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America – Daze 2/3/4 July 13, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Travel.
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All museums have been put on the back burner because I’m too busy showing my guests American culture. British tourists don’t need to come all the way to LA to see yet another painting entitled “Madonna and Child” by an artist whose name is heavy on vowels. Our first stop on our gallery walk was Target.

My husband likes to say that I belong to the church of Target. Well, I took Lesley and her daughter, Lucy, for a look-see and Lesley emerged shouting,”I’m a believer!” She had all her loot stashed in a red reusable Target bag that folds up so you can carry it as an evening clutch. It can also be opened like a large book and Lesley spent the rest of the day wandering about the house holding it like a hymnal and singing, “Amen!”

Our next stop was Venice Beach. We wandered into a lovely shop. The inventory consisted of hookahs, Made in China dream catchers, belly dancing coin belts, crotchless panties, and jewelry. Lesley saw a bracelet in the glass case and shreiked, “Look, that’s so me!”  I just remember it was very pink. Barbie bling. I think it was kept under glass so raccoons couldn’t make off with it.

One look at the man behind the counter and I doublechecked to make sure I still had my wallet. I’ve seen classier barkers at the carny. He took the bracelet out so Lesley could try it on and even attached the “safety clasp.”

But when Lesley asked if he could take it off, he said smiling, “No, I want you to keep it on and give me money for it.” Lesley cooed, “But you need to take it off so I can have a better look at it.”  Now, if this were a folktale, it would have been a toss-up as to who was the trickster, though I was rooting for Lesley.

The bracelet was pricey so the bargaining began. When Lesley asked what sort of metal it was made of, the man assured her it wasn’t metal, it was “silver.” She considered giving him a quick lesson in metallurgy, but decided not to hobble him with knowledge. The price of the bracelet had now fallen from $175 to $100. It was at this point, the salesman told Lesley he was “easy.”  She recoiled in horror. “You don’t go around telling someone you’re easy,” she said. “That’s like saying you’re slutty!”  Taken aback, the man said he hadn’t mean it THAT way, but the damage was done. We kept moving as the Venice boardwalk is heavy on galleries.

Lesley took one more swing by the place on our way back to the car. This time her daughter Lucy went into the shop to check out the bracelet. Lucy had her mum by the shoulders and escorted her out of the shop, saying, “Mummy, that’s the most horrid bracelet I’ve ever seen,” adding, “If you buy that, I’ll never speak to you again!”  Sulking, Lesley was escorted back to the car, blingless.

Thursday we took Lesley and Ian out for breakfast. When the waiter asked Lesley if she’d like toast or a tortilla, she asked, “What’s a tortilla?”  The restaurant was suddenly still. Convinced it was something “like that Indian bread,” she decided to go for it. We explained that the sour cream and salsa, which came in little containers, is put on the eggs and beans. I then introduced them to the friendly Tapatio man’s face. They declared it a fabulous breakfast. We sent them off on the Gold Line to Union Station and Olvera Street, so they could meet more Tapatio men.

They had such a wonderful time downtown, we were able to send them off there again the next day so we could recover from this non-stop cultural marathon. We had to rest up to see Chris Isaak at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night. Our seats were in the nosebleed section, but it was a lovely night to sit out and watch the concert on the big screen TVs, since from where we were sitting, the performers were the size of ants. Lucy dozed off, but awoke for the fireworks finale. Then we shuffled down the mountain with all of the other art lovers, eager to secure a seat on the bus for the trip back to Pasadena.

So today we soldier on.  I’m not sure about the itinerary, but it doesn’t have the word “museum” in it. Eat your heart out J. Paul Getty.

Teacher Gifts June 17, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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At the end of the school year, when a child comes up to me with that gleam in their eye and says, “Teacher, I got you something special!” I cringe.  After only six years of teaching, I’ve amassed a small cache of “collectables,” which I suspect Chinese children, with their small nimble fingers, have assembled in windowless factories. Collectables that are then shipped to a 99 Cent Store by a school near you and destined for a yard sale even nearer.  

Least I sound jaded, or even worse, greedy, let me make one thing clear.  I love to receive handmade cards from students who profess their undying love for their “favrite techer” and then proceed to misspell my last name.  I carry a poignant letter my student Michelle wrote to me three years ago in case I need a reason to live, or just to survive yard duty.  And I always appreciate those student drawings of me that make me look younger, more glamorous, and skinnier than I ever was or could hope to be.

But what would I really like to receive?  Money!  Alas, cash is crass, so two words then…gift card.  No make that three words…Target gift card!  I can use it for luxury items like food and clothing over the long hot summer when I don’t get paid. This is even more important because of my pets’ uncanny ability to require emergency veterinary care only during the months of July and August.

I’ve been chanting the mantra of Target to my students for years and this year, karma came round.  Now I have a serene smile on my face, not unlike the one on that faux stone garden Buddha at Target.  Never mind that I used the last gift card to buy thank you notes for parents and then hit the $1 section to stock up on student “incentives.”  A gift card is the perfect gift because it provides me with the illusion of having options.  Still not a believer?

Then allow me, like the ghost of Christmas Past, to show you those gifts I’ve received from students past/passed.

First, there are the mugs.  Mountains of mugs.  A variation on the mug is the mug filled with Hershey’s Kisses or Tootsie Roll Pops.  I even received a mug during Teacher Appreciation Week from my school district two years ago.  Of course, no sooner had I received it, then a notice arrived informing me that the mug was to be used “for decorative purposes only” due to its high lead content. The mugs were eventually rounded up and presumably buried in a landfill near you.  

A close second to mugs are all things apple.  Except computers.  It doesn’t help that I don’t particularly like apples. I have bushels of apple pins, jewelry, you name it.  It has limited appeal (a peel?) on eBay due to a glut in apple-themed merchandise.  

Regifting is always popular.  I’ve received numerous clothing items that were brought in, wadded up in plastic bags, with the tags cut off.  One year I received a bat-winged sweater with a plunging neckline in a size that was obviously too small for the student’s mother, and obviously too big for me.  I convinced the student that the sweater was so fancy I didn’t want to wear it to school or the other teachers would be jealous.  Same for all the jewelry I’ve received, including the watch with the broken stem, and all of the sparkly earrings raccoons would salivate over.

And then there was the two-pack of paper toilet seat covers.  Rest assured, this is one gift I’ve received that’s provided the most laughs.  It was obviously “borrowed” from the mother’s place of employment.   Other teachers have suggested I could use them as bathroom passes, wreaths at Christmas, Hawaiian leis, or even as beards for President’s Day!  Leave it to those resourceful teachers to come up with so many creative applications. These are the same people who get giddy when presented with a bag of styrofoam meat trays.

If you multiply these “collectables” over years of  teaching.  Well,  picture the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.   I did hear of a teacher who saved every student gift she ever received and displayed them in a room of her home.  I’m sure there’s a name for people like that and I’m betting it ends with Syndrome.  But I don’t want that to be my future.  

So, three words.  Target Gift Card.   

 

 

 

 

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