Fallen Tree of Knowledge
March 19, 2004
While I was nursing my hangover yesterday with rest, plenty of water, and a hearty bump of crushed OxyContin tablets, I had a long conversation with Clicky about his life and what he hopes to do with it. Since Clicky was raised by termites, he had to do without the kind of things you and I take for grantedólike human affection, spoken language, and daylight. Thus, he is somewhat shy and skittish. But once you get past the stammering, the odd body language and the seizure-like eye movements, heís just another kid from the Big Apple.
Clicky grew up in the Bronx, in a crawl space under a brownstone on 266th Street.
Thatís as far as we got.
March 22, 2004
I hopes of better understanding my roommate Clicky, I have been studying the habits, life cycle and social behavior of the termite. Fascinating.
For example, did you know that right now there are approximately 1,500 pounds of termites for every person on the planet? Wow! Talk about being outnumbered!
Or, were you aware that the termiteís mortal enemy is the ant? They hate each other!
And, perhaps most interestingly, have you heard that within the termiteís caste system, there are fully functioning adults who do not reproduce and spend their entire lives working? Imagine! A grown individual with no offspring, no sex drive and no purpose in life except to labor away in a video storeóI mean, a dead tree!
Man! How sad!
March 23, 2004
The main conduit of conversation for the termite, like many highly social insects, is the pheromone. However, there are those in the entomological community who believe that termites can also communicate by tapping their heads against walls, each other, or even against their own abdomens. I suppose this is how "Clicky" earned his nickname.
Clicky learned to speak English by listening to television. He would lie there in the crawl space, chewing on a beam, listening through the floor to the popular shows of the time. The television was on day and night in the first floor apartment at 155 266th Street, and to Clicky, it was not only a teacher, but a connection to another world that he somehow felt a part of. His favorite was The Love Boat.
"Some day," he tapped to himself, "Iím going to find that boat, and Iím going to find love."
Then all 47,809 of his older brothers punched him in the arm really hard and told him to shut up.
March 24, 2004
It must have been difficult for Clicky as a child. Itís hard to imagine growing up confined to a dark and dusty crawlspace, being separated from human contact, and dealing with the fact that you are 3,500 times larger than your mother. A situation like that would have no doubt driven me to insanity. Except for the part about being 3,500 times larger than my mother. That would have been sweet.
Iím starting to feel that there is some sort of strange destiny involved between Clicky and Ióan unspoken bond, a kismet. I feel his mistrust of the world, his suppressed fears, his underdeveloped sense of connection to his fellow human beings. I am drawn to it. I am moved to help him escape the memory of his torturous upbringing and realize his full human potential. Now, as I sit here alone in my kitchen at 3am, unable to sleep, I realize I must assume the role of mentor.
Right after I assume the role of finding out who stole my last motherfucking Hot Pocket.
March 25, 2004
I tossed and turned all night, tormented by the difficult challenge I have undertaken in helping Clicky adjust to normal life. Fresh in my mind was the recent debacle involving Sonny and the job I got him at Kinkoís--a clear example of what happens when you try to put an untrained, semi-sociopathic ex-con in a small blue vest and let him loose on the public. The problem, I concluded, was that I didnít match the career with the individual. Perhaps if I had gotten Sonny a job as a goon, or prison guard, or travelling cage-fighter, he would still be employed and my Hot Pockets would still be here today.
So I made a list of job opportunities that match Clickyís profile:
*Contestant on televisionís Fear Factor
Then, I factored in education, IQ, training, experience and interpersonal skills. This reduced the list to:
*Contestant on televisionís Fear Factor
Luckily, Pat Freestone is connected to major players in the entertainment industry. Iíll give Aunt Helenís best friend Linda a call today. She is good friends with Donald Trumpís daughterís dry cleaner!
March 26, 2004
After some preliminary research, I have concluded that trying to get Clicky a job on televisionís Fear Factor is a poorly thought-out plan. Itís not merely the fact that Clicky is a little out of shape, or the fact that he doesnít have the means to travel to the open-call casting sessions in Cancun, or even the more obvious fact that the very concept of Fear Factor is a dismal mockery of even the lowliest excuse for entertainment and a cultural embarrassment that makes American Gladiator look like 60 Minutes. No, the reason is because the show is offensive to bugs.
So starting Monday, I will begin home schooling Clicky so that he may pursue a career that offers dignity, opportunity and real challenges that arenít all sissified with chickenshit safety harnesses and Ďtard helmets.
March 29, 2004
Let the learning begin.
Today, Clicky and I will begin our journey to the land of knowledge. The days will be long. The roads will be rocky. The hills will be steep. But we will get there. Oh, yes. We shall indeed.
Iíve designated the southeast corner of the living room as the "scholastic zone," where each evening I will conduct lessons in the basic fundamentals of reading, writing, math, science, and perhaps Spanish. My goal is to bring Clicky up to an eighth grade level by tomorrow night, power him through some sort of G.E.D. or high school equivalency during the first week of April, and then begin applying to colleges that following Monday. But this schedule is subject to change. Considering that it took us three hours to get through the part where I introduce myself and write "Mr. Freestone" on the blackboard, perhaps my timetable is a bit ambitious.
Incidentally, if any of you out there in cyberspace are tapped into a cheap and reliable Ritalin connection, please let me know.
March 30, 2004
Iíve put together a course syllabus to gradually introduce Clicky to the world of reading. My plan is to start him off with simple picture books, then as his vocabulary and comprehension begin to expand, I will move him up to more challenging texts. Here is the list, ordered from basic to advanced:
One, Two, Glove. Shoe!
Frog and Toad Are Friends
Swiss Family Robinson
Catcher in the Rye
Are You There, God? Itís Me, Margaret.
Iíll head out to the library this afternoon to pick up Clickyís course materials. Right now, he is busy working on todayís lesson, Scrubbing and Scouring The Bathroom Tub and Tile 101.
Heís got to learn it sooner or later.
March 31, 2004
On the way home from the library yesterday, I stopped by the book store and purchased several tutorial workbooks to supplement Clickyís curriculum. He responded to them almost immediately, and for the first time exhibited a genuine interest in learning.
Accordingly, I have changed todayís lesson from Fun With Adding and Subtracting to
Following Basic Directions: What Those Words at the Top of the Page Are Trying to Tell You.
See you tomorrow,
April 1, 2004
Part of educating Clicky will at some point involve some system of determining his overall achievement levelóin other words, a test. In the past, Iíve been critical of standardized tests, not because filling in the little ovals puts an incredible strain on my eyes, but because they are often culturally biased.
But what does that mean, exactly? Well, take a look at some of these sample questions. They seem like perfectly acceptable word problems, but each one has a hidden bias that makes it unfair to certain groups. For example:
1. When executing a carved turn to the right, a skier should shift his or her weight to:
(a) The downhill ski
(b) The uphill ski
(c) The upper body
(d) The left pole plant
At first, this seems like an obvious question. But it makes the assumption that every test-taker is familiar with skiing. And we all know that many of todayís urban youth are way more into snowboarding.
2. The Wallaceís domestic works every day but Wednesdays and Sundays. The Wallaceís aupair works every day but takes a three-week vacation every August. Mrs. Wallace is thirty-seven, has two children, and works at home. Who cleans the bidet?
(a) The domestic
(b) The aupair
(c) Mrs. Wallace
(d) It has a self-cleaning feature
Again, this question assumes that the student has a knowledge of a certain way of life. Most of todayís young people, particularly those belonging to minority groups, clean their own bidets.
3. Complete the following analogy. Hawkeye : Bo :: Frank Burns :
(b) Colonel Potter
(c) Roscoe P. Coltrain
(d) General Lee
Clearly, this question favors a certain demographic. If youíll notice, these are all men.
I think youíll agree that if we want to get an accurate measure of a studentís potential, weíll have to rely on a more objective scaleólike how much money their family is worth, or how hot they are.
April 2, 2004
I wish Clicky and I were in a movie.
If we were in a movie, any day now a motivational song would kick in, and Clicky would suddenly start to make progress in his home schooling. You would hear the song lyrics, which probably go something like
Youíre reachiní for something / You feel it inside
Youíre lettiní it go / Youíre along for the ride
Like a light in the dark / Refusing to die
Now is your time / ĎCause youíre ready to fly!
And during the song you would see a montage of Clicky reading large piles of books, and sitting at a big library table late at night all by himself, or typing on a computer while he chews on a pencil, and then every once in a while, youíd see a funny moment where Iím pointing out something on a blackboard and then you see Clicky and heís asleep in his chair because heís been working so hard, and so I throw a piece of chalk at him to wake him up, and then thereís a shot of me shaking my head like, "oh, that crazy Clicky!"
And then youíd see a close-up of his homework, which used to be graded with an "F" or "D-minus," but now it receives a "B-plus," with a little note that says, "great improvement." And then there are more scenes of him incorporating his studies into everyday situations to maximize his study time, like reading Shakespeare in the shower, or doing geometry on his plate while eating dinner, or reciting Spanish verb conjugations along with a walkman on the bus, while all the other passengers look at him like, "Lord, that white boy crazy!"
And then you see the close-up of the homework again, but now it gets an "A" and now you see a funny moment where Iím asleep in my teacherís chair because Clicky has really put me through my paces, and suddenly, he seems to be dressed much nicer and is clean shaven and bright eyed, where before he looked kind of like a junkie. And then, the song fades out and you cut to some sort of graduation ceremony, where Clicky is the valedictorian and the sorority chicks dig him.
Man, I wish Clicky and I were in a movie. If we were in a movie, heíd be done waxing my floor by now.
Wax onówax off!
April 6, 2004
Yesterday's lesson, Basic Principles of HTML Coding and Updating of Today Inside Pat Freestone Updated Almost Daily 101 was admittedly a failure. While Clicky was quick to master the basics of text placement, file uploading, and page layout, he was not so good with using the "save" command.
April 7, 2004
In my opinion, any basic grade-school curriculum should include a thorough introduction to the scientific method. Therefore, today's lesson will include the following scientific experiment:
Pat has a stabbing pain in his abdomen.
The human body cannot tolerate an unlimited amount of liquor.
3. TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS:
Pat will consume larger and larger quantities of liquor each evening; the increments will be carefully measured and recorded. The relative pain will be graded daily on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 representing little or no pain, and 10 representing excruciating pain similar to a live mongoose being agitated and inserted directly into the liver.
4. CONFIRM OR REJECT HYPOTHESIS:
(To be determined)
5. CONTROL GROUP:
Sonny will not be allowed to drink any alcohol during the experiment.
This lesson should not only help Clicky understand the importance of experimentation, but should also help him learn about liquid measurement and free-pouring.
April 8, 2004
Although I Clicky and I plan to continue our experimentation on the impact of alcohol on my body, today's lesson, Introduction to How a Hangover Works has been cancelled. I sent Clicky to the back bedroom for some independent study while I attempt to figure out how this nacho cheese sauce got all over my bedclothes.
April 9, 2004
The experiment is over, and the results are inconclusive. What started as an exercise to demonstrate the "scientific method" quickly became an exercise in futility, for the following reasons:
1. The hypothesis, "the human body cannot tolerate an unlimited amount of liquor," was flawed due to improper definition of the terms. The hypothesis should have read, "the human body cannot tolerate an unlimited amount of liquor because it will eventually fall down."
2. The testing phase, in which I was given large quantities of liquor, did not include a proper control group, as Sonny drank with me pretty much shot for shot.
3. We forgot to write down our observations.
4. We lost interest.
5. We ran out of liquor.
So, this weekend, Clicky will be continue to study the scientific method by planting some bean sprouts, powering a clock with a potato, and putting a human tooth in a glass of Coca-Cola overnight.
Have a good one,
April 12, 2004
Spring is here!
At last, after the long gray winter, Spring is upon us with her warmth and promise of new beginnings. The days grow long, as do the daffodils, and the red robins return to their frolicking.
And then there are the thoughts of love. Our hearts yearn for one another, and like the small blades of grass peeking out in the morning dew, our affections are reborn. We are again together. We are again inseparable.
I'm talking, of course, to you, crack pipe.
April 13, 2004
Have you ever been mellow?
You may have noticed that I have suddenly and abruptly ended my mentorship with Clicky, my young formerly-homeless roommate. It wasn't that I taught him all I could, or that we reached an impasse, or even that he wasn't responding to basic verbal commands. I guess I'm just reaching that point in my life where I just want to sit back and smoke some more of this so-called rock cocaine.