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Archive for April, 2007

This story has a prehistory:

One day when I was an infant (and I depend entirely on what my parents have told me, since I remember nothing of what follows), I became one of those urban legends that you read about in collections of funny stories. My sister even gave me this book, knowing that I was the title character. On this site, the story – though more exaggerated and nail-biting than my own – even occurs in the correct U.S. state (although in the wrong region). What happened was this: we were preparing to take the two and a half hour drive to visit my grandparents. My youngest aunt was twelve years old (or so) at the time, and she had dibs on carrying me out to the car (since my legs didn’t work yet, and because I was the newest addition to the extended family and therefore too cute to resist). After reaching the car, she put the baby seat – with me in it – on the roof of the car so that she could slide into the back seat easily. Presumably, she had counted on someone to give me to her once she was seated. Well, that never happened, and after my parents and older sister all had situated themselves, we began the drive. After a few minutes a woman with a frantic look on her face pulled up next to our car, rolled down her window, and told my parents that there was a baby on top of their car. (I like to think that the woman said this with the same tone one would use to tell someone that there was, say, a dinosaur on top of their car, or a pinball machine.) My parents were understandably Freaked Out, and my mom says there was much shaking and trembling and sweating. Apparently, though, I was as calm as I would be in a rocking chair or in my mother’s arms. And for the record, I harbor no ill will toward anyone involved.

Now for the story:

Two weeks ago, we made plans to celebrate Frank’s birthday by going to an Ethiopian restaurant in town. As is often the case, our silly cat Marcel – we often call him Silly ‘cel, or ask him if he has Silly ‘Cel Anemia – came trotting towards us from across the street as we got to the car. (We have no idea what he does all day, but we have it on good authority that much of it involves sneaking into other people’s houses.) He even jumped into the car for a moment, until we deposited him back onto terra firma so that we could get on our way. After driving for a few blocks, and just before reaching a busy intersection (this one, for you Google-map users), I saw something brownish fall from on top of the car, and at first I thought it was a piece of cardboard, or a piece of wood that someone had thrown at the car. Looking in the rear view mirror, though, I saw that it was an orangish cat. After first thinking that we had hit some poor random tabby, I realized that it was Mr. Marcel, who had apparently jumped on top of the car roof just before we left the house, unknowingly beginning one of the rides of his life. We turned around to look for him, found him hiding under a parked car (with two innocent bystanders looking curiously at him), and returned him to his romping grounds. (He was undamaged, as far as we can tell.)

I like to think that this is an instance of reverse karma, and that Marcel was somehow involved in getting my infant self placed on top of that car in 1973, to punish, in a harmless but jolting way, the driver that forgot to check for loose cats on the top of another car in 2007. If anything can get away with a time-traveling retributive act like that, it’s a cat. Especially Marcel, who still has – according to our best calculations – seven lives left.

Marcel in the tub

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Ummmm, try it?

Since my post titles are apparently brought to you by the letter U today (Unsinkable Mali, Up for air), I’ve decided to keep up the trend.  Anyway, as my earlier post indicated, my teaching-in-two-places life has made things crazy lately.  One thing that has eased the craziness is pbwiki.com, which has cleared up some of the chaos that I associate with the classroom management programs that most universities use.   The wikis are easy to use: I use mine to put up course announcements, reading assignments, powerpoint presentations, presentation schedules, etc.  Plus I get the slightly subversive satisfaction of not using the sanctioned  tools, and of making the students do the same.

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Unsinkable Mali

Here’s to Mali!

Why? As my sister Annie mentioned, my brother Chris will be doing a two year Peace Corps stint there. Like most Westerners, I had limited knowledge of Mali. Frank, who did his first Peace Corps assignment in Central African Republic, filled me in a little bit, and as both of us are wont to do (I’m a big fan of ‘wont to do’), we immediately looked up everything we could about it. One of the best places to look for the cultural highlights of a particular country is the UNESCO World Heritage Centre website. UNESCO designates certain sites all over the world as “World Heritage Sites”, and it turns out that Mali has several. After looking at a few pictures, I think Frank and I will make serious plans to visit while Chris is there. Check out this mosque in Djenne:

Djenne Mosque

Djenne Mosque

The other thing we realized after saying “Mali” a few times, was that we have a couple of really great CDs of Malian music, including Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Mali”, The Beach Boys’ “Malifornia Girls” and “Mali Hai” from South Pacific. Seriously, though, the Putumayo “Mali” CD is great, as is Mali Music, a collaboration between Damon Albarn (British musician) and Malian musicians.

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Up for air

Remember me?

I decided today that I have to give this bloggy thing some CPR before it dies. In my defense, an unexpected encounter at the end of March thrust me into a mire of busy-ness the likes of which I haven’t seen for years. Not all a bad thing – I often forget that I’m much happier if I’m busy – but it has meant that some of the leisure-time projects I pretend I’m serious about have had to be shoved onto the back burner. And lately, I’ve even been forgetting to turn on that burner. (Whoa! I have no idea if I’m making sense.)

The chance encounter in an elevator in downtown Denver (no, not that kind of chance encounter) was with a woman who was in my PhD program at the University of Virginia. She and her husband both have positions at the University of Denver, and I knew it was just a matter of time until I’d run into one or the other of them. (I was never close to them, or I would have been more intentional about it.) Anyway, that moment happened literally two hours after my former colleague (we’ll call her Sally) had found out that one of the other professors in the department was taking a leave of absence effective that day, which was also the first day of classes in the spring term. This left two classes without a professor, and as I was talking to Sally, I realized that A) I could probably teach the courses, which were two sections of Iberian Culture and Civilization; and B) that since they were Tuesday/Thursday courses, the schedule wouldn’t conflict with my MWF teaching duties at CU-Boulder. The whole thing was so weirdly serendipitous that I offered to teach them – now, nearly a month later, I’m knee-deep in papers, homework, and lesson plans from two different courses at two different universities in two different languages. I almost have to memorize something like, “If it’s Monday, I speak English in Boulder, if it’s Tuesday, I speak Spanish in Denver.” Needless to say, I’m looking very forward to the summer.

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