Monday, April 28, 2008

Day Trippin'

Monkey and I loaded into the Penguin early on Saturday morning and headed south (after heading east) to KCMO. Our destination: the Nelson-Atkins and Kemper museums, the Plaza, and Lidia's on Baltimore Ave. Our arrival was heralded by abundant sunshine and convenient parking right next to the museum. The new wing of the Nelson-Atkins, while not outwardly aesthetically pleasing to me, has an interesting interior. Monkey and I spent a few hours examining some old and new pieces in the collection, as well as a really informative and enlightening photography exhibit focusing on celebrity and the photograph. There were the as-expected shots of Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo, as well as a really unique print of Sarah Bernhardt, and some daguerrotypes (one of John Brown!).

The Kemper, a new stop for both of us, also had a photo exhibit up, "Uncommon Ground: The Photography of Stephen Shore." This exhibit was dominated by road photos, places in the US and Canada such as motels, street corners, restaurants, etc. It seems mundane, but the composition of the photos makes them more than mundane, and, taken as a whole, the mundane-ness becomes part of the point. Another installation, by visiting artist Julia Oschatz, called "Where Else?" consisted of a black room with a few cardboard pyramids on the floor and ceiling, like stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. Some black and white drawing/paintings adorned the walls, and several video installations played short looped vignettes, all (paintings and video) featuring a rabbit/mouse character, called Essen or Wessen, or something, who apparently finds himself/herself/itself in these void-like landscapes, and is totally chill with that. It creeped Monkey out, but, I thought it was sort of German Expressionist cool. Oh, and there was some semi-techno music playing, too.

Having had enough of art, we elected to engage in some consumerism. We motored over to the Plaza, where we walked around, poked about in a few shops, bought a bottle of wine, and wasted time until dinner. We drove over to Lidia's, as the beautiful afternoon began to cloud up, had a great dinner--good lasagna--and then rolled our fullness back to the Penguin to head back home.

As usually happens, as we rolled along I-29, the heavens opened up, and we slashed home through the rain, It was annoying, but, we've had worse. And, we were in bed before tomorrow even came.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Today is recognized as the birthday of the biggest, baddest dramatist and poet in the English language, William Shakespeare. Happy birthday, Willy Shakes!

More importantly, to me: today is Monkey's birthday. Happy birthday, Monkey!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Something I Never Told You

This is from my journal March 24:

On Friday, took Monkey to get a scan to see where all of her small dose of radioactive iodine had been taken up. I had just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, on Thursday, so I was reading Heat while I waited for Monkey's scan to be through. I'm glad I brought the book, because the scan took a long time.

I imagine when you have a medical prcedure that takes so long, that you become more observant, looking around (if you can), trying to see as much of the detail of a place as you can. I always do this whenever I check out of my "guarded" self. I don't notice much except for what is directly in front of me, most of the time. I am usually aware only of what I am doing, what is before me.

Sometimes, in situations where I sense danger, I will extend my sphere of awareness. This used to happen a lot more when I lived back in Baltimore. I'd almost always be on edge when I was walking around in the city. I've been a victim of crime, I've had a gun in my face. It's not a pleasant thing.

Of course, irony of ironies, I was not wandering the mean streets of Mobtown when crime visited me. I was at work, at my dad's store, formerly located on one of the mean streets of Mobtown. Guy came in the front door of the store wearing a goalie mask, stuck a silver weapon with what seemed like a very big barrel in my direction, and suggested I give him the money in the cash register. I fell down. Literally.

My first reaction was to hit the deck, putting a very large (but transparent and mostly plexiglas) deli case between a bullet and myself. So, I know that in such a situation, my capacity for self-preservation will operate on a high level (as evidenced by my hitting the deck), but my capacity to reason clearly will not (as evidenced by the lack of real cover the see-through deli case actually provided).

My next reaction was to acquiesce, by chanting, "Okay. Okay.OkayOkayokayokayokayokay." The guy with the gun was probably pleased that I was being so cooperative in word; however, in deed, I was still prone on the floor behind the counter. He suggested that I open the register. I crawled (self-preservation reflex strong, see?) to the register and hit the "No Sale" button. The goalie mask helped himself to the bills, spilling change all over the floor, and out the door he went.

It was one of the more memorable days of my life.

So, for better or worse, when I am in a large urban area, I am usually more paranoid/aware than usual. I know that, logically, bad news can befall you anywhere, not just in population centers, but, well, I am conditioned to be more swivel-headed in places like Baltimore, Chicago, and San Francisco, than I am in places like Lincoln, Columbia, or Mendicino. That will probably catch up with me one day.

Usually, when I feel "safe", I am pretty focused on that which is near. However, when I am left in a room for several minutes alone, like happens in a doctor's office, I notice my mind and eyes wandering to every corner of the room; I look at every device and fixture, every ceiling tile, the knobs on drawers, the pile on the carpet, the patterns within the patterns on the wallpaper.

Enclosed in a restrictive scanner, however, is a whole different ball of medical-grade cotton. You just can't look around the room. You can only stare at some spot two feet or less in front of your face, hoping that you don't move enough to blur the image of your insides that the end result of your time in the tube is supposed to be.

In there, I guess, your mind just wanders (unless you are practiced at meditation, I suppose--in which case, you might use your scanner time productively). I'm sure your mind races to many places, some of which must have something to do with the condition that brought you to this particular place and time in the first place. I suspected that Monkey, naturally claustrophobic, anyway, was having a rough go of it.

For me, however, sitting in the waiting room, with its 21 pine-framed chairs; blue, wave-patterned carpet; beige, burlap-textured wallpaper, and a poor selection of magazines--I had my book. So, no wandering, except to count the chairs and admire the carpet and floors. I should have been blissfully content.

As much as I focused on my book (I read about forty pages), I still couldn't help but think of how depressing a place such a waiting room as this (well, all waiting rooms, really) is. Waiting rooms: hospitals, auto repair shops, doctors offices, funeral homes. All places of mostly bad news, or, at least, mostly the anticipation of no good. This one in particular: smack between radiology and oncology. That's a bad rock and a no good hard place. The people looked like I must when in a situation of potential danger: miserable, wary, frustrated, but, many, I'll admit, looked still spirited.

I wondered how I looked. Did I look wary? Did I look frustrated? Did I look miserable? Because while I spent several moments displaying my left-alone-in-a-"safe"-environment habits, surveying the walls and chairs, a large part of me wanted to drop to my knees and chant: "Okayokayokayokay."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Before I Gotta Go...

Hey, Monkey is shooing me out the door as I type this. We're off for some Bar-B-Q. But, I wanted to do my part for an issue that is close to all of us. And, in the interest of time, I am going to step aside and let comoprozac tell you about it.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Faculty Play

I was meant for the stage.
I was meant for the curtain.
I was meant to tread these boards,
Of this much I am certain.
--The Decemberists, "I Was Meant for the Stage"

Did I mention that my new school puts on a faculty play every year? Well, they do, and, guess what? I'm gonna be in it! It's a bit exciting--I haven't been in a play in over ten years. I hope I remember how I used to memorize all those lines!

The play, Charley's Aunt, is an old British farce. I have a pretty small part, which is good, because I don't have a whole lot of time to work on lines (or my British accent). We had a read-through this week, and it went well. Not everybody was there. One of the teacher-thespians is a coach of some sort. People are already worried that he may not be available for enough rehearsals. But, we'll see how it goes. It always works out in the end somehow. At least that's been my experience.

In other news, Monkey went back to work this week. Ripken Ozark has been upset not to have anyone home all day, but, he's taking it like a good dog.

Finally, the US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. I guess they didn't realize the end result of lethal injection is death. That seems pretty cruel to me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ten Days Gone, Or "FIRE IN THE HOLE!"

I'd love to change the world,
But I don't know what to do.
So, I leave it up to you.
--Ten Years After, "I'd Love to Change the World"

I'd like to say I can hardly believe it has been ten days since my last post. Unfortunately, I know exactly how long it has been. For several reasons, I haven't made any attempt to add a word to Central Standard.

One of these reasons is ambivalence. I have been in a "why bother?" kind of funk. I want to post, but I don't like what I have to say, or I convince myself I have nothing to say. It happens sometimes.

Another reason: I've had really low energy since Spring Break ended. I have been busy, but mostly, I just haven't really had a lot of zip when I had the time to post.

Another reason: not much seems to be happening that is even remotely blog-worthy. I painted the front door green last weekend. Earth-shattering, isn't it?

But, today was a red-letter day. At the start of second block, one of my students told me to check my email, because all the bathrooms in the building were locked. I checked my email. It turns out that a couple of major brains tried to set the paper towel dispensers in some bathrooms on fire. The rooms were locked so that the fire investigators could check out the crime scenes. Apparently a pair of our finest young minds were taken into custody for arson-like behavior (or something). By third block, all the bathrooms were re-opened, and, well, we were all relieved. (Sorry.)

Now that's excitement.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hitting 300, Scoring, Staying Busy, and Medical Updates

Were this baseball, I would be a potential Hall of Fame candidate. Hitting .300 in baseball is an awesome feat. This, however, is blogging, so, instead of preparing to have a bronze plaque of my face and accomplishments made by deciding which hat to be pictured in, I am merely recognizing the passage of a small milestone. Given another twenty two years at this pace, I may someday pass another baseball milestone: 3000!

On other fronts:

I spent this Saturday scoring writing tests for my school district. It was an interesting experience. I learned a lot, and I had a pretty good time (well, as good a time as you can have sitting on your butt and grading all day). I am doing it again next Saturday, and I am getting compensated.

Saturday night, I helped chaperone the Pride Prom. It was an uneventful evening there. That's a good thing. I basically spent the evening watching kids dance and chase each other around the Commons. How fun is that?

In between I squeezed in dinner and a glass of wine or two with Monkey and (NEW CHARACTER NAME ALERT) The Ambassadors. (I don't know if this moniker will stick--I'm just trying it on, right now.) All told, it was a chock-full Saturday from 8am to 11pm.

Today, enjoying the best day I've had so far this spring, I planted some carrots, some spinach, some peas, and some garlic. I have tomatoes starting, and Monkey and I are working some indoor herb action, too. It was a great day to be puttering around in the dirt.

Monkey is still doing great. She still can't taste things very well, but the doc says that the cancer has NOT spread to any other areas. This is awesome news. We won't know for at least three months how effective the radioactive iodine treatment was at removing the cancer she does have, but it was great to find out that everything is still concentrated where the doctors knew it already was.