Epic Fail

Failure Resume

Epic FailI just finished my online portfolio. I recently listened to this NPR Commonwealth Club with Tina Seeling who suggestd writing a resume of failures to outline the experiences that you’ve had that have put you where you are today.  It was pretty interesting and I recommend doing it.  It makes you realize that it’s the risks you’ve taken that have put you in the great situations that you’re in now.  While it was interesting, I don’t recommend posting it as it’s a little personal.


low key christmas!

In Buenos Aires Christmas falls in Summer and Santa Clause wears shorts. It’s nice to come back and have some nice, down to earth, and really “normal”. This Christmas was low key, more like the ones in sitcoms than movies.

This year was the first time I did the rosary thing at Annette’s house. Everyone kneels on the floor and repeats Our Fathers and Hail Marys. It gets old quickly. I’m used to Judaism where even if you aren’t sure what’s being said, trying to figure out what page you’re on is at least a great brain teaser for the kids. You can focus on understanding what the Hebrew means. The praying was in Spanish so by the second time I’d figured it out. I think you repeat it 50 times… At the end there’s a small Jesus doll that people kiss the doll and get a giftbag of an orange and some chocolate.

After the rosary were the gifts. Growing up Jewish, Christmas as always what the “other” kids did. We’d have Hannukah and all. I remember always hearing about the kids who had one Christian and one Jewish parent and got presents for both holidays. That was epic, I thought.

Each year Annette’s family does a white elephant gift exchange. While I’m a part of it, I am not told or expected to participate because I don’t know anyone in Annette’s extended family. Instead, Annette’s mom buys presents for the people whose names I “draw” and when I show up I get presents from people who hardly know who I am. It’s funny because people thank me for things and I have to figure out what I apparently bought for them.


I just got a bike

It’s not the best bike in the world but it only cost $30.  I got it from a girl at a party. She was moving and wanted to get rid of the bike because she’d bought a better one. We hit it off and she offered to sell it to me for $20 and I was going to buy it for Annette. Well, I hadn’t mentioned that it was for Annette… or anything about Annette, which might have been why it was only $20. The only issue was that there were a few things wrong with it and I doubted Annette was interested in installing a gear shifter before being able to use it.  So I really wanted the bike for myself but never called the girl, fearing the low price. Months later I ran into her at a veggie dog eating contest and she was upset that I’d never called. However, she still had the bike and, to compensate for any hurt feelings, I gave her $30.  It cost $17 for a very lazy bike store to install a new gear shifter… Plus another $30 for some slick tires for the road.

I changed the tires today and rode the bike to ColdTowne where I did the Sunday free Allstars show.  Halfway there it got really hard to pedal and I was wondering at how out of shape i was. I hardly made it!  Well, I dismounted near the theater and as I pushed the bike indoors, I noticed that the back wheel wasn’t even turning. I’d put the wheel on loose and it had become off center while I’d been riding.  So it turns out that I’m more in shape than I’d previously thought!

So now I have a bike and I’m very very happy.

Subbing: First Day

My first day of subbing was at a middle school on Austin’s east side. Later I found out from Annette’s mom, it was the worst part of the city in which to sub. It was far out of town in the middle of nowhere with only factories, strip-malls and pawnshops to dot the countryside. When I arrived I was told that there were 17 subs requested for the school that day. Partly it was because there was a teacher in-service that day but mostly it was because someone had shot at the police with an AK47 and now neighborhood was on lockdown and teachers were having trouble getting to work.

The teacher I was subbing for was doing the in-service onsite she told that she would be back at the end of the day. She also told me that they were great kids and that if they misbehaved to use the suspension forms. This should have given me a hint as to what was going to happen. Every teacher tells the sub that their class is good. She is the only one who ever told me to use suspension forms. All I had to do was hand out some tests and then an assignment. Easy.

First period was tired and they just tested me out a bit. They were loud and out of their chairs and screaming. The class talked, shouted, was rude, used foul language, etc. Second period was worse. They’d learned from the first period that I was unprepared. The kids thought the funniest thing was to ask for pencils and then break them, to ask for a test or handout and destroy it. I didn’t get a single test even handed back to me at the end.

In middle school teachers have little leverage because far and away the most important thing to most students is what their peers think of them. Every moment is an opportunity to be awesome or stupid in the eyes of their classmates. Cute girls who’re just becoming sexual and learning that they can command attention by getting boys to act out. In every class boys said and did all kinds of imbecilic things for the sexual bones that the girls threw their way: a smile here, a piece of eye contact there. While mysterious and seductive to their male peers, to someone twice their age their flirting was as subtle as a caveman dance. One 13 year old in first period left me a paper neatly folded on her desk: “My name is . My number is . Please call me.” It was shocking.

Paper was thrown; kids hit each other. When I got hit in the head with a rubber band I finally called school security. Without asking anything the man said “I’ll be right there’. Just before he arrived the kids shut up. They began working away quietly and when the security officer showed up at the door he asked what the problem was. I sheepishly told him that the kids had been out of control but they were fine now. He looked at the little angels and asked: “Are you guys being out of control?” That was all they needed and the room erupted in front of him in a blaze of insanity probably designed to show off how completely in control they were. “I wasn’t being disruptive. He was!!” said one. “It wasn’t me,” shouted his friend, hitting him. All hell broke loose. The security man made some brief threats about calling their parents and then he left and with him any semblance of authority. Looking back, it was all screwball comedy. This Asian kid who hardly spoke English came to me almost in tears. In a despairing voice: “Don’t call my parents! I’ve been working so hard!!!” As if there was any accountability at all.

The class’s reputation was so bad that by the last period, eight kids who wanted to do their work immediately abandoned ship and left for neighboring classrooms. “This sucks, is said one kid who stayed. Now it’s going to be all quiet in here.” And it was. Quiet and controllable. There was a conversation that went on and on… But that was ok. A cute girl flirting with her cute boys, an annoyance, not a threat.

While it felt like I was trying to stand in a cold rushing river for a few hours, for me the hardest part of the day was leaving. I tried to clean up the floor on which her class had used to store the contents of their backpacks. I wanted to let her know how the day had gone.

“It went ok.” I lied. “Nothing too bad.”
“Yeah, I heard they were out of control,” she said.
“Well, thanks.” I said.
“Thank you,” she said. And it was over.

She was stacking books and never looked at me during the exchange. The office told me I didn’t have to sign out. I left; feeling cheap, a call girl hired to keep the class busy while the girlfriend was away. Somehow I had misunderstood my role in the educational process and it stung. It was the toughest 75 bucks I’ve EVER earned.

the move ends

Change is stressful and requires a lot of attention. There are so many new things to learn and do that it’s easy to lose oneself in the muddle. The emotions you experience are more intense and you see things as if for the first time. Until now it’s been impossible for me to write to an audience about coming to Austin. Writing about things in the moment, as they are happening takes more self awareness and multitasking skill than I currently have.

But, like every other move I’ve made, the dust clears and you no longer need to find an apartment, get furniture, look for a job, etc. Well, perhaps I still do need to do a lot of those things but the urgency is gone. I have all those essential slots temporarily filled and I can concentrate on exploring where I have landed.

I want to start writing more about Austin, especially through the eyes of someone who is just returning to the United States after three years of being abroad and who has never before had pretensions of living in Texas. Austin is a really amazing and I can’t wait to start writing.