Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Outrageous sight of the day: a Hummer in front of the Daily Planet.

I'm off to the alma mater tomorrow for my fifteenth reunion. At the moment, I could care less that I am only sort-of employed. Aren't I supposed to be stressed about how everyone else has beautiful children and high-powered jobs?
Dept. of Great Turns of Phrase

Check out Lilek's Bleat today, if nothing else because he uses the expression "screwed the pooch," which I haven't heard in about 6 years.

Last night's excellent Richmond Writers speaker referred, fondly I think, to a group of 1920s women as "dumb little clucks." I'm going to use that all the time, now!

Monday, May 26, 2003

“So what’s going on here? What’s Shaw accusing the other white dude of doing?” -- “Stealin’ stuff. He’s blackmailing him.” -“Right!” [release pause button]

Despite having “World History” printed at the top of the roll sheets, Mr. G asked that all of his high school history classes finish watching the 1989 movie Glory. Using General Shaw’s letters as the primary source, it tells of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, a unit of black men led by a couple of white dudes. Mr. G. left questions for the students to answer and show that they paid attention. They had trouble wading through some of the dialog. I paused it often to repeat lines and ask direct questions to get them to the questions the teacher posed.

I began class by checking to see what they remembered from Friday: What war is this? Approximately when was it? Like a predictable Jay Leno bit, I heard “World War II,” 1812, 17-something, 16-something. The later classes all got the war right, and all but the first class got the century right.

Most students gave themselves this snow day replacement day off, so I had classes of between three and eight people. I’m not sure if they seemed manageable because they are more mature than middle schoolers or because there weren’t many of them; so my questions about race, class, age and behavior continue to have only sketchy answers.

On my break, I started reading The Hours. Lovely prose. For lunch, the secretary invited me to join the faculty for a “picnic” lunch in the library. It’s the same library as at Moody Middle, just not renovated as aggressively. A nice, airy space with little mezzanine or balcony rooms.

Many members of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, county officials, friends, and family gathered at Sharon Indian School on Sunday to dedicate the new highway marker that I researched. After speechifying in the school, we repaired to the roadside, in the dumping rain, and Ms. S. from the Department of Historic Resources, Chief Adams, and I whipped off the cover. My research, condensed to about 100 words, captured in metal to sit by the roadside for years to come. Pretty damn cool.

For the record, sign OC-28 reads:

Sharon Indian School served as a center of education for the Upper Mattaponi Tribe. In 1919, the King William County School Board built a one-room frame building and the students' families provided the furniture. The county replaced the original school with this brick structure in 1952. Before the integration of Virginia schools in the 1960s, Sharon provided a primary and limited secondary education. The students at Sharon Indian School had to attend other Native American, private, or public institutions, usually outside the commonwealth, to obtain high school diplomas. Upper Mattaponi students - and the Rappahannocks in the 1960s - attended school here until June 1965. It was one of last Indian schools to operate in Virginia.

Capital City weather: Let's see, it started raining again Thursday afternoon, while I helped set up the powwow; it rained Friday; it misted on Saturday, then cleared; it poured most of Sunday. This morning, I drove to Highland Springs through a rain-drenched, but clearing, deep-green and growing late spring morning.

Friday, May 23, 2003

One Stop Shopping
A new Good Samaritan thrift store opened on Azalea Avenue (at Brook?), in that strip mall where there’s already a Goodwill. I saw a couple of interesting dishes, but nothing I couldn’t live without.

I reconnected with my geeky youth (a little different than my geeky adulthood) by subbing for a high school drama teacher. He took most of his students into town to get ready for a big show at the Carpenter Center, tonight. For the first two blocks, the kids still at school did some movement and dance exercises with a part-time teacher. Their uninhibitedness impressed me.

For the next block, I covered for the other drama teacher. She meant for them to have a study hall. The boys convinced me that because Spencer is working on a symbolic piece about male roles the involves a long two-square game, they needed to spend two hours practicing the playground game. I let them. At first, I thought they told me they wanted to practice the scene, but it turns out they wanted to practice their game so they could play smoothly and speak the lines. As time wore on, with the red ball smacking back and forth on the stage, their real conversations became if not symbolic, at least theatrical. Or ritualistic? They debated and honed rules (what “palming” the ball looks like). They told each other they sucked. They appealed calls; they worked out elaborate rotations of players and judges so there would be someone to whom they could appeal the call. I nearly called them down when, while playing a doubles round, they began to call each other by the country or continent the pairs seemed to represent. Two boys from India were “Asia”; a black kid and a white one were “Africa”; the other black boy and his buddy were the “US A-Team”; and two white boys evolved from the “US B-Team” to “Germany.” After I heard them say “We’re gonna bomb Asia” or “Germany you suck” or “White America lets us down again” a couple of times, I could hear no malice in their voices. It was not hate speech. If they had picked animals or states for the team names, their patter would have been similar.

During the last block, one girl said she was writing a skit (but kept napping), and three senior girls honed the blocking and lighting of their senior project scenes. Then they cleaned the auditorium in anticipation of next week’s performances. So I saw them go from the light board (few girls knew how to work one at Mildo. High in the ‘80s) and gels to sweeping and arranging fake flowers. I promised M. I wouldn’t let the teacher know that she was having a Martha moment and kind of enjoying sticking flowers on a bit of fence.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Once I recalled that R. said VDoT planned to put up the marker today, I made a quick call and was in King William County before 10:00. The marker looks so swell, and the Department of Historic Resources even loans an official cover to use for the unveiling!

I spent the rest of the day helping to tidy the area by the sign, plot out vendor booths, mark the parking lot, and set out trash cans. I plan to be sound asleep on the sofa by 8:30 . . . .
A quick post, to see if I learned how to do the comments feature.

Let's see. In Style this week, we have a sweet item on school kids going for a record-breaking reel. I love a good Virginia Reel. R.T. says the highway marker goes in the ground today! We dedicate it on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Take Route 360 east, turn right on route 30 at Central Garage, look for the school after one mile. Please come.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Play Ball, You All

Many of you know that I like to describe Capital City, affectionately, as a minor league town. I turns out others think the same way.

Scott Mayer and W. Harrison Daniel, of the University of Richmond, spoke at RPL tonight about their book Baseball and Richmond. While our ball teams did have two flirtations with alternate major leagues – the American Association and the U.S. League – Richmond has remained firmly ensconced in the minor leagues. We’ve been at the top of the minors, though. As the various leagues folded or evolved, they always wanted Richmond on the roster, as Capital City drew top crowds and usually boasted the largest population in the system. During those moments in the majors, imagine the pride of civic boosters who could point to the box scores: “Richmond 5, New York 4” ; “Richmond 3, Cincinnati 4.” Across the country, newspaper scores and standings linked our little city to leading metropolises.

In a small digression, Mayer and Daniel spoke about the publisher, and its commitment to scholarly works on sports. Most books on the minor leagues cover an entire state or league. By sticking to Richmond, this book, they said, will test the waters for similarly narrowed books in the future. It’s the leading study of a narrow topic in a top minor-league town, in other words.

None but the biggest cities escaped the demands of autos at mid-century. Early 20th century fans on both sides of the river found the park on Mayo’s Island easy to walk to or reach by streetcar. By the 1940s or so, fans wanted or needed to drive. Yes friends, people from the west end complained [okay, that’s my assumption] about the Parking. The need for a parking lot, and the James River’s frequent floods drove baseball inland.

The book has some nice illustrations, and a couple of good appendices, listing team names, leagues and years, and ballpark locations.

I look forward to diving into this book. I just need to finish Double Fold, and the book club agreed on The Hours. . . .

Capital City Weather: 70ish with clouds increasing through the day.

Bravo to S.S. for scoring a job at Mount Vernon! Whoo hoo.

Sunday, May 18, 2003


Forty-nine years ago yesterday (that's May 17, 1954), the US Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Brown v. Board Education: of states could no longer maintain separate school systems for each race. Virginia invented a tactic called "massive resistance" to avoid fully integrating. Until June 1965, King William County, Va., maintained three school systems: black, white, Indian. In 1972, I started first grade (the Commonwealth -- or the county? -- did not have public kindergartens) in Henrico County with a bunch of other white kids. When we moved to Chesterfield, I started to have black classmates.

On the one hand, the court's decision (eventually) made it possible for a kid like me to go to school with and have teachers of different races. I learned to see people as having individual characteristics -- smart, dumb, cheerleaders, athletes, band kids -- that are not connected their race.

On the other hand, the schools in which I have been substitute teaching remain nearly segregated, forty-nine years later. The east end schools are mostly black; the far west students are mostly white and Asian -- a new demographic since my school days. And I regretably reach generalizations: the east end kids are rougher and less interested in learning; the far west end kids use less aggressive language, do what a mere subsititue asks, and listen to the lesson. CB and I have talked about class, culture, and family settings driving this: it just appears to be race.

"Class, race, gender: difficult issues," the late-1980s director of the Valentine Museum memorably said. It's my shorthand for "I'm not sure we can figure it out."

I do know that the Upper Mattaponi Tribe will dedicate the historical highway marker for its school on Sunday, May 25 at 12:30 p.m. Do join us. The powwow begins at 1:00 (admission is about $5).

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Another wonderful spring day in Capital City. So wonderful, I taught for only half a day (and half of that was her planning block!), then scurried to the Diamond to watch the RBraves beat Ottawa, 7 – 1. Thanks to That Yankee Fan’s great tix, we were close enough to debate what Mike Hessman, the game’s power hitter, might have been chewing.

West Wing time: see ya.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Capital City enjoyed a beautiful spring day, today, with bright blue skies, 70ish temps, and now a nearly-full moon. The honeysuckle in my back alley is about to bloom.

Today I painted the back steps, vacuumed, went to Ukrop’s, got my hair cut, made sweet potato biscuits, bought plates and whatnot for the shower, had dinner with Mom, and went to a program at the Library.

The speaker in tonight’s Richmond Writers series was Linda Rae Johnson, author of Ouachita Girl. She tells tales of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in West Monroe, Louisiana. She opened with a vivid story about how it is when you play Monopoly all afternoon with your sibling, who always buys Baltic and Mediterranean, even though they are no good; and how she always made sure every last card, token, and house got in its right spot in the cardboard divided box. A funny line from another story: Mama told me not to be too worried about Letty having a training bra already in the fifth grade; there’s no trainin them, anyway.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Some Vocabulary Words
Highlights from the weekly lists posted around today’s classroom:

Ed Slipek on the art museum renovation. I guess I can see that the 1970s addition needs to come down.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

A swell trip to D.C. yesterday included a visit to Eastern Market, some fun shops around U & 14th Streets, a fabulous lunch at Teaism, and of course, the TAL show. I want to be like Sarah Vowell when I grow up. She's making a career out of smarty humor, delivered dead-pan. I also liked Chris Ware's illustrated story about two friends who love old buildings. When they look at Chicago, they see the buildings that are there and the buildings that used to be there. I know just what he means.

We laughed til we cried.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Hey, Look!
Maggi has posted evidence that I can do some domestic chores.

More on The Hours
My “date,” J. , liked the movie and said: And about it being a "downer": I thought it was a rather uplifting film on the philosophical level on which it was intended -- all about the timeless themes of happiness, living life to the fullest, free will, etc., and about cutting through all the crap that prevents us from realizing these things. It's a contemplative film (not an action film), but not a "downer."
(Rats. He said more, but I don’t seem to have saved it.)

Dan says, how about culture as the key thing that makes one group of kids generally willing to follow rules and respect the adult? I think culture takes race and class into part, and adds on family and peer expectations; it might be the simplified version of the answer. I think I’ll be able to compare cultures of similar age groups after tomorrow’s day at Pocahontas Middle School.

William, who repeatedly disrupted today's 8th grade math class, turned out to really know the material. He did a great job showing the class the right way to do an annoying word problem about carpet (or something) at x for the first 20 square feet, y for the next 10, and z after that.

Interesting Events
The Loews turns seventy-five.

And, I’m going to see the touring version of This American Life on Saturday.

May 24 & 25: the Upper Mattaponi Tribe holds its spring powwow. A dedication will be held onthe 25th (at 12:30?) for the new historical highway marker I researched. The public is invited and I will post details as I know them.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

The cat wanted breakfast around 5:30 a.m. She got it. I checked “subfinder”: K – 2 or special ed. Drat. I listened to “Morning Edition” and fretted. I called back around 6:20. “Office assistant, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.” . . . hesitate, hesitate . . . “press 4 to hear next job.” <4> “Godwin High School, English.” BINGO. Even I if I got the worst-behaved kids in the whole school, I’d still be teaching from a position of strength.

After some initial messing around over lesson plans, which the teacher’s bow-tie wearing husband carried in, I got settled in with the Very West End crowd. Only two out of thirty-three names gave me pause as I called roll – versus ¼ - 1/3 of them at Northside of East End schools. Indeed, 6/33 of the students had a variant of the name Katherine (Please reduce. 2/11.)

Because of SOL (Standards of Learning, to you Virginia ex-patriots) testing, the students followed and odd schedule, and I had non-testing groups all day. In journalism, for instance, I had about a dozen kids, with whom I watched Spider-Man, on DVD. (Yeh, that’s right, friends, the days of filmstrips that go “boooop” signaling you to advance to frame are long gone.) I even got them to elicit some journalism themes before I let watch some episodes of The Simpsons. The seventeen-year-olds completely pooh-poohed my suggestion that we start with the Halloween one on the disc, because it includes a fabulous presentation of “The Raven.”

That foolishness aside, I saw only well-behaved, sharp kids all day. Class? Race? Being "advanced" students? Being high school seniors, and not twelve years old? Dunno. I do know they made a pleasant change after the challenges (which I can generally meet) of middle schoolers.

Captial City weather: 80-ish, and weird skies, perhaps the leftovers of the terrible weather west of here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

“A. Filmgoer” writes, asking my opinion on the oft-repeated notions that The Hours is “a serious downer, accessible only to the feminine audience.”

The two ideas are entwined: weren’t they called “women’s weepies” before someone coined “chick flicks”? I don’t believe I am equipped to discuss whether only women like to go to movies to be moved to tears: I don’t cry that readily, and I tend to choose mildly male movies. (Mr. Filmgoer should recall the movies we’ve seen together: Nosferatu, Spider-Man, and at least two Byrd Halloween films.)

That said, I guess many men wouldn’t like it. To me, a central tension of the movie is that of Betty Friedan’s “problem with no name.” Some men can and do understand that in the 20th century women lived in a world that preferred to value them as nurturers and helpmates, but in which they became increasingly educated and active in the world – or were pushed into suburban houses, alone with a child, a B.A., and no one to talk to. I imagine that men who acknowledge that dialectic don’t feel that conflict, and so the movie may not reach some males, on a gut level. (Plus, nothing gets blows up, and I don’t recall any nudity.)

I didn’t find the movie depressing. Virginia Woolf does commit suicide, as does one other character. But, hell, I figured many more characters would, so I felt relieved.

(I did attend the movie with a gentleman – and had his wife’s permission to be out with him – who enjoyed the movie, too.)
Rats. I passed on two special ed teacher's aid jobs, and so now I may have an aimless day ahead. I hate that. I never do the reading or house projects I should: I just goof off. I also hate the hindsight - regret: now it's easy to see I should have just "press[ed] the 1 to accept the job." Then, I felt optimistic that something better might come my way.

Goofing off may include: a follow up on "The Hours," because C. asked a good question, and sitting a spell at Maggi's stitch-n-bitch (do look at her lovely blog). Also: a program at Richmond Public Library.

Monday, May 05, 2003

The Hours. Wow. Damn. Just go see it. Sure, the 1952 (?) set rocks, but "wow" to everything else, too. Introspective. Deeply aware of how we live our daily lives, of how we keep looking for that day that is happiness.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

The Carillon

“The idea of a Singing Tower as a proper World War Memorial was first born in the mind of Granville G. Valentine, Chairman of the Virginia Citizens Carillon Committee. The beauty of this conception communicated itself to others, until eventually the entire State was captivated by the thought of Singing Bells proclaiming from their lofty tower the praise and unforgettable glory of Virginia’s war dead overseas, as well as Virginia’s living sons and daughters who served in the World War.” So says the 1932 Dedication Program I bought (less than four bucks) while “working” at the antiques mall today.

The twenty-page booklet notes that the tower’s height of 240 feet, coupled with the ground elevation of 240 feet above sea level, made it “the highest structure, measured from sea level, within the capital of Virginia.” Located in “the western suburbs of Richmond,” and housing sixty-six bells, the builders also included public rooms for displays and a terrace “suitable for use as a reviewing stand.”

A series of inaugural events, held in October and November, are listed. The first dedication event included “Onward, Christian Soldiers” played on the bells, various speeches, and the laying of wreaths. On the following weekends, music selections included “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Dixie,” “Ave Maria,” “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and various Chopin, Mozart, and Handel pieces which don’t mean much to me. Also, for you multi-culturalists: a “Hawaiian Love Song,”: “Aloha Oe”; “Golden Crown,” a Negro spiritual; “Londonderry Air,” an “Irish Tune”; the “Russian Melody,” “Volga Boat Song”; and “The God of Abraham Praise,” a “Jewish Melody.”

Finally, what dedication program is complete without acknowledging donors? Some of my favorites: Pollard & Bagby [these days known as purveyors of, ah, inexpensive apartments], Emerick Chevrolet Sales Corp., the Young Men’s Shop, Sydnor & Hundley, Rowlett Bicycle Co., Rosenberg Delicatessen [gotta look up that address], Richmond Art Co., and Schwarzschild Bros. The only national companies I recognize for certain are Sears-Roebuck Co. and F. W. Woolworth. (I’m not sure about Standard Drug, Hammond Co., and a couple of others.)

Of course, this weekend the Carillon neighborhood sponsored its famous Arts in the Park. S. says they do issue those pink and black event banners to every household. The tower and surrounding park work well as public space, still. No matter the “reviewing stand” serves skateboarders and families in the park may not know what the building memorializes.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

One of those weird convergences has happened, when "everyone" seems to have their minds on the same things. Our Man at The Marble Bar and Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, both have something to say about taking the bus. (I think The New Yorker one will go away when the next print issue hits the stands. Maggi says it doesn't work, already: go to your local library and read the old one.)

I wrote a paragraph or so o bus riding on 2/27, to set a smug, cheery tone that I'd have to knock myself down from. (I don't know how to link to the past -- you can use the Archives at left to find it.)

Recently, I've wondered what I might say about the current, dreadful GRTC commercials, and decided: nothing. They're just that dorky.

Capital City Weather: cloudy, temperatures dropping. The Richmond Braves won today, 5-2 over Indianapolis.

Friday, May 02, 2003

FYI: the West End Antiques Mall (where we rent a space) is having an open house (yes, food) and sale this weekend. Saturday, 10 - 6 and Sunday 12 - 6. It's off Staples Mill, near Broad St. (behind the Holiday Inn). Or, behind Krispy Kreme, if that's your point of view.
Click for Virginia restaurant inspection reports Seriously, do you want to know? I mean, you do know that (barring diseases to the immune system) the human body can take a certain amount of dirt, germs, and bugs? If you've cooked over a campfire, you know this.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Mr. Lileks notes this auction of old general store goods, adding a reminder that just because it closed in 1952, don't picture a weath of hula hoops and boomrang curtains. I spotted some great blonde furniture, but also mass-market craftsman chairs. Our stereotypical pictures of decades often have to do with a very few years, or only the passions of youth culture, and so we're surprised by very 1930s-looking packaging.