The administrators at the school where I teach asked me to change grades. I would not do it. I think they expected me to. Click here
Oh hi. I’ve been missing, I know, and I apologize. Been doing other things. Seeing other places. Thinking other thoughts. Well, not really. It has just been hot. So hot. So hot that you can’t do other things, or see other places or think, anything. At all. No thinking.
It has been crazy hot, in the 1oos, for days. Years, it seems. Yesterday, it was 106. Today, they said on TV that it was 102, only 102. They lie, those people. It was 129. I know, because I went outside two times. It was 129, without a doubt.
I have never adjusted to the heat here in Texas. Imagine opening your oven while a roast is roasting, just to see how it’s doing. Imagine that waft that hits you in the face and makes you worry that your eye lashes are burning off your lids and falling off. Imagine that scare, knowing how bad you will look with no eyelashes. Imagine having nowhere to put the mascara. That is how hot it is here. It’s no-mascara hot. It is Hell. With the flames and pitchforks.
I am delirious, even with the air conditioning. Air conditioning is like killing a bear with a fly swatter. Why am I talking about killing bears. It is 129, that’s why. Okay, bye.
There is not much to look at, driving south out of Dallas. Some cornfields, cows, horses. Shacks where you can buy fireworks. Churches in shingle houses. After a while, you close your eyes and take a nap, if you are not driving. My daughter and I were heading for camp, south of Austin, north of San Antonio. I would drop her off and then return, four hours each way. After a while, she closed her eyes and took a nap.
I focused my gaze straight ahead. Just south of Waco, I caught a glimpse of George Bush on a billboard. He was in a suit, in a running position. He looked as if he was getting ready to do the high jump. Across the top of the sign, there was a question…”Miss Me Yet?” It was an odd question, I thought, for a President of the United States to ask drivers driving on a highway. It was a question an ex-boyfriend would ask the ex-girlfriend who dumped him, just to annoy her. And she wouldn’t answer. She’d roll her eyes and walk away, or hang up the phone. George Bush was smirking on the billboard.
Underneath the question, there was another question. “Have you had enough of all the hope and change?”
What an idiot. I realize it’s not George Bush who actually asked the question, just a paper version of him, but really, it is the same. He would say that. That is why the people who created the billboard put his running body on it. Anyway, I was annoyed with the sign, with the people who put it there, and all over again, with the fact of this man’s presidency. Not to mention, the buffoons who still claim he is smarter than Barack Obama. I still see “Thank you, George and Laura” placards on Dallas lawns. It is enough already.
My daughter woke up after we passed the sign. We stopped for ice cream and kept going, passing more cows. and baby cows, and places to buy tractors. Finally, we arrived at camp and found the cabin and set up her bed. Looked like it would be a fun week. Hugs and kisses, be safe, wear sunscreen, drink water. I got back into the car and headed north, looking for the rear view of President George Bush but alas, seeing nothing. Vroom vroom.
Rick Perry is so wacky. Why, just today, the Governor of Texas decided that Texas will not compete for the $700 million in federal education money that the Obama administration is offering states so that they can improve their schools. Rick doesn’t want to improve his schools.
Which would be fine, I guess, if his schools didn’t need improving. But lookie lookie…
Texas is 49th out of 50 in performance on the verbal SAT. 46th on the math. Only 68 percent of high school students graduate from high school. That’s 36th place on the list. 46th when it comes to how much the state spends per pupil and 50th, bingo!, 50th for how many Texans (just 78 percent) actually have a high school diploma.
Of course, the state ranks really high on one thing…the percentage of student growth. SO MANY KIDS! So many kids (with the largest rate of growth in low income and minority families who would probably need a little boost) who won’t be getting a little boost, thank you, Rick. Silly Rick.
All this after the State Education Commission spent months preparing a proposal to get the funds and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $250,000 to the effort.
Coincidentally, The Great State was one of two (Alaska’s the other…hi Sarah!) who refused to write common curriculum standards last year. I see it coming. Perry/Palin. On a horse, galloping in front of the Capitol, the two of them, in hats. Save me.
Wow. It’s no myth. Sports are big here. Really big, a phenomenon. It starts at age four and does not stop. I have watched it not stop for some time, now. It’s interesting to me, someone who is no stranger to competition, that this is some other kind of competition.
On Saturday mornings, kids who should be home drinking formula from bottles are out on the soccer fields, strapped up in guards and cleats and scoring goals. They have British coaches, from the Premiere League. By third grade, boys are wearing shoulder pads and helmets. Little mini Joe Namaths. Or what’s his name, Romulo. Romeo. Oh, Romo.
I went to a high school football game with my daughters last year. It could have been the Meadowlands. There was a professional announcer, a color-commentary guy, dancers, cheering people, flag-wavers, bands. It was an extravaganza. And on the field, they were ready for the NFL.
My girls juggle balls on their toes, shoot lay-ups into hoops, slam backhands, dash down tracks. We have nineteen bags of team jerseys, which I am saving for posterity. I am a professional spectator. Last night, while eight trillion crazy people were screaming for the college boys, I was thirty miles away in a school gym with 250 crazy people screaming for their eighth grade daughters. It was very exciting, the game in the gym, I mean. 40-4. They are not allowed to lose.
Some people might think that this is all a little much. If I were still in New York, I would probably think that. But, actually, I think that it is good, especially for girls. Keeps them where you want them, on the field, focused, managing time, riding the bus with their buddies, figuring out how to keep their bangs out of their eyes when the refs won’t allow clips. Feminine, tough, all at once. All good.
In ninth grade, I joined the gymnastics team, not because I had done any gymnastics, but because I could dance. I could do the floor ex. That’s short for floor exercise, which I had seen in the Olympics, noticing the dancing involved. I could not do a walkover without getting stuck in the backbend in the middle. Uh oh. Stuck. But pirouette? No one was better.
“I was on the gymnastics team,” I told my kids not too long ago.
“What event did you do?” they asked.
“Floor ex,” I said. “You know, exercise.”
“Really, how’d you do?”
Such questions. “I did well, with the dancing part. And I threw in some cartwheels. They said I should do more gymnastics since it was a gymnastics team.”
“Yes, Mommy, you probably should have,” they said, laughing, in a mocking sort of way. “Did you do any other events?”
“Oh no, I was afraid of the beam. And those bars. So uneven. And high up.”
They could not imagine it. I couldn’t either, in retrospect, though I really appreciated the experience. We wore maroon leotards, with zippers, and warm-up suits with the stripes. We didn’t have the stripes for ballet. Of course by tenth grade, I was cartwheeling into the school newspaper office after school, which probably made a little more sense.
These days, in Texas, I am rediscovering my athletic prowess, though, accompanying my kids to the track or field or court and giving them a run for their money. Oh yeah. Watch this. Out of my way. Slam dunk.
This is a silly thing to discuss today, after all the Afghan craziness yesterday, but it is something I’d like to explore. Do your children wear coats? I mean, when it is cold outside, do they go into their closets and pull out thick garments with sleeves and zippers and hoods, sometimes, and put them on before leaving the house? Are there hats involved? Or gloves, and scarves?
Here, in Texas, kids can survive in short sleeves for nine months of the year. For the other three, they add a sweatshirt. This morning, it was 37 degrees outside, and when I made my second trip to school, at 7:35, it was snowing.
“What is that?” said my 14 year old from the back seat, shivering.
“That is snow,” I answered, in sheepskin, and pajamas.
“Wow, a coat, maybe.”
“The vest, without the sleeves?”
Last year, I bought the vest, thinking it was at least something, if it wasn’t a coat. She loved the vest, I thought.
“It doesn’t do anything,” she said.
“Then, there is something to do.”
It was early for word games. And we had arrived at school. Instead of dropping her off a half mile away and making her feel the cold, step by blustery step, I pulled up a little closer than usual. I am a bad parent. I am not tough enough. Tomorrow, I am going to be so mean. I am going to make her wear the vest.
Just a little round-up, as we like to say in the news biz:
Not too long ago, a report found that more teenagers have repeat pregnancies in Dallas, Texas than in any other city in the United States. Today, we find out that Texas, as a state, leads the nation in deaths from child abuse and neglect.
Interestingly, we have known all along that Texas, led into such distinction by its governor, Rick Perry, you know, the death-sentence for-innocent-guys guy, is very close to the bottom of the list in per-capita spending to protect children. Shouldn’t we want the lists flipped? I think we want the lists flipped.
From 2001 to 2007, more than 1,500 kids died due to neglect and abuse, more than any other state. Abominable.
Now that George W. is being motivational, he can address the issue.
In other news, two men held since 1997 for a Dallas murder have been exonerated. Someone else was just arrested. That’s good.
And later, I will be heading to Municipal Court to tackle the weeds-in-the-alley issue. Lots of hyphens today, I know. And rain. Four inches, maybe.
Oh the days of walking by Bryant Park, feeling fashionable. Strutting the cross-over strut. Swiveling the shoulders. Whatever I was wearing. Being in the midst was enough. I was mod. I was chic. I was it. I had it.
I still have it, sort of, but it is not the same. It is not the same when you can’t walk by Bryant Park at lunchtime, when you are 26, and can tell your editor that you were out “scouting” or “researching” or being enterprising, somehow. Oh, I was just being enterprising. Fashion Week in New York is a nifty thing. Of course, I never participated in it on any professional level, other than the aforementioned private sidewalk modeling, but it was nifty anyway. It was distinctively New York. Sort of like the Stage Door.
I do not take part in fashion these days, on any regular basis, other than to get dressed in the morning. Which, I should be honest, might not qualify, given my sartorial selection. T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops. In cooler weather, T-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sweatshirt. Tres chic, non? Mais oui. When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
My children nominated me to be a candidate on “What Not To Wear.” They took my photograph. Put on your oldest shirt, Mommy. And look pathetic. Snap snap. They have not heard back from the show’s producers, but they are confident that I will snag a spot. Just look at your closet. The truth is, I do not go into my closet anymore, except to add to the give-away bags on the floor or to haul out the box with the small electronic appliance accessories. I do not often need an extra phone cord, but sometimes. Other than that, I do not retrieve a garment from the closet. They are all old and silly-looking and they do not suit my lifestyle. I do not need to put on a blouse with a ruffled neckline and pink platform sandals to sit at my desk in the enclosed former porch that is my office. I do not require an orange blazer, either, in the enclosed former porch. I should toss everything out.
But this week, as an homage to the goings-on back home, I have had my very own Fashion Week right here in Texas. I have upgraded the T to a V-neck, without writing on it. I have worn pants, and even a necklace. And shoes. I have applied under-eye concealer. They use that a lot on the runway. And, I have felt fabulous. Together. Swank. It. Will It last? I do not know. I have been a little uncomfortable in the shoes. And the necklace bangs on the computer keys and the oven door. But it has been useful. I have felt the connection, sensed the psyche, joined the people at the Park. I am with you, yes I am. Watch this…I’m strutting to the mailbox. Cross, cross. Swivel swivel.
It is time to talk about Texas. Having returned earlier this week from a weekend in New York, with family and friends, so many friends at a high school reunion, it is time to talk about Texas. Oy.
A day or two before leaving, I saw something funny while jogging through my neighborhood, one of a few that have some vestiges of history. We live in a stone cottage, built in 1931. Many of the original houses have been torn down and replaced by oversized extravaganzas that stretch to lot lines and fake a European pedigree. Anyway, when I passed one, I saw a man holding a long brown object. He was standing at the base of a tree near the curb, lifting the long brown object overhead. It occurred to me, judging by his stance, that he was not poking at a cat with a broom. The man, in Polo–peach, with khaki Bermudas–was pointing a gun.
“Are you shooting at something with a rifle?” I couldn’t help but ask, slowing in front of his Bavarian castle.
“It’s just a BB,” he smiled, resting the weapon up against the trunk. He was a neat man, about 60, with well-snipped hair and a tank watch. His dog didn’t budge, his gaze fixed to the top of the tree.
Then, the man touched my shoulder in that amiable way, the way they do it here. “We have a lot of squirrels,” he said.
We have a lot of squirrels, I thought, but we don’t kill them with assault rifles. Across the street, a small child skipped from a car to her front door. What if PoloMan was a bad shot? I snuck from his grip on my scapula and took off, reminded that I was, indeed, in Texas. I am a New Yorker. But I am in Texas. Save me.
At the reunion, most of my old pals asked when I would be coming home, or getting out, really, sounding like visitors at a jail. As a single mom, I have to abide by Texas laws that prevent me from moving across county lines, let alone state borders, or risk actual imprisonment. And I do not look good in orange. I am free to relocate with my girls if their Dad does first. If he goes 30 minutes north, I can go to Paris. That is a kooky law.
For now, though, despite the horror washed across my classmates’ collective face, I am faced with squirrel murderers, Bible belters, Republicans, and barbecue. I really hate the barbecue. They fry turkeys here, in huge vats of oil. Despite these troubling aspects of the place, my kids like it here, since it is all they know. We moved from Boston when they were ten and twenty months old. They are thriving and happy, and completely immersed in school and their assorted activities. They could be anywhere. I am in Texas.
They know, however, that they will be going to college in the northeast, anywhere from Virginia on up. The younger one knows that she won’t be visiting Mommy in Dallas for Thanksgiving during her freshman year. She’ll be finding me somewhere else. I suggested the other day that she skip a grade at some point in the next seven, but she thought she was already young in the class. They had a wonderful time running around my old high school and meeting my buddies and their kids, though they said it was odd seeing me with friends.
They want to go back, for a longer visit next time. I think we’ll do the college tour. At least they will be geographically desirable.