Jerome A. White
It’s back. That annoying rogue hair that sprouts up midway between my right eyebrow and my hairline. It feels like it’s at least an inch long now, and has curled around to tickle my forehead. Oddly, it’s blonde in color, so months typically go by before I even notice it. I need to remember to pluck it when I get home.
Hmmmmm, I feel like I’m forgetting something. Like I’m supposed to be doing something else right now. Oh crap, the GNOWP log! Focus Jerome, focus.
Let’s see, what’s gone on so far today?
Well, I went to the gym as usual to keep chiseling my Herculean physique to manly perfection. While walking back to the parking lot next to the education building, I ran into Rob.
“Hey Rob, do you think Dr. Melville will ever ask us back to speak at another TGNO event?”
The previous afternoon we both were asked to inspire the 2007 recruits for the Teach Greater New Orleans alternative certification program in the Education building next door. During our off-the-cuff talks, both of us advocated slapping students as a discipline measure.
“She knew we were kidding, right?” said Rob.
“I think so,” I replied. Walking over to the Liberal Arts building, we continued to discuss the educational contexts within which both of us actually do physically assault certain boys in our respective classes. It’s tough love, and those are the kids that seem to love us back the most. I hope I don’t have to ever explain this concept in court.
We entered the GNOWP summer cabana.
Meeting in a cabana still makes me nervous. I can’t help but think of my old home in the Bay Area, where in recent years “cabana clubs” started sprouting up with the ostensible purpose of treating people with glaucoma. I don’t touch the stuff myself, and I don’t want to get caught up if there’s a raid here.
Think of the two words that label this building: Liberal. Arts.
Hey man, don’t you think this is the first place the pigs are gonna come searching for illegal cabana plants?
I tried to put my worries aside and ease on into the day. The rest of the hospitality crew had already performed all their duties, leaving Rob unable to contribute anything. That guy’s got awesome timing.
So that’s where I am right now. Hey cool, Alice said I only have to make this log one page long, and I’m already almost there. Here lemme make the font a little bigger.
Oh, let me keep going, since it’s not even 9am yet.
Look, Kathy’s back. She shares a phone call she got from Margaret, who frantically explained that she’ll be late today. Jessica, who was up till then sitting quietly in front of her laptop, rolls her eyes. Jessica proposes that Margaret is faking this whole pregnancy thing just to get attention, and the half-dozen women present proceed to speculate on what Margaret is really carrying under her shirt every day.
Tara: “Thank you daddy.”
Rob: “I’m not your daddy!”
GNOWPers start looking over the snacks for the day, which I had dropped off in front of the locked cabana before my workout. Included are English muffins, raisin bread, an apple-pineapple crisp, and fruit salad. I also bought some ostentatious bakery muffins for those who need a cholesterol fix. One woman complements the spread with a tone of surprise in her voice. I immediately get defensive. What, bachelors don’t know how to eat well? Did y’all think I was gonna bring in TV dinners on my snack day?
No, Bonnie clarifies that TV dinners emerge as a staple of one’s diet only after marriage. Johnson helpfully points out that graduate courses are available in the disciplines of wiping counters and picking up clothes off the floor. I immediately search UNO’s website for such a class. Sounds like some easy credit. Hmmm, where is it? It must have gotten cut as a result of Katrina.
Oh, I’ve forgotten to set up my brand new toaster oven, which I bought solely out of love for my writing project colleagues. GNOWP will reimburse me, right?
As I try to figure out why I’m having difficulty pulling out the crumb tray, Alice audaciously assaults my masculine sensibilities by suggesting that I consult the directions. Instead, I rely on the extensive skills and knowledge I acquired during my 9-year mechanical engineering career with the nation’s biggest defense contractor: I assess the problem, determine the root cause, and remove the piece of tape that’s holding the tray shut. Problem solved, Alice.
Someone asks where Felix is, as he’s usually one of the early arrivers. Almost on command, our San Antonio señor walks in.
Felix, talking to Tara: “Good morning.”
Damn, she’s rude.
Kathy (I believe) compliments the fruit salad. I’m hesitant to say too much, since it’s a sacred family recipe handed down the generations. But GNOWP is like family, so with hopes that Mom doesn’t disown me for this, here’s the White Family recipe for Fruit Salad:
Now, here’s the secret step that makes it all work:
Felix marches over to the snack table and snatches up three bakery muffins. Valyn disapprovingly eyes his gluttonous behavior.
“What are you looking at?” snarls Felix, before grabbing a Bacon Double Whopper. Funny, I don’t remember bringing that in for snacks this morning.
Alice calls our meeting to order and reads the Monday log, recalling Dawn’s history-making video log of Friday’s events.
9:09 Some guy walks into the room. Oh crap, is this the fuzz coming to make a cabana bust? Oh wait, no, it’s that dude… what’s his name… Keith, Karl, Koby, Kevin?
Wow, it’s been a while, and the years since we last saw Kevin have not been kind to him. I think Tara was still in diapers when he left us. Oops, that may still be an embarrassing problem for her, so I shouldn’t bring it up. Kevin goes on and on, swearing that he missed us and thought about us often. Really, Kevin? You couldn’t find the time to attend a single one of our ball games? Apparently graduation wasn’t a big enough deal for you to drag yourself away from your terribly important affairs? Did you even remember to call and wish Reem a happy birthday? Whatever, Kevin.
9:12 Rob excitedly describes the “super pot hole machine” he saw on Elysian Fields today. I wonder why in the world would someone ever invent a machine to create potholes in our streets. Personally, I find potholes rather annoying, and I feel that we already have too many of them in this fine city.
9:15 Off to literature circles. We’ll meet back at 10:45.
Kevin, the former head of my Lit Circle, missed us so much that he once again comes up with a lame excuse to ditch us. It just so happens that Dawn is off somewhere today too. I don’t recall why, but it probably has something to do with that “Will Teach for Food” sign that I saw her working on yesterday. That just leaves Johnson and me. We march down to the Liberal Arts Faculty Lounge and discuss the hell out of that Atwell book.
I contend that that thing Atwell says somewhere around p400 is a naïve oversimplification of nuanced socioeconomic trends. Johnson stands her ground though, contending that the stuff Atwell says somewhere in the next chapter completely justifies the claim. Johnson then says something impolite about my momma. I don’t appreciate that.
I go upstairs to retrieve something from my backpack that’s totally pertinent to the Lit Circle conversation. One of the two groups in the room seems focused and on task, under Alice’s brutally oppressive iron fist. The other group, in contrast, is way off topic, gossiping about some chick stuff like a gaggle of gals gigglin’ in the girls’ room. In what seems to be a recurring pattern, that spherical-bellied redhead is totally leading her team astray with her zany shenanigans. A modern day Lucille McGillicutty, if you will. Is it a coincidence that this gabby group is the only all-female bunch?
Felix, the lone male in the room other than myself, sits amidst the Alice regime. The poor man barely musters the strength to lift his eyes to connect with mine. His lips remain pressed shut in defeat, but his eyes cry out “For the love of God, man, please help me! I just want to discuss the text at hand.” He stares dejectedly at me, like a lone old dog caged up in a pet store crate amongst a litter of jubilant kittens. Gee, I hope that metaphor doesn’t come off sexist.
“Sorry dude, you’re on your own.” I return downstairs to continue my heated “In the Middle” debate.
In an attempt to broker peace with Johnson, discussion turns to our vegan preferences, which seems to be our only common ground. We both agree that our favorite vegan ingredients are Chinese 5-spice tofu, flax seed, and baby seal flank. Unbeknownst to many, baby seals were reclassified as a vegetable under a little known rider on a 2004 homeland security bill.
Everyone returns to our dubiously-named meeting place.
Melody continues her peculiar habit of cutting the muffins, and taking only one half. C’mon Melody, commit to the muffin! Go all the way! I bet she shuns putting half-and-half in her coffee, in favor of quarter-and-quarter. Ahh, stupid math teacher humor; There’s nothing like it.
Oh lookee here, Kevin’s back. I wonder how long he’ll stick around before deserting us this time.
Kevin announces that he’s been in contact with Sunday, and invited her to join us for the writing marathon Friday and possibly some other day of class. (Update: She plans to join us both Thursday and Friday!) Hey Kevin, you’ve got a dozen other kids back here who need your love and attention too.
Margaret and Kathy fight over the origami dinosaur I made last week. Margaret brings up her alleged 8-year-old daughter, shamelessly playing the child card again. Has anyone in GNOWP even seen any evidence that this girl really exists?
Kevin begins his lesson, asking us to clear our common workspace so that it resembles a typical family dining table. I look for a spoonful of mashed potatoes to fling at the person across from me, but apparently that’s not what Kevin has in mind. We are to respond to this prompt for about 15 minutes: “If writing were a food, it would be _____, because…”
Here are the group’s responses.
Melody: Salad, with a healthy mixture of fresh vegetables mixed in. Clad in her tie-die shirt, she must be one of those hippie vegetarian types.
Valyn: Lettuce, the building block of a salad. Take that, Melody.
Bonnie prefaces her contribution with the bold claim “This is by far the best piece of writing you’ll ever hear in your life:” Hamburger, due to its many complementary components.
Felix: Nutritious. I kinda expected that we all were going to fill in the blank with a noun, but that Felix just has to be a trendsetter.
Margaret: “neither more nor less than what it would be now.” Huh? She goes of on some highbrow literary-type soliloquy, during which she proclaims that Dickens is “whole and huge” and “an animal-looking animal.” Dang Margaret, why don’t you grab a copy of Great Expectations and get a room?
Kevin: “A peanut butter and banana sandwich with a cold glass of milk,” nourishing and entertaining. That peanut butter had better be crunchy, so that you have to chew on it, and that banana had better be firm – not mushy.
Rob: Apple, citing several biblical references, including “evil and dark side of the force.” I didn’t know George Lucas was one of the authors of the Bible.
Tara: Salad. It’s a mixture of items that are independent, but better when mixed together. The ending of a piece of writing is like the dressing that tops it off. Take that, Melody.
Reem: trelech… treches… tles reches… tres leches cake. We all squirm in our seats uncomfortably, wishing that this activity had come to Reem a little more effret… efflort… efflessort…effortlessly.
Jerome: Spaghetti. When done with writing, Mr. White likes to throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. Good job, J-Fro.
Jessica: Angel food cake. All the factors have to be just right when making it. Alas, I didn’t know I needed light passing through yellow curtains at a specified angle of descent to make my cake come out well. When Jessica makes it, it feels like home, even when it’s a little stale.
Johnson: Legumes, because every culture uses them, but in different ways. Writing certainly wouldn’t be candy or junk food, she states with a pissed off tone in her voice. I’m glad I’m across the table from her today.
Kathy: Cupcake, because there are so many varieties of different flavors and levels of intricacy. A “Santa” reference brings Rob to let out the coveted “ahhhh” that she had heartlessly denied him earlier.
Alice: Succulent, cold, baked, Cornish hen. With lunchtime drawing near, a stream of drool pours from the corner of Alice’s mouth, splattering onto the table.
Kevin shares how he uses this activity as a journal assignment in his writing class. It helps him learn much about his students. He typically uses it early in the semester, and doesn’t grade it. Apparently it was once used as a college entrance exam question (“If college were a food,…”). Kevin suggests adapting this prompt to different subjects and objects, since it helps students converse subjects in contexts that everyone can relate to.
He then shares some student responses to the same prompt we had just addressed, causing Margaret to marvel at the simple elegance of chili cheese fries.
12:05 Time for the eagerly anticipated box lunch
Rob garners the most attention, setting up an elaborate picnic on the table with wine, grapes, cheese, crackers, a candle, and a flower. I take note of Rob’s Casanova ways. I think I’ll ditch the cat litter box as a food receptacle in any future romantic pursuits.
Rob starts eating his own lunch. Like a cruel game of musical chairs, it initially appears that Reem will be without a lunch, but we soon discover that this is simply a case of English teachers not knowing how to count. Margaret and Kevin lay out the elaborate rules for the grand GNOWP lunch exchange, causing Rob to whine and kick and pout. Jessica’s in more positive spirits, proclaiming “Gouda is gooda.”
The hippie vegans hang out together at the south end of the table and plot to take over the world with their nefarious agenda. Hey you self-righteous communist hippie vegan eco-terrorists, put down the cabana pipe, man!
While dining, Margaret insists on continuing the metaphor exercise. GNOWPers struggle to contain their enthusiasm.
In short: Love is like a lemon, or a moldy strawberry. Johnson’s mother is like bitter wax fruit. Melody feels this exercise is like old soda crackers.
Margaret pours oil onto her marriage while trying to keep it spicy. Dang Margaret, didn’t I already tell you to get a room? Bonnie, married 27 years, says marriage needs preservatives.
The ladies talk on like guests hanging out too long after a party.
Margaret and Johnson soon start exchanging “men”isms, bashing their penis-adorned counterparts. I almost raise my voice in protest, but then I notice that both women are snapping their necks back in forth in male-bashing moxy. For my own safety, I remain silent.
Felix goes back for more muffins, despite having taken only 1,965 steps in the day.
Shoot, I think I’ve worn this undershirt one or two days too long. I should change into a new one this evening. What day of the week is it? I think today is a shower day. I’ll check my calendar.
Focus Jerome, focus.
The lunchtime conversation seems to be dying down, but the encroaching calm of the room is to be short-lived. Walking back to her seat, Reem accidentally steps on Valyn’s brand new white Air Jordans. Or, was it an accident? Valyn’s head flips upward with a sinister glare. Reem, never one to back down from a fight, snarls, “You got a problem, Stumpf?”
Everyone freezes in their seats, petrified, knowing that these two explosive personalities combined in the same room mix for a volatile cocktail.
Valyn, has heard the legend many times. “Bad Dream Reem,” as she’s known on the mean streets, earned her reputation as a speed demon and hardened criminal in Jefferson Parish. “Valyn the Queenpin” sees this as an opportunity to gain street cred beyond the Plaquemines borders. She intrepidly stares the Bad Dream in the eye and shrieks, “Bring it beeyotch!” and the brawl is on!
Reem lunges across the table, clamping her icy fingers around Valyn’s throat. Chairs fly to the side as onlookers scramble to escape the melee. Reem and Valyn grapple furiously to gain the upper hand. Valyn grabs the chrome-plated classroom scissors that she keeps concealed in her sock and swings perilously, causing Reem to release her grip and back off a step. The two women, eyes locked, circle the room, each one looking for an opening to strike a fatal blow. Suddenly a cell phone interrupts the tense standoff. Apparently Reem’s four-year-old daughter, Killer Khadeeja, is wreaking havoc of her own over at the childcare center. The final fray between these two ferocious combatants will have to wait another day. Reem cautiously collects her belongings and slips out of the room.
“Hey Valyn,” Bonnie whispers hesitantly, “why don’t you go cool off for a minute outside.”
Valyn snorts angrily, and storms out the cabana door.
A collective sigh of relief is exhaled, and the rest of the group hastily agrees that no one should ever be left alone with either of these two dangerous individuals for the remainder of the institute.
1:36 Coaching sessions have concluded for Tara and Rob. Alice decides that we shall write our reflections, and then split up once again into our R & R groups before calling it a day. Once again, Kevin bails on us.
Whew, I’m totally stressed by the day’s activities. I try to live a clean healthy life, but I could sure go for some cabana right now.
What? Who’s Ken?