Friday, January 30, 2009

I sketched this guy in the midst of our NYC chow-spree. (I believe it accurately evokes the feeling of eating one's way up the Isle of Manhattan, stopping for unique delicacies every few blocks and topping it all off with a heaping platter of Czech food. Uhhh... Not that I have any regrets.)

Kids Say the Darnedest Things: Fatbolala

While teaching, I waned from skinny-ish to skinny. In the depressed, lethargic aftermath, I regained my old weight and grew a small skinny-man paunch to boot.* (The Glorious Gluttony Tour didn't help.) Now that I'm back at school, my students—the fifth-grade girls in particular—like to walk up to me, poke me in the gut, and inform me, "You got fat."**

Kids say the darnedest things. Bless their hearts.

* I don't plan to let it stick around. I've (probably quite foolishly) committed myself to running a 10k in April. Hold me, I'm scared... (When do I get to start wearing the groovy running attire—the aerodynamic glasses and special synthetic shirts and whatnot? Do I actually have to run a race first, as an initiation rite, or can I just go ahead and trick myself out in hopes that I somehow become fitter by osmosis?)

** I'd like to see a makeover reality show hosted by a bunch of middle-schoolers. You know they'll tell the truth: "You got fat. Those shoes are raggedy. You need a haircut..."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Flower against blue sky. By June. (June is an avid proponent of the No-White-Space school of coloring. I love it.)

The Return of the Prodigal Mr. O

So my unpredictable route through the world of urban education has taken another curious turn. (As tangentially mentioned) I've returned to my school, volunteering part-time.

My initial foray into the classroom didn't go as planned; in fact, it went the opposite of planned,* and my departure was an unhappy one. But once the tremors subsided, I found myself deeply missing those kids, and though I'm in no great hurry to run a classroom again any time soon (if ever), I wasn't ready to put that world behind me. I e-mailed my principal and offered my services in whatever capacity might be useful.

Now I'm back. I can't deny, when I first returned to the building, I was nervous, but my welcome was uniformly kind and gracious—and in some cases, riotously jubilant: my 6th grade girls, my homeroom class who, when I was their teacher, regularly drove me to the brink (unless you've experienced it first hand, you cannot believe the amount of sass packed in some of these teeny-tiny ladies), mobbed me like the-Beatles-coming-to-America, almost literally knocking me over.

So I'm just doing whatever needs doing: reviving the neglected computer lab, helping them sort out their student data, I'll probably do some math tutoring. But it gives me the chance to see my kids again, chat with them, find out what they're up to and what they're thinking about (which was always my favorite part of the job).

I have no idea if the volunteering will just be what it is or if it will lead to further Adventures in Teaching Land. I just know it's nice to be back.

* I believe I owe you a "wax analytical". (How much are they charging for an analytical wax at the salon these days?) I'll give it briefly, in fine print.
The Big Picture:

Certainly, the Systemic Cards are stacked against any newbie teacher thrown, with essentially no training, into the hyper-challenging environment of the "high needs" classroom. Some make it work, but many don't. Good intentions and a college degree, unfortunately, aren't enough. Teaching is a profession (and an exceptionally difficult one at that), and it requires training. (Which is to say, good, legitimate, on-the-job training; not the sort of irrelevant cruft that seems to bloat many education courses. What little coursework I had was almost entirely useless, like throwing a drowning man a textbook on swimming and saying, "Here, read two-hundred pages by Tuesday.")

The Little Picture:

I discovered limitations in myself that made this trial-by-fire particularly problematic:
  1. I'm too nice. I'm as-strict-as-I-need-to-be with my own kids, but I found it very hard to translate that to a room full of other people's children. And a genial rapport isn't enough when you're dealing with some students who need very firm boundaries.
  2. I'm a slow learner—slow and methodical. Once I get there, I really get there, but just starting from day one trying to sort out the dizzying array of names and faces and learning styles and curriculum requirements and instructional techniques and required documents and... Ack! Too much, too fast.
The Medium Picture:

After the storm, the school became a charter, but for the first two years of its new incarnation, it continued to struggle woefully. (As mentioned before, our 4th-graders had the second lowest math scores in the city last year. Which is saying something.) Now, with a new administration and a largely new staff, we were trying to turn it around, but it was the charter's third year, we were up for review, and we needed to make dramatic improvement in test scores, particularly in math, or risk losing our charter and possibly being shut down altogether—a tough job for any teacher and one that, if all was as it should be, ought never have been tasked to a rookie. (My replacement is a force-of-nature veteran. It's a pleasure to watch her work.)
So there have you have it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Any questions?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

(Beheaded) tuba and boy with skateboard. (Since my original trend-spot, the skateboards have become pervasive.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Woot Woot!

Inauguration Day 2009, McDonogh City Park Academy.* (That we had to watch the inauguration on a garbled two-decade-old television is, I suppose, emblematic of the work our new president has ahead of him.)

Is there anything else to say? Woot woot! Oh Lord, I feel twenty pounds lighter. Woot woot!

I'm getting a little verklempt here...

* Have I mentioned that I'm back volunteering part time back at my old school? That's a story for another post.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Les Brusiers, Circle Bar, Friday!

Lock up Grandma, hire the babysitter, and dust off your dancing shoes, because the Bruiser Family Music Hour is rolling into town! (Technically, we never left, but...) Friday,* 10-ish-ish, Circle Bar. Whooh! See you there.

* That should give you plenty of time to adequately recover from Inauguration-mania.

Dog and fence with flowers

Blue buick

Yellow-green ginger, mustard-mustard house

Woolly Bully

I'm starting to get those big old man eyebrow hairs—just a couple, but that's plenty-enough, thank you. I currently yank them out (they're easy to grab hold of), but I suppose eventually I'll just yield to the relentless march of time and let them bloom into woolly startled caterpillars, crawling across my forehead.

When do the ear hairs arrive? I don't think I'm ready for that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Louise, red wall.

One house, two house, green house, blue house. (We have some seriously unserious house colors in this town.)

Glorious Gluttony: We had a short-notice brunch this morning, and Sarah (in that way she does) whipped up these freakishly good drop biscuits—bacon and lots of black pepper. (They were, if I may say so, rather nicely complemented by my whipped-up Bloody Marys.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What I'm Drinking: The French Pearl

The series returns:

The French Pearl* is currently in regular rotation at our house. It's a member of the gin-plus-citrus-plus-pastis-plus-something-else family of drinks. (Other outstanding members include the Corpse Reviver II.**) We first encountered it at the Pegu Club*** (its bar-of-origin) during our Glorious Gluttony Tour 2008-09, and it goes a little something like this:
2 oz gin
1/4 oz Herbsaint
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1 mint sprig

Muddle (which is to say, mash together) the mint with the rest of ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake well (extremely well—icy icy cold!), double strain (which is to say, use the cocktail strainer-thingy but also pour it through a mesh kitchen-style strainer to remove the mint chunks and any pulpy lime bits), and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Note: This recipe is taken almost verbatim (with the addition of various parenthetical embellishments) from here, except that I use Herbsaint (our local absinthe substitute, commonly found in Sazeracs) instead of "Pernod Absinthe" because that's what I've got in my bar, and if it's good enough for a hundred-ish years worth of high-tone New Orleans drunks, then it's good enough for me.


* If your brain, like mine, rests firmly in the gutter, then this name sounds decidedly dirty (though I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intention). I have, in fact, come up with a precise alternate definition for a French Pearl, but I won't sully this family-friendly blog with the details.

** "Corpse Reviver II" (or alternately, "Corpse Reviver No. 2")—best drink name ever. "Opening in theaters this weekend, Corpse Reviver II: Return of the Reviver!"

*** For a former bartender, going to the Pegu Club was like going to Mecca. Bartenders tend towards the OCD (at least drinky-drink bartenders—I can't speak for beer slingers), and this was an obsessive-compulsive's paradise, each tool and item in its place, each step conducted with ritualistic grace, not a wasted motion. Mmm... perfectionist-licious!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From the Sketchbook: I don't know who this guy is, but I like his style.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Glorious Gluttony: "Homemade Mozzarella & Pasta", East Village. We didn't actually sample their wares (I mean, there's only but so much one can eat), but it certainly looked wonderful.

Glorious Gluttony: Of course, we can't neglect the holiday treats left out for Mr. Bowl-full-of-jelly himself. Louise wrote the note: "I hope you like these cookies. June, Louise." And I particularly like the concluding advice, "Don't be greedy." (Like maybe—just maybe—Santa will restrain himself and there will be a bit of cookie left over for the kids in the morning.)

Put That in Your Car and Smoke It

There are certain cars in which one simply doesn't expect to see the driver smoking. A Prius is one of them.* Hmm…

* An über-Uptown Volvo station wagon with Sacred Heart or Trinity or somesuch school stickers on the back driven by a petite
über-Uptown mama in exercise clothes is another. Hmm...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Glorious Gluttony: French fries, New Years Eve.

Glorious Gluttony: Sarah enjoys her Negroni, New Years Eve.

I Heart My Shiny New Toy

Warning: The following post contains extreme geekiness. May cause irrritation and mild eye rolling among non-geeks.

So, I got an iPhone for Christmas (thank you, kind elves),* and it's quite extremely delectable—shiny and black with pleasing rounded lines.** I don't care how très très they are. (In NYC, you couldn't swing an overpriced handbag without hitting at least a dozen well-dressed young professionals iPhone-ing their hyper-achieving little hearts out.) It's a Thing of Wonder—splendiferous, paradigm-shifting wonder—and my inner-geek can do nothing other than bow down in awe-full ("awe-full", not "awful") admiration.

So now I can blog anywhere! In like... a... um... grocery line... or... on a bus... or... at a laundromat... (if I went to laundromats...) or... anywhere! Behold the dawn of Omnipresent Slimbolala!

Aaah, geek out! Le geek, c'est chic. Geek out!

* Replacing my battered freebie-phone acquired after The Storm when the landlines didn't work.

** To match my camera and my accordion and my car and my bicycle and my guitar. Once I find my aesthetic niche, I stay there.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Glorious Gluttony: More gastronomical grandeur seen from the sidewalks of Chinatown.

Glorious Gluttony: Ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar (my personal favorite of our many lovely New York meals). The intersection of Asian and Southern cooking? Oh, good Lord!

Glorious Gluttony

Do you read Saveur? (Our friend Matt rightly describes it as "food porn".) As I spend January eating dainty salads,* I think I'll start my own Saveur-esque photo series, fondly remembering the glorious food and drink we ate, imbibed, and ogled this past holiday season.

* Lest I'm required to bust out the "Fatbolala" jokes again.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chinatown offered ample opportunities to indulge my itchy camera finger.

I Heart William Eggleston

(…or more precisely, I heart his photographs. Having never met the man, I can claim no personal affection for him.)

I have a confession: Museums make me sleepy. Certainly, they're well and good and very important for the cultural edu-ma-cation. But after some critical duration, I find myself slipping into an information-overloaded stupor and stifling yawns as I stare, glassy-eyed, at this or that world-famous masterpiece.

But there are exceptions: While in The Big City, we went and saw the William Eggleston retrospective at the Whitney, and I was wide awake the entire time. (It was our sole foray into high-culthcha—and really, Eggleston is pretty low-down as far as high-cultcha goes. The rest of the time we were too busy gorging ourselves on the city's gastronomical delights.)

Eggleston is my favoritest-favorite phographer.* Years back, when I first encountered his pictures, my brain popped: "Oh, these are the photos I wish I was taking!" Since then, I've amassed a stack of his books. But walking through room after room of the originals in their full scale, color, and glory was just… meow, purr, b-boom!

After making our full, careful, enchanted circuit, we swiftly whisked our way out of the building, deliberately bypassing the Whitney's many other treasures, and successfully emerged on the street, fully invigorated and not the least bit slumbrous (with my camera finger itching).

Then we hopped on the nearest train down to Chinatown to stuff our bellies full of Dim Sum...

* I am a man of few favorites, being a waffler by nature ("well, I like such-and-such in regards to such-and-such-thing and such-and-such-other in regards to such-and-such-other-thing…"), but there are exceptions: favorite photographer—William Eggleston; favorite color—green; favorite number—twenty-one. (It's three times seven, baby. Three and seven are each profoundly primal, lovely numbers in their own right, and their product is a mysterious compounding of loveliness.)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sarah, Times Square. (We had a hook-up on a place to stay a couple of blocks away, and Times Square was the nearest subway station. We spent a lot of time hustling through the madding crowds of Midtown. I'm pretty sure all of Germany, most of East Asia, a fair portion of the Middle East, and every newly-minted Russian millionaire was spending the holidays in the city.)

Home, Savory, Complex, and Decidedly Funky Home*

It's nice to go away—Christmas on the farm, three nights and two days on the Isle of Manhattan (sans kids! I love 'em, but…), the farm again, New Year's in Annapolis—and, it's nice to come home. I feel like I could sleep for a week. (And eat salads for a month. It was a gloriously gluttonous** trip.)

Plenty of photos and doodles to follow.

* I can think of many adjectives to describe New Orleans. "Sweet" is not high on that list.

** I had to double-check the spelling to make sure I wasn't writing "glutenous". I'm happy to say that our trip was not the least bit glutenous.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

"Three, Two, One..."!

We spent New Year's Eve with friends in Maryland. As the moment of midnight approached, I lead the countdown: "Ten, nine, eight..." We lifted our champagne glasses, readying to toast. "Three, two, one...!"


At the exact stroke of midnight, my chair split in two,* and I fell to the floor, sprawling flat on my back. It looked like this:

Photograph by Sarah. (She felt compelled to document my moment of ignominy.)

Uproarious laughter ensued. (Though I was partially laughing to keep from crying. It actually kind of hurt.)

I'm proud to say that I kept my glass upright the entire time, spilling only the slightest sprinkling of champagne. And after regaining our composure, we did finally toast the new year (inaugurated with a new batch of bruises).

But I have to wonder, what sort of omen is that? 2009—the startling, absurd, and comically painful year?

* I will state for the record that the chair was old and unreliable. I was neither toasting too vigorously nor badonking excessively with my badonkadonk.