Sunday, January 9, 2011

LFG and the Orient Express: Paris to Istanbul

Crisis averted but barely so. The first few days back from being away from anything for a week guarantees a wobbly re-entry. I’ve long since accepted that my first day back from a week’s holiday will see me at best, returning phone calls and clearing only the crucial work related emails. The same holds true for fifth grade teachers and fifth graders.
Ten year old LFG rolled in from Florida forty-eight hours before the resumption of school and like any elementary school child, a preference for a few more days of vaycay was her norm. But science project deadlines loomed so my young’un reluctantly got herself back in the ballgame. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good academic citizen…straight A’s last report card and I’d humbly posit that fifth grade is when a palpable level of academic rigor begins. Oh, and we had a poetry project and a Langston Hughes book review to nail down.
No big deal. I was in town to assist…at least the first two days of the week before my Dallas jaunt. Now the science project (And I’m trying not to project my dismay amidst assisting LFG—but they don’t allow the proverbial mud volcano with baking soda and vinegar anymore…that was my ONLY science project ever. I was more of a social sciences—humanities man—even before I was a man) is a month long journey with interim checkpoints and deliverables. The endgame for the project is to teach these kids a rather basic version of the scientific method…hypothesis…independent and dependent variables…findings...write up and conclusion. Even with my no-volcano junk I’m bringing to the event, I’ll be fine as LFG’s helper. Butcept a couple of steps had been taken in experiment selection and hypothesis without my involvement.
Still no big deal…I don’t think. I pick LFG up from school last Monday and head straight to the Bethesda Library. We crack the science project binder and within fifteen minutes I realize that she’s made a woefully bad pick for her project. She’s already declared it and has scratched out a tentative hypothesis and a couple of potential ways to control a variable or two to then measure “something.” My heart plummets when I realize what a goat rodeo we are about to attend if indeed my ten year old tries to measure “the impact of various light colors on mood”. Finding four or five different light colors and sequestering a valid sample size, one at a time, of her peers, in a room for enough time for each color light, and attempting to quantify “mood”…Oy. I frowed up a little bit in the back of my throat.
Diplomatic skills plied in the hushed atmosphere of the Bethesda Library would have to keep my child from getting upset…at least to the point where she could regain her composure and our time could be refocused on a suitable replacement. The experiment, hypothesis, methodology and materials involved report was due Wednesday morning. And of course I still thought I’d be in Archer City Texas by mid afternoon on Wednesday. Here’s what happened…we went from despair to fragile optimism within about an hour and a half. A new experiment was agreed upon and we drafted a basic process outline and materials list. 
By then it was time to saddle up and grab a bite to eat before dropping LFG at her mom’s. But much needed to be done before the science project interim deliverables deadline of Wednesday and we had other work to do. That’s what Tuesdays are for. I scratched my afternoon commitments, fetched LFG from school and we spent all of Tuesday, up till bedtime tightening up one hundred percent of all her school deliverables. By the time I dropped her at school and headed to Texas, we were back on track. And now we can actually enjoy the remainder of the science project journey.
So how do you reward the maturity and pluck of a child on Monday afternoon after she’s been left momentarily bereft? After she’s had a little gut punch and so quickly regained her poise and focus? Easy. You take a trip on the Orient Express.
Paris to Istanbul in elegance known only to a former generation...when the en route experience focused on a level of finery and deportment that’s extinct today…in any transit mode. I actually saw a butt crack on the plane to Dallas Wednesday morning and I still can’t get the ghastly image expunged from my lobes.
LFG needed nourishment before I dropped her off at mom’s and I needed a martini. LFG was slightly under-dressed for the Orient Express but she charmed her way on board none the less.
We were seated in the dining car immediately and wouldn't you know it, Hercule Poirot made his way over to our table. He vetted our revised science project hypothesis and dependent/independent variables, concluding that we were, like our dining car, on the right track. I asked Poirot before he bid us adieu if he, as a Belgian, had any connections back home that could get me access to the small, family owned factory that turns (inside out actually) out Belgian loafers. He wiggled his mustache and promised that he’d get back to me.
LFG sashayed her way to our dining car table, still swathed in her Safety Patrol belt. Upon removal, it remained on our table...a gentle reminder that there was law enforcement on the train and that indeed, there would be no murders--not on this night--on the Orient Express.
All of the Orient Express cars are outfitted superbly but the dining car was exceptionally well appointed. LFG and I immediately agreed that the paint patterns in the dining car were similar to the fanned patterns of gold leaf that Whistler and Walter Greaves used on Leyland’s Peacock Room.
We've got an entire library on Whistler and enough Peacock Room references for you to come over and take a deep dive into all things Whistler. Join us sometime.
I think LFG got a little exasperated after about the fifth time I asked her if she could get my grip from the overhead rack…I was craving a little bit of after dinner snuff and my sterling snuff tin remained above.
So a well deserved Orient Express journey with the legendary Clyde’s Chili prevailing as comfort food apropos. Just the thing to inaugurate a refocused school project journey. 
Our little train pulled out of the station and we headed home to rest up for day-two of our academic reorientation and 2011 scholarly tactics.
If you decide on the Orient Express, it can be found at Clyde’s Chevy Chase…a destination manifest in endlessly delightful examples of an era when deportment, decorum and swathing mattered before you boarded. And I’d recommend gents, that you wear a shoe similar to this when boarding the Paris to Istanbul carriage. It may not be Cleverley but the price point, after Christmas, was so clever that it may as well be.
Onward. In side gusseted punch toed shodding. Scientifically.


James said...

I simply can not find the words to say what one hell of a job you are doing. But you know on the other side of the coin you are so blessed to have a little sidekick who enjoys so much of what you do together.

Lacroix said...

Unespected shoe model for an usually fuzzy diced ADG ... I persume, we will happen to see it often at your travels 2011 ? ....

Sandra said...

You have no idea how much your posts make me miss my children! Those exasperated moments in the midst of Science Project Hell are the best really. Nothing like that feeling of "having it all together" as she makes her way back to school and as you make your way to the next stop . . . I have a suggestion for future projects if you ever need it. It served us well - even earned a trip to the county competition ;-). Xoxo

K.S.Anthony said...

I smiled at the baking soda/vinegar volcano mention. That was my only science project (2nd grade) though in 8th grade, I designed a better hand grenade using easily obtained hardware and household products. I didn't win that time.

LFG's lucky to have you.

Gail, in northern California said...

What a charming elderly couple aboard the Orient Express. Perfect, appreciative, couple to receive such an invitation (albeit staged). They complement each other, don't they? I wonder how many years they've been married. This was a lovely post, in so many usual. Thank you, dear friend.

Anonymous said...

Having lived two blocks from the Friendship Station Clydes, I have enjoyed many a pleasant meal at that travel themed spot. I now live closer to the Tower Oaks location now so I get to enjoy the hunting camp/lodge theme there. I will not comment about those shoes - except to say that I don't have room in my closet for them.

Best regards,


ilovelimegreen said...

I remember in 6th grade finding a science project in the World Book that involved breeding fruit mother nixed that in a heartbeat! How did LFG select that topic - or was assigned to her? Make sure she knows that green is used for operating rooms because of its soothing quality...that said, there ARE forty shades of green (thank you, Johnny Cash).

Pigtown*Design said...

frowed up, huh? i KNEW you were gonna quote that one.

ADG said... know that I HAD to use was too good not to.

LimeGreenery...We are doing a color/taste experiment that's actually "do-able" compared to the other choice. Operating rooms...interesting. Jail cells?

JRC...I love all of the Clydes. I do think the Friendship Heights locale is extra special.

Gail...thanks. Don't break nothin' this year.

KSA...thanks. And I'm lucky to have her. I hear you re the volcano. I think our repetitive experience with it is exactly why it is permanently etched in the school science project handbook as a forbidden opttion.

Preppy101....thanks. I just want to get the science project DONE. I don't want no "county finals" experience!

LaCroix...yes, you will see the shoe. And I wouldn't have seen it unless it was offered to me at a giveaway price. Thanks. always...thanks. LFG's deportment and spirit is an equal, if not greater tribute, to her mother.

CTS said...

Shouldn't the shoes at the end been Belgians in honor of our esteemed Monsieur Poirot? Great post; good luck on the project!

Southern H and H said...

You could have gone the Litmus Test route, as I did in 6th grade. It earned me last place and honorary title of "Most Likely to Become an English Major".

P.S. Glad to know the Nat. Book Fest is worth the trip. Thanks!

Pigtown*Design said...

we were going to paint a hallway yellow at our offices, and then one of the psychiatrists said that people fight in yellow rooms more than in any other colour! nixed that one.

Patsy said...

How fun! Kids (at least this kid) adore theme restaurants. My Dad used to take us to the Auto Pub in the GM building - still one of my best memories.

Chuck Hatt said...

Hello ADG,
Having been a 5th grade teacher for many years, and being the proud parent of an excellent example of one, I'm afraid I'm going to have to weigh in here.

I agree that academic rigor begins to take hold in grade 5. Students are capable of independent work and they have a ranging intellectual curiosity. The girls are coming in to their own as thinkers and social beings and the boys...... don't have a clue. Fifth was my favorite grade to teach and I am still in touch with many of my former students, now in their 20's.

So good that you can help LFG with her work but many students don't have that advantage, and you'd be surprised how much this is NOT a function of socio-economic status.

Not to criticize, but it's entirely possible to confer with your students so that they have planned for something doable and within the realm of the typical household laboratory before they go home and attempt to execute. Homework should be something a child can do with minimal family support. The heavy lifting should be done in the classroom. After all, teachers have them for the most significant portion of the day

I do miss those times with my children. Such an important job to shape a young one's sense of self, to coach for excellence and also nurture the small child within. You're a good father ADG.


Chuck Hatt said...

.... I remember the "science" projects from when my boys were growing up. The 2 liter plastic bottle with volatile chemicals placed in the living room fireplace when ablaze, the potato gun that shot 150 yards into the sky and into the professor's ghetto across Stadium Boulevard. We must still have a copy of the projectile vomiting video of The Gallon Challenge, a filmed and edited experiment exploring the human capacity to ingest a gallon of milk in one sitting. You should be glad you don't have a pack of boys ADG.

I am proud to say that intellectual curiosity and danged male cussedness did pay off as the oldest is now doing stem cell research at Wisconsin and finishing a PhD. in Biomedical Engineering.


Barima said...

Merry New Year, o Single Parenting Exemplar. This was a very charming read

All best,


yoga teacher said...

I LIKED LFG's first project idea, even though it's a little woo-woo. You might have a yoga teacher in the making. One with an English degree. Must run, the champagne is chilled. A certain Texan's goin' to jail!

Lisa said...

Can you just adopt me as your second daughter??? As for the height issue, I'll forgo all of the stilettos I own and I can easily dress like her just to have the experiences that LFG has. Hell, I can even play soccer. And doesn’t she take ballet classes? – perfect, 10+years en pointe experience – I’m there. Just sign on the dotted line… I’m very low maintenance and I don’t eat much (liquid sustenance is another issue) and I’d never critique your ensemble J. Here, let me get you a pen.

ADG said...

Lisa...of course. But only if you bring your own money. And the stilettos.

YogaOne...the problem with the project wasn't an issue of insight. It was a matter of execution. You can't measure "woo-woo" which was eggzackly the problem with the original idea. They actually want an quantifiable endpoint and I'll be damned if I could find "woo-woo" metrics that we could capture.

Barimatosity...Happy New Year to you. I trust that all is well with you. Thaks for the kind words but like I've said to others, LFG also has a stellar mom.

ChuckHatt...I've always said that God gave me a girl to get me back for being a guy. I love the gallon challenge idea...I might have to try it my damn self. And God bless you for the sublime work that you've done as an educator. I remain in awe of the teachers that LFG has and has had so far. I'll just leave my comments right there but hopefully you get my point regarding what a calling it is when good teachers stick to the oft times thankless task of stamping out ignorance.

Patsy...thanks. It's little affirmations like yours that keep me focused on building same said memories for LFG so that she'll say similar things as an adult.

MegTown...yellow. Damn. So that's what happened to my marriage.

Southern H and H...that's what I'm going for...LFG the English major!

CTS...good point. I've retired the Belgians till the weather warms a bit.

NCJack said...

Here's an idea: start up a new spare change jar for a trip on the Real Thing in about ten years. If they don't have one of that name actually running, you can probably duplicate the route

Scale Worm said...

Glad to see you two having fun! Toot toot!

ADG said...

Scale...and toot-toot back over your way.

NCJack...Duplicating the route without the experience of at least the current purveryor, would be, in my mind, kinda like trying to currently drive the Old Route 66 in a Ford Fiesta. If I can't do it in a gas guzzlin' GTO or something, it wouldn't be worth it.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

I take it back. I'll look for a pair of those slip ons. Perfect.

Nice to know Clyde's is still doing things right.