I tend to believe the future is never really coming. Does that mean I’m still mentally a teenager? Maybe. I usually have a mental calendar that goes to the next break from school, and then ends. (If I were Mayan, you’d all have 2012 style crises about six times per year.) That means I’m likely to enthusiastically agree to anything you ask, as long as it’s far enough in advance. Whatever it is, it sounds like a great idea, because deep down in my heart, I don’t really believe it’s ever going to happen.
And then I’m always wrong, and the day of reckoning comes.
My attitude from the first text message was, “Hey, this will give me a story to tell later.” And I’ve definitely told the story! I feel bad for certain people who must be so tired of hearing it. I don’t usually bring it up, but everybody else asks about it. So the people who spend the most time around me, end up hearing about it all the time.
Sorry-not-sorry, I guess. This part’s been fun! I love having a good story to tell. It’s fun to get a little attention. It was a crazy experience that I never dreamed I’d have, and I’m sure nothing like it will happen again, so while it lasts, I’m smiling and enjoying the moment.
But up until now, I’ve had all the control over the story. Everybody knows my version of events, and that’s it. For all anyone knows, I could be making the entire thing up!
That ends Thursday…
Well, more like Friday. Who watches TV live anymore? At 10:00? On a school night? Not even to see my own acting debut. Guys, I’m old.
This is the part where it feels like possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had!! I have absolutely no idea what this scene is going to look like. I could be completely cut out and laying forgotten on the editing room floor. Or…. I could look and sound like a complete fool. I probably do. I didn’t know what I was doing! I didn’t know what to do with my face, my hands, anything. When I’m nervous, my voice gets even more high-pitched and irritating than normal. Who wants to listen to that? Ugh…. And in front of the world? Other people will see this! Didn’t I consider that last August??
No, not really. Because in August, I didn’t believe in February.
I’ll miss this whole phase of the Portlandia story, when nobody’s seen anything and it all feels imaginary. After this week, it’s entirely possible that I’ll never want to talk about it again.
Or I’ll run away to Hollywood and dedicate the rest of my life to my acting career.
Definitely one or the other. 😉
(This Thursday night on IFC, Portlandia episode 6.6!)
I’ve been wanting to write something about this for a while now, mostly so I’d have it to remember and make me smile later, but suddenly it feels appropriate right now.
I don’t want to give personal details here, so I’m just going to say that a student you’d never expect, surprised me several weeks ago. He’s never been a reader, but he informed me that we were starting a (very small) book club. He and his friend would be coming to my classroom twice a week during lunch, and we’d be listening to the audiobook version of To Kill A Mockingbird. My job was to provide the audiobook and press the play button.
You can’t say no to that!
I have no idea where he got the idea to read TKAM. He heard about it somewhere though, and according to plan, he’s dragged his friend along twice a week to eat lunch in my room and listen to the book. They sit mostly in silence, occasionally asking me to hit the pause button so we can discuss part of the story.
I can’t emphasize enough–this wasn’t my idea! I didn’t do this. I’ve made a lot of efforts to encourage my kids to fall in love with reading, but I never suggested this book, and I never suggested lunchtime book club. In fact, I’m probably the least engaged member of the club. While they’re listening to the book, I’m usually working on other stuff and only kinda-sorta paying attention. When they want to stop and discuss, I’m leaning heavily on my memory of reading the book way back in high school, and seeing the movie several years ago. Zero effort is going into teaching this novel.
I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me. Book club completely warms my teacher heart. Watching two kids giving up their free time to voluntarily enjoy a classic novel–it’s the dream. And not just any two kids, but kids that I originally met as total non-readers.
We do all kinds of language activities in my ELD classes of course, but my favorite, and the kids’ favorite, is when we read a novel together. Yes, I make them do academic work to go with it. But sometimes I wish we could just sit around, reading and discussing novels, every single day. Drop the structure and accountability and grading and everything else. Just savor good books and discussion. The kids wouldn’t complain!
Harper Lee passed away yesterday. And I’m remembering that quote somebody said on Twitter during the celebrity death streak last month–“Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them; we cry because they helped us know ourselves.” The quote struck a chord with me, but as I’m thinking of it now in relation to Lee and other writers, I want to add to it–artists help us know ourselves, and help us know outside of ourselves.
When our book club started chapter one of To Kill A Mockingbird, the kids were asking questions like, “Does this take place before or after 9/11?” (If I’d been actually teaching the novel in class, I would have provided some background before jumping into the book. But since this was so informal and student-led, I hadn’t done that.) I paused the book and we all took a step back to discuss the setting and some historical context.
The conversation felt a little bit like this:
“We’re in the 1930s… Great Depression… ”
“Martin Luther King?”
“Before that–well, actually, he would have been a little kid at this point.”
Through conversation, but mostly through Harper Lee’s words, the kids and I are being transported back to rural Alabama in the 30s. For the students, this is their first journey, and they’re learning the language and flavors and background of a new-to-them time and place in our country’s history. For me, it’s a comfortable return to a place I’ve visited before–but only via literature. I’d read plenty of historical fiction and had lots of relevant background knowledge the first time I read Mockingbird in sophomore English class, but the novel still shines brighter in my memory than so many others I’ve read. Lee’s stories, characters, and words never really leave you.
Book club hasn’t gotten into much of the heavy stuff yet. We’re still romping around, bugging Boo Radley. The kids are charmed by the small town, entertained by Dill (who can read!), unimpressed with Scout’s experiences with public education, and intrigued by the elusive Radley. They’ve been shocked by some of the racial language, casually used, that they know is unacceptable today. I have no doubt that the discussion will be rich as they meet Tom Robinson and get into the court battle. Their sense of justice, equity, and right/wrong is strong, and they’re going to have thoughts and feelings about this one! I can’t wait.
They’re learning about the world beyond their own experience. And they’re also learning about who they are, and who they want to be. Because who can read about Atticus Finch, without internalizing some desire to be that person?
For right now, I’m happy to let them stick with the Mockingbird version of Atticus. It’s developmentally appropriate. They need to believe in a world where good guys stand up against injustice, fight racism head on, and win their battles. They need to learn and believe the lessons Mockingbird Atticus has to teach–lessons about what courage really is, about listening to your conscience, about understanding other people. Correction: we all need Mockingbird Atticus.
And someday, when they’re older, I hope my students return to Maycomb and get to know Go Set A Watchman’s Atticus. That story and that Atticus are harder to swallow, but we need to grapple with them. One day my students will have to understand that racism doesn’t just belong to the bad guys. It’s embedded into the very structure of our society, and its insidious traces can be seen even in people we love and respect. They’ll learn that good guys and bad guys rarely appear outside of the comic books–most of us are just humans, products of our environment, doing the best we can with the knowledge and experience we have. Just like Jean Louise and her Watchman Atticus, my kids will see their own heroes slip off pedestals, and their own ideals fail them. Hopefully Watchman Atticus will help them learn that a person’s heroism doesn’t make them immune to wrongdoing, but their shortcomings also don’t cancel out the good they offer the world. Watchman Atticus can help them learn to live with some cognitive dissonance, and think critically with their heads and their hearts.
Mockingbird Atticus will help my kids want to change the world, and Watchman Atticus will give them the smarts to do it.
It’s amazing how quickly one can get old anymore. I remember accepting that my childhood, and my teenage years, were already relics of a distant past. That overalls and puka shells were to be used for throwback costume purposes only, and that the holographic, platform-inspired, periwinkle Sketchers I once treasured now looked like they came from another planet. But that’s what happens, right? Middle and high school were a long time ago. Circle of life, or whatever.
College, however, just happened. Not that long ago. Because I’m still young. Stuff I did in college was just a few years ago, right? Right…?
Maybe not right.
It hit, and hit hard, when I was doing some planning in my classroom recently. I was researching some iPad apps, figuring out what could be useful in my classes, how I could best use it, how to manage the logistics with the kids. I spend a lot of time this way, and that day I felt a wave of irritation that the technology class in my teaching program at BYU didn’t teach my any of this stuff. Why didn’t we spend any time learning about iPad apps that would be useful in education? Tips for managing a class set of these devices? Why didn’t we learn about navigating Chromebooks, or even using Google Docs with students?
Because none of those things existed when I was in college… I graduated from my teaching program in 2007. The first iPad was introduced in 2010. Even the first iPhone came out a few weeks after I walked across the stage in my cap and gown. Google was still mostly just a search engine, although we felt cool for having Gmail addresses, and Chromebooks wouldn’t exist until 2011.
Literally all of the technology that I base my teaching around now, didn’t exist when I was in college. The more high-tech professors were still getting students to pay big bucks for “clickers” so they could respond instantly to questions in class. Nowadays, I can name half a dozen websites off the top of my head that let my students do the same thing for free.
How is that possible? How can college be so long ago, that it’s essentially another era? Have I really been teaching that long? Was graduation that long ago?
When I stop and think about it, though, I guess a lot has changed. Sure, I had a cell phone in college, and it had a camera and texting… But the photos were terrible, like no megapixels, and most of us were still paying per text. We generally still used our phones for actual phone calls. We left voicemails. We played Snake. And that’s about it.
It was easy to be cool when I started teaching. I could T9 text faster than any of the kids—under the table, without taking my eyes off the person presenting at a meeting. And I had a Facebook profile. (Which I had to log onto an actual computer to look at.) That’s all it really took to be relevant. But now you need accounts on a million different social network platforms, with a new one popping up every time I turn around, and you have to check/update all of them constantly.
The Gilmore Guys have also been making me feel old. I went through college with Rory Gilmore, and looked forward to the show every week. I specifically remember being fidgety in one of my ESL Ed classes on Tuesday evenings, just wanting it to end so I could get home and watch Gilmore Girls…. But now I listen to Kevin and Demi analyzing every episode of the show, and constantly referring to how “It was a different time.” Was it? Was it really? Was Gilmore Girls on the air that long ago?
Yeah, I guess it was.
I guess it has been a while since I’ve worn a corduroy jacket over a t-shirt declaring in rhinestones that I’m a “princess,” “cute,” or “sassy.” And I can’t remember the last time I logged into AIM. Nobody quotes Homestar Runner or Charlie the Unicorn anymore, and the last time I dropped a Napoleon Dynamite reference, only one 8th grader got it.
So… I guess it’s been a minute since college happened. How does the world change so quickly??
I love that we live in an age where it’s socially acceptable to be an out-and-proud nerd about our favorite things. I couldn’t care less about anime, or Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek Wars (Did I just eliminate my entire audience?), but I’m so glad the people who do care, and care a lot, have entire communities where they can come together, dress up in costumes (excuse me, cosplay…), and just geek out together.
Top of my own geek-out-about-it list? No contest–Gilmore Girls! For years, I haven’t even known how to answer when people ask about my favorite tv show, because it seems wrong to name a show that hasn’t been on since 2007. (And that last year barely even counts, amirite, gillies?) But it would be dishonest to put any other show above my Gilmores! I’m not usually a rewatch person. With so many movies, shows, and books that I haven’t experienced yet, I rarely go back to old favorites. But I never get tired of watching GG episodes again and again! To me, the characters are all real people, and Stars Hollow is a real place. The way everyone talks in super fast-paced, witty dialogue, peppered with cultural references that span all of history? That’s my dream. I don’t care that people don’t actually talk that way; I wish they did.
As Rory and I grew up together (She was one year younger than me, but I spent 5 years in college, so we ended up graduating at the same time.), I made a life rule for myself. If I were ever to meet a random celebrity, I wouldn’t be annoying and go interrupt their day…..unless it were a Gilmore Girls cast member. Then, all bets off, I’d absolutely go say hello, get a photo, probably make a fool of myself, but have my moment. Yes, it’s an oddly specific life rule, but it always felt right.
Around the time Netflix made us freshly gaga for Gilmore all over again, a wonderful phenomenon was born–introducing, The Gilmore Guys. Their podcast analyzes every episode of GG in great depth, including the f-f-f-fashion, pop!-goes-the-culture, ….is-that-homophobic?, say-yes-to-the-Jess, etc. Kevin is a lifelong gilly (a term that I’m pretty sure he coined); Demi is watching the show for the first time, and they’re both very funny, entertaining guys. Since becoming a big thing, the Guys have been able to do special Gilmore Gab episodes with cast members, writers, casting directors, etc. And I love every second of it!
It takes way too much exposition to get to the main event, but here it finally is…. Since the podcast became so huge, they started doing live shows around the country. And last week they came to Portland!! Nothing was going to keep me from that show, and it took zero arm-twisting to convince my fellow gilly friend, Heather, to come with me. (This isn’t my first friendship that’s at least half-based in Gilmore love…. Hi, Samantha!)
Wheelchair perk: Since the tickets were all general admission, no assigned seating, they let wheelchair users come in first to beat the crowd and get settled. Well, if you insist… front row it is, then!
I know that you normal people (Are there any still reading?) don’t understand why it’s so cool to sit this close to a couple random guys who put a thing on iTunes… But, A) they’re hilarious and I love them, and, B) I figured this was the closest I’d ever get to my lifelong dream of meeting any GG characters.
While waiting for the show to start, we bought the obligatory and adorable t-shirts. We rocked out to the soundtrack of every song they’ve ever played on the podcast. We discussed the rumor that Michael Winters (Taylor Doose) was going to show up, since he allegedly lives in Oregon and performs Shakespeare in Ashland. And we thought the Asian lady who walked past us looked uncannily like Keiko Agena (Lane Kim).
And then, this wonderful moment happened….
The episode of the night was 6.08, the one where Jess comes back and talks some sense into Rory-the-Yale-dropout. I remember losing my mind when it aired in 2005, but turns out that was only a foreshadowing of the heart palpitations I’d have when these two came out singing “Let’s Talk About Jess” (thanks, Salt-N-Pepa), with a slideshow of sexy Jess/Milo photos happening behind them!! My eyes didn’t know where to focus! Should I be watching the Guys, or my guy in the photos? I don’t know! It didn’t matter! It was wonderful!
As Heather put it afterward, sitting in the front row made it very tempting to invite ourselves into the conversation the entire time. And it was beautiful to be surrounded by people who don’t think it’s weird to spend over two hours listening to people discuss a one hour episode of a WB show that aired ten years. Just look at all those gillies!
We had the privilege of witnessing a historic moment. Kevin is known as the crier. Not like the town crier who makes public announcements on the street corner. (Although doesn’t it seem like Stars Hollow would have one of those?) No, he’s the crier who tears up at every emotional moment, and/or every time Emily Gilmore is on the screen. Typically, the crying happens during his private viewings of the show, then he shamelessly admits to it on air. However, for what seems to be the first time, Kevin shed some tears right there on stage. What inspired this public outpouring of emotion? The scene where sick Paul Anka spends the night on Rory’s bed. Yes, I’m serious.
(By the way, the la-la-la-la special guest in the middle is local comedian and gilly, Caitlin Weierhauser.)
After watching the clip together, and crying about it, we still weren’t done with the Paul Anka bit. Then it was necessary to rework the scene, with Kevin playing Lorelei and Demi as Paul Anka.
I would like to say that this next photo is Demi’s cool guy way of covering up his own Gilmore tears… But I’d be lying. Demi is a robot who will live forever. Instead, this photo may or may not be during one of the half a dozen reenactments we saw of Jess in his bookbinding job… I realize that doesn’t sound worthy of a half dozen repetitions, but does it paint a better picture if I mention that Ginuwine was playing? No, that doesn’t make sense either? Ok, well, I tried.
Toward the end of the show, my face was hurting from nonstop smiling, laughs, and gilly-chucks. Then just when it seems like things might eventually settle down with some pretty typical audience Q&A, Kevin fake-stumbled upon this notable audience member… In the microphone, she shyly stuttered and that her name was Christine and Lane Kim was her favorite character. But look! Look! Look!!!
Turns out we weren’t just being racists at the beginning of the show, thinking all Asian women look like Lane. It really was Keiko Agena!!
I can’t even express the fireworks that were going off in my head at this point. I was in the same room as a Gilmore girl! I could barely stay in my seat! Keiko has memorized word-perfect pages of Amy Sherman Palladino scripts. She’s spit out “this band meets that band meets this other band” lines at the speed of light. She’s eaten Luke’s fries and crashed on Lorelei’s couch. She’s drummed in Hep Alien. And she was right there!!!
We did manage to refocus long enough to wrap up the show and all sing the theme song together. There’s nothing like an entire theater full of people standing to sing and dance to Carole King’s “Where You Lead.” Nothing like it.
And then! Then I got the chance to finally live out the good half of my “don’t be a fool in front of celebs, unless Gilmore” rule. Because I’d been true to my word up until then! When I spent some magical time with Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, I kept my cool. The universe owed me this!
When it was our turn to meet and greet, I shamelessly and awkwardly babbled about my life rule and the “exception clause for residents of Stars Hollow.” No regrets. Keiko graciously agreed that it was a very good rule to live by. And then took this photo with us.
And obviously this photo also had to happen. How cute are Demi and Kevin? I love the Gilmore Guys more than ever! It’s crazy that their show is such a success, and I’m so glad that it is!
Just quick note of f-f-f-fashion…. Yes, I’m wearing the wrong t-shirt. I sadly had nothing Gilmore to wear, so I decided to go with another dated tv show that’s about to have a revival. Also, I realized that’s the rainbow sweater I also wore when hanging out with 105.1 The Buzz’s Daria, Mitch, and Ted. It’s officially my meet-cool-people sweater.
And I’m going to finally end this entry by giving a shout-out (or, in Kevin’s words, a Stars Holla!) to someone named Lisa Santucci Schvach for creating the Spotify playlist of Gilmore Girls music, which kept me in the mood to write all this.
A little light, fluffy, no big deal topic to kick off your Monday morning….
Ok, maybe not, but it’s been floating around my mind lately, so I’m putting it here to flicker through a few other minds.
I grew up in the “colorblind” generation. We talked about race once a year, when we celebrated Martin Luther King for ending racism. We were taught that everyone is equal, the same, period, the end. They taught us not to see race, so we didn’t.
If asked to describe the demographics of my schools k-12, I’d say “White and Asian.” There were other groups represented of course, but hardly enough to register on the pie charts. Still, “few” is more than “zero,” and I can remember the names and faces of a handful of Black students too. (And others, but I’m focusing here.)
The weird thing is, I mostly remember them from my classes in elementary and middle school. They all kind of disappeared in high school, as far as I could tell, if I’d ever thought about it. (I didn’t.)
My high school had at least as many African American students as my previous schools, of course. I saw them in the halls, or sometimes in an elective class. But high school is a segregation machine, and I was one of those kids taking all the honors and AP classes…. It took these last two days of stretching my memory, before I finally came up with one person in one class who had dark skin–I think she was African American, but I couldn’t swear it. That’s it. Just one, and she’s a “maybe.” That doesn’t mean no other Black students ever took an advanced class in my school, and I’m sure my classmates will tell me who I’m forgetting… But the fact that I can’t remember any in my own classes seems significant. I never noticed at the time though. It didn’t occur to me until years later, as an adult going into education, when I learned about underrepresentation in some places and overrepresentation in others.
I was taught not to see color, so I didn’t. I didn’t notice when one color disappeared from our happy little rainbow.
Those students that I wasn’t seeing, did speak up during my junior year, requesting that the school start a Black Student Union. Now, I realize that many schools have had a BSU for a long time, but for some reason, this was a subject of great debate and controversy at our school.
The good news is that I wasn’t one of those people arguing that “BSU’s are racist! What if we tried to have a White Student Union? What would people say then?” Thank goodness, even in my most naive days, I was never that ignorant… No, I was one of the kids who felt very enlightened and egalitarian when arguing, “Why don’t we start a Multicultural Club instead? It would be a club for everyone!” The way I remember it, there was an absurd number of discussions before a decision was ever made. And I wasn’t involved in student council or anything; it just seemed to come up in every class. (Also of note: since I can’t remember any Black faces in those classes, that also means I don’t remember hearing any Black voices in those debates.)
Eventually, a decision was made, and the Multicultural Club was born. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with a Multicultural Club; I’m sure it’s a good club that does good things. (It still exists; I looked it up.) But looking back, I’m so ashamed of that entire debate and my own stance in it. We were wrong. A very small minority of our student body banded together and expressed a need, and the oppressive majority shut them down. I don’t know who the Black students were that originally made the proposal, but I can’t imagine the feeling when they were told, “No, the White kids voted, and they decided this other thing would be better for you.”
I wish I could tell those students that I’m sorry.
We were taught not to see color, so we didn’t. And when color demanded to be seen and heard, we shut it up.
Two of my best friends from high school–the kind of best friends that last no matter how much time has gone by–are Vietnamese-American. I knew that I couldn’t pronounce their middle names no matter how much I tried, and I knew that [insert Asian stereotype here] was stupid and offensive…. And that’s about all I knew. Race didn’t matter. We were all the same. We went to the same school, ate the same french fries from the cafeteria, complained about the same homework, watched the same movies… I guess I did end up owning more Sanrio paraphernalia than the average White girl, but other than that, race wasn’t really a factor.
Let me insert a #WheelchairProblems bit here…. Nobody’s house is ever wheelchair accessible. Like, ever. I almost never get to hang out in other people’s homes. My high school friends were no exception. We hung out at school, at my house, or “out” somewhere. If we went anywhere together, my parents drove, because accessible van. That meant that my friends knew my family and the vibe in our house, but I never really knew theirs.
That’s bothered me my entire life, but it really came into focus when my friend got married several years ago. The wedding was beautiful. She was radiant. I had so much fun, and the biggest meal I’ve eaten to date. I don’t want it to sound like a bad thing when I say that I felt out of place, surrounded by so much Vietnamese culture and tradition and language and people. That’s actually a situation I quite enjoy, being immersed in something new.
But it shouldn’t have felt so different and new, and that’s the part that bothered me. Two of my best friends were Vietnamese, and I felt like I was finally noticing it for the first time. I knew so little about their culture. I didn’t know what it meant for them and their families. (I couldn’t pick their parents out of a crowd.) I don’t think I even knew that either of them spoke as much Vietnamese as I heard that day. What kind of friend was I? How could I miss an entire dimension of some of my closest friends?
My other friend (not the one who got married that day) and I talked about this later, after we’d both grown into adults with a passion for social justice. We talked about race, and what it meant for us, and about why we hadn’t talked about it before. All those years, I hadn’t even known that wall was there, but it felt so good to knock it down.
I was taught not to see color, so I didn’t. I was taught that we are all the same, so I believed it. And I missed so much.
I don’t know if “colorblindness” is a goal we should have for a future generation, but if so, it’s a distant future. For right now, I don’t want it. I tried it, and it kept me from seeing too many things, as blindness* tends to do.
*I say that in the literary sense, not the disability sense, but hesitate as I’m writing it. So I want to clarify that when I say “blind,” I’m referring to people choosing to walk around with their eyes shut. That’s very different from an actual blind person who’s alert and aware of their environment.