Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31: Smelliest Creature, Forgivenes, New Cartoon

"You smell just the way you are," remarked a lamb who'd just walked in.  "I can smell you from here.  You're the smelliest creature in the place."

Some of the animals in the Zuckerman barn are not very nice.  The lamb above is a veritable bee-atch.  Templeton is, well, a rat.  The goose can be quite annoying-annoying-annoying.  The barn pretty much reminds me of being in middle school, minus gym class and embarrassing body functions at inopportune times.

It's not always easy to be kind, especially with people who have hurt you in the past.  As a Christian, I'm supposed to forgive and turn the other cheek.  And then turn it again.  And again.  And again.  Sometimes, that's not the easiest thing to do.

Currently, I'm in a situation where someone who has hurt me in the past has, literally, come home to roost.  I'm trying to be kind and patient.  I'm reminding myself that I love this person, despite her shortcomings.  Yet, I find myself struggling and conflicted.  I want to be angry and petty.  Instead, I have to play nice.  For the next three months.

Being a good person is not always easy.  Being a good Christian is sometimes a pain in the ass.  Grudges are against the rules.  Snarky comments are frowned upon.  And putting ground-up glass in meatloaf is a capital offense.

Saint Marty is going to be either a real saint or a real felon by the end of the summer.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30: A Phenomenal Poet, Maya Angelou, "Phenomenal Woman"

I'm returning to Maya Angelou again tonight.  I've been hearing her voice on the TV and radio all day.  Her words are in my head.

As I said last night, she was a phenomenal poet.  In person, she was sexy, funny, commanding.  Even in her old age, when she was in a room, she was impossible to ignore.  I remember her standing in the auditorium when I saw her reading.  She was wearing a long, red dress with pearls gleaming around her neck.

She read the poem below, and Saint Marty hung on her every syllable.

Phenomenal Woman

by:  Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
That's her...

May 30: Zuckerman's Swing, Fear, Fearful Fairy Tale

Mothers for miles around worried about Zuckerman's swing.  They feared some child would fall off.  But no child ever did.  Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will.

Children are fearless.  Avery and Fern climb into their Uncle Zuckerman's hayloft and launch themselves into certain bodily harm on the barn's swing.  Yet, they embrace the danger.  They don't think about concussions or compound fractures or closed head injuries.  They think of the thrill of flying into the heavens and then back to earth.

As adults get older, they lose their sense of adventure.  Adults crave stability.  They want good jobs, healthy bank accounts, comfortable retirements.  I know, at my age, I wouldn't jump out of a perfectly good hayloft on a swing.  My health insurance isn't that good.  My idea of adventure now is drinking a regular Mountain Dew before bedtime.

Fear is something that creeps up on you.  As a kid, you believe everything is a playground.  As a teenager, you believe you're never going to die.  As a young adult, you believe the world is your oyster (pardon the cliche, please).  As an adult, you find out that you are really nothing special, and you fear the loss of love, job, income, home.  As an old person, you believe again that everything is a playground.  And then you die.

I'm in the fear stage of life, I think.  For instance, tonight, I fear that I will never write another good poem or publish another book.  That's just one of my fears.  I also fear that my son will grow up to be a bully.  That my daughter will choose to be an English major in college.  That mice will invade my house this summer.  Pick a fear card.  Any fear card.

Once upon a time, an accountant named Ernest lived in a village in the middle of the woods.  Nobody in the village had money.  They were too busy doing things like farming, logging, and getting small pox.  The villagers simply lived day-to-day.  No time for worry.

Ernest lived his life in fear.  He feared his bathrobe and his morning oatmeal.  He feared the king would increase the tax on horse manure.  He feared that nobody would ever embrace the concept of capitalism, and the entire kingdom would sink into a loving community where wealth was shared and healthcare was a right and not a privilege.

One night, Ernest went to bed in his cottage without blowing out his reading candle.  The candle tipped over while Ernest slept, setting the hay of his bed on fire.  Ernest awoke just in time to escape a fiery death, but his home burned to ashes.  Ernest had to move in with his brother, who sold horse manure as fertilizer.

Moral of the story:  fear is horse shit.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Don't forget to blow tonight...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 29: Thursdays and Fridays

Thursday used to be my favorite day of the week.  My weekend used to begin on Thursday night.  I could sleep in on Friday, go to my university office and write in the afternoon.  Have a somewhat normal life.

Now, my weekend begins on Friday night, like almost every other working person.  I have to ask for time off from my job to go to the dentist or doctor.  Next Tuesday, I have to miss my son's end-of-year kindergarten picnic because I have to work.  When I get home, I'm so tired that I can't even imagine going for a run.

I don't care for Thursdays any more.  Fridays are just an exercise in anticipation.  I don't care for them much, either.  Friday nights are great.  Saturdays are gloriously free.  Sundays depress me, because they're followed by Mondays.  The rest of the week is just shot to hell.

Now that I've written that paragraph, I realize that I'm suffering from a huge case of pessimism.  Or defeatism.  I don't think I'm depressed.  I think I'm stuck.  Or I feel stuck.

Saint Marty needs a vacation from reality.

Don't I wish...

May 29: Ferris Wheel, My Book Bag, "Winter by Degrees"

As they passed the Ferris wheel, Fern gazed up at it and wished she were in the topmost car with Henry Fussy at her side.

Fern is growing up.  Instead of sitting around Wilbur's pen at the Fair, she dreams of riding the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy.  She yearns for something she can't, at the moment, have.  The Ferris wheel and Henry Fussy's company.

I know I always fall victim to this habit.  As I drive to work in the morning, I dream of being back in bed.  As I'm working at my new job, I'm dreaming about being at my former job.  Or teaching at the university.  Or playing tag with my five-year-old son.  Anything.  It's a bad habit, always yearning for something better but out of reach.

If I could simply be satisfied with my life, I think I would be a much happier person.  Unfortunately, at the moment, I find myself very dissatisfied with my life.  I miss teaching.  I miss having my Fridays off from work.  Tomorrow morning, I have to be at the office at 7:30 a.m. for a department meeting.  Yes, I will be on the clock, but I will be thinking about being off the clock.  Plus, I just found out that I have inherited the late shift in the business office.  That means, for the moment, I will be working from 8:45 a.m. 'til 5:15 p.m., Monday through Friday.  I  am not thrilled.

Speaking of being thrilled, I am currently reading a book by John Smolens.  Winter by Degrees was his first novel, and it's wonderful.  Gritty, hard, and cold.  It's sort of a mystery.  A man disappears, and the narrator has to figure out what happened to him.  The victim may have fallen through black ice on the Merrimack River and been swept out to the Atlantic.  Or he may have been murdered by the narrator's brother.

I haven't finished WBD yet, but it's gripping.  It has all the elements that make John Smolens such a great writer.  Strong, complex characters.  A moral swamp for a plot.  The narrator is a divorced father who forgets about his ten-year-old son's hockey games, drinks heavily, and can't seem to hold on to a steady job.  Yet, Smolens makes me care about this man, despite all these flaws.

I can't provide any spoilers for you.  I haven't finished the book yet, but I know I'm not going to be disappointed.  John Smolens' work never disappoints.

Saint Marty needs to get to bed now.  He's got an early meeting tomorrow.

Everybody has a Ferris wheel to dream about

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 28: Maya Angelou

Today, poet Maya Angelou died.

My wife and I had the privilege of seeing Ms. Angelou speak two times.  She was an amazing person, and the world will be a slightly less beautiful place without her.

I will say no more.  I'm going to let Maya Angelou speak for herself.

Saint Marty's going to say a little prayer for her this evening.  A prayer of thanks.

May 28: Cars, Mechanically Challenged, Google

...Elwyn [E. B. White] loved cars.  So did the boys' father.  After selling two of his three carriage horses, Samuel bought a Pope-Tribune runabout, which looked sporty with its long, straight-steering shaft and boxy engine bonnet, until he replaced it with a sleek Maxwell roadster whose short running board swooped forward and back to form elegant tire guards like wings.  But Samuel never learned how to drive and left that particular twentieth-century excitement to his children.

White was in love with the horseless carriage, as were his brothers and father.  Typical guys.  They're interested in cars that are fast, elegant, sleek.  I'm sure that if Elwyn were a teenager in the twenty-first century, he'd probably own the newest iPhone.

I've never been into cars.  The only thing I look for in a car is that, when I turn the key in the ignition, it starts.  That is my definition of a good car.  Of course, I like driving new cars.  But I really don't care if I'm driving a station wagon or a Lexus.  If it gets me to where I want to go, I'm satisfied.

I've always been mechanically challenged.  All of my brothers know cars inside and out.  They can do crap like brake jobs and oil changes.  I'm happy if I can change a taillight (and I usually have to ask my brother to help me).  I just don't do car stuff.  However, I can spot a bad metaphor from a mile away.  Give me a bad poem and pencil, and I will turn it into a verbal Corvette.

That's who I am.  I'm not the oily jeans kind of guy.  Sometimes I wish I was.  I could probably save myself a lot of money.  This morning, I heard a story on the radio about Google creating a car that drives itself.  Just enter your destination, and the car does the rest.  If Google invents a vehicle that changes its own oil and fixes its own valves (whatever the hell those are), I am totally sold.

Until then, Saint Marty will continue to put his key in the ignition, say a prayer, and turn it.

If it gets me to work, I'll drive it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 27: Daughter in Waiting...

My daughter is waiting to get her hands on my laptop.  She's ready to pounce on me from the couch.  She's currently distracted by the start of this year's America's Got Talent season.  Soon, however, she will begin staring at me again.

There's also cold pizza calling to me from the fridge.

I'm sorry for the brevity of this post.  After I get me some pizza, I have to throw together a dessert for a potluck at my new job.  A person I've never met is leaving.  I don't really care about this soon-to-be ex-coworker.  However, I'm trying to play nice with the other kids on the playground.

Saint Marty hopes nobody wants to play dodge ball.


May 27: End of a Long Day, Sister and Kids, Prayer for Patience

"Perhaps," she said wearily.  "But I feel like the end of a long day."  Clinging upside down to the ceiling, she settled down for a nap, leaving Wilbur very much worried.

This evening, I sort of feel like the end of a long day, too.  It's not because of work or the fact that I didn't sleep well last night.  I'm actually doing pretty well at my new job.  I did, however, have a pretty rough night.  But, that's not the reason I'm beat.

At the end of this week, my sister is coming from Utah with her kids.  They're spending the entire summer, right through August.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love my sister, and I love my nieces and nephews.  However, my relationship with this sister is complicated.  Very complicated.  I prefer not to go into detail.  I'm saving that for my memoir.  But, the thought of four months of almost daily interaction with her makes me tired.

So, I'm asking for patience, praying for patience, this week.  I'm going to need it.  Again, let me say that I love my sister and her kids.  Love is not my problem.  Tolerance is.  Understanding is.  I may sound like a horrible person right now.  I'm not.  Neither is my sister.  We're just on opposite sides of a conflicted situation.

Saint Marty is going to need a lot of prayer to get through this summer.

Can't really quit my family

Monday, May 26, 2014

May 26: Home for the Holidays, Thunderstorms, "Web" Dip

As I'm typing this, I'm listening to Christmas music.  That's right.  I said Christmas music.  I'm one of those weird people who listen to "White Christmas" and "Sleigh Ride" all year long.  No, I don't have some strange Bing Crosby or Rosemary Clooney fetish.  Christmas music just makes me happy.

The sky is getting dark outside my window.  Thunderstorms are moving in for the afternoon.  That's OK.  I like rain.  It's a perfect summer day.  Sunny and warm in the morning.  Humid and rainy in the afternoon.  When I was in Hawaii for my honeymoon, that was the weather every day.  At about 2 p.m., it would storm for a good hour or two.  And it was lovely.  The world was fresh and green-smelling by evening.

It is Monday, and that means it's time for a Web dip.

My question for this Memorial Day is:

Will I ever experience a Hawaiian rainstorm again?

And E. B. White says:

...No pig ever had truer friends, and he realized that friendship is one of the most satisfying things in the world.  Even the song of the crickets did not make Wilbur too sad.  He knew it was almost time for the County Fair, and he was looking forward to the trip.  If he could distinguish himself at the Fair, and maybe win some prize money, he was sure Zuckerman would let him live.

Well, it looks like Wilbur's going to the County Fair, and Saint Marty will eventually go to Hawaii again.

Mele kalikimaka, dude!

May 26: A Parade, Cemetery Service, and Watermelon

I took my family to a Memorial Day parade this morning.  It was small.  Two marching bands.  Members of the local VFW and Elks Club.  An old-fashioned fire engine.  It lasted about five minutes.  From what I've heard, this parade used to be a big deal.  As big as the Fourth of July Parade.  Obviously, over the years, it has become much less of a big deal.

For my international disciples, Memorial Day in the United States is a day where we recognize men and women who have died in combat.  World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  While war and death are nothing to celebrate, certainly brave individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country deserve respect and honor.

I take my children every year to this parade, and then I drag them to the cemetery to witness the service conducted by the VFW.  My daughter has been going since before she could really walk.  My son, as well.  My daughter gets it.  My son is still a little too young to understand the full import of the ceremony.  Eventually, he will understand why I make him attend each year.

Then, after the VFW ceremony, we take the Walking Dead Tour of the cemetery.  We visit the graves of relatives and friends.  We find headstones from the nineteenth century.  Flocks of children wiped out by flu epidemics.  We remind our kids about loved ones who are no longer with us.  My son, during the Memorial Day service, asked me to pick him up.  Then he put his head on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, "I miss Grandma Cheryl."  My son never met his Grandma Cheryl.

This afternoon, we're going to have a barbecue.  Hot dogs and bratwurst and watermelon.  The weather is beautiful, calm.  Freedom is a wonderful thing.  My children can grow up to do whatever they want.  My daughter can be a kindergarten teacher or the President of the United States.  My son can be a football player or a ballet dancer.

Saint Marty will say a prayer of thanks for his freedom tonight, and for the people who fought and died for it.

Thank you.  Amen.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25: Quiet Sunday, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

It is a very quiet Sunday.  I'm not anxious or worried about tomorrow.  I have one more day of relaxation left.  No work.  Just a small parade and cemetery service to attend.  That's what we do with our kids every year.  I don't want my children growing up to think that Memorial Day is simply an excuse for a three-day weekend.

I will say nothing profound today.  I'll leave that to my episode of Classic Saint Marty, which is from a Memorial Day three years ago.

May 30, 2011:  Memorial Day, New Poem, Dance Party

I just dropped my daughter off at the local Pizza Hut for a party with her dance instructor and fellow students.  I have about an hour until I have to pick her up, plenty of time to get this post done.

It's been a fairly lazy morning and afternoon.  My family and I went to a Memorial Day parade, which lasted all of five minutes.  From what I understand, Memorial Day parades used to be as big a deal as Fourth of July parades around here.  However, over the years, people have forgotten the true meaning of Memorial Day and simply think of it as the three-day weekend that kicks off summer.  I want my daughter and son to realize the true significance of Memorial Day.  Therefore, I make them go to the parade, and then I take them to the local cemetery for the service conducted by the VFW.

My daughter is used to this little tradition.  She has learned to pay attention and be respectful.  My son, who is only two-years-old, is another story.  He doesn't get it.  So I spent most of my time at the cemetery walking with him among the headstones, catching bits and pieces of the ceremony over the loudspeakers.  However, he will eventually understand in years to come.

My heart and my thanks go out to all people serving in the military this day, and to their families, as well.  I can sit here, blogging away on my computer without fear of censorship, because of the sacrifices made by soldiers who protect my freedoms.  And to all who have lost loved ones in current and past wars, my deepest gratitude and prayers.

My poem is about this ultimate sacrifice.

Today, Saint Marty humbly salutes people who really understand the meaning of bravery.

Thank you.  Amen.
In Memoriam

I take my two-year-old son
To the cemetery this Memorial Day,
Walk him around gravestones
As local war veterans conduct
A service solemn as evening rain,
As a high school band plays
Stars and Stripes Forever,
As the local Methodist pastor
Talks of ultimate sacrifice.
I remain a respectful distance away
So my son's screams won't
Disrupt the placing of wreaths,
The recognition of the Gold Star mother,
A woman whose son bled
To death in a jungle over 40 years ago.
On this day, in this place,
Her grief is fresh, delicate
As the white rose pinned
To the lapel of her jacket.
I lift my son into my arms
When I see the honor guards
Shoulder their rifles and aim.
I whisper in my son's ear,
Warn him of the noise to follow.
He still flinches, jumps
When the guns crack.
Seven of them.  Three times.
I hold my son close, as if I need
To protect him from some unseen
Enemy.  The trumpet begins
To play for the dead.  My son squirms,
Wants down, wants to run,
Collect fistfuls of dandelions.
I struggle to keep him still
Until the music ends,
Until the horn's last notes fade
In the gray morning.  My son
Kicks, pushes, yells until even
The Gold Star mother turns, looks
At us.  I surrender, put my son down.
I watch him race away from me,
Laughing among the stones,
The rows of waving flags.
Happy.  Free.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, May 24, 2014

May 24: A Blanket, Unknown Needs, Ellen Steinbaum, "Letter Home," New Cartoon

"That's just what we need," said Avery.  "A blanket."

"Of course it is," replied Lurvy.  And he spread the blanket across the sideboards of the truck so that it was like a little tent.  The children sat in the shade, under the blanket, and felt better.

After lunch, they stretched out and fell asleep.

Avery doesn't know what he needs.  He's hot and tired.  When Lurvy shows up with the Indian blanket he won, Avery doesn't realize it's just what he needs.  A blanket.  Tent.  Shade.  Nap.

Most of us don't realize what we actually need.  We walk around, vaguely unfulfilled, not knowing what will make us truly happy.  A new job.  New love.  Happy family.  All of the above.  None of the above.  Most of the time, we yearn for things we don't have.  And if we get those things, we find out they don't make us happy at all.

For years, I've dreamed of a full-time teaching gig at the university.  I've convinced myself that, if I had that, life would be perfect.  Of course, I know that's a load of crap.  Perfection is a fallacy.  A dream.  Unattainable.  Something that simply makes me strive for something better all the time.

Needs, once met, become experience.  Experience becomes memory.  Memory becomes story.  I guess what I'm saying is that we're all trying to write our story, and we all want a happily ever after.  That's not a bad thing.  For the moment, I'm happy.  I have a home, wife, children, family.  I can almost pay my bills on time.  And, through the fall and winter months, I get to do what I love--teach and talk about literature.  I'm lucky.

Saint Marty has a poem for you tonight that seems appropriate for Memorial Day weekend.

Letter Home

by:  Ellen Steinbaum

I love you forever 
my father's letter tells her
for forty-nine pages,
from the troopship crossing the Atlantic
before they'd ever heard of Anzio.

He misses her, the letter says,
counting out days of boredom, seasickness,
and changing weather,
poker games played for matches
when cash and cigarettes ran out,
a Red Cross package--soap,
cards, a mystery book he traded away
for The Rubaiyyat a bunkmate didn't want.
He stood night watch and thought
of her.  Don't forget the payment
for insurance, he says.

My mother waits at home with me, 
waits for the letter he writes day by day
moving farther across the ravenous ocean.
She will get it in three months and
her fingers will smooth the Army stationery
to suede.

He will come home, stand
beside her in the photograph, leaning
on crutches, holding
me against the rough wool
of his jacket.  He will sit
alone and listen to Aida

and they will pick up their
interrupted lives.  Years later,
she will show her grandchildren
a yellow envelope with
forty-nine wilted pages telling her

of shimmering sequins on the water,
the moonlight catching sudden phosphorescence,
the churned wake that stretched a silver trail.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 23: "Midnight in Paris," Obsession, "Star Wars"

My friend, Keith, has been telling me for a few years that I needed to watch Midnight in Paris.  I believe his exact words were, "That movie is un-be-liev-able."  Last week, I had lunch with him, and he mentioned the movie again.

So I ordered it.

And I saved it for tonight.  Well, I watched it, and my friend was right.  It is an unbelievably great movie.  I'm watching it again right now with my wife.  I have a feeling it's going to become one of my obsessions for a while.

I once spent an entire Christmas break watching the film Stranger than Fiction every day.  It drove my wife crazy.  I do that.  I become a little . . . crazy about moves and books.  I've read a thousand-page Charles Dickens biography by Peter Ackroyd at least four or five times.  When I was a kid, I went to see the original Star Wars 27 times at the movie theater.  Obsession.

I'm obsessed with writing this blog.  That's why I've written close to 2,000 posts.  I want to be read, liked.  I want to write things that move people.  Help people.  Excite people.  I'm not sure if I'll ever get to that point, but I'm obsessed with the idea.

Maybe Saint Marty really does need professional help.

Care to join me in a little stroll down lunatic lane?

May 23: Fattening You Up, Boo, Fairy Tale Surprise

"Just the same, I don't envy you," said the old sheep.  "You know why they're fattening you up, don't you?"

The old sheep isn't a very kind animal.  She seems to absolutely revel in telling Wilbur that he's doomed.  Of course, her revelation sends the little pig into a downward spiral.  He goes from being happily content to throwing himself down on the ground in despair.

That's the problem with surprises.  They can be wonderful or horrifying.  For me, there's nothing worse in the world than surprises.  I suppose that's because I've had my fair share people walking up to me and yelling "Boo!"  Metaphorically, of course.  Everyone loves to share news.  Good news is wonderful.  Bad news is even better.

These last couple of weeks, I've been waiting for a good "Boo."  I received one last Sunday when I found out I was the new Poetry Editor of the university's literary magazine.  But, one good "Boo" deserves another.  I'm tired of bad "Boos."  Death.  Job loss.  Bills.  I want . . . crave more good "Boos."

It's been a very long week.  I've learned lots of new things, met lots of new people.  New, new, new.  Today, all I've been thinking about is this:  sitting in my living, typing this post, and watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  That's exactly what I've been doing, and I haven't felt this relaxed for the last five days.  I'm comfortable, surrounded by everything that sort of defines me as a person.

And I am getting way too deep for a Friday night.

Once upon a time, a man named Gable lived on an island in the middle of a huge sea.  He lived there to avoid surprises.  Gable ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast.  He read the same book every day.  Moby Dick.  He had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.  Went for a swim in the afternoon.  Grilled cheese for dinner.  And then more Moby Dick before bed.  Every day.

Then, one morning, Gable decided to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.  The bacon slid down into his windpipe, and, because he lived alone on an island in the middle of a huge sea, Gable choked to death.

Moral of the story:  Who the hell reads Moby Dick every day?  Oh, and bacon can kill you.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

This or oatmeal?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22: One More Day

I must say that I'm not used to working five days a week.  For the last nine or ten months, I've had Fridays off.  I've liked that arrangement.  While it hurt monetarily, it kept me sane. 

I'm totally not into working Fridays.  I prefer my Friday to come on Thursday.  It makes the weekend come so much sooner.  Instead, I have one more day of feeling stupid and useless.  Then I have three days to recuperate before it all starts up again.

One more day.  Twenty-four hours.  Forty-eight half hours.

However you do the math, Saint Marty's gonna have a long day.

Just because it's so damn funny!

May 22: A Small Bug, Pizza and Chicken, Stars and Faults

And so, talking to herself, the spider worked at her difficult task.  When it was completed, she felt hungry.  She ate a small bug that she had been saving.  Then she slept.

Work is work.  Making a web for Charlotte is a difficult task.  It takes her an entire night to spin one of her miracles.  When she's done with her task, she's exhausted and hungry.  She eats a snack and then takes a nap.

That's pretty much the way I felt tonight when I got home.  Another long day at my new job.  It's getting slowly better.  I don't have to ask half as many questions, but I still have to ask.  Some things are simply not sinking in.  Again, I feel more like a hindrance than a help.

Of course, the reason I was so good at my last job was because I did it for close to 17 years.  That's right.  Almost two decades.  I need to cut myself some slack with this new position.  There is going to be no overnight miracle for me.  I need to keep trying and trying until I catch on or I'm booted out.

This evening, my book club met at my house to discuss The Fault in Our Stars.  There were no small bugs served at our potluck, but there was plenty of pizza and chicken and wings.  Oh, yeah, we also talked about the book, which everybody loved.  I finished it about 20 minutes before everybody showed up, so I didn't have a whole lot of time to process the ending.

I will say that I was very pleasantly surprised.  I liked it.  A lot.  The characters were sharply drawn, and the prose managed to be profound and witty at the same time.  I would recommend it to anybody.

Saint Marty would give it four stars and no faults.

No small bugs at our table

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 21: Gotta Read

Sorry, disciples.  Nothing deep or Web related tonight.  I have to finish reading The Fault in Our Stars for my book club meeting tomorrow night.

It's been quite a day.  Actually, it feels like it's been about two or three days crammed into eight or ten hours.  I am beat.  I promise something more inspired tomorrow night.

Saint Marty's thinking some nude selfies.  It seems to be working for Miley Cyrus.

I just don't get it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 20: Nothing Exciting

I have nothing exciting to say tonight.  No jokes.  No stories.  I'm too tired to come up with anything close to wisdom.

What I have tonight is Dancing With the Stars.  And The Fault in Our Stars.  Lots of stars, I guess.  Maybe I'll eat some Starbursts, too.  I think I hear starlings outside my window.  I don't like Starkist tuna.

Saint Marty's just wishing on a star.

I wish for a better day tomorrow

May 20: A Little Tired, Bad Day, Prayer for the World

"I like to sit still," [Charlotte] said.  "I've always been rather quiet."

"Yes, but you seem specially so today.  Do you feel all right?" [Wilbur said.]

"A little tired, perhaps.  But I feel peaceful..."

Charlotte says she's a little tired.  She's just finished spinning her last web, plus an egg sac.  I am absolutely exhausted tonight, but I haven't just laid 514 eggs.  But I had a really bad day at my new job.

I didn't make any huge mistakes.  I didn't kill any patients.  Nothing like that.  It was just incredibly busy.  Chaotic even.  And I felt absolutely useless.  I'm used to being the competent one, the "go-to" guy.  Today, I was more of a hindrance than a help.  By the end of the day, I had a huge headache and a huge case of low self esteem.

Don't worry, I'll get back in the saddle tomorrow morning.  I have no choice.  I'm going to spend tonight staring at myself in the mirror and saying Jack Handey things like, "You're smart.  You're strong.  And people like you."

I'm too tired to come up with a specific prayer intention this evening.  There's a girl at my wife's church who always asks for prayers for the world.  Our broken world.  So, this week, I'm asking all of my disciples to pray for the world.

Saint Marty is ready for some chocolate.

I've got eggs in my head

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 19: Retrospective Falsification

When someone dies, there's a certain amount of retrospective falsification that goes on.  "Retrospective falsification" is a term coined by author Mario Puzo to describe the process of erasing bad memories.  We've all done it.

Retrospective falsification is inevitable.  My brother who recently passed was not a saint.  (Spoiler alert:  Saint Marty really isn't a saint, either.)  We all have things we've done in the past that make us cringe, blush, and hide our faces.  That's what being human is all about.  Making mistakes.  Learning from those mistakes.  Becoming a better person.

My brother made mistakes.  He smoked.  He didn't take care of his diabetes.  Because of those mistakes, he had a stroke.  Yet, he learned from his mistakes.  After his stroke, he worked hard at his recovery, became an active church-goer, and became a really good person.  At his funeral, I was amazed by the number of people who stood up and told stories about my brother.  Wonderful stories full of laughter and love.

I love my brother, warts and all.  He had his failings.  But he also had his victories.

Saint Marty prefers to remember his brother that way.

There aren't any shortcuts

May 19: A Cool Thing, Poetry Editor, "Web" Dip

So, a really cool thing happened to me last night.  I went with a friend to a bonfire.  This bonfire was hosted by the managing editor of Passages North, the university's literary magazine.  It was a wonderful night of s'mores and chips and Milky Way candy bars.  Lots of grad students and creative writing teachers in attendance.

As I was eating my first of several Milky Ways, Jen, the managing editor/host (and a sweet, wonderful person to boot), said, "So, Marty, would you be my poetry editor?"

The current poetry editor for PN (and another great friend) is retiring.  I knew that was happening.  I've been the senior poetry editor at the magazine for the last three years.  It's been a great time.  I've had a hand in publishing a lot of great poetry, including work by Donald Hall and Norman Dubie.

I was humbled and thrilled by Jen's offer, and I accepted it.  Of course.  I'm not an idiot.  In the fall, I will officially be the Poetry Editor of Passages North.  I guess my title right now would be Poetry Editor-elect.  Or something like that.

My question for the Good Book of E. B. White this evening is:

Will I be a good Poetry Editor of PN?

And the answer from Charlotte is:

"Special announcement!" said the loud speaker in a pompous voice.  "The management of the Fair takes great pleasure in presenting Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman and his famous pig.  The truck bearing this extraordinary animal is now approaching the infield.  Kindly stand back and give the truck room to proceed!  In a few moments the pig will be unloaded in the special judging ring in front of the grandstand, where a special award will be made.  Will the crowd please make way and let the truck pass.  Thank you."

Well, there you have it.  If a pig can get a special award, Saint Marty can surely hold his own as Poetry Editor.  Even if Charlotte's not around to help with the proofreading.

Seal of Approval

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 18: Another Run, Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon

I went for a run this afternoon.  A very short one.  At the moment, I can barely push myself for a mile.  I'm not sure if rhinos sweat, but, if they do, I was sweating like a rhino at the end of my run.  It was around 60 degrees, and it felt like I was on the African savanna.

I have sort of recovered.  It took four glasses of water and a Diet Mountain Dew, but I'm simply moist now instead of drenched.  Usually, by this time of year, I'm able to run my three-mile route without getting out of breath.  The winter has thrown off my whole exercise regime, and it's almost June.

The following episode of Classic Saint Marty first aired exactly two years ago.

May 18, 2012:  A Walk, New Poem, "Between Cross and Snow"

Just got done with a walk along the shores of Lake Superior.  No, I'm not going to start quoting "The Song of Hiawatha."  It was a lovely afternoon, with temperatures near 80 degrees.  My wife and I had time to kill while our daughter was at her dance class, so we went for a stroll.  It really feels like summer has arrived.  Thank God.


I promised a new poem tonight, and I am going to make good on that promise.  The sonnet I wrote is in response to the Longfellow poem I discussed yesterday.  In my poem, I'm trying to somehow find entry into Longfellow's poem.  I think I found both Longfellow and myself.  I think.  I'd be interested to hear my disciples' opinions.  It's still too fresh for me to have any objectivity.

Saint Marty needs to get his butt moving.  His daughter is done with dance.

Between Cross and Snow

inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Cross of Snow”

How does Longfellow contain years
Of grief in fourteen lines, words
Black, unsubstantial as the upward
Lift of ash or reflections in mirrors

Of black swans at midnight? No tears
Fall with his rhymes. With alphabetic shards,
He combs the smoke and sear from a beard
White as whale foam. He still hears,

After all this changeless time, her voice
Echo through sun-defying ravines
In the West, through the shadows

Between cross and snow. In this holy space,
I find my daughter, running in evergreens,
Climbing. Away. Up. Up. To where woman grows.

Disclaimer:  The following cartoon is much funnier if you are familiar with SpongeBob Squarepants.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 17: Feasting and Carousing, Graduation Party, Eleanor Lerman, "Starfish," New Cartoon

"What a night!" he repeated, hoarsely.  "What feasting and carousing!  A real gorge!  I must have eaten the remains of thirty lunches.  Never have I seen such leavings, and everything well-ripened and seasoned with the passage of time and the heat of the day.  Oh, it was rich, my friends, rich!"

Templeton is a total hedonist.  He stuffs himself on rotten meat and popcorn kernels and half-eaten hotdogs.  He doesn't worry about indigestion or his stomach exploding.  He's a rat.  Rats scavenge.  Rats eat.  Rats don't care about anything but themselves, at least in the Charlotte's Web universe.

I have indulged myself a little bit today.  I went to McDonald's for breakfast.  I read The Fault in Our Stars.  I went to my niece's high school graduation party, at which I ate a lot of stuff I shouldn't have eaten.  Soft pretzels with nacho cheese.  Cheesy potatoes.  Mac and cheese.  (My whole gastrointestinal system will probably be backed up for a week as a result!)  And now I'm sitting on my couch, watching an episode of The Lawrence Welk Show (another guilty pleasure).  After a week of mourning, not to mention starting a new job, I decided to give myself a little vacation.

Of course, I'm experiencing a little guilt now.  I should have been more productive.  Maybe picked sticks off my lawn or raked my backyard.  Worked on a new poem.  But I didn't.  Sometimes, you really do have to just...stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

Tonight's poem comes from a poet named Eleanor Lerman, and it's about appreciating life, in all its facets.

Saint Marty needs to do that a little more often.


by:  Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does.  It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee.  It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee.  Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish.  And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud.  Reeds
speak to you of the natural world:  they whisper,
they sing.  And herons pass by.  Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment?  Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing.  There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart.  Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become.  And then life lets you go home to think
about all this.  Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out.  This is life's way of letting you know that
you are lucky.  (It won't give you smart or brave,
so you'll have to settle for lucky.)  Because you
were born at a good time.  Because you
were able to listen when people spoke to you.  Because you
stopped when you should have started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert.  (Pie for the dog, as well.)  And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

Confessions of Saint Marty


Friday, May 16, 2014

May 16: One Week Later

It's a strange place to be.  One week after my brother's death.  Life is supposed to be returning to normal.  Back to work.  Back to blogging.  Back to church.  No more tears.  No more sadness.

I was at my parents' house this evening.  I watched my father get into an argument with one of my sisters over the stupidest thing in the world.  It got really heated and lasted for a few minutes.  It ended with my father storming downstairs.  I know he wasn't really pissed about the yarn sitting on the dining room table.  He's pissed because he's just lost his 58-year-old son.

It's a strange place.  An angry place.  A sad and lonely place.

Saint Marty is in some stage of grief.  Maybe the keep-your-hands-off-my-fucking-chocolate stage.

I'm in here somewhere

May 16: Look Radiant, Faking It, End of the Week Fairy Tale

It is not easy to look radiant, but Wilbur threw himself into it with a will.  He would turn his head slightly and blink his long eye-lashes.  Then he would breathe deeply.  And when his audience grew bored, he would spring into the air and do a back flip with a half twist.  At this the crowd would yell and cheer.  "How's that for a pig?" Mr. Zuckerman would ask, well pleased with himself.  "That pig is radiant."

Wilbur works hard to look radiant.  He doesn't feel radiant, but, for Charlotte's sake, he does back flips and somersaults.   He knows Zuckerman expects him to be exceptional.  Wilbur knows his life depends upon it.  So he fakes it.

That's what I've been doing these last two days at my new job.  Faking it.  It's not that I don't like the people.  I do.  It's not that I don't like the work.  I do.  It's not that I don't appreciate the benefits.  I do.  But this change wasn't my choice.  That's why I find myself struggling to be positive and friendly.  And, as a good friend of mine says, I'm going to have to fake it until I make it.

Once upon a time, a pig farmer named Zeke had to take a job as a shepherd because the bottom fell out of the hog market.  Literally.  The floor of the hog store collapsed.

Zeke hated being a shepherd.  He hated being out in the fields.  He hated the smell of the sheep.  He didn't like the sheepdogs.  They peed on him and bit him.  Most of all, Zeke hated the uniform.  It was made of burlap and gave him hives.

Zeke came home after his first week as a shepherd.  He sat in front of his fireplace, put up his feet, and saw sheep shit on his boots.  He shook his head and said, "Sheep suck."

Moral of the story:  Bacon is good eatin'.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.  Until Monday.

They're baa-aaaad.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

May 15: New Job and New Snow

Well, I have completed the first day of my new job.  The people are friendly and supportive.  My closest coworkers are helpful and understanding.  They laugh at my jokes.  I have established a chocolate drawer already, and I acquired a new badge from Human Resources.  One that reflects my new position and department.  Overall, it wasn't horrible, although I truly miss the work and people at my old job.

It is snowing currently.  Sitting in my office at the university, I am watching thick, fat snowflakes falling.  They're starting to accumulate on the grass.  It would be a lovely scene if it weren't the middle of May.  New snow at this time of year is about as welcome as a case of explosive diarrhea.  Lake Superior is still frozen over, and, two weeks ago, I still had snow drifts in my backyard.  Winter is never going to end.

Saint Marty is ready to start singing "Let It Go."

I'm tired of letting things go...

May 15: Loyal and True, My Book Bag, "The Fault in Our Stars"

Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend.  In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte.  Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end.

Wilbur is not alone in his feelings.  I find that I often suffer doubts and fears when encountering someone or something "new."  Today, I started a new job.  I met about 5,451 new people.  I remember about three of their names.  In my book bag right now is a new book, one that I've been avoiding for quite some time.  It's too popular.  Trendy. 

The book is John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.  I've been avoiding it because too many people have told me I have to read it.  Out of principle, I try to avoid books that have a following that resembles the Manson family in devotion.  Fears and doubts.  However, I've started reading Green's novel.

And I'm loving every word of it.  Hazel Grace Lancaster, the narrator, reminds me of Holden Caulfield in her utter disdain for normal pretense.  She's smart, dark, intelligent.  And funny as hell.  Her opening salvo hooked me immediately:

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

I love this girl.  She's the antidote for all the stupid, vapid heroines of most young adult novels.  You know, the ones who don't know they're beautiful and eventually fall in love with tortured boys who suffer from some sort of undead personality disorder.  Hazel's story is honest.  She knows that death is inevitable and forever is a fairy tale.

That's what I'm really appreciating about The Fault in Our Stars.  Of course, I haven't finished it yet.  But I don't think John Green is going to disappoint me.  Hazel surely won't disappoint me.

Saint Marty highly recommends this book.  Okay?  Okay.

Read the book.  You'll understand.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 14: Concert Tonight

I will be attending my daughter's spring concert at school this evening.  My daughter is sick.  Again.  It looks like the antibiotic she was taking didn't quite do the job.  However, she still wants to go to the concert.  That's my girl.  She's a lot like me.  I try not to let anything slow me down, either.

Tomorrow, my wife is going to take her to the pediatrician.  I'm sure she's going to end up on another dosage of medicine.  'Tis the season.  It happens twice a year.  Once at the beginning of winter.  Once at the beginning of spring.  My son is also recovering from this nasty crud, as well.

So far, I've lucked out.  I've avoided contracting any of my offsprings' plagues.  I'm fully expecting to come down with some kind of illness.  Something bubonic, with lots of mucus and ear aches and throat pus.

Anybody care to join Saint Marty?

My house is the one with this poster on the door

May 14: White Wednesday, Blowing Away, A Way to Live,

...Despite this and other setbacks, [White] kept scribbling and typing.  Distilling his experience into words on a page was the only way he could find to prevent his daily life from blowing away like clouds.

That's a pretty common feeling with most writers, I think.  The impulse to write is inextricably connected to the impulse to preserve memory and experience.  Even as a young man, E. B. White knew this.  That's why he took up pen and paper and typewriter at such a young age.

In the last couple years, things have changed for me quite a bit.  Hell, in the last couple weeks things have changed for me quite a bit.  I've had no control over these changes.  Winds have simply blown into my daily life and swept some clouds away, as Michael Sims says in the passage above.

Tomorrow, I begin a new chapter in my professional life.  A new job.  I will be learning new procedures, new tasks, new computer programs, new people.  That's a lot of "new" for a person who likes the "old."  Old job, old procedures, old tasks, old computer programs, old coworkers.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that I'm more than a little apprehensive about tomorrow.  In fact, the thought of walking into that office in the morning makes me a little nauseous.

I have to remind myself that it's just a job.  A way to pay the bills, keep a roof overhead, food in our bellies, and a health insurance card in my wallet.  That's all.  I can't invest myself in what I'm going to be doing.  I did that with my last medical office job, and, in the end, it really didn't make a difference.  I will do what I need to do to keep this new position.  Perform to the best of my abilities.  Then, I will come home and focus on what's really important--my family.  And I won't think about that new job again until I punch the time clock the following morning.

Working is a way to live.  Living isn't a way to work.

That's Saint Marty's mantra for tomorrow.

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

May 13: Guest Post by My Son

This post was dictated to me by my son:

Wiggle your butt.  All the time.  At day and night.  And then wiggle your tail.  If you don't have a tail, just tell your dog "wiggle your tail."  And when you're done, get a ice cream, and that's my poem.  The End.

Have a good night,

Saint Marty

You heard what he said!  Shake your money-maker!

May 13: A Stick, My Son, Fears and Prayers

"That's a fine spider and I'm going to capture it," said Avery.  He took the cover off the candy box.  Then he picked up a stick.  "I'm going to knock that ol' spider into this box," he said.

Avery's a pretty typical little boy.  He likes spiders and frogs.  He's jealous of his sister.  And he leaves mayhem and disaster in his wake.  In his attempt to capture Charlotte, he accidentally smashes a rotten goose egg, filling the entire barn with a horrible stink.

My son is Avery times ten thousand.  This afternoon, he got into trouble on the playground.  He decided to kill a tree.  He bent it over until it snapped, and then he wouldn't go back to his classroom.  Sat out in the hallway instead.  The playground aide said it was like my son didn't even hear her.  He was "just gone."

Of course, having a history with mental illness, I immediately jump to the conclusion that my son is suffering from bipolar or schizophrenia or dissociative personality disorder (whatever that is).  My radar for those kinds of things is super-sensitive.  Overly sensitive, probably.  Chances are, my son is just a normal boy, full of the devil sometimes.

I just wish he wouldn't be so . . . destructive and uncontrollable sometimes.  One therapist has called him a "strong-willed" child.  I think that term is a little too delicate.  My son is a Herculean-willed child.  And he's putting us through the twelve labors, if you know what I mean.

So, my prayer intention this week is for my son.

Dear God,

I know You never give me any problem that is impossible.  Life is a series of problems.  If we don't have problems, we're not really living.  I'm just asking for guidance and help with my son.  Help me understand how to help him.  Still my fears and give me peace.  And still my son's wild mind.

I'm afraid my son is beyond my help, but I know he's never beyond Your help.  So please send him Your love and guidance.

Your loving child,

Saint Marty

My son fighting the tree

Monday, May 12, 2014

May 12: My Brother's Funeral, New Poem, "Nest"

I just returned from the reception following my brother's funeral.  It is almost 10 p.m., and I am very tired.

The funeral was difficult.  Lots of tears.  I'm not good at small talk with strangers or near strangers, so I spent most of the evening trying to avoid awkward conversations with people.  Some of my best friends came, and it was wonderful to see them and accept their comfort.

The hardest part of the whole occasion was listening to my octogenarian father sobbing beside me.  I nearly passed out trying to hold back my own tears.  And I also had to read a poem for my brother.  I spent almost four days writing it.  I didn't complete a final draft until about an hour before I had to be at the funeral parlor.

This is the poem Saint Marty read tonight:


for Kevin, May 12, 2014

My daughter saw it first,
tucked under the garage eave
like an abandoned hat or trapped
tumbleweed, a jumbled braid
of grass, twig, leaf,
detritus of last autumn's letting go,
sculpted with beak, claw
into a soup bowl, deep with down and dung.
I stepped closer, inspected it, wondered
what else made up the sinew
and rib of its creation.  Maybe
a Tootsie Roll wrapper from July 4,
brown, white, sweet-smelling.
A blade of blue or silver Christmas
garland, flashing in the sun
like Tiffany glass.  Mud made
by my son in August
when he drowned the pumpkins in the garden.
Ribbon frayed from my daughter's
ballet shoe, pink and slick
as a hummingbird tongue.
All the lost and forgotten
twisted into the DNA of spring,
something new, green.
On this evening of letting go,
I feel like a robin, gathering
shards of you from my backyard.
The root of your voice.  Hay
of your hair.  Thistle of the last
joke you told, the one
about the spark plug and bartender.
I try to stitch these elements together,
bring breath back to your lungs
one final moment so I can
hold your hand maybe,
feed you one more fork
of pumpkin pie.
Tonight, when I sleep,
I will see you hatch, break
open, shake off your lake-
blue shell.  You crawl to the lip
of the nest, spread your wings,
then launch yourself
into the bright palm of heaven.

Monday, September 12, 1954 - Wednesday, May 7, 2014