She says, “Alright, if you want us to call you Gene, we will call you Gene. That’s a very pretty name. Eugene is one of my favorite names.”
So we move on down the line, calling out our names. It is going downhill. School is not panning out. We’d been sitting in school for about an hour with the song and the names, and she talks to us a little bit, and then comes the crusher! The total crusher! Miss Bundy says, “And now, boys and girls, it’s time. What do you think it’s time for?”
I figure we’re going to get to it now. I put my hand up.
She says, “Yes, Eugene?”
I figure she’s calling on somebody behind me.
She says, “Yes, Eugene? What do you think it is time for now?”
This is my first effort at class response. I remember because this became a family story. She says, “What are we ready for?”
And I say, “Reading! We’re gonna read!”
She says, “No, that is not right. We’re not going to read, but would you like to read?”
I say, “Yes!”
She says, “We’re a little young for that here yet. But no, we’re not going to read.”
I can see the other kids looking at me. I’m already embarrassed. I booted my first question. Oh, it’s terrible to boot your first one. It’s only the beginning of a whole lifetime of it. So I kicked the first one right out the window and we’re all sitting there dumbly, looking up at her in the sandbox. I am knee-deep in sand.
And she says, “Alright, boys and girls, I’ll tell you what it’s time for. What is that all of you have at this time of day at home? Right in the middle of the morning? What do you do? That’s right, you take a nap!”
Aaaaaaaagh! A nap! Ohhhhh! Oh man, if there’s anything, from the time I was hatched out of the egg—if there is anything that bugged me more than a nap, I’d like to know what it is. A nap! And here I figure that I am getting out of all of that. Now I am in school, now I am with other people. I don’t wanna take a nap!
So Miss Bundy rolls out blankets all over the floor and I watch her as she rolls them and all of us lay down on the floor in kindergarten with the shades drawn. And just lay there. A nap. This is school. This is school! And I can’t sleep. I never took a nap in the morning and all of a sudden I’m taking naps in the morning! I’m a little kid again. I’m lying there looking up at the ceiling. Schwartz is lying next to me. He’s looking up at the ceiling. And I hear him say, “Rats!” Yeah, rats!
We just lay there looking up at the ceiling. A nap! That moment, that moment of oppressive boredom, that moment of irritation, of having been had. That tremendous sense of disappointment. No reading. No desk. No books. Nothing but sand piles. Naps. Little girls. And a big fat lady banging on the piano singing, “Oh-I-am-here-in-school,” bonk-bonk-bonk. “How-I-love-school. Oh-oh-it-is-fun. How-I-love-schoo-oo-ool.”
STAY TUNED FOR THE LAST OF SHEP’S KINDERGARTEN.
ARTISTS’ BOOKS IN CD JEWEL BOXES
Of the dozens of artists’ books I’ve designed and made, a dozen or so have been in a format to neatly fit into CD “jewel boxes.” The clear plastic cases give them a finished look and protect them.
A couple of them consist of colorful layouts accompanying some of my gathered poems on related subjects. One is my tribute to El Lissitzky’s book, For the Voice. One is a reference to composer John Cage’s printed work, one a miscellany regarding my commuter trips on the Long Island Rail Road (which refers to poet Blaise Cendrar’s poem about his trip on the Transsiberian Railroad.) One’s a simple popup related to poet Stephane Malarme, who had been quoted as saying that all the world exists to be put in a book (words to that effect). One’s especially relevant to “fatheads” everywhere.
Another is just a bit of fun using some of the many ads for erotic services promoted in the back of the weekly Village Voice—it suggests censorship in the act of shredding with a wide-spaced set of shredding blades. As I used the actual newspaper ads, all copies of this book will slowly grow brown and brittle, and eventually crumble irredeemably to dust.
The last one consists entirely of an apparent book that one finds is not a book at all, but just the supposed front and back covers glued to a thin sheet of cardboard-like material called “foamcore,” which is basically plastic membranes filled with air. It’s an artists’ faux book.