Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DAY 11 - Checking In

That's what my life has consisted of since I last posted, a teaching tornado. It sure has been fun though. Right now I am in Cleveland, Mississippi. Last week was spent in Nashville and it was a major blast. I will cover all of Music City in a future post. I am about to go to bed but here is an email that I just sent to a few people. It will serve as today's check in and will hopefully be the beginning of me actually making time to take care of this blog. Here it is:

"Hi all,

Sorry for being late on blogging. Who knew this would be so intense?
Haha joking, I did. Yesterday was an 18 hour day of non-stop working.
In blistering heat and suffocating humidity.

This is a video that features one of my new Nashville pals. He is a
2010 Corps Member and totally rocks. He also teaches social studies so
I am looking at him to make myself the best teacher that I can be.


I just thought it would be a nice little addition to a check in email.

I am doing great. I am starting lesson plans tomorrow. I am very
excited to start teaching on Monday. I am teaching High School US
History from 1877 to Present. I have only 19 days! 19 days to teach
these kids what they need to pass their state exams and get on track
to graduate. I will be working at Gentry High School in Indianola, MS.
Right down the street from the BB King museum. Cleveland, MS is unlike
anywhere I have ever been. There are mosquitoes inside haha. I have
ran into 3 different dead animals at school, even one in doors. The
school is in a very rural area and is a 30 min bus ride from Delta
State where I am staying. Leon Middlefied is our dedicated bus driver.
He is quite the character. He gave us a valuable piece of advice on
our very first day: "Your mind is like a parachute, it don't work if
it ain't open."

Once I unpacked, I turned on my fan and it has not been turned off yet.

I wake up every morning at 4:45, get dressed, run to the dining hall,
eat in 5 mins, pick up a packed lunch, and bored a bus to Gentry.

Well Its 10:30, I am going to hit the hay. Wish me luck!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 3 - Tex-lahoma-sas

They make really good bacon in Texas, inches thick with enough fat to give you a double chin on the spot. It tastes like breakfast heaven. But it hurts your stomach. So as we fueled up on our way out of Amarillo, I grabbed a Canada Dry the cure-all of the gods. Saying goodbye to the Big Texan motel was a little heartbreaking. I'm still grieving but all be alright soon enough.

For some reason a bunch of Berkeley looking types think it is a lot of fun to bike alone across Oklahoma. That doesn't seem like a lot of fun to me but to each his own. I'm actually just a little sad that my sweet yellow and hot pink Schwinn Caliente (thats "hot" in Spanish haha) didn't fit in the back of my truck. Bumtown. I guess its better then just walking along the freeway Woody Guthrie style like on elderly rambler was.

The west half of Oklahoma is really boring. Its a lot like the Texas panhandle but with more tractors and fewer "Don't Mess With Texas" signs. Its also a bit greener as well. The eastern half of Oklahoma was a lot better. It was really beautiful. In OKC I saw Serge Ibaka (my college roommate/best friend Marty's long lost twin brother). He says hello. After OKC is when the I-40 gets really pretty. The highway is outlined with a bunch of grass and people have to actually mow it. It goes on for miles and miles. They must start at one end, mow all the way to the other end, then start back at the beginning because the grass is probably already over grown again. What a crazy job.

On a side note, motorcyclists/bikers and their gals don't believe in wearing helmets on the freeway. That seems a little dangerous and sounds a lot like instant death. Especially when the Californian in the multi-colored ford ranger behind you is driving as close as possible to you, texting his road trip buddy about you, and taking pictures of your crazy, helmet-less selves, all at the same time. Sorry mom and Blanche for doing all of those things while driving. But you only drive through Oklahoma once (maybe).

Back to the eastern half of Oklahoma, its really green and really beautiful and really long. But driving today was great. Definitely the best day driving so far. It wasn't windy, only a few semi-trucks tried to kill us instead of all of them coming after the innocent Californians, I never got really tired. The music was good too. Started off with Steve Earle, moved on to Good Old War, the Gaslight Anthem, Johnny Cougar, and finished up with more Steve Earle. Man Transcendental Blues is a damn good album. I think I could listen to it on repeat as much as I can listen to any Springsteen/Bright Eyes/Oberst album on repeat and that is really saying something as those of you who know me well will understand. Good Old War is solid and I am just getting into them. The Gaslight Anthem rocked as usual, its like listening to Springsteen's kid brother who wants to be just like his big brother when he grows up. Johnny Cougar is so hit and miss. Freedom's Road is such a bad album, so lame. I made a promise to myself to listen to whole albums and not skip any songs on this trip. Cougar gave me a reason to break that promise. The song "The Americans" is so bad its an insult to a song like "Pink Houses". However, listening to "Rain on the Scarecrow" was weird while driving through endless farmland where that song might just be reality for a few families.

Lake Eufaula is super huge. I could smell the water a few miles before the highway crossed the lake. I made sure to have the window open to really check it out. It was really brown which was weird. I'm not sure if it was a seasonal, situational, or regular thing. The Arkansas river is also really big. Somehow Shafi missed it, I guess she was too focused on the tail end of my truck haha. We got a chance to check it out again though because it runs through both Fort Smith, Arkansas and Van Buren, Arkansas.

Arkansas driving was really enjoyable. Until the Garmin lady started mixing me up. Apparently satellites and Arkansas don't mix well. I wish I had a nice old atlas sometimes instead of the GPS. Shafi's phone died as we were mixed up on were to go. I assumed it had died since it was dying previously. Kind of a scary thing to have happen in Arkansas on a 2000 mile road trip. It turns out that the Garmin charger actually works for my phone which rocks because it has almost died the past two days. I left my Ipod on in my truck all night long. It was dead this morning so I thought I was going to be forced to listen to Gospel on the radio all day like Shafi. However, I ended up charging my Ipod off of my computer as I was driving. Yeah kind of dangerous but also kind of Jason Bourne-esque. But hey, I had tunes. The Super 8 that we are staying at is super nice. I would have never thought. Except the carpet in our room is constantly wet for some reason. It turns out that the only people who write hotel reviews are people who have had horrible experiences. I haven't had one.

We decided to eat at a BBQ joint, Big Al's. The website said that it was located at 4416 Towson Ave in Fort Smith (we are actually staying in Van Buren). We decided to drive through townand not on the highway in order to explore the area. Garmin got us lost again. But we got another chance to drive over the Arkansas river and at sunset! That was nice. Turns out however that Big Al's has either moved or gone out of business. So we were in the middle of Fort Smith with no idea of where we were and where we could eat. We decided to stop at a place we had seen on the way. It was Ed Walker's Drive In/French Dipped Sandwiches: http://www.yelp.com/biz/ed-walkers-drive-in-fort-smith. It was awesome. Maybe the best French dip I've ever had and I have had a few. Most recently in La Jolla and Ed Walker made that sandwich look like a prepackaged AmPm meal. Curly fries too. Or curly Q's as the waitress called them.They also refilled my unsweetened Ice Tea a bunch of times and I always dig that. The drive back to the Supa 8 was a bit weird. Garmin lady obviously took us on a strange route. We went over the river which was pitch black onto a small, small road named Dora lane (I believe). We were on it for like 5 miles in the pitch black. I'm pretty sure we were in a bayou! It was a little spooky and filled with the sound of an annoying Garmin lady on drugs. Again, Garmin and Arkansas don't get along. We finally made it back after doing a U-turn in a totally unlit gas station with a lone, brave women pumping gas. But first we got flipped off by a real Arkansan because I almost went at his turn at a 4 way stop. My bad. (But can you say, Bucket List!)

So I kind of dig Arkansas. Of course its super humid. It was 96 when we pulled in. Pretty gnarly. However, when we went out for dinner the weather was nice. Warm, a little sticky but nice in the night time. Fort Smith is way bigger then I thought it would be and has a pretty cool looking downtown area where people don't use crosswalks. It definitely feels like we are really in the south now. We might as well be at Institute in Cleveland, Miss. Tennessee/Nashville/Franklin tomorrow. Pretty exciting but pretty surreal.

So I am actually going to get off and do some TFA work right now.


P.S. Oklahoma has way to much highway construction and I forgot to tell you all about yesterday's soundtrack. It started of with Credence Clearwater Revival, then the Counting Crows (Go Bears!), Flogging Molly, some Dropkick Murphys, and then I rolled into Amarillo listening to something else but I cant recall what it was at the moment.

Friday, June 3, 2011

DAY 2 - Dying in New Mexico/Whatever it is that you do in Texas

Left Winslow today. Forgot to get a picture on the corner. Drowning my sorrows with a Lone Star. Yeah, thats right. You heard me. I'm doing Texas right. If you drink any other beer its treason, right? Haha I'm not sure what that means for people from out of state. But I'll play the part for now. If California had an official beer, I would pump it into my veins haha. Kidding.

So this morning started with filling up at a gas pump across the gas station parking lot from a truck with flames under the hood. It smelled awful, a lot like a truck on fire actually. It was a Dodge, what do you expect? Just kidding. Sorta. Bad karma, knock on wood. I have an old truck
:( . Wait before that, we showed up to breakfast late. But the concierge (if they call them that at $40 a night motels) let us eat the left overs. I had three hard-ish, mini, white powdered donuts. There was no butter to put on them though (sorry Marty Barrett). I'm not so into pancakes anymore, non-sequitur. Then we got back on I-40, our home for 4 days. It looked exactly like the previous stretch of the 40 that I drove through yesterday. The Arizona-New Mexico border is beautiful with a bunch of red rock cliffs, etc. No cave buffaloes :( or at least not any I could find. I think I found the cave though, my inner child is heart broken.

New Mexico was full of smoke (from a different forest fire), bad drivers, and "extreme wind gusts." Seriously truck drivers were out to cause chaos. It was anarchy on I-40 (possible movie title, write that down). It wasn't so bad for me but my driving buddy was harassed by semi-trucks all day long. She was cut off multiple times. Like scary cut offs. I would see her in the side mirror (I have no rear-view visibility) one second and the next moment a semi would be right where she was. I had a few five-second freak outs. In addition, there were a few weekend warriors who decided to rent giant ass trailers that they don't know how to drive. We were pinned down by two giant diesel Chevys. One had a huge fifth wheel that stood like 20 feet off the ground. It was at a constant slant because of the wind and every time a bigger gust would come the trailer and truck would blow out of its lane. This guy had a buddy who had a trailer with multiple golf carts on it. It did the same thing but the trailer was so much lighter it jumped all of the road. Did I mention that these two were driving 90 in the fast lane. We were behind them. We were scared haha. Or at least I was. I sound like a grumpy old man. I'm not saying I wasn't being bumped around by the wind. My ghetto shell made sure driving was difficult. I also made sure to text while driving (not illegal in New Mexico) to tell Shafi how bad these dudes were driving. She agreed. We ended up speeding past them just to be safe. But the semi-truck harassment didn't stop. We got that all the way into Texas.

We ate in Albuquerque after going to the world's oldest/crappiest gas station. We ate Mexican. I had 5 taquitos that were each an inch long. It was more of a snack then lunch really. The drive out of there was nice but it got boring again fast. We got a little excitement as we moved across the New Mexico-Texas border. A giant storm front was looming of the horizon. It kinda looked like we were in the movie Twister, minus an actual tornado (though as a Californian and with recent weather events, the thought did cross my mind) and Bill Paxton. On a more somber notes, In my hours of alone time today I started to dread the thought of seeing storm damage in Oklahoma/Arkansas tomorrow. I hope I don't. I could never understand what all those families are going through. We only got a few drops. It was over 90 degrees while this was going on too. I did get a nice post-rain smell coming through the air-con which was nice. For those of you who have never been in my truck at dusk, the air conditioning usually smells like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which I don't mind. For sentimental reasons, I do actually prefer the Disney scent.

I think every driver knows how awkward it feels to pass a cop on the freeway. But when a Texas state trooper is driving 40 on the freeway, I think it is appropriate. Plus, theres strength in numbers and we all did it together. Even the single most annoying semi-truck of the day joined in (he was just vindictive just because we passed him).

Who knew that there were ranches in Texas who's driveways come up to the highway. It must be pretty terrifying to drive out of there.

Well, we got to Amarillo. Its not a huge town. But for what its worth, it is really long haha. No joke. It looks like this place had a boom in the early 80's but has stayed the same since. I'm not one to judge, so far I have enjoyed it a lot.

On the way to our motel (which rocks, http://www.bigtexan.com/motel.html), I drove the wrong way on a wrong way street for the second time in two days. I am embarrassed. I have never done it in my life. But seriously, these were weird one way streets. They shouldn't have been one way roads. Any city planners (Hayley) reading this should study up on why Winslow and Amarillo have dumb one way streets. After I found the way to the hotel after Garmin led me astray and Shafi's phone died, we walked into our hotel room straight out of 1800's Texas. Yeah tonight I will be sleeping under a cow print comforter, behind wooden shutters, underneath posters of Jesse James, some Native American guy, and Zach Galifianakis combined with a Belushi brother eating with some cowboys from the 1950's. That was confusing. I will take some photos for "ya'll".

As of now, we are sitting in the Big Texan Steakhouse Bar, using free WiFi. We are the only ones, pshhhh Californians haha. I am enjoying the sounds of one of those Disneyland style shooting ranges that is located conveniently 3 feet to my left. Yeah we don't have internet in our room because I am a nerd who isn't clear when making hotel reservations (but they weren't clear with me either). Well, C'est la vie. You can't win 'em all. There is clapping coming from the other room which means that someone just puked while attempting to eat a 72 ounce steak in order to get it for free. They just paid to puke. Oh Texas, I might just yet fall in love with you. I'm just glad I don't have to drive through as much of the Lone Star Republic as I did last year on I-10 (but Austin does Rock, yeah the capital R was on purpose). Alright, I need to go to pretend to do my TFA work and play some slots next to a giant 14 foot stuffed bear (SEE!!! I LOVE TEXAS!!! MAYBE...).

Oh, yeah. Still drinking Lone Star. Bi-Texas-Winning!!!!!

Miss you all,


Thursday, June 2, 2011

DAY 1 - Left my heart in California

So, "When the Monitor Met the Merrimack" will be transformed into my own personal Teach for America blog for the next 2 years. Recently this little blog has been getting a little dusty. Thats all about to change. I am going to update it as much as I can as a way to keep in contact with everyone. Please keep in contact with me through the blog as well. I already miss you all (those that I left) and I want to keep you updated on me and keep myself updated on you.

I'm sure you all know that I am moving to Nashville, Tennessee to serve in Teach for America. I will be teaching high school social studies in an under-preforming school. As you can tell, I do not yet know what exactly I will be teaching and I do not know where. In time, I will figure all of that out.

Alex Hirsch reminded me today that JFK once said "A child mis-educated is a child lost." I guess thats why I am going to Nashville. A whole generation of American children are in danger of being lost. This is not there fault. It is ours. And I am going to do what little I can to right that wrong. Going to Nashville is still a big leap of faith but our world and the ills of our nation require leaps of faith. President Kennedy's brother gave a few speeches as well and in one particular address he argued that "this world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease." I am young and I do possess as well as hold dear these qualities of youth. It is this state of mind, temper of the will, imagination, courage (I hope), and love of adventure that gave me the motivation and strength to take up such a task. In retrospect this paragraph seems kind of self congratulatory but I promise thats not what I meant it to be.

Well today is Day 1. 511 miles. I left home (Menifee, CA), my mom, my sisters, my best friend/other half, and my senior citizen but still puppy at heart Blondie. I am driving to Nashville in the blue ranger with a new, kinda ghetto, mismatched shell filled with all of my belongings. I am caravaning with a friend from Berkeley who is going to Nashville to teach just like me. Today took me all the way to Winslow, AZ. I have yet to stand on a corner but that will happen in the morning. Today took me from the state I love and will forever call home to the middle of the Arizona desert. I drove past accidents, meteor crater, and a giant natural gas blue flame geyser (haha). I drove through a tumbleweed tornado and a forest fire. Pretty exciting day. Except I was all alone in my truck for 8 hours. I listened to Yellowcard all the way out of California, then Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros almost put me to sleep but Elton John brought me back to life.

Well I am really exhausted and am going to get to bed. Hopefully I can update this thing everyday. That would be perfect, even if a post or two are rather short. I will be busy so bear with me. See you tomorrow.


P.S. I really want to go to http://www.bearizona.com/ one day. Its like Jurassic Park but with bears haha.

Saturday, May 29, 2010