Wednesday, October 10, 2007

December boys got it bad (or sometimes the students even get the jokes).

October. Where did the summer go? I am settling into the term, beginning to know the students, starting to have my favorites.

In my last class today, the boys in the back were their usual noisy selves. One of them asked what we were to do after the students in the rest of the class had already begun doing the assignment. At one point, this would have made me mad. Now, I just smile. His friend, who is from Hong Kong, seemed to be the ringleader of the noisy pack or boys. When I asked who has been to Hong Kong; a few people pointed him out, this ringleader. They told me he is from Hong Kong.

“Is he the Hong Kong Godfather?” I asked his friends, the noisy boys in the back when they were being there most noisy. This, of course, produced riotous laughter and comments in Chinese by the other delinquents. I just smiled and continued walking around the room like Mr. Chips or Pee Wee Herman as Karen Valentine as Alice Johnson in Room 222. Imagine Pee Wee with a cheap Karen Valentine wig and a tartan skirt.

This is the new kinder me. Sometimes, the students even get the jokes. Sometimes they just laugh as if they understand. I know they don’t. Maybe I am Norman Bates at the end of Pyscho. Really, I would not hurt a fly. A few weeks ago, when these noisy boys were throwing paper airplanes in class, I did not even bat an eye.

That said, fall has always had a melancholy feel to it as if dead things are waiting around the corner hiding from view. Everything starts dying. Of course, summer has always been the time of tragedy but fall reminds us once again we are these rotting mortal coils. We are aging and dying, aging and dying. We are a Joy Division song on an endless loop. Where will it end?

Of course, fall makes me think of the Movies of the Week on ABC back in the 70s. Usually, these movies were based on the supernatural of the bogus kind or weakly served terror and suspense. Don’t be afraid of the dark.

I always watched. Not only did I watch, I anticipated the movie each week. Sometimes, the movie stayed with me in the form of nightmares. I was suckered into them by the preview. I armed myself with peanut butter and crackers, tomatoes and cucumbers, cottage cheese and Guy’s potato chips.

These movies starred whoever were the big television stars of the time such as Valerie Harper, Dennis McCloud and yes, our dear beloved Karen Valentine with her wonderful Roquefort-cheese overbite. Karen, I love you! Please do not take offense. And, do not worry, I am not a stalker; I live in Shanghai for Chrissakes!

Andy Griffith made his comeback in one of these lovely sorts of death TV movies. He played a bad guy. I read a review in TV Guide at the time. Where I was when I read the review I am not sure because my folks never bought TV Guide. That would have been a waste of 35 cents. Dad kept Brown Derby beer in the fridge.

In this TV Guide interview, Griffith stated he wanted to shed his sugary Mayberry RFD image. Shed that image he did briefly before he decided he didn’t mind the sugary image and came back to television as a detective or lawyer or judge or whatever in that dreadful Matlock travesty. In the movie of the week which took place somewhere in the desert near the Grand Canyon, Griffith played a sadistic killer. Somehow, the movie involved a sling shot. That is all I remember.

October, too, brings my college days to mind. Those nights of drinking gin with a cornucopia of citrus fruit sliced and topped in a big glass, a glass which probably came as a complimentary gift from Red Lobster. Whether it was the fruit or being unaccustomed to drink, I do not know, but a doctor was called by Page when I got weirdly sick. Sick on Gin, how could that happen? Those were my gin drinking days. Later, as we all know, vodka replaced gin as my drink of choice. Now, Earl Grey tea is my drink of choice.

At that point, in those gin soaked lazy days, our tragic lives were not yet tragic; no one had died. Everyone was still healthy, moms, friends, everyone. We thought we were living these tragic lives. Everything was dire. Dire. We needed what we needed immediately. Everything was so General Hospital, All My Children. Our lives, we did not really appreciate them. We didn’t study in school. We didn’t even know why we were in school. It was someplace that we inadvertently wound up.

All of us were yearning for something; what that something was, at the time, we didn’t know, but we wanted it, whatever it was. During this time everyone loved the wrong person. No one could figure out who to love. There was no guidebook to love; no guide to guide us to love.

Part of this memory play involves those long autumn evening shifts at Shadowplay Records; that used record store where Styx and REO Speedwagon records reproduced when no one was looking. Suddenly, there were 35 copies of High Infedelity and 42 copies of Paradise Theater.

The shifts - only 4 or 5 hours long - dragged and dragged. Sometimes friends would drop by and visit and listen to the new Kate Bush or Echo and the Bunnymen single or the latest Cure album. Sometimes, I was left to my own devices which included cleaning and pricing records that people in need of fast cash sold. Even after cleaning and pricing records, I stared at the clock and realized I had several hours to work. At times, I would kill time by playing albums by Henry Cow or John Martyn or other obscure artists that hid away in the record bins.

Of course, we carried all of the hippest new music. Sadly, I could only listen to so much Psychic TV, Severed Heads, Hula, and Coil. Sometimes I needed – and still need - B.O.C. real bad. At some point, I would invariably put on Big Star Radio City. Instantly, this would transport me into a world of jingle jangle guitar. This album I kept in my record bag which I always took with me back and forth to work. Sometimes, I threw in Aerosmith Get Your Wings, Sparks Kimono My House.

By the time, I had made it to September Gurls, on the second side of the Radio City record, the autumn evening did not seem so lonely. December boys got it bad. I could relate. I was a December boy and I had it bad, worse than anyone could have imagined. My life, I thought, was a true tragedy. Nothing would ever improve it.

Now, over 20 years later, I live a world away from that time which was so full of strange promise and pent-up emotion. Everything was so mysterious and earnest but vaguely humorous at the same time. Everything was black and white. At that time, there were no grey areas. Life was simple. Of course, that is before I visited NYC, before I had two day meth benders.

Now, I holiday in Hong Kong. Times have changed. Life is good. Hong Kong is wonderful, full of a ying/yang East –West energy. I could live in Hong Kong with no problem. To wake up healthy and happy, what more could a person want.

Sometimes, I wonder if I dreamt my other life, that life in a college town, the life of late night bike rides on cruiser bikes through the college campus; when $20 was a lot of money; when you could find Beatles’ picture sleeve 45s at garage sales for 50 cents; when everything was still so new instead of so old; when I was excited when I wrote a new song, when my friends were excited to hear my new song.

As my friend Meg and I rode on a small bus - headed to a wealthy beach town in the suburbs of Hong Kong - careening around the curves through the mountains, I thought about the past as I wondered if we were in one of those busses that you read about, a small item in the Oklahoman.

Two Americans Perish As Bus Plunges Over Cliff on Outskirts of Hong Kong (AP).

I then thought how Hong Kong was like what I would imagine Monte Carlo to be, a beautiful enclave of sand and shopping with no super highways, no endless strip malls, Monte Carlo with dim sum. When we were walking around the little town of Stanley, at times, I thought I had been transported back to Southern California in the 1970s, all Linda Rondstadt and coke dealers.

I told Meg when I was 12 years old I wanted a floppy hat real bad. I never got one.

Actually, I did not spot any coke dealers while we were walking and shopping and talking but when I think of Southern California in the 1970s, I think of coke dealers - not that I would know or anything like that.

Of course, when we were downtown, the travelator took us from the bottom to the top.

Nothing makes it move
From the bottom to the top
Does it start at the bottom?
Or does it start at the top

Magnet draw day from dark
Sun zoom spark
Sun zoom spark.

The travelator is the escalator that takes white collar workers down from the apartments on the mountain to central Hong Kong. It goes down in the morning. It reverses and goes up in the evening to accommodate the workers.

The travelator travel took place earlier in the trip. Meg wanted to move to a different corporate apartment. We looked at apartments on the travelator route. Her company owns other properties in downtown Hong Kong near the travelator. Now, she lives across the street from Times Square, a Hong Kong mega mall housing Aveda, Burberry, Armani, Lane Crawford and other high end stores, not to mention the swanky restaurants. We ate at Wasabisabi, a somewhat extravagant sushi restaurant with a catwalk entrance. We both felt like supermodels when we walked in.

Meg’s fiancé (and my friend) Omar came at the tail-end of my visit. The three of us tried the upscale Thai restaurant. Meg got a strange rice dish shaped like a pyramid or a traffic cone. I am not sure which. It tasted healthy.

Times Square in Hong Kong is madness. One day I walked out of Meg’s apartment and a Puma fashion show was in progress in front of the entrance. Yes, Puma, I am serious. The models had that Puma attitude. When I saw them, I wondered whatever happened to my Koss Go Ape T-shirt. Can I still buy Ragtime superbell hip huggers somewhere?

In class 7 this morning, I asked the students if they went anywhere for the holiday. No one had. I was wearing my new long sleeve mock French cuff shirt that I bought at a young designers three story mall near Meg’s apartment in Hong Kong. I took off my Gucci blazer and showed off the shirt. The students were a bit taken aback by this. I swear I was not doing a strip tease. They really did not know what to do, Most of them laughed. In my heart, I knew they were laughing with fashion not at fashion.

Somehow, I turned the young designers’ mall into part of the lesson. Writing an argument paper was the assignment. I told them they could pick the subject of their choice to write about. One idea would be an argument to allow students to pick the subjects they study in school. Maybe some of them would grow up and be clothes designers. What subjects would they need to study to become a clothes designer? At this point, of course, I showed off my new quite fabulous shirt again.

The shirt’s designer told me that he bought the fabric in Japan. I told him I really liked the cut of the shirt. He thanked me. The shirt is pretty dang fabulous. I did not tell the students about the conversation I had with the shirt’s designer. Us teachers must keep some of the good stuff to ourselves.

One of the boys, not one of the noisy boys, a boy who sits in front, this boy is girl crazy, absolutely girl crazy. He could be a teen actor. He is 5’6” or so. Imagine a Chinese Michael J Fox but a Chinese Michael J. Fox who does not act or look anything like Michael J. Fox whatsoever. This boy as I said is girl crazy. Every essay he writes, he talks about girls, how they smell, how they feel. Everything is PG. He is Disney, Mattel, Hasbro.

Today, I told him every time I saw a pretty girl in Hong Kong I thought of him. He laughed. Sometimes the students even get the jokes.


Blogger athensjohn said...

It's fall here in Seattle, so your recounting of the Owl House days -- well, I felt it. It's cool and cloudy here, like late fall in Oklahoma. (Unlike real fall in Oklahoma right now, which is still pretty damn hot.)

I was thinking it would be nice to meet you out in the downstairs patio. I think my fish are dying. You should bring a sweater.

We could talk about what Meridith did today. Or the game at Netherfield. That was hilarious when Walker crashed into the fence.

I've got it! Let's go tunneling this weekend! I wanna get back in the English Department and steal something.

8:35 AM  

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