we are happy in the school today, teacher.

i asked jose corona why he always says, "we're happy in the school today, teacher." he says it in a lazy, high kind of voice. not high pitched. high like he's been smoking mota. so i asked him. "yes, we are happy today," he said. "no! why do you say that?" he smiled and said, "i've never said that before." "yes, you have, corona." "no, i never said." maybe he was stoned.

i'm sluggish today. bored even. the weather has been pretty cold the last couple of days, and i haven't really had energy to do anything other than sit on the couch, watch tv and eat. when i nap, i awake with a bad taste in my mouth. at least it encourages me to brush my teeth at random intervals during the day.
i don't want to talk about it.

yara got kicked out of mr. rhodes' class again today. i had to escort her to the student services office. i don't like uncomfortable silence, so i started talking. what happened, yara? nuh-ting. all you have to do is be quiet, and you can pass the class easily. silence. i hate that stupid bitch ass. who? rhodes! yara, there's only a week of school left. you won't have him next year. if you don't like a teacher, tell your counselor you want to switch classes. but the truth is, she probably hates all her teachers. and they probably hate her back because of all the attitude she throws at them. i told her once that she shouldn't be writing on the white board, to which she responded, you're not the teacher. other than that, though, she hasn't given me any real flack. maybe because earlier on in the year i expressed interest in her wannabe-gangsta photos she took of herself and her friends.

i came to school wearing the same clothes from yesterday. i was too lazy to change, too lazy to do laundry. so far, nobody's said anything.

steven likes to ask me everyday what i'm going to eat for lunch. some days i just bring an apple, or a banana. today i only had a small package of crackers. that's all? he asks. yes, i say. why? i don't know. that's no enough, he says. i know, but what are you gonna do? i say. i am overtly trying to get him to invite me to his house to eat noodles. that's what he eats everyday, and i'll bet they're good. he laughs at my small package of crackers, as he always does, and we part ways.

time for mr. cramer's class. should be a riot.
el pato.

edgar got arrested today. i'm pretty sure it was edgar. i have no idea what happened. i just walked out of kathryn's advisory class around 10 o'clock, and there he was out on lincoln, getting patted down by a police officer, then put into the backseat of a squad car. there was a period where he didn't show up to mr. cramer's class for three weeks, maybe a month, but he's been coming regularly now. it's a shame. he's a really smart kid.

today was the last day for the nutrition program. lena made chicken enchiladas, and they were pretty damn good. i bought the wrong kind of enchilada sauce, lena said she wanted el pato sauce. "i'll get it at la princessa," i say. "hopefully they'll have it," she says.

two people from the associated press in s.f. came by to take pictures and interview some of the students. kathryn thought it was a pretty big deal. "the associated press," she said. "can you believe it? we didn't even have to call them!" the asian man from the AP was pretty quiet, kept to himself. the other woman, an old gringa (okay, she wasn't that old), was pretty full of herself. i guess i would be, too, if i was a journalist.

jeff, a young english teacher at watsonville high, came up to me and asked what i taught. "i don't teach anything," i said. "i'm not getting my credential." "what are you getting then?" he asked. "nothing." we said this at the same time and laughed. "actually, we get an education award after our service year," i added as an afterthought. he told me i could get a teaching job through edjoin.

in mr. rhodes' class jorge vasquez caught me yawning. "james, are you tired?" he asked me. "yes, i didn't get much sleep last night," i said. but i felt like spicing things up, so i decided to add, "too much mota. too much tequila." he gave me a shocked look, and i almost felt bad saying it. luckily, mr. rhodes showed up and had me run off some copies. i hope vasquez knew i was kidding.

tonight, however, i don't think i am.

this is my secret place.

yesterday, sunday, aimee decided at 3 o'clock that she wanted to pick something up from santa cruz. she had a party planned for 3:30 pm at pinto lake, and i never thought we would make it in time. it was her pseudo-birthday party (her real birthday was in april), pseudo-end-of-the-year-party (even though we still have two full months of summer school). so, off we went in her hybrid to pick up these japanese boxes in santa cruz. it was located on chestnut street, right where highway 1 and mission street intersect, and she thought masao had told her the house was 604. so we went up to 604. i knocked on the door, no one answered. "maybe it's 604b." i knocked on 604b. no answer. she called masao and talked to him in japanese. "oh," she said. "it was 624." we drove up the street to 624.

when we got there, an argentian man in his late 20's stood on the sidewalk, waved at us. aimee waved back, and then she hugged him. i reached out to shake his hand. instead, he gave me a hug. it's awkward, not like a real hug between good friends, more like a hug between homophobic yoga people. he's got long hair, and it's tied up cylindrically in the front, his long curls stacked up like a cd spindle. he lead us to the front door of his house, only to find that it was locked, then lead us around back. up in the tree, a hammock. "oh, that's where you sleep?" aimee asked. "yes, my sleeping place." his backyard is filled with random objects - plastic toys, blankets, piles of wood. then, after opening the front door, oswaldo (the argentinian) took a defensive stance. i expected a large dog to come charging through, but it was only his 4 year old nephew, dressed up as spiderman.

oswaldo lead aimee and me through his carpeted home, then asked that we remove our shoes and leave them near the front door. "japanese style," aimee said. then, he lead us to a ladder in the living room and began climbing. "my secret hiding place," he said. i followed aimee and oswaldo up the ladder into the dark and hot attic where masao and diana were sitting on some blankets by the window, guitars in hand. diana has long brown, green and purple hair, and masao looks to be in his 50's, with long greying hair. diana has a green dragonfly patch and a green and purple ying-yang patch on the back of her sweatshirt. tattoos on her leg, too, i think, but i can't make out what they were.

aimee made small talk with masao, and then she said, "we can't stay long. we have some friends waiting for us." which was true. glenn had called around 3:20 and to say that he and his sister, elysie, and his friend, chris, were waiting for the party to begin at pinto lake. masao agreed, and lead us to his truck, parked in front of the house. in the cab of his truck, he picked up the two japanese boxes he built for aimee. at this point, i thought it was over. we'd grab the boxes, and head back to watsonville. but, no. masao took the boxes back up the attic to show diana and oswaldo what they were for. the three decided that they wanted aimee and me to perform the play. it's about a race between animals to compete for the order of the years. the year of the dragon, the year of the boar, the year of the ox, etc. aimee assigned me the role of wizard. the first lines the wizard speaks are: "anim-a-a-als! come to the pala-a-a-ce!" "why does he have a stutter?" i asked aimee. "it's not a stutter," she said. "it reads, 'animaaaaals! come to the palaaaaace!" "oh, i got it," i said.

so, we performed the play in front of them in that hot, dark attic. after the play, aimee asked, "how much do i owe you for them?" "we'll talk business down there," masao motioned toward the ladder. i followed them, curious to know how much one charges for a hand-made japanese box. "name your price," masao said. "i don't know," aimee said. "whatever you think." "i was thinking, 150 each?" i wasn't sure i heard right. did he mean $1.50? aimee wrote out a check for $300.

in the car i asked, "how much did you expect them to be?" "i don't know," she said. "$50? free?" "is that going to set you back for a while?" i asked. "i guess i won't be eating dinner out any time soon," she said.

we got back to watsonville around 5. glenn called back and said that they were going to take off, and that there was another party they had to get to. aimee sulked on the couch.

all in all, i had a good time.
escriba por favor.


pitchforkmedia did not publish my review. instead, they opted to use this tripe:

http://www.pitchforkmedia.com/
article/record_review/42641-no-shouts-no-calls

i have decided that i must write a review for every record that i buy from this point on. 1. it will make me write more. 2. it will actually force me to listen to the full record, and pay attention to lyrics and different instruments used. 3. it will encourage me to save money.

mr. cramer forgot he wanted me to teach today, so he left me with half an hour left of class. surprisingly, only two students in second period had read the house on mango street. neither could remember specifically what it was about. janessa offered to read baca's "dream come true early," but faltered when trying to pronounce "astronomical." she decided not to read after that. no one else stepped up, so i blazed through it, and attempted a discussion with less than six minutes left. the results were disappointing.

mr. rhodes' class took a composition test, so i finished the rest of alan moore's graphic novel, the watchmen. it starts out slow, picks up in the middle, and disappoints in the end. it could've been a brilliant career.

after class, mr. rhodes invited me to get some free food in front of room 412. marianna couldn't join us, since she had to get to her internship at the ywca. "but there's gonna be posole, tortillas," he said. "i can't, i've gotta go to my intern-" "enchiladas, sopes," he continued, interrupting her. as we walked, two girls were swinging around, holding onto poles. "why don't we ever see adults doing that, james?" "i don't know." "when did we become so boring?" "in high school, i think." he laughed. "when did we become so self-conscious?" i don't answer. "where did you go to high school?" i asked. "i went to school in castro valley, california. it was an experimental school. they didn't have set periods of time for classes..." he continued, but i didn't follow. in front of 412, a bunch of his students were waiting in line for food. they eyed me suspiciously, so i opted not to stand in line with them. no other teachers were in line, so it felt strange, standing around like i had nothing to eat. in reality, all i had were a banana and apple in my bag.

i think i'll head over there now. the line must be smaller. i can hear mr. cramer telling me to get some "fetchin' chavalas," or that i've got no "fetchin' kahunas."
leaving your friend in the woods.


rich and i started playing songs when i was 14, and he was 18. we went from band to band - quarter life, idol minds, the crew, then finally, after cutting off all contacts with anyone we've ever played music with, we created wooderson. named after our favorite character from dazed and confused, the band symbolized everything we loved and hated about music. we loved being loud, unapologetic, creating something that would make people feel something. i think rich really liked the energy, and that's why he stuck with playing the drums. i've never seen him move that quickly in his life. playing guitar is all i knew how to do, so i stuck with it.

our first "record" was self-titled. it was rushed, since i had to go back to school in seattle. all 9 songs were terrible, with the exception of "going to lunch" (my pick) and "closed the garage too early" (rich's pick). there was also a weird song that really came out of nowhere - "indian with a mullet" - that was raw, stupid, and sounded like nothing either of us had ever heard before. but i never really took us seriously. it was fun to play these songs for an invisible audience, and i could feel like an imaginary rock star every time i visited home. we jammed every time i flew in, the same night, with byron as sole spectator.

the summer i bought a new guitar, something i hadn't done in 7 years, we recorded five full songs that i was actually proud of. rich especially liked the 9 minute closer, "leaving your friend in the woods." i liked it, too, and i was proud of what we recorded. later, though, i admitted we were hacks, our songs merely ripping off bands like low, mogwai, explosions in the sky, etc. "that's your problem. listening to too much music," rich warned. i didn't really care. i still wasn't taking playing music seriously. how could i, when i knew that all we had done was copy other musicians?

on later visits home, we didn't jam until two, three days since i'd been back. the last time i was there, we couldn't even record anything, since his pirated version of acidpro had crapped out on him. he blamed it on a bad sound card. rich decided to go out drinking rather than do our usual "farewell" jam session. he still talks about his ex-coworker from kcra, the one that owns a recording studio, who claims he would sell us recording time for dirt cheap. but i argued, we don't even have any original songs to record. we're not even a real band.

my inability to stick things out runs deep. into anything creative i try to do. it's strange that i can finish a book, complete a whole blog entry, eat a whole meal, clean a whole set of dishes. but when it comes to something i want to complete, something meaningful, i find it nearly impossible.

the fear comes not from inadequacy, but from the fact that we are powerful beyond measure. i stole that. marianna williamson. but i didn't even read the book - i watched the movie akeelah and the bee. i watch too many films, that's my problem.
i'll want a rib.


as i was checking out two books, house on mango street and black mesa, from the watsonville public library, an old white man wearing a cowboy hat was talking to himself:

"i'm sick and tired of it. but what can i do about it? i'm not hungry enough." his voice rose, and it was clear that he was scaring the people around him. i even locked eyes with him at one point. as he exited the building, he mumbled something angrily to himself, then, loud and clear: "but i'll want a rib!"

the librarian, a forced, nervous grin pinned to her face, thanked me and met me on the other side.
otra vez.

i drove to work this morning, glenn in the front seat. yesterday, he said he didn't have any gas and that he wanted to get back in the habit of riding his bike to work. even though he's got two cars and two jobs. and he wanted a ride today. i don't get him. he also said he'd rather do ELD at watsonville high. so i think i'd like rachel to be paired up with him. meagan and i will take pajaro valley high.

when i got to first period fifteen minutes late, mrs. hansen had made her kids get in their groups to practice performing their scenes they have to memorize. i sat at the back and she asked me, "james, are you working with javier and isaiah?"

"i guess."

"you're not sure?" she asked.

i shrug my shoulders, and say that i am going to work with them.

as i'm trying to help them understand the scene between gregory and sampson vs. abram and balthazar, she overhears me say, "A" for ay, and quickly corrects me. "aye," she says. after transcribing more of the scene in "modern english," i take a seat at the back, since she plays some audio recording of romeo & juliet, pausing it at certain intervals so that the kids can paraphrase what's going on. i read a newspaper article about alberto gonzalez and andrew card in 2004 trying to get ashcroft to sign a document to allow the nsa to eavesdrop on its citizens. the article ended with, "this is our attorney general, ladies and gentlemen. heaven help us." at this point, mrs. hansen asks me to make "about 100 copies" of some worksheet she has. i go to the teachers' lounge first, against my better judgment, only to find that it's awaiting repair services in "the am." so i head to the library, both copiers are in use, as suspected, one of them taken up by the same fat-head who made over 1,000 copies of some document the last time i tried to use it. i finally make the copies, all 100 of them, and return to mrs. hansen's room where she has me hole punch them. some english tutor.

and at some point during all this, i use the restroom and stare at myself until i begin to think my eyebrows are my eyes. they're large dark slits high up on my forehead. i deeply regret signing two years of my life away for a heavily taxed $8,000 education award. i hate myself for never having the courage to walk away. i'd really like to be doing anything: writing stories, writing songs, learning how to fish, how to fix things. but instead, i wander, class to class, like a foreign exchange student. too old to fit in, too young to be respected.

it's third period now. glenn hums; mireya sits at my desk, using my computer. i'm using glenn's. my way of leveling things.
miguel, he likes boys,

during fourth period i asked jose gonzalez if he's heard the song, "lean like a cholo." he said he had, but he didn't like it. "my brother, he have," he said. then later, he pointed to miguel solano and said, "miguel likes boys." what? "miguel, he likes boys. other day, i saw him. he was hugging jose corona." miguel is smiling the whole time, shaking his head, denying that he is, in fact, gay. i wanted to ask what the spanish word for "gay" is, but i didn't play along.

for some reason, mr. cramer decided to show how to write small vs. capital letters. he drew two solid parallel lines with a broken middle line in between. it looked like this:

___________________________________________________________

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

___________________________________________________________

then he drew a big "A" and a small "a." he was patronizing them, but it was actually well-deserved, considering how some of them write. after he had shown a few more examples of bigger letters and smaller ones, edgar called out, "so, are we gonna have to do this or what?" it would've been kind of funny to see them print the alphabet for their homework. just to see who would actually turn it in. i think i might have to pull that joke with my own students one day. the weird thing is, mr. rhodes did the same thing in his class. three lines and all. printing must've been in the air.

for lunch i ate my pb&j and a werther's original. i wish i wasn't so lazy about buying food.
we're going to make a statement that we're against it.


i kicked my roommate out of the bathroom this morning. i really had to go. he had his pink towel wrapped around him, face half-shaved, lathered with cream. i was apologetic, and he understood. a few minutes later, he said he didn't want to drive today. "i think i'm gonna ride today. i'm low on gas, and i kind of want to get back in the habit..." i said that it was fine, and chose to ride my bike myself. i made myself a pb&j with two measly pieces of milton's bread, the end pieces, and smashed it together to fit into the front pocket of my canvas bag. i think, at this point, glenn and i are subconsciously trying to starve the other out. right now, our fridge has two cartons of soy milk, one carton of o.j., moldy cheese, a pack of tortillas, an onion, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, and barbecue sauce. our cupboards have even less. two days ago, glenn's friend gomez spilled a 40 somewhere in the living room, so a stench of steel reserve has been nicely preserved.

right now mr. cramer is reading some poem by w.d. snodgrass to his class. he asked me if it was pronounced pultzer or pulitzer. "pulitzer," i said. then he wanted to know about iambic pentameter, which i had mentioned to the class a few weeks ago. i explained that it's a kind of way to write poetry, but there are other kinds. "i'll talk about it with you later," he said.

i wish i was outdoors somewhere. some place open, like the hech-hechee (sp?) reservoir, or yosemite valley. a place that isn't so stuffy, a place where a man can breathe.

"who wrote all the textbooks in the 50's?" cramer asks. no answer. "what ethnic group wrote most of the textbooks?" "white people," someone calls out.
elbows up, side to side.

there's a great video called "lean like a cholo" available on youtube: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Cqsrq34qDyk
everyone must watch it. today was a series of ups and downs. i'd rather not repeat the downs because they really aren't so bad, and they're just too boring to repeat. mr. rhodes' fifth period class brought me up again. i really hope my kids next year are like that class. i like that the usual bunch always asks me for help: adriana, miriam, jesus and jesus, cruz, nallely. the handful of seniors mr. rhodes has in class aren't going to graduate. they don't know enough english yet. i thought about how i got to take latin in high school, then french in college, and how fun (well, the latter anyway) it was to learn something new, just for the hell of it, you know? i don't know what it's like to study a language just to survive, just to graduate from high school. i don't know what it must feel like.

frankie is pretty down about his low grades. mr. cramer is making them write a persuasive essay, and for some reason, he chose to write his on being "pro-choice." i don't think he knew what it meant to be pro-choice, so i explained it to him. he seemed to agree with it still. he wrote about three sentences, then gave up. here's how the scene unfolded:

"well, frankie. you have two good reasons there. what are some other things to think about?"
he sat for a while, leaning back in his chair, reminding me a lot of my friend joseph in high school. he let out a great sigh, "i don't know."
i tried to encourage him. "well, these are some really good ideas you've got. how can we build around them?"
complete silence. he couldn't look me in the eye. i sensed his frustration, and tried to just be real with him. "you know, frankie. there's no real 'right' or 'wrong' answer. they just want to know what you think. the best thing i learned in all my years of school is how to think critically. mr. cramer just wants your opinion on something, and you have to back it up." i think of other things to say. "don't worry about grammar or organizing your paper yet. just let the thoughts come out."
"but there isn't enough time," he says, sadly. "i'm too late."
at this point, i wanted to tell him it was his own damn fault, that this paper was assigned two weeks ago. but i don't. "don't worry about the due date or not finishing," i said. "just try to get something down, even if it's just a page or a couple of paragraphs."
"i just won't do it," he said.
"you've got to try, frankie. you shouldn't give up. show cramer that you can do this."

at the end of class, frankie had only written one more sentence. what do you do with a kid like that? fail him, bury any speck of confidence he has, then move him on to english 2. repeat process. that's what our schools do, right?

i had this great idea for a story the other night. it was so great that i had a hard time falling back asleep. i still know what it's about, but i haven't started it yet. why is that?

meagan's reading the interpreter of maladies. great book. makes me wish i had a writing group, or a sense of cultural heritage. either would satisfy.

i want to learn to hip-hop, to disco. i've never wanted this before. where do these urges come from? nothing would please me more than to flawlessly perform a dance routine to "yeah" or "inside and out" in front of my family on a holiday.

security yelled at me today for driving too fast on campus. the day after i finished online traffic school. online traffic school is amazing, by the way. skip all the pages, don't even have to watch all the videos, then google answers for your exam. all for the low cost of $14.80. www.safety-usa.com.

pretty much all the useless thoughts i have to say for today. what can i say? i ain't going home solo. i'm lean like a cholo.
fragments of a name.

saw yosemite on saturday. a dead deer a few miles past the gate, smashed windshield, two cars pulled off the road. stayed in sonora, teri's brother's house, jim. he's retired. told me about the extensions to the house he'd done, how cows sometimes sneak into his yard, how the pool was already there - he didn't build it. a shot went off somewhere in the distance. "i don't know what that was," he said. we laughed it off. later, marisa discovered two lizards dead in the pool, one bigger than the other. the big one, lying at the bottom, face up. i scooped them up with the pool spoon (anyone know what that's called), threw them over the fence. marisa shrieked with disgust. we talked about the sixties, civic responsibility, hope, death, lights at the end of the tunnel. liane had a friend who prepared for a party, curlers in her hair, stuck her hand in a fishtank, electrocuted. out-of-body experience, looked down at her body, at the paramedics, saw a white bed with flowers growing around it. her version of heaven. another time, teri said, "you guys are young. you have so much to look foward to. hopefully all good, but then, that wouldn't be realistic." the bottoms of waterfalls, bridal veil, yosemite falls, gusts of mist fly upon us, take our breath away. like a mediocre and generic berlin 80's hit. meagan worried about ticks. they can cause lime disease.

yosemite was nothing like i remembered it. it had been sixteen years. "my story didn't come close to describing this place," i whined. "you're still young. think of all the experiences you'll have that'll shape the stories you write." i am young. i have time. hopefully all good stories, but then, that wouldn't be realistic.
no shouts, no calls.


i submitted my first record review of electrelane's fourth album, no shouts, no calls to Pitchfork, but it's highly unlikely they'll publish it. since i've never published before, they had me fill out a questionnaire about my top five favorite bands for each decade (70's-90's) and the top ten records released in the last 12-18 months. it's pretty funny how elitist members of the indie rock world are. but no one's as bad as the dicks at sonic boom. if ever you're in seattle, don't shop there. only buy easy street. anyway, here's my review:

Electrelane

No Shouts, No Calls

[Too Pure; 2007]
Rating: 4.7

No Shouts, No Calls, no surprises, either. On their fourth record the Brighton quartet serves up the usual barrage of farfisa, frantic beats and jingling riffs, topped off with Susman’s Nico-meets-Siouxsie melodies. The opener, “The Greater Times,” is exactly that: a song to remind us of Electrelane’s excellence, most prominently achieved with their sophomore effort, 2003’s The Power Out. But what No Shouts proves is that once again, Electrelane has been unsuccessful in its ability to find structure, identity. Whereas The Power Out infused French and Spanish poetry and 60’s gospel, on No Shouts Electrelane appears to have taken a step back—simply put: No Calls, No Shouts falls short of taking the power out; its lack of cohesiveness and tension acts more like a flickering 60-watt bulb on its way out. No Shouts dishes up nothing more than a track list akin to their recent Singles, B-Sides and Live record. A handful of tracks (“Tram 21,” “Five,” and “The Lighthouse”) could easily pass as b-sides to their instrumental debut album, Rock It To the Moon. It begs the question, is Electrelane stuck between a Rock and a hard place?

While No Calls, No Shouts most likely isn’t the poppy post-rock masterpiece the band hoped to achieve, Electrelane still delivers. On track 7, “Between The Wolf and The Dog,” Clarke cranks it up a notch, pieces together a metal riff that could make a fucking champ blush. Halfway through the track, the instruments drop and harmonic “ooh, ooh, ooooh-ooooh, ahhhh’s” shine through, catchy enough to rival the Concretes for the next Target commercial. “To the East,” the first single, gives nods to Roxy Music, as Susman carries the chorus, “It could be home, it could be home, it could be home for you and me.” The band slows it down on track 3’s “After the Call,” foreshadowing a possible gospel “Valleys”-esque audible, but they charge back in, Clarke’s guitar roaring, Gaze and Murray aligned as always. Another standout, “Saturday,” starts of with Clarke’s solo guitar, reverb piled on, and Susman jumps in, “I’ve got a photo from a long time ago,” answered by an influx of voices, “Hold it in your pocket.” The song maintains this call and response method, but surprisingly never gets boring or repetitive. Electrelane’s secret. Maybe it’s their photogenic appeal, or maybe it’s the sound of long-lost sisters inviting us to mid-day tea and cake.

While Electrelane still know how to rock it out of this world, upholding their effeminate harmonies, romantic lyrics, array of synth and ferocious beats, there’s still something missing on No Shouts, No Calls. And the patch included as cover art doesn’t quite make up for it.

in these mexicans, hope is a muscle.

mr. rhodes' 4th period class is awful. out of twenty-three students, i mentally counted all the "good" students, and it amounted to eight. by "good," i mean those students who don't constantly interrupt, who don't constantly wander around the room, throw things, and talk back to rhodes or me. in this class i've seen them harass steven, put thumb tacks on other students' seats, draw and/or color during class, talk back, arm wrestle, take twenty-minute bathroom breaks, steal other students' belongings. once, karen even ran out of the classroom. just walked out and ran away. i half-heartedly followed her. i didn't really care. she is the ringleader, anyway.

at the end of class today, mr. rhodes told me that one of his best students, maria hernandez, had never received any schooling in mexico. "i'll let you draw your own conclusions," he said.

today i found out that delsy's mom works at a bakery called "the cactus" near the pajaro river. her dad picks strawberries. delsy is one of my favorites because she is a rarity. she's quiet, she's always prepared, and she's always in her seat when the bell rings. she plays on the soccer team with karen. she's the one who broke off piece of a bite-sized kit-kat to share with this student, miguel, who was the male equivalent of karen. delsy has a worried look on her face whenever yara, karen, or the twins (liliana and adriana) yapyapyap when mr. rhodes is pleading for silence. i feel bad for her, and carl, and maria, alicia, dulce soto, teresa, dulce sepulveda and steven whenever class is interrupted. i can tell they want something better.

today, when class ended, i stood by the doorway to ensure that no one left before the bell, which they usually do. felipe jutted his chest out, and he got in my face. "get out of my way, esse." he is about my height, and he's pudgy. it was pretty funny.
children. chil-dren.

in my freshman latin class at jesuit, anytime a student answered incorrectly, father whitten would just shake his head and say, "sad. sad. sad." he was bald, had a gut, and rocked the costanza hair-do. his face was always red, which led us to believe he was always drunk. he acted the part, anyway. he always supported legalizing weed, and talked about smoking all the time. a part of us all wanted to believe it was true. he even sent me a christmas card, something i've never expected from a teacher. we were all saddened when he retired that same year, and moved to LA.

then there was mr. hastie for p.e. he never really cared that lazy people like me hung out on the sidelines, or didn't play water polo. playing baseball in the spring, i sat the whole period in left field. he still gave me an A. and once, while we played basketball, he sat on some senior's car and spit sunflower seeds all over the poor bastard's windshield. i like to think that he knew who this kid was, and was doing it on purpose, but knowing mr. hastie, he probably didn't. and that's what made him cool. later, i heard from byron that he became an english teacher. this review, courtesy of ratemyteacher.com pretty much sums it up: "didnt teach teach anything only sat at his computer looking at sports scores. the only time he teaches is when the president comes to look at the class."

mr. lange taught social studies, but i don't remember learning a damn thing from that class. the only thing memorable about him is that whenever he caught a student sleeping (which was quite often, since it was right after lunch, and he kept the room completely dark to use a projector) he would sneak up on him and scream at the top of his lungs. sometimes, when he was in a bad mood, he would grab the desk, too, and violently shake it. i got caught once. luckily, nothing physical.

looking back, all i can think is, what a waste of money. i could've not learned anything right here at watsonville high. for free.

sad. sad. sad.
muchos manos nanca trabajo ligero.


i expected today to be another shitball tuesday, but it didn't turn out so bad. i arrived fifteen minutes late, as usual, to mrs. hansen's class, and she had more inventory for me to do. by inventory, i mean looking at a couple of books sitting on a shelf, and marking them off on a piece of paper with a pink pen. it seriously takes me two minutes to do it, and i can't understand why she passes this task off to me. then, she had me make more mini-flashcards. so i took ten, maybe fifteen folders and sliced them up in the teacher's lounge. erica madrigal walked in at one point, and i said, "hi," but she barely greeted me with a smile. semi-snub, part-slighted.

i really began to resent mrs. hansen, and americorps in general, as i was cutting up pieces of folders. all i could think was, i have a college degree. i used to mean something to somebody. i used to be useful, and this is all the work you can give me? how can i inspire others when i'm poor, when i'm doing such meaningless work everyday? i just received an email from our site director, sister liane, about how the u.s. house has officially declared this week americorps week. like our program has been "officially" recognized or something. well, who really gives a fuck? when they haven't raised the ed award since its conception in '94, when we have terrible health insurance that our supervisors have even admitted they don't understand, when we sit in corners, in desks, all across america twiddling our thumbs, who really gives a goddamn-fuck about americorps week?

i know i don't.

and this rant is usually countered by, "but it's about the kids. it's not about money. it's a good experience." and i can only answer, "well, isn't that why we have teachers in the first place?" if they really need some cocky 23 year old to sit in the back, run little tasks, mark things off, then maybe they should find a new line of work. that's what they're paid to do. jesus.

but enough whining. i got to play old capulet in mrs. hansen's class toward the end of the period. i grabbed this kid's arm (following stage directions) and i think it made him pretty uncomfortable. during third period, kathryn needed me to pick up some fruit. so i did.

in rhodes' fifth period class, the kids looked bored out of their minds. their new book is about magic dogs, known as "cadejos." i asked jorge vasquez (pronounced 'vah-skez') what a "cadejo" was, and he said, "it's not real. mr. rhodes said it's like a fiction." then they had to write about "changes" - what's different since they've moved here from mexico. jesus valadez, a big boy, whitening hair, who looks older than me, said in mexico he lived in a six bedroom house. now he lives in a three bedroom house. big yard mexico, little yard u.s.a. i couldn't help but think that things were better there. that there was a sense of community, devoid of gangs, massive consumerism, internet frenzy. romanticizing is dangerous.

against our will, we attended an immigration workshop last friday in belmont. i was tired of telling stories about my family that i didn't really know, so i just got into it. "i think that my family would've been better off in the philippines. you know, they wouldn't have struggled so much with english, all of them probably would've gone to college and had the success that they wanted." lori, who's applied to eighty-something med schools in the past couple of months, said, "that's true. it probably would've been better education-wise, but you know, the quality of life wouldn't have been as...good." we didn't have time to completely discuss, but liz jumped in with, "well. maybe. but that would depend on your definition of 'quality of life'."

sometimes i think about how much our parents have sacrificied to be here and for us to be here, and how little gratitude we have. how little we have to show for it.
where's the tension

so, i finally have to admit, and accept, that i'm a terrible fiction writer. for the past couple of weeks, i've completely neglected the act of writing, and instead have chosen to blog, wash dishes, and read. my professor, larry nichols, used to call the crappy stories i had "false starts," and as it turns out, these false starts were all i could ever accomplish. i've heard over and over again that it's all about patience, it's about doing it and doing it, polishing and rewriting, but the voice of self-doubt is the loudest and clearest. now, i've learned not to point fingers, or blame others, but i mean, come on:

"This class is one of the hardest and worst you can take at SU. The teacher is so unclear and confuses students even more than they should. He makes a strong, good writer feel inadequate and unsure about their writing. I felt unispired, frustrated almost every day. DO NOT TAKE ANY CLASSES WITH PROFESSOR NICHOLS!!!!"

yes, this is courtesy of www.ratemyprofessor.com. despite his misspelling of "uninspired," he makes a strong point. i feel pretty inadequate and unsure about my writing. hell, it took me four or five tries to get this blog started. now, i think, i just state the obvious and don't really care. it's helped me see that my days are pretty unusual, and if i write about them, maybe they're not as wasted as i think they are.

but anyway, back to larry. no, it's really not his fault. i think that grades and work and wiki-ing and googling and youtubing and myspacing and facebooking and buying and not working have just turned me into a highly unimaginative person.

my cousin rich once said, "you're the george harrison of the family. like the least exciting beatle. you want an exciting life, but you're a boring person." it was one of the biggest insults i've ever received, but it was also true. it was no wonder then, that the radiohead song "no surprises" became one of my favorites in high school.

therein the problem lies and exacerbates. i don't like tricks, i don't like confrontation. and that's usually the heart of a good short story. so maybe i'm not a fiction writer. maybe i'm just doomed to blog.

but even still, if these are just entries about a boring person, and people still read them, then i must have something going on.

right?

damn you, larry.
first and last name, please.

on saturday, i got up early and showered. as i stepped into the shower, i thought, why am i doing this? i'm just going to get sweaty again. oh well. i went in. the reason i went ahead anyway is because i wanted to feel alive and awake, and nothing can accomplish both those things better than a hot shower. today was the day i was finally going rock climbing with mr. rhodes.

mr. rhodes has been asking me all year to come with him. usually, back in january, it was "if you ever want to come along, you have my number..." and then it became, "we're going this weekend..." always countered with a "i don't know - i think i might be busy, but i'll give you a call..." this time, though, faced with another lame saturday spent reading or thrifting, i gave it a go. and it didn't turn out so bad.

i asked rachel to come along, and i asked glenn if he'd ever done it. rachel had a triathalon, and glenn said, "i'm not good with heights." for a second i wondered if i shared the same fear.

which reminds me, once, americorps/red cross member ross and i stood by a cliff somewhere in northern washington. he said, "i never like looking down. it always seems so easy to just jump, you know. it's almost like a video game." i agreed. back before ross made his self-righteous anti-adbusters comment, and i didn't speak to him much after that.

i don't really think i'm afraid of heights. i think i'm just afraid of falling. but more specifically, just that feeling you get in your stomach. falling would be okay with me if my stomach didn't do that weird thing.

i exited morrissey to pacific edge gym in santa cruz. i missed the left on seabright and drove for a while before realizing i'd passed it. there was a part of me that wanted to be a no-show, and just claim that i had gotten lost. i've done it before. i think that part of me also likes letting people down, making them think that i don't have it together. often, i have this terrible side that doesn't feel any obligation to the human race - only people i know and those who know me very well.

but after a few u-turns, i made it and mr. rhodes kindly greeted me, introduced me to his filipino wife, jenny. she was 4'9'' and from cebu. mr. rhodes has visited her parents in cebu three times. she was polite.

rhodes baleyed (sp?) her up first and i watched her climb the easiest wall first. the beginner's wall. then he baleyed me next. he said that he didn't want to scare me, so i would just go up maybe halfway, then come back down. just to get a sense of tilting backwards, so that he could lower me with ease. "it's very counter-intuitive," he warned. the grips and footholds were easy, and after two warm-ups, i made it to the top, no problem. mr. rhodes then scaled the tallest wall in the gym, looking much like a spider or monkey. spider-monkey rhodes.

he wanted me to tackle a big wall when it was my turn again. i had trouble tying the figure eight and fisherman's knots. he showed me. i think i could do it now if i tried. anyway, i couldn't handle the big wall. i kept panicking about not being able to find anything to grip or hold onto, and i even lost footing twice. my palms sweat and i feared slipping, even though i knew the rope was holding me up safely. halfway up the wall, i asked him to lower me back down. i felt bad for letting him down.

mr. rhodes found another giant wall for me to climb. "this one has some better footholds," he said, and he was right. i made it to the top, slapped the pulley system, and he lowered me. it was called "the speed wall," but i was still pretty glad about conquering something so high. i could see why people do this for fun.

after two and a half hours of climbing, belaying, and chalking up, they decided to call it a day. dirty and hungry, i went to streetlight, and browsed through the bargain bins.

i don't have any great insights or anything unusual about the weekend. i wanted to write a pitchfork review for electrelane's no shouts, no calls, but i haven't yet. i wonder if they'll just take anyone's review. hopefully, they're like carlos alcantar. hopefully, they like to hear opinions.



screw blockbusters!

some things about this goddamned town:

both post office locations are closed on saturdays.
the district office's hours are from 8 - 4:30 pm.

i hate it when i drive somewhere, when i could easily pick up a phone, and find out that the place is closed. maybe there's a part of me that subconsciously likes disappointment.

sixth period wasn't boring, after all. cramer decided he wanted to get some grading done, so i taught hyphens, parentheses, and persuasive essays with zero preparation. the kids got really wild at one point. i yelled, "frankie!" he looked at me. "cool out."

anna, opposing animal cruelty (how is this a controversial topic?), started talking some nonsense about how if we mistreat the animals, then one day they'll rise up and attack us. i didn't really know what she was getting at. "that's sounds like planet of the apes," i said, never having seen the movie, and moved on.

frankie was one of the few who didn't know where to put parentheses. he's skinny, dark, and has big eyes. he sits by the door, so he's always the first to greet me when i'm late. once, i decided to randomly ask how his grades were. "they're bad. i'm failing in every class." "well, start coming after school," i offered. "when i was in high school, i did poorly, too, and i didn't ask for any help. i would've gotten a lot better if i stayed after school and got some tutoring." he half-listened. "but i do bad in every class," he said, "even math." "bring the math in, then. whatever it is, we'll work on it." frankie still doesn't come after school. how much prodding do i need to do? maybe sometimes we all just need to be helpless teenagers.

ashley wanted to know my stance on legalizing marijuana. all i could say was, "come after school, and i'll tell you all about it." i can't fit my opinions into fifteen second time frames. i need at least half an hour to discuss, days of blogging.

earlier today, janessa said, "i saw you walking yesterday. after school."
"oh yeah?" what else am i supposed to say to that? i was tempted to ask, "how did i look?" but thought it might've been inappropriate.
juan jumped in, too. "i saw you, too. listening to music."
janessa argued, "no, he was reading a book."
i kind of like all this fuss about me, so i don't defend either side. truth is, i listened to music halfway home, read high fidelity the rest of the way.

well, that's not true. i stopped when the road got bumpy and i almost tripped.
cddrgsaeiou.

the title of this entry is a jumbled word ms. juarez (marianna) used to help the eld students work on their spelling. they were supposed to use any and all letters they could to form new ones. they came up with: said, drugs, rags, dude, etc. the letters can be unscrambled to create:

discouraged.

today, however, i didn't feel as discouraged as i might've been. i was useless again in cramer's class (most likely will be, too, next period), but i was amused. like ms. juarez, he played a game, girls vs. boys, to help them with a parenthesis exercise. but, knowing that the boys in his second period class are much more behind than the girls, he helped the boys cheat. for example: "I have read every science fiction book I own - long pause - a considerable amount." then sergio would say, "book I own, parenthesis, amount, end parenthesis." for the girls though, he would read the sentence like this: ihavereadeverysciencefictionbookiownaconsiderableamount.

this really set off karina and rebecca, both in the back, who whined over and over, "you're cheating!" and, consequently, "god! the guys in here are so stupid that he helps them cheat like five times, and they still don't get it!" it was true. some boys, like christian and juan, kept telling the other boys to look at cramer's eyes, as if he were giving the answers away by signaling with blinks. the whole period, the boys never caught on that he was pausing to indicate where to put parenthesis. it was sad, but also kind of funny.

what i liked, though, is at the very end of this game, cramer finally paused to help yvette tie the game. still, it was disappointing, because had they lost, juan would've had to do ten push-ups.
best kind of bear.

high fidelity is amazing. it captures how i feel every time i leave a record store, empty-handed. nick hornby calls it a "prickly, clammy" feeling, and i know what that's about. i'm listening to low now, one of my favorite bands. i can't really explain why i think they're great, except to say that they make me feel like a patient person.

in the spirit of high fidelity, here's my top five things i'd like to do with my life:

1. write great stories and live to see them published, possibly collected in an thology entitled "the collected works of james tan."

2. work at a writing center again, and have people say that i'm "deep."

3. expand record/hardcover book collection and spend more time listening/reading.

4. see friends and family succeed, possibly creating their own "top five lists" of things they'd like to do with their lives and do them.

5. make friends who stick around.

now, on a lighter note, the top five low songs:

1. venus
2. (that's how you sing) amazing grace
3. violence
4. will the night
5. when i go deaf

mrs. hansen didn't have much for me to do today. i sat there, occasionally got up to check grammar. even when i saw mistakes, i felt so useless i barely corrected anything. they'll figure it out one day, i tell myself. mr. rhodes asked me again about rock climbing. i said i'd go, and would saturday work for him? yes, he said, and so we're on.

i've never been rock climbing. once, when i was like in the second or third grade, i wore a purple shirt my cousin eric (or maybe marie) got me that said on the back, go climb a rock. i wore it to free dress day once, the same day i had to read a bible passage at church in front of the whole school. after school that day, this older girl says to me, "go climb a rock." i had no idea who she was, but i liked the attention. girls didn't talk to me then. the shirt was magic. i kind of regretted that i didn't go climbing with them. i wanted to, at the time, but it sounded dangerous, and i'm sure my parents were able to talk me out of it. too young. i couldn't hang.

mrs. hansen's kids played hangman today. the word was "sonnet." i got it when only an "s" and "e" were showing. that's just how good seattle university was.
the side of me you haven't read.

the title of this entry is taken from a student's poetry anthology from mrs. hansen's class. i swear all these ambient post-rock bands (explosions in the sky, mogwai, godspeed!, etc.) took all their titles from ELD students. how else would they get "the earth is not a cold dead place," "may nothing but happiness come through your door?" they must've learned it from mexicans.

i secretly tape-recorded mr. cramer's class, hoping it would be a typical class. it was not. the kids worked on their persuasive essays, mr. cramer didn't bring up any religious or political views, and there wasn't incessant chatting and laughter all period. i was disappointed.

in ms. hansen's class, i did a word search, read some student poetry.

i am changing the world; yes, one small step at a time.

lots of purple.

hot today, leading to a bad headache which lasted anywhere from noon 'til six. this morning meagan and i decided we would go to san francisco. now, a beginning like this, and anything involving san francisco, usually ends in disaster. but i went to a giants game yesterday, and i decided meagan really needed to approach san francisco from the south end. there's something about the south end - maybe it's the lack of a toll, or the endless graves at the veterans' memorial, maybe it's the giant south of san francisco the industrial city sign in white block letters like hollywood's - that makes it seem worth traveling to.

so off we went, and for those looking for bad things to happen to us today, you're out of luck. this is just a boring recap of a not-so-boring day. the reason we didn't get lost, didn't end up yelling at each other across the armrests of my honda civic, and managed to hit up everything we wanted to see, was because of dong. yes, i have a friend named dong. he went to usf and majored in poly sci. he thought about becoming a lawyer, but after two days of reception work at a law firm, quit. "every time a lawyer would talk to me, i just wanted to slap him," he said.

dong's apartment ($1100/mo. for those curious about s.f. rents) lies in outer-richmond ("like richmond, virginia?" meagan asks? "like mitch richmond?" i add) is cool, dark, and has a back porch/patio. whatever you want to call it. "not many places in s.f. have this," he says, proudly. he's watching the new jersey cleveland game and i ask him about the warriors. meagan interrupts, "james says you live for three things - weed, getting laid, and the nba." i wanted to correct, the nba playoffs (which is what i really had said), but i just wait for his answer. "yeah, that used to be. but there's a little more to it than that now." i wonder for a second if he's found religion, politics, philosophy. i want to know what it is, but i don't push it.

the three of us pile into my car and drive to the moma (museum of modern art), located on third street. unable to find street parking, we bring it into a garage. the total, we later learn, is $8. i don't mind so much. meagan always says, "it's not a weekend until we've wasted $6." once an annoyance, now a tradition.

i don't get art. i'll admit that much. in the museum, i tell dong, "i don't get it. i know it's cool, and i'm supposed to like it, but to me, it's just like that's cool and move on. i mean, i know it's hard to do..." i stop, realizing people can hear my ignorant blather - even meagan is giving me disapproving looks - and continue it later. dong admits he doesn't really get it, either. as we stare at stuart davis' painting, the studio, he says, "yeah, see. if i came over to your house and you showed me that, i'd just be like, 'i don't know, james. is everything alright?' " i help him some more. talking about not understanding art, to me, is more fun than actually talking about art. "and it always seems like it'd have to be some kind of bullshit, you know? like, how would i even explain what i'm doing to you? i used diagonal lines here and a lighter shade of blue to express the loneliness." "for reals," he agrees. "always bullshit. has to be." and for a moment i feel like we're high schoolers again, that nothing's changed. and for a moment it feels cool, real, the way i used to be: simple, but real. i know i can't stay, though.

also in the museum there are paintings done by picasso, georgia o'keefe, dali, jackson pollock, japser johns, frida, the list goes on... i tell meagan that what depresses me is that a lot of this was done when they were our age. and they had less resources to do it. and it seems so simple, just throwing paint on a canvas, splotching here, dripping there. but i knew that if i tried, it wouldn't work.

we leave the moma and it's hot out. we sweat in our jeans and shirts. when we get to our next stop, godzilla sushi (where everything's less than $4), it's closed. we eat, instead, at naan and curry. good, spicy indian food. not perfect for a hot day, but filling, still. we stare at a man's abandoned, uneaten naan, a whole piece, and we all think about grabbing it for ourselves. but, we don't. "social norms," meagan says.

we drive to the other side of the city for meagan's truffles. she buys a big box this time.

then, my turn. amoeba. only for half an hour. dong's tired, wants to go home. my headache and inability to locate the zidane soundtrack also concludes the day. i do, however, pick up the new feist, which santa cruz's streetlight didn't have in stock, thus making them the worst record store ever, and santa cruz the worst city ever.

we bring him home, he fills my klean kanteen, and meagan and i drift back to sleepy watsonville in the tired nightfall. i think about if i've ever driven, or ridden this stretch during this time of year. i point out where grace and ate ging-ging used to live, the ramada, facing the coast, by the int'l. airport.

i remember the hymn "be not afraid" going off in my head before we last flew to the philippines, 12, 13 years ago. i don't know why i was scared.

there's nothing to fear in san francisco.
the boating instructor.

i caught yara in the watsonville public library today during third period. i didn't mean to, but i think kathryn felt bad for me, since there are only three students in her class now, and obviously nothing for me to do.

"you know, james," she says, in her shy, but firm voice, "if you have something you'd rather be doing, or something you need to work on...feel free." what she really means to say is why the hell are you still hanging around? go do something somewhere, anywhere else. and so i agree, tell her that i'll use third period as my "prep period" - only, in reality, i have nothing to "prep" for. so, rather than read in the corner like a guest who's outstayed his welcome, i tell her i'm going to the library. and i do.

it's windy out, and a block into it, i think of heading back, even though the library is only another three blocks away. but i don't really feel like sitting at my desk, overdosing on soy nuts. i'm going to make a real trek. plus, i want to return breakfast at tiffany's to lighten the load in my pack. but i haven't finished it yet, so i walk and read. i've never really done it before, walking and reading, but found that i'm no good at it anyway. couldn't concentrate on the short story, the diamond guitar. kept thinking some car was going to pull out of a driveway too quickly.

when i get to the library, i see yara and two other watsonville high girls on a computer, checking out myspace. i wave over to them, half-friendly, half-narc. i read some more of the story before i realize she's not going to class, and then i walk over to the librarian to ask what i'm supposed to do in a situation like this.

"excuse me, hi. i'm a volunteer at the high school, and i know for a fact that at least one of the girls over there is supposed to be in class right now. what am i supposed to do?"
the librarian smiles and tells me that i should probably call the school, and they'll send some of the security guys over to come pick her up.
"do you have their number?"
she walks over to grab a phonebook, just as yara and the two other girls leave.
"are you going to class?" i ask her.
"yeah, why?" she asks.
"the bell has rung."
the librarian watches them leave, but for some reason, still flips through the yellow pages, trying to find the school number. i want to say i don't need it now, but she looks too determined. she writes it on a white piece of paper and i enter it into my cell phone, pretending i'll call later. it's my prep period, after all.

i read the final story included in breakfast and it's called "a christmas memory." it's the kind of story that fills, one that makes me feel like i've done something with my day - it's just that good.

after eld, i decide to stick around, since i haven't really chatted with miss carissa all week. she asks if i'm a student teacher. here's how some of it plays out:

"no."
"are you still in school?"
"no, i've graduated alrea-"
"oh, me too."

i find it kind of strange how she slips this in so abruptly. it was like when angela, an ex-co-worker at starbucks once asked how old i was. when i revealed "24," it was an automatic, "oh, you're my age then." when did age, or a college education become something we had to prove? what does it say about anything, really? i'm 24, i have a b.a., and i'll be the first to admit it: i don't know shit about shit.

"so, are you doing this for credits or something?" carissa asks.
i can't help but think, i've already answered that i'm not in school anymore, what kind of credits could i possibly be earning? citizenship points? "no, no credits."
"so you just hang out, have fun with the kids?"
"pretty much," i admit. "i'm in americorps."
"ohhhh," she says with one too many o's. "do you get paid?"
"a stipend. and subsidized housing?"
"subsidized. what's that? does that mean it's free?"
"no, they pay for about half."
"so why are you doing the program?"
i don't really have an answer. in september i could've said because i'm idealistic; i believe in change. i really believe students and teachers need me. but, unfortunately for her, it's may. i can only shrug my shoulders. "just to gain work experience."

we talk about teaching possibilities, different programs. i tell her about project pipeline and how i would get to start working right away. she's disappointed that the applications are due tomorrow. "maybe i can turn it in late, tell them i just found out about it, and they'll let me in?" and because she's blonde i think she might actually pull it off, even though i've been working on my application since january.

but that's just the way it goes.
pourque esta usted enojado?

today, during mrs. hansen's class, i felt a lot like ron burgundy eating the cat turds in anchorman. she had asked me to cut up some index cards and files to make flashcards for her kids. not just the kids she works with - but all of her students. i didn't protest; i didn't ask to do anything else; i just did it. because that's what i do. and i've always done it. and i'll always do it. so after i cut up all the index cards and files, i used an electronic whole punching machine to poke holes in each card. it took up the whole period. i didn't mind. anything mindless and time-consuming i'll do because i don't care anymore. i'll just eat the cat shit.

i also get the impression that she doesn't think i'm educated. i think pretty much all teachers feel that way about me. like mr. cramer saying, "you know, from the back, it looks like it's really easy, to just say, 'oh, i would've done this, or i would've done that,' but it's hard work. especially when you have little punks like edgar and angel stirring everything up..." and then there's ms. carissa, who doesn't really ask me about how anything is done - just goes ahead and takes the class like she's been there for years. it makes me think about my roommate, who said at a meeting once that there was a time in his life when he felt useful, appreciated. and how he had to go back and read old papers of his to make sure that this period actually existed. yes, americorps makes for some hard times.

every now and then, something shines. like my encounter with stephen yesterday. using venn diagrams, the eld kids had to compare and contrast themselves with benito juarez, the mexican president during the mexican revolution. when i first saw stephen's book, i saw that he had written mexican in the "same" category. then i realized he wasn't writing about himself, but his friend, ivan.

"stephen! you're not mexican! you're chinese!"
"oh, no. not me. my friend. ivan."
"no, you have to write about yourself." i point to the directions. "benito juarez and me."
"oh, but my friend ivan. i write."
"no, stephen. you have to follow the directions."
"awright," he says, scratching out my friend ivan.
at this point i turn to dulce, who has written nothing. i help her find some examples. when i turn back to stephen, i see that he's written "brown" for benito and "yellow" for himself.
"stephen! you're not yellow! this is yellow," i say, pointing to a post-it note ms. carissa is using as a bookmark for her copy of viva mexico!
"wha? i am yellow. you, yellow too."
"no, stephen, i'm not yellow and you're not yellow, either. this is yellow," i point again to the post-it.
"but in china," he says, "everybody yellow."
"in this country, stephen, to call an asian person yellow is racist."
"ray-zis?"
"racist," i repeat. i type the word into his electronic dictionary.
"o-ho! bad. this, bad." he looks confused now. "americans are ray-zis?"
i want to just say yes, or silently nod, but it's too early in the day for that. i try to explain more. "no. no. americans aren't racist - but people who call people like you and me 'yellow' would be racist." by the look on his face, it's still unclear. "i'll explain later," i said.
he shakes his head, smiling, as he always does, and simply scratches out yellow. i can't help but think, if he was happy being yellow, maybe i shouldn't have interfered.

by the beard of zeus.

today, i bought a basketball from target. first i went to the salvation army looking for balls. none. then it was big 5. the cheapest one i could find was $19.99 and the nicer, "high-quality" spaldings were as high as $39.99. what the hell. i don't remember this sport ever being that expensive. so target it was. $8 for a blue and black ball. good enough for me. though it did make me miss the seattle goodwill even more, where i could find any ball, any shape or color, along with cds, t-shirts and shoes my size, and mint condition books, always under $2. best thrift store ever. but, i digress. yeah, a target ball. a new low, perhaps? the woman who sold it to me was chubby and had glasses. she looked like a stereotypical loser on a 90's sitcom. even though i'm sure she's rad. she works at target after all. no sarcasm there. these days, i truly respect, even envy people who can hold down a job with actual responsibilities.

i only mention this woman because right after i purchased the ball, i shot some hoop. all by myself. i was hoping the skater kids, who most likely go to watsonville high, would've challenged me to a game, but it was unlikely. didn't happen. so while i tossed up more bricks than swishes, she came walking down the hill, crossed the court. i said hey because watsonville really is that small. you run into people you've just met. i tried my luck at more half court shots, but grew sorely disappointed when i airballed more than three times. speaking of basketball, i really wanted golden state to win tonight. they didn't. that's all i'll say about that.

later on in the afternoon, meagan and i walked up brennan just as immigration protestors were marching in the opposite direction. it was a strange feeling, as if we were consciously moving against them, a physical debate. i saw some students. yara, a girl once described by ms. joy as "hot and cold," waved over to me to join the march. i wanted to, but couldn't. teri's dinner awaited.

we talked about plans for yosemite. i reluctantly volunteered to drive, mostly because i knew it was either me or marisa. and i felt like some of us younger folk oughta step up every now and then. my roommate certainly doesn't. ever.

speaking of which, i walked into the bathroom the other morning, and the bottom of our tub was brown carpet. unacceptable.

meagan talked quite a bit with the woman at the library, since she herself is going to be a librarian.


son, come to the sun that is calling you.

yesterday after school carlos and eivette stayed after to talk about poems they had written. carlos' poem was called, "i don't like it when people step on me," or something along those lines. the first line began, "i don't care what people think," and the last line, "i like to hear opinions." i made him conscious of his contradiction, and gave the usual writing rules. "show, don't tell," "use similes and metaphors," etc. i'm looking forward to his next draft, which he said he would have ready for tomorrow's workshop.

eivette's poem was untitled, and about "the one." by "one," she is referring to a star. i should've known, since she drew stars all over the page, but it still didn't come through. i told her to be more clear about what she's writing about. then we got into this discussion (carlos likes to interrupt a lot by the way - but only because he's truly excited about learning) about how comparing a star to an angel doesn't really work. i forget why, exactly. i think i reasoned that it was difficult to compare two already mysterious things. then, looking at carlos' bracelet, i explained, "the bracelet wrapped like vines around carlos' wrist." metaphors help us see familiar things in a new light. i was 76% sure i knew what i was talking about.

today, kathryn is gone. the kids were watching moby dick, and by watching i mean playing with their psp's, ipods, and cell phones. at one point, though, this kid andy told santos he could tear him up with his poetry. this jerked me out of my breakfast at tiffany's and asked him, "really?" he faltered at that point and gave me a very weak, "yeah." then he showed me his poem, "the ballad of a man a live," and the poem took this shape:

the ballad of a man a live the ballad of a man a live
the ballad of a man a live the ballad
the ballad of a man a live
the ballad of a man
of a man a
live

you get the point. i asked him why he did that and he said, "i don't know, it looked cool." then, in an effort to boost confidence, i told him the top part could represent a very full, lived life, and then the shape dwindles as the man goes mad and contemplates suicide. he liked that. it made him say, "oh, shit!"

a red-headed sub just came in to take over kathryn's fifth period class. she's asking me about the walk-outs. i'd better go.