We Don’t Wear Signs.

posted in: Chicago, Luv 5
German stamp for social welfare, 1982. Image: Wikipedia.
German stamp for social welfare, 1982. (I like the roses.) Image: Wikipedia.

I leave Thursday morning. I’m going to California.* Claus will leave a couple hours after me on a flight to Berlin.

Very glamorous-sounding, isn’t it? California. Berlin. It would be glamorous if we were each on our own private jet. It would be glamorous if we were meeting up in Havana next week at midnight. We’re not. It’s the end of something and it cannot be denied any longer. Oh, you can give me a virtual knock on my chin and tell me that if it’s meant to be it will be — and I do appreciate it — but I’m cynical and jaded tonight. Any chance I had of being glamorous at all is gone with this grumpy look on my face. That’s me: grumpy and sitting in coach with a totebag. Somebody take my picture!

We went to the store tonight to get eggs. Claus’s omelettes are world-class and I wanted one more. We were standing in line for the checkout and I was leaning up against him. He had his arms around me. It wasn’t a yucky PDA; we just looked like a happy couple, or at least a couple that wasn’t actively mad at each other. So I’m hanging on him and thinking how it’s going to be to go to the store alone again, how it’ll be to not have a tall body to lean up against, and I’m pretty sure I saw something. I saw a gal in the line next to us looking right at us and she looked really bummed out. At best, it was a “Gee, that must be nice” look; at worst, it was an “I hate love” look. Whatever it was, when I saw her, she looked away quickly and bought her frozen peas.

I’ve been there. You see a couple all clingy and sweet and if you happen to be in a bad mood for whatever reason (especially for a love-related reason) you think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Must be nice. Get a room!” And if that’s what was going on with this gal, and I think it was, I wished I could’ve said:

“We look lovey-dovey, it’s true, but you don’t know what’s really going on. He’s leaving for Germany the day after tomorrow and we don’t know how to date across an ocean. We think we’re just going to go on with our own lives and see what happens if he gets a job here in the future. We’re too old to like, profess love in blood on notebook paper and send a bushel of postcards to each other every day. We’re going to try and hold this loosely, if that makes sense. Neither of us have done this before. And I’m turning thirty-seven this summer. It’s relevant, somehow, but that’s a longer discussion. Do you want to go get a drink, maybe? Just hang out? Talk stuff over?” 

Approaching the young woman and sharing this with her seemed like a lot of work, so we just paid for our eggs and green onions and walked home. She walked home. Everyone walks or drives home and you don’t know their lives. Appearances aren’t always what they seem and even if they are what they seem — a happy couple, being sweet on each other in the grocery line — there is always, always more to the story.

*I’m visiting my favorite auntie for a few days, full reports from San Francisco/Sacramento. It’s really good timing.

On Teaching Writing.

posted in: Art, Work 4
One day, I'll have a circular rug and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it's just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia
One day, I’ll have a circular rug, long dangly earrings, and a redhead in a hunter hat in my class. Until then, it’s just tables and chairs. Photo: Wikipedia.

Back in March, I was asked by an accomplished and incandescently beautiful woman at the University of Chicago if I was interested in teaching some writing classes over there. I yawned and told her I was washing my hair but that yeah, maybe that would work, and I told her I’d call her later that week. I forgot about it and then remembered and texted her, “hey u wat up. still want me 2 teach?”

Actually, that is not what I did. What I did was a backflip. I ran around the room and yipped like a dog. I levitated. Really? Teach at the University of Chicago? Teach writing at the University of Chicago? I sat down so my legs would stop wiggling and said that yes, I would like to do that very much. Would she like me to pitch some ideas for classes or was there something she had in mind? Could I get her anything? Coffee? Tea? A new car, perhaps? She said she’d love to hear my pitches — no car or coffee required — and within the week, all three of the classes I pitched to her were put on the schedule. These are they:

Blogging as Reflection & Reputation (4-week)
Blogging isn’t just for political junkies or mommies — though if that’s the kind of blog you’re interested in writing, that’s great. Blogging at its best offers a platform for daily writing practice, self-reflection, the opportunity to understand the world a bit better, and to give yourself a presence online that extends far beyond your Facebook or LinkedIn page. In this 4-week workshop, learn the basics of blogging, do’s (#consistency) and don’ts (#oversharing), and gain confidence as a writer.

Stories Onstage (4-week)
Everyone has a story to tell. Our stories can be sad, hilarious, thought-provoking, completely nuts, quiet, loud, weird, sweet — and are often a combination of all of that. In this 8-week course, we’ll put your stories onstage in the form of solo monologues. We’ll stretch them, bend them, shape them and generally play around with them to form a piece you’ll be invited to perform for an invited audience the last week of class. Writing and performance go hand in hand here to illuminate your life, your story. Bring paper and your voice. 

Beyond Slam: Poetry on Its Feet (4-week)
You may be familiar with the poetry slam: competitive performance poetry created in Chicago in 1982. Slam is here to stay, but the old tropes have fallen away, leaving the strongest elements of performance poetry as a gift to us all. In this workshop, write your life in poems, hone solo performance skills from a professional poet/slammer, and come closer to what poetry was originally meant to be: an aural tradition.

This poetry class is the first one up, actually; it began this week. The students I have are engaged, interesting and interested, funny, and excited to learn everything there is to learn about delivering a poem effectively while standing in front of a microphone. My core objective is to break them of any preconceptions of what a poem onstage looks like. I’m drilling into them that the typical slam poetry rhythm and schtick is dead, dead, dead; the only poetry worth sharing onstage, worth honing and rehearsing to perfection is the original poem, the true-to-your-own-voice poem, the poem that no one else could write but you. I can teach them how to win a slam, but I’d rather make it okay for them to be themselves.

You don’t have to be a student at the University of Chicago to take classes at the Writing Studio. So if you live in Chicagoland, come on by. The next class up is the blogging class (starts July 11th) and the Stories Onstage class is slated for September right now, but that might move up.

Teaching scares the poop out of me. But saying no to something that scares the poop out of me scares…more poop out of me. Did I mention I’m a writing teacher?