Stringing.

“Usually, when a man quits writing in his journal, it is either because things are happening to him that he doesn’t want to commit to paper, or because he has lost interest in life.  I don’t know which of these reasons applies in my case, but I rather think neither does.” - E. B. White

I’d like to thank those of you who’ve bothered me about my vanishing act in the many ways you’ve chosen to do so: text messages, e-mails, in-person conversation – a veritable barrage of concerns has found me, and it’s reassuring to know I’ve been missed around here.

I should mention that I didn’t intend to stop writing, or to take such a long pause, but it’s happened.

Of course, the name of my little blog suggests discipline (almost), and I didn’t deliberately set out to string you along.

I surely didn’t expect to disappear just a few days after passing the entry number 500 milestone.

Naturally, I felt the typical pangs of guilt about missing a few days.

Then a week went by.

Then two.

Then I found myself busy with other things – some welcome, and some definitely unwelcome – but, in any case, I didn’t much feel like plunking myself in front of a computer.

Before I knew it, a month had almost passed.

I feel compelled to explain.

The weather’s been beautiful.  I’ve waited a long time for summer to show up, and it’s done so in truly wonderful fashion.

It makes writing hard.

I’ve enjoyed being outside so much – living on the deck by the pool; in the front yard under the trees; on the trails in the forest; at the park; at beachside trailers, at lakeside cottages (anywhere and everywhere I’ve been lucky enough to find myself enjoying the weather these days) – that I’ve even been reading again, which, given the amount of spare time I’m afforded, has brought about fewer moments for my motivational experiment.

I do have a few good ideas for writing, and I have some stories I want to share, but I’m just waiting for the blogging bug to bite me again.

In the meantime, I’ll settle (almost happily) for enduring the mosquitoes during their all-too-brief seasonal stay.

“A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.” - E. B. White

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Twice a Child.

“. . . they say an old man is twice a child” – Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.

In the riddle of the Sphinx – part of the Oedipus myth – Oedipus is asked: “What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” 

He offers “man” in response.

Man, who crawls as a baby, who walks on two feet for most of his life, who uses a cane in old age, and who – despite these transformations – remains the same person forever.

I was thinking about Hamlet and Oedipus last night in what is perhaps a strange context for many of you, but fairly typical for me.

After we’d finished eating dinner – almost immediately after we’d taken the dinner plates to the counter and finished tidying up – the rain started coming down in sheets.

We knew we couldn’t take the kids outside to play – the park was out of the question by this point – so we packed them into the car and made our way to the ice cream shop around the corner.

This is normally a walking trip, but with thunder and lightning and cats and dogs, it just wasn’t to be.

So we drove, and passed an old man with an umbrella along the way.

After we’d eaten our ice cream, we walked along the plaza’s covered sidewalk to the grocery store. 

We picked up a few items there, and passed the ice cream shop again on our way back to the car.

The old man with the umbrella – and a Robertson Davies beard – had found himself a dry seat at one of the tables, and was happily eating a surprisingly large ice cream cone.

Immediately, I thought, they say an old man is twice a child.

With a youthful grin on his face, he enjoyed his dessert, and then I realized that he’d walked – in the pouring rain, through heavy winds, and with thunder and lightning all around him – to get himself an ice cream cone.

I admired his courage, respected his dedication to cold confectionaries, but quietly questioned his sanity.

When an ice cream truck – bad, loud, annoying music blaring from its speakers – solicits a neighbourhood, kids run from their homes waving wads of money in pursuit of frozen delights.

I’ve noticed the trucks slowing down a bit over the years – giving the kids every possible chance to catch up and cash in.

But now I know they’re also waiting for old men.

With canes, umbrellas, or Robertson Davies beards.

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Ten Years.

Nearly ten years ago today, one of my former students wrote her last exam, walked out of here, and began her “real” life.

Like most of my students, she went to university.

And, as is the case with most of them, I never heard from her again.

A few weeks ago, my wife took Daughter Number One to her new school orientation night.

This night is for kids – but really more for their parents – entering Kindergarten this September.

The kids get a tour of the school, they get to see the playground, they come home with a free bag of fun stuff, and they meet their new teachers for the first time.

I had to work.

I didn’t get to experience these things with them.

But since I’ll be picking her up from school (almost) every day, I figure I’ll have plenty of time to get the lay of the land and become well acquainted with all of these things.

The school – newly renovated, and right down the road from our house, and our friends’ houses – is within adult-accompanied-walking-distance, even by Kindergarten standards, and we’re pretty pleased about that.

When Daughter Number One met her teacher, she was asked whether or not her daddy was a teacher.

She responded he was.

As it turns out, her teacher was a student in her daddy’s class.

When my wife came home and mentioned this, my initial response was panicked.

Uh oh.

Was she a strong student?

Did we leave on good terms?

I’m happy, and relieved, to report that the answer to both questions is a resounding yes.

It’s amazing what can happen in ten years.

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Launch an Attack.

With all of Rob Ford’s stunts in the last couple of years – and with all of the political gaffes we’ve been (un)fortunate enough to be saddled with here at home: Senate Spending Scandals, Gas Plant Scandals, eHealth, ORNGE, Montreal Mayors, the Million Jobs Plan that doesn’t add up to a million jobs – I’d almost totally forgotten about the wonderful reign of George W. Bush, the deer in the headlights former President of the United States, and speechmaker extraordinaire.

I’m not sure how I’ve managed to erase this man from my memory, but I know it must’ve taken a lot of work.  The very sight of him on television was – at one point – enough to throw me into a fit of convulsions, complete with foaming at the mouth and several other similar visceral physical reactions.

Last night, one of my neighbours was talking about the impending U.S. re-re-re-reinvasion of Iraq (did I get the number of res correct there?) and I had to distract him with humour lest he, like me, lobotomize himself with rage, so I pointed out that it was a true wonder of foreign policy that the United States (165,000 troops), the United Kingdom (46,000 troops), and some other powerful allies: Estonia (40 troops), Moldova (24 troops), Tonga (55 troops), and Kazakhstan (29 troops fully clad in Borat bathing suits – the completely official uniform of all military branches in the country, and you really should see their Navy SEALSs in action) launched an attack on Iraq with the pretenses of: deposing Saddam Hussein, removing non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and severing the country’s imaginary ties to Al-Qaeda.

Once the non-existent weapons of mass destruction were safely trucked down the yellow brick road to Oz, and the make-believe Al-Qaeda connections were officially declared nil, they spent a billion dollars a day on the invasion – a cancelled gas plant a day makes the budget go away – and committed the lives of too many soldiers to a region perpetually mired in turmoil (and petroleum).

Then they left.

Iraq descended into even more chaos.  And now Al-Qaeda is there.  But this time for real.

The mind reels.

Which brings me back to George W. Bush.

Inhale.

I think I may have lost some of you there.

Sorry about that.

In Points of View – which I’m sad to report I’ve nearly finished – Rex Murphy perfectly encapsulates the linguistic struggles of President Bush II:

Bush and the English language are not agreeable companions.  This is especially true in formal encounters between the two.  He mauls individual words, has a precocious instinct for malapropisms and mispronunciation, the syntactical register of a not very bright Valley girl, and an alarming tendency to view the predicate of any given sentence as a opportunity to launch an attack upon its subject.  Every sentence is its very own little Baghdad for George Bush.

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A Toast.

This is what I wrote today.  I’m sure it’s of very little interest to any of you, but it’s what I wrote today, and today’s an important day to me – one I want to remember and record – so that’s why it’s here. 

I’m very honoured that - – – – – - asked me to make a toast to - – - today.

And I would have done it if anyone had asked me to, but when - – – – – - asks you to do something, you just have to do it.

Nobody knows this better than - – -.

Okay, so here we go.

In one of the many incredible essays he wrote for The New Yorker, E.B. White once wrote that “The sense that is common to one generation is uncommon to the next”, roughly paraphrasing Voltaire’s old adage that common sense is not so common.

In working with - – -, we’ve all been fortunate enough to be privy to a virtual storehouse of common sense.  A precious commodity.

This is particularly true in education where it seems that sense of any kind is a real rarity, except of course for nonsense, which is plentiful.

Abounding everywhere.

It’s been a great pleasure for me to have known - – - and to have worked with him for the past dozen or so years.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity, and I’ve always appreciated his advice and his calm, confident, common sense approach to teaching, coaching, and parenting.

- – - shares this gift with everyone.

Which reminds me.

Years ago, a parent – like all of us, thankful for - – -’s calm, confident, common sense approach – bought - – - a fine bottle of rum as a token of appreciation.  As with his other gifts, - – - was happy to share this one with us.  I won’t name names, but there were a few people in the room with us that day – some administrators included – when we cracked open that bottle.

It was really good stuff.

And I remember - – - smiling and saying, “to the end of the year, and a job well done” – and then we all laughed and drank.

It seems appropriate to roughly paraphrase him in asking all of you to raise a glass to the end of a career, and a job well done.

Cheers.

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A Rough Go.

Daughter Number Two has had a rough go the last week or so.  She’s been coughing and hacking a lot at night – especially when she goes to her crib.

I was going to say when she goes to sleep, but she hasn’t really been sleeping all that much.

And you know what that means.

I haven’t been sleeping all that much either.  Not a particularly welcome development this time of year.

There’s been a steady rotation of trade-offs – kinda like tag team wrestling – between my wife and I.

Slap hands.  Your turn.

Already?!

Slap hands againYour turn.

Already?!

Repeat ad infinitum.

This reminds me of a hilarious bedtime storybook for parents.  You may have read it.  If you haven’t, you really must.

I was going to say should, but it really is a must.

And it’s free – for a limited time only, I’m sure – if you click here.

I liked it so much I bought it for my mother as a birthday present.  She read it in the car on the way home from our place with my father, my aunt, and my uncle listening in.  When she got home, she sent me an e-mail saying they nearly had to pull over a few times because the two ladies almost peed themselves.

Yes, it’s really that funny.

My parents had jobs they liked because their jobs paid for the lives they wanted and, for the most part, were pretty happy with.  I have the luxury of having a job that pays for the life I want and, for the most part, I am pretty happy with.

But, for the most part, I like my job for many reasons.  I get a satisfaction from it that many people don’t get out of their work, and it makes me feel good about myself.  Sure, there are plenty of frustrating days and moments, and there are a lot of days where I wish I could just do something else, but it’s a good career for me, and I’m glad I picked it.

For the most part.

In my father’s case, he worked a steady stream of shifts.

Days, afternoons, nights.

Days, afternoons, nights.

Repeat ad infinitum.

And I wonder how he did that, working at a steel mill, living in a small raised ranch bungalow with two little boys terrorizing the place while he was trying to sleep.

Even in good health, and in the best of times, kids are loudTheir job is to play and have fun and make noise.

Which would have made his job even harder.

There aren’t many days when I can say that I know how he felt.  When I worked at the same mill he did, the house was quietEveryone let us sleep.

But, every now and then – usually during a week like this – I think about walking into the mill, instead of walking through the doors at work, and I think about going in there with several sleepless nights under my belt.

And I can imagine how he felt.

A rough go.

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For the Taking.

I’ve been saving these up for a little while now, and while I hope you’ll enjoy them with the same good-natured laughter I did, I also hope you won’t be tempted to believe that I share them with you for any other reason.

We all make mistakes – I know, simply from reading this (almost) daily thing back to myself a few hours after I’ve written it, that I make plenty of my own – and I’m certainly not out to mock or deride anyone in the making of today’s entry.

But I do think they’re worth sharing, and I got a kick out of trying to make up definitions in my head for words that – spelled as is – just don’t exist in our language.

This is the first installment of what I fear may be many.

Batter up!

The leadoff hitter in today’s game is: IMPORTENTS.

Made of carefully treated, double-sewn, weather-resistant fabric, these tents are imported from a factory in the Scottish Highlands where they are handmade by specially trained artisans.  They’re guaranteed – for the life of the tent and/or its owner – to weather any weather, and they’re available for a limited time in any tartan.  Importents are of much importance in the Scottish Highlands, but, at home, they’re simply called tents.

Not to be confused with Tennent’s.  That’s something else entirely.

Next up, a fine contact hitter: COMEONERS.

At this time of year, comeoners are invited to graduation parties of all sorts and kinds.  They’re often accompanied by comeallers as they migrate from street to avenue to court in search of full kegs and plastic cups.

Comeoners – and comeallers for that matter – tend to be spotted in places that commoners can also commonly be found.

Sometimes even in the Common.

Batting in the three-hole is: POPULANCE.

Only months before Lance Armstrong was caught using a wide variety of performance-enhancing drugs, and only weeks before he was exposed as a truly awful person, he was known, in some quarters, as Populance.  In these circles – usually bright yellow in colour and made of silicon gel – his popularity knew no bounds, and he was widely accepted as a minor deity.

Most of the populace addresses him by a new, less-flattering nickname now.

Lying Cheater.

And . . . the cleanup hitter in today’s game is not a word, but a phrase.

It’s a home run.

A grand slam, actually.

Here goes.

[Truman] Capote did not receive the Pullet Surprise.

The Pullet Surprise is a lesser-known award presented to writers of high esteem.  I have not yet won one, but I am filling out my application as we speak in the hopes that one or two of you will second my motion.

I’d prefer a Pulitzer Prize, but, hey, I’ll take what I can get.

P.S.  I must respectfully acknowledge the fine folks at Wikipedia for correcting the many deficiencies in my limited understanding of baseball batting positions.

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