Friday, May 15, 2009
Finally, a picture!
I took the picture above last night, looking out from behind the Gym into Golden Gate Park. It doesn't really capture how ethereal and beautiful the swirling fog was, but it's the best that I could do. It was warm and sunny and summery in Palo Alto, but in San Francisco (and in the mountains) it was cool and foggy (which I guess is "summery" for San Francisco and the mountains, but I still have trouble getting used to that concept).
At class, I learned the "no-hands wheeldown" which would be great except for the fact that the more I roll down, the tighter the silks get around my waist until (after only two turns, lame!) I can't breathe. I asked Monica about that, and I think that it's something with how I'm rolling, but I'm not sure. In the morning, I went to the "intermediate" gymnastics class, and went so far as to do a front handspring. Which I was pretty happy with, especially since I haven't done any tumbling for about a year. Also worked on presses; I can almost do them. My goals for the end of the quarter: a front handspring that isn't a full stop (maybe front handspring into roundoff or something) and a press. It's not a long time, or I would be more ambitious. The coach is chill and friendly, the people are goofy, and in general it's a fun time. The gym is amazing; of course all of the apparati (sp?) (and a full-sized spring floor), but also pits for all of the apparati. Which is awesome for learning new things (front handspring from tumble-track into a pit was not something I was in the least bit afraid of, although if scrambling awkwardly out of said pit looked half as ridiculous as it felt, well, I'm sure I'd make a good clown). Plus it's fun.
Had an interesting conversation yesterday. People were talking about learning to read, and remembering learning to read in the first grade. These were brilliant people -- five PhD students and one tenured faculty member. And they all remembered learning to read in the first grade. They were puzzled why anyone would want to teach a kindergartener how to read; kindergarten, they proclaimed, was about cutting things out and pasting them, play time and naps. I, by some strange quirk of fate or UChicago-educated parents, was reading chapter-books by that time (bad ones; the Oz series mostly, but chapter-books nonetheless). I can't remember a time before I knew how to read; two of my first memories are of trading books with the neighbors, and reading the words to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for a talent show (according to my mother, no one believed I could read then, either, but I didn't notice). I remember the librarian in my Maryland elementary school remarking upon my predilection for bad young adult novels when I was in kindergarten -- you don't want to read those, they're boring and they're at a fifth grade reading level. And my response that I knew what I liked and I wanted to read those. (I guess some things never change, I still have a predilection for fluffy young adult novels, although I intersperse them with "literature" which, as I see it, is the same thing but either with a larger vocabulary, more sex, more philosophy or -- if you're really lucky -- better writing.)
I just find it so strange to think about even a five-year-old kid not knowing how to read. All the stories they're missing out on, all the adventures they could be dreaming of that they aren't, because they don't know how to read. I guess part of that is peculiar to me -- I have always been a storyteller (and I still am, even my science I think of as a logic puzzle and a story waiting to be discovered). I define myself by the stories I know and the stories I tell. To me, before I could read, I wasn't really a person in a way; I couldn't access this vast history of human stories. If that makes any sense at all. I'm not sure it does.
Of course, when I said, quietly, that I could read before kindergarten, and that I was reading the Oz novels in kindergarten, my friends' response was (I guess predictably), "Why am I not surprised?"
I told the story of my brother organizing his friends and dividing the labor of writing/drawing/coloring for writer's workshop, to defuse the situation. It's a funny story, and very Kevin. I know only two things that I wrote in the kindergarten, and I remember them only second-hand: first, a confession that I was angry my brother got moved out of the daycare because he threw a temper tantrum, whereas I had no such choice in the matter (it sparked a parent-teacher conference, I think) and second, the treacherously naive statement: "The world would be a better place if Bill Clinton was President."
It wasn't until first grade that I started writing the beginning of the same story every day. But that has lasted for almost seventeen years so far. Maybe one day I'll finish that story; but then I'd have to find a new one, and that would be terrifying.