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Bad tempered or surly person.
“curmudgeon” brought to us by someone who is neither. Our thanks to Miss Chris, marketing maven, mom to Betty Dog, possessor of a wicked wit. Miss Chris has, on an occasion, been known to make a sardonic quip. Or two.
“Tomorrow will be better!” proclaimed the poster hung between pockmarked bulletin boards on the wall of our senior year AP English class, pith-helmeted cartoon explorer hacking his way through a crudely illustrated jungle, disproportionate hand raise in optimistic, premature triumph.
The poster annoyed me as much as the class.
She was a scab, our Senior Year AP English teacher, crossed picket lines to protect her pension, grumbled the strike would prevent us all from graduating, berated those of us demonstrating with the teachers’ union, but her real offense was rendering literature dull.
After the prior year’s heady classes with Mrs. Rodgers, who introduced literature with ferocious passion, inflamed debate, butted heads with principals and school boards to defend our right to read The Catcher in the Rye, Mrs. _________ paled in comparison on better days, droned beyond dull for most.
Our final year as high school students coincided with her last year as a high school English teacher. A toss-up as to which party was more anxious for May.
Teetering on the edge of irrelevance, she taught from behind her desk, avoided our eyes as much as we did hers. Having just been inducted into the secret society of symbolism, handed the keys to unlocking allusion, challenged to excavate layers of meaning, we now found ourselves returned to prosaic ground. We discussed syntax, or plot. We meandered in a literary land bereft of magic.
My papers — accustomed to ebullient teacher comments in purple pen — were returned with red circles denoting grammar infractions, or simply a grade.
There were times I sensed a sly humor behind that poster, but a glance at her sagging mouth disabused me of any such notion. I caught myself sighing in unison with her. “Tomorrow will be better!”
That poster exhausted me.
One particular morning, after a late night because a gang of fraternity guys barreled in moments from closing and ordered everything on our fast food menu so we had to re-start the fryer and re-clean the burger slide and re-fill ketchup bottles, after getting home to find Baby Brother “forgot” to make next-day lunches for the younger kids, after jamming through another English paper until the wee hours, an extra-early morning as I was designated carpool driver only to arrive at each pick-up to discover they decided to take their own car and “forgot” to call me, after a McDonald’s drive-thru Diet Coke and a furious cigarette for breakfast, followed by a queasy First Period Trigonometry class during which the teacher’s three-blackboards-full proof proved incorrect and she stood stupefied until the bell rang, after a frustrated conference with my guidance counselor advocating for Ivy Leagues as though my parents could afford or would allow, after walking by a knot of whispering girls convinced their wrathful eyes were directed at me, I sat in that non-class, stared at that stupid poster, chewed the top of my Bic pen to plastic mush, drew heavy cross-hatched lines in my notebook until the paper tore, and wrote my first (only) poem:
Tomorrow Will Be Better
so they say.
The Good Old Days are far behind.
It makes one tired to think
that today was once tomorrow
which will, of course,
The Best of Times.
Winding my way downtown from Javits Convention Center — site of a jam-packed Book Expo America — I found myself wandering by Chelsea hotspot Tipsy Parson and thought writing “curmudgeon” with an Old Fashioned was a tasty idea.. Tipsy Parson also serves some snackalicious treats (I recommend the Deviled Eggs and for the dietary-restricted, their Vegan/GF Biscuit with Bacon-Maple Jam). If I had been truly thematic this week, would have edited at Cafe Grumpy a few blocks over, but the weather was too delicious to resist writing in one of the “secret” East Village Community Gardens.
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