Monday, January 30, 2012
P.S. 61 Revisited, or First Day of Kindergarten Blues
"You could feel the old world go, and the new one beginning."
Bob Dylan Chronicles.
They've got me seated next to this kid named Harry, who keeps asking for his mommy and checking to make sure he's still got his bus pass. I bet he's never been stoned a day in his life.
School is a room full of uptight midgets and a squint-eyed queen in charge. The queen says we have to call her Mrs. White and tell her what we want to be when we grow up. Harry wants to be president. But when I raise my hand, she acts like being a free-associating singer/songwriter isn’t a real career.
"Bobby, don't you want to write songs people can understand? How will you support a family if you sound like someone who's talking in his sleep?"
America the Beautiful where the poets have to be in bed by 8 and the transportation freaks grow up to be president. Where the inmates aren't just running the asylum. They're renting it out for parties.
In this place, if you have some ideas of your own, want to do things the slightest bit differently, they brand you as a troublemaker and write your name on the blackboard. Then if you still don’t want to sit in their circle and play their mind-control games, they'll up the ante by sticking you off in some corner by yourself, then calling home and finding out they've got the wrong last name up there on the board.
The folks will say it should still be Zimmerman. No one gave you permission to change it or knows a thing about you reinventing yourself as some kind of "modern-day troubadour."
Am already sure if I ever do meet someone interesting around here it’s going to be on the blackboard.
At recess asked if anybody was into Woody Guthrie or Big Bill Broonzy, but the kids are still listening to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Row,Row, Row your Boat." They're the ones living in a dream world.
Top 40 is all they play is in this one-radio-station town. After lunch the squint-eyed queen has her assistant Jezebel, Miss Betsy, take out her guitar and make us sing a song about some spider crawling to the top of a waterspout.
When I said the song wasn't very different, in fact, sounded like a lot of other stuff out there and that "itsy bitsy" wasn't exactly the language of field hands or striking coal miners, Miss Betsy became all upset. She told me the song was about persistence and not giving up. I said she should really be singing about the Spanish Inquisition. Those guys with their thumbscrews didn’t give up either.
She said at least her song rhymed as if a future free-associating singer/ songwriter wouldn’t know how to do that. I said that if she wanted rhyme –
Ma, I'm too young to die of boredom
Please don't send me back.
All day at Club Inquisition
Just down from the railroad track.
That made Miss Betsy lower the neck of her guitar. So I added a few more verses: about how kids were being shoved into boxes and mailed off to Never Never Land, how Picasso and Houdini were hiding under their desks during bomb drills, how somebody had kidnapped Mary's little lamb and was keeping it locked up in afterschool detention along with the rest of the misfits:
And somewhere the Queen is smiling
While her trigger-finger is dialing
The number to say, “He won’t be home no more.
Ma, he won’t be home at four.”
That's as far as I've gotten with it, but Harry and this other kid started to cry. And after the whole hootenanny was over, Mrs. White took Miss Betsy aside for a long private talk, then came back with some news.
They're skipping me a grade.