So I agreed , but reluctantly , to go to a retirement party on the condition that we just stop in , say hello , visit for a few minutes , and go . I would see some people from the past , from the middle school where I worked for 18 years . I left there ten years ago . Some of the old-timers are still hanging on .
Our friend Nancy gave little congratulatory speeches for each of the three retirees . Anne Marie approached me right after I arrived . The shindig was held at an upscale Mexican restaurant on Silver Lake Boulevard . It was tucked away on a stretch of the busy street where I was under the impression there was nothing but worn out clapboard houses from the 1920s , Mom’s Chinese Food and Donuts , and a mortuary .
The place was pretty nice . The food looked good but I wasn’t there to eat . I ordered a nine dollar drink and joined the party . Nine dollars is more than I pay for drinks , but , well , once in a while I guess that I should live a little . I don’t hang out at bars , so maybe that’s the going price for mixed drinks these days .
Beers , once upon a time , were 35 cents in bars . Michelob was special , though . It was 65 cents . Pitchers of beer were three dollars at Shakeys . Well , maybe they still are ; but I doubt it .
Anyway . Let’s discuss bars another time . I carried my nine dollar black russian into the dining room where most people from the retirement party were sitting . A friend of mine from the old days , a big guy , walked over and gave me a big hug . He had been my mentor teacher once upon a time . That’s another story , too , best saved for another day . So I was putting my drink down on a marble sideboard when I saw the hug coming and somehow the glass tumbled . The nine dollars of vodka and Kaulua spilled out three minutes after I got it onto the amber -colored marble surface like blood gushing from a belly wound .
Someone reached over to wipe up the liquid before it slid its way along the slick surface and dripped onto someone’s back . ” It’s o.k. ; it’s just coke ,” someone announced . I didn’t say that it’s my nine dollar drink escaping . I took the spill as a direct message from God : You don’t need that drink , boy ! There are people suffering in the world , hungry people , and poor , who could have better used that nine dollars . Nine dollars plus tip . (And God was right .)
I saw a guy who was a pretty good friend of mine when we were both teaching . But back then , when I became a dean , he turned on me instantly . I was instant enemy . Just stir . I should write a post some fine day about that silly stuff . One day I will . There were two of those guys , now that I’m thinking of it , who changed attitudes as soon as I became dean . At least this guy at the retirement party didn’t write nasty memos to and about me as I was trying to do my dean job . The other one did . This guy just complained continuously to principals and assistant principals that I wasn’t doing a good job . Continuously I mean , too ; not simply continually . Each and every day . He complained about the principals and assistant principals , too , by the way , so I wasn’t taking it personally . But it was annoying .
So I approached this guy at the retirement party and greeted him from across the table . He was sitting with his wife , now and for a long time a principal at a school in another school district . She liked me too , once , when we worked at the same school . But , eventually , she adapted to and adopted the hubby-to-be’s intolerant attitudes . A common theme with them at the time was that this kid , and that kid , and this that these and those kids should be suspended . Example : Student X had been told to tuck in his shirt . He did so but then , later , pulled the shirt tails out again . That’s defiance . A student should be suspended for defiance . Blah . Blah . And the deans are not doing their jobs . Blah. Blah . And Mr. Hennessy is ignoring my referrals . Blah . Blah .
Fairly recently the Superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District outlawed suspensions for defiance . Idiotic. Idiotic. Idiotic . Guys like the one I mentioned , Mr. Suspension is THE ANSWER , weren’t deans . They weren’t APs dealing with discipline . Life is a touch more complex than expecting a suspension to solve behavior problems . The deans and APs I knew didn’t suspend for frivolous reasons. But I heard the Superintendent on the radio defend his new don’t suspend for defiance policy by saying , disingenuously , that students were being suspended for such things as not tucking in their shirts . No , no . Only in Mr. Suspension is THE ANSWER’s dreams .
And therein , we have our education irony for today . But , that’s not really my story . Let’s save the suspension/discipline thing for another day .
My story is this : I greet this guy and his wife . Haven’t seen them in ten years . Used to be friends . He said hello to me as if he had taken too much Xanax . His wife seemed to want to offer a more enthusiastic hello but she quickly settled back in line with old sour puss . That cold reception from the two of them I have to say surprised me . I mentioned it to Ada at least a couple of times .
Maybe the Superintendent’s new no suspensions for defiance rule had got old sourpuss down . Maybe the school , where he has continued to teach all these years , had beaten him to a pulp and torn the heart out of him . Perhaps his personal spark igniter had burnt out . I had a feeling, sadly , that this was the new -standard him ; had probably been him for years . He used to regularly wear a smile , had a little skip in his step , and often expressed some hope for a better future . Maybe his future had arrived and it hadn’t been the one he’d expected .
Whatever . He made a bad impression on me . I’m not going to share my good humor with him ; he’s too negative ; he won’t bring any oomph to my merriment . He looked like he’d wrapped up all of the joy within him in a 3 mil plastic sack , tied it tightly , and dumped it in the garbage . I suspect that he , at some point , realized that it wasn’t only the dean who wasn’t doing his job , but it’s every other soul in the world except for him who aren’t doing their jobs either . That must be depressing .