23 September 2005


I've now lived for nearly a year in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sadly, this does not mean that I am in any way an expert on Brooklyn, nor that I have done any justice to the boro with exploration and/or adventure. In the last few days, I have attempted to fix this obvious problem by hopping on my bicycle and heading out into the world, armed with a European guide book, my Italian friend Antonella, and an extremely heavy bike chain.


08 September 2005

The Land Up North...

Let me begin this current entry with the following advice: If you wish to travel to Canada with Italians, make sure that you expect approximately 1-2 hours of delay at all border crossings. I can say this with real knowledge, having been a proud visitor to the Immigration offices of both Canada and the United States in the last few days, due to strange Visa requirements...
Tricky guys they are in those offices, pulling clever little tricks like asking me twice what I do for a living....(as if the second time I might accidentally slip up and admit to being a drug-trafficking, whore mongering marauder, and not just a Spanish teacher...)

Anyway, we were able to slip through the cracks of American/Canadian bureacracy, and they let us into Canada...A smart idea on their part, I'd say...

Montreal, as always, was charming and welcoming, and an overall wonderful place to spend a few days (or, to be sure, much more time). Most of our time (my friend Antonella and I) was spent in a luxuriously lazy frame of mind and action, wandering the city, eating great meals, spending time with our good friend Charlie and his roommate Nate (likewise a great man).

Lazy as I was, and little as I did, I must mention the few things of particular interest that I can't get out of my head since my voyage there. Let's call them "Tam Tams" (which, I believe, is in fact what everyone calls it) and Medieval Foam Warrior Challenge Weirdo-Fest (which I do not believe is in fact the official name for the event of which I speak).

Apparently, every Sunday (weather permitting, I assume), many Montrealeans make a small pilgrimage to the Park Mont Royal, which lies at the base of the mountain of the same name. Among these Montreal folk are a group of people that bring along a variety of drums and other instruments of percussion and gather to play intense rhythms for hours. At the same time, hippies and other strange people (as well as some normal, quite good looking people) gather in front of them to dance in the dust. The sight is generally quite wonderful. Unfortunately, however, in the midst of the rising dust, I saw one rather unattractive girl that seemed to be dancing in her underwear, but hey, I guess these things happen.

Okay then, let's get to the most important, strange, and interesting part of these Sunday festivities. A bit up the hill from the hippie drummers, and past the frisbee players and hackey sack gangs, there lies a large dusty field surrounded by trees. It is in this field that the biggest weirdos of Montreal gather every week to engage in a rather strange (yet thrilling) spectacle. I can only imagine what it must take to drag them away from their Dungeons and Dragons games (I mean no disrespect--I speak from the point of view of a former D&D player).

Basically, all who attend join a team, or, better defined, an army. Each army stands on one end of the dusty field (approximately the size of half of a soccer field). Each and every person is armed. Yes, ARMED. Now, granted, they are armed with duct-tape covered foam, but they are armed nonetheless. Some bear battle-axes, some lances, some swords or daggers, or maces. I even saw an Edward Scissorhands-type gentleman that seemed to really enjoy playing the role. Some are dressed in all black, some in medieval garb, some in armor or chainmail. It is really all very strange.

And so, the two armies stand their ground, until representatives from the different sides approach the middle and commence fighting. Once they have done so, the two sides gather their courage and charge the center of the field, screaming their fierce battle cries and attacking eachother with their convincing and rather intimidating weapons. If you are hit in the torso or head, you must fall to the ground, dead. I am not totally sure, but it seems that leg wounds merely make you lame, although the limpies seemed to be killed off rather quickly. When everyone is dead, the armies repair to their side, catch their breath, and start all over again. The fun never seems to end. (In fact, I left after an hour or so and returned an hour or so later, and they were still going strong--this must have lasted at least three hours).

I must say that I was fixated by this sport and spent a great deal of time enjoying the festivities surrounding it, taking in the battle smells and sounds, enjoying the pungent aroma of medieval sweat. I guess that's just what you do in Canada--if you're not too busy drinking beer and eating poutine (for those Jersey folk--disco fries--for those non-Jersey folk, french fries covered with cheese and gravy).

And so, I am now back in NYC, wishing for some medieval battle scenes, wishing for pumping drum rhythms, and wishing for poutine, and finding none. Instead, I've got to settle for street fights, car horns and hot-dogs. And that's just the way it is...

01 September 2005

Back to the Grind

My job is not a hard one. I teach approximately 2 days per week (not counting one class on Tuesday evenings). Just the same, the realization that tomorrow I begin to teach again is beginning to dawn on me.
Perhaps it should have dawned on me a bit earlier, I might be more prepared.
As it is, I need to wake up a few minutes after six o'clock to walk to the train to catch the L to catch the 4 train to the Bronx to get off the train and walk 10 minutes and teach my first class.

And I can't sleep.

It is probably a little known fact that teachers feel nervous before the first day of class. It is always a bit nerve-wracking, a bit like giving a speech in front of 25 strangers (actually, it is exactly like giving a speech in front of 25 strangers). Who knows what the students will be like? Who knows what they'll think of me? What if I accidentally sit on gum on the train and don't know it? What if I sneeze and don't cleanly swipe at the each and every one of those pesky nostril monsters?
Funny thing is--I never feel nervous, I just feel the effects. I can't sleep, or I sleep badly, my stomach gets upset. The first time I taught (and a few times after), I shook like a leaf hooked on heroin whenever I wrote something down. It wasn't pretty.
And so, with these thoughts in mind, I finally return to the Blog, writing in it as if this were a personal email or a diary entry...This is true evil, exactly what I had hoped to avoid.
I meant, and mean, for this blog to be filled with exciting, culturally significant entries. I want to write about people I meet on the streets, fun festivals that I visit in weird states, museums that I've visited, interesting facts that I've picked up along the way.

Instead, I am telling you that I'm sitting here in my underwear, in a small room in Brooklyn, NY, unable to sleep. I'm sipping a glass of water, and I forgot to turn off the kitchen light.
You know, people always say that when you're giving a speech, there are various ways to calm yourself and remain collected in front of an audience. The most common of these--to picture everyone naked--seems like a generally good piece of advice. Somehow, however, as a 25 year-old teacher of 18-22 year-old students, this seems both inappropriate and a bad idea. I personally have always preferred the bathroom method--picture everyone in front of you sitting on a toilet (western or otherwise). To be honest, I have never used either method. However, if I continue in this insomniac funk, I may very well employ this second method tomorrow as a clever and amusing means to both stay awake and relieve any first day anxiety at work.

Anyway, tomorrow morning I teach and Friday morning I head off to Canada for a wee adventure. Hopefully I'll have something more exciting to tell you then. Until then, enjoy my verbal diarrhea.