At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Encounters With the "Less Fortunate"

In the morning a small, malodorous Hispanic man wearing oversized glasses and an odd assortment of out-of-style dress clothes came in with a citation for drunk driving and asked politely if he could get the text of those sections of the Texas Code cited therein. We had a print copy of the Code from 1999, but I found the 2001 version on the Texas Legislature's web site. It was a shock to realize just how ignorant the patron was about computers, not knowing how to work the mouse, what IE was, etc., let alone how to distinguish reliable from unreliable pages. He then asked for the year when the legal blood alcohol percentage was lowered in Texas from .10 to .08, which I was able to answer by searching Infotrac for old articles in the Austin Statesman. I had the sinking feeling that the patron was attempting to argue his own case in court by claiming that the legal threshold had been changed too recently for ordinary citizens to find out about it.

This afternoon I finally had my first tutoring session at the literacy center. For the past couple of months I've been unable to get in touch with the students I was assigned, but I had no problem scheduling a session with this one. D.W. is a very pleasant, soft-spoken man around my age who's currently on probation for cocaine possession. Sounds like he's been through some hard times: parents murdered in Dallas, raised by grandparents here, started using marijuana and alcohol in high school, first wife killed, addicted to cocaine, busted by cops, jobs lost, driver's license rescinded, probation. The fact that he was allowed to graduate high school without being able to read says it all about public education in our country. Anyway, I was dreading the tedium of teaching the letters of the alphabet for an hour, but the workbooks are well-designed and I enjoyed the session.

After tutoring I practiced playing Steely Dan's "Black Cow" on the guitar for an hour. The album Aja has to have some of the richest chord charts outside of bebop. I think one reason I was disappointed in their comeback Two Against Nature is that it is comparatively impoverished harmonically.


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