GIRLS ON RADIATORS
for everyone in the photograph
I happen to think there is very little to say about writing
except hug life and learn to live for it. Dialogue will be there.
I visited 20 years at a girls school from the late 70s to late 90s.
I could point to you just the time, the girl, the hour, when I saw
Reagan ruin America. When America decided not to listen to
Jimmy Carter and instead listen to a gimpy actor. Downhill.
I was coming into the school for two months of the year when
my work load for money was lean and mean (winter). I was splitting
wood across town for an elderly couple for those same 20 winters.
Carson born and raised. In the summer months I did the gardens
for the elderly couple. They left me cash under a tea cup in the
kitchen without fail, my paycheck. At the school I was hired to
help out our nearest neighbor at the time, a half mile down river,
who had no idea how to teach poetry (and that was because she was
trying to teach it). I was building a stonewall for her and her husband,
they had Sweetheart and me in one evening after work for supper. She shared
her plight. Her husband said, "Why don't you ask Bob if he can help?"
She said if I would visit the school with her she'd pay me her class pay
that day, $9. In 1979 $9 was $9. It still is. I sold 25 LPs and 5 CDs
yesterday for $54 cash-in-hand. Took Sweetheart out to lunch. When I drove
down to the school with my neighbor I met the kids and the kids met me.
Yes, a little wildfire rippled through the joint, this guy with ponytail and
big beard. The head of the English dept. came for a look, sleek boots,
technical skills, no literary lust. It turns out she was leaving and an
older and jolly sage was taking over. She came for a look, sat right in,
eyes sparkled and she laughed. I was hired for years to come. Not much
official academic decorum in my background, nor driver's lic. Dress the part
(black jeans, nice shirt, vest, boots) and I shot baskets in the gym for the next
20 years in my 1 hour break after lunch, always with the girls. Great games.
This is where I brought in the jocks who "hated poetry". My afternoon writing
session of young writers was crammed to the windows. Girls on radiators. All my
poetry books were bought by teenage girls. What can I say? We laughed a lot.
photo courtesy Bob & Susan Arnold: Friends & family together ~ Susan Arnold, Carson Arnold, Bob Arnold, Janine Pommy Vega, James Koller, 1995