Sunday, June 24, 2012

An Empty Room: Thing of Beauty #52-101

With all the transition and uncertainty in my happy little world, it’s been hard for me to find things of beauty to add to the list lately (Exploring Beauty Challenge via relia) I’ve seen lots of beautiful stuff – gardens, butterflies, kisses from little kids, a few bucks from the grown ups as an end of year “tip,” wading pools, blue skies, leafy trees, a thriving son, new friendships, the love and support of old friends, an encouraging family, the falcons circling the tower, air conditioning, cookies and ice cream, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – and I’m grateful to be surrounded by an abundance of simple pleasures.  It’s hard to appreciate, though when you’re spiritually unsettled.  So I’m trying to embrace being unsettled as a time that may be uncomfortable in some respects but is filled with potential and possibility.

Hence, the empty room.  Last week, I focused on laying out my new classroom so I could start the process of creating a place for everything.  It will be a while before everything’s in its place, but that’s okay because I had a rough idea of where it would go in the fall.  I even had an adequate budget to order new furniture, like sturdy shelves for the house corner, and I was able to request that the engineering department install a couple of new electrical outlets and paint all the bulletin boards hunter green so there will be a unified pallet on the walls.  I like bulletin boards to be dark so that the kids’ artwork can go straight on the bulletin board without getting lost in a sea of white.

Let me pause a moment to acknowledge that having resources is definitely a thing of beauty.   I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating again and again, so Having Resources is Thing of Beauty #52A – 101.   Resources like money are important, but so are resources like ideas, creativity, a vision, and a sense of personal style.  Even with an abundance of resources, you still need a physical space to implement your ideas whether that’s a blank canvas, a sheet of paper or a big, empty room.

I went to work on Friday intending to finish storing a few items I had left out in the classroom so that the guys could move everything out of the room and wax the floors.  When I got there, everything was out in the hall already.  They moved the desk out with my legal pad and ball point pen right on top of it.  So I took pictures.  Now I can document the evolution of this new space and describe the process which is so cool that I’m going to call it Thing of Beauty #53 – 101.

Here’s my stuff in the hall:

The big, green chair where the teachers occasionally relax.  In the beginning of the year, we sit in it with crying kids who are learning that grown ups may go away, but they always come back.  Mostly, anyway, but they have time enough to learn about life’s disappointments.  I like to place the chair somewhere where I can see everything that’s happening in the room and also use it as the teacher chair during circle time.  It’s a great chair for lots of reasons.

The wooden cabinet was in the school office for a long time and belonged to a woman who was crazy as hell, but I loved her a lot and she made good coffee.  I like to have things around me that belonged to people I loved.  This year, the chair will still be in the circle area, but instead of being by the classroom door, the cabinet will go in a space I’m calling The Grown Up Zone.  This new room is so big that I can make a little sitting area and tell the kids that they can’t take the play dough in the living room.  I love to do that – especially when my art area is big enough for a dedicated clay table covered with canvas so we can have clay every day.  I think I’ll have red clay to match the sand I use in the sand table, which is called Jurassic Sand.  It’s really ground granite so it feels soft like silicone sand, but it doesn’t kick up a cloud of dust when the kids are playing.  They still get it all over the floor, but that’s why we have little brooms and dust pans. 

The hat rack will go in the grown up zone.

And so will this sofa which a family donated to the school.

And these chairs:

That big, white rectangle on the right is the easel.  It’s got room for six in a pinch, four comfortably, or two kids on one side with paint and a bunch on the other with magnets.  I love that easel.  For the record, nearly all my classroom furniture comes from Community Playthings.  It’s made by the Amish in Pennsylvania or Ohio and is so solid and well crafted that it’s guaranteed Forever (Thing of Beauty #54-101: Timeless Craftsmanship).  The chairs are sitting on two tables from Community Playthings, and these shelves and blocks are from Community Playthings, too.

This stuff is not.  It’s all the stuff I stuffed into the closet so they guys could wax the floor.

Here’s the floor:

The room is so long, I couldn’t fit a picture of the whole thing in the frame when I was standing by the windows.  So here’s one side – the blue door is the closet.  That mirror on the wall is really an observation window.  All the classrooms in the school have them, but we rarely use them anymore.  We use the observation rooms for storage.

Here’s the other.  The room extends a bit beyond the bathroom window on the right to the area near the chalk board in the area where the easel and tables will be.

Here’s a close up of the kitchen and one of the tile floor, with my toe on the side:

Here’s the bathroom.  It’s a two-holer.

And of course, we have a changing table.  It’s a good thing the kids are little, because it’s a little squishy using that sink.  They usually reach in from the side or go out into the kitchen.

I think of the area by the kitchen as the wet side of the room since it’s closest to the sink.  It’s where we’ll have all that messy stuff like paint, clay, glue, sand, the water table – and snack, which can get particularly messy with all that spilled juice.  Here’s the whole room from the wet side stretching to the dry side.  The far end is where the grown up zone will be.  The light table will go near the book cases.  The light table must be five feet long and three feet wide.  It’s lots of fun for lots of stuff, but I especially like to get some of those gels they use on theatre lights.  The way the colors show up in the light is cool, and you can layer those gels to mix colors.  Once the room is set up, I’ll take a picture to show what I’m talking about.

Here’s the whole room from the wet side:

I sat on the window sill to take that picture.  Then I looked out the window and took this one:

That’s Grant’s Tomb with the George Washington Bridge in the distance.  It was hazy, so you couldn’t see it very well.  Here’s the view straight out the window:

Here are the windows.

If you press your nose to the glass and look down, you can see Riverside Drive, but I didn’t try to take a picture of the street.  I took pictures of New Jersey.

Naturally, there’s some sort of fossil fuel tank.  Those things are everywhere.  Maybe one day, some kids will grow up and convince people to try alternatives.
We can hope.

In a perfect world, all children would have access to the sort of early childhood eduction provided at the school in the church where I work.  Maybe one day, we'll have a perfect world that doesn't look much like the world we live in today.  For now, I'm grateful to be part of an organization that provides this environment to those families that can afford it, and a few who cannot who are on financial aid.  I'm going to take this opportunity to toot my own horn because part of this early childhood experience is having an inspired Master Teacher like me and some down the hall and upstairs.  Not every teacher is inspired, and you have to have experience to be a master.  I never saw a criteria for Master Teachers, but my bosses say I am one and that's good enough for me.

There are great teachers everywhere.  I'm pretty sure none of us are paid for shit, and God knows plenty of us are getting pink slips every day because our leaders, and the plutocrats who pay them, think they are better off when the workers are not capable of critical thinking.  When you consider that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney were the Young Turks of the Nixon Administration, you can't see how those fellows take a very long view when it comes to making sure that another generation won't have the brains or the balls to stand up and say "Hell No, We Won't Go," or to take to the streets to demand equal Civil Rights and Social Justice for all.

This morning I was wishing we could all wake up and it would be the day before Ronald Reagan took office.  We would have an international Do-Over.  There would still be arguments and issues and all that stuff because we're a diverse people seeking to find common ground - and organizations like the John Birch Society, with the support of billionaires like the Koch family, had already been working methodically to take over the country one county election at a time.  All that media consolidation work was already underway before Reagan took office even though his administration introduced that shit, and Republican Lite Bill Clinton signed the damn thing.  When you consider that fewer than 300 corporate media executives control the flow of information to over 280 million people thanks to media deregulation - you can see how the Plutocrats, or The Owners as George Carlin always called them - maintain control in America.  A look at the education system shows how structures are in place as  result of reliance on high stakes standardized testing  that maintain an underclass that feeds the all volunteer military as well as the Prison-Industrial Complex.

It sucks out there.  But in my classroom, there's a little incubator for a new generation who can continue to a work for Peace, Sustainability and Social Justice.  The miners in Kentucky sang "Which Side are You On?" and thanks in part to Pete Seeger, the song became an anthem for workers rights.  We preschool teachers sing another song made famous by Pete Seeger, "The Garden Song."  It's much more gentle, but it shows how we are in this for the long haul - just as much as the Koch Brothers.  They may have the money, but we have the spirit.  There's another thing of beauty for you (#55-101)

Inch by inch, Motherfuckers

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Relationship with a Box

Roughly six weeks ago, Mr. Wisdom was heading out my door and said, “Okay, I’m going back into my box.”  It appears to be an accurate description of the way Mr. Wisdom has structured his life.  All his attention and energy are focused on what’s in the box – primarily his family and his job.  He has a personal creative project or two that he can work on when he’s in the box since it’s the kind of work you can do sitting around an airport. 

Being outside the box is a drag, especially when he doesn’t respond to an email I’ve sent about something exciting like my new classroom.  Some people might quit sending emails, but when he’s on the road, Mr. Wisdom works 12 hour days as part of a four person film crew.  He's surrounded, and he's the boss which leaves little time for notes about birthday spankings.  Or he’s dealing with the almost-ex wife, or he’s in the movies with his kid.  None of these situations are conducive to responding to notes about spanking.  They aren’t conducive to chummy little phone calls either, which is why I never call him. 

When you know somebody is swamped and can’t talk, it seems rude, intrusive and overtly demanding to call.  It seems more respectful and polite to send an email because they are easy to put aside until a more convenient time.  I suspect my emails to Mr. Wisdom go straight into their own folder where they wait patiently for his attention.  I don’t mind being on the back burner, as it were, but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in the junk drawer with all the other things that he doesn’t know what to do with but doesn't want to throw out.  I’m delighted I haven’t been put out with the recycling – but it suggests that the note I sent about my birthday went straight to the folder, as did the three subsequent emails where I processed the situation, and he didn’t look at a single one until the whole situation was virtually resolved. Even though it's annoying, on some level, it seems like genius on his part.

I suppose some people would still quit sending emails, and maybe if I hadn’t heard from him at all, I would too since we can hope I am as astute as Pavlov’s Dog.  Mr. Wisdom responds just enough and randomly enough so that I haven’t been able to discern a pattern.  It’s more like on Star Trek when there's some unexplained cosmic interference fucking up communications. Until the trouble is resolved, Uhura has to keep sending messages on all frequencies in all known languages.

I am a tenacious woman and like Mr. Wisdom better than any man who has crossed my radar in years and years and years.  Besides, the last time we were together, it was clear that he’d read my notes because he referenced a couple.  He particularly wanted to talk about a book I read because I remembered that he’d said it was the first reading assignment he gave to his writing classes back when he used to teach at NYU – Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  During that discussion, it was also clear that he wanted me to read another book on his syllabus, Car by Harry Crews.  When a college teacher gives you a reading assignment, you know he likes to talk to you about books.  Being with a man whose pillow talk involves literature is why he remains my favorite romantic interest. 

Further, I have to acknowledge that something about being involved with a box is working for me or I wouldn’t be doing it.  The thing I like about all this distance is that it gives me the time and space to arrive at an understanding of my own Self.  For example, when Mr. Wisdom originally concluded that he could not manage a developing relationship, the shit storm of his divorce and travel-heavy schedule – I had a hard time with it.  Most of my difficulty, though, had to do with (1) the hit to my Ego and (2) my own separation anxiety.  Once I got that sorted out, I realized that the pertinent issue had nothing to do with Mr. Wisdom per se, since I needed to get my own shit together around attachment and separation regardless of whether I ever saw Mr. Wisdom again or not.

I’ve been wanting a relationship, of course, or I wouldn’t have gone on Match dot com in the first place.  But in my view, a relationship with another person can only be as rewarding as a person’s relationship with Self.  Ergo: relationship with Self has been my focus.   Relating to a box forces you to understand exactly what you’re looking for and where you may, or may not, be able to find it.  Since I have been seeking a stronger relationship with Self – the box thing was all good.  A box is right up there with a brick wall, and in both cases, there is no mirror.  You have to make an effort to look at your own self.

Another benefit is that Mr. Wisdom has successfully contained his own shit in that box of his.  I appreciate and respect that because I have enough shit of my own.  More importantly, however, Mr. Wisdom’s ego has never once needed active massaging.  I have had enough of feeding the egos of men to last me a life time.  It occurs to me that may be one of the best things about Mr. Wisdom.  He can take care of his own ego needs.  While I certainly hope he finds it gratifying that there is a woman in relentless pursuit, he doesn’t deliberately yank my chain to make sure I stay there.  The Narcissist was very adept at manipulating people to feed his ego, like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.  Double Wide used women like that too, although there was an element of the sex addict about Double Wide.  Adult children of Holocaust survivors come with their own peculiar set of issues.

I have to say that Buzz Kill never needed me to feed his ego – at least not more than any of us ever need someone in that capacity from time to time.  I suspect he gets plenty of ego stoking while he’s doing the mini-Iron Man thing all trussed up in spandex.  He’s out riding bikes in Colorado for 12 days with a friend from college.  Another hard core, physical challenge kind of fellow.  I hope they’re having fun in some extreme, manly way.  When you consider that Buzz Kill has installed his mother, Vagina Dentata, in the old folks home and paid me off after all these years in the very same summer, I think the fellow is allowed a Happy Dance or two. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Wisdom responded to a text I sent the other night asking if we could get together soon.  As it happens, I was in the process of editing a kiss off letter to him when his response arrived, showing once again that the man has precision timing. After some consideration, though, I decided to withdraw my request for a date.  I would be glad to see Mr. Wisdom, but at the end of the day, I'd prefer to be with a man who acknowledges me, even when he's busy.  I get it that Mr. Wisdom has no room in his box for me, and I sure don't want to be in a box with a shit storm.  It's unpleasant for all concerned.  His consistent lack of response is pretty unpleasant too.

On the Home Front, things are looking up.  The seller secured a real estate attorney, so we'll start shuffling the paperwork around this week AND the Coop Board wanted to see my divorce papers.  I expect they want to make sure that there's no way that Buzz Kill will try to commandeer the apartment, or that we're really divorced.  Plenty of people claim to be divorced and are still married - which is one of the reasons I'm not quite ready to go back on Match dot com yet.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Real Estate and Romance

One thing I learned today is that mint chocolate Toffuti Cuties with mangoes on the side make a pretty good meal.  I chose to stay in all day and eat what I had, and that meant Tofuti Cuties and mangoes. There is still plenty of wine and for that I’m grateful, especially since Gigi doesn’t want me smoking weed in this apartment since it’s not her apartment.  I can live without weed for a few weeks, although I kind of like the idea of taking a pin joint for a stroll in the park. 

I took a little walk in the park yesterday, intending to go up to The Cloisters, but the path was too isolated and the foliage too thick and wild for me to be walking through alone at twilight.  I was fairly certain I was completely safe, but you never know when some random crazy person will be wandering around in a park.  You don’t want to spook a random crazy person, or anybody else for that matter, and the shrubery in the area was such that it would be a good place for fucking too.  There are plenty of folks in New York fucking in all sorts of places.  Either they’re into that, or they have nowhere else to go, but I spooking an amorous couple is kind of like stepping over used condoms on the stairs into the subway.

In any case, the situation was such that if anything happened to me yesterday on the isolated path through the thickly wooded area on the way to The Cloisters, everyone I know would have said, “Tricia knows better than to walk up a path like that,” and sure enough, I do.  Ergo:  I walked along the outside of the park, safely on a well populated sidewalk, but it was so much farther than cutting through the park that I eventually turned around and went home.  When you are living on the fifth floor of a walk-up, and there’s a stoop and another half flight of stairs before you get to the first floor, you think about how your legs will be feeling when you get back home.

It’s nice here at Gigi’s, and I’m finally feeling settled.  Certainly I would prefer to be settled in my own apartment – specifically that Edwardian Charmer on Convent Avenue – but real estate transactions take time even when everyone is eager to get the deal done.  This one will take a little longer than anticipated since (1) the selling agent is some special kind of lazy or stupid and (2) when I took Velvet to see it last week, we discovered there had been a flood in the kitchen.  The reason I say the agent is some special kind of stupid is that he let my completed application sit on his desk for 10 damn business days before submitting it to the Coop’s managing agent.  It would probably still be sitting there now if my agent hadn’t called to follow up and found out it was still sitting on his fucking desk.  What kind of person who gets paid on commission lets a potential sale sit on his fucking desk for over a week? 

Once the managing agents got the application, they wanted a signed contract with the packet.  The last potential buyer had to be approved by the board before he could get a contract, so it was a bit of a surprise to be told I had to have a contract until I walked into the water damaged kitchen. 

 It seemed a bit odd to me that a real estate agent would be so completely unaware of the state of the property he is supposedly selling, but in the overall gestalt, where crucial papers sat on his desk as if he had forgotten all about them, I figured it would have been odd if he’d have known his head from his ass. The good news is that the floor underneath the linoleum debris appears to be a nice, 2” hardwood plank floor – and I would have been pulling up the linoleum sooner or later anyway.  Nevertheless, the state of the kitchen was alarming.

Anyway, by the time I saw the kitchen, the agent had said he had already sent papers to my lawyer so she could draw up a contract.  That, too, is irregular since the seller’s attorney is supposed to draw up the contract.  I called her the next morning to see if she’d gotten the documents, and she hadn’t gotten shit.  Turns out that the file he sent was so big it kept bouncing.  Fortunately, he copied my agent, the lovely and talented Jamie, who is really an accomplished off-Broadway actress.  She was in Florida at the time, and the files sent by the selling agent were so big that Jamie had to separate the documents to send to Lawyer Jill.  I believe we are on track now with the documents – but in the meantime, I decided this whole situation was such bullshit I adjusted my offer down by $15,000.  I don’t pay extra for bullshit.  We’ll see what the seller has to say.

In all this paper shuffling, I have learned that the apartment is part of an estate and has been standing empty for over two years – and that the only person who really knows anything about it is the super of the building.  The managing agent most likely knows a thing or two as well.  The seller, who may or may not be related to the dead lady who lived there, is a criminal attorney and didn’t want to draw up his own contract since he doesn’t know real estate.  While that seems reasonable, but sounds to me like he doesn’t want to spend one extra penny on the sale of the apartment or he would hire a lawyer like everybody else.  I’m not sure if drawing up the contract is a big deal or not – but all this foolishness and irregularity over the last three weeks made me feel like dropping the price.

I’m confident we will reach an agreement, however, because it’s has become increasingly evident that very few people match the board’s criteria for admission to the cooperative. I kind of like it that the board is so tough about people meeting criteria because, after all, you’re stuck with each other as neighbors for years and years and years.  You see them in elevators and laundry rooms.  It’s an intimate relationship and not to be entered into lightly.

Speaking of intimate relationships, Mr. Wisdom has failed to acknowledge my birthday even though I sent him a text on my birthday telling him it was my birthday but he could spank me anytime.  I’m not sure Yankees have the tradition of birthday spankings that we did in the South and Midwest.  In Webster Groves, Missouri the children in my elementary school lined up to make a spanking machine on each other’s birthdays.  Teachers watched and cheered.

Spankings or no, Mr. Wisdom did not respond.  Thirty six hours later I was compelled to notify him that after an internal dialog involving my Head, Heart and Pussy, Pussy had tossed him into Whatever Land and locked on the panties.  He didn’t respond to that either. I sent him a second note saying I was officially pining for him.

In point of fact, I am a woman whose panties are locked on, hanging out at The Cloisters and fixing to live on Convent Avenue, not to mention working in a Church with a gothic tower.  I might as well be locked up in a nunnery.  Besides, I’m not as mad at Mr. Wisdom as all that.  I am well aware that he rarely communicates except to set up a date.  We had a date for the week before Memorial Day, but he had to break it because of some sort of promotion from the network.  I haven’t heard from him since.  In the meantime, he has dismantled the family nest – the apartment where the family had been living for the last eight years – and the oldest son graduates from high school this month as well.

I’m willing to bet that breaking up the family home didn’t go nearly as smoothly for Mr. Wisdom as moving into Gigi’s went for me.  I have to say, though, that it bothers me to have Granny the Ho’s ashes stowed away in some warehouse in Queens.  I wish I’d have brought them with me to Gigi’s, but I didn’t bring any of my treasures.

I’m looking forward to unpacking my treasures into that apartment on Convent Avenue.   A lady named Hope lived there for decades.  I’ll be buying it from her estate.  I like to think she’s watching over the place and making sure I get moved in safely because she wants somebody to love her home as much as she did – but then, I’m romantic that way.