RIP, Chadwick Boseman

I took a moment last night, before I told my wife what had happened, to hold my breath and double-check that the news of Chadwick Boseman’s death wasn’t a cruel fucking hoax. I found out on Twitter, which is where I find out when anyone dies nowadays, and it was amazing how my timeline went from whatever it’s usually about to 100% Chadwick Boseman in a matter of two or three minutes.

I don’t know what I would have said yesterday if you’d asked me how old I thought he was. I’m weird about celebrities; I tend to assume that anyone who isn’t obviously a teenager is older than me even if that doesn’t quite make sense. Chadwick Boseman was 43; a little bit over a year younger than me. And he has been battling colon cancer for basically as long as I’ve known he existed. And no one knew about it.

He had colon cancer while he was filming Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame and three or four other movies that I haven’t seen and no one knew about it. There were some recent pictures circulating where he’d clearly lost an unhealthy amount of weight; I hadn’t seen any of them, and whatever speculation might have been floating around never crossed my radar, so this was a bolt out of the blue.

It hit me harder than I might have guessed it would, and my head was all over the place to the point where I took one of my emergency Bad Brain Day pills before going to bed. Just one more way in which 2020 has been awful. This will be all my students want to talk about on Monday, too, and I feel terrible for my black students in particular, who have just had one of their genuine heroes torn away from them.

… he had cancer the whole fucking time, guys. I can’t wrap my head around that. The whole. fucking. time. And he’s younger than me. And no one even knew he was sick.

I just … I still can’t cope with it. Fuck this. Fuck cancer, and fuck 2020, and fuck cancer again.

Rest in power, sir.

Let’s start this week over

Been taking care of family stuff for the last couple of days, and between that and the fire at Notre Dame today I’m just really not in the mood for bloggery. I’d like to have my head on straight and my shit together before going into two straight weekends of conventions, so if anybody wants to invent time travel so that I can have the last couple of days back that would be super.

Instead, I’m probably gonna end up fighting with somebody on Twitter for a couple of hours. The hellsite has been hellsitier than usual today. Hooray!

A 9/11 story that isn’t mine

16813-blue-sky.jpgTrigger warning, for the obvious.

I walked out of the house this morning to a blue sky so perfect that it was awe-inducing.  There was the tiniest hint of chill in the air, and I spent all day yesterday with football on the TV near me.  It was a nearly flawless moment; it felt like fall for the first time, and fall is the one season of the year where I want to be outside.  It’s my favorite time of year, by such a wide margin that the rest of the year barely even counts.

I basked in it for a moment, and then felt really bad for one of my co-workers, for whom a perfect clear brisk blue sky on September 11 after weeks of garbage and humidity and rain and the air being fifty percent mosquito probably felt like a slap in the face.

I have a 9/11 story.  Everyone who was alive and conscious that day does.  My story’s not important anymore; it was fifteen years ago, and nothing happened to me.  There are pictures in my high school yearbook of me with someone who died on that day.  That gives me more of a claim to the day than most people have, and it gives me no claim to it at all.  I knew her, and she’s gone.  I don’t get to crow about it.  Lots of other people seem to feel differently.

That said.

I work with a New Yorker.  I’m going to call him Frank, which is a name that I associate with New York for some reason.  Frank was a Wall Street trader in a former life.  On the morning of September 11, 2001, he was having brunch with some co-workers in a restaurant on the hundredandsomethingth floor of the north tower.  The towers each had 110 floors, so he was near the very top.  A co-worker wanted a cigarette, and convinced Frank to make the long elevator ride with him to the ground floor so that he could have a smoke before they headed to work.

As his co-worker was having that cigarette, the first plane hit.  The rest of the people they were eating with never made it out.  When Frank tells this story (and he’s a storyteller, so I’ve heard it a few times) he makes a joke out of it; he says that he’s the only person on Earth who can honestly say that smoking saved his life, and he isn’t even a smoker.

Frank wasn’t at work today.  He doesn’t work on September 11th any longer.  He was at work yesterday, but he cut out early, and it was immediately obvious when I saw him in the morning that he’d taken some sort of tranquilizer or an antidepressant to make it easier to get through the day.  A few minutes after he left, I got this text message from him:


I dunno.  I’m not completely certain what the point is of me telling this story.  Like I said, it’s not mine.  I’ve led a life remarkably free from tragedy, when it comes right down to it; I have nothing that would remotely compare to what Frank went through on that day or the days after.  Life’s not a contest, of course, but it does those of us who have been fortunate quite well to be reminded once in a while of just how fortunate we have been.  And today, right now, I feel like I am among the fortunate ones.

And I hope Frank made it through the day okay, and that he’s hugging his grandson right now.

In which politicians make a good decision, plus a bunch of bullshit

ku-mediumIt has not been a good week.  I’ve been tired, sick, crabby, stressed out, and not reacting to the kids well at all, and the fact that in general they’ve had a bad week themselves has not led to anything good happening in my classroom.  We had school today; I’m still crossing my fingers that we’ll be off tomorrow morning since it’s supposed to be a bazillion below zero again, but we were open today.

A bit of good news I just discovered: the state board of education has voted to extend the testing window for the first ISTEP test by a full week and a half, which is fantastic news.  Means that all the snow/weather delays won’t kill us.  Great news.

Anyway: good news aside, shit like this doesn’t help.  I took my morning class on a bathroom break this morning.  I generally follow the boys into the bathroom because if I don’t they fuck around and make a lot of noise and generally act like assholes; once everyone’s occupied with actually doing what one would expect one to do in the bathroom, I head back into the hallway.

I discovered another student– one of mine, but not in my first and second hour class (so he was out of someone else’s room)– trying his damnedest to climb over the stall door into the handicap-accessible stall.   You read that right.  Climb over.  Which, the way our bathrooms are designed, would have required him to haul himself seven or so feet off the ground.  He is not remotely athletic enough for this task.  He’s hanging by his hands, scrabbling with his feet and trying to get purchase on the door to climb over.

My response was probably not nearly as profane as the situation deserved.  I did not ask him what in the blue fuck he thought he was doing, for example.

“The door’s locked.”

I did not ask him if he had considered that perhaps the fucking door was locked because there was a person taking a fucking shit inside the bathroom stall.  As you would fucking expect there to be if a bathroom stall was closed.  Somehow, I managed to get through that conversation without swearing or using the words “imbecile,” “moron,” “fucknut” or “halfwit.”

I don’t know how.

Later, when he was in my room, we’re going over some simple bell-ringer work.  My kids understand what factors are, and they understand how to do prime factorials, but they frequently forget what they are.  In other words, it’s an annoyingly persistent vocabulary issue and not a math issue per se.  At any rate, they’re supposed to be finding all of the factors of 36 and then doing a prime factorization of 28.  I give them a few minutes to do both, ask a couple of kids to explain what they did, correct a couple of misconceptions, and then work both of the problems on the board in a couple of different ways, emphasizing that they need to show their work for these kinds of things, even if they’re able to rattle off factors of 36 off the tops of their heads, ISTEP scoring demands that they show how they came up with their answers.

I walk past this same kid.  Note that I’ve spent five or ten minutes going over exactly how to do this shit and it’s still on the board.  Note also that the problem is on a Powerpoint projected on the board and is manifestly impossible to miss.

He has written 35 x 28 = 7 on his piece of paper and nothing else.

Again, I do not swear.  I do not ask him what in the merry fuck he is doing.

He says– and I swear to God I’m not making this up– “Oh, was I supposed to divide?”

I could have been a doctor or a lawyer, people.


The other thing that happened today was one of my girls from my second math class being pulled out of class to be told that her house had burned to the ground this morning.  There are three girls from the same family in my building; I’ve had two of them, one this year and last year and the other three years ago.  The fire apparently started in the girls’ room, so everything they own is completely gone; the upper floor is apparently a total loss and most of what was on the bottom floor is thoroughly water-damaged by now.  All of the humans living in the house are uninjured; to the best of my knowledge they have not found the cats.

I can’t even imagine.

In which the worst thing EVER has happened

Internet appears to be down at OtherJob. Meaning I’m stuck with just my phone for access to the outside world until I get home or the battery dies, whichever comes first. Pray for me.