Month: June 2011

I’m No Communist

So this week the president of my senior class created a facebook group to see what kind of interest we might have in organizing a reunion. At first, I was excited. Oh yes, here we go. If asked about what my high school experience was like, I would have to say it was generally pretty good. While I was not skinny, popular, or considered hot by any stretch (the same is still true today), I was a top student academically, a band geek and theatre nerd and had a pretty solid group of friends that even after a decade out of high school still keep in contact with. I’m not talking shallow facebook contact, I’m talking I can call them up and ask them to crash and they’re cool with it. But now, a few days of idiotic posts on facebook and I’m thinking I may have to pass.

I graduated with a pretty large class; we were about 300 people (Don’t say that’s small, I went to one of the bigger schools in town. It was big for the area. I can already hear people saying, “Oh that is tiny, we had over a 1000 graduates.” Get over yourself). The thing is if I was punched in the face by a fellow classmate who was not popular, in AP classes, band, drama or anything else that one might consider nerdy I’d have no clue we went to school together. Seriously. I remember at graduation (I was one of the top ten in my class so we sat up front, graduated first, then waited) thinking who the hell are these people. This may seem horribly shallow, as I write this I’m starting to feel like any Amanda Bynes character in all her movies, but honestly I only hung out with people in my classes or extra curricular activities. I also was banned from all parties and was way too afraid of my father’s wrath to sneak out. (See Black Sheep for Father’s wrath).

Well as the week has progressed, the thought of seeing some of these strangers is really stressing me out. Imagine, the event hasn’t even been confirmed and I’m stressed. The facebook group has turned into a full on internet brawl. Christ. People are freaking out about where it’s going to be held, is the event going to be free (impossible dream), is there going to be alcohol? Oh my God. People are literally arguing via facebook; not to mention the abhorrent use of grammar, spelling, and capitalization. If I was the class president I would shut the group down, call a few sane friends, and not ask any of these crazies for input.

People are posting about going bar and club hopping. They want it to “Epic.”

Have these people not seen Romey and Michelle’s High School Reunion? or any sitcom television? Do they not know that a reunion is basically a wedding without the bouquet toss, clanging of silverware on plates, and floral arrangements. It’s supposed to be cheesy.

I am a relatively opinionated person, but  my problem is I don’t speak up. I would LOVE to help in planning this thing and am good friends with the president so I’ll probably say something to him, but I refuse to post anything on that facebook page. Nope. Won’t do it. Forget it. I will not engage the behavior.

As I see people posting, and watch a virtual drama unfold, I find it sad that after a decade people still act like they’re in high school Of course, high school never ends. Look around your workplace, the same cliques that existed at your high school exist at your workplace, but it is not so extreme. Unless, of course, you work at a high school then you know that high school teachers act just like high school students. It’s true, don’t try to argue it. More than anything, I really hope some sane (and classy) people try to organize this event.

Gathering the opinions of too many people is never a good idea–unless of course it’s for voting–I’m no Communist.

Really, I think what this boils down to is the that facebook should have remained an exclusive club for people with .edu addresses.

You miss those days, don’t even lie about it.

How Shameful

I was cruising craigslist today and saw this ad:

I am a retired teacher who has been ghostwriting essays, assignments, dissertations, theses, blogs, articles and more for over a decade. In addition, I am a successful grantwriter.

I also provide academic support to people taking online classes.

For personal service at a great price contact:

I will send you my resume and a variety of writing samples upon request.

$10 per page (250 words) for undergraduate papers. Graduate work negotiable.
$200 per community college online class. $300 for 4 year university class.

I was disturbed on so many levels.

I mean, wow, how can a teacher behave so unethically? I can’t even imagine how this is even okay. Would this teacher allow this kind of material in their classroom. Do they look down on online work because after seeing this ad, my belief that online classes and degrees may not be so valid.

I removed the contact information because it didn’t seem necessary for this blog post, but this ad had the teacher’s name and phone number. Can’t a teacher get in trouble for this? And if they can’t, shouldn’t they?

My whole life I’ve been called an idealist. For the longest time, older teachers would tell me that I held my students to high standards because I hadn’t experienced life and blah blah blah. I just don’t think this type of thing is okay. Do you?

After I finished reading this ad, I thought about sending this teacher an email, but I didn’t want to go around being the holier than thou police. I guess if I would have written this teacher an email it would have read as follows.

Dear [Teacher’s Name Here],

I am writing in regards to your craigslist ad. Shame on you for propagating cheating. Seriously, what happened to you that this is where your life has taken you? I need to know, it would probably make for a profound short story.

Sadly,

One Mean MFA

My Father: A Portrait

For years I’ve been saying my father could easily be the star of a reality TV series. Bruce Jenner has nothing on my dad. The level of crazy my father is at cannot be competed against. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my father, but he is a bag of crazy. It is no wonder where I get my crazy from, not to mention I look just like him–in a feminine way.

Growing up my father was a musician and teacher. To this day my father is still teaching high school. He’s been a teacher for forty years. Forty years straight. Can you imagine? Honestly it’s no wonder he’s started to lose it along the way. If I were to teach for forty years straight, I’d need to go home to a padded room. God bless him for having the strength to be a teacher for as long as he has been. Not just a crappy teacher, but a great teacher.

Before he married, settled down, and became an educator my father attempted being a rock star. He toured and had a band. There was even a time, when he was moderately famous. We’re talking like Ben Gibbard  before Death Cab and in the Postal Service famous, or Tim Kasher from The Good Life famous. Not Steven Tyler famous–just to be clear. He was popular for a very brief time, maybe he was less famous than Gibbard or Kasher, maybe he was like Owl City famous. I don’t really know all the details of my father’s musical career. I do know that he loved music more than anything.

If I were to make a list of the many ways my father and I are similar our love of music would probably be at the top of the list. One of the first memories I have with my father is when he brought home my piano. I remember watching a lot of classical music concerts on TV as a kid, and wanting more than anything to learn the violin. So you can imagine my excitement when my father brought home this beautiful upright caramel colored Wurlitzer piano. That piano is still my first love. Oh God. I was so excited.

I didn’t realize my father was grooming to me to be a musician in his band until I was a teen, but by then I didn’t care. I was obsessed. My father and I would sing together. He would play his guitar and I would play the piano and together we would harmonize and sing together. When I look at my father now and see how hardened, hurt, and damaged he has become I think about how music totally bonded us and how he shouldn’t have stopped being a musician. My father has file cabinets full of sheet music. Sheet music that was off limits until I was in high school. He has all kinds of sheet music; standards, show tunes, ballads, Sinatra, and on and on. He has everything. Honestly, I should try and catalogue it for him so that it is easier to sift through.

He owned all this sheet music, because after years of trying to be famous he decided it wasn’t going to work out and became a wedding singer. He finished college, became a wedding singer on the side. Mind you, he wasn’t an Adam Sandler wedding singer. He wasn’t cheesy like that. His band was booked every weekend. My dad made more money singing than he did teaching.

I’ve mentioned before that my father was born in Italy. When he moved my family to the town where I grew up, he really struggled to hold on to the Italian heritage. He wanted us to speak Italian at home, which we didn’t. He really struggled with the American life in suburbia. He also struggled to cope with having Black Sheep as a daughter. As she grew and became more beautiful, getting attention from boys, ignoring her academics and music, my father really struggled to keep her on a leash. We couldn’t talk to boys on the phone–not even in high school, no sleep overs (which I’m strangely fine with now, and will probably enforce this rule when I have kids), we had a phone log (I should save the phone log for the memoir), and the list goes on. He desperately tried to control all aspects of our lives.

When he finally caved in and let us have boyfriends, my senior year of high school and Black Sheep’s Junior year, he would drive to the movies or wherever we claimed to be to make sure we were actually there. Now I know this sounds crazy, because it is, but the man was just doing his best. Being from a small ass town in Italy, and then growing up in a city where everyone around him was just like him, an Italian immigrant, made his life in the American Suburb really challenging. He didn’t know what American boys were like, and he didn’t want them hanging around his daughters.

My mother says you always marry a man that has the  most irritating trait your father had. I don’t know if that’s true. I have never lived with FH and while I do see similarities between my father and FH, FH isn’t quirky like my father. I can see how he will have the same proud father moments my dad had. When I published my first piece, my dad was beaming. He told everyone. He then told me, ” I have tons of stories for you, if you want to write them.” I told my father I was going to a singing audition recently, and he told me, “Make sure you pick the right song, you’ve got the voice, just make sure you don’t pick some easy la-la-la song. It’s got to have range. Maybe sing something Streisand would sing.” Gotta love it.

While my father seemed crazy–he still does–I know he was trying his best. My father is a pack rat, I believe because he is the child to parents who went through WWII, lived in Italy during a time of great poverty, then immigrated and had nothing and were forced to work very hard to get where they ended up. I think living in the small, American town where I grew up, my father lost his balance. He watched Black Sheep struggle. He was betrayed by her many times, and was hurt deeply by those betrayals.

Because my father is an educator, the man cannot stop talking. Seriously, I called him today to wish him Happy Father’s day and we were on the phone for almost an hour. Mostly talking about how he is finally ready to retire from teaching and the music industry–the man loves pop music. He’ll call Frankenmommy to tell her he his on his way home and will yack her ears off for thirty minutes. The man is a talker.

I feel like as you read this, you’re proabably thinking, “The man doesn’t sound crazy to me.” Well he is. Sometimes he’ll say things that make you wonder. I remember one time at the dinner table, I was out of college so it wasn’t that long ago, he was talking about some one who had wronged him and saying something about “breaking a knee cap” to “send a message” and how “the mafia had some good methods.” Baby sister, Frankenmommy, and I looked at him while simultaneously stopping our chewing. I swallowed whatever it was we were having for dinner and said, “You can’t possibly mean that.” He didn’t say yes, but he didn’t say no. He would never do something like but, the way of thinking is a bit much. My father is also a ninja. The house I grew up in isn’t very big. It sits on a quarter acre lot, 3 bedrooms, patio, and has a pool. I swear to you, we would have to scream at the top of our lungs as kids to get him to come inside on Sundays to get ready for mass. Picture three barefooted children in church clothes screaming, “Pappa! Pappa!” He would then emerge ready for mass as if nothing.

I’m convinced that when my father retires he will finally admit to the family that he was, in fact, a CIA agent. That teaching high school was a cover. A good cover at that, I took his class three years in row (he teaches an elective). When he does admit this, it will explain the need to keep things for parts, his having to write down everything, and his understanding and justification of the mafia’s criminal behavior.  We’ll be sitting at Sunday dinner.

He’ll say, “Now that I’m retired I can finally tell you, I’ve been working for as CIA agent for years.”

We won’t even bat eye.

“Yeah, we know,” I’ll say.

“We’ve been onto it for years,” Frankenmommy will mutter.

“Dad, you’re like a ninja,” Baby Sister will explain.

“Honestly Daddy, it explains a lot,” Black Sheep will breathe out.

The man is set to retire this coming school year. I’ll let you know how it all goes down.

 

 

p.s. Daddy, you’re the best and I wouldn’t trade you for any other father. I’m down with the crazy. Lots of writing material.

 

 

 

Do You Have a Workshop Style?

During the Spring semester I organized a three session community workshop for the summer. It’s been a small group (three to four people), but it’s been fun. I have always loved workshops. Yes, even when I bitched about workshops here, I still enjoyed them more than I hated them. That is of course, with the exception of hating the one and only poetry workshop I took during grad school. Poets and prose writers are so different, and frankly, I don’t really understand how poets, who have the reputation of being so sensitive, can be so effing mean. Anyway, I digress. The community workshop has been such a pleasure.

When I emailed TC about it, TC was very supportive and said something about how it was great how I had created an opportunity to teach something I like. This has been my teaching challenge, feeling nourished. The workshop has been quite fulfilling. I’m totally enjoying it.

Of the four participants, two of them have never been workshopped. Of those two only one of them has been writing regularly, the other submitted this mishmash of a story that wasn’t actually a story and turned out to be chunks of a bigger piece. The other two participants have been in workshops before, and I get the impression that they were the top of the class, but in a group where the writing was rough. They are also good friends, and one is clearly more talented than the other.

When teaching a workshop, I am generally pretty free spirited. This is actually my teaching M.O. I don’t like to dictate topics, or length–really anything. This is so unlike how I am in my life. I’m not really free spirited, although on occasion I am spontaneous. When I am being workshopped, I’m quiet and like to listen and take notes. I’ve noticed that my two veterans don’t take notes when they are being workshopped. How do they remember what people said, and how do the mark the moments that need to be fixed? They also talk a lot after they have been workshopped. They don’t ask questions, they instead explain and give excuses for why their piece wasn’t working, or why the group is wrong.  Personally, I don’t like to talk after I’ve been critiqued, unless I have a question, but that is just me. What is your workshopping/being workshopped style?

Still, it is so fun to be talking about writing with people who are just getting into it. It’s also great to discuss fiction with people who want to be there and are prepared.

Man, I needed this.