joshwriting: (Default)
Today, a guest column:

I am a sick, weird person. We all know this. So sick, so weird, that
sometimes I even laugh out loud at inappropriate times.

Breaking live news reports last night included some very serious car
accidents, a number of ambulance calls, the closing down part of I-10, a
fugitive chase, police officers in danger, a brush fire, and major property
damage. It's not funny. It's not.

It all started with the cows falling out onto the interstate. The gate on
an 18 wheeler that was hauling LIVE CATTLE fell open. Those things weigh
1500 pounds. This is probably a major liability on some hard-working
person's shoulders. It could've killed somebody. It's not funny.

So suddenly there's a backup on I-10 due to "COWS HITTING THE ROAD" -- I
swear they said that -- by the 123 bypass ... I'm a weird person. It's
really not funny.

One cow was struck by another 18 wheeler and dragged a half-mile. Poor
cow. This is NOT funny. Another was hit by a minivan. Do, Jesus; you
might drive carefully at dusk in some parts for fear of hitting a DEER, but
who expects to nail a COW on the HIGHWAY? I don't even think that's covered
by insurance. It's not funny, really.

So DPS is using a civilian volunteer's TRUCK (there are guys in Texas who
live to volunteer their vehicles for such emergencies) to haul the dead
cows off the road and DPS workers are running around trying to herd up the
live ones. Not something they're generally trained to do. Not something
they're in shape to do, either. They had to call for backup. And one of
the DPS workers needed to be taken to the hospital, with exertional chest
pains. I KNOW this is serious. It's not funny. I'm so weird.

Now, pay attention. This chain of events - which is NOT funny -- gets
complicated. A pickup, reported stolen in Houston, speeds through this
scene, and almost hits a DPS worker who's directing traffic. TOTALLY not
funny. Probably scared the daylights out of him, and the other drivers on
the road, (who probably were already pretty confused what with the smashups
and the live-action rodeo going on on the bypass.) Additionally, the
joyriders almost hit a couple of cows. Don't ya hate when that happens.
Not funny. There's something wrong with me.

So a short chase after the stolen pickup ensues. 3 guys abandon the pickup
and run into the brush along the highway. This NOT an appropriate time to
ask if they had a sudden urge to hit the drive through for a hamburger.
That's really not funny.

2 officers involved in the the chase park in the grass, jump out of their
vehicles, and run after the fugitives. They catch the bad guys, which is
good, and lawfully subdue them, which is also good, for everybody but the
bad guys.

However, when they get back to their patrol cars with the suspects in
custody, they discover that heat from their engines sparked a grass fire,
which incinerated both patrol cars. Just, torched 'em. One of those patrol
cars was BRAND NEW. Do you think new patrol cars grow on trees?
Destruction of public property is not funny. Only a very sick person would
laugh her head off.

So crews are arriving to fight the fire -- which is spreading fast -- I-10
is being closed down, the fugitives are arrested but don't have anyplace to
be arrested TO so they're standing on the side of the road waiting for
someone to take them to jail as soon as the state of Texas has a spare DPS
worker with a working car -- and the driver of the cattle truck is being
given a ticket for driving an unsecured load. And I realize, I need help.
joshwriting: (Default)
This is another piece of occasional writing by my friend Cathy:

I just got back from being a school chaperone at the National Portfolio Day
event. I was a last minute addition to the roster, when another chaperone
cancelled. Ms Art Director hand-picks chaperones from junior and senior
parents using some unspecified criteria, and although I dutifully sign the
arts school parent contract each fall that promises I will serve if called,
I've never made the list.

The day started at the school here at, I'm not kidding, 6:30 am. Starbucks
was not open yet. Students had to be dropped off, with lunches and wearing
the visual arts department's purple t-shirts promptly at oh-freaking-early.
Portfolios had to be loaded, chaperones had to be directed, the studio cat
had to be fed, and kids had to board the buses by no later than 7:30 -- and
we made it just in time. Amazingly, there were no complaints.

We reached the hotel in Houston at around 11:15, just in time to unload the
portfolios, fill in all the registration forms, and get everyone in line
--at first 4 lines (one for each room of admissions reps) and then, for some
administrative reason, re-forming one single line. We were not happy about
the mix-up, or the fact that some of our students ended up losing places in
line for particular schools as a result. A compromise was reached, though,
so that when doors opened at noon, those people in the purple shirts could
go into recruiting rooms first, in the order in which they were in that one
single file line.

The other chaperones & I held places in line for people who needed bathroom
breaks, fetched water and cookies, lugged portfolios, and observed. We were
under strict orders from the VA director, who as you may have guessed is a
person so fierce that even I don't dare mess with her, to otherwise keep the
hell out of the process. Observations in no particular order:

** Nowhere else on Earth, could it be said of the adolescent g/t males in
this arts program (as was said at one point when some of the girls were
checking out the guys), that "all the guys here look alike." It was true.
If this isn't an oxymoron, they were uniformly eccentrically dressed (after
all, the art director didn't tell them HOW to wear the purple shirt, or what
to wear with it, which leaves a LOT of room for individual expression), all
wearing the same well-practiced expression of, "I'm a genius and above this
stuff, but please, please PLEASE, approve of me," and all toting artwork
with a tenderness usually reserved for newborn babies. And they were all, to
a man, fidgeting. I mean, really fidgeting. Dancing, with or without ipod
headphones, or sketching in a sketchpad with ebony pencils, or sketching on
their own arms with permanent markers. Oddly, none of them seemed to be
checking out the girls.

** Having no one else to compare themselves to but one another, the kids at
this school have absolutely, NO idea how talented they are, or how much
they've done -- until they join a group of "normal" (translation: MERELY
highly gifted) high school artists. Just NO CLUE ... until the person in
front of them at a recruiter's table lays out a perfectly, respectable solid
portfolio. And even then, their reaction is one of puzzlement more than
arrogance or pride: why didn't that guy bring his GOOD stuff?, or his stuff
from senior summer?, they ask each other privately.

** Getting no direct face-to-face feedback from anyone other than each other
and the aforementioned fierce art director, they handle evaluations,
criticism and questions about their art without a shred of defensiveness,
and with amazing maturity. Nothing the evaluators threw at them phased them
-- they've already heard worse, or weirder -- and no question was too
off-the-wall to consider. (It occurs to me that this is not so much an
artistic development as a life skill. No matter what they do in their adult
professional lives, the ability to present their work and answer questions
about it will be valuable, and if they already, at 17 and 18, have it down,
this can only be a good thing.) They especially like evaluators who speak
their cynical, scared language because it offers hope that there is Life
After This. By unanimous decision of students the best & most promising
evaluation for a self-portrait piece came from one RISD assessment: "Dude,
you need HELP. DEEPLY disturbed, you are. You're what we're looking for."

**Requiring those purple shirts made a lot of sense. Not only did it help
straighten out the line screw-up and let chaperones instantly know which of
the fidgeting, eccentric, cynical and scared guys were ours, portfolio
evaluators were pre-disposed to give good, meaningful criticism to anyone
wearing a purple shirt. The reputation of Ms Fierce Art Director precedes
them. "You guys and HSPVA are the only reason we'll come to Texas," was a
common phrase. "We'll always look at one of Ms Fierce Art Director's kids."
Some of them chose to interpret this to mean, "We know Ms Fierce Art
Director verbally abuses her students, who also have the burden of having to
live in Texas, so we feel sorry for them."

**For some really, really smart kids, there's more money in art scholarships
than there ever will be in academic scholarships -- or would be, if they
even cared enough about grades to actually attempt to earn one. To those
raised with more conventional definitions of scholarships and of what
constitutes a Worthwhile Achievement, this can be boggling. From a student
who is in the top 25% of her class but not the top 10%: "Can you BELIEVE,
that guy from Purchase said they'd GIVE ME MONEY? My father will CRAP."

** Art is work. 4 hour drives each way, 13 seniors, 40 schools to choose
from, 4 hours of evaluation time, and each student met the director's goal
of being reviewed by 4-6 schools and bringing home 2-4 applications for art
schools that "want me to apply and I think it would not suck to attend." Not
one of the 13 had time to eat lunch, and all of them acknowledged they have
a lot of work to do before they're ready.

**Chaperones & students had dinner together before leaving for home -- and
in the conversation, eventually, a few of the seniors admitted that maybe,
just maybe, they are really good at some things, things that other people
will never be as good at as they are, and that maybe, just maybe, there are
places where the things that they are good at, will matter and make sense
and be important to people who are also good at those things.

** And I looked around the table and thought that maybe, just maybe, that
has some bearing on Ms. Art Director's selection of chaperones.
joshwriting: (Default)
To whoever is not listening to the sea
this Friday morning, to whoever is cooped up
in house, office, factory or school
or mine or prison cell,
to that person, I’m sent, and without
speaking or looking

I arrive and open up the door
and a vibration starts up, vague and insistent,
a rumble of planet and foam.
Groaning currents of the ocean rise,
the water beats, ebbs, roars, and goes on beating.

For these anonymous, shrouded hearts,
I must listen to, I must keep the tides,
must feel the crash of the hard water,
gather it up and up, offer it, lift it,
pour it into and out of and into the same perpetual cup.

For whoever is not listening to the sea,
for whatever reason,
I must be present,
ready, with an errant wave.
I must move in and out of shadows, and without
saying anything,
I must broadcast the starry echoes of the surf,
the breaking up of rocks, the carving of coastline,
a pounding, then a rustling of withdrawal,
and finally, the grey, free cry of gulls.

This is given. It is not chosen.
The pitcher cries for salt water to carry,
the poet for words that are real.

please comment


joshwriting: (Default)

August 2017

678 9101112


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 24th, 2017 01:57 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios