Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
My mom: I can tell you're on the ferry. I can hear the seagulls.
Me: Those are people. I'm sitting inside the boat in the non-seabird section.
Mom: Your suitcase is too heavy. You'll have to pay extra.
Me: I don't think so.
Mom: I'll get the scale. You take the books out.
I take the books out.
Me: See, it's only thirty pounds.
Mom: It feels heavier.
Me: I don't have twenty pounds of books in this pile, so I'm going to put them back in.
Mom: I don't know. How heavy is that one?
I take my copy of The Working Girls' Bible and put it on the scale.
Me: Seven pounds! Still, the rest of the pile is probably about four pounds.
Mom: Weigh it.
Me: Three pounds. That's a total of forty, which is still ten pounds under the limit.
Mom: Don't forget you still have to put in your bathing suit.
Me: Yes. My twelve pound concrete bathing suit is what's going to push it over the limit.
Mom: Victoria is coming after seven with some fresh baked brownies for you.
Me: That's very nice of her. Is this going to be like the orange bread that Sue made that I never got a chance to try because you and your husband ate it all?
Mom: You are not ever allowed to tell Sue that.
Me: I'm so glad to not be in the hospital, so I'm not constantly having everything poking me, and being tested for everything.
My mother: Good morning. (Pulls out a sleeve of medical supplies) Time to test your blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, and breathing rate.
Me: Oh, this is still happening.
My mother: This is definitely still happening.
Driving through the town where she grew up, my mother points out houses, forgetting what happened to me in one of them.
An uncomfortable block later, she says "That's the country club where we taught Adam to golf." and points to her left.
"That's a graveyard." I say
"And you parred every hole."
I come from a weird family.
After Some Unscrupulous Relative Links Her To An Article About A Comic Book Store In Texas, My Mother Calls Me At Work
Me: "No, Mom, I'm not getting married now."
Mom: "I just read this article about this comic book store couple in Texas...:"
Me: "That's great. Who do you imagine I'm going to get married to?"
Mom: "What about that nice guy we had lunch with a couple of years ago. I think he was moving to Arizona."
Me: "Well, SHE now lives in California."
Me: "Yes, she lives in California, and is a woman."
Mom: "That's even be--"
Me: "YOU FINISH THAT SENTENCE OLD WOMAN, AND I WILL END YOU."
Mom: "So you're still single, then?"
My mom just texted me "May The Fourth be with you." along with a recipe for Darth Vader cookies.
The "holiday" has officially jumped the left shark.
I almost posted my confusion about how she even knew I was interested in Star Wars because, apparently, I forgot the Return Of The Jedi sleeping bag she bought me, and the millenium falcon she bought me, and all the action figures she bought me, and the collectible Return Of The Jedi glasses we got from what was probably McDonald's, and the fact that the only reason I saw those movies is because she and/or my dad took me to them, and that she knows that I work in a comic book store,
It's like I don't even know me.
During my break from work, I called my mom:
Mom: I was just going to e-mail you, you must have ESP. Ken wants to know what you're doing for National Poetry Month.
Ken (in background): Who is on the phone?
Mom: It's Adam.
Ken: What's he doing for National Poetry Month?
Mom: Why are you hiding?"
Me: It was a joke.
Mom: It was a joke.
Ken: It was a joke?
Mom (to Ken): It was a joke.
(to me): I was just about to e-mail you to ask you what you're doing for National Poetry Month.
Me: Well, now you don't have to.
Regular conversation ensues.
When I hang up the phone, I get a text, letting me know to check my e-mail. The e-mail says "Hey Adam, it's Mom. It was great to hear from you. You must have ESP. Ken would like to know what you're doing for National Poetry Month."
I hope to live for a long time but I never want to get old.
Ok, seriously, what is it with my parents getting married without telling anyone?
I suppose, barring the death of their spouses, that this is the last time one of my parents will have the opportunity to get married (barring their embrace of Mormonism) and then casually drop that fact in conversation after the ceremony is over.
Now that I think about, I suppose my birth parents would each have the opportunity to do this to me. Let's call that another reason why I have no plans to get in touch with them.
I've been doing a bunch of high school poetry shows over the last few months. And, usually, at some point during the workshop, or during the slam, I'll look at all the kids around me and think, I wonder how the kids at my old high school would react. Then I remember the teachers at my public high school.
My geometry teacher, Miss Nichols, was a frumpy fifty-something former nun who would have made an incredible first grade or kindergarten teacher, but was entirely too condescending to deal with bored ninth graders. Every day she would mark the floor-to ceiling blackboard with brightly colored chalk outlines and ask questions that no one would raise their hands to answer. And when she realized that none of us gave a runny shit about what she was trying to teach us, she would grab the flowy part of her mumu, and announce "If you're going to sit and look at the floor, I'm going to sit and teach on the floor." And the rest of the class would be peppered with "Hello?"s every time we failed to respond to her inane questions. In my final report card of the year (I got a D-), she wrote that I would be "best served in a remedial math course." When, the next year, I was moved out of my pre-calculus class to ADVANCED CALCULUS AND TRIGONOMETRY (I got an A-), my mother photocopied both my boarding school report card, and the one that Miss Nichols had wrote the following year, along with a note suggesting Miss Nichols would be "best served in a remedial teaching course."
My Life Science teacher, Mr. Hickey, was an arrogant, gassy sixty-something former scientist. He made alphabetical seating charts, because he hated learning kids' names. Every class, my friend Brian and I would count how many times he yanked his tie, or threw chalk at people. And whenever he made an audible fart, we would chuckle, prompting Mr. Hickey to say "Stone, do you want a detention?" To which I replied "No." To which he replied, "Fine. Stanton, you've got a detention." This same teacher tried to give me a D on an embryology project because I couldn't for the life of me draw an attractive looking graph, chick, or egg. When I pointed out that it was a science class, and not an art class, I received my first detention, which I skipped. When my mother gave a copy of my embryology report (along with Hickey's comments on my artwork) to the principal, my detention was rescinded, and my grade was upped to a B-. The principal hated and feared my mom. As did I.
My French teacher was a nice enough lady, but she didn't teach me anything. I don't even remember her name. Ditto the man who taught history.
But poetry workshops are organized by English teachers, and its my Freshman year english teacher I choose to remember now. Mrs. Wallins was the bland, moderately friendly wasp you'd expect to teach high school English. She liked to drill students on the difference between metaphors and like similes. She favored the kids who read out loud well, and thus I was, for the first semester, one of her favorite students. As long as I didn't question her, we got along fantastically. Our midterm assignment was to write a short fiction piece about Valentine's Day. A week before the assignment was due, she'd gone on a rant about how much she hated second person narration, how she thought it was demeaning to the reader. So, naturally, I wrote my fiction piece in the second person. It wasn't fantastic. It won't change the face of literature, but it was pretty fucken good for a piece of crap high school assignment about love. In her comments, she mentioned that I would have scored much higher had I written the piece in a "more traditional voice." Since I'd made the decision to rile my teacher consciously, my mother refused to back me up.
For National Poetry Month, Mrs. Wallins had organized an open mic in the cafeteria, featuring all the students that would be included in the school lit journal. I had two poems accepted. They were terrible. Awful. Should have been banned from the English language. At the time, though, I was proud of them, and I showed them to one of my friends, Jeff, who wasn't in my class. He turned the poems in to his English teacher, who also submitted them to the lit journal. I was one of the first people to read, so I read my poems to a mixed reaction (the poems sucked, the kids were forced to be there), sat down, and prepared to get a "well done" clap on the back from Mrs. Wallins. Instead I received a whisper in my ear "We need to go to the principal's office. Now."
The battle over who wrote the poems wasn't pretty. Jeff argued that he'd written them. I cried. Parents were called. My mother played the stern, supportive woman who frightened high school principals, and Jeff's mother played the crazed psychopath who knew, KNEW that I'd been out to destroy her son since we started hanging out in fourth grade.
In the end, since neither of copped to the plagiarism, or had any proof that we'd written the poems first, we were both removed from the lit journal. And for the rest of the term, every time I turned in a piece of writing, Mrs. Wallins would ask "Did you write this?"
This year, for national poetry month, I have been asked to run a slam and poetry workshop at my old high school. I will be reading a series of poems in the second person in Mrs. Wallins' honor. I'll tell her how the last time I saw Jeff, I gave him permission to use those poems whenever he wanted (remember, they sucked), and that I recently googled Jeff to find out how his writing career was going. Curiously, when I googled his name and poetry, I didn't find anything. But when I googled his name and "police log", man did I get a bunch of hits. I was initially impressed by his career as a law enforcement agent, until I read a few of the pages and discovered he wasn't so much a police officer as a frequent suspect in a series of low-grade crimes. Apparently, he's gotten really sneaky at the breaking part of his criminal life, but his enterings frequently attract the notice of local police. Maybe I'll start doing a few prison workshops and readings so we can get back in touch.