Sunday, October 31, 2010

Liveblogging Halloween, 2010

We are not expecting many trick-or-treaters this year. There are child-filled enclaves here and there throughout the city, where a critical mass gives impetus to join roving hordes of young superheroes and villains, but we are not among them.

Our neighborhood's business district has joined most others in the area, encouraging parents to bring their kids into the shops for guaranteed plentiful and safe, if homogeneous, treats. Ever optimistic, though, BFF bought some Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and special Halloween Kit-Kats to tempt tiny revelers.

It isn't long after the sun has gone down, the ritual jack o' lantern been lit, and rooster head put in place, that we do indeed hear our first excited, high-pitched voices, and the doorbell rings. Let's see what 2010's Halloween brings:

6:37pm PST. Boy and girl both about eight years old, Transformer and Wonder Woman store-bought. Kit Kat and Reece’s each.

6:40. Four boys all about eleven, different costumes, mostly home-made except a Scream carrying a Pulaski. Cautioned to be careful with that dangerous tool while going down the steps, he hollers, “I will, it’s only for killing people.” Rooster doesn’t blink.

6:47. Cute little boy about three wearing perhaps a mutant turtle costume. Father wearing ear flap cap, smiling. Boy wants to stay and talk but we can’t understand him so we shut the door on his face. Just kidding.

7:07. BFF, going out on the porch for a smoke, offers the conciliatory observation that at least it's held off raining. Moments later she comes back in and whispers that she thinks we might have a Spanish-speaking family coming up. Her clue: "Hola," and "Gracias" heard from the street. They arrive! A little girl about three years old, not sure about the costume since she's wearing a coat over it. Very cute! Mother accompanies her as father remains at the curb holding an even younger child and speaking softly en espanol.

7:15. BFF is dispirited by the lack of neighborhood participation in the giving ritual, as evidenced by the few houselights offering welcome for costumed children, especially the little ones.

8:02. We get through dinner without interruption, counting only eight kids in all, but when BFF goes out to snuff the jack o' lantern's candle, she's met by our neighbor with his friendly and garrulous three-year-old boy dressed as a Holstein cow. A good close to the evening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Moves Me

It was miserable weather today, but surprisingly not a bad commute. Here in one of the most famously rainy cities in the country, drivers are usually strangely mincing in their habits, braking at the first drop of precipitation, and then proceeding reluctantly and at a slug’s pace.

But swinging onto I-5 early this evening all was copacetic; especially with Miles Davis's 'Flamenco Sketches' popping up on the iPod to accompany me down the pike.

Ten minutes later, gliding Red Ed into the parking space in front of our house, IZ brought my “Best of the Best” playlist to an upbeat close with his ukelele version of 'Over the Rainbow.'

I’ve got 67 songs on the playlist that accompanies me on my daily commute —over five hours of music for the road. That's almost two week's worth of head-bobbing inspiration to replace profane grumbling behind the wheel.

It’s strange how proud we are, as a species it seems, of our musical tastes. Witness the bass-thumping lowriders we all recall from the too much time we've spent together at the same stoplight. Just about anyone is willing to share their favorite song at the drop of an octave.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get into Red Ed in the cold and rainy dark, and plug back into the beginning of “Best of the Best:” Van Morrison mumbling and moaning his way through 'Vanlose Stairway.'

A couple of months ago I read in the new Marcus Greil book that once the lyrics are written, the Man sings them for the sounds of the syllables rather than the words' meaning. That's why I've always heard 'Vanlose Stairway' as the more cryptic line, “We’ve lost their way,” I guess.

Van Morrison comes in second, on the iTunes playlist, after Tom Waits--the most frequently played--and tied with Neko Case and Bob Dylan.

Oh, I could go on and on, through BB King and John Lee Hooker, Lucinda Williams, Marshall Tucker Band and Mark Knopfler. Don’t forget Cesaria Evora and the Drive-by Truckers.

Somebody stop me!

Buena Vista Social Club. Billy Bragg and Wilco. Bettye Lavette and Bruce—

This is who I am. These are my values!

Blind Boys of Alabama! Joan Osborne!

This is what moves me!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ahhh, Autumn

Is there any common, natural wonder more invigorating than a crisp autumn morning? Taking care of the usual Sunday chores, opening the back door, recycling bin in hand, I take a breath of that bracing air, and squint at the sun rising over leaves turning scarlet and plum. Steam billows off the shed's asphalt shingles as last night's frost evaporates in the spreading, chilly warmth.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tough Afternoon in Class, With Kindness

Blain came late to school Wednesday—nothing unusual in that for him. What was a surprise were his apologies for the tardiness. After returning from PE, he remained cooperative, completing his brief spelling worksheet. And even held in for study hall during lunch recess, he finished a math test without complaint.

After lunch, however, he became angry with his writing partner, rose from his seat, throwing erasers and a pencil in Ben’s direction, and threatened to beat him up. He ran from the room, and walked quickly down to the end of the hall, but when I called for him to come back, he did, staying to calm down outside our door.

The last time this anger surfaced, Blain had shouted similarly at Ben while pressing a sharpened pencil into each of his own temples. That was the day before he was committed to the hospital for a week.

This was only his second day back.

At recess I walked with Blain to the office where our Family Advocate calmed him, and brought him back to our room just before the end of recess. He asked to not sit next to Ben, and not have to speak with him. I agreed. As I let the rest of the class in from outside, I spoke with Ben, relayed to him Blain’s wishes, and elicited Ben’s verbal agreement to cooperate.

After about ten minutes of class time, Ben moved from his seat and passed by Blain to the supply area. I did not see, nor did I observe, any interaction between the two. Blain, however, must have perceived something I did not. He rose from his seat and began loudly cursing his partner, two or three times loudly tossing the “f-bomb” as he gestured angrily, stumbling in circles.

I moved Blain, still shouting, through the door and had him again sit in the hall to calm down. About ten minutes after this incident, he was speaking relatively calmly to me, and agreed to go to the office to await his mother for early dismissal.

I spoke with the class and said the obvious: that Blain was upset. Mollie raised her hand.

“I think he has some problems,” she said sympathetically.

“We all have problems, don’t we, at some time?” I replied. “I have problems and I get upset. How many of you have had problems and gotten angry?”

Nearly everyone raised their hand.

“What do we do when someone has a problem, to help them feel better?”

“We can be nice to them.” “We can be nice to Blain.”

“Let’s do that.”

I love these kids. They are kind to one another. They understand.

Next week Blain transfers to a small program in our district for other kids similarly afflicted with demons.