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!