GOLDIE (and the Racial Coffee)

Like any other life circumstance that involves working with other people, there are always some who stand out as exceptional.

When Sharon Hayes offered me the position of Music Teacher for her new Middle School, I was excited.  A new opportunity and the beginning of a trend in my life of creating my own job before it even existed.  The drill for that summer was to join a small team of teachers she had assembled to convene at an old Catholic High School building purchased by the city and spend three months preparing the place for the merging of seventh and eighth graders three nearby overcrowded grade schools.

This was not light work and involved everything from moving chairs and putting desks together to working on preparing teaching materials and supplies for teachers who hadn’t even been hired yet.  There were only five of us on the team and the Vice Principal and Librarian were given administrative tasks.  The two men (myself and Carey - a former Second City performer, current teacher of improvisation, and one of our new Math teachers for the eighth grade) and one woman (the Goldie of the chapter title, a large, boisterous woman with an infectious bellow of a laugh and my frequent smoking partner during the school year) left were responsible for pretty much everything else.

The first day started things between Goldie and I on exactly the right note.  I walked in the office, thinking I was a bit early and everyone else was already there.  A box of donuts sat on the counter and there was a pot of coffee on.  I walked in and the gang of five plus The Boss were just shooting the shit.  Introductions were made as I grabbed a cinnamon donut and headed for the coffee.  I poured some coffee (black) in a styrofoam cup and took a sip.

“Holy Balls!  Who made this coffee?  This is so black it’s absolutely racial!"

A pause.

Then Goldie started laughing her huge laugh.  “Racial coffee!  Oh my god! I made it!  And I’m as black as anyone in this room!"

A bond had been made.

Goldie was a big woman so when we would go to each room to set things up, she would supervise and I would schlep.  And we would talk the whole time almost non-stop.  We would regale each other with countless stories of growing up, of my limited and her seemingly unlimited teaching experiences.  I can say that I learned more about teaching during that summer of hearing her many stories than I had all through college and during my year and a half of subbing and teaching at Evergreen Academy.  Goldie was a wealth of knowledge and humor.  She became one of my favorite people and we became fast friends in that three months.

Her name was not “Goldie.”  That was a nickname I gave her.  At one point, she had been asked by so many teachers and students why she was called “Goldie” that she dyed her tight, close-cropped afro blonde and kept it that way.  She told me that people stopped asking after that.

The source of the nickname came early in the first school year.  She and I would get in and start the day with some racial coffee and some cigarettes out back in the storage garage (so the kids couldn’t see our heinous vice on display.)  And we would dish.  She was single and doing the earliest versions of online dating so she had war stories to share almost every Monday of dates gone wrong.

One morning, she looked over her expansive glasses after taking a long drag on her miles long Virginia Slim Menthol and asked, “Have you ever heard of a golden shower?"

I barked a laugh.  “Yeah.  Yes.  I have heard of a golden shower.  Why?"

“I was on a date with this man Saturday.  He kept asking me if I wanted a golden shower.  I didn’t know what it was but was afraid to ask.  We got back to my place and he wanted to PEE ON ME!"

After about a minute of me laughing so hard that I thought I might go blind in one eye, I asked “Did you let him?"

The horror on her face was out of control hysterical.  “NO!  NO WAY!  Nobody PEES on me!  That’s awful.  I couldn’t believe it.  I kicked him out of my house and told him to lose my number!"

Later that day, as I saw her in the hallway, it hit me.  “Goldie!  Hey, Goldie!"

“You stop that now, Don Hall.  That is not funny!” she commanded while giggling.

The nickname stuck for the eight years I taught with her.  After I left teaching, she and kept in touch for a few years after but, as so many friendships do, ours faded into memory as time and distance took their toll.  

Apparently, Goldie is still teaching at another school and the kids there call her Goldie.