Saturday, March 26, 2011

Las Paisanas Book Club

I venture out of these fine streets every 6 weeks or so and attend what was formerly called, The Bad Girls Book Club. These ladies are extraordinary. The kind of women one could hang out with 24/7 and not tire. They dig great literature, scrumptious, savory “theme” morsels, heated debates that end lovingly, and cocktails.
Last night was John Steinbeck night and what could be more fitting than lounging together in Pat’s cozy, adobe painted living room staring out on the acres upon acres of the creeks, valleys and farmlands of the Salinas Valley; the very part of the earth that Steinbeck walked and wrote about so descriptively. John once said, “Beans are the roof of the stomach.” And we had 3 kinds: chili, black-eyed peas, and pintos…enough to provide sufficient fuel to fill a hot air balloon. Of course, Angela made “Depression Cake” which was melt-in- your-mouth-to-die-for: apples, walnuts and raisins slow-boiled in coffee for hours then blended with flour, sugar and lovin. The food is always thematic, but the wine is theme-less, the discussion of the book, optional, and the shenanigans, mandatory.
The discussion of In Dubious Battle and the horrendous plight of the Mexican farm workers in this valley during the Depression seemed to invoke our most inner thoughts and feelings, which then led to discussions of Wisconsin, unions, and workers’ rights everywhere. Our second book, Tortilla Flats, directed us to pour more wine, much like Danny and his pals, Pablo, Pilon and Jesus Maria did from their jugs, inch “por” inch, as they conversed about life, shared revelations and prioritized necessities such as buying more jugs of wine.
The conversation wove in and out as it always beautifully does each month but how we ended up in the following discussion I couldn’t tell you, other than Pat is a fabulous storyteller.
So our hostess is a former Kindergarten teacher, God bless her crazy soul,
and one very memorable year she had one very memorable class. Martin was by far the most interesting. Martin had lots and lots of issues that required lots and lots of Ms. Pat’s and other school personnel’s attention on a daily basis. Martin, though, couldn’t have been more content. He loved school. He spent most every hour of every day with his hand down his trousers, much to the dismay of Ms. Pat and the other adults. It didn’t matter if it was circle time, or small group time, or calendar time, or recess. If you took a glance at Martin, his hand was actively moving “down there” and his face was one of pure bliss. The adults were bewildered. After several weeks, they held a small meeting and decided to call in the school’s psychiatrist to observe Martin in action. She took concerned notes and decided to have a “one-on-one” with Martin.
As the inquiry progressed to a comfortable place, she eventually asked Martin why his hand was down his pants. “I’m playing with my horse.” Martin replied.
Somewhat troubled, the psychiatrist gently, yet cautiously, continued her questioning…Finally Martin said, “Would you like to play with him? I can wash him first.”
Horrified, she tried to contain her distress, and while she was making a few more notations, Martin reached deep down in his jeans and pulled out a plastic black Stallion he had been riding and handed it to her.
You gotta love a kid’s resourcefulness when his parents forbid him from bringing toys to school.
Las Pisanas howled with laughter at this one, and if you’re not, it might not be a bad idea to take a trip to the corner store, purchase some good Chianti and re-read.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Miss You, Leonilda, When You Don't Call

I think I “get” Leonilda at unit 18.
She reminds me of one of my long lost relations from the hills of Sweetwater, Tennessee.
Perhaps one that would likely slam the cellar door when she saw me comin!
At times, she reminds me of one of the women on the television series, Big Love.
One of the sister-wives that lives out on the compound, wears her hair long, her bonnet tight and has her hands elbow-deep in cannin' apples before winter done hits.

Leonilda doesn’t like me and I understand that.
Last spring, when she called to let me know “someone” was shooting at her because the side of her 1979 mobile had fresh bullet holes in the skirting, I did in fact burst out laughing.
I didn’t mean to.
I was just lacking in the self-control department in that moment.

Then there was the time she called to let me know “someone” had been trespassing in her carport and left a cherry pit in the crack of asphalt near her back door.
She informed me she hadn’t eaten cherries since high school when she got sick on ‘em, so therefore, she knew it had to be a trespasser.
I sent my partner to investigate that situation and she did in fact locate a single cherry pit in the exact location as Leonilda stated it was.
As a trained professional, I know that I need to show restraint, as well as, compassion but as the years roll on, I find it a bit of a challenge.
And Leonilda knows it. She ain’t no dummie.
She can hear it in my voice, see it in my eyes and that’s exactly why the other night when she phoned and I answered, she immediately asked for my partner. She don't want to talk with me anymore!
I put on my sweet, soft-toned, sympathetic voice and offered my assistance and willingness
to meet her every need. After all, isn't that what I get paid for?
She asks if we had received a package in the mail that belonged to her.
I told her that I hadn’t checked the mail today but I would go right out, check and bring any mail that belonged to her, right down. Mind you, Leonilda and her brother, Leo (No lie, that's his real name) don’t live next door to us. They actually live on the other side of the park, so why we'd have her mail is beyond me, but I question nothing.
She informs me that it wouldn’t have been in today’s mail. “Someone” took it a month ago.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
After a mini-Zen-breathing exercise, I find my polite button, press it, and tell her that I haven’t seen any mail of hers, but if there was a tracking number, perhaps the post office could attempt to locate it for her.  But Leonilda feels quite strongly that our postal service does not lose packages and that “someone” either stole it or is holding it.
Hostage I suppose.
Holding it hostage for some kind of trailer treasure ransom that I’m sure will allow us all to buy Boardwalk AND Park Avenue, maybe even all four railroads.

My partner’s jaw never clinches like mine in these situations.
I remember one late afternoon last summer, I phoned Leonilda because I received a call from one of her neighbors reporting she was getting ready to spray paint her mobile with a small hand-held sprayer, not an industrial. The neighbor was concerned the paint would get on his unit.

Before I could explain the rules with regard to painting the trailers at our park, she asked me this, “Can you please call back later… I’m drunk right now.”
That's when I "got" Leonilda.
I actually clung to a tiny, thin thread of commonality in that moment.
I wished her a relaxing afternoon, hung up the phone and poured myself a strong one.

It doesn’t get any better than this, people.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Audacity of Hypocrisy

So my flamingo lovers, we went to war yesterday. Again.
The airstrikes on Libya began at 2:00 pm Saturday March 19, 2011. It was but a whisper…hardly a blog on Facebook and very few tweets. I was sitting in a sports bar in Monterey with a room full of beer drinking basketball nuts with only the NCAA on my mind. Hmm… It was a very quiet moment and our leader, who ran on the platform to “Bring Our Troops Home” made a very difficult decision without getting a census from anyone; not the American people, not Nancy Pelosi. Then, without following our nation’s constitution, which in Article I Section 8 states that ‘Congress alone, not the Executive Branch, has the authority and the obligation to declare war if hostilities are to be initiated against a foreign state that has not attacked the United States’ President Obama, winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, declared war from Rio. His speeches were cancelled all day Saturday, so he was out of any media limelight and of course because it was Saturday, there were no Congress folk to be found in D.C. (Funny how President Bush managed to get Congressional authority for both Afghanistan and Iraq, but President Obama seems to think that only U.N. authority is required. I guess there were some Congressional Democrats who didn’t want to be on record voting (again) for war.)
Not only did Obama not get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan like he ran on, we are now involved in a 3rd conflict. He decides to attack a nation that poses no threat to the United States without Congressional approval. This is a despicable war crime, but Yes, He Can! What comes to mind is “The Audacity of Hypocrisy” Wasn’t that the title of a book? Oh, no. That was “The Audacity of Hope.”
So we went to war on Super Moon Saturday. Wait! Let’s see now, we’re in 3, right? Wait… what’s happening in Bosnia? I don’t know… Christ, is it 4 now? Hell, I just want to relax, sip my beer and watch basketball in peace. But people, have we, The Red, White, and Blue, ever stepped in and crushed the dictators; those big, bad, evil men who rule Somalia? Nosiree. We just send “humanitarian support.”
You know Somalia, right? The tiny country where Somali pirates are holding 600 hostages; many of which are individuals from other countries. Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Over one million people have died from famine and disease. Somalia, the world’s largest toxic dump. We’re not sending our Tomahawks there now are we? Nope. Instead, as soon as the government was gone, mysterious European (allied) ships started appearing, dumping vast barrels of nuclear waste into the ocean off the coast of Somalia, where those million were already dying. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness and more than 300 died.
Dear Mr. President, what about Somalia? Darfur? The Congo?
And for all you fiscally conservative Democrats and Republicans… Just how much does one Tomahawk missile cost? Estimates range between $500,000 to $1.4 million each. Yesterday, my fellow taxpayers, we dropped over 110 with the help of our good buddies, the Brits, led by none other than Prince Andrew who abhors Khadafy. You do the math. I’m just a girl from a trailer park and not very good with numbers. I bet now, Barack and Michelle get an invitation to the royal wedding.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hot Off The Box!

A soapbox is a raised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. The term originates from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate originally used for shipment of soap or other dry goods from a manufacturer to a retail store. The term is also used metaphorically to describe a person engaging in often flamboyant impromptu or unofficial public speaking, as in the phrases "He's on his soapbox", or "Get off your damn soapbox." Hyde Park, London is known for its Sunday soapbox orators, who have assembled at Speakers' Corner since 1872 to discuss religion, politics and other topics. A modern form of the soapbox is a blog.
I visited Hyde Park last summer and found I was a woman of one because I went on a Saturday. As you might well surmise, I stood boldly on my box and spewed my views of London’s BP Oil conglomerate because that was the spark in my coals that day. My new pal, I’ll call her BTTSS (Best Thing in Texas Since Salt) a feisty stick of dynamite with the same explosive mama bear roar as you and I, emailed me from her soapbox this morning and with her permission I share it with you all…
I wrote a long epistle, tagged it onto the Sierra Club action statement that I just sent you, and sent it to my two senators...(conservative to the core, but hey, you got to try!) about rerouting the $36 billion in next year's budget that has been designated for building new nuclear plants (ug) to instead take that same amount of money and thoroughly examine the 104 nuclear plants in the US (did you know we have more than any other country in the world??) Then, if these unbiased, non affiliated with industry, scientists find weaknesses or structurally outdated equipment, risky storage facilities, etc., to take the $36 billion and correct these existing sites, so that we can have some mental and spiritual peace in our country, and don't create little genetic offspring that are irreparably damaged. Plus, we really need to remove any potential exposure for existing children and grandchildren and fertile or pregnant women...these are the ones who would suffer the most if one of our plants goes into nuclear meltdown.

I haven't checked the news today (stayed up very late last night, listening to every word). I so admire Germany and the EU countries for taking the lead in being cautious and examining their own nuclear reactors. Why are we so Neanderthal about beholden to corporate America and the wheeler-dealer politicians with their hands in the nuclear industry lobby's till. We are going to bring ourselves down if we keep up this the growing disparity between the rich and poor in this country, slashing care for the mentally-ill and education funding, the bitching about providing health care to all (who in the hell do people think now fund our poorest citizens? we do, of course, through costly trips to the emergency room.) Why don't the repubs get it? OK, off soapbox.
Oh, Barb, don’t get down yet, cuz I’m just now climbing up there with you. I'm about ready to explode right here in my carport. I'm so hot I could set fire to my nonflammable vinyl skirting. Why the hell when our nation speaks about over-spending on this and over-spending on that, and government waste, and "give aways" to the poor, and bad teachers that need cutting which ultimately saves money, and so on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo...Why the hell do they fail to mention items of gigantic bucks like the 36 BILLION already set aside for building more nuclear plants? But, hey, it's 2011. We constantly hear buzz words like "green" "hybrid" "Eco-friendly" “wind and solar” on a daily basis now and we think, "Oh man, our government is both progressive and innovative; readily exploring all ways to provide us, the American people and the children of the world, with healthy safe and sustainable energy, while still caring with such loving green arms for our earth. Such a governing body of tree hugging, green humanitarian Martians reside in D.C. and the world need not worry.”
Well, as Barbara might say, "YANKEE BRAINS!" (that's Texas talk for
horseshit for those of you who've only dreamed of living in Texas or a trailer park.)

Enough is enough people! Let’s make some long distance ‘shout-outs’, a RingyDingy or two to our Commander in Chief at The White House! Let’s also take action via Credo and sign the petition. If not now, then when?

--This is tpg, standing tall beside my pal Barbara, from our wooden (harvested from a sustainable forest) soapbox crate…

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Shiny Penny

With the time change I decided to take an early morning stroll through the park. There’s a great deal to take in at 6:30 when it’s still dark; such things as the stillness of the tricycles strewn out in front of 20, the remnants of a Sunday bbq at unit 5; I really should turn him on to some decent beer, the thick pieces of chalk in every color of the rainbow left broken in the street where space 30’s kids drew Martian figures and rainbows on the asphalt, and the gathering of the cats in the carport at 19 where Penelope feeds every damn feral cat and all of our ‘domesticates’ too every morning, claiming she “needs to give back.”
I love this place before the residents rise and start to roar.
Today Greenline is coming to perform its bi-annual septic extraction. The thought that 35 units are all hooked up to just 6 tanks gives me the 'willies' and then some. The main one at 11 is the one that usually “blows” before the scheduled pumping. I do believe it’s because of 14’s baby wipes, 12’s tampons, 22’s diapers, and 19’s love of paper towels.
Penelope has lived here since the beginning of time, I’m told. She lives alone, well except for those hungry felines that make the arduous journey to her unit from the surrounding hills and valleys each morning. Penny has been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I know this because when I became manager of this “little piece of heaven on earth,” it was just one of the important “tidbits” her neighbors felt compelled to share with me.
I have had only one interaction with Penny. You see my cat Frida was one of the recipients of the Kibble and Bits and I went down to ask Penny to kindly stop hosting a soup kitchen from her carport because it was not only drawing strays and wildlife to the park, but also pets like mine, who were now indulging in her food line and then eating again at home. Frida was in fact putting on the pounds.
During this conversation in her kitchen, which smelled heavily of bleach and Pine-Sol, I noticed she was both unable to give me eye contact and also unable to stop cleaning her countertop while we talked. Her speech became flustered and her body language agitated. I realized I wasn’t playing with a full-deck the instant she started frantically ripping paper towels off the roll and meticulously folding them, one by one, making sure the corners and edges came together perfectly. By the time I left, there must have been an entire roll off the tube and neatly folded in a stack like fine linen napkins. Penny is a woman of routine. She leaves every morning at precisely 9:00 am to visit her mother in an assisted living facility in Salinas. She returns at noon and watches her soaps. At 1:30, during the commercial break, she fixes herself a tuna salad sandwich on white and a glass of milk.
At 3:00, she vacuums, dusts, wipes down the cupboards. At 4:00, you can see her with a baby blue plastic laundry basket walking down the street and up the hill to the laundry room. At 5:45 she makes dinner. Penny walks the park every night at dusk. Dressed in a cream-colored sweat suit and wearing large headphones, she does somewhere between 25-30 laps. I imagine her listening to John Denver or Jim Croce but I’ll never know for sure.

Walking here in the wee hours before daybreak, I am enveloped in gratitude today. Do you ever just get a slap of thankfulness and you didn’t see it coming?
I mean a sense that it’s your life and it’s a good one; that it has a balance of hardship and ease, of pain and joy, of solitude and action. I have all this and much more this morning. It feels Zen-like in a strange way today, even if my peace originates in a damn trailer park.

Here’s to solitary strolls, gratitude and a caring pause for those who are less fortunate.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women of the Park Unite!

It’s International Women’s Day and the hundred-year anniversary to boot! Around the globe, and in the trailer park, women are uniting and celebrating their achievements, contributions, and strength to withstand adversity, discrimination, and violence. United are women of color, women from all socio-economic groups, women of various faiths. Schools are honoring national and international women who have contributed to their communities, students are researching women’s history and monumental events, there’s fireworks and parades, the federal government has declared March 8 a National holiday, our clubhouse here at the park is lined in purple crepe paper and fake mums…
And why not I ask you, my readers of all that is true and meaningful. Why not?
When I taught elementary school, March was my favorite month. We’d have guest speakers from the community; women who’ve contributed to the political arena, social service workers, single moms, police sergeants, professors, custodians. Our essays and reports that month centered on famous women in history Hey! Can I just call it “Herstory” one time? I’m actually adding it to my spell-check right now because for the life of me I can hardly stomach that it isn’t in there in 2011. Anyways, every March 8th, we’d prepare tea and give roses to each woman who spoke in our classroom. We’d have questions prepared ahead of time that asked specifically about their jobs, their challenges, and their personal rewards. The students gained. The speakers gained. The world gained.
Isn’t happening, is it folks? We do honor Rosa Parks for a rapid moment and Dr. Seuss, although 6th graders are kind of over him. And we did attempt a coin but it looked like a quarter and now it's pretty close to obsolete. Who the hell was Susan B. Anthony anyways? Actually, I’ll tell you but before I do, I have to throw in the names of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Dickinson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Yes, Eleanor had a “relationship” with a reporter named Lorena Hickok. It’s one thing to leave out straight women from the HIStory books, but it’s even more devastating when you realize that lesbians lived and died and ya-neva-kno. You realize women who had “thoughts” about other women, especially 19th Century women, were considered mentally ill. Now words pour in; words like “asylum” and “lobotomy” and “hysterectomy” and well, let’s not go there this morning. Anyways, Susan B. Anthony… From my perspective, she was a feminist, an abolitionist, a reformer, a teacher, a fearless flyer and a racist in that, she believed “white women should have the right to vote before black men or immigrant males.” And you know what? She marched and marched tirelessly and was jailed numerous times, abused and harassed regularly for what she believed in, and because of her and so many other women in our country, and those beyond our borders, I am able to write this blog freely. I owe a tremendous amount to these women and so do you. We are privileged and damn fortunate; even those of us who call home a trailer park, and here’s why. Women in nations like Cambodia, Africa, Laos, and others still make around 1 dollar a day and work in grueling and crude conditions for 8-10 hours per day. Women in Taliban controlled regions cannot go to school, cannot speak out against their husbands or government, cannot love whom they wish to love. According to the UN, six out of 10 of the world's poorest people are still women and girls. To those living in such dire circumstances, International Women's Day might not mean much. However, to those of us in a position to be able to do something about their plight, it should be a sharp reminder of the challenges ahead. Women in the developing world face situations that, thankfully, few of us in richer countries will ever encounter. In Rwanda, one woman in every 35 dies in childbirth. Getting pregnant and giving birth is one of the most dangerous things many women in developing countries will ever do in their lives. Enabling girls and women to make informed choices and act on them is essential.
So, I’ve attached a couple links in case you're at the point of “Give me some positive news tpg!”
One link lists the top 100 women activists according to
Check it out cuz it will lift your spirits high! Also is a link for a very cool 4-day trip to Mexico to build a house for a single mom. The org is called Finding Sophia and my pal Deb, who is also trailer trash but more upscale than me because her park is in Capitola, told me about it. Those of you who are HGTV whores and love put on a tool belt every now and then will surely dig this one!
So go out and rejoice! March! Thank an old woman! Honor a young one!
Happy Women’s Herstory Month and International Women’s Day!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

God Bless The Kids of Bangor (Part 2)

I knew I was in trouble when I saw a gun rack in the window of the Bangor Elementary school bus. Don’t be ridiculous.
Of course, it was empty. But when I spoke with “Bud,” the driver, he assured me, “Ahh…don’t worry none. I just hang it thar for a scare tactic. ‘Liminate any problems.” Bud also had a Rush Limbaugh For President bumper sticker on the back bumper of the bus. Uh…no. Bangor Elementary is a public school.
You can do that kind of thing in Bangor, that, and things like Bible Study Hour every Friday during class time, because you see in Bangor, Ca rules are made to be broken and clearly, there is absolutely no separation of church and state. No siree. All the parents sign a waiver, Mr. Grady has them on file, giving their permission for their children to attend “We’ve been doing this for years, Ms Fern” worship hour every Friday after lunch.
The Reverend from Bangor Community Church walks from down the road and picks up his flock. Each teacher lines their students up in front of the classroom doors making sure their hands are folded behind their backs.
Off they’d go for an hour of praising the Lord, while all the happy teachers rejoiced in an hour of free time. Well, all except my second grader, Jessie Thurman, whose mother refused to sign the waiver. Initially, it was Jessie and I every Friday afternoon; reading poetry, building architectural structures, writing and illustrating books, peering through microscopes. The rest of my first and second graders would return at 2:00 with Tootsie Pops hanging from their mouths and morose looks painted on their faces as they gawked enviously at all Jessie was creating. As weeks passed, Jessie and I were joined by another kid, and then another and it didn’t take but about a month, for me to get called into Mr. Grady’s office. “Ms. Fern. That hour on Friday afternoons remains an academic time. It is being questioned as to your activity during that time and if in fact you and your students are simply ‘playing’.” When I explained to Mr. Grady that we were actually addressing all the CA State Standards during that hour including those in science, language arts, mathematics, and social studies, he had a perplexed expression on his face that I interpreted as, “What rock did we find her under?”
To call Bangor Elementary my personal purgatory would be putting it mildly, but nothing surpassed the day Mr. Grady’s voice came blaring out through the intercom and into the air of Room 3 during a language arts lesson, “WATERMELON!”
Ok. Hearing the name of a melon clamoring through my classroom by our principal left me speechless, which is difficult to imagine I know, but I did my best to ignore it and continued with our lesson. “WATERMELON!” he bellowed a second time.
Pausing and looking through the blinds of my windows, I noticed scuffling outside.
While attempting to teach and keep the kids focused, there was a banging on my door and then it flung open. There Mr. Grady was all red-faced, huffing and puffing and eyes bulging out, “MS. FERN, DID YOU NOT HEAR WATERMELON? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT’S OUR CODE WORD FOR A LOCK DOWN ON THIS CAMPUS? YOU ARE TO CLOSE YOUR BLINDS, LOCK YOUR DOOR, INSTRUCT YOUR CHILDREN TO GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR. THERE IS AN ANGRY PARENT WITH A WEAPON ON THE SCHOOL GROUNDS!”
Ok. Clearly, I would have remembered a “code word” such as that had I been told it. And do you have any f*@!$ing idea what shouting into a room that a lunatic parent who's packing, is running loose on their schoolyard, does to a group of 6 and 7 year olds?

Meth was never my drug of choice so I must admit my knowledge of it is minimal. However, the concept of pious families, powering meth labs in their backyards and attending church service in between batches, still baffles me to this day. But, I now believe that this introduction has built my strong character and provided me with the skills I hold today to be a successful and highly effective trailer park manager.

So, thank you Bangor! I am forever in your debt for so many things, less I forget, that day in April, when you all came to my aid as that wild pig chased me across the soccer field. Thank you for that and so much more!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

God Bless the Kids of Bangor

I spent 24 hours with my partner’s family, telling stories, eating pistachios, not letting the men get a word in edge-wise, and at one point, they begged me to tell the story of my year from hell in a place called Bangor, California where I accepted a teaching contract for a 1st/2nd grade class at Bangor Elementary.
A little background on Bangor…
Bangor is located in Butte County, in the hills above Oroville. Its population is 160, which includes approximately 65 households. Houses have depreciated 12.5% over the last 12 months and there are 11 homes for sale at this time, including 18 foreclosures. This does not include the campers, trailers and recreational vehicles that are tucked away down back roads and function as not only homes but also makeshift meth labs, which is Bangor’s number one source of income besides AFDC.
When I told my friends and neighbors in Chico I had gotten on in Bangor, their facial expressions waved between nervousness and fright.
So… I got in quite a lot of trouble at Bangor Elementary and of course was in Mr. Grady’s office almost daily pleading my case for such crimes as why picking up trash from the schoolyard wasn’t just for custodians and students' punishment for not doing homework; that in fact, picking up trash, discovering where it ends up if you don’t, encouraging recycling, making “trash sculptures” from tossed garbage is actually academic. Mr. Grady's and my other conversations included my opposition to rewarding children by tossing bags of Peanut M & M’s at them when they sit quietly at a school assembly, giving a child a ‘whoopin’ and sitting him in the corner and forcing him to read the Bible for 30 minutes because he’s getting an F in reading, and doing science projects during “Bible Study Hour.” These, and many more felonies, were usually given the same reply. Mr. Grady would say, “We’ve been doing it this way for years, Ms. Fern. It’s just the way it’s done ‘round here.”
One afternoon, I had the kids out for P.E., which was frowned upon by the other 7 teachers because “These kids need the 3 R’s,” when a little girl named Hopi, who was part White and part Maidu, looked up and in a breath of excitement started pointing at a helicopter which carried a lengthy rope with something attached to the end of it. “What’s that hangin’ on the end, Ms Fern?” Unsure, I suggested that it might be a large vat of water, that perhaps the helicopter was part of the Fire Service and maybe they were putting out a fire in a remote area. We continued playing soccer and the next day rumors circulated down the already creepy hallways that an unknown man “Had gotten himself drunk as a skunk and landed in the crick; done drowned.”
Evidently, it was the only way to get a dead body out of these Bangor hills.
Mr. Grady asked me to be the volleyball coach for the 6-8th grade girls. At the time, I had no idea why me, but after the season, it became clear as spring water that no one else was dumb enough. I had never coached volleyball; in fact, didn’t know a damn thing about it including how many players fill the court, what score you need to reach to win and well, how seriously Bangor parents take the game.
When I phoned my partner to say I had been offered “the job” her reply was “You don’t know a thing about volleyball!” “I know, but there’s a $750.00 stipend.” I replied.
“I’ll teach you.” She and my pals tried. For several Sundays we’d make a makeshift court on our backyard lawn and I’d begin a series of Volleyball 101 courses. Game time came and this is what I recall…
Game One: We lost so quickly neither my girls nor I realized it and the referee had to notify me to get my players off the court.
Game Two: A raging mom called a timeout from the bleachers, bolted down to the court and gathered my team in a huddle. The referee did not interfere.
Game Three: A large father, in overalls and missing a front tooth, who everyone called “Big John” screamed at me so loudly from the corner of the gym because I wasn’t playing his daughter enough, that I had to call my first timeout simply to compose myself.
The other games continued in much the same manner and we ended the season with me finding inspirational quotes for the girls, giving everyone an award at the pizza party, being absolutely hated by the upper grade parents, and zero wins.
This is becoming quite lengthy, so I’m thinking there’s a part two coming because I haven’t even told you about the world boar loose on the playground, the lock down or the gun racks!
May God bless the kids of Bangor!