Thursday, December 31, 2015

Two Uninformed Trivia Buffs

Team Nine, Feelin' Fine!
My brother and I teamed up for trivia again. This time it was 2015 in review. We learned that we spent no time paying any mind to anything that happened in 2015. Out of 50 questions, we got, I think, 20-something right. That might be a stretch. It may have been 19. We did learn things, though. Like we don't know anything.

We teach. We mold young minds. Yet we cannot win at trivia.

I chalk it up to being more informed about other things like going to see The Breakfast Club for its 30th Anniversary.

Apparently our idea of being-in-the-know is living in the past.

What we did know the most were the sports questions. They came first, so we had a really positive attitude about the whole thing. Then there was a soccer bonus question that we got wrong. Then there were some tennis questions. And then they asked who beat Ronda Rousey, and my brother didn't even know who that was. I knew who it was and I could see the face of the woman who beat her, but I am not an artist and I don't think a sketch of her face would have done any good. So I wrote the next best thing: I did.

Later on, they asked what Australian actress and model showed up on Orange Is The New Black. Again, I saw her face in my mind, but I couldn't come up with the name. So my brother answered: Mrs. Crockadile Dundee.

Basically, I'm calling for half-points next time to be granted to the most creative wrong answers. I'm seeing a future for this trivia thing. It's called I'm Not Going To Win But I'm Sure Going To Pretend To Know Things. Kinda wordy, but I'll work on it. 

We came in 8th place out of 10 teams, so not last! Not last! Not last!

Also, I got my sweatshirt and gift card for donating to Sip This's Kickstarter, so we did not leave empty-handed. It was a win all around.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chilly Dickens

Having a mild winter works out really well for going north for a fun time in Tarrytown. Usually by this time of year, we'd be drudging through snow, so this was the perfect year to go see Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" as told by Jonathan Kruk, Master Storyteller. The Hudson Valley folks who put on the creepy scary Halloween events in Sleepy Hollow offer up this much sweeter, much less horrifying show. Eddie had no idea what this was all about when I sent him the link to see if he was interested. He simply clicked the link and bought the tickets and bam! I had a Christmas present.

We found a close enough diner for dinner after we drove about an hour up and through the town. The Eldorado Diner? Has seen better days. So has its chef. My omelet tasted a bit like burger, and Eddie's burger tasted a bit like disgusting. Maybe I'm a diner snob. Or maybe Eldorado should simply change its name to Elgrosso.

Because we were so close to Christ Church, where the show would be performed, we got there in no time, found parking, and hopped on line. We were maybe five people back. The seating is general admission, so this worked out in our favor. As we'd driven through, we'd seen a very long line of people waiting outside for the previous showtime. We didn't want to stand in a very long line. The show before ours ended at 5:30ish, so we figured we'd be in line for 20 minutes tops as we got there at exactly 5:30.


Waiting on line for only ten minutes....
Half an hour later, the sun had gone down already, and the crisp air of northern territory crept in. We were shivering. We were hopping in place. The woman in front of us was doing calisthenics. The man behind us was talking non-stop. I don't think he was doing this to be warm. He was doing this to be annoying. Or, rather, that was the end result even if it was not his purpose.

I found out that he was having dinner on Tuesday and the woman with him would be there for dinner if it wasn't served too late, and he was happy to have her come to dinner, but he needed to run out to the store first, and he was wearing the wrong shoes because he hadn't expected to be waiting this long and when we all finally got inside, the woman was to make a left and sit four rows back because he had seen this show three times already and knew the best place to sit and he'd seen a different show at a different place that has a fireplace and he knows to sit near the fireplace because that venue gets cold and then their friends showed up and one of them asked the woman if she could get him to be quiet for a minute and she said no and the guy started talking about Tuesday dinner again.

Rumor had it that the show before ours began late, so we'd be waiting a while. The cops there scanned our tickets so that we could go straight in when the show eventually let out. The people in front of us had more people come to meet them. I'm not a fan of that. We've been freezing our asses off and then they have people simply jump the line? I can see one person meeting one other person, but to save a space for four or five more people when there's general admission seems sketchy. One of them had a cane, so there went my need for outrage. Canes and walkers calm my outrage every time.

Finally, people started pouring out of the church. We were let in immediately. Eddie and I sat a few rows back from the stage on the aisle, all the while making sure we didn't go left so that we wouldn't be near the Incredible Talking Man.

It's warm in here.




What was more incredible was that the Incredible Talking Man, having seen this show three times previously and knowing where to sit and loving moving his mouth and making words come out of it, this man did not participate in the singing. Yes, there was singing. The accompanist welcomed us by strumming his guitar and pacing the stage in his Dickensian suit with only socks, no shoes. He led us in singing The Twelve Days of Christmas. We got to 9 without a problem, and then it started to fall apart. Singing The Twelve Days of Christmas while thinking about what you're singing is much harder than simply singing it mindlessly. We got through the whole song, and then he went to sit behind the organ. I don't know if he put on any shoes.

A Hudson Valley person went up on stage and explained the history of the church. This was the church where Washington Irving worshiped. His pew is off to the side.
Then came the "silver-tongued" storyteller Jonathan Kruk, dressed in a red Dickensian suit complete with red plaid pants and a red top hat. He told the story of "A Christmas Carol" using different voices and a few props. Only once did it seem to lag--a part when the Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge people selling off things from Scrooge's funeral and laughing about it, and it was one too many people selling one too many things and having one too many laughs. But then it was over within an hour and I realized I hadn't heard the entire tale in years. It was a wonderful way to meet it again.

After the show, the storyteller stayed for photos. We checked out Irving's pew and then left the church in to the cold but not wintery night. Merry Christmas, everyone. (See what I did there? It's so literary!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Mandolin Lessons

I almost bled out after chopping off my pinky finger in a cooking accident.

We English professor types call that "hyperbole." It is still very close to the truth.

I was using a mandolin to slice zucchini. The mandolin comes with a thingie that you attach to veggies that you are slicing so you don't put your hand near the blade, but a zucchini is a long veggie, so slicing it at one end while holding it at the other works fine.

Unless you are me. In which case, it doesn't work fine this one time when I somehow make a ballet-like sweeping motion with the zucchini and the corner of my pinky finger comes across the blade as if it, too, is a vegetable.

I'll give you a moment to let out that gasp and relax whatever it is that got all clenched up when you read that.

I threw stuff down and yelled and cursed a lot. Eddie came running in and took me into the bathroom to run water over it. It would not stop bleeding. We got a towel for me to hold on it and I clamped down over the cut, holding both hands way above my head. Eddie went back to the kitchen to inspect the mandolin. He turned it over a few times and said, No blood--it's fine. He's obviously a gourmet chef. I told him to put it in the sink.

I could tell he thought I was over-reacting. I knew if we kept looking at it, it would simply keep bleeding since I was releasing pressure, but he really thought it was a little tiny cut. We decided to pour some peroxide on it. I almost passed out. The pain. No words.

We wrapped it tightly with a bunch of band-aids and he went off to work. I got myself dressed, all the while watching blood start to seep through the band-aids. Before heading to work, I stopped off at my parents' house to ask my mom to help me re-wrap it. We had a hard time getting all the band-aids off, so there was more pain in the pulling and pushing. Then it started bleeding all over again. We decided Neosporin on a band-aid was a better idea. I wasn't going near peroxide again. We wrapped it in two band-aids.

At work, I wrapped it again in a third band-aid as I saw the blood start to ooze through. My creative writing class was having their final session, which was a reading of their best and favorite work. I write each student a letter, and this was going to be an issue with my now crippled finger. I held it up for them to see as I explained they might not get the letters I promised. I explained, I'm bleeding out. They felt sympathy and asksed how I did it. I was like, Do you know what a mandolin is?

One guy offered, It's a guitar. I was like, True, but there's another kind, to which another guy responded, It's a kitchen tool for slicing things. I nodded and everyone cringed as I made a motion of sweeping my hand across the blade.

Go ahead and let out that gasp again.

At around 3:15, my finger felt like it would be better off if it were no longer attached to the rest of me. I swung by my parents' house and got my mom to come with  me to Urgent Care because I wasn't about to fill out a bunch of forms and bleed all over them.

The doctor was hilarious. Not in a cheesy make him stop way, but in a genuine wow he's funny way. He cut off the three band-aids and my finger kind of bled but it didn't gush the way it had been. He held it up and turned it over. Then he said, Go rinse that off. As I did so, he explained that my skin had wrinkled up under the band-aids and blood had gotten into the wrinkles, so at first, he thought I'd gone across the blade several times and wondered what kind of cook I was. See? Funny.

As I got back on the exam table, he was saying that I'd probably need a stitch or two. Then he looked more closely and said, Okay, there's nothing to stitch. I'd taken off a small chunk of my pinky. There was nothing to put back together. He instead gave me some weird styrofoam looking thing that had gel on it that would make the bleeding stop. Then he wrapped it up with a lot of gauze. We all agreed that I could get a lot of sympathy for this.

He also asked several times about my history with tetanus shots. I knew what was coming. I was getting a tetanus shot. He asked which arm and I said my right. It didn't hurt too badly, but he assured me, It's going to hurt tomorrow, a lot.

When I got home, I texted this photo to Eddie.
Just a tiny cut, my ass
Later on, he felt a bit more sympathetic, admitting he'd thought it was only a tiny cut. This is only because he can break a bone and not realize it until three days later. We have different levels of pain tolerance.

At work the next day, I told the story of the mandolin maybe 84 times. Of those 84 times, I also explained how I did not get cut on a guitar and that a mandolin is a cooking tool about 79 times. Conclusion: Most people do not know what a cooking mandolin is.

The fun part was not getting it wet. The two days I had the gauze on, it rained, so keeping it dry was an interesting challenge. Also a challenge? Showering.

I will survive! A shower!
In addition to the keep-it-dry debacle, I was practically crippled in my right arm from the shot. That doc was not joking. I couldn't lift my arm to shoulder level. This proved really interesting while trying to wash my hair with a hand that couldn't get wet and an arm I could not lift.

Two days later, I returned to urgent care. A doctor took off the gauze and inspected my finger. He asked if I had numbness. Nope. Could I bend it? Yup. Then he happily said, All you need now is a band-aid. I unhappily responded, That's going to garner much less sympathy.

The cut actually healed pretty quickly. I changed the band-aid like three times a day and smothered the cut with Neosporin. That goop works wonders. Looking at the cut from the side, it was becoming less and less gross. Looking at my finger from the front, however, was a different story. There is clearly a small chunk missing. It'll grow back, the doctors reassured me. I hope it does, soon, because my typing is suffering.

The zucchini--the part that I made later on using a simple knife and creating uneven slices--was delicious.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Free Tix That Cost Over $300

Eddie calls me from work and asks if I want to go to a Ranger game. Some guy at the office was giving away his tix for that night. Sure, I'll go!

We get to the Garden after figuring out that BS on the ticket means Bar Stool. We'd be sitting up above the 200s section, which would be new for us. I'm always up for watching a game from a new section.

After security, we head to the gate with the shortest lines. I hand the usher my ticket and start to go through the turnstyle when we all hear BBBEEEEMMMMPPPPP. She asks me to wait a second and rescans my ticket. BBBEEEEMMMMPPPP. She says, I'm not sure what's going on. She scans Eddie's ticket instead. BBBEEEEEMMMMPPPPPP. She tells us to go to Window 1 back over at the box office.

Window 1 is labeled Bar Codes. Clearly, this was a simple bar code issue. The guy behind the window asks where we got the tickets. Eddie says, From work. The guy takes the tickets and looks up the seats. He explains, The owner of the tickets listed them on StubHub before giving them to you, and as soon as that happens, the bar codes on the actual tickets are no longer valid even if the tickets haven't sold. He sent us to Windows 21 and 22 where they could print out the tickets with the new bar codes for us.

At Window 22, the woman behind the the window tells us that the tickets have been sold.

So we rushed to catch a train and see a game for free, and now we could not get into the game because we had tickets that belonged to someone else. Fun times.

She told us we could buy tickets at Window 7.

The man behind the glass at Window 7 informed us that if we wanted to sit next to each other, we'd have to get tickets in the 100s. He was the fastest working man in ticket sales. In about five seconds, we had tickets. These were not free. Instead of sitting on free bar stools, we were sitting center ice in section 100-something for like $360. Merry Christmas to us.
 
Make that $370 because someone had to buy an ottoman-sized cotton candy. It came with a Christmas hat, so of course, it's worth it. Very Merry Christmas to us.

Turns out the guy at the office is friends with the guy who had the tickets. That friend was giving them away. The friend's wife was selling them. After Eddie texted the guy at the office to tell him what happened, he relayed it back, and the wife felt so horrible that she's giving Eddie tix to an upcoming game in January.  Happy New Year to us.

And the Rangers won. So it was worth it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How To Read The Rumpus and Other Questions As I Embark On My Sabbatical

Leaving the office yesterday proved to be challenging. I wanted to make sure I had everything I wanted to take home with me and wasn't forgetting anything. After spraying down and wiping off every sprayable and wipeable surface as I do at the end of every semester to make clean what has been soiled with semesterly woes, I carefully walked through one last time, and then I went through my desk drawers again. I left behind my hot pot in case my officemates want to make tea. I shut the light. I closed the door.

I walked down the hall to the main office to say goodbye and Merry Christmas to the women who make my work life function, the admin assistants. I then said the same to one of my colleagues who is also my promotion application mentor--making sure that she certainly wanted to go to London instead of writing her letter of support for my binder over the break. She was certain she preferred London and said that I'd be able to come in for just one quick visit to sign off before the department submits the promotion application binders next semester.

Just once next semester will I set foot on campus. Because as of noonish yesterday, I am on sabbatical.

I left the building with my usual shoulder bag of stuff plus a plastic bag of extra stuff. I tucked it all under my tiny umbrella and headed across the muddy football field towards my car. I had all odd urges like to drop everything and swirl around and sing "Climb Every Mountain" and to skip through the mud in circles. I did neither. Instead, my body reacted the way any normal happy-excited human being would react.

I got the nervous sweats. Such joy. Such joyous joy. Such a way to celebrate all good things. Sweat poured out of me so that I was wet with rain from the outside and with my own self-made moisture from the inside.

I threw my bags on the passenger seat when I arrived at my car. Then I grabbed off my scarf and threw that on top. After sitting in the driver's seat, I took off my jacket, too. Then I sat there, staring at the football field, hands on the wheel, smiling like a maniac.

My sabbatical application states the following:

The overall goal of this project is to write a collection of my own poems, The Modern (American) Poetry Travelogue [working title] that reflects the history, changing themes, and changing approaches of modern poetry, with a special focus on American poetry.  By the end of the sabbatical, I will have the first drafts of many individual poems completed that will act as the foundation for a full collection to be arranged and edited afterwards. During this leave of sabbatical, I will read and review poetry and poetic process to draft my own poetic works. To complete this endeavor, I will split my time between reading and researching further collections of modern poetry; drafting poems that come from this reading and research; and meeting and work-shopping with fellow poets to inform my editing and revision of these drafts. One major part of this project is traveling to major poetry centers in America to experience particular poets and movements that will be the focus of larger sections in the collection.

What I've been telling everyone who asks me is a bit different.

Everyone: How are you spending your sabbatical?

Me: I'm gonna watch movies and read books and then write some things.

Clearly, this answer probably would not have led to my attaining a sabbatical, so the above blurb works better. The above blurb was my true intention at the time of application. Now, it's not exactly what I plan to do, but it's a start.

Creative work can change quickly, so what I was working on a year ago, I'm kind of over now. I have a week by week breakdown of all the readings I plan to read, the writings I plan to write, and the workshops I plan to conduct. That's the same idea now, but it's also different. I'm going to use some parts of that American poetry stuff--Kerouac and Meyer have lists of how to write a poem, so I'm going to follow those lists to create poetry. I'm also working on a collection involving mermaids and woodland creatures. Basically, I'm working on everything all at once, and I'll get a whole lot of writing done and see where it takes me.

In addition to reading books--in my sweat-laden excitement, I went to the library and checked out four already--I want to read journals and online literary haunts. The ones I've wanted to read have been bookmarked on my browser for so long that cyber dust has thickened across the top of them. Also in my sweat-laden excitement, I clicked through each of them, starting with The Rumpus.

The Rumpus overwhelms me. How does one read The Rumpus? By scrolling the home page? By clicking on categories? By looking for something in particular or by browsing around for something to jump and tug?

Another overwhelming site is McSweeney's. Again, what does one click on first? Shall one read lists? Read letters? Buy stuff from the store in a confused state of hope and desire?

Then there's The Paris Review. Because Paris.

My application for sabbatical also states:
To access the most relevant and current materials for part of my reading list, and to discuss my project with experts in the field, I plan to visit some of the leading poetry archival centers in the United States.  Some of these centers are not local, but they are key elements of this project as they offer insight into not only the poetry of particular movements, but also important information about the personal experiences of the poets so that I might gain insight into their inspiration.

This travel includes Chicago, San Francisco, Boulder, and Philadelphia. Because, you know, poets are rich and can travel at whim. 

I am probably not going to all these places, and travel budget isn't the main reason. Again, the creative streak switched gears. I instead applied for writing retreats and residencies that offer stipends--they'd pay me. The one in Wyoming turned me down. There's another one I'm waiting on that's in Kentucky. I don't know if I'll get that one, either, but it won't break my spirit if I don't. 

Luckily, NYC has a wealth of poetry haunts. I can finally get my ass to Poets House. I should be ashamed for not having visited yet.

One of my students asked me where I was going on sabbatical. I answered, My house! This kind of excitement for being simply home probably doesn't emerge for many people. For this gal, it's really all I need.

My house is a place where I can watch movies and read books and surf the web, all things that sound like simply bumming around and not working. However, my house is my workplace. Watching movies, reading books, and surfing the web will all add up to something poetic and hopefully wonderful and hopefully something long enough to be a cohesive full-length collection. All I need to do is get into my weekly schedule, one that is modified from my original plan, but it's still a plan and there's work to be done. Now that I've stopped sweating, I'm pretty sure I can figure out the rest.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Trivia Maven

I've always wanted to go to Trivia Night. Like any Trivia Night. There have not been any in particular that I've pined after. Simply Trivia Night. I don't have a very good memory, but I do know a lot of junk, and sometimes I can recall it when something sparks it. Like trivia questions. What's even better is I know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff.

Sip This, a local coffee shop that also runs as a mecca of local arts and entertainment, has been running Trivia Night for a while, and I've wanted to go, so when I saw Classic TV and Music as the latest theme, I sprang into action.

I called on S because she recognizes faces and voices after seeing and hearing them once.

I called on my officemate E because she's been around the world and knows entertainment on a scholarly level.

I called on my brother who is a walking vinyl shop.

My expertise, clearly, was "putting together the team."

The night of the trivia, we met up and snacked and drank, and we tossed around team names, E pointing out that we could call ourselves The Three Musketeers because there were actually four of them. We figured that would blow everyone's mind. We wound up being Team 3. Also mind-blowing.

The rules are simple. Write your answer on the small dry-erase board they gave us. If we thought we could earn points with a different answer or were confused, we could simply raise our hand and ask. Also, we were having fun. That was the point. Our host stressed that. It was all for fun.

Fast forward to everyone whining whenever she brought up a new category to the point where she asked, Maybe could you please not moan at me?  I get it. My writing students moan at me when I tell them we are going to write something.

The music went pretty well. Figuring out the title of a song when someone is speaking the lyrics proves to be brain-bending. We got a lot right, mostly because of my brother, who also knew something about a pig being on an album cover. I cheered loudly when he was the only person to get it right. We also got some things wrong because we were second-guessing ourselves and each other. That's bound to happen in a newly-formed team. We should've practiced first! Next time!  There was also the question of who was the youngest Rolling Stone, and since some have died, we were very confused.

The TV portion? Didn't go so well. The trivia was based more on specific episodes or tiny elements of a show--like what was Dick Van Dyck's son's middle name on the show? Spoiler alert: Rosebud. Unless you already knew that. In which case, hit me up--I want you on my team.

So much for team loyalty. I like winning.

We did not win. We did come in third out of six, so the upper echelon finish for a brand new team is pretty impressive, I'd say. Well, I am saying. We are impressive. Even though we didn't win free t-shirts. And I like free stuff, but the experience was still great.

I did decide that if I can't guarantee a win, I'd like to be a trivia host. Think about it. I'd totally excel! All these years of teaching, being in front of people who might rebel at any minute if they don't like your question or the right answer--I mean, this seems to be what I've been gearing up for completely!

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Visit To High School

On my way out of the house at around 6 AM, I panicked and grabbed several rolls of stickers. High school the first time around was awkward. This time, terrified again, I figured I'd buy my way into everyone's good graces by giving out smiley faces, frogs, and other animals. Because that's what high school is all about--being popular.

Or, in this case, it's about learning how to go to college. My brother teaches at a high school in the Bronx, and I do not. I majored in education for maybe a semester in college before switching to English, realizing that I didn't want to deal with junior high school and high school students or their parents. My brother has been teaching in middle and high school for over a decade, so he's used to it.  I am not.

Also, I'm not used to driving over a toll bridge to go to work. As we made our way from his place in Queens to his job in the Bronx behind large trucks and around double-parked cars, I admitted, Yeah, if I had driven, I'd have pulled over and started crying by now. And this was the easy part.

Meeting his colleagues was fine. Meeting his VP was fine. Meeting the head principal was fine. Even meeting the gym teacher was fine though I do have a lingering humiliation and loathing of the presidential physical fitness test--I mean, who needs to hang from a pull up bar for 20 seconds? Seriously.  And a 20 minute mile really ain't too shabby. Anyway, the phys ed teacher was great along with everyone else I met who work there.

Then there were the students. Terrifying.

No, they were not terrifying.  Aside from honestly not knowing that talking while someone else is talking is actually rude, they were nice. They asked me questions. They played my game of "Pick an index card and read it as if you're a student in my college class, guess what my reaction would be, and then resolve the problem before you'd have to say what's on the card in the first place." My brother said, That's a good idea. We passed around my syllabus. My brother called me mean because I don't accept things without a staple. I said that I do accept them the first time, but by week 11, you should have a stapler or know where one is.

And his students knew that, too. I don't know if they can write full essays, but from their work I saw hanging on the walls courtesy of my brother's decorating the room with their work so they could be proud, they are pretty good writers. They also knew that you shouldn't send an email to a professor that says simply Heyyyyyy. Seriously, they were appalled that I'd once received that email from a student. And during the beginning of that lesson--the do's and don't's of emailing your professor--there was complete silence for a few minutes.

By 10 AM, I was already exhausted. I don't know how these people teach with such a hectic schedule and limited supplies and resources. By 2:30 PM, I don't know how I was functioning, but there was my brother, answering questions and making sure the students stayed until the bell rang.

He went out that night. Like, he went home, changed, and went out. To a concert. With a friend.

I came home. I fell asleep at 7:30 PM. I slept all night through. I am not cut out for high school.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Most Professional Way To React To Free Stuff

So, like, I'm a professional and stuff, which is totally believable because, like, I teach and stuff.  Which is exactly how I must have seemed to the good people at LIU who visited campus to talk to SD and me about our upcoming AA degree in Creative Writing. Because in addition to asking, "And what exactly do you do--do you teach?," I found myself realizing aloud, "Hey, I actually attended your college!" Granted, I'd attended the campus at Southampton, which is now under a different university system, but at the time, it was indeed LIU.

To top it all off, at the end of the meeting, SD is wrapping stuff up all professionally, taking down emails, setting up a plan of action of whose doing what next. And then, pulling off this profession act by scribbling things down next to her, I offer free copies of the literature journal to them, and SD offers copies of the student lit mag.

In turn, they offer us bags.Tote bags emblazoned with their logo. And the bags had things in them. Keychains. A small glass container. Candy inside of the small glass container. But without even knowing they were actually full of stuff, out came the bags and SD and I acted real professional-like.

We squeaked with delight and semi-clapped and gushed about how we love bags.

This is the same reaction we had when we found out we were getting not only free bags but also free ice cream at the FOX summer preview event.Which is exactly what I brought up as SD did damage control, explaining how we simply get excited easily.

Which is what professionals do.  Clearly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sleepy Hollow's Creepy Stuff

Autumn means Let's go to Sleepy Hollow to learn about Washington Irving! Okay, that's not what autumn means, but that's what I've wanted to do every autumn for as long as I can remember, so this time, I made it come true.  I said to Eddie, Let's go to Sleepy Hollow to learn about Washington Irving! And he was like, I have no idea what you're talking about.  And I was like, There's a haunted house!  And he was like, Yes, let's do this. Because he loves Early American literature as much as I love Early American literature!

So off we went on a Saturday with SMM and AF, driving north, taking in the fall foliage that's so so pretty. I learned the night before that we should leave with plenty of time to spare because Sleepy Hollow was having its annual Halloween parade that day. Why they couldn't have stated that when I was picking a date to buy the tickets, I don't know. We had plenty of time to spare, and that time was used up by rolling along the main street as soon as we exited the parkway for the sleepy little town. Cars and vans and SUVs and minivans and more cars all crawled along street with creepy pillow people stuffed with straw lined the sidewalks tied to trees and poles. Who needs a haunted house when you have child-made creepy-people to creep you out for free?

We made it to the cemetery about 45 minutes before it was set to close. My main goal was to find Washington Irving's grave, but as we drove past, we all came up with a new and more important goal: find the Headless Horseman that Eddie found while we were driving by towards the entrance. We wound up parking on the side of the cemetery that's not used for entertaining folks.  I know, that's kind of creepy and messed up that a cemetery is used for entertainment, but really, it's historical, so it's okay. Plus, they give tours at night by lantern to creep you out even more. We didn't stay for that.

We walked up hills.  We walked down hills.  We walked around and around path after path.  This cemetery is rather large. We then found a crowd and in the middle of the crowd, right by the tent selling beer (in a cemetery) was, indeed, the Headless Horseman.
A traffic sign where we weren't allowed to drive

I was more scared of the horse. Seriously.  I was like, It's moving! And Eddie laughed at me.
We reached the end of the cemetery without finding Irving's grave, but we did find the Old Dutch Church. Then we found the place where Ichabod Crane found the bridge to safety when he was running from the Headless Horseman. THEN we found the sculpture that pays homage to the story. It's amazing what you find when you're looking for something else.

This is apparently my new pose.

Then back into the cemetery we went. Up hills. Down hills.  Paths upon paths.  We wanted to get back to the car and find the exit to get something to eat and hopefully avoid the parade that was causing street closures. Instead, we found Irving's grave!
Finding parking is an acquired skill. I was in the car with three Brooklyn experts. We careened around blocks and blocks of downtown Sleepy Hollow, all the while their eagle eyes darting every which way. Streets were packed. Driving was slow.

Beyonce was here.
Eddie finally snagged a spot after about twenty minutes of nothing being open. We didn't find a place to eat right away, but we did find this.
Then we found a street fair.  I have no idea where the parade went, but the street fair seemed to be part of the celebration.  Along its edge was a long line forming for a hayride. This town was all about Fall.  I had some delicious hot cider. Mmmm, cider.  SMM and AF ate some fried stuff. We took in the Sleepy Hollow brand.
 
Eventually, we'd walked around enough and figured we may as well head over to Horseman's Hollow in Philipsburg Manor. The rest of the year, this place seems to be a historical, educational venue. During Halloween season, it's terrifying mayhem. We waited for the sun to set, marking the time we'd have to get on line to go into the hollow and possibly not escape.
It doesn't look so bad.
Just a beautiful landscape
Until this happens
We got on line outside in front of the DJ booth covered in skulls.  The DJ was a horned creature.  We were given rules. No eating. No drinking. No smoking. The most important rule, though, was no touching. I suppose that also meant no punching and running in the other direction.
Then it was time. We entered the grounds. Off to the side was some sort of monster just standing there.  Eddie pointed it out.  I said something like, He should stay right over there. And that's what you're not supposed to say because in no time, he was behind us, like right behind us.

I don't like adults in character costumes. I get freaked out at Disney World. I was not a happy camper that time in Hershey Park when the large Hershey Bar came over to say hi. It's just freaky--adults in cartoon heads not talking but hugging and high fiving.  It just ain't right.

So here I was among not only adults in costume but also among adults whose job it was to jump out and scare the shit out of me. I decided the best choice for me was to stare at the ground a lot, loudly say how stupid everything was, and make Eddie go ahead of me every time we went into something new.

The scariest parts were the parts when nothing happened. We were expecting things to happen at every turn, so the anticipation killed me most.

There was a room with all the hanging white sheets. Inside people lurked dressed in all white, blending in.  So they could jump out and hiss and scream. Yeah, that happened. The hissing was sometimes worse than the screaming.

Also happening--a woman following me, whispering right in my ear that she'd smelled me coming. Not fun.

In another room, there were strobe lights and a back up of people in front of us so we got stuck in the strobes with the creepy black and white creepy crawly people getting all up in our faces. This was the main point when I was shouting, This is just so stupid!!! The creepy crawly people stayed in my face, not realizing that my shouting meant, Go away.

AF had it worse than I did because she was a bit more obvious in her not liking anything that was happening, so every single creepy person followed her every single time.  And SMM kept laughing. So did Eddie. Laughing laughing laughing. Because being terrified is fun. Apparently.

And then there was the tent that we had to enter single file. The floor moved. The sides of the tent were huge inflatable thingies.  We were smushed in from both sides. It was pitch black. Then we came out the other side. I don't know who would even think of that.  Stupid stupid stupid.  And very terrifying.

We made it through a bunch more twists like a mini corn maze and Ichabod's School House complete with a soundtrack of children crying--very horrifying. Then we found the Headless Horseman! Again!
We're lucky we found him because the idiot people in front of us were taking pictures with the flash on after being told repeatedly, Do not use your flash. The horse kept getting all freaked out and it walked away into a corner after being really annoyed at the flashes. Seriously, the general public makes me fear for the future.

I survived! Unscathed! It was all quite literary, really, so I'm going to count this trip as professional development.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Many Maniac Faces

Poetry out loud in your face is my favorite thing to do, and even though it's not Eddie's favorite thing to do, he accompanied me to two readings in one week.  TWO!  That's like, double the pleasure, double the fun, in that "this is not pleasurable or fun for me" kind of way.  He actually doesn't mind going to places and listening to poetry all that much. He simply minds awkward encounters, which we always have.

Reading 1: Astoria
I know my way around Astoria in the same way one knows the way around a dream.  It's like, I totally know where I'm going, but I also, at the same time, have no clue. Thankfully, Eddie drove as I navigated, and I got us to the right parkways and correct exits, and then we were under the El. I can't drive under any elevated trains ever because I get confused as to where is the lane and where is the place you park and how do we turn the car without hitting pedestrians or cyclists or hoverboarders or other people or animals that might be getting across the street in some new-fangled way.

Astoria Coffee was the easy find. We drove right past its big bright window and saw it was about the size of a walk-in closet, which was adorable! And a bit frightening simply because that meant the reader would be really in someone's face, and while I love poetry out loud in your face, I didn't mean it incredibly literally.  I like my face to be several feet from the faces of strangers because, you know, germs.  And smells. Anyway, we found it easy-peasy, and then we drove around for about a half hour looking for parking.

This was like parking in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge.  Many a time we've driven in widening circles around Brooklyn, looking for parking.  Once we drove into Brooklyn for a drop-in appointment at the chiropractor, and after driving around for 45 minutes looking for a spot, I was like, We need to go home now, and we did.

We found a spot because I noticed a few blocks ahead of us reverse lights go on.  This never happens.  I never see anything blocks away.  This was a proud moment.

Astoria Coffee offers hot chocolate.

Eddie was one happy camper.  That and a croissant meant heaven.  I had green tea and it was uber delicious green tea.  The only drawback was that the place was about 105 degrees so I ended the tea drinking for a while to cool off.  I'm never hot.  Ever.  I peeled off layers of layers and then held up my hair for a while.  It was that warm.  No one else was that warm.  Maybe I'm getting hot flashes already.

So about the poetry.  The Risk of Discovery series puts on a fantastic show.  We were four features, two of whom were more performancy than me and the other poet, which meant for a lot of variety.  But before that, there was an open mic, and that was really interesting.  One poet read a pantoume (I THINK it was a pantoume, but it might have been a villanelle--I can't remember which at this point, but anyway, both forms involve repeating lines and usually are done horribly) and this piece was excellent.  It was so very well done, and at the end, I asked the poet to email it to me so I could read it again.  Other open-mic-ers were fun to listen to, and the other most memorable was a poet who learned that a publisher wants to publish his book but he has yet to put his book together.  That's not why he was memorable though.  What made him memorable is that he talked a bit about how summer was ending, and then he whisper-sang two lines from that song Summertime Sadness before  his poem, and it was all kinds of amazing.

That aforementioned awkward moment was later on when this poet came over to talk to me and I couldn't answer anything he said at first until I hopped myself back up on a stool because he was about six feet tall and that's simply too far away from my ears for me to have any kind of normal conversation.

I read for a bit under 10 minutes.  I did not use the mic because the room was small and I have a big mouth.  Also, the mic was over my head and I didn't feel like playing with the stand to make it lower.  And I made these faces.
Stank face

Contemplating my collection face

Waving around a post-it note face

Hey! I'm smiling!
I walked away from that reading with a book and a CD from one of the singer-poets who agreed to exchange books with me, and I also sold two other books.  Oh, and somehow it cooled down and I finished my tea, which was, again, delicious! It was a good night.

Reading 2: Hicksville
Finding the room for the reading in Hicksville Public Library poses a challenge.  We asked the librarian who gave us two options, one for stairs and one for the elevator, and both sounded confusing, especially for two people who get lost in parking lots.  We took the stairs and found that we couldn't follow the directions well.  However, we did find a door and surprisingly, that door led us to the right room, and we had to walk down the stairs of a stage to get to the seats.

After meeting and greeting and picking out seats, I opened my bag o' books to put out some candy I'd gotten previously in the day (more on how I made an ass out of myself when I got the candy at some other time!), I found a spider in the bag.

Earlier that morning when I pulled my car out of the driveway, I found a spider web connected from the dash to the passenger seat.  Along that web I found a teeny-tiny spider. I grabbed him up in a napkin and swept away the web.  I think that maybe he had a large spider friend lurking who made its way into my bag.

OR I'd picked up the spider in my travels throughout the week.  Or it came in with the money exchanged for the books.  Or it crawled into my home office, where I've found large cave crickets before, and into my bag.

Really, it didn't matter where it came from. All that mattered was it needed to get the fuck out of my bag.  (Sorry for the language--spiders and I don't get along ever since one bit me and I had to go on keflex for a week when my hand blew up and I had scarlet striations from the back of my hand all the way up my forearm). Eddie, who also does not like creepy crawly things, decided I should remove all the stuff from the Ziplock that it had crawled into, and he would throw out the plastic bag with the spider in it.  Okay, fine.  That actually worked, but not without my freaking out in silence as I pulled each item out of the plastic bag and put it into the larger bag that contained the plastic bag, each time the spider moving more towards me rather than away from me.

Crises averted, I put out the candy, and people went nutso over it--especially the host who was quite fond of BubbleYum. What made this even better was the mom of the usual host who was out for the night attended and brought cookies.  She's a fantastic cookie baker, and at the end of the reading, upon insistence of the host who held out the tray of cookies and said, You have no excuse, I ate an oatmeal cookie that was delicious.  Actually, I ate half of it and gave the other half to Eddie to hold when someone came up to ask me to see my book and he stood there holding the cookie until I told him, You can throw it out, and he was like, Why don't you just eat it?  And I was like, Oh, yeah, I can do that, and I did. See? I sometimes create my own awkward moments for him.

The reading went well.  There was another event happening on the other side of the folding accordion wall, so I again relied on my big mouth teachery voice to get the audience to listen to me.  I read from both collections. I made the following faces.


Mid-poem face

I'm so drunk right now face

Sleepy reading face

Hey! I'm smiling again!
Then the host ran the open mic. That was again interesting because there were poets there whom I had never met before (ooh, that reminds me! the host said she was impressed with my correct use of whom versus who!).  Then, as aforementioned, a bunch of people came up to me afterwards to chat, and I sold some books.  I also chatted a little about how to get published, and I made this face.
I'm clearly a maniac, and my husband thinks this is funny even though he's trying not to laugh face.
There you have it. Poetry things are happening, and I cannot bluff my way through poker. And now to get a feel of what all this sounds like:

video
See? Poetry out loud in your face.  It's all the rage.

Friday, October 9, 2015

So How's Your Semester Going?

Glad you asked.  It's not too bad.  Dare I say: It's actually pretty good.

The start of the semester slowly progressed as each of the first three weeks of class were only three days each with Labor Day and several Jewish holidays.  A nice way to ease into a new session of teaching.

Promotion awaits in the near future, so in addition to teaching, I'm putting together my application binder.  The application form is about 27 pages. I then have an additional 150 pages of what I like to call "Proof I Did Stuff."  I consider the whole activity an arts and crafts project that involves highlighters, plastic binder sleeves, and stickers. The due date is in February, but since I'll be on sabbatical in the Spring, my due date is December.

I've also been focusing on pushing through a new class about Writing for Digital Media and an online version of Poetry Workshop. Lots of curriculum stuff that I began over the summer is now in high gear.

Speaking of Curriculum, I joined the department Curriculum Committee, so I took on the task of revamping the department's catalog page.  Also, during the most recent meeting, I was stung by a yellow jacket.  Mid-meeting, I put my hand on my head, felt something funny, went to pull out whatever was in my hair, and BUZZZZZ it was a yellow jacket stinging the heck out of my finger.  So I reacted like a normal adult and shouted OW OW OW OW as I jumped up from my seat.  With my colleagues stopping midsentence and staring, I explained, I was just stung by a bee; I'll be right back.  I hung out at the water fountain down the hall for a while and kept my finger under the cold water until the water started turning brown.  Well, that's gross.  So I went back to the meeting, and the guy in front of me was like, That was so weird!  And I was like, I know!

I spent the rest of the meeting shaking my hand vigorously.  My finger turned bright red with bright white lines coursing through the middle, tracing the venom.  Then the skin felt really tight as it started to balloon up.  When I got back to the office, I rinsed it off more in the bathroom until that water turned brown.  So gross.  When I came out, SD was at her desk so I explained: 1. The water is brown and has nothing to do with me, and 2. I got stung by a bee.

My finger ached well through the next day.  So that was a noontime stinging followed by an afternoon and evening of a lot of pain and then some more pain the next day.  Plus, the night of the stinging, I went to Oceanside Library to present How To Write A Basic Essay as part of their programming.  The whole carride, I was shaking my hand and sort of laughing in disbelief--how could it hurt so bad?

Anyway, that's probably been the worst part of my semester.  I've gotten a little snarky with some of my classes at some times because of their rudeness, but overall, they have been listening and learning and participating and being nice people.  Like, the other day in Comp, I taught a grammar lesson, and they participated, and the next time I saw them, I reviewed the lesson, and they, like, knew the answers.  I can't remember the last time that happened.  They weren't all sleeping or staring off into space.  They were being studious, and it's been refreshing.

Also refreshing is the amount of work I'm getting done on campus.  I'm still bringing home the huge paper stacks, of course, for marathon grading sessions.  However, the small assignments that I usually bring home too have not found their way into my bag.  Nope, I'm doing all my grading at work. I have mandatory built-in grading time now.

That's not really true.  What I have now are Seminar Hours during which I mold young minds.  Those young minds have yet to show up, so I spend the time grading.  I'm getting so much done!

You see, the English Department has had an agreement that full-time professors teach four courses as opposed to the five that other full-timers in other departments teach.  This four-course load is due to our teaching composition and having an abundance of grading every week.  In exchange, we were told hold normal office hours every week like all full-timers, but we also hold floating conference hours to meet with students throughout the week, not at a set time.  This schedule worked well for me.  I was able to make appointments throughout the week with my own students who could not make it to office hours.  Every week, I met with at least two students off-hours during these floating times.

With a new contract this year clarifying what these hours should really entail, the powers that be came up with this plan:

1. We were to hold seminar hours during set blocks of time.  No more floating.
2. We could not meet with our own students.
3. We could mentor developmental students, mentor non-developmental students, mentor a specific cohort of students (like online or creative writing--though the creative writing cohort was nixed because apparently they don't need mentors), tutor in the writing center, work with LINCC (the program for English language learners), or advise in the advisement center.  Only any mentee or advisee could not be our own student.

So this semester, I've held my Seminar Hours twice a week and I look at my Seminar Hour schedule daily and usually, the schedule is gray, which indicates I have no one to mentor at all.  Once it was a light blue, indicating that I had someone scheduled.  I turned that into a dark red when that student did not show up.

Instead of being able to offer a slew of possible appointment times as I have in the past, I can offer like one half-hour of free time as a possible appointment time for my own students.  So they either have to make it to office hours when they might not be able to because they have class or are not on campus, or they have to find my one half-hour of free time available in their own schedule.  They can't come during Seminar Hours when I sit by myself with no mentees because that's just not allowed.

Ideally, I'd like to not mentor anyone.  I'd like to have simply extra office hours.  If we can't be trusted to hold floating conference hours, then I want to have double office hours, and I want to be able to help my own students.  Since our classes have increased in size, having time to meet more students one-on-one would help immensely since more of them can get lost in these bigger classes.

But for now, I spend my time in the office grading, working on curriculum, working on my promotion app, reading submissions for The Nassau Review (I'm still the editor), finishing up committee work for four other committees I'm on, NOT holding my former floating conference hours and NOT helping my own students. I go to teach my four classes.  I hold my regular office hours during which my own students who are available at those times stream in and out regularly.

I'm looking forward to sabbatical.  Even though this semester has been pleasant, I need a break from the illogical ways of thinking.