03 April 2009

Watching the World

The little girl next door is 2 years old today. Her name is Heaven and she is drawn to the Second Chance Gateways. She's out there now running her fingers through the trinkets; the sound comes back to me through the kitchen window as soft clinks and clicks and dings beneath babyish coos and giggles.

We were a group of nine last night at Canal Place Cinema to see "The Class." I was the tallest. I had the darkest skin. At least five of us were teachers.

The film is the story of a year in the life of a middle school literature teacher in an inner city school in Paris. My own most recent middle school adventure ended last week ("they" are "cutting back" and, not surprisingly, the role of piano tutor was viewed as nonessential so I was let go). Some of the episodes in the film were painfully familiar, reminders of why I wasn't entirely disappointed when
my job at KIPP ended.

After the film, we stood in the lobby in an irregular circle (curious to me when people don't notice their body placement is blocking someone else out of a circle) and talked about the film. It was, unfortunately, one of those thumbnail conversations where people say things while looking at each other but the comments don't respond or relate to previous comments; a series of expressed opinions about education and teaching and discipline.

It was, for me, like watching another film.

Last Sunday I was gifted two tickets to the American premiere of "Scandalous," a musical theater piece based on the life of D.H. Lawrence. There are few pleasures that compare to watching a play. Even if it's bad, it's still live entertainment and that's time well spent in my book. My companion was sufficiently moved by the story to shed tears in the final act. Stories about tortured artists or social misfits usually make me cry, too; but the musical theater form is too removed from "real" life to touch me in that way. Occasionally a certain song pierces the artificiality. "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" from Evita is an example; tears me up every time I hear that song.

I miss doing musicals. Maybe I can find a way into that world here in New Orleans. I wish the printed program had credited the musicians.

Two little women live up the street from me. They must be about 4 or 5 years old. I call them "little women" because they're such old souls. Sometimes they're sitting on the stoop with dolls, talking about how "these kids are getting on my nerves." Or they're trying to train the ever-patient labrador retriever in the yard next door through the wrought iron fence that surrounds the property. Today they were out front sweeping the sidewalk.

"You gotta work today?" one of them asks as I walk by. "No," I say, "I'm on my way to the market."

"Oh! Can you bring me back a little snack?" she says. "Maybe some wings or something..."

I run into this a lot here: very old pre-school age girls. They're very self-possessed--with their painted nails and pierced ears and rhinestone-studded sandals. And I always wonder: how much do they know? I mean, would it be worth my while to give them my business card?

When I first came to New Orleans I couldn't find a Guinness Stout to save my soul. I'd decided it just wasn't sold here. "Oh, I can get you a Guinness," said Josh, an eight-year-old vagrant who used to hang around the volunteer camp in Algiers. And, sure enough, a couple of nights later he showed up with two bottles.

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