December 22, 2010
Before our difficulties began, one day as we were chatting, Kathy started to tell me about her “gentleman friend,” Mel. Mel came from a background similar to hers. He was the son of an evangelical Christian minister. In rebellion, he had turned to a life of “rock and roll and rebellion” (I translated this as engaging in sex, drugs, alcohol, and the like). Kathy told me that they were living together.
She told me that Mel was intelligent and sweet, but unable to get and hold a job. Apparently, he spent much of his time working out as a body builder. She knew he had the intelligence and charm to get himself a fine job (perhaps as a salesman), but he was entirely lacking in confidence in himself.
It was obvious that she desperately wanted him to propose to her and marry her. (Although she was not attending church, she still considered herself a “good Christian girl,” and living with a man in “sin” distressed her.)
Mel felt as a man he had to support Kathy. Actually, he was a fine “house husband,” a good cook and housekeeper. Kathy was fine with supporting Mel financially, but Mel was horrified at the idea.
She told me that periodically they would have a big fight and she would storm out and leave him, but then return.
I said, “This does not sound like it will work out. Perhaps you should just cut your losses and realize he is never going to change…”
At that point, Kathy astonished me by saying with some vigor, “No! No! I love him! I am not going to leave him.”
I was startled and decided to stop giving her advice. Looking back on the situation with perspective from years later, I now conclude that what Kathy (the evangelical feminist) wanted was, like Maria, a man who wouldn’t give her much shit. It was fine with her if she had to support Mel, as long as he let her wear the pants (so to speak) in the relationship.
Over time I actually met Mel a few times. He seemed like a pleasant, personable man. I could see no reason why he and Kathy would not make a fine married couple, but what do I know?
However, I figured that Mel would never break down and agree to marry Kathy. However, one week they made a trip to Nevada (not for gambling, but for what reason I don’t remember), and on her return Kathy surprised everyone at the school by telling us that Mel had married her in Las Vegas during the trip. As I had recently seen the zany Nicholas Cage film Honeymoon in Las Vegas depicting Cage as a reluctant boyfriend who finally breaks down and marries his lady love, I was struck by the peculiar coincidence. I could think of few people less similar to the characters in the movie than Mel and Kathy, but there they were, married on impulse, in Las Vegas.
Kathy told me after the marriage that after watching Mel with their dog, she decided not to have children. As I’ve always believed that 75% of the people who do have children should not, that seemed as good a reason for coming to such a conclusion as any.
About a year or so again I had an email exchange with Kathy. She and Mel are still married. She still likes to be in charge of everything, but she found a job at a community college where she prepares curriculum and seems to be in charge of enough stuff to keep her control urges satisfied. She said that she and Mel are still married, and he has become a minister (of what crazy denomination I have no idea) and satisfied his urge to be a preacher by marrying people. All in all seems like a happy ending for an evangelical Christian feminist.
December 19, 2010
Kathy told me that her goal in attending Multnomah School of the Bible was to be a missionary in Africa and win souls for Christ among the heathens. However, as she neared graduation, she had an uncomfortable insight.
“I realized that the only way I could be a missionary was to either be the wife of a missionary or be a “go-fer” for a missionary. These were the only roles available for a woman in my church.”
In other words, somehow, Kathy had somehow succumbed to feminism, despite all her training and indoctrination against it.
Instead of using her divinity degree, Kathy got a job as a clerk in an office. As an intelligent, energetic and ambitious person, she quickly taught herself about computers and office procedures and rose to responsible positions. However, two main themes in her life were 1) fearing betrayal by people she trusted and 2) lacking respect for people less intelligent and perceptive than her telling her what to do. As she constantly feared betrayal, she would provoke people around her into betraying her, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we worked together, I saw her engage in this pattern.
At first, however, things went very well for Kathy. My boss, Tom, quickly recognized Kathy’s intelligence and ability, and, as did I, responded to her charm, which is considerable. Unlike Tammy, (the woman I described in my last post), Kathy does not play on her sex appeal in as strong and calculating way, but she knows how to make a very positive impression on people she meets, both men and women with her courtesy, intelligence, and desire to help people learn and succeed.
Tom quickly hired her and she quickly proved to be one of the best teachers in our “school.” [We were well separated from the rest of the University; both geographically and in how we functioned, so mostly we thought of ourselves as a separate school, like a little community college in Portland.]
Every class we taught was “graded” by the students, who submitted a feedback form, rating the class on a scale from 1-5, on about half a dozen points having to do with the quality of the class. Although I was and am fairly conceited about my teaching ability and about my ability to recognize and improve my teaching flaws and correct my failures, like all the other instructors I read the student feedback carefully. As far as I could tell, Kathy and I were the two highest rated instructors in the program.
I found this fascinating in that our teaching styles were quite different. We sometimes sat in on each others classes. Sometimes this was to learn a program we didn’t know. In large classes, the program provided “teaching assistants.” Once in a while one of the full instructors would help out as a TA.
My style of teaching is varied and improvisational. I am constantly trying new approaches and experimenting. I am very responsive to student requests. For example, one day I was teaching a class for a group of employees for the Internal Revenue Service. I began by making jokes about how much people hate and fear the IRS. I noticed a passing university employee staring at me in alarm, apparently fearing that I would be audited and arrested on the spot.
I quickly learned that the requested topic for the class (assigned by a supervisor who was not present) was not what the group of employees actually wanted to learn. I knew something about the topic they wanted but did not have a class prepared. I improvised a class on the spot. Later, I got a letter from an IRS department head expressing appreciation at how well I had met employee needs. That was an illustration of how I functioned when I was working at my best.
The down side was that I was (and am) easily distracted and impulsive. Sometimes in an effort to better meet students’ needs I would go off on a wild goose chase or get in deeply over my head. My willingness to improve and fly by the seat of my pants drove some students crazy.
Kathy, on the other hand, was a person who functioned entirely by depending on careful analysis and preparation. Once she had mastered a topic, she planned her classes practically to the minute. As I walked by her classroom, I would hear her voice, look at my watch, and joke quietly to other teachers, “It’s 11:15 am. I now exactly what she is going to say right now, because it’s on her schedule.”
Students loved her organization, confidence, knowledge of her subject. On the other hand, when circumstances were not entirely under her control or events were not going as she planned, Kathy tended to panic.
I remember once, she was teaching a database class, a topic where she was expert and my knowledge was skimpy. Microsoft had just released its first database program. Students were clamouring for it. The program was full of bugs and constantly crashing. I went into the classroom to assist Kathy. She was practically distraught. She wanted to cancel the class. In her mind, if the program crashed while she was teaching, the students would blame her personally, not Microsoft, who was releasing software not ready for prime time, nor the University of Oregon Portland Center, who was offering a dubious and unready program to satisfy student demands.
I said to Kathy, “Just tell the students, ‘We know you really want this class and we are offering it even though we cannot guarantee that the program will run without crashing through the entire class. If it crashes, we will give you your money back or a free class at a future time when we can make it work.’”
“No! I can’t do that. It’s completely unprofessional! They will consider me as a person who does not know what she is doing and is not fit to teach!” Kathy lamented, practically in tears. “I can’t get up and say something like that to a room full of students!”
I said, “I will do it for you. I will take full responsibility. Since Tom [the director of the program] is not here today, I will tell them I am the ranking staff member here and if someone is furious and irate, I will take all the heat. I will tell them I am the senior staff member in the absence of the Director.” [This was more or less true.]
Eventually, Kathy let me make a brief introductory statement to the class while she cringed in the back of the room. I explained that we really wanted to meet their need for a class on this program, but we could not guarantee it would run through the entire class without crashing. The students (who were for the most part already very computer-experienced and used to the typical ways in which computer hardware and software fails all the time) mostly shrugged.
Kathy then began teaching the class. Although the software was shaky for the duration of the class (about 6 hours over one day), it never actually failed completely. The students were enormously grateful for the fine job she did that day.
I was also fairly confident in dealing with difficult and hostile students. I attributed this to having been a high school teacher for about ten years. Adolescents are by nature difficult and hostile. I regarded the adults in our classes at UO as fairly pliable and easy to control. As I had been teaching for much of my career in a “diverse” high school with a variety of races, religions, and general nuttiness, I was fairly comfortable in dealing with diverse groups. Probably I overestimated my capability in this regard, but in general I was more relaxed in dealing with hostile students than my fellow teachers.
One day Kathy taught a class where a black man accused her of not providing him with enough attention and support. I wasn’t there, but I suspect I would have been more comfortable handling this situation after having experience with teaching a few hostile black gang members in my classes in high school. Again, Kathy was mortified; horrified that anyone would consider her prejudiced.
However, Kathy soon began to play out her betrayal dramas. In our classes, there was never quite enough work to go around for all the teachers. Each teacher would have his or her “turf”; classes they considered their property. Other teachers were not supposed to teach turf classes unless there was so much work to go around that the “owner” would say, “OK, you go ahead and teach that section.”
Kathy and I shared the Microsoft Word classes amicably enough, but trouble arose in the area of databases. Kathy and a teacher named Richard shared the database classes. Richard was a friednly and easy-going person, but he began developing a new database class. Kathy (with little justification) began to regard Richard’s work as “stealing database classes” from her.
It’s always easier to see other people’s flaws and errors than our own. I could see that Kathy was provoking a “betrayal drama” where she would get herself fired. My efforts to tell her to calm herself down were not well-received. We never had a complete break, but our friendship cooled considerably.
During the period when our friendship was having difficulty, Kathy told me, with some asperity, that I was too willing to go along to get along, and that I should stand up for myself more and compromise less. As a person who was usually in trouble for arguing with bosses and on the verge of getting fired, I was rather bitterly amused to receive such criticism.
December 18, 2010
I met Kathy, the second evangelical Christian feminist, when I was teaching computer classes for the University of Oregon. This is an extremely misleading sentence because it makes me sound like a professor of computer science teaching advanced classes for future nerds. In fact, these classes were short, ungraded, no credit classes akin to community college classes taught in Portland, Oregon, about a hundred miles from the main UO campus in Eugene, Oregon.
Anyway, in those days I was younger, smarter (though not by much) and sort of “tri-lingual” in that I taught DOS classes, Windows classes, and Macintosh classes. I was teaching a Microsoft Word class for the Macintosh computer when I met Kathy, one of the students, about ten years younger than I, pretty without being bodacious. As the class proceeded, it quickly became clear to me that while a few details of the Macintosh were unfamiliar to her, in general she knew as much or more than I did about Microsoft Word. At the end of the class, she stopped to chat with me a bit. Given her obvious intelligence and knowledge of the program, I wondered a bit why she was taking the class.
When she asked about the class and about our program, fairly quickly became apparent to me that she was trolling for a teaching job. [As I got to know Kathy better, I realized that the reason she was trolling for a new job was that she knew she was about to get fired. At the time, she was office manager for a well known market research company in Portland. In my checkered working career, I was usually in trouble and conflict with my bosses, but Kathy outdid me by a few light years in this regard in her tendency to get into battles she could not win with her bosses.]
I explained that I was not the person who hired for our school, but advised her that if she provided a copy of her resume, I would pass it on to my boss. Up to that point, Kathy had been confident and self-assured in manner and projected smooth professional self-confidence. All of a sudden she seemed embarrassed and diffident and reluctant to let me see her resume. However, when I pressed a bit she reluctantly handed me a nice-looking and well-prepared curriculum vitae.
As I glanced at her education, I was struck by her degree: in divinity from a Portland college: Multnomah School of the Bible. I was slightly familiar with this school. It’s an extremely conservative, very devout evangelical Christian college. (A quick web check shows it is still going strong and now rather dubiously labels itself as a “university.”)
As we talked, and as I got to know her over the next months, Kathy told me something of her background. She had grown up in Northern California, a child of very strict, very devout evangelical parents. My impression is that she was a very obedient and devoted child who accepted what her parents and her church told her wholeheartedly. She apparently felt her entire purpose in life was to worship Jesus and to convert non believers to conservative Christianity.
About the time she was a pre-teen, her father abandoned her mother and ran off with another woman. As far as I could parse as I got to know her, Kathy’s immediate response to her father’s betrayal and hypocrisy was to double or triple her devotion to God and Jesus–perhaps blaming herself for the failure of her parents’ marriage–but on a deeper level, she developed a deep fear of betrayal and a passionate reluctance to trust anyone else or depend on anyone else.
(To be continued)
December 6, 2010
In talking about feminists I have known, I tend to divide them into two groups. One group I would describe as “classical feminists,” who thought, “Men have fucked us [women] over; when we get the chance, we will screw them just as badly.”
Historically, until recently, women seldom got the opportunity. Three women from historical records come quickly to mind: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I of England, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Cleopatra famously fooled around with Anthony, who lost out in the Roman gang war rumbles of the time; she went down with him. Elizabeth was very tough and coy; defeating the Spanish armada, negotiating with a variety of suitors, while cultivating a cult of virginity (the virginity may have been accurate in fact.) Catherine of Russia proved to be a tough babe in a rough land; conquering enemies in war, holding on to her court (after her husband was deposed and then killed); and taking and casting aside lovers as suited her tastes without much qualm or secrecy.
At this point, as my style, I will embark on an incredibly prolix, tedious, and ignorant essay on the history of modern religious belief, which will eventually get you to the subject of feminist evangelical Christian babes I have known. Feel free to skip to the not so bad part will be helpfully labeled, “Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.”
While my co-worker Maria would probably not wanted to be grouped with babes like Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Liz; as a very educated woman who majored in history and possessed a wry sense of humor, I suspect she would have reluctantly conceded the resemblance.
As an English major, I was familiar with Henry James, an eccentric writer who wrote dense novels that most people feel they ought to read but probably don’t want to. [Actually, with a little effort on the part of the reader, some of James’ early novels, such as What Maisie Knew, are pretty good, but as James was very bright and very talented, once he put his mind to writing completely unreadable novels, by the end of his life he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. If he had been a competitive runner, James would have been one who ran marathons hundreds of miles from where any other competitor would dream of running in desert landscapes where no human observers would be caught dead watching the race because they would be caught dead period by the Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.
Until later, I was less familiar with Henry’s eccentric and brilliant brother, William James, a philosopher who believed in pragmatism (if i t works, it probably is right); a social scientist who invented experimental psychology (a system for torturing rats and pigeons); and one of the first people to study religious belief from the point of view of social science. In other words, aside from pondering the question of whether religious belief is true (impossible to determine for sure, but probably not) an issue that fretted James quite a bit as he was fairly depressed much of the time and did not want to die any more than most of us, except when he was considering whether to commit suicide, he also contemplated the question: what do religious people actually believe?
Writing in the late 1800s, James noticed that religious belief tended to fall into two schools:
Positive Thinking School: What might be called the “positive thinking school” (Tending toward a belief in a benevolent Loving God who will reward us for existing by granting us life after physical death in a groovy place called Heaven) and:
Humans Are Wicked, Doomed Sinners School:What might be called the “” believing that Christ’s sacrifice will save us from eternal punishment in Hell if we worship God and Christ while constantly bragging about our sinfulness and unworthiness.”
[In keeping with James I am speaking of Christianity here, but similar strains existed in other religions of his time as he was aware.]
A century after William James went to find out for himself if there is any there there (in other words, he croaked), globalism seems to be creeping into the world of religion, in that two main religions are cohering around the world. Speaking in the late 1900s and early 2000s, writers such as Karen Armstrong (Catholic nun drop-out and author of acclaimed books such as The History of God) have described these trends (my summaries of which would probably make poor Karen puke, though very gently and discreetly, because she is a very gentle, refined woman):
Tolerant, Ecumenical, We Are All Children of One Loving God School and
WE BLOW OURSELVES UP AND YOU WITH US IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CORRECT GOD OF YOUR OWN FREEE WILL SCHOOL!!!!
(Karen Armstrong herself, describes the second school as “Fundamentalism”]
One of the typical strains of fundamentalism is “obedience to God.” God wants humans to be blindly and unquestionably obedient to Him. A side benefit of this system is that many fundamentalists assign themselves roles as spokespeople for God and then start telling others around them to be obedient to them as religious leaders, political leaders, and so on. In evangelical Christianity (and most other fundamentalist religions), men interpret this chain of command as applying to women being obedient to men (husbands, fathers, and so on).
Just as in the case of political leaders such as Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Catherine, some fundamentalist women are not inclined by temperament and philosophy to be blindly and passively obedient to the men in their lives. In the following sections of this thread I will describe a couple of evangelical Christian women I have known who were by nature feminists and the somewhat amusing (at least to me) turns these contradictions played out in their lives.
November 27, 2010
Then I met Maria. She was a social studies teacher; she was very interested in international relations; she traveled the world. She was intelligent, and dark and pretty in a Southern European sort of way. Her parents were from Croatia.
She was also a fierce feminist. Neither Kip nor I were over the top sexist pigs, but occasionally we would make piggy joking remarks, and Maria would take us severely to task.
However, Maria also had a charming, wry, self-effacing sense of humor. She told me once about going to the Portland Zoo with her mother and father. The lions were “getting it on,” at the time. She was telling me about how conservative her Croation mother was.
“My mother turned to my father and me in bewilderment, and asked what the lions were doing,” she said.
I didn’t ask if she knew how she was conceived with a mother in such denial about the facts of life.
In high school, Maria told me, the quarterback of the football team had chosen her to be his girl friend. To me, Maria was attractive enough that I could imagine that happening, but Maria indicated she was surprised and shocked when football star woo’ed her. In any case, apparently, after that experience, Maria had decided she was oppressed by dominant males.
At the time I met her, she had a gentleman friend, named John. John was very intelligent. He was a professor of Internation Relations at a university in the Portland area. He was distinguished. He specialized in the Middle East. When Henry Kissenger was Secretary of State, he hired John to be Assistant Undersecretary of Something.
Maria told me, “Every so often, John has an ‘audience’ with Secretary Kissenger. He hates these meetings.”
She told me, “I picked John for my boyfriend because he is not very demanding. In fact, I picked him because he just doesn’t give me any shit.”
Maria also made it clear she was not big on the institution of marriage, as it was mostly a way for men to oppress women. Maria’s sister was married, and she made it clear she did not particularly think much of that relationship. She indicated she had no intentions of marrying John or anyone, ever.
The next summer, Maria and John went on a trip around the world. They were serious about not being “tourists.” Every so often, I would get a postcard or a photograph from a country such as India. They rode as regular passengers with ordinary Indian citizens on trains with the people across India. They did not want to be seen as “ugly Americans” by riding in separate compartments with the other American tourists.
A few days before Maria was due to return from her trip around the world I accidentally encountered (new to me) somebody who knew Maria. During the conversation, she said, “Maria and John will be arriving at the PDX (Portland airport) in a few days. I am going to meet her there. I am looking forward to meeting her husband.”
I said, “Maria is not married.”
She said, “Yes, she is. She got married on the trip.”
Flabbergasted, I said, “Maria told me that she intended never to get married.”
She replied, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that Maria and John got married on the trip.”
When Maria actually got back, she wore no wedding ring and said not a word to me or Kip about being married for a least a month or more. I think we never said to her, “I thought you were never going to get married.” Somehow she “merged” the fact that she was married into our working relationship without every making it apparent that her views on marriage had changed.
Eventually, she and John had a couple of children, and bought and remodeled a large house in Portland. I believe my daughter and her partner and I visited them once at their house and met their children.
While I haven’t kept in touch with her, I have looked her up on the web a couple of times. She has become president for a while of an organization promoting international relations in the Portland area. Apparently, she and John are still married. (Happily, I hope.)
To this day, I remain bemused and rather entranced by the memory of the woman who was such a strong feminist that she kept it a secret when she got married.
November 24, 2010
I don’t know how much longer I will keep posting on my blog. However, there are stories I always meant to tell and while I am still alive I will maunder on about them to my three or four readers…David, Trucie-woo, Waxing Strange, perhaps Pete, though I don’t know if he is still reading. Mommy? Not many left. Before I get to the first feminist, I will talk about the science fiction high school class we taught.
First, I met with the vice-principal, My Ylvisaker. Later, I learned that Kip referred to him (with genial good humor) as “Mr. Evilseeker.”
I had been laid off from my job as a high school teacher in Seattle. Angry, I vowed to leave the state and we drove to Oregon. I visited Hood River. Fortunately, they didn’t hire me. It is a cold and dangerous place.
Then I visited Tigard, a suburb of Portland. Mr. Ylvisaker told me their alternative education program, Alternative Futures, needed a replacement teacher. It was clear that he had no idea where he would find someone strange enough to fit in with the other two teachers, Kip and Maria. It only took me a few minutes to communicate that I was weird enough.
He said, “We also have a “mass media” program. Can you teach that?’
I didn’t tell him that my wife and I had given up on television, and thought it healthier to raise a child with books instead of the tube. I silently vowed to buy a television set.
Then I met with Kip, an engineer from Tacoma who became a high school math teacher. In those days, engineers made blueprints by hand and pen rather than with CAD programs on computers. Kip not only printed well, like an architect, but Maria and I agreed that when Kip wrote on the chalkboard, he displayed “happy writing.” Just a few lines on the board cheered up the entire classroom. We never figured out how he did it.
Kip introduced me to his cats. I learned that he and Maria and a journalism teacher had created a program called “Alternative Futures” to prepare young people for a changing future. I later learned that Kip had fallen in love with one of his students, Karen. It is a big no no for high school teachers to diddle their students. I knew one teacher who was fired for kissing a student. However, as one of my fellow male teachers said to me once in the teacher’s room, “When I look at those fresh young female bodies, I am terribly tempted. However, when those fresh young female bodies open their mouths and speak to me, all temptation disappears.”
The year I arrived, Karen was gone. She had traveled to Ecuador to learn Spanish and do good deeds. Everyone knew that Kip and Karen were in love, but they didn’t cross the lines. When I met Karen, later, she was cute, but no bodacious. In fact, I realized, Kip had fallen in love with her mind, though I am sure he liked her body well enough. She started college; Kip got her father’s permmission to “court her;” eventually they married. I think I attended the wedding. I lost all touch with Kip.
To be continued…
(Part 3 of International Relations and Relationships)
We invited Mary to visit Mommy and Mama at their house. We talked about how complicated family visits are. In RG’s case she has to fly to Virginia to see Grandma and Step-Grandfather and Grandpa and Step-Grandma. Let’s not even get into Dad’s Mom in Oregon, or co-Dad’s Mom and Step-Dad in Colorado.
Mary’s family is even more complicated. She flies to England to visit one sister, who is working on a doctorate (in statistics!) at the University of Salamanca, in Spain. (It’s a small world; my cousin Valerie also lives in Salamanca, Spain, where she is a chiropractor, when not taking care of her chiropractor dad in Australia.)
Mary is the youngest girl in her family, though she and her four sisters have a little brother, who works in Brazil. As he was growing up, their Mom said, “All your sisters have advanced degrees, so you have to at least get a Master’s Degree.”[ Brother is doing some kind of research in Brazil having to do with automobiles.]
“Do you speak Portuguese?” I asked Mary?
“No, I don’t, and now my brother speaks Spanish with such a Portuguese accent I can hardly understand him.”
Her sister, the child psychiatrist, is back in Peru (after working for a while in Mexico), where she is now studying Alzheiner’s Disease. “My sister watches everybody so carefully, everyone is afraid she is analyzing us all the time,” said Mary.
Her other sister is a nurse. “She has to work awful hours. She is often at the hospital all night.”
Mary has become an American citizen. She probably qualified because her heritage is all mixed up like Americans’ heritage. Her grandparents on one side were Italian, so she grew up eating spaghetti all the time and hearing her grandma babble in Italian. (Her grandfather came to Peru as an engineer to help build railroads and then stayed.)
“Were some of your ancestors Indian?” I asked her. Mary looks like what I think an Inca woman would look like to me. “No, I don’t think so,” she replied.
Later, my wife said to me, “People in different countries have different terms for native peoples, so she probably thought you were asking if her ancestors were from (East) India.
February 8, 2010
The older I get, the more certain I am that a) truth is difficult to determine and b) the best way to proceed is difficult to determine in issues of dealing with our lives, whether we are 66 years old, as am I, or 6 years old, as RG will be in about a week. It’s all a perplexity.
As Norwichrocks said, a lot of the children’s books are twaddle, perhaps including the ones I described in the previous post. Yet, the mommies’ rather bowdlerized approach to Random Granddaughter’s reading matter seems to work fairly well. And the Rhianna and Jamaica books that RG picked out (and they were picked out by her and are unknown to her mommies) seemed to be of interest to her and discussed issues and concerns of interest and concern to RG. I only summarized one of the books, but RG enjoyed all three books we read and each led to interesting conversations and observations by her. I think she should indeed learn the word “twaddle,” but I should be respectful that what might seem to be twaddle to me may not be to her. Or she may someday get a PhD in twaddle.
However, I will indeed investigate the the curious books blog woo mentioned to me. Carefully and cautiously.
By the age of 3, Random Granddaughter had decided (an interest continuing up until the age of 5) on a career as a fire captain, today somewhat replaced by teaching and art. She never mentioned wanting to go into police work. However, being a police officer may have been added to her career horizon.
As we left the library and headed back toward themommies’ house, we heard a siren. Ahead of us, we saw two motorcycle policemen at an intersection, stopping a few cars as they came toward them through the traffic light. After they stopped a couple of cars, they would look at ID, examine the driver, and let him proceed.
We watched as after a while, the turned around and moved methodically up the street ahead of us. Although RG does not watch television or read the newspaper, and lives in a very mellow and PC urban neighborhood, she seems to be getting sophisticated about modern life. RG speculated that the motorcycle officers were “looking for crooks.” I agreed this was a real possibility, and briefly to related to her a story from 30 years ago when I “helped” the police look for a crook.
Many years ago when I was teaching high school in Seattle’s semi-ghetto, I asked students in one of my classes to participate in some kind of experience in the community (outside of school). Several chose to do “ride-alongs” with the Seattle Police Department. If a young lady wanted to do such an activity, the Police Department required her to bring along an adult male [presumably to protect her against the police abusing or taking advantage of her].
One female student, Linda, came to me in some distress. She was going to ride with the police with her brother as the duenna/observer. When they arrived at the police station, the police promptly arrested her brother for having a long collection of unpaid traffic tickets. The next day, Linda approached me in with great worry about doing her homework assignment. I had to admit that “The police arrested my male duenna,” far surpassed, “The dog ate my homework,” as an excuse, so I was a pushover for her request that I join her for a ride to fight crime.
On the appointed night, after they had checked my name for outstanding or inferior warrants, Linda and I climbed into the back seat of a police car. The two officers in the front seat were very friendly and professional—I was sure they had been carefully vetted to be presentable to the public. Although the first hour of the evening was fairly routine, a couple of calls by the dispatcher alerted us to look for a stolen car. Driven by an escaped convict. Who had already mugged a woman earlier that day.
As we came out of a bar, where the officers had calmly and politely calmed a disturbance, one of the cops exclaimed, “There he is!” I was immensely impressed with his vision and alertness. From the merest glance of his peripheral vision, he had identified the vehicle, read the license plate, and ID’d the driver as the wanted prison escapee as the car sped by.
We leaped into the police car, radioed the dispatcher, turned on the sirens and set off in pursuit. Soon joined by at least half a dozen other squad cars, we raced up and down the Southeast end of Seattle in pursuit of the fleeing felon. Eventually, he was cornered and herded into a McDonald’s parking lot. Cops surrounded his car, yanked him out of the car, threw him on the ground, and handcuffed him.
The two officers apologetically explained the rest of the evening would be taken up with paperwork and our ride along would be cut short. Linda, my student, assured me it was the best homework assignment she had ever had. I don’t know if she went into a career in law enforcement, in crime, or in television. I related a simplified version of this story to RG, who in turn told it to the mommies. It seems clear that police work has been added to her list of careers to evaluate.
Perhaps she will be an undercover cop who drives ferryboats while teaching classes and drawing sketches of felons from witness descriptions. And putting out fires as a hobby.
February 3, 2010
After the mommies and RG and I had lunch, Mama went back to studying her calculus and statistics, and Mommy went to the hardware store, and Random Granddaughter and I went to the library.
She selected some books, and then asked me to read them to her. Several of the books were about two little girls. One, named Brianna, is Asian, and the other, whose name is Jamaica, is black. RG is being raised to value diversity, living in a multi-racial urban neighborhood, having two mommies and two daddies (none of whom is married to any of the others), and having a crazy Grandpa. So don’t tell RG about your diversity because you don’t know diversity unless you are a science fiction child like RG.
The two girls seemed to be in kindergarten and always seemed to be having little human relations problems. If Oprah Winfrey wrote books for kindergarteners, these would be the books.
As RG is seriously considering being an artist, even though she is not allowed to send pictures to Auntie Woo in Australia, and is afraid to, because she is an introvert, she was interested in one of the stories. Jamaica is making a picture with marker pens. It is a very nice picture of a tree (brown pen) with leaves (green pen). The teacher brings over a little boy—I forget his name so I will call him Dudley Dingbat—and explains he doesn’t have any markers and asks Jamaica to lend him one. She lends him one, a blue one, with somewhat bad grace.
Dudley starts to draw a picture and then crumples it up and throws it on the floor. Then he starts to scribble all over Jamaica’s picture. She takes the picture home to her black mother and black daddy [that’s OK, but a multi-racial family would be diverser] and is very sad. Eventually it all gets sorted out Oprah style—the boy’s dad is moving because his dad got a new family, etc—you can find the book if you really care.
The interesting part is that Random Granddaughter told me that her best friend—whom I call BIP [for bad influence peer, and is the daughter of a billionaire] sometimes crumples up her pictures and throws them on the floor. This is interesting, because the mommies are not too enthusiastic about RG’s close relationship with BIP, partly because I had not been digging for this or asking leading questions–perhaps because BIP is a bratty extrovert and RG is a bratty introvert sidekick, perhaps because the mommies don’t have a lot of money and are afraid that RG—a child genius—or perhaps just a very smart little girl—will start to place too much value on money—though if BIP is fairly messed up, and it sounds to me as if she is—then RG may draw the right conclusions, perhaps before her hormones kick in, which may not happen until she is seven or eight or so—the right conclusions being that money alone will not make you happy. Though it is hard to know. If nothing else, some day RG may write a brilliant, successful memoir titled something like I Had Two Mommies, Two Daddies, A Crazy Grandpa, and a Very Messed Up Heiress as a Best Friend in Kindergarten, and make a lot of money, appear on television to tell her story to Oprah’s god-granddaughter and be a messed up science fiction child. Your mileage may vary.
February 1, 2010
As we were getting ready to leave to see the mommies and Random Granddaughter, I noticed a distressed look on my wife’s face. When I queried her, she said, “I feel like I am going to throw up. I do not want to make anyone sick. You go. I will stay home.”
When I got to the mommies, RG was talking on the phone. Mommy (my daughter’s partner and RG’s birth mother) said, “She is talking to her dad. He is Amsterdam with his mom.”
RG has flown to Virginia and to Chicago, but not to Europe. Mommy said, “Dad keeps threatening to take her to Europe.” I am sure when that day occurs, RG will take Europe by storm as she has America.
Mama (my daughter) stayed upstairs and studied her calculus and statistics for her graduate school class. She explained what she is studying a little bit. I tried to look alert and comprehending, much as Sylvie, the mommies’ adorable cat, tries to loot alert and comprehending when we explain to her when she wants to go outside that she can’t because the raccoons and the coyotes who live in the city will eat her.
Mommy and RG and I went to the Arboretum to feed the ducks. The mommies are very nutrition conscious, so we didn’t bring stale white bread. RG had a bag of organic oats. RG threw oats at the ducks. It is hard to read the expression on a duck’s face, but I suspect the ducks’ faces said, “We would like stale white bread crumbs just as well, thank you.”
We then walked for a bit and then RG spied something interesting on the shore of a lagoon. We went to examine it. “That’s a dead beaver,” said Mommy.
RG stared at the dead beaver for quite a while with interest. I didn’t tell her that the dead beaver’s name, when alive, was “Existential Dilemma.” Or perhaps it was “I build dams, damn it!”
We then returned to the small house in the medium-sized city. As Mommy fixed us a nice lunch, she told me that her mother, who is 69, has arrhythmia in her heart. She is not in any danger of dying immediately, but the doctors have been inserting tubes up into her heart and trying to get it to beat in the proper rhythm. The process in very painful and uncomfortable.
My cousin Julie told me that my Aunt Henriette was told she needs an operation on her heart. Henriette has always believed that good nutrition and exercise would help her live forever, but she has agreed to have the operation. Her son Carl, who has been very estranged from his mother, is flying out to be with her. He has no money, so Julie is paying for his plane trip. (She calls it a loan, but I doubt that she is holding her breath waiting for repayment).
I try to be very nice to my daughter and her partner and that she will be able to afford the ferry trip to visit us when the time comes. At the moment, my blood sugar is at an acceptable level, and my blood pressure is at a good level as well, and my heart goes into the training level on the treadmill fairly readily, but one never knows.