the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘[san francisco]’

a rejection letter to be thankful for…

In career, Uncategorized, writing on November 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

I am not one to be thankful when it comes to writing.  Even when I get published somewhere, the euphoria only lasts so long.  Soon enough, I’m starting down that sad, useless road of comparisons.  If, by chance, you are not a writer/artist of the neurotic persuasion, this road is full of distracting signposts along the way. Ones that tell you that of course you got your story into X or Y magazine.  X or Y are not The New Yorker.  They aren’t even some top lit mag like The Missouri Review or Zoetrope.  X or Y magazine aren’t good; in fact, they are desperate.  As the road keeps going, you see another signpost: if X is a print-only mag, the next signpost tells you that you are never going to get read by the piddly few readers who actually subscribe.  If Y-Mag is web-only, the next signpost on the road tells you to turn off and cry because you aren’t good enough to get into print.

You get the idea, I think.

It might be a sign of where I am now; perhaps I have learned to ignore these unhelpful signs along the way.  But that’s unlikely. Still, just a couple days ago, I received a lovely email from the editor of The Fairy Tale Review, a mag that is especially open to the kind of fantastical (not to be confused with fantasy) fiction I tend to write.  I am going to quote the complete note here because…oddly enough, I’m proud of it:

Dear Mr. Martinez,

Please forgive this atrocious lag in response time. FTR is a small operation – my pair of eyes only!, unless you include my glasses, of course. Whereas I absolutely loved your story (I read your submission many times and found it more and more sophisticated and smart with every read!), sadly, we are going to have to pass on it right now. Please understand that this decision has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. I have struggled to create the most balanced and delicate issue, which means making impossibly difficult decisions, heartbreaking ones, such as not taking your story. Please please please consider submitting to us again in the future!

Yours, with admiration,
Lily

This isn’t about bragging.  It’s just to share a nice point of light in what can sometimes seem like the bleak silence of putting words on the page.  How many days/weeks/years do artists toil in obscurity?  The hardest part for me is not the work.  It’s the sense that no one aside from your friends and family think your art is worth a two-penny damn.  How can you know–really know–if you haven’t hit it with readers/publishers/agents because you just haven’t found your way OR because you just suck.

The answer, the sad sad sad answer is that YOU do not know.  You just write/paint/sing and you put yourself out there.  And then, you wait.  AND wait. And wait some more.  But sometimes you get a nice email, and you add some hope to all the wait.

Here’s hoping!

ps. if you want to read the very short fairy tale, check out my portfolio site:

the key to career success: suck it often and quickly…

In career, life, observations on November 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

start knocking

OK, this is probably not going to come as big news to many of you.  But the notion that if you want to do something well, you can’t be afraid to fail got by me somehow. I know I’ve heard this before.  Maybe it was a late-night infomercial hosted by some self-help guru. But when you boil it down, strip the idea from the cheesy guy smiling his 1000 kilowatt smile in the darkness of night, there is something to it.

I came to realize this a few weeks ago while I was at a conference for Transmedia storytellers.  For a couple days, I had been running into a guy named Donald Cager.  Donald, humble as pie, introduced himself to me as a producer of commercials.  Little did I know that Donald doesn’t just produce any commercials; he produces some of the biggest spots on TV.  If you watched the Olympics, then you probably saw his Samsung commercial about a thousand times.  I say this because it was this humble, successful guy who finally helped me figure out what I’d been missing.

It’s not uncommon for me to have more than a couple projects on the burner at once.  I just work better that way.  But when starting these things, I always waste a lot of time trying to figure out which of the two I should focus on.  More than once, I have gotten locked up and not started anything because I wanted to know which project would be the better use of time, and as I’ve gotten older, this quandary has gotten more severe.  And with each day at the conference, because I was being exposed to so many approaches, my anxiety about my next steps as a writer was increasing exponentially.

I said this to Donald.  I think I used that staid metaphor of the door.  At the conference, I was exposed to so many doors, so many ways to move forward as a writer.  Not that many of these doors would lead to success.  Most wouldn’t. I knew that.  And that truth was scaring me into paralysis.  But Donald, in his quiet way, turned it around on me.  He basically told me that I needed to open any and every door as quickly as I could.  Because the sooner I went through all the wrong doors, the sooner I’d find the right one.

I love this.  It’s amazing, but just with that little bit of wisdom, I feel so much freer than I have in a very long time.  So why didn’t I listen to those late-night self-help guys sooner?  I think they say the same thing.  Oh, that’s right.  Because they usually suck.  That, and the fact that one bit of wisdom just doesn’t make it worth the pain of looking at those blazing white smiles–made from cheese and cynicism.  I guess you get the lessons you need when you are ready for them.

Thanks, Donald.

no thanks, dude

some advice for bloggers…DON’T BE USEFUL!!

In life, observations, Uncategorized on October 8, 2012 at 6:09 am

Blogs, this blog at least, tell stories in addition to the ones told in words.  You get to know someone through a blog not only by what the writer tells you, but also through the subjects he chooses to explore and the manner in which that exploration occurs.  True to this blog’s name, I have been running in circles for a long time.  I’ve been running a 40 year marathon, to be completely frank, but that’s too long a tale to to get into here, so let’s start with the last couple of months.  It must be the Catholic guilt my mom didn’t instill in me but that I somehow still inherited –can you say original sin?

I’ve been trying to figure out why I blog.  My answer: I don’t know why.  A few weeks ago, i decided I should try to be useful.  There’s something too indulgent, I think, about just writing for writing sake.  And yet, isn’t that what we should be doing as writers?  I love this blog, not because it’s great, but because it gives me an outlet to share myself with the people who decide it’s worth a few minutes .  I know this is a good thing, but I’ve fought the impulse.  After reading one too many books about social media and making a career of this writing thing, I briefly tried to limit the scope of what I want to write about.  I tried to find a thread, a theme that I could use to unify what I’m doing here.  The result was that I became tight and unsure of myself.

The thread of this blog, the unifying factor I’m only now realizing, is me, which probably names me a lille bit of a dumb-ass for not having figured it out sooner.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be a little focused, read obsessed, with trying to find my way as a father/husband, my voice as an artist, my next career move as a ????. I’ll still write occasionally about education since I teach every day of the week.  But I’m going to also use this blog to work out some ideas about next steps for me.  Even circles have steps.  My goal, extending the metaphor, is to try and widen that circle so I can cover more ground.  Maybe it’ll be an elliptical shape of some kind, though I won’t change the name because Running in Elliptical Shapes sounds a little dumb.

I guess, the best way to say what I haven’t really said yet is to say, if you’re writing a blog, don’t worry about being useful.  Be yourself.  Hopefully, in that you might help someone else.  At the very least, you will help yourself.

i ride in circles, too

Read the rest of this entry »

the two-hours of crazy, aka., my writing time

In career, life, observations on September 10, 2012 at 5:54 am

 

It’s not unusual.  I know this.  But I’m still struggling to figure it out.  How can I get myself writing as soon as I get out of the house?

Let me backtrack.

I do not–not usually–write at home.  (I am currently sitting in my kitchen, though I’d rather not be.)  I’ve always been this way, but until recently, it has always been by choice.  Now, with a baby, it’s a necessity if I’m to get anything done.  My wife is wonderful and understanding, but there’s just something about my typing at the computer that says to her: he can help me.  I can’t help her.  I mean, I want to help. I certainly don’t want to be that lame kind of husband/father who isn’t available.  But the writer needs to write. Know what I’m sayin’?  This need makes me feel a little guilty, and that guilt, in turn, drives me to do the groceries and cook meals and wash dishes and scrub the bathroom (pretty regularly).  I do this to help.  But I also do this because I feel bad for stealing a couple hours every day to write in loud coffee houses.  I like, no, I love loud coffee houses.  The noise somehow focuses me–sort of.

On average, I find it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to focus in and start writing.  I want to check the Twits, read an article or two about God-knows-what.  I long for a day, a whole day of overpaying for multiple coffees as I spend hour after hour in dimly lit rooms, lost to the muffle of my headphones, which often are not playing anything at all. But, alas, I get two hours and I am thankful for them.

I try to make the most of my time, but the truth is, sometimes I just can’t get to work until I use some of it to do nonsense.  There’s something of a procrastinator in me.  I admit it.  But I’ve come to think of procrastination as a result of something, not a cause.  Fear is at work.  I look at the list of things I want to get done: look for some publications for some new stories, read over the last chapter of my graphic novel, write something new.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I get a tight stomach and a little nervous–not bad nervous, maybe excited is the word–and the nervousness can sometimes overwhelm me a little.  Too many steps.  Too many things to do.  I want to run.  I want to escape. I start wondering what the point to this stuff is.  I should spend this time with the kid and my wife.  What are all these little things I’m working on leading to?  Why am I doing this? What’s the point?

And then, about 45 minutes in, I trick myself into starting.  I give myself a reward, a cookie, a bite of chocolate or a High-Chew, if only I start.  I can do any of the things on my list; I don’t have to start with the hardest thing.  And then, I’m in.  I’ve transitioned to creative-time. I’m happy. I’m free.  At least I am for the hour I still have.  And then, a little sadly, I pack everything up and I’m off to work or back to the flat to hang with The Boy.

Is this sane?  I don’t know.  I’m heartened that I least I do get something done each day.  But Jesus, it would be so much easier if I could just sit down and get to the list as soon as the tattooed young’n hands me my overpriced caffeine.  That’d be great, and I’d also be thinner.  Those pieces of chocolate are staring to add up.

 

buddhist, bad listener or something else?

In parenting, Uncategorized on September 5, 2012 at 5:55 am

 

Have you ever felt like crapper and told someone only to have that person pull some Yoda-Yoga-wisdom out of their butts and try to smear your face in it?  Graphic image, I know.  I’m probably sensitive to this kind of thing, more than I should be, because my mom is one of those people.  She means well.  But when I was a kid, and I had one of those teen-age tragedies: I sucked at the game, a cute girl ignored me–basically, when I had a true teenage dilemma on my hands–my mom would try and talk it out. For her, talking it out meant telling me that there were starving kids in Africa, so in the grander scheme, I needed to change my way of thinking.  She was pulling that Buddhist thing that suffering is caused by desire, and that the answer was to do away with the desire.

Wise words.  Shitty response.

Recently, I was scolded in this way after writing a guest blog post about my worries that my boy will not have all the things I’d like him to have.  I’m not talking bling-bling, btw; a humble house (rented not bought) with  a small yard, a dog if he likes.  This may not sound like a lot, but I live in San Francisco, and these humble wants are not so humble when you’re running up against the Facebook gaggle of new millionaires.  It’s not just the the things, though.  Part of my blog post was getting at the fact that I’ve never lived in a place that made me so conscious of what I do not have, and that I don’t think beautiful places like SF should only be for wealthy people.  There should be a place for a middle-income teacher/writer like me.

The person commenting pointed out that I shouldn’t worry about these things, that I should teach my boy to value real things, not status-symbols.  Fair enough, but I am left wondering a couple things and I want to share them here.  1.  when you’re ranting (even by blog) should you not have the right to be ridiculous, which means that you might not be in the mood to hear wisdom.

My sense of upset with this commenter runs deeper though.  I can’t say this is true for everyone, but now that I’m a parent, I am reminded of things I’ve put away in boxes in the dusty attic that is my brain: a love for Dr. Seuss books and Halloween, just to name two.  But along with these positive things, there are negative feelings that have come up as well, and some of those feelings are engendered by my family’s financial station when I was a kid, which in turn were partly brought about by my parent’s race and the discrimination they suffered through.

Fears are complicated.  My folks managed to succeed through hard work, but they suffered and it didn’t come easy nor early, which is why when I was coming up, we were pretty poor and I felt some shame for that, which if possible, I’d like to spare my boy.  Am I stupid? Maybe.  Is it unwise to get caught up in feelings of jealousy and disappointment? These are my issues.  But I think that people who are quick to dispense the wisdom, like this commenter, have their own.

To me, it’s facile to tell someone who is struggling that they should not want so much.  There’s no way for me to know this, but I suspect this person might be one of those people who have chosen a simple life, but it’s different when simple is a choice and not thrust upon you by the fact that you can’t afford complexity.  Hey, even the Buddha chose his life of poverty.  Let’s not forget, he was born into affluence.

SO, what to do?  Do I write this person?  Do I just leave it alone?  Comments are good.  Disagreements are welcome.  But is it cool to debate with a reader?  What say you guys?

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

9 months and out–LESSON #1

In career, humor, life, observations, Uncategorized, writers & books, writing on August 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

 

If you want to succeed at something, stick to it.  OK, obvious, I know.  But let me start with a story that will show you how I have not followed this very obvious truth.  I call this little ditty, Curse of the Dumb-Dumb Who Keeps Wondering What Other People Think of Him.  Here it goes.  I hope you like it–really, I do.

(See what I mean?)

When I was 15, I discovered tennis.  This was before the Williams sisters, mind you.  On paper, I had no real business with the sport.  Tennis is not quite golf and it’s a good bit under polo in the rich-person pantheon of athletics.  And yet, it certainly has a little bit of the country club vibe to it even to this day.  My father at the time, classic immigrant that he is, was happy about my discovery, telling me that tennis was a good sport for making connections with rich people.  (My father’s strange views of American society are another story.)  Anyway, I loved tennis.  I spent a summer going from one public court to the next all over Santa Monica, looking for people to play.  I was what I am not usually: without fear or apprehension.  I just wanted to play.

I say all of this, but this month was the first time I picked up a racket in 25 years.  I stopped when I was a sophomore because even though I loved tennis, the sport was not going to get me cred with the girls–at least I didn’t think I would.  So, what did I do?  I switched to basketball, which was a joke.  I’m 6′ 3″, and I liked playing pick-up games.  But my heart wasn’t into it.  And I didn’t have a head for the game in a more organized setting of league play.  So, basically I sucked it.  And after getting through Hell Week, I quit the team.  By that time, I’d gotten rusty at my tennis game, and then I hurt my shoulder trying to serve and it was over.

Now, do you get the point?  I left what I loved out of some concern of what others would think.  And I’ve been repeating the same mistake for years. You’d think I’d learn by now, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to see that you’re repeating the same mistake.  Every situation seems new.  Even now, I feel the pressure to give up on writing. I’m not going to, mind you.  This is it for me, I know that.  But sometimes, I have an idea, and I work through it, and as I sit with the project, I start to have doubts.  I start thinking no one will like what I’m doing or that I will fail (which also comes from a concern for others) and I want to run away.

I tend to think that most ideas, if you stick with them, can bear fruit.  Part of success is telling that inner-critic that tells you to quit because you might fail or because no one will like it or because you will end up penniless and friendless (and probably toothless as well) to shut the f&*& up.  There is success to be had if you just stick to what you’re doing and not listen to others.  I think that’s clear enough.  Right?  You agree, right?  Come on.  Agree already.

Damn it!  I’m doing it again.

nine months and out…a manifesto for switching careers

In career, humor, observations, parenting, Uncategorized on August 25, 2012 at 5:40 am

 

 

I read somewhere that you have to name to claim it. Or something like that.  I’m terrible about memorizing quotes.  I’m a paraphraser by nature and by limited intellect.  But you get the gist.  I’ve known for a while that I couldn’t keep on as I’ve been–a teacher of poor young people who also tutors the wealthiest among us on the side.  It’s not the work itself, though I don’t love the tutoring as much.  The truth is that it boils down to economics.  WOW, that’s really unique, isn’t it?  But let me tell you a story, which might make a my point a bit more personal if not more interesting.

My family comes from Uruguay, a small country in South America, in case you don’t know and you would not be alone if you didn’t.  The last time I went, I was walking around the downtown of the capital, and I realized that the beaches, which the country is known for, were all being bought up by wealthy Argentines and Brazilians, and a few Americans as well, which meant that something as public as the land one walks on could be bought out by foreigners.  Public beaches in one country were becoming privately owned extensions of another country–colonies by pocketbook.  I naturally thought that this was unheard of in the US of A.  We buy things.  We don’t get bought out, which is still basically true though changing.  And yet, I live in a city, a major American city, where the not-rich are being forced out by the newly-minted techie-rich.

I am not from here, originally.  So in a way, I don’t have the same stake in the game as many of my friends who are native to the City by the Bay.  But I’m a proud, probably to a fault, and I’m an urban-dweller, which means suburbia is not an option, which means I’m locked into a fight here.  I am, for the first time in my life, thinking about money and my need to get a bit more of it.  It’s not just the San Fran, of course.  I saw the same stuff happening in NYC where I used to live before moving here, but I was single then.  There’s something about having a family that’s changed me and how I think of work and career and getting paid.

There’s some personal stuff, too, which you can read more about in a guest post I recently made for Le Clown’s Black Box Warning.  If you’re interested in the inner-pains of my being, check out the post.  For the purposes of this blog, as I’ve said before, I am trying to lay down some plans for getting to a new place with writing and social media campaigns.  I’ll get into the social media discusion in the next post, but for now, I gotsta to get paid regardless of what I do.

It’s possible, I think.  When I first got to SF, I knew I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.  I knew I needed a job that gave me time to write and I knew I was a teacher.  Well, I found that.  Now, I need to get that and just a few more dolars so I won’t be muscled out by all the hipsters and their beards and beamers and benjamins.  This is will be a fight for the proletariat.  Either that, or I’m just plain sick of running in circles.  It’s time to go some place.

middle-aged and seeking a new line of work…AGAIN? REALLY?

In humor, life, observations on August 15, 2012 at 5:30 am

let’s see how long i can keep the smiles going

It’s late summer, and though I’m on “vacation” from teaching, I’m still at it.  My usual job is teaching GED classes out of community centers in the projects.  But I got hired to spend these same two weeks teaching academic workshops out of two of the hoitiest and toitiest prep schools in the Bay Area.  Since the money was good, I couldn’t turn down the work.

I don’t really feel like speaking about the obvious right now: the disconnect between the worlds I teach in.  In my usual world, I have kids who have seen more than anyone should, in this other strange one that I am visiting, I have kids who I think might benefit from seeing a bit more than just manicured lawns.  Ah, I know.  This is life and life can be unjust.  I won’t start preaching now because I’m tired and don’t want to come off as what I am: a west coast liberal.  (That said, next week, I’m going to be guest-blogging on one of Le Clown’s blogs, and since he’s Canadian, I will let out my lefty-ire there.  I’ll link here when that happens.)

For now, I will remark on the fact that it’s been almost two weeks since I started my vacation, and I’m not missing the old job–not one bit.  I’ve felt that before–when I worked a dumb office job.  People, I know, often don’t miss their jobs when they are on vacation.  But as a teacher, it’s not a good sign.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I want to teach elsewhere.  I’m sure that someone who really wanted to teach would be ecstatic to work with the high-powered kids I have these two weeks.  They actually are motivated and don’t complain.  But I’ve never liked easy things, and as a teacher, even though my GED kids are hard and complain, I feel like I’m actually teaching when I’m working with them whereas I’m just tweaking when I work with the prep school crowd.  And still, I’m not looking forward to going back to GED next week.

Sadly, I think it’s time to shift paths.

To what?  I have some ideas.  I know it’s going to have a story-telling component.  Over the next few weeks/months, this blog will record this fool’s errand I will be putting myself on.  The economy is for shit.  I have a baby boy.  My wife is a baker (read happy but not well paid).  I have a job and should be glad for it.  But I’m not.  I need a different challenge.  Fool? Yes.  Probably.  No, definitely.  But then again, remember, I said I like challenges. Eeh gad!  I did say that, didn’t I?

my heart is hardening, a step by step guide to burn-out….

In life, observations, teaching & education, Uncategorized on August 6, 2012 at 4:00 am

 

So here’s the scene and it’s not a pretty one.  I’m teaching a student the other night–a student who is schizophrenic, obese, homeless, and reeking of pot.  Though I would only use the word, loser, on myself. N. would probably make very few winner’s lists.  None of this matters to me.  My GED class is typically made up of students who vary widely, personally and academically.  N. is a special challenge.  I think her parents were or are profs. at Yale.  She is probably a genius; she can do Algebra and I bet she has an instinct for geometry, but she has these weird blocks when it comes to long division and fractions.  She gets how to do them, but she gets lost.  Partly, it’s the pot that she’s using to self-medicate herself with.  Partly, it’s the problem in her brain that makes her want to self-medicate.  I’m a pragmatist when it comes to teaching.  N. is an adult, and if she wants/needs to get high, I’m not going to scold her.  I usually just suggest that she “treat” herself after class.  She usually listens.

Like a lot of my students, attendance is not always consistent.  Again, I try to be pragmatic or am I being defeatist?  I wonder this when I encourage that at least they come once a week, or if not that, that they text me.  Usually, I find this works.  Make someone do something and rebellion is always the option.  Empower students by reminding them that they are adults and they always have a choice, and they usually come around.  Usually.

Now, do you sense it?  I’m putting it off. The description of my ugliness.  It’d been a couple weeks since N. had come to class.  No text.  Nothing.  And when she walked in, her voice way too loud for the small room, she asks if there are any snacks.  It’s not a bad question.  I usually do have snacks, but at that moment, I was annoyed by her.  I took it as another sign that this person is just not serious.  Maybe my face showed the disgust I was feeling, though I hope it didn’t.

N. eventually sits down and we begin, but not before I lay into her about her attendance and her not contacting me.  I tell her that especially with math, consistency is everything.  And then I tell her that she needs to reach out if she doesn’t show because I can’t keep teaching her the same thing.

Now, this isn’t really that ugly.  I’m saying something I’ve said to a lot of other students, but I know I’m being a little edgier than usual with N. because I’m annoyed–not with her, but with the job.  Earlier in the day, I had to deal with a young woman who is dyslexic and functionally illiterate; I had to eal with her mother, who yells at her daughter and distracts her when she’s trying to learn.  I had to deal with a co-worker who is half-angel and half-out-of-control raging asshole.  All of that’s ugliness, I think.  But with N. I try to focus on the fractions in front of us.  I try not to look at the clock, but everything in the room seems like it’s going too slow–N.’s mind, my empathy.  I want speed, though I don’t know where I’d go.

I’m thankful/saddened that at some point in the session, I see N.’s hands.  They are shaking.  She’s not doing well–worse than usual.  She’s hungry and she needs a cigarette.  So we stop math and she gives me her eating schedule, which is tied to food kitchens in town and Temple (she’s Jewish and goes to services for her soul and for the food.)

I’d like to say that this brought me back to a better place–that our talk made me realize I was being an ass, but the truth is that after I got her something to eat and a cheap (relatively speaking) pack of smokes, I got out of there.  To get home, I walk up a hill, and there was a part of me that felt like I was ascending a pit of despair and sadness.  Behind me was the hood; in front of me was my humble middle-class flat and my wife and baby boy.

Who am I to condescend to the people I try and teach or to their neighborhood?  I don’t know.  But for the first time since I started this job four years ago, I didn’t want to go back down the hill.  I wanted to stay in my flat and let the craziness and shit flow downhill.

I have no conclusion for this.  So, I’ll leave it at that.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Good night.

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