Sunday, January 3, 2010


It's the night before school returns. It's bitterly cold everywhere. Literally. Figuratively.

This winter break has been a mixed bag of emotions. On the up side, I welcomed the opportunity to spend some rather quality time with my own children. Baking cookies. Going to the theatre. Learning how to bowl on Wii and having my wazoo beaten by Keni, a four-year-old precocious southpaw with a Beantown accent. Spending one-on-one with my currently directionless teen, Annie, and feeling better that she likes her new job. Looking into the wide eyes of Gigi, my delicate little self, and reassuring her that I love her dearly, that everything will be OK.

And then I had the chance to spend a few hours with my English family, pedagogical gurus who appreciate intellectual banter, well-written novels, a respectable wine list, and high standards in public education. Of course, we were let down rather suddenly at The Bookstore, a modern-day speakeasy found within the confines of a candle-lit basement bar that's hidden behind faux stacks of authentic moldy books. The period drinks did little to interest me. (I never envision ordering an Old Fashioned, or anything that includes bitters. Life is bitter enough.) But I had a fairly robust ale in a cool bottle. I forget what the others had, but I know that it took nearly 30 minutes to place an order, at least 15 minutes for our drinks to be served, around 20 minutes for four slices of cheese to appear, and Lord knows how long for our messed up check to arrive.

Well, despite the rave review of previous imbibers, I was not about to dish out any stars, due to the abysmal service and limited menu. In my haste, I confess, I remember grabbing whatever was on the table. Upon my exit, I realized that I somewhat pilfered one of the old books that had been sitting beneath my plate. Perhaps it was the sole beer, perhaps it was my disgust with the 90-minute experience, perhaps it was the waitress insisting that we pay more. But I walked out with a musty book.

Safely tucked inside Marcy's SUV, I snorted that I must've scored some wonderful novel, something I hoped that would lead me to some self-awareness, some life-changing epiphany. But as we started to drive off, I looked at the title: Gregg Shorthand--Functional Method. I took a book written entirely in shorthand, which practically no one in modern society can read. Pages and pages of shorthand. Lines. Circles. Hyphens. Slashes. Magical script of old-school secretaries. Was this karma? Perhaps. 616 pages of nothingness. Disconnect. Rambling confusion for no one to decipher.

On the down side of the break, well, it was simply difficult at times. I feel as though I have so many pressures coming from different directions. My community-based project. My upcoming professional developments. My next graduate course. Mid-terms. Planning. Grading. Training. Boo to it all. I feel as though I cannot control any of it when it strikes all at the same time. And I feel as though I have a sign on my forehead: Vacancy. I need a personal assistant to manage it all. Even if all he or she ever does is write everything in shorthand. At least someone will understand, make sense of it all.

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