A Bountiful Day; But, Somethin’s Nigglin’ Here

A Bountiful Day; But, Somethin’s Nigglin’ Here

My horoscope read, “You need a pick-me-up. Take a day trip that will lift your spirits. Make plans to have fun with someone who makes you smile.”  Doesn’t make a lot of sense because I’m ALWAYS having fun and smiling.  But this is what I did in response.

I accepted a job subbing at my sons’ former high school. Period one was a prep; I didn’t have to show up ‘til 0900.  Periods two and three were intro to film.  The kids watched and took notes. I sat in a big leather swivel chair and enjoyed Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Period four was English in which the kids are studying The Catcher in the Rye. I could have lectured them on Salinger, talked to them about themes, motifs and symbols; but, this was NGHS. The kids were prepared. They had read the text and were busy writing paragraphs with no additional input necessary.  Then I had lunch. Periods five and six were senior English. Most of the seniors attended the off-campus day at an amusement park. The four who didn’t, two in each period, shared their “after high school” dreams with me.  Nice.

All day, something was nigglin’ at the back of my mind. I chalked it up to forgetting to put on my earrings this morning.

After school I picked up a book that was on hold at the library and continued on to Swan’s Fine Books where they launched  Leslie Rupley’s book Beyond the Silk Mills. I met Leslie several years ago in a writing class taught by physicist/mystery writer Camille Minichino.  I was an early reader of Leslie’s historical novel and excited to see it in print.

Yet, somethin’ was still nigglin’ at me.  The missing earrings?

Then it was off to San Francisco on BART. The train ride gave me plenty of time to continue reading Leila Ahmed’s A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America in anticipation of the November meeting of the National Endowment for the Humanities grant for “Muslim Journeys,” the program in which I am participating.  Still, somethin’ niggled.

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear”                                                                                       Could it be cuz there’s nothin’ danglin’ from my ear?

The purpose of the train ride to San Francisco was to take advantage of a free reading by, and interview of, the prolific Irish writer and professor Colm Tóibín. It was a magical hour in the beautiful and historic Geary Theater. Tóibín read from Nora Webster (oh, I wish he spelled it with an h as my mother, Norah Lennon). Cary Perloff  interviewed him afterwards—both the reading and interview caviar for those who love language. Yet somethin’ niggled…

Afterwards as I sat on the round cement bench at the Powell Street BART station at 830 PM waiting for my train home, I reflected on the bountiful day I had.  I earned a little easy money to help finance playtime for this Boomer.  I went to the free library to pick up a newly-released book by a best-selling author.  I went to a book launch where I spent a bit of the money I earned and ate free cookies (cudda had wine, too). I used my senior discount on the train to attend a free event featuring a world-famous author. Yet, somethin’ still niggled.

“We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”

I looked down to admire the woven pattern of bricks in the BART station. That’s where I found the answer to what was nigglin’.  It wasn’t the lack of earrings. I WAS WEARING TWO DIFFERENT SHOES!

We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term “Baby Boomer” and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine “Old.” The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would “grow older, losing our hair, many years from now” arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.  But sometimes we gotta pay better attention when we get dressed in the mornin’ or it will drive us cuckoo all day.

Ye Gads; There’s a Roman God of Shit!

Ye Gads; There’s a Roman God of Shit

This weekend this Baby Boomer experimented with a new method to live a bountiful life on a bargain basement budget— ushering. Humanities West held a two-session seminar titled, “The Roman Republic (509-27 BCE).”  I have long wished to attend their events; however, the cost stopped me.  A friend sent me the e-mail for the volunteer coordinator who was desperately seeking help.  I traded ushering for the price of admission.  Sweet.

Humanities West holds its talks in the theater at the beautiful Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco.  It was an easy gig, especially for someone who spent a lot of years telling people where to go.  I think I’m referring to my years of directing passengers to their seats on jumbo jets—but maybe not. The volunteer job was from 615-9 on Friday night and from 9 to 4:00 on Saturday (with an hour lunch to walk around the city that many people around the world claim as their favorite).  Doors opened 30 minutes before the start of each session. We handed out programs and seated people until a few minutes into the talks. The rest of the time, we sat and enjoyed the seminar.

On Friday night, an  Austrian, Walter Scheidel (Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History, Chair, Department of Classics at Stanford, Catherine R. Kennedy and Daniel L. Grossman Fellow in Human Biology) gave the keynote speech, “City-State, Republic, Empire: What was the Roman Republic Really Like?” The evening ended with a raucous, lewd version of Plautus’ “Casina” performed by a group of students from Stanford’s classics department.

Saturday, Dr. Lisa Pieraccini, who is currently at Cal and whose specialties include Etruscan and Roman Art and Archaeology; Wall Painting; Reception; Funerary Archaeology, spoke on “Art of the Roman Republic.” The German Christopher Krebs who is Associate Professor of Classics at Stanford spoke about rhetoric in his talk “Cicero: Eloquence Personified Then and Now,” comparing Bill Clinton and Barack Obama to Pericles, Cicero and Tacitus (I knew I wasn’t crazy when I told my students that!). Susanna Braund has taught all over; her CV is extensive. Today she came to San Francisco to deliver a great lecture on “Virgil through the Looking Glass.”

But what about the god of shit?  Dan-El Padilla Peralta, doctoral candidate in classics at Stanford, lectured on “The Religious Republic: How Did Romans Worship Their Gods?”  Today I learned what the kids who watch Beavis and Butthead already know. Stercus is the Roman word for fertilizer ; the god’s name is Sterculius. Among the facts his research uncovered, Dan-El found that some Romans felt humans shouldn’t eat beans. He told us his perception of the real reason they espoused that theory.  Teen-age boys would love to hear that! (Now I KNOW I’m spending too much time subbing in high schools).

I learned from other ushers that the opera, ballet and large theaters require a certain number of volunteer commitments for each show in a run.  Humanities West holds two-day seminars and ushers can volunteer for one day or two.  I put myself on their list and hope they will use me again.  Ushering at Humanities West fulfills my wish to live a bountiful life at bargain basement prices. I also found a few giggles in the academic environment.

We didn’t know that Landon Jones would coin the term “Baby Boomer” and explore our lives in a book, Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation, but we always knew our generation would redefine “Old.” The time when Paul McCartney suggested we would “grow older, losing our hair, many years from now” arrived. We want to make the most of our days; we want to live a bountiful life.