Monday, July 16, 2007

a harlem stabbing and shoes designed to make a short man shorter

i've always walked the streets of harlem with my eyes wide open. you never know, and it's better to be safe than sorry. well, i'm sad to say that i let my guard down the other night. i mean, yes, i was at a mostly all-Mormon gathering. and, to my knowledge, not even a drop of alcohol had been consumed. but, i've learned that it is in these moments when you feel most secure that you've got to be on highest alert. here's what happened...

after arriving at the Bybee home i began suffering from a nasty headache brought on by something akin to heat-stroke...too much soccer in the hot sun earlier in the day i'm sure. took a nap on mehrsa and jared's bed. woke up. went downstairs to see who was around celebrating jared's 30th and to find some food. after a while, the hosts cleared the kitchen table to make way for all the desserts including a watermelon. a very large and sharp knife was used to open the fruit. after some time i sauntered over to the table to claim a slice. another gentleman had the same idea. when he reached to grab his slice he bumped the knife which then fell off the table...right at my feet. i was wearing shorts and chacos and so i looked down thinking, "dang, that was kinda dangerous." i was shocked when i saw a stream of blood pouring out of a wound just above my ankle. my first thought was, "did that hit my artery?" no, no spurting. probably missed it by a few centimeters. still, the blade had hit me on the diagonal and i had a nice 1+ inch wound. calling on all my boy scout first aid knowledge, i grabbed a paper towel (bounty...only the best for this operation) and applied as much pressure as seemed reasonable...okay i nearly squeezed my remaining foot off. a fancy lawyer, jared knows other highpowered nyc lawyers...some of these of the female persuasion were standing around whispering about potential personal injury lawsuits. i thought of requesting some artificial you need that for minor blood loss? again, better safe than sorry. but they were kinda grossed out. and i wasn't feeling my most attractive crouched there on the kitchen floor...being attended to by my nurse/attacker...sweat gathering on my forehead.

the shoes are earth shoes. they employ "negative heel techology". guaranteed to straighten out the spine a little and improve your self esteem or something like that.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The way of all the earth

I am not sure what Utahans would do if the red-rock arch featured on their license plate crumbled to the earth. I don't know what Idahoans would do if all of their potatoes vanished due to a blight. I do know, however, what New Hampshireans do when their State...umm...visage disappears. What? Oh, in case you didn't know, the profile of the famous all-natural rock face, "Old Man in the Mountain" can be found just about everywhere you look in NH...license plates, mile marker signs, tattoos. The Old Man was a big deal...and rightfully so. Then, one cold morning a few years ago, the rocks did what rocks eventually do...they broke away from the side of the mountain. And, the Old Man went the way of all the earth. Yet, NHerers seem to make regular pilgrimages to the pay their respects. They remain centered. They refuse to give up their identity.

Daniel Webster is thought to have written:
"Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades:
Shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe;
Jewelers a monster watch;
And a dentist hangs out a gold tooth;
But up in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty
has hung out a sign to show that there he makes men."

So, Emily and I did a quick overnighter up the Old Bridle Path see what we were made of. Now, I've done a lot of hiking in different regions...but, I'd have to say that this trail was the rockiest I've ever attempted. While lovely terrain, I believe the rockiness was the main contributor to Emily's IT Band flare-up. And, so, after making it to the Greenleaf Hut at dusk...and after a nice quick chat with Nathaniel in the very chilly wind, we decided not to ascend Mt. Lafayette. Rather, we worked our way down the Greenleaf trail to the "unofficial, unofficial" overflow camping site. We slept pretty well considering we both gave snoring a try. After a slow descent in the morning, and a bit of a tumble by Emily, we found the Pemi trail and hiked on some nice even terrain that made all four of our knees happy. We also enjoyed the wildflowers and wild strawberries.

Emily, as always, made some funny comments as she is known to do.

Emily: "Ned, how many clothes did you bring?"
Ned: "Umm, 12"

Emily: "This tastes purple."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

ceramics 101

A few weeks ago I walked out of the Henry Street Settlement Abron's Art Center ceramics lab pleased. Pleased because it had been a pleasant 16 weeks working with Noel, my ceramics instructor. And, pleased because some of my work had turned out just as I'd hoped. In all, I either built or threw about 30 pots. As the class only met once a week on Wednesday evenings, I spent some good hours on Friday evenings and Saturdays when the wheel was free. By the end of the 16 weeks, I was starting to get the feel for throwing. Still, I'm yet to make anything very large. If I'm still at HSS in the fall, I'll take another class. And, someday, if I have room and space and time and clay, maybe I'll continue the hobby from my barn.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A sad morning

It is hard to believe that a year has passed since I became the teacher for the ESOL students at Literacy Partner's Grand Street Settlement Family Literacy Program. I can't lie. It has been a challenging year. Teaching a multilevel class was a new thing for me...and I don't think I ever got it quite right. I always felt like I needed a few hours every evening to prepare...and that was time I simply didn't have. Regardless, my students were eager and forgiving, and we all did our best. I also had the good pleasure of working with some excellent volunteers: Claudia, Joanne, Gloria, Frances and Clive. Dedicated people using their time on earth in a very positive way. And, all of the students have been amazing. Great people with great courage and great stories. Nina Dong, Xue Hua Chen, Sheng Lin Huang, Zong Meng Lu, Feng Meie, Herminio Bracero, Fatima Rodriguez, Isabel Marte, Aura Vargas, Shu Wei Zhen, Belkis Fernandez, Hui Tan, Tracy Lin, Linda Kou...there were others early on too...Blessed, Irene, Yesenia, Victor, Teodocio.

Last week, during my one and only annual review with Literacy Partners, I was caught completely off-guard when I was informed that it had been decided to close our program down due to budgetary restrictions. At first, I thought, "Now what am I going to do?" Then, I realized that the real change would be for some of my students who have been faithful attendees for years.

So, its been a hard ten days or so. We've been trying to find other classes that will meet the various needs of our learners. And, we've all been waiting for today--our last day together in class. We decided to have a party to celebrate our time together--still, it was a sad occasion and there were some tears shed. Watching some of the students cry really choked me up at one point and I had to leave the room or I knew I was going to start crying. And, when I cry, I cry. It's hard to slow it down.

We spent the morning doing some last minute preparation and waiting for Sheng Lin to return from his visit to Chinatown to pick up fried dumplings. We sang a belated Happy Birthday to Frances and Xue Hua and they proudly wore their "Birthday Girl" crowns. We ate lots of good food. And, then we read some of our stories from our blogs. A few photos. And, then it was over. Next week, LP will be having it's end of the year reading party which many of us will attend. Especially since Joanne will be awarded the "Volunteer of the Year" award. Then, I plan on having a picnic up at my place sometime in August.

I'm going to miss everyone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spring Break

Last week was my Spring Break for Literacy Partners. One morning, I took a walk in Inwood Hill Park which is just a few minutes away from my home. This park has some great trails and some very old tall trees. It's a great place.

Recently, I have seen some people standing by themselves in the park with their arms and hands outstretched. It has seemed strange to me and I have wondered what they were doing. Were they praying? Were they doing a rain dance? I didn't know. My roommate, Brent, had also seen these individuals in the park and wondered what they were up to. One day he came home and told me he had figured it out. He was near one of these people on the trail...they had their arms stretched out like tree branches...and he saw a tiny bird with a white body and a black cap fly toward the person, hover over their arms, and then land on their fingertips. He was amazed and decided to try it himself. He could hardly believe it when another one of these friendly little birds landed on this outstretched fingers. He told me about it and I decided I had to try it out for myself.

So, on my walk the other morning, I saw one of these little black-capped chickadees hopping around in the branches of a tree. I stopped and tried to look as much like a tree as possible...arms out, fingers extended, eyes looking straight ahead. To my delight, the bird jumped from his branch and flew above my arm and then landed on my pointer finger. He looked at my face and then looked at my thumb. And then he started pecking at my thumbnail. Although the bird was very light, I could feel the strength of its claws gripping my finger. A couple of more pecks and then he was off to find a real worm. It made my day.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Chasing Shadows

Last week, my students decided to throw a Chinese New Year Party. We ate lots of good food--chicken, duck, fried rice, noodles, dumplings, Xue Hua's famous rice cake and some funny green things that looked like tennis balls. While we were eating, we put some music on and Fatima became our impromptu dance instructor. Jeff and Flaco and Claudia were all very good dancers and they had no problem "cutting a rug." Others who had never danced much before got up and did their best...Sheng Lin and Clive had a nice slow dance with Fatima. After dancing we played the game, "Do you love your neighbor?" We listened carefully, laughed and tried to sit down in the empty chair before our classmates.

As we walked up Delancey Street after class, Xue Hua's daughter, Meng Ting, kept giggling. As she is usually a little shy, I couldn't understand what was making her smile. Then I looked down on the sidewalk and realized that she was stamping on my shadow. Once I realized what she was up doing, I ran a few steps ahead...she squealed and ran ahead too trying to step on my shadow again. We played this game all the way to the F Train.

It was a fun morning.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

local economy

i've always been fascinated by the people in new york city that gather recyclable items for a living...bottles, cans...

yesterday, during this year's only snow/freezing rain storm...i came across a chinese man pulling a laundry cart laden with his find...he was fish-tailing on columbia and rivington...when a car gets stuck in the snow out west, most people jump in to give a helping, i smiled and offered to help him push his load through the snow...he wore a fisherman's yellow raincoat and a bell bicycle helmet...we didn't speak...i don't think he knew any english...i just pushed and he pulled our way down to delancy...we avoided two oncoming taxis...when we got to delancy pointed westward..."i've got to go this way"...he smiled and took off his glove and offered his hand. i was happy to shake it and found myself hoping that he would find a great stash of recyclables under a snow drift. that is all.