Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mesa Vista

I checked, just to make sure. The name of the place is Mesa Vista, and back when I was taking piano lessons, it's where we used to give our recitals. In those days, we would refer to it as "an old folks' home." Now we would describe it as "an assisted care facility." And even now they tout "Entertainment by talented musicians and singers" as part of their Life Enrichment Activities. In the early seventies, I didn't feel much like a life enrichment activity. I felt like I was being sent away to the gulag.
All of Mary Kay Hefley's students lined up just outside the sun room, in the hallway next to the elevator. More than once it occurred to me that it would be easy enough to just walk over, push the button and head on down to the ground floor, walking out into the night. Just leave my music on the chair, and keep on walking. If the residents of Mesa Vista, those who were well enough to make it into the sun room after the sun had gone down missed out on the life enrichment that I brought them, so be it. I was uncomfortable. I was nervous. And my life was definitely not being enriched.
At this point in my life, I understood that making these yearly visits to the nursing home was the right thing to do, but I was also extremely aware of how uptight doing the right thing was making me. My younger brother and I never actually spoke about this, but we had a shrug here and an eye roll there that bonded us through the seemingly endless evening of entertainment. Neither of us fled. We sat and waited our turn and tried not to think too much about what was going on down the hall. That long, dark hallway filled with curious sounds and smells.
It was always a bit of a relief to be introduced and walk out to the piano, past the fireplace on the left and the sea of expectant faces on the right. As I sat down on the bench, I placed my music on the stand, then turned to face my audience. I gave the rushed, perfunctory introduction to the piece I was performing, and turned back to face the music. Those few minutes stretched out like hours, but when I finally hit the DC al Fine, I knew that I could make it. Sometimes, while my brother or I was playing, one of the ladies or gentlemen would decide they had heard enough and begin to scoot out of the room in their wheelchair or walker. On other occasions, one of those residents might take it on themselves to sing along, whether they knew the tune or not. It was, as show biz folks might say, a tough crowd.
And then it was time to go home. We were free to go for another year. The old folks stayed. That never occurred to me back then. It was their home.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Exact Change

At midnight on March 27, an era ended. The last toll was taken on the Golden Gate Bridge. That doesn't mean that toll won't be paid, it just won't be taken. By humans. It would be fun to tell you that a group of trained elephants have been put in the place of those humans who have been taking and receiving correct and not-so-correct change for the past seventy-five years. The booths would not accommodate pachyderms, so this solution was thinking far too out of the box. Instead, the toll will now be electronically deleted from your bank account by an electrical pulse. It's hardly noticeable, and after the first dozen or so attempts, it will only give off the slightest twinge. In the nerves of the Bridge District employees who were displaced.
They were all offered new jobs, and some of them were taken. Driving buses and other tasks that have yet to be usurped by artificial intelligence. Some of them didn't. They walked away with a bitter taste in their mouths, not interested in the sixteen million dollars of expected savings, or the streamlining of traffic patterns that will no longer have to stop for this simple human interaction. They feel the same way McDonald's employees felt when they were all replaced by cyborgs in the early twenty-first century.
By way of confession, I will say that my family had switched to the electronic method for paying tolls some years back. It's faster. It's cheaper. And once you're used to that twenty to thirty volt surge that pours through your car as the "lasers" track your motor vehicle to its ultimate destination, it's hardly noticeable.
Except you have this crazy urge to visit your local McDonald's. Or maybe that's the metal plate the Bridge District insisted that I needed to have inserted in my skull.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Some Kind Of Help Is What Helping's All About

Brian Watson of Microsoft called me the other day. To be more precise, one of Mister Watson's underlings called me. This associate wanted to let me know that Microsoft had been receiving "certain error messages" and they were concerned about "possible security issues" with my PC running Windows operating system. Initially, I felt grateful that I happened to be home to take this call, since most weekdays I would have been at school, in a room full of PCs running Windows operating system. As the computer teacher at an urban elementary school, I have more than just a passing familiarity with error messages and security issues working with Microsoft products. It occurred to me to ask what these folks might have to offer for my budget-strapped lab in the way of technical support, but I wasn't getting a word in edgewise.
This might also be the time to relate that the other issue I had besides the very assertive and persistent nature of the "help" I was getting from this "Microsoft" employee was the rather thick Indian accent through which I was having to decipher all of this very important technical "help." I wanted to know how this very concerned individual had discovered that I was having difficulty with my computer. I wondered if he could tell me what IP address was sending the error messages. He gave me a series of numbers that loosely fit the IP format, but were not the ones associated with my machine. Could it be that he had made a mistake?
"Do you want to talk to my direct supervisor?" asked my increasingly impatient expert.
"Sure," I said. "I'll hold."
I needn't have worried, since the supervisor seemed to be standing very close to his drone. There was no hold music, no silence, just a rustle of the phone being passed and the chatter in the background.
"Who am I speaking to?"
"This is Ben Watson."
Now we were getting somewhere. "Ben, what precisely did you want to achieve by calling me and getting me to turn on my computer?"
In a similarly thick Indian accent, Ben Watson proceeded to give me the same line about errors and security, and then implored me to go to the keyboard, "Press the control key. You know where the control key is?"
"Yes, I do, but I'm not going to push it, Ben. And just out of curiosity, where are you calling from?"
"Ah - Washington - and now if you would please start by pressing the control key..."
"Ben, I'm not going to press any key until you tell me what it is that you expect to achieve by having me do all of this."
"Now you are just messing with me," grimaced Ben. Only he didn't use the word "messing."
"That didn't sound very professional Ben, I think you owe me an apology."
But Ben didn't hear me. He had hung up in frustration. He wasn't going to help me solve my security and error issues today. He wasn't going to get me to buy a useless virus protection system or enable him and his associates to gain remote access to my computer to have their way with, then cast it aside. I'm not sure that Ben was actually a Microsoft employee. It was nice of him to try, at least.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holes In The Holy

It's about this time every year that my wife and I begin our theological discussions about the very neat way that the powers that be (Romans) massaged the old lunar calendar into their new one, finding ways to paste over some of their less-than-holy days with bits and pieces of the sacred moments from a time before theirs. Twelve months, and almost every one of them ended with some sort of saint or holiness wedged in here or there, but Springtime is especially holidasical.
Good Friday. Passover. Palm Sunday. Easter. We are currently knee-deep in the hoopla. What we find confounding, however, is the certainty with which the makers of this calendar have attached an exact date for Jesus' birth, just after the winter solstice, but they couldn't be bothered to be as specific with the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. It tends to slosh around late March and early April, much in the same way that the celebration of Moses and his followers being freed from their bondage by the Egyptians. It was my wife that first clued me into the idea that Jesus and his disciples were probably having a Seder just before the Romans came and picked him up for vagrancy and being the Son of God.
Conspiracy? We've come to expect that kind of those nutty Romans. If it all starts to seem a little like a Monty Python skit, you're not alone. Add to all this coincidence the way the calendar conveniently places that rebirth thing right on top of all the pagan rites of Spring, and you've got a great big Easter Basket full of confusion. Sometimes it's hard not to think of Jesus and Moses as contemporaries, like Superman and Batman starring in their own comic book worlds, but with the occasional crossover tie-in issues. They would definitely be in the DC universe. That might explain the whole Amazonian thing with Wonder Woman, but that would bring the Greeks into it. The Greeks do have one heck of an Easter celebration themselves, even if theirs is harder to find than the Romans. I guess we blame Jimmy Stewart for the six-foot tall bunny. He was Scotch-Irish.
Confused yet? We are.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Marathon Of Excuses

The marathon bypassed our house again this year. Than meant that the street didn't get as much public works attention in the days before the race. It also meant that, in order to take in the sweaty spectacle, my wife and I had to trot on over a couple of blocks. I use the term "trot" to describe the somewhat delicate way in which the three of us, dog included, made our way over to the course. We stood on a corner for a few minutes, watching the runners chug their way past the halfway point of their journey across town and back again.
We became somewhat self-conscious, standing there. We decided to move along down the sidewalk, in solidarity with these athletes, the ones who had popped out of bed hours before to be on the starting line before my wife and I had opened our eyes fully. Our little group made it a few blocks before turning back toward our home. My wife was enthused enough to want to carry her portable speakers up to that corner and provide the sweaty mass some musical inspiration. I went back to our garage and pounded on the punching bag, working up the perspiration that would make me feel as though I too had been exerting myself. When I finished that, I went back outside our fence, and proceeded to take another lap around our neighborhood. This time, the faces on the stream of runners didn't look quite so fresh. This group was working a little harder at their personal best. I saw a sign go past on one of the race officials that said "3:45." Three hours and forty-five minutes. That was the expected finish time for this cluster of runners. I thought about the hour or so that I have spent on ten kilometer courses in my past and considered, not for the first time, what it would take for me to commit to running four times that long. I felt the pain in my legs and feet. I felt the weight of fifty years pressing down on me.
I turned the corner and went home for the second time, aware of the opportunity that was passing me by just a couple blocks away. Again. They'll be back again. Next year. When I'll be fifty-one. And my back will be sore. And my ankle will be aching.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We Have Ways Of Making You Tock

The grandfather clock that hangs on our living room wall had a little problem over the past couple of weeks. Somewhere around the time I raced around the house setting all our time machines ahead, with the intent of saving an hour of daylight, I managed to mess with the workings of the old Regulator. To be very specific, this wasn't a grandfather clock in the most traditional sense. This clock was the one that my father presented to my wife and I on the occasion of our wedding. It wasn't a grandfather clock then, it was only a father clock. It became a grandfather clock some years later when our son was born. Though they share a name and a certain amount of genetics, these two gentlemen never had a chance to meet. My father stopped ticking about a year before my son arrived. The pendulum swing of the timepiece he gave us became the sound of the past, a lasting connection between two generations.
That's why I had a moment after I took the clock off the wall to try my hand at making it work again. My father was a fairly handy guy, having built our cabin in the mountains and all, but no one would have mistaken him for a master craftsman. He was the type of guy who had a lot of really great plans to build things, but never got around to completing them. When he left my mother, he left her with a garage full of bits and pieces of lumber that might eventually have become a desk, and there was another set of scraps that had been set aside to become a bar for the basement. I took it as a tribute that he completed the wedding present for my wife and I and delivered it in one piece on time. It has since become something of an heirloom in our home. That's why taking the back off this contraption gave me pause. What if I did something that kept it from working forever?
And then, as most moments do, it passed. I was able to find the screw that had come loose and, with some patient assistance from my loving wife, I was able to piece it back together and get it back on the wall where it returned to its job of marking the seconds and minutes and hours of our days, the way it has for nearly twenty years. It felt good to have that heartbeat back in our lives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Going Postal - Again

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I have been waiting for some time for the other shoe to drop, at least metaphorically speaking, when it comes to Saturday postal delivery. I was just a little embarrassed to discover that I have written three separate posts about this dire consequence of the fiscal crunch. The one that has been going on for the past four years, if you are using my opinions as a measuring tape. But guess what? We don't have to worry about not getting the ACE Hardware circular in your mailbox for a few more Saturdays because Congress passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery.
Does Congress know that the Post Office lost sixteen billion dollars last year, and cutting delivery back to five days would save two billion dollars annually? Sure they do, but you know what lively pranksters those legislators are. Their side bet on the matter is this: You won't get first class mail on Saturday. That will be the way to work around the trouble. It has been estimated that the Postal Service could run out of money as soon as October unless some sort of bailout can be arranged. They USPS loses twenty-five million dollars each day. The vast majority of these losses come from heavy mandatory payments into its future retirees' health fund. And the vast sea of Americans who now communicate electronically.
Perhaps if I changed the way I disseminate my thoughts to include a postal element. I could print out a few hundred of these little missives along with my regularly scheduled cybercast and stick them in the mail. A few hundred stamps a week might save the post office up the street from becoming another Starbuck's. All those random thoughts that become one-line e-mails? Those could be hand delivered to the lucky individual for whom it was intended instead of waiting in that cold and sterile environment of the In Box.
Or I can keep hiking out to the mailbox and waiting for the end, mercifully, to come.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Well, Well, Well

I sat in my principal's office, not because I had been bad, but because I was helping out. I was busily counting the take from our parents' group's weekly snack sale. In a middle to low income neighborhood, they managed to rake in more than one hundred and sixty-five dollars in less than an hour of pushing their now traditional menu: Nachos and ice cream cones. As I sat there, flattening out the crumpled one dollar bills and stacking up the bits of loose change into meaningful amounts to be transferred into rolls, I considered one of my other roles at the school: Wellness Champion.
Now, before you go thinking that I have a grandiose opinion of myself, or that I am somehow in charge of making up titles for the little things I do, let me assure you that our school district went looking with a job description in hand for willing volunteers to become their school's (fanfare here)  Wellness Champion. It said that right there on the application. It's how they call us to meetings and send us e-mail updates.
Alas, no capes or utility belts were issued with this title. We did not receive and super powers. We were charged with the task of getting the health of our children back under control. If you can imagine that one person could be in charge of keeping all those cupcakes and pizza and Takis out of our kids' bellies and pointing them toward all the broccoli and sliced fruit they can stand, that's kind of what they had in mind. The good news was that I got to share this job with another teacher at my school, and early on, she took the lead. She organized a staff exercise program. She put up a bulletin board with pictures of vegetables and fruits that are every bit as yummy as gummi worms. She went to meetings and brought back the good news. I stayed at the school and ran the PE program.
Now she's off on maternity leave. She's going to be instructing her new generation on the healthy habits that can last a lifetime. I'm left here to battle the hot chips and fistfuls of Now & Laters. I'm trying to educate without passing judgement. I'm trying to make our school a healthy haven. I'm counting money from our parents' group sale of ice cream and nachos. Maybe a cape would help.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Into Action

It's been a long winter. The frequent and brutal snows of the past four months have been significant, but the temperature indoors has been below chilly for most of those days. Especially if you happened to be a legislator. The sequester is just one example of how things tend to slow or stop in the middle of a freeze. The inaction of our lawmakers caused billions in random cuts to appear overnight, and even though a simple meeting to agree to disagree and make good faith promises to work on things in the upcoming year, there will still be no tours of the White House. Oh sure, you can wander around outside, but at your peril. The sequester hasn't limited the zeal of the security force in place outside.
And speaking of security zeal, how about those gun control debates? That has certainly added to the sound and fury of the long winter's night. But like Shakespeare suggested, all of that noise signified effectively nothing, except in Colorado, where the lack of snow has apparently given lawmakers there some traction to pass some rather impressive gun control bills. Just up the road from that state's capitol, however, the Weld County Sheriff has no intention of dealing with these “feel-good, knee-jerk reactions that are unenforceable.” Well, that's more like it! That's the kind of no-nonsense, head-in-the-sand response that fails to get things done. That's the kind of response that we have come to expect from our elected officials.
At least that's what the past few months have been about. Maybe now that Spring has sprung we can look forward to our legislators and other elected-types emerging from their holes and seeing their shadows. Maybe that will be enough to remind them of their own mortality and the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few or the one. But first, how about a couple of weeks off?

Friday, March 22, 2013

That's The Way It Crumbles - Cookie-Wise

"When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!" This is the wisdom my son introduced to me from the computer game "Portal 2." I liked it so much, I bought him a T-shirt with this very same advice emblazoned across the front. It expresses the outrage I felt when I read about a couple of Girl Scouts in Oregon who were invited to sell six thousand boxes of their delicious cookies to a local company.
It turns out the twenty-four thousand dollar order was a hoax, and there was no one at the company who would admit to ordering thousands of Samoas, Tagalongs, and Thin Mints. It reminded me of the time when a neighbor of ours came to our door to ask me if we were interested in buying some Girl Scout cookies. I told her that I wanted a case of Thin Mints. She said, "You mean a box?" No, I assured her, I want a case. A box of boxes. I looked behind her. Waiting at the bottom of our stairs was this girl's mother. I wanted to assure her that I was on the level.
"I want a case of Thin Mints," I called down to mom.
She smiled and waved, still uncertain of my motives.
"I really like Thin Mints," I told my new Girl Scout friend as I filled out the paperwork.
For the next couple years, that same Girl Scout came to my door, never asking if I wanted my "regular," but happy that she was already well on her way to a trip to camp just by ringing my bell. Then she moved away. Now I have to scour the streets for girls with sashes, carrying boxes of cookies. It's really sad.
The good news is that the girls in Oregon were able to rally their troop around them and they organized a "fire sale" of the pre-ordered cookies. The community came out to support them, and all was right with the world again. They didn't have to invent a combustible cookie to burn anyone's house down.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Survival Is...

No, this is not a pitch for a posthumous Charles Schulz collection, but rather a sentence frame that I presented to fourth graders on the advent of their beginning a new unit in Language Arts. As is customary, my inquiry was met with blank stares. Then, by means of randomly calling on students based on the stick that I happened to pull from the magic cup, I started to get some forced answers: "It means surviving?" "You have to stay alive?"
Okay. Let's start with that: Staying alive. "Right now, I'm alive. Am I surviving?" I pulled another stick, "Debra?"
Debra stared back at me. I was ready with another popsicle stick, then she spoke up. "Yeah."
"Okay then. I'm surviving. How about," looking down at the little number on the yellow stick, "Jesse?"
"Walking Dead is surviving."
I shook off my initial impulse to lecture on the appropriateness of what pre-teens should be watching on Sunday nights. The floodgates were open. Hands were raised. Side discussions took place. Suddenly everyone had something to say. Everyone was an expert on surviving the zombie apocalypse.
And so that's where I live now. When I was in fourth grade, I worried about intercontinental ballistic missiles and mutually assured destruction. These kids were completely invested in figuring out how they could live while undead monsters roamed the earth with every intent of biting them in order to feast on their warm flesh. Having a "great big knife" to cut off any part of their body that might somehow have become infected was seen as a need. I offered up that they could call it a "machete." The vocabulary is always important.
On and on we went, and while many of them made the more logical leap to surviving a more natural and local disaster like an earthquake or fire, and some were content to refine their topic to a more relaxed "getting lost in the woods," the zombies remained the hot ticket.
If it helps to think of the world as a post-apocalyptic wasteland in order for kids to participate, I will survive. And from the sounds of it, so will they.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Morally Straight

I went to the pancake breakfast again this weekend. The one hosted by the Boy Scouts. I went with the intent of supporting my son's friend, who has been working tirelessly toward becoming an Eagle Scout. It was a goal he set for himself years ago. It was so important to him that he even promised his mother that he would accomplish this task before he got his license to drive. He made this promise long enough ago that it never occurred to him that the organization that would bestow this high honor on him might be out of step with him morally. As a resident of the Bay Area, and as a high school sophomore, he has had more than his share of opportunities to consider whether keeping a particular type of boy out of the scouts was a bad idea. I know this because I have asked him about it.
He has made connections and associations through his Boy Scout Troop that he would be loathe to simply walk away from. He has worked to hard for him to simply quit. That's why I could go and sit at a table and eat those pancakes and orange slices, with my choice of ham or little sausages. The orange juice was awful, but the all-you-can-eat aspect was appealing. And as I sat there, enjoying the community sense of things, I couldn't help but wonder: were any of these young men in their shorts and badged shirts gay? Statistics floating around suggest that anywhere between three and eight percent of the United States' population is homosexual, meaning that out of the hundred or so scouts, Cub to Boy, three of them could be gay. Not that there is anything wrong with that, unless you happen to be in the Boy Scouts. It's still against their rules to be gay.
Bill Gates used to be a scout, and he thinks it's time for the Boy Scouts of America to change their policy. Madonna, who was never a scout but has certainly earned her merit badges for sex and boys, says the Scouts should "change their stupid rules." And that's all well and good for celebrity millionaires who have long since passed the age of scouting, but what about my son's friend? It causes him to sigh and furrow his brow. He would rather not think about it. He's got pancakes to make.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Best Thing To Come Out of Kansas?

Back in the days before HDTV, I wrote a paper for a class I took in college about Dorothy Gale's death wish. You remember Dorothy. She was the one who went to Oz before James Franco. She left Kansas because that's what teenaged girls do. She ran away, along with her little dog Toto and her house, to the Emerald City. Not Seattle, but the magical world where monkeys fly and scarecrows dance. And everything was in Technicolor. Kansas was in black and white. In Oz, Dorothy was seen as a savior, a major celebrity. Back on the farm with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, she was just a little girl who was underfoot.
The scary Miss Gulch wants to take Toto away to some evil fate. Em and Henry seem completely willing to knuckle under to her wicked demands. Dorothy can do nothing but throw herself on her bed and cry. Contrast that to the much more proactive way in which she deals with the Witch of the West. Tossing that bucket of water on her may have looked like an accident, but in that little slip she managed to do away with the tormentor of an entire nation. If she had stayed, she would have been queen. Instead, she chooses to go back to Sepia-ville, where she awakes as a victim of blunt force trauma to the head. Oh sure, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man were all back in Kansas with her, but drained of all their color and fantastic appearance. Even the Wizard, comes back to this mundane existence.
That was nearly seventy-five years ago. Now when that same Wizard drops into Oz, he upsets the creepy balance of power, fulfilling prophecy and becoming a great man, rather than being just a carnival magician. At the end of this 3D extravaganza, will James Franco make the same choice as Judy Garland? Of course not. One hundred plus years after Frank Baum wrote the stories, the choice is clear: Stay in Oz. It's brighter, faster, louder and has more color than Kansas. Sure, it's dangerous and all, but it turns out that Glinda might not have been as good as her press made her out to be, at least for the right kind of guy. Not the good man from Kansas, but the great man in Oz. The con man. The guy who isn't much of a wizard, after all. But at least he's in Technicolor.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ender's Game

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that it's vitally important for America's youth to have healthy eating habits, calling it an issue of national security as well as educational accomplishment and health care.This isn't exactly news for me. I just got finished bubbling in the scores for our fifth grade Physical Education test, "national security?"
"If we don't address this issue, we're going to have a shrinking number of young people who are qualified for military service, and when you have an all-volunteer military, you have to have a large pool to draw from," said Secretary Tom. When I was standing out on our playground watching our kids do their mile run, after spending the previous five months running alongside them, it never occurred to me that I was watching the future defenders of my country. While I was standing next to each and every fifth grader as they pumped out as many push-ups and crunched as many curl-ups as they could manage, I wasn't watching prospective soldiers. I was counting the relative accomplishments of ten and eleven year olds as they dealt with the limitations of their young bodies.
After all, most of the boys who have an inkling about what they want to be when they grow up will tell me that they are going to play for the Raiders or the Lakers. The fact that they get winded after running a quarter of a mile, and the mere idea of a push-up is abhorrent to them doesn't enter into that equation. Not as they make their way to the push cart outside our school at the end of every day to buy an ice cream or a bag of fried crunchies that may or may not have pork elements. The crunchies, not the ice cream. I think. And then a great many of them are on their way home to participate in the supreme irony of this scheme: They will turn on their video game consoles and spend the next few hours sitting relatively motionless, with the mild exception of their thumbs, and play "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2."
No matter that very few of these kids could hope to match the physical requirements asked for by professional sports teams, and never mind that the armed forces fitness protocols would exclude them. Military service still may be in their future. I'm pretty sure they let you snack on Takis as you recline on your molded barcalounger, piloting the latest and deadliest drone on whatever mission our constitution will allow. Problem solved.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City

I'm just a little let down. I didn't expect that I had the right stuff, but to be passed over yet again for the papacy just leaves me a little hollow. As I mentioned, this isn't the first time. I've been overlooked five times since I was first eligible. Of course, in those fifty-plus years I've done a number of things that may have kept me from being included on the "short list" for voting by the cardinal's conclave. Mostly drinking and swearing. But over the past twenty years, I've managed to get rid of the drinking entirely, and the swearing is pretty much at its lowest ebb that I can imagine. Maybe it's all the times I've taken the Lord's name in vain on Sunday afternoons. Especially in the Fall.
I suppose I've worshiped false idols, though I don't think Bruce Springsteen counts as "false." Maybe I haven't spent the time I should with the Good Book, though I have read many. As far as the Word of God goes, I may have exposed a weakness when I took that class in college titled "The Bible As Literature." Looking back over the past fifteen years, I would have to say that my work with underprivileged children should count for something, even if my approach varies from that of the standard Catholic practice.
If I had been picked, I would have brought a breath of fresh air to the Vatican, and I would have done so with two good lungs. The fact that I was not born or raised in the Catholic Church really worked against me, I suspect. I also suspect that the way I'm reacting to this news will probably keep me from getting a fair shake in the next few years when Pope Francis ends up retiring to go on the road with his folk rock band, The Holy Rollers.
Oh well. There's always Buddha.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Trip Insurance

I spent a month with my teenager last week. While his mother was away, the two of us soldiered along, stuck in the rut that is the day-to-day existence for those who have to get up and attend or teach school. A place where comings and goings are marked by the sound of bells. A place where you need a written excuse to be somewhere other than your assigned place. That was the easy part. The hard part was transitioning to those spots.
Most mornings I don't think much about my trip to school. My son's voyage by bus generally falls under his concern, and when things get mixed up, they fall into my wife's purveyance. If the six-fifty-seven rolls on by or never comes, my son is stuck. I know that if I keep pedaling I will eventually make it to school, but the hike from our house to his high school is a little more extreme. That's why the first time I heard that he had caught a ride with a couple of our neighbors' sons I felt relief. Nice to know that there is a village looking after us after all.
It wasn't until I started reflecting on my own teenaged driving habits that I had a twinge. I have nothing but trust and faith in the skills of my son's carpool buddy. He's a responsible kid with good grades and a father that wouldn't accept anything but best practices behind the wheel. He's also a kid. Seventeen. I shuddered again when I thought about my own driving record at that age. Suddenly, waiting for that next bus and taking a tardy for first period didn't seem like a terrible option.
Then, just as quickly as it came, that bad feeling left. Why should I trust a bus driver whom I have never met any more than the kid who drives a convertible bug and lives just around the corner? The hardest part of the whole single-parent thing for me was knowing when to let go. When I have my wife around, I know that there is always someone there to catch him on the next swing, if our lives can be compared to a trapeze act. I get nervous when there isn't a fail-safe system in place.
But then again, that's what I'm raising: my own personal fail-safe system, and he's coming along just fine.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Magical Mystery Tour

It was a long time ago. It was a time when big breweries competed for the beer concession at the University of Colorado's Friday Afternoon Club. It was a much less litigious time, when on one particular occasion, Budweiser chose to sell beer in little tin buckets. Not to be outdone, the next week, Rolling Rock showed up with similar buckets, only they weren't so crass as to pour their cream ale directly into the pails. They dropped four of their little bottles in and handed it over to the crowds of hungry drunk college students who were able to get their four dollars across the counter. "Drinking responsibly" meant not getting tetanus.
It was on one of those sud-soaked occasions that I saw the Fab Four. I said it was a long time ago, but not fifty years ago. It was thirty years ago. That meant I wasn't watching George, Paul, John and Ringo. I was watching a facsimile of the Beatles: Apple.  I had been a fan of the lads from Liverpool all my life, and even though these guys weren't the actual true-life Beatles, they sure sounded like them. And they looked, through my beer goggled eyes, just like them. I stuck around for their whole show, and eventually made my way all the way up to the bandstand, or the corner of the Alfred Packer Grill that amounted to a stage. When the band had finished their second set, I watched and listened as the Faux Four never broke character as they shook hands and scribbled a few autographs. I pressed my way through the crowd and eventually came face to face with Paul McCartney. Not really. I could tell, even with my diminished senses that this was a guy who was just a little older than myself, who wore a wig and pretended to be Paul McCartney. But he was doing such a tremendous job, I couldn't stop grinning and heaping praise on him. That's when he turned to John Lennon, who wasn't really John Lennon, and asked him for one of their cards. He told me that they would be playing in Fort Collins the following night, and if I was willing to make the hour's drive, I could show the card and get into the show for free. "Bring some of your mates," he enthused.
At this point, I wandered back to my apartment, where I got a couple hours of sleep. Just enough to get my head right for a late-night shift at Arby's. It was there, as the hour approached midnight, that I got my second glimpse of Apple. At first, I didn't recognize them. No matching outfits or mop-tops. I came around the slicer table to introduce my fellow employees to the Beatles. Only as I made may way to the counter did I sense something was awry. These guys didn't have British accents. They sounded like college students who wandered into my roast beef restaurant for a late-night snack. Even through my incipient hangover, I could tell that this wasn't the band I was looking for. Maybe it was the brown polyester or the harsh neon light that kept Paul from recognizing me, but this was my brush with celebrity, and I wasn't going to let it go that easily. "Hey guys, remember me?"
Blank stares. Then Ringo spoke up: "I'll have the Hamchy and some potato cakes." Whatever shred of illusion lingered up until that moment was gone in a rush. I let one of my associates finish taking the band's order, and I hustled back behind the slicer to make their sandwiches. I wanted them to experience our best service and enjoy their meal and then head out as quickly as they came. That one bad Apple experience spoiled the whole bunch. I didn't go up to Fort Collins the next night.
The next week the FAC band played Foghat and Jethro Tull. And that was fine with me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Very Special Episode

Early last week I was on my way to school, and as the cool morning air put a chill through me, these were the words that rang in my head: "Eventually I ran to Minneapolis, where it's cold, and I figured I'd keep better." These words came from the opening of the television show "Rhoda," of which I was a loyal viewer for all five of its seasons. It helped that I was already a fan of the character from her stint on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," where she served as the "chubby" sidekick to the whisper-thin Mary. I never understood this distinction, even though the producers felt inclined to dress Rhoda in baggy sweatshirts from time to time. No matter. I found Mary's best friend to be every bit as entertaining as Mary, and a fine counterpoint to the sweetness and light that often spewed from Miss Richards.
I will always remember listening to the guys on ABC's Monday Night Football complain that they had to miss Rhoda getting married, since they were on opposite her CBS sit-com. It was a television event that briefly eclipsed both football and the birth of "little Ricky." I watched as Rhoda's sister, played by Julie Kavner who later became the voice of Marge Simpson, navigated her own romantic course, briefly hooking up with Nick Lobo. If you don't recognize this accordion-playing sleaze, you may remember him better as Ann Romano's polite squeeze on "One Day At A Time," Richard Masur
All of this swirled in my head as I learned that Valerie Harper has terminal brain cancer. Bonnie Franklin, who played Ann Romano, passed on right about that same day from pancreatic cancer. Maybe I should move to Minneapolis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

While You Were Out

Did you see Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live? That's okay. Neither did I. But by the time I was fully awake on the first day of Daylight Savings Time, I had heard from a great many people, some of whom were unknown to me before this event, that I had missed something wonderful. I felt a pang of ennui, and then went directly to Al Gore's Internet where pictures and recordings of all the world's events reside. I saw what many considered the highlights of the show, and then took a quick peek at some of the disappointments. Since I was busy with the care and feeding of teenage boys as well as finding every timepiece in my quadrant that needed to be sprung forward. It did not occur to me to watch a show that I stopped watching about the fourth time the power that be declared it dead.
I won't go on and on about the relative quality of Lorne Michaels' comedy showcase. Instead, I find myself surprised by the relative lack of alarm I have over any live event, especially those on television. While I do make a point to try and watch sporting events in real time, there is very little else that can't be funneled through the time portal of Tivo or accessed through any number of video replay outlets. I didn't need to see the meteor explode over Russia. I waited until someone thoughtfully distilled all the various angles and sources into one and a half minutes of intense rehash. It reminds me of my wife's friend who insisted that watching NFL games was a waste of time, since ESPN did such a fine job of dicing up all the day's action and popping it into a forty-five minute flurry that didn't require blood pressure medication or patience of any sort beyond a certain tolerance for Cialis commercials. Highlights.
There may be still some cachet left for being able to say you saw this or that as it happened, but it's just far too easy to catch it on tape delay. Whatever this "tape" thing is.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Home Body

That object at rest is me. I tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. As I have mentioned here before, that force most often comes in the force of my wife. She is the object in motion. She has been moving all about the Pacific this past week, visiting friends and family in the Hawaiian islands. As a result, my mind is full of conflicting impulses: Stay in bed. Watch YouTube videos. Clean the kitchen. Catch up on paperwork. Inserted into this chatter comes the daily noises emanating from my dog and son. They need to be fed, watched, debriefed, and have doors opened and closed for them. Staying put is harder than I had previously imagined.
It occurred to me, as I scurried about the house on Friday evening, just how much of life after the age of twenty is maintenance. Fix this, clean that, check this, find that.  As primary adult for the past few days, I've found all kinds of ways to stay busy. It gives me all kinds of renewed respect for single parents across the globe, starting with the ones who drop their children off at the steps of our school five days a week. I feel quite fortunate for the training my wife has given my son on getting himself across town via public transportation, and his relative familiarity with feeding himself. I am grateful that she made arrangements for a neighbor to drop by and help our dog out with what would have been extremely long hours trapped indoors. I'm glad that she got some time away from the rut that we have all dug here in the coast of northern California.
And I miss her. Not just for the extra set of hands and willingness to get the day's work done, but for the sound of more than one hand clapping. Working together isn't always a zen experience, but it sure beats having to do everything yourself. It also gives me a chance to tell somebody that I'm flopping on the couch for a reason: I'm tired of being in motion.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Reality - What A Concept

That was the title of a comedy album recorded by Robin Williams way back in the twentieth century. Memorized quips and bits from this record became part of my everyday patter for a decade or so. It also rings in my head now as a wake-up for our new millennium. Way back in 1979 "reality TV" was Walter Cronkite telling us the way it was. You could believe what you saw because Walter, who was politely mocked at times by Mister Williams, wasn't going to mince words or edit tape.
Which brings us to today. A world full of YouTube and cellphone video that causes us all to ponder the world in which we live differently. For example: Did you have even a moment of quiet consideration before you discerned that popping corn with invisible radiation from those cellphones was probably a lot of hooey? As a result, don't you find yourself looking at any "incredible feat" with a slightly bitter taste in your mouth? That high school kicker who boots seventy yard field goals? The half-court shots? Why believe anything? Now that just about any twelve year old with access to his mom's iPad can edit and distort video that he and his buddies shot in their back yard, I believe only in the monstrous grain of salt that I need to imagine any of these "events" actually took place.
Am I a skeptic? You bet. I have never tried to fry a batch of chicken in a vat of pure Wesson oil,  but I tend not to take as gospel anything that comes in a link. This is, after all, virtual reality. The kind that offers up hours of "non-scripted" television across the cable and satellite waves every day. It makes me even more nervous to reflect on the explanations, found primarily on Al Gore's Internet, of how these stories are actually manipulated versions of staged moments, often repeated for the vast viewing audience who refer to it as their own shared experience. Of course, I have Clint Eastwood to thank for the awareness of just how long our vision of history has been manipulated, and that's long before he started talking to empty chairs.
And, for that matter, you are under no pressure whatsoever to believe anything you've just seen here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And Please Tip Your Waitress

What you are reading now is, in large part, a reflection of my character. I am a creature of habit, and I tend to do the same thing over and over again until someone tells me to stop. This includes the repetition of certain jokes and "funny bits" that have long since lost their original flavor and now exist primarily as a reflex action to the circumstances around me. Are they still funny? I'm a poor judge of that, especially if you were to interview those closest to me. That would produce a preponderance of eye-rolling and hopefully a certain amount of diplomatic discussion about the nature of humor and so forth. There are some who would say, I'm sorry to admit, that I'm just a joke box that operates even when the batteries have long since been used up.
I had one of those for real once. It was called a Comediator, and its existence preceded downloadable ring tones and sound effects. It allowed me to spice up my conversation with cartoon noises and the occasional rim shot. Even when I was boring my audience to death, I still had a chance to amuse myself by inserting the appropriate boing, crash, or honk. The fact that I no longer have this machine suggests a vast covert conspiracy to rid me of that sense of cleverness.
And so, that habit was forced into submission. Now I only think "ba dum chhhh" when I feel that I've reached the top of the Comedy Pyramid. That moment when the humor has escalated to the point where that last joke has taken the subject as far as it will go, and the punch lines have all been expended, that's the moment for which I live. It's a habit, and for those around me who have put up with it all these years, I can only offer you this.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pointed Commentary

I was of the opinion that every time I had to throw away my shampoo before I boarded a plane, the terrorists were winning. Or at least snickering loudly into piles of exploding underwear. The fact that it is now a reflex for me to slip off my shoes as I stand in the sometimes long and serpentine line to get to use the ticket for which I paid. Dearly. This doesn't happen when I'm waiting to board my rocket pod on Space Mountain.
Perhaps it is this customer service vacuum that caused the Transportation Security Administration to allow small knives as part of traveler's carry-on accoutrements. Passengers will be able to carry-on knives that are less than 2.36 inches long and less than one-half inch wide. Larger knives, and those with locking blades and molding handles, will continue to be prohibited, as will razor blades and box cutters. I imagine that the prohibition on box cutters will continue long after the rest of these items have found their way onto commercial airliners. Still, it does beg the question, "If I can open a box with my pocket knife, why shouldn't it be classified as such?" I was once asked, as a point of security, to leave behind my Leatherman Micra Multi-Tool as I entered AT&T Park to see Sir Paul McCartney. This was considered a weapon by the yellow jackets. With just a short time before the show began, I was left with few alternatives. I chose to hide the tool with its 1.6 inch blade in a crevice near the base of the Willie Mays statue. I enjoyed the show immensely, but I was briefly troubled by thoughts of my all-purpose Micra being scooped up by some opportunistic miscreant. At the end of the evening, I was sad to find that my worst fears were confirmed. No Leatherman. I ordered a new one the next day from Amazon.
Of course, now I wonder if that same knife would be allowed in the same stadium, just as long as I didn't try and bring in a hard-sided cooler. The TSA will now permit sports equipment such as billiard cues, ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and two golf clubs. Souvenir, novelty and toy baseball bats such as wiffle-ball bats have also hopped off the restricted list. If I can get on a flight wielding a ski pole where they will keep bringing me drinks as long as I can pay for them, why not let me into a concert with my fancy box cutter? Maybe I should just take the train. As a part of Amtrak's new promotion I hear they're encouraging travelers to bring their guns, knives, and explosives. I suppose I shouldn't complain. When I went to see Sir Paul, at least I got to keep my shoes on.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Location, Location, Location

Arriving home from work the other day, I was surprised to hear sounds coming from the back yard. While it is true that there has been a recent flurry of activity back there, losing the stand of eucalyptus trees in our neighbor's lot with its attendant buzz of chainsaws, this was something different. This was my son, shovel in hand, attacking the ground with a zeal he tends to reserve for more virtual experiences. Along with a younger friend from down the street, he was up near the fence, digging and pulling up the weeds that take over that section of our yard in the early spring.
"What'cha up to?" I called back to him.
"Gonna make a race track," he replied, leaning on the shovel and looking every bit the part of an Imagineer.
I smiled and waved. He waved back and then picked up his shovel and went back to work on that little plot of land. His land.
This wasn't the first project to spring up in that corner. He had once envisioned a monster truck rally course, back when his monster trucks were all built to that scale. Another time he spent a week planning and excavating a small stream that would eventually run down the hill and into a fountain that would recirculate, providing us will year-round babbling. This was the same chunk of earth that he and some of his teenaged friends had begun to dig up with dreams of building an underground bunker for surviving the coming zombie apocalypse, or the next Nerf War. It's his corner. Adjacent to the clubhouse his father built for/with him over the past decade, just up the path from where his beloved boa Larry is buried, this is his corner.
I don't expect that the race track will reach completion. Very little that gets planned for that corner does. It's where really cool ideas go when they have to be outside. I don't know how many more of these big ideas he will have before he finds a new place to dig and build, so I won't discourage him. It's where he goes to dream.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The List

Do you know Carlos Slim? He is, according to the list in Forbes Magazine, the richest man in the world. His net worth is fifty-seven billion dollars. That's up an estimated nineteen billion or so. The total number of billionaires has increased as well. The editors at Forbes were able to find one thousand, four hundred and twenty-six of them. The average net worth of a Forbes billionaire is nearly four billion, one hundred million dollars more than a year ago. More than two-thirds of the world’s richest added to their already bulging coffers. Only two hundred and fifty-nine from last year’s list are less fabulously well-to-do than a year ago. If you are unfamiliar with the CEO of Telmex, then you probably will still recognize number two on the list: Bill Gates.
Bill has managed to sock away an additional six billion dollars over the past year, in spite of the fact that he has given away more than twenty-eight billion dollars. He, along with most of the rest of this list, can't seem to give money away fast enough. Warren Buffett must be doing something right, since he managed to donate enough to charity to slip out of the top three richest humans for the first time this century. Maybe part of that slip has to do with the twenty-three billion dollars he spent buying condiments. There is a woman in the top ten for the first time since 1999. Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oreal fortune, managed to unload her island getaway to a wildlife conservation concern for a profit. It's nice when these folks can do good and still make some extra spending money.
And this is the part where I break in and tell you that I have no idea where I fit into this continuum. I'm not even sure that I do, but logically it follows that if this list contains the richest person, then following it to its extreme would put you squarely on the poorest. Seven billion people, and climbing. I suppose the price of buying the world a Coke keeps going up too, so I guess these folks had better keep making money.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Only A Lad

He really couldn't help it
Only a lad
He didn't want to do it
Only a lad
He's underprivileged and abused
Perhaps a little bit confused-
Oingo Boingo "Only A Lad"
With the exception of the "underprivileged" part, these could have been the words Dennis "The Worm" Rodman used to describe his new pal, Kim Jong Un. Instead, he used these: "No, I'm not apologiz[ing] for him," Rodman said. "You know, he's a good guy to me. Guess what? He's my friend. I don't condone what he does … [but] as a person to person - he's my friend." The word "conventional" doesn't come up very often when describing Dennis, which may explain his most recent fling with the media. Rodman traveled through Pyongyang with members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and a camera crew from the upcoming HBO series, "VICE." The show describes itself in a very Rodman terms: it smashes barriers of decorum. This is a guy who left basketball to compete in World Championship Wrestling, and has dated Madonna and been married to Carmen Electra and himself. Not conventional.
He's also fond enough of the limelight to put himself through the ritual embarrassment of "Doctor" Drew's Celebrity Rehab and Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. With friends like these, who needs a press agent? Or an interpreter? Or a member of the State Department?Never mind the decades of oppression that Kim Jung Un have visited on his country. "He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him," Rodman told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He said, 'If you can, Dennis - I don't want [to] do war. I don't want to do war.' He said that to me. He loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, 'Obama loves basketball.' Let's start there." If only The Worm had been around to help Nixon open China.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Sack Religious

I should start out by saying this: If there is an "Organized Religion," it's got to be Catholicism. I've been to a few masses and a few more weddings in a Catholic church, and have to say that at the very least, I got an aerobic workout. All that standing, sitting, kneeling. Call and response. Amen. If there's a sin, there's a system. Confession? What a great idea, with all those secret booths and sliding doors. And don't get me started on the uniforms.
But since you asked, I have to say that the Pope Costume is stunning, from the tip of his mitre to the toes of those red shoes. This getup says both "Large" and "In Charge." It's to die for, right? Well, that may be why your standard operating pope sticks with his cassock until he (or she) can no longer hold his (or her) head up any longer. Which is why it comes as such shock that Pope Benedict ("Eggs" to his friends) would give up on the job before rigor mortis set in. We could speculate endlessly about the reasons for this historic papal resignation, but I think we should focus on the most significant element in this scenario: How does this affect me?
Please understand, I have no designs whatsoever on the job myself, in spite of the wardrobe. Although I confess that the whole infallibility thing intrigues me. I'm much more interested in the time during which we have no Pope, this window during which the teacher is metaphorically out of the room. What, precisely, can we get away with? I'm pretty sure that the big sins would still be off the table: murder, stealing, false witness and the like. But who is going to notice if I have a lustful thought or two? Skimming from the till during the next family game of Monopoly? Writing this blog?
I know that soon there will be a puff of white smoke and we'll be back to normal, but for now can't we take this moment to sow a few mildly wild oats? And if it's not too much to ask, maybe we can call the next guy Pope Reggie?

Monday, March 04, 2013

March Forth

I was in the band in high school. For a lot of people, that's all they need or want to know about my personality. It explains everything: Nerd. Geek. That sort of thing. For those who dig a little deeper, they find that it's still a basic truth inside of me. I learned to be part of a group. I was intensely loyal. The friends I made back then are the ones who stood up at my wedding, and even though I haven't picked up a brass instrument in decades, the connections to these folks have lasted long past our last parade together.
These intense bonds were forged, in part, by the rigor with which we all pursued our music and marching. We competed in statewide contests that were decided by tenths of a point, and the rivalries we felt with other schools' bands were as intense as anything the rest of our student body experienced on the football field or basketball court. I suppose I should be grateful for the opportunity to share these feelings with a group of likewise committed social misfits. I should be happy that our band director pushed us to higher and higher expectations, culminating in our invitation to Mexico City to perform as a part of an exchange program. When we put on our uniforms, the awkwardness we might have felt in the hallways drifted away, and we became part of something bigger: The Band.
And yet, looking back now from my current position, I can't help but feel a little chagrined. As a teacher myself, I can reflect on the methods and manipulations of our band director and I wonder how I got so taken in by the hoopla. Sure, he was a motivator of young men and women, and we won our share of trophies, but I do wonder about the self-esteem of my friends and bandmates. A lot of his techniques, ridicule and sarcasm, wouldn't have sounded out of the mouth of any high school sports coach. My older brother endured and rose to the lofty rank of Drum Major. I followed in his wake and managed to get elected to the not-as-lofty rank of Pep Band President. My younger brother took the abuse for a year and had enough. He had other ways to feel good about himself, and so he went his own way. He had his taste of paramilitary organization, and he bailed. His high school buddies aren't bandies. I got married to a cymbal player. I guess that's a win for both of us.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Don't Call It A Comeback

Or maybe that's exactly what it is. Everything old is new again. Pale is the new black. Dead is alive. There is a new commercial featuring an "astonishingly real" Audrey Hepburn advertising Galaxy chocolate. If you've never heard of Galaxy chocolate, this might explain why they chose a celebrity who has been dead for twenty years to sell their confectionery.
Of course, there is much discussion to be had about this. Do dead celebrities work cheaper than live ones? It would depend on the celebrity, since there are plenty of them who continue to make money long past their mortal coil. If you wanted to put Michael Jackson in your commercial, for example, you would have to pay. Big. Bettie Page makes eight million dollars a year these days. That's a pretty big increase from her days as a living pin-up model and actress. Of course, the issue here is more the likeness of that particular star, not their living embodiment. Thanks to digital media, we can pretty much plop whomever we can afford into whatever advertisement we choose. It's been sixteen years since Fred Astaire tripped the light fantastic with a Dirt Devil, and before that Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney sold Diet Coke. Why shouldn't Audrey Hepburn sell chocolate?
Maybe because nobody asked her. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that the woman who spent her later years devoting her life to being UNICEF's ambassador, traveling the world and helping focus the world's attention on the suffering of children. Getting them fed. Something other than chocolate. Maybe there was a better choice for a zombie spokesperson.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

As If It Mattered

That sound you hear is the quiet sigh of sports fans who had been holding their breath until real competition begins anew. Even those who may once have held a passing fancy for the fancy passes of the National Basketball Association or the orchestrated, icebound Multiple Martial Arts of the National Hockey League have drifted away from their mild infatuations. When your season is truncated by more than half, the remaining schedule carries the much-hated and oft-discussed asterisk. Basketball is, for the most part, back on its feet, but the ill will generated by arbitration between millionaires left a sour taste that lingers. Hockey? Do I have to explain?
That's why baseball is such a godsend at this time. Sure, there are still some people in Baltimore sleeping off their post-Super Bowl celebration, but the rest of us are anxious to turn the page. What better way to do just that than to peek in on Spring Training? Before the one hundred and sixty-two game regular season gets underway there's a whole lot of practice games that we can all talk about, speculate on, and ponder before the real deal gets underway. That's why it's tough to be Josh Hamilton, who left his old team, the Texas Rangers, for a great big check from the Los Angeles Anaheim Orange County Southern California Angels. In his first game with those Angels, he went a big zero for three. There's still a whole lot of baseball left in Mister Hamilton, and this season stretches out before us as even Chicago Cubs fans can consider the possibilities. But oh-for-three is a tough place to start out. Baseball is a game of averages, and it's likely that the ship called Josh will right itself before it's all over, but for now, we'll all simply pounce on it and point at it as if it were the truth. For the next six months.

Friday, March 01, 2013

In Turn

I have, on a few occasions, written here about the regrets I feel for that first year of students that came through my classroom. The ones who sat through my own abrupt learning curve as I attempted to simultaneously teach and be taught how to teach as part of an intern program that came as a great relief for me as I made the leap from warehouse manager to educator. I'm not sure what sort of relief I gave to those kids way back when. Once again, I apologize for the scatter shot nature of that first year and the limitations I brought to your academic endeavors.
Strange, since at that precise moment, I was an intern in another program: parenthood. Over this past month, my son has been involved in a sleep study at the University of California in Berkeley. I mention this because it has been this process that has begun to open my eyes as to the amateur status I hold as a parent. I am certain that this will come as no surprise to my son: I am making this up as I go along. It has helped to shine a light on the essentially experimental nature of what we are doing in our house. This is not to say that I am embarrassed by my efforts. I feel that I have done quite well, along with my co-amateur parent, considering the vast spectrum of outcomes we have both experienced and avoided as a family. My wife and I are acutely aware of the relative successes and failures in our little family unit compared to those around us. It is part of the reason we tell people that we stopped at the only child plateau. We have been able to focus all of our parental energies into this one kid, much to our collective chagrin.
That's not to say that I don't owe my son an apology. He gets one now and again, but mostly he is a good sport and forgives me the ones that I forget. In the next few months, research may tell us that we have been going at this sleep process all wrong for the past fifteen years, and we should have been doing something radically different than we have been as a group. I will accept the findings and do whatever I can to implement them as we head into the home stretch of undergraduate parenting. With humility.