Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Tutoring Bel Air I Go

3 May


I missed you; sorry about the hiatus! So: my mood improved. My sex life is another story…but it could be worse. Time to move from heart/soul/ body musings to the ever-fascinating world of WORK. One of my current positions is Tutor To The 1 Percent.

tutoring blog Heading into hills. jpgIt’s around four; I’m heading up Tower Drive, a narrow road with a sharp incline.  As I make my way up every Monday and Thursday, I think of that old board game Shoots and Ladders. The sun is shining and the sky is blue, AS USUAL.  I’m going to see Bianca, a six-year old with reading troubles. And to see Nathalia, her Russian nanny–always  in a white uniform, who has  trouble speaking English. I’m driving up, up, up from my flat in the flats of Beverly Hills to Bianca’s house in Bel Air. Her house is a modern multi-billion dollar home with a Ferrari, BMW, and Bentley parked in the makes-me-gasp-steep driveway. The floor of the front hall is glass, with goldfish swimming underneath.

It’s beautiful. It’s surreal. I don’t admire the rich, but amidst some disdainful thoughts are envious thoughts. I’d like to live up here. Shoots and Ladders, yes, and CANDYLAND. Someone’s side yard:

tutoring blog purple hill

The people I see out on the road look normal; I wonder if they feel normal, are normal. . .they are pulling into their driveways, walking their dogs. (I was going to take pictures for my blog, but thought better of it, imagining the headlines: WHILE PHOTOGRAPHING THE SUPER RICH, SUSPICIOUS TUTOR SHOT AND KILLED. VOYEURISM DOES NOT PAY.)

Bianca lives in a gated community.

tutoring blog GATE

I tap the secret code into the secret box.  Once inside, the road gets very winding, and the houses are very spectacular, architectural mind-fucks every one. There are virtual castles with turrets and small moats; there are Bau Haus grand pianos of buildings; there are mansions like Italian villas, mosaic-ed with gorgeous imported tile–all with operatic views of the sumptuous hills, soaring vistas of the mountains, cypress trees…and homes of the Other Very Rich.

tutoring blog view with trees framing

Of course, I feel as if I’m in a movie. The one about the professor who casts aside her perfectly nice life in a small upstate New York town to become Fresh Tutor of Bel Air.  (The plot is vague but I already have the actors picked out; more to be revealed!)  I park outside the gate in front of  Bianca’s house and enter Secret Code Number Two. A waterfall  in the neighbor’s yard whispers voluptuously. And then, Nathalia the nanny lets me in the door.

Bianca and her twin sister rush up the marble stairs to greet me: “Miss Kirsten!” they shout. They are well-behaved little girls, seemingly without airs. Bianca mentions her diamond stud earrings, talks about flying to Switzerland for Christmas,  the 100 dollars the tooth fairy gave her, but she isn’t bragging. At six, she thinks that’s how life works. In three months, I’ve seen their mother only three times; she is a pretty but ordinary woman in work out clothes who looks a little frail. One time she was huddled in a blanket by the swimming pool in 75-degree sunshine. Dad works in Vegas and Denver, and he SKYPES with his family several times a week. I googled him, and there seemed to be  nothing unusual about him except his bank account.

Once settled in her pink room with a luxury hotel view and bathroom, Bianca and I read some Dr. Suess and then Amelia Bedelia–which, according to Bianca “has too many large and incomprehensible words.” I don’t know enough about it, but think she might have dyslexia. Her twin is “the smart one,” Bianca  tells me, and I identify with Bianca, noting that her twin is bossy and loud, even though I get the feeling she’s just jealous that Bianca has a tutor.

Then it’s time to do some ESL work with Nathalia, and she and I talk about our weekends; I went to The Getty and she went to Huntington Gardens. She is about my age, blonde, has high arched eyebrows, an easy laugh and thick accent. Both of us working for this family creates, I like to think, a vague kinship. But I just turn up twice a week whereas Nathalia lives with them; I cannot begin to imagine this. On my way out, Nathalia gives me some Russian chicken meatballs  in a glass container. She often does this–without a word.

Climbing up the driveway past the Ferrari, the BMW SUV, and the Bentley, I huff and puff delicious flowery air and look at the sun hovering on the horizon. I let myself out of the gate and collapse  inside the Pruis. Wending my way back out of the CandyLand/Shoots and Ladders movie set, I fantasize about hiding in the bushes until dark and then…robbing a house? No, not with those alarm systems. The fantasy isn’t like that exactly. It’s about knowing the life–with servants, and operatic vistas, and a million precious things behind lock and key. The wealth is so close, it almost seems like you could blink your eyes and  just take up residence in one house or another as if you belonged there and always had.

tutoring blog house with palms

Jay Gatsby had that plan, and succeeded. Until he drowned. Driving down the dark lanes, I let go the fantasy, and stick a plastic fork retrieved from my glove compartment into a chicken meatball and silently thank Nathalia.

The lives up here will never seem real to me. (As Tutor Of The Hills, I barely seem real to me!) It’s somewhere over the rainbow: up the hill, through the gate, down the driveway, into the marbled hall of a mysteriously rich life, my sandals clicking across the glass floor with  fish swimming, trapped beneath. I’m a visitor. And though I’m not a robber, I am stealing. Along with the plastic utensils, my notebook sits in the glove compartment. Filled with notes.


22 Responses to “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Tutoring Bel Air I Go”

  1. maw14747 May 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm #

    What a wild, wild ride read this was. Shoots and ladders with a shot at/of Candyland. This stuff is REAL!! Who knew?

    You’d described all this to me but I had Urbana-ized or maybe Claremont-ized it. You have opened my -ize and now I see what you have been saying is really on steroids.

    Coming down from the hills, do your ears pop? Or was that just the sound of the plastic fork against the Russian meatballs?

    Thanks for “stealing” all of this for us, Nancy Drew, and making it such an eye-opening ride and great read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kwasson2012 May 3, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

      My ears do POP! Thanks for calling me Nancy Drew–love this idea! And most of all, thank you for reading!


  2. Mary May 3, 2015 at 9:14 pm #

    I’ve missed you here too! I am still trying to get my head around the goldfish. Wow. Can we start voting on who will play you in your biopic? At least Noah can play himself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • kwasson2012 May 4, 2015 at 1:02 am #

      Thank you for appreciating my voice/presence in cyberspace. I started the story months ago; it took me a while to figure out what I had to say. Noah will play himself–brilliantly, no doubt. I would like to play Nathalia; my Russian accent is getting pretty good!


  3. Elizabeth May 3, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    I feel dizzily vertiginous just reading this! Thank you, Fresh Tutor, for the peek. I love the Nancy Drew notion, also. Go for it! (May I be your slightly-stout (though she’s slim as a rail by recent standards) Bess?) Looking forward to more, and I’ve missed reading you! Glad you’re back. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • kwasson2012 May 4, 2015 at 1:03 am #

      Please, Elizabeth, BE MY BESS. WE would be a hell of a team.


  4. sallyedithgreen May 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm #

    Beautifully written as always, Kirsten. Years ago in Istanbul I tutored a young mother in a house right on the shores of the Bosphorus, with a wall of windows in the living room overlooking the water, so close it seemed like the Russian tankers would come right through the glass. She had a cook, a nanny, and me once a week, and was bored to death. Her favorite memories were living in London when her husband was in graduate school, they were kinda broke, and saw a lot of each other. Now he’s away on business all the time, she told me… and somehow ended up telling me that she had to take a pill to successfully shit. There’s a metaphor for ya. I wonder what is going through the mind of the mom as she huddles under a blanket by the pool in the sun….

    Liked by 1 person

    • kwasson2012 May 4, 2015 at 1:12 am #

      Thank you, Sally, for your generous response and this memory of your tutoring experience! I’m thinking: the body always seems to say something we might not utter…?
      The mom is so thin and pale. And my dear little student already has the idea at 6 that she must “not eat so much.” (Never too thin, nor too rich.) Amidst abundance, hunger is present if hidden?


      • sallyedithgreen May 6, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

        I agree, the body will not be silenced, and there are many ways to be rich, or poor. I hope the job is as good to you as the tooth fairy is to the 6 year old (!), but mostly it sounds like great material for your writing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • carol le seure May 4, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

      You’re no slouch yourself when it comes to beautiful writing. Loved the last couple of sentences, especially the repetition of the prepositional phrases.
      You write good!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill Swenson May 3, 2015 at 9:50 pm #

    Missed your wit. Beg, borrow, and steal all you can. You can’t make this stuff up, Zelda.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Nicholas DAlleva May 11, 2015 at 5:53 am #

    Happy Mother’s day dear Fresh Tutor of Bel Air—thank you for another very enjoyable story from the castle vistas and architectural mind fucks from der whacky west coast….also in one more day a long time sunshine all love surrounds him friend of mine and his mincy wife is moving to north of SanDiego for the long haul selling their home in Cayuga Heights. But, who knows, maybe he will motivate me to come out west for the very first time. My song is “California Virgin..la la la la la”

    But, what is with the Russian chicken meatballs? Shouldn’t it be chicken balls yikes !!! that does not sound good either !!!

    So, in bidding you ado I shout ffrom the operatic vista of Cayuga Lake…and riding the sumptuous soaring vista….good mother’s day night……….CandyLand Nick

    Sent from Windows Mail


  7. Jasmine Dvorak May 13, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    Thanks for sharing this story, Kirsten! Having been to client’s homes in Bel Air (none yet with a goldfish pond filled floor), I have also experienced that surreal “what-the-hell-is-this-real-right-now?!” feeling. I am so thankful for clients of the 99% like you, especially a Nancy Drew-like heroine… and that I learned cursive in elementary school.


  8. Parveen Talpur May 13, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    How precise “…there seemed to be nothing unusual about him except his bank account.” By saying nothing you have said all about him, I can very well imagine that dad. Looking forward to meet him in your novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Parveen Talpur May 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    And I love the title of your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. robinbot May 16, 2015 at 12:50 am #

    What a crazy life you lead. Never know when or where you’ll show up. Thanks for sharing what it’s like. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. elainemansfield May 31, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

    I love laughing, Kirsten. I’ve had a red flag on this blog announcement for a while and just got to it. You are in a movie. I’m sure of it. I’m in a different movie, usually not too exciting, but this week it had a scene about the country mouse visiting NYC for a book award. (I looked short, old, and insignificant next to the tall lean literary lovelies giving out the awards.) Keep taking notes. I will, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kwasson2012 May 31, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

      Elaine, We are indeed movie stars (regardless of any lovelies happening to be in our proximity). Love that you read my adventures, and know that I am impressed by you and proud to know you!

      Liked by 1 person

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