Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fun-ometer reinstated: 12 percent fun

Last Wednesday, I started to update my blog, but I wasn't even fun enough to finish said entry. I dissolved into a puddle of gross misery and left this entry unfinished. It sat in my Drafts folder, like an unhatched egg. Would you like to read it? Very well then. It was titled, "8 percent fun." If you will notice, my funness percentage has already risen since then. I am a very proactive type! Either that, or I'm a little bit bipolar.
Look at this fun percentage. Things have definitely been better. I think 8 percent fun actually might be generous, to tell you the absolute truth. Case in point: it's Wednesday night. But I'm not at Wednesday night dinner. I'm in bed, with my sweet potato puff pastry (which I can't even finish eating because for days on end I've only been eating freaky-gross foods and my stomach can't handle any more of them), chillin' out, staring at the ceiling, drifting in and out of pathetically restless sleep. It's bleak.

On the other hand, two things:
  1. I think I'm a pretty fun teacher. I really do. I know some good circle games (thanks, Girl Scout camp!), and I know bookoo awesome songs to sing, and I am pretty sure I make science fun and interesting, what with all the wacky experiments we do, and I have a lot of good read-aloud voices. FUN! I think kids even sometimes look at me and say, "Oh hey, there goes Ms. Johnson. She is the FUN teacher. I wish I could be in her and Ms. Bevans' class. They have a HEDGEHOG." Fun, fun, fun!
  2. I went to Portland this weekend, which makes me a really great traveler. And I did a super-fun prank! I didn't tell my parents I was coming. So that Saturday morning, I telephoned my mom. "I'm so glad it's you!" said my mom, thinking I was in New Orleans. "Yes, me too," said I. Then I rang the doorbell. "Oh, Sophie, let me call you back. I think Mancel has come to trim the garden," said my mom. "Ok Mom. Bye," said I. And she opened the door and SCREAMED and said "No!" a bunch of times, and that felt AWESOME. I also got to see Sam Alden, and Ben Stevens, and Vince Levy. It was a really beautiful weekend, full of a lot of good coffee, and a lot of good comic books
You know what? It actually IS very fun to travel across the whole entire country for a single weekend. So let's spend a little more time on that. Portland is unfathomably beautiful this time of year. Last weekend, New Orleans was still the spitting image of hurricane season, with smudgy storms and 90-degree heat (with 94 percent humidity), so when I walked out of the Portland International Airport into the 50-degree air without a sweater I almost swooned over and kissed the ground. This is what fall is supposed to feel like. All weekend I got to wear sweaters and scarves, and coffee tasted better and jeans didn't feel sticky against my legs, and my hair didn't end up in a ratty ball of overdone spaghetti every time I walked out the door. The weekend was so full and beautiful that I forgot to take pictures of most of it, but I have a few highlights:
How unbearably Portland-in-October is this picture? We were sitting on Broadway at a coffee shop that taught you Swahili on Wednesday nights and helped you plan your trip to Sweden on Sundays, and we ordered vegan apple cake (because any coffee shop in Portland just happens to have things like vegan apple cake) and had to wear jackets while we sat outside by the hip bikes to drink lattes (Sam) and fat cups on drip coffee (me). I am loving coffee, incidentally, more and more with each passing hour. Since I completely quit smoking, drinking, and eating animal products, strong coffee has become my number one vice. I think it is way more acceptable than any of my previous vices.

We also went to Cathedral Park, right under the St. Johns bridge (you can click on that link if you would like irrefutable proof that this is among the most beautiful bridges in the world). I had never been to that park, and I actually have dozens of pictures I took there with my jaw perpetually scraping the ground because I had never seen a place quite so sublime. We sat on a bench overlooking the park and I could see the pine trees puffing up their chests on the mountain, and the oaky things blushing for the onset of fall, and a hummingbird singing like a creaky gate on a branch right over us, and a pair of children riding Their First Bikes along the walking path, and a set of maybe eight people laughing as they shot some sort of movie by the water, and I actually cried because Earth, in that moment, seemed singularly peaceful and extraordinary. I couldn't imagine -- and I tried! -- that anything bad ever happened on Planet Earth. That was a strange thought, but sometimes when you are intensely happy, you can't help but think it, even though it seems irresponsible. I thought, How nicely all these species can coexist when every one has space to breathe and run around and be themselves, and no one is competing for anything, and everyone is nonchalantly letting everyone else exist just as they are. But, of course, the world wouldn't be the place any of us loved if it weren't for competition, and I knew that those thoughts were born out of the sort of transcendentalist utopia I had briefly fallen into, so I pulled myself out. The picture I've included is not of the space I'm describing to you, anyway; it's a little up and to the left of that bench, in an old shipyard where Sam and his family once discovered this huge propeller. Wait. I wrote that sentence wrong. Let me try again: That photo was taken in an old shipyard where Sam and his family ONCE DISCOVERED THIS HUGE PROPELLER!!!!!!!! Have you ever seen anything like that? You can climb around it and blackberry brambles are shooting up through the middle of it. I have no idea why it's there, or what it was intended for (presumably a ship, says Sam), but it's one of the awesomest things I have encountered in my brief life.

This is what the leaves look like in Portland. This photograph makes me feel tremendously homesick.

The week following this trip was tough. I think a lot of the reason for that was that I never caught up on the sleep I lost from hanging out all weekend and then traveling ten hours both ways. But also, I am not doing enough for myself in general. I almost re-typed that sentence because it sounds kind of selfish, but what I mean by that is that there are so many things in the universe that I love to do (a short list: Draw with sidewalk chalk! Go for long walks! Explore museums! Eat by myself at restaurants! Listen to music! Go to the library! Experience the cinema! Chat with wildlife!), but I haven't had the chance to do any of it in the last few months. I hear a chorus of "Told You So"s echo whenever I say that out loud, because Teach for America is generally supposed to do that to you (you know: weed the life out of you and turn you into an incredible teaching robot), but I guess I had to experience it for myself. I think the trouble is that I've grown so terribly invested in this school and in these kids, that I find myself pushing outside the realm of normalcy to do the best job possible. Now I sound like a martyr. Well, look, World: I'm not a great teacher yet, because I have only been teaching for one year. I'm still learning it! I have got to figure out how to forgive myself for that, and be patient. It will come. That's why I've decided to stay in New Orleans and teach for third year. In the mean time, I should go on more long walks, and sign up for more cooking classes. A teacher with a lot of fun in her life is a good teacher. I think Albert Einstein said that.

Luckily, I have a handful of really fun friends who are tremendously good influences on me. On Friday, we had the most successful Crafternoons (Crafter-dark?) we'd had in ages. Friday was also the day that New Orleans started to cool off. The night that night was too frigid for mosquitoes, even! We had the doors hanging open and we let the cakey smell from Leah's evening baking endeavor coupled with dusty sweaters from last year warm us up. Oh yeah; we also ordered a life supply of MSG and corn syrup from Yummy Yummy Chinese Food and ate like pregnant women. I crafted until 3:30 a.m. the next morning, which may be my longest crafting session of life. Maybe. Twelve hours is a long time. As a sidenote, I think that at some point in my life I would like to live in a house with a lot of artist-bum-types and make shit to sell at fairs and carnivals for a living. I think I would like to do that for one year. That will also be the year when I watch all 1000 of the Best 1000 Movies of All Time. I never want to watch good movies anymore. Too much work. My last Netflix batch included "Tuck Everlasting" starring Alexis Bledel and "No Reservations," which is about a surly chef who has to raise a child alone -- until she meets hunky Aaron Eckhart, and her life is changed for good! I ran into the postman yesterday and he asked me what two movies I was returning. I was like, "Taxi Driver" and "Casablanca." He said, "You don't wanna tell me, huh?" "Nope," I said.

Yesterday I took a long walk with Ari (check and check!) and we talked about boys and moving and New Orleans and our respective prior weekends. Kevin came to visit her last weekend and they got to gawk at beautiful buildings and eat bengiets (sp?), and ride the streetcar and dance to jazz music in drizzling rain. It is so wonderful to show New Orleans to someone who has never been here. I also don't know how often I have seen two people more in love than Ariana and Kevin. Seeing people in love is something I can appreciate in any phase of my own relationship life. When I'm single, I still love to see people in love. You know that when people are deeply in love, they have found a corner of their lives which will always exist in their memories and intense and whole. There are so few things in life that so completely stay with us like our experiences of being in love. I hope that when I write shit like that it doesn't come off as super-arrogant and condescending. Maybe I should have just written, "Seeing Ari and Kevin together made my heart physically flutter." That also would have been true, and maybe less annoyingly introspective. That's a picture of Kevin wearing two things that are plaid. He's pretty badass. Plaid-ass? Hmm.

I simply cannot walk around New Orleans without falling in love with New Orleans all over again. Every time I let myself take it in, I feel dizzy with infatuation.

This blog post is getting too long for anyone to feel like reading all the way through. There is a lot more I want to tell you, but I've rambled on for a long time. Here are two things I should add before I go, because they are important:
  • I'm sorry, haters, but I thought "Where the Wild Things Are" was lovely. I really did. It was the first movie I've watched that felt like I was watching one of those sleepy childrens' books that grown-ups like a whole lot more than kids do. You know, the kind with lots of little magical aspects, but not much plot. I cried through the whole thing. It did a great job of depicting childhood the way adults want to picture childhood. Yes, it was simple, and yes, it had some kind of obvious metaphors, but WHATEVER! It was built to show us what we remember about our own childhoods. Maybe in some ways it was built to reimagine a childhood we would have created if we had had the emotional depth to build it as children. In any case, the monsters said some really beautiful things, and the structures in the movie were gorgeous, and the kid was a great actor, and the house Caroline Keener lived in was perfectly staged, and I found the lack of exposition and explanation refreshing. I went with my school to see it (K-3. Not my choice, actually), and the children loved it. At least, Barshall loved it. I sat next to him and he had great commentary for the whole thing. He said stuff like, "I would like for that monster to eat the other monsters and then eat all the trees." A whole new angle!
  • Avery's birthday (I can now tell you, since he has graduated and become my friend more than my student, that his name is actually Arthur) was yesterday. Celebrating it was the fuzziest, warmest experience of my whole year, hand's down. In fact, it was how a movie might end. For one thing, a lot of things we tried to set up for Arthur last year are finally falling into place. For those of you who have been following (read: have been forced to listen to me talk on and on about) the Arthur saga, you should know that Arthur is doing GREAT. The Personal Care Assistant we applied for finally came through, and she's amazing. She has helped him with so much! She's gotten him a volunteer position at the ARC. Next week they are going bowling. Arthur looks clean and well-dressed and I've never seen him so happy. Kristen and I brought Arthur a big pizza to eat with his grandma at his house. It was gross, but Arthur sure likes pizza. Then we took him to Wal-Mart and bought him a new hoodie and some markers. It's fun to pick out your own birthday presents! The best part, though, was that we took Arthur to Creole Creamery, where he was surprised by Ms. McGough (his old teacher and my dear friend), and her fiance Drew (an amazing man, whom Arthur is also obsessed with), Drew's rap partner, and their perfect, amazing five-month-old twin boys. It was like being in a real family. Jayda (Ms. McGough) looks beautiful; and Drew was smiling constantly. The babies are cuter with each passing second. We all got to hold them while we passed ice cream around; and even Arthur bounced Savion up and down on his bum knee. I felt very nearly content in that moment.
So it's The Next Year now. What will I learn? Already, I have learned a whole lot. But only, it seems, when I get out from under my covers and poke around in the universe. That's very hard for me, but well-worth it. If I ever need proof, there's a yearlong backlog on the Internet in the form of my blog to remind me.


Sam said...

Let me tell you some of the reactions to Where The Wild Things Are that I observed among my fellow moviegoers, during and after the film.
1. Taking a two-hour nap (girl on my right)
2."Why were they talking?" (girl after the movie)
3. "It was so random! I didn't like it." (other girl after the movie)
4. "What did he eat in the boat?" (guy after the movie)
5. "Stories about kids are so boring" (guy after the movie who I almost yelled at)
6. "It was a lot like that movie Pan's Labyrinth because I went to see the sweet monsters and then it was all like, uh, what?" (guy the next day at breakfast)

But I loved it. Fuck them ALL.

Loretta said...

Dear Sophie:
That was indeed an epic weekend and a fly surprise. I love you.

alexis said...

sophie, i have never heard you sound more like sophie. you write so beautifully. you are beautiful. that picture makes me homesick too. i love seeing people in love too. i hate it when blog posts sit in my drafts folder. now i have to go to class. but then i'm going to write you an e-mail. but seriously, you are a poet.