"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dear Bobby Breeder

I feel compelled to deal with the comment left anonymously (read: huge pussy) on my last post. The text of the comment is:

So, I was vagging out on the couch reading your entry from my laptop. Congrats on your va j j day victory! Like, it's totally tubular! Nothing quite like increasing the cost of insurance for others by electing some expensive, thoroughly unnecessary elective surgery. Oh yeah, let's hope that you don't encounter any of the many complications (thus making our insurance more expensive): hot flashes, heavier periods, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mental confusion, fatigue, bladder infections, bowel infections, hemmorage . . . you know, the basics. You should know that doctors have reasons for putting young women through the ringer when they request tubal tying. Many, whoops!, change their mind. Insurance won't be covering that change. And, of course, let's not forget about the joys of malpractice suits when things go wrong. The fact is that more men who decide to end the jizz biz remain comfortable with their decision than their female counterparts.

Again, congrats!

Bobby BreederMarketing Director, Trojan Corp.

Where oh where to begin. First, let's heave a sigh of dismay for the planet because these people are the ones who reproduce. Then let's ask...what the heck is "vagging out" exactly? Anyone?

Okay, let's break this down issue by issue.

Bobby Breeder's first issue: increasing the cost of insurance.

I find it hard to feel guilty about increasing the cost of insurance on this one. It would seem that Mr. Breeder's brilliant editorializing would be better directed at all of the people out there who, say, smoke during pregnancy and produce little hospital-residents-for-life. Or women who never want children but just remain on birth control their whole fertile lives, messing with their hormones in ways that might be more harmful than we currently realize, thus becoming at risk later in life and "medically expensive" (not to mention visiting the doctor over and over again to try new types that don't make them feel insane/get migraines/gain weight/etc etc etc and therefore driving up the cost of insurance, if one must look at it like that.)

Besides all that, it seems insane that we accept a system that pits patients against one another, debating the term "necessary" for medical procedures, when most developed countries don't make citizens pay for health care anyway. Again, I feel Mr. Breeder could redirect his ire for the better of us all in this instance.

Bobby Breeder's second issue: Complications

First off, thank you for your concern for my safety. I feel warm and fuzzy. The fact is, over 10 million women have had tubal ligations and most of them are just fine. The complication rate is about 1-3% - and that includes the gamut of complications from "being irritable" to ectopic pregnancy. And concerning the latter, that happens far less than 1 percent of the time. The chances of anesthesia issues are the same as when I had my wisdom teeth out, and I'm willing to accept that five of every ONE MILLION anesthesia procedures result in death. Really, Bobby Breeder, do you think odds like these should alter behavior? Because if you did, you would certainly never ride in a car, which is statistically like seven billion times more dangerous.

As per your worries about depression, anxiety, and insomnia I'm hoping this will cure those, not cause them.

Bobby Breeder's third issue: Defensive of Doctors

"Doctors have reasons for putting young women through the ringer..."

Yes, I agree. The primary reason is plain jane sexism. There are programs in nearly every state that offer vasectomies to men FOR FREE (that comes out of your tax dollars big guy). The man need only be 21 and have a valid ID. Women are "put through the ringer." If this isn't treating people differently based on gender, I don't know what is. Saying, "Women change their minds more" is a bunch of sexist bullshit. Examine, in your little brain, why women might be more likely to change their minds. Perhaps part of the reason women change their minds is the social pressure to have children, and the cultural assumption that a woman is incomplete without children. Perhaps it is a need to be loved unconditionally in a world that treats women like a different species (that does something to one's self esteem, see, and then the need for love comes after that.) Men remain comfortable because society is, by design, more comfortable for men. They are allowed to be comfortable in their decisions because they have designed society; it looks like a pretty sweet deal from here. I'm going to go ahead and give you the satisfaction of a "fuck you" on that one.

Bottom line, tubal ligation is a valid form of birth control, and the one that is the most effective. It is cost-effective over the course of a person's fertile years. Again, you're welcome for choosing not to produce another costly water drinking air breathing co2 emitting human in this already overpopulated world. Talk about increasing costs for others! Your idiotic arguments and egregious offences to the laws of grammar and spelling aside, Bobby Breeder, I appreciate the fan mail.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fallopian Tubes: 1 Sexist Bastards: ZERO!!

Victory, she is mine!

In October 2004 I was standing in a crowded bar, having just watched Foulke throw that last pitch, ending 86 years of near-victory blue balls all over New England. Most of us, watching them win that series, just stood there for a second and stared at the TV and said, in our heads, "Um...what do we do?"

That's kind of how I felt when I encountered Dr. S., who popped his head into the examining room yesterday and, before introducing himself, said, "Hi I'm Dr. S--- and I don't have a problem with it."

Then he went on to say that he knew I had probably been through a lot of bullshit, and he had a strong allergy to bullshit, and would perform the surgery whenthefuckever I could get the day off work.

I just kind of sat there for a second. Wait...we won?!

Unfortunately, I didn't get to crowd-surf across Government Center afterwards, but it was still pretty sweet. I called my best friend, and my dad, and a few others, and we all kept saying, "Finally finally finally." No one thanked me for refusing to continue overpopulating the planet, but I'm sure they meant to. You're welcome.

So let the countdown begin! 61 days of fertility left, and liberation here I come. As Dr. S. put it, "You can say goodbye to messing with your hormones, and all the crap that comes with birth control. You can say goodbye to smelly, I-can't-feel-anything, mood-killing, expensive condoms."

I love this doctor! (That being said, this is the internet and I feel compelled to go ahead and put in a plug for condoms since STI's are just as horrible as babies.)

All of the resentment and frustration I have been feeling just melted away, and I was even nice to a child today without an onrush of nausea! I took my students to an Earth Day festival at MIT, and several of them brought their kids. I was photographed holding a 10 month old child, and I must say, I felt significantly less like dropping it and running in the other direction. There is something so liberating about this part of my identity being respected, and validated, and acted upon. I mean, I still think all you breeders are totally insane, and that my world view makes a whole lot more sense, but I think having this surgery might lessen the instances of me wanting to push strollers into traffic. (She says smiling sweetly.)

Look forward, vast readership, to a full surgery report and how to throw a fabulous "NO Baby Shower." Hooray!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Test Prep

I am doing the only test prep I know how to do - I am drilling and killing myself on what it is, exactly, I must say to the doctor this afternoon to convince him that my tubes need tying.

The relaxed jocular Kelly didn't work. You can't say, "Trust me, Doc, if you knew me well enough you'd stop me from reproducing at any cost." They just don't have a sense of humor about these things.

What I'm really preparing is my response to the inevitable request that I seek therapy. Will I get on the couch (do they still have couches?) to buy myself a shot at saving thousands on birth control? Is this conceding to the bullshit sexist assface jerks? Do I, perhaps, need therapy after all?

Times over the past month I have displayed signs of craziness:

1. Anger Management

I was riding my bike through harvard square yesterday at like 5:30pm. There was a wall of people thicker than that thing they are erecting in Iraq. I was up on the sidewalk because some stepchild of the big dig has slithered into cambridge and there are cones and ropes and boards and cops directing traffic all over creation. Not that I ever go fast, but I was going exceptionally slowly, barely moving. Some bespectacled dinosaur born wearing a cravat had just bought a copy of The Economist (ahem, take note: I was going slowly enough to see what magazine he bought) and had his little harvard head stuck in his magazine and was backing up without looking. So I yelled, "Heads Up!" He stopped, did not back into me, and was unharmed. I felt like this was the best possible outcome. I continued on, toward the end of the roped off section where another cop was telling cars what the green light means. The Economist runs up behind me and says, "Excuse me, little girl, but did you bother to consider that riding your bicycle during rush hour might not be the most intelligent thing to do?"


Did he just call me "Little Girl?" !!!

Then he goes on to say that if I had blown a horn, he would've known what that meant. But "heads up" means nothing to him. (And it's my intelligence in question - who the fuck is confused about the phrase "heads up?")

So I reply, all sweetness and light, "My voice is free; a horn costs like twenty bucks."

And he says (this is priceless,) "You aren't willing to invest twenty dollars in my safety?"

And I say, "I would be willing to invest several hundred dollars to watch a Clydesdale have its way with you and then drop your old rich white ass in a port-a-potty so I could tip it over at the top of beacon hill and watch you, in a fantastically horrific shittumble, gasp for your last shitty shitty breath on this earth that feels sorry for ever creating you."

Okay I didn't say that. But the fact that I THOUGHT it might suggest to some that therapy is in order. ...And make that SEVERAL Clydesdales.

2. Eating Disorder

My house is dysfunctional in many ways. Particularly charming are our truly disgusting eating habits. I don't like to call people pigs...but, um, we're pigs. A common utterance is, "Oh, I'm not eating anything, you guys can eat but I just ate." The list of things consumed directly following that phrase, trekking into our mouths in direct opposition to the outgoing breath that carried the words, could fill a ream of paper. Just last night I was keeper of the "Oh I'm not eating" torch. I sat through almost the entire meal, sipping my wine, enjoying the company, having already eaten but glad to have a nice dinner conversation with my household.

This is how it starts. It's a normal meal. We have rice and vegetables and some leftover grape leaves heated up. Wine and a salad. Then...out comes the hummus. The feta cheese. The Irish cheddar. The grated Asiago. The pita chips. The wasabi peas. The eighty seven different sauces. The chocolate covered nuts. It ends up here:

The pot full of rice sits in the middle of the table and we dump everything we have yet to eat in the middle of it and go at that thing with our forks like savages. I can't resist! I am physically unable to sit at that table and not pick up a fork at this point. There is something way too wonderful about diving into a pot of food with friends and eating the shit out of it.

So, I had dinner twice...once consumed standing up...out of a trough. This might be reason enough to seek help.

3. Schizophrenia

My neighbors are conspiring against me. They descend upon me in choreographed swoops like a swarm of over privileged bats every other week or so. I live in the richest, whitest, most thoroughly annoying neighborhood in Cambridge and their trust fund sense tells them that I am not one of them. (Or it's the times I sit in my shorts, barefoot on the porch, drinking beer and talking too loudly. At least I'm allergic to it, which is my best chance to fit in.)

So the unifying principle of their conspiracy against me is that I don't belong, and then they divvy up the duties. They are the suing type, so I'll change the names. The responsibilities go like so:

Ellen Fitzgerald has spy duty. She is the decoy. Feigning neighborliness, she knocks on the door occasionally to inquire about seemingly innocent things. "Oh, is that your little car over there? How nice." "What are you all, friends or...?" "It's so nice to have ethnic people in the neighborhood you know we're terribly the same around here usually." (No fucking lie, she said that.) "I looooove low income people, I have a lot in common with my garbage man, more than I have in common with anybody from harvard, I'll tell you that!" (Again, direct quote.) "Make sure you button up that gate, we get the riff raff around here sometimes. Plus it looks nice closed, and, everyone likes to keep them closed." "Are you planning to stay only the semester or are you permanent neighbors?" "Any vacation plans?" Etc etc ad naus.

Doug Wastenhoff is "The Enforcer." His job is to make sure we don't bring anyone's property values down by violating any important neighborhood rules. Leaving snide ass notes about how one should properly park one's car figures prominently in his job description. If, after trash day, the trash container is not whisked immediately from the sidewalk, this unsightly mistake is addressed in one passive aggressive manner or another by the enforcer. In the event of snow, he is very important. The second that snow stops falling, he must run at high speeds to my door to reiterate the shoveling policy. A perk of his job is that his dog gets to shit in my yard when he thinks I'm not looking.

And, finally, the bitch with the dog. I don't know her name. But her job is to walk around and look like her cunt is made of diamonds, giving everyone dirty looks and leaving whiffs of Chanel no.5 in her wake. She makes people like me want to move somewhere else, and is therefore indispensable to the conspirators.

Let's review.

I need therapy for lots of reasons, but I'm pretty sure that only solidifies the fact that reproducing is just not a good idea in my case. No couch for me, not on account of my totally sane and reasonable baby-proofing desires anyway. The Clydesdale thing...maybe.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Perseverance Award

Every year, at graduation, my school gives out the "Perseverance Award" to a student who isn't graduating that day, but who has worked to overcome amazing barriers. They get a small scholarship which they can use toward college tuition when they do graduate. The last two recipients include one girl who battled her way through several homeless shelters with her daughter in tow and came to school as a 19 year old barely able to read, and a young man who was so afraid of being killed by the same gang members who killed his brother that we picked him up when he missed the bus so he wouldn't have to take the T. The world has been terribly unfair to some of these kids, but they are a resourceful group and we like to reward that. I was writing the text of the Award speech for graduation this year (because I was at work, on a holiday, because we aren't in a union and therefore get to show our "entrepreneurial spirit" by working every fucking vacation day) when my boss called this morning.

"Traffic is really bad, there are roads closed for the marathon. I can't figure out how to get around it. I think I'm just not going to come in today."

Way to be, fearless leader.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I tried to think of another title for this post, but "the pope is an asshole" is really the only option

The Pope Is An Asshole

The head of everyone's favorite pedophilia club flew from Rome to the U.S. today. I wasn't going to say anything about it, because I don't give a hell, but then he went and said some stupid shit about which I couldn't possibly remain silent. When commenting about the oh so mysterious and suddenly discovered tendency for priests to rape small boys, he said:

"It is a great suffering for the church in the United States and for the church in general and for me personally that this could happen"

A great suffering for...for YOU?! A great suffering for the church? You unbelievable asshole. I am continually shocked by the catholic church's complete and total refusal to offer an apology to the victims, and in this case, to even an acknowledge that they are the ones who have suffered. The church in which he is the head cheese abuses over 5,000 kids (that we know about) and he tells reporters that he is suffering.

Mr. Pope expressed his personal remorse about the abuse scandal, which up to this point he hadn't really given much attention, and said the church is "increasing its efforts to keep pedophiles out of the priesthood."

You asshole. You total complete asshole! "Increasing?" This implies that they were like kinda sorta maybe gonna figure some way to alleviate this suffering for the church when they got around to it, but now they are really going to start doing something about it. Increasing? Whatever efforts, which of course don't include letting priests marry or (god forbid) be female, should have already been at maximum.

Since 2002 over five thousand victims have come forward, and those are only the people who have braved exposure in a culture that socializes its children to feel shame when they are abused. Not to mention what that experience must have been like in their own families and church communities. I hope every single one of these five thousand people didn't have to hear the horrifically insensitive remarks of their "spiritual leader."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What's New Here?

Hmm. Same messy desk. Same backpack. Same coffee mug. Wha...is that...is that a bicycle?

It's true. Hal the Hyundai has taken a few days off this week so that I can try my hand at the cool kid commute. Just when you thought, "Wow, Kelly can't possibly get any cooler" look what I go and do?!
The coolness of the whole adventure was mitigated by the fact that I had to, as an adult, take LESSONS to learn how to ride a bicycle. In a very Cantabrigian manner, I hired a private tutor. This was less because I felt the quality of a highly paid private tutor would far exceed learning from any old regular American who learned to ride a bike as a child and more because I was not about to embark on this very uncool journey under the tutelage of someone I had to see ever again.

Enter: The Bicycle Whisperer.

Susan the Bike Teacher calls herself the Bicycle Whisperer, and that's exactly what she is. I was a wild, untamed klutz of equine proportions and for forty bucks an hour she guaranteed she could get me to stay upright on two wheels. I drove to Somerville for my first lesson, skeptical. I parked on the street outside of her house, one of those huge old Somerville paint peelers that, to me, always look homey and welcoming. Still, I'm apprehensive and practically tip toe to the front door. Considering I found her on the internet, the chances that this woman might strangle me in her basement with a bike chain are slightly higher than normal. As in any dangerous situation, I just tell myself: "If you survive, think of the story you could write!"

Alas, no bike chain murder here.

Susan answers the door and gets me a parking pass so Somerville's finest won't charge me extra for the lesson. She is the definition of east coast baby boomer, living out her golden years with wild gray hair, attending every available leftist talk and rally in town, and trying to save Africa. She lives with roommates; she started her own organization in Mali; she makes a modest living teaching people how to ride bicycles. She's basically super awesome.

As a teacher, it can be hard to assume the role of the student. Luckily, the bicycle whisperer is about as comforting as a womb, and I immediately trust her with my safety. We walk to the barn, where the bicycle collection lives. We maneuver through the maze and extract my special learning bicycle. The process of building character through humiliation begins here. If anyone videotaped this I would murder them with a bike chain in Susan's basement. The bike is a special machine for special people. Literally. Its center of gravity is very low, the pedals are wrapped with soft fabric, and the rider sits totally upright with feet slightly out in front rather than right underneath. For me, the padded pedals are by far the funniest part. Moving on to: wardrobe.

Susan wraps me and pads me and covers me in so many articles of safety gear that I feel a weird combination of invincible and incredibly ridiculous. It feels like I could just dive into the pavement without getting hurt. Which is great, because at this point I'm pretty sure I am destined to do just that.

Through the streets of Somerville we march with our bikes. People smile at us because they think Susan is volunteering her time for some organization that teaches the mentally handicapped to ride bicycles. Little do they know, she is charging the mentally handicapped forty dollars an hour.

[[real time check in: I am at my desk; it is 7:15 am. Lessons for the day are planned, and I am free to blog. As I have mentioned, my school is located beneath a homeless shelter. Today in the room above me there is a child screaming at the top of its lungs. Again. I. Hate. This. Child. Judge me if you want to, but I do. I hate it. I mean, I don't really like any children until they are old enough to drive. But this child...ohhhhh this child.]]

So we arrive at a large abandoned lot adjacent to a basketball court. It is on a slight incline. We walk the bikes to the far corner at the top of the incline. This is what my life has done to me: a woman I met on the internet sends me down the hill on my bike when I am 27. What the fuck, parents?!

Offering all manner of supportive words, Susan takes me through step by step. By some miracle, I don't fall and it really doesn't seem that hard. Except turning. I still can't really turn. But that's another blog entirely.

She has me practice signaling, changing gears, etc. etc. calling at the top of her lungs from the center of the lot, "Left turn!" "Emergency stop!"

All of this is made exponentially worse when two young men decide they are going to play basketball. I am basically an adolescent male when it comes to the opposite sex. I cannot be expected to behave rationally or devote my attention to anything else when there are boys around. It's a sickness and I've got it. So here I am wrapped up like the Michelin Man on the short bus bike and there are male twenty-somethings playing basketball right next to me. I learn that I cannot yet look over my shoulder at a boy while trying to steer a bike. Horrible horrible cruel stupid world!!

I graduate to the bike path. This amounts to walking through Davis Square with the bikes until we hit the path, thus increasing the potential of being recognized by someone I will have to see again. Still, I am operating in my "I've decided to do this" mode, which means that I will ride the godforsaken idiot bike until my ass bleeds if that's what it takes to learn how to not fall off of it.

Fortunately, riding a bike is not nearly as difficult as I have imagined and my ass, while rather sore these days, has not bled.

The bike path is basically an interactive obstacle course. There are all sorts of moving, unpredictable things and people that you have to avoid hitting. I narrowly missed a family of four, and yelled at them to make sure and teach their kids young or...well or just look what would happen to them!

That being said, the bicycle whisperer felt that after one lesson, I only needed practice and did not have to take another lesson. While I had a pang of separation anxiety just thinking about mounting one of the two-wheeled death traps without her womb-like presence to soothe me, I was willing to save the forty bucks.

Since then I've bought a bike and commuted to work a few times, but I've gotta go shape the minds of the future and will have to write about that later. It involves less padding and way more bone chilling moments of pure terror.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Believe to Achieve (Part Two)

So, the conference.

A project of the National Urban Alliance, this conference was billed as "The Most Important Educational Experience of 2008." The goal of the conference was noble: give educators the tools to close the achievement gap one classroom, or one district, at a time AND reaffirm that education is a fundamental civil right. The goal of me and my Education Action! buddies: meet as many passionate activists as possible and get them working on educational justice in their home communities. It seemed, on paper, that OUR goal and NUA's goals were going to dovetail nicely in gorgeous downtown Albany. We piled into the EdAction Mobile at 8 p.m. Friday night, bound for Achievement.

Saturday morning, very early, we entered the Crowne Plaza's lobby. A small crowd milled about. Everyone was sort of swaying in place, waiting for what we did not know. The whole scene had an underwater quality. The concierge informed us that everyone was waiting for a shuttle to the convention center, where the conference was ACTUALLY being held. Lugging our collection of recruitment materials, promotional materials, NCLB information, and general whatnot, we waited outside amid the flotsam and jetsam. We piled in the van. It took us approximately seven feet North to the convention center. We piled out. These things always have a funny way of making us realize what our students must feel like when we create inefficient systems for them to operate within.

The convention center is the weirdest building on earth. It is HUGE. Absolutely huge. The hallways are wide enough for three Hummers and a horse drawn carriage. Everything echos. Sporadically, in random corners, modern art appears, the sort of art that makes you wonder what distinguishes "art" from "nice try buddy." We walk through this building a longer distance than we traveled in the van, arriving at last in the center where registration tables are assembled.

The registration tables look like tic tacs sitting in a swimming pool. This place is a rough venue to generate conversation and build community. But we hang on to our optimism. This is the Most Important Place To Go All Year, remember?!

Fast forward. It is lunch time. Three people have passed our table. They did not stop. Those little golf cart things carrying maintenance workers and security guards whiz by like tumbleweed. This. Place. Is. Empty. We decide to split up the table-watching duties, and two of us head to a breakout session.

My session is concerned with reframing the idea of underachievement. The primary take away: it's all in our attitude. If we expect our students to underachieve, they will do just that. We find what we're looking for, every time. So, if we look for success, if we expect it, we'll get it. This is an important message. Too often, I sit in staff meetings addressing each student according to weaknesses. This is the language we speak: failures, risks of failures, weaknesses, challenges, etc. We almost never speak in positives.

At one point, the presenter asked us to share with our neighbors some positive words we felt described urban "underachievers." I am flanked by administrators. They are very encouraged to hear that I teach the homeless/teen parent/court involved population, which they had experience doing earlier in their careers. So we start thinking about generalizations, of the positive nature, that we can make about our students, past or present. I say, "Resourceful" which makes everyone nod. They say, "Persistent." One woman is writing down all of our suggestions, as was directed by our facilitator. I say, "Passionate." They cock their heads. Really? Passionate? They don't write it down, and move right along in the conversation.

When we come back together as a group, the four most common responses are put up on the powerpoint Family Feud style. Our group had written down all four. Passionate was not up there. My neighbors are very satisfied with themselves. They got the right answers.

That pretty much sums up my review of the conference right there. We want to address the achievement gap, and we do a lot of rephrasing terminology, looking at the results of expensive research projects, and fighting a system riddled with racism and sexism and classism and greed. We want our schools to be equitable and excellent and the education they provide to be a guaranteed civil right. But, when it comes down to it, we are up against ourselves. We are up against our own expectations for our schools and our students. We are up against administrators that don't think "passionate" is a valid adjective to describe a group of students. We are up against a culture that values getting answers more than really thinking about questions.

All weekend, we spoke to about six passionate advocates for change. Since then, we've been in contact with one of them. I want to say to these people: attending a conference for a weekend isn't making change. Writing one email to an activist organization about how much you believe in the cause and then never following up on it isn't making change. Getting the same answers as everyone else in your workshop on closing the achievement gap isn't making change. It's as if the standardized testing mentality, that many of us agree is detrimental to schools, has been ingrained into the minds of these well meaning educators. Reform efforts seem to fall into the same "just skim the surface and move on" trap as test-prep obsessed curricula. There seems to be this idea that never using the word "Underachiever" again is all one needs to do to eliminate underachievement. It's a valid step, sure, but creating an educational system that provides an equal education for all races and social classes is going to take more than vocabulary.

Get out there and DO something, people!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Believe to Achieve (Part One)

Normally, my weekends are rather joyful. I flee work on Friday like the building is on fire no later than 4:30 pm, and go straight to the gym (or, if there are warmer-than-tundra conditions by the river, head outside to run). Boxing, running, spinning class - whatever it is, I sweat a lot. Then I get to tumble into a big hug from a cute boy, and spend all weekend lolling about asking each other, "What do you want to do?" More times than not, the plot involves a lot of napping and a delightful martini or two. By Sunday night I am armed for battle again.

This weekend, however, I got to attend my first ever All Weekend Professional Conference. This is different from the All Day Conference, which I've already mastered. It is different because instead of missing a day of work you just work all fucking weekend. No lolling. No cute boy. No martinis. Just a three and a half hour drive to Albany.

Let me tell you something about Albany.

...something...something to say about Albany...

My search yields nothing. There are exactly zero things to say about this place except that Albany in March is like Worcester in December. A crappy, cold, not-quite-a-place. I'm getting ahead of myself. The drive:

We take the company car, possession of which I find hilarious given that we have, technically, three human staffers, two bunnies, and an empty bank account. My coworkers and I prepare like we would for any car trip longer than forty five minutes - pack a bag absolutely filled to the brim with snacks. Wasabi peas, crackers, gummy candy, peppermint patties, a grapefruit, beef jerky, cans of soda, three nalgene-fulls of water, salt and vinegar chips. Three minutes into the drive we stopped for coffee and a sandwich. (Just in case we got stranded!)

The three little piggies and their Fast Lane barreled onto the Mass Pike headed west, bound for the 2008 Believe To Achieve Conference. I mean, if we're going to close the achievement gap, we'd better not go in hungry.

Somewhere close to the New York border the world forgets that it is spring and begins to snow like a banshee. I am in a contemplative mood, arms crossed in the backseat, listening to Radiohead and staring out the window. The snow on the side of the road gets deeper and deeper. Somebody switches the CD. The Shins. I squish my forehead into the window and contemplate suicide, hand in the salt and vinegar chips.

We're on Route 87, in search of our Pricelined stay at the Regency just outside of Albany.

I judge my hotels across a complicated cross-section of criteria. I won't bore you with those here. Just know that this Regency fell, judging by that index, in between the first Motel 6 you hit after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into Tijuana, and the time I went camping in the bed of a Ford F150 with a capped bed.

The door bell drew a customer service representative who looked like a defendant in a domestic violence case. This gem of a beefcake, bedazzled beneath gold chains, sported a sweatshirt with a sewn on logo for the NYPD and an embroidered message: "Cops for Cops."

Either he had some internal digestion issue or he said hello, I couldn't tell. Nayad, who is like a pretty flower doused with honey wearing a cloak of sunshine and music, says: "Oh hello sir we are just checking in."

For fun, we hold hands.

Nayad says, "I'm so excited for our weekend, Pat."

We make kissy faces.

Cops for Cops is unamused.

Nayad says, "We have to be downtown tomorrow morning by 8 for a conference, what times does your shuttle run?"

Cops for Cops emits grunts that translate into, "We don't have a shuttle." Nayad, like a little wood sprite sprinkled in fairy dust and happiness flakes, informs Officer Congeniality that the website lists a shuttle to downtown as an amenity and this particular amenity figured prominently in our decision to book this room.

Cops for Cops hands Nayad her cards back to her and says, while walking back into his cubicle of manliness, "Shuttle only on weekdays." We can hear, as the door opens and closes, that he is watching a film. I can't resist. I walk over and peer in.

He's watching Phenomenon starring John Travolta. For those of you who haven't seen it, it ranks just above Steel Magnolias on the "Funniest Movies to Catch This Guy Watching" list.

We have trouble abandoning the shuttle issue, even though we can drive in just as easily. Luckily, we brought the printer. We print out the web page, and march back out to the lobby. Nayad may actually have been concerned about the issue at hand. I one hundred percent just wanted to screw with Cops for Cops. He hands us the list of amenities and the list goes like the following, asterisks are for the ones of whose existence we found zero proof:
Cable TV
Tennis Court*
Continental Breakfast
Air Conditioning
Shuttle to Albany
Room Service

The last two, on every such card we found throughout our stay, were CROSSED OUT WITH A PEN.

Cops for Cops one. Us zero.

Since it was just about midnight at this point, we gave up and went to bed.

In Part Two I'll actually talk about the conference. Not to ruin it, but...we didn't do shit about the achievement gap. We didn't even get lunch.