One of my (guilty?) pleasures is to pause from time to time outside our classrooms, and listen to the lectures going on within. What I hear is so intriguing across the spectrum of our College’s disciplines, that the devaluation and, alongside it, the threat of defunding the Arts and Humanities seem ever out-of-step with the core and reach of human achievement.
Ah, Shakespeare! The Immortal Bard is, alas, the bane of so many students, at least in the English-speaking world. Who among us hasn’t endured month-long lessons on Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Shakespeare’s other great and not-so-great plays?
And yet, as a fan myself – who uses language to better effect? – I wasn’t ready to give up on him in my own teaching. Predictably, my students groaned when his name appeared in the syllabus.
“Don’t worry,” I assured them, “we’re reading just a few of his sonnets.”
During the student conferences of a past semester, one young woman seemed surprised as, word by word, we pored over her essay. When we finished, she said, “So you’re one of those teachers that words matter for?”
Her unsettling question reminded me of another student’s assertion, that same semester, that “people who read are boring.”
When I mentioned that startling statement to a colleague, he commented, "Yes, and people who don’t are so interesting."
During a fire drill at the university, and at the very end of the semester, I took advantage of the forced evacuation from my office to wander over to the farmer's market, which takes place on campus each Thursday. Despite the market’s having just a handful of vendors, a varied fare is featured: Belgian waffles, organic produce, pita bread and hummus, kettle corn, tamales – and assorted cakes and cupcakes at a stand called Kingdom Cake.
Last summer, in front of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, assorted street performers and vendors were hoping to make a living from their various acts and talents.
At a San Francisco supermarket, a Latina employee had embellished her work outfit -- a dark apron, sneakers, and keys draped from a long cord around her neck -- with a bright-red shirt beneath a black-and-white flower-patterned one. Atop her head, she had pinned a large white flower, which seemed a celebratory touch.
“Casi olvidé,” I told her, “I almost forgot that today is Cinco de Mayo! I love your festive look.”
Last Saturday, on the bus to San Francisco’s Presidio park, where the Walt Disney Family Museum is housed, a man in short sleeves and sunglasses turned toward me when I took the seat behind him. He leaned in, proffered a few compliments (“I really like your look” and so on), and just before giving me his phone number, asked a quintessential San Francisco question: “Do you date men?”
Anyone in Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Gardens this past weekend surely came across a few pianos there, among the dozen temporarily planted in the Arboretum for the July 2015 event dubbed, simply, “Flower Piano.” Behind each ivory keyboard sat either a “scheduled pianist,” as the official announcement put it, or bold amateurs who chose this public venue to add their own mainly classical notes, which reverberated in the Garden.
Summer, with its more leisurely pace, is the perfect time to become immersed in the Bay Area's literary scene. A few links to local readings and events follow, as a starting point:
The San Francisco Chronicle lists readings and plays throughout the Bay Area: http://www.sfgate.com/performance/.