Friday, February 20, 2004

Letter to Whitman McGowan, Math Rant Night Before the CBEST Test

Letter to Whitman McGowan: a Math Rant, Night Before the CBEST Test

Hey Blue Dawgge,

As ever I am amazed by your steadfastness....bravo on CD & all the gigs...

I really wish I could see youse all tonight at Cafe Amsterdam. I was also invited to see a play, Helen of Troy...but alas I have a CBEST test in the morning (math which I've already failed once; I aced the writing, a dyslexic writer, I coulda passed the whole test on my writing ability alone but Noooo, I need to pass each section) the test which tests my anxiety over math, not my ability. 

It's not about logic. They're nuts asking stupid, illogical questions...splitting hairs or maybe atoms. They're the ones inventing the next wave of dumbass teachers and we wonder why our schools are so bad? If you pass the CBEST, congratulations, you're teacher material or maybe even George Bush material. And you know where that leads to. So I keep failing the practice test by a few points...

I even went to a tutor and made amazing inroads, I learned several years' worth of math literally in days, with a 95% accuracy rate—circumference, volume, equations, you name it...I even taught myself beginning algebra. My head hurts constantly: geometry hurts above the ears, algebra at the back of the head, and volume/area, the top of the head...I should be in a MRI scanner while doing math, my head is melting, no, exploding.

I have been doing math 6 hours a day for a week, I dream in mathematical symbols & equations. I even took the 12th grade math exit exam...& passed w/ flying colors (w/ exception of higher algebra which I got 100% wrong). It's all about decoding language. I haven't yet found the key, the Rosetta Stone.

I've studied dead languages. I can translate from the archaic Irish. I can tell you of the battles of Fergus and Cu Chullain, the Hound of Ulster and of Medbh's arrogant pride. Or of Pryderi's follies, the one who knew for naught, in medieval Welsh.

But I can't pass the fucking CBEST so I can't substitute teach in the schools...and artist in residency programs are up shytecreek, thanks to Bush & team. In other words, I'm broke, outa work for way too long (any leads?) first time in 20 years, and I'd really rather come hang with youse guys but am feeling positively homicidal (a side effect of doing math—why the fuck they want to test us with dumbass trick questions, they don't even want the answers...the most senseless hurdlejumping I have ever done, otherwise why would I be doing this to myself in the first place, worse than Soviet bureaucracy and I speak from personal experience there too...)

So I'm wondering what patron saints to invoke tomorrow morning, maybe you, maybe Helen of Troy, I mean I can't take this too seriously, right? You guys are the doctors of irreverence. And then I thought of my second cousin, Marie Walsh, the one who died of cancer, right? I mean, she qualifies.

I come from a family of geniuses. OK, so they're all whacked, eccentric. But brilliant. My mother's ghosts: her father taught himself algebra, read at the speed of sight. He left her with other genes more insidious, the random Foresight upsetting the linear logic of the present. I can even tell you the words for it in several dead Celtic languages.

And her cousin, Marie, the math genius, was whisked away out of high school, she had the highest math scores in the state of Nevada, my family didn't know where she was but she had all these weird addresses: Los Alamos, Alamagordo, White Sands, Oak RIdge. We never saw her, only occasional post cards. 

My grandmother said as a child she was like a little angel, always worried someone was going to blame her. Saying I'm a good girl. I'm a good girl. Really I am. Maybe it was the Foresight having its way with her. They say Julia, her eedjit cousin, still haunts the International Cafe in Austin. She makes coffee for the unexpected travelers from the other side.

Wooden horses aside, ask Helen about those names. Helen was my mother's middle name. That expains a lot. Ask her why my cousin lived so long in secret in the desert heart of New Mexico and we had to wait until her death to find out the code names. 

Say it: Manhattan Project. Say it: the Age of Light. Say it: fusion/fission. Say it. Fat Man, Little Boy. Big Bertha. Mea maxima culpea. 

She died for it, she died for it, the equations glowing in the dark like star patterns in the geometric vortex of the sky. The dark cancer growing in exponentials, growing toward the light. The white desert sands of Alamagordo melting into kryptonite at her feet. Emerald green like her lost homeland, her lost blessed isle of green. No Superman to save her. Just her fate. All the pure numbers and equations dancing in her head.

Just let me pass the fucking test!


PS Tell Gary I miss long is he here for?

(And so I did).

Dear Hurley,

Yeow, I am way behind in some emails!  I'm sorry, you asked me at the bottom how long Gary was around and I didn't read that in time before he left for San Jose or something.

I hope things are turning better for you, I really do.  Have ye a paddle at least by now?  Are you clinging to a branch about to go over the falls?  I hope not.  C'mon you genius descended of geniuses, you will think of something.

I've got a buddhist name now so I can probably burn the candles of least three religions for you now: Christian, heathen or buddhist. First I was an alter boy, then a born again nutter, then I went in a couple of other directions. I was made an honorary Druid the day I met your Mom and now I am Trungpa Bumbleshe, according to my minister friend, as of yesterday!  Now all we need is a power outage.  I forgot to tell you I'm part Scottish?

You missed a rather poor showing by moi in Marin. Gary and Margery were good, but I am not a great team poet, and the group presentation has a different set of problems than a solo set.  I guess I wasn't as into it as I should have been and I didn't like being a part of a sideshow of a three ring circus.  The rest of the show was pretty good, a jazz band and a human beat box, not to mention a balloon lady, a magician and a poetry slam, which was kinda of cool, kind of lame.  But it took forever and the service sucked.

If I owned Cafe Amsterdam I would hire some extra help and sell a thousand drinks. Nobody came to our table for two hours. It was kind of stressful, not knowing why I was waiting to be told to cut our set short, playing the poetry fool, paying for my dinner and dying of thirst at the same time.Had a couple of real good session since then, so I'm over it now. But enuf about me!

Are you okay?  Are you dancing barefoot because you passed the test?  Are you cutting yourself because your cousin helped blow up some atoms?  Your mind, is it still full?  Your body, is it all systems go, in harmony with itself, healing you?  You were going a mile a minute when crammed full of info for the test; do you have a brain chock full to the brim with something tonight?

I think I may take a bubble bath now, and I suggest you do the same.

Whitnaked "T.B." McGod, Doctor of Irreverence

Dr. EyeReverence,

Well burning candles at both ends leads to a hot arse, but at three ends? What does that lead to, Trungpa Bumpershoot? T.B.rolly in the bath with bubbles? How does that affect the outcome of luck, good, or otherwise?

I already knew about the Scottish bits...probably one of the first things out of your mouth when I first met you... It was the blue woad thang.... I'm trying to remember when/were that was? Do you? Was it thru Gary at that place on Roblar Road in Cotati-Petaluma? I remember later, being surprised that you knew my ma. She moved in exquisite, if torturous circles.

I haven't much felt like performing ever since the car accident with fucking Verona Seiter nearly 7 years ago!!! I think I tried to perform too soon after, I remember gettting sick, throwing up, the shakes, my pain threshold overmaxed and absolutely no reserves. My candle at both ends was very nearly snuffed out, now it's only lit at one end these days...yo pienso que si pero...

I still get back spasm from stupid stuff, probably from sleeping wrong, spent Mon/ Tues (last fortnight) in amped pain module trying to break spasm with Flexeril. Genius? stupid as a fish comes to mind.

Cafe A'dam sounds like a 3-ring poetry-circus.  And a dry one at that.

May 9 I'm off to Miami to perform with world-class pianist duo Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales, from the Unconservatory. I wrote a suite of poems as Kirk was composing them: 12 nocturnes, Elemental Portraits of Sonoma Co. musicians. 

I used to lay under the piano and freewrite as he tried out riffs, read from his dreambook, etc, then wrote, and then I interviewed the people. Wove the story around them. We were going on the road when the accident happened, with a punctured lung, I literally had no breath by which to read.... 

They moved to Miami (bigfish/mudpuddle syndrome; Mari's family is Cuban--she missed them) and enroute, they got sorta famous. Played at the Kennedy Center. So, we're resurrecting the old show (vs saw?) for da SnowBirds and Republican JebBush supporters. Oughta be real interesting.

And yes, I passed the effing CBEST math test with 18 points to spare (55 out of a total of 80; 37 was passing) and no, I can't remember much of what I learned other than E=mc2 but I already knew that fission/fusion thang. We're having a rare Walsh clan gathering in Santa Rosa June 27. Home Ranch & Marie Walsh will be invoked at one point or another.

I got a few CPITS gigs in Fremont, Healdsburg, and a YABA gig in Clayton so I'm spread pretty thin, I'm working but earning diddlysquat and resenting the shit outa the govt thang, etc...fuck taxes, the irs, etc....

Other than that, all quiet on the western front. We're still on spring break. More like broken spring for me with the rental manager hanging me up for days on end while fixing the sink (it was literally falling thru the counter) and he took apart every faucet in the house, while painting the closets with sealer as the roof leaked, and ALL my clothes & things are mouldy. 

I won't mention the mondo moth attack. Well, I needed to downsize and get rid of sweaters (the past) anyway. I had to wash every stitch of clothing and the dryer isn't working right. Talk about being the Irish washerwoman! I've wet clothes everywhere.

And last week, the ONE day I left my silk painting manuscripts out of the portfolio, leaning against the piano bench--as I was scanning them--and I wanted to redo them--I went off to teach a class in Healdsburg and when I came back they were all wet!!! The ceiling had to leak in that one spot in the whole house. Luckily, they're covered with visquine but the mats got wet and I was afraid of migration...not one color shift. I must've used fixer in the dye with them, thank gawdess!! I had to spread them out all through the house to dry.

I'm borrowing a digital camera (from my aunt) and I'm having a blast taking pix of flowers, cats, etc. I was worried about not having the software, drivers, etc., for it, and of course, I couldn't find Toshiba drivers for it, but it showed up anyway on my elder Mac's (8.6) USB card, like a little itty-bitty hard drive. I was so thrilled! Now I can document my art work after all these years.

Neil returned home Friday from Scotland last night reeking of cigarette smoke, (his mum is a chimney) and I'm so allergic it's not funny, so now his clothes are all outside as well...what a time for the dryer to break!

About the Scots, to avoid Longshanks (Braveheart comment), Neil got inducted into the Caledonian Club...they put on the Highland Games, oldest in the nation I gotta be Scots born AND male!!! we went to the Tartan Ball...I just don't DO that sort of put on a dress, nylons (hose) I refused at that...let the men do that, skirts, I mean, not hose unless they really want to.... Anyway, they were toasting this and that...And I about gargled when they toasted "our dear President Bush," the office, yes, but NOT the man. Needless to say, the mayor of Pleasanton (where the Games are held), my tablemate and  I abstained from toasting.

I thought I was in for a right torturous dour evening, until about the 10th toast, when they shed their wee dour selves and the party began!!! ... isn't there something, say, a nice medium between dour and stroppy/ lunatics? Anyway, it really did take them the entire evening to warm their cockles, the real party or should I say, ceildhe, began in someone's hotel room after midnight, with Neil on the guitar and all these drunken Scots caber-catching themselves in kilts...mine wasn't the only stray hand feeling the underside pleat job. And hotel security (Airport Hilton) coming in to join the fun or to shush us up...was it the snare drums or the pipes someone had the audacity to complain about???

Hmm, forget the bubblebath, the sun's out. I must flog my man around the lake (Merritt) if he's to shift his circadian clock from Scottish time...


PS I sent rhiannon your Colorado gigs, you may want to follow up.


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