Showing posts from August, 2014

Losing Vivaldi

The other day I was listening to my playlist.  Vivaldi's Four Seasons came on and every note sounded so flat that if it weren't for the rhythm I wouldn't have known what it was. I couldn't over-ride it with imagination. I couldn't correct it by adjusting my hearing aids. This means I have to go back to the audiologist and get my ears tested in the dark little booth. Clinically, it means my hearing has declined considerably. Aesthetically, it means I have lost Vivaldi. I have been listening to Vivaldi all my life. I know the Quattro Stagioni like I know the lullabies my grandmother sang to me and which I have sung to my daughter. I know them like I know Beatles songs. Hearing aids are digital denial. They delay the actuality of deafness. Mine are excellent, and when I get them adjusted, I will hear Vivaldi again and enjoy that illusion that I can hear. However, here at the middle moment between technological cover-up and neurological over-ride, my degenerati

The Yellow Chair: The Time I Taught at the Juvee

Back in the 90s I taught at the Juvenile Evaluation Center out in Black Mountain. My students were teenagers locked up for anything ranging from possession of marijuana to sexual assault to assault with a deadly weapon. All my students were working on a GED so they could get out before they turned 18. All had committed their crimes while high. All were in drug programs at the center--all in recovery and trying to see a new life. It is illegal for me to write their names, but trust me when I say I know their names, and I know their stories, and I know what they dreamed of getting for Christmas. I wheeled a piano out of a broom closet and played music on it while they did math. Some of them learned by ear and played for the others. I taught them equally, and I cheered them on. Next to my desk I had a yellow chair where any student could choose to sit if they needed to "chill out" and not be bothered or asked any questions. It was a place of sanctuary within an otherwise

The Teacher Who Taught Me How to Teach

As I begin a new school year, I think of the teacher who taught me how to teach. Marianne Weaver. The entire educational universe would be a different place if everyone could learn how to teach from Marianne Weaver. In every subject. In every institution. At every grade level. Marianne Weaver is that excellent a teacher. I first stepped into Marianne's Muscle Pump class at the YMCA a year after I gave birth. I had never lifted weights before in my life, having gone the yoga road through my twenties and early thirties but now suddenly completely uninterested in yoga. I wanted something else. Something tougher. Something that didn't ask me to develop an inner life. If there's anything I'd had enough of in that first year of motherhood, it was interiority, connection with my soul. I wanted pure, unadulterated body. When I walked past Marianne's class and heard "Modern English" singing "I'll Stop the World and Melt with You" over a roo

O Captain: How Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams' Mr. Keating Shaped My Life

I saw Dead Poets Society in a theater in Piccadilly Circus in 1989. At the time I was a junior in college, studying theater, literature, and philosophy. My walks to class included passing by the former homes of T.S. Eliot, John Stuart Mill, and Sarah Bernhardt, mirroring my own passions, my own indecisiveness of what I should focus upon. I was acting in a play in a small South Kensington theater, but I was waking up at 3 am with a head full of poems that I'd crawl out my window and write by the streetlamps along Queens Gate Terrace, careful not to wake my room-mates.  One evening after rehearsal, my director and fellow castmates decided to venture into town to watch a movie. I hadn't ever asked myself what poetry was or considered it to be something of a great gift. I had written it forever and belonged to it and loved it as one feels love for something always there yet forever surprising. But I walked out of the movie with a very clear view of what I would devote m

Ten Responses to "Do You Read Thomas Wolfe?" That Won't Make You Sound Like an Idiot

As Thomas Wolfe becomes increasingly famous, again, and as Asheville rises with the Wolfean tide, again, here are some responses to the question, "Have you read Wolfe?" that won't make you sound like an idiot, even if you don't read Wolfe. The key here is to avoid saying, "His sentences are too long." 10. The Planned Engagement: Like a lot of people of my generation, I haven't come across much Wolfe. I plan to pick up a copy of the short stories. Do you have a favorite? 9. The Deflection: Oh, you like Wolfe! You can tour his house here! It's just over there on Market Street. You can also stand in his shoes. They've been bronzed! 8. The Shut Down: I have indeed! I've read every word, and the journals, and the letters, as well as multiple published versions of Look Homeward, Angel. I found O Lost to be much more satsifying and loved reading the two side by side, highlighting the altered passages. My dream is to spend a summer thumbi