I have so much to talk about following my trip to Washington DC where I did double-duty, teaching a “Flash Fiction” class at American University’s World of Communication summer program for high school students and hanging out with my son, Nick, his beautiful wife, Mysti, and of course, the granddaughter, Emily. Both activities were inspiring, exhausting, illuminating, and fantastic fun with the cherry-on-top (if you’ll excuse me a cliche) being a meet-up with Virgie Townsend and the D.C. Binders group on the roof top terrace of the Kennedy Center my last Saturday in the Capital. More about them later.
This is my second year of teaching at AU and I first want to compliment all the students for their hard-work and efforts to understand the elements of flash fiction. These, of course, are the same cornerstones that make up fiction in general. Together, with TA Anna Rutenbeck helming production and earning the title of publisher, the students created a beautiful anthology of short prose, The Fishbowl Journal, V. 2, Krakken Edition. So here’s to Alex McClellan, Amara Everying, Cortney Rielly, David Hernandez, Delany Collin, Gabrielle Feinsmith, Jeff Reynolds, Juana Capelutto, Mariah Marshall, Marian Schmitz, Matt May, and Max Tiefer! I hope in the future to buy your work in bookstores (well, yes, and I guess, Amazon), see you at podiums (podia?), on Saturday Night Live, and slamming poetry. And that goes for you too, Anna, who made my job easily.
The other fun thing was the commute. While I’m not a fan of long commutes in California, riding the subway every day to work was an experience I enjoyed–most of the time! Even in July. In the heat and humidity. Even with a shuttle ride still to go at the end. Time elapsed? If lucky, one hour.
I had to figure out the passes–Superpass or Superplus, I can’t remember. But I know having two cards even with a lot of money on them is gonna get you in trouble. You swipe your pass to get into the Metro loading area, and you swipe it going out. If you don’t use the same card, your egress is blocked. If you go through a gate that is open through no machinations of your own, when you try to exit, you can’t get through. You have to talk to “The Man” who stands there glaring as you swipe the wrong and useless card, feed that card into the maw on the post, resist the commuters pushing you through the locked gate as if they’re on the sinking Titanic.
Then there are the trains themselves. When you try to crowd into a car with a million people and the heavy-set dude in front of you has glue feet, you have to sacrifice an arm to keep the door open while you holler “Can you please move?” Luckily, when you do this, no one cares, not even the man with Superglue on the soles of his shoes. Then when you get on the train with a million people, there’s no place to sit andas the car jerks forward, you consider asking Mr. Adhesive-Wingtips if you can borrow his glue.
What I did on the train when I did get a seat:
- Paid close attention to my fellow travelers, what they wore, what they said, how they slumped, relaxed, or perched on their seats
- Listened to an interview with Patton Oswalt discussing his book Zombie Spaceship Wasteland recorded at the iTunes store in Brooklyn and downloaded onto my iPod by me for free
- Listened to Citizen Cope as well as a playlist I’d made of the 2009 American Idol cast (eclectic is my bag)
- Played Spider Solitaire on my phone
- Read Len Joy’s American Past Time on my Kindle
- Read student stories on my phone
- Wrote a draft of a story on my phone about finding black trash bags strewn along the curb, filled with someone’s belongings including several bags of books I had to keep myself from snatching an Eric Larson tome
- Talked to an education student–I wish I remembered his name–who had heard me on the shuttle espousing the need to make student write several drafts of a piece–and as the teacher, read them–to give them the full writing experience. We discussed the importance of practice.