Friday, April 15, 2011

Teachers in the Wild

I think that Highlights for Kids should introduce a new section entitled "Teachers: They're Just Like Us!"  At the very least, such a photo spread would be educational for the first-grade girl I ran into the other day at the vending machine in my building.  I had been standing with my eyes trained squarely on the Cheez-Its--deftly avoiding looking toward the jacuzzi where I had once accidentally seen two college kids making out--when I heard a teeny voice say, "Miss Robertson?"  Then the voice grew louder with confidence, "Miss Robertson?  What are you doing here?"

That question is where this picture, positioned next to Goofus and Gallant perhaps, would come in:

They eat stale Chips-Ahoy!
Miss Robertson stepped downstairs to get a bag of chocolate chip cookies and a pop. Sources close to the Grand Forks substitute teacher report that she often eats vending machine food for dessert.

That one picture wouldn't even begin to make a dent in changing most students' responses to seeing their teachers in the suburban wild, however.  As a sub, I run into kids I've taught nearly every day, and I've learned that their reactions range from embarrassed, shy surprise (hiding behind their mothers' coats) to excited, loud surprise (the little girl at my building's pool).  This tabloid-style photo layout would have to be a regular feature, then, with occasional special edition inserts aimed at other school employees: "Principals: They're Just Like Us" or "Paraprofessionals: They're Just Like Us!"

Witness (and please forgive the Myspace quality of these photos):

Their hair gets frizzy!
We snapped Miss Robertson reading a book near her Grand Forks apartment.  It was unclear if the sub, who recently moved from Chicago, had remembered to brush her hair that morning.

They go to the grocery store!
Miss Robertson was caught wearing her favorite sunglasses on the way back from the local Hugo's.  The thrifty GFPS sub apparently had a coupon for her favorite pop.

In other news, I've been looking for a photo to include with the resume packet I hand out to principals.  I think I've found it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Taco Friday

Based on my (pitifully few) blog entries, you might conclude that I'm obsessed with Mexican food.  I've mentioned tacos four times as often as I have the legendary actor/director/producer Clint Eastwood, after all, and anything that gets more column space than Dirty Harry must rank pretty high up there.  I also have to confess that I do love me some plastic spoon tamarind candies:

However, I would like to state for the record that it is this town--and not me--with the fixation on Mexican food.  In fact, if you were to distill Grand Forks cuisine into one base recipe, I believe it would read something like this:

1. Take a carbohydrate, preferably one fried.
2. Top it with taco meat, preferably of the Taco Bell variety.
3. Optional: Add Cheddar cheese, jalapeño peppers, or mild salsa.

Taco in a bag obviously falls into this category.  So does the food at Taco John's, where I recently ordered a taco with a side of Potato Olés (I think the accent mark over olé adds an air of authenticity to what is a dish of tater tots topped with nacho cheese).

But the grand poobah of the North Dakotan take on the taco is the Grinder, a deli sandwich found at Red Pepper.

There, they take a turkey or ham sandwich, use what looks like a frosting spatula to smear taco meat and some kind of sweetened mayonnaise on top, sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over all of that, and arrange it all on a paper plate.

The result, I have to say, is not my favorite of the taco creations on offer here, but the restaurant is charmingly quaint.  I can also understand the Grinder's appeal to people who were weaned on them or to college students who just had a few beers at one of the frat houses a block down the road.  Actually, I think I could see the appeal even more if the chefs put a Cheez-Whiz–like nacho sauce on top, like Taco John does with the tater tot. In fact, since I just signed up as a Potato Olés Maniac on the Taco Johns website, I just might have to go redeem my free bowl of Mexicanized tater tots now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

From the Home Office in Grand Forks

Deciding to eat lunch in the teachers' lounge for the first time at a school is like choosing to enter a police interrogation room.  Between bites of my peanut butter sandwich, I field endless questions from teachers about my decision to live in Grand Forks.  This lunch-time grilling is almost always the same, beginning with the question, You're married to someone on the Air Force Base, right? and ending with So what do you do living on your own? (And, yes, that sentence has a weak pun.  And, no, I'm not ashamed to admit it.)

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I will answer the question of what a single girl in a new town does to pass the time.  From the Home Office in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I present to you the Top Ten Things to Do When You Live on Your Own in a New Place.

10. Take up unnecessary crafts, like magnet-making.  

Avoid potentially useful hobbies, like photography.
9. Drink coffee.  Read.  Fill in the crossword.  Repeat.

8. Check in daily with the wise basket owl who lives on your kitchen wall.  How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, Mr. Owl?

7. Procrastinate updating your blog.  Watch 1980s David Letterman on YouTube instead.

6. Swap recipes and coupons with the Manitoban housewives at the Hugo's Grocery.

5. Start a 2-hour skirt pattern.  Stretch it out to take several weeks.

4. Cook while listening to "Jolene".

3. Sample the cookie dough Blizzard at each of the four Dairy Queen locations.  Go back to each to compare their chocolate-dipped cones.

2. Clean while listening to "Coat of Many Colors".

And the Number One Thing to Do When You Live on Your Own in a New Place--drum roll, please, Paul--

1. Throw spontaneous dance parties for yourself.  Model your dance moves after this: