Friday, May 12, 2006

Trying to Catch Me Writing Dirty

On the road to Staples and then Home Depot this afternoon. I need three translucent plastic pockets, jackets for stuffing with collected scraps of writing and whatnot. From H.D., a few planting implements, seeds, and so on. Faced with some regreening in the days ahead (mentally, physically, botanically).

Ph. was with me because we also agreed on a stop at the pound to see if any dogs were brought in since Tuesday.

Driving along Bridge Street, Chamillionaire on the radio. Ph. tells me he likes the song. I haven't heard it before. Oblivious: I'm old now, bookish, fading into sunset culture (I remember when I was...):

They see me rollin'
They hatin'
Patrollin' and tryna catch me ridin dirty
(tryna to catch me ridin dirty) X 4
My music so loud
I'm slangin'
They hopin' that they gonna catch me ridin dirty
(tryna catch me ridin dirty) X 4

"Is that riding or writing?" I ask Ph.
"Riding, I think."
"Could be 'writing.' Yeah?"

And this made good sense coming just after Ph.'s report of a letter-writing episode at school today. Not his Language Arts class but another one. Instructions: write a letter to an elementary school student (among the ones they'd been mentoring throughout the year). The way he tells it, Ph. banged his letter out. Others hassled the teacher about for the "what for?," resisted. So Ph. was finished relatively quickly. Next there were corrections and scolds about letters proper. All due and appropriate, I'm sure (Align your date and your closing, will you!?). But then, he reports, there were moments when the teacher worked at his keyboard and deleted some of his stuff and then told him to write ten more sentences (to fill up the time, he says).

Did this happen? Exactly this way? Who knows. I'm not complaining (even if the narrative includes some over-the-top acts, namely a teacher taking command of the keyboard and deleting). He and I had a nice talk, after all, about school writing and propriety, a talk grounded in stuff that again and again surprises me about Ph.'s interests in language, reading and writing. I'm equally interested in Ph.'s reports of his peers, freshmen in H.S., turning away from writing, resisting it, complaining about how much it sucks. Only to rush home to the nettlewerk, to vast investments of time and creativity in Myspace activity. Not approaching a universal truism, by any means, and yet it was a striking moment: our conversation, the song lyrics, the follow-up. School writing. Chaste writing. Some explicit instruction: Tryin to catch me writin dirty? Whatever the case, the lyric is forever altered for me.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at May 12, 2006 7:00 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking

It's Ridin, what would writing have to do with it?

"They see me rollin'
They hatin'
Patrollin' and tryna catch me ridin dirty"

it's talking about the cops trying to bust them on the streets...

Posted by: Shawna at June 1, 2006 4:01 AM

You might be right. But I'm old, you see, and when I first heard the song, I thought "writing" and "riding" sounded very much alike; so much alike, in fact, that I went on ahead and imagined what it might mean if it was "writing dirty." Just playing out a thought experiment.

Posted by: Derek at June 1, 2006 9:03 AM