Hyundai

Well, Sam didn’t poop at all yesterday, in spite of some forty five minutes spent sitting obligingly on the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to molest him with that damned enema a fourth night in a row, and so he had to have two tonight before producing a nasty hard mass. I suppose it’s time to bypass the pediatrician  and go find a shit-ologist to see what is up with my baby’s ass.

However, there is one bright spot. In the midst of tonight’s ordeal, Caroline had to fend for herself for quite awhile. At one point, I was sitting on the bathroom floor discussing poop with Sam, and Caroline wandered around the corner holding an old book. I guess we must have family hour in by the commode pretty regularly these days, because she pulled up a stool by the sink and continued reading like it was nothing unusual.

“What’cha got?” I asked her. It was hardbound without pictures or a slipcover.

Rather than closing it, she peered all the way across the top and looked upside down at the spine, then intoned “The Pain and The Great One, by Judy Blume,” in her robot voice.

Seriously? I had to bend around so I could see for myself. She’s about halfway through it.

“That was one of my favorites when I was your age!” I said.

But she didn’t hear me. She was too deeply engrossed in her book.

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That’s just a status update. Here’s the real blog entry.

When my parents were married, Mom used to say “For better or worse, but the truck comes first.” This particular commentary on the state of their union meant that, while he might have been wedded to Mom, Dad’s love affair with his Ford F250 qualified it for mistress status.  I’m beginning to understand his position.

Pretty early on in the blog, I mentioned that we have been car shopping, with plans to buy new. Also, that I’m extremely uncomfortable being middle class enough to think about the long-term cost of a car, as opposed to the short term expense.  That was over two months ago.  Scott and I shop very slowly, even once we have made up our minds.  We had a pretty good idea back in May that we would be buying a Hyundai Sonata, as it offered a reasonable compromise between size and gas savings. And we figured out our color choice pretty fast.  We even knew we wanted a GLS without any added options packages.

Still, it took us until last Friday to actually go buy the thing.

Our car buying style has evolved over the course of the relationship, with nothing running true to type. This is one of the few things we have in common with my parents as a couple. Their car buying abilities were also so unique as to defy any dealer’s comprehension training. Back when they were buying cars together, the dealers tended to assume that the woman would be the soft sell, so they spent a lot of their time showing the man the car’s practical advantages while showing the woman the features.  But in our family, Mom was the hardliner. She knew how much she could afford, couldn’t have cared less about the dealer come-ons, and had no interest in features. So the dealers wasted a lot of time trying to win over a man who they had back at the word “car”. And they spent almost no effort at all on the person with whom they would actually be negotiating.

It never went well for the dealers.

Scott and I aren’t like that. I’ll freely admit that I’m the stereotypical female shopper in an era when dealers are getting trained to avoid sexist thinking. Hyundai had me at “Free XM radio trial”, but the dealer got distracted by my sudden nostalgia for the Mazda that he didn’t even know we would be trading in.  Therefore, he wasn’t quite sure what to do when I had no interest in test drives, didn’t really care a whole lot about fuel economy since it wasn’t a Prius, and wasn’t even much interested in color. Scott, in contrast, did several test drives of the Sonata, of the Honda Civic, and I think of one other. He studied Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue Book, and he determined which car would get us the most for our money.  I rode along for two of the test drives and contributed almost nothing but anxiety to the process.

I was nervous about buying a Hyundai, just as I had been nervous about buying Mazda twelve years ago, and Honda back in 2008, because I’d never owned one before. I’ve  apparently got brand loyalty issues when it comes to cars. I consider myself a Toyota girl, since the two used Toyotas that got me from about age 18 and into grad school were reliable vehicles that only required the occasional timing belts or alternator replacements. (And, from time to time, tires. But even the new ones need those.) This, in spite of the fact that I haven’t owned a Toyota since 1999.  I accidentally convinced Scott I didn’t want the Hyundai for a few days by virtue of my incessant fretting.

But by the time we walked into the dealership last Friday, we had all of that ironed out. We knew everything about the car we were buying, and we knew how not to get ripped off. Kelly and CR confirmed that people were pretty much paying MSRP for these things and that there wasn’t any real discount wiggle room there. We knew we had a trade in, but that we needed to wait to disclose that fact until after the car price was sealed, and we knew its relative value as well. We walked into Capitol Hyundai, found the salesman with whom we had been working and said, “We need to buy an Indigo Blue Sonata GLS without any option packages. We don’t expect to drive it off the lot today, because you haven’t got any in inventory, and we’re ready to fill out the paperwork.”

“Uh, waitaminute.” He said. “Let me see if I can find you one.”

“According to your website, there aren’t any in stock,” Scott said.

“Well, we may have had some come in.”

So Scott and I sat down.

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and this whole car buying thing hasn’t even been the half of it. To keep myself somewhat sane and under control, I brought my computer and sat there grading papers. Poor Scott didn’t even have a book.

Half an hour later, the salesman came back over. “We’re still looking for a car for you!” he said, then vanished.

When he surfaced once more, we tried to explain the situation again. “We just need to do the paperwork today,” I assured him. “We seriously don’t have a lot of time to do this, and I don’t want you looking all over the state for the car we want.”

“It’s not that simple,” he told me. “We have to find the car you’re buying so we know how much it costs.”

“Bullshit,” I told him.

He seemed taken aback. They always are when I start swearing.

Scott added, “There’s a Hyundai plant not ten miles from here. You’re telling me that they won’t roll an indigo GLS off the line in the next ten to fourteen days?”

“But we have to have a VIN number to put on the paperwork,” he explained.

“Bullshit,” I repeated.  I could feel my face getting red as anger and impatience bubbled to the surface.

Scott said, “We really don’t have a lot of time for this.”

He made placating noises, and we sat back down to wait some more. We had been in the dealership for an hour by this time. And I should take a moment to note that this portion of problem was not the salesman’s fault. He had some stupid asshat manager who could not understand people willing to walk in and commit to a car they had not personally fondled. Or something. Our guy was the quintessential middleman, running back and forth to us with his manager’s racket.

At one point, Scott got up and strode towards the manager’s office, just about giving the poor salesman apoplexy. He kept saying “But sir… but sir,” as Scott headed across the showroom floor.

“What? Is this TSA? I don’t see ‘no customer zone’ anywhere around here,” Scott said. “He doesn’t want to come talk to us? Well we’d like to talk to him.”

“I’ll get him for you,” the salesman promised, herding Scott back to the leather sofa where I was still grading essays.

He did not get the manager, but I’ve no doubt he tried. Instead, the manager thought we had reached the point of impatience at which we would be malleable, because he sent the salesman back out asking, “Would you be willing to buy one with an added option package…”

“No,” I cut him off. “And you can tell your manager that if he tries that again, we’re heading next door to Honda. If he doesn’t start some paperwork in the next few minutes, we’re gone.” I have walked away from cars I want due to inept sales staff. I was not bluffing.

“He’s got calls out. He’s just waiting for one of them to call him back,” the salesman countered.

“He’s losing a sale,” Scott explained.

Scott was much more rational than I was, but the salesman had no way of knowing that. Scott’s blank looks have an angry edge even when they are completely neutral.  And, having run through the magazines in that first thirty minute stretch, he was far from neutral. Add to that image the sight of me glancing up from my computer every once in awhile to issue a new dictate and froth at the mouth some more, and you can really start to feel for this guy.  The salesman went back to his manager, still unsure whether Scott and I were a couple of bluffing card players or just a pair of tough customers.

The manager finally decided to run a credit check to dick for time. He sent out paperwork, which we completed and before waiting some more.

The next time the salesman walked by, I started a countdown. “You have thirty minutes,” I said, “before we have to leave to go get our daughter.  Don’t make me late.”

Twenty minutes later, things finally started moving. “We found your car,” the salesman said, like he’d just walked out back and we hadn’t been cluttering up his showroom for the better part of two hours.

“You have ten minutes,” I told him.

He tried to counter with, “Well, we had to run the credit check…”

“You assumed we are applying for credit.”

And that just shut him right down. He had not asked if we were applying for credit or if we were letting him fill out that paperwork to amuse ourselves while he wasted our time. In the process of starting the credit check, he had made the mistake of calling me “Mrs. Merriman” and mispronouncing it to boot. Bonus time!  Here are the top three ways to infuriate me. One, refer to me with a first name of “Mrs.”. Two, assume I have the same last name as my spouse. And number three, fuck up the pronunciation of Scott’s last name when you’re doing it. This was the only thing I could hold against the salesman himself, rather than his stupid boss, but he had completed a perfect trifecta. Win, place, and show.  Up until then, he had been carefully nonsexist, guessing correctly that he was really negotiating with Scott only when my commentary devolved to insults and time-calls. But at the credit-point, the only thing he could have done worse was try to make my first name “Scott”.

I had said tersely “Look at the license” and then corrected his pronunciation of Scott’s name twice. But by the time he came back to tell us “we found your car”, we wouldn’t have gotten our financing through Hyundai if they’d had a zero interest loan option. OK, if they’d had that, we probably would have used them. But they didn’t. And, like I said, we were out of time.

For a good two minutes, things moved quickly. We established the price, and the salesman went from taken aback to offended when I pointed out that this was exactly the price we had known we were going to pay walking in. I think he was upset because I had essentially called his boss’s bluff about all the dicking around “finding” a car.

When we had finally signed the offer, which, for the record had no VIN number on it, Scott said, “Now, we’re going to talk about our trade in.”

I said, “You have eight minutes.”

The poor salesman just opened his mouth and stared. Then he and Scott went out to see the Mazda. The manager, thinking our hurry meant something else, tried to lowball the trade-in price. Once again, the salesman found himself up against my mottle-faced “Bullshit,” this time followed by “we’re down to three minutes.” And here’s where he really did something right. Without consulting the idiot in the back room, he promised us full “excellent used” value for the Mazda, when all we had been asking for was “good”.  I’m sure that was a serious risk, since he had, up until then, not been able to say our names (even incorrectly) without a consultation. He swore up and down that we would only have to come back once, to finish the paperwork and collect the car, and he was telling the truth.

I do want to emphasize that, as salespeople go, he was doing his best. Capitol Hyundai just had some real dumb fucks in their back room and some screwed up policies to go with them.

So we came back on Monday and signed a lot of documents and picked up our new car. Our salesman must have warned the paper-signing dude about us, because that was the fastest I have ever signed paperwork for something expensive. Typically, the paperwork is the longest part of the process.

After that, it was time to drive our baby home.

Baby

At first, I was too scared to drive it. I had explained repeatedly at the test drive phase that as long as Scott liked the handling, I was happy. And I had test driven the Sonata (a 2011, if that matters, since they came out with the ‘12s while we batted around our plans). But I was so afraid of dinging it that I only went a mile or so before giving it back to the salesman to park. So Scott got the honor of driving the new machine home and putting it in the garage. Even he was moderately paranoid, because he made me help him with positioning.

I didn’t drive it until this morning, and right up until then, I maintained my distance. It was a new car. Nice color, great radio, but it stank of new car spray to the point that I had to leap out into the grass as we got home from the dealership to avoid hurling on the new seats. I’m allergic to most scents, and they had doubtless perfumed the hell out of the thing before handing us the keys. I remained in terror of dinging it.

 After all, I put the first dent in the last new car we got, a scant few weeks after we purchased it. And I don’t want to do that again. But once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I had to forgive all. I had to forgive it for being an automatic, for smelling like upholstery spray, and for not being a Toyota. Because from the driver’s seat, it is incredibly like my 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. No popup headlights, but the shade of blue is just about the same, the radio is better, and the handling is sublime.

I have never loved a car this much before, and I can say without (much) embarrassment that I’m already planning her first bath. Do you know when the last time was that I washed a car? Yes, that’s right. Never. But I’m washing this one. And I’m waxing the dash. Or whatever you do to ward off dust. And we’re buying seat covers and floor mats, and there’s no damned way the kids are eating in this thing ever.

Don't you dare call her nose big

The list goes on.  Scott has already snapped at Caroline for trying to carry a breakfast bar out there this morning, and I got on her case for smudging up her window this afternoon. Sam has been thoroughly lectured for touching the paint with what might have been a fingernail, and there is no question of allowing the poor hairy dog in there.

License plate JSTER

The kids are as in love with the radio as I am, and can, in fact, read the XM display from the backseat. God help you if you skip a song Caroline thinks she might like. Tonight, watching me skim past titles (from my steering wheel control), Caroline suddenly shrieked “Go BACK!  That’s Judas Priest! That’s “Night Crawler”. And I LOVE THAT SONG.”

“You’ve never heard that song,” I said.

“Yes, I have.”

To prove her wrong, I went back, whereupon I recognized the tune and realized that yes, in fact, she has heard that song. It has been at least four years, and it was on a yard sale purchase that came without a case, so it was one of those that I never was sure of the name of because I couldn’t quite understand the chorus. But yes, she has heard Night Crawler before. And yes, she can understand it better than I can, because she was singing along for most of the rest of the ride home.

For my part, I was torn between emotions. Delight that I finally don’t have to dig out a CD to hear Judas Priest warred with concerns that she’s old enough to get nightmares from that particular tune. And both of those thoughts were driven down by the realization that I just lost control of the radio I wanted for myself. The feature that sold me on the car has been usurped by the kids, and I’m reduced to being grateful that they have excellent musical taste even as I plan to never scroll past Radio Disney.

I love this new car, and I can’t wait to find out all its new treats.

Hide and Go Shit Redux

Hide and go shit got serious tonight, and I thought we were going to land in the hospital with this one. Hide and go shit is bad, but I think that “hide and don’t go shit” is worse. We’ve had to give Sam enemas for the last three nights in a row to get anything at all out, and tonight, he was pushing brown water around whatever was jammed up in his colon before he finally forced out the adult sized mass that was holding everything up.

Caroline had a playdate this weekend, and her friend’s Mom and I were talking about anal retentive kids. One of her children had to be hospitalized for five days with an impaction. Five days of an adult strength fluid dripping through the veins before that five year old’s body could finally clear things out. My friend described the X-Ray showing his colon as “code brown” because it was so badly distended, and said he had to have several months of special meals producing soft stools before it reduced to its proper size.

I do not want to repeat her experience, but I see us steadily sliding down that path. We sprinkle fiber on Sam’s meals. We give him so many fluids he might explode. Hell, we feed the kid laxatives on a regular basis.  And yet pooping is still a nightmare for him. He sits on the pot waiting for nothing to happen. Or the pain is so bad that he runs off and hides and craps his pants for the umpteenth time.

Or else, and this is by far the worst, he sits on the toilet screaming in pain, like his appendix is bursting. Listening to him wail makes my stomach hurt, makes my ass hurt, makes me want to cry with him. I understand constipation from my own experiences with it, but this is nothing like what I have familiarity with. Tonight, when the screaming started, I told him, “We are going to have to do the snorkel up your butt” our word for the enema “or else go to the hospital.”

He said, “I want to go to the hospital.”

Good lord. Wasn’t expecting that one.

I told him, “Well honey, you’d have to drink something yucky, and the first thing they’d try is the snorkel up your butt, so let’s do that at home, and if it doesn’t work, then we’ll go to the hospital.”

He was not impressed and remained noncompliant. Wouldn’t you?

His pediatrician, who has been fantastic with all of Caroline’s ASD ins and outs has been perfectly useless on this one. She wants me to pour prune juice down his throat and increase the fiber in his diet. Doc, if the kid eats any more fiber, I’m going to have to plant him next season and wait for him to come in for the harvest. If he drinks any more, he’s going to start floating. The issue here is one of control. This is a kid who cannot let go of anything, who is at an age where most kids feel their lives are out of their hands, and who has latched onto this one thing as something he can own. I have watched him lie on the ground rolling around fighting off the effects of five pediatric laxatives. I have seen him go five days without pooping at all then fill the toilet with enough excrement for several adults.

And yet this is the closest we have come to the hospital. He has only missed one day here recently, but the turds that have been, until tonight, getting past his defenses have been mediocre samples at best. Do you know, do you have any idea how maddening it is to engage in endless conversations with your spouse about the contents of the toilet bowl?

Tonight, since Scott was the one to see two nights ago’s deposit, he had the joy of trying to describe it to me. I asked, “Was it hard or soft?”

He said, “I didn’t touch it.”

“OK, but did it look like it was falling apart in the water, or did it seem to be still holding together?”

“Jessie, I don’t know. It looked like POOP.

Yes, but what kind of poop. Because when your kid is telling you he’d rather go to the hospital than have an enema, these things matter. When he’s begging, following the enema, to be allowed to poop on the floor, these things matter. I actually agreed to let him poop on the floor, but when he discovered that I wasn’t going away to let him do it in peace, he climbed up on the potty, choosing privacy over getting the perfect squat. Before he got up there, he had leaked quite a bit of brown water onto the bathroom tile, which was when I started to fear we really were headed for the ER tonight. If he was suffering from something so big he could only get ooze around it, the trouble was immediate.

As soon as he got up on the toilet, he started making airy sounds. Less fart and more deflating tire. I’ve never heard him make those sounds before. Usually, the enemas produce a lot of screaming followed by sudden defecation when he can’t fight his body any longer. He’s left us steaming shit piles in the carpet, in the backyard (and oh GOD I know the neighbors thought we were torturing him, then; I kept waiting for the cops to show up that night), in the tub, and on his bed. But when he started to hiss like we were letting the air out of him, ‘scared’ turned into ‘terrified’ for me.

But he’d stopped screaming.

And whatever he was doing on the toilet, it didn’t smell like roses, so there was some hope.

Scott went in to ask him how things were going, and he said, “Go away, Daddy. I’m still thinking about the poop.” A few minutes after that, he called “I’m done thinking. You can come in now.”

And he had deposited something the size and shape of a corn husk in there. Sorry for the image. I didn’t want it either.

Hopefully, that’s got things moving again for him, but really, we’ll only know when I sit him on the pot again tomorrow. And the night after. And the one after that.

I am not looking forward to this week. Because the best thing I can say about it is that I hope it’s going to be really shitty.

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Since this post, which was written last year, Sam has gotten a hold of his movements. We haven’t had to play H&GS for a long time (knock wood).  But until he started medication, every single developmental milestone happened like this. It’s not a part of motherhood that I relish. But it certainly made for one of my favorite and most descriptive posts about motherhood

Yoga

I’ve been working on the Crow pose in Yoga class. Crow is one of those Yoga positions like Full Lotus and Tree that, when mastered, seems to convey instant membership in a secret club. For the interested, Full Lotus is the one where you sit cross-legged with the feet stacked on top of the thighs. Tree is the one where you balance on one leg with the opposite foot jammed up in your crotch. And Crow is where you do a scrunched up handstand and try not to break your neck.

My Full Lotus is missing some petals, because the combination of short legs and fat thighs makes it impossible to do better than a three quarters position. And my version is probably banned by the Yoga Governor’s Society (or whoever the hell is in charge of such decisions), because whichever ankle is innermost gets seriously twisted. In fact, I think Full Lotus may be dangerous enough to the knees that the YMCA may actually have warned our teachers off of it, with visions of lawsuits dancing in their corporate heads. This is the only reason I can imagine we’ve never done it in class, even though it’s the one pose everyone imagines when the word “Yoga” is spoken.

Sort of Full Lotus. Ohm. Yeah. I know. The house is a wreck.

The Yoga instructors make a huge deal out of personal safety. They remind us throughout the class not to compete, to go at our own pace, and to stop if anything hurts. Yoga, they say, should feel good. And it does. And I like it. I’m willing to go through a little discomfort if I get my official Yogi card out of it. (Or whatever they’re awarding for membership these days.)  But I’m going to have to lose weight to get my own thighs to quit thwarting me before I can have my lotus and fill it, too.

Similarly, my Tree will be a long time bending in the breeze before it is a real Yoga certified creation. There are degrees of tree. In “Open Tree”, you stick your bent-kneed leg out to the side and let your foot point straight down. In a pose I shall dub “Sapling”, you put your foot on the calf or ankle. In Full Tree, the foot comes above the knee. Never on the knee, because you don’t want to blow out your knee. Now, when the YMCA gurus do it, their heels look stuffed so far up into their thighs that they have got to be getting into the pubic bone. When I do it, I have to stay at ankle or calf height at the gym. At home I can get my heel up high enough. Sort of. But it doesn’t feel right, and my toes are always wiggling around near the knee when I’m pretty sure that if my thighs weren’t quite so luscious, I would have inches between toenail and kneecap.

I am the tree. Get off my knee.

And even when I do get upright with my leg bent, balancing, it’s only so long before I fall over. The Yoga instructors tell us it’s fine to have “windy trees”. We should let ourselves blow in the breeze and just bend with it. Yeah, only, sooner or later, I become a crashing tree. Their point is that rigidity makes it harder to balance, where rooted flexibility is actually quite stable. Yeah. I’ll let you know when and if I get there.

This tree is on its way down.

But Crow is a pose I can see myself managing in the not-too-distant future. Like Tree, this is a balancing pose. But this one is lower to the ground, and it relies more on arm stability and abdominal strength, two areas where I have much more to offer than when my thighs get a vote in the activity.

Ribbit.In Crow, you hunker down with your knees as close as possible to the shoulders, then lean forward into the hands until you slowly pick your feet up slightly off the floor. Leean forward

And then fall flat on your face.

Or not.

Because that’s the thing about Crow. Full Lotus poses a threat to the knees and requires Gumby legs, but there’s never a point of no return. Tree is an invitation to falling over, but if you do, you can always just stick out the up leg and put it down. Crow, though, requires complete trust. To get it, you have to give yourself over to it. And I can do that. I love the slow shift of balance as I lean into my arms, with my shoulders acting as pivots. But as soon as I commit that much weight forward, the only ways down are to shift it back where it started, or to fall forward without any protection.Once more, from the side

So close. My feet did liftoff, but I couldn't stay up long enough for the shot to take.Pretty much as soon as I achieve the pose, I start to overbalance. My G-cups conspire with my thighs against the abs and arms, and I only stay up for a second or two before I flop forward into the inevitable faceplant.

Yes, waiter. I'll have the faceplant.

But, where Full Lotus just makes my inside ankle scream for mercy and Tree makes me feel like I’m standing out on the boulevard fighting the hurricane, I can tell that the problem with Crow has more to do with leaning forward too fast for my abs to counterbalance the legs, and that if I can get my liftoff under control, I’ll be able to manage a longer flight and a more graceful landing. So it’s here that I plan to devote what one instructor calls my “challenge” energy. And if I can get my fat arse up in the air high enough and long enough for Scott to snap a picture, I’ll post that sucker as evidence on the membership exam.

Zumba

I’ve really broadened my range of workout activities since I last blogged about my quest to achieve less-of-me. The Bitch likes this a lot. I still think she’s a bitch. Zumba is still among my favorites, and it’s my topic today. To recap the rest, I’ve dropped Dance Party altogether, and I’ve increased my Yoga and Pilates and added Step and Gravity. (Yes, there really is a class called Gravity. It’s strength training. I’ll get there another day.) My primary purpose here is to explain to a workout buddy why she needs to give Zumba more than a single chance, though, so let me get to the point.

My first Zumba class sucked. I went in because Linda was going and I was desperate to increase my activity and needed a buddy besides poor Scott. (Who always goes along with whatever I’m doing but really shouldn’t have to.) I hated it. For starters, I did not know the steps at all. Other friends had described it to me as being something like belly dance, with which I’m reasonably familiar. After two songs, it became clear that these people were deluded. The only thing Zumba has to do with belly dance is that you sometimes do a belly dance hip-bump as part of a travelling walk-like-an-Egyptian grapevine. There is no sexy rolling of the belly in Zumba, and absolutely nothing is leisurely. Let me repeat that. Nothing. Is. Leisurely. The music is fast, and the instructor doesn’t really break it down all that frequently or effectively. If you come to Zumba unfamiliar with the form, come prepared to do a lot of flailing. In fact, one of the reasons I had come was that I hoped to find, hell the Y circular advertised, a dance class.  I did not want some aerobics course.

When I was in my final year of college, I had to take one credit of PE to get my BA. I took aerobics because I hate exercise and that seemed the least odious option. I liked the instructor, a lively woman who was a dancer when she wasn’t teaching college phys ed. It was from taking that class that I realized much modern group dancing is merely glorified aerobics, and that I really really hate exercise. Not that I hadn’t already figured this second thing out on my own.  I don’t like getting out of breath, and I loathe muscle fatigue.

So it was really easy that first class for me to recognize that Zumba is nothing more than glorified aerobics, and that I hated it. I wanted to dance. I wanted someone to teach me the steps, so that I could keep up with the class, and I wanted to learn how to pull off awesome moves on the floor. Purely aside from this, I had on shoes those first few classes, so every time I felt like vomiting, I had to stop and sit on my ass. It wasn’t just that I was out of shape. It was that if my feet get hot, I get nauseous. And if I don’t cool them down fast, I puke.  Of course, being out of shape didn’t help in that regard, either, but mostly, it was the feet.

So we left the class with Linda’s friend Ethel while I cussed a blue streak and swore it was the worst thing I’d ever done. This wasn’t the bitching and moaning I have learned to engage in.  In that kind of normal workout whining, it’s perfectly OK for everyone in the room to groan simultaneously, and there’s generally some wit (like me) with something inane and demotivating to say. This was the fury of someone who felt deceived. I came back entirely because I’d promised to keep Linda company. I promised her I’d try it once a week for a month, but that was it.

The second class felt as awful as the first, but I didn’t have the deception problem, so I wasn’t so angry about that. By the third class, I’d remembered I have to do everything barefoot, and I wasn’t so unhappy. And by the fourth class, I realized I’d learned a lot more of the moves than I would have expected given my rather negative state of mind. Two weeks after that, I was totally hooked. I had realized I loved Zumba, and that, though it remains glossed-over aerobics, there are dance moves in there, and I am learning them. There’s a lot of fun shimmy-shimmy pop stuff that I enjoy, and yes, it does bear a distant resemblance to belly dance. (Very distant.)

I’m going to have to be careful which teachers I take it with, though. They’ve just added an irritating woman with the drill sergeant problem (none of the other Zumba teachers has felt the need to bellow us forward) who is going to be taking over my favorite class AND teaching the one they’re adding on Sundays.  Denisse, who taught it when I first started attending, has moved on. She’s a military spouse, subject to the whims of the U.S. Air Force.  She left behind her an awesome crew including my favorite, Jina, and that’s whose classes I’ll look to take when I have a choice.

And to tell you the truth, I like my Zumba well enough that I may be tolerant of the dictators in there, but we’ll see about that. I spent a good few minutes contemplating what I would do to the tightly permed hair of the new twit if I could just get her in a headlock. So I’ll maybe have to stick to my favorites for now.

Rainbow Flag

For a number of reasons that will be dealt with later, I’ve been under an unusual amount of stress lately. The raw effect of this for my family is that I’m more short tempered than normal, and much less tolerant of my kids’ perfectly normal (if perfectly obnoxious) behavior. My students can’t see me in person, so they don’t experience my deep sighs when they ask questions with answers I consider obvious. Unlike my kids and husband, they never receive responses like, “I don’t fucking know. Jesus Christ, do I look like the Dali Lama?” To keep these moments to a minimum, I’ve been letting the Jester Queen have a bit more free rein. She is, after all, my sense of humor, and if I can catch my emotional waves right, she can give me the oomph to ride one and not get dumped face first in the sand.

So.

That’s the background. Here’s the story.

Linda came over this morning to borrow our lawnmower. She arrived in her Dad’s truck, which she has borrowed because the house she and Robert are renting has a washer and dryer already, and her Mom wants Linda’s old ones. The truck is an immaculate Ford, and her Dad is a man who loves his truck. As soon as we had loaded up the mower, she flipped up the gate to reveal a panoply of right wing political stickers.

Those stickers just begged to be, for lack of a better word, refudiated

 

Want a little tea with that party, sir?Let’s look at some of those a bit more closely.Thanks for repeating that one. I might not have gotten the message otherwise.

“That needs something,” I said.

“What do you mean?” asked Linda, whose viewpoints couldn’t possibly be more different from those expressed on the stickers.

“I dunno,” I said. “Something … virulently liberal. Something that would run counter to everything those things support. But I can’t think what.”

“Rainbow flag,” said Scott, as he pulled out of the driveway heading for a staff meeting.

 

Oh, how I love that man.

 

Now, I’ll pause here to say that I know sexuality should not have to be a political issue. That groups like the Log Cabin Republicans clearly prove that you don’t have to be a liberal to support equality for all Americans. And I personally know numerous Republicans who support GLBT rights.

Linda and I are pretty sure her Dad isn’t one of them.

But finding a rainbow flag bumper sticker in the Heart of Dixie proved to be quite the challenge. I tried the mall, where a wonderful clerk at Hot Topic could only come up with a couple of stickers where the words were in the colors of the rainbow flag. They said “awesome” and “deal with it”. Not bad. But not what I wanted, really. At Spenser’s, the clerk looked at me like I should have known that all people over twenty (or twenty-five at the outside edge) were banned from that store, and said “No” to my query about rainbow flags.  After that, I got smart and used the phone. I called Star, who suggested a number of stores. But the Earthbound Trading Company, the Hippie Lady, and Books-A-Million were all busts. On Facebook, I got suggestions like Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Michael’s Crafts, and the Hobby Lobby. Dead ends. (Though I found the horrified silence at the other end of the phone while the Hobby Lobby clerk contemplated my request extremely validating.) I found a great shop in Minneapolis that could have helped me, except that they were in the wrong state. Sigh. Another day, True Colors, another day, and you shall have my business. Star sounded mighty sure about Spenser’s. And hell, that had been where my hopes had been highest, too. So I called back.

Jackpot.

The person I spoke to (who sounded remarkably similar to the person who had told me “No” previously) said they had a whole wall that I must have walked past. When I arrived, it seemed the confusion had been caused by my asking for “stickers” in person where I had said “stickers or magnets” on the phone. Spenser’s had no rainbow flag stickers. All they had were magnets. Well.

The selection was admittedly meager, but I still got some gems: a rainbow peace sign, a rainbow ribbon magnet, another rainbow ribbon magnet that said “Support gay marriage: everyone deserves the choice to be miserable”, and a rectangular one that said “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight”. Not bad for a town with a single store monopoly.

I told the sales guy at Spenser’s the scheme, and he summed it up well: “Until he notices and peels them off, that guy’s gonna have a whole lot of people thinking ‘that dude is confused’”.

By the time Linda came over later, it was dark, but we affixed the whole collection to see what looked best.

Full disclosure - I doctored the pics to remove the license number

I would have loved to have found something actually political, but nobody carried those “I’m a blue dot in a red state” bumper stickers, so I couldn’t implement Star’s brilliant suggestion to cut off the words and leave the picture of the red state with a blue dot. Because Linda’s Dad isn’t a stupid person, and to affix something he will leave alone is going to take some sly maneuvering. He might not have noticed that one. Without the words, he might have just seen the red state and not picked up on the significance of the blue dot.  The other thing I’d have liked to have found would have been that long rainbow flag that runs the length of the bumper and doesn’t say a word. It blends in with most vehicles and he might not have seen it for awhile.

In the end, we settled for the one we thought the most flagrant of the lot. It initially seemed like the worst candidate, because its message was so strong. But there was little possibility of convincing Linda’s Dad that the rainbow ribbon was some kind of military support thing. And the peace sign was pretty anti-NRA, even if he didn’t notice the color scheme. The reason we decided that “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight” might just fly under the radar is twofold. First, when the truck is initially returned, Robert and Linda will be popping the gate down to haul out the washer and dryer. Second, there was already a sticker there: the bomb squad one. So Linda’s Dad is used to seeing something there. Admittedly, he’s used to seeing red and black, not, well, the whole rainbow, but it might be just enough to not draw his eye, especially because, according to Linda, the place he parks makes it unnecessary to walk around behind the truck getting into and out of it at home.

Beforeaaaand afterSo. We’ll see how it goes. Linda swears she’ll take pictures if she’s around when he catches on. And you can bet if she does, I’ll be posting them.

 

Henson

I’m not doing very well at taking the weekend off am I?

 

Jim Henson died when I was not quite fourteen years old, long before I’d worked up the nerve to write and tell him he was one of my heroes. It remains one of my life’s greatest tragedies. I loved the Muppet Show. “Obnox-i-ous”, pronounced with a long “ee” for the “i” like Miss Piggy said it, was one of my favorite words when I was little.  I had only figured out Henson was behind Sesame Street weeks prior to his death, and Mom and I had actually started watching. (Previously, the fact that it was educational television had tainted our opinion of it, but once we realized it was Jim Henson and the Muppets, nothing else mattered.) And then he died. He was admitted for strep throat and gone from pneumonia before the world had a chance to take notice of the illness.  My mother and I spent a week in shock, and I still mourn him.

I am innately suspicious of everything Muppet-related that’s happened since he died, even though I ultimately wind up loving most of it. OK, I hate The Henson Company’s Sid the Science Kid, and I’m not that keen on Dinosaur Train. But those are two exceptions. For the most part, Henson’s heirs and assignees have done right by his creations.  The Youtube videos featuring the grumpy movie critics Statler and Waldorf (and yes, I did know their names, but I had to double check online) seem completely true to what Henson would have done, as do the new Muppet movies. (I am eagerly awaiting the latest installment.) But every time I see something, I have to wonder “If it’s this good without him, how amazing would it have been if he were still alive?” I mean, he’d only be seventy five right now, and even if he had retired, he wouldn’t have stopped imagining.

So this visit to the Henson exhibit in Atlanta was a big deal for me. I did OK staring at the giant Big Bird that’s just past the ticketing atrium inside. Even though I like it now, Sesame Street was never really my thing. But then I heard Henson himself beside Big Bird and turned my head in time to see him talking away in the voice of the gruff old colonel, in a video beside a case containing the colonel himself, whose foam skin was now yellowing with age. I sat down in the floor to watch, and Sam sat with me rapt for the ten minute presentation. It even included the politically incorrect clip where the old colonel says, of the Southern Bread Company sponsoring him, “They even paid me in Confederate dollars”. Beside the colonel’s case was a black and white photograph of Henson lying down on the railroad tracks under the Muppet’s costume, where they had filmed the scene of him failing to stop a speeding train with his bare hands.

“I will not cry,” I told myself.

I went on to check out the Fraggles, Gorgs, and Doozers. The video had shown how each group of characters worked, how much effort went into each show, and how much of a technological pioneer Henson was. I had no idea that Fraggle Rock was HBO’s first series (a far cry from Tony Soprano, don’t you think)? I just knew that I used to watch it when I went over to my friend Jenny’s house, and that it didn’t come on our TV at home.

Henson was the man behind Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, two movies that shaped my life, solidifying my love for fantasy and my belief that you don’t have to cut story to make an amazing film. (And also turning me into a David Bowie fan, even though Mom disliked his music and Dad never seemed to play it.) Right now, the museum doesn’t have the Mystics, Skeksis, or Gelflings on display, but they have a couple of early sketches, and they will have those creations when the Henson wing opens in 2012, because the Henson family really did donate some 800 Muppets for the project. 

At the moment, Henson’s works are crowded into a two room section that doesn’t do them justice and doesn’t have room for nearly enough of them. Big Bird and the Fraggles take up most of the first area, though the picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy as Scarlett and Rhett does get some wall space. The second room is mostly Muppet show, with Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and an incredible stained glass Bert and Ernie on display. There’s a video in there, too, that loops another ten minutes of footage from a variety of Henson projects including the little known Dog City.

I continued to swear, “I will not cry,” as I walked through the exhibit.

I kept my promise until, roughly five minutes into the second video, Kermit started in on “Rainbow Connection.” If I hadn’t had to fire the DJ, Scott and I were going to dance to “Rainbow Connection” at our wedding.  It’s our song. And it brought the tears. I never got to tell Jim Henson that I have been half asleep and heard voices, and that his has always been one of them.   

Between the two rooms, I spent about an hour, and given my druthers and no children, I’d have stayed longer. We didn’t stay for the Cinderella puppet show. We didn’t even visit the puppet museum’s other areas, though I imagine it has some spectacular exhibits. Caroline and Sam were getting restless, which is to say they were getting mean to each other, and we had seen what we came for. It was worth the $8.25 per head admission just for those two rooms, and we will return when the Henson wing opens. I think I’d like to get an apartment there, though they don’t rent them, and probably wouldn’t consider making me an exception. I’ve never associated Henson with Atlanta, though he was apparently pretty instrumental in this museum’s getting off the ground when it first opened.  But as long as we live in the South, it’s the closest I’ll come to touching one of my idols.

 

Hanson

I was going to take this weekend off from blogging. I have two courses going on, final grades to turn in for a third, and three more starting up on Monday. (Yes, on the 4th of July. It’s one of the drawbacks of working for a for-profit online institution. There are no scheduled holidays.) So I’ll have five classes by the time all is said and done.  I’ve taught one of the three startups recently, I last taught another six months ago, and the third I’ve never taught at all. So I’ve got tons of prepping and grading to do this weekend. You won’t be hearing much from me until Tuesday or so. But. Today something happened that I’ve got to share.

Scott and I sat down to dinner after the kids tonight. We’ve kind of given up on that whole family meal thing, since whether we eat with them or not, the two of us wind up popping up and down like jacks running for the kids’ requests. Eating after them means we can at least sometimes exchange an adult word without juvenile intervention. We ate the meal, agreed it was pretty awful (if you ever get the chance to try Sam’s Club’s chicken fried rice, just skip it), and I started clearing the table.

Scott said, “Oh, hey! I think I found something for us to do.” We’ve been working on a list of indoor summer things we can do with our kids, because it’s always too hot down here.

“Yeah?”

“Remember the Hanson Brothers?” he asked.

“The stupid teeny-boppy pre-Jonas brothers?” Later, when I related this conversation to Linda, she reminded me of the song  “Mmm-bop”.  At the time, I took the butter to the fridge with what I hoped was sufficient hauteur to end the conversation.

“It looks like one of them made a puppet.”

“Oh-kay.” As usual, he had not picked up on my tone of voice. Or word choice. I was thinking, He doesn’t seriously think I liked Hanson, does he? Surely I’ve given him a better sense of my taste in music than that.

“Well, not just one,” he continued. “But like, a lot of them, all kind of based around the first one.”

Does he want me to go see this? Because I do not want my children to ever know about Hanson. “Um. What are they like? Is there something really cool about them?”  Is there anything redeeming at all about anything made by a Hanson brother?

“The first one is something … Miss Moo-ie, maybe?”

I said, “That sounds pretty stupid.”

“And she has this green friend. His name starts with a K…”

“Christ,” I told him. “That sounds like a rip off of Kermit and Miss Piggy.”

“Yeah! That’s it. Kermit. Kermit and Miss Piggy!”

“That sounds like a total Muppet rip …. Wait a minute.  HENSON. Not HANSON. HENSON.”

And it wasn’t until I was shrieking Jim Henson’s name at him that I stopped ferrying dishes long enough to look at his face. It was total deadpan. The only thing that gave it away was the open mouth that he was using to keep himself from smiling. So then, I shouted, “You did that on PURPOSE.” And we just looked at each other for a few more seconds before I dissolved into laughter.  It turns out 800 of the original Muppets have been donated to this puppet museum in Atlanta, and we’re going to go see them tomorrow.  I’m so psyched I’m going to have to drug myself to sleep tonight. And I can’t even imagine how long Scott spent thinking up that presentation.

He does that to me from time to time, comes at me out of nowhere with something spontaneous and hilarious. He once literally scared the hiccups out of me by sneaking up behind me and jabbing me in the ribs. I was so shocked that, after I screamed, I whipped around to order him never to do that again. Only while I was in the middle of telling him off, I realized it had worked, and I burst out laughing. Now, if I had a power like that, the ability to nettle somebody completely and then make them laugh about it, you know I would abuse it. But because this is Scott, it only happens once in a blue moon, and I never know when it’s coming.

When Scott and I first started dating, I remember asking my friend Tina, who had been married for several years, what she did when her husband, Jason, stopped surprising her. She looked at me, sort of perplexed, and said, “He really hasn’t ever stopped. It’s just not as often.”

At the time, her answer made no sense to me. I could not imagine a time when romance wasn’t just something new and wonderful every day, but I knew that kind of thing didn’t keep up forever. I was trying to understand how couples stayed in love once the initial sparks cooled off, and I couldn’t figure out her response.

 Scott and I celebrate our tenth anniversary this October, and it does finally make sense.  I’ve realized that with him, there’s always going to be something marvelous and unexpected around the corner, and that it’s useless to anticipate or wonder about it.  And one of my favorite things about being married to him is that I’ll get to find out what it is when it happens.

I love you, honey.

Racism

I got into a debate with some nitwit at the YMCA today, and this reminded me of two things. First, for a number of reasons which will make a later post of their own, now is a terrible time for me to debate politics and scholastics (like there’s ever a good one). And second, there is such a fucking thing as white privilege. I don’t deceive myself. I grew up with an awareness of injustice, but simply because I was white, I know I didn’t feel the kind of prejudice growing up that a black child in the same circumstances would have.  And there are so many white people who think otherwise that I don’t even know where to begin.

Yes, I do. I’ll start by giving you some context. First of all, if you’re reading this blog, you probably know my opinion of public schools. In case you don’t , let me summarize. They suck. There.  But that said, it is, for the most part, the system I object to. The vast Vast VAST majority of the people I know teaching in the public schools are fighting the good fight, trying to achieve success against outrageous obstacles. Today, however, I was reminded that teachers can be part of the problem, too.

I was showering after my workout, and the three women on the other side of the locker room were talking about public education. Two of them were white and one was black. This is significant. The African-American woman has founded a social justice group made up of teens. She teaches seminars about things like nonviolence and health and hygiene. And from what I can tell, she does it RIGHT.  She doesn’t hold lectures. She holds interactive meetings, where the participants are all involved. Her goal for the seminars is that these teens will each take the time to write to five people involved in the public school system, asking for a specific reform that they see being needed to improve their own educations. As far as I could tell, the classes are free, and she tried to cap them but couldn’t stand to turn willing participants away.

 One of the white women had overheard her talking about this group with someone else, and she felt compelled to offer her opinions. The woman running the seminars was all ears. She asked what ideas the white woman had  for who the students should write to, and what they might write about.  “Bloated administration. All they do downtown is sit around and do nothing.” And this wasn’t a bad suggestion, as far as it went. But then, the second white woman chimed in.

Now, I was eavesdropping here. I’m a nosey bitch, and I don’t apologize for it. I feel just as compelled to insert myself into others’ conversations as these two did, and I was itching for an excuse to join this one. The second white woman said, “They should suggest more expulsions. If I could have just thrown out one kid at the beginning of the year, everything would have been fine. But instead I had to fill out form after form, so the school could document a student being on “intervention” without ever doing anything.” 

She went on in that vein for some time, and after awhile it became clear that:

1)      She had taught in the schools for seven years and had just quit.

2)      She taught high school, though I never caught the subject.

3)      She wasn’t referring to one particular problem student, but to any student who didn’t want to cooperate in the classroom. She felt that if she could expel one at the beginning of each year, the rest would fall in line.

4)      She felt these students didn’t care because their welfare addict parents were teaching them not to.

By the time she got to point three, the African American lady had the sense to politely leave. She knew where the conversation was going, and she didn’t want to go there. She was on the ground working to enact practical change, and this teacher-type was exactly one of the people she wanted her students to be complaining about.

I got dressed while I eavesdropped, and just to be rude, I stole some deodorant from the first white woman, who jumped on the second one’s yes-man boat pretty fast. Hey, I forgot mine, it was right there, and I’d just heard her say three times that “Kids just don’t have any respect these days, and it’s because their parents don’t drill it into them.”  I’m a parent of a couple of those these-days kids, and I figured if I wasn’t drilling it into my kids, it was doubtless because I had none either. I only put it on my pits, though I was tempted to do something nasty with it before I popped it back on the bench where she’d left it sitting.

The teacher-bitch was visibly pregnant, though extremely physically fit, and the first white woman was probably in her late fifties, and extremely fat. I tell you this just to give you a mental image to go by when I say that the first woman was staring pointedly at the teacher-type’s stomach every time she made her behavior announcement. She was doubtless thinking something like,  This one, at least, I have a prayer of catching in time, before she falls into the permissive parenting trap. But the look in her eyes actually said I eat babies. When can you serve me yours?

Anyway, stealing the deodorant didn’t cheer me up any, and I was getting seriously pissed off at these two white-privilege-laden twats who were circling around and around racism without even realizing it. So I escalated things. When the former teacher said, “I just can’t understand why I was supposed to help these kids,” I jumped in. And let me pause here. She really said that, and she really said it that way. I made her repeat it. She didn’t say that she wasn’t sure “how” to help her students. She didn’t say she lacked resources. She said she couldn’t understand why that was her problem.

I said, “Well, who will help them?”

“Are you a teacher?” Instantly, she assumed that if I didn’t agree with her, I couldn’t possibly have ever walked into a classroom.

“No,” I told her. “I’m a parent. Of a special needs child. And I’m pretty sure you’d have wanted to throw out my daughter if she’d been in your classroom this year.”

“Surely not!” she exclaimed. Your daughter doesn’t live in the inner city, where I worked.  “Surely your kid wouldn’t throw her book in the floor and curse and say she wouldn’t do the work.”

I had to allow that my daughter would not curse. And I resisted the urge to say that this failure to use a blue tongue was not for lack of trying on my part. Instead, I said,  “But she did scream “NO” at her teacher while throwing things at least once or twice.”

“But she’s special needs. That’s different.”

“What’s to say the students in your classes aren’t special needs…”

“Weren’t. I don’t teach anymore, and you couldn’t get me to go back there.” Good. A few less kids fucked up for life.

But I went on “…how do you know they weren’t special needs?”

“Oh, special needs students were identified…”

“…what if they fell through the cracks? What if you had the opportunity to identify one kid’s need. I mean, I went to school with a guy that everybody assumed was dumb. He somehow got into college, and somebody realized he just needed glasses. He wasn’t stupid. He couldn’t see the board and thought that was normal.”

“Look, it wasn’t like that,” she protested. “It was like, I would have classrooms of thirty five students, and I would know if X was absent, I could teach thirty four of them, but if X showed up, I would have to spend all my energy making him or her participate and never teach any of them anything. So if I have to choose between thirty-four students getting an education and none getting an education, why shouldn’t I be able to choose to at least teach the ones who wanted to be there?”

Whiner.

“That had to be hard,” I said. Because it did. Teachers should not have these huge classes that make it impossible to meet individual students’ needs. I don’t blame her for that at all. I do blame her for acting like she didn’t expect it to be that way, and for not even being willing to try, it sounds like from the get-go. Come on. It was that bad when she and I were both in school, and it’s only gotten worse sense. I’d be willing to lay money she was oblivious to it then because she was too busy with her own social life.

I can’t remember quite what happened next, whether she said something else to piss me off, because I’d been ready to let it go at vaguely placating, or whether that “discretion is the better part of valor” attitude never got the upper hand and I just plowed on. Anyway, I wound up saying, “You know, in this town, it pretty much all boils down to racism.”

She rolled her eyes at me. She rolled her eyes at me.

“Seriously,” I said. “Socioeconomic status and race are inextricable in Montgomery.”

She looked like she’d swallowed a melon to go down on top of that baby. I didn’t know people’s throats could puff up like that when they weren’t in shock of some kind. I wondered if I should worry that the other white woman, who was watching me usurp the conversation in the most placid way possible, had activated her secret baby-eating powers while the teacher-type was distracted. But she was most probably just trying not to laugh at me. “Oh I think it’s mostly socio-economic status” she said. And from the way she said it, I could tell that the phrase ‘socio-economic status’ bugged her as much as race. “These were practically adults. They were nineteen years old, in the ninth grade, making a choice to come disrupt my classroom.”

And I don’t doubt that some were. But I also don’t doubt that the woman was on the defensive and engaging in hyperbole. “So what makes them make the choice to not care?” I asked her.

“Their parents are teaching them they can make a perfectly good living off of welfare.” That’s another attitude I abhor.

“Statistically speaking,” I said, “people on welfare are trying to get by. Yes, there are jerks who abuse the system, but I think their motivation probably went deeper than that. What made them poor to begin with?”

She admitted that they were probably born in poverty, following up quickly with, “but that could be anybody, black or white.”

“But how many of them were actually white?” I asked her. She didn’t say, but I’d guess it was few. “Racism,” I explained, “is engrained in Alabama’s constitution.”

She made a little “psh” sound under her breath, but I kept going.

“Seriously. The state constitution was last revised in 1901. It enshrines racism. It still uses the word N-E-G-R-O.” Yes, I spelled it. I curse like a demon, but I do not speak racial slurs, even when quoting. “Changing that would take a constitutional convention, and until it’s changed, it’s virtually impossible to discuss class without race.”

She didn’t believe me. She didn’t even disbelieve me enough to continue arguing. She said something noncommittal and pulled out (which, admittedly, I had been on the verge of doing a few sentences before). She taught in the Alabama schools, yet she clearly did not know the state was operating under a document composed by segregationists intent on preserving the Jim Crow laws that benefitted themselves.  The other woman maybe disbelieved enough to Google it when she got home, but I’m doubtful.

I didn’t get a chance to explain about how Montgomery, in particular, is in such a nasty position. White flight to the suburbs here didn’t just mean white people pulling out to create new public school districts.  When integration of neighborhoods and schools became a certainty during the Civil Rights movements, many white people in Montgomery picked up and went to the burbs, to found private schools, where their children wouldn’t have to integrate. The people left in the inner city were, by and large, black. And they were by and large, poor. So the inner city schools had no money, or very little.

As real change came, the private schools developed ethical codes that denounced racism. That meant that anybody who could afford it, black or white,  put their kids in private school, because the public schools are so bad. But that still left the inner cities full of poor people who didn’t have any God-damned bootstraps to pull themselves up by. And that poor population was largely black because the people with the money had left specifically to get away from black people. And because there are so many private schools, they are cost competitive. I have my choice of places to send my kids to private school for under $8,000. So it’s middle class people sending their kids to private school here. One friend pointed out that if all the kids in private school suddenly tried to enroll in public schools, the public schools would be teaching classes in the coliseum because there isn’t enough space to accommodate many more kids in the public system. (I haven’t run the numbers on that, but she’s got a PhD and works in Education, so I’ll trust her.)  

For that matter, people with any money at all in this city do not choose to live in the West End, because it’s a poverty stricken, dangerous area. And it’s also a largely black area. Those two things cannot be separated.

Not without groups like the one the African American woman has founded. Her group, teaching teens both how to live and care for themselves, and how to reach out to others, has a chance to make a real difference, and I’m sorry she left before I could find out more about it. It seems to me that she was the one with common sense. The other women couldn’t see how their attitudes would be part of the problem. They had their heads buried in a world of puritan values and outrageous attitudes where being beaten down and exhausted isn’t a real thing, where jobs grow on trees if you just look hard enough, and where inequality doesn’t exist. In their world simply-living-in-the-by-God-United-States should be enough to make a body leap out of bed, thank God, and Go To School to later Get a Decent Job. They and their apathy disgust me. Why should it be your problem indeed, you damned fool?

In case I’ve got you wondering, here are some links:

First, a link to the Alabama Legislature page discussing Alabama’s six constitutions and noting that we’re still operating under the 1901 version

http://www.legislature.state.al.us/misc/history/constitutions/constitutions.html

Here is the law  criminalizing miscegenation in 1901: (Note the N-E Word)

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/CodeOfAlabama/Constitution/1901/CA-245637.htm

And here is the amendment overturning that law. It was passed in the year 2000. I found a couple of websites that I didn’t quite trust enough to link back to stating that the overturn only passed by a 59% margin.

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/CodeOfAlabama/Constitution/1901/CA-569874.htm

But here’s a link to an article on Stateline discussing that overturn:

http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=14152

And… what? Oh OK OK – here’s the link to the article with the percentages showing that in 2000 Alabama only repealed its anti-miscegenation law by a 59% vote in the general election. It’s something on an English class’s page. But it does link back to an article on a <shudder> wiki, which links back to the actual votes behind the statistics. So I’m including both of THOSE links, too:

The article with the percentages: http://www.class.uidaho.edu/engl_258/Lecture%20Notes/american_antimiscegenation.htm

The wiki: http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Alabama_Amendment_2_(2000)

And the Actual voting numbers: http://alabamavotes.gov/downloads/election/2000/general/2000g-amend.pdf

This is a fun one! Section 182 of Alabama’s constitution, which appears to remain untouched (in spite of section 102’s overturn), lists miscegenation among the crimes that disqualify one from voting

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/CodeOfAlabama/Constitution/1901/CA-245722.htm

Next, a link to Section 256 of the constitution, which establishes segregated schools. It uses the still entirely inappropriate phrase “colored”.

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/codeofalabama/constitution/1901/CA-245806.htm

And here is a Washington Post article discussing the failure of a 2004 Amendment that would have removed the offensive language and stipulation about “segregation”. Yes, that’s right, people. Just seven years ago, given a chance, the majority of Alabama voters chose to do the wrong thing. Alabama schools are no longer formally segregated, but voters at large chose to pretend they still might be.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A16443-2004Nov27.html

That’s probably about enough from me on the subject. I think I’ve made my point rather abundantly clear. I want to emphasize that this rant is not directed at those teachers who are on the front lines fighting to make a difference in the public schools, not just in Alabama, but in the nation. I do not judge you by this cunt. (Yes, I did just call her that. And yes, I did mean to imply that she is to be defined by the most gross depiction possible of her genitalia. I was very well behaved when speaking to her. You know me a little better and know I don’t hold back on the important descriptors.)  By and large, it is the system that is flawed. Things happen to be particularly bad here, but I think Alabama is really just an example of a problem that exists around the nation.

Sam’s Song

Last night, I told you about Caroline’s fondness for Neil Diamond’s song with her name in it. Sam has a song, too, but we only found it recently. There just isn’t much out there with the name “Sam” in it, or even “Scott”, since that’s really his name. But, with a little research, Dad found us Barbara Streisand’s cover of “Sam, You Made The Pants Too Long” for me yesterday. Here’s a YouTube link in case you haven’t ever heard it before. Like us. Go on and listen. I’ll wait.

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In case the embedding doesn’t work, here’s a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrmIEl9S8VQ

There now.  Isn’t it cute?  My mom, whose musical knowledge runs deep, recognized the tune as soon as I mentioned it, and she gets bonus points for knowing that it predated Barbara off the top of her head.  But it’s the Streisand version we found on YouTube, and Sam loves it.

It has the same power over him that “Sweet Caroline” has over Caroline and “Jessie’s Girl” still has over me. There’s just something magical about hearing your own name in a song. As soon as I put it on, even before he knew the title, Sam said, “This is a beautiful song.” And when Streisand sang, “But Sam”, my Sam gave a little gasp. Thereafter, he climbed up in my lap and listened, rapt. It only took three hearings for him to make up a story to explain why the song was specifically about him. He said, “I was over at their house one time and I made them pants and they were too long.” It is not clear who “they” are in this statement, but Barbara Streisand is surely one of “them”.

If it had been written today, it would surely have been composed by The Wiggles, or Sandra Boynton, or, God help me, Yo Gabba Gabba.  But since it was, according to the extremely authoritative information on Wikipedia, written in 1940 by Milton Berle as a parody, it got recorded by Streisand some twenty-six years later and put on the market for adults.

It makes me nostalgic for funny songs for grown ups. I absolutely love Weird Al. But he is one of only a very few mainstream musicians writing humor these days. Pop stars don’t seem willing to step out and write something silly, then put it on an album with more serious works. It’s as if goofy songs might contaminate the recording studio. Some of them will perform on Sandra Boynton pieces, but Boynton is genuinely writing kids songs. Or they’ll do guest appearances on kids’ shows. But few of them come out and write their own funny music. I miss songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “I am the Walrus” that celebrate absurdity. I doubt Streisand would record a song like “Sam” in the 21st century, and I consider it a wonder that she was willing to do it as late as the 1960’s.

Half the stuff I sing is absurd. I got Caroline through her first two years of life by having a song for everything, and it’s impossible to sing about parking lots, baths, and toilets without being funny about it. Many of the rock songs we love best have funny twists, like The Kinks’ “Lola” , Styx’s “Plexiglass Toilet”, and the two aforementioned Beatles tunes. There are a few modern singers who will pull off humor now and then. Outkast has “Roses” (which has the bonus of naming a “Caroline”, though it’s pretty insulting), Barenaked Ladies has some goofy stuff, too, but there isn’t nearly enough funny going around these days.

Basically, humor music has become a genre, like rock and country, except that instead of being identified by musical qualities, humor is defined by content. Often, humorous songs are parodies , but there are some that just stand alone. Quite frankly, the humor artist I like best is always going to be Weird Al. (Who else could write a track about snot and make it catchy?) But I’m glad Ms. Streisand recorded “Sam”, because it’s the perfect blend of innocent humor and repetition of my son’s name to keep us all singing along just like we do for “Sweet Caroline”.

Sweet Caroline

I’m on the verge of making a retraction. Sort of. See, I’ve always hated Neil Diamond. Always. Possibly just because my Mom did, so I’m willing to admit that it’s a judgment I’ve made without much research. Nonetheless, I’ve always associated the guy with bad hair, ugly leisure suits, and overly-emotional ballads.  And there’s not much he can do at this point about the hair and the clothes. But. He sings “Sweet Caroline”, a song that does for my daughter what “Jessie’s Girl” did for me as a kid. (According to You Tube, Wikipedia and nearly every other Google Search result, it really is spelled “Jessie’s Girl”.)

I remember my Dad explaining that the “Jessie” in the song was a guy, but I really didn’t care. I came up with some bizarre logic of my own by which, since I was Jessie (even though I spelled my name “Jesse” at that time), and since I was a girl, I could be both Jessie and Jessie’s girl. Yeah. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, nor did it then. But. The point is that I loved that song. Rick Springfield was singing my name, and there was no faster way for Dad to make me happy than to use his home studio to play me Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and The Who’s “Athena” (from It’s Hard) at top volume.

Caroline is the same way with Neil Diamond. Way back in her Gan Shalom days, Miss Denise used to sing her “Sweet Caroline” all day at school. When we first moved to Montgomery, we went to a minor league ballgame, and that was the song playing as we entered the stadium before the first pitch. One of her many nicknames is “sweet girl” because she’s such a cuddlebug. So she’s got some crazy logic about how the song is about exactly her because she’s both “sweet” and “Caroline”.  This has me softening considerably towards Mr. D. (Note, she’s actually named for a different musical Caroline, the one who’s “feelin’ down today” in the portion of “Fallin’ In And Out of Love With You” that precedes Pure Prairie League’s “Amie”. And also for Scott’s great grandmother Caroline.)

Scott and I helped Linda and her husband Robert move across town this weekend. (I should say “Scott helped”. I played in the pool with the kids, which nominally allowed the other adults to work without them underfoot. ) Anyway, I wound up with some swag in the form of Robert’s entire CD collection. (I cannot believe he was getting rid of them. I swear I picked out at least fifty new discs.) Robert, as it turns out, is a Diamond fan. So we suddenly went from owning zero copies of “Sweet Caroline” to owning five.

And my sweet Caroline has taken over the car CD player, running her song in a continuous loop that would make me revert to my previous stance about dear Neil if it weren’t so utterly cute.  The version she likes best is live, and she sits in the back seat waiting for the audience to hum along so she can sing  with them. And her little voice is so pretty, so lilting that after just once listening to her accompaniment, everybody else in the car, Sam included, bursts into the chorus because we’re so excited about what she just sang.

And she has no idea. None. For her, all that matters is that Neil Diamond is singing her name, straight to her. As far as she’s concerned, the rest of us are excited about the same thing, not about the lovely, tuneful little melody she just hummed with the audience.

There’s more to this story, but I think I’ll stop there for now and continue with Sam’s song another night.