Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 30: Give Mother a Kiss, New Poem, "Pecan Pie," New Cartoon

"Well.  Go to sleep.  Give Mother a kiss.  Did you say your prayers?"

Holden's mother is a sad character.  A chain-smoker.  Migraines.  Depression.  Lost one son to leukemia.  Her other son (Holden) flunking out of every school on the East Coast.  I have a lot of sympathy for her.

I don't write about my mother much.  Writing poetry about your mother is a good way to tempt sentimentality.  I don't want to compose a Hallmark card.  However, I've been toying with an idea about a Thanksgiving poem for a couple of weeks, and, when I started writing it, my mother somehow became its focus.

I've learned not to fight poetic impulse.  If a poem leads you somewhere, you have to follow it.

Saint Marty followed his poem today.

Pecan Pie

Mix eggs, sugar and Karo,
melted butter, vanilla from Mexico
in a bowl until it all runs
yellow as corn silk.  Add pecans,
one-and-a-quarter cups.  Fold
them into the gold syrup,
the way a farmer folds
manure into a field of hay
or my son folds a Tootsie Roll
under his tongue, plants it there,
lets it feed the furrows
of his young body.  Pour this filling
into a shell, edges fluted
by my wife's hands, crimped
between thumb and forefinger
to peaks and troughs of dough.
Bake at 350 degrees.
Forty-five minutes to an hour.
You'll know when it's done.
The house will smell
brown and warm and sweet.
Dip a butter knife blade
into the center of the pie.
If it comes out hot and clean,
take the pie out of the oven.  Put it
on the front porch to cool.
You can leave it there overnight.
It'll be waiting in the morning.
Cover it with a hand towel.  Carry
it to your parents' house,
where your mother asks you
"Is it cold outside?"
over and over as you cut
the pie.  "Yes," you tell her.
And "yes" when she asks again.
It is cold this Thanksgiving.
And, yes, pecan pie is her favorite.
Give her a large slice,
with extra Cool Whip
and a hot cup of coffee.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29: Scraggy-Looking Santa Clauses, the Grinch, Yuletide Fairy Tale

...All those scraggy-looking Santa Clauses were standing on corners ringing those bells, and the Salvation Army girls, the ones that don't wear any lipstick or anything, were ringing bells too...

Yes, it's Black Friday in the United States.  The day where people hit the stores at ungodly hours in hopes of getting some sort of amazing deal on a plasma TV or tablet computer.  It's a day where scraggy-looking Santa Clauses and Salvation Army girls face crazed, iPad-hungry shoppers.  It's a desperate day.  The commercial kick-off of the holidays.

I didn't participate in Black Friday today.  I have never participated in Black Friday, mainly because I can never afford it.  However, I do celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as the official start of the Christmas season.  Tonight, I watched the annual broadcast of How the Grinch Stole Christmas on ABC.  Yes, the Grinch, that classic yuletide favorite that promotes the message that Christmas isn't about packages and gifts and boxes and bows.  That Christmas is about so much more than that.

Unfortunately, ABC decided to highly edit the Grinch in order to air about five million commercial breaks during the half hour.  That's right, the network cut out parts of a treasured Christmas cartoon in order to sell Verizon phones and Black Friday specials at K-Mart.  And I was really pissed.  The kids watching this evening have no idea that they missed some really good parts of the Grinch because of greed.

Which reminds me of a little story.

Once upon a time, a village idiot named Bobbie decided he was going to go Black Friday shopping at the local Walmarket to buy a new iWand for his fairy godmother.  Well, Bobbie stood in line for twelve hours, fought a crowd of 563 cranky fairies, and found out that the store only had three iWands in stock.  Bobbie did not get an iWand.
By the time he finally got back to his hut, Bobbie had missed Thanksgiving day and dinner.  He didn't get any turkey or pecan pie.  In fact, Bobbie was so obsessed with getting the iWand that he missed the messenger pigeon carrying the news that his fairy godmother had died the night before of a stroke of bad luck.

Bobbie lost his idiot job at the palace the next day, and his fairy godmother didn't leave him anything in her will.

Moral of the story:  ABC sucks for fucking up the Grinch.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Don't mess with this guy...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28: Counting My Blessings

Yes, I'm going to talk about blessings one more time tonight.  After all, I've just spent a day giving thanks with family and friends.  Breaking bread and all that jazz.  I'm up to my eyeballs with gratitude.

I heard writer Anne Lamott on the radio this afternoon, speaking about gratitude.  She said that gratitude isn't passive; it's a verb, something that requires work.  It might be something as simple as making a cup of tea for a friend, taking time to show interest in her life.  Or it could be something a little tougher than that.  Serving a turkey dinner at a homeless shelter.  Shoveling a neighbor's driveway after a snowstorm.  Lamott said that happiness/gratitude is in giving.  Giving is the greatest act of gratitude that exists.

Saint Marty couldn't agree more.  That's why he's giving you this post tonight.

Amen, Anne.  Amen.

November 28: Forty-One Gorgeous Blocks, the Trots, Happy Thanksgiving

I walked all the way back to the hotel.  Forty-one gorgeous blocks.  I didn't do it because I felt like walking or anything.  It was more because I didn't feel like getting in and out of another taxicab...

Holden isn't a very athletic guy.  He smokes like a chimney and doesn't eat very well.  But throughout Catcher, he walks all over Manhattan.  To hotels and museums and bars and bus terminals.  Sometimes he takes taxicabs, but, for a good portion of the novel, he's on the streets.  Forty-one gorgeous blocks.  If you've every been in New York City, you know a city block is about two miles long, so he walks a long-ass way back to his hotel.

This morning, I ran the annual Thanksgiving Day 10K Turkey Trot in Marquette, Michigan.  That's 6.2 miles in less than 30-degree weather.  Along Lake Superior, it actually hurt to breathe at points.  It was cold.  But I did it, and in a really decent amount of time.  The race started at 9 a.m., and I finished at around 10:12 a.m.  Not too shabby for a slighty out-of-shape, forty-something-year-old poet.

I won't lie.  The last mile or so was pretty painful, but I pushed through.  When I was through, I felt pretty darn good about myself.  And I experienced no guilt when I sat down to two Thanksgiving meals today.  Right now, my legs are feeling a little sore.  The real test will be tomorrow morning.  If I can climb out of bed without major pain, I will count myself lucky.

Besides the trotting this morning, I really didn't do anything else today.  I'm not a Black Friday shopper.  I don't get up at 1 a.m. to buy a Furby 2000 at Walmart.  At the moment, I'm watching A Muppet Christmas Carol with my wife.  Then we're probably going to bed.  I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but I'm not really into exciting.  I'm into predictable and quiet.  Exciting carries with it hints of surprise and upheaval.  Not my thing.

Saint Marty has had a pretty good Thanksgiving.  Sedate.  Typical.  Calm.  Blessed.

Not my scene

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27: Crushed-Up Doritos

Here I sit, eating some leftover Doritos from my daughter's school lunch, watching an SNL Thanksgiving special.  I really should be in bed, but I'm trying to get back into my normal blogging habits.  Two per day.

You know, being a writer isn't about writing a sonnet every day or outlining the great American novel.  It's about getting words down on the page.  That's what it's all about.  Words.  Not even good words.  Just words.

Tomorrow, I'm going to take another shot at my Christmas poem.  I've got an idea, but it's still just an idea.  Nothing concrete yet.

As you can tell, I really have nothing else to say tonight.  I'm tired.  Really tired.  My mind has already gone to bed, and my body is on autopilot.

Saint Marty apologizes for wasting your time with this post.

Don't read this anymore.  Go do something worthwhile.

November 27: Fairly Christmasy, Turkey Trotting, 10K Torture Worry

It was Monday and all, and pretty near Christmas, and all the stores were open.  So it wasn't too bad walking on Fifth Avenue.  It was fairly Christmasy...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  It's a time when family members get together for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  Mashed potatoes.  Cranberries.  Corn.  Jell-O molds infused with fruit.  Gravy and stuffing.  Bickering.  Guilt.  Resentments.  Arguments.

And, like Holden says, it's pretty near Christmas.  Another Thanksgiving tradition is Christmas shopping.  People hop in their minivans after stuffing themselves with all that food and head out to Walmart to pick up things like plasma TVs and iPhones and warm socks for their loved ones.

One of my Thanksgiving traditions is running the Turkey Trot in Marquette, Michigan.  It's a 10K race.  I usually run it with one of my best friends.  However, my friend isn't running this year.  I'm on my own.  It's going to be a long six miles.  I haven't been training much, so tomorrow morning might turn into a 10K trip into torture.  My main goal is to finish before the turkey comes out of the oven.

Say a few prayers for Saint Marty tomorrow morning.  He's got many miles to go before he sleeps.  Many miles to go before he sleeps.

Pluck me and call me a butterball

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26: Snow on the Way

There's a lake effect snow warning tonight for my little slice of the Upper Peninsula.  I've heard any where from two to seven inches of the white plague overnight.  I'm hoping for the two.

Regardless of the actual amount we receive, tomorrow morning's drive to work is going to be rough.  I hate driving in snowstorms, especially at 4:30 in the morning.  The plows haven't cleared the roads, and the idiots in the pickup trucks are kicking up whiteouts.  It's not fun.

That's what Saint Marty has to look forward to tomorrow morning:  idiots, pickups, and the white plague.

My drive tomorrow morning

November 26: A Big Deal, Pies, Another Prayer of Thanks

We always had the same meal on Saturday nights at Pencey.  It was supposed to be a big deal, because they gave you steak...

Holden isn't too impressed with Pencey's Saturday night steak dinners.  He's not impressed with the steads.  They're hard and dry, he claims.  Of course, Holden never seems satisfied with any part of his life.  Pencey could be serving filet mignon, and he would say it was overcooked or undercooked.  Nothing is a big deal for Holden.

I made two pecan pies tonight.  They're for Thanksgiving.  The whole house smells like vanilla and sugar right now.  When I took them out of the oven, they were bubbling and brown.  We go to two Thanksgiving dinners--one at my parents' house and once at my sister-in-law's house.  Usually by the end of the day, I'm so full I could vomit.  Don't misunderstand me.  I'm not complaining.  I'm not Holden.  Thanksgiving is probably my second-favorite holiday of the year (right behind Christmas).

I like giving thanks, reflecting on the year's blessings.  Yes, 2013 has been a rough year for me and my family.  Lots of challenges.  But those challenges make me appreciate the blessings even more.

Dear God,

Yes, this year has sucked in many ways.  My jobs have sucked.  My finances have sucked.  My son's first three months of kindergarten have pretty much sucked, as well.  I've been handed a lot of lemons these last 365 days.

However, there are always blessings.  Pecan pies.  Poems.  Christmas essays.  New couches.  Warm blankets.  Cool pillows.  Healthy children.  Friends.  Family.  More lemonade than lemons.

Thank you, Lord, for all the lemonade.

Your grateful child,

Saint Marty

I'll take my filet medium rare...

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25: Poetry--Here I Come

I'm in a poetry mood right now.  After spending almost four weeks working on a creative nonfiction essay, I want to work on a new poem.  I have no idea what I'm going to write.  I need to start my Christmas poem soon.  Perhaps that's my next project.

I'm tired.  I'm sitting on my new couch, feet up, reclining.  Not a good position to be in at almost ten o'clock at night.  In between each of my sentences, there is literally a two minute pause.  Pretty soon, I won't be able to even finish a sentence.

Saint Marty needs to go to...Saint Marty is so...Saint Marty needs to...Screw it.  Saint Marty is going to bed.

I know what he feels like...

November 25: It's A Wonderful Day, Being Thankful, Magic 8-Ball

I've had a really good day for the most part.  Busy, but good.

I can attribute my uncharacteristic levity to the movie I've been screening in my Intro to Film classes:  Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life.  There's something about that movie that buoys my spirits.  I literally walked out of the classroom today, after finishing the movie, whistling the theme song.  As I got out of the lecture hall, on my way back to my office, I realized I wasn't thinking about bills or paychecks or car repairs.  I was just content.  Happy.  That hasn't happened in a long time.

There's a line in IAWL spoken by Clarence, the wingless angel.  He says, "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."  I would add an addendum to Clarence's pronouncement:  "Remember, no man is a failure who has family."

I want to say an early Thanksgiving prayer for my sister-in-law tonight.  Over the last couple months, she has been helping me organize the clutter of my home, which is a monumental undertaking.  This past weekend, she brought us a couch and chair.

Our old sofa and recliner should have been condemned a couple years ago.  They rocked, even though they weren't rockers.  The upholstery was torn, and that gross foam stuffing was leaking out.  They weren't comfortable, but they were all we had.

Now, thanks to my sister-in-law, we have a couch that I can fall asleep on.  It doesn't poke you in the back or ass with springs.  It actually reclines.  I like sitting on it, and I like being in my living room again.

It's very easy, when you're struggling to pay the bills, when you can't afford to get your kids the birthday presents they want, to feel like a failure.  I've been in that place for a while these last few months.  My sister-in-law reminded me this weekend that I'm not a failure.  I have family and friends who love and care about me.  If success is measured that way, I'm the richest guy I know.

This week, I want to ask a Magic 8-Ball question that is about thankfulness:

Will I ever be able to repay my sister-in-law for how blessed she's made me feel?

And the answer from Holden Caulfield is:

"Why should I?" I said--I was practically yelling.  "That's just the trouble with all you morons.  You never want to discuss anything.  That's the way you can always tell a moron.  They never want to discuss anything intellig--"

OK, Holden doesn't know anything about being grateful or counting his blessings.  He's a little too self-absorbed.  I'm not.

Saint Marty gives thanks for a blessing in his life this Thanksgiving week:  his sister-in-law.

Thank you, Cindi

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24: Crazy Weekend

Yes, I find myself apologizing again for being a terrible blogger.  I had every intention of writing a new poem this weekend, of drawing some new cartoons, of getting back into my regular posting groove.  It didn't happen.

To be honest, I spent today working on my vita.  I have an evaluation thing at the university I needed to complete, and then I'm updating my church organist vita.  I find myself in the weird position of having to apply for the organist position I currently have.  Don't ask.  It's a really long and not very interesting story.  But I have been writing cover letters and resumes.

The good news is that my Christmas decorating duties are almost all complete.  I'm sitting in my living room right now, basking in the glow of our Christmas tree.  I will decorate a few more things tomorrow at the medical office where I work, and then I'll be ready for the holidays.

Be patient with me, my disciples.  It's been a long few days.

Saint Marty will be back in the saddle soon.

Ok, I admit it

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22: An Autumn Poem for a Wintry Night, Tom Hennen, "Autumn Waiting"

Well, my peeps, I have a poem for you this evening.  There is a winter storm bearing down on the Upper Peninsula, but I am unwilling to let go of my hope that Thanksgiving will be snowless and warm.  I know, I know.  It's the U. P. of Michigan, and I live next to Lake Superior.  I might as well hope that someone will send me a check for ten million dollars and a round trip ticket to Rome for a private audience with Pope Francis.

Well, the poem is have is from a poet named Tom Hennen, and I found it in Garrison Keillor's anthology Good Poems:  American Places.

Saint Marty needs some sleep.

Autumn Waiting

Cold wind.
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting--
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Even sunlight
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Spilled on the road.

A good poet for a cold night

November 22: This Big Christmas Tree, Decorating Weekend, Fairy Tale

While I was walking, I passed these two guys that were unloading this big Christmas tree off a truck.  One guy kept saying to the other guy, "Hold the sonuvabitch up!  Hold it up, for Chrissake!"  It certainly was a gorgeous way to talk about a Christmas tree...

Most people forget that Catcher is a Christmas book.  It's the end of the semester at Pencey Prep.  Christmas break is starting.  Holden's sister, Phoebe, is in a Christmas play called A Christmas Pageant for Americans.  And Holden borrows Phoebe's Christmas money at the end of the novel.  Not to mention the little Christmas tree scene above.

It's going to be a weekend of Christmas decorating for me.  Tomorrow, I'm in charge of decorating at my wife's church.  Tomorrow night, I'm putting up our Christmas tree at home.  On Monday morning, I'm finishing my decorating at work.  Then I will be D-O-N-E with decking the halls.

I prefer to have all that busy Christmas work finished before Thanksgiving.  There's less pressure the rest of the holiday season then.  I can actually sit back with a cup of eggnog and relax some evenings.  Of course, there's shopping to do, presents to wrap, cookies to bake.  All that yuletide crap.  But the big part, for me, has already been completed.

Which reminds me, I went to the radio station this afternoon and recorded my Christmas essay.  That's another big cookie off my Christmas plate.  Now, I can concentrate on one of the things I love doing the most this time of year:  writing my Christmas poem.  I started it a while ago (back in August).  It's a matter of going back and reworking, revising, possibly throwing stuff out or starting over.  Whatever it takes.  I love the writing process, no matter how crazy it makes me.

Which reminds me of a little story...

Once upon a time, an elf named Holden lived at the North Pole with his parents.  Ever since he was a small elf...Well, all elves are small, but young elves are so small they sometimes get mistaken for animal crackers by Santa's reindeer.

Anyway, ever since Holden was young, his parents groomed him to be a part of Santa's toy team, which is the most important job in all of North Poledom, next to driving the sleigh and delivering the presents.  But Holden had no interest in making toys.  In fact, he wasn't very good with his hands.  He couldn't even pound in a nail without bending it sideways.

What Holden wanted to do, more than anything else, was be a Christmas poet, but his parents wouldn't even let him talk to Santa about such a job.

"If you mention this poet thing to Mr. Claus," his father fumed, "I will be kicked out of the elf union and lose my seniority and pension."

"Not to mention what all the other elf mothers would say to me if my son turned into a poet," his mother said.  "Why couldn't you have been gay?"

Holden went to toy school.  He learned how to make toy cars and toy kitchens.  He studied how to create apps for iPhones. But, at night, after his parents went to bed, Holden sat in his bedroom, writing elf sonnets and elf haiku.

Finally, one day, Holden worked up the courage to approach Santa.  "Please, sir," Holden stammered.  "I don't want to be a toy elf.  My dream is to be the first poet laureate of the North Pole."

Santa looked down at Holden, with a twinkle in his blue eyes.  "Ho, ho, ho," Saint Nicholas chuckled, "you've got to be joking.  Get back to work, or I'll have you shoveling reindeer crap for the rest of your life."

Dejected, Holden went back to toy school, graduated near the bottom of his class, and went to work in Santa's toy sweatshop, making knock-off iPads and Kindles.  Holden never wrote another poem.

Moral of the story:  Santa Claus is kind of an asshole.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Fa la la la la, la la, la la.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21: An Apology and Some Good News

First, let me apologize for not blogging last night.  I literally worked from 7:30 p.m. until almost midnight on my Christmas essay.  It's done, thank God.  I felt like I was going to be writing it until Easter.  Tomorrow afternoon, I'm going to the radio station to record it.

I think the essay turned out really well, but you're all going to have to wait until my Christmas day post to be the judge.  Or, you could listen to Public Radio 90 from Marquette, Michigan, during December to hear me read it on air.  I'm so happy it's done.  I can get back to a normal existence now.

The other thing I wanted to tell you guys is that I received an e-mail from the editor of The Way North, the anthology of Upper Peninsula writers in which I was published last summer.  My editor was writing to tell me that Wayne State University Press, the publishers of the book, has nominated my poems for the Pushcart Prize.

I was stunned.  When I receive an e-mail with a subject line like "Pushcart nomination," it usually refers to some really big-name poet, like Linda Nemec Foster or Ricardo Pau-Llosa.   Somebody with a huge reputation and even huger chance of winning the actual prize.

The Pushcart Prize is sort-of like the Pulitzer Prize for small presses and journals.  It's a really big deal, and I don't stand a snowball's chance in Hades of winning.

When I phoned my wife to tell her the news, I joked, "Now I just have to figure out who I have to sleep with to actually win."

She said, "Don't you mean who we have to sleep with?"

Saint Marty has had a really good day for once.

A guy can dream, can't he?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19: Ten-Thirty, Finished, Prayer

It was around ten-thirty, I guess, when I finished it.  I wasn't tired, though, so I looked out the window for a while...

Holden's talking about writing an essay for his roommate, Stradlater.  As I've said before, writing is easy for Holden.  He doesn't struggle at all.

I've been struggling quite a bit writing my Christmas essay this year.  I've been struggling with my subject, my structure, my transitions.  Today, I realized that I had the wrong title.  That's right.  I said title.  Titles are very important to my writing process.  They focus me, keep me on track.  If I don't have a title, I can't even start writing, whether it's a poem, short story, essay, or blog post.

I think I have the right title now, and a good structure.  I'm on my way to completion.  But I still could use some help.

Dear God,

You know about my writing struggles this past week, and You know my deadline is looming.   I don't have much time left.

So, I'm asking for inspiration.  I'm asking for You to help me finish my Christmas essay.  You gave me a new title earlier today.  Now, I need to get 'er done.  I'm at three pages and counting.  I need to wrap it up.

Help me to see my way to the conclusion tonight.  I'll follow where You lead me.

Your trusting child,

Saint Marty

What did I do with my club?

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18: Christmas Decorating, Essays,Deadlines, and Magic 8-Balls

I've had Christmas on my mind all day long.

This morning, I started putting up Christmas decorations in the medical office where I work.  It's a big area, so there are a lot of halls to deck.  I didn't get it all done.  I'll have to finish it up piecemeal during the rest of the week, which drives me a little bit crazy.  Once I start a project, I don't want to stop until it's all done.

Of course, the other Christmas project that I still haven't finished is my Christmas essay.  The essay's concept seemed simple enough, but it has ballooned into something weird and shapeless.  A creative nonfiction mess, if you will.  It has a little history, a little memoir, a little poetry.  I think I'm getting close to the end, but I can't tell.  It's sort of taken on a life of its own.  My deadline is Friday at 1 p.m.  That's when I have to record it for the radio station.

I want to ask Holden whether I'm going to finish this essay by Friday, but I'm afraid I'm going to get a typical Holden answer, full of cynicism and anger.  I suppose I need to take my chances, though.  Here goes:

Will I finish writing my Christmas essay by Friday at 1 p.m.?

And Holden says:

"Well, you little so-and-so.  All right for you.  Tell your big brother I hate him, when you see him."

That's Lillian Simmons talking to Holden.  Lillian used to date D. B., Holden's big brother, and she's a little bit jealous of his success.  D. B.'s in Hollywood at the moment, writing screenplays, and it drives Lillian crazy.

Jealousy over success.  That means the essay's as good as done.

Saint Marty's gonna rest easy tonight.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17: Long Day, Classic Saint Marty, Saint Veronica, New Cartoon

It has been a very long day.  I know today is supposed to be a day of rest, but I don't get too many Sabbaths.  There always seems to be some project that needs my attention.  Today, it was school work.  Quizzes to correct.  Lesson plans to create.  Plus the Christmas essay.

No, I didn't finish the Christmas essay today as planned.  I had too many other things vying for my attention.  Time is running out.  I have to record the essay for the radio station this Friday.  I'm beginning to get a little nervous.

I do have a Classic Saint Marty for you guys tonight.  This episode first aired on February 4, 2011.  It contains a short story I wrote a while ago.  Let me know what you think about it.

Saint Marty has to get his Christmas on now.

February 4, 2011:  Saint Veronica

The story of Veronica is full of story and legend.  According to tradition, Veronica met Christ on His way to Calvary and gave Him a cloth to wipe His blood-soaked face.  Christ left the image of His face on the cloth.  According to an Italian legend, Veronica kept the veil and used it to cure Roman Emperor Tiberius of some serious illness.  Eventually, she gave the cloth to Pope Clement for safe-keeping.  She may have married a convert named Zacheus.  She may have carried relics of the Virgin Mary to France, where she may have died in the city of Soulac.  She also may have been the "woman with an issue of blood" whom Christ miraculously cured.  Nothing about Veronica is verifiable, including whether she even existed.  However, her story is one of great compassion and sacrifice, an identification with the suffering Christ.  For that alone, her story is worth knowing.

When a friend read my last blog on John Bosco, she suggested I post the story that my professor hated so much and let you, my readers, tell me if it's as bad as I was led to believe.  Since Veronica has so many stories swirling around her, I thought her feast would be the perfect day to post my story.  I still harbor some mental scars from my workshop of this story.  And it doesn't help that my instructor has become a somewhat big-name author.  (She never made it on Oprah's Book Club, but, as you may recall, she did win the National Book Award.)  Every time I see her name or face in print, my stomach still clenches a little bit.  But I've decided, in honor of Saint Veronica, to post my story without any changes or editing.

I'd love it if my readers would post some comments and feedback on the story.  Let me know if it's really bad.  Hopefully, you can be a little kinder than Professor Ihateyourshittywriting.  So please, let me know what you think.  I'm not sure how many people actually read my blog or simply stumble upon it by mistake and immediately redirect their computer searches.  But, if you have the time to read and leave a comment, you will be doing me a great favor.  I think.  Remember Veronica comforting the wounded Christ.  Lay a little Veronica on me.  Read on and then leave your opinion.  I can take it.  I think.  The story's called...

Danny's Feet

Danny and I used to swim naked in Lake Superior when we were kids.  Under the July sun, we would strip on the shore, our seven-year-old bodies smooth as polished agates.  Our hair glowed, like driftwood bleached white by the summer days.  Danny and I were the same age, height, and weight.  Our skin tanned to walnut, and as we shed our shorts and t-shirts, the cool air from the lake raised goose-flesh on our arms and legs.  Standing beside Danny, ready to charge into the lake, I knew even our mothers wouldn't have been able to tell us apart, if only Danny would have taken off his socks.

Danny never took off his socks.  His feet and calves flashed like lighthouses in the dark of the forest when we played hide-and-seek at dusk.  When he was allowed to spend a night with us at our family camp in Calumet, we never needed a flashlight when we had to go to the outhouse.  I just sent him down the path ahead of me.  The white of his socks were like flares.  We never went inside the outhouse, instead creeping behind it to pee into the black forest.  I imagined deer and bears fleeing in panic from the beacons of Danny's feet.

One night, standing behind the outhouse, listening to our urine hissing against the ground before us, I asked Danny why he never took off his socks.  His pee stopped mid-stream and then resumed.

"My feet are different," he said.  His voice flattened the noises of the woods, as if the crickets and birds had been stunned silent by his answer.

I waited until he finished peeing, and as he turned to go back to the camp, I touched his back.  "Different how?"  I couldn't see his face in the darkness.  My hand was hot against his shirtless shoulder.

His breath quickened, like he had just finished a foot race.  "Mom says," he paused.  "Mom says the Greek god Mercury had wings on his ankles.  She says he could run faster than a lightning bolt."  He turned to face me, and even though I couldn't see his eyes, I felt his stare.

After almost a minute of silence, I reached over and pulled Danny's right sock down.  He lifted his foot, and I pulled the sock off.  I did the same with the left sock.

The darkness ate Danny's legs.  I reached out and found his calf.  I ran my hand down to his ankle and felt the smooth knob of bone.  His leg was tense, like the eye of a tornado, a boiling calm.  My fingers explored his foot, the arch, the veins.  Danny lifted his foot again, and my fingertips found the hard callouses on the heel and ball.  I moved to his toes, feeling each long digit's joint, nail, ridges, and pad.  When I reached the pinkie, I found Danny's secret.

Danny had two pinkie toes, webbed together.  I ran my fingers over them again and again, feeling the two nails and the two knuckles branching from a single base.  The tissue connecting them was paper thin, allowing each toe to move independently of the other.

I reached over to Danny's other foot and found the same:  two pinkies joined in one thin embrace of skin.  I moved back and forth between his feet, caressing, flexing, rolling each of the paired toes until their skin burned from my attentions.

Then Danny stepped away from me.  His feet disappeared into the darkness, removing from my grasp his toes.  I stared down at the discarded socks, glowing in the path like misplaced moonlight.  Danny made a noise that might have been a whimper, and then he was gone.  I heard him run to the cabin, open the screen door, and gently close it behind him.

I reached down and scooped up Danny's socks, half expecting their whiteness to run through my fingers like water.  I stood and started up the path to the cabin.  Feeling the packed earth beneath my toes, I wondered if Mercury ever felt the dirt, cool and damp, beneath the miracle of his feet.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 16: Composition Writer, Working Hard, New Cartoon

"What was the trouble?" Mr. Antolini asked me.  "How'd you do in English?  I'll show you the door in short order if you flunked English, you little ace composition writer."

Mr. Antolini is one of Holden's former English instructors.  He's quite close to the entire Caulfield clan.  He knows Holden's older brother, D. B., and he has lunch with Holden's father every once in a while.  He also seems to have a unnatural affection for Holden, himself.

As I've said before, writing seems to be in Holden's blood.  The only subject he isn't flunking at Pencey Prep is English.  As the saying goes, he's a natural.  He doesn't have to work hard at being good.  I suppose that's why I've always had a soft spot for Catcher.  When I was younger, I fancied myself a long-lost Caulfield.  As Mr. Antolini says, I've always been a "little ace composition writer."

I've spent the whole day working hard on my Christmas essay.  My brain is a little tired at the moment.  I don't have anything profound or witty to say.  I'm hoping to finish the essay tomorrow, and then I will be back to my normal blogging schedule.

In the mean time, I have a new cartoon for you guys tonight.

Saint Marty Caulfied is brain dead.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15: Patterns of Your Mind, My Patterns, Pattern Fairy Tale

"He wouldn't do a goddam thing to you.  He'd simply talk to you, and you'd talk to him, for God's sake.  For one thing, he'd help you to recognize the patterns of your mind."

Old Luce is not very kind to Holden here.  Luce's father is a psychoanalyst.  Holden, who desperately needs to see a mental health professional, asks Luce about what his father does for his patients.  Luce's response is, to put it mildly, less than compassionate.  Of course, Holden can be a pain in the ass.  He is a teenage boy.

I've been thinking a lot about the patterns of my mind recently.  The things I think about, obsess over.  My patterns haven't been too cheerful recently.  I recognize that.  I own that.  I allow myself to get sucked into a whirlpool of negativity on a daily basis.  There are a lot of contributing factors:  money, work, church, home.  Basically, I spend my days jumping from one worry or concern to another.

I choose to do that.  That's the pattern of my mind.  I don't know how to break out of that pattern currently.  My therapist friend told me I should take some steps to feel more empowered in my life.  She wants me to put together a resume and cover letter for being a church organist/worship leader.  Then she wants me to send them out to local churches and see if I get any interest.  My friend also wants me to speak to the English Department Head at the university to reiterate my desire for a larger teaching load (preferably full-time).

I guess it's about trying to take control of my life instead of letting life take control of me, which is my current situation.  Maybe there is something better out there for me.  I wish I could see it.  That's my pattern.

Once upon a time there lived a guy named Rupert who had a lot of patterns in his mind.  Rupert was the royal therapist.  Every day, the king would come to his chambers in the palace and tell Rupert about his problems.  Rupert would sit there, nod, and offer the king advice.

One day, the king said to Rupert, "I've been thinking about putting a swimming pool in my summer palace, but I'm not sure how deep I should make it."  He looked at Rupert.  "I've been losing much sleep over this issue."

Rupert nodded and said, "You majesty, that is a very important decision, but have you taken time to ride through your kingdom recently?"

The king didn't say anything.

Rupert said, "There are people starving in the hills.  Rats are overrunning the cities, spreading bubonic plague.  And people are being thrown in prison because they can't pay the taxes you place on them."

The king still didn't say anything.

Rupert continued.  "Perhaps you should try to help your loyal subjects before you worry about how deep the swimming pool should be in you summer palace."

The king nodded, stood up, and left Rupert's chamber.

Rupert was beheaded the next day.

Moral of the story:  don't lose your head over a swimming pool.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

It's just not worth it...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 14: Something Else, Jobs, Piece of Mind

"Stop swearing.  All right, name something else.  Name something you'd like to be.  Like a scientist.  Or a lawyer or something."

Phoebe's trying to force Holden to think about growing up.  She wants him to name something he wants to be when he grows up.  It's a question everyone has to answer eventually.  Kids have pretty standard responses to it:  a police officer, a firefighter, the President of the United States, the Headmaster at Hogwarts.  When you're young, anything seems possible.

When I was Holden's age, I wanted to be a writer.  Now that I'm (censored) years old, I still want to be a writer.  It's been my life-long dream.  I want to go to a library or bookstore and see my books on the shelves.  I want people to read and care about what I say.  That's why I write this blog.  To connect through language with people I don't know, to find what's universal in me and my life.

Of course, I am a published poet.  I have written/published a book.  I'm the senior poetry editor at a prestigious literary magazine.  In some ways, I've accomplished my life goal.  I am a writer.

However, I'm also a part-time medical records clerk, church organist, and college professor.  When I dreamed about being a writer as a ten-year-old, I didn't envision any of these other jobs.  I was going to be William Faulkner (without the alcoholism) or Robert Frost (without the chickens) or Stephen King (without the bad beard and haircut).

It turns out all of those guys did have other jobs.  Frost and King were school teachers.  Faulkner tried his hand at being a postmaster.  That's reality.  That's the difference between having a dream and accomplishing that dream.  You have to read the dream fine print, and it goes something like this:

You may have to work two or three or four other jobs, all with shitty salaries.  You may also alienate your wife and kids, miss family get-togethers.  Out of all the stories or poems or novels you write, only one or two will actually be published.  If you're lucky.  Or you may never get a single word in print, and you will die a frustrated, bitter person.

That pretty much sums up the whole job description for a writer.  Part-time work, low wages, and zero recognition.  I could never resist such an irresistible job description.

And that's a piece of Saint Marty's mind.

This guy's working on his first novel

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 13: Post Reduction

For the next few days, I will be posting only once a day.  I have to finish writing my Christmas essay, and the only way I'm going to do that is by blogging a little less for a little while.  After I've finished the essay, I'll be back to my normal writing schedule.

This little interruption of regular programming should last only a few days.  The essay has to be done by next Friday.

Saint Marty hates deadlines.

Stay tuned for further updates

November 13: Grandmother, All Her Marbles, Wife's Grandma

...I have this grandmother that's quite lavish with her dough.  She doesn't have all her marbles any more--she's old as hell--and she keeps sending me money for my birthday about four times a year...

Holden is not very close to his grandmother.  Obviously.  We don't learn much about her.  She's got money.  She's losing her mind.  She's old as hell.  Actually, Holden thinks any adult is old as hell, so Holden's grandmother could be Sofia Vergara.  It's all relative.

My wife's grandmother is 95 years old.  She's been in a nursing home for several years.  Her memory isn't the greatest.  She doesn't remember who's alive and who's dead any more.  At her last birthday party, she kept on saying, "Can I got to bed now?"  Her husband and two kids have all passed away.  She seems reduced.  Half a person.

This afternoon, my wife's grandma fell out of her bed at the nursing home and sliced open her head.  She's got 18 stitches in her scalp and looks like Frankenstein's monster.  I'm ashamed to say that I haven't seen her since her birthday party in September.  When my daughter was younger, we used to visit her on Halloween after trick-or-treating.  We don't do that any more.  That last time we tried, her grandmother was asleep and wouldn't wake up.

She's not the woman I used to know.  She used to be a cool old lady, hopping on buses to go to the casino, swimming two times a week with her friends, playing cards late into the night.  I miss who she was.  I sometimes wonder if she has moments of clarity, times when she looks around her room at the nursing home and thinks, "What the hell am I doing here?"

I hope that doesn't happen.  I hope her mind stays in a place where loss hasn't touched her, where grief is some distant country, where her only worry is whether she has enough quarters for the slot machines.

Saint Marty wouldn't mind visiting that place with her for a little while.

Holden's granny

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 12: A Little Frightened

I'm a little frightened this evening.

After many years serving as an organist and worship leader at my wife's church, I have a difficult decision to make.  The leaders of the church have recently voted to reduce my salary drastically.  Mind you, I wasn't making a bundle of cash, but it was enough to help pay the mortgage every month.  Without that salary, my budget, which is already stretched to the point of "Ouch!," reaches critical mass.  I won't even be able to bounce from shut-off notice to disconnect notice.  The only thing I'll be bouncing is checks.

I'm disappointed with the church.  Really disappointed.  After ten-plus years of hard work and service, I'm being tossed aside like a used Kleenex.  Or at least that's the way it feels.  I have to send my vita out to local churches and hope that one of them needs an organist/worship planner with 25 years of experience.

I don't deal well with change.  The idea of starting over with a new church makes me want to vomit.  I like my current position.  I like the people, the pastor, the job.  Unfortunately, I have to face reality, and that reality is simple:

Saint Marty needs to pay his bills.

I know how these guys feel

November 12: Suitcases, Jealousy, Prayer for a Mind of Peace

...The thing is, it's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs--if yours are really good ones and theirs aren't.  You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.  They really do  It's one of the reasons why I roomed with a stupid bastard like Stradlater.  At least his suitcases were as good as mine.

Holden is very aware of social class.  He's gone to every private prep school on the East Coast.  His father is a corporate attorney who finances Broadway plays and musicals as a hobby.  His older brother writes movie scripts in Hollywood.  His parents live in a spacious Manhattan apartment.  If anyone was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, it's Holden Caulfield.  And Holden feel most comfortable around people whose suitcases are of similar quality to his.

I find myself always aware of people's suitcases, if you get my meaning.  Most of my friends and acquaintances have decent luggage, and I'm in a constant state of jealousy.  It's exhausting.  I'm perpetually lamenting what I lack as opposed to being grateful for what I have.  I've been in this state since the beginning of summer, when my financial struggles sort of began.  By the time my head hits the pillow at night, it's throbbing with suitcase envy.  I find it difficult mustering up sympathy or compassion for anyone with nice suitcases, regardless of their problems.

That's not really a good mindset for a person who professes to be a Christian.

So tonight, I want to say a little prayer for a mind of peace.

Dear Father,

Don't roll Your eyes, but it's me again.  I'm wondering if You can help me rid myself of my jealousy.  I'm tired of obsessing over what I don't have or can't afford.  I step into a person's home, and I start counting how many bathrooms and bedrooms it has.  I get a ride in somebody's car, and I notice whether it smells like new car or old McDonald's.  When a friend suggests we go out for dinner, I silently hope for Burger King (Subway if I have a little extra cash).

Help me to see how blessed I am.  I know I'm a heck of a lot better off than a lot of people.  Job-wise.  Health-wise.  Family-wise.  I want fewer suitcases, more gratitude in my brain.  Advent is coming soon, then Christmas.  It's supposed to be a season of light.

Help me to focus more on the light..

Your loving child,

Saint Marty

They have some nice suitcases

Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11: Daughter's Ear Gets a Stay of Execution

We took our daughter to the surgeon this morning, fully expecting him to break out the scalpel and sutures.  It didn't happen.  Today's appointment was just a pre-op thing.  Her actual surgery is now officially scheduled for January 3, 2014.

My daughter was not too happy when she found out she had to go to school this afternoon.  She sat down on the floor in the hallway of the medical center and said, "I'm not going."

I thought for a second, and then I said, "Your choice is to go to school this afternoon, or stay home.  I will call the school and tell the office that your absence is unexcused.  They you'll end up in detention."  I paused.  "What's your choice?"

My daughter went back to school.

And Saint Marty is the worst father in the world.

At least I'm good at something

November 11: Snow, Decorating, and the 8-Ball

I woke up this morning to snow.  In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in mid-November, this shouldn't have surprised me.  In fact, I should expect snow every morning and be surprised if I don't have to scrape my windshield and brush off my car.  However, today, I was caught off-guard.

The last few winters, I haven't worried too much about snow.  I had a plow guy who showed up after a big storm and cleared my driveway and front yard.  This year, we can't afford to pay for plowing, so I am looking forward to a long U. P. winter armed with a shovel and my back.  Thus, snow is not my precipitation of choice this year.

On the other hand, the snow makes me want to put up Christmas decorations, which is what I did all morning at my medical office job.  This year, I'm changing my displays, so it's taking me more time than it usually does.  I'm creating Christmas poetry stations, using poems I've written over the last seven years.  This morning's display took almost two hours to finish, even though I had everything planned out.  But it's the one thing at work I enjoy at the moment.

My goal for the rest of today is to remain upbeat and positive.  It's not going to be easy.  I still have to teach and attend meetings at church this evening.  I won't be getting home until around nine o'clock.  However, my lesson plan is done.  My meeting agenda and minutes are printed.  And last night I put together a six-page script for an upcoming worship service.  I'm in pretty good shape.

Now, let's see if the 8-Ball agrees:

Will I have a good afternoon, evening, and night?

And, flipping through my copy of Catcher, my finger stops on:

...Then he put on this very tight black evening dress.  I swear to God.  Then he started walking up and down the room, taking these very small steps, the way a woman does, and smoking a cigarette and looking at himself in the mirror...

OK.  Saint Marty's going to have a good day, if he's an aging, chain-smoking drag queen.

He's having a good day

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10: Computer Work, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I have tons of computer work to do tonight.  After I'm done with this post, I have an agenda and minutes to type for a meeting tomorrow night.  Then I have to create the script for a Hanging of the Greens worship service.  It's going to be a very long evening.

I do have a Classic Saint Marty for you this evening.  This episode originally aired on December 16, 2011.  Nine days before Christmas.

Saint Marty's trying to get his yule on.

December 16, 2011:  Bread...That This House May Never Know Hunger

Bread...that this house may never know hunger.

Mary and her loaf
Mary Bailey says this at the dedication of Mr. Martini's house, which was financed by her husband, George.  Mr. Martini is an Italian immigrant, and he and his wife have a good, Catholic brood of children, plus a goat.  Through George, Mr. Martini is living the American dream.  A house.  A family.  A job.  Food on the table.  Mary's gift of a loaf of bread symbolizes one of every parents' greatest fears:  not being able to feed their children.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter's Christmas program at school.  It was wonderful, full of Christmas carols and kids in cheesy costumes.  My daughter was a flower dancer in The Nutcracker.  We had a great time.

After the program was over, we picked up our daughter at her classroom to take her home.  As we were walking down the hallway toward the exit, she pointed out something posted on the wall.  It was a Christmas project in which she listed what she wished she could give to her family and school and the world for Christmas.  She pointed at what she wrote about our family and smiled.

She wrote that she would give her mommy and daddy more money so that we could move from our small house to a bigger house.  She also said that she would give us money to buy food that we like.

It was a sobering moment for me, the fact that my daughter realizes that money is really tight for our family.  I know I've said to her on a couple of occasions recently, "No, we can't buy that.  We don't have the money."  I don't even remember what she wanted me to purchase.  Obviously, my words made a big impression on her.

Don't get me wrong.  My wife and I aren't on the doorstep of poverty.  However, money is tight and getting tighter.  From week to week, I worry about paying the bills.  If my wife doesn't get a job soon (she's in the running for a permanent job as an aide for a Headstart classroom), we're going to have to make some difficult decisions.  I know that my daughter is picking up on my fears about the future.

We will never starve.  I know that.  We will never be without a roof over our heads.  I know that, too.  Clothing.  Heat.  Those are pretty much a given, also.  I just don't know where we'll be living or what we'll be eating.

That scene in front of Mr. Martini's new home in It's A Wonderful Life always manages to get me choked up.  It's because it's about a good man getting his dream.  And his dream is so simple:  a decent house, a job, a family, and food to feed his family.  Bread.  Security.

I need to let my daughter know, somehow, that we'll always have a home and bread.  I need to let her know that our house will never know hunger.

Just call me Saint Mr. Martini.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9: Please, Deadline, New Cartoon

"You keep it.  Keep it for me," she said.  Then she said right afterward--"Please."

Holden hates it when Phoebe says "please" to him.  It depresses him.  I think it has something to do with the kind of childish desperation the "please" represents.  Phoebe wants to stay near Holden, wants Holden to stay near her.  That's why she begs him to hold on to her "dough.".

This morning, my five-year-old son told me a secret.  He leaned into my ear and whispered, "I got a hat for Uncle Paul for his birthday.  Don't tell."

"Oh," I said, loudly, "you don't want me to tell anyone that you got a--"

My son crammed his hand against my lips, shaking his head.  "No, no, no," he said.  "Don't tell."  And then he followed it up with the inevitable--"Please."

It made me feel guilty, even though I was only kidding. Kids have a way of breaking your heart without even realizing they're doing it.  On Monday morning, my daughter is having surgery.  It's a minor procedure, done right in the surgeon's office.  My daughter is terrified, and nothing I say will assuage her fears.  I'm simply going to have to sit in the exam room with her, give her my hand, and let her squeeze the hell out of it.

I wish I hadn't teased my son this afternoon.  I wish I could have the surgery on Monday instead of my daughter.  Neither of those things are possible.  My job, as a parent, is to feel guilty and to buy my daughter ice cream after her appointment.

I'm still working on my Christmas essay, so I don't have a new poem this evening.  I swear I'm not being lazy.  I'm writing all the time.  I'm going to write some more after I'm done with this post.

Saint Marty has a deadline to meet.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, November 8, 2013

November 8: Some Bad News

My wife just started working as a medical transcriptionist a month or so ago.  Tonight, she found out that the doctor she'd been transcribing ended his contract with the transcription service.  Translation:  no transcription = no job = no paycheck.

Basically, we're back to square one again, which is $200 short a month with winter coming on very quickly.  That means higher heating bills, snow plowing, and Christmas.  I can hope that global warming really kicks in.  That would at least save on the natural gas bills and the snow removal.  I don't think there's a chance of Christmas being postponed.

Funny thing is, I'm not panicking.  I can't panic.  If I give into the worry and desperation, I might as well go to bed and stay there until 2014, 'cuz 2013 pretty much sucked the big one.  I am totally ready for this year to be over.  Give me a cheap bottle of wine and a plastic horn, and I'll start singing "Auld Lang Syne."

I'm not sure what lesson I'm supposed to learn from this latest piece of bad news.  I pretty much have the "Let go, let God" thing down.  I've had to do that since the beginning of June, when my working hours at the hospital were cut.  I'm going to have to do the same tonight.

It's all Yours, God.  Saint Marty's sitting this one out.

Bring down the ball and pass the bottle

November 8: Stuff in the Bible, Good Day, Fairy Tale

Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed.  I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn't do it.  I can't always pray when I feel like it.  In the first place, I'm sort of an atheist.  I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible...

I've always loved Holden's statement that he's "sort of an atheist."  For an atheist, he sure spends a lot of time in Catcher talking about Jesus and praying and Jesus' disciples.  I don't think you can "sort of" be an atheist.  That's like being "sort of" pregnant.  It just doesn't work.  There's a definite spiritual element to Holden's crisis.   The fact that he feels like praying in the above passage "sort of" proves that.

I've had a really decent day.  Busy.  Productive.  A little hectic.  Overall, though, I'm quite relaxed heading into this weekend.  I don't have any major projects that need to completed by Monday (unless you count my Christmas essay, which actually doesn't have to be done for a couple of weeks).  I finished correcting my students' midterm exams yesterday.  My house is mostly clean, except for the sweeping and mopping and dusting.  Like I said, I'm in pretty good shape.

Which reminds me of a story...

Once upon a time, there lived a simple schoolteacher named Ichabid.  Ichabid lived in the town of Sleepy Halloo, and his brother, Ichabod, who was also a schoolteacher, lived and worked in a neighboring town.

Ichabid had a good life.  He loved his students.  The local housewives baked him cakes and pies all the time.  The men of the town took him hunting and fishing all the time.  Ichabid never had bad days.  He had good days, better days, and best days.

One good day, Ichabid finished teaching for the day, locked up the school after his last pupil left, and started walking over to the local inn to partake in the all-you-can-eat Friday venison fry.  As was his custom, Ichabid brought along a book to read while he ate dinner.

When he reached the inn, Ichabid found a line of customers waiting to be seated.  The inn's hostess told him he wouldn't be seated for over two hours.

'That's fine, my good serving wench," said Ichabid.  "I will just sit out on this bench and read."

And Ichabid did just that.  He sat down and a bench outside the inn, opened up his book, and read.

Two hours later, the hostess called Ichabid's name and led him to his favorite table in the inn's dining room.

"I'm so sorry you had to wait so long," the hostess said.  "I hope you're not upset."

Ichabid shook his head.  "Not at all," he said.  "I'm having a very good day."

The hostess frowned.  "Funny," she said.  "I heard from somebody that you had a very bad temper."

Ichabid laughed.  "You must be thinking of my brother, Ichabod," he said.  "He loses his head over the littlest things."

Moral of the story:  No matter what happens, it's all good.  OR  Don't go to an all-you-can-eat venison fry on a Friday.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Don't sweat the small stuff, or you may lose your head

Thursday, November 7, 2013

November 7: Observed

I have been observed.

I'm not sure what kind of impression I made on the professor who visited my classroom.  His expression remained very noncommittal.  He stayed for about 45 minutes and then left.  He shook my hand when he showed up, and he shook it again when he left.

I can't change anything now.  I can't ask for a second chance.  I can only wait for his classroom evaluation to appear in my e-mailbox.

In the mean time, Saint Marty's keeping his fingers crossed.

I'm not superstitious.  Really.  Where's my lucky rabbit's foot?

November 7: Concern for My Future, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Daughter's Grades

"Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right.  Sure.  Sure, I do."  I thought about it for a minute.  "But not too much, I guess.  Not too much, I guess."

Holden tries to convince Old Spencer, his history teacher, that he really cares about his academic future.  Unfortunately, Holden's not very convincing.  Truthfully, he doesn't give a shit about his grades or his future.  Perhaps he's suffering from what most kids his age suffer:  the mistaken notion that he's going to stay young forever.

I never thought I'd reach the age I currently am.  I always thought I was going to die young.  As a teenager, I slipped into a diabetic coma and almost died.  That's how I found out I was diabetic.  I spent a few days in the intensive care ward.  As a diabetic, I always thought I'd never make it past 30 years of age.  I thought I'd succumb to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure.  It's easy to die when you're diabetic.  Just go to bed without testing your blood glucose.  You'll wake up with some paramedics working on you, or you won't wake up.  The future wasn't a big part of my thought processes back when I was Holden's age.

I went to parent-teacher conferences with my wife this evening.  We spoke with my daughter's teachers and my son's teacher.  For my daughter, it was all rainbows and silver linings.  She's quiet and polite and helpful and sweet and talented.  She's got all "A's", except for Reading Renaissance.  That's right.  She got a "C" in reading, thereby crushing her English professor father's ego.  For my son, it was all about personal space issues and impulse control.  Basically, he's smart and talkative and friendly, but he does things like sticking crayons in his ears and blowing in the faces of his classmates.  That's right.  Puckering up and blowing at people is an invasion of privacy.  He's got a lot of "needs improvements."

I suppose as a parent I should be concerned about Reading Renaissance and crayons in inappropriate orifices.  However, I do not believe my daughter's or son's admission into a university is going to hinge upon Crayolas or arbitrary reading levels.  The academic world doesn't work that way.  Harvard isn't going to read my son's kindergarten transcripts.  And Yale won't care about my daughter's Reading Renaissance percentages.

The future is too far away.  My daughter can barely remember to brush her teeth.  How is she supposed to care about college admissions?  Answer:  she can't and shouldn't.  Kids should be allowed to be kids, without all the grown-up drama.  That's the point I'm trying to make.  I'm all for letting my kids go play in the rye field with Holden at this moment in their lives.

And that's a piece of Saint Marty's mind.

Run for the rye field!  Run!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6: Scavenging Halloween Candy

I am currently rooting through my kids' Halloween candy.  There's not much good stuff left.  By good stuff, I mean anything chocolate that's not a sleeve of Whoppers.  I found a mini Snickers a moment ago.  I see a Three Musketeers, but I'm not particularly fond of that candy bar.  What's exciting about chocolate-covered Elmer's glue?  And Kit Kats aren't even candy bars.  They're cookies masquerading as candy bars.

I see lots of Tootsie pops and Smarties.  There's a package of peanut M&Ms.  Again, not my favorite.

However, beggars can't be choosers.

If  a Kit Kat is the only thing that's available, Saint Marty will take it.

This is not candy.  It's sweetened cyanide.

November 6: Old Thurmer, Observation, Prep

"Even the couple of nice teachers on the faculty, they were phonies, too," I said.  "There was this one old guy, Mr. Spencer.  His wife was always giving you hot chocolate and all that stuff, and there were really pretty nice.  But you should've seen him when the headmaster, old Thurmer, came in the history class and sat down in the back of the room.  He was always coming in and sitting down in the back of the room for about a half an hour.  He was supposed to be incognito or something.  After a while, he'd be sitting back there and then he'd start interrupting what old Spencer was saying to crack a lot of corny jokes.  Old Spencer'd practically kill himself chuckling and smiling and all, like Old Thurmer was a goddam prince or something."

Yes, Mr. Spencer, Holden's history teacher, has to be observed by Old Thurmer, Pencey Prep's headmaster.  Spencer has to pretend he's not nervous or annoyed.  Thurmer is his boss.  He could stand up in front of the classroom and attempt to fart Handel's Messiah, and Spencer would have to give him a standing ovation.

I'm going to be observed tomorrow in my classroom.  By a professor to whom I've never met or spoken with.  The extent or our communication has been a couple of e-mails.  He told me not to be nervous, that it really wasn't a big deal.  Funny thing is, it feels like a big deal to me.

That's my worry this Wednesday.  Someone is coming into my classroom to assess my teaching.  I've done as much as I can to prep for tomorrow afternoon.  I've got two lesson plans.  I've got backups to those two lesson plans.  I've got backups to the backups.  My whole goal is to not look like an idiot.  That's it.  I don't expect to be Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.  I don't expect to be anything but . . .  mediocre to competent.

Saint Marty can live with mediocre.  He'd be thrilled with competent.

Hopefully, I'll be at my mediocre best tomorrow