Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Better Than Juice Boxes & Catch Phrase

Natalie Goldberg once said, “Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.” After one of the most stressful times of my life last week (second to the week I had to finish a mammoth seminar paper on William Blake my senior year of college. Well, to be more accurate, that was more like THREE weeks of unvarying stress. I felt like I was passing a kidney stone for 500 consecutive hours. This particular kidney stone ended up being about 28 pages long and earned me a B. I never want to see an engraving from “Songs of Innocence and Experience” ever again, not even if they were being held in between Lindsay Lohan’s freckled, yet firm, bare breasts. Actually, don’t quote me on that), I took Ms. Goldberg’s advice and fully enjoyed my holiday weekend. Granted, I spent some of it grading finals and planning for the start of second semester, but for the most part I just went into Profound Relaxation Mode. It was inspired, really.

To begin the weekend, my beloved Amy and I ventured to Champaign, IL (home to the undefeated Fightin’ Illini basketball team, but more importantly, home to Edward Harter), where we were to watch the Harlem Globetrotters at Assembly Hall. I’ve wanted to attend one of these games ever since I was a lanky 5’11”, 120-pound 7th grader. Now that I’m a more sturdy 5’11”, 175-pound English teacher, I finally am able to see this dream come to life for me. The amazing thing is, Amy saw the commercials for the game and suggested we go and see it. Gentlemen: any time a woman, who you believe to be special, suggests attending a sporting event WITHOUT any sort of hint or suggestion on your behalf, is a woman that you need to keep very close to you, even if that means tying a rope around her waist that is attached to one of your belt loops. It’s not a leash, per se, but a “Harness of Ever-Binding Love.”

So, with Amy tied to my waist, we headed for Champaign in high spirits. It…was…COLD! It made my goosebumps wish they had flown south for winter. With the biting wind in our faces, we blindly trekked our way into the building and relished the opportunity for our body temperatures to return to normal. We wandered around a bit and got acquainted with the building and eventually took our seats, which ended up being extremely uncomfortable metal bleachers. This would have sucked royally were it not for the fact that these particular bleachers were on the FLOOR! I wish I could say that I bought courtside tickets on purpose, but it was a complete accident. I just got the seats that were the “best available” at the time (only $22.50 a piece—a steal, in my opinion), and they ended up being RIGHT behind one of the baskets and extremely close to the Globetrotter’s bench. Suddenly, I felt like that lanky 7th grader all over again, and I was ready to have FUN!

Before the game, Globey (the mascot whose head was a giant globe) was running around and spraying people with silly string. Amy was dressed to kill, so she was naturally pretty anxious about the possibility of getting a colorful gelatinous chemical sprayed on her. To protect herself, she positioned her body behind that of a small child whom she was willing to sacrifice should such a situation arise. I could do nothing but laugh because I surely couldn’t blame her. Globey did make a stop by our area, but there would be no onslaught of silly string, just some high fives to the kids sitting right in front of us. Feeling like a 12-year old, I wished I were one of them.

The game itself was particularly entertaining. The Globetrotters are made up of sub-par college stars whose skills are one-dimensional; they can either dunk OR dribble, but hardly any of them can do both. There was only one guy, “Showbiz” Jackson, that didn’t look like he was still in his 20s. He was supposed to be the star of the team, but to be honest, if you dressed him up in a tattered trench coat and stuck a bottle of whisky in his hand, you’d never be able to tell the difference between him and a homeless guy. But, like most homeless people, “Showbiz” was hilarious, and his one-liners during play (“I wish you would shoot it, you little white midget,” etc…) kept everyone in good spirits and prevented the show from slowing down too much, which it easily could have done without the man. I can’t imagine who will take on the role of the team’s Attention Addict once “Showbiz” retires or dies of old age (I truly am not sure which of these two things will happen first). For now, anyway, “Showbiz” is one of the highlights of the show.

The opposing team was made up of puny white guys who, of course, got their asses presented to them in handbags, but the funny thing was, they were actually getting ANGRY when the calls would be entirely lop-sided in the favor of the Globetrotters. There was a lot of acting on the behalf of the other team when it came to throwing the game, but the resentment shown towards referees when calls were painfully obviously wrong was totally authentic. I couldn’t help but laugh at this. It’s as if they expected the game to be called fairly! It’s kind of like the Arab nation agreeing to let us set up their government and then get angry because we won’t leave them alone to run their own “democracy.” I mean, come on! Right? RIGHT?

I paid to watch trick basketball, but Amy and I got a little bonus that we weren’t expecting. There were these African tumblers that were absolutely AMAZING. I don’t even know how to begin explaining the stunts they were throwing up. They reminded me of that part in “The Lion King” when Simba is singing “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” and all of the animals are piled on top of each other and turning around in all different directions. It was incredible. They were like Monkey Men. My favorite part was at the end when they all mistook the audiences offer for high fives as offer for high handshakes and, smiling, they shook just about everybody’s hand in the entire front row on the way out of the stadium. They looked like really happy, nice people. I bet after the show, they were planning on passing out juice boxes and playing Catch Phrase.

After the game, we spent about 20 minutes wandering around the inside perimeter of the building because we had rushed into the building so quickly to avoid the cold that we made no mental notes whatsoever as to the whereabouts of our CAR. Eventually, though, we found some familiar landmarks and got to the automobile safely. All-in-all, the night was just super damn fun. I got exactly the break I needed from school, and Amy and I got to have a nice evening away from the oft-restrictive confines of Bloomington-Normal. Earlier that day I had to say goodbye to some students that I really, really enjoyed, but that’s the way of a teacher. One semester ends and another begins. At least the stress of finals is gone (student or teacher, it doesn’t matter. Finals still suck). On tap for me this week is getting to know my new students and figuring out exactly what I’m going to do in my English For Life class all semester. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, but if things get TOO stressful, I can always just lie down.

***

Quote of the Day

Me, discussing my "getting to know you" surveys with my second semester kids: "So Lydia, you said that your celebrity dream date would be with..."
Lydia (a blonde), WAY too excited to wait for me to say it myself, interrupts: "ORLANDO BLOOM!"
Jessie, angrily and without any hesitation or pause: "Back off Barbie, he's MINE!"

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