Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seemingly Useful Tip

Every so often some new unlucky acquaintance will ask me, “So...how did you get your current job?” I ask if they want the long version, and they are left with no choice but to say, “Yeah, I guess.” Then I launch into it:

My mom was at Pizza Ranch (the best restaurant that modern man has come up with) in George, Iowa, last April with God knows who. She was conversing with a girl I ran cross country with in high school. There's not a ton to talk about in Iowa, so the topic of discussion somehow got around to me and where I was, which was Seoul. The ex-cross country runner exclaimed, “Oh! I know someone who is in South Korea!”

How did she know Brock? I am not sure. But she told my mom that he was in S.K., and my parents immediately went online and e-mailed both him and me. He sent me a Facebook message, we went to church together one fateful Sunday at DongAn English Worship, where there is a fellowship group after the service, a fellowship group at which I met a one Mr. Allen Dawson, who asked me about my life. So I told him I was a hagwon teacher with an English education degree who was planning on bailing back to America. He said, “Oh, that's funny. The English teacher at the high school I teach at is leaving after this year.” Funny, indeed. I though little of it until a few weeks later, when he added me on Facebook. I had to acknowledge this new connection we had, so I reluctantly asked him about the teaching opening. He sent me my current principal's e-mail address, I e-mailed her my resume and a cover letter (or something), she told me to come visit the school, I showed up one night, she told me about the school and asked me if, assuming the board approved this move, I'd accept. I thought it over and, not feeling led in any particular direction, said yes. Days later it was a done deal.

How nicely this all fell into my lap. It also worked out nicely that the ex-English teacher happened to attend DongAn English Worship as well; in fact, he'd led the small group that I went to with Brock from Correctionville. It also works out nicely that I have returned to this church and am in a small group that he leads. And that I have his e-mail address. And that I e-mail him from time to time, hoping to glean knowledge about the classes and students he so meticulously educated.

Mr. Kim is not the only person I have been e-mailing these days. I find myself e-mailing scads of figures from the past. I am in fairly close correspondence with one of my [genius][caring][empathetic] cooperating teachers from my student teaching placement in Mahtomedi. I have e-mailed three different professors from Bethel and have a few more in mind for the near future. I have e-mailed at least that many students with specific questions about what they would do with this theme or with that book. I find that these topics work themselves into conversations all over the place. I keep correspondences with a number of good friends back in the Midwest; occasionally I will ask them what they thought of a book or a poem or what they'd have the kiddies write a paper about.

Even at my current school, there are many valuable resources in human form. There are many teachers who know the policies and the students better than I do, but many who also have teaching tricks up their lil' sleeves. So far my favorite resource has been Mr. Williams, partly because he, just as I am, is a tall, white, single, twenty-three-year-old first year English teacher who is somewhat overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of realtime teaching but who, nonetheless, worked extensively in the cafeteria during college and likes to make the occasional edgy joke. I find it very helpful to be able to collaborate with Mr. Williams over things such as pronouns, plagiarism, and alliteration. I think we also keep each other sane, or maybe insane. He sent me a message the other day that said: “Dude. Some kid in my class cited Google, Wikipedia, and Naver as sources.”

Anyway! What I am getting at is that despite having a college degree and despite supposedly being endowed with so much knowledge and so many tools of the trade from my university, I am still finding that my most valuable resource is in relationships and networking. Don't have any ideas to get the youngin's reading on their own? Mr. Kim suggested the letter essay, his brainchild. Can't quite remember what a certain poem was called that would be a perfect example of informal writing? Angela Shannon knows; it is called “A Poem for Magic” from Quincy Troupe. Don't know what the topic of a paper about “Beloved” could be? Mr. Ray Kirby shares his insights: “Do you have to read Morrison? Yuck.”

I am not the only one to network and seek self-improvement that way. Just today I got a Facebook message from a college friend who was student teaching; he wanted to know if I had any advice. I tried to share. A few months back another Bethel man e-mailed me about Poly School; the guy ended up not only working at the same school that I taught at, but also living in the same apartment. 510, baby. Bask in it. A third person, not at all from Bethel but, rather, from Seoul, sent a mass e-mail out to his friends and coworkers, asking their opinions and experiences on speaking in tongues. Despite not being close with him at the time, I obliged and sent a scathing review of a Korean prayer service that once scarred me. I hope it contributed well to whatever he needed opinions and experiences for.

Is this concept confined simply to teaching high school English at Centennial Christian? No! Each of the three jobs that I've obtained in the past year have come via some connection, at least in my slightly deranged opinion. Poly School was not even my idea. An ex-girlfriend suggested it and, when that fell apart, I still took advantage of the interviews she'd set up and finally headed east. YouthWorks? People in their recruiting department, whose light bulbs I had changed during the fall of '08, knew far in advance of my family that I was headed stateside for the summer. Having a foot in the door there made my interview fun and relaxed, despite being at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday. And a quite random string of aforementioned acquaintances got me to where I currently sit, spitting sunflower seeds and killing mosquitoes.

Thus, the moral of the story: hang on to those relationships. Drag out those friendships. Keep in touch. Get phone numbers, e-mail address, Facebook confirmations, blood types, Social Security numbers, and jeans sizes. And give them out, in droves.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bag 'Em and Tag 'Em

The following account details experiences that, though due in no part at all to my own efforts, I believe to be possible only in the city I am currently in.

(1) NBA Asia Challenge 2009

I think I probably already e-mailed a detailed report of this to everyone I know who would care. Sorry.

A few weeks back, I had the unique opportunity to see an all-star team from the Korean Basketball League play a team composed of NBA Development League studs Billy Thomas, Derrick Dial, Marcus Hubbard, Russell Robinson, Lanny Smith, Chris Ellis (who, though I did not realize it at the time, is on the Sioux Falls Skyforce roster, which makes him more of a man than the aforementioned players), Vlade Divac, Tim Hardaway, Robert Horry, and Dominique Wilkins in NBA Asia Challenge 2009. I know you thought about ceasing your read in the middle of that longer-than-necessary sentence, but yet you did not.

I hope that you are now thinking something along these lines: “How did that team get assembled? I am jealous to the tenth power that you got to do that,” as Orvis – who is being quoted against his will – did upon hearing about this. Or perhaps you thought, “That is ridonkulous,” like Clayton – who is being quoted against his will – did. I know those were sort of my reactions as well, only I was happier and more grateful that someone had dropped out at the last minute and I scored his or her or its ticket.

The game was held at some arena where most to all KBL games are held and where also, I believe, some hoop-related elements of the 1988 Olympics may have occurred. The game did not sell out; in fact, the dude who decided that I was worthy enough to deserve a ticket (somehow) was angry at how poorly the match was advertised. That being said, it reminded me a little of a Timberwolves game, or even a Skyforce game, in that not every seat was filled and because we got seats that were super close. I have sat basically next to the Skyforce bench (thanks, Uncle Larry!) and so it was a bit reminiscent of The Arena in Sioux Falls...

...until we literally ran into Robert Horry and Vlade Divac as they came out of the locker room with the rest of the crew. Both of them struck me as unnaturally huge, especially Horry, who plays out on the wing. I have always wondered how these grossly tall men like him or Dirk Nowitzki or even LeBron end up playing outside. I assume that as tall kids in middle and high school, they would have trained to play in the post, where all the other abnormally tall middle and high schoolers play. That is how I suffered; at six feet no inches in seventh grade, I began my post training and never stopped. I didn't grow any taller, and everyone caught up to me, so then I was just a skinny guy of average height among the trees of Sioux Center and MOC-FV. But, anyway, how did Dirk's coach not only to teach him sick post moves but also make him hit NBA-length threes until his hands bled? Who knows.

Also shocking was the sight of none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was the “Celebrity Coach” for this crew of ex-mighty men. Some other dude, an assistant coach for the Lakers, I was told, actually ran the show, and Lew just sat there looking crabby and skinny in his jeans. Maybe he had some bad kimchi the night before.

So we watched all the warm-ups and the photographs. The expert in our group, Mr. Luke Elie, said that the NBA would destroy the KBL team. Such a statement could hardly have been farther from the truth. The NBA team started the four veterans and one of the D-Leaguers; in essence, a nearly fifty-year-old, a guy who couldn't make the real NBA cut, two fairly capable players in Horry and Hardaway, and...Vlade, whose efforts left something to be desired.

The game wasn't really close and not a ton happened that was worth mentioning. That's never stopped me from going on and on before, though, so why should it now? The NBA team played typical American-style basketball, which was basically characterized by the lack of teamwork. Dominique Wilkins seemed to be the go-to scoring option and, for a man of forty-eight, he did alright. My sources tell me that he was more of a wing player back in the day, which makes sense, considering his reputation as a dunking phenom, but the man is still six-foot-eight and posted up the smaller Korean guards who had the misfortune of covering him. And, finally addressing the question that has no doubt been overwhelming your mind for the past thirteen or so seconds: yes, Dominique Wilkins can still dunk a basketball on a ten-foot hoop, despite having put on what can be politely described as three spare tires. He did it twice.

Additionally, it was pointed out to me that while in American basketball special care is taken to keep the ball handler outside, away from the basket, to prevent him or her from driving to the basket and scoring that way, in Korea players are apt to shoot the lights out from three-point territory as opposed to taking the ball inside. This seemed to be especially true this particular afternoon, as the American players (should I really be saying Ameri-serbian team, to be more politically correct?) were quite a bit taller than their Asian counterparts: the Korean all-star crew hit an inordinate number of three-point shots, because that, apparently, is how basketball is played here. A three-pointer in Korea is like a lay-up in Kansas. It's the first thing you defend against. The Americans and Serbians did not; consequently, they lost by a good twenty points. I think the only person who cared was Hardaway; as the clock ran out, he threw the ball into the upper deck.

Some hijacked photographs from the both the pre-game and the game.











These are the fine individuals, Copay and Mr. Nola, from whom I stole the pictures above and below. A thousand thank you's, gentlemen, for not stopping me in this endeavor.



This account wouldn't be complete without mentioning Sly Fox, Bonnie, Laura, Melody, Jess, Cecilia, and Siobhan, who presented all the entertainment during the timeouts. Reliable sources (my eyes) reported that none of the had wasted any time checking luggage; some to most of their wardrobe had been left in New Jersey from whence they came. But I must mention them because between the third and fourth quarter they set up a trampoline on one side of the court, and those ladies threw down better dunks than any of the professional athletes did by far. It was impressive. So our hats are off to you, ladies, and wolf, whose connection to the New Jersey Nets escapes me.



(2) Noraebang

One thing that I'd escaped Korea without experiencing, until fate swept in, was the noraebang, which is just glorified karaoke. There are entire floors, entire buildings, and probably, somewhere, entire cities of these rooms that just have mics and lights and screens that equip participants to sing their lil' hearts out in a small private room. I include it only because growing up in the Midwest, I had never seen such a large demand for this singing wildness like I have in Korea. I suspect, somehow, that there are other countries in Asia in which this concept is as popular, if not more. Figure it out.

My experience in a noraebang was spontaneous, abrupt, and against my will. A girl from the church that I usually attend was, regrettably, heading back to Ohio, and so obviously something had to be done to see her off. Nine or ten of us, including those with whom I came, decided we were going to go sing in some small, dark room for an hour, and pay for it, and so we went and did it.

It was okay. I sang “Wonderwall” from Oasis. The last time I belted that one out was to wake up all the boys who were sleeping in the third floor classroom in the Potter's House in Niagara Falls. We put in our hour and left, as did the departee. I hope it meant quite a bit to her.

(3) River Boat Ride

A couple weeks ago, I got a text from Ten-Mile about going on a river boat ride. I was pumped about this invitation because I love any opportunity to get a sweet look at this city, and I knew without a doubt that going on a vessel on the Han River would provide such a view. She said to meet at such and such a station at 6:30 on Saturday evening. On that particular day, I decided that it would be okay to take a nap in the afternoon. When I woke up, it was 6:18 p.m.

Two items on “The Hate List” are tardiness and indecision. In that moment, those two loathsome pet peeves came grossly into play: should I still try to make it? I would be abysmally late if I did, but this was still better than sitting at home blogging all night. So I threw on dirty clothes, a defunct belt, soiled jeans and took off out the front door toward the subway, which is a twelve-minute walk, or a five-minute jog. It is more like six if you have to hold your pants up the whole way. I threw myself onto a train at 6:31 p.m. and realized I only had four or five stops to go.

Four or five stops later, I got out and realized that I'd been here before, and that I remembered something about this stop at Yeouinaru Station, and that what I remembered was awful: this stop seemed deeper underground than any other subway stop in the eastern hemisphere. By a lot. So there were sixty-eight flights of stairs for me to sprint up, all the while holding my stupid pants up.

At 6:48 p.m. I burst forth from Exit 1 into the dusk and toward the KFC. I found the rest of the crew, mostly people I didn't know, casually standing around, showing few to no signs of planning to board the ship in the immediate future. It turned out that the cruiser did not leave until 7:30 and that we were waiting for other folks as well.

The ride itself had the potential to be way sweet. The river curves through the metropolis and, since its wide span is visually unobstructed for the most part, one can see everything there is to see, which is a lot, especially at night. It was just as I imagined. We headed east for about twenty minutes and came to a halt a quarter of a mile from some bridge. Moments later, a massive display of lights shattered the darkness that covered the bridge; colors of every shade shone out at us. This was accompanied by an equally impressive number of water jets shooting off the bridge and into the contaminated water below. It was quite a sight.

But not enough of a sight to last for fifty minutes. I grew weary of it after about a quarter of an hour, and we just sat there, not moving. When it was over, we turned around and headed back to the drop off site. We did not venture past the bridge, where undoubtedly there were more tall buildings to be seen.

In my haste, and despite the earlier threat to drag it everywhere, I did not bring my camera. Just like I did not bring my camera to an equally opportune photo event: the basketball game. Nonetheless, here's a picture of the entire crew who went. Again, this picture is stolen from Facebook, off the profile of a Crown alumni who was also on this cruise o' cruises.



(4) The Sixth Annual Asia Song Festival

Yet another experience that strikes me as exclusive to Seoul reared its ugly head a week or so back. This time around the exclusive experience was the Sixth Annual Asia Song Festival. What it was advertised as, to me, at least, was an enormous pop concert, headlined by bands I'd actually heard of: Big Bang and Girls Generation. The former was a boy band that I learned about from some fifth grade girls at Poly; they had trading cards of each of the members. Come to think of it, I heard of Girls Generation at Poly, also; somebody scored a poster of the all-female band and put it up on Bernard's desk.

I was attracted to this event for three reasons. The first reason was that it was free for foreigners. I am not sure what it cost for a citizen of this fine nation to attend, but I haven't lost any sleep over it. The second reason was that a dude named Jeff basically set the whole thing up for fourteen people, including myself. Thanks, Jeff! The third and final reason is not because I love K-pop like you are probably not chuckling about. It is because I sensed that a ridiculous evening was about to unfold itself, and I figured that I'd better be there.

The insanity went down at World Cup Stadium. It was a state-of-the-art sporting facility, one that I wouldn't mind seeing a soccer game in someday. But on this lovely evening, it was decked out with speakers, fanfare, seating, video cameras, teenage girls, and glowsticks. Sort of like Walden Hall was, but without the centipedes. I got there and joined forced with Jeff and a swing dancing partner of his, and, using every ounce of ignorant foreigner blood we could muster, we made our way through the already-gathered crowd to where we white people could pick up our white people tickets, having to stop for only one interview with a Hong Kong-based reporter.

We got the tickets, which turned out to be V.I.P. passes onto the field level. We ran into a young buck we knew named Billy, who actually had a birthday on the night of the aforementioned river boat cruise and was, by having been born, the cause for the watery sojourn. There was a girl standing by him, and we talked to them for a few moments, but he had to split to find someone else, but the girl stayed. None of us knew why she hadn't gone with him, but it turned out that she had come to the concert by herself and had just happened to be standing there. So we told her to join us, because we knew what we were doing! Ha!

Entered the stadium. Got sprayed by a swine-flu-killing mist. Took seats in R20. Considered ourselves fortunate for arriving early, because Ten-Mile and Megan “Make Like a Tree and Leave” Schwartz came by later but could not find a seat near us. Watched a few warmup bands go at it. Wasn't too impressed. Read “Crime and Punishment” for a little while. Felt better.

Then the true madness started. There was some translating being done by one of the two emcees; what the event basically amounted to was that various premier pop artists from different Asian countries were performing all night. Sweet. They started things off with a traditional drum performance, and after that, it would be safe to say that very little was close to traditional in any sense of the word.

That means most of the female performers wore hardly anything. Most of the outfits were not only scandalous but fairly absurd as well. Oh, well. In no particular order, the set list included...

...a guy from Taiwan named Alan Luo that I don't remember anything about, except that he sang first and tried to look intense.

...a group from Thailand called K-otic that didn't leave enough of an impression for me to write anything about, except that they were not as chaotic as After the Burial has been every time I have seen them.

...Ruslana, a singer hailing from the Ukraine. She was the only white person to make the stage all night. I hadn't thought about those countries over near Eastern Europe...or about Russia. I will not remember her as much for being the lone white performer as I will for the backup dancers she brought with her onto the stage. The men were literally Vikings; they had long, long blonde hair, no sleeves, and bushy goatees. Sort of like Christina, only considerably thicker. The guys stuck out a ton at this Asian event, but I think that the whole lot of them would have looked weird anywhere in the world. Maybe they could have pulled off a sick Cannibal Corpse show, but a pop concert? For teenage girls?

...a...person from China who was ambiguously named Chris Lee. Had we immediately been able to tell if Chris was a male or a female, our cheers may have outweighed our giggles. But it was not so.

...a performing group from Japan called Mihimaru GT (I got the spelling right without having to use Google!) that consisted of a lady singing, a dude alternating between playing electric guitar and rapping, and a DJ. I liked this act mostly because, unlike the majority of the other bands, these two came out and laughed and smiled and just danced around however they felt like it. Everyone else had complicated, systematic choreography routines and didn't smile at all; they looked like they were trying to intimidate everyone. Not Mihimaru. No. They had a good time.

...this old dude from Hong Kong who was said to have been an actor at one point. His name may be Eken Zheng, but I am not sure and don't care that much. He came out in a skirt and sang a slow, melancholy song that got rave reviews from us older attendees, but then he busted into some fast-ish number that was a little awkward. All his girl dancers came out and he basically melded in with all the other bands. Here's to uniformity, I guess.

...some raunchy love tigress from Vietnam named Ho Ngoc Ha. If ever irony was manifested in a name, this is it. All I remember about her was that everything she did up front was dirty dirty dirty.

...Agnes Monica, a woman from Indonesia who looked like Peter Pan. She also seemed indignant that the crowd was not completely ecstatic; she stopped several times to try to get us all to holler louder. Agnes sang a song, then belted out “Heal the World” from the late Michael Jackson, then spent five minutes trying to teach the crowd some clap 'n' stomp rhythm, then abandoned all that she'd taught us and threw down one last jam that involved what I would imagine to be the wild type of dancing they do in Indonesia. She was memorable, at least.

...a rock band (believe it!) called Gackt from Japan. If one were to give them only a simple glance, they looked like they were dressed to open for Das Vikings at the metal show...especially their singer. The band actually did rock out a fair amount. They also did not dance; they situated themselves above the stage in these cubicles that reminded me of that game show that Whoopi Goldberg hosted, Hollywood Squares.

...this Korean lady quartet called 2NE1. These women piqued my interest because in an autobiographical paper that she'd written about herself, one of my students mentioned that she liked this group. Then a few lines later she wrote, “I get a lot of mosquito bites.” I paid close attention to this band. They were alright, for the most part. One member was really alright; she and I are going out on a date next weekend.

...a band that Jeff told me was probably the most popular boy band in the world: Super Junior. I had not heard of them prior to that night. I haven't since. Two things I remember about them: the aforementioned teenage girls went berzerk when this fourteen-man crew came out, and...yeah, there were fourteen young people in the band. One of them was sort of pudgy. Thank the Lord.


...Girls Generation. Or, So Nyeo Shi Dae, so if you ever see the acronym SNSD tattooed on my arm, you will know what it stands for. Isn't this post just a goldmine of useful information? Nine young ladies constitute this group's roster. If you are noticing parallelism between Girls Generation and the nine wraiths from “The Lord of the Rings,” you are doing something right, finally. Girls Generation also sang the only song that I had heard prior to that night, except for the M.J. cover. The song is called “Gee.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it.


...Big Bang. They were the last band to go out. They all committed suicide at the end of their performance. It was really something.

Just kidding. Not very much of the music really did anything for me. Most of the time the lights, the enormity of the turnout, the amusing wardrobe, and witty comments from Jeff kept me thoroughly entertained. If you are noticing parallelism between witty comments from Jeff and a certain Witty Jeff from Maple Grove, Minnesota, you are doing something right, at long last. The dancing was interesting. Most of the performers who weren't from Korea/didn't speak Korean greeted the crowd by proudly saying “hello” in Korea, as if it were an unheard of practice that the predominantly Korea crowd hadn't heard eight or nine times already that evening. Jeff also pointed out that a lot of the songs from the Korean bands had English in the chorus, so we could sing along. Some of the other bands sang in English anyway. Or spoke it shakily between songs. But, thanks for that, people. We felt welcome!

Afterward, I figured that the subway would be more packed than I had ever seen it, but it wasn't. So I went home and drifted off to sleep, hoping to dream of the Triple Rock Social Club.

I took my camera to this event. Behold: photos I actually took.







Working on AP English.



The crowd.







The stage.









Regardless of how long it took you to get through this mumbo jumbo, I am quite aware that I spent way too long writing part (4).

(5) Prisoner Taking

Despite all this, I still neglected to take in two more Korean events that would have made me much worse of a person. One was attending a hardcore show that featured L.A.-based Terror; the other was consuming dog as a meal. Though both probably would have raised a number of eyebrows in a number of different locations, I will level with you all: had the circumstances had been more in my favor, I would be writing paragraph upon interesting paragraph about what both of those unique experiences had been like.

(6) Gamsamnida to Clayton for the title of this post.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn

Note: this post is dedicated to Dave Walden, who once did twenty all-nighters in one month when he was in college.

A few short days ago, Centennial Christian, where I teach now, held its annual lock-in at the school. The event required the attendance and efforts of the entire faculty. The goings-on of the night included a kid vomiting quite a bit of stomach matter during a "Fear Factor" game, students impersonating teachers up front, me getting worked in dodgeball by a crew of middle school boys (but not before destroying some kid's future marriage with a crushing smash to the crotch), none of us sleeping, bathrooms that smelled like recently-put-to-use tombs, most of us eating inordinate amounts of pizza, trashed classrooms, a ghastly battle in Taboo between two English teachers and their studious minions, "Ratatouille," seats near the garbage can full of vomit during "Ratatouille," face painting, and a thunderstorm. A good time was had by all. Except the student who suffered the crushing smash.

Part of it reminded me of being a site director, as a) we were in charge of a ton of hyper teenagers b) I was the point person as far as the teachers went for a part of the night c) many, many games were played and craziness was happening all 'round d) I had a YouthWorks! shirt on. Another part reminded me of other elements of the past, most notably staying up all night and what that does to a person. I figured that, upon leaving the college grounds that were so dear to me, the days of staying up all night were behind me. Apparently, 'twas not so. But as I dozed (standing up, in the middle of the crowds of Seoul somewhere on a bus) the following day, my mind again wondered to that past, to other nights that I'd spent no part of sleeping.

The most related one was from my own lock-in experience during high school. Under the guise of Academic Decathlon, Mr. Daoust, may he live forever, set up this defining lock-in experience for members of the team. There was supposed to be some studying that happened, but you can imagine how the studying fared in favor of [insert any noun that comes to mind]. My most distinct memory, surprisingly, was of a basketball game that was taking place; I do not remember who won, or who lost, or who even played, but I remember mostly how Karasch and I stood on opposite sidelines and threw volleyballs at any shots that went up, and, after a while, any players who went up. What you'd think would dominate my memory of this event was that a one Naked Jon and I streaked down the main hallway at Central Lyon, a hallway we were so sure would remain vacant for the duration of the run. 'Twas not so, but we both hold semi-respectable positions in society today, so: lesson learned. I also recall having to work at Jubilee from 9-1 the following morning. I do not remember anything after that.

Speaking of Karasch, he and I (and Timmy-Mo) stayed up all night in Mexico, a long, long time ago. Ironically enough, that evening also saw a bit of streaking. I recall that I also broke a chair, lost at poker, watched the sun rise on the beach on the Caribbean, and, in a complete fit of slap-happiness, laughed with Karasch and T-Mo until we dang near died as we watched an old "Godzilla vs. King Kong" movie. All was done completely sober. Another sobering element of this tale was that I puked my brains out on the plane ride home because we had to circle over Omaha. I would take puking over what at least two girls in our group did on the drive back to Rock Rapids from the airport. Pants poopers forever they will be.

A third time that I evaded sleep was an evening in Island Park in Rock Rapids, Iowa; there was a girl I was in love with, a girl we think was in love with me, and...myself. If all of the aforementioned statements were true, everyone walked away quite disappointed from the evening. I remember the night being somewhat boring and dull, but the three of us went to the deli at Jubes when it opened and had mud and dirt all over ourselves. And all over the pair of high-heeled sandals I had on; Lord knows I wasn't going to get kicked out again for not wearing shoes. We returned to our campsite and honked the horn on my car while parked a mere six inches from the tent.

There have been other, non-noteworthy instances where, in the course of traveling to Florida, Colorado, or Jindo, I didn't really sleep, either. But when college hit, it was on. Tom Adair made Micah and I stay up and study with him the Tuesday of our first finals week. Did a lot of studying happen? No. Did a lot of water get poured all over the steps to our dorm and freeze? Yes. Did our R.A. slip and tumble on it the following morning? I will let you be the judge of that.

A lot of the other finals weeks didn't bless me with real exciting all-nighters. A lot of the time, when I or we had decided that it was going to happen, we'd spend the latter half of the night doing something destructive, and then actual work or studying would get done in the really wee hours. Once I put together a fifteen-page group paper about economic hit men. Once Mike and I took pictures of Orvis sleeping and then played hockey in the hall with a tennis ball. Once a bunch of us sparked the gaudy tradition that is Loaded Questions. Once I remember hitting a big-time writing block and smashing my hands on the table in the study room and screaming.

Two experiences stick out from those traditions of deprivation. One occurred during the spring of my junior year. On the Thursday of that dreaded week (which means that everyone was already exhausted) my brother and Jake "The Beave" Karasch drove up from Iowa to attend a Bury Your Dead concert. I got out of work and off we went to the Triple Rock. It was one of the most violent concerts I've ever been to, and the highlight was when someone threw a garbage can up into the crowd and the can had a whole bunch of vomit in it. It got all over Jake. We left afterward, grabbed some Big Macs, and then I went with Clayton and Kaycee and Co. to the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Kaycee bought the tickets; I have never paid her. She doesn't read this, though. She told me. We watched the film; it was hard to stay awake. Got back at 4 a.m., then got up at 7 and drove my brother and The Beave to Mankato, where my mom took them back to the zoo. I stayed up all day for some stupid reason, and all evening, and around midnight this girl, who I was in love with but who shall remain nameless to protect her innocence, and I went to Perkins and drank coffee and shakes until 5:30 a.m. Then at 8 I got up and served breakfast in the D.C.

I think the second experience is more interesting than the first. It was the last collegiate finals week of my life. I had to work many a shift in the Dining Center, which stayed open until 2 a.m., during finals week. Multiple shifts here, people. The night before we had this giant Hamlet video presentation due, I was working 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. I did this and headed back to Lissner, where I lived, and where Clayton, my giant Hamlet video partner in crime, was supposed to be editing said video. He told me that he hadn't gotten it done [at all] and that he had to go. So, though I was both mentally and technically unequipped to do anything at this point, I got set up and edited footage from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Let me tell you about this video. Only three people that I know of have ever seen it in its entirety. The class was Introduction to Literature. Clayton and I were the only seniors in it, although originally there were three or four others. On the first day Professor Joey Horstman had told everyone that it was "going to be difficult to get an A" in the class, and thoroughly laid down the law, as every teacher in every class since time began has done, or should do. Lord knows I try. So the other seniors dropped, to which Clayton said, "His tactics to scare the freshmen worked on you all!"

Anyway, I could tell you a million things that you don't need to know about that class, but the main thing was that our final project was to tape a scene from "Hamlet." Clayton and I and four freshmen got assigned the gravediggers scene. No one had any bright ideas, so we decided that we were going to film the scene in the kitchen in the cafeteria. Ophelia was on a table, the grave diggers were preparing to cook her, and she got put in the oven. When Hamlet shows up, he grabs a head of lettuce instead of a skull (we didn't keep human skulls around the D.C....back then) and gives his spiel. When Laertes shows up, he and Hamlet (Clayton and I, respectively) fight, and the scene sort of ends there.

In our version, obviously, the fight gets drawn out into a long chase scene around campus. I creep through the library and Clayton punches me from the shelf. We play chess at the entrance to the cafeteria and Clayton smashed all the pieces off the table in a fit of rage. We play fooseball in the lounge and hit each other the air hockey sticks. I hit Clayton with a chair while he is getting a drink. We scamper through market. We scamper through the CLC lounge. There is clown music playing. The best part was when we got someone in building maintenance to open up Horstman's office and Clayton hid in there; I walked by and he burst out and gave me a crushing smash and ran away.

All that is to say that this video had potential. And I was editing it. It. Took. Forever. For. Ev. Ver. Instead of reading the lines during the actual filming, which would have been difficult and awkward, we recorded them earlier and I dubbed them in. For five hours. At 7 a.m.-ish I started to burn the DVD. We had to show it in class at 11:30 a.m. No sweat.

At 10:50 a.m. the desktop computer froze. I went to class with absolutely nothing to show.

And that was that, as far as the ol' red eye shift is concerned. There have been others, but they have been slavish and boring. I think, though, that enough about late nights has been written. I think, probably, that I've written too much. I think, in fact, that I am going to go to bed now, and that I am going to enjoy the enormous fluffy blanket that a coworker so graciously shared with me.



There is this verse in Revelations chapter 14: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great." Whenever I steal pictures from people via Facebook, which is often, I always want to say, "Stolen! Stolen is Babylon the Great," or something more clever. This is compliments of Mr. Nola and is from the lock-in. He doesn't know I took it yet.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Here's to You, T.S. Eliot...Ya Jerk

*DISCLAIMER*

This is the type of crap that fills my mind when I choose to walk home late at night instead of take a taxi:

There is a specific genre of literature that is ominously dubbed "modernist poetry." I learned about this harrowing type of writing in multiple classes with Professor Dan Taylor at Bethel. I am not going to say I did really well in his classes, but I did retain a thing or two about the modernism idea. I remember that it was difficult to read, entrepreneurial at the time, fairly abstract, and pretty high-brow and elitist. The last descriptive phrase here comes from the fact that a lot of modernist poetry is little more than lines and lines of references, allusions, and callbacks to other pieces of penmanship. Modernist poets certainly did not do the ignorant high schooler-plagiarism thing; they knew what they were doing and intentionally had bits and pieces of other writing in what they put down. I am sure it had some rhetorical value; what exactly that value was usually escaped me.

However, I am finding that, more and more, how I talk and what I say resembles this modernist strain. I can't claim to compete at their level and quote from or allude to deep, classic pieces of literature and philosophy. Heavens, no. What I do is borrow and reference many, many different tidbits from exchanges I have had throughout my short time here on this menial planet. Sometimes I plagiarize and use someone else's joke, and just make it my own. Sometimes I will use a line and then, as an afterthought, I will explain why that is funny to me. It's rarely funny to anyone else. And sometimes I will see the connection in my head and explain it beforehand, thus drawing out and ruining whatever topic was being had, and then tell whatever useless anecdote I had been saving up.

Examples:

- - - There was a very rainy Thursday afternoon in Niagara on which Lisa and I both ended up having time off. And Ben was there. From 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. we exercised this "time off" by sleeping in the huge, wide open gym. Lisa conked out on the couch there and I ended up just sprawling out on one of the rugs in the middle of the gym. Ben didn't sleep. Ben doesn't know what the word "nap" means, at least in English. It was very calming, that sleep, because the rain was pouring down on the gym roof and that was basically all you could hear. It was dark, it was solemn. And it was Thursday, the last day. Anyway, at some point Lisa relocated to her bed room to sleep. Later, when I realized that she'd taken two naps, I smirked and said, in that voice you'd use to talk to a six-month-old, "Nappy, nappy? Twicey, twicey?" She gave me a completely perplexed look, so I explained that once, in the distant past, I'd gone to Clayton's house in the quaint suburb of Mahtomedi and found the place empty and locked. I sprawled out over a lawn chair and a table and fell asleep. Clayton's sister AnnMarie had come to the house, somehow walked right by me, gone inside, and then later discovered me out there. She invited me in and I went into the living room and fell asleep again. I awoke to Clayton leering over me. I opened my eyes, and he said, with his best six-month-old voice: "Nappy, nappy? Twicey, twicey?"

- - - A co-worker sent out an e-mail that ended with this: "...*nods.*" I sent one back that said: "...*wild yelps.*" I saw this phrase written in large, red letters across a big piece of tag board, sitting in the prop closet in the Potter's House gym in Niagara Falls. Stockton had decided that that was the cue she was going to give the junior high audience during youth orientation. Not "Laugh," or "Applause," but "Wild Yelps."

- - - When I was a junior or senior in high school, I have this hazy memory of Snyders explaining that he loved to used the phrase, "That'll happen in a college town," because it was ironic and general. It is great to have such a general statement in a town where, sometimes, you're just going to run out of things to say. Now, a week or so ago, one of my classes and I were studying colloquialisms, and when it came time to give examples, I thought of that phrase, and explained it.

- - - Another colloquialism that I shared came from Stockton. After I wrote this one on the board, I realized that because I spent a glorious summer with her, I had been the proud recipient of hundreds and hundreds of colloquial phrases that, in her native country of North Carolina, were quite common but, when placed in New York with three residents of the Midwest, these phrases never passed without either delight or befuddlement, or both. The one that I shared with the class was, "I felt like a dog jumped in a lake." It was used to describe the overwhelming and disorienting week of training we'd had before driving out to the falls area.

- - - At the beginning of some of these English classes, I have the students write a pseudo-journal entry that answers some vague question I throw out there. Once in a while, I will have them trade entries and circle all the adjectives or pronouns or stuff like that, to reinforce whatever grammatical minutia we cover during the class period. So they write the entry, they put in under their massive books, we learn about antecedents, and then I say, "Alright, people, pull out those pseudo-journal entries. Hold them up in the air. Stir the atmosphere up just a lil' bit." When they give me the stink eye, I explain to them how Deacon Ron would so often get up to the pulpit during services at the Potter's House and, after greeting us with a phrase I am also inclined to use (whenever I take offerings), "Good mornin', saints! It's offering time!" he has everyone hold their offering up in the air. Then Deacon Ron says, "Alright, now, wave it around a lil', stir the atmosphere up." And we do, and he prays over it, and then one of two awesome songs gets played, and we sow our seed, and we walk in increase, and the service goes on.

- - - Even many of the titles to different posts on this blog are insanely vague references to something that I think is funny or worthwhile. Of the five posts from August, three are specific allusions to...something. Of the five posts from July, four are specific allusions to...something. I think they are random enough so that no one will have experienced all of them, but I would be really really impressed if you, the dedicated reader, can identify any of them.

What most commonly happens, though, is that instead of making some reference to the past, something will happen that just reminds me of a story and I stop traffic and tell whatever sucker is nearest me, be it the other English teacher or a room full of fifteen-year-olds (who have identified this habit in me and now try to manipulate it), the asinine story that has just popped into my mind. The three instances that immediately pop into my mind make me want to share the stories here and now:

- - - Each morning I write a "Question of the Day" up on the board, which, for you Central Lyon alumni out there, is also an allusion, one that is to Mr. Wright and his genius. The question usually revolves around a strange fact, like one you'd find on the cap of a Snapple bottle, or some interesting thing that has happened in the news, like a guy getting arrested for taking off his clothes and punching a woman in the face on a Southwest airline flight from St. Louis to Oakland. Stuff like that. A few days ago there was one about a sixty-one-year-old man who was obtained by authorities in Wal-Mart for slapping a two-year-old in the face when she wouldn't stop crying. So I shared this bit of news, and then thought of this story about a one Kyle Marxhausen, who worked at the Target by Rosedale off Snelling. He worked in the office in the back there, and one day a kid from the front came running in and said, "Kyle, they need you up front." Kyle waved his hand and said, "Eh, they'll be fine. They'll take care of it." But the kid was adamant: "Kyle. Really. They need you." So Kyle took his athletic frame up to the front of the store, where he observed two slightly-built hired security guards trying to hold down this huge thug-lookin' guy who seemed like he should have been playing linebacker for the Patriots. One of the security guards was bleeding, and just as Kyle showed up, this maker of trouble broke free and started running toward the exit. Kyle knew action needed to be taken, so he took two steps and speared the guy with the best tackle he'd ever made. He held the guy down, but soon the two hired security wieners told him that, legally, this fella could not be held on the ground, they had to get him. Kyle didn't want to let him get up, but the wieners were insistent, so the punch-thrower was let up. "Obviously" he broke free again, and Kyle had to grab him again. This time he held the dude as tightly as he could on the ground, tight enough so the guy started gasping for breath and saying, "I'm chokin', man! I can't breathe! Let me go!" And Kyle, also out of breath, thought about it for about .29 seconds and gasped backed, "No! I'm not letting go!" Then the cops showed up, and so Kyle sort of let the guy get up, and again this fiend tried to make a break for it, but this time the police just dominated him. It turned out that the man had tried to casually walk out of the store with two thousand dollars' worth of electronic equipment in a cart. He was also an important player in some crime ring that swiped three million dollars or so from Target each year. I think and I hope that I have these facts straight. After it was all over, Kyle and his coworkers went and watched the melee, especially the tackle, on the surveillance tapes, and I guess the whole incident was incredible to watch. C'mon, YouTube!

- - - Two classes were going to study five paragraph essays, so I wrote a sample essay about how I love the Minnesota Twins. My attention-getting story at the beginning was about the games last fall in which the Twins overtook first place late late late in the season...a circumstance which, even now, threatens to reoccur. To recap, they were two and a half games behind the White Sox, a thousand curses on their heads, and in the second to last series of the season, Chicago and Minnesota squared off at the Dome, and Clayton, Sunshine, T-Duck, and I went to each of the three games, and the Twins won all three, the last of which was by far the best baseball game I have ever been at, hands down, bar none, that's all she wrote. My introduction was sort of about the madness that ensued when the Alexi Casilla hit that single into left that drove in the winning run in the tenth inning; it was short, but I gave the long version to the eager young eleventh graders, because I absolutely loved that game and love talking about it. I doubt that they shared those sentiments at all, but I bet they enjoyed the fact that we didn't get to "Of Plymouth Plantation" that day.

- - - A class of four that I have was looking over a conglomeration of literary terms; one term was "tone," and I recalled that which stood in the place of a bell at Central Lyon: it was literally a tone that sounded at the beginning and end of class. The story I relayed was about how at lunch one day, Snyders made the noise that the tone makes five minutes before the actual tone went off, and the majority of the cafeteria, including various teachers of various ranks, got up and started going to class until our lunch table, all in the know, pointed at them and laughed uproariously. Everyone felt stupid. The following day, when the real tone went off, the majority of the cafeteria, including various teachers of various ranks, got up and started going to class until our lunch table, all in the know, pointed at them and laughed uproariously. Everyone felt stupid, even if it was only for a second.

So, yes, this is what happens behind the closed door of Room 607. I think that, with each new place that I go and, indeed, at all the old ones as well, since I will pick up fun stories like the aforementioned at each stop, this trend may continue. Watch out. But I think that, despite all the time it wastes, there is something right about it: after one of these needless stories, a guy I work with remarked, "You really are an English teacher."