Intrepid Girl Reporter

Tuesday, 1/4: the days of sunshine
January 5, 2011, 1:43 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I want to return to what I was talking about last time, which is death and where I used to live. I haven’t found the Great Florida Novel yet, and to be honest, I’m not sure that it’s been written; I’ve read Dave Barry, of course, and he’s funny, but he’s more focused on Miami and neither he nor Carl Hiaasen seem to get the darkness, the existential thing, under it all. (Although I haven’t read all that much Hiaasen, so I could be wrong.) And I tried to read Didion’s Miami – ordinarily I adore her – and it just didn’t do it for me.

My town is dead now, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. The town itself, I mean – the businesses are closing, the houses’ prices plummeting. I saw this happening, on a much smaller scale, after we left; the neighborhood cul-de-sac where the neighborhood parents would gather in the lazy heat to drink and watch us run had become overgrown with weeds, and we were only the first family to move away. People got divorced, downsized or left in search of bigger houses (and you’ve never seen a big house until you’ve seen one in the tropics). I wrote a “personal narrative” about it in high school. At the time, I saw it as just the passage of time, a way for me to physically comprehend the ways in which my childhood ended. I didn’t see it as the foreshadowing of something larger. But I wonder now.

The city of Bradenton, however, isn’t the only thing that’s gone. It doesn’t seem right that so many people should be dead – and by right I mean simply that it doesn’t seem correct that such a high proportion should be washed out like so much seaweed into the tide. But I wonder if there’s a sense of nihilism that comes from being, basically, at the bottom of the country, cast out into the ocean like a forgotten trail. From Manatee County, it takes five hours to get out of the state, and the only way to go is up. When the big wave comes, Florida’s going to be the first to go, and living there requires a certain amount of peace with that. That’s what none of the writing I’ve read seems to get: the sandy soil that gets in your skin, the stifling heat, the smell of dead fish that pervades the air during red tide season. The lack of conviction that anywhere else really exists for you.

I wonder, though, if I’m right or if I’m romanticizing all of this, the way you do when you leave a place at the right time. Bradenton to me seems almost too weird to live, with its conquistador festivals and manatees and semi-successful punk bands. The way I remember Bradenton is largely lower-middle-class, a lot of small houses with large boats, a lot of people who drove around getting high and listening to Sublime, who made it to community college or not at all. But I was at my old middle school classmate’s house tonight, talking about why it was that half the people we had known were dead or pregnant or in jail, and the way he saw it was completely different. “It was a lot of rich kids,” he said, “and a lot of drugs…We had things to do. We had a movie theater, a bowling alley, the beach, when you look back on it, but all anyone ever seemed to do was get drunk.” We did have wealthier kids – I was one of them, more or less – mostly the children of doctors and dentists, and there were a lot of them. (We also had famous tennis players, which was weird, and Bobby Bonilla, which was weirder.) So I guess he has a point about that, although none of those people seem to be the ones getting in trouble. But I don’t know that a beach and a movie theater count as enough to make anyone believe that there’s more out there than the endless sea.


Monday, 12/27: a return to all that
December 28, 2010, 1:01 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It’s Christmas break and I just finished watching Up in the Air with my mother and sister, which I thought was quite good but was definitely one of the more depressing movies I’ve seen in a while. Vera Farmiga’s speech about what women look for by the time they hit 34 made me want to go defenestrate myself:

You know, honestly by the time you’re 34, all the physical requirements just go out the window. You secretly pray that he’ll be taller than you, not an asshole would be nice just someone who enjoys my company, comes from a good family. You don’t think about that when you’re younger. Someone who wants kids, likes kids. Healthy enough to play with his kids. Please let him earn more money than I do, you might not understand that now but believe me, you will one day otherwise that’s a recipe for disaster. And hopefully, some hair on his head. I mean, that’s not even a deal breaker these days. A nice smile. Yea, a nice smile just might do it.

And while if there’s one thing I’ve figured out doesn’t belong on this blog, it’s information about my love life, it reveals very little to say that I found that speech unnerving, the equivalent of picking up what you think is a bottle of water and inadvertently taking a swig of a warm flat Diet Coke. On a related note, it also made me feel old and unaccomplished, which is unsurprising when one considers the fact that I used to periodically chastise myself for not being accomplished enough to skip a grade.

Grad school, too, has made me feel old sometimes, which is funny, because I’ve more or less completely regressed to the lifestyle of a nineteen-year-old: a messy room, a breakfast composed of fruit snacks, jeans worn for days in a row. There are plenty of people older than me, of course, but there are also people who are younger, almost all of whom I once looked at as inexperienced and who now have real job experience IN BETWEEN THEIR TIME GRADUATING AFTER ME AND COMING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL. This is part of what happens when you find yourself in a competitive program, of course, so it’s not exactly a bad thing; I have, certainly, been encouraged to go harder, faster, stronger, etc. But it’s a rather stark reminder of the progress of time.

So graduate school: inducing existential crises, and one reason for my absence from these parts. My loyal-est/loyalist readers have surely noticed that blogging has almost entirely dropped off here, to say nothing of my five hundred side projects, and part of that is the time suck that is full-time attendance. Part of it is that I’m still entertaining the notion of my own website – in fact, I think school has underlined that it is necessary for me to have one, so I can start writing about school-related stuff – but that raises the question: what here? I can get personal but not too personal, as my anonymity isn’t much, and when I want to share stuff I post links on my Tumblr, and when I write about food…you know. It goes on. Unfortunately, the design of my own personal webspace has been delayed by the fact that of course whatever I do has to be Unique And Special And Really Good, so I was going to try to do it all myself, but peeps, I don’t know if I have time for that. I’m here in the interim, at least during this break, because I miss writing.

And of course all of these neuroses – and I haven’t covered the half of them, or anything about what the last few months have been like – are sort of irrelevant comparatively. I had a drink with two guys I went to middle school with in Florida, one of whom (by a total fluke) moved down the street from my parents in Tennessee, and they were telling me about the number of people I had known who were now dead or in prison. (La Sister: “The answer to ‘Do you know how many people are dead or in jail?’ is never ‘None!'”) I googled a guy I remembered from fifth grade, one I used to find kind of cute, on a whim, and he was recently arrested for – among other charges – domestic abuse and false imprisonment. Yes, really. This is the sort of thing that deserves further future reflection, but now I am going to bed. I will, however, be back.

Monday, 8/30: here I am: rock you like a hurricane
August 30, 2010, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For those of you who have been keeping track, specifically all of the people who have attempted to talk to me and have had their messages unintentionally routed to my phone, I am Here, at My New Graduate School. I can’t seem to shake the habit of anonymity. I think that, to a certain extent, I still enjoy it.

My room is not empty, but the majority of my possessions are three floors below me, in a cobweb-filled basement stacked with boxes and old furniture. I have a dresser that is waiting patiently in the corner for me to finish building its drawers, instead of sitting here blogging like a person who does not know how to manage her time. People are nice, the campus is beautiful, I still don’t know what my eventual job will be and the number of other students I’ve met is kind of paralyzing. I get better at these orientation type things every time, but, you know. However: I live with the two best dogs in Massachusetts and I’ve built a bed on my own, so I’m counting today in the plus category for right now.

Thursday, 8/5: Cornell, ever heard of it?
August 5, 2010, 10:50 pm
Filed under: don't judge me, education, life progress, Uncategorized

It is much to my shame that I confess I, a former student of international development, am currently reading a book entitled Teach Yourself Economics. The main issue is that I took Econ 110 (or 101, if you went somewhere other than My School) and then talked my professors into letting me skip macro and micro in favor of more interesting classes, such as Economic Development. The other issue is that I am good at doing well in classes without studying efficiently (or very much at all, for that matter), which is convenient at the time and completely inconvenient three years later, when you find yourself googling “Oedipus effect” and waiting to see what washes up.

Anyway, this is part of my preparation for next month, when I will be studying for realsies, and I’m kind of enjoying it. Actually, I’m totally enjoying it. I can’t wait to get back into class. I am also trying out the Cornell System, which is working so far, as it requires me to constantly ask myself questions to review. This is what I did with three-year-olds and disobedient Korean teens alike, and it always seemed to work, which is why it’s a bit remarkable that it’s taken me this long. I’m also debating whether or not to use my laptop for notes; my typing is infinitely faster and clearer than my handwriting, but I have discovered over the past year or so (again, why so long?) that I prefer to draw diagrams and make lists and create elaborate arrow things when I study, and while my skill with my Wacom is growing, I still can’t make a legible sentence with it. I can’t believe that writing in a notebook is actually sort of archaic. My kids will probably press a button and have a sort of adding-machine receipt just click out of their ears, or something.

Friday, 7/2: to the moon and back again
July 2, 2010, 7:57 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, poetry, Uncategorized

For me, packing largely means throwing things away. I have a massive guilt complex surrounding the act of discarding – birthday cards, scraps of paper that could be useful, et cetera.

But we talked a lot in JustFaith about simplifying, and I don’t think anyone would argue that my life, in particular, actually needs to be more complicated. Most oddsmakers, in fact, would probably bet the opposite. So I’m about to pitch all of the papers I’ve been storing in my desk, including a collection of poetry written by the fourth graders at the school where I was teaching in the spring of 2009.

Some of these, however, need to be preserved. I suppose that’s what the internets are for, ultimately. So here you go.

My Sister


My sister is very
nice she is
the best sister.

My sister is cool
by playing things that
I like to play.

My sister is sweet
because when it is a
holiday she never
buys anything for
me she always makes the

– Ricky L.

Seeing Barack Obama

Me and my cousin got up
I went to McDonalds
for breakfast
then stopped
at my cousin’s house

We walked 27 blocks
We were ALL the way back
by the TV screens
I was jumping on people’s backs

Later we went
and made
hot chocolate.

– Remy H.

This next one I chose for its use of capitalization. Very dramatic.

When I Got In Trouble

I was sitting
my desk
then I started
then my teacher told me
So I
I’m the
So my
teacher said
Go to the
other class
(she meant back to second grade…)
I got
and I
had to deal with Mom…

– Jared B.

My Daddy


He takes good care of me each
and every day
My dad lets me help
him with the cooking

He helps me with my homework
each and every day


I love you Daddy to
the moon and back again

Peace, big Daddy.

– Jada M.

My Struggling Parents

My struggling parents struggle
But I really like it when they snuggled
Please stop arguing, I say
But they usually say just pray.
Shall I be happy or sad?
Shall I be complaining or mad?
The rain falls down and cry
I always ask mom, why?
Her response has been praying
And I can’t understand what she’s saying.
My mom and I pray together
We shall always pray, forever.
My dad always loved my mom.
My dad always tries to be calm.
Stay calm and pray, I say.
Stay together, forever, I pray.
Stay in progress.
Stay in success.
I keep saying please stay together
Stay together forever
Thank you for trying, but do you think I should be crying?

– Destanie M.

I like to view this next one as sort of Dada, largely because, despite my best efforts, I can make no sense of it at all.

The Beggar’s Wife

She was begging for money
She left him for money
She lives in a fancy mansion
Oops, I forgot to mention
He never comes home
I wonder where he has gone?
Did he go to Rome?
Maybe that’s it.

(P.S. He is in Rome.)

– Zion C.

My Dog

I miss my dog
I miss my dog
I really really do.

I miss my dog
I miss my dog
My father does, too.

– Lamont B.

Context for the next one: the author had emigrated eight months prior from El Salvador.
The Trip

One of the last days of June
My dad calls then
One of my cousins responds
Then my dad says pass the phone to Josue
Then I say hello then you’re coming to live with us
He surprised me that I was going
I was bouncing with happiness

In the morning
We woke up
We eat then we wait for a long time
We wait for two ladies to come pick us up.
She said who wants to go with them?
Then me and my grandma
And my sister
They let us go.

– Josue T.

A Thousand Dreams

I’m going to dream a thousand dreams
going to fly through the sky
just the birds and me.
I don’t care what they say about me.
I’m going to dream a thousand dreams.
I might be a doctor and help people feel good.
I might be an astronaut, if I do what I should.
I might be a teacher and help people read.
I might be the President and help people be free.

– Marjai S.

This Is For My Mommy

This is for my mother I got
to let her know how much
I love her there is no other
Here’s a song coming
straight from my
heart somewhere should I
yell I do lady I love you well
for talking to me when
I couldn’t talk for picking
me up when I couldn’t walk for teaching
like wrong from right
Thank you God, thank you
Mother for giving me life
You fed me when you
didn’t eat and still
kiss me and had love
when I was sick
I was young but I understood
She’s my mother
man’s best friend
See Pops never lied
he said nothing’s wrong
as I got older you
see the story goes on.

– Samuel P.

Friday, 5/7: Mother’s Day
May 7, 2010, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the most irritating things about working in youth development, and specifically about my job, is how we seem to be expected to have this sort of endless well of patience and kindness and optimism. The complaints received never seem to start with, “I know you’re trying,” or “This is a challenge for all of us.” NO. They are just complaints. And after days and days of having to sweep and take out the trash and explain to children that no, if you don’t share people will not want to play with you, we’re expected to be fired up about the next thing, constantly finding ways to inspire and new cheers to learn. I’M TIRED. I DON’T WANT TO GET OTHER PEOPLE ENERGIZED. I WANT SOMEONE TO TRY TO ENERGIZE ME. Where is my cheerleader?

Perhaps this all sounds a bit whiny, because it is. It’s been a long week; we had a higher number of injuries, multiple children wetting (or otherwise) themselves, more obscenities from small children and more complaints about how hard the job I make everyone ELSE do is. Child and Family Services laid off one hundred people this week, which meant that yesterday when I called the Child Abuse Hotline, I was put on hold. PUT ON HOLD. THERE WERE SO MANY REPORTS OF ABUSE THAT I HAD TO WAIT IN LINE. I got to call them again today for a separate incident. I wonder when they will start to recognize my voice.

Perhaps the trickiest thing about this field, though, is the sense of martyrdom that tends to come with it. I’m preparing to enter a field of work that does not involve kids for the first time since my disastrous stint as a Hollister employee, and more than anything, I can’t shake this guilt – the sense that I must be leaving because I can’t cut it, because I don’t care enough. Yes, what I want to do involves kids directly, but it won’t be direct service anymore, and it will certainly be easier than this. In my head, I see the teacher who hates me the most, pursing her lips and saying, “Some people just aren’t cut out for this.” I made all that up in my head, of course, but that’s the mentality I have – that this field is for heroes, and who walks away from that cape?

I think this is all just a reaction to the fact that I’m going to be leaving a line of work that, more often than average, offers instant rewards. Tremendous ones. But I’ve had it with people yelling at me and children throwing around the pieces of my games. I love them, but I just don’t know if we can be together anymore.

Tuesday, 3/30: lesbians who look like Justin Bieber
March 30, 2010, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Pleasingly, it appears that I can post via HootSuite to my personal blog, which puts HootSuite squarely on the list of things I will relentlessly promote because I love them (see: Zengobi Curio, Evernote). This means I can circumvent DCPS’ relentless filters and send my thoughts out into the world. As a result, my personal blog, sorely neglected due to my work with Lancelot Sturgeon, ReadySetDC, and other sites of that nature, will be seeing some updates ril soon. I hope.

Right now, however, all I want to share with you is that 1: I am now an official resident of the District of Columbia, and let me tell you, the DMV* makes that a challenging prospect; 2: I have Big Plans that I will refrain from announcing in public until they are confirmed; 3: I had dinner with IGRB tonight and it was Surprisingly Not Terrible, Although Not, Like, Ideal; and 4: one of my friends mentioned that Justin Bieber would be much more attractive if he were a lesbian woman.

After she told me this and after I saw an article on Slate about him,** I came to the conclusion that yeah, he sort of looks like KD Lang. I would post a photo comparison, but I’m posting this from HootSuite as a further test, so just google them. But then I learned that someone else beat me to this shit a long time ago. See: Oh man.***

*Department of Motor Vehicles, not DC/MD/VA. Lines ALL DAY LONG.

**I am SO OLD.

***Kool-Aid man voice