Thursday, September 22, 2005

Room 219

It is Thursday, the first day of the shorter light. A lot has been happening this week for me. The most astonishing thing is that on Tuesday there was a half page photograph in the Times-Picayune (c-5 in the sports/living section) of two soldiers in a second floor classroom at Douglass High School and IT IS MY CLASSROOM. Yes indeed. Two people besides me recognized it from the newspaper. Ellen said she just recognized my "touch." Richard figured it out because of the poem on the chalkboard, William Stafford's, "For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid." I'd copied that poem on the board Wednesday and talked with my students about it, and they understood, and then on Thursday and Friday I was in Bogalusa for the funeral of my brother in law, and then Sunday I came to Hammond, so it was the last thing we did in my classes. That poem. This poem:

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid (William Stafford)

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot -- air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away; it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world and we all live there.

Then yesterday I snuck into New Orleans with my friend, Bonnie. Police were at every usual road into the city turning everyone back because of Hurricane Rita, so we snuck in by going the wrong way on a one way street (there was absolutely no one around) and onto the Palmetto Street overpass to Carrollton. The city, as everyone knows, is deserted. Bonnie's neighborhood is fine and so is mine. It was hard to leave, even without electricity. However, there are no people around and it's scary. I can imagine what it must be like at night, alone, black, soundless. The bar, Molly's on the Market (on Decatur Street), was open and I had a couple of beers in there. It was well-populated. An Orleans Parish school board member with whom I'm acquainted was in there and I told him about the picture in the paper and he told me that Douglass as we know it has probably had its last year of life. How amazing would that be if I were to end up being the one to sing Douglass's swan song? He told me there's talk of tearing it down and I argued its beauty and soul and he said soul is not in a building but in its people and I argued back that architecture is art and it has soul. I'm usually not the victor in debates like that, and I guess he'd say otherwise, that I was not the victor (not that there has to be a victor or loser, but in debates like that, that's usually the case). Anyway, he did concede that perhaps it would make a good condominium building. He said the thinking is that half the population of Douglass will return.
Then last night at a restaurant I saw a former student from Mandeville, from many years ago, and he wanted my email address so I could help him with a paper he has to work on and I thought, hmm, I wonder where my services are most useful?
Meanwhile, I gathered some names of literary agents and publishers and in the next few days intend to get a letter and some samples of the blog book out. I wonder if there are people to whom I should send the book that I hadn't thought about? It's definitely related to Katrina now.
I want to say that I cannot reply to comments posted on this blog and I don't have my computer address book here. Like for example, Clay, I wanted to respond to you about Tara, but don't have your address. Could you send it to me? And Julie, I don't have yours either.
Thank you.



Anonymous Cassandra said...

This entry made me cry. Your classroom... wow... the last thing you taught your students is now part of history in a more public way. Do keep that clipping for your book, as it might make an awesome cover ;)

I want to hear from you so desperately. My email is . You are one the reasons I go to school everyday and keep on teaching. I'm substituting, but to me it is so much more and the inspiration and courage you have given me is one of things that makes me get up every morning and pursue my passion. One of the kids I taught said she knew about Douglass and her eyes lit up when I got to talk with her about New Orleans, as she was a survivor herself of the hurricane.

Please, please email me. I miss our correspondence. I'm teaching students from New Orleans without even being there and you know my dream has always been to teach there --- so I guess I'm living my dream, just in a way I never imagined... and I'm not sure if I'm ready for it, but I'm giving it my all. I'm still going to teach in New Orleans when I certified - I'll be one of the first teachers to sign up for the challenge, adventure, and the blessing of a lifetime!

Much love and soft purple hugs! Please email me.

6:19 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

Hmmm... Melanie, I thought blogger would let you reply to my reply.

My email is:


9:45 PM  
Anonymous Evan Nichols said...


I'm very happy to hear you're OK. Out here in Oakland, California, we talk and worry about folks out there on a daily basis. As a teacher, I am especially fascinated to hear what is going on with kids and teachers in the New Orleans public schools, as well as in the greater region. Please keep writing about what you see and hear and take good care!

11:52 PM  
Blogger Clay said...

" Ellen said she just recognized my "touch." "

That reminds me: I'm reading "Blink" by Malcom Gladwell which talks about how accurate a "think slice" of experience can be. It demonstrates that your gut instinct *can* be extremely accurate. I thought you'd appreciate that since you commented once that you which you'd do the research to backup your gut instintcs (when we were talking about the Sewer project here in Blacksburg).

PS, in case you didn't get my emails, my email is :

You'll need to convert that into an actualy email address by replacing "at" with the at-sign and removing all the spaces.


7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Melanie Ann----------
I'm so glad you're okay. Can't believe this is this first time I've read your blog in over a month. I don't know where the past month has gone; it's all a blur. We're fine.......minor, blessed damage. My attitude is one of gratitude. i miss you & wish we could drink & smoke & talk for hours. e-mail me @ for my new addy 7 phone #. Sleepy time, now.
Lisa Beth
holding down the fort at our damn-lucky, blissfully, still-up & running MHS

10:41 PM  

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