Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Once a month the Monkey Man hosts a Pizza and Poetry night at Slice of New York Pizza, 3rd and Market, Camden, NJ. My daughter The Heir and I try to go every month.
I fear the Monkey Man's group may outgrow Slice of New York Pizza, because on Tuesday night we filled every seat. It's not a big place, but it's big enough -- we're just getting more and more folks all the time. Our collective Walt Whitman "barbaric yawp" rattled the walls of the place and caused the dear old dead poet to smile in his nearby grave.
The theme of Tuesday night's P&P was death.
Well, gosh, what else do poets write about but love and death? Okay, okay, nature. I'll give you that. But death's a biggie.
The Heir and I each took a seat at one of the tables. A well-dressed black man sat down next to The Heir. I couldn't estimate the man's age, but he might be in my ballpark, maybe a bit younger. (More and more people are younger than me all the time.)
Across the table from The Heir and me sat a couple who would not stop talking to us long enough for me to share even a polite "hello, I'm Anne" with the African American gentleman. But then the poetry commenced. After a few of the regulars had shared their latest, the gentleman stood and read a very moving poem about his late grandmother and how there was a ring on the coffee table from her pie plate that was once filled with delicious lemon meringue pie.
After the gentleman read, the Monkey Man announced the awaited pizza break. The Heir dashed off to get her slices, giving me a chance to introduce myself to the gentleman.
I praised his poem, and I told him of an incident that happened in my house that week.
My daughter The Spare is studying chemistry in 8th grade. My late father (who now fights pirates with Peter Pan) was a chemistry teacher. Back in the 1960s, I told the gentleman, my dad did chemistry classes on closed circuit t.v. that could be shown in high schools scattered across our Appalachian county. A few of Dad's episodes survived on an old VHS that Dad gave me before he went off with Peter Pan. The Spare wanted to take the VHS to school to show bits of grainy footage of Dad blowing up everything in sight.
I was willing to part with the precious VHS, but I suggested that The Spare and I should pick one particularly vivid explosion to show her class. And there, on the footage, stood my precious dad in the prime of life, mixing up chemicals in a mortar and pestle that now sits in my kitchen.
Of course the sight of that old tool of Dad's, now mine (and -- gulp -- used to grind spices!) made me weep. But then it comforted me to realize that an important piece of Dad's equipment will forever be with my family.
So, I told all of this to the African American gentleman, and he started writing things down. He apologized for being rude and then said, "You are just radiating so much energy on this that I'm being inspired."
By the time we had finished eating pizza, the gentleman -- who had never been to Pizza and Poetry before -- had written a moving poem about Daddy the Chemistry Teacher and his mortar and pestle, now used to grind cinnamon. Like, I mean the dude wrote a fabulous poem in less than 15 minutes. He impressed the hell out of everyone and caused me to weep again.
This was, of course, powerful magic at work. If you don't believe in magic, what are you doing on my site? Go toddle off to Hanna Montana dot com or some such place.
The gentleman had extremely scratchy handwriting and resisted copying the Daddy poem out in more legible form because he said he wanted to work on it some more. So I gave him my email and begged him to send me the final draft when he finished it. At the end of the evening we shook hands and went our separate ways. I do not remember his name.
Driving home, I told The Heir that I wasn't sure this gentleman was even a mortal. You never can be sure about the celestial status of anyone who hangs around the Monkey Man. So, if I never see or hear from this extraordinary African American poet again, I will assume he was a messenger from the Great God Chonganda, sent to ease my sorrow about losing my dad to Peter Pan.
If that dude is mortal, I wish him a long life, good health, and that his pen never runs out of ink. Because I don't think I've ever witnessed greater magic from an inkpen in my life.
To date I have not heard from him.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Every year around this time we start making promises to ourselves that we are absolutely destined to break. You know what I mean.
Let's start with Thanksgiving.
1. "I'm not going to miss the Dallas game because I'm slaving in the kitchen." BAMP! Wrong.
2. "I'm not going to fill the table with enough food for 20 people when there are only going to be five of us eating." BAMP! Wrong. (Mother-in-law sees to that.)
3. "I'm not going to stuff myself." BAMP! Wrong.
4. "I'm not going to drop turkey on the floor for the cats." BAMP! Very wrong.
5. "I'm not going to look at the newspaper circulars and pick out early bird Xmas specials I can't afford, and then get up at the crack of dawn to go fetch them." BAMP! Wrong. I need some new Xmas balls for my tree.
Which brings us to The Holiday That Can't Be Just Called a Holiday Because It's Christmas, For God's Sake!
Every year Mr. Johnson and I pinky swear that we won't spend an arm and a leg on Xmas gifts. And every year we wind up on December 26 searching for our misplaced limbs. This happens when you've got kids.
Here are the Xmas promises I make and break every year:
1. "I'm not going to spend an entire weekend in the kitchen making cookies." BAMP! Wrong. Even with The Spare helping. Especially with The Spare helping.
2. "I'm not going to fret over how the front of my house looks." BAMP!
3. "I'm going to get an early start on those Yule cards. And they're going to have faeries on them." BAMP! Cheap dollar store cards bought at day-after sale.
4. "I'm not going to gain two pounds from eating cookies and drinking egg nog." BAMPITY BAMP BAMP! (Burp.)
5. "I'm going to get swept up in the holiday cheer. It will help me deal with my Seasonal Affective Disorder." BAAAAAMP!
'Tis the season to be crabby. Don't you agree? Humbug.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tonight I searched the story on the Gestapo Search Engine Which Will Not Be Named on This Site. But if you like to yodel, you'll find it under "Robotic Bugs Mingle with Cockroaches."
And when the guy who penned those lines gets up and runs for president again, I might vote Republican. But only if he's not soft on slavery.
On Wednesday I completed a long-term substitute teaching job at a Vo-Tech school that draws its students from Camden, New Jersey. The school is 65 percent Hispanic, 33 percent African American, and 2 percent Asian. The white student population of this school is not statistically significant. As in, three white kids. And one of them is a teacher's son.
I never thought I'd like to teach. Spent 20 years at home writing stuff, all alone, just me and Decibel the Parrot. And in fact I didn't like substitute teaching much at first. Then they put me in charge of classes for long terms, and I liked that. Even though it's hard work.
The whole time I've been working as a sub, I've been going to the Vo-Tech. And I may be going back there in January for another long-term assignment -- that is, if Warren Buffett doesn't decide to hire me to run one of his companies or anything like that.
Today I am substitute teaching at The Heir's high school. Ninety-nine percent white, one percent Asian, African American statistically insignificant. As in, maybe five black kids.
It's funny somehow. I lived through years where we tried to do something to get the races to mix and mingle. It didn't work.
The other day when I was driving to the Vo-Tech, I heard that working black people earn 58 cents for every dollar that white people earn.
I don't have a solution for this problem. If I did I'd share it with the world ASAP. But for me, working closely with Black and Hispanic students has broadened my horizon and given me new young people to love.
It will be very interesting today to see how I'm received at the all-white school, how vibrant the students are, and how they treat me. I'm not optimistic. I'll let you know.
Yo, from Miss Johnson, yo.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Friday, November 09, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," promoting a plethora of deities who won't inspire people to kill other people! Hey, would you One God types quit Crusading, maybe plant a tree or pet a puppy or something? Because fighting isn't nice.
Today is International Anne Johnson day. So if you're one of the 341,000 American women named Anne Johnson, enjoy yourself. As for me, this is the first time I've been home alone with no chores to do since August.