Saturday, April 29, 2006

In Ponca City (Oklahoma) boys are biting off warts and making fingers bleed. In Songjiang, a District of Shanghai in the People’s Republic, the boss asks if any more doors have been jiggled. She is curious about ghost activity. At 10:30 PM, I take a photo from the doorway of the living room into the hallway and beyond of the metal and glass kitchen door and window which are bathed in the kitchen’s blue light. It has this institutional feel mixed with Picasso’s blue period. The camera I use is the old kind that uses 35mm film. I get the creepiest feeling after I snap the photo like a specter will appear - a jilted lover, a forgotten concubine, a madman riddled with a 1930s policeman’s 44 revolver’s bullets. I can almost feel a spirit hand on my shoulder.

At night, the balconies have an indescribable eeriness, like a vampire may touch down and gaze - with his fangs exposed - into my window. The vampire’s look will surprise me He will look exactly like Monty Hall from “Let’s Make a Deal.”

The building being erected in my backyard has the skeletal appearance of a doomed ballroom overtaken in a long past generation by fire; claiming the lives of the revelers; forcing them to dance and drink in agony for an eternity. The phantom orchestra plays the same set over and over and over. The same drinks are spilt. The same lovers jilted. The same couples argue. The same, the same, the same. This is the future. This is the past.

10 years ago I watched TV.

The painting is finished or at least near completion. My deconstruction will have to wait. The painting has transformed into a boy wading into the apocalypse or something close. If this is not my friends’ son, this is their grandson or maybe great grandson. Fossil fuels depleted, people ride burros across the plains; they row boats down metal-torn rivers. The jet-set pilot their atomic aircycles to frontier malls.

The Shanghai jaywalking crackdown heats up. Two more pedestrians have been detained for 7 to 10 days for disobeying police after being ticketed for the heinous crime of jaywalking. “We get so strange across the border.”

I cut out comic strips – Drabble, Blondie, Peanuts. I white out the dialogue. I make copies enough for 100 students each a strip. They have to come up with dialogue. This should be interesting. This will happen tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will be 8 months sober.

Tomorrow is Saturday. Usually I do not teach on Saturday even though I believe there may be classes on Saturday here in Public High School No. 2. Since they are on holiday next week, they have to make up Thursday and Friday. Thursday and Friday will be made up tomorrow. This is China. “We get so strange across the border.”

Lately, I have been feeling antsy. When I feel antsy, I start looking at the horizon. I like this horizon. I plan to stay fairly close to this horizon. I walk into the kitchen and the gas is on. I do not remember leaving it on.

When summer comes, I am tentatively teaching summer school. I have not made up my mind for sure. I think perhaps I will teach one of the sessions, the one in July which lasts for 3 weeks but the students go all day. I do not know if I can gear myself up for this.

Today, I went back to the shop of cheap goods. I bought the frayed baseball cap with the printing of the skull. I bought a clip on light in case I need it for the trip at night to continue reading ‘Moby Dick.’ I bought another pack of cards. I must be collecting sets of cards because when I see a set I buy it. I bought some red ink. The boy who carries my basket - who always carries my basket when I shop there - pointed to the red color and looked at me quizzically. I shook my head yes. That was enough to satisfy him. I bought a quill.

When I get to the counter, I hand the cashier my card. He looks at it and shakes his head no. I thought I had used my card there before but maybe I had not, though I think I had. I go across the street to Lotus (the center of my universe of course) and get money out of the cash machine.

In New York, I would have been annoyed because the girl in front of me stands there for a few minutes in front of the ATM - after she has got her money - straightening things in her purse. She does not even look at me like she is sorry that she has held me up. I get 100 out of the machine and go back and get my stuff. For a minute, I consider not getting the money out because it seems like so much but then after I think it over I realize I am only withdrawing $12.

My sweet tooth is starting to swerve out of control. Since I have been here, I have eaten cookies and cakes and sometimes ice cream every day. Christine is a frequent stop on my walks. Today I bought the flaky cream cheese turnover. Sometimes I grab the little rolled chocolate sponge cake with cake decorator flakes on top. At the grocery store is a black and white swirl ice cream cone machine. The cones cost 1 yuan (about 12 cents). I feel like I may be turning into Carney Wilson.

Yesterday in the World Geography and Culture class with the Shanghai90210, I started ‘North by Northwest.’ Miko pointed to her chin and made a cleft. I said yeah I have a cleft.
She said, talking about Cary Grant “He’s very handsome.”
“Thank you,” I said. “I am very handsome.”
“No, HIM!” (pointing at the screen) “Him”(still pointing at the screen) “Him” (still pointing at the screen.) Max thought this was the funniest thing ever and turned around and flashed me that comic book look of his. I was sitting in the back – so I could watch and mark points off if they were not paying attention to the movie. Allen was working on homework from another class. She got no points for my class.

In our last listening and conversation class, I told the Shanghai90210 we would have a quiz today over a section of vocabulary words from Maus which I am reading to them. Today when I walked into the class, I asked them if they were ready for the quiz. They all looked at me in shock.
“I told you we were going to have a quiz over the vocabulary today.”
“Quiz?”- Tess.
“We thought we watch movie.”- Miko.
“Quiz?”- Max.
“Yeah, movie.”- Allen.
“I told you. You knew we would have a quiz over those vocabulary words.”
All of them had the look of shock and dread on their face. I let the dread hang for a minute or two and then I said.
“April 28th fools!”
I started laughing uncontrollably and they started laughing. Miko said “You! You! You!”
I know, without a doubt, showing a movie is a cheap way to teach but that rolling celluloid sure makes a Friday ease by.


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