Wednesday, December 31, 2008

#66, 67, and 68

Not a particularly satisfying year, tally-wise. Nowhere near the century goal, alas! But read great stuff. Today I'm abed with a fever and sniffles, which gave me time to add to the total.

Again with the NYRB press! Patrick McGrath, himself a worthy crafter of spooky fictions, has assembled a fine selection of Daphne Du Maurier's uncanny and uncannily good tales. A couple vacationing in Venice are visited by the apparition of their own dead daughter. A woman with failing vision has it surgically corrected, only to discover it best not to see too well after all. Our fine feathered friends run amuck and only those most prepared will weather the storm. A mountaineer loses his wife to a climb, but not at all in the typical manner.

Du Maurier's stories are quite good--I'd rank them near my favorites (M.R. James, Ramsey Campbell). The characters are charming, the plots are intriguing, the prose is of rare quality for gothic fiction. Often there is great humor and irony, and an occasional bit of sexiness thrown in for good measure. I'll seek out more.

I'd had the idea from decades-old college courses that Boethius was a Christian philosopher. Not in this slim volume! Facing execution by Theodoric, Boethius takes consolation in the Perennial Philosophy: everything is always all right. Once you see past the vale and cease dwelling on the plane of duality you have achieved all which needs achieving, because you are, like everyone else, God.

Of course Boethius merely faced execution and torture; he never faced a B'more City middle school.

I've read many of these Discoveries pocket-size books. This one is worthy as an introduction to alchemy and its study through the millenia. The illustrations are alone worth the price of the book, especially since I got it for $3 at Daedalus.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Truth Hurts

This is the first time I have heard the truth about Arafat's actions at the Taba negotiations in the mainstream press. Typically they simply say "Arafat was offered an incredible deal and walked away," which equates to DoublePlus UnGood NewSpeak.

In the clip you get the delicious added bonus of hearing Zbigniew Brzezinski call Joe Scarborough "stunningly superficial." "I read the Times and the Post and Foreign Affairs!" Joe protests. Precisely the problem.

Xmas Pancit

Saturday, December 27, 2008


A gentleman hunter stalks the dictator of an unnamed central European country, all along claiming it was a game, a bit of sport, a challenging test of mettle. He never intended to actually shoot! He's got the brute in his sights when he is captured, tortured, and left for dead following a staged accident.

Of course he doesn't die, and the rest of the book is a curious recounting of his attempts to flee and hide away in the English countryside. Gradually he comes to realize the motivation for his actions when he is confronted by a gentleman hunter as ruthless and as much a sportsman as himself.

Rogue Male is clever and well-wrought. Strange that its author is a Household but not a household name.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

joyeux noel

let there be, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Recharge yourself today.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


A curiously effective novel of love and lust--one of the best I've read not penned by John Hawkes. The story starts with young and dashing Robin, an English student of architecture touring the ruins of a Wright house in the American southwest. Immediately after a washroom tryst with another young man, Robin discovers his girlfriend is pregnant.

Flash forward 20 years, and we re-join Robin in a long-term relationship with an unfaithful man. Despite having met Justin cruising in London restrooms, Robin is unaware of his infidelities, even though Justin was seeing Alex at the time of their lav loving, and Justin left Alex to move into Robin's cabin in the sticks.

Justin invites his ex down to the cabin for a long weekend, mixing as motives sneering contempt, pity, and revenge. Alex meets Robin's son Danny, who is physically his father but carries his step-mum Justin's disregard for fidelity. Alex and Danny hook up and launch one of the most curious quadrangles in literary history.

I've read and admired Hollinghurst's reviews and criticism now and again, but hadn't read his fiction until now. I'll definitely re-visit him. The Spell is hilarious, disturbing, wrenching, and achingly beautiful. The novel is a strange thematic melange of John Hawkes and Michel Houllebecq.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Day 24

Day 24, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

The kids are amped up for Xmas break but for some reason they're coming to school. Thank Cthulu we only have Monday and Tuesday this week. I don't think I could make it otherwise.

Kids are pushing and throwing punches at faculty left and right. Strangely, they don't get suspended for these attacks--they should be GONE. I saw a boy try to throw a round-house at the female hall monitor today. Not outside my classroom, son. I hope he at least gets some time off.

It was 15 degrees this morning. Why couldn't we get some of that Saturday evening precip today? Just enough for a two-hour delay. Puhleeze, can we get something tomorrow? A water main break? Anything?

Woke this morning to the burglar alarm in our house. Freaked the shit out of us. We're in the bedroom on the third floor waiting for the alarm company to call, wondering what to do. The cops came and checked us out--apparently the strong winds this morning set off a lot of alarms around town. Then I got to school and 5-0 was crawling all over. Some fiends broke in and jacked all the cash out the soda and snack machines. The kids in my homeroom were like "Stupid fuckin' n*****s took the quarters and left the snacks. They could sell that shit too!" Then Mr. R the crotchety old cuss from the down the hall pulled me aside and said the exact same thing.

They got into the Main Office but didn't molest anything. They even left the computers alone. Courteous thieves.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

lightning strikes

lightning strikes, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

My seventh graders had heard about the boy killed at The Book. I told them that the boy's cousin was a former student of mine, and asked them to make him cards to cheer him up at the holidays. Some of the rougher kids said things like "Fuck that n*****. We don't know him. He might have had it coming." Others took to it in the spirit of the holidays and channeled their own experience of loss.

I find out more about my kids through this form of expression than I ever would through a zillion writing assignments. So many have lost mothers, uncles, fathers, cousins, and brothers to the the streets--to these kids dying a natural death from old age is shocking and unusual.

sympathy cards 004

sympathy cards 004, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

sympathy cards 002

sympathy cards 002, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Warren Commission

I'm kind of amused by all the talk about Obama "selling out" the Left by picking centrists/conservative Dems for his cabinet, etc.

Has anybody actually read the guy's books? He's not particularly Left himself, for goodness' sake. He never was. And yes, many of his picks are more conservative than he is, but I don't mind a President who surrounds himself with opposing viewpoints. We've had 8 years of total alignment of opinion in the White House: shit don't work!

But hiring Rick Warren to do the invocation at Obama's inaugural is a bit too much even for a jaded old cynic like me to bear. The only thing Warren invokes for me is retching; he can couch his bigoted hate speech in New Age tenderness--it's still bigoted hate speech.

Cha's been pressing me to go to DC for the Inauguration, and I've been saying no because I didn't want to take off work in order to get stuck somewhere between B'More and DC in a crush of traffic and miss it anyway. Even after B'more City Schools decided to close that day, I was still reluctant, but was thinking perhaps we should give it a shot.

Now I'm definitely not attending.

You know what to do HERE.

Day 25

Kids say the darnedest things:

"Mr. G--is it true the guys who work at Dominoes bust off in the pizzas?"

"I'm serious. They keep packing me I'm a go home, smoke a blunt, and come back in this joint raging. I ain't playing no more."

"Them bitch ass Ravens is triflin'. Dallas gonna shit purple next Monday."

"I'm sick of that Obama. He ain't done shit but talk since he President."

"Why we gotta listen to that white people music?" (I was playing N.W.A.)

"You writin' my name on the board for being late? Bitch, I bet when you be late you ain't writin' your own name up in that shit."

"I can't tuck in my uniform shirt. It makes my midsection feel strange."

"Why we gotta read so much in Language Arts class?"

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Lost my temper today last period. The 7th graders were driving me nuts! Simultaneously I had:

  • a youngin' crack open a blue magic marker and start drawing on the table with it
  • a child crawling on the floor under my desk
  • a child drawing gang logos on my chalkboard
  • a youngin' throwing books across the room
  • a child sitting at my computer without permission
  • a youngin' running around the room and pulling stuff off my shelves
  • a child banging on the side of my desk with her boot

I started yelling. And then somebody tore a huge chunk out of a brand new billboard I had just put up at lunch time. And then a boy threw a girl to the floor so hard it made a sickening sound. And then another girl kicked my LCD projector plug, pulling it out of the wall. The red "bulb exploded" light went on and I lost it.*

I dropped a "G-D" on my classroom. This, of course, is a major no-no. The kids froze in the midst of their various atrocities and said "Ooooohhhhh! He said a bad word!" I mean, yeah, the kids use "fuck" as a preposition, a verb (both trans. and intrans.), a noun, an adverb, and an adjective. They eat "G-D" for breakfast, and "shit" and "bitch" ain't nothing to them either.

But for a teacher to say "goddam" in front of a class of middle schoolers is the equivalent of a police officer discharging his weapon. Reports will be filed. I will get a Performance Improvement Processing document. And I should. I let the little monsters get under my skin today with their shenanigans.

And I called more than 14 parents after school today. From ONE CLASS.

*Fortunately the bulb was ok--them bitches is $200 each! Oh, and the girl thrown to the floor was also ok.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

goodbye to all that

I created this using crappy Windows Accessory software at the TU Library Info Desk almost 3 years ago. I suppose it's the last time I can use it while Cheney is in office.

Happy Holidays!

Day 23

[image source]

Of the many defects here at Blog-Sothoth, perhaps the most egregious is a continuous focus on the negative in my school posts. I suppose it's because chaos and violence make for easy story-telling, and I can play the martyr for a good cause and stoke my ego.

But my job, believe it or not, can be fun. I'm starting to have fun at the March, the way I sometimes had fun at the Book before I got shipped over East Side.

Today for instance I was having some management problems with my first two classes, and I finally said "Y'all are getting on my nerves. I'ma play some loud country music." There on my iTunes was Doc Watson, and I cranked it up through my speakers and started to hambone in front of the class. The kids were lying on the floor pretending to choke and puke and saying "Oh, please Mr. G, turn it off!" writhing like two dozen Linda Blairs. I said "I'ma turn it off if you get quiet and pay attention." It worked! They got loud again and I put on Emmylou Harris to howls of dismay. Then when they got quiet I played Lil Wayne for them. One big girl named Shynia said "you can play that country music. I think it's funny. Lil Wayne sucks."

Then last period I was showing the kids some pictures from a Move Like Seamus gig to kill time. They thought that was a riot. The kids regularly say peculiar and brilliant things--it's a perk of my job--but today I showed a picture of myself playing a solo and a young boy from the 'hood asked in all seriousness: "Are you as good as Dave Mustaine?" shattering a half-dozen stereotypes and preconceptions in one breath.


Monday, December 15, 2008


I've raved about NYRB re-issues before, and I'll do so again.

The Fountain Overflows is a delightful novel. It's got the thematic heft of Henry James, but is stylistically more in line with Dickens or Austen. I laughed a lot and stopped often to admire West's wit and evocative prose. Though a novel for adults, this is the best recreation of childhood I've read in quite some time. The main characters are surly, mean-spirited little girls who are brilliant and penniless and vividly imagined. I love the parents and the peculiar plot line, with its multiple climaxes and resolutions. And there's a great haunting, perhaps the best poltergeist scene in any novel I've encountered. I wish I had time to write more,* and time to re-read it right away--it's that good. And I found it at Daedalus in Towson for $3.98!

*I want to write a paper about West and Henry James.** I have to find her book on The Master now.

**That'll be the day!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Many of my fondest memories from Temple University--where I received an MA in English in the early mid-'90s--are of basketball games. The Owls were nationally ranked at the time, and with players like Eddie Jones, Aaron McKie, Rick Brunson, and Derrick Battie (who was in one of the first writing classes I ever taught) the games were always exciting.

One of the least exciting games I saw, however, featured a young behemoth named Rodney Rogers, who decimated the Owls one Sunday with his Wake Forest co-horts. As a Terps fan, I always liked the ACC, so didn't mind their dismantling of the home team that day. I think Rogers scored 35 points and sat out much of the 2nd half.

So I read with great sadness what happened to Rodney Rogers recently in today's Times. I may not follow sports any more, but this is a tragic story with a wholly undeserving victim.

on the changer

Not reading much, but listening to tons of new music:

Saw them open for Aimee Mann. Quite pleasant pop infused with psychedlia. Every song is about love or kissing or whatever. They're on the iPhones commercials.

Good stuff. The French first lady is much much more than just a pretty face (et beaucoup plus que seulement les jolies fesses aussi!).

Anyone who's ever worked at Borders may cringe understandably at the thought of Putumayo discs--but these collections are quite good.

Quite peculiar electronica merged with traditional Asian music. At times meditative, at other cacaphonous.

If you love Einstein on the Beach, hell yeah! Otherwise, run away! I fall into the former category.

Another clever melange of pop and psychedela. Doubt this will last more than a couple years in the collection, but interesting and engaging.

Not all tracks on this LP are great--but five truly are. Songs in the tradition of late-60's/early '70s Bowie, with a guitarist quite good at aping Mick Ronson. And Shinghai? That is, hands down, the greatest voice in rock history. I mean, she's got a special something. When she masters those pipes I expect spectacular things. And she can play bass and guitar like a mofu too.

Buy this on iTunes. It's great. Move over, Ryan Adams.

My students like this too.

I'm surprised how much I like the Ting-Tings. My students, strangely enough, also like them a lot.

An honest well-produced country album, reminiscent of 70's Emmylou Harriss but sung in softer, clearer voice. My students DON'T like this.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tonight @ Mick O'Shea's

post-gig euphoria, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Move Like Seamus standing in for Donegal Xpress!

VERY last minute announcement

It appears that Brad D., frontman for the mighty Donegal Xpress, is out with a bad throat infection. Move Like Seamus members are being summoned and at least three of us will assemble @ 9:45 to take their place this evening at Mick O'Shea's.

We're waiting for word from Herr Lortz. Will there be drums this evening? Drums in the Deep? We cannot hold...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Day 22

They got some lazy ass teacher observing me today--Mr. McGillicutty, whose management skills are so poor they took his class away and gave it to me. He floats around subbing when other teachers call out. The kids know he's afraid of them and they abuse him mercilessly. He decides to observe my 7th grade class last period and I'm thinking "oh, well. He won't learn much today. They don't scare me but it's not like I manage them!" But via a combo of my usual tricks (names on the board, banging on things with sticks, kicking the drum-like side of my desk, scratching my nails down the board, engaging LCD projector slide show shit) I got them seated and working. McGillicutty was suitably impressed and took notes and asked me questions. I was starting to feel cocky, like "yeah, I'm showing this guy who's been a teacher ten years longer than me how it's done!" when La Manche and Sashay both jumped up, simultaneously throwing text books at each other and yelling "I'ma fuck you up bitch" in chorus.

I thought this would be ugly. Sashay is about 80 pounds, an adorable little Bernadette Peters look-alike with pouty lips and twinkly dimples. La Manche is about 160 pounds of packed muscle with a layer of chub on top. She's a bruiser. I worried that Sashay was about to get wrecked, but before I got over there Sashay had squared her shoulders and set her pelvis like an old-timey photo of a gentleman boxer (minus the handlebar moustache). She socked La Manche 8 or 9 solid blows to the face before La Manche even got her feet set. Each blow thunked home, La Manche's glasses went flying, there was blood from her eye, her forehead, her mouth and her nose when I got there. I stepped in just as La Manche's George Foreman scud missile punch came crashing down on my skull. I wrenched them apart with my shoulders and Sashay neatly bopped La Manche over my shoulder with three more exquisitely precise blows to the face.

I thought La Manche would tear her apart! Dag. Of course, to be fair, I prevented La Manche from connecting her blow (which hurt like fuck). I grabbed her around the waste as McGillicutty pulled Sashay out the room. La Manche was heaving me around the room like a bull, picking up chairs, thrashing around like a mastadon in a tar pit. I'm not huge, but I'm a pretty solid 195 pounds. She was hauling me around the room huffing and puffing and bleeding. I couldn't talk her down so I allowed her to pull me over to the speaker so I could call for assistance. Hall monitors came and hauled her off.

I hope Sashay don't hang around after school. If La Manche gets her down things will be ugly.

Half day with the students tomorrow for parent-teacher conferences. No parents will show, so I will have many unimpeded hours in the afternoon for grading and planning and room decorating. Woo-hoo. I am such a loser--I really enjoy decorating my bulletin boards.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Day 21

ROUND 1: First period, Shawanabee is on a conduct slip for previous bad behavior. I had just filled it out, noting how excellent her behavior was today and how her work was high-quality, when she jumped up, strode across the room and banged LucasFilm in the eyepiece. He grappled her and wrestled her to the ground. No sooner had I sent them off to the office with referrals and lined up my class to take them to second period when

ROUND 2: I found a 7th grader bloodied on the floor and holding his head. I had to disperse a crowd of kids who were kicking him and teasing him about his shoes and calling him "pussy," etc. Then I got him up and took him to the office. I found out who stomped him and filed a report and was walking back to class when

ROUND 3: One of the boys who stomped the 7th grader got in my face and said "You ratted me out" and I got right back in his face and said "My job is to rat you out." Of course the administrator on the 3rd floor is a lazy piece of shit so he was still roaming the halls all day after stomping somebody's head. When I got back to my room

ROUND 4: Sargeant Slaughter was in the hall. There were 6 kids around him. Five were egging another on: "Go on, man. Punch him in the face! He won't do nothing with all us here." So the kid punched Slaughter in the face, twice. I started running over as another couple of kids got in licks. Slaughter was bloody but he didn't say anything or fight back. I took him to the third floor administrator and she asked what happened. When I told her she called Slaughter a "chicken" and sent him back in the hallway, where the same boys were waiting. Then, in third period

ROUND 5: a bunch of screaming commenced in the 3rd-floor cafeteria and two of my girls ran out but I got the rest of my class bottled up before they could leave. I heard shouting, banging, and then a mass a kids poured out the cafeteria and they were screaming "gun! gun!" All I could do was lock and shut my door and file AWOL reports for the girls who got out. I heard there was a gigantic melee but reports of a gun were never verified. Ms. Jones burst into the room, hand on hip, one finger flailing: "Mr. G--some young B just came up in here and pushed me. Oh, no. They gonna take me out in cuffs. I filed a report and the girl is still here in the building. It's just like the boy who pushed the man you replaced. He never even got time off--they just called his parents or something. They gonna take me out in cuffs because I am gonna hit anybody who puts their hands on me with a desk or a chair. I ain't playing with these kids." And as I walked my third period class down to their lunch

ROUND 6: several boys started throwing punches and there was chaos. I felt like I was in a Borges story about an endless middle school with infinite corridors that eventually all lead to the same place due to the curvature of space/time. That terminal same place is nowhere good.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Old School

Lost another kid to the streets.

More here. The student interviewed was in my home room and first period class before I transferred.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Day 20

Just one of those days! I slept well for a solid 7 hours--very rare any more. I got up and felt a bit groggy and grumpy about Monday, but big deal, right? You do what you gots to do, etc.

I went down to the kitchen to get my coffee. I have the machine set up each night before a workday so the coffee is ready for me when I arrive. I took the coffee and was thinking "I have to set it up for tomorrow" which I do every day in the morning and for some reason I poured the hot fresh coffee in the pot down the sink, then filled the pot with water and set up tomorrow's coffee. Then I turned to retrieve my coffee cup and realized what I'd just done.

Let's just say that set the tone for the whole day, and it set me back a good ten minutes in the AM.

"The kids are crazy on Mondays," long-time City teachers told me when I was a rookie (or when I was even more of a rookie, I guess I should say). "They been home and home ain't no good. It takes them until Wednesday to cool off. Then they gots to start worrying about being home again so they ramp up the craziness until it peaks on Fridays."

The kids were crazy today. But I've never really noticed a difference between days of the week. The differentiations in craziness are more of kind than degree. Monday is a more liberated lunacy, a wilding-out day--it is named for the moon, after all.

Even worse? We had our monthly staff meeting today. These teeter typically on the precipice of wholly unnecessary, but today's lunged straight off into that abyss. And instead of the usual hour it was 90 minutes long. 40 minutes of it was devoted to the Secret Santa program.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


ignition, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

in flagrante delecto

in flagrante delicto, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Can't remember what tune this is. Photo by the Mrs., who regrets not getting drums and cello in the same shot.

Sunday School


I'd not read Baldwin's novels, despite having them in a nice Lib of Amer edition for some time. I taught his short story "Sonny's Blues" many times in short story classes at TU, and also chunks of a memoir from the Norton Anthology--a chapter about living in Switzerland if I remember correctly? I'll not deny myself the pleasure any more.

Go Tell it on the Mountain unfurls in sizzling prose the story of three generations in one African American family, moving forward from slavery and into the mid-20th century. I can't say much more about Gabriel, John, Florence, and Elizabeth without spoiling the effect of the novel, which reveals in chapters narrated by different family members the entire story of sin, redemption, fall from grace, forgiveness, vengeance, hypocrisy, redemption anew--a gorgeous and terrifying description of cyclical doom in the white man's world, where buildings, streets, customs, dignity, and even God do not belong to the characters.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Day 19

Today was actually fun at work (aside from the major girl fight next door in Ms. J's room during 2nd period--shit was serious and scary. Two teachers were banged up pulling them apart, and Ms. Merciless the 6'5" hall monitor who don't play got her foot stomped. One girl was lead out in plastic cuffs screaming with Carrie-blood down her face: "She think she hard? Ha. I show her who hard!").

I had kids dancing to the Ting Tings in my last period class. I had kids laughing out loud over my silly insomnia-induced antics. I had kids doing their work because we were giddy and laughing and listening to music.

I suffer no illusions. Monday will suck. But I make more allies slowly and surely.

Tonight--I get to play guitar and sing a bit with my bandmates. Looking forward to a fun time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mt. Vernon

lighting, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Every first Thursday in December there is a nifty fireworks show at the original Washington Monument. It was warmer than usual and a bit rainy but hoards of people showed and waited patiently for Mayor Dixon to arrive so we could countdown and enjoy the pyrotechnics. A good time was had by all.


There will be drums tomorrow after all at Mick O'Shea's--Friday at 9:30 FULL BAND SHOW.

We learned a new tune just in time! King Raj shall be pleased.

Day 18

My job is crazy. I don't think about it for a while and then suddenly it will sink in when I'm shouting "Sashay, why are you up on that chair?" or "Devon stop putting chalk into the pencil sharpener!" or when a 12-year-old is threatening to "snuff" me for throwing him out of my class when he doesn't belong there.

My job is crazy. I mean looney tunes. I wish everybody in America could come to my school tomorrow and just hang out with me for 20 minutes. How long would everybody in America last in that building? If everybody in America really knew what it was like the problem would get fixed tomorrow. This shit is unConstitutional. Nobody should have to go to school under these circumstances, and I include faculty under the umbrella "nobody." Nobody in the world should ever have to send their kids into a public school system this fucked up, and we mandate it by law that parents do just that.

Just listening to the stories kids tell each other makes me want to curl up and hide somewhere. K-show was telling her peeps this story today: "We was playing over the summer and these boys came down looking for Duracell's cuzzins. He like 'dag, I'm serious, yo, who lookin' for my cuzzins' and this boy pops him in the eye, and Duracell picks up a piece of fence like a pipe and smacks him the in face. They all stomp this boy until his friend comes and starts shooting and everybody runs home but the boy died 'cause they beat him too much. Now everybody like 'Hey Duracell you got your first body!' and Duracell like 'naw, I ain't kilt that n*****, that boy trying to save him shot him by accident. Shoulda kilt the bastad tho, muthafucka tryin' to knock me out.'" And K-show and her girls are all laughing about the story because it's so funny.

I have to listen to this and continue teaching class. I'ma start taking Maker's Mark to work in my Thermos.

JJ was back in school after 2.5 weeks of suspension. True to form, he started busting on my clothes, my hair style, my shoes. I said "I'm a going to call your Uncle again" and he said "I don't care." I said "JJ you failing my class. You have a 2.3 percent!" and he said "Bitch, I don't care. I failed all my classes last year and the year before and they passed me. I'ma fail your fuckin' class too and they gonna pass me again. Shit if I need to do work."

My job is crazy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

MLS Trio Show

Friday at Mick O'Shea's--9:30 pm start time. Drink Irish Car Bombs with me!

The Move Like Seamus String Trio will perform classic Celtic folk songs and eclectic rock covers from across the decades. And perhaps one Dean Martin hit.

The guitarist will require caffeine infusions to get through the gig: after waking at 5:30 and working until 4:30, he will help set up gear at 7:30, play until 1:30, and break down gear until about 2:30. The glamorous life of pub musicians!

Day 17

A seventh grader got his head stomped outside my room today. A gang of 8th graders--and no, I don't use the term "gang" lightly--knocked him down and somebody stomped his head once he was on the floor. I got out there only in time to help clear people from around him as the poor kid got dazedly to his knees. He had blood coming out his eye but fortunately they only stomped him once and took off.

So after seeing no violence my first three weeks at the March, I'm suddenly seeing it all the time. And the gangs of punks running the halls are no longer simply goofing off. They are vandalizing, terrorizing, and victimizing. They stole a girl's shoes today and threw them through a ceiling panel, which crashed into dust outside my room. They tore heavy metal blinds out the stairwell windows and ran with them clanking down the hall. One of them burst into my room, kicked over my trash and took off.

Feels like old times all of a sudden. I feel almost like I'm at home back at the Book. Rumor has it we even had a teacher beating, but it's on the down-low and I can't get details. Snitches get stitches.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I know, I know--you're thinking "a killer crocodile movie? Yawn! I seen that shit with what's-her-face Fonda. Boring." There are a zillion movies with a killer (orca/shark/bear/dog/snake). But genre flicks can be fun in the right hands, and Mr. Mclean's down-under approach features some nifty surprises. I laughed a lot and even felt tension in spots, which is pretty good for a jaded old horror fan. Cha was creeped out too.

The best flick of its kind since Anaconda.*

*Am I being facetious? Fuck if I know.

Day 16

I've only been at the new school the equivalent of 3 full weeks plus 1 day; it seems like a much longer time. (holidays and professional developments and half-days mean it actually HAS been a longer time)

Hadn't seen Duracell for more than a week, and I was starting to get that sick City teacher's half-hope/half-dread: the hope that his sorry disruptive and sketchy ass was gone for good, the dread that something terrible had happened to him. But he was back today, and he gave me one of those complicated handshakes with a variety of grips and a warm back-slap.

"Where you been at Duracell? I missed you." He laughed and looked away.

"He locked up!" Armour All said. "He got busted on the Avenue running a package."

"Whyn'tcha call me Duracell? I'd a bailed you."

"Really Mr. G? You nice."

"Psych!" I said.

He proceeded to do the usual nothing in terms of classwork. He did throw two books, he tore down a poster, he drew on the wall in marker, and he wrestled Miss Thang to the floor and told her to engage in a lewd activity in class. Typical day today.

My first two classes were good. I threw out the B'more curriculum and the assigned texts. I bought multiple copies of the Bluford series, and I'm teaching out of these from now on. They're like Melrose Place set in an urban high school, and the kids dig them enough to repeatedly steal my copies, so I figure maybe they'll be engaged if I teach literary analysis skills using these instead of Chekov and Poe and all that other shit they think is boring. Today went swimmingly--we'll see if I can sustain the interest over an entire 140 page novel.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Day 15

Two "fights" in my last period class. Again, the "fights" at my new school involve a lot of drama, a lot of posing, a lot of taking off coats and talking smack while circling around, a lot of explaining what I'ma gonna do to you, a lot of putting up of dukes and pointing, a lot of "get your hands off me" to teachers and hall monitors who step in, with cries of "you're lucky they holding me back" while nobody is actually holding anyone back. The first "fight" last period was mostly shouting and drama.

The Coal Man told me afterwards: "Mr. G, when they's about to fight here, don't get between 'em. Let 'em bang each other and call they houses."

"Why?" I asked. "You want to see them fight?"

"No. But you might get hurt. I seen it happen here when teachers get hurt."

About 30 minutes later Sherry Baby knocked John Singer Sargent upside his face with a dusty chalk eraser for calling her a "b." He threw a stapler at her, I grabbed him by the arms and took him out into the hall.

Gradually I'm losing my reluctance to intervene physically at the new school. Back at the Book I did it all the time because I knew the kids. I'm starting to know the new ones now.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I enjoy an occasional memoir of mental crack-up as much as the next pseudo-intellectual. Michael Greenberg's Hurry Down Sunshine is different from most because the majority are first-person accounts of personal collapse; his is an eye-witness view of his daughter Sally's break-down as a young teen. Greenberg is good at recreating his floundering helplessness in the face of a delusional kid who thinks she is God's messenger of hope and impervious to harm. Also compelling is his portrait of a mentally ill older brother.

Worth checking out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Aftermath, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Everyone's gone and the fun begins.

there's a crab in my oyster!

there's a crab in my oyster!, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

An oyster shucked this evening by our biologist friend had a baby crab inside--as of 12:30 am it was still living. The biologist and his son took it home to see if they could keep it going in their aquarium.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tao de THC

I wonder if they also found in this 2,700 year-old tomb a dark light lamp, a copy of Dark Side of the Moon, and some Cheetos?


As much as I liked Dreams from my Father, I think The Audacity of Hope is even better. An American politician in the mainstream talking (relatively) straight about our role in Indonesia's late-60s bloodbaths? An inspiring rhetoritician who never resorts to ad hominem attack or vacuous appeals to authority? A guy who writes about fatherhood and family values without making me want to puke?

I'm more convinced than ever that we elected the right man, and I write that even though this book proves without doubt that Barack Obama is politically and socially far more conservative than I. Still--his thoughtfulness, his pragmatism, and his powerful sense of empathy make me willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when we disagree.

And I'll say it again: the guy can write. I get pleasure just from his prose style. He's thoughtful, cautious, and can sum up thorny problems with elegance. Here's how he handles my current number-one concern:

It's not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit. We wouldn't tolerate schools that don't teach, that are chronically underfunded, understaffed, and underinspired, if we thought that the children in them were like our children.

I totally agree the problem is as basic as that, and I believe more than ever that Obama was elected to restore our sense of civic duty to one another. The Audacity of Hope contains a wonderful chapter on race, and has charming portraits of Senate elders resonate with a keen perception of character and delivered with folksy charm. Throughout Obama is self-deprecating and full of love for his country and its denizens of all stripes--racial, religious, political, etc. Only someone with a deep knowledge of our history could so easily put his own struggles and achievements and thoughts into the context of our current political landscape. Definitely worth a read, especially after 8 years laboring under a president who can barely read books, let alone write them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Crikey! It's like Tobe Hooper and Peter Weir got together down unda to make a horror show.

Yes, the standard cliches of the genre are here in droves, but Wolf Creek is nonetheless a merciless flick that had me clutching uncomfortably at couch cushions. The poor Mrs. was taken aback by the tricky calm opening; not since Audition has a movie so severely punished me for my gullibility. I admit to falling for the its initial premise, which lulled me into a certain series of expectations which proved dreadfully wrong. Of course it's this trickery which prevents Wolf Creek from merely being a Texas Chainsaw rip-off. Not for the faint of heart.

[nod to Steven Hart for the tip]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day 14

I'm calling houses. Every day I'm calling houses. Kids say "Why you call my house?" and I say "Hmmm, perhaps because you threw a magic marker, you punched a kid in the stomach, you wrote on the window in glue, you cussed me out, you stole my stapler and used it to staple a girl's gloves to her coat, you went in my cabinet without permission, you walked out of class without a pass, you threatened to flatten my tires, you told me you were going to "pluck/stuff/pop" me, you have a 7.3% average in language arts after three weeks of second quarter assignments, you came in 55 minutes late each of the last 13 days, you never wear your uniform, you use your cell phone in class and I can hear your iPod right now..."

"Yeah," he asks, "but why you call my house?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Day 13

Kids are nuts--three day week before a major holiday break has them on edge and eager to get out. Teachers are grumpy and tired of the bullshit. I got fed up with my classes today and just started calling parents right in front of them. One kid who throws stuff and plays around all day every day called me a fucking liar when I told his mom on the phone what he's been up to. Then I told her I was taking him to the principal's office for cussing me out.

I'm not playing any more.

Last period I was blocking the door trying to prevent kids from leaving my class before dismissal and a bonehead tried to dive between my legs. He hit his skull on my right knee and got himself a nice lump on the edge of his fade. Fortunately he didn't take out my knee in the process.

I found out from Ms. J next door that the teacher I replaced left because a student pushed him and threatened him and that student only got two days' suspension. Great.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I've had Taxi to the Dark Side for more than a month. I don't have a lot of free time right now to watch DVDs, but mostly I had it so long because I'm sick and tired of the Bush clan and the way they've wrecked my country. Re-visiting Rumsfeld and Cheney's disgusting dismantling of our laws and international human rights obligations just wasn't appealing. I almost sent the DVD back unwatched, but then I read in Harper's an article about the necessity of keeping pressure on the next administration to put these bastards on trial and I was motivated to watch the documentary.

So, as much as I'd like to forget what happened, it's my duty as a citizen to make sure nobody ever forgets. It's also my duty to pester people who say torture is ok to watch this movie about US soldiers killing an innocent Afghani taxi driver. At least 37 detainees in US custody have been murdered that we know about. How many of them were also innocent? How many of the thousands who were tortured or mistreated had nothing to do with 9-11 or fighting US soldiers?

I plan to write President Obama shortly after his swearing in to ask that he vigorously investigate violations of human rights and US law by the previous administration. I know this is unlikely to happen, but until the Generals and policy makers--not merely the troops involved--are held accountable for their roles in these atrocities, I won't feel like I have my country back.

Watch the interview with the film-maker's father* in particular. He was a military interrogator during WWII and the Korean conflict, and his disgust with Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld is palpable. "I always had the idea that we were on the side of the good guys," he says. "Now I've lost all faith in the American government."

*Included as a special feature on the DVD

Move Like Seamus

Move Like Seamus, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

And a good time was had by all.


I liked Weekend much more, but I thoroughly enjoyed Goddard's Pierrot le Fou. Nobody does serious silly as well as Goddard, and here he announces not the Age of Aquarius but the Civilization of the Ass. I laughed mine off.

I thought this was ok. I prefer Buster Keaton.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 12

Just another day in B'more City schools.

Last period I took my 7th graders to an assembly. The AP was handing out awards for perfect attendance, honor roll, and most improved academics. It took a half-hour to get the kids in their seats and somewhat attentive. Miss B. was reading names and the kids announced were not happy to receive awards--all of them groaned audibly or looked terrified or both. It is not cool to achieve good things, and I'm not sure parading these youngsters in front of their classmates is such a good idea. Kids in the audience were audibly threatening the winners, and I'm not talking name-calling ("nerds" or "dorks"); I'm talking threats of serious violence.

Miss B. had students threatening her during the proceedings, until the Big Cheese came in and gave two boys long-term suspension. "You threaten my teachers," she bellowed, "and you are gone. 45 days!" She made a long speech about how many vacancies there are at B'more alternative schools. "You play with me," she said, "and you'll be on your way out the door. I might end up with 10 students in the building, but they'll be the best damn students in the world. We have excellent teachers here. You keep disrespecting them and you will be gone." She told the teachers to give her the names of perpetually troublesome kids every day. "They'll be gone."

Then she told the kids about homelessness and gangs and drugs and the fates of some of the "popular" kids in her high school. "A lot of them suckas is dead," she said. "They let kids manipulate them into fighting and acting cool. They are DEAD." Students who dared speak or slouch while she was speaking got ear-twists, butt-kicks, head-slaps. She kept 25 7th graders until 4:30 for daring to speak while she was speaking.

She will have to back up her words. That was the problem with the Big Cheese at my old school: all talk.

This morning between 1:20 and 1:30 am I received three prank calls on my home phone. Somebody mimicking a nasal white-man voice and saying "Sorry, buddy" over and over. I *69-ed the number and put it into Google and the first page that popped up gave me the latitude and longitude of the address to which the phone was registered. The address was a couple blocks south of North Ave on the East Side, only a five-minute walk from my school. I'm going to post the number on my board Monday morning in big block letters. The first kid who says "why you putting my number out?" is MINE.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tomorrow Night--MLS show!

Mick O'Shea's Irish Pub--Charles Street just south of Mulberry in Mount Vernon--9:30pm.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Earlier today I called my mortgage company. Over a month ago I'd requested they remove the escrow from our account; Baltimore City is notoriously incompetent when it comes to their tax bills, and they've overcharged us by $4,500 each of the last two years. These bills go to our mortgager who pays them immediately, and then after protracted arguments with various bureaucrats I get a refund which I send back to my mortgager and deposit into escrow. Our mortgager increased our monthly payment by $500 last year because of this nonsense, and I decided the hassle wasn't worth it. I'll pay that shit out of pocket. Like all good mortgage companies, mine said I had to pay a fee to close escrow, and I sent the check along with a letter as directed. They cashed the check and have yet to remove the escrow from our account.

So today I called them to get it fixed, and I had to endure the worst hold music ever devised. Baltimore City, ironically, has the same dreck playing through their headquarters phones. It's music designed to make sure you will never call for any reason ever again. Imagine Jon Anderson making a sequel to Relayer, but because he can't get the other decrepit former members of Yes to leave their astonishingly successful solo careers,* he has to hire Dario Argento and the Goblins and Vangelis to fill in the soundscape. It's that bad. In fact, the insipid piping of blind, mindless Azag-Thoth is pleasurable by comparison. Given a choice between hearing this hold music for another 20 minutes or listening to no music for the rest of my life but the braying of Jim Nabors,** I'd be sorely tempted to take the latter.

So I listen to this for 20 minutes before a dude comes on and says "We lost your letter but cashed your check. Send another letter." Yeah, lost my letter, I thought. Right now it's probably policy to lose the first such letter so you can keep as much money in your coffers as long as you can.

And right then I realized it: I'm scared. I hadn't really thought about it, but watching even so mindless a morning crapfest as Morning Joe can really freak you out. There is no good financial news. Tonight Cha is in New York for some Fitzgerald-esque bash at the Waldorf Astoria. Typically I'd enjoy a bachelor night with some delivery from Joe Squared or The Charles Diner. But tonight I chose a box of organic mac and cheese instead. Why spend money?

I cancelled our escrow not because of the inconvenience of sending in refunds, but because I'm thinking of hoarding and I want all my money where I can get to it fast.

*I saw Steve Howe busking for Monopoly game pieces at the Greenmount McD's last year.
**God, I saw commercials for that shit EVERY DAY for the first 17 years of my life! "Please, release me, let me go...."

Day 11

Ah, Fate--yes, I had a Fate at Booker T., and now I've another at the March. Same name, same MO. I keep her at my desk because of her volatility and unpopularity. Kids poke fun, she rages at them, then they try to fight her.*

I had Fate making a travel brochure for Baltimore next to my computer today. Zambia was fussing at her over and over and Fate was fussing back. I called them both on it several times. Fate was cutting newspaper images from The Sun with sharp scissors. I moved Zambia away to another table and thought things would quiet down, until I tried to assist Next Stop Willoughby with her math homework. Suddenly Zambia was all up in Fate's grill, pushing her in the chair next to my desk. A mob formed around them, all girls hostile to Fate. Fate is very volatile, and Fate had very sharp scissors.

As a City school teacher, I know to always know where my scissors are. I got there just as Fate stood up and brandished the scissors at Zambia's face. I got my hands on her hand and I got my fingers around the blades and I got a level-headed young man not as enthusiastic for blood as his classmates to escort Zambia out while I talked Fate down. It took me about 45 seconds to get her to release the scissors. I was practically crushing the bones in her fingers, making sure that hand had no opportunity to move.

As soon as I had the scissors I called the office and got 5-0 to escort both young ladies to the office. Zambia's parents came in a matter of minutes and I told them what was up (Zambia kept trying to alter the story, but her moms wasn't hearing none of it). Fate last I heard was suspended, but Zambia started it. I can't tolerate anyone brandishing scissors in my room but when surrounded by a bunch of hostile girls who are ready to start a beat-down, wouldn't most people do the same? I dunno.

What a fucking job.

*So far, however, their attempts to fight are rather more like the County school "fights" I remember from junior high. Kids talking a lot but unwilling to punch first. SO UNLIKE the Book where you punch first and think later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 10

A long, brutal day at work. My first and third period classes are suddenly in line--many aren't doing their work, but they're engaged and attentive to a surprising degree. I got through to them with my guilt trips and threats--or something. I never know what works. Sometimes it's just student whim, or they happen to be into whatever skill is on the pacing guide for the day (today was conflict--always popular with kids). It's like one student told me after school yesterday: "We gots to warm up to you, ya dig? Some bitches come in here all high-'n-mighty and they bullshit. We gonna wear you out and see what you made of."

Behavior was OK for the most part but I had to really lay down the law with my last class again. Yesterday Duracell threw a pen at another student and hit me in the eye. I jumped all over him and then a general magic marker fight started in class. I made the whole class write me letters of apology today, and then made them write me a persuasive essay telling me why I should continue to let them make creative projects instead of doing reading comprehension packets every day. Then I had them make me posters about bad things that can happen when classroom rules are violated.

I turn unfortunate events into language arts teaching activities. Weee!

Then I had to keep some kids for detention, and then others stayed to help re-do my bulletin boards. All they really did was make a giant mess which I cleaned up at 5:30before dragging my weary ass home. 6:30 am in the building and 5:30 heading home--ugh.

Now I'm too pooped to go to rehearsal tonight, which sucks. I like rehearsal, and we have a big gig Saturday--our first with drums since July. Our rehearsal last Friday was pretty spectacular, however, so I have every confidence we'll be on point. We have another full-band rehearsal Friday.


Here is the forecast for Saturday, November 22nd:

Cold, windy, and mostly sunny, with a 100% chance of ROCK.

Herr Lortz rejoins us to lay some thunder down on Saturday at Mick O'Shea's. 9:30 start time, $3 cover. Best deal in B'more.

Also: Dec. 5th, Seamus Trio show. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Silly Porn Stills

I found these opening stills from porno flicks rather amusing. I can't pick a favorite, but #3 is like what Vermeer would do if he were a porn director. And I have to admit that I've seen at least the first scene from whatever movie #1 is.

And don't worry--totally safe for work, except for the word "porn."

Day 9

Mr. Rickety is about 60 years old. He wears three-piece suits to school every day, and takes my homeroom/first period hoods second period for Health class. He always shakes my hand each morning. "How are you progressing Mr. G?" he asked today.

"I get about 20 minutes of teaching done each class*," was my response. He laughed.

"Sheeee-it, son. Don't overexert yourself. That's better than most. I must say you've got your homeroom somewhat under control."

I laughed at this.

I'm the only teacher on the entire 3rd floor who has a pencil sharpener in his room. Cha bought it for me from Staples, and it is "tight" as the kids would say. Of course I have a steady stream of faculty and students from other classes now coming into my room during instruction time in order to sharpen their pencils. The teacher next door to me is red-hot, and whenever she comes in I have a hard time keeping my first period boys under control. They fall apart like the wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. What a mess. I'ma buy Miss J. her own damn sharpener.

My 3rd class was so disruptive three days in a row that I broke out the guilt trip, and laid it down heavy. "How many kids in the City have a former college professor to teach them? How many? You told me on your surveys last week that you hated when teachers didn't teach you anything. I can't teach you if you won't let me." They did their work quietly. They let me read them "The Monkey's Paw" without interruption. They engaged in meaningful talk about the story afterward. I won't get my hopes up until we get through Chekov's "The Bet" later this week...(and no, I won't show them any clips from The Simpsons as a reward for good behavior. I would NEVER show a DVD to my class, "fair use" or no. We are only permitted to show approved vids available via Discovery Channel in the classroom. Anyone who gets the impression I would ever show The Simpsons to my class is misunderstanding the parodic intent of my posts. Take that, copyright trolls).

*We have 90 minute classes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 8

About 3 kids out of 27 paid attention in my 3rd period class today as I read "The Monkey's Paw" to them. The rest talked, threw stuff, played around, etc. I will do what I usually do: call houses and give them a quiz worth a lot of points tomorrow. It's not working yet but I'm still new. Management will take time. Of course if they behave themselves I'll show them the Simpsons parody version of "The Monkey's Paw."

I found out that Gwynn Falls is not actually who she said she was. Instead of being a 7th grader in my last-period class, it turns out she's an 8th grader masquerading under the name of a student who transferred to a different school but whose name still appears on my roster. I had to do some detective work when she strolled into my homeroom to flirt with one of the boys and he called her Tawana. Then her story crumpled. I had her jacked up and taken out by the school police today. They were saying "Your PO gonna love this one, Tawana" as they hauled her out kicking.

One headache down, 68 to go.

I'm waiting for a Geek Squad dude to show up--he's going to try and figure out my first problem with Vista in a year using it: suddenly I've a conflict with HP printers, and of course all four printers I use are HPs. I found some fixes online but they involve detailed registry fixes of a sort I'd rather pay an expert to do. A strange error started popping up and then during a major print job for work I had to change cartriges--after that all my printers un-installed and now a "spooler" error prevents them from working or communicating with my laptop. I'm a teacher, man--I need to print EVERY DAY. I hope he can figure it out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 8

No kids today at school. I raided a disused classroom for some good stuff: texts, a screen, a functioning PC, a book rack. I moved some shit around in my room, made some posters, did some lesson planning, and attended a two-hour meeting wherein not much was accomplished.

City school teachers are an odd lot. Many are passionate and committed to student achievement, but they don't know how to meet productively. The meetings quickly derail because instead of taking turns sharing insights or ideas, everyone starts yelling. The loudest yeller gets the floor, and so the volume quickly becomes ridiculous. Everyone yells over top everyone else. I don't thrive in such environments--it reminds me of childhood when there was always yelling and fighting and I shrink into myself. Don't get me wrong--the yelling isn't hostile, it's the modus operandi. I wish the facilitator had stepped up and put a stop to it for the sake of my eardrums and mood, but instead she participated in the yelling.

Got to go back to the Book today. Lukie called because someone sent me a package--donated books from New Jersey! A big thanks to Sharkycharming's friend for the juvie titles. Karmic re-distribution, following the theft of my Bluford titles this week.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 7

So today I punished my third period class for not paying attention to me yesterday by giving them a quiz on the stuff they didn't pay attention to. The kids who DID pay attention aced it and those who didn't said "I don't care. Get out my face."

Last period Duracell and Gwynn Falls decided to start throwing my Bluford books at each other--the ones that are left, that is, after somebody stole 47 paperbacks yesterday. As one of my four Breonnas put it today: "Them's some thievin' muthafuckas." Thank goodness they're only $1 each. I ordered five more full sets, and plan to collect a $1 from each kid who wants to borrow them from now on. Dollar returned on receipt of the book, or they can exchange for a new title.

Tomorrow is Professional Development Day. We have to work, but there are no kids. I asked if, instead of being tortured at the PD center, I could work in my classroom, and I was granted permission to do so by the Big Cheese. I am going to get so much work done. Can't wait!

Drinking tonight. And going to see some music at El Rancho Grande.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Why have I had a migrating sinus/chest/throat problem continuously since August?

My job.

Day 6

There are three rules I try to keep in mind as a City school teacher:

1) Never take it personally.

2) Never take it home with you.

3) You can't reach all the kids.

(and unofficial rule #4--don't lose your sense of humor)

I broke or forgot all three (four) of these yesterday, and had a miserable stress-filled 24 hours. I had to do a lot of breath-watching last night in order to get back to the basic truth: I cause most of my own suffering.

When I finally got my shit together I decided to have a glass of wine, and the cork was rotted out and it was my last bottle, so I never got to the wine. I had a good long chuckle over that and felt much better.

So, yesterday--I'll never speak of it again. But today was better. I was back on the horse, banging shit on the walls, rolling right up in young thuggish grills and saying "you got a problem?", calling houses, using my timer, bustin' out rhymes from Biggie's Ready to Die. I will do what I have to do to get respect. I am getting respect from about 60% of the kids now. I won't get them all, but if I can teach some I'll be happy.

I wish you all could meet Gwynn Falls, my most nuttiest 7th grader. She is way too grown for her grade, and is always talking about swallowing sperm and anal sex. I have actual children in my class--we're talking Peanuts characters with braids and beads in their hair--who have to listen to stories about butt-fucking because when I tell Gwynn to stop she flips me off; when I call her parents they say "call the police"; and when I call the police they say "if she ain't hurtin' no one, don't call us." I can't just put her out the class either. So I'm stuck--I can't compete with the ass-fucking stories. Business letter format just don't compare. In fact, if I had a choice as a seventh grader I would have rather heard about butt-fucking--in fact, if I had a choice between a business letter format conference and butt-fucking story conference as a professional development this coming Friday, I'd go to the latter, no contest. I can't compete.

But Gwynn started doing a table-dance strip tease today in last period. The police came for that. She'll be back tomorrow I'm sure.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 4

There are handfulls of kids--five in my first period and four in my last period class--that are completely off the chain. They prevent me from getting much teaching done, and are resolute in their opposition to any disciplinary system. They simply don't care if I call their houses, and they don't show up for detention, and the administrators won't suspend them because they just run the streets for a few days and still don't learn anything, which defeats the purpose of school. Of course not being able to teach the kids who want to learn also defeats the purpose of school.

So I'm working on it, and I've been in this situation before. I feel like I'm close to getting a handle on the March. I've gotten some quality work out of the last-period seventh grade class after they ran roughshod over me my first day, and some of them are hanging out with me after school to clean up and they're giving me drawings to hang on my wall.

Duracell is a kid in that last class. He's about 6'1" and 175 pounds of lean muscle. He likes to throw punches at me which barely miss to see if I'll flinch (I'm used to this from the Book). He also hides behind doors and when I open them he jumps up and says 'Boo!' really loud. I don't flinch, because I'm perpetually hyperaware in the building, looking out for airborne desks and chairs headed toward my face. Children throwing punches and jumping at me I can handle.

Today I turned my back and Duracell had little Crouton by the foot and threw him up in the air for a double back-flip (it was elegantly done but very dangerous). I gave Duracell a sound dressing-down, and then ten minutes later he was clenching Android around the neck. I saw this at the Book too this year--a new tradition called "putting somebody to sleep." It actually originated at the Book with a transfer from the East Side. Now I see it regularly. I had to pry Duracell's arms off Android who was red-eyed and blue-faced by the time I got him freed. Kids are choking people until they go out, for fun.

This shit scares me. One of these youngins is going to pull a 187 when they think they're playing. They just don't give a fuck. Students stand around laughing while it goes on, too.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Electronic Immortality

Steven Hart has been unaccountably kind to this blog for some time, and now he's granted me Bloggy Knighthood by conferring the Superior Scribbler Award.

To avoid accruing electronic chain-letter curses, I nominate in turn five superior blogs:

Seth at B12Partners Solipsism--he's turned me on to many fine films and books and CDs over the years.

Casey and crew at The Contrarian, where the topics range from spirituality and politics to music regulation lobbying and beyond!

Emily at Car Parts, Bottles, and Cutlery--she averages about a billion comments a day, and with good reason.

Steven Hart's Opinion Mill already got the nod, but his less politically focused StevenHartSite is also an excellent daily stop: a fave regular feature is his Blue Monday series.

And finally a shout-out to a blog newby who's handling his business in more ways than one: John at Sound in Motion.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Day 3

To the point now where kids are trying to lash back at my disciplinary system. I give them a verbal warning and put their names on my phone call list and they say "bitch ass mutherfucka writing my name for nuthin'." I hear a lot of "I don't care if you call my house," and then the teasing starts: the young men in my homeroom who are particularly rebellious make fun of my shoes and clothes and the way I walk and talk. I've seen and heard all this before. It's how kids react to structure when they haven't had it. One boy told me today that he made the old "honky" teacher cry. My predecessor in the position quit.

So far, however, the kids are just rowdy. They talk, they punch each other in the nards for fun, they get out of their seats and do stupid stuff. But about 80% of the goofballs get their work done too. And some of the work is rather good.

There hasn't been a fight in the building since I've been there. At the Book we had five or six fights every day just in sixth grade--and that was way down from last year. Part of this is due to the Big Cheese at the March. Unlike the Big Cheese at the Book, she is in the halls regularly, she knows the kids' names, she puts her head in classrooms at random. Good stuff. I saw her big ass frame roll up on a young punk who called her a b today--she is not an athletic woman but she had him in a crazy grip and marched him elegantly down the hall in a flash. I asked her about it later. "I have a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do" she said. "I don't play up in here."

Some of the kids are starting to drop by my room after school and ask me stuff. "Why you got Malcolm X on the wall?" or "You like Biggie?" They don't want anybody seeing them talk to me yet, but I'm making inroads. Slowly.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Day 2

Second day at the March went more smoothly, meaning we're up to the second-to-last level of Hell. I'm putting names to faces which helps with discipline--if kids know I know who they are, and I call them by name when they act a fool, they are less likely to act a fool. Except, of course, for those who don't care, which is a good percentage. They call me "honky ass" and "whitey" and "ghost." But those are a step up from yesterday's insults--these are almost affectionate by comparison. The teacher next door to me is in his third year at the March. He told me "kids ain't right on the East Side. They think different." That's what I heard at the Book from people who live East and work West.

Walking through the hall today a portly African American gentleman said "hey, I know you!" and I asked "do you know me from Booker T?" and he said "No, G--from Borders." His name is Rodney and I remembered him after he told me but I didn't recognize him at all. It has been more than a decade, after all. Smalltimore!

I used the laptop and LCD projector in all three classes. The tech guy came by and said "don't use those in class. They will destroy your stuff, or steal it, or destroy it trying to steal it." Apparently the entire computer lab on the 3rd floor was destroyed by vandals who couldn't figure out the locks on the machines, and decided to take revenge on the equipment. That's how I got my rowdy 7th grade class--they were supposed to have computer lab last period, but since there's no lab any more, they have me for "Reading," right after they have "Language Arts." Not good. I'm planning to turn the class into something else, like a special projects or business management class for little ones. Whatever I can do to keep them engaged and not hitting each other with my staplers and hole punches.

At any rate I saw kids looking in the window at my gear. There are smashed windows on other classes, and broken door locks--I'm a keep my laptop on me when i move, and my LCD locked in a cabinet. Of course if some of these youngins want my stuff they're just gonna wait for me in the parking lot.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh my lord

Got my ass handed to me today at the March. My homeroom/first period class? 8th graders. Only half of them showed up and they were nuts. Many did some work, but they ignored me outside of a fifteen minute respectful window and did whatever the hell they wanted.

Third period? Not bad. Another 8th grade class--some lunatics, but workable. About half the kids seemed interested--several asked if they could help me set up the room. The jerks in this class are at least amusing. Particularly the ones who said "You see in the paper what we do to white teachers here? We put one in the hospital last year."

My last-period class? Oh, goodness. 7th graders. Complete chaos. Vandalized my windows, my blinds, my walls, started pulling my stuff out of crates and hitting each other with it. I had no luck at all with them. Called me: cracker, redneck, McCain, mofo, bitch--everything. It's hard to discipline kids when you don't know their names. Something I will rectify by Friday.*

I need parent phone numbers badly.

*unless I quit first.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

how it feels


polls, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

For the first time i had to wait in line at Beth Am. Fortunately there were more volunteers manning the station this go-round, and things went smoothly. I was in line for about 90 minutes, and was glad to have the Times with me.

People in line were hopeful and laughing, instead of angry and scared. I feel something big is happening.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Down to the wire

Is our long national nightmare nearly over? On top of my recent professional derailment and consequent dismay, I've been obsessing about the election and watching too much cable coverage and reading too many articles. I'm going to try to stop that until tomorrow night.

The Mrs. is heading tonight to an Obama rally in Virginia. It's only 1.5 hours away, but anyone who's made that commute knows how quickly 1.5 hours between and around B'more and DC can turn into 3.5 hours. I thought about going but have decided to hunker down and chill out instead. Same goes for tomorrow. She wants to head out to a big election night party; I'd rather at this point sit and watch here at home, with maybe a couple wine-swilling effete coastal liberals to share the resulting joy or dismay.

Up early tomorrow for the polls at Beth Am synagogue a block over and a block up. Somehow I have to start lesson planning for my new job on Election Day--as soon as I find out what that job is, and what grade I'm teaching, etc.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


A friend-of-a-friend in bloggy land left a comment recommending this book ages ago. She recommended it on the strength of its sex scenes, and so of course I read it with those primarily in mind, as my appetites for literature and my appetites for the pervy run closely linked neural pathways.

I never read Smiley, and never particularly intended doing so. Ten Days in the Hills is way too long and meanders often, but the characters are interesting and only occasionally serve as preachy ideological stereotypes. I think it's a worthy portrait of a fucked-up society dying out. It kind of reminded me of an extended Donald Fagan song without the smooth production values.

Oh, and the sex scenes are ok.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Last Day

My last day at the Book, where the teachers have the finest booties and the kids are most loony. I'll miss it to death, unless the March over East-side is better.*

My kids were HELLISH today. I bought them cake and snacks and juice and they were nothing but jerks--until I decided to tell them the story of why we sold our last house. I said "If you quiet down and take your seats I'll tell you a real ghost story," and they were the most silent and attentive I'd ever seen. I told them the entire story from start to finish. The kids were enthralled. One gang-bangin' corner boy got up and said "I can't listen to this" when I told them about a disembodied voice whispering in Cha's ear. He said he was going to have nightmares. Then I asked the kids to tell me their own scary stories and I got some good ones.

*What school anywhere else is named after a funeral director? Awesome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One day left

I just don't get it. "Don't interrupt instruction time, and don't send any signals to the students," the higher-ups say about our transfers.

And then they require us to dismantle our rooms, turn in our keys and books, and have our bulletin boards cleaned off THREE DAYS IN ADVANCE. I can't do any instruction without books.

So this morning I have nothing on my walls and the kids come into class. All the furniture except their desks is stacked in the corner. The bookcases are empty. I'd assumed they'd be fine, given they've known I was leaving for at least a week. I tried to have the room dark and I was showing Looney Tunes on my LCD projector when the kids entered--didn't help. They saw the grim, blank walls and the waterworks started. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make today a very tough day.

TeeVee Wonder--a huge kid who worries me to death with his diabetes and lack of fitness--came into my second period class and saw the walls. "I'm going into the corner and cry," he said. I thought he was joking, but he did what he said he was going to do. His mom always tells me how much TeeVee adores my class. I fought to get him out of the lunatic fringe last period and into the more stable homeroom he now inhabits. "I have twelve dollars," he sobbed. "Can I get you a present?" I told him to save his money. "It ain't mine-it's my mu-mu-muther's. I'ma bu-bu-buy youse something nice."

Going to fetch my mail at lunch a line of youngins follows me. They're hanging on my sweater, tugging my jeans, pulling on my arms. Ms. Q the counselor says "You look like a mommy duck today."

One more day at the Book. I dropped a g-stack on cupcakes and juice and snacks. We're having a Halloween/farewell party tomorrow. I hope I can get through.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mistakes New Teachers Make, II

A hellish day. Misbehavior continuous, fighting in the halls, rude and disrespectful students cussing out teachers. Boys punching girls, girls stabbing boys with pencils, hall sweeps, etc.

Then my last period class came in. Immediately the new kid Dudley Dowrong who starts fights every days started a fight. I thought he'd be gone this week when he choked another student unconscious in my class on Friday--Ms. R said "He's suspended for putting his hands on another kid." But then Monday he was back and Ms. R said "We don't suspend kids because that's what they want us to do and they don't learn." Of course this translates to: "We're losing funding for suspending too many kids so you have to deal with him."

So I call the office and say "Guess what? Dudley Dowrong is starting a fight. I need security up in here to take him out." I've taken him out myself before but he told me his father was going to kick my ass last time, so now I call the big dogs. Ms. R said over the interome "Dudley come to the office." Dudley sat down and threw somebody else's papers on the floor. I called the office again. Mr. Lineman and Mr. Safety came and jacked him up against the wall. Then Ms R came in and said "leave him here. I'm staying." She was in class for a while and then left, taking Dudley with her. Immediately Chastity jumped up and started kicking Shonuff in the legs. "He poked a paper airplane on my private parts!" she screamed when I got between them, and then she stormed off to the main office. I prevented Shonuff from following. Meanwhile the commotion had liberated Miss October to poke Claymore in the arm with her pencil, drawing blood. He punched her in the ribs. Then Zinc went nuts and threw pencil sharpener shavings onto Felice Navidad. I announced to the class that I was cancelling our Friday party for my last day because they were getting on my nerves. Some of them sat down.

Then Officer Black came in and started questioning me about Shonuff. Chastity asked "Can I hold your phone?" and without thinking I gave it to her. Then Miss October and Lexus pushed Rodney over a chair and he banged his head on the floor. Rodney was the one choked by Dudley last week. Rodney got up and tried to bang Miss October in the face but I got between them. Of course I can't block more than one fight so Claymore punched Miss October in the kidney.

The main office called me down for a meeting after last period. I got reamed for giving my cell phone to a student. She called her father and told what Shonuff had done and the concern was that he was going to come up to the Book and start trouble. I should have known better--I had parents and cousins and older siblings trying to come in my eighth grade class last year to bang kids who'd done something to theirs, and here I'd allowed a student to use my cell without thinking. I admitted that I lost my cool and that I was in a situation I could no longer control. I said "I'm willing to take the consequences for my actions." They said "You've made a valiant effort here. We still wish we could keep you. But don't EVER give your phone to a child." I said OK. Then I came home and drank bourbon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cat is Out of the Bag

Some of my students started asking me last Tuesday if I was going somewhere. When they asked me I told them that I was possibly leaving, that I was on a list of teachers who might move. Then Wednesday I was asked by my entire last period class so I came clean and told them that I was likely to get transferred but I didn't know. Now they're all asking me every day because they've heard teachers talking and administrators talking and so the cat is officially out of the bag--when they ask I refuse to lie to them.

My second period class and fourth period class knew last week but I didn't tell my homeroom kids/first period class because I couldn't face them. But they've heard, and many of them came to me rather sad after school today. It breaks my heart. They're asking if they can hang out in my room with me after school, if they can clean up, if they can bring me gifts, etc. For the first time this year I'm rushing out of the building right at 3 because I can't take it. Most of the kids are so cute and small and they wear their emotions pinned on their jackets like mittens. It makes me too sad to be around them.

I'm slowly loading all my books and gear into milk crates and stuffing them into my car. It's a big job setting up a room and a big job tearing one down. Having to do that once per year is enough, and I'ma have to do each twice. I'm trying to decide on my approach for next week at The March. I told Ms. R the hard-core Administrator where I was going today and she blanched. "Them East Siders think different. You best know how to approach them. They resort to violence much more quickly." I'm getting my first-day strategy together already. Going into a classroom where no instruction has happened all year and there's been no accountability is going to be a treat. It's going to take me time to set boundaries and expectations, and I'm going to have to be diplomatic and flexible. At the Book I was tough and inflexible at the get-go and showed increasing warmth and flexibility as we went. I think on the East Side I'ma do the reverse. I'm going to invite the students into the process as much as possible, asking what they need in order to feel safe and to get their learning done, and what kind of decor they want on the walls, etc. Then we move from there into "getting to know each other" activities. I won't get teaching done for at least a couple weeks.

I'll have no time to set up my classroom until after the first day there--I'll have to work in the evenings to do it. Fucking bullshit.