Monday, September 28, 2009

funder and lightning

This is probably my most original blog title yet. Especially since in New Orleans the weather is so often so stormy.

Wow, Blogosphere! It's been a long while since we've talked, yet again. Remember a year ago? I was such a good correspondent back then, while I was trying to get my fun back on track. Now I am a little less concerned with being a fun person, and more concerned with being a sane and rational one, which means it's been quite a long time since I've done any beautiful exploring or learning about this amazing city I find myself in. It's okay, though: I have time.

The weekend was nice and long. I just spent ten minutes going back in my brain trying to think of events that I could brag about this weekend, but I couldn't come up with any. Ariana and I went to the Art Museum and looked at the beautiful photographs. I broke off on my own and walked through the lonely rooms upstairs no one ever goes in because they are full of permanent collections of Chinese, Japanese, African, and Native American art that people dismiss as generic ("I could see that stuff ANYwhere," they say). I do have my hesitations about those rooms, of course. It's not really fair for museums to have those beautiful artifacts locked away in glass cases like that. They don't belong to us. When I look at the gorgeous craftsmanship of a mask or a vase or something, I feel like I am in the presence of something sacred that is being totally exploited. I tried to walk through the rooms as appreciatively as possible. I do love the Japanese brush scrolls a great deal. They remind me of my mother.

And I was riding my bike on another beautiful sunny day in the Quarter and ran into Lily and Jazzy and their friend Tah, whom I have not seen in aaaaages, and they shouted, "Sophie!" and I shouted, "Lily and Jazzy and Tah!" and they were sitting outside Port of Call, which is this famous burger place that always has bookoo people outside it. They were like, "Hey, we're going to go to Port of Call, do you want to come?" and in my head I was like, "No I have way too much work." And then in my head I was like, "Whatever! I don't have that much work! I have never BEEN to Port of Call!" So in real life I said, "Yes, I would love to." And then I joined them for lunch and ate a baked potato with chives and had an iced tea. I have this to say about Port of Call: the burgers cost a lot of money, but they did look really pretty. I have no idea how to judge a good burger. I do have an idea of how to judge "Good Burger," starring Keenan and Kel from Nickelodeon. And I judge it like this: A+.

But it was nice to laugh and to talk about not-school stuff. Examples of not-school topics that happen when you are with non-teachers (Tah is technically teacher, but she's a cool teacher who can talk about hauntings):
1. Pooping.
2. Spirit animals.
3. Sam Alden yesterday said, "Hey Sophie, I have found a word in the dictionary you maybe don't know. And the word is 'pinguid.'" And I said, "I have not heard that word before. What does it mean?" And he said, "Fat and oily." So I mentioned this to Tah and Jazzy and Lily, and we talked for probably forty-five minutes about 'pinguid.' Subtopics: Can pinguid ever be a positive thing? Would you like to eat a pinguid sausage? Was the guy one of them hooked up with last night pinguid? All valid questions.
4. Tulane.

School, to completely change the topic, is wonderful. Today we don't have students because we are doing data work, and I thought last night for a great deal of time about how much I miss them, and how sad I am that I don't get to see them today. They teach me so much every day. I can't believe we are already at the midterm assessments.

My students are very receptive to learning about history -- especially about African American history. The thing is that they often say things that are truly depressing without ever realizing it. When I read a story to them last week about Martin Luther King, Jr., there was a section in the book that talked about how Martin Luther King, Jr. fought to desegregate the schools, and my students were genuinely puzzled. At lunch Melissa said, "Ms. Johnson, black kids and white kids can't really go to school together, can they?" Apparently the vast majority of my class thinks it's actually still illegal for classrooms to be racially integrated.

But on a happier note, our table groups are named Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi; and our 2nd grade class is completely fascinated with Gandhi. There has possible never been a group of 2nd-graders more obsessed with Gandhi. There are almost no books available for children about Mahatma Gandhi, but Carrie and I both have a copy of the same one -- a dense, boring, dully-illustrated book more suitable for high schoolers than seven-year-olds. My kids daily insist that I read them a few pages from it, and they listen in absolute fascination to theories about karma, and to the stories of Gandhi's life. They can find India on a map.

My students are so unbelievably curious and open-minded. They are ready to learn and they are eager to access information. They hug each other and take care of each other when they think no one else is watching. They don't sweat the small stuff. They draw beautiful pictures and see the world in shades of pink and orange and bright blue and green (I assume, based on the color palate they choose for their art samples). They aren't afraid of school yet. They beg for homework. At what point do we get beaten down enough that we start to pull away from life? I promise you it happens sometime AFTER the age of seven.

We have two great class pets. I tried to take videos of each. One cut off within one second of video taping. The other is the most boring class pet video ever. I tried to wake Chico up but he just tensed up and hissed at me. Enjoy these boring videos. Know that if you were to come visit, you would have a lot more fun with our class pets than these videos immediately suggest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

things are pretty good.

I feel... lucky isn't the word... I feel unbelievably happy to be alive and to have so much love in my life every day. More soon. There's a lot to say.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Let's just pause a minute and play, "WHO IS SOPHIE LIVING WITH NOW?"

Here are a few hints:
1. Both the people I am living with are in the picture to the left.
2. Both of the two people I am living with are really freaking adorable.
3. Both of the people I am living with are human people, and are not waffles, or grits.
4. I do not live with any men.
5. As beautiful as she is, I do not live with Gina.

If you have guessed ARIANA RAMPY in the Oh-My-Fucking-God-Is-That-An-Actual-Dress? dress, and LEAH HOPE FISHBEIN who cooked the fabulous beyond all words feast which lies on that table (peanut butter waffles, deep South grits, homemade bean-and-cherry sausage, rosemary apple scones, and all of it vegan), then you have guessed CORRECTLY, and you win a PRIZE!

And that prize is a brief-but-thorough update on the Life Happenings of Sophie Johnson, embedded with no fewer than Four Fun Facts about Dolphins!

(I still can't spell "dolphins" right the first time I try. That's not one of the facts. But I legitimately always try to spell it "dolfins," and it is hard for me to understand that I am incorrect in believing it ought to be spelled like that.)

So many things have happened in this last week.

Monday was a pretty regular and ordinary day, for the most part. Someone threw up in the hallway at school. I stayed in the building until 7 p.m., and then worked at home until 10 p.m., and then I felt shitty because that was too much work. So I decided that wasn't going to work for Tuesday. Thus, Tuesday was different.

On Tuesday Hannah, Leah, Karaline and I tried to have our weekly dinner, but we failed for the following reasons:
1. Hannah was stressed out and could not make it to dinner.
2. We picked a Chinese restaurant (because we were all FAR too stressed out to think about cooking) that ended up looking sketchy and then we ended up at a Japanese restaurant that was very fancy.
3. There was almost nothing vegan on the menu, except some of the sushi, and Leah hates sushi.
4. And I had to leave really early BECAUSE:

... ARIANA RAMPY arrived! The excitement is still very, very warm in my blood. In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in my immediate past has made me feel so warm-blooded as Ariana Rampy's arrival to New Orleans, Louisiana (by the way, DID YOU KNOW that dolphins are warm-blooded?!?!).

No, folks, she is not just visiting New Orleans. She has moved in here. She has a room in my house, with a bed, and a window looking onto our back porch, which I am constantly rediscovering as one of the most desirable hidden worlds I've ever caught myself in. And ever since she got here, the air has been full of Winnie the Pooh stories, bad eighties movies, gluten-free baking, and that arresting laughter that makes my heart stop in a kind of frightening way -- a barrier only ever broken by Ariana.

Moving is stressful. I watch Ari go through the motions of transporting beds and trafficking dressers around the house, while trying to find a job, and trying to figure out how she is going to hang her dresses up, and trying to cook in lower-than-sea-level tropical humidity, and a lot about last year comes back to me. Except that Ari is infinitely saner than I ever was last year, so while I sit around waiting for her to have a panic attack, she breathes in the dishwasher-wet thunderstorm air and says, "I love it here." This makes me love it here all the more. Sometimes humans can communicate enormous truths without even speaking. Ari being here makes me understand, with my whole heart, how lucky I am to call New Orleans home. (By the way, DID YOU KNOW that dolphins, too, communicate without speaking? It's true! Dolphins can make a unique signature whistle that may help individual dolphins recognize each other, collaborate and perform several other kinds of communication.)

On Wednesday it was Parents' Night. I ate a lot of chips and felt sick. And then I sat in my room in total shock as I looked out at a sea of parents' faces -- moms and dads and grandmas and aunts and brothers and neighbors -- and thought, "Wow. This school really works." I enthusiastically raved to moms and dads about their children, who really are the most brilliant and interesting human beings I have met in my whole life. I know that this is not the way that parent night is supposed to go. You're supposed to say all these things that parents can do to work with their children to help them succeed. But I'm no good at that. That's why I have a co-teacher.

I'll get better at it. I just love them so much. I can't even wrap my own mind around it, let alone put it into words.

On Thursday my co-teacher was sick. It was a very, very bad day. My kids all decided they were sick too (I assume mostly because they wanted to copy Ms. Bevans; and I can't blame them because she is very much worth imitating). The rest of them decided that they should be on their worst possible behavior, particularly when I was being observed. I lost Charles. I lost my temper. I lost my voice. And at the end of the day I needed to be reminded of all the At Leasts (At least the school is still standing! At least everyone is safe! At least you get to go home!) because I couldn't think of them on my own.

It was humbling. It was one of those, "Oh my God, I'm not actually good at this yet" moments. The kind where I felt like I was drowning, about 260 meters below the surface of the ocean (which, by the way, is about as deep as dolphins can swim, DID YOU KNOW?).

On Friday we all celebrated. The kids were nicer, and I was nicer. Ms. Bevans was still very sick and sat on the stool looking cross whenever someone was out of line. That actually was a better management strategy than anything I had previously tried, so I was very, very grateful for her presence -- as painful as it must have been for her.

It was a long weekend. The highlights were cleaning the house, and eating that amazing brunch. We went to Southern Decadence and just Took Things In -- men as women as men as women; dancers and twirlers; cigarettes and penises; cigarettes shaped like penises; children in coats and women with babies; vomit, beads, gendered-up Mardi Gras fare in September. The heat got very sticky. Ariana continued to bring light into the house, and Leah cooked food I never imagined could exist. The three of us went to see "Julie and Julia" last night, which I'm embarrassed to say we absolutely loved. We made a lot of really loud orgasm noises over the buttery foods that none of us can eat.

The house is feeling a bit more like a home, and I half-expect my mother to be sitting in the living room reading T. S. Eliot in an armchair before dinner. Also, I can FEEL fall. Man, I am SO ready for fall. I just love that season. Right now, it is my favorite.

I swore I would only take 15 minutes on this entry (the amount of time dolphins can stay underwater, DID YOU KNOW?), but it's dragged on and on, as it always does. My mom called a few minutes ago, and with my sister in Costa Rica for the semester (wish her happy and safe travels whenever you can! She just got there last night), I want to talk to her and see how she is doing.

It always amazes me -- and Ari is on the phone with Kevin now, loving him with all her heart from this great distance -- how far we can be from one another and how close we can still feel. What a cliche that is... but there's something very comforting in it, too. So as I turn in, looking forward to another week, I'm sending as much love as I can across miles and miles, hoping you will feel it. Onward!