The Other Drunk Woman I Met on Vacation

Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 2 Comment(s)

It's time.  You've waited long enough in anticipation.  Here comes the payoff. 

I should mention, by means of comparison that, while the 1st girl i met was most certainly drunk off her rocker, the woman (she was significantly older than the last girl) that i am about to speak of, i only hope was really drunk.  I assume she was.  But, unlike drunkasaurus rex from Woody's, this woman's eyes weren't rolling around her head like a Muppets and she seemed capable of forming words without adding extra h's and "shhh" sounds to everything.  Drunk, but not drunkasaurus rex.   Maybe a drunk-a-raptor.  Or some smaller form of meat eater (dirty pun!).

here goes. 

On the island, there is a little mini casino.  well, not a casino per say, but rather a mirror encrusted bar with electronic slots, blackjack, and roulette.  Apparently the law works in such a way that as long as there are no dealers or actual cards, aka. everything is electronic, you can do pretty much whatever.  This system works for everyone.  People bet real money and get real money in return.  And in the end, that's what's most important in this situation. 

I, not being immune to the gambling impulse, but being saddened by slot machines as a whole, decided to play some electronic blackjack.  In terms of my personal run at the "tables," it went like this-- i was up, then i lost a little, i was way up, then i lost a bunch.  In the end i made about 20 bucks.  And i had fun.  good deal.

But this story involves what happened while i was gambling.  Me and two other older men, were sitting at the far blackjack machine which is shaped like a half circle, us along the curved edge, with our backs facing the back row of slot machines along the back wall. 

there was a lively and fun mood at the table, with the guy to my right betting big and winning big.  Hundreds.  All while simultaneously verbally abusing his wife who was kinda roaming around the place drunkinly getting involved in this or that.  I filed it all under "not my problem" and moved on.  The man to my left was older still, maybe 70, southern, and into college basketball.  The two men traded harmless insults regarding each others college sports conference and we we're well on our way. 

As we were on a roll, we hear a woman's voice behind us.  "How do I get there."

There are moments in life, when you just find clarity.  Without turning around, i swear to you all, i knew exactly what was happening and how it was going to play out.  I'm not sure why.  I'm not saying i have powers or im psychic (psychotic?) or anything.  Just that, in this particular situation, the moments that were about to occur fell smoothly into place in my mind ahead of time.

I turned.  "That's a mirror,"  i said.

"Excuse me?" she replied.  The tone was a mixture of confusion, potentially feeling insulted, and then back to confusion.

Me again.  "Where are you trying to get?"

Her:  "There."  She points toward the back wall, toward the row of slots that line that wall, with the wall itself being a large mirror, giving the effect that the room is twice as large as it actually it.  Remember, i said, the effect

Seeing her, standing there, pointing at a mirror (which DID reflect her btw), desperately trying to find her way into the "back of the casino" to get to the slots that look almost identical to the ones shes at, only backward -- did not move me.

"That,"  i repeated, this time giving her supposed destination a cursory glance, "is a mirror."

Her reaction this time was almost identical, except this time it was just a look, no words.  And it ended with the recognition that she was trying to find a way into a friggin mirror.

I turned back to the table.

The funniest part, however, is that as i turned back, the two men at my sides finally turned their attention (and chairs) toward the woman i was having this 'conversation' with.  They had been half-listening without actually investing any energy to help.  But my reply had peeked their curiosity. 

And i swear you could watch their faces slowly comprehending what had just transpired.  Looking at her, looking at the back wall mirror, back to her, then to me, then back to her.  And then -- booming laughter.  From both of them.  the best part was watching these guys piece together the hilariousness that had just transpired on a simultaneous delay, and then just loosing it as they made their way to the punchline. 

If only Alice had been there.  Perhaps she could have led the drunk lady raptor through the looking glass . . . . and far far away from reproduction.

A Letter from Japan

Monday, March 21, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I really thought that today was the day when i would tell you all about the 2nd horribly dumb woman i met on vacation.  Alas, it is really funny, and it will be coming directly.  But not today.

Today, I'm gonna have to talk about Japan.  In a way i've been in denial.  Not real denial, mind you, but the type of denial you get into when a country you love is amidst a situation that is, at least potentially, worse than one can imagine.

As some of you know, i spent a little over a year teaching elementary and middle school English in Japan.  Specifically in Gunma-ken prefecture, which spans northwest from Tokyo (and therefore southwest from the most significant impact of the quake and wave.  I was part of the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) program which contracts thousands of foreigners each year to go to Japan to help the country learn native English.  It is an impressive program.  Lately, it has been in the news because one of the 24 year old teachers from the program was the first American officially killed by this disaster.  Keep in mind, however, that something like 15,000 are missing.  I'll say that again 15,000 are missing.

There was a 60 min. segment on the earthquake/tsunami in Japan yesterday.   The two most powerful excerpts.  The reporter was speaking with another JET teacher from Miyagi -- the prefecture which was hit most directly.  He told the story of rushing the elementary students to the gym to escape the earthquake, then getting conflicting info as to whether or not they should run back to the school when the tsunami alert went off.

There wasn't enough time.  They all huddled in the gym as the water rushed in . . . violently.  The teacher described the water levels rising up to the basketball hoop as people were forced out of the building by the rushing water.  Elementary students were trapped by the water, and he recalled throwing/pushing as many students as possible over the upper balcony railing.  He said about 100 survived in that gym, on that upper balcony, in the dark, water all around, for 6 terrifying hours.

During the segment, they went back to that gym.  the reporter showed how about 85 bodies were laid wrapped on the gym floor.  "the truth about the situation," he said, "is that there are not enough living, to take care of the dead."

This is where i tell you the extent of my fear.  My fear is that any of these mornings, we will wake up and half of Japan will be gone.  With 4 nuclear reactors overheating in close proximity, the meltdown of one could be catastrophic, especially if the destruction of one reactor dominoes into the overheating of the others.  Which brings me to the second powerful excerpt from the 60 min piece.  They spoke with a woman who is high up the American nuclear braintrust, and was already in Japan on related issues when this all started.  She emphasized how grave the situation was.  The reporter asked her how bad it could be, if the reactors chain reacted.  Her face visibly changed.  She couldn't say it.  Essentially, you knew she could answer this question, but it seemed the reality of the answer was too scary and horrid to speak of out loud.  She equivocated.  Something along the lines of "beyond horrible and unimaginable." But her face said that she had imagined it.  Her face said it all.

My fear is not only for the radiation.  Yes, at the moment, that is the most virulent strain of potentially still tragic news.  But there was also the earthquake.  The tsunami. The earthquake shook the entire region -- hard.  The tidal wave destroyed miles and miles of villages, rice fields, and lives.  In a country that, no matter how far out in the country you were, always impressed me with its orderliness.  Things are organized.  Trains run on time.  And now, the pictures all come back katrina-like.

It makes me immensely sad.  What's striking, is that in all the pictures, the videos, you don't see people.  Like frozen death washing in to find it's victims.  Thousands died.  And from the looks of the terrain, the true death toll won't be known for a good long while. 

But even this isn't the extent of the problem.  As far as Gunma-ken, where i lived, radiation is already showing up in the crops.  Not only the rice crops of Miyagi, but the spinach of Gunma.  And part of the sustainability of Japan comes from their ability to manufacture so much of their own food, so after the radiation, after the earthquake destruction, after the tsunami damage, and after the homelessness and power outages-- right around the time people are hoping things are back to normal -- Japan will have to deal with the stigma and fear surrounding their own food supply.  Already vegetables marked as coming from certain regions of the country are being left in the bins.

This is a disaster.  A still unfolding disaster.  There have been MANY MANY MANY aftershocks above 5 on the Richter scale.   They continue to scare the people and keep them on perpetual edge.  And what i want to get across here is the enormity.  Not only of the destruction, but the destruction in comparison to the size of the country itself.   One of my good Japanese friends, Ayako Ono, who lives in a suburb of Tokyo recently sent out an email to her international friends describing both her experience and the mood in the city.  Remember that Tokyo wasn't close (relatively) to the earthquake epicenter when reading her accounts.  It was scary just to read, let alone imagine my friend living through.   In terms of the grammar, i have edited the English some, but not much (my friend's English is superb).  If you are a stickler for grammar, try writing in Japanese, and then chill out:

Dear Friends all over the world
Hello from Japan where we are under an emergency situation as you know!
I am sorry to send this at once to everybody. But I think it is easier to tell all of you what my situation is and how I have been.
Thank you very much again for your warm messages and worrying about me and Japan!
The earthquake on 3/11 was the biggest one in Japanese modern history.
And sadly over 8000 people died until today. And still 15,000 people missing.
I was at the office on 16th floor that time. (in Tokyo) It was the worst scary experience I have ever had! The earthquake was very long, I guess more than 3mins!
It was totally unusual.
And very difficult to run down the emergency steps to get out! Because there was so much shaking! I had to hold the railing bar to run down!!
And the wall came off because ofthe earthquake's power while I was running down. So scary. I thought the buiding will crash!

(editors note: this is completely fucking terrifying to me)
While we were out side of building, it was still shaking too much! It is very rare to feel earthquake usually when you are outside.
But it was very strong and shaking over and over.
Fortunatelly nobody got hurt or no fire from my office building.
And I could go home next day because Trains stop. 

And you watched what Tsunami did to us...
I still feel sick now when I watch the images on TV. And still feel shaking sometimes even if it doesnts shake now.
This feeling happens many people now here... because of stress.
But I am fine somehow. Thank you.
And my family, and friends are fine. Some friends are under the inconvenient situation though. i.e. no gas, no water, no electricity...
But from these incidents, to be alive is very thankful. I felt " I need to survive!!" when the earthquake came.
Well, as seen on TV, our Atomic plants are still under emergency situtaion.
So we have to save electricity.  Maybe I trust too much my country's technology. Who said Atomic power is clean and safe before I was born!?  Because over 1 week later, this crisis is still not solved, although it sounds going better. But 4 main plants are in danger. And now we have to feel scared of radioactivity. It is leaking little by little.
Foods from near plants, can we eat it in the future? Not sure. :(
Especially Miyagi prefecture, which had the big Tsunami shock, is famous about rice field...
We are in very negative situation, but some "miracles"  happen also. So not only bad things.
Limited blackout around Tokyo region, it started last week.
It is a bit inconvenient.
But we can save power more and we notice how much we use electricity too much usually!!! I know brightness is important for our life though.
But my home area, I don't know why, the blackout didn't come. And everything goes on as usual, thanks.
If you go to supermarket, you cannot buy  some "daily stuff" now. And Gasoline for cars, you can get only a few litters because of the shortage.
But don't need to use it around here. You can walk or use bicycle!
I am a bit afraid of radioactivity in the air... but hopefully it won't cause bad things for us immidiately.
I guess some foreingn countries evacuating is... the right thing. But it is for the worst case.
And I guess we are not still in the worst case. Of course you don't know when it turns "the worst".
Anyway, air is fresh, feeling Spring. Getting warmer and wamer. (Northern Japan, it is still too cold though)

I really don't want to go out in much in the radioactive spreading air.
But I have to live here. And I cannot run away.
So I HOPE no more big earthquakes will come. Small earthquakes are still coming every day, even around Tokyo, from the North!
And we will be able to recover somehow. But... I think it will take for a looooooooong time. Nobody knows when.
Because some towns were swept away. And never have i seen such a mess! How can we tidy up...
Anyway, our government is not good as usual. And our economy will be back to bad again.
But Japanese, we try to be stronger.
And maybe many of you know, we have a spirit to support each other when someone is in hard times.
And when you are in hard times, we have to support each other naturally.
We can get through somehow!
So I cannot invite you here for a while, but I would love all of you to show again how my country is good place as your place. :)  (editors note: it really is!!!! the food is BETTER than here!) So I really appreciate your warm message and being friends!
I feel so happy when I received many messages from you all over the world.
So please keep your eyes on my contry. And I am very fine because I have a space in my heart to take care of footie (*soccer) news as usual! Don't worry too much until you hear another big earthquake hit Tokyo directly.
Media likes to make "too much drama". (What do u think, friends works for the media! :P )
Again, Thank you very much and hope you are fine!
Speak to you soon!
With love,
  P.S. Shaking twice while I am writing this!!! Ugh   (yes--they had two earthquakes while she wrote this letter!)

I will conclude by emphasizing that this is the terrifying story of a person nowhere near the brunt of the destruction, and still the narrative reminds me of 9-11 (the terror of the building potentially falling--obviously not terrorism).  I cannot watch these imagines of such a beautiful country that i love being swept away and destroyed without crying.  Ayako is right about the spirit of the Japanese people, however.  They will band together and get through this.  Why don't we band together with them and then we will speak of connected spirit of the human people.

Am I Wasted?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

One of my old Boston roomies (we’ll call her V) lives down here on the island.  As the small world would have it, the new girl subletting the room in our then Cambridge apartment had just been living on the same island my family was building a house.  V’s moved back to the island and now I have a great playmate to take me out and get me into mischief whenever I can get down here.  (I should also briefly mention that, also by complete coincidence, mmf’s best friend from growing up in VT also lives down on the island.) 

This trip, I have had the pleasure of also getting to meet and spend time with V’s boyfriend (we’ll call him NH).  The only real pieces of knowledge you need about NH is that I like him, he has a fantastically mischievous smile, and he is a cook on the island.  And all the cooks/waitstaff/etc on island know each other.  I mention him in the blog only because he features prominently in this story.

There is a bar on the main strip of town on the island called “Woody’s.”  Woody’s is famous for it’s happy hours and its cute waitresses in tight and tiny clothes.  It’s a little like if you combined Hooter’s with a Jimmy Buffet song with a antiquated burger shack.  As you can imagine, it attracts mostly tourists and becomes an Arian-inspired genetically gifted drunken mess.  It’s one of my least favorite places to go (cept for their late night take out).  It was one such late night take out binge that drove me toward Woody’s around midnight-ish.  I couldn’t get myself to go in.  On this particular night there was a group of 6 footers in what used to be dress clothes (I think one might have been a tux).  They were already swaying in that lovely drunken way whereby it looks as if they are trying to balance the top half of their bodies upon the lower.  The women in this group looked like grown up versions of the girls in those kid beauty pageants, and in this case were sporting track pants riding low enough to see the entire top of their hipbones jutting out like the perfect cliff-climbing handholds.  Then I spotted NH in the back of the joint, chatting with the cook and a few other friends.  We make eye contact and I now felt confident enough to enter.  We meet right in the center of the bar/drunken dancing/meat-marketing. 

He asks,”You seen V?”
I reply, “Yah, she’s at the bar upstairs.”
Him, “She wasted?”
Me, “No, she . . .”

As I’m finishing, or rather beginning, this sentence, the blondest and waiffiest of the girls spins around to the two of us.  She is fully made up and so skinny that the only resemblance my mind can come up with is of a concentration camp prisoners.  She is also so tanked that the redness that would be in her face from all the booze is finally starting to seep through the makeup and dot her face.  She obviously had applied the most around her eyes since that area has remained almost eerily white. 

Drunk girl (to me): “ME? 

She was asking if we were asking if she was wasted or not.  As if the sight of this skinny bag of sex'd up bones were enough to change all topic of conversation to who she was, what she was feeling, and how I could be around her. 

Me (to her):  “No, not you.  You are wasted.  The person we are talking about is not.”

Drunk Girl: (looking a combination of confused and offended) “Wait, what?!”

Me (to her): “You asked if we were saying you were wasted.  And I told you, ‘no,’ because you are obviously wasted, and the person we were actually talking about is not wasted, like you are.”

And this is the best part.  She is still so confused and offended that she decides to glance to NH in hopes that he will confirm my dickishness and defend her.   And NH just looks at her, with his big eyes and that sly grin and nods, “yah, he’s right.”

She retreats. 

Man, I wish it could have been like this in high school. 

Vacationing Alone

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I am currently on the tail end of my first solo vacation in a very long while.  And, in fact, if we make the distinction between a vacation (where you go to a single place for relaxation [or skiing]) and a trip (where you are hopping from one place to the next, gobbling up the culture as you head to the next hostel/hotel/train seat/etc.), this may be my first solo vacay ever.  Mmf could not get away.  One of the downsides of being an educator who continues to educate oneself, is that the university and public school systems have off-setting spring breaks, and therefore mmf is stuck in the great white(ish) north. 

This creates a somewhat awkward situation when you meet people and strike up a conversation (as both I, and people on vacation, are want to do).  Eventually, unless I feel like going on a lying binge where I create a reality whereby I am a nature photographer on assignment to capture some of the beauty that results from declaring wilderness “protected,” they ask about my relationship status.  And while famous photographer matt doesn’t have small problems like a fiancĂ© stuck at home and irritable bowel syndrome, the more genuine matt does.  And so I mention my fiancĂ© and then they of course ask, “Oh, where is she?”  And it’s not the question that’s awkward.  It’s that when they ask the question, their eyebrows arch and they hold their breath in such a way that says “are you guys having problems at home.” 

And were not.  And I tell them as such.  I mention the school systems and the off-setting breaks and they listen and nod and say, “oh oh oh,” but about 75% of them are still thinking “there’s definitely trouble there.”   And since seeing that in their eyes pisses me off, that is awkward. 

But back to being on vacation solo.  Mmf and I have started to play a new “making plans” game.  Here’s how it goes.  We, like all couples, hem and haw over the nightly plans.  Cooking/ordering/from where/beers?/energy levels/morning wake up times.  All of these subjects get tossed around in the “what are we doin tonight” metaphorical box, shaken up, and discussed until we decide or 8:30 comes around and we are so hangry that we settle for gnawing on each other throats.  I know you know what im taking about.  So, in this new twist to the same ol script, the person who is feeling more amenable, has the later wake up time, has more energy, asks the grumpier, less feeling-open person, “if you had your druthers, what would you do tonight.”  And yes, druthers is a fantastic word.  Really the whole game relies on the fact that such a cool word was given such a useful meaning.  We are simply exploiting our love for tasty vocabulary.   To conclude the game, the less energy person then can say anything from “eat mac & cheese and go to bed” (which frees high energy person to go out if s/he wants) or to suggest the actual thing they would go out for.  I know that I have introduced elements of my relationship on this blog before that I believe are life changing (ahem . . . butt-snuggle . . . ahem).  I’m not sure the druthers game is quite as course altering.  Often, the idea of what one would do if they had their druthers becomes yet another category to speculate about.  Which, obviously, subverts it’s entire purpose.  Thankfully, I’m really only telling you about this game as a literary vehicle for what I really want to tell you about, and in that respect, I believe it has served it’s purpose admirably.

Here’s the connection.  When vacationing alone, every decision you make is, on some base-level, your druthers.  Given only your own agenda, the decisions you make are now representative of exactly what you want to be doing.  For someone with a powerful neurotic brain like myself, the prospect of learning my inner desires is a bit daunting.  Will I never leave the bed and learn I am actually a humongous lazy pile of poop?  Will I crack with no one to talk to and spend my hours roaming through town hoping to chat up interesting tourists?  The major point here is that the idea of learning about yourself, directly from yourself, can be scary.  And the first few days here, both in trying to de-stress and to adjust to being alone, was a bit hairy.  There were moments when the house I’m in felt big and I felt small.  Where the world was a world away and I was Major Tom floating away into the starry abyss.

The most striking of these moments came my first night here, as I pulled the car out of the driveway onto the cliff-face it resides on.  Because the drive-way is steeply downhill, when you're leaving and you reach the “main-road” (it would be an insult to roads everywhere not to put quotes around the idea of this as a road at all—let alone a main one—yet that is it’s function), you sort of crest up to it.  There is a moment where you get the effect of being at the top of a roller-coaster, surrounded by nothing all around, preparing for your descent.  And as I hit this crest, windows down, radio off, vines and overgrowth all around me, I felt a sense of chilly calm course through my body.  I have tried to explain how it felt, and the crazy truth is this; to me, the calm I felt – a calm of stillness, of being briefly super-imposed on the environment around you – felt how I conceptualize the calm you feel before you die. 

And I know that sounds morbid.  But I don’t mean it that way.  I wasn’t scared, but there was an element of being solitary.  There was an appreciation and a sadness all wrapped together.  Now, I guess I should be explicit in saying that I don’t have any particular inside info with regards to death.  Never met the guy (or gal).   So this is all just coming from a speculation about what the moment previous to passing away (and I guess I am on some level pre-supposing that I do not meet an untimely demise—in which case you may not even know it’s your last moment prior to it being so) is like in my sub- and now explicit – consciousness. 

Here is the other thing I have learned about spending time alone.  The first days are the hardest.  When I moved to Japan, the first night in my actual apartment up in the mountains, I was left there with no clean bedding (my American predecessor had screwed me over, asking for some money for all the stuff that she was leaving me, but all the stuff she left was absolute crap.  Most famously, the sheets had what we could only later describe as “elephant sided cum stains” right in the center of them), no AC (it was very hot), no phone, no email, no car, no bike, no nothing.  I did have a heated toilet seat however.  The combined effect of being in the middle of nowhere, having no way to communicate with anyone (no phone + a huge language barrier), and no way of getting anywhere (not that I would know where to go), were all just too much for me.  And, on my un-sheeted bed/couch – I lost my shit for about an hour. 

Remembering that you aren’t such bad company takes awhile.  Longer for some than others.  It is now day 4 of my 5 full days down here, and I still have so much to do just for myself, that I could easily extend my time here sans company.  And, perhaps even more importantly, I’ve found that as I’ve settled more and more comfortably into being with myself, the stress that I have been working so hard to evade has begun to lose my scent. 

Quick Shout Out

Monday, March 7, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

To the woman driving the fuel efficient and super earth friendly Smart Car

Just because it is called a "smart" car does not make you, the owner, smart.  Case and point. I can see you cruising around, head down, texting away.  That is definitively not smart.  And not only because texting and driving is not particularly bright, but because the whole "smart car" premise revolves around not getting into a huge accident.  It's a tiny little car.  You would need one of those putty-scrappers to ply that little thing from an SUV's bumper.  The SUV might not even feel the itsy bitsy tiny little impact of your life against its chrome, and they might subsequently drag and disintegrate your smart car, and its contents, across the ensuing miles.  Think about the extra gas mileage you will save being dragged all that way.

And that's . . . . one to grow on

Why We Should All Hate Teachers

Saturday, March 5, 2011 | 3 Comment(s)

I mean we should hate teachers, right?

I've been following the news and I think i finally figured out why.

First let me say that I am somewhat an authority on teachers and teaching.  I have been a formal student of teachers for, calculating calculating, about 21+ years.  I've also been a teacher myself for about 5 years in 3 different countries (formally) and many more informally (camps, teen tours, etc.).  I'm also marrying one.

And with all this experience, i definitely see where the vitriol against teachers come from.  They are pretty expendable.

Let's start with salaries.  Some of these teachers make almost 50K a year!!! That's a huge drain on our economy and think of all the unemployed that would love that money.  It's most surprising to me that the CEO's of large corporations (especially the one's the government bailed out) aren't quitting there jobs with paltry multi-million dollar bonuses in order to get into the lucrative field of teaching.  Cause those salaries.  Those huge huge money-grubbing teachers.  All of them in it for the money.  That's why they all go to their summer homes when they are getting paid over the break for doing nothing.  Cept going to conferences to keep their credentials.  And planning for the year to come.  And trying to find new ways to engage our children in order for them to have the chance to be successful and hopefully make mega-bucks (like their teachers).

hey! teacher! leave our budget alone!
And you can tell that the teachers are taking the lions share of everything because whenever you ask school aged children what they want to be they ALWAYS say "school-teacher, principal, administrator." Whatever happened to "sport star, actor, fashionista."  I guess those jobs just hold little acclaim these days (i mean, considering James Franco's excitement about being one, it does seem pretty banal.)

f you teachers
In Japan, not only is the pay better, but more importantly, teachers are actually respected by society.  They are treated with respect.  In their communities.  It's as if they understand that these teachers are the other adults responsible for their children for almost a majority of the time.  Responsible for not only their well being, but for providing their kids with the information they will need to create opportunities for themselves in the future.  They see the circle.  We see other people's problems.

As far as I can tell, the government has continuously been talking about improving the educational system in this country and reducing the deficit.  Never would i have thought that the conclusion to this dilemma would be to try to break teachers' unions and cut their pay.  This really illustrates how badly we need to improve our educational system.

So.  Sarcasm aside (and you should be drenched in it by now), it makes me sad.  We, as a country, end up wasting obscene amounts of energy around problems with, at least partially, obvious answers.  In Wisconsin, the "governor" should have moved forward with the pay cuts (even if i disagree with them in general) that were agreed upon by both sides and cut this bullshit fight about dissolving the teachers union.  I mean, dissolving unions?  What are we, taking a time-machine back to Newsies?  Scab teachers filling in for the striking work force.  It's anachronistic (gre word).  We are really headed backwards through time to re-fight moral transgressions gone by.

And even without moving into the unbelievably obviously choice of reducing the defense budget, can we please shut the fuck up about how cushy teachers have it.   I mean, it's incredibly insulting.  And this isn't even a debate about college professors (who make significantly more).  We are talking about the glorification of elementary, middle, and high school teacher's jobs in order to use their non-minimum wage salaries as political leverage and take focus away from the incredibly bloated salaries of d-bags who have hoodwinked the economic system and are trying to bleed as much money out of their corrupt system while they can.  Am I the only one seeing this?!?  Did you want to be like your middle school math teacher?  how about high school Spanish?  The envy of your eyes i'm sure.

Taken another way, the whole situation is really win win, because even if the government gets it's way and breaks the will of our teachers, what could possibly happen.  Finally, with no unions, we can bend the school system to our whims.  Fire some teachers, make others quit.  We'll save a ton of money and be well on our way to a balanced budget!!!

And thankfully, only our children will suffer.

Dog Walk on the Wild Side

Thursday, March 3, 2011 | 1 Comment(s)

Grover (our dog, if you happen to be a first timer to the blog) can be frustrating.  There are no if ands or buts about it.  After spending my life becoming a highly trained responsibility machine, owning a dog that can’t even conceptualize the idea of “responsibility” is almost cruel.   (I know, I know . . . “you should try handling a BABY.”  And I’m sure you are all correct.  But I’m not handling a baby, I’m handling a dog, so . . . so . . . don’t put your “baby” on me.  Mmf is equally ready for kids, for the record.)

And, on occasion, I freak out.  We left him alone out of the crate today.  He ate pretzels.  Some pretzels.  The remains lay strewn across his doggy bed.  It’s hilarious to me that he still took the bag of pretzels he KNEW he shouldn’t be eating over to his ‘spot’ to eat.  What good manners.  He got into the knitting a bit too.  Bad dog there.  Don’t touch mom’s stuff.  She will (not) cut you.   He only really chewed on food though (pretzels, dog treats, empty yogurt containers), the rest of the time he spent rearranging the house.  This shoe should be over here.   Mom’s yarn needs to be, fairly gently, removed from its bag.  A dog dish over here.  The other over here.  It was like “doggy home makeover.”

It only took a few minutes to clean, and in the end, I have resigned myself to his doggy-ness and even though my first reaction was holy shit, I quickly realized that it could have been much MUCH worse.  So many things he could have chewed and didn’t.  It is progress, even if it doesn’t feel that way now. 

The point is, while I’m not happy with his behavior, it is not shocking to me.  It can be upsetting, but not shocking.   I can’t say the same thing, however, for humans.

Things have not been great recently, and I haven’t gotten far enough from “Voldemort Day”  to write it as a hilarious tale (I will, eventually).  So this is a quicky from the following day.

I took Grover to the dog park.  He loves it.  I like the exercise.  And it was cold enough a day that I wouldn’t have to deal with any Amherst crazies telling me how to raise my dog (they only care about dog behavior on nice warm days, their days.).  So we hit the trail a bit late in the day, planning on doing what I call the small loop.  And Grover’s doing great.  He plays with a few passing dogs, but separates well and follows me.  Until the bridge. 

At the bridge, we meet a lovely female dog about Grover’s size, but leaner and quicker – more of what I think of as a sheep herding dog, with Grover having a much stronger head and neck.  And they play fabulously.  The way the other dog likes to play is by running away to be caught.  She runs in big circles.  Grover bolts after her obligingly.  Cutting corners to make up for his lack of speed.  The other dogs owner is, like most dog owners in this area, very educated and opinionated about dogs.  She has a “3’s a crowd” rule, where if her dog is playing with one dog, and a 3rd comes to play, she will separate her dog from the group.  I really don’t know enough yet about dogs and dog socialization to be able to separate the crazy dog stuff from the important dog stuff.  My gut tells me that many of these people are the equivalent of the “drink avocado-orange-lemon-saffron-lilac essence during the turning of the new moon and your fertility will go through the roof” people.  But I try to keep an open mind until I actually know better.  In any case, after a bit 2 large brown almost Weimaraner-style hunting dogs (I describe a whole subset of dogs as “Weimaraner-style, but I don’t think its an official ‘kennel club’ distinction) come trucking in the opposite direction with their masters.   I hold Grover briefly as they pass, but I figure that he’s enjoying this lady dog’s company so much that he’ll continue with her/us on the trail.

I am wrong.  About a brief bout with the lady, he bolts back on the trail, over the bridge to the dogs that had trucked past.   And he starts playing with the slower dog. 

I am quickly walking after him, figuring the people will stop briefly to let me recapture my dog and redirect him.  Instead, the dog owner behind grabs a stick from the woods, and throws it INTO THE FLOWING RIVER WITH A STEEP BANK.  Obviously both dogs go crashing after it.  And I don’t blame Grover for this.  The hunting dog, obviously well trained and practiced at this, grabs the stick out of the river, hops up the steep bank and continues along with his master, who hasn’t skipped a beat on the trail, in the other direction.  Grover tries to jump the bank.  He can’t.  And at that moment he looks up at me, now trying to guide him from the bridge above, and he is scared.  Not terrified, but scared.  I direct him to a shallower bank, and he gets out and motherfuckermotherfuckermotherfucker goes chasing after the dogs again.  Now I am running, screaming “Grover” in a loud and authoritative (and simultaneously desperate) voice.  And these fucking people, seeing me perhaps 30 yards behind, chasing helplessly after my disobedient dog . . . keep walking quickly away.  Making me run faster and faster in desperation (still screaming) until Grover finally comes back. 

And this, folks, is shocking.  Humans seem to always find new ways to shock me.  Somewhat purposely leading a strange dog to jump in a river aside, let me try to put this in perspective.   Continuing on their merry way is the pet owner equivalent of walking in the woods when you encounter a person caught in quicksand, screaming for an outstretched limb.  And you walk on past.  You don’t even glance.  It is against the entire reason for off-leash dog trails.  Who DOES that.  Maybe they go to baby matinees just to desensitize themselves to humanity and suffering.  Cold dog walking ninjas those fuckers were.  And I’d rather have 1,000 dogs that destroy the house than be in the company of a person so unempathicly cruel to their fellow man/woman.