This week, I’m wild about the East/West program on Bill McGlaughlin’s public radio show “Exploring Music”. He’s taking us all on a nightly audio ride through Tokyo, Paris, Beijing, Chicago, Shanghai and, tomorrow night, down to Bali. “It’s gamelan music,” he explained tonight. “And it’s out of control.”
What could be better? My days are now filled once more with eager, anxious, sometimes obnoxious ninth graders, plus dry “let’s get some financial order up in here” turkey sandwiches at 11 am, plus thin Bronx coffee from the guy who calls me sweetie but skimps on the sugar, what the hell, plus big gutsy gusts of hot late summer NYC air, plus a penetrating longing for summer itself, summer as I had known it, and an inability to overcome its demise. Plus whatever else is setting me off these days– it does not take much.
Lately I realize how powerfully boring my life has become, how easily visions of an earlier grandeur diminish to sheer banality. Up early. Tape things on classroom walls. Yell at kids. Teach class. Yell at more kids. Close doors. Eat dry, dry turkey sandwich. Teach class. Teach class, please. Meeting. Teach now. Another meeting. One last class. Metrocard. Walk home behind all the stinking, crowded people. Nip at their heels and bite my tongue. Review notes ahead of board meeting. Stir fry green beans. Board meeting. Engage in heated, passionate, probing debate on all the pressing issue of fuel oil conversion. Throw hands in air. Relent. Consent. Waive fees. Are you still reading this morbid list? Why the hell? It is all such a crashing bore that I got into hysterics with my own beleaguered family the other night– I could hardly finish a sentence as to what I had been up to because I honestly got too bored to speak! I bored myself to tears and pleaded with them– please! How can you still be listening to this? Please! Go! Go water some plants! Take the dog for a walk! Go!
What I have done is simple. I have succumbed readily, pliantly, to the crushing march of time and the slow suck beneath the boots of its many, boring, middle-aged concerns. That is all. There’s no trick.
In class today, getting underway, I asked kids how their summers went. “Great!” this one ruffian responded. “I got arrested twice.” I see the trouble with that. I see how tragically strong this kid’s own pitching arm is, how powerfully he throws his life away. But at the same time, I can’t deny I was interested. I could tell he was interested too: in and out of court, eager to see the process to its logical conclusions. Riveting. The stuff of great stories over endless beers if it wasn’t so prone to ruin life forever. Or a long while, anyway, which in teenage years is the same as forever. But I was fascinated! Needed the full story. Leaned in. Asked follow-up questions and encouraged others to do the same. How rare this offer of insider news on the police, the undercover cops who engaged this young man, and now all the courtly proceedings. We lapped it up like feral kittens.
When I got home tonight, everything unfolded for me just as above and I can’t write another word about it because I’ll die, I’ll weep and faint and die, of boredom. But I caught tonight’s segment of the East/West program and that has made all the difference. To be tomorrow, by the jet plane of my eager ears, in Bali for gamelan music is honestly a top thrill to me and my aged, boring self. “It’s out of control,” our host promises. I can hardly wait.