Education Emancipation Proclamation

What I’ll Miss: Free Workshops, Classes, Readings, Concerts

Tuesday evening I attended a free, one-hour creative writing class from Gotham Writers’ Workshop. People of all shapes and sizes and walks of life packed the classroom. The instructor wore a caramel-colored, button-up (with “hiding” buttons), long-sleeved, wide-collared shirt; black, fine-corduroy pants; tan leather loafers with tapered square toes. His build was long and lean; his pants fit him well. The short-enough hair along his neck didn’t brush the collar, but on the top of his head the hair was long enough to dance, like a two-inch high, sandy blond fire. His left shirt sleeve managed to barely conceal a tattoo, which somehow made him all the more appealing. His countenance beamed from a little coffee, perhaps; his eyes pierced and connected with mine on several occasions. He spoke animatedly, but not too much, and more unassumingly. His slender hands slowly sliced the air, emphasizing conflict and drama and the Sam Shepard one-page piece he read at the beginning of class. From Motel Chronicles. I wondered about the way his two-page lesson plan lay on the desk; he wouldn’t pick it up completely off the desk, but hold up the top half and let the paper seemingly uncurl onto the desk, like a curved line graph of losses, decreasing to infinity. Maybe I happened to catch nearly everything he said because he was that easy to pay attention to. He seemed to be teaching at the front of the class. About writing. Obviously. I learned stuff.

Sarah McLachlan, Madeleine Albright, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, the makers of Man on Wire. Yo-Yo Ma, Hilary Hahn; a lecture on Edward Said. Writers’ strikes, free hugs, Greenpeace. Free recitals at Juilliard. Daily Show, Colbert Report. New York City is where everyone releases albums, premieres movies, reads from new books. Awesomeness abounds, but true brilliance schedules appearances on the calendars of Barnes & Noble and Borders; Columbia and Central Park; little classrooms where the instructor ends up being as much of a draw as the subjects he teaches. Such cameos are special and fun, and crowds teem, because they want to witness these phenomena firsthand. Can I take a piece of this mother lode with me?

What I Won’t Miss: Free Chances for Creepy Men to Hook Up with May Anderton

Do you know what, or who else surfeits this city? Weirdos. Weirdos with wiry, short beards and beady eyes and husky voices from smoking too long cigarettes they rolled themselves; with high school athletics records in speedwalking; who charm with their journalism background and intellect  and life experience and cajole  and enchant with empty writing opportunities. Granted, sometimes I don’t make the smartest decisions, and I usually know right off that I’m doing a dumb thing, but as long as I’m not selling my soul, sometimes I really feel I have to see the story through. Illustration follows; it’s an experience I originally passed around in an email. Now it’s a worthy memory, ready for the blogosphere. I’m not scared anymore. Yes, I definitely will not miss the professor:

I loosely held his hand. He wanted to interlock fingers.

He’d had a glass of wine. I hadn’t.
We walked along the pathway, talking as if everything was completely normal. As if nothing happened.
Nothing did happen. Not really. Not that I would let it.
Are you sure he doesn’t want to date you? I don’t know. The thought had crossed my mind.
That was one side.
You see, the (we) artsy types are more personal in their approach to working with others. They’re more conversational and will get to know a person better before discussing business. It’s the non-corporate way.
That was the other side.
The sun had set, but the overcast sky still glowed. Subdued twilight.
We had walked toward the railing that edged the river. It had occurred to me he might try pushing me over.
But he hadn’t been forceful at all during our interaction. Still, my calves tensed, and I prepared myself in case I needed to run.
I would have kicked myself had I decided not to see where this would lead. This might be a good writing opportunity. This would give me experience.
His hand felt like sandpaper, or tree bark. I tried not to look at him. What little eye contact I did give him he seemed to have construed for chemistry.
I was leading him on, apparently.
Hindsight was torture. My thoughts reverted to our first meeting while maintaining the current conversation.
It was a cool, Saturday afternoon. We had entered the park and found a nice, dry rock upon which we could sit and talk.
He told me I was courageous.
He kicked off his boots.
He reclined.
I stayed sitting upright.
He took a swig from my water bottle.
At least that was before he rolled his own cigarette and smoked it.
We talked for maybe 20 minutes about the project he mentioned. Where he might need writers.
The entire conversation lasted nearly two hours.
I didn’t want to force anything. I didn’t want to seem too pushy.
I told him he was interesting and fascinating. That it was nice getting to meet him.
I stood up. I said I had to go. He kept lying on his section of the rock.
Anything could have been a red flag. Everything was.
He finished his wine. I nursed my Shirley Temple.
Then he wanted to go. I downed the rest of my Shirley Temple.
People walk and talk all the time. This was one of those times.
Wasn’t it?
It was by the river, and we missed the sunset. That should have killed it.
I sat down on a bench. He sat next to me, close. He rested his arm on the bench behind me.
He wasn’t touching me, but I could tell he was striving for affection.
I told myself and I told some friends I’d meet with him again to determine a few things.
I told some friends I’d cut it off if the second meeting wasn’t productive.
It was a mile walk back to Broadway. I didn’t like holding his hand.
This wasn’t the writing opportunity I hoped it would be.
We talked for a while, then he suggested we walk to a more well-lit area.
That was fine.
Another bench. I sat down. I leaned forward.
This couldn’t have any more resembled the fetal position. I stopped short of sucking my thumb.
His arm moved behind me. His hand rested ever so gently on my back.
It felt like two fingers. I could have guessed wrong, since nerve endings in the back aren’t very close together.
He reminded me how courageous I am.
I brought up the sunset, but only after he mentioned seagulls.
Nature and everything beautiful often leave me speechless, I said.
Like, now, he said.
Silence, building to awkward silence.
The walk back to Broadway was much slower than the walk to the river.
He was in such a hurry before. Now, it was me.
The pause lingered. I was more than aware of it.
I should probably go.
We stood. We headed toward the railing.
He grabbed my arm. I followed.
We faced each other, leaning toward the river.
I knew what was coming.
I kept replaying the whole thing in my head. The conversation continued, but my mind rode two separate tracks: 1)I need to get away and 2)How will I tell this story?
The tracks turned into a flowchart: Get away –> Tell story.
Night settled quickly upon us. The path was quiet.
He leaned in. He tilted my chin up.
I put my hand up. I took a step back.
I’m not comfortable, I said.
I’m not that courageous.
After a few minutes of walking, he let go of my hand, finally. I asked about an article in the issue of New York magazine he held in his other hand.
It was about loneliness in the City.
I quickly slid my hand in my pocket, and I kept it there, all the way back to Broadway.

A little discussion.

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