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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paranormal State...of Mind?

I have had the most unproductive day ever. I woke up pretty achey, still stressed out from the week that failed miserably. I stayed in bed and finished reading Mystic River, watched a little Veronica Mars, and communed with my cats.

I haven't had a camera for a couple of weeks now. My battery died on my last shooting expedition and when I got home to plug it in and charge it, I discovered the charger was dead too. Of course I could just buy a new one but I had just laid out $1200 to get my car to pass inspection so I was a little light on cash. I sat down and wrote a couple articles for Associated Content and waited patiently for them to offer me my peanuts in exchange for my brilliant insight. I then ordered a new charger from EBay and waited almost two weeks for it come in. When it finally got here, I literally ran upstairs, grabbed the battery, shoved it in the charger, and plugged that little miracle worker in. Of course 5 minutes elapse and my friend Dan and I hear a pop.

Me: Was that....? 
(Dan leans over the kitchen table to look at the outlet where I plugged in the charger.)
Dan: Yup. That was your charger exploding.

Needless to say I immediately marched into the living room to grab my dad's laptop (mine was too far away) and got on EBay to write a nasty note to Hong Kong, even though from the looks of the reply I got they understood little to nothing I had written, while the charger sat on my kitchen table, belching smoke.

Luckily, I cried. Therefor my mother took pity on me and lent me the money to order both a new charger AND a new battery.

At the same time this week my hard drive crashed. My hard drive which contains pretty much every photograph I have ever taken, the complete manuscript to my first book, and my entire music library. That was meltdown number two. I feel like someone has removed my hands. Now what the hell do I do with myself?

Oh yeah. I have a blog.....

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Resume Padding

It's that time of year again when I get the itch to find a new job. It's also the best time to look because all of the schools have their final budgets ready and they know how many people they can hire to replace those they just laid off! So that means a healthy round of printing out resumes, letters of reference, and addressing envelopes. It also means filling out countless online applications and criminal background checks (just please, no one call the state of Virginia...).

I have been working retail since this past December, thanks to the untimely demise of my job at the Charter School of Satan. While retail is fairly simple and routinized, of course I feel like I should be doing so much more. My resume looks mighty weak when I look at it and realize I've done very little lately. However, I had a rather enlightening experience at work the other day that has given me a brand new, very handy skill.

Chipmunk Wrangling.

You heard me. We have a chipmunk (creatively named Chipper by our manager) who likes to do a kamikazee run into the store, then head for the sale racks. He's a savvy shopper after all. Not too long ago though I got a call at 5am from our alarm company telling me that the alarm had gone off. Twice. I called the manager to find out what the hell was going on and lo and behold we had managed to overlook Chipper at closing time the night before and locked him in. He of course, being a chipmunk did what all good chipmunks do, and ran for the front door at the crack of dawn and set off the motion detectors. Then a few days later I look up from helping an elderly customer only to find that Chipper had not only snuck in but had also brought a friend! Figuring this could be bad, the assistant manager and I tried shooing him out of the store but Chipper was too wily for us. He managed to slide behind one of the giant wardrobes that happens to be bolted into the floor, leading us to worry that he might, you know, die behind there. So we waited for him to show his furry little face, scared him out of there, and proceeded to chase him around the store with a metal hook. I had blocked his hiding place with a shelf and when he ran for it, he wound up flying smack into the shelf. We finally herded him out the door and closed it behind him. 

The assistant manager looks up from bending over, laughing hysterically and says, "Now that's something to put on your resume. Chipmunk Wrangling!"

I kid you not.

I did however have an interview with the education director at the local prison. Honestly it was by far the most entertaining interview I've had since the day I met the principal at the DarkSide. I got there a little early since I'm already familiar with security procedures at medium security prisons. The education director was on his way to run an errand and said he'd be back for me. I sat and listened to the wonderful symphony of metal doors clanging shut and guards yelling at wayward convicts. Ah, what a sweet sound! Anyway, the ed director comes to get me and we start walking out to his office when he promptly starts asking me what I thought of the movie Shutter Island. It turns out he has a doctorate in psychology and is fascinated by Leo DiCaprio's portrayal of paranoid schizophrenic delusions. As he's going on and on about Hollywood's take on crazy, I'm trying my best not to look up at the jail itself. I can hear that the inmates are out on the basketball courts that are stacked, three on top of each other at the end of each wing of the prison. Of course all sounds related to basketball suddenly cease and I hear, "LOOK LOOK LOOK!" I can also hear the clanging of chain link and I look up to see them all hanging like Rhesus monkeys from the fence. Excellent.

Inside the education building we pass open classrooms where one inmate damned near falls off his chair while saying, "" Listen ladies, if you ever need an ego boost of epic proportions, interview for a job at a prison. You could throw a bag over your head and wear a burlap sack and they'd still get excited.

Other than the possibility of finding a new man (I only have to wait 2 to 5 years. It was just an assault charge he said), I'm really hoping the funding comes through in the fall so I can teach full time with this particular program. It's probably as close to my DarkSide experience as I'll ever get. In fact I'll probably run into some of my former students!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The End of an Era

It's taken me a long time to be able to sit down and write this. For some time now this blog has been fueled by stories about my time at the Dark Side and now, as of this past April 1st, the Dark Side no longer exists.

I can't even put into words how I felt when I got the call that the ugly axe had finally come down on the place that launched my career, engendered my interest in mental health, and made me who I am as a teacher. The first thing I felt was regret. Regret for having left the Dark Side so long ago when I thought it was time for the next career move. Regret that I wasn't there in the end to see the last few kids off into the world. And most of all regret, feeling that I failed that place by leaving when I did. What if I had stayed? What if I had continued giving 120% day after day, blood, sweat, tears, and pain? Would it have survived? Who knows now.

The second thing I felt was a great sadness knowing that the closing would mean many generations of kids who would never know the kindness and caring that some of my students found at the Dark Side. Beyond the typical complaints about the food and the rules, I choose to believe that my kids' lives were better because of us, that the Dark Side saved them, even if it was only for a short time. Now where will the rest of the children go when their parents fail them and society decides to shut them out? Now they truly have nowhere to go.

I will say at this point that since my time at the Dark Side I have never again been happy in a teaching position. I can't explain why that is, nor do I think I will ever be able to. Maybe I love a challenge. Ok. I definitely love a challenge. Maybe I'm a champion of the underdog- the kids that no one ever expected to do more than continue on the path to permanent delinquency. Well, I think by now you all know that's true. I belonged in that place. I loved those halls, my classroom, the units where the kids lived, where we celebrated holidays as best we could. Field trips where I saw my kids faces light up when they saw a planetarium for the first time or went ice skating for the first time. The fields out back where we clumsily played sports with the kids and played on the playgrounds with them. The place was my home as much as it was theirs.

I'll move on. I'll continue to teach and research and write- but the Dark Side is over. It's the end of an era. What else can I say?