Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Head Swimming with Wants


We're getting rain here in Los Angeles -- buckets and buckets of rain -- and the most beautiful winter sunsets. That picture above was taken on Saturday in Santa Monica. Carl and I were on the beach, and that's facing east, away from the ocean.

Turn around.




Today marked the first day of the second week of my new job teaching English to a group of eleventh and twelfth grade girls. I have three classes, two groups of eleventh graders and one group of twelfth. Each class is unique and one is particularly challenging. Anger and resistance make the air crackle in that room. Heads swim with wants. Take notes, I think. Keep taking notes. I have a mind and a memory like a steel trap, and these girls will join all the other hostages that wander the labyrinthine paths.

I get this newsletter every day from The New York Times newspaper cooking section. It's called What to Cook Right Now. I love it so much -- the recipes, the commentary, the links. Today I learned that it's the writer John Dos Passos' birthday (1896). I read nearly everything he wrote back in the last century, in my early twenties. I probably read him lying on a bed somewhere, maybe in the apartment where I lived with my first love, out in the country in Chapel Hill, a mattress on the floor at the top of the stairs, sandwiched between two walls and a window at the foot, a bookcase stuffed with used paperbacks. I might have been chewing on some Twizzlers when I read Dos Passos, red plastic mingling with brown must. Dos Passos was a hostage, though, wandering around my mind, lost down some dark corridor, until I read about him today.

Teaching these girls, doing the research for lesson plans, revisiting stories and poetry -- it's all packed in there, in my mind, and it seems that there's no end to what one can stuff into it. So, yeah. Take notes, I think. Keep taking notes.

Here's a passage from The 42nd Parallel that Sam Sifton, the guy from the NY Times newsletter thinks describes the writer's life. I agree.


The young man walks by himself, fast but not fast enough, far but not far enough (faces slide out of sight, talk trails into tattered scraps, footsteps tap fainter in alleys); he must catch the last subway, the streetcar, the bus, run up the gangplanks of all the steamboats, register at all the hotels, work in the cities, answer the want ads, learn the trades, take up the jobs, live in all the boarding houses, sleep in all the beds. One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough. At night, head swimming with wants, he walks by himself alone.









19 comments:

  1. I love a beautiful sunset. I read the NYT's What to Cook This Week with my grocery list in hand. I've never read John Dos Passos. Have you decided to read Shelley's Frankenstein?

    Best,
    Bonnie

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    1. Yes, the 12th grade girls are reading "Frankenstein." The 11th graders are reading short fiction and poetry.

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  2. That last shot is a wonder. Did YOU take it? Wow.

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    1. I did take it. The guy was wandering down the beach, deep in conversation with himself or the universe. He looked like a character in a Dickens' novel, to tell you the truth.

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  3. I would love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom.... taking notes of course!
    My 12th grade girl loved James Joyce’s A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The most recent book she read that she recommended to me is The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.

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    1. These girls are not allowed to read/be taught anything particularly provocative or that contradicts their religion. It's difficult, to say the least. I most recently had to stop teaching a Hawthorne short story because it was too provocative, and the allegory contradicted what they want the girls to know.

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  4. Wow! What a sunset! That first picture looks beautiful but also almost forbidding, apocalyptic. I never read Dos Passos. I always heard he was difficult and I suppose that put me off him, though I didn't shy away from other "difficult" writers -- so who knows.

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    1. It looked apocalyptic to me, too -- almost like there was a huge fire burning in the east. And I highly recommend Dos Passos -- I loved them when I was younger and don't remember them being difficult.

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  5. Yep. Some of those winter sunsets in Southern California. Unforgettable. I'm remembering a December 1969 sunset on Laguna Beach with the young man I loved. The photo at the end of your post caused me to breathe deeply in awe and wonder. And I'm remembering what it felt like to fall deeply in love for the first and last time (so far) when I was in the 12th grade in 1966-1967.

    I'm inspired by the creative energy that teaching has brought to your life! Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words and poignant memories!

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  6. So cool that you're teaching. Lucky girls.

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  7. Oh my God this post! First, the photos, just stunningly beautiful, the colors! And it makes me smile to know you are sharing this gorgeously painted world with your love. Then your words, the way you weave far roaming thoughts and people and time frames together, with the thread surely wielded, tenderly gathering it all in to your writer's heart, to inform who knows what creation, and who knows when, and perhaps the creation is not of the word at all, but the woman you are, and are becoming, yourself.

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  8. ps i can no longer leave comments for you in my usual browser. i have to go to firefox in order for my comments on your blog to not get lost in the ether. no idea why.

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    1. I just have no idea why this happens -- there are a few people who complain about this periodically, so I have to think it's something so vast in the internets that we mere mortals will just never understand. Thank you for always leaving such beautiful and thoughtful comments when you can, though!

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  9. A head swimming with wants is something I think so many of us can relate to.

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  10. Oh Elizabeth-the sheer pleasure of reading. I'm sure I survived my childhood reading on my bed, under the covers. There is nothing more delicious than that dive into another world.

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