Monday, September 30, 2013

The Minute Since Yesterday

In the minute since yesterday,
I'm seventeen,
an Anaïs Ninja in an almost 51 year old body,
untamed and unapologetic,
lapping up the milk of experience,
waves of time lapping at my feet.

Dimensionless, I course my veins
Beat my heart
Stretch my legs
Nest my eggs
Breathing this moment now,
In the moment that was.

Teenage me,  1981

Now me

Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Brad

"Breaking Bad's" Jesse Pinkman & Walter White
(image borrowed via public Google search)
Spartacus (aka Brad Crowe) and I have just emerged from a shameless three week boob-tubing spree, a "Breaking Bad" marathon of ginormous proportions. Quite possibly the most entertaining and provocative TV show I have ever seen in my entire life, it's the story of Walter White, a brilliant but underachieving middle-aged high school chemistry teacher, whose unexpected inoperable lung cancer diagnosis and ensuing concerns over his family's future financial stability propel him into a new vocation as the southwest's premier crystal methamphetamine chef. He partners up with Jesse Pinkman, his meth-smoking former student, cooking up enantiomerically pure blue meth in the Chihuahuan desert in a stolen RV, all in an effort to amass a decent nest egg for Walt's surviving wife and children. Walt handles the chemistry, and Jesse provides the street smarts and networking. 

Yo bitch, can you front me a teenth?
(image borrowed via public Google search)
Reminiscent of characters in a Greek tragepic, they encounter an array of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to their plans for large scale distribution, including Walt's pregnant wife and her meddling sister, his DEA agent brother-in-law, local dealer turf wars, regional drug kingpins, the Mexican drug cartel, an international shipping conglomerate, white supremacists, and sometimes even overly ambitious meth-heads themselves. Walt's elaborate lies and manipulations of the truth are so outrageous that even when he's being completely honest, no one believes him. Oddly enough, the poetry of Walt Whitman is a central plot element. How cool is that?!  Like Uncle Walt, Walter White shares intellectual and personality traits relegating him to society's margin. Throughout the course of the show, Walt's character metamorphosizes from protagonist to antagonist, while Jesse serves as an unlikely moral compass.  It's pretty clear that Jesse flunked Walter's chemistry class not because he wasn't bright, but simply because he didn't apply himself. Although the obvious seems to go right over Jesse's head, he's no dummy. For instance, during one of Walt's pimping sessions in their mobile meth lab, Jesse incorrectly identifies wire as a conductive element instead of copper, yet single-handedly conceives the idea of using a giant magnet planted outside the DEA's evidence room in order to scramble data from a co-conspirator's confiscated computer hard drive that would have otherwise incriminated him and Walt. He's not booksmart, but he's got lots of common sense. The fact that Walt and Jesse's relationship first began in a high school classroom has made for some interesting discussion between Brad and me about our individual experiences with the education system, namely its imposed set of expectations and pressure for conformity. 
For coloring outside the lines
I love hearing Brad's stories from when he was in school. Like most kids, he would've rather been playing ball, riding his bike, or running around outside than sitting in a boring old classroom. Not surprisingly, he daydreamed a lot. He also went about doing things his own way, which didn't exactly win him brownie points with his teachers. They wanted him to color inside the lines. When Brad was in the sixth grade, his teacher, Mr. Lightfoot, sent home the following comment on his report card:

"Brad is very independent. Unfortunately, he is independently stagnant."

Just what the hell was that supposed to mean? Apparently, Brad wasn't fully cooperating with the program. He was busy being his own person, and that created a disturbance, a deviation from the Bell curve norm. This was just one in a series of failed scholastic attempts at breaking Brad. Fortunately, Brad's dad didn't take that kind of criticism seriously, and instead of being pissed about it, Bob sent him right back outside to play. 

"We got your book right here, Mr. Krug!" 
Two months after starting 11th grade, Brad and his folks moved from Decatur, Alabama to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. His new chemistry class wasn't at all in sync with the one he'd just left. Realizing he was seriously behind in the material, Brad approached his teacher, Mr. Krug, one afternoon after school.

"What can I do to catch up with the rest of the class?" Brad inquired earnestly. Asking for help...not exactly an independently stagnant move, yes?

Well, what do you think Mr. Krug's smartass condescending answer was?

"You have the book, Mr. Crowe." 

Gee, thanks a pantload! Feeling somewhat dejected by this unproductive interaction, Brad took to daydreaming again. Not long after that, Brad was sitting in his desk, staring out into the courtyard, completely oblivious to the fact that Mr. Krug was calling on him to name an element. 

Mr. Krug was becoming impatient. "Well, Mr. Crowe? We don't have all day." 

Brad's bullshit answer of "cotton" had the entire class, including Mr. Krug, in stitches. 

That semester, his test scores progressed from "D" to "A" to "F" to "B," his final grade being a respectable "C."  

Like Jesse Pinkman, Brad's performance in chemistry was more mercurial than sterling, but hey, as long as you realize that cotton makes your tidy whities absorbent and that, in a pinch, you can make a battery with a lemon, some copper wire, and a galvanized nail, what more do you really need to know to survive?

"Breaking Brad" featuring himself as Walt & Boris as Jesse
Needless to say, despite all of Brad's academic misadventures, he turned out just fine. He's still doing his own thing in his own quiet way, and it's funny how that quality still arouses suspicion among some of our friends. In fact, one of my partners at work started a rumor that Brad was in the CIA. I kid you not, he was dead serious about it. It reminded me of that scene from "Bridesmaids" where Megan is convinced that the guy sitting next to her on the plane is an air marshall. Turns out, she was right! Anyhow, that rumor spread around the operating room like wildfire. I have to admit, it was kinda fun. Brad's Ray-Ban aviators and lean, mean look definitely lend a James Bond-ish aura, but beneath that steely surface lies a heart of gold that follows its own path in life, the mark of a true individual. Maybe being independently stagnant isn't such a terrible thing after all.

A selfie of us partners in crime...