Saturday, February 14, 2015

The play is a thing

We are sitting in a small auditorium, waiting for a band of merry players to begin their production of "Joyous Tales from Happy Africa."

It's 8:30 in the morning, too early for amateur theater.

Next to me is my old friend Lulu. We're smooshed right up on each other, because these seats were designed before America had an obesity epidemic on its hands.

Though Lulu lost a tremendous amount of weight in the year I was gone. Hundreds of pounds. We are now almost the same size; her clothes hang off of her like drapery, while mine split along the seams in tired little sighs. We're having trouble containing you, they say, please, we're not sausage casings. We're clothes, for crying out loud.

Lulu has also developed an unfortunate habit in my absence. She now has a constant need to twist and torture her right nipple. If left unsupervised for more then a few minutes, she assumes her preferred posture: shirt hoisted at an angle, bra pulled loose, one breast hanging low and free, a hand scrabbling at the exposed skin.

When the weather was warmer, she wandered out of the classroom during unstructured time and planted herself on the curb outside the door. I got to her just as she'd made a new friend.

He tried to pretend he hadn't been staring at her large, exposed breast, pulled his hat low over his face, and gunned it out of the parking lot.

I corrected her and directed her back inside. She offered her usual response.

"No one wants to see all that," echoing something she'd been told by staff and family tens of thousands of times throughout her life. 

'All that' used to just be belly rolls or darkening hints of butt crack, but now, in this new phase, it was something much more intimate. 

Somebody wants to see all that, I thought.

The wall along our classroom kitchen is lined with windows that look out onto the hallway. Students sometimes press their faces to the glass to see what is for lunch. They have the expected responses: gasps of delight at the metal bin of taco meat; wrinkled disgust at the gray, stinking spectacle of the California Blend.

Recently, as I was laying out a pizza slice on each foam tray, I glanced up to find myself being watched intently by two eyes and a calloused nipple.
"What I'm gonna get for lunch?" Lulu shouted through the window.

The auditorium lights dim and four actors in traditional African tiger suits take the stage.

I've seen productions put on by this troupe before. Once again, the hateful, sarcastic spirit buried inside me directs my eyes to one actor in particular. She's in her mid-60s, short, with glittery dark eyes, thin curls, and a voice like Lucille Ball being squashed through a colander by the cold, unfeeling hands of Fred.

Listen, I'm not an idiot. I know that anyone who devotes their life to children's theater is some kind of hammy, pantomiming saint.

I'll live a hundred bitter years, and never have the disgusting zest for life that this woman probably has. 

But man, it's hard not to sit there and just focus on the minutiae of what is irritating about her.

I sketched this picture while she was dancing right by me:

She pranced on past, clapped for a moment on a djembe drum, tootled a slide whistle, and shrieked, "Cucumbers, carrots!!"

I notice some activity to my immediate left.

Sure enough, Lulu has taken advantage of the low lighting; the shirt is up, the breast is on the move.

"Put that away," I tell her.

The actors have begun to waltz through the audience, waving long flags.

In a moment, they will be upon us. I wondered what kind of improv skills they would bring to bear when faced with an unexpected nipple.

"Cover up or we're leaving, " I hissed.

Just as a homemade African banner slaps across the top of my head, Lulu pulls her shirt back down, neglecting to repack her breast into her bra.

I hope you don't mind the scrabbly, hand drawn pictures.

I've been running out of time to post things, so first I stopped doing color, and then I stopped drawing on the computer all together. 

Maybe someday I'll be back in the groove of things.

In case you're interested, I've been posting things to my Tumblr recently.

It's mostly nonsense, but maybe you'll get a kick out of it.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The making of real good bread.

Well, we got fired from the shoe store.

They didn't cite any specific reason; an assistant manager just nervously blocked the doorway and assured us our help was no longer needed.

I could see the rows of shoes over his shoulder, stretching away for what seemed like miles.

They glittered in the fluorescent light: Sketchers, Fergalicious, Dr.Scholls.

Nine years we gave them, nine. And not so much as a set of free laces or complimentary can of shoe deodorizer.

I kicked the dust from that place off my sandals and walked two store fronts down to my new assignment: the fabric store.

It's a cramped and gloomy shop, with a lingering, distasteful smell in the air.  

For the record, I don't like the smell of home and garden stores either; for some reason, their odor of potting soil and new rubber hose makes me feel stifled, like the 1970s are flattening me with a giant packet of Burpee Marigold seeds.

The fabric store smell is different. Someone has hidden the entire olfactory experience of Christmas beneath a musty buckskin hide. 

As we walked past rows of character-themed fleece, one of the students next to me began to shout.

"OH MY GOD! They have Monster High fabric!" She held it to her face, snarfling deep into its folds like it was some exotic Chinese silk. "Feel it," she commanded me.

It was vaguely scratchy, sort of cheap.

"Think about the stuff you could make with it. Pillows, blankets...." she trailed off. Then she gripped my arm. "Oh God, Betty Boop!" She yanked me over to a roll of fleece plastered with images of that classic animated floozy.

The girl laid one corner of it over her head, almost like a veil.

"It's beautiful," she murmured.

As she put the fabric back in place, she quietly spoke of the death of Betty White.

"I can't believe she's gone."

"I didn't know she was dead."

"That's what people tell me...."

I could kind of tell how she got from one Betty to the other, but it didn't matter. It was time to get to work.

One plus side to the fabric store is the scenery. It's pretty haw-haw-hot, like so many fine ladies up in that business. Many of them are looking for the right fabrics to use to make things for their grandsons.

I'm a regular cock in the hen house, strutting around with my pink hearts notebook, saying things like "Buttons? Your best bet for buttons is aisle 9, or maybe that end cap there off of 10."

Actually, I can't find anything in that place.

A nice old man with impressive, kootchie-koo eyebrows asked me for help one time, and I was useless.

"I want a cuff button just like this one." He swung his wrist right up in front of my face. What was that scent- fresh rain? Dental floss? "I've been wearing this same brand of coat for thirty years. You can't get the buttons anymore. You gotta go to Germany to get them. Well I'm not doing that."

As volunteer workers, vocational trainees, we are not supposed to interact with the customers unless necessary. But I was feeling bold, as if all the eyes of all the grandmothers in that place were fixed upon me, and the moment was mine to seize.

After leading him down through the kid's crafts and stopping for awhile by the scrapbooking supplies, I gave up.

"Let's find someone that actually works here," I said, which quite obviously confused him. "They're wearing green aprons."

I passed him off to the grumpy lady manning the cutting counter.

"I've had the same kind of coat for thirty years," he began, as I returned to my students.

Ideally, the kids work at the store independently. I am supposed to remain distant, aloof, but always watching.

It's called "shadowing".

Some of our wonderful staff fall asleep in those shadows, or text their husbands, or stroke the spreading jelly of their aging chins.

I'm sure I have been guilty of all of the above, at one time or another, but my main problem is that I get very restless when I shadow students, and I tend to wander off.

Even if I manage to stay put in the fabric store, I still find it hard to keep out of trouble.

The aisle where all the modeling clay is arrayed can be a problem. Those little squares of individually wrapped Sculpey, with exotic color names like "Lagoon" or "So 80's", all in such satisfying little rows.

I often have a strong urge to bite into them, right through their tight cellophane covers.

That would be considered bizarre, I assume, so I clench my jaw and content myself with subtle squeezes of their polyform meat.

It's possible that a similar preoccupation of mine, with the memory foam in the soles of women's cross-trainers, lead to our dismissal from the shoe store.

I couldn't help it. The way that remarkable material closed around my pressing thumb; I could walk up and down the aisle and get a tiny hug from every shoe.

Our students also clean a bowling alley/restaurant combination.

The scrutiny is rather intense there, so shadowing is not an option. We have to get right into the mix and dirty our hands.

A red Kleen-Pail bucket, half-filled with greasy looking water, sat on a table between me and several of my students.

I winced as I dipped in to retrieve a washrag.

"You have to wring it out," I tell them. "That way, no puddles on the tables." When I twisted the rag with an Indian-burn motion, a spastic shot of water hit me square in the face.

"Ewwww!" one of the girls said. "Did you get dat bucket from over there? Dats doo-doo water!"

I received that previously unknown piece of information with great calm, excused myself, and walked slowly into the bathroom. No panic here.

The second the door shut behind me, I flailed in the air, stifling a repulsed shriek.

The BM particles of a hundred bowlers might be settling into my skin, my eyelids, deep in the fibers of my brow.

There was no way the water from the foot-pedal operated sink would be hot enough to scald away the tainted top layer of my face.

One time, I accidentally sprayed gasoline on myself when I leaned down too closely to the pump nozzle and squeezed the trigger.

It was a smart and dead sexy thing to do; the act of a person secretly convinced he is way cooler than anyone else in the world around him, including his two-year-old son watching from the back seat, terrified by the vision of Daddy screaming and running blindly towards a worried looking Pakistani gas station attendant holding out a tiny paper cone of water.

As agonizing as that gasoline baptism was, there was something deeply cleansing about it too.

Like, not only would I never have any blackheads on my nose again, but the pores themselves had been seared away.

I needed that gas pump there, in that bowling alley bathroom.

I needed the kind of clean where you can see bone.

"I was wrong," the girl told me, when I finally came back out. "The doo-doo bucket is the green one."

"No big deal," I told her.

I dropped into an empty booth and waited for the shaking in my hands to go away.

After awhile, I forgot what I was even doing in that place, and I wandered off to the library to look at the DVDs.

In case you are interested, (how could you not be?) I have written about the shoe store before,  like here  and also here.

As always, thanks so much for reading.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Down to go

One of the reasons I don't post that often anymore, since so many of you (one person-it was me, in a little note I wrote to myself with my left hand so I couldn't recognize the shaky, hesitant script) have been wondering, is that I fell into the trap of feeling like I should only post if I have something lengthy and relatively cohesive to say.

You know, like an actual story of general interest or something.

But I just have fragments, and a bunch of dead-ends.

Sometimes though, it pays to post something anyways, just to keep in the habit and stave off frozen blogging shoulder.

So here, have some fragments and do with them what thou willis.

Sure this is just a blog on the Internet, but it's also my only creative outlet, and it bothers me a great deal when I hit wall after wall of bad, unfunny ideas.

It feels like a very tiny, but a very definite, failure.

My wife walked in at that moment, and quickly made me stop squishing my brain.

Only by then, it was no longer a brain I was attacking, but myself. I was trying to give me a frustrated, angry shake. You know, like in movies, when they calm people down by grabbing their shoulders and really giving them a rough time.

I try to do it to myself, but it's like I can't get the leverage right. I can't get any strength going, and I just ineffectually poke the jello of my shoulders with my awkwardly angled hands while nodding my head really fast.

"Oh that's weird looking, don't do that," my wife said. She knows just the right thing to say to talk me back from the precipice.

She made me a warm bottle and tried to help me come to terms with just how much of my life has been spent throttled by utter failure.

" you brought the little urinating figurine home, and now you can't remember what struck you as so interesting about it?"

"Mm-hmm," I said, blinking slowly and taking a long chug from my bottle with a little sigh. The milk was real good. Kind of sweet. Not colostrum sweet, mind you, but not that tepid,opaque 2% they sell at the big box stores neither.

"Show me what you've got so far," she commanded.

"All right."

Back when I was young and full of piss vinegar, I used to review wonderful things I would find around town on this blog.

 The enthusiasm on that kid's face is kind of off-putting.

 "4. See what happen when you take off his short."

 Well, I guess I'll pull this happy fellow's pants down.


You know, the ones like:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Old Ang Sty

 I am sitting in our staff office, listening to a concerned parent on speaker phone.

Our Christmas party is in full swing outside the door. Students are eating shape cookies; an Alvin and the Chipmunks song is playing. I want to be out there with them, but I can't.

Since my return to this classroom, I promised the Special Education Gods that I would be more involved. This has meant sitting in on a lot of meetings and taking notes.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

Part of the problem is that I can't stare down at a blank piece of paper without doodling on it. This habit has plagued me for years, earning me the scorn of teachers, administrators, job interviewers.

As the mom on the phone keeps talking, I try to mouth to my co-worker the message that outside the office door, a fabulous Secret Santa gift exchange is unfolding, and I should be there. I need to be.

She frowns at me deeply.

Angela is always getting politely asked to not come back to things.

She neglected to put on underwear for one of her family parties and flashed the entire gathering when she sprawled on the living room couch. She was not invited to the next one.

Her rendition of a Backstreet Boys tune given at the school talent show ran "overlong", and even as the host frantically gestured at her to stop, Angela closed her eyes and soldiered on. They changed the entry conditions for the show after that.

When her mom mentions something about church, I can't help but be a bit intrigued.

Apparently, a member of the congregation heard some kind of whapping sound during the Sunday service.

She followed the sound through an open door, down a few stairs, and to the little classroom where the children attend Bible school.

There she discovered Angela, on her hands and knees, being vigorously spanked by her boyfriend, a short, squarely built guy with Down Syndrome. He was Angela's guest at the church that day.

The general consensus in the office is that I am not taking things very seriously, and I am told to leave.

This suits me fine, as I am so desperate to party.

The revelry has moved out of the classroom. 

Cookies are broken and smashed into the carpet, wrapping paper litters the room in cabbagey bunches. Someone has left a Justin Bieber Christmas song on endless repeat.

One student slumps in her chair, tremoring a bit as her sugar coma begins to peak.

I spy the gift bag with my name on it and perform a greedy rubbing of my hands.

One year, a kid gave me a spoon for Christmas. Yes I realize I have written of the Christmas spoon before, but this time you get a picture:

I don't know what it says about a man, that the great circularity of his thoughts seems to orbit around the gift of a utensil, and despite all that has taken place in his life, he still looks to that singular moment and finds it worth writing down not once, but twice.

Maybe my memory is a useless butthole.

Anyways, he handed it to me while his mother stood by, politely smiling.

"He picked it out for you. It was in our kitchen drawer and he just grabbed it and said your name."

She had tied a small bit of red ribbon around the handle of the spoon. When I thanked him, he just paced away, clamping one hand against the side of his face and muttering.

As I empty the contents of the gift bag, the other students trickle back in.

Instead of running through the streets, caroling wildly, squeezing every possible high from the euphoria of Christmas spirit, they had all just been in the bathroom.

I am one of those people that always feel like some greater party is taking place just outside of the party in which I am trapped. That somewhere in the night, people are doing large things: having a fire on the beach with a crowd and a DJ, or flying on a whim to Thailand to catch a fashion show.

That's it. Those are the only two things I can imagine anyone doing.

But the point is, it's stupid to think this way. No one is having fun at all, they are just doing mundane things like going to the bathroom. Never forget that.

The students gather around me to see what Santa has brought.

With each gift, their anticipation brings their bodies closer and closer.

They are practically on top of me as I pull out the final present, a bottle of baby oil

"Uh...what's this for?" I ask.

The kids look at each other, searching for answers. Their Christmas smiles falter when faced with such an inexplicable gift.

"It's for your head," one of my co-workers offers.

"You know," and she pantomimes rubbing it onto her own scalp, "to make it shiny. So you can have a shiny head."

"Oh. Okay."

The music starts up again in earnest.

Students sway to a particularly emotive rendition of 'Silver Bells'. They form a circle and close their eyes.

They beckon for me to join them, but I am always an outsider at these things. Forever alone.

I put them off with a subtle gesture meant to convey, 'you guys are great, Christmas is wonderful, no way in hell am I slow dancing with ten girls murmuring ding-a-ling.'   

It ends up looking like I am dropping invisible groceries while trying to keep my pants up, but the dancers somehow get the message. 

They leave me to my crayons and my little bottle of baby oil.