Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the past week

in a past life, i was an occasional scribbler on palmer and clowe's active guy blog. staying active is more fun that sitting on the couch and being lazy. problem is it makes me tired. i just have to face the facts.

i'm getting old.

there, i said it. damn all you friends that have been saying it for years! yes, i know i have little hair left and my joints pop and creak when i climb or run. the last seven days have proven to me that i can't be frenetically active day after day without crashing. burning my candle at both ends was much easier at the other end of my twenties.

it all started last tuesday. climbed at the gym. pretty good day. next day, hit the road in my worn out running shoes and ran about 3 miles. i think. i can't figure out distance around here, i'm guessing based on time. thursday, back at the gym. finally sent a V6 project. left feeling pretty good, but tired. friday, running again, less distance probably, but same amount of time. saturday morning, up with the rooster's crow to get some real stone beneath my fingers. tack on what amounted to a 6 mile round trip approach hike with crash pad, and i was pretty wiped out by saturday night. instead of taking off the sabbath, i decided to hike the same section of the billy goat trail with her. two hours later, smelling like roses, head home. monday night, back at the gym. projecting a V7 now. i pieced it.

last night, benadryl aside, i finally crashed. i should've gone running, but i didn't make it. tonight, the gym is calling and we'll see how the extra sleep last night and the day off helped me. listen close, you might hear my cheer or my fall from grace...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"I'm making it look mean!"

netflix delivered a broken dvd for last night's movie night. seems they don't want me to watch any more tom hanks flicks. in our 80s movie blitz, we've managed two out of four excellent 80s tom hanks laughers.

"Well, I like you, and I want to spend the night with you."
"Do you mean sleep over?"
"Well, yeah."
"OK... but I get to be on top."

"Not that I'm complaining, but I usually don't like my filth this clean!"

last night was supposed to be number three.

"I don't understand. All my life I've been waiting for someone and when I find her, she's... she's a fish."

and the disc was broken. d'oh.

we settled for some horrible looking brothers playing old-time hockey like eddie shore and one of the funniest scenes EVER in a sports movie

Sunday, April 27, 2008

wrong again...

fifty percent chance of rain. doesn't mean that there's a fifty percent chance it will, it means that on fifty percent of the days that conditions were like this, it rained. i'm not too sure about the distinction, but it seems to me that it removes the looking forward part of the forecast. makes it seem like all meteorologists do is look to the past to make their "predictions". they may as well use a magic 8 ball.

anyhow, after a winter of predicted snows that never came, i guess i shouldn't be surprised that the predicted rainy nasty weekend we were supposed to have never came. yesterday, i got up with the rooster's call to climb some rocks. it turned into a six-mile hike with a crash pad on, peppered with some bouldering. 80s, blue skies, no rains until after the baseball game last night. it was supposed to hit mid-afternoon.

radar this morning looked no better, but i wanted to see that trail without a twin mattress strapped to my back. scenery was beautiful, and i had the time to stop and enjoy the view (and me without my camera!). today was overcast, cooler temps, less fellow hikers. the trail had dried out in some places and muddied up in others. three points of contact scrambling. rock-hopping on the high banks of the potomac canal. i want to make a point of hitting this trail at least once a month from now on. it's good for the soul.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

frozen custard and wine

two new vices found down the street from one another on church street in vienna.

vice number one. frozen custard. for the uninitiated, frozen custard is like ice cream. i believe it has egg in it, hence the custard name. it is the richest, creamiest, most marvelous version of ice cream you will ever put in your mouth. i was going to be bland and get cookies and cream. then the counter people let us try the pistachio. heaven. chocolate shelled. heaven squared.

fat and happy from custard, we discover vice number two. church street cellars. think stubbie's, but wine and self-serve. they had these bad ass wine dispenser coolers. run a tab with a card, try a whole bunch of different wines. this is the most brilliant idea for a wine bar that i've ever heard of. no talking to snooty sommeliers about the hidden flavors of currants and kiwis. bottles bottles everywhere to buy when you find one that you really like, from that $10 bottle to the $155 bottle.

next visitors to the district, we will be winos and eat custard, ok?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

better than expected

following two or three great night's rest, i was beginning to feel a lot better. allergies kicking a little bit, but not to the extent that others are feeling it. after an evening chat with mercy, i'm back to what normal has been. happy go lucky, go with the flow. i'm deflecting the questions about whether or not i requested my move to third grade (i did) with a shoulder shrug, and "i'm flexible." the teammates are still upset, understandably after they have to "train" a new teacher each year. a comment that i find rather insulting, but i'm past that. on my afterschool run yesterday, i decided that i'm just going to keep trying to surround myself with positivity and ignore the negativity. will that make me seem aloof at work? perhaps, but complaining about shit doesn't fix it. do something to make yourself happy. if you don't like where you're at, change it. that seems to be the new theme in my life.

my personal life is great. nothing big doing this week. movies and such, just relaxing on the couch with her. long talks about nothing in particular. mercy commented that i seem to be a lot happier these days, in both my writings and when she talks to me. she said she's never known be to be this happy with anyone, and she's known me since grad school.

last week's stress lingering in my mind, i did have a fitful night's sleep last night. the rest this week helped ease me into the day. the second conference about the same student with the same mother went remarkably better. everyone was calmer, and we were able to discuss the other options for next year. everything's in motion now, hopefully we can get this child some much-needed help beyond what she's already getting. i don't like the feeling that i could irrevocably screw up a child's life with a wrong decision, but i do take solace in the fact that there is a lot more wisdom and experience backing me up and helping me along. i'll get through this stress, with a little help from my loved ones. thanks for listening, y'all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


in the workplace, when you've been asked not to talk about something, why is it that someone invariably keeps asking about it? yesterday, i got an email about meeting with administration about switching grade levels for next year. they wanted me to loop up to third grade. i won't be truly looping, since i doubt that i'll get my entire class again. that'd be far too much time with some of them (and not enough for others!) i was asked also to not discuss the move with anyone until letters came out to everyone with their tentative grade level assignments today. no problem. since i agreed to that, i feel like i've lied to at least five coworkers when they've asked if i got an email or had a meeting. the cat's out of the bag now, the letters are out, and i have to deal with the rumor outbreak and emotional mess it might cause with my current grade level. it feels almost deceptive, and there really was no way for me to respond to their questions without at the very least admitting that i'd had a meeting, which not everyone had! grrr...

where do professionalism and personalism intersect in the workplace? moreso in a school, i feel the line between the two gets blurred often and readily as most of the people who go into teaching tend to be cut from the same mold. with that much in common, it's easy to become friends with coworkers, even if we don't interact too much outside of school. i have a hard time dealing with these personal relationships as i don't have a whole lot in common with too many teachers at my school. i never have. sure, we have similar interests here and there, but middle-aged married/divorced mothers aren't in my usual entourage. it explains why i've sought out the younger teachers or the few men at this school as friends, or why i always befriended the interns in florida.

Monday, April 21, 2008

rained out

yesterday was the green apple music festival. eight cities had festivals. seven cities had marvelous weather; unfortunately, D.C. was not one of them. getting off the metro with the sun peeking through the clouds, i had high hopes that the meteorologists were wrong again after a winter of predicted snows that rarely came. turns out rain isn't as fickle. by the time she and i got situated, the rains returned. by the time a friend joined us, the skies absolutely opened up on us. think the exact opposite of the drought that bonnaroo subjected me to.

same fans, same music, same smell wafting through the air. within minutes, same dealers peddling their wares in their same whisper, "rolls. doses."

rain turned my soft shell into a very heavy weight on my back that still isn't dry. had it been warmer, i wouldn't have cared as much. it might've been even more fun, playing in the mud, amongst hippies and pretenders alike. one troupe of concertgoers had the right idea. they pitched a tent in the middle of the mall. my guess is that they had other ideas in mind for the tent besides staying dry in the rain.

hypothermia creeping in with blue fingertips and purpling lips, we called it a day after a few hours. heard the traces of one band. the roots never made it on stage, nor did thievery corporation or gov't mule. so at least i didn't miss that awesomeness...

next year, set for april 19th. we'll be better prepared...

Friday, April 18, 2008


bleary-eyed and tired from restless sleep and allergies, i wasn't quite myself yesterday. the question i get from a work friend, "do you smoke marijuana, mr. j?"

not last time i checked. last time i was accused of being high, same deal, tired, walking around in a fog.

there's got to be a rainy day on a weekend to let me relax soon...

Thursday, April 17, 2008


this morning was one of the most stressful conferences i've ever had. i don't suppose i'll understand how it feels to get negative feedback about my child's progress until i have one of my own. karma tells me that mine'll be full of piss and vinegar like i was, but there's enough adderall and ritalin in the water supply to settle things down. hopefully, it doesn't take nearly as long for my offspring to move from outcasts to outgoing. i'm wiped out emotionally from the conference, as her mother fought back tears of frustration at me, at school, about what to do. i'm drained and it's not even my child.

42 days left. seems so far away. this year will be far different than years past in that i won't have to say goodbye to this class. they'll all be at the same school for the next four years with me. hopefully the senioritis of second grade won't set in. now the real stress of the year begins. work creeping into my dreams. normal destressors having no effect. i don't feel any relief from climbing, running, moving. i'm just as tired when i wake up as when i went to bed. i hate this part of year. don't let me dwell on it outside of work, ok?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

get a grip!

kids play. kids get hurt. kids cry. kids are made of rubber. kids bounce. kids heal. raise your hand if you don't get that. no one? that's what i thought.

see here. [right click it, open in new window or new tab so you can come back to me] back? good.

first an old story. my first year teaching, the kids played tag pretty much every day. they weren't overly rough with one another, but they were fast. those days when i'd join in (when there were no other classes on the playground), they'd either wear me out quickly or cut and juke and jive like a rabbit. one day, they were playing as usual. they were running in between the trees, which was generally a no-no for obvious reasons, but there were no classes but mine and nothing bad had happened...yet. it wasn't the whole class playing, so i wasn't too worried. cody was doing his best to evade being tagged, looking back at whoever was it. full-speed, full contact, stopped dead in his tracks by a longleaf pine. he toppled over. he remained conscious, but he was out for another day or two. honestly, his mother didn't say so, but i wouldn't be surprised if he had a concussion. gentlemen, if you saw joe theissman, you can remember it vividly. that kind of clarity of memory.

did i outlaw tag? no. i kept on them to follow the rules of staying in the open field. were there any more incidents? no. did his mother sue the school or me? no. she had a firm grip on reality. kids play hard. kids hurt, but they also heal. 'round here, that sensibility seems to be lacking. when my kids play tag here, they're up and down and all around the playground equipment. have any of them gotten hurt? no. why not? first of all, dogpile is ridiculous. any teacher with half a brain (and yes, we all have twice that) can figure out that dogpile is a bad idea. moreover, he/she can convey that to the class. play too rough, you're on the fence. someone's bleeding, they go to the clinic. it doesn't happen too often, but i'll admit it does. technically, they're not supposed to run inside the fence where all the equipment is, but then they're not really being active. recess could be better spent in the safety of our classroom playing sedentary games like hot potato or heads up, seven up. i'd rather assume those risks than have an obese class!

no, it's not as safe as sitting on the couch, but life's too short to be spent watching tv or playing video games. the world isn't bubble wrapped. our schools shouldn't be either...

Monday, April 14, 2008

cultural clarity

from whence i came, my coworkers were all very friendly. my mothering hens, our unofficial men's club, the interns that became my friends by the simple proximity of our ages and our interests. i still maintain (or attempt to maintain) contact with a handful of the interns that came through our little school in my time there. outside of school, their varied interests in college football and live music and boisterous barrooms lined right up with my very same interests! my mothers always looked out for me, and to some extent they still do. i know when they get to meet the macaroni to my cheese, they're going to love her. how could they not?

i digress. our men's club also worked together in a very woman-dominated school. i was the lone classroom teacher representative. we had a music teacher representative, the expectedly male p.e. coach, and one administrator. add to the mix our awesome custodial crew, and the seven of us could often be found on monday afternoons playing armchair quarterback after the kids left. yes, our female colleagues were also as knowledgeable and could hold their own in these conversations, but we men were the constant. the women varied.

i sometimes wonder why that cameraderie isn't quite there at my new school. she and i were discussing perceptions and stereotypes and how our own experiences shape and color (no pun intended) our interactions from a very young age. suddenly it clicked. the culture that some of these very same men come from colors their perceptions of work, and their interactions with we teachers. our head custodian is korean, and i finally figured out that his cultural perceptions of work dictate less personal communication and a seemingly stronger work ethic. [note the time: yes, i am writing at work! the kids are gone, i'm leaving as soon as i finish, but still...] the building supervisor is a loquacious salvadoran man. he always has a big smile on his face, always willing to have a short conversation with a teacher when he comes into their classroom. again, to what extent does his culture play a role? is it merely personality, or is it more of how he was socialized? on the surface, it would seem that an older black woman would have little to talk about with me. however, my conversations with her are filled with laughter and joking and good-natured kidding. is it that talking with her reminds me of those friends i left behind, that she has more of a southern, slow-talking mentality? a reminder of the fictive kin i formed in alachua?

unexpected beauty

springtime around here has a wholly different aesthetic vibe than that down south. i don't know if i didn't notice them in florida or what, but it seems to me there are far more flowers in bloom up here in the springtime. the only way i noticed springtime in florida was the need to use air conditioning to avoid sweltering. i enjoyed the return of beach weather, for sure, but being so far from one here, i can't say i miss that. summertime comes, i'll be outside in the sunshine regardless, and it may even be more tolerable.

the flowers are eye-poppingly beautiful. tulips in vivid reds, pinks and oranges. daffodils in sunshine yellows. cherry blossoms in pure white. even the dandelions look amazing. coreopsis in florida, while varied in color and pretty hardy condidering what it puts up with can't quite compete with the flowers growing alongside the railroad tracks and in median strips. there's a few places i want to shutterbug, but for fear of bodily harm and mutilation by train or speeding commuter, i'll refrain.

wake up and smell the roses has a more visual aspect to it than i knew. sure, the fragrant blooms make themselves known as well, but their overpowering colors take the cake. keep an eye out for new photos when i figure out how to capture what i've composed in my head. those diamonds in the rough. the beautiful things i'm beginning to see in not-so-beautiful places. i kinda feel like ricky fitts from american beauty,
It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

big family

this summer, there was a family reunion of epic proportions. think charter bus-sized. the italian cousins on my mom's side of the family gathered for the biggest reunion yet. fifty or so of us, many of whom we barely knew, but apparently had a lot in common with. i can count on one hand the number of times i remember all of my grandmother's brood being in one place at the same time. all the grandkids, aunts and uncles, and that only makes 15 of us...

back to the reunion at hand. it felt like rush week more or less. meet and greet the cousins i'd either never met, or seen so rarely that they seemed more like strangers than family. by the end of the weekend, renewed vows, especially from the 30ish and under crowd, to reunite more often. the after dark bonding over flying solo cups and early morning headaches proved how alike we all were!

to our defense, i think we've done a better job this year than many past. i'm not so sure the big family gathering that came together this weekend for shila's performance would have happened if it weren't for the reunion this summer. her immediate family, sure. her aunt and cousin, sure. the new york contingent? doubtful. the philly contingent? doubtful. me? doubly doubtful.

a lot has changed in the last year. the family is closer. i understand my italian family tree better. my extended family is nearer, though my parents are considerably further away. it's much harder to visit home on a whim. that four hour drive now results in family that may well have been strangers to me twelve months ago. i'd like to blame it wholly on the reunion in ebensburg, but something else is at play here. the new adventurous attitude i struck out to nurture in myself at the beginning of '07 has taken root.

i thought i was leaving home when i left gainesville. turns out going big results in carving out a new home. i'm still working on it, slowly but surely...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

big food

foodies tell me that new york is a food lover's paradise. in fact, in the book 1,000 places to see before you die, there are several entries about new york's restaurants. not being one to doubt a book that i actually own, food was the priority as far as we were concerned. we mapped out the places we were going to eat and decided what other sights we were checking out based on that. no street dogs or pretzels here, though it would've been much cheaper no doubt.

stop one, joe's shanghai restaurant in uppper manhattan, home of the soup dumpling. soup dumpling, you ask? yes, soup dumpling. as in a dumpling that has soup in it. pork or crab, these were not to be missed. step one, carefully lift the dumpling into your spoon. step two, nibble a hole in the dumpling. step three, carefully sip the broth out of the dumpling after letting the steam escape. step four, eat the rest of it. marvelous. my search for these in the district has begun.

after the met, stop two was a cupcake bakery for a late-afternoon sweet treat. apparently, new york has quite a few shops that specialize in cupcakes. since i'm dating my very own betty crocker, she wanted to check out the competition and see what she's up against if she veers from her current career path. buttercup bake shop was a tiny little place, curtains and a simple glass case. she had the red velvet cupcake and wasn't impressed. not traditional in her eyes. i had a chocolate cupcake with marshmallow frosting. frosting was good, cupcake so-so. hers are better.

stop three immediately thereafter was a trendy joint in chelsea called the spice market. appetizers and drinks before the show. i think i might've enjoyed it more had there been some milder choices for her, and i'd actually been able to enjoy the conversations above the din of the restaurant and had normal seating. probably good for a small group, but not sixteen boisterous italians.

stop four followed the show. shila used to work there. no lie, it was called good. a misnomer, it was. better than good, but not quite great. broad range of dishes, diner-style seating arrangement. i had a pork chop with sweet potato homefries and bacon and pecans. very tasty. no one had a complaint about their meal, except for maybe portion size being overgenerous. go figure!

final stop was a nyc deli on sunday. carnegie deli had a line out the door, so that landmark will have to wait. fortunately, within sight was the stage deli. open for 70+ years, we figured it was a good bet too. sandwiches as big as your head. not being one for pastrami or corned beef, i opted for the howie mandel triple decker. chicken salad with a hard boiled egg. [bald joke?] i destroyed it. the turkey sandwich defeated her, i polished it off for lunch yesterday. the tiger woods reuben defeated max too. poor guy. the nyc cheesecake was six inches thick. i quickly protested that we asked for one slice, which prompted nearby tables to look and gasp at the size. that came home in a bag too.

so ended our gastronomic tour of the big apple. we quickly rolled out and were back in the district in the right amount of time. no need for dinner that night. salad last night. it's just not the same...

Monday, April 7, 2008

big culture

the first of three installments recounting this weekend's journey to the big apple. the big city culture aspect of the trip was great. on saturday, when she and i got off the train at grand central station, we took a big walk to the metropolitan museum of art. as with the larger art museums i've been to, the grand scale of the building awed me immediately. the entrance foyer with its high domed ceiling and columns and elaborate floors set the tone for what turned out to be a pretty awesome whirlwind tour.

she and i wound through the egyptian exhibits, getting lost in its labyrinthine display cases and larger-than-life artifacts in our search for the stairs down to the first exhibit she wanted to see, a constantly changing fashion exhibit recommended by my cousin. being the fashion maven in this relationship, she was not disappointed. visually, i enjoyed the exhibit, but the history was lost on me. she related it to a book she'd just read, the other bolyn girl, and its mention of the women in the queen's court who were charged with keeping conversation going and looking pretty. few men's clothes were found in this part of the exhibit. i did recognize some of the designer names, but they were the couture designs that you often only see on fashion runways.

following that exhibit, i found myself disappointed with the scale of the photography collection. it was part of a larger group of prints and drawings, but after seeing the annie liebowitz and ansel adams exhibits at the corcoran in d.c., i was a little tired of typical landscape photos. there were a total of five prints that didn't fall into that category. one held my interest for a few minutes, a gruesome shot of a head in a cake box crime scene. it had an interesting vantage point and disinterested expressions on the faces of the police detectives working the case.

we quickly found ourselves searching for something different, winding up with the europeans. picasso, van gogh, seurat, matisse, and others practically wallpapered several rooms in the collection. it was breathtaking to see the pointillism up close and personal. the tour guides filtering through were both insightful and annoying with their basic observational instructions for their groups. their tones echoed in the large space, and the hipster/scenester kids in the groups added to the already loud din with bad acoustics. we tried our best, but had trouble outrunning them until we stumbled downstairs through modern art to the american classics.

never seeing georgia o'keefe up close and personal before, i really dug her immense detail and bold colors. the depth of field of her canvases were almost three dimensional. people watching while breathing in the beauty gave a few chuckles with the cast of characters stumbling around us. the disinterested old man and his flitting wife. the french tourists. the asian dancers. everyone with their cameras trying to take pictures on the sly of the works, while i tried to capture their reactions to said works as they shuffled past.

labyrinthing out, it took far longer than expected. on a brighter note, we did happen past some very bright rooms and heavy armor in the medieval exhibits.

after drinks and appetizers later on, we caught my cousin's performance in chelsea at the small joyce theater. i had not a clue what i was going to see. modern dance meant nothing more to me than ballet, much as a non-teacher wouldn't see the distinction between whole language versus phonemic reading instruction. what i got was a visual spectacle that i absolutely loved. from my sixth row seat in the 500-or-so seat theater, i barely blinked throughout the whole performance. there were three distinct pieces, each with different costumes and feel. modern dance, i came to realize is quite an expression of fluid movement. i appreciated it for that element, much in the same way that i enjoy watching great climbers style their way up routes or tough boulder problems. unlike climbing however, i have no basis to mimic any of the movements, except for what i recognized as strong body control and awareness of movement from practice in yoga. the feet of the dancers made nary a sound as they leapt and stomped and effortlessly glided through the performance. the first piece was my favorite. it was a comical take on a guy picking up a girl on the beach. the background beats were french hip hop with lyrics of, "je ne sais pas porquoi." the next two pieces were equally as pleasing, though i have a little more difficulty explaining what i saw. if i had to guess, this modern dance thing had elements of ballet, yoga, pilates, kickboxing, hip hop, belly dancing, break dancing, and various other lava lamp fluidity and flow. [check out what the new york times thought of it.]

all in all, i feel quite a bit more cultured. perhaps i'll see some more dance somewhere around here...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

not many bigger...

going big is what this weekend will be all about.

big city new york. not too many bigger. fourth largest in the world, behind tokyo, mexico city, and sao paolo.

big sandwiches. i hear that the carnegie deli serves the biggest sandwiches i've ever seen. a pound of meat on them. i should be surprised if i can eat the whole thing. they did something wrong if i can. we'll see. i have put down an entire 12 inch laspada's sub before. you south floridians know how big and heavy they are!

big family. fourteen of my cousins will be there. we're staying with five of them, one of them is dancing, six of them coming from florida, two from philly.

big milestone. well, for me anyhow. six months. the time's just flown by, filled with big memories and big words and big smiles.

big pictures and stories to follow.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

r.i.p. jamis explorer mtb

Born to a loving home in 1993, Jamis was a simple bike, lacking the newfangled accoutrements such as front suspension or a lighter alloy frame. Her life was calm, traipsing around suburban streets to and from middle school. Tragedy struck first in 1995, when her front tire hit a patch of gravel while setting out on a normal school day. Her frame survived with minor injuries, though the occupant landed chin first, leaving the scar now concealed by facial hair. From then on, her use was limited, as her companion was distrustful of her stability. In 1997, she moved to hilly Gainesville, where the possibility of working her 18 gears was a possibility. Alas, it wasn't to be, as a nagging dérailleur injury kept her out of the big leagues. Bike pedals soon gave way to leather sandals and messenger bags.

She fell into disrepair over the next 10 years, battling alcoholism and a nasty addiction to aerosol lubricants. She moved on with her life, relocating to Arlington just this year. She got back in shape, and soon came out of retirement, returning to regular duty as an occasional grocery getter and library evening tripper. Her vigor for life seemed to have returned.

On March 30, she rode proudly in her longest trek, a 16-miler over the Washington & Old Dominion Rail Trail through Fairfax County and entering Loudoun. While resting on her haunches after her voyage, she was ripped cruelly from this world, likely by some suburban punk leaving soccer practice at Oakton H.S.