Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts on Fall, School, and Being A Good Girl Who Occasionally Broke the Rules

I love the fall.  Coming as I do from California, I can’t say it has anything to do with the leaves.  I think it’s a holdover from my childhood, when I loved school.

I loved everything about school: order; the comfort of being told exactly what to do (even if I was told by Mrs. Parker, who had nine fingers, or Miss Pennykamp, who looked just like someone named Miss Pennykamp ought to look); the smell of chalk, the slow tick of the old wall clock toward 2:50; SRA readers, their color-coded bindings gleaming in the box at the back of the classroom (I still remember the one about Roger Bannister); the creak when I pulled up the desktop to retrieve my workbooks; the joy of producing a perfect row of lower-case, cursive ‘r’s; the collective ecstasy as we all waited for the film strip to start.

I liked summer well enough.  I especially loved its approach and its first days, which coincided with my much-longed-for birthday.  I had no use for Independence Day, a holiday that went unheralded by my parents, who were averse to crowds, traffic, hotdogs, the out-of-doors, and almost all manner of celebration.  But I did enjoy July.  We belonged to a swim club at the old Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, which, in those days, boasted a Jacuzzi, a sauna, and a high-dive.  My pre-adolescent self hadn’t yet learned to fear heights (or much of anything).  I spent my days jumping off the towering board and lying on the cement pool deck, leaving behind at the end of each lazy afternoon a watery, steaming silhouette of myself.

Most of the kids in my Berkeley neighborhood belonged to the Claremont swim club.  In addition to hanging out at the pool, we also liked to sneak up to the hotel’s top floor and slide down the old, covered fire-escape slide.  We only got caught once.  Hotel management was displeased.  But we kept doing it.  I still remember the delirious thrill of slipping into the darkness, defying authority.

At heart, though, I was a conformist.  The life of the rebel was not for me, which was why I so looked forward to the beginning of school, with its newly sharpened pencils, blank notebooks, and uncluttered expectations.  August crawled along.  I couldn’t wait for September, and I still can’t.  The leaves have nothing to do with it.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I had my moments of school-related bad behavior.  In third grade, I passed a note—intercepted by the dour Miss Roach—to Laurie Bradshaw in which I made an indecorous reference to Batman’s wiener.  And in tenth grade, Bea Treinen and I were made to leave the classroom when another student blew her nose and we couldn’t stop laughing.  So yes, even I experienced the occasional bliss of breaking school rules.  Which, as a law-abiding, rule-bound fifty-three-year-old, I now know was not such a very bad thing.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thoughts On the Music In My Ipod

This morning on my jog through the neighborhood, I listened to the following songs on my ipod: “Highway to Hell” (ACDC); “Get Low” (Flo Rida); “Garden Party” (Rick Nelson); “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” (Bobby Womack); “Tired Of Being Alone” (Al Green); “Take Me To the River” (Al Green); “Jungleland” (Bruce Springsteen); “Night Moves” (Bob Seeger); and “Oh, Boy” (Buddy Holly).
These are some of the things I thought about:
--My daughter and I used to drive through Briones Regional Park when she was in high school.  We would listen to a tape she made, and “Highway to Hell” was on it.  We would turn it up loud.
--Robert and I love “Get Low.”  “Them baggy sweat pants/And the Reeboks with the straps/She turned around and gave that big booty a smack.”  It just makes us laugh.  We like the guys in the background.
--No one except for me likes “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.”  No one.  It gives me chills.  It’s religion.  Except I don’t like the lyrics.  They don’t go with the music, which sounds like religion and sex together.
-- My ex-husband and I had a thing for Jennifer Holliday and went to see her whenever she was in the Bay Area.  Al Green opened for her at the Circle Star once.  “Take Me to the River” is just, well, amazing.
--“Jungleland:” Bryn Mawr College.  Freshman year.  Leslie Whitaker’s room on the third floor of Rhoads North.
--In 1977, I was a sophomore in college.  My father was dying. During spring break, I drove from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale with three male friends who were seniors.  (I am glad I got to experience spring break once, but really, once was enough.)  On the trip home, “Night Moves” came on the car radio, and two of my friends high-fived each other.  The air smelled like orange groves.  I have never forgotten.  It’s funny, what manages to worm its way into your brain for all eternity. 
--I imgine that no one else in the world has the same songs on her ipod that I do.  (“Get Low” and “Garden Party”?)  It is probably a reflection of the fact that no two people in the world have quite the same personalities. 
--I am always a little bit embarrassed when other people hear my music.  I used to think it was because I had lousy taste in music.  But now I think it’s because the music you like is so personal—so expressive of who you are—that it feels revelatory, confessional.  Whenever I drive with my window open, I turn the volume on the CD player down.  I just don’t think random truck drivers have to know that I harbor a secret penchant for “Runaround Sue.”