MAY 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Back from a great long weekend and just getting over the sad news about one of our students, and we found out this morning that one of our students from last year drove her car into a tree last night and died (story here). Is school over yet?

Friday, May 27, 2005
Mostly, it's been a horrifically busy week, and also a sad one. I think we're all taking the news of one of our kids dying pretty hard. I think I'd be upset if this happened to any of our kids, but he was really one of the better ones in our program: amazingly talented, very creative, unusually motivated, and just all around nice. He was polite and he smiled a lot, which among high school students is really rare. And we liked him. Not to say that we don't like all of our kids. But we liked him.

Yesterday was the visitation, which was, as these things normally are, sad and awkward. What I didn't expect was an open casket -- we walked in, and there he was. Maybe I was brought up in a sheltered environment, but I think that was the first time I had ever seen a dead body. I've never gone to a wake, and we never did open caskets in my family (I don't think any Jews do that), and even when the option to see my dead family members prior to their funerals was presented to me, I always declined, preferring to remember them as more active and less gray. It was a little disturbing, and I didn't get too close. What was good to see, though, was just how many people came out to see the family. They displayed some of his artwork around the room, which I think people appreciated.

Today is the funeral.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
A rough week so far, with an equally rough sentence: In the midst of preparing end-of-the-year shows and dealing with raging bouts of senioritis and general year-end excitement and ambivalence among most of the kids, one of our better students, on his way to class yesterday morning, got into his car, neglected to put on his seat belt, nodded off behind the wheel at a difficult intersection, drifted into an oncoming SUV, hit it head-on, and was killed. (Story here.) I'm really ready for school to be over.

Friday, May 20, 2005
You may remember that a few months ago, it was my mom's birthday, and to commemorate the occasion, I posted a bunch of things my mom likes. Well, today is my dad's birthday (happy birthday dad!), so to keep the division of attention at a fair level (and also because it's a whole lot of fun to sort-of make fun of my parents, hoohoohoohahaha), here are some things my dad likes. (Note: Not an exhaustive list.)

  • The University of Pittsburgh, where my dad went to college. It's nice and all, but to hear him and his friends talk about it, you'd think Pittsburgh was the most glorious place in the world.
  • Singing the first few lines of "Lady is a Tramp" every time my mom complains that an eight o'clock dinner reservation is too late. We hear this frequently. In fact, I'm not sure I know any of the words to the song after "dinner at eight."
  • Planning, planning, planning! My dad loves to plan. He calls it the "p" word. Forget taking a "we'll see what happens" attitude around my dad. He likes to know how the days get scheduled. Example? He makes plane reservations 364 days in advance -- the earliest you can get them. He knows what he's going to order for dinner before he walks into a restaurant (provided the restaurant has a website with a current menu). It's a little weird, but his unrelenting attention to knowing what he'll be doing and when he'll be doing it is oddly admirable.
  • Street fairs. Yes, this was on the list of things my mom likes -- good memory! I think my dad used to make fun of street fairs. Now he likes them, especially artsy street fairs. One time at an artsy street fair, my dad bought a little dog made out of railroad tacks. He named it Spike. (Go ahead -- roll your eyes.) It sits on the carpet in the living room. If my mom buys a churro at a street fair, he'll sometimes take a bite.
  • California. This always seems strange to me, because my dad is from New York and, as I mentioned, likes to plan. From my experience, the people of California are spontaneous, some to the point of being flaky. Logically, you'd think he'd hate this, but maybe he appreciates the difference.
  • Showing people around New York City. Perhaps you are thinking that this is a strange thing to like, but I think my dad missed his calling as a tour guide. Or maybe a taxi driver. Either way, whenever we have friends or family come in from out of town, my dad steps in as the guru of all things in New York. On Septemer 12, 2001, a friend of mine called me and said that as soon as she heard the news about the WTC, the first person she thought of was my dad, because when she was in New York for the first time, he went up to the observation deck with her and pointed things out.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Ten more days left of school. Not that I'm counting. Okay, I am counting. You would too.

Monday, May 16, 2005
Well, it was bound to happen. I don't know if bettas have short life spans, or if I don't know how to take care of animals, or what, but Ted (my red betta) had been swimming kind of funny for the past few days, and when I woke up and looked in his bowl this morning, he was floating gills up. I'm a little bummed, but to be honest, he was kind of a weird pet. He didn't do much of anything. He didn't even eat, which was really strange to me, because when my brothers and I had goldfish when we were younger, they would always swim right up to the food. Ted didn't seem interested in food or anything else. Sometimes I thought he had fish anorexia, or depression, or something like that. (Look, if they can diagnose cats with mental disorders, surely there's something equivalent for fish.)

So, I did what anyone else in my situation would do: I disappointedly flushed him down the toilet. I should probably empty the water out of his bowl, but I'm thinking I'll get another fish soon. Ted's eating disorder has left me with a whole lot of betta food, and I certainly don't need all that crude protein. Hopefully the next one will be more lively.

Thursday, May 12, 2005
A short essay on why I like karma.


You may remember that a few years ago, I had a landlady who was, shall we say, a bit of what you'd call a female dog. All she cared about was money. In a way, she was like Paulie from Goodfellas: no matter what circumstances came up, even if the circumstances were negative and technically her fault, even if the circumstances were mean and unfair, her response was always along the lines of, "Fuck you, pay me." And she had very little regard for other people, including and especially her tenants, including and especially (though I may be biased here) me. One weekend when I was out of town, she had a party in my back yard and allowed her guests to use my bathroom. We had bats flying around inside the house on a regular basis, and she wanted me to learn to live with them. My roommate moved out because of said bats, and she wanted me to cover her rent money. She then decided I should move out early, and when I refused, citing our lease agreement and the fact that I had nowhere to go for two weeks, she plastered a ceiling while I was still living there. Do you have any idea how messy a plaster job is? And don't get me started on the shouting matches she tried to pick with me.

But she wasn't this way just to me, and in fact, before I ever signed a lease with her, I was warned that she was, on the inside, not such a nice person. But I waved it off, believing that we could get along. But she's been this way to everyone, including her current tenants. She drives the guy in my old place nuts because she comes over and plants trees in his favorite sunny spots. She made a woman who lived in one of her other houses sign a two year lease. A two year lease! Who the hell does that? When you're renting, you rent because you don't know where you'll be in two years! Anyway, I really believe that she doesn't treat people well, and I figured that one day, she'd get what she deserved.

I think that day is here.

The guy in my old place bought a house and is moving out at the end of the month. The people in her other house across the street are moving out at the end of the month. The girl with the two year lease just moved out and stopped paying rent. (Side note: right fucking on, sistafriend!) The people in one of her other houses are moving out of town in two months. Suddenly, all of her income properties aren't bringing in any income.

And to top it all off? The rental market in this town has hit bottom. With all of the cheap-ish apartment complexes going up here and all of the cheaper student apartments being built, very few people want to rent old houses for $925 a month plus utilities. Oh, and she's incredibly picky about who she rents to: we're talking references, credit history, month and a half security, the works. Her houses usually sit vacant for at least a few months, but it's never happened at the same time.

The best part of all of this? I didn't do anything wrong, but she's still getting what's been coming to her for a while: no money. I just get to watch. I don't feel like I'm out for revenge here, and I know they say that the best revenge is living well, but honestly, karma, much like my former landlady, is one hell of a bitch.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
I'm beat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Two things happened on Sunday that helped me believe that people are basically good. First: It's asparagus season here in the upper Midwest, and we drove past a local farm that grows, among other things, asparagus. It was Sunday at 7, but I wanted to stop and see if we could buy some, because I really like asparagus and I really like fresh produce no matter what it is. We got out of the car and walked into the barn, and there was no one there. But on a table, there was a big pile of fresh asparagus, a scale, a sign that read, "Asparagus, $1 per pound," and a little box into which you could drop coins and folded up bills. They were selling asparagus on the honor system! I weighed one and a half pounds and dropped in a buck fifty. Then I thought about how awful you'd have to be to cheat a local grower out of a buck for asparagus. Who wouldn't pay? And then I thought about how cool it was that whoever put the asparagus out trusted people enough to be honest.

And then: after the life-affirming asparagus incident, I went to the local giant supermarket to get regular groceries. I was kind of rushing through and just wanted to pay and go home. I got out to the parking lot with my groceries, rode my cart to my car, and put everything in my trunk. I then went to put my cart back in the corral, and just as I was about to let it roll into it, some guy across the parking lot shouted to me, "Don't forget your water!" I looked down at the rack at the bottom of the cart, and sure enough, there was a case of water that I forgot to put in my trunk. I pulled the water out and turned to thank him, but he was already backing out of his parking space and not even paying attention to me.

Monday, May 9, 2005
On Saturday, I went to a big neighborhood garage sale with Paul. He had a whole bunch of things to get rid of, but I only had one thing to sell: a wooden chair that is pretty cool but I didn't really want anymore. So I put the chair out by the sidewalk with the other stuff and taped a sign on it that read, "Cool Chair! $20." Surely, someone would see this chair, like it a lot, and give me at least $15 for it. Surely. Don't you think? It said "Cool Chair!"

Well. All morning passed, from 7:30 to 12:30, and all kinds of people passed by. Most of the people saw the chair, and most of them said (and I'm quoting directly here), That is a cool chair!" And I would smile, mostly to be nice, but partially because I was feeling pretty smart in my choice of words. If people thought it was cool, someone would buy it. People liked my chair. A few even sat in it. But no one -- no one! -- bought my cool chair! One woman was close, but she backed out at the last minute. So I still have my cool chair. It's in my shed. It is indeed for sale.

P.S. Paul made 2/3 of this month's rent selling records. Records!

Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Been thinking a lot about money, and income, and credit, and interest, and how maybe a person's intelligence should be taken into consderation when figuring out his or her credit score, and how all of this is arbitrary anyway, and how even though the general rule of thumb when investing is past performance is no indication of future returns, past performance is all a person's credit score is based on, and that potential or IQ or savings or anything else like that is completely ignored. I wonder about these people who determine credit scores, and what their credit scores are like, even though their lousy credit score doesn't necessarily make them any less qualified to determine someone else's credit score, because a person's character doesn't necessarily interfere with how well he or she does his or her job. I've also been thinking about credit, and how much credit is extended to people, and how much credit is extended to me, and how even though all of this credit seems like a good thing, and even though it looks like a lot of money, it's really not money at all, but debt, and how credit doesn't make you wealthy, and how credit is just a way to put people in debt to make creditors wealthy. Thinking about it all is giving me a headache, and it's making me think about this one passage in one of Douglas Coupland's books (I can't remember which book) about how if you really want to think yourself into a headache, go into a big, full parking lot and look at all of the cars parked there and think about all the energy that each car owner expended to decide that that car was the right car for him or her, and add all of it together and try to imagine better things that could have been done with that energy beside car shopping.

I have to go take an ibuprofren now.

Monday, May 2, 2005
A day.

(I'm feeling some pressure to write something more substantial here, since there's a whole new month and a whole lotta empty space on this page right now. I could write about looking at houses this weekend, or about how I only have five weeks of school left, or about how I've been really tired lately, but honestly? I'm not in the mood. Maybe tomorrow.)

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