"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

the day the earth moved

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

i was wrapping up my lesson today and collecting assessments, trying to quiet everyone down, when i felt a sudden jolt. the ground felt like it was moving in waves. it was amazingly wavy. i never thought an earthquake would feel like this. i didn't notice shaking, like i'd expected, but felt it most in my feet and my legs. it felt like i was getting dizzy from the feet up, my head and torso were where i wanted them, but i felt my feet moving on their own. i thought i could hear the earth moving, the whole world around me creaking.

at the same time, i have 30 young pairs of eye focused completely on me. i see their expressions changing to mirror mine. i imagine my face and the look of horror that must be on it.

as soon as i realize what is actually happening, as soon as i can find the words to put to it, the kids are already there too, screaming "earthquake" and doing the drill we practiced just the other day. duck and cover! everyone scrambles to fit under a tiny middle school desk and get themselves as close to the ground as possible. i make sure all the kids are properly tucked under their desks and then dive under one myself, trying to calm everyone down as i try to gather my own thoughts. "keep calm, even tone, don't panic or you'll make things worse." the kids are screaming, some of them are shaking their desks. a voice comes over the loudspeaker, "this is not a drill." how could this be a drill?! i wonder. some things you can fake, but i can feel the tile and concrete rippling below me and rest assured, the last thing i was thinking was that this was a drill!

crouched under my desk, my shins flat against the classroom tile, a million thoughts are rushing thru my head: first, amazement at the seismic waves, which in that moment, i can actually feel. when i'd imagined earthquakes before this, i always thought of – what else? – the movies. i thought of The Land Before TIme, the earth erupting and shifting around itself, huge columns of earth and rock jutting out around me, huge chasms appearing suddenly to divide and separate people. i was imagining a textbook hypothetical earthquake – the kind that separates populations and results in genetic drift.

instead, what i actually experienced was quite different, and thus probably more terrifying and confusing ("what is this strange feeling?") but in retrospect, my confusion was merely a product of my fascination, my pleasant surprise: here was something far more pleasant and less violent, more a rocking than a shaking. never would i have imagined such fluidity – i could feel the building's materials actually undulating under my body. i can feel the pulsing of earth and steel and concrete below me, and for a moment i am painfully aware of the earth's mantle and the layers of pulsing magna on which all of us float – unaware – everyday.

then, sheer wonder at the elasticity of the ground below me. i can practically feel it stretching with the moving earth. things i once thought were solid, immovable, dense and hard were now apparently bending with the flow of the earth below. i'm amazed and surprised by the newness of my understanding of the earth and the materials around me, interacting with and witnessing it in new capacities as i wait for the ground to split around me.

i imagine the earth opening up and swallowing us whole. i imagine my parents freaking out when they hear or see it on the news. i think about Lexington, KY and that sweet foundation of limestone on which it sits, and how growing up i checked earthquakes off my mental list of things i had to worry about/ natural disasters/ unfortunate ways to die, b/c limestone bedrock basically meant 2 things: 1) SOLID AS A ROCK; and 2) strong horses (limestone = calcium-enriched bluegrass = strong and healthy bones). i tell my students Fernando and Lillie about it on the way back from the gym blacktop to our classroom, and they tell me that KY sounds nice right now (no truer words, Fernando. no truer words...)

i remember kneeling on the floor, seeing all my summer school students huddled down with me, looking to me with large, pleading eyes, watching to see what i did. never have i been so scared or worried, feeling at once that child-like instinct to look for protection, to call home, to curl up in a fetal position, but also feeling suddenly adult, the gaze of 30 children's eyes.

i remember, as i felt the rippling earth below me, thinking that we'd gotten the drill all wrong: in an earthquake, the ground is the last place you want to be. i kept thinking, if the ground splits and opens up beneath me, i don't want to be close to it, i want to be by the ceiling, dangling monkey-style from the fluorescent lights, watching it all open up beneath me. sudden panic gripped me: in all other situations in which safety is an issue, your first instinct is to run, to get as far away from the thing causing you stress and harm as possible. crouching on the floor, i realized that i was staring my immediate danger in the face. i was basically eskimo-kissing it. the earth – the way it was moving, these disconcerting waves, the unpredictability, the unknowing of how long it would last, how bad it would be, what to do besides wait – had me trapped. i was struck by a sense of paralysis, vulnerability. i could run, but no matter where i went, my feet would be on the ground. i cursed gravity for keeping me earth-bound.

i manage to get the students lined up quietly inside the room. we walk single-file to the blacktop in the middle of Watts, me counting students and accounting for everyone (my heart nearly stops when i remember that i let Javier go to the bathroom just moments before the earthquake, and the thought of him getting hurt or lost in the chaos is enough for me to justify a stricter no-bathroom policy). we walk onto the steaming blacktop, and sit down in a group. an administrator comes by to take down numbers and names, while students are clamoring for information. teachers are frantically calling relatives and loved ones on cell phones, only to find the lines jammed. i try to keep my students calm by talking to all of them. they ask me if i'm scared. i tell them i'm being honest when i say i've never been more scared in my life, but that i also knew things were going to be ok, and that i'm glad it happened at school, that it's probably the safest place to be right now. they begin telling me how scared they were. Kevin is anxious to run home and see if his granny is ok. Miguel wants to go, he doesn't want classes for the rest of the day. Deandre is complaining about the hot hot blacktop and how his legs are burning. i tell all the kids to pull out their journals and write about the earthquake today, how they felt, what went thru their minds, to write about it so they could remember years from now and tell their kids about the day they were at summer school with their new teacher Ms. Lee when an earthquake hit. i told them that this made today special, that because of what happened today, i would never ever forget them, or forget Markham, because we shared this scary moment together. i told my students that when i got home, i was going to write a journal just like the one i was asking them to write, so i could share it with my own kids when i had them.

Lonnisha looks at me and asks "do you have kids, Ms. Lee?" i pause, i smile, and i say, "not yet, Lonnisha. but some day, i hope i do. and i will tell them about my first earthquake, and about all of you..."


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


this happened today:
an earthquake of 5.4 on the Richter scale. (when it first happened, we heard reports of it being a 5.8)

i'm ok, just a little shaken (no pun intended).

thoughts in a few,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Aladdin from Compton

couldn't resist.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

should we pretend?

from Dr. Dog's "The Rabbit The Bat and The Reindeer," off their new album Fate (2008):

Well, I don't want a thing to do with your kind
And I ain't got no time to kill on your dime
Strung up, hanging 'round
Looking like you're upside down

Well, I ain't wanting to shed no blood, that's your crime
And I ain't wanting to sling no mud, I clean it up
You ain't what I'd call a friend
I wouldn't even if I could pretend
Man, you ain't like anybody else

As night becomes the sun to rise
As dirt becomes the butterflies
As sure as though it always seems to stay the same
And I'll be waiting anxiously
And I'll be falling fast asleep
And I'll be dreaming of the day the dream died
Uh huh

No sticks, no stones could break my bones like you can
If I knew hate, I'd call it love for you, man
High up on the hill, cheaper than a dollar bill
Man, you ain't like anybody else

Should we pretend that it's the end?
Are you my curse or are you my friend?
And if we got hit to the end of the road
Will you be there to carry my load?

I'm getting it back with that terrible feeling
My vision is cracked, but it looks like it's healing
I'm getting it back like it's four in the morning
When the sun only shines as if it's giving a warning
I'm getting it back with the rest of the leap year
I'm keeping the rabbit, the bat, and the reindeer
I'm getting it out, whatever I've gotta keep in
I'm telling the truth, said it don't win with pretend
Should we pretend?
Should we pretend?
Should we pretend?

check it: [mp3]
(and check out the new album. it really hits home in the second half, makes me forget to move at high speeds, reminds me to take 'er easy and wind down for a sit and stare on a windy porch...)

love-ing it. it's thursday night, which means i'm probly gonna be awake to greet Friday morning.

never have i been so eager to Thank God for it!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

just had the shittiest day.

no, make that: "having the shittiest month."


i welcome june 2010 with open arms!

(but will settle for august 2008 for now...)

sleep-deprived and depressed,

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"in" love

i'd like to have a conversation with the ppl who put words to the feeling "falling in love."

i'd like to know what they were thinking. i'd like to know if this strange consuming empty feeling – this gripping helplessness and vulnerability, this confusion – is what they'd imagined for people in such a state. or, am i getting it all wrong? is this really "stress-induced fever"? "vertigo"? or perhaps "stomach flu"? maybe i need my appendix removed?

did they know that they were articulating a feeling very different from simply "loving someone"? it scares me because there's a preposition: "in" – i'm inside it(?!) – i've fallen – "fallen in" – was there a trip wire i didn't see? was this the result of some trickery, some carelessness on my part? must i be hurt at the end? or is there a mattress i can rest my head on at the bottom of this tunnel? maybe a trampoline?

and is there a way out?

Monday, July 14, 2008

summer breeze

sitting on my bluff today, watching the sun set into a line of fluorescent smog (or whipped mountain top), my toes digging into powdered dirt and sand while my hands feel the bulge of dinner and overindulgence in too many cups of milk and hibiscus tea settling in my tummy

the air is perfect, the breeze on the edge of this cliff smells and tastes like salty sea air, if i close my eyes or unfocus them on a distant point in the mountains beyond the city, i forget that i am not on the keel of some tall ship, the gentle rocking of the earth below me like the pulse of soft sea waves at night

it's a feeling i wish i could knit into a summer sweater. i don't have much use for sweaters in the heat of summer, but sometimes a sweater is just what you need, you know? the interwoven tangled wooliness reminds me of hands, delicate fragile veiny old woman hands, remind me of my grandmother and toggle buttons and pastel pink rabbit hair yarn, and remind me of the sea, somehow. i think it goes like this: when i was little, i was fascinated and horrified by the story of the Titanic. i was terrified of the sea and of boats and of drowning, i imagined sinking - my lungs filling with water - was the worst way to die. but then i insert a small pink sweater into the scenario, and there's warmth, there's temperature control. the sweater has pockets for little hands (somewhere there are mittens waiting to be matched) and a hood with ears, and the smell of home and dry coziness. i imagine floating on icy water all night waiting to be rescued while my grandmother wraps me in layers and layers of hand-knit sweaters, and it's like she's building me an island beneath my feet to stand on.

i don't need a life preserver; i just need something soft and warm.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

wtf moment #239

this was me on thursday evening, ~10 pm PST, in my dorm room on the LMU campus (click to enlarge):

(the last/first one reads: "i haven't slept >4 hours in 5 fucking days and they're going to blast music right outside my door and try to convince me it's a party?!
OH HELL NO!!!!!")

vital stats:
cumulative sleep for the past week/ 5 days: 7 hours
number of lesson plans to write: 2 (1 final, 1 rough)
number of visual aid posters to make: 2
number of assessments and worksheets to create: 3 (1 end-of-class quiz, 1 in-class-note-taking worksheet, 1 mid-term)
number of hours remaining to finish work, try to sleep, shower, throw on some "business casual" and hoof it to the bus: 8
cups of green tea imbibed: 3
physical affect: delirium - in the form of uncoordinated stumbling, slurring of words, sleep-talking and bouts of narcolepsy



Tuesday, July 08, 2008

updates on the fly!


-i started teaching 6th grade summer school English this week (this is only day 2 of instruction. huzzah!)
-it is going well and i love teaching and feeling like i did a great job when all my students are getting the answers on their assessments right. that is pretty cool.
-also: getting used to introducing myself as "Ms. Lee" and being called by that name. weird at first, fo sho, but def growing on me.
-as much as i love teaching and i love the kids, i am getting to hate the routine. and it's not a teaching issue, it's more of a corporation/management issue. i'm pretty sure that no matter how hard i try to love "the man" the more "the man" hates down on me. *shrug* i'm over it.
-totally sleep-deprived today. only got 2 hours in-between running to make copies, drawing posters, assembling work packets and writing 4 feckin lesson plans last night. this shit is bananas. teachers need to sleep!
-so much work to do tonight: grading tests and worksheets, entering data into a tracker, ANOTHER lesson plan and set of worksheets to make (WTF?!) and they also expect me to go to an evening session from 7:30 to 9?! i couldn't even stay awake during the day sessions...

in sum: being in california and not sleeping and maybe slightly because of my company, is wreaking havoc on my english.

WANTING TO SHOOT MYSELF IN THE FACE (cuz i've already shot myself in the foot!)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

+ smells!

in continuation of my Venice Beach post, i was delighted to find in one upscale boutique a display of Chris Brosius's I Hate Perfume collection. i thought CB's scent philosophy was so fascinating, i always resented the fact that Brooklyn was such a far distance to travel, or that modern technology hadn't discovered a way to transport scent across the internet.
my favorite was Winter 1972, maybe more the concept than the scent. i love the idea and the way the smell kinda helps me put that memory in mind. that's all i really want in a bottle of expensive scent, anyway. i'm not buying the commodity, i'm buying the memory...

the interesting thing about CB's perfume is that, despite how much i love the concept, i have absolutely no desire to buy it for myself. and, i think, ppl who do, totally misunderstand CB's perfume philosophy. to them, it's still a perfume; those memories aren't their own.

i wish instead that CB specialized in bottling those scents we wish to keep, and that you could commission him to travel to your home and sit in that closet with you, taking deep breaths, and he'd write in his notebook the ingredients he'd need to distill this place into a scent: aged fur, your mother's leather purse, the silk scarves from Spain yr father bought yr mother when they were dating. the smell of untouched old clothing and what you've always supposed is the smell of moth balls but still aren't quite sure. the smell of tarnished metal jewelry and belt buckles, the smell of soft light sifting thru plastic garment bags and winding thru sleeves, a sliver of light shining on your face as you sit on the floor of your parents' closet, your arms around your knees, pulling yourself in tight and feeling hugged by all your parents' clothing, hanging down around you like a willow tree. (we'd call this one "In My Parent's Closet, 1990-2000").

if i could, i would create scents named after particular instances in my life, like "April 2007-Spring is Almost Here" and "May 2008-The Summer is Almost Over." and they would remind me of love and precious, urgent friendship, the smell of humidity and muggy Oxford air, the swan pond and sunsets on the roof, sunlight thru tree leaves in the woods and the sweet warm smell of cottonwood blooms lining the streets of Oxford and the smell of sprinkler dew lingering on the grass at night. and i would create another: "Every Summer Before This" and that would smell like sunlight shining in thru curtains and blinds in my room at home in Lexington, old dusty books and wood wax, sweat and pool chlorine and my mother's homemade lemonade and the smell of gas grilled steaks and crisp romaine in a wooden bowl with blueberries and freshly cut apples. and lightning bug luminescence after a summer evening rain, bare feet on soft carpet, VHS tapes, tennis balls and tennis shoe rubber, sunscreen and sun-exposed skin after a cold shower, and my bed at home. the smell of softness and peace.

and there'd be others i'd want bottled too, like "The Windate Writing Center - At Night" and "Serious Relationship #2". and there'd be another called "A Hug", which would be the smell of someone you love holding you tight, your face buried in their chest or your cheek against their neck, and the smell of their laundry and their hair and the warmth of their skin thru their shirt. and there'd be another called "Bike Ride - Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter & Lexington/Oxford/Suburbs/Woods/Chicago" which would remind me of open air and my hair blowing around my face, and the excitement and anticipation of adventure. clean, crisp air filling your lungs and your hair, billowing your clothes like a parachute around your body.

with fond memories and olfactory sensations,

Friday, July 04, 2008

now that you're gone...

"now that you're gone, things don't seem the same.
i may just have to give them different names...
like 'soaking wet blanket,' for the sky.
and 'faded black stars,' for your eyes..."

-from Eef Barzelay's "Song for Batya"

i really liked listening to this song this afternoon after i came back from a 1.5 hour run. i just kept running, starting on LMU's campus, the doors of my dorm, and it felt like the sidewalk opened up before me and i wanted to run until i reached the edge of everything and could peer over the side, maybe sit on that edge and dangle my feet off the end of the earth. i imagine the expanse of space feeling like a cool stream tickling my toes...

i ended up running through one parade, an outdoor concert/festival (there were men dressed as army men, singing that song that goes "living in america..." and there were people clothed in american flags eating hot dogs and cotton candy), a block party, a cookout, a grocery store (where i realized i could buy apples for almost $2/pound cheaper than where i'm going now, though it's a far longer distance to walk), a pool party, someone's garden that i thought was an extension of sidewalk, to the roof of a greenhouse where i stopped for a while under a gnarly tree to think and look out over the expanse of L.A. city and wave at the Pacific, then kept running and running until i realized i'd reached the airport and there were planes landing overhead and decided to turn around.

i came back, not any less frustrated or unhappy (no runner's high this time, which was an unfortunate disappointment, the last time i ran for far less and felt like i'd just gone to the moon! - though my shin cramps the next day felt like punishment) and decided to keep walking until i cooled down. i went to the bluffs, where i like to sit and watch hummingbirds in the trees, but this time i found a lawn chair waiting for me on a rocky ledge, away from the trees but on the very brink of the bluff, and sat there and looked across L.A., wondering what the ppl of this city were doing to celebrate their country.

i came back and did some stretches in the dark, and listened to Eef, and for some reason, those words stood out.

and now, again, i hear Eef's words over the whir of my mind and my laptop:

"...but i still want to jump..."

happy independence day

Thursday, July 03, 2008

the army had half-a-day...

i'm not a huge patriot, but, i gotta say: i'm particularly grateful for the July 4 holiday this year. in fact, it may be finding its place as my favorite holiday of the year so far, because TFA is only doing half-a-day tomorrow.

which, thankfully, means a slew of awesome things for me and my currently lamentable social life:
1) i get to sleep in!! (i get to wake up at 7, rather than 5 am! WOOT.)
2) i don't have to wake up early and get on a fucking school bus (and then proceed to try to sleep thru blaring top 40 radio music. yes, it's like middle school all over again...)
3) i don't have to fight thru 9 hours of physical shutdown, and i can actually try to enjoy the teacher training sessions, rather than worrying about the next time i'll get to use the bathroom or having to sacrifice food or sleep time to get work done
4) i don't have to ride a bus back from training, which means i can high-tail it outta there as soon as we close, which means as soon as we close, i am grabbing my weekend bag and hitting it on foot, walking to the closest coffee shop to drink an iced tea and read a book, and taking a nap until my friend Mike picks me up for our July 4 non-patriot plans (we're both film nerds, so we'll be having a film night and maybe some Thai food... maybe heading to a hipster dance party in Echo Park)

with work being exhausting and not feeling like i'm in a stable, safe, or comfortable mental or emotional state, all i really want right now is to go home and be safe and warm and taken care of for a while. i want a bed that feels like it's mine and be able to lock myself in the bathroom and take a warm bath and listen to my music loud and run around barefoot and make myself tea in a clean kitchen. and of course, more than anything, i want my mom's home-cooked meals and the privilege of not having to explain myself to anyone or feeling like i'm constantly being judged. yes, that would be nice.

i'm going to spend the weekend with my uncle and aunt, maybe go for a long walk and think about things. when i started this post i was extremely happy and thursday felt like a friday and tomorrow felt like a weekend, but now i'm remembering there is work still to be done, confusion still to surmount, and now feeling insecure and unsure of something i never thought to doubt (and feared having to doubt the most) and there's no way home to see things right, so i'm facing the painful realization of being stuck.