Saturday, May 14, 2005

The loneliness of the long-distance writer

JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK - Who knows what kind of life I might have had, had the laptop computer been around in high school? Writing, I remember, was a painful thing, literally. My left hand would cramp up after a page or two, and can you imagine what it must have been like for our teachers to read 100 or so essays?

In my university classes, I won't even accept a handwritten note saying someone will not be in class. Email me! Type it and print it! Just no freakin' handwriting.

When I was a senior, I broke my left hand (longer story) and for about six weeks, had it wrapped with a splint - making writing essays painful and damn near impossible. One day, in that weird double period class (part English, part history, part who-the-hell knows) I handed in a brief piece to Harry Robie and got my hair parted because the writing was sooooo bad. He was about halfway into giving me a lecture in front of the entire class when he realized that my hand was in a splint and while he didn't apologize, he did stumble and retract.

But those forced-essays were on the right track, because writing and thinking are linked as tight as Britney Spears' jeans are to her ... posterior (had another word there and I lost it...). If you think about that writing and thinking are almost the same thing, it just makes what you are reading all the more frightening.

REUNION SPONSORS - In order to make this 40th reunion a real wild deal, perhaps we should get some sponsors. Grey Goose Vodka, Charles Shaw wines, the makers of Mallo Cups (Boyer, Inc.?) all come to mind. We can rule out General Motors and United Airlines probably, but perhaps we can get the Jamestown Post-Journal to kick in with something. We must have an alum or two working there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Parlez-vous a foreign language? Or English?

Foreign languages
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
SOUTHWESTERN CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL - How much French did anyone really learn from Jon Giacco (sp?), the little guy on the right?

I remember his English, was, well, not as bad as my French, but pretty bad. It turns out, of course, that he really spoke Italian best, but what the hell.

Somehow, I survived three years of French, maybe even four, I've blocked most of it out. My first experience in 9th grade I've written up for the book. (The sweaters that our very female teacher wore in that class were, magnifique!)

Ironically, I took more French in college (another D on the transcript) but when I went to France, damn if a lot of it didn't come back - after 30 years!

Avez-vous vin rouge?

I avoided Mrs. Cook (seated) who taught Latin, and Mr. Pfaff taught German. Spanish suffered from some kind of inferiority complex - part social because Spanish speakers were (are?) far down the social scale for most Americans around Jamestown. If you spoke Spanish, you were either a Spanish student, or Puerto Rican. And being Puerto Rican was pretty low on the Swedish totem pole. (How's that for mixing races and metaphors?)

What do I remember most about those foreign language classes?

Going to the blackboard to write sentences. Teachers who require that should be shot, or made to sing on American Idol, or both.

Soon I'll write here about math teachers, another group of people who believe that a little public humiliation at the blackboard is good for the soul - and encourages learning.