Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Big Read is the Big Awesome

Today was the awesomest field trip ever, even better than that trip to Glendale last year where we had free burgers.

Today kicked off The Big Read, a program sponsored by Mayor Villaraigosa and the National Endowment for the Arts designed to encourage reading around Los Angeles. Five different high schools, and maybe more, all agreed to use The Maltese Falcon in our American Literature classes.

So today another teacher and I took 26 hand-picked kids from our school to Barnsdall Park where the city had a classic car demonstration, a real live falcon, a jazz band and a staged performance of the play version performed by a troupe from Long Beach. They fed us veggie burgers or chicken thingees. I ate the veggie burger because I'm trying not to be fat. It was okay.

In case you've never noticed, teachers will do just about anything for free food. You think cops love donuts? Pwah.

James Avery
was there in a wheel chair since he just had foot surgery. Here is Carlton's Dad preparing to eat his lunch like three feet from me.

Austen Perros was there, and I'd never heard of him before but judging by the ear-splitting screams emanating from the teenage girls beside me he's very popular with the teenage girl set. There were some other cool people there - Hammett's granddaughter and great granddaughter were there. They taught me that Dashiell Hammett's first name is pronounced "Duh-SHEEL". So that was news.

We got T-Shirts and gift bags - and you know how gift bags usually have a book mark and like three brochures in it? Not this time. We got all kinds of cool stuff - a graphic novel and some mints and a fizzy soda-like-but-not-actually-soda-drink, and a pencil. Oh, and a magnet with the superintendent's name on it, I guess so I can remember who he is every time I go into my fridge for barbecue sauce.

The mayor was there with his cloud of camera people:

And he stayed to give us all a nice speech about the importance of reading. According to the event organizer he NEVER stays that long in one place. He was really enthusiastic. Since I was also taking pictures for the yearbook I had a camera on me, as you can see, but I only thought of recording his speech for YouTube halfway through so I didn't do it.

We watched the play, which starred some very talented actors and one trumpet player who actually read from the script and appeared never to have even read the script before so he covered his unprofessionalism by breaking the fourth wall every three seconds. The poor lead actor was doing his best to work through it.

Anyway, when all was said and done it was a great success. The kids are jazzed up about the book now and they're all supposed to go back to their classes and teach the rest of the kids what they learned.

One of our kids won a copy of the film in a raffle. It's like a $25 DVD set. She clearly didn't want it, so I leaned over and said, "You can sell that."

And she goes, "Really? To who?"

And I said, "Me."

And she said, "Five dollars."

And I didn't have any cash so when we got back to school I ran up to Best Friend and demanded five dollars and bought the movie. And then our donated camera came in for yearbook. And then, since I had a sub in my class, I went home early.

It was a good day.

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