Monday, July 30, 2012

He Earned Our Trust

For the last time, the doors squeaked as we all filed out of the class--this time with joy. My worst class was actually my best that evening, but not as the professor had hoped. English professors have always intrigued me--particularly those who boast their own writing, like he. For humor’s sake, I enjoyed watching Professor’s head swell to the size of the chalkboard as he showed excerpts of his thesis that earned him his proud degree to our class. Juvenilely, he relied on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test from Microsoft Word to prove that his writing was adequate. He boasted a 13.3 grade-level. When I sent my review in of the class, and of the professor, I made sure to write a witty, trashing report that leveled at a 15.5 grade-level. I made sure to include the grade at the end. It meant so much to him, I would have hated for him to not see that a terrible review of his teaching skills could triumph over his doctoral thesis on rhetorical grammar.

What I love more than professors who are blissfully unaware of their own ignorance, are those who teach a language because of their passion to discover and learn more. I suppose it can all be attributed to the first male, English teacher I had. All of the girls thought he was attractive. He had all of the features of a made-for-television illegality. We knew, on that first day of class, this man was already bound to make a great impression.

High school students are interesting creatures. By that time, some have already began the trudge into eternal apathy--and often look the part--some are living a sheltered life, some want to take on the world and most are a collectively chaotic complex of all three. But no matter who the student was when they walked into the classroom, they were different when they left. Even the boy who caused the most trouble in all of our classes, left with a newfound respect for the teacher and the subject (even if he did leave because he was expelled).

Mr. B knew how to entertain us and--get this--teach us. I will always remember Oedipus Rex and Gilgamesh due to his hilarious doodles of each character on the chalkboard. He was always the man with chalk all over his hands and pants--the one with the fun sense of humor and posters of “Bender” from Futurama on his classroom walls. Mr. B would pace the classroom and toss the chalk up in the air--and almost always get a piece caught in the lighting and have to climb on desks to get it out. He was a character, much like in all of the stories he taught us that year; but most importantly, he never tried to seem above us. Mr. B was wiser than we were, though we were all 15-years old, but he was never afraid to be human. Mr. B knew his audience and knew he could be our equal; he had earned that respect from us.

Mr. B showed us the religious symbolism and allegorical value in Lord of the Flies while teaching our same, close-minded group about the world of The Stranger. Unfortunately, most of the class hated the main character after discovering his atheistic views, but I always understood what Mr. B was trying to do that day. I will never forget it. His eyes lowered, as if to say, “But you guys love me, and I’m atheist.” But he could not just say it. He was not willing to lose what he had with our class.

Our teacher was also smart; he taught us Gilgamesh and Oedipus Rex by heart. The text was there for verification, but he already knew it. So we would put our county-issued literature books away and listen. He renewed my love for the written word. I grew up with my nose always in a book, but he showed me another section of the library I had yet ventured. Even if the challenges were goofy, Mr. B never failed to challenge us--once it meant trying to recite Caesar’s speech, in Act 3, Scene 2 of Julius Caesar, in under one minute.

For those willing to learn, Mr. B provided us with a repertoire of new vocabulary, literary analyses and a love for “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” All Professor ever gave me was a newfound distaste for Miami Vice--at least once a week he would walk in with a white suit and pink shirt. It was ghastly and hilarious, much like him.

I am going back, soon, only to wonder what the English department will throw my way this semester. Sometimes I wish Mr. B will want to flock to the south (for the love of gnats) and show up in a future literature class of mine. Aside from three literature professors I have had, Mr. B would be a tremendous step-up. But I'm fatally nostalgic, anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Impatient Protagonist

The thrill of reading comes from knowing that until one reaches the final chapter, the end of every chapter is merely a prelude of more to come. It's the cliffhanger--the eagerness to find out how everything ends--that makes a reader hold on until the long-awaited conclusion. However, the agitation I often find with life is that I cannot peak ahead and make sure I get a “happy ending;” however relative, however immature. I have to exercise patience. I am not the reader, I am the character; this is my story, for better or worse.

"This is the end, isn't it?" I often ask (and often I have it asked to me). Each "good-bye" feels so permanent. Each time I pack my bags, it could be my last venture. Each time I let go of his hand, it feels like an eternity before I can feel it in mine again.

Each spring is the same. April turns into May and I stare at the last few words of this chapter. The semester has run its course and so have I. I look at my bags and hesitantly pack them with all the things that only seem to multiply overnight. If there is one thing I can say, my story is predictable. Predictability can be favorable; there are notches on some hemisphere of my brain measuring my growth, much like the notches on a wall a mom makes to acquaint the child with having to grow up and grow tall.

I have always been afraid of what growing can bring, and the more I know the more I wish I didn't know. Predictability loves its cliché, and I will embrace it before I embrace something groundbreaking that could shake up my foundation. But even the proper protagonist, through faults and triumphs, knows where she stands. If something unpredictable should come my way, I find a way to understand it. And, in this case, unpredictability was coming home to a new environment of divorce and one less member of a family I had come to understand. Cliché provided me a lesson; our principals are merely recycled. And like knowledge and ingenuity, my story is not distinguishable or creative.

I am impatient. My pages are glued together, and their words sealed with a margin-note: “Do not peak until [insert date here].” Time is always moving for someone else faster and wiser than I. Something new is happening somewhere that could affect me eventually as I sit on my hands; it’s a ripple in time that will tear my walls down. I sit idly by--my only guilt is my false innocence. I mask my impatience with a look of contentment, but my mind is reeling with things I need to do, things I want to do and--worst of all--things I cannot do.

I have deteriorated into a walking list of goals--short-term and long-term. Every obstacle is an obstruction of justice, and is greeted with insincerity and bitterness. I am still struggling to be more welcoming of changes that deter me--I have said it several times before.

Then again, I guess I have always hated cliffhangers and plot twists. That is just one more notch I have yet to earn.

Monday, July 16, 2012

100 Words: Like Poetry

I move like poetry when I’m cooking. It's not so much in what I do or create-- I'm quite mediocre--but a feeling when I do it. I know where every spice and seasoning is in my cabinet, and move justly dropping in the perfect amounts. I feel exhilarated knowing the food is down to its last few minutes.

I plate each item. This is it, this is the moment: the taste-test. I take a bite and fall in love. Whether it's my creation or someone else's it tastes like art. Perhaps I just love food too much.