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Public Schools – Weep For Our Future

It is a beautiful day out and I really need to get outside today but I’m depressed. I shouldn’t be depressed. I have two coupons Starbucks sent me. One for a free drink. Anything I want, any size I want, I could go hog-wild on the caffeine rush and a coupon for a free petite snack. Those wee bites of heaven are good, let me tell you. But no, I am weeping into my oatmeal at the state of education today.

Let me give you an example for Whack-A-Doodle Wednesday. This is a shot of some kids grade school homework. I’m going to guess it’s second grade. The child is supposed to unscramble the words into a sentence and draw a picture that fits. This sentence is about a goat and I will say this kid draws a real nice goat. It’s the sentence that disturbs me.

Now what in the name of all that is holy would possess a kid to come up with this rather than “My goat is in a pen.”? I know this is a boy because no girl I know would write that. However I would give him an extra point for creativity stringing Pen and Is together to make a brand new word!

I know, I shouldn’t bag on the deranged, future serial killer. None of us are perfect. Here is an example of my writing. My sister found it. Where? I have no idea. What was she doing with it? Again, no idea. We were talking about rabbits we had as kids by the names of Hoppity and Christopher. However in “archival writing” of mine she discovered, I’m calling her rabbit by another name. This led her to question her own recollection of her pet’s name. Honestly, considering all the glue sniffing stuff I was writing I would not give tooo much credit to the name change as you will see.

BTW – my spelling is for shit and was even worse back then. This is transcribed as written. My comments are in brackets. Don’t judge me.

“Me myself and I”

“My Family. I have two sisters. (nope, just one unless I was counting the dog out of spite) My daddy works at Mazerra, Snyder, DeMartini. (a law office) My Mother stays home when I go to school. We have two rabbits, one dog. They don’t get along together.”

“This is owr dog Queenie. (Yes, I wrote “owr” – actually, I wrote “are” crossed it out and wrote “owr” next to the picture of the dog) we have two rabbits Hoppity (the drawing is colored white) Christobelle (colored brown. OK, the rabbit’s name was Christopher and I believe he was black & white).”

“My Favorite Foods. I like poached marrshmallows. like fried snowballs, an oyster. I like eggs, pie. I like baked cakes. Hoppity, Christobelle prefer eggs. Hoppity, Christobelle are rabbits owr dog Queenie chases the rabbits all over. She will make them her dinner.”

(OK this is weird. I HATE roasted marshmallows. In fact I flat-out refused to roast a marshmallow and eat it at camp for a merit badge. Thus completely pissing of the Sisters and earning me detention. Why would I say that? Fried snowballs? Really? We never ate those cake snowballs as kids and you can’t fry a real snowball. I don’t think I ate oysters when I was that age. But I do remember the last sentence about Queenie making the rabbits her dinner. Weird.)

“When I Grow Up. I want to be a teacher, teach kindergarten. I want to correct math papers, write on the bord.” (I would never want to teach Kindergarten. I liked teaching 6th grade. Math? I was horrible at math. Why would I want to correct math papers? I couldn’t correct my own. Yup, definitely sniffing glue when I wrote that.)

My ever-wise sister pointed out the obvious, “Kids make shit up.”

Yup and they sniff those slightly damp mimiograph sheets and eat paste though I never ate paste. I was a page sniffer though. What are kids going to do now that all those purple worksheets are gone?

I suppose there will be less goat drawings.

My Pre-Dawn Tsunami Adventure

So this morning my Mom calls me at 4:30am (she is in Virginia) to tell me that Japan has suffered a devastating 8.9/9.0 earthquake. It’s what we in California fear and call “The Big One”. While feeling awful, I fail to understand why she is waking me up to tell me this. Then she tells me about the Tsunami speeding towards our coast faster than a jet plane at 600 miles an hour. Great. I thought Irwin Allen disaster movies went out of style in the 1970’s.

At first I thought I would just stay where I am. While I am on the water in a marina, I am 4 stories up. However, the magnitude of the quake gave me pause. Do we know for sure what would happen in this situation? Nope, not really. We can guess, we can postulate but we can’t know for sure. We aren’t Gods even if some of our kind try to act like they are.

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor so I grabbed some things, stuck them in the car, grabbed the laptop, stuffed the cat in a carrier and off I went to the wilds of Walnut Creek. In order to avoid morning traffic, I took the back way past the San Pablo Dam, dropping down into Orinda behind the mountains. The road was thick with fog and dark. I almost thought I passed through one of those strange bubbles in time that lurk on the fringes of reality, waiting to drop on you like a trapdoor spider.

I lurked at Starbucks for a few hours, looking like total Hell, before heading to my friend Christine’s house for a few more hours of television watching. I needed to get the kitten out of the carrier before she had a mental meltdown. Not that she didn’t have one when deposited in an unfamiliar house. I’ve never heard her growl so much. Her kitty brain just leaked out of her ears, poor thing.

The devastation is awful and my heart goes out to all those people caught in broken buildings or swept away in a pyroclastic flow of tsunami water. The fact that trucks and trains alike were just tossed aside like dice should remind us all how small we are in the face of nature in her element.

It also made me nuts to see selfish people surfing in the Bay or off of Santa Cruz. What are these people thinking? If they get in trouble through their own voluntary actions, would they expect first responders to risk their own lives to save their self-centered asses? My mother lived in Hawaii for years and told me stories of tsunamis. While the people with sense would head for the high ground, there were always the lemmings who would run down to the beach. “Look! All the water pulled away, let’s run out there and pick up shells and dance around!” Yeah, that’s great until the water rushes back in like a freight train.

Those poor people in Japan had no warning. Why others tempt fate for a ride on a wave is beyond me! Let’s keep the people who were effected by this tragedy in our thoughts and remember one day, it could be us. Be good to each other.

Are You A Douche For “Writing In Public”?

One of my friends sent me this and I thought it was funny! I don’t watch “Family Guy” regularly but appreciate its scattered, satirical humor.

I suppose there are many reasons some of us write in public. For me it started at Whole Foods. This was because I had a stand-alone PC with a dial-up connection. My computer was slow and I never watched YouTube because it would take 45 minutes to load anything. Then my friend Rex gave me his old laptop and off I went. I could walk the three blocks to the cafe at Whole Foods and use their internet for two whole hours (before they cut you off). I wasn’t writing then, I was looking for jobs. I envied those people who looked so bohemian “working on their novels” or “writing their manifesto for the next great communist vegan revolution” but I had work to do. My job was finding a job. It still is.

I never did much writing in Starbucks because they didn’t have wi-fi (unless you paid for it) and I wasn’t “writing” yet. Now I write at Starbucks. Why? It’s local, it’s easy to get to, there is a fire station across the way and I can watch hunky firemen and policemen during the day. The police station isn’t too far and this Starbucks is in a “Nantucket-by-the-Bay” area and not a gang zone. I don’t even know if there ARE any Starbucks in Da Hood. It’s hard for me to picture “Lil Weaser” ordering a venti, double-shot, vanilla latte” with an extra pump.

So I write at Starbucks because of the scenery and because if I don’t get out of the house once in awhile my friends accuse me of being like Howard Hughes. No, I’m not afraid of people and germs, just poor. Now I write and I still look for jobs. How about the douches that DO “write in public?” I think they have a case of smug. It isn’t unique to Starbucks and laptops like the Family Guy clip shows. It always happens to people when there is something new. It happened with pagers. Remember pagers? People would even come up with cute codes to page each other. It was the forerunner of texting. People would haul them out all the time as if to say “Look at me! I am sooo important that my work gave me a pager! I am doing important things. I’m not talking to my blow dealer so leave me alone.”

It happened with car phones. Remember them? They were installed in the car. You couldn’t carry them around but you could TALK IN THE CAR! How did people know you were one of these smug people who could talk in their car? The car phone had what was called a pig’s tail antennae that was affixed to your trunk or the roof of your car. There were people who would buy fake antennae’s just so people would think they had a car phone. I’m sure that also contributed to their cars being broken into more frequently.

It happened with cell phones when they became portable and I’m sure it will happen with robot cyborgs as well. If a new gadget comes out that initially few people have, those few are attacked by a case of smug and have to show off to friends and strangers. They need to say “Look how important and well-off I am that I can have this new toy and you don’t.”

Honestly this goes back to childhood. I mean if you had the Barbie Dreamhouse with the elevator and the Corvette in the driveway, you needed to show it off to your other friends who were making do with empty shoe boxes as Barbie tenement housing. I’m sure little boys have their version of this but I didn’t have brothers so I wouldn’t know. The boys I knew seemed very attached to their immense collection of Match Box cars.

I should say if you want to visit a coffee place with a dearth of laptop writers, go to Peets. There is no writing at Peets. Why? From what I’ve observed, Peets is their own brand of smug. Don’t even think of walking into the patchouli, hippie mothership with their vegan pastries and their smug Prius driving crowd and order a Grande anything. Those hippies will kick you in the balls and toss you out on the street. They don’t take kindly to smug that is not their brand of smug. I suppose if you have a solar laptop you want to write on to craft your latest communist manifesto in the great vegan rebellion, they would be good with that. Otherwise, they will boot you in the junk.

I’m sure there are professional people who write at Starbucks but I think the smug level varies. I’m not sure if many screen writers write in Starbucks. Maybe unemployed ones. I know a few and they write in a writers room at the studio. When they aren’t on the lot, they are writing at home. Perhaps some of them go to a Starbucks but I never asked. It seemed rude. Playwrites always seem more tragic and poor and desperate than Hollywood screen writers. Visions of Tennessee Williams, and many others, wallowing in a sea of whisky while they bang out literary gold on an old Selectric comes to mind. I can picture them trying to quell the mad voices with the liquor. I know none of them saw a Starbucks. I have no idea what modern playwrites do. This might be a project for later. Much later.

So what am I doing today besides kick boxing in my living room and applying for jobs? I think I’ll go to Starbucks or what I call “The Fireman Store” due to the influx of hotties. Maybe I will get a call for a job, maybe not. Either way, I’m sure the view will be nice.

Job Opening: Exentric Starbucks Oddball

As you may or may not know, I love Starbucks.  OK, maybe not as much as Jones Coffee in Pasadena with their Aztec Mocha or that little coffee counter at the Metreon in San Francisco where they have killer chai but for my regular chai fix, it’s Starbucks.  My drink of choice is a Grande, non-fat, no water chai tea latte.

Starbucks is a place where I can relax, plug in my laptop, write, surf the web and contemplate the Universe.  There is another thing that seems to tie various Starbucks together, the excentric oddballs.  I’ve had the “Camel Toe Lady” in Livermore, the “Crazy Tie Dye Hippie” in Point Richmond, the “Musical Farter” in Pinole and the Trap Door Begger in Piedmont.  Though to be fair, he wasn’t in Starbucks per say.  He camped out in the alleyway next to Posh Bagel but it was close enough to Starbucks to still be creepy.

Now I have found a Starbucks that needs an oddball.  It is the Starbucks on Richmond Parkway between Point Richmond and Pinole.  Every time I have checked in there I have found the lounge to be depressingly normal.  Normal people coming in, ordering their lattes, reading the newspaper, chatting about the Giants game, even a few cops doing their paperwork.  No oddballs, no specimens of the variety that is the human condition.

Then it hit me.  The Voice.  Now I am not categorizing this person as an oddball associated with a specific Starbucks on a regular basis.  This could be a lone soul passing through on the way to another destination, her stop mercifully brief.

Everyone, let me give you a bit of advice.  Just because you have vocal chords, just because you may be very smart, does not mean you need to talk.  All the time.  Constantly.  About nothing at all.  This woman would not shut up.  In fact, I’m not even sure if she paused to breathe the entire time she was there.  She never ordered anything.  She came in with a friend or unwitting soul that had been punished by the Gods and had to cart this albatross around for eternity while she yammered away nonstop about absolutely nothing.  At times these tangents took on the shadings of academia.  It didn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if you are the most brilliant person on the planet if you are an insufferable know-it-all and a total douche.

I felt so very sorry for the woman having to listen to this but felt more pity for Motor Mouth Mabel.  How was she raised?  I am thinking in a highly competitive environment where if you didn’t get your points in by all means possible, you would not be heard.  If I could tell her something it would be this “The best things are said in silence”.  I just made that up.  Feel free to use it.  It’s true.  I understand you want to express yourself.  I feel for you.  I really do.  You want to feel noticed, recognized, worthy, loved.  We all do.  But you are driving people away, people are tuning you out and that is running contrary to what you desperately want.  The validation of human interest and contact.  In your effort to push for validation and attention at all cost, you are denying yourself the one thing you want.

Stop.  Listen.  Sit a while.  Silence is your friend and your teacher.  Learn now before it is too late and you are left railing at the walls because no one else will be there to hear you.

Gay Cherry Mochas Meet The Cougar Girls

Starbucks Dark Cherry MochaSo the other day I was in The City for an interview and decided to stop by Starbucks for a Grande Non-fat No Water Chai Tea Latte.  As I walked into the store, I was greeted by the most chipper gay man ever!  “SWEETIE!  How ya doin?!  What can we get you today?”  I told him and then he asked “Have you tried our new Dark Cherry Mocha?”  I told him I hadn’t.  It sounded kinda sweet to me, like Robitussin or the name of a stripper over at The Peppermint Rhino.  I thought perhaps I would try one later until Mr. Starbucks steps in with a cherry “I’ll just whip you you a little one!  Just a wee one for you to try!”

Well how can you turn down free and presented with such a sunshine smile?  Sure enough, he whipped up a tiny, Barbie sized latte complete with whip and chocolate shavings.  It wasn’t as sweet as I thought, the chocolate was more bittersweet.  Not something I would drink all the time but it was nice.  Perhaps it was made extra fabulous by my Basita.  I was having a great morning and then… they came in.

A blousy pack of 40 something women on their way to work or a conference or a bar, push through the door.  While I wasn’t paying much attention at first, since I was focused on my wee Barbie latte sample, I hear “b;ah, blah, blah… 22 year old stripper.”

My ears go up like Scooby Doo. Arrr?!  The alpha with the huge helmet of spray hair, then started rambling about “Cougars are just the poo!”  One of her friends chimes in with “But aren’t cougars hot like Demi Moore?”  “Oh no!”, the big hair woman bellows, “They don’t have to be hot, they just need to chase cubs!”  Then they all chime in together, “LIKE US!”

OK, get me out of here!  These women have just harshed my perfect day mellow.  My poor Barista looks like he wants to hide behind the counter or run from the store screaming, arms waving above head.  If I wasn’t unemployed and poor, I would take out a billboard with these women’s faces on it to warn young men of this impending train wreck.

Ladies, let’s not aspire to the most unattractive, pathetic traits of aging men (i.e. chasing girls young enough to be their kids) just to make you feel younger.  Remember, it’s called self-esteem because it comes from yourself, not from other people.

Starbucks & The Story of Pat

The other day I was at a Starbucks in Victorville, getting a Vente non-fat, no water chai before having to teach six 1 hour classes to 7th graders.  You really need the boost especially after driving from Pasadena to Victorville in the early morning.  As I was waiting in line, I saw a strange sight.  I never saw that sketch on Saturday Night Live. Truth be told I started petering out from watching SNL after Eddie Murphy left. As far as I was concerned he was the last of a dying breed. The first years were full of giants. Now they are just insignificant squirrel farts. There I said it.

Anyway, getting back to Pat. There was a sketch starring someone who I don’t know playing an androgynous character named Pat. Was Pat a woman or a man? No one really knew. When people described the skit I didn’t see the funny. It wasn’t like Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyds “Wild ad Crazy Guys” or Belushi doing “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, No Coke – Pepsi”

Now I think I understand. I was at Starbucks again. I KNOW but they have come up with a new kind of crack… (I will blog that tomorrow.. STAY TURNED FOR STARBUCKS & CRACK) SO … I was in Starbucks and I saw this … person. Do you know how disconcerting it can be when its not the 70s and you don’t know if someone is a man or a woman.

5″5′, about 180, blond wavy hair, shoulder length, wearing pants, a shirt and a jacket, couldn’t see any breasts, couldn’t see any facial hair, adams apple or hairy knuckles, didn’t want to stare too much. Then I started thinking, Why should this bother me? I mean, I’m not going to conversate with “Pat”, why should I worry if “Pat” is a man or a woman? I shouldn’t care. We are both just needing to get a fix, get over yourself. Still I ruminated.

Perhaps it is because I have started eyeing people with an uneasy air after the Camel Toe incident. BTW, would an in your face camel toe classify as a WMD? Personally, I think it does.  But back to Pat, I have decided that people who appear outside the societal norms upset the hive mind. Yeah, that’s it – blame it on some weird, psych theory that I can’t prove BUT if you give me grant money I will try or at least spend your money on booze & hookers then write some moronic paper at 2 in the morning all strung out on X and self-loathing.

I really need to start writing on the book now instead of just venting about some poor Pat person.  Sue me.  Hey!  Maybe later I can go out for some Panda and there is another Starbucks right there on the corner I can try.  Doesn’t that always seem to be the way?