Russia has been one of the more challenging countries for me. Some of it has been bad luck: A mix-up causing our eviction on the first day here; an eviction six months later because our apartment had been sold. Some of it has been the grind of the EFL factory: Arriving having agreed to work five-day, 36-hour weeks and being informed we’d be on a six-day schedule with an expectation of loving overtime. Some of it has been incompatible cultural mindsets. Still, Moscow, like life, like all great places, has its moments.
This city has been exhilarating where it should be: Red Square, Arbat St., Gorky Park, the statues, the ex-Soviet government buildings, theatres, onion domes, cobblestones, beer, funky wintertime hats, Russian markets—these things are expected and overcome any qualms about jobs or apartments. And, it has delivered surprises as well: a fantastic culture of taking walks and a fleet of amazing parks in which to do it, a beautiful river bedazzled with eclectic and stunning architecture, great pickles, diverse and inspiring Metro stations, a regular Tuesday night bowling engagement.
Unfortunately, my appreciation of them has been sparser than I’d have liked, whereas my tough daily commute, long hours with restless students, and hurried lifestyle has been ominously present. On my one day off, there is shopping to do, clothes to wash, all the minutiae of preparing for the next six days, which was the reason for finding a five-day-a-week job rather than what this turned out to be. While these things are more industry-related, the apartment evictions likely freak incidents, the sourness of them has no doubt colored the country in an unflattering light for me.
Things go wrong so often that “Welcome to Russia” is used to explain crap situations. It’s expensive. The snow melts and makes the city a pigsty. Shop assistants are as likely to frown at you as greet you. Then, it snows and melts again. There is no common exchange of pleasantries between pedestrians, neighbors, or many colleagues. Fur is still in high fashion. Though students mock foreigners for thinking Russians have pet bears and shoot vodka all the time (opinions I had no concept of), I’ve never seen as many people, at any hour, stumbling the streets as here, and a stranger has shown me footage of him poking a hibernating bear with a stick. It has seemed a culture both unwaveringly proud and resilient in its faults.
However, this week has delivered a long-awaited holiday and, with the free time to go out into the city, a renewed vision of what Moscow could have been. The weather is fine and warm, sunny with a tickling breeze, and the world is turning green again. People are out enjoying the parks, having picnics. Impromptu food stalls and beer gardens are sprouting up like springtime foliage. Unfortunately, my wounds are deep, the life of me as a Muscovite too tainted, but my dormant aspirations for this place feel a little more justified. If only I’d been able to give it a chance before the milk had gone bad, the story of Russia may have been different for me.
One of the most difficult obstacles of being an EFL teacher is accepting, dealing with, and adjusting to the fact that EFL is more about business as education. Most positions are for private academies, trying to make money first, with the success of students more or less a secondary necessity of quality control, creating a shiny product more relevant than an effective one. As a result, teachers are often knowingly put into bad positions to accommodate filling rosters and selling more English.
It has taken me a long time to accept this fact: The optimal classroom—students of similar age, level, and culpability—is not only unrealistic but also in direct opposition to the optimal sales environment. Whereas classrooms are a delicate balance in which one out-of-place student (too advanced, too behind, too naughty) can change the entire dynamic, a salesperson will always be more concerned with the empty space in the maximum number of students allowed in the class. Whether or not the student “fits” has no effect on their commission or the company’s profits.
Essentially, as teachers, we must learn to expect our classes will be out of whack, unlike the easy-flowing oases of harmonious learning in which we once believed. Sometimes you must teach a nine-year-old with a four-year-old on your lap, help a group of adults who never do homework pass an exam, or teach two pages of material for three hours (or ten pages of material in one hour). Mismatched as they may be, keeping the clients docile and happy is priority number one. Truth be known, the more slowly they learn, the longer they can be milked, or the sooner they finish a book, the quicker they buy a new one from their local English experts.
This methodology, to varying degrees of unscrupulousness, has been the one constant of my teaching career, and though I’ve spent the last ten years bitching about it, though I don’t believe it’s a “necessary evil”, I’ve stopped hoping for anything different. Ethically, it’s a tough spot, one that often causes me to despise the company I’m contracted to represent and the curriculum that I follow. It’s a place all teachers find themselves. Even the US school system is suckling on the teat of standardized tests and following a government policy (surely by now we can say it) proven unsuccessful.
While quitting often seems the best option, and once a year I do, at least for a couple of months (someone wisely made that teacher MO years back), there’s still something about being in the classroom. Every teacher dreams of being that difference maker, the lady from Dangerous Minds or guy from Dead Poets Society, the fired-by-the-end-of-the-show rebel educator found in every teen TV series ever made. (They were always English teachers—ha, ha!) As a student, I never really gave two spliffs about what educational policy my institution was adhering to. Basically, I wanted my teacher fighting the system and keeping class cool.
Fact of the matter is I was once what is now my blight: A smart-mouthed punk who passed every class despite never doing homework, misbehaving constantly, and dragging the level of classroom decorum into the boys’ urinal trough. Then, as I’d bet most teachers did, I chose this career path because I liked the idea of summers off, not out of some philanthropic drive to brighten up the world. Then, I became an EFL teacher because it meant I could get paid to travel. Along the way, I figured to be one of those cool teachers students didn’t hate. Entrenched in my battle against the man, I sometimes lose sight of what once was obvious: None of us have ever liked school. Just get on with it.
For those of you who have no idea who Tommy Emmanuel is, shame on you. His fame is so long-standing in Australia that it’s gone stale, which might be the very reason why I’m writing about him in my life-in-Moscow rag: I caught his show this weekend. I’d never heard of him before either, but a friend, one who is determined to have us leave Russia feeling positive about the place, gave us tickets to his concert this past Saturday.
Tommy performed at the very modern Moscow International House of Music, which overlooks a quay of the Moscow River and is likened to a “crystal palace”. I had but one negative: Though there are several floors inside, hosting as many levels of balcony seating, none have toilets (Often in need of relief, it’s an attribute I’ve noticed in many of the buildings here, new and old). But, as buildings go, it was nice: The main hall is covered from ceiling to floor to balcony rails in a sandy-colored wood that just screams no-expenses-spared.
Perhaps more entertaining for us was the crowd, ranging from dreadlocked university students (link doesn’t apply) in t-shirts to half-lost grandparents to people dressed to the nines and out from a proper theatre experience. Being ushered to our seats about ten minutes into the opening act, we were sat betwixt an entire row of collegiates and a young guy who was translating the English stage talk for his parents, all somehow fans of this rather aged Australian guitar player past his prime and lacking any top-of-the-charts hits.
How were they so in the know and we weren’t? We’d had to look Tommy up on the internet, watch some of his YouTube performances to get some idea of what we were in for, but somehow he’d packed the house. Admittedly, he’s pretty badass (watch the YouTube clip if you haven’t), but it still seemed a bit like going to see David Crosby, i.e. someone who maybe should’ve stopped when the getting was gone. In Moscow, the crowd was bursting into mistimed applause every time a stage door opened and they thought Tommy was finally making his entrance.
Then, he tore the stage up. I have never seen anything like it. The man came out onto a stage clearly more intended for orchestras than guitar soloist, and he rocked the international house, my friends. He left me with little choice but to include him in a blog, give praise where praise is due. Slapping, drumming, hitting, shaking, whatever it took—that old dude sometimes made his guitar sound like a freaking full band was playing. At one point, on one guitar, he seemed to be playing all the parts to “Day Tripper” and “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles.
I’m not sure how an Australian guitarist translates into the Moscow experience, but it was certainly worthy of note and unlike any show I’ve ever attended, as is Moscow, Dasha: You needn’t buy us anymore surprise tickets. We’ll say nice things. I promise.
Some of us just keep that candle burning.
Some people love idioms, maybe even use them occasionally. Some people love teaching them, delight in watching students uncover the mystery, how “ants in your pants” doesn’t literally denote that tiny creatures are crawling all over your legs, only that you’re wiggling around as if it were the case. Some teachers just love to reveal these secrets of native language, “to let the cat out of the bag” on what people really say. It probably comes as little surprise that I don’t.
First of all, I don’t really like when native speakers use idioms too much, all those bulls in china shops, held horses, cows waiting to come home: It’s animal cruelty if you ask me. Furthermore, we are taught not to play with our food, so why don’t we dispense with buttering people up, catching flies with honey rather than vinegar (what the hell), and for the love of good, eat the damned nutty fruitcake and leave the crazies alone.
Secondly, some of them just make you sound lame. If I’m burning the midnight oil, then I don’t need you coming around pointing out my misery with some catchy turn of phrase: Take your 19th century lighting and bug off. Bug off?—who says that besides a 1950s geek (imagine Marty McFly). F*** off will suit me just fine and seems more effective. Such witticism, then, often goes over like a lead balloon and has you skating on thin ice before a conversation even gets started. Heavens to Betsy, other than angry parents and comic book villains, who talks like this?
Of course, I can’t dismiss them all. “Kiss my anything” just seems to work, and I can accept fingers-crossed and the like, which actually have physical gags to go along with them. And, who can resist a well-placed facetious idiom, something of the-bee-in-your-bonnet variety or, say, “blind leading the blind”, where the phrasing humor is more about timing than showing off your new English skill. But, that’s where issue three comes in: When most EFL/ESL speakers try to execute most idioms, they come off all-thumbs.
Admittedly, idioms are idioms because they do crop up into everyday conversations readily enough to be noted as special, to be blacklisted for writers, who have to come up with original moustache-twisters…jelly-rollers…ball-ticklers to keep audiences happy. However, that’s not to say that we use them every chance we get. I know how to use “pay through the nose”, but I’ve never felt moved to say it. Nor have I found myself in a bad situation and thought, hmm, let me use this chance to say “up a creek without a paddle.”
Nothing is sadder than an otherwise fantastic speaker who has recently learned some ridiculously antiquated phrase and is trying at every chance to include “like finding hens’ teeth” into a 21st century conversation with someone who grew listening to Nirvana. I respect the effort, but I loathe the teacher—that wolf in sheep’s clothing—who introduced this drivel to an impressionable mind. It’s not the student's fault.
Come to think of it: Why can I recall having used “on egg shells” multiple times in my life? What the hell is wrong with us? Where the hell did I learn that? Who taught me to talk like a farmer’s wife? Why can’t I just say you make me really uncomfortable or go suck an egg you grumpy bastard? Mostly though, why should walking on egg shells be disconcerting? Try laying an egg, MF.
Can I see a frozen tear?
The weather has broken, cracked those positive temperatures across winter’s stubborn cranium, and the streets of Moscow have for days runneth forth with the mercifully melted snow. I, for one, am happy to see it go, though in its wake disappears the enchanted white-capped forests of not-so-yore and the long-delayed chance to go sledding one last time. At the risk of sounding frigid to Grandfather Frost, the novelty of snowfall has long since worn off.
In my heart of hearts, I knew the cold would never win me over, that regardless of how nice hot chocolate or brandy or snuggling might be, I will forever prefer the sun, a beer from a cooler (here, we put beer on the balcony to get colder quicker—than in the freezer), and, most of all, flip-flops. I came to Russia wanting to get my ass frozen, to walk away able to say I survived a Russian winter, even if many would suggest it wasn’t a particularly harsh one.
The worst month was February, the worst week the one in which Emma’s father arrived. (Until then, we just more or less stayed inside.) He’d tried to come before the bottom fell out of the thermometer, but the enigmatic visa process landed him here just as temperatures troughed: -27 degrees Celsius (-17 F). Sightseeing was a bitter affair as we dutifully, begrudgingly wrapped up to our icy eyeballs in layers for quick, wincing glances at the architecture, happier to just sit in a café and see what we could see, let our toes thaw. It took him a month to recover when he got home. We had to stay.
In March, it seemed to snow every day. The temperatures teetered near the zero mark in the day and bottomed-out at around minus ten during the nights. It was as if the snow had been waiting, and this strange new game of trickle and tease began. The stacks of shoveled snow, of dirty chopped ice chunks, would begin to melt a little in the afternoon, moistening the sidewalk into muddy puddles, and overnight, the sky would open up in blizzard form, dousing the place in powder again, melting away in the afternoon, keeping the sidewalks swampy.
This past week, the second of April, the pavements began to reemerge, the grassy knolls to once again be grassy, small moats of winter runoff forming at their bases. Today it feels like spring: The window open to allow a cool drift to fill the apartment, the sun punching through the curtain in defiance, a different and livelier noise coming up from the intersection. Yesterday, I looked from my classroom and thought how much more I’d rather be outside. Sure, no teacher wants to be in school, but it was the first time in ages, the exterior didn’t seem just as threatening.
So, I’ll say it now, relatively reassured that my yak-hair coat has been closeted for good this time: I came here; I survived a Russian winter.
Damn it, I got here and hated those freaking SMART boards, all that technology-in-the-classroom load of bollocks, ridiculous schemes dreamed up by industry to throw another load of books on the fire. I didn’t want to use them. I didn’t want any part. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just throw that hunk of touch screen crap out in the hall and give me a white board, some markers, and a few minds to tweak. I’d come to teach, not learn about computer programs.
At first, I refused to do anything more than use the thing as if were only a hugely overpriced whiteboard. I wrote and erased. I bitched when the tip of the faux marker didn’t dictate where the writing would appear, creating the weird effect of trying to scribble something and having it be four inches above my hand. Dotting an “i” was so difficult it made me sick. The pens would erase when I tried to write, or I would destroy entire words instead of make little cosmetic improvements, say shorten the tail of a “u” so that it didn’t look like a “y”.
Then, there was all the other computer crap that goes along with computer… crap. I waited a month for a techie to hook the thing up. Sometimes, I’d be in the middle of the lesson and crash, the screen would freeze, the children mocking me as scramble to get the system rebooted all so I could write ten colors. For two months, I showed my age, sure that SMART boards were the dumbest idea smart people had ever come up with, citing how when I was a boy, teachers only needed chalk and a surface.
However, when I’m wrong, and I was severely wrong this time, I’ll own up to it. As the months progressed, even if by accident, I began to understand it more. The Christmas came, and I was able to broadcast free YouTube holiday cartoons to my classes, which was miraculous, both in that they were available in Russia and didn’t require carting an ancient tv-video system from a weird-smelling storage closet. Like any responsible teacher, I started incorporating cartoons into just about every lesson.
The YouTube discovery only fueled more exploration. So, I learned how to freeze projections of worksheets, the same my students had done for homework, on the board so that we could complete them together, for all to see. I learned to make fifty colors with one marker, found a built-in timer with sound effects, and utilized an endless plethora of children’s EFL themed songs and lessons and stuff from YouTube. I remembered how much I hated refilling ink in markers for the old white boards.
The best was yet to come: interactive touch screen games, namely a little website called Barry Fun English. Gone are the days of having to copy, cut, and paste a dozen individual game boards and pieces. Online there are all manner of educational games (environmentally-friendly and for free no less), such that whatever grammar, vocabulary, or contextual drivel I am bestowing that day can be taught via the bells, whistles, and graphics of a computer game. My job got a whole lot easier.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I use SMART features in every lesson of every class I teach now. We watch a cartoon weekly (with accompanying vocabulary lesson and quiz questions), we play Barry Fun English every lesson, and we use our books as sparingly as possible. In any given class, we spend about twenty-five percent of the time studying the old fashion way and the other seventy-five getting SMART. So, I guess the conclusion would be that I endorse this product.
(Sincere thanks to Dasha for the opportunity and Diana for sitting next to two dirty hippies.)
I must admit that, though traveling is a passion of mine, and in some sense, I do wish to experience the culture of the places I visit, the opera never really even made a blip on my radar of things in which to partake, regardless of how a certain population felt about it. In addition to this admission, I also confess to feeling slightly uncultured (in the upper-crust, monocle-d sense of the world) for not wanting to see, or more specifically, hear one, for thinking that costumed swooners belting out three hours worth of melodic insert foreign language of choice might not be my cup of tea.
Hey, I’ll be frank: I’ve tried many a cup of tea in my travel days. There is green tea and milky tea and jasmine tea and Earl Grey tea and apple tea, green tea with honey, green tea with ginseng, ginseng tea…(You see what I was doing there. Ha, ha. Forrest Gump.) Anyway, you put a cup of tea in front of me, I’ll give a swig. However, there have always been certain experiences I’ve done without: I never went a Turkish bath while in Istanbul, never attended a Semana Santa parade while in Guatemala, never tried dog while living in Korea (I was going to but mysteriously turned vegetarian). So, how in the hell did I end up at an opera in Moscow?
It began by agreeing to go to a ballet, something that is no more macho, but somehow, by virtue of leotards and instrumental music, seemed palatable for my differently-refined (let’s not say unrefined) Louisiana taste buds. We bought tickets to Swan Lake, which I hear is a big one and which I know a little about via the recent film Black Swan, which in turn I own up to having enjoyied, despite the repercussions that may follow from my more manly fan-base (It has girls kissing, guys. Be cool.). Then, Emma got sick, and we didn’t go. For a while, it seemed we would forgo the Russian theatre experience all together.
The Russian theatre ranks pretty freaking high on the “things to do while in Moscow” list. It’s the equivalent of New York and a Broadway show, or an Off-Broadway show, or at the very least, an Off-Off-Broadway show. It’s the equivalent to Bourbon Street and exposed breasts: Some things just have to happen to say you’ve really been somewhere. So, when Dasha, our Russian confidant and guide to the theatre scene, surprised us with two tickets to L’elisir d’Amore, ensuring that we would in fact experience the theatre in Moscow, I could only say thank you, and despite the recoil of my ear canal, somehow I meant it.
Last night, I saw my first opera, and it was…pretty okay. It was what some things should be and should be done for: The right to say I’ve been there. Truthfully, I’ve attempted watching silent films, the old black-and-whites, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton type affairs, and I got it, even enjoyed them, but just didn’t care to participate like the true aficionado. The opera was much the same: I can appreciate the talent, both of the orchestra and the singers, and the ambience created by…the orchestra and the singers, the theatre itself, the old world charm and the drapery. I’m just never going to be a regular supporter of this particular performing art.
And, that’s okay. And, I’m glad to have gone. And, I still mean my thank you to Dasha, especially if and when she reads this. And, I don’t care what anyone thinks anymore because I’ve been there and saw/heard that, which gives me the right to continue my quest of watching every episode of The Family Guy, still feeling sufficiently cultured (in that upper-crust, monocle-d way). And, it gives me the right to not go to another one or, at the very least, protest should the situation ever arise. And, I can say that I liked it, kind of, in an I-was-able-to-follow-the-story-line,-isn’t-that-good? sort of declaration. And, I can honestly say that I don’t feel any more worldly than before. Close curtains.
One certainty, hypothetically speaking, is that conditionals haunt every person who attempts to learn, teach, or master the English language, anyone in need of proposing some factual or imaginary. This one is going to make your head hurt. Ah, my chops are wet now, my temperature elevated to a simmering blood-bubble, so let’s get started good grammar geeks of the blog world: What is a conditional?
Typically, conditionals come in the form of “if blah-blah, blah blah”, which when looking at it in this blah-blah form seems rather simple. However, if you look more closely, the whole sorted world of proposition sentence making will blow your skillet. There are rules galore, codes of conduct, and a dizzying array of verb tenses. Generally, however, conditionals come in four varieties: the zero, the first, the second, and the (hmm…What should we call it?) third.
The zero conditional is used for statements of general knowledge or fact, often rather scientific-sounding declarations (If water reaches zero degrees Celcius, it freezes.) and sometimes rather stupid observations (If it is raining outside, this grass is getting wet.) It can also be used to claim truths about yourself: If I don’t bath, I stink. If I eat beans, I make the bath stink. In the case of the zero condition, both the dependent clause (the if-statement) and the independent clause (the consequence) should be in either present simple or present continuous/progressive tense. This one is the easiest, as well as the least used, conditional.
The first conditional references the future results of hypothetical proclamations: If something happens, the result will be this. The first conditional also utilizes the present simple or continuous tenses (happens), only now these are used to express possible or theoretical events in the future. Thus, the main clause, the result, should occur in the future, so we utilize “will” or “be going to” to express that (will be). Now, If I don’t bath, I will stink becomes grammatically correct, but the future tense in the result makes it supposed rather than factual. The plot thickens when we consider other modals, like can and may, that can be used instead of future tense: If I eat beans, I can make the bath stink—sounds like fun.
If the first conditional left you a little bewildered, I wouldn’t fret about it, as we are now moving on to the second conditional, also known as the unreal conditional. In its simplest form, the second conditional expresses sort of dream-like musings (If I had a million dollars, I would never teach conditionals again.) or offerings of advice (If I were you, I would continue reading this. It’s important stuff, or is it?). Of course, with a new conditional comes a new ration of verb tenses, the if-clause now befriending the past simple or past continuous tense, where as the main clause utilizes would rather than will. If I didn’t bath regularly (meaning that I do—making the statement, “I don’t bath regularly”, unreal), I would stink (meaning that I don’t—making the statement, “I stink”, untrue.) Go on, look at it again. Have a think.
*Note that, for exceptions and giggles, the grammar gods made a special rule that the past tense “be” verb should always be were in second conditionals, despite the painstaking efforts of English teachers to make students use was when speaking in the first-person (I) or the third-person (he/she/it). So, we say, If I were (not was) to eat beans (meaning I haven’t yet), I could make the bath stink.
We’ve finally arrived at the third conditional, again delving into the unreal, this time with special attention to things that I didn’t do and the results that did not happen: If you had known how long this would take, you wouldn’t have bothered, but now there is only one more paragraph—can’t stop with only one paragraph left. For the sake of expedience: If + past perfect verb tense, could/would/might + have + past participle. If I had eaten beans last night, I might have avoided this whole article by entertaining myself in the bathtub, meaning that I didn’t eat beans last night and, as you are well aware by now, this article has not been avoided.
The real tragedy of teaching conditionals is that students eventually get to the point of having learned the four I’ve just presented you, labored over memorizing the formulas to create each one and when to use them—they get to this point, as you have now, only to find out that with mixed conditionals (hidden in the back of the advanced books) all bets are off, that basically conditionals are not above participating in a big orgy where no one knows whose verb tense is going into which clause of whatever conditional. As with any key party, things start to get really complicated. So, there we have it, a tragic orgy, something I never thought I’d say.
Just a Tad Too Comfortable for Old Jonnie Boy
I remember it like it was just over fifteen years ago, me preparing to graduate high school, ready to fly the coop and get started on the grand adventure of college. Then, for about four and a half years, I remember not really adventuring, longing to finally be free from the responsibility, out in the world with no history essays to write, no language courses to take, all those goddamn verb conjugations tossed away like goodbye party confetti. Then, I remember a brief and lonely ramble to Memphis, graduate school, spending another several years creatively writing myself into another degree, wondering exactly when it was I was going to get down to some real living, the big adventure of life.
I left Memphis in 2005, a bit of a broken man, recently bachelor-ed, recently master’s accredited, consequently unemployed (having lost my position, due to graduation, at the university), and with nowhere much to go to feel like I had a purpose, no real desire to get a job or have a family or study more. It was the first time I had to look for something to identify as life, the first time there wasn’t a clear next step that I wanted to take, except to take that first step to get as far away as possible from everything I’d been doing, everything it seemed I should be doing next, and anything that felt comfortable. Like any great adventure, mine started with an escape.
A summer in the Czech Republic, the next two-and-half years in Korea, eight months in Guatemala, ten months in Turkey, three in Palestine, a year back in Guatemala, and now seven months into Moscow; a fantastically kooky and foreign wife, an overstuffed passport which has had to have extra pages sewn into it, a fluctuating bank account (Korea, Turkey, Moscow up; Guatemala, Palestine down), a ticket to fly me out of here in two months; no children, no pets, no career-track position, no PhD, no home, no car; my oversized MFA diploma has been folded in half since Korea and stuck into a plastic folder in order to a. get the next teaching gig when necessary (the diploma) and b. to prevent that fabled document from getting water damaged while in my backpack (the plastic folder)—all of that and nothing’s changed: I can’t wait to start the grand adventure.
It happened in 1996 when I finished high school. It happened in 2000 when I finished at LSU. It happened in 2005 when I finished at the University of Memphis. It happened after my first year in Korea. It happened after my second year in Korea. It has happened every year since. I get fed up, too comfortable, wondering when I’m actually going to get out and do something risky, to start living, stop working. A part of me has managed to keep my head in the Kerouac’s hobo dream, unwilling to accept that home is a part of life. Every year, for months, I work hard to create a comfortable environment, something predictable and steady and safe, enough money coming in, a regular beer in the evening. Every year I shock my adventure into mundane life, routine and real and something I’m dying to leave again.
Emma and I end up working six days a week, eating a rotating menu of dishes we’ve created from the ingredients of a place, watching this year’s downloaded series of network TV as we fall asleep at around so-and-so time so that we can get up at around such-and-such time. Writing, crocheting, guitar-playing—various things creep in and weave the experiences into rather distorted versions of one another, and rather refracted versions of the further past, until we become teenagers again, unwilling to succumb to the thought of being in this place any longer than necessary. We plot ourselves into a new destination, discuss how it’ll all be a little different this time, perhaps that right mix of spontaneity and finding a well-worn pair of pajama pants. We count down the days until we go, again, and the adventure runs its course.