Thursday, June 24 2004
Spanish came to an end to today with a final exam, which was conducted orally. Since Gretchen had only been auditing the course, she didn't take the exam. For me, though, it had been my first credit-producing course since 1989. Not that it really mattered; I was briefly "withdrawn" from the class when I failed to provide the mandatory medical records to the college and came very close to shifting myself to audit mode, but forging the necessary documents was just as easy.
I'd scheduled my twenty minutes of oral exam in the last slot available, immediately following an elderly woman who had widely been considered to be the weakest in the class. I didn't know precisely where the test was being administered, but as I wandered the hall I could hear Spanish being spoken (mostly by my professor) in one of the offices. When I popped my head in, the professor asked in Spanish if my real name was Karl; evidently she'd finally gotten around to comparing her official attendance list with the names of the actual people in her class. "Si," I said.
The actual exam was nothing more than a conversation, although occasionally the professor made weak attempts to engage me in topics for which she'd told the class to prepare. But then somehow we got to talking (still in Spanish) about how Gretchen and I decided to move to the Kingston area. So I went back to 1996 when I was in Virginia and took it from there, through Bathtubgirl and California, to reconnecting with Gretchen after a 12 year estrangement, to our decision to move from Brooklyn. Several times the story would become an agony as I searched my mind in vain for the correct Spanish word. I'll never forget not having the word paracer, which means "to resemble." I really needed that word - it's an essential foundation element in the way I speak. When I didn't have the word for couch I just said la silla grande and it was no big deal. I didn't have to know that the word was simply sofá. Finally the professor announced that our time was up. Then she congratulated me on my ability to talk about a subject for which I had obviously not prepared, and, better still, to explain something she hadn't known. The key thing she'd learned from my story was the existence of that 12 year estrangement. The main thing about our conversation that she found fault with was my butchery of the Spanish grammar. So she gave me an A- for the exam and also for the class. Then we chatted for awhile about Romanian, the Slavic-influenced Romance language she knows from having taught English in Romania back in the early 80s.
This evening Gretchen and I did our customary Thursday night in Uptown routine. We started with dinner at Stella's, the Italian restaurant with the unsurpassed salad, and then moved on to BSP ("Backstage Studio Productions") for their open mike event. Tonight there seemed to be an unusual number of bad singer/songwriter acts, but it didn't much matter. Open mike at BSP is an excuse to socialize and meet new people. The guy we met tonight was an older man who worked as a free lawyer for indigent clients. He was also something of a horndog, in the great tradition of older men who befriend Gretchen at bars. She's very indulgent of this personality type, so long as they're interesting and don't revolt her political sensibilities.
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