Teaching John Steinbeck, Part 2

Lois blogsOn October 20th, 2012, I fly Jet Blue to Burbank, California.  It is a smooth flight.  After my arrival at Burbank Airport, I saunter over to the Enterprise Rent A Car people at the rent a car booth.  They try pawning off a mid-size Chevy sedan on me.  I drop my bags on the ground.  I rant.  I rave.  I demand satisfaction.

“Absolutely not.  Two weeks in a Chevy… in L.A…. driving up and down the Hollywood hills, maneuvering a tin can on the overcrowded freeways, driving the deadly Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey… in a  Chevy.  Are you kidding me?  I don’t do Chevys.  Never!  Figure out something else!”  When it comes to car rentals, I am a take charge kind of gal.  A car rental lot is possibly the only place where I do take charge.  When you are as passive as I am, it is important to take charge somewhere.  Anywhere.  I do not like confrontation… of any kind.  Confrontation upsets the neurons in my brain.  My head tightens. my pulse quickens.  I turn beet red.  It is a scary sight.

The frightened Hispanic teenager in training scans his computer.

“We might have a Volkswagen Jetta.  It’s being washed, M’am.”

Did he say m’am?  That is depressing.  “Wash it.  I’ll wait.”  I wait… forever.  Finally, the gold Jetta is mine.  Satisfaction.  I will speed through the Hollywood Hills in a snazzy car.  I will park my car with pride right underneath THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.

Lisa, my beautiful friend, greets me at the front door.

“Great car.”

“I had to fuck the rental guy to get it.”

“What’s new.”

Behind Lisa stands my lover Margot.  She took one plane.  I took another.  I do not do morning flights.  She does.  I do not do morning anything, except teach… sometimes… when it is absolutely necessary.  Those are the rules.  Anyone who knows me, or works with me realizes I mean business, but not in the morning.

Margot looks great.  She is wearing a white terry cloth  bathrobe.  She looks comfy.  Lisa is Margot’s dearest friend.  That is a long story that need not be a part of this story, except to say they have had “an intimate” history together.  I am open minded about such things. With my personal history it would be foolish to be anything but open minded.

Kathryn, Lisa’s lover stands behind Margot.  She is beautiful.  She is the perfect shiksa.  I like her.  It has taken quite awhile, but I have come to love her.  She is a friend.  Friend is an important word in my Aquarian psyche.  I do not use the word, “friend,” lightly.  Mind you, I am not a snob.  I love people, but I weed my garden well.  At my age there is only so much emotional mulch left to fertilize life’s garden.

Margot and I sneak off into our cozy Hollywood bedroom.  We snuggle.  Margot has very little  time. She must get ready.  She will attend the very exclusive Carousel Ball.  You could not pay me to get gussied up for any ball, no less The Carousel Ball.  Even though they are honoring George Clooney, I do not attend benefits unless I am under great duress, or suffer an inexorable guilt.  When it comes to benefits, I am not open minded.

I relax, take a swim in the ice cold pool, check out the beautiful Hollywood digs, turn on my iPad, go to Yelp, and search for the nearest raw food emporium.  It is right at the bottom of Beechwood Canyon.  I am ecstatic.

I love the house.  It is dreamy.  It is what a Hollywood home is meant to be; sexy, sunlit, and sublime.  The three lovely ladies get dressed up.  Kathryn and Lisa wear matching black dresses.   I do not understand the lesbian, identical twin look… unless you happen to be identical twins.

The week-end is relaxing.  I see my old friends Mark and Adrienne.  We dine at Poubelle, a lovely french restaurant next to “Raw,” the raw food restaurant that will become my home away from home.  I do not think about teaching.  I refuse to worry about the inevitable vicissitudes that will await me in the weeks to come.  There will be many.  That is the nature of traveling to, teaching in, stumbling through public schools with no money to spare.  There will be problems beyond my control.  Why ruin the week-end worrying about the inevitable?

I am happy to be with Margot, to be away from New York.  It is our twenty-fifth anniversary week.  It is a miracle to love someone for twenty-five years.  It is one of those Steinbeckian sort of miracles.  Two very unlikely characters travel through life.  They discover the world.  I am Lenny.  Margot is George.  She has given me innumerable useful survival tools.  I have given her a sense of humor.  Actually, Margot is responsible for my travels as a teaching artist.  It is her theatre company, ‘The Acting Company,’ that keeps me employed.  This is a double edged sword.  Whenever I am in front of a classroom filled with unruly, obnoxious teens, I remember who got me the job in the first place.  Fortunately, I am good at what I do.  Most of the time I am happily employed.  I am, at heart, a teenager myself.  I suffer from a deeply personal version of  adolescent angst.  I understand the teenage zeitgeist.  I understand the inner turmoil, therefore I understand and love working with teenagers.  Fortunately, I love the road.  Yes. I bitch, I complain, I even think about quitting, but I can’t.  I am dedicated to turning on teenagers at any personal cost.  That cost includes bad cars, bad food, bad motels, bad beds, bad schools, bad kids, bad sleep, but great stories.  Great stories.

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