Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Nutcracker on Ice

I hope the new year's started out well for all y'all. Can't believe how long it took me to get my first post of 2009 up. However, it was a very BBB week back at work. L'Ailee has had almost the usual "post-resolution" business at the gym where she works, and she's grateful. People may be broke and/or worried, but NYC is still one extremely image-conscious town.

I wish the judge would just throw Bernard Madoff in jail already. I hope to hear about former governor Blagojevich soon. I can't believe we have 2 empty Senate seats and what will soon be one in New York! Caroline Kennedy and Roland Burris seem inevitable to me, unfortunately, though Governor Paterson did finally admit that Caroline was a less than perfect choice. I want to be wrong. I keep wanting to say Al Franken's name the way he did on his old Saturday Night Live Weekend Update sketches.

I've finally started doing something I really love up here in NYC, after four years! I'm doing adult literacy tutoring! That will take up an evening and a lunch hour every week. I used to do adult literacy tutoring in Orlando, but fell out of the habit here. I did tutor a small boy in an "early intervention" program for the first three years--he doesn't need me anymore, which is wonderful--and a student from L'Ailee's old high school who was in danger of failing English and is now a freshman at a good college. But it just wasn't the same. There are still a lot of adults up here who need help. I love how I get to help unlock long-abandoned doors in a person's mind.

My client is dyslexic and fell through the cracks when he was a kid. Finally learning to read was his New Year's resolution. I told him that I sympathized because I am dyscalculiate. I can have real difficulty reading numbers, and math was always horrible for me. (This Letter to My Math Teacher actually made me cry, all these years after graduating from high school, because it brought back such bad memories.) In Orlando, this made my clients feel that I understood. This made my NYC client skeptical: "I finally call the number and tell somebody I don't know how to read and I need to learn, and they sent me some chick who can't read numbers?" I was patient and talked fast. I emphasized that I have been helped and that I have no problem whatsoever with letters and reading--in fact, I'm above average. (Which is a symptom of dyscalculia, too!) He relaxed. "I got no problem wit' numbers," he said in his very Noo Yawk accent. "We even out. You need help wit' numbers, you let me know." I smiled. A bit of his pride had been salvaged. We could start.

New Year's Eve at L'Ailee's best friend's house was wonderful. You know how the footage of Times Square shows a mass exodus of people at 12:05? Didn't happen at their house. L'Ailee and I left a bit after 3 am, and the party was still going strong! Russian New Year's Eves are known for good food and lots of it. A couple years ago, A. and his fiance decided they needed to learn how to cook. Takeout was getting expensive, and it was getting embarrassing for A. to have to call his ex-wife to ask her how to make pasta. So I gave A. some lessons, and an elderly Russian woman who regards A. and L'Ailee as surrogate grandchildren gave him some more lessons, and the boys both began to watch Food Network. We could taste how well they'd progressed! Of course, that wasn't the only attraction. There was lots of dancing and talking, too. "Is this as good as you remember?" A. asked L'Ailee.
"I was a child in Russia." She left at age 13 with her parents; A. was an older teen.
"Come on, you remember!"
She smiled broadly. "No, it's much better!" Relief flooded over his face.

Now I can finally discuss what I gave L'Ailee for Solstice! A. and his fiance don't open their presents until New Year's Eve, just the way they'd been raised as little boys. But A. is impatient, and demanded they finally open their gifts right before the guests arrived, as most of us had already long past opened all our gifts. The delayed gratification paid off for him.

There is a real size differential between L'Ailee and A. He is 6'5" and muscular; she is 4'11" and wiry even after too many holiday cookies. Earlier that evening, he picked her up and spun her around because:
"[My fiance] gave me Red Wings tickets, too!"
"No. Are you serious? The game in Washington, DC?"
"Yes, at the end of January. Jayelle is taking you to see the Red Wings play there too, right?"
"Yes..." She narrowed her eyes at me for a second, then looked at him. "What seats do you have?"
He ran to their bedroom to get his precious tickets. "Look!"
"Those are very close to our seats." Another meaningful look in my direction.
"They should be right next to our seats," I said.
The fiance approached us, grinning. We could finally disclose the full extent of our gifts to our beloveds. This cost, but it is so worthwhile. A. and L'Ailee both love hockey, and both of them decided they loved the Detroit Red Wings best of all soon after coming to America. But we are not in Detroit. We are in NYC. Because the NYC teams, the Rangers and the Islanders, are Eastern Conference and Detroit is Western Conference, Detroit doesn't come to NYC as often as L'Ailee and A. would like. They last saw their Wings play live about 6 years ago. A.'s fiance and I thought they needed to see them again, and cheer them on together, and we could rent a car and drive them to and from the game. (This is especially meaningful to A., because he's a cabbie.)
It was such a bitch to find the right game. Going to Detroit was not an option. The Wings weren't going to New York or even New Jersey for months. We didn't want our beloveds to have to wait too long to "cash in" their gift. We preferred a weekend game. We didn't want too outrageously long a drive. We all at least really like, if not outright love, NASCAR, and didn't want a schedule conflict with the Daytona 500. So Washington Capitals at home on January 31st was the best we could do. I'm driving to the game because it will be daylight and I still have enough Floridian in me to make driving on icy roads an adventure; A.'s fiance is driving back because he's more used to those conditions and he'll end up having to drive in the dark.

It was a real act of love for me, too. L'Ailee finally got me into hockey, but I think that--to put it in terms of my first and forever sports love, NASCAR--the Wings are technically good yet boring to watch like Jimmie Johnson and are overhyped like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (By the way, guess who A.'s driver is? Yep, JUUUUU-nior!) After the Winter Classic, I almost became a Red Wings fan when L'Ailee initiated winning-sports-team sex. (I love winning-sports-team and winning-driver sex. It's almost as good as post-funeral sex, but nobody has to die.) That said, I vastly prefer the Pittsburgh Penguins, and not just because penguins are so danged cute. However badly they're doing, whoever gets injured, at least my Penguins are never boring. Which is good, because the Penguins really aren't doing well this year.

Sidney Crosby is doing his best, bless his heart, but it isn't working out. He needs help. Plus he really needs to give up on fighting and leave that to the enforcers! Other hockey fans at my work, who overwhelmingly prefer the Rangers, are still talking about Crosby's punching Atlanta's Boris Valabik in the crotch. From behind, too, which takes real talent. Gentlemen, please click the link and play button with caution if you haven't seen it already, because the footage gave me sympathy pains in parts I've never had! I joked a few times that "maybe he thought it might be nice to give the fans a performance of 'the Nutcracker on Ice', since it was so close to Christmas." A co-worker who is brilliant despite his Rangers fandom immediately dubbed him "the Nutcracker Prince."

Oh, well. It'll be fun to watch L'Ailee and her best friend in the world watch their Wings play live. Capitals fans are really creative, too. They've sure gotten creative on my team often enough. As a Pens fan, I know that it is my obligation to hate the Philadelphia Flyers with an undying hate, so I did rather like this Geico ad spoof by a Capitals fan. The boys will have to tell us if there are any urinal cakes devoted to the Red Wings.

It's not racing, but it'll do, and it's at least much more fun than the news.

Links, links:

Poor Gu Gu. It's so hard to be irresistably cute and given inadequate security. He mauled his third visitor in two years last week! I love pandas, but their teeth and claws really should make those Chinese zoo visitors pause. How would you act if strangers dropped into your house uninvited? It's probably a good thing for Gu Gu that his species is endangered. I think they need to give him better walls and fences at the Beijing Zoo--the "four foot, seven inch barrier" described simply isn't enough.

Documented differences between liberal and conservative minds. Not real scientific, but fun. Apparently I'm mostly but not totally liberal according to this.

Vodoun ("voodoo") priests in Benin had a ritual for peace between Israel and Palestine Short and wonderful little news story. I think it's about time for polytheists to get involved in this--competing monotheisms don't quite seem to be cutting it here. I am proudly polytheist; I also practiced Haitian Vodoun when I lived in Florida, mostly because I wanted something that would jibe better with Florida's climate than the Euro-Pagan religions I'd been reading about. My heart just leapt up when I read this.

Ten influential lesbians and ten classic lesbian books that every woman who loves women that way should know about. But I never had that gym teacher--I was more interested in the hot Russian assistant librarian at my high school.

Finally, a blog that is helping me with my insomia, and I mean that in the nicest possible way: Cute Things Falling Asleep


.Blue in Green said...

Thanks for the comment.

Madoff's case is so baffling although Ill rather not comment on it.

More importantly, I admire you for the work you are doing tutoring. Helping to learn I think is the greatest profession in my opinion not to talk of the special needs aspect of thi particular case.

Thanks for sharing the interesting story on vodoo. Its also interesting to note that you were drawn to that religion when you lived in Florida.

Finally, I think the insomnia link will be very useful to a lot of people and I would like to recommend that too.

Happy new year.

Btw: I'll certainly be back when the sun's up in this part of the world to soak up more of these. There are so many important issues you've drawn my attention to. Thanks very much.

marie said...

I want to hear more about the tutoring gig. I think that is wonderful! Happy New Year!

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Well no wonder its taken a few days to get up a post - you've been busy. Your NY Eve sounds like a blast.

Thanks for your comment to me. I am taking things one moment at at time...this moment is good :)

alan said...

Exquisite truly are magical!

Very happy to see Sappho and Jeanette Winterson on those lists (though "The Passion" is my favorite of hers", followed by "Written on the Body"). Disappointed not to find Radclyffe Hall and Virginia Woolf, though...

Glad to see you here again!


BostonPobble said...

The letter to the teacher got me, too. Especially the parts about *wanting* to learn and not just being a PITA. Yeah. Those memories don't make me cry anymore ~ but they still make me mad.

Love the story about the student.

ellyodd said...

Hey, are you on the dyscalculia forum? You should check it out, lots of people to talk to :)