick out especially; ones who were gifted or crazy. But most have faded until a blow to the head brings them back again.

A teacher is just one (if an important one) of the billions of factors that form a child's brain, factors which recede in necessity as life goes on and their direction takes better shape.


When I have an all-night whiskey bender with a former roommate and good friend, and spend the night on a cat-fur covered couch, and I stumble out into the daylight to attempt finding my car to get some contact saline, and I run into a former student who does not remember my name or even where the hell I'm from, (Mahita, from India, who needed help on her verb conjugation. HAH!!) but instead gives into her base impulses to reel from those who reek of scotch and cat piss, those who are red-eyed and itchy, those who are inexplicably happy to see you, then maybe the benefits of teaching are not so easily apparent. Especially when they squeak and hop on their bike, pedaling as fast as the drag from all those pink streamers will allow.

I reiterate.

When I walk into Denny's on said morning, and all I'm thinking of is a little tub of ranch dressing to dip my fries in, and I run into another prior student who has no idea who I am (Dennis, from Korea, SAT vocabulary!! Yes!!) but hides behind his mom at the prospect of an adult's salary meaning that Moons Over My Hammy are a gourmet treat and that clothes must always look slept in, then maybe, just maybe, we should let the little tots teach themselves the old fashioned way- a lion pit and two sticks. If the adorable little scamps can't figure out how to make fire before the lions get hungry, then the eternal scales of pass/fail land on the "wanting" side and the lesson is over.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Secrets of Arlington

I don't think you've ever really lived somewhere until you can say you know all the little secret places. I was out looking for new apartments (I'll graduate eventually and I'd love to stay around here) when I stumbled on some places that deserve an internet cataloging. I live in Rosslyn, which is the part of Arlington closest to DC. There are parts insanely built up around the main roads, while there are these little forgotten neighborhoods off the side streets. Here are some of the strange things you should see.

The Church of the Holy Spigot

This is the Arlington United Methodist Church, located at the corner of Fort Meyer and Key. On top of a Chevron Station, also located at the corner of Fort Meyer and Key. When you start to feel the Holy Spirit come over you and you feel dizzy, for the sake of the souls in three city blocks, don't light a prayer candle. Remember, it's the fumes and not the puddles. Stop, drop, and roll.

Freedom Park

Freedom Park is part of the Newseum, the DC musuem for news and broadcasting. They wanted to put a park in Rosslyn, but discovered that there was, in fact, stuff already here. So they built a platform over Wilson Boulevard and most of Lynn Street and put a park on it. So, come enjoy the flowers, the wide views, and the fact that you're 30 feet up in the air. The flame statue in the background is engraved with the names of journalists killed in action.

Key Boulevard Community Garden

Walking along Key towards Quinn, there is this beautiful garden. I've seen people tending to it, but I'm not sure who's allowed to take stuff from it. I want to find out, because someone is growing habanero peppers and I like to put those in my omelettes. They've also just started on the pumpkins for this fall. The temptation to launch one off of Freedom Park (see above) must be overwhelming.

Abode of Grooviliciousness

Down several one-way streets, and past multiple signs that say dead end, I found this house. The picture will never do it justice, because the place just shines. I want to live next to this house. Sure, my place will look bland, but every party will be filled with wacky neighbor stories and the gentle smell of patchouli wafting over the fence.