Monday, February 28, 2011

Big dreams.

Ever since I had to send one of my sweet students home with a case of lice, I’ve been having sympathy itching all over my body.  It’s been going on for about a week now, and I continue to go through the waves of convincing myself that I am afflicted too.  Unable to find nary a louse, I am academically certain that I am free to go on with my life, but can’t seem to stop the sympathy itching.  School is joyous.  Truly.  Day in and out I have small victories and it’s all worth the imaginings of bugs covering my head. 
Last weekend I made a beautiful batch of sandpaper letters, and already my nonreaders and writers are starting to show changes in the way they attempt to sound words.  It’s mundane for most of us, but for Edgar to make and apply the H sound independently is a big deal for Edgar.  
Nick is in Dubuque for a gathering of things and family visit, and I am here in Pilsen, listening to a random racket of teenagers out on the street below our apartment, hopefully heading home and ending the late festivities.  Chocolate chip cookies are in the oven, ready to top off my single lady dinner of leftovers and brie melted on pasta.  I’ve just watched Waiting for Superman, which was not surprising or new, but was re-inspiring and rejuvenating.  The state of education in our country is embarrassing, but also is the state of our teaching force, and without overhaul, change is going to be really slow.  The question is simple, how to revamp the current system in a way that serves the students.  But the problem is complex. Unfortunately for us, we are entrenched in such a deep and old system of power and entitlement: accessing the decision making table is really hard. Somehow we need to involve people in restructuring schools, offering up the feeling of ownership to families and community members and teachers.  If it is the responsibility of us all, equally, then we might find success.
Even with all of these words about saving the world through the children, I feel like I am living a double life.  Simultaneously, I believe that dancing and making the choice to dance, perform, and improvise is a political activist statement and is equally important as being a teacher.  Putting artistry out into the world, the atmosphere, putting intention into the shared air has got to mean something towards our collective good. 
I had such a fulfilling performance one week ago today.  Two of my closest friends, who happen to live their lives in ways that incorporate dancing, and I participated in Collision Theory (curated by the venerable Dan Mohr) at Links Hall.  We improvised for the first time with a band from Madison (Spires that in the Sunset Rise), and Michael Zerang, a household name in the musical improvisation Chicago community.  I could not have asked for more.  
Of course my proverbial cake is huge and beautiful and multi layered. 
This is an old conversation, I realize I want to have and eat the proverbial cake.  There has got to be some way in which I can have a teaching career and a dancing career.  At the same time I know it is only possible with serious accommodations on both sides.  It has to be what I make it.  There are people in this world who dance evenings and weekends and are completely happy.  I can be one of those people.  And then there’s issue of location.  We woke up Sunday morning and Nick rolled over had whispered to me, as he’s oft to do, “let’s get a house in the country, and watch the sun rise and set everyday, and have a bunch of dogs and a bunch of kids, and grow food and eat well.”  And this is the icing on my cake of many desires.  
All of this not to mention the call of the buffalo.  I am so nostalgic for the West, for mountains and plains, for long hikes and campfire food.  Those two months we had were such food for the city soul, those memories will keep me going for a long while, at least until the next time of joblessness and lease-less-ness, which will happen again, if we’re lucky. 




Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grutz says, "Aaaayeeee! Mon-ti-cello, I-o-wa!!" (In the voice of the Fonz)

So what's better than mini-bikes?

What's better than mini-bikes and hot-rods?
Large Rubenesque mid-westerners.

Ok, So what's better than mini-bikes, hot-rods, and "husky" mid-westerners?
Kids in biker gear.

I can go along with that.  So what's better than mini-bikes, hot-rods, "doughy" mid-westerners, and kids in biker gear?
The Fonz.


Nary does it get better than mini-bikes, hot-rods, "big-boned" mid-westerners, kids in biker gear, and the Fonz.  Throw in a Jonesy's colossal pork tenderloin?  (insert gagging sound here) But that's what you would have found yesterday at the Monticello Auto Show.  Henry Winkler, aka Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, graced eastern Iowa with his presence to attend the auto show.  I watched the clip at the Telegraph-Herald, chuckled a bit, grinned seeing the Fonz, noted how sweet the kids were, gawked at the patrons and then said to no one in particular (Carleen's away dancing), "Yep, ah, that's a good, um, representation of your average Iowan, at least from eastern Iowa (a total dis to the western part of the state).  Why didn't I become a cardiologist?"  Followed by, "I miss Iowa names of cities and rivers, like Keokuk or Wapsipinicon or Nevada (pron nə-VAY-də.)"  Hearing the director of the auto show say "Keokuk" a couple of times made me smile.  ATTENTION: All our Iowa readers, add a comment below with your favorite or odd Iowa city, county, or river/body of water name. Here's some examples, Allamakee or Balltown. Heck, even our non-Iowan readers, lets hear about your places, too!

But back to my observations of the patrons of the Monticello Auto Show, maybe this is why many of the men at the show wore jeans with elastic waistbands and the ladies wore sweatpants:
While in Solon, Iowa you could eat this.  I'd recommend visiting with the Linden clans instead. You won't need a breath mint or bypass surgery after hanging with Uncle Tim or Uncle Jim.   
Other than the Sunday morning routine of online newspapers, IPR, and seeing Carleen off to her contact jam, I built a towel rack.  Our new place in Pilsen is quite nice, dare I say the nicest (bells and whitles) place I've ever lived.  But there's a lot of wee problems.  The buzzer, the mixed up hot/cold faucets, poor insulation, no towel rack in the second bathroom, just a lot of half-assed jobs that yours truly has been fixing/addressing.  Our last apartment in Logan Square was plain, simple, solid.  Not a damn thing wrong.  Kind of like a a buttermilk biscuit.  Our new place is like a fancy french pastry, but prepared by someone who really should stick to making toast.  Anyway, with some scraps and some dowels I found, here's the rack drying, waiting paint.
I roughed up the edges to make it more rustic as the scraps were in no way square or true.  Not a chance in hell.
Here's a peek at some of the other items I've thrown together when I'm not squirting foam insulation in to  thousands of gaps throughout the apartment or weatherizing the doors.
Notice the bookshelf I threw together of few weeks ago.  No books.  No, Carleen & I are not ignorant simpletons.  All our books are vacationing in Dubuque (they like the bluffs and the casinos).  Hopefully, we'll have them back soon.

Here's a simple desk.  Carleen picked a great color.  I found the chair in an alley.

One of the sets of hooks I've made.  This one's mounted in between the dressers, that happened to be mounted in wall of the dormer second floor. Notice the trim is not painted or stained and you can see the filler. Gah, more half-assedness at work.

A mirror in the entryway.  To make sure I'm hot before I leave.  Wait, I don't have to worry about that, I'm always hot.  Kidding aside, I picked up 6 12"x12" mirror tiles and will be building frames around them in the future.
Best get moving on this Sunday, what's left of it.  I'll keep you posted with the rack and other projects.  Also, my new ventures into cooking, stand by for kitchen mayhem.  Now your smart part of the day, our happy birthday shout outs!

Irwin Shaw (February 27, 1913 – May 16, 1984) was an American playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and short-story author.

John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and East of Eden(1952) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937). He wrote a total of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and five collections of short stories. In 1962, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882) was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and "Evangeline". He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedyand was one of the five Fireside Poets.

At the very least you're getting some slice, however slight, of culture from this blog.  Yippee!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grutz says, "Happy Birthday Wilhelm Grimm" or "Whoa, it's a Pollock painting, not a commodity!"

 Jackson Pollock's Portrait of H.M.  This was my neighbor in Iowa City.  To think, the MAN wanted to sell it!
I hope everyone is celebrating our favorite Grimm's birthday today, 1786.  See, you learned something today.  And I hear the collective sigh of relief from the decision in the Iowa Legislature to not sell a painting by Jackson Pollock, owned by the University of Iowa.  It's a staggeringly dynamic and huge mural that I was lucky enough to enjoy on many occasions as I lived across the street from it's home on campus.  Of course, since the flood it's in the Figge Art Museum.  As everyone knows, I love my beloved home state of Iowa and I'm happy to quickly point out all that's great about the Hawkeye State.  But oh, the pain and sorrow I feel when the state gets recognized for something ridiculously stupid and inane, such as the proposed sale of the painting to raise revenue.  Thank goodness cooler heads (even Terry Braindead Branstad) prevailed, although it's still unnerving.  Here's a recap.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grutz says, "Happy Valentine's Day" or "Good God! It's melting! The SNOW is MELTING!"

Happy Days one and all on this lovely holiday(?)! After enduring copious amounts of snow and harsh subzero weather the last few weeks, a respite! Temperatures hovering around 40!!!!  The possibility of 50 later this week.  Be still my beating heart.  I have come the the conclusion that landscape is terribly important.  John O'Donohue's Anam Cara beautifully reinforces this (I also suggest listening to an interview he gave before his passing, find it here, at Being) Included in that is the weather.  Spirit can be ground to a sliver by -40 windchill.  So can a bad alternator in such ridiculous weather (A CURSE ON YOU, VILE ENGINE COMPONENT!).  Conversely, a sunny day, void of anything freezing and your lips can't help but smile.  Aside from the alternator, my mood is elevated but such wondrous weather this Valentine's Day.
Grrrrrr, I WILL CRUSH YOU! More on this epic battle in the future.
Ahhhhhhh, Valentine's,  I am overly fortunate and lucky to have a wonderful and interesting life.  Far too many factors play a role in this life of mine, but at this very moment, I'd like to give a shout out to those things I love, going through my brain, at this moment, inside the Lozano branch of the Chicago Public Library System
I love my daring, beautiful, and caring wife.  She's the bee's knees and I dare anyone to prove otherwise.
The events of the last half year have been more compelling, exciting, and well, rather random, at times than ever in my life. I feel like I'm a character in a world of fast-paced novel.  All these ins and outs, ups and downs, have been navigated with such kindness, compassion, and intelligence by my grand wife.  Carleen, I love you this Valentine's Day (but you probably already knew that). 
At the whole other end of the love spectrum, waterproof boots.  Oh, how I do NOT take you for granted.

In the week following the snow storm (which I might add, I swear I read about it in the Book of Revelations) cars were of little use because of the roads and mechanical issues (see above).  Bikes, too, we're out of the question as neither Carleen nor I posses bikes with giant nubby tires required for the deep, deep, deep snow fall.  To the rescue, waterproof boots.  Sure, the snow isn't really wet at 5 degrees, but at 40, with all that yes, waterproof boots.

I also love my family in Iowa and Ohio, friends, music, books, microfiber cleaning clothes (wonderful on the floors of our giant manor apartment), my Old Style hat (see last post), Pilsen (when I pretend I don't see all the trash and men pissing in the alleys), and of course, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

I'm also loving the Chicago Public Library Museum Passport program.  Though many musuems are free for teachers.... or people with teacher ids...ahem, some are not and your can score passes at times from your local CPL.  I made a trip to the Shedd Aqarium a few weeks ago and what blast!  Not only do they have fish, but.....





 And fishes from the world over, fresh and saltwater.  Mammals, too.  I had no idea it was +$30 admittance, so if you're planning to visit us (and we do have an extra bedroom.....I'm just sayin') there's lots to do, including the Aquarium.  Well, got to run, by battery is dead.  I love you all on this Valentine's Day.                          

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blizzard 2011- welcome respite!

And there's the happy shoveler himself. 

This is right in front of our building- BEFORE....

And AFTER....

Pose for the camera.  You can see our car just behind him. 

And here's a view down 19th street, looking westward.  Our car is on the left. 

We’ve endured Blizzard 2011 with comfort food, Masterpiece Mystery videos from the library, and NPR.  The 60 mph winds elicited new and curious sounds from our apartment building, and our car has been fully and graciously insulated by several feet of drifting snow, but we remain relatively unscathed and well slept.  CPS has had an historical 2 days school free, and what a treat it’s been as Chicago looses its reputation of being so tough on snow days, and the blizzard breaks an impressive 12 year streak.  The core personnel were supposed to be at schools so that if children showed up they would be able to be fed, at least.  Since we’ve moved back to Chicago we haven’t yet gotten wireless in our apartment, neither did we bring movies or too many books, so our entertainment skills have been tested and we’ve been cooking, and eating and listening to the radio ALOT.   I would be a great candidate for the NPR news quiz right now because, it’s been on nonstop for the past few days.   Nick made a delicious bread, we made a soup of curried roasted root vegetables, I made cookies (with an improvised recipe because we don’t have the internet or any cookbooks), and we made awesome nachos with mango peach salsa, jalapeños and queso. 
Now we are contemplating leaving the apartment, braving -3˚F temps to bus it to Home Depot for some peaceful, sage green paint that will adorn my new desk that the house husband made.  
On a somber note, hearing about the struggles of the Egyptian people continues to bring home the extremity of our freedoms.  Our biggest daily complaint here is about how the side streets haven’t been plowed, and probably won’t be for quite some time.  Or, about how we have to walk to a coffee shop for the internet, and don’t have any good movies at home.  We operate on an expectation of entitlement, we deserve to have certain things, and yet the things that we deserve are luxury for so much of the world.  People regularly give their lives for basic human rights that we have often taken for granted in this country. 

The juxtaposition of prayer and rebellion is incredible: how such different feelings can be simultaneously so strong is really moving.  Yahoo image link

Irony of ironies.  It was too cold to walk to Home Depot, and we are at McDonald's again to WIFI and observe the legions of older men that are having social hour.   Nick makes a good commercial, he is hipstering up McDonald's!