Friday, July 15, 2005

Airline Logic

Airline logic makes no sense. Beside the absurdity that a ticket from Cleveland to Buffalo costs twice the price of a ticket to London, it goes like this -- if you leave home and make two stops, okay. If you want to make 3 stops, you either pay for a very expensive one way ticket to one of those locations or fly home first. This means flying from Vegas to Seattle via Cleveland. I don't want to talk about it.

Seattle is the coolest city -- well, it truly is cool in the summer. Especially compared to the hot and dry weather we've been having in the midwest. But, it's also just plain cool. Modern, clean, a cappuccino compared to a shot and a beer town like Cleveland. Michael and I are there to present at an AAIE conference for elementary teachers of international schools. The conference opens with Bonnie Campbell Hill and her friend and mentor Sam. What a delight. Again I am reminded what motivated teachers these international school folks are. We talk education, poetry and during off hours, politics. They are unhampered by the testing fiasco that is crippling our schools here. Fifteen years of testing in Texas has resulted in the lowest SAT scores in the history of that test, and still that state holds itself out as the model. Don't get me started. Friday morning is a packed, writing talk by Regie Routman, who should be at every elementary school teacher's elbow. I suppose her books somewhat serve this purpose, but there is no substitute for hearing her speak.

Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, Delhi, ShanghaiShanghi – these teachers’ name tags read like the travel shelf at Borders. I love to hear their stories – how they went from teaching in Austin, Portland and Pittsburgh to countries I have only read about. Fascinating. Many thanks to Dick and Bonnie for the invitation.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bright Lights, bright lights

The Las Vegas airport assaults the senses immediately. Ringing of the slots and flashing neon, soaring movie screens advertising shows, the whole place stomping to a we-will-we-will-rock-you beat. Queen returns as a stage show and I meet Michael under the woofers and tweeters. The fact that the cab driver cheats us on the way to the hotel while chatting amicably is an indication of the financial hijinx to come. We check in at the Riviera, which has seen better days, back when the place was still a desert. Tuesday is a day for exploring and we walk up and down the strip, checking out all the fancy hotels, Kelly on the phone coaching us along. Of all the places I’ve been in the world, this has town has never even been a temptation. Here this time for a conference, it is naturally worth exploring, even in (gasp) 115 degree heat. I found it loud, expensive and a pretty outrageous electricity hog. Not nearly as fun as it tries to be, like a never-ending prom. Michael has some luck with black jack and the slots, I have absolutely no luck. Those machines just eat money. My two talks at the conference are on Wednesday and go well. I always worry about presenting on the last day of a conference, especially in a distracting location such at Vegas, but the teachers are in their seats and ready to talk poetry. Quite impressive. That night we do a little more wandering, but are in bed relatively early for our long travel day on Thursday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Happy Endings

The end of an era – not for Lexington, but for me. Almost. The second to the last Janet Allen Literacy Institute with a team of folks I’ve been working with for 9 years. A community of friends I know I’ll stay in contact with, but not the same as us all hanging out together. The trip was fragmented. I arrived late into Lexington, spoke in the afternoon and immediately left for the airport and another conference in Vegas. It seemed so anticlimactic, as if we need to have a celebration with a cake and wild dancing. A few of us will be going to Anchorage in August, but most of the team will be back in school. Hasty goodbyes to LeeAnn, Steve, Jill and Chris – too short, too quick – like short stepping over rocks, trying to hurry, not being able to slide into long strides of conversation that might actually take us somewhere familiar. I have learned so much from everyone and wouldn’t be who I am today without these institutes and my friends who offered me a sense of community in what is often a solo career. Change is necessary – good even, but hard.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Watching the sunset, flying to Lexington

The past two weeks have flown by faster than this airplane since vacation. Working in the backyard, completing a book proposal, trying lose the same ten pounds and to teach myself power point – all activities in the small confines of home. Very little television, some radio. I’ve been hesitant to let the outside world in. The tragedy in London drew me out of seclusion to watch the news, but only for a short while. Watching won’t help heal the wounds of the city, its people or the hate that’s infected the world.

I am on an airplane headed to Lexington, staring at the cursor wondering if that is a callous remark – I don’t mean it to be. Quite simply, what else can one do except live a peaceful, non-intrusive life? Or try to. Sometimes I get so wound up by listening to political arguments on the radio and television I am paralyzed. Surely that doesn’t help anyone, least of all me.

I remember 9/11 like it was last week. I was standing in the kitchen watching the Today show in the living room. Kelly called and we talked as we watched the second plane hit. A day out of surgery, the dr. had confined me to the house – I confined myself to a chair in the living room and watched urgently every new, painful revelation, crying, channel selector in hand. I don’t know how many times I watched that plane fly into that building and then the two towers melt. I had 5 or 6 surgeries that year, and that one was the longest recovery. I think that is a metaphor for something, but have never figured out what.

I don’t think that experience made me immune to tragedy, it just made me painfully aware of my human limitations. Kind of like the orange and purple stripes of a magnificent sunset.