Writing for Mass Com, Winter 2012
THE ASSIGNMENT: WRite A NARRATIVE
My kid is obsessed with garbage trucks. Whenever he sees one pass our house he insists we follow it for blocks. So we do. Walking slowly behind the green and yellow beast as it lumbers down the street, stopping to ooh and ahh each time it tips the contents of a trash can into the compactor.We’ve gotten to know our garbage man as a result (when you slowly follow behind a garbage truck for blocks there’s time to chat).Our garbage man’s name is Hank. He’s worked as a garbage man for eighteen years. Every morning he wakes at 4 am, gets dressed and eats two fried eggs his wife Nancy makes him. Hank says that’s how she shows him she cares. He shows her he cares by buying her flowers from the farmer’s market every Sunday. Yellow tulips are her favorite. At 4:45 he kisses Nancy, pulls on his worn work boots, knots them twice and heads out the door for “treasure hunting” as he refers to his job.“What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found in the trash,” I ask.“A shoe box full of dentures…it was pretty weird.”That is odd.Every Tuesday my kid stands in the window and waves wildly as Hank drives past our house. Hank always waves back.
Jihad would not stop farting. For ten consecutive minutes at the start of Mrs. Stewart’s 6th grade language arts class, Jihad unleashed a torrent of gas that left the students around him gasping and laughing. Natasha O’Byrne discreetly walked to the back of the room where Jihad sat. “Dude, you need to go to the bathroom.” He erupted with laughter, flashing a sly, knowing smile. Natasha wondered what she’d bargained for. “This age group just might not be for me,” she thought.Her job seemed simple enough. One-on-one reading with six students a day over two class periods. One little problem. They don’t want to read and aren’t shy to show it.Thrown books. Evolved excuses. Constant bathroom breaks. Stomped feet. Paper tossed about. Broken pens hurled at each other’s heads. Rampant insubordination. On average, two kids a class are thrown out and awarded detention.
“I couldn’t believe these were 11-year-olds, this was some high school type of behavior from little ones,” Natasha said. “I was afraid this job is just being a babysitter. The kids need more attention from everyone in their lives.”
She’d come to Seattle Middle School Academy needing 40 hours of in-classroom observation in order to apply for education graduate school. The requirement for the University of Washington, her preference, required the observation take place at a high-needs school. A high-needs school is defined as 40% of enrolled students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. Nestled in the Rainer Valley of South Seattle, Aki Kurose fit the bill.
No problem, Natasha thought. She’d volunteered with kids before in Chicago, reading at a homeless shelter. She was prepared.
Tatiana slammed her book down on the bench and refused to acknowledge Natasha’s presence. Zhenaya’s gaze drifted off into space, never glancing at her helper. Jermaine screamed at every kid that wandered down the hall. “They shined me on completely like I wasn’t there.” One-on-one sessions morphed into one-on-zero sessions.
Then there was Nagassa. He’d throw things, picked fights with other students, yelled at Mrs. Stewart throughout class. He was kicked out repeatedly. The school threatened to remove him from the class. “I was scared to work with him,” Natasha said.
When they finally had their session, Natasha was stunned. Nagassa was a voracious reader. The pages turned like hummingbird’s wings. Getting him out of the classroom environment and showered with personal attention was the key. “Sometimes the most disruptive kids need the most attention,” she said.
She settled in. The kids warmed up.
“Some of the tougher kids have asked to work with me, like Tatiana, and that felt really good. You can’t reach all the kids. But 90% of it I loved,” she said.
This is her last week at the school. Helping the class make a video pitch for the “Change My School” contest – a $1000 prize – is her final project. If they win, Mrs. Stewart promises the class a fleet of Kindles. “Some of the kids get embarrassed by their reading level. They might read more if the other kids can’t see what level book they have. It’ll help a lot,” Natasha said.
“Oh my god, I’m getting attached, aren’t I?”
Even with the farts.
By Nandia Baterdene
Lucky Brand was born to be slow. She has four legs, but runs five times slower than a crawling snail. She is only four years old, but moves ten times slower than an old lady driving on a highway. She functions in a pace that not a lot of people would enjoy in these fast paced times, though what she does attracts people like a magnet.
Lucky is a fabulous cook-the kind of cook that can turn any mixture of ingredients into a succulent meal that anyone would say finger licking good. How she cooks the meal is very simple. Tightly sealing the food in a moist environment for a long time, her slow cooking method tenderizes rough meats and fibrous vegetables.
Even though, Lucky is one of many other mass-produced slow cookers, she has always been special to me. We both knew our relationship would last long time when we awkwardly found each other three years ago.
After the factory robots created Lucky in China, she traveled a long way to the U.S. When she finally came to the department store to find her future family, the store clerk accidentally pushed her off of the shelf. Her precious packaging fell apart and she collapsed on the floor. Lucky lost one of her handles.
No one wanted the slow cooker without the box and handle, so she had to live behind other newly arrived slow cookers. Soon after she moved to the “clearance” aisle, where she was teased, humiliated, and got a scar on her face. The store manager hung a big red tag from her only handle, “50% off.”
The day before Christmas, many last-minute shoppers were looking for presents at the store. Among them was me, a busy working woman desperately in need of a smarter cooking solution for her Christmas party. Nothing on the electronics shelf drew my attention but Lucky, the only slow cooker on sale. I gently picked her up, hugged across her belly, and walked towards the cashier.
I brought her home, and didn’t know what to do with her. I just threw the ingredients in and let Lucky show her magic. The Christmas dinner turned out the best. My guests were truly impressed by her cooking skills, even my in-laws. That day, we rescued each other.
Since Lucky entered my busy life, the microwave ready meals were taken off my menu. When I come home and open the door, the simmering pot of braised short ribs hits my nostrils and makes me hungry, happy, and giddy at same time. I like to say, “There is nothing better than having a warm and nourishing meal ready and waiting for dinner. My slow cooker is my best friend.” And Lucky loves to see my happy face.
Writing for Mass Com, Winter 2012
The assignment: 10 sentences using active verbs that describe a scene or a place.
By Sara Merker 01/28/2013
The aroma of melty mozzarella and sizzling pepperoni wafts through the air from no particular direction.
A friendly dog smiles with his tail, welcoming strangers to pet him.
“Pardon me!” a male voice shouts, followed by its owner who leaps past clutching a messenger bag.
A mitten-covered hand reaches out for spare change.
Bicyclists paused at an intersection hunch over their handlebars, ready to spring when the light turns green.
Sandwich boards crowd the sidewalks, clambering for attention with promises of lunch specials, combo meals, and all-you-can-eat buffets.
Umbrellas of various sizes and colors sprout up in the rain like pretty patterned mushrooms.
An environmental petitioner coaxes anyone who wanders by: “Do you have a minute to talk about global warming?”
Kindergarten children out on a walk follow their teacher through the puddles like a row of baby ducks.
Underneath the shelter of a bus stop, a young man suddenly drops to the ground and starts doing push-ups.
A blood red umbrella protects against the persistent precipitation. A barista melts into the exposed brick next to Victrola on Pike, a cigarette in one hand, Mexican Coke in the other. The aroma of grinding coffee penetrates my nostrils the instant I crack the front door. The espresso machine whistles its siren song. Two high school teachers dish about friends and lesson plans. “I hired a wig and hair guy for the play, supposedly he’s a big Hollywood type person.” The clanking of MacBook keys find rhythm within the barista’s steam crank ritual. There are no cold necks in Seattle, where scarves are brandished like talismans against the elements. A red-head unveils a pair of gauche flower-print tights. My americano falls cold, forgotten.
A gas fireplace glows in the middle of the room. It flashes off the faces of the two couples snuggled close. They point and laugh watching the waitress carry the two-liter glass boot filled with a dark, rich beer to a table of young men. The young men cheer as the birthday boy takes his first sip, spilling it down both sides of his chin. He lifts the giant glass proudly. ”Woooo!” he screams and drinks again. The waitress moves on to an older man and takes his order. She doesn’t much appreciate the hand on the small of her back and she rolls her eyes at her counterpart when out of the man’s line-of-sight. She smiles the waitress-smile as she walks over to us. “What are we havin’ tonight, guys?”
This is how I saw just one my youngest niece’s basketball team’s possessions during a game on Sunday: They ignite, accelerating upon departure—the herd of five stampeding away down the hardwood floor; Upon arrival, their opponent consumes them, forcing them to fidget and contort their body to find someone open to pass the cattle hide basketball to; They cup the ball over the top, with hands at ten and two, as they pass to one another; They evoke excitement from the crowd with every pass made closer to the rim; One from the far side of the key penetrates into the middle of it, receives the ball on a pass and lunges toward the basket to make an off-balance, ill-fated shot; The largest among them plucks the ball from just under the lowest part of the netting and passes back out to the top of the key, where the smallest of them pauses in order to re-kindle the offensive attack; She passes the ball to the area under the basket, where four girls have entangled themselves into a knot of arms flailing to score or steal; The opposing coach frantically shouts “Watch the far wing, Emma, You’ve got the far wing,” as he notices one of the girls hiding in the corner of the far side of the key, watching the action ensue seven feet away from her; She receives the pass from the area under the basket, shoots from the corner, and the ball lands, ricocheting between both sides of the inner portion of the rim before plunging through the net; The moment halts the pace of the game for a handful of seconds before the opponent surges to the other end of the court, following suit.
Toy Cameras for Serious Photographers by Li-Cheng.
This story was one of several arts and culture stories that appeared in In:Site, an online project created Spring 2009.
Narrative assignment by Mariana Bueno, Spring 2012
Video – sequencing – by Eric Graham, 2011
Narrative assignment by Kristina Krug, Spring 2011.
The Supraprint classes have launched several interactive projects over the years, including a Facebook-based application and two online magazines called “In:Site, which focused on arts and culture,” and iAM. iAm, which focused on identity(ies) can be accessed here.
“Bluegrass in the Green City” by Sarah Jenks, Spring 2009.
“The Closing of the P-I” by Jane Austin, Rebecca Livingston, Sasha London and Helena Habes, Spring 2009
“The Grand Illusion” by Li-Cheng Tay, Spring 2009
“Triplet Filmmakers” by Li-Cheng Tay, Spring 2009
“The Holga Queen” by Li-Cheng Tay, Spring 2009
“Going Green by Growing Greens” by Sarah Jenks and Kaetlyn Cordingley (Spring 2009)
Photo by Sarah Jenks
Audio slideshow and story are here.
“Mother’s Day Flower-palooza” by Ben Bradley and Rebecca Livingston (Spring 2009)
Photo by Rebecca Livingston
Audio slideshow and story are here.
Seattle Mariners 2009 Home Opener: “The Kid” Comes Home
By Laura J. Mansfield
In:Site staff reporter
My ears are still ringing. The Seattle Mariners home opener on Monday was unlike any other. But of course, for good reason: Seattle baseball legend, Ken Griffey Jr. stepped onto the ball field as a Mariner for the first time since 1999.
And yes, the crowd greeted their hometown hero with an eruption of cheers and applause.
So, what is it about Junior that caused some fans to smother their bodies in blue and green paint with the number 24? Well, prior to the sold-out game I spent some time outside the ballpark.
I mingled in the beer garden, strolled the streets amongst the hot dog vendors, and asked some fans just what it was about the return of “The Kid” that caused so much hype on Opening Day.
For a creative, insightful look at all things arts and culture please visit our In:Site Facebook news application.
Kazoos Salute A Seattle Character
By Laura J. Mansfield
In:Site Staff Reporter
By Laura J. Mansfield
Men, women and children gathered outside Safeco field on Monday to remember the late Ed McMichael who was known as the “Tuba Man”. McMichael brought smiles to the faces of many as he played memorable tunes such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on his tuba for tips outside local venues and sporting events for years.
Last November, McMichael, 53, was violently beaten by three teenagers while waiting for a metro bus in Seattle. He died as a result of the injuries only days later.
“Ed was very talented, he just had that infectious spirit and people just embraced him,” said Doug Creson of Seattle, the tribute’s organizer.
Creson passed out hundreds of kazoos at the Seattle Mariners home opener, and a crowd hummed “When the Saints Go Marching In” in honor of McMichael.
To see an audio slideshow of the tribute go here.