February 26, 2016

The Coat or Nothing About Nothing

I think it was the second time I was in New York that we actually bought it. I say second time because there are several times and eras that I experienced New York City. The first one was a random trip sometime in 1998. I was twenty-four years old and it was my first time.

I was struggling to stay sane living at the Natoma house with Ant, Chris​ and Justin​. I think they wanted to kick me out because I was having a hard time controlling my rage. I couldn’t seem to get Jane’s Addiction out of from under my skin. I was being more cruel to Cortney​ than usual. I was a selfish prick. I was breaking things on a nightly basis and so desperate for attention and change that I somehow found myself in New York city and Ari​’s weird Lexington apartment.

I can’t remember how I was able to get myself there, but I remember showing up one morning and there was an entire universe to explore. That trip I walked from the Upper East Side down to Battery Park and up into the crown of the Statue of Liberty. I walked everywhere and one morning as I was getting ready to go home, Greta​ happened to be under the covers. It was a blur of wine and late nights. It was an awakening for me. I came home to write some terrible poetry about New York. It felt as if I as the only person who had ever felt the electricity of the place.

I didn’t know nothing about nothing.

I went back home to San Francisco. Got kicked out of my apartment. They had had enough. I walked the streets looking for a place to loved. Somehow I convinced Cort to move in with me. I studied and worked hard. Got into Peace Corps and was ready to flee the coup. But I wouldn’t leave the USA until October. I had one more summer back in NYC. That was my second time in NYC and that’s when we bought it.

We were down below fourteenth street, Ari and I. I was still green and unawares of what any of the madness meant. I thought it was all cool and hip and bohemian and I was the in the center of it all. Looking back,I know it was some cheesy tourist trap on the outskirts of the East Village. But that’s where we saw it.

The coat. Black. Shiny. $80.

Up to that point, I had never spent that much money on any one piece of clothing . All my clothes were old Goodwill hand me downs. The thought of spending $80 dollars in a jacket was more extravagant than I could handle. But Ari talked me into it and I bought the thing.

It was magic.

Everywhere we went people complimented me on it. Men. Women. Boys and Girls. I felt like a rock star in that thing- drunk at the Cherry Tavern drinking Tecates and Tequila shots listening to whatever the hell they had on that Jukebox. Free NYC nights and me in the coat.

I have no idea what happened to it, but to this day that thing symbolised my introduction to NYC. I was young and free and hip and cool and going places. That jacket allowed me to have my quintessential Big Apple experience.

My last class on Friday afternoon is a tough one. They are seventh graders and they often show up late because they have PE right before my class. They talk a lot and do not take my authority too seriously. They’re a fun group and it is hard to stay mad at them. I had to lay down the law a bit yesterday. I mentioned that I am not an authoritarian teacher at all, but common decency and respect demand that they focus when I ask and relax when we have earned it.

Today, they worked their butts off for over an hour, so I let them end early and we played Mafia and let off some steam for the last ten minutes of class.

The thing about teaching is that you don’t need to be the “cool” teacher by being a push over. You earn respect by demanding hard work, but you also understand that the people you are dealing with every day are human beings. They are children but you need to earn their respect too.

Wait? Now people can do more than like this stuff? The pressure to be loved and not just liked is a challenge I have been up for my whole life.

Light whiskey buzz and Ben Harper in the darkness makes anything seem possible.

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