Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shhh! Don’t Tell Anybody, I’m Teaching The Hunger Games

 On second thought, it’s not that magic doesn’t exist in this world… it’s that we’re performing magic for blithering pustules of drooling ignorance.   I’m talking dummies, people!
 The students I have today rarely care or know about anything.  I descend into utter dismay when relegated to reference  Kim Kardashian and Kanye West when trying helplessly to explain the significance of Helen of Troy being abducted by Prince Paris, and you can only imagine how many cultural allusions I discard before painfully being forced to explain Hamlet’s soliloquies through the prism of Justin Bieber’s gross mistreatment from the Paparazzi. 
When Nelson Mandela died not 1 student in 200 could identify his picture.  Shouts from class were for “Einstein!”  “Michael Jordan!”  “Darth Vader!”  “Your Father!”  But not five minutes after scolding a group of perpetually rude boys for defiance and cursing and scribbling filthy words on my desks, I caught a kid in the act stealing my black Sharpie and etching: R.I.P. Paul Walker in gigantic scrawl across his table top.  
(Hartenstein poster from backpacking Czech Republic.  It's been hanging in my classroom for longer than most my students have lived)

It’s become so pathetic that I’ve begun teaching The Hunger Games.  Yes, I admit it.  When the only novels my 16 year old students know are The Three Little Pigs and Snow White, then we’re past cultural misunderstanding and entered into a new realm of disgust.  The thing about it is, I teach this dystopian novel not through the cutsie-quirky silly perspective of this sexy actress in her black leotard shooting a bow and arrow and tripping up stairs hilariously on a ball gown while accepting an Oscar… No!  I teach it through the perspective of a fed-up, disgruntled, pissed-off adult who says, “Yeah, we need a yearly Tribute!  We need a couple.  Let’s round up all these ignorant, foul-smelling, garbage leaving, spoiled rotten,  underpants showing, morons… and make ‘em fight to the finish.  Natural Selection.  Let’s do it!”
Honestly, I can’t remember a reason why a young person NEEDS to be in school?  Let them go dig ditches til their backs break!  Rake ravines til legs wobble in the dust!  Till soil til knuckles bleed!  Trench latrines til rank with grime!  Make them work on a farm for a year.  Let them hunt and forage food.  Sew their own clothes.  Walk to school in the snow.  Fend for themselves entirely.  Tell them to come back when they’re ready for someone like me.  I’ll show them the magic then.  They'll see it and finally understand.

Snow Bunnies

 So here's how my daughters spent New Year's Eve...
 Hanging in the snowy mountain tops of Muju Korea.
 Skiing for Christmas is one thing...
 But leaving Dad alone is for the birds!
 Have fun, girls!
Happy New Years!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

In a World where Magic doesn't exist

Take Heart... at least they don't expect wizardry?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Crossing Brooklyn Bridge / Ferry with My Daughter

“FLOOD-TIDE below me!  I watch you face to face…”  -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

This one was on the list for a long time.  This morning, Xian and I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge together.
“Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes!  How curious you are to me!”  -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

We started at the Statue of Liberty ferry port and strolled through Battery Park and up Wall Street... then up to one of America's greatest landmarks.
“The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings- on the walk in the street, and the passage over the river; the current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away…”  -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

It's funny, that morning while on the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, Rebekah overheard an adult woman shriek, "There she is!  The Golden Gate Bridge!"  My middle daughter looked at me and squished up her nose, "Sometimes adults are stupid, huh?"
“The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them; the certainty of others- the life, love, sight, hearing of others.”  -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Yes, sometimes they are... but not today.
“Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore… Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights of Brooklyn…”   -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

This history of the bridge is fascinating and well documented, but to summarize, residents used to cross into Manhattan on the Brooklyn Ferry before chief architect John Augustus Roebling put his living room designs to actual work.
“A hundred years hence… others will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide.”   -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Opening the bridge May 24, 1883.
“I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence, I project myself-also I return- I am with you, and know how it is.”   -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

I think about all the people who have crossed this span of iron and wood and mortar... poets and presidents, artists and artisans... in times of peace and quiet like the slow moving current below or in times of attack when it seemed the city was on fire.
“What is the count of the scores of hundreds of years between us?  Whatever it is, it avails not – distance avails not, and place avails not.”   -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

My daughter and I stood there and thought of poets like Whitman... his wispy beard blowing in wind, watching the faces, caring not about the destination but rather who is along for the ride.
“We receive you with free sense at last, and you are insatiate henceforward…”  -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

On the walk back I put hoisted her up on shoulders...
“You furnish your parts toward eternity; great or small, you furnish your parts toward the soul.”   -Walt Whitman, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

These days, these little moments, mean the world to me.  We did it, because we could!

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Girls in Muju Korea

 SungJoo took the girls for Christmas to the Muju Ski Resort in Korea... Look at these faces.  Are you kidding me?  Well, you can't really see Rebekah's face she's bundled tighter than the little brother in A Christmas Story, but I'm sure she's grinning.  How can I compete with this?  I can't!  Have a great time, ladies!
 Now... don't feel too bad for good old Hartenstein...this isn't the first Christmas he's endured alone and probably won't be the last...company is company, right?
I take solace in the fact that... those are my genes out there tearing it up!  Have fun kids!  I love you.

Holding to Psalm 91 / St. Paul’s Cathedral Ground Zero

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  -Psalm 91

Took the girls to the Trade Center sight.  It was a pilgrimage of sorts, standing somberly around the construction sites, pointing to the sky as airplanes passed, whispering to my daughters truths about that horrible day.
“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”  -Psalm 91

The courtyard of St. Paul's Cathedral remarkably remains... though glass was shattered and metal bent, this old church stood her ground.
“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.”  -Psalm 91

Photos and poems, newspaper clippings and mementos are a testament to those lose.
“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day…”  -Psalm 91

The inside of the cathedral has been turned into a memorial...
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”  -Psalm 91

Reverence permeates this place.
“You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.”  -Psalm 91

If not for my daughters, I think the morning walking through Ground Zero would have been overwhelming... but instead I took them into the corner and talked, explained, showed them how people feel... their presence helped me mightily.
“I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him…”  -Psalm 91

One can't help but say prayers in places like this... as we sat on the street and looked up at the new building almost finished, I couldn't  help but think of Psalm 91 and the unshakable promise of these words... how comforting these are too.

What? School on Christmas Day? Bah!

 Why are these young people screaming and laughing so hard?  Don't you know you're in school on Christmas?
It's Madness, I tell you!  Christmas Madness!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

 Hey Everybody... Merry Christmas!
 We had an Awesome Christmas Eve Night!
 Once again, Grammy and Grampy came through with wonderful presents sent from over the ocean.
 The girls awoke the next day and left for Korea... leaving Dad all alone for Christmas... it's okay because I had to work.  Who teaches school on Christmas Day?  Yeah...this poor sap.
I just wanted to say Thank You and Happy Holidays to all our family and friends.  We miss you and love you.  God Bless.

All I Want For Christmas is YOU Times Square!

"I don't want a lot for Christmas.  There is just one thing I need..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

Oh Times Square, you give it to me every time!
"I don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

The lights the people the stores and sights... what is this place?
"I just want you for my own, more than you could ever know..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

So I bring my daughters to the center of the world...and we stand and laugh.
"Make my wish come true..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

And the world waits and yawns.
"I don't need to hang my stocking there upon the fireplace..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

And watches the days pass by...
"Santa Claus won't make me happy with a toy on Christmas Day..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

But there is wonder and amazement around us...
"Oh, I won't ask for much this Christmas.  I won't even wish for snow."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

And mystery and excitement and life and adventure...
"And I'm going to keep on waiting underneath the mistletoe..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

So we pause tonight to say... say a little Merry Christmas!
"I won't make a list and send it to the North Pole for Saint Nick..."  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

I hope your days are merry and bright...
"Cause I just want you here tonight, holding on to me so tight, what more can I do...?"  -Carey, All I Want for Christmas is YOU

All you good people out there... sharing this day together... may all your wishes come true.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jogging Barefoot in Central Park

I awoke early as I often do and left everyone asleep in the room, took the elevator down to the lobby and crossed the street in the predawn for a jog through Central Park.
The summer air was brisk and the wide expanses of grass were coated in dew.  Huffers and puffers passed in their own trots... lost in thought about the day they were going to have.  I won't lie... me to.
How F.A.O. Schwartz was right across the street... and Captain America awaits!

How Robbie Burns appears to be everywhere on my travels.  This guy really got around, huh?
When suddenly I came upon a pair of two men jogging barefoot along the main route through the park.  I stopped to stretch beside a metal bench, watching them, panting and trodding along... neither speaking, just head down like heavy hoofed horses plodding forward.  I thought about those men for a long time, day after day jogging barefoot through this historic park.  As the portrait artists set up their canvas easels and the booksellers arrived to stock their apple box shelves... those two barefoot joggers... going about their business as if time had stood still.
I was right, the day was full of joy and laughter and stress and tension...and unbelievably funny things... buying an ice cream cone for Xian and it dropping on the concrete moments later... ducking in a doorway to wait out a fast moving thunderstorm, an enormous life-sized stuffed panda bear for five thousand dollars...a black ant in my bowl of soup and a mildly apologetic waiter... a bourgeois woman in diamonds chatting me up outside a deli restroom... we were both wearing sunglasses indoors.... but all the while I kept thinking about those barefoot joggers.  Man, the stuff those guys have seen!