Twilight over Tioga Lake

Monday, June 30, 2008

An Album in My Mind

Kids really do rock.

And I don't just mean that they're cool, although that is true as well. This past week, I saw a couple instances of young people truly rocking it out in their own bands.

One is my good friend Daniel, who stars in a band called Rehab. They have songs called "The End of Childhood" and "Electric Tomato." He is inspired by The Beatles and the Velvet Underground, and enjoys music with lots of distortion.

My adult friend Ray was the teacher for a Rock Camp, and I just saw their final performance. The kids were incredible and played songs such as "I'd Rather Rock" (who wouldn't?) An all girl band played "Anything But Those Girls," and completely kicked ass.

Where was all this when I was a tormented and picked on middle schooler?? Oh right, I was in regular band playing the clarinet. Yes, I was a nerd, but at least safe among other nerdy music lovers. Music really is a salvation for many.

Now I am involved in a band today, of sorts. It isn't exactly...real. This band, complete with albums and songs, is in my mind. It came to me one day when hiking with my good friend Annie and her dog Chopper. She brought along a box of Scoobie Snacks for him. There was a beef flavored Shaggy, a chicken flavored Scooby, etc. Well, one was a silly green cheese flavored ghost. Annie said, "Chopper, do you want a cheese flavored ghost?" And we both looked at each other in instant enlightenment. We saw Cheese Flavored Ghost form into a number one single in our minds. And the rest soon followed.

The band's name is Loop of Henle. I did not make that up--it is a body part. A vein that is an actual loop in your kidneys. There are lots of funny names for body parts; Vas Deferens and Basal Ganglia are also great. But Loop of Henle is just magical.

I know this is extremely random; thanks for hanging in there.

I picture Loop of Henle being kind of indie, electronic sounding. Think Fujiya and Miyagi, maybe a little Morcheeba or Massive Attackish. Except they don't take themselves too seriously and a couple songs are pretty ridiculous.

There are two albums, and the songs on them keep evolving. Some songs relate to some experience in my life, so I give a little explanation if that is the case. Here they are.

Breakfast for Dinner

1. Pre-Party Anxiety (something I get often)
2. Karmic Suicide
3. You have Brainworms
4. It Comes in Waves
5. Cricket and Pogo (the cottages on Cape Cod where I spent childhood summers)
6. Meet at the Sahara Tent (referring to the Coachella experience my friends and I shared for 5 years)
7. The Bakerloo Line
8. Space for My Mind (Annie's contribution)

There is even an album cover for this one. I "commissioned" one of Ray's kids to draw a picture of forest animals eating pancakes at night under the trees. It's rad. I think the hits on this album are "Karmic Suicide" and "Space for My Mind."

Cheese Flavored Ghost

1. Cheese Flavored Ghost!
2. No Pants
3. Emotional Incest
4. Have Your Cake and Screw it, Too (something I believe we have all been on both sides of)
5. Pick Your Pace (a game we played with the horses back home--basically letting them gallop at full throttle while we held on and prayed)
6. The Church of Zeitgeist (the bar in SF that is basically a church to me and my friends)
7. Fantasy Fodder
8. I Dreamt I ate at the French Laundry and they Served Chicken Nuggets (A real dream--French Laundry is a restaurant north of SF, one of the best in the world)

Annie said she could draw a really silly, ghetto ghost for the cover of this one. But then Daniel had the great idea of a ghostly piece of cheese floating in mid air. I picture it in the middle of a cocktail party in the middle of very confused guests. We'll fit both images in somehow.

The song Cheese Flavored Ghost! is very silly, kind of a mock metal song. Still, I think it would be a hit. I sense the other big hit would be Emotional Incest. As you can see, this album is a bit raunchier and darker. I guess things were darker and raunchier for the "band" during this time period. More songs and possibly albums will come.

People have asked when this band will become real. Well, being as I don't know how to write music and don't have any bandmates...probably never! But I do enjoy this album in my mind. And who knows, some of it could become real. Daniel said he would write and perform "Cheese Flavored Ghost!" Think of it as the Velveteen Rabbit of albums. It is real if you believe it real.

I'm sure you're feeling very inspired by this to go start your own album in your mind. If not, then at least go and support your friend's band, whether they are formed of children or adults, big or just starting out. Chances are they have something to say.

Thank you to my enormously talented friends Ray, Annie, and Daniel for their help and inspiration with the Loop of Henle.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The End of Years

It's been a while. The reason: I had to get through the End of the Year.

True, it is not technically the end of the year. But the school year just ended, and as fellow teachers and our students can attest, that is the true end of the year.

It is always an emotional ride, the end of years. At least for me. Traditionally, I am relieved not to have to deal with certain difficult situations anymore. But I feel that there is much unfinished business. I am exhilarated to have some free time, to be able to sleep past 7. But I soon become restless with the easier schedule. As much as I love the kids, we all need to take a break and refocus.
Yet I will really miss the children and some families that I became close with. Back in February and March, time seemed to stall. I felt mired in problems at work, was unhappy in my own life. Spring skipped by. And suddenly, the year was over.

Well, now what?

Time to get back to writing, for one thing. Time to walk the dog on the beach, go down water slides, drink Bloody Marys with bacon as a swizzle stick, find hidden graveyards, and all the other random things I now have more time to enjoy.

I don't write a whole lot about work--it's kind of hard when one is so entrenched in it. But here is one poem I wrote about an actual experience I had at the preschool I work at. I dedicate it to teachers and students of all ages. Happy summer. You deserve it.

The Snail Playground

Room 310 has hermaphrodites for pets.

Some preschool classes have fish or hamsters, we have snails and slugs. And why not? The children are fascinated by these slimers who are always in motion.

We hold them every day, touch everywhere, probe gently. These are the eyes, these are the feelers, this is where the slime comes out that helps it move.

We research our new companions, and learn that snail eggs can come out of anywhere on their bodies. One day, Snaily produced a white opaque ball from his head to much applause.

The children do not judge a life like we often do, and deem the gastropods worthy of a playground.

Blue prints are made, plans are laid--this takes months. Yes, 5 year olds can handle hammers and nails--these new humans are deserving of our ultimate respect.

Finally, a three dimensional miniature community emerges. The creatures are introduced immediately, and the children watch with wide eyed concern and hope.

“Will Slimey use the pool? Will Cutie climb the ladder?”

Their innocence juices my heart, killing me and sustaining me at once.

Parents smile uncomfortably at our curriculum that centers around the leisure activities of gastropods. I explain:

“But the children are learning science and caring for living things and working together and this and that…”

Still sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with us.

I find myself sucked into the children’s world, and care for our little pets so much. I crave holding them, feeling the slime trail that won’t wash off, the gnawing of their mouths like a baby’s fingernail on your skin, hoping in vain that Snaily who lost his shell will live…what is wrong with me?

One day a tragedy--tiny Cutie disappears. Some surmise giant banana slug Slimey turned cannibal. We all mourn together. The children reminisce about the good times.

Weeks later, Alex approaches me in an agitated state. Alex had never said much until his love for the snails gave him a voice.

“I found Cutie, I found Cutie!” We all run over. Alex’s eyes point towards his open palm.

“Look, I’m holding him right here in my hand!”

Unbelievably, a tiny translucent shell, its inhabitant long gone, rests in Alex’s hand.

“But where…where was he?” I breathe.

“In the plant next to the terrarium. He must have escaped.”

We are silent in sadness and wonder. Little Sophie speaks.

“If Cutie was living in the plant…and then he died in the plant…then the plant is now Cutie!” Resounding “Yeahs!” all around. The children happily water the plant, lovingly touch the leaves, place it back next to the terrarium.

I am struck mute, astounded by the leap of wisdom that has taken place. 5 year olds tackling the proverbial circle of life with greater ease than any adult I know.

I breathe and smile, no longer worrying what anyone thinks.

Now I know what is right with us.

About Me

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San Francisco, CA
Elissa is an east coast transplant making her way through life by way of San Francisco. This amazing city provides lots of fodder for writers of all types. I find inspiration for writing through life's little and bizarre events, such as grocery shopping for dog treats, salamander hunting, and insomnia. I am a preschool teacher in "real life."