I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Stagnation.

I've had this blog forever.

Or a really long time, at least.

But I'm stagnating. I don't want to write long posts, because no one will get through them all. But I don't love my shortpost materials. I can't get myself into that "zone" that I get into when I'm writing something really long, but really get into it.

And as I'm digging into "Magical Thinking" by Augusten Burroughs, (I'm about to have read all of his books, and he just came out with one {which I've already read} and then I'll have nothing more to read until Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris come out with some more books...) I think, "Mother fuck. I want to write like that." And I would have thought that this blog would help me hone my style...

But it's not, really.

Anyone that knows me well knows that my life's aspiration is to be a creative non-fiction writer. I want to write for the New York Times travel section or write feature articles for GQ.

I know I can write well. Especially creative non-fiction. In college, I wrote a kick ass piece for my creative non-fiction class about watching my grandmother die. My professor asked if he could use in later years as an example of great work.

I guess I should try a little more to focus my writing style.

"The Fart"

'Flights' was the smart kids' textbook. My family had just moved to Columbia, from Baltimore, and originally I was placed in Ms. Y's class in "Adventurers." In Columbia, you didn't go to Third Grade. You were an "Adventurer." There were the Explorers, Trailblazers, Adventurers, '49ers and the '76ers. Then there were the Pioneers. That was the pod for the retards. Like Retarded John. And spaghetti-sauce face Chris. And cokebottle glasses Tiffany. And that mean bitch Chrissy. They were the Pioneers.

That was another thing. Pods. I wasn't in Room 208, Ms. Y's third-grade (ahem, Adventurer) class. I was in Ms. Y's Corner of the Pod. I went third through 10th grade in "Pods," a concept in line with the 70s vision of a Utopian "City on a Hill" that was Columbia.

A pod was a gigantic room without walls. A room the size of four classrooms on the periphery, with an open assembly area and a bathroom in the middle. And a desk for Mrs. Van Duesen, our Pod Administrator. (She handed out lunch tickets.) Walls were made of 5-foot-high rolling cabinets full of supplies. You could simultaneously hear four classes going on at once.

I started off in Ms. Y's class in the darkest corner of the pod - the one with absolutely no windows (School built during energy crisis of 1972. No windows.), the room that got really dark during filmstrips, because there was actually a cinderblock wall built between Ms. Y's area and Mrs. B's area. I found this exceedingly comforting. Cozy.

Ms. Y. was a tall, thin, sharp woman, that reminded me of the angled glass tube from my chemistry set. Her Andy-Warhol-yellow hair and Andy-Warhol-colored makeup sharpened her birdlike features. She rarely smiled. She probably had a hysterectomy. I imagined her going home from work every night, unzipping her pale-yellow pencil skirt, and taking a massive dump in a green toilet. Then, I figured she'd plod over the moss-green shag carpet to the small galley kitchen with a Goldenrod colored refrigerator and faux-walnut cabinets and flourescent lights, and make herself a can of tuna fish, which she would eat on a cafe-au-lait colored plate with yellow 70s flowers on it, in her bamboo-and-bentwood furnitured living room, full of houseplants and a bitter 11-year-old cat named Missy. Afterwards, she'd light up a Virginia Slim, before flicking on Dallas and spending the rest of the evening catatonic staring at the TV...missing her uterus.

Apparently, Ms. Y's class wasn't for the brightest bulbs in the box. It was for the "normal" kids. So, after I proved my academic mettle, three weeks into the school year, my parents sat me down one night at our kitchen table in our huuuuuuuuge new house that still had the sweet smell of fresh plywood and new paint and told me that I would be switching to Mrs. C's class. Mrs. C's class used the book for the smart kids. I was too smart to be in Mrs. Y's class, and so Mrs. Y had suggested that I switch to Mrs. C's class.

I protested. I liked my dark corner. And I was even getting attached to my frigid, bitter teacher. After much crying and fretting, it was agreed that I would try Mrs. C's class, and if I was truly miserable there (a mere fifty feet away) I could come back to Ms. Y's class.

B.J. was in the same boat as I was in Ms. Y's class. I was smitten with B.J.; in love with him from the moment I laid eyes on him. He was Aryan perfection. Blonde hair, blue eyes, cute button nose. He was adorable. He was soooo cool. He knew how to make fun of people using "cut downs" a concept I had never heard of! He gelled his hair and he wore Bugle Boys, that he rolled tightly around his ankles, and a white turtleneck under a button-down shirt! I had never seen that before! These strange children in Columbia, with their cool clothes...and me in my dungarees with the three-inch cuffs...

B.J. and I both had to switch to Mrs. C's class, because we weren't "normal" and "dumb" like the rest of the kids in Ms. Y's class. And switch, we did one morning. Even though I was scared to switch, I was brave. I didn't cry. Not like B.J.

B.J. and I sat together at the cluster of four desks pushed together, near the middle of the pod, farthest from the chalkboard. B.J. and I stuck together because we were the only familiar faces in this strange new world of Mrs. C's class... full of snobby, prissy smart girls with curly brown hair (Hi, Kara!), and their sweatshirts with mirrors puff-painted to them.

Also at our cluster of desks was Jared, who I also developed a small crush on, despite the fact that he had scoliosis and had to wear a back brace. Jared gave B.J. tissues, so he could blow his nose. B.J. cried for the first half hour of that grey September morning in 1988.

Within a day, we had assimilated into Mrs. C's class, and into "Flights!" our textbook.

Mrs. C was a short plump woman, with loosely curly salt and pepper gray hair that came down to her shoulders. She had deep-set dark eyes, with dark circles beneath them. While Ms. Y was all angles and yellows, Mrs. C was all pillowy grey Italian curves. Her voice was as smooth as a hard-boiled egg wrapped in satin. I imagined she went home to her 1950s Dormered Colonial in Dunloggin, with white clapboard siding and night-blue shutters, and a garage with night-blue colored doors in the style of carriagehouse doors, and unloaded groceries for her family out of the back of a gunmetal silver Volvo, and into the glass-and-clapboard mud-room corridor that connected the garage to the main house...

When the Flights group had reading, the rest of the class would quietly work on something else. Chad would stick pencils in his ears, because Chad was about two steps from being in the Pioneers. Matt C. (not S.) would cause trouble, and then get his name on the board with a warning, and then a check, and then he would cry silently, with big fat tears rolling down his face. Crystal P. would twirl her crimped hair.

Kara, B.J., Erica, Me, Beth, Olisa, and others whose names and faces have vanished from my memory would sit on the floor in front of Mrs. C., as she would read to us from Flights and we followed along.

Mrs. C. would sit on a Lime-green, vinyl upholstered chair to read to us. She would sit in her black polyester slacks... on the vinyl chair. And read to us. While sitting on a faux-leather and foam chair. In polyester.

She shouldn't have thought she could get away with it.

(TUNE IN TOMORROW NIGHT FOR PART II, THE CONCLUSION OF THIS POST)

4 Comments:

Blogger JB said...

You've got style, superbee. Can definitely relate to your story. Except my reading group dates back to kindergarten, where the smart kids read out of "One Potato Two" and the not-so-smart kids read out of "Animal Crackers." (I was in One Potato Two, thank you very much).

12:01 AM

 
Blogger original anonymous said...

Believe this or not, I like Sarah Vowell's writing. And I can see you writing books in the same vein. Very entertaining non-fiction. (I feel obligated to say though that her editorial commentary on Iraq contributed nothing to Assassination Vacation, but I thoroughly loved the rest of the book).

Remember "That's what writing is. You're keeping people alive in your head."
Carl Reiner

I tried the ice cream last night, and did feel better momentarily but still woke up an evil, greedy, industrialist capitalist. I think oppressing the masses has a longer lasting effect than ice cream.

3:18 AM

 
Blogger vidas said...

I'm having the same problem, kind of. You know how I used to write long funny rants about how much I hate Miami and its people....well, due to the lack of living in Miami and the current lack of Miamians, I find myself stretching for material.

You and I really should start a blog together. I think it could be a really great thing. Let me know.

11:34 AM

 
Blogger SuperBee said...

You're on, Vidas.

Let's aim at getting something cranking by mid-week next week.

Email me re: the Same.

12:10 PM

 

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