Yesterday I went to a fast food restaurant for lunch. I patronize this particular establishment not for its food, nor its ethical stand on the treatment of animals being raised for human consumption, but rather for its comfortable furniture. See, I don’t go to lunch to eat; I go to lunch to read. So it’s all about the furniture.
As I was sitting there drinking a soda and reading Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (which is super good), I couldn’t help but be distracted by a rather vigorous discussion happening between two young punks at the table next to me. One of the young men, his 10-inch purple hair spikes trembling with enthusiasm, spoke forcefully about how judgmental and closed-minded “society” has become; how old people look at perfectly respectable youths such as themselves and judge them to be hapless, drug-addled so-and-so’s. (Okay, I’m paraphrasing.)
As this young squire made his worthy points, I suddenly noticed someone was staring at me. In fact, there was a madly-grinning face two inches from mine. Our cheeks would probably be touching if not for the plate glass window between us. I turned my head and was staring straight into the beaming eyes of a little girl. Okay, not exactly “little.” Despite her very young face, she must have been about 5 feet tall, although she was stick-skinny, a fact emphasized by her skinny/ wide bell-bottom pants. It took only a moment or two–maybe it was something about how long she held the gaze, how widely she smiled, or something else–but it suddenly became obvious that she was mentally handicapped.
I’m not one of those people who praise Jesus for sending oracle-like retarded kids to us “normals” to make us feel humble and grateful. I feel bad for mentally handicapped people, and I sort of feel like I want to try to make them feel happy and protect them. But I have to admit that there was something striking and profoundly beautiful about this girl’s smile. It seemed to me to be a perfectly genuine and simple show of joy. It moved me.
Then her “handler” ushered her along with an apologetic look. Following behind was a long line of about 12 more handicapped kids with about 25 adults to keep them “contained.” As soon as the glass door opened you could hear all sorts of excited exclamations and joyful hoo-hooing.
My attention immediately turned to the punks, curious to see how they would react. Something I wonder almost every day here at East Hollywood is why kids are so conventional and, well, conservative. I know a lot of you kids and adults out there are wondering, how I can look at the East Hollywood crowd and call it conventional? Well, it is, in its own way. A standard of appearance and behavior is set by a few powerful thought leaders at this school, or perhaps a plurality of the semi-cool kids, and then everyone else is judged by those standards. The vast majority of kids are happy to adopt the standard and judge themselves, and others, by their adherence to it. That sort of top-down definition of cool is as conservative and conventional as it gets. TRUE weirdness, which, in my mind, is the weirdness of those who can’t or won’t control how weird they are, is shunned just as much by the “counter-culture” crowd here as it is by conservative adults in the suburbs.
So I turned to the philosophical punks to see what they would do. Would they laugh in the sad/happy faces flashing them those too-broad smiles? Would they vocalize a few sarcastic hoo-hoos? Or would they embrace, even celebrate, this pure show of weirdness?
The loud, spikey punk stopped talking and watched as a few of the kids came in. One kid in particular escaped the cordon of adults and ran over to look at the punk’s interesting hair. The punk, getting his hackles up a little, looked him full in the face, and the handicapped kid returned his gaze without a flinch. After a full 15 seconds, they both broke into a smile at the same time. I looked around to see if the fast food restaurant was filming this for a feel-good commercial to be aired during the next O-lame-pics, but they weren’t. This was real. The punk let the kid touch his hair, and yelled “Back off!” at the adult that tried to wrangle the kid back into the fold.
It was nice. Thank you, non-judgmental punks. Kids of EHH, learn from them, and from the attitude (or lack of attitude) of the handicapped kids. There are many truly weird kids among us. Get to know them! Embrace them! Learn from them! They may not be oracles from the gods, but they know something about authenticity that you should learn. Because you are one of the weird kids–we all are–you may just be afraid to show it.
Today in class we refreshed our memories on the parts of speech. Here are our working definitions:
— Noun: person, place, or thing
— Verb: action words; what the subject “does”
— Adjective: describes stuff (nouns)
— Adverb: describes verbs (and often ends in –ly)
We went kind of deep into the discussion of why words mean anything. What we’re trying to do right now is to build up some ideas about words that can help us understand and perfect sentences, paragraphs, and essays. In particular, we talked about VERBS. We noticed that verbs can be conjugated according to time and subject. (For example, the1st-person, singular, present tense of the verb “to be” is “I am.”) We also noted that the un-conjugated form of a verb in English always starts with “to,” as in “to sleep, to dream, to die.” This basic form of the verb is called the “infinitive.”
Then we played the game “What am I,” in which each student got a part of speech pasted to their forehead and had to go around the room asking “What am I?” A very profound question indeed. The other students had to give an example of their part of speech until the asking student figured out whether they were noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.
After that we read Catcher in the Rye, to about page 20.
We’ll be having a couple of Catcher quizzes next week, and don’t forget that the reading list is due on Monday.
Quote of the day #1:
“What am I?”
“You are yellow.”
Quote of the day #2:
“On this earth, there is time!”
“Uh, Matt? Your clock’s frozen.”
No downloads today.