Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sunday Miscellany

It's 9pm on a Sunday night and I'm only a few pages into DeToqueville...but I'm not ready to settle in just yet. I have summer fever.

Before the fever here are some links: This article and this one about "grade grubbing" via the DailyKos diaries.
When it comes to school and entitlement, there are other, perhaps less insidious, but more frightening events going on, as Joseph Massad reports in his current Counterpunch article.

Tales from Prospect Park:
It was finally a beautiful, hot weekend in NY. Both days started with me in my garden, unknowingly contributing to soil compaction as I wandered about trying to identify the various mystery plants pictured above, and then wound up with me wandering around in Prospect Park.
On Friday night, I was waiting for some friends to show up, and sat reading from around 7:15 until 7:45, on a bench near some 14-15 year old boys skateborading at the 9th street entrance. They were in today's version of junior high rebel gear: long hair, baggy pants, and Marilyn Manson t-shirts. Seated near me were a hip, young mother and her son. I liked her instantly because of her warm smile. Her son was about ten years old, quiet, in a mousy way, with a neat plaid shirt tucked into his khaki shorts and wearing a baseball cap. Pretty adorable, really, but the picture of a school victim in a different context. The two of them and I watched the teen-agers, who insulted each other as they performed their tricks and came up with games such as "jump over/on top of the soda can" on a skateboard - to pass the time. Their hostility was immense. I remembered the boredeom of those years and smiled at their creativity, even as I was appalled at the way that they treated each other. "I skate better than you while I'm eating my ice-cream," one of the better skaters said, drolly licking his good-humor pop while his clumsy friend looked on, transparent in humiliation. They laughed hysterically at each other, calling each other all sorts of names when the the trick failed.
One of them was trying some trick and the others were busy burning something on the ground, and his shame was already worse than anything the others had dished out. He shouted, "fuck!" "Oh fuck..."I'm fucked!" "fuck me!" but nobody noticed. As I watched them I thought about the romantic way that I had viewed such kids when I was their age, how they had seemed daring, exciting, smart, challenging, how attracted I had been to kids like them. I sat there now imagining homes where they were ignored, brushed aside, or where their obvious talents were irrelevant to over-anxious, achievement oriented parents. Unlike the grade-grubbers described above, these middle-class boys have opted out of the game, but in doing so, have created a new competition whose standards are just as impossibly high.
My co-spectators, the mother and son were a happier family, no doubt, than the ones that I imagined these boys came from. Initially, I had thought that the mother was charmed by the scene. We both reacted to something at the same time, I don't remember now, but I turned to her and said, "Kids are so mean." She nodded, "that one's a real piece of work," pointing to one who seemed like the leader. At some point, it became clear that it was not she, but her son who was entranced, that he wouldn't let her leave, that he admired and desired those mean, creative boys. She was impatient, "It's the same thing over and over," she looked bored, "just jumping and cursing."
For him though, it was obviously new and exotic, part of that mysterious world that he couldn't wait to enter. She got up, and went across the square, leaned against a rail and waited. He crossed through the skating area most deliberately, very careful to appear completely unconcerned. I imagined the trouble coming her way all too soon.

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