Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “America”

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Last Day–Flights and Angels

All really great things come to an end. Today was the last day of the Summer Academy. The day consisted of presenting our projects and acting out our scenes. What amazing projects the talented  participants  provided! They ranged from exploring the historical context of the ghost to women playing Hamlet (Sarah Bernhardt) to studying how Hamlet has been visually represented in old illustrations–and so much in between. I am humbled to have been part of this cavalcade of ingenuity. Since these 29 teachers are from all parts of the continental US, you  can rest assured quality education is still very much and profoundly around.

The second highlight involved performing. We only had two practices but some people managed to memorize their lines! Our group was assigned Act Five and we stylized it as a cocktail party. Hamlet played some melancholy blues on the stage piano and when Laertes walked into the party they fought with the cocktail swords. It brought down the house. I played my Horatio a bit too heartfelt. In retrospect, I would have camped it up considering my BFF was basically a lush and tended towards rash actions with deterimental consequences. 

What was really cool was the fact that we acted on America’s first Shakespearean stage.  Yup, my first and last stage Bard play appearance (maybe) took place on an authentic stage. The film crew did not return, which took a lot of pressure off our already ramped up nervousness.

Last events included food, fun, and fellowship–the best parts of the day.

Tomorrow I head back to (still) hot (but not muggy) Northwest. 

See ya around, DC. The rest will be a much anticipated silence from the continual hum of a great city. 

twice a day I passed the Capitol–wow!

Trivia: Folger broke tradition and kept the reliefs low so that people could see them. Each represents a Shakespearean play.

Cricket’s Great Hamlet Adventure:Day One

The day was certainly full:

  • Up at 3 am to catch a 6 am
  • Fly over at least 3 time zones
  • Learn quickly how to ride the MARC from Baltimore to DC
  • Figure out my hotel from Union Station
  • Where to eat dinner? Back to Union Station because the pub next dinner is not on my budget
  • Move with the masses to the Mall for fireworks–crowds are not my fave, but Fourth of July at the nation’s capitol? I got over myself and blended, absorbed, dodged, and weaved.
  • I claimed a spot and waited.
  • There were so many cultures represented I felt I was at an outdoor Ikea festival (okay, my odd personal reference since whenever I go to an Ikea it’s like a UN day, either that or my smalltown bubbling is showing)
  • The big moment:  

NOTE: our smalltown event lasts about 10 minutes consisting of very dramatically spaced singular shots. I was indeed properly dazzled by this pyrotechnic dazzlement. 

  • And then my approximate 19 minutes back to the hotel turn into an hour long “lost, yet flowing with the masses walking tour of DC at 10 o’clock at night”–it would have been scary except for there being two cops for every second block. Locals were very friendly and helpful in redirecting me. At one point after asking directions once again (I forgot to turn on my precise location indicator on my Google Maps–now corrected) a nice young woman caught up to me on the sidewalk and sincerely cautioned me about steering clear of the sketchy 8th street area. And I thought DC would be harsh and sense my smalltown girl and chomp me up. Everyone, especially the police, have been very nice.

DAY TWO: squeezing in Dorothy’s shoes before dinner

    All My Bag(s) Are Packed…

    I am ready to go. If you recall I earlier announced I am headed to Washington DC as one of the selected thirty teachers who will be part of the first ever Folger Shakespeare Summer Workshop. Though I won a spot, I still pay for the privilege. That was a different post.

    This post brings more details. For one: packing.

    I am in a firm believer in stow and go. I stuff what I need in my trusty Wally World roller, find an overhead bin and stuff it in. This trip is different. The MEPA, my most excellent personal assistant, will not be traveling with me. Flying six hours with a knee newly escaped from his brace is not on his list of really want to do that. Besides, he grew up on the east coast and has done Washington DC. I’ve not, and I am admittedly nervous. To save money I’m flying into Baltimore and will take the shuttle. I don’t want to look too much like tourist so I opted not to have a wheeled suitcase thumping behind me on the sidewalk. I shall be a bag lady instead. One of the sons left behind a nifty black sports bag and behold, all my stuff rolls up nicely inside. So packing is pretty much a done deal. Squeezing my needed lotions etc in the TSA quart bag proved more challenging (mousse or toothpaste–if the hair looks good do people notice teeth?)

    Because I have such an early flight (six-oh-my am) and the airport is about a two hour drive, plus having to arrive for early check in, I splurged and we are booked in at a Red Lion near the airport. I buy the room, the MEPA can spring for dinner. It might equal out because we favor this nice little spot that overlooks the river.

    My final travel prep entails my tourist itinerary. Having recently received my schedule I discover we are Hamletting from early morn to late at night. I have one day of DCing: Monday July 5 from 8 am to 3pm. Having scouted internet sources and weighing in opinions I’ve come up with this list of possibilities:

    • The Mall–apparently all the major landmarks harken in this area
    • The Library of Congress–I’ve already applied for my reader’s card
    • The Smithsonian–only if I’m very, very particular, as an entire week could be spent in just one wing. I’m thinking I would like to gaze upon Dorothy’s ruby red Oz slippers or Mr Roger’s cardigan. 

    What else, dear readers,  should I go for in such limited time? The Capitol is practically right outside the hotel, the website states. So much to do, so little time….

    End of Year Cheer

    Last night rounded out the academic year of 2015. I actually feel somewhat refreshed instead of the usual frazzle.

    My, to borrow a phrase, “parting of sweet sorrow,” began early in the day. Having posted my grades the day before, a perk of having seniors, and having already tidied up my room, I decided to plant lavender and poppies outside my school window. One teacher greeted me with “Hey, Miss Maudie!” I took that for a compliment.

    I then listened to essays of future AP students–promising beginnings. After that I polished some lesson plans for next year, arranged books in the library (you can take a librarian out of the library, but never the library out of a librarian), rearranged my room, and waited for the final bell. Having no students, I listened for how students would react to their release from captivity.

    “Summer!” “I can’t get out of this building fast enough!” 

    I’m not sure if those were student or staff voices crying out their jubilation.

    After a quick power nap, it was off to help ready seniors for our community graduation at the football field. A few moments of the usual panic–“my walking partner isn’t here yet!” “I lost my tassel!” “The valedictorian can’t find her speech!” “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?” but we managed to line them up, march them off over to the bleachers to the repeated strains of commencement’s “da da dada da da”. Many speeches later,  and after no pranks of slipping the principal interesting bits of memorabilia, the class of 2015 tossed their hats in celebration.

    Next stop: grad nite.

    How to persuade new grads from going to parties and ending a happy day with a series of unfortunate events? Easy. Throw a party for them. Having done this rodeo three times with my own kinder, I help out by selling tickets and wandering around as a floater. Fun, food, and a chance to hug students one last time? I’m all in–at least until midnight. And the band played on until the wee hours of the morning.

    This morning? I still woke up at 5:30 am. I guess my body isn’t quite ready for vacation yet.

    I am hoping to dust off the laptop and get some writing projects cranking before fall arrives sooner than I hope it will.

    Any other teachers, students, or parents embracing the delights of school being out?

    The Go-Slow-Need-My-MoJo Mode

    Today the seniors begin taking their finals. I have earned the sympathy of staff members who do not teach seniors. Senioritis hit shortly after Spring Break and only graduation can cure its outbreak. There has been epidemic of no shows, skippers, and non-coms floating in my classes.

    I have come to the conclusion that teaching seniors is not for sissies. There are only two of us in the English department who willingly sign up to take them on. Why the hesitancy, the reluctance, the fear? Well, this group of students is under the misguided assumption that just because they are eighteen they are adults and are entitled to set their own course. The half-baked logic of  “I’m signing out now because I’m eighteen and can do so” crops up halfway through class with some individuals. This reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin raises his hand and asks to be dismissed because his brain is full. Apparently, students are developing smaller brains because they seem to fill up quickly these days. It can’t be that they want to avoid British literature…no, that can’t be. Yet, these same proclaimed adults who have figured out they are able to write their own excuses, haven’t figured out that self-excused absences or any absence not sanctioned by school or a doctor’s note, add up and jeopardize graduation. It has now caught up, and many students are stunned that they haven’t gotten away with it after all.

    The reckoning forces are visiting classrooms in force these past couple of weeks. When the office aides come in bearing admin passes I gleefully announce, “More Wonka tickets!” Yes, these yellow slips of beckoning, these invitations, these golden tickets are summons for the select few.  Alas, no chocolate awaits. These little lovelies announce the privilege of coming in after school either Wednesday or on Saturday to make up seat time. I wonder how these same studrnts who do not comprehend the  “play now, pay later” reality will deal with the cause and effect of credit card usage and credit card bills. 

    Now with a handful of days remaining, I contemplate the need for time to slow down because I still have so much I want to teach them; however, I’m losing my Mojo because teaching seniors is tough. It’s as tough as herding cats, but I do it, because I’m no sissified English teacher. I’m tough, and I’m thankful for the opportunity of pouring some Dickinson, Keats, Yeats, and Thomas into their brains. It’s what I do. Yup, not everyone can do we do (EDS=English Department Staff). And when those students cross that platform and grab their diplomas, it’s all worth it.

    Clowning Around as a Kid

    I feel fortunate to have grown up in the golden age of television. Walter Cronkite fathered us through the news. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore broke ground for weekly family shows, Carol Burnett entertained us, and Captain Kangaroo and other grown ups clowning around got me giggling.

    Here are some of the TV babysitters I remembered. For that’s what they did while Mom did what she had to do around the house.

    Captain Kangaroo

    It was like having a trusted grandfather telling me delightful stories… image: Wikipedia

    The show ran for nearly thirty years, from 1955 to 1984. I don’t remember much except Mr. Greenjeans and something about ping pong balls and a moose.

    Soupy Sales

    I have since learned Soupy Sales was a bit of a bad boy, always pushing those censor buttons. But, hey, as a kid, did I know this? I remember lots of pies and Fang.

    Those were the national shows I remember. I was fortunate enough to have had  several local talented hosts to kept me amused. If you grew up in the Greater Northwest area you might remember:

    Wunda Wunda

    She was calm and reassuring and she did indeed add a bit of learning to every show.

    Stan Boreson

    Memories of a guy playing the accordion, a catchy theme song, and a basset hound.

    Brakeman Bill

    Trains. I mainly remember trains and his sidekick donkey. Oh, here’s a fun fact. Brakeman Bill was invited to my wedding reception. I’m still not sure how and why I would have known him. My mom invited a lot of people. My brother was ecstatic having been a Brakeman Bill Booster when a youngster.

    My personal favorite…

    JP Patches

    I was not just a fan. I was a Patches Pal. image:


    Did I say this was my favorite show? I still get girlish gigglish when I think how I stood in line with all the other kiddos to meet my favorite clown. I even have a photo of me with my morning/afternoon icon (yes, I got doses in the morning and afternoon–two hours of fun everyday!) As you can see JP collected buttons. I remember my last visitation as a preteen and standing in line to shyly hand him a button for his coat collection. I felt a little embarrassed since I was a bit older than the other kids there. But a dedicated fan is a dedicated fan.

    The show’s format featured Gertrude, a loud obnoxious “woman,” as in the Shakespearean sense, who was JP’s girlfriend (the Gertrude actor actually played a total of about 18 roles). Even though JP lived at the dump he had class. He had great rapport with the TV audience and owned an ICU television set. He would tune in and personally wish that viewer a happy birthday. I remember wishing my birthday would be called out. Never happened *sniff* He also had a villainous counterhero on the show named Boris S. Wart, whose sole goal was to takeover the show. I believe he did once. Boris tried appearing with JP once; however, some overzealous Patches Pals beat him up. Honestly, I was not part of that particular Patches Pack. Other memorable non-human characters: Tikey Turkey, Griswald, Grandpa Tik Tok, Esmerelda. Even if you did not grow up in the Puget Sound (I’ll try not to feel sorry for you) I’ll let you partake in Patches fun by clicking to the best ever website I spent most of my Saturday morning watching bits and clips of my childhood.

    So–what great children’s programming did you grow up with?


    33 in 2015: a love story

    Marriage is like a long-playing record–a bit of static, some scratches, a couple of skips now and then, but overall the music compensates for the irregularities that occur. image: bunko/morguefile


    33 years ago, my hubs, whom I affectionately designate as MEPA (most excellent personal assistant) and I, stood on a slip of beach in the calm of a January storm and exchanged vows. I was 25 and he 36.

    Neither one of us thought marriage when we first met. Both of us, tired of the dating game and relationships gone wrong, thought it satisfying to have a working relationship. You see, I hired him to help me remodel the little shop I had decided to set up my balloon bouquet delivery service. The landlord had cut me a deal: remodel the store–I provide labor and he provide material. I gained six months free rent from that little agreement. I signed the line and upon recommendation, hired the cute guy sporting the fu manchu and curly hair who worked at the local hardware store. Auburn gingers are a weak spot.

    The first night of work involved sheet-rocking the ceiling. It took the two of us, my entire repartee of elephant jokes, and about five hours to finish the job. I paid him the agreed sum of $65 and threw in a deli sandwich.
    We met in October. I proposed two weeks after meeting him and we eloped 56 days later. I thought getting married January first would be a significant way to start our new life together. Too broke to afford a reception or honeymoon, we found a pizza place open and had the place to ourselves.

    Last night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at a new restaurant and the owners sent over a delicious complimentary slice of key lime pie. The evening was topped by watching Anything Goes with Donald O’Conner and Bing Crosby. The Cole Porter score fits the general theme of our marriage: a bit whirlwind and somewhat lyrical.
    We are opposite in tastes, strongly singular in outlook, and much more mellow than we used to be.
    33 used to be a LP record designated for long playing–yup, just like it should be for marriage.
    Happy New Year!!

    Breaking Out

    December 19th is a happy day for several reasons:
    1. Christmas Break begins as soon as I turn the key on my classroom door.
    2. I’m invited to the library staff Christmas party (being a trustee has it’s perks)
    3. The next time I enter my classroom it’ll be a new year, meaning we’ve turned the corner and we’ll be heading towards June graduation.
    4. Because the 20th is when our very own kinder plus the wunderkind begin arriving for Christmas.
    5. I will not be grading papers and don’t have to create lesson plans, although I might fuss and dabble with the ones I have ready to go for January.
    6. My room is prepped ready to be painted over break, transforming it from bowl-of-oatmeal-blah-grayish taint to contemporary calming tan and teal.
    7. I anticipate two weeks of napping, reading, exercising, visiting, snacking, writing, celebrating a joyous season, and overall relaxing.

    I’m contemplating some serious Shakespeare reading–I have a mungo long TBR list of background bio books on the Bard. I’ve a hankering to write a middle grade novel about Wm. Shakespeare, something that will fetch up some interest in him prior to forced readings of his plays in middle school and high school–something that will pique their interest. To go where no author has gone before with the Bard. I know, that’s a tall order for two weeks.

    I’m also considering revisiting former reads such The Hobbit and then watch the film adaptation.

    I might also start a series I’ve never encountered before. Mystery? Adventure? Sci-fi? Historical? So many options. Any suggestions?

    Of course, I could do a thorough scrubbing of my writing and edit and revise and market and well, that sounds an awful like work and aren’t I supposed to be relaxing?
    Whatever I decide to do, I want you all to know I appreciate your comments, views, likes, and follows. I hope to end out the year with 25,000 views and a 1000 followers.

    Happy joyful season of friends, family, feasting, and most of all, thanks for the Star of Bethlehem.

    Graphically and Comically Speaking

    Confession: I am a reformed annoying little sister. One of my annoying habits involved sneaking into my brother’s room and get into his stuff. When he wasn’t looking, I crept into his room and stole furtive sneak reads of his comic book collection. He fussed quite loudly whenever he caught me, but I couldn’t resist. What little girl could resist feasting on Disney comics, for those were my brother’s faves. He mainly bought Uncle Scrooge along with those mini-comic books (comics are actually magazines not books, if you think about it).

    Uncle Scrooge made sense to me as a kid–I saw through his skinflinty ways and saw a softie. Image: wikipedia

    My comic passion ignited I am hooked and remember summer afternoons binging on comic book reads with friends in our backyard. Years pass and my brother graduates and I move on from Disney to Peanuts to Archie and the gang. Flash forward and I’m in college and I’m still reading cartoons, although they are now sophisticated commentary: Doonesbury.
    From Doonesbury I easily switched to Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes and Zits. I introduced my own kiddos to the joy of comics, buying the big treasury collections which I read as well. They didn’t bat an eye about their mother reading a Better or for Worse collection with her own bowl of cereal in the morning.

    Cereal and comics–best times. Image:

    Oh yeah, in high school my research paper was “What’s So Funny About the Comics?” I wrote about the history of the comics from their beginnings clear up to modern-day offerings. I prefer Snoopy over Garfield any day.
    This weekend my youngest progeny visited for his monthly Mom Meal. I dragged him along on errands, one of which being the library. Besides picking up a couple of movies we picked up some books. Actually that’s an understatement. We staggered out of the library with mixture of graphic novels (Beowulf rocks), Herge Tin Tins, Marvel Encyclopedias, Batman, Zombie stuff, and DMZ. About twenty books. My son, who is all grown up, living on his own, and is a responsible adult, holed up on the couch the rest of the afternoon and feasted on his found treasures.

    Forget surfing the Internet–surf through a comic book instead! Image:

    I’m okay with that. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I was, wouldn’t I? Reading comic books didn’t warp my mind, didn’t ruin my kiddos to read “real” books and I’m quite glad to see them legitimized and sitting on their own shelf in the library.
    Anyone else still reading the comics page? I only wish I could manage to do so without feeling so silly to see how Luann is doing these days when I’m in the staff room.

    Why We Say #10: of Chickens and Whistles

    “George, do you think we can afford to go out to dinner and maybe take in a show? Will that be too expensive?”

    “Why, Martha. The expense of going out on the town with my best girl is chicken feed. Grab your hat, darling, and let’s skeddadle downtown.”

    George and Martha probably enjoyed their night out because more than likely George, being a generous fellow, had made his fortune and a spending money mattered no longer to him. In fact, a few dollars was a mere pittance, like tossing crumbs to the birds.

    And that’s exactly where the expression “chicken feed” comes from–tossing small bits out at a time.  Chickens don’t have the capacity to chew up their food (ever see a chicken smile?) and must peck at small amounts. Apply that idea to money and chicken feed means a small amount of spending, not enough to worry or get choked up over.

    image: not your average chicken


    “Martha, are you going to be able to get that spot of gravy out of my tie? I have to look sharp for tomorrow’s presentation.”

    “No worries, George. I’ll get it clean as a whistle.”

    I doubt Martha was whistling was she worked on George’s tie.  Honestly, George, don’t you know gravy is just looking for the opp to drip on ties?

    As for the expression “clean as whistle”, this one is pretty much as it sounds (sorry, the pun overcame the keyboard). About the time of Huck Finn and company, boys would find reeds and poke holes in them to make their whistles. The cleaner the reed, the cleaner or clearer the sound.


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