Tag Archives: Humor

Baracking on Doors

I’ll never forget the Fall of 2008. I picked up and moved to a red-state-turned-blue to shack up with Dan and teach 50 college students the difference between Plato and Play-doh. (Turns out morality is also sticky.)

50 students: That’s one student per US state. New Jersey gave me attitude, California came to class high, Kentucky couldn’t find the active voice if it hit her in the face (and even then she’d say she “had been hit by it”), but in the end — the end being me dressed up as a lion, in front of a chalk board, distributing bagels — I’m hopeful. I’m not tucking my tail between my legs. No, I’m twirling it waist-high!

Each of my students, over the course of a ten week term, presented for ten minutes on a political issue relevant to the election. We tried to disengage from the popular media and pundits, from Republican Factors and Democratic Countdowns. We cut away cult of personality and empty rhetoric to expose the bare bones of policy. And after we held these bones to the light — turned the femur of Foreign Relations, thumbed the patella of Economy — we reached a majority decision. We voted anonymously, proudly.

I have never wanted something so badly for my country. I have never cared so much. Nights, when I sit healthcare-less on the couch, contemplating my meager teacher’s salary and high Baby Boomer security payments, reading a freshman paper entitled Randall Jarrell: Poet Traumatized by War as our troops continue to die, wondering why it’s 75 degrees outside in October but knowing I will have to wear a wool sweater tomorrow, I ask myself: Why is this election still close?

And then the questions really start (poor student paper, now totally put aside): Why was an unlicensed, ill-informed plumber given a microphone? Even Fox News wants to know:

Why is redistributing wealth worse than offering a national platform to those who haven’t intellectually earned it?

Why do we equate all Muslims with terrorists? Why aren’t we stopping global warming, regardless of what (or who) caused it? Do pro-lifers ever think about channeling their passion into saving genocide victims in Darfur? Have the American people not noticed a difference in temperament, and comportment, and campaign organization, between the two candidates? Isn’t it telling that Colin Powell endorsed the Democratic ticket? Isn’t it revealing that McCain had to defend Senator Obama against the very anti-American vitriol he advanced in ads? Doesn’t anyone remember The Crucible — if not the book, then at least the movie with Winona Ryder?

This morning, while putting on my mane and tail, I practiced saying “President McCain.” This was my sleepy way of letting myself down easy: my exit strategy of hurt. Because as Obama said to the crowd last night in Missouri, it’s not over. We have to assume responsibility.

We have to self-aggrandize until we’re convinced our individual voice is the one that matters most. Listen: there is no other vote in this election but yours.

So I practiced saying “President Palin” to rouse me out of my defeatist stupor. Try it.

If you just turned 18, vote. If you live in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, vote. If you live in a blue state — the bluest blue, the blue the color of a thunderhead — vote. I marched in the Bush protest back in 2004, I watched Kerry lose, I witnessed our country don the dunce cap and jaunt to the front of the room. Vote. Be a slutty Sarah for Halloween, but when you wake up the next morning, hung-over, your librarian glasses lost in your updo, vote. Tell your Facebook friends to vote. Go door to door, like Dan and I will on Saturday, and convince your neighbors. Forward this post to five folks you know, five you don’t.

Four days. 1 out of 7 voters is still undecided.

My students — who come from conservative, Republican backgrounds, who for 10 weeks explored the issues sans bias — voted for Obama in our mock elections. There was no grade mongering. Voting was anonymous.

“President Obama.” Don’t say it out loud — no, not yet. Go vote.


Sarah Pollin’

Please take a minute to help me decide on an author photo for the chapbook. Once you’ve considered all seven, click on the green link and cast your vote. Also, if you know me, and have high-quality photos lying around (tasteful ones, people), I would love to see additional contenders!

(Trybecca should be back with regularity come November. Teaching three classes and finishing the chapbook affords little time to write. Also, much like Sarah Palin’s own answers to hard hitting political questions, this post is off-topic. A Palin entry is in the works, though.)

  • Becca as graffiti. Love it:
  • Come on. Dylan Thomas TOTALLY would have used this pic:
  • Nothing says poetry like simulated strangulation on a pool table:
  • Yep. This one makes your boobs look good:
  • European bridge? Check. Wistful indulgence? Check:
  • Poetry is the flower just out of your petite reach:
  • Of course. How could Snunshine NOT be in the photo?:

Big Apple

So, just in case you guys think I spend my Iowa mornings coaching Karaoke to be a show kitty, or Cuisinarting things just for the hell of it, I should mention that I have a job.

I’m teaching three sections of rhetoric at a small liberal arts college on the border of Iowa and Illinois. I get up at 6am to be on campus for an 8:30am class. My “turn-the-car-around-freak-out” moment occurs right as I cross the Mississippi and pass the casino, when, since the coffee has yet to kick in and I’m terrified of public speaking, all I want to do is double down.

Education is its own gamble, I suppose. I love working with students. I love elucidating a concept, or provoking an opinion, or prodding a prejudice, or reading Auden’s “Funeral Blues” aloud to them for the first time.

What I don’t love is standing in front of a group. I mean I’m fine once I get past the first few minutes. Then I really get going. Then I can hold court confidently and articulately. But the initial throat clearing, the “Good morning!” introductory bit, never gets any easier.

I played violin from first grade through my senior year in high school. I learned the names of strings by food association. If I could identify the G string, I got a grape. The A, an apple. D was for dougnut. Needless to say, there was a lot of clamoring for songs written in the key of D string. That, or “Hot Cross Buns.” (We also got the occasion bun.)

Unfortunately, the time came to set aside snacks and introduce public performance, aka recital, aka Becca throws up day. I’m a shy person and I don’t know why. It isn’t because I’m an only child, or because I had a speech impediment growing up and pronounced “f” as “th.” Both of these are true (“Are we having thish for dinner? Thuck you!”) but irrelevant.

I got to be good at violin, which only worked to my disadvantage. The good people always performed last. My prowess meant up to an hour of hand-sweating, and knee twitching, and staring at my horse-hair bow in utter horror and disbelief. I would try and do meditation — this was way before I even knew what zen was — and separate the silky hairs with my eyes to somehow tame my heartbeat. Much like combing through sand with a mini rake, it never worked.

Being a nervous violin player is not ideal. If your hand shakes, then your bow shakes. And if your bow shakes, it stands to reason that Bach’s Concerto in E Major will sound like the only extant recording of Tennyson.

It’s confusing, especially as a kid, when you enjoy one element of something and dread another. How can you say, at thirteen, “I’d like to play violin in the basement, maybe lay down some tracks on my tape recorder,” but politely decline the invitation to perform in the anteroom of the school gym? I can still smell the faint trace of chlorine wafting off the pool, see the holes in the gaudy yellow shag carpet where the cellists waited with their endpins.

Yet despite my anxiety, I’m a good teacher. No — I’m a great teacher. I just had a girl sign up for my second period class because her friend said I’m “interesting.” Neither one has any clue that I was practice teaching to the bathroom mirror a minute before. Some anxieties are worth getting over.

My first morning of my first class, I found a pendant on the podium.

It wasn’t planted by Dan or by any of the faculty, but rather lost by a Victoria (so says the engraved back). Simply there: a corky
reminder that New York City is still with me, and that I was supposed to bring it to these kids.

Death of a Boob Man

OK, so I lived in New York City for six years and never once felt in danger. Except for that time the homeless man expectorated on my hair.

And now I live in Iowa, which should be safe, right? I mean, I figured the worst that could happen was some farmer overcharges me for organic kale. Turns out there’s a crazed University of Iowa Poli-Sci Professor on the loose. Arthur Miller, accused of inflating the grades of female students in exchange for eying their breasts, is hiding out in the wooded park mere yards from my house. He’s armed with a high-powered rifle. Which isn’t the most convincing way to exonerate yourself.

And wait — if you wanted to leverage your authority over failing freshman, wouldn’t you go all the way? Might as well just watch Girls Gone Wild. Maybe if he had lied and said he wrote The Crucible he could have gotten to second base.

Sure, sexual bartering is deplorable. So maybe he’s gone into the woods like Thoreau. To do some deep moral thinking…with ammunition?

Five local schools and a handful of University buildings were on lockdown for part of the week. Mr. Miller left a suicide note, but so far, neither he nor his high powered rifle has been found in Hickory Hill Park.

According to Rate My Professors , he wasn’t exactly disliked. Note the first comment: “We screw around for most of the class.” Uh-huh. I bet.

The original Arthur Miller. I bet Professor Miller wishes he could have taught Marilyn Monroe!

The original Arthur Miller. I bet Professor Miller wishes he could have taught Marilyn Monroe!


Jeffery tells me that poetry acceptance letters come when you can’t recall submitting poems.  In February, I entered a chapbook competition run by Finishing Line Press. A couple of months ago, I received a form letter: there were 538 manuscript submissions and unfortunately, mine wasn’t selected for their $1000 prize. Even though I paper my walls in rejection slips, I didn’t bother saving this one.

Then last Friday night, I got an email from the editor at Finishing Line Press announcing that she wants to publish my chapbook. You never really expect such an email. And if you do, you don’t envision yourself reading it while tipsily gnawing on a block of cheese. You expect the moment to have some dignity. But no. After we came home from George’s, I beelined it to the fridge to unwrap a hunk of parmesan I couldn’t be bothered to cut but could be bothered to stuff in my face.

But who cares! I get to publish these poems, at no cost to me, in high-quality saddle-stapled books, with cover art, and author blurbs, and, best of all, a jacket photo. I’ll ask for reader help in picking the appropriate shot (whimsical but sober, earnest but not too severe, no hands-in-pockets, no leather jacket, no Italy, etc.).

Pressrun is typically 500-1000. I’ll need to sell 55 prepublication copies to warrant the full run, so I’ve gone ahead and set up a gmail account for the book:


Cost will be $14 for a chapbook of 25 poems. Greener won’t be released until early next year, but if you’d like to reserve a copy, please email me at the above address. Once I’ve decided on cover art, Finishing Line Press will send out announcement postcards for prepublication sales. Include your mailing address and I’ll make sure you get one! And thanks, in advance, for your support.

Also, just because I have a book doesn’t mean I’ll stop posting from the point of view of a solipsistic stuffed penguin.

Girl, who are you calling solipsistic? Now come here and help me dispose of this creature!

Girl, who are you calling solipsistic? Now come here and help me dispose of this creature!

Me at the ear doctor last Tuesday: potential author photo.

Karaoke Kills

Dan and I have been adopted by a snaggle-toothed black and white cat. She sauntered into our house one afternoon while we were unpacking and proceeded to use our living room sofa as a scratching post. She’s obese and declawed, both of which suggest an owner — but there’s no collar, and she drops by at odd hours. I named her Karaoke based on my belief that calling a cat should be fun. And it is fun. I open the screen door and shout “Karaoke!” Karaoke!” into the dark of night, in hopes that some drunk hippie might appear on our porch all fired up to sing Country Joe and The Fish.

Cute, right? Makes you want to cuddle with her in a papasan chair, maybe have her knead your lap while you sip on Sleepytime and read Lilian Jackson Braun — until you realize this is a picture Dan took of Karaoke killing a baby bunny. The salad on her chin is for show. There’s blood-lust in those almond eyes.

For two nights in a row, Karaoke has brought us dinner. Tuesday’s bunny almost made it into the house. Dan and I were watching The X-files , so you can imagine just how much higher I jumped with that theme song in the background. Also, I think Karaoke is part of a large government conspiracy.

Dan documented Kitty’s First Picnic on camera.

Here she is, looking like she just scored the winning touchdown. (There’s a game joke in there somewhere.)

Dan created a Picasa album simply titled: “Karaoke Hunts a Bunny.” It lets our friends and family see how busy we are in Iowa. Think of it as The Velveteen Rabbit in reverse.

I didn’t know how to stop the slaughter, so I ran into the kitchen and came back with a can of tuna. In retrospect, it wasn’t the brightest idea to use Chicken of the Sea as a diversionary tactic, but what can I say. I panicked.

Now she expects surf and turf.

There are a few shots of me, barefoot and pigeon-toed, in my gaudy vacation dress, holding a dustpan, trying to figure out what exactly one does with a dying bunny.

(One should leave it alone?)

It’s supposedly a sign of great affection for your cat to bring you its prey. I did a lot of online reading . Spayed females in particular see a meal “to-go” as an opportunity to school you in the ways of the hunt. It’s half carnivorous instinct, half maternal. You’re an owner but you’re also a kitten. I guess I can relate to that. I like to bake banana bread for Dan and serve it on kid sized plates. And Dan did just buy the child’s tool kit, in the shape of a truck, from Ace Hardware. After he assembled my bookshelf, he packed up his tools and went “Vroom, vroom.” (Man, that one’s gonna cost me.)

Be Careful Where You Put Your Pole