Romp with me on the Beach at Ipanema (Really!)

A sunga `High school days. Sometimes I think we never get past them; however, I don’t think many high schoolers are romping on the Beach at Ipanema on the 4th of July—perhaps these days they are, what with the 2%’s money and the ever-present need of parents to buy their teenagers’ approval. I know the kind of travel privileged university students have done by the time they arrive at their elite schools—to say nothing of their collegiate Spring Break adventures.

(Damn! I sound like a crotchety, jealous old man.)

I was on the Beach at Ipanema on July 4, 1990 (at age 45, if you must know). My professor colleagues did their best to hook me up with a Brazilian Adonis in a tanga or sunga, but I was too fair-skinned (we knew before our trip that, no matter how much sun we got, we would  be the least-tanned folk on the beach), and far too frightened of being mugged or worse by some gorgeous stranger in a strange land.

Staring down the gun barrel of an Israeli tank in a street in Bethlehem shortly after the Second Intifada (mercifully, my second stay in Bethlehem was much different—joyful and rewarding) and visiting the village in Gaza where Rachel Corrie died are hardly the stuff of Spring Break trips for high schoolers or their (somewhat) morphed university selves.

(This did not start as a grouchy rant about the life-long privilege of the students I teach, most of whom I come to respect and a few of whom I grow to think on with great fondness.)

(I am, however, a crotchety, jealous old man.)
If I am allowed to teach for two more years (if you’re reading this and don’t want to support me through food stamps in my old age, hold a good thought in that direction toward my department chair), I will close my career with a new topic for my first-year “Discovery and Discourse” (Freshman English) classes: Emily Dickinson, the lady from Amherst, MA, whom academics “. . . now consider [] to be a major American poet” (1).

Disclaimers. 1) My title above was an enticement. You’ve already read all I’ll write about Ipanema; and 2) I am too poor to retire—the result of being a drunk for the first 40 years of my life and of being an American raped and pillaged by the Republicans and their friends the bankers.

Alas. I’ve almost reached my word limit for the day, and I’m not even at my topic yet. Dickinson.

I mentioned high school because Mr. Simpson introduced me to Dickinson when I was a junior, a common experience in those dark ages when educators had time to “loaf and invite [students’] souls” instead of cramming them for standardized tests.

I will begin my classes—yes, the first day—by “unpacking”

This Consciousness that is aware Of Neighbors and the Sun Will be the one aware of Death, And that itself alone Is traversing the interval Experience. . .

Yes. The first day of class, the kids whose most important thought is that ‘Duck Dynasty’ patriarch (Phil Robertson) turned down the NFL as a Louisiana Tech football star, or that Ricky Schroder is directing his daughter in new Hallmark TV movie (perhaps not, because they don’t know who Ricky Schroder is).

“This Consciousness that is aware Of Neighbors and the Sun Will be the one aware of Death.” I think one has to be at least 68 years old to comprehend this nectar (although Dickinson was much younger when she wrote it).

And I move precipitously from crotchety, jealous old man to the stark reality that old men and women know. `deaf dad 007a
I used to be conscious mainly of my Neighbors—perhaps especially the Adonis at Ipanema—and of the Sun—at Ipanema—and the sun shining also on the Palestinian whose home is being demolished by an Israeli tank—and now I am aware of Death.

I have no idea what the next sentence is supposed to be. I’m as incapable of thinking about that as my students might be. Awareness is all. I traverse Experience quite alone.

________ (1) “Emily Dickinson.” Wikipedia. wickepedia. org N.D. Web. 1 Mar 2013. (I read this absurdity on Wikipedia when I went to the site to make sure I had Dickinson’s birth and death dates correct in my mind.)