Saturday, March 30, 2019

March 30: Turning Into a Penguin, Healthcare Jobs, Brief History of My Time

Space time continues to bend for Arthur and Ford . . .

"Haaaauuurrgghhh . . ." said Arthur, as he felt his body softening and bending to unusual directions.  "Southend seems to be melting away . . . the stars are swirling . . . a dustbowl . . . my legs are drifting off into the sunset . . . my left arm's come off too."  A frightening thought struck him.  "Hell," he said, "how am I going to operate my digital watch now?"  He wound his eyes desperately around in Ford's direction. 

"Ford," he said, "you're turning into a penguin.  Stop that."

Again came the voice.

"Two to the power of seventy-five thousand to one against and falling."

Ford waddled around his pond in a furious circle.

"Hey, who are you?" he quacked.  "Where are you?  What's going on and is there any way of stopping it?"

"Please, relax," said the voice pleasantly, like a stewardess in an airliner with only one wing and two engines, one of which is on fire, "you are perfectly safe."

"But that's not the point!" raged Ford.  "The point is that I am now a perfectly safe penguin, and my colleague here is rapidly running out of limbs!"

"It's all right.  I've got them back now," said Arthur.

"Two to the power of fifty thousand to one against and falling," said the voice.

"Admittedly," said Arthur, "they're longer than I usually like them, but . . ."

"Isn't there anything," squawked Ford in avian fury, "you feel you ought to be telling us?"

The voice cleared its throat.  A giant petit four lolloped off into the distance.

"Welcome," the voice said, "to the Starship Heart of Gold."

Well, there you go.  Ford is a penguin, and Arthur is rapidly turning into a human version of Stretch Armstrong.  By the way, I love petit fours.  They are one of my favorite holiday treats, along with really soft sugar cookies and peanut butter buckeyes.  But I digress.

Space and time are a bitch sometimes.  Last night, I literally was thinking about a production of the musical Hairspray that I saw once in Appleton, Wisconsin.  I thought it was just a few years ago.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that it was over ten years ago.  Actually, it's approaching 15 years.  Couldn't believe it.

And, given the circumstances at work this past week, I've been also thinking about my time in the medical field.  I never thought that I would make a career in the healthcare field.  Initially, I took the job at the surgery center to fill-in for a person who was on maternity leave.  Then that person came back, and it was over.  I was in graduate school, trying to scrape together some extra cash.  Then I was offered a full-time job at the surgery center.  Then I basically became the business office manager of the surgery center.  At the same time, I was finishing school, and my wife was pregnant with our first child.

All that started over 20 years ago.  I've worked in three different medical offices--outpatient surgery, cardiology, and medical records.  In the summers during my graduate school days, I cleaned patient rooms and doctor's offices and operating rooms.  I guess you could say that healthcare has been the career that I never really wanted.  I just sort of stumbled into it and stayed there.  For a long time.  Longer than I realized.  Amazing.

Time has a way of running away from you, like a giant petit four.  One day you're a fill-in employee for a pregnant woman, and, twenty years later, you're a displaced healthcare worker in search of a computer station.  I don't like to say that the best is behind me.  I'm not that fatalistic.  Life has a way of taking unexpected turns.

Twenty years ago, I would never have thought I would call myself a poet.  Now, if someone were to ask me what I do, my answer would be, "I'm a poet."  That's how I identify.  Sure, I have jobs in the medical field and higher education to supplement what I do.  But poetry is my thing.  And I'm good at it, I think.  It's the thing that makes me feel good about myself.  An unexpected turn.

Gone are the days when poets could make a living being poets.  I think that died around Shakespeare's time.  Robert Frost taught and raised chickens.  William Carlos Williams was a doctor, scribbling poems about red wheelbarrows on prescription pads in between patient appointments.  Wallace Stevens sold insurance.  The poets I personally know are artists with galleries, environmental activists, teachers, musicians, and music teachers.  These are my people.

That is the brief history of my time for this morning. Thank you, Stephen Hawking.  It's been a 20-plus year journey.  The universe is open and expanding, always.  So am I.

If you're looking for Saint Marty, just look for the second star on the right, and head straight on till morning.

March 30: Passage of Time, Billy Collins, "No Time"

Thinking a lot about time this morning.  The passage of time.  The slowness of it.  The speed of it.  How it gets away from you, from sunup to sundown.  To-do lists left undone.  Books left unread.  Poems left unwritten.

I wonder if it was the same for my parents.  My mom and dad always seemed to get shit done, all the time.  They didn't procrastinate.  I don't think it was part of their makeup.  Perhaps that's my generation's contribution to society.  That and parachute pants.

Here's Saint Marty's to do list for today:

  1. Vacuum, sweep, and mop at home.
  2. Straighten the living room.
  3. Clean off the kitchen and dining room tables.
  4. Pick out music for Mass.
  5. Play the pipe organ for Mass.
  6. Finish reading the book for Book Club.
  7. Put together the discussion questions for Book Club.
  8. Revise poem that I wrote on Wednesday.
  9. Stare into the abyss.
  10. Roll into a ball and contemplate the meaninglessness of everything.
  11. Practice self loathing.
  12. Make the beds.
A poem that makes me think of my sister standing up in the cemetery and looking over her glasses at me, like she always did . . . 

No Time

by:  Billy Collins

In a rush this weekday morning,
I tap the horn as I speed past the cemetery
where my parents are buried
side by side beneath a slab of smooth granite.

Then, all day, I think of him rising up
to give me that look
of knowing disapproval
while my mother calmly tells him to lie back down.

Friday, March 29, 2019

March 29: A Million-Gallon Vat of Custard, Improbably Terrible Work Week, Ten-Minute Breakdown

Arthur and Ford are noticing something a little strange with the place they've landed after being jettisoned out of the airlock of the Vogon ship . . .

"You mean the way the sea stays steady as a rock and the buildings keep washing up and down?" said Ford.  "Yes, I thought that was odd too.  In fact," he continued as with a huge bang Southend split itself into six equal segments which danced and spun giddily round each other in lewd and licentious formations, "there is something altogether very strange going on."

Wild yowling noises of pipes and strings seared through the wind, hot doughnuts popped out of the road for ten pence each, horrid fish stormed out of the sky and Arthur and Ford decided to make a run for it.

They plunged through heavy walls of sound, mountains of archaic thought, valleys of mood music, bad shoe sessions and footling bats and suddenly heard a girl's voice.

It sounded quite a sensible voice, but it just said, "Two to the power of one hundred thousand to one against and falling," and that was all.

Ford skidded down a beam of light and spun round trying to find a source for the voice but could see nothing he could seriously believe in.

"What was that voice?" shouted Arthur.  

"I don't know," yelled Ford, "I don't know.  It sounded like a measurement of probability."

"Probability?  What do you mean?"

"Probability.  You know, like two to one, three to one, five to four against.  It said two to the power of one hundred thousand to one against.  That's pretty improbable, you know."

A million-gallon vat of custard upended itself over them without warming.

"But what does it mean?" cried Arthur.

"What, the custard?"

"No, the measurement of improbability!"

"I don't know.  I don't know at all.  I think we're on some kind of spaceship."

"I can only assume," said Arthur, "that this is not the first-class compartment."

Bulges appeared in the fabric of space-time.  Great ugly bulges.

Welcome to the end of my improbably terrible work week.  In the space of five days, I found out that I didn't have a job that I wanted, woke up on my living room couch being tended by two men in uniforms that I'd never met before, and accepted a job that I'm not excited about but need for the insurance.  In the midst of all that, I've had daily splitting headaches, took down my Christmas decorations, and pored over close to five hundred pages of medical charges to compile a report for my supervisor that I didn't know I was supposed to compile.

If all that sounds really horrible, let me assure you:  it was.  My mind is Jell-O.  I'm emotionally drained.  My motto this whole day has been fairly simple:  "Fuck it all."  After this week's series of unfortunate events, I wouldn't have been surprised if Gertrude Stein had appeared at my office door and asked to borrow a cup of sugar to make Alice Toklas a batch of blueberry scones.  Anything seems possible.

The one bright side of these last few days has been my friends.  I've been contacted by so many friends who've expressed concern and help, offered advice, or just reminded me that I'm loved.  When you're in the eye of the hurricane, it's kind of difficult to keep yourself from losing sight of what grounds you.  You're too busy nailing your doors and windows shut.  But I have been overwhelmed with kindness.

This morning, while I was compiling that stupid data, I actually started crying.  Don't worry.  I was locked in an office by myself.  Nobody witnessed it.  I think it had to do with exhaustion, trying to hold myself together these past few days.  The sheer amount of work for the report played a factor, as well.  And then there were the communications from friends and family.  Texts.  Comments on Facebook.  E-mails.  Conversations on Facebook Messenger.  I was gobsmacked with grace.  All of those things combined to give me a nice little ten-minute breakdown.

I can't say that I'm happy right now.  That would be a lie.  However, because of my friends and family, I can say that I am blessed.  Even if the universe seems to be dumping a million-gallon vat of custard on top of me, I have a whole lot of people with spoons and shovels to dig me out.  In fact, one of those people bought me a beer last night, because she knows that I am in the middle of this Sisyphean struggle (plus she loves me a whole lot).

This is what life is all about, I think.  Grace in the storm.  Love when you're drowning.  People who remind you what God's face looks like.

Saint Marty has seen that face a lot this week.

March 29: Restless Sleep, Tired, "Monk Hasn't Slept A Wink in 86 Years: A Sestina"

I'm tired.  It feels like I have't slept in about four or five days, even though I've been going to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 almost every night.

Last night, I laid down at 9:30, got up to brush my teeth, and then went right back to bed again.  I need to get real sleep, I guess, that isn't disturbed or restless.

Saint Marty doesn't remember what that kind of sleep feels like.

Monk Hasn’t Slept A Wink in 86 Years:  A Sestina *

by:  Martin Achatz

His eyelids as transparent as Superior water,
The monk breathes prayer in his dark
Cell, prayer for the mosquitoes on his arms,
The starling outside his window, broken
By a hawk’s claws, the father he met who weeps
For a daughter, hungry ulcers

On her hands and legs.  The monk blooms ulcers
On his tongue and lips, drinks pain like water
From the injured air until his body weeps
Blood, until his skin crawls with rose-dark
Bruises, his vigil thick with days of broken
Stigmata, with sleepless nights in the arms

Of green anguish, incandescent arms
Laced with groans and pleading, with bright ulcers
Of hope.  Good Friday, he kneels beside a broken
Pilgrim, washes her twisted limbs with Lake water,
Chrism, and salt.  Her dark
Scars split open under his hands.  He weeps

For her, for her wounds that won’t heal, weeps
For Christ, His raw and flowing stripes, His arms
And legs, crushed by the dark
Weight of love.  The monk knows this love, ulcers
Fresh as summer blueberries on his heart.  Water
Striders stipple the midnight Lake.  A broken

Moon rises in a starless sky and broken
Light touches the shore where a girl weeps
Over him, his young body, her water
Touch on his thighs and chest and boy arms.
After ninety years, he still tastes the ulcers
Of her tears, carries the dark

Burden of her love this vesper night, a dark
Gethsemane that rains fat olives, broken
And black and bitter, in his heart.  New ulcers
Unfurl and breathe.  Their perfume weeps
From his old and tired pores, from his arms
Stretched and nailed to the moon, the shore, the water,

Superior.  The dark tomb of his heart unseals, weeps
For rest, for unbroken sleep in love’s arms.
Her kisses, sweet ulcers, fall on him like rainwater.

*Title taken from headline in Weekly World News

Thursday, March 28, 2019

March 28: Something Very Odd, Two Strange Men, An Ambulance

Arthur and Ford have just been rescued from certain death . . .

They both sat on the pavement and watched with a certain unease as huge children bounced heavily along the sand and wild horses thundered through the sky taking fresh supplies of reinforced railings to the Uncertain Areas.

"You know," said Arthur with a slight cough, "if this is Southend, there's something very odd about it . . ."

Let me tell you how yesterday evening ended.  It was odd, to say the least.  After I finished my Dr. Pepper and berry-something schnapps, I went to bed.  It was around 7:30 in the evening, and I was exhausted from the events of the day.  Really exhausted.  Like asleep-as-soon-as-my-head-hit-the-pillow exhausted.

The next thing I remember is waking up on the living room couch, and two strange men in some kind of uniforms were leaning over me.  One person kept asking, "Can you tell me your name?"  The other person was pulling medical supplies out of what looked like a black tackle box.  My head was pounding, and I couldn't really speak coherently.  I could hear my wife's voice, but I couldn't see her.

It seems that all the stress of the day caused my blood sugar to dip while I was asleep.  A lot.  When my wife and son got home, they tried to get me to eat something.  I couldn't.  My wife called EMS.  By the time the ambulance got to my house, I was going into seizures.  The paramedics tried to take my blood sugar, it wouldn't register, which means that it was lower than 20.

They started an IV of glucose.  After 30 minutes or so, I was able to respond to questions.  Eat the peanut butter sandwich my son had made for me.  Tell the guys I didn't want to go to the hospital to be evaluated. 

It was a fantastic ending to a fantastic day. 

Because of that little diabetic episode last night, I have had a pounding headache for most of the day, and I've felt like I'm pushing through molasses.  As you can probably guess, I didn't have a great day again.  (There were other things that happened at work which contributed to the general shittyness, but I'd rather not get into those.)

I am ready for something good to happen now.  Good news.  Good morning.  Good bowl of oatmeal.  Good poem.  Good grief.  Good heavens.  Good golly, Miss Molly. 

Saint Marty is going to eat something before he goes to bed tonight.  Just in case.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

March 27: The Man With Five Heads, Job News, Schnapps and Dr. Pepper

Ford and Arthur are rescued from certain death in the vacuum of outer space by a random event of chance . . .

Five wild Event Maelstroms swirled in vicious storms of unreason and spewed up a pavement.

On the pavement lay Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent gulping like half-spent fish.

"There you are," gasped Ford, scrabbling for a finger hold on the pavement as it raced through the Third Reach of the Unknown, "I told you I'd think of something."

"Oh sure," said Arthur, "sure."

"Bright idea of mine," said Ford, "to find a passing spaceship and get rescued by it."

The real Universe arched sickeningly away beneath them.  Various pretend ones flitted silently by, like mountain goats.  Primal light exploded, splattering space-time as with gobbets of Jell-O.  Time blossomed, matter shrank away.  The highest prime number coalesced quietly in a corner and hid itself away forever.

"Oh, come off it," said Arthur, "the chances against it were astronomical."

"Don't knock it, it worked," said Ford.

"What sort of ship are we in?" asked Arthur as the pit of eternity yawned beneath them.

"I don't know," said Ford, "I haven't opened my eyes yet."

"No, nor have I," said Arthur.

The Universe jumped, froze, quivered and splayed out in several unexpected directions.

"Good God," said Arthur, "it looks just like the sea front at Southend."

"Hell, I'm relieved to hear you say that," said Ford.


"Because I thought I must be going mad."

"Perhaps you are.  Perhaps you only thought I said it."

Ford thought about this.

"Well, did you say it or didn't you?" he asked.

"I think so," said Arthur.

"Well, perhaps we're both going mad."

"Yes," said Arthur, "we'd be mad, all things considered, to think this was Southend."

"Well, do you think this is Southend?"

"Oh yes."

"So do I."

"Therefore we must be mad."

"Nice day for it."

"Yes," said a passing maniac.

"Who was that?" asked Arthur.

"Who--the man with the five heads and the elderberry bush full of kippers?"


"I don't know.  Just someone."


Welcome to the end of a pretty crappy day.  I am sitting in my kitchen typing this post, drinking a glass of Dr. Pepper mixed with some kind of schnapps I found in the cupboard.  I think it was berry.  Doesn't matter.  I would have used any form of alcohol this evening, even if it made me see a man with five heads and an elderberry bush full of kippers.

Late this afternoon, right before I had to teach, I found out that I did not get the job that I interviewed for last Friday.  It was the job that I really wanted.  My salary would have increased by about four dollars an hour, and I would have been working with residents and university students in the medical field.  And I would have been employed by Michigan State University.  And it would have had full benefits.  And . . . okay, I'm just getting myself more depressed.

That is why I am sitting in the kitchen with the lights out, drinking and blogging.  If you haven't figured it out yet, this is probably not going to be a very uplifting post.  Since I received the news, I've been thinking about my work life a lot.  Since the first job I ever had (busing tables at a local Friday fish fry), I've never made more than a little over twelve dollars an hour.  (That may seem like a lot, but I have to support a family of four and pay for health insurance on that wage.)  I have two advanced degrees and have taught at a university for close to 25 years, and I'm still considered a part-time instructor.  Every week, my wife and I play a game of Russian roulette with the bills--which one is the most past due?

So, you see, that is why I'm drinking.  I've already finished off the schnapps, and the Bailey's Irish Cream is next.  If that doesn't last the night, I may be heading out to the store.  I see this little pity party lasting until bedtime.  Or until I feel less angry and depressed.  Or until Bigfoot walks through my front door.

Generally, I'm not a big believer in using alcohol as a coping mechanism.  This evening, however, I don't feel like doing a whole lot else.  Not going for a walk.  Or reading.  I already wrote in my journal this afternoon.  (A new poem, believe it or not.  That was before I got the news.)  Therefore, it's the bottle for me.

For those of you who may be concerned, don't be.  I will be better tomorrow.  Just need a night to be pissed off and a little despondent.  I will try to work through Maslow's five stages of grief in the next few hours and be back to my normal, upbeat self by morning.  I think I've just reached bargaining.  That leaves depression and acceptance.  No problem.

You all must be thinking that I'm a pretty ungrateful saint.  I have two jobs, for the moment.  A house.  Two healthy kids.  A beautiful wife.  I'm Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula for the second time.  It was almost 50 degrees today.  The sun felt great on my face.  There are blessings all around me.  I know.

Right now, however, I crave a little darkness.  A little escape from my worries.  A little twelve-hour nap.  I want to lock my front door, shut the world out, and not emerge until Donald Trump is just a racist businessman sitting in prison or the next Star Wars movie is released.

Saint Marty's glass isn't half empty.  It's all empty.

March 27: Abandon All Hope, Dante, "Alone in a Dark Wood"

Dante begins the Inferno with lines about being lost in a dark wood in the middle of life.  That's how he comes to the gates of Hell, pursued by some wild beast he can't see.  Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Darkness has set up shop around me.  Light is quickly fading from the sky.  I'm tired.  Crave sleep.  Or alcohol.  Or both.

Saint Marty hasn't abandoned hope.  Just lost track of it for a while.

Alone in a Dark Wood

by:  Martin Achatz

The night roosts like a murder
of crows in the November jack pines.
I stare into the moonless void.
In the bracken, something watches.
I feel its eyes on my face,
Imagine it crouched in the grass,
Chuffing frost.  If I lunge, I could
Crush it against my chest.  If I stand still,
It could disappear in the midnight fog.
I hear movement, like the whisper of ant legs,
A slender, black icicle of sound.  I listen
For more, a car or the wind or the whine
Of a bear cub.  Where is Virgil to guide me
Away from the dark gaze
Of this skunk or fox or she-wolf?
Where is his dim hand to hold,
His voice, distant as the stars,
Commanding, "Follow," leading
Through this wood where Beatrice
Has abandoned me, alone and wounded?
I listen again.  An owl wails.
A rabbit darts to dirt and roots.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March 26: Random Group of Atoms, Aubri, Being Authentic

So a hole appeared in the Galaxy . . .

As it closed up, lots of paper hats and party balloons fell out of it and drifted off through the Universe.  A team of seven three-foot-high market analysts fell out of it and died, partly of asphyxiation, partly of surprise.

Two hundred and thirty-nine thousand lightly fried eggs fell out of it too, materializing in a large wobbly heap on the famine-struck land of Poghril in the Pansel system.

The whole Poghril tribe had died out from famine except for one last man who died of cholesterol poisoning some weeks later.

The nothingth of a second for which the hole existed reverberated backward and forward through time in a most improbable fashion.  Somewhere in the deeply remote past it seriously traumatized a small random group of atoms drifting through the empty sterility of space and made them cling together in the most extraordinarily unlikely patterns.  These patterns quickly learned to copy themselves (this was part of what was so extraordinary about the patterns) and went on to cause massive trouble on every planet they drifted on to.  That was how life began in the Universe.

Tonight, my niece, Aubri, visited.  She came over to dye and cut my wife's hair.  When Aubri enters a room, she sort rearranges the atoms of that room in extraordinary ways, as well.  She is one of my favorite people in the whole world.  Whenever she's at our house, there's lots of laughter and family gossip.  I've said it before in this blog that I can be a bit of a mean girl.  Aubri gets that.

Aubri is authentic.  She doesn't put on airs.  I know very few people like that.  Most people change depending on the situations in which they find themselves.  In job interviews, people become super positive team players.  Visiting sick friends, people morph into caregivers.  At wedding receptions, with a little alcohol, people transform into rap singers and line dancers.  Aubri, on the other hand, is always Aubri.

I'm sort of like that, as well.  I think that's why Aubri and I get along so well.  Being authentic means putting yourself out there all the time, regardless or how people may react.  What you see is pretty much what you get.  This approach also opens you up to self doubt sometimes.

This afternoon, I was supposed to receive a phone call about a job for which I applied.  Come 5 p.m., my phone hadn't rung.  This launched me into a tailspin of introspective questioning.  Was I not dressed well enough?  Did I not answer their questions satisfactorily?  Should I have prepared for the interview more thoroughly?  Don't I have the skills they are looking for?  Maybe I shouldn't have talked about my habit of listening to Christmas music all year long?

You get the idea.

Tonight, Aubri lifted my spirits.  Took my mind off my worries for a couple hours.  And she did it by simply being herself.  Fully.  She's a beautiful person, inside and out. 

Saint Marty is a lucky uncle.

Monday, March 25, 2019

March 25: Nothingth, Monday Night, Pasty

And now for the rescue of Ford and Arthur . . . or the start of the chapter where they are rescued . . .

A computer chattered to itself in alarm as it noticed an airlock open and close itself for no apparent reason.

This was because reason was in fact out to lunch.

A hole had just appeared in the Galaxy.  It was exactly a nothingth of a second long, a nothingth of an inch wide, and quite a lot of millions of light-years from end to end.

Okay, I know that's not a whole lot from Hitchhiker's, but I don't have a whole lot of time.  It is Monday, and, therefore, I have less than an hour in between teaching classes to post something.  While I am blogging, I also have to wolf down my dinner.  Basically, what I'm saying is that you should expect me to say nothingth very profound this evening.

Mondays always feel like a race to me.  I race to work, at work, race to the university, at the university, and then I race home and collapse.  In between all that racing, I try to squeeze in a few moments of self-care--like eating.  My quick dinner of choice tonight is totally Yooper:

For those of my disciples who have no idea what that is, you must lead very sheltered and boring lives.  That is a pasty.  Basically, it's a Cornish meat pie.  In the Upper Peninsula, Cornish immigrants who worked in the mines used to pack them in their lunch pails and take them underground for their ten- or twelve-hour shifts.  It has everything you could want in a meal--bread and potatoes and meat.  Some people include onion and carrots and rutabaga, as well.  It's a hearty and satisfying meal, especially if you don't have a lot of time to eat.

I don't have a whole lot of time to eat tonight, so I grabbed a pasty from my refrigerator at home.  It looks and smells delicious.  I know that this isn't normally a food blog, but I will say that some of the best pasties around are made by the folks at my wife's church.  The crust in brown and flaky.  The insides are peppered to perfection.  Just sprinkle a little salt on top, and I would spend a weekend in a cheap motel with it.

I have three hours of teaching left.  My eyes are burning a little, and I can feel sleep settling into my muscles.  I need a nap.  So, you will excuse me if I eat and then close my eyes for a few minutes.

Saint Marty's pasty is getting cold.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

March 24: Twenty-Nine Seconds Later, Coincidence, Weigh My Options

More about the fictional The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy . . .

To be fair though, when confronted by the sheer enormity of the distances between the stars, better minds than the one responsible for the Guide's introduction have faltered.  Some invite you to consider for a moment a peanut in Reading and a small walnut in Johannesburg, and other sucuh dizzying concepts. 

The simple truth is that interstellar distances will not fit into the human imagination.

Even light, which travels so fast that it takes most races thousands of years to realize that it travels at all, takes time to journey between the stars.  It takes eight minutes to journey from the star Sol to the place where the Earth used to be, and four years more to arrive at Sol's nearest neighbor, Alpha Proxima.

For light to reach the other side of the Galaxy, for it to reach Damogran, for instance, takes rather longer:  five hundred thousand years.

The record for hitchhiking this distance is just under five years, but you don't get to see much on the way.  

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy says that if you hold a lungful of air you can survive in the total vacuum of space for about thirty seconds.  However, it does go on to say that what with space being the mind-boggling size it is the chances of getting picked up by another ship within those thirty seconds are two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand, seven hundred and nine to one against.

By a totally staggering coincidence, that is also the telephone number of an Islington flat where Arthur once went to a very good party and met a very nice girl whom he totally failed to get off with--she went off with a gate-crasher.

Though the planet Earth, the Islington flat and the telephone have all now been demolished, it is comforting to reflect that they are all in some small way commemorated by the fact that twenty-nine seconds later Ford and Arthur are rescued.

Ah, coincidence.  The chances of getting picked up by another spaceship within 30 seconds of being jettisoned into the vacuum of space being the telephone number of a flat in Islington where Arthur was humiliated by a girl.  Coincidence.  Yet, Arthur and Ford do get rescued within that 30 seconds.  Their lives, and the rest of the novel, are saved.

I don't believe in coincidence.  I think everything happens for a reason, even if we don't understand or know what that reason is.  For instance, my job at the Surgery Center will disappear into the vacuum of space in about two or three weeks.  Yes, this job loss is happening for purely economic reasons on the part of the huge health system that owns the Surgery Center.  It's just business.  That's what I've been told.  (I'm not going to go on a rant about the soulless nature of the United States' healthcare system today.  I'll save that for another day.)  What I want to say is that, perhaps, this closure is happening for a reason.

I have no idea what that reason is.  That's what I've been trying to figure out for over a month now.  Very few people understand the strong connection I have with the place.  That this surgery center was my sister's baby.  She's been gone for almost four years now, but, in those four years, the surgery center she built was still in operation.  So, in a way, she was still alive and breathing.  Maybe this closure is forcing me to fully come to terms with my sister's death.  Maybe.

Or perhaps there is a another career opportunity in the offing that I would have never considered if the surgery center was still open and operating.  I'm kinda stubborn when it comes to change.  Don't like it.  If something is working for me, I see no need to alter my life in any way.  My life was absolutely working for me.  I was comfortable.  I worked with two of my best friends at the surgery center.  But one of those best friends got a new job about a year ago.  She's gone.  The other best friend will be moving away soon (let's say within months).  Without these two people at the surgery center, there won't be a whole lot of joy for me.  Time for me to weigh my options.

Or perhaps it really is just random bad luck.  Like being jettisoned into outer space with no hope of survival.  The pessimistic side of myself has been thinking along these lines for a while.  The optimistic side of myself thinks this line of thought is bullshit.  Catch me on a good day, and I'll tell you that the future is exciting and new.  Catch me on a bad day, and I'll be drinking special hot chocolate and reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

This Sunday, at this moment, I'm leaning toward Cormac McCarthy.  It's cold.  The sky is gray.  And there's a full bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream in my cupboard.  That's the recipe for a good old-fashioned Irish wake.

In a few hours, Saint Marty may be singing "Danny Boy" at the top of his lungs.

March 24: Being a Parent, Total Trust, "A Penny Saved"

You know, being a parent has taught me a lot of things.  Patience.  Selfless love.  Patience,  Trust.  Did I mention patience?

In times of great upheaval in my life, I always come back to how much trust my kids place in me.  Trust in God is sort of the same thing.  This past week, my daughter had car problems at school.  She called me, looking for advice and love and calm.  That's what I gave her.

I understand why many of the metaphors in the Bible revolve around the idea of God being a parent and we being children.  It's that complete and total trust that children place in their mothers and fathers.  It's beautiful and frightening at the same time.

I like being the first person my daughter calls in a crisis.

It means Saint Marty has done his job well.

A Penny Saved

by:  Martin Achatz

My daughter hands me the penny,
Says, Put it in your pocket,
Pressing it into my fingers.
It’s hot, feels like it’s sweating.
Lincoln looks newly elected,
Before Chancelorsville and Shiloh,
Second Manassas and Antietam.
I put it in my pocket, with keys,
A rosary, black-beaded and broken,
Christ’s arm snapped, dangling
From the branch of the crucifix
Like a maple leaf in autumn.
She won’t ask for the penny back,
Trusts me to keep it precious and shiny,
The way she trusts me at night
When I lie beside her in bed,
My hand on her chest, feeling her
Rabbit heart against my fingertips.
Before she was born, in the swell
Of my wife’s belly, those beats sounded
Like gunshots underwater, the steady
Explosion of a cannon miles distant.
When Lincoln’s son Willie died of typhoid,
Lincoln held his shell hand,
Whispered over and over, My poor boy,
As if calling Willie back, begging
Willie’s still heart to return to battle.
Holding the broken and bloody Christ
In her arms, Mary, I’m sure,
Wanted to press her lips to His,
Breathe life into His mouth,
Hold His hand and feel His fingers
Tap like fat drops of rain
On the continent of her palm.
I want to give my daughter’s penny
To Mary, point to the alphabetical halo
Above Lincoln’s head, to the words
“In God We Trust,” remind
Her of those moments with her child,
When He slept beside her
In the dark, trusting her arms
The way a sparrow trusts the sky.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 23: Jump Start, Another Dead Battery, Slasher Film

Nothing from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy this morning.  Forgot my copy of the book.  Stay tuned tomorrow for more from the adventures of Ford and Arthur and Zaphod.

Remember how I said in last night's post that I had nothing pressing to do this weekend?  That I was going to relax, read a book, watch Netflix, and have a game night with my kids and wife tonight?  Well, last night, when I got home from dinner, my daughter's car died in our driveway.  She was crying and yelling at her boyfriend, and I found myself not only trying to jump start her battery (it didn't work), but also playing relationship counselor and therapist.

I never got her car started.  It is currently on a trickle charger in my driveway.  I drove my daughter to her boyfriend's house, where she spent the night.  On the way to the boyfriend's house, I was telling funny stories to break the tension.  (Frankly, I was afraid she would smother him in his sleep.)  By the time we hit his driveway, she was much calmer.  Even laughing.

By the time I got home after dropping the happy couple off, it was 10:45 at night, and I was more than a little exhausted.  I read a few pages of my book, found my eyes closing involuntarily, and decided to go to bed.  Not quite the relaxing evening that I had planned.

Today, some time, once I get my daughter's car started, I will be taking it somewhere to get the battery replaced.  Again, not what I had planned for this Saturday.  However, I'm done with dead batteries.  Last night was the second time my daughter's car battery has died.  I thought that the battery was newer.  Nope.  It was actually installed in March of 2004.  Another unanticipated expense.  Two batteries in one week.  What are the chances?

Now would be the time that some people would say, "What else could go wrong?"  I'm not going to do that, for it would invite disaster into my life.  Sort of like in a slasher film when you think the killer has been electrocuted, shot, stabbed, or decapitated, and the last surviving teenager is breathing a sigh of relief.  Then . . . machete to the head, closing credits.  You see what I mean.

No, I am simply going to take my daughter's car to a mechanic, get the battery replaced, and continue on with the weekend I had planned, including game night tonight.

Saint Marty might be down, but he ain't out.

March 23: Anger and Worry, a Little Zen, "Anger Management"

I have found myself bouncing between anger and worry this past month.  Anger over the huge changes happening in my life.  Worry about the huge changes happening in my life.  Neither emotion is very helpful.  In fact, they both can make you fairly sick if allowed to persist.  

Saint Marty is trying to let go, get a little zen about everything.  Anger and worry management ain't easy.

Anger Management

by:  Martin Achatz 

What does that term mean
In its CPA tone and style?
As if all you have to do
At the end of the month
Is tally a column of fuck yous,
Balance it against I’m sorrys,
Depreciate the number of days
Between offense and repentance,
Multiply by 2.75 for inflation,
Add a cost of forgiving adjustment.
I’m sure Microsoft offers
Software to help with calculations.
You can even file your Happiness
Return online nowadays to expedite
Things.  No sense spending hours
With a therapist rehashing old miseries,
Distant mothers, abusive spouses,
Alcoholic grandfathers who fondled
You under midnight sheets.
No reason to go to the U. N.,
Negotiate for troops to patrol
The rubble of Baghdad, Kabul
To keep machine gun peace.
Anger, whether a fresh gout of blood
Or a ribbon of pink keloid,
Should be simple.  A matter of knowing
The proper form to submit,
As easy as sending an invitation
To your son’s first birthday.
Just bring a gift, maybe
A quart of vanilla ice cream.
There will be balloons, cake, a game
Of pin the tail on the donkey.
Prizes for everyone.

Friday, March 22, 2019

March 22: Really Big, Weekend, Game Night

Ford and Arthur have just been launched into outer space as a new chapter begins . . .

The Hicthhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book.  It has been compiled and recompiled many times over many years and under many different editorships.  It contains contributions from countless numbers of travelers and researchers.  

The introduction begins like this:

"Space," it says, "is big.  Really big.  You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.  Listen . . ." and so on.

(After a while the style settles down a bit and it begins to tell you things you really need to know, like the fact that the fabulously beautiful planet Bethselamin is now so worried about the cumulative erosion by ten billion visiting tourists a year that any net imbalance between the amount you eat and the amount you excrete while on the planet is surgically removed from your body weigh when you leave:  so every time you go to the lavatory there it is vitally important to get a receipt.)

It is the beginning of the weekend, and I have nothing really pressing to do.  No papers that HAVE to be graded, no poetry readings to attend, no birthday parties, no school events.  Nothing.  The weekend seems big.  Really big.  Vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big.  Of course, on Sunday night, I will probably be sitting on my couch wondering where all my time went.  Right now, however, it's a vast ocean of relaxation.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.

After a long week of work and teaching and grading and car troubles, I am ready to do . . . absolutely nothing tonight.  I will go out to dinner with my wife, daughter, and daughter's boyfriend.  Have a couple drinks.  Then I will come home and, if I'm not too tired, read a book or watch some Netflix.  This past week, a good friend and I watched the film Saving Mr. Banks.  I had never seen it before.  It was wonderful.  Maybe I'll try to talk my wife into watching it with me (or my daughter).

For the last month or so, it feels like I've been pulled in many directions.  I haven't had a whole lot of family time.  I missed one of my daughter's last chorus concerts because I had to teach.  I missed my son's last grade school carnival because I had to work.  My nights have been late, and my wife is usually asleep with my son when I get home.  I feel a little disconnected.

So, aside from wanting to watch a movie with my wife, I want to have a game night tomorrow with my whole family.  Maybe Trivial Pursuit.  Maybe the new game my wife just bought me called Bring You Own Book.  It's sort of like the game Apples to Apples.  I just have to get my kids to agree to sit down and play with me.  Granted, I'm not as cool as a video game or the latest binge-worthy television show, but I can be fun.  (If the "fun" thing doesn't work, I will resort of guilt.  I'm not proud.)

Those are my plans for the weekend.  I'm sure the coming week will hold surprises.  I'm sure I'll be pulled in a thousand different directions at once again.  Hopefully, I will find out whether I've secured employment for myself.  I have a couple prospects.  Interviewed for one job today.  But, for the next three days (I'm counting today, as well), it's deep breathing for me.  And time with my wife and family.

Saint Marty is getting back to the basics.

March 22: Interlochen Public Radio, Restful Weekend, Interview

Greetings, disciples!

In case you wanted to read/hear an interview I did with Taylor Wizner from Interlochen Public Radio on Tuesday, the link is below.  It includes a recording of my poem "Bigfoot Tries to Fix His Daughter's Broken Heart."

Saint Marty is ready for a restful weekend, full of sun. a good book, maybe a good movie.

Interlochen Public Radio Interview

Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 21: A Toy Gun, Comedy, Kinda Sucks

We established yesterday that Arthur and Ford are trapped in a Vogon airlock . . .

"Well, didn't you think of anything?  I thought you said you were going to think of something.  Perhaps you thought of something and I didn't notice."

"Oh yes, I thought of something," panted Ford.

Arthur looked up expectantly.

"But unfortunately," continued Ford, "it rather involved being on the other side of this airtight hatchway."  He kicked the hatch they'd just been thrown through.

"But it was a good idea, was it?"

"Oh yes, very neat."

"What was it?"

"Well, I hadn't worked out the details yet.  Not much point now, is there?"

"So . . . er, what happens next?" asked Arthur.

"Oh, er, well, the hatchway in front of us will open automatically in a few moments and we will shoot out into deep space I expect and asphyxiate.  If you take a lungful of air with you you can last for up to thirty seconds, of course . . ." said Ford.  He stuck his hands behind his back, raised his eyebrows and started to hum an old Betelgeusian battle hymn.  To Arthur's eyes he suddenly looked very alien.

"So, this is it," said Arthur, "we are going to die."

"Yes," said Ford, "except . . . no!  Wait a minute!"  He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur's line of vision.  "What's this switch?" he cried.

"What?  Where?" cried Arthur, twisting round.

"No, I was only fooling," said Ford, "we are going to die after all."

He slumped against the wall again and carried on the tune from where he left off.

"You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."

"Why, what did she tell you?"

"I don't know, I didn't listen."

"Oh," Ford carried on humming.

"This is terrific," Arthur thought to himself.  "Nelson's Column has gone, McDonald's has gone, all that's left is me and the words Mostly harmless.  Any second now all that will be left is Mostly harmless.  And yesterday the planet seemed to be going so well."

A motor whirred.

A slight hiss built into a deafening roar of rushing air as the outer hatchway opened onto an empty blackness studded with tiny, impossibly bright points of light.  Ford and Arthur popped into outer space like corks from a toy gun.

A pretty bleak ending to this chapter of Hitchhiker's.  Arthur and Ford sucked into the abyss of space, seemingly to their deaths.  Of course, since you are all sophisticated readers, I'm sure you realize that this isn't the end of our heroes.  After all, this book is a comedy, not a tragedy.  Therefore, something utterly preposterous will save their lives in the next chapter.  Or the chapter after that.  Never fear.

I wish life were like that.  I wish I knew that I was living in a comedy.  If I knew that, I wouldn't stress about my job or stacks of bills or dead car batteries.  Because I would know that, just when I have nothing left in my back account, and the police officer is knocking at the door to serve me a subpoena, a quirky lawyer with a bad tie will arrive with the news that my rich fourth cousin, five times removed, has died and left me a 75 million dollar inheritance. 

Of course, I'm not in a comedy.  I'm not in a tragedy, either.  This is simply life, and, sometimes, life is really wonderful, and sometimes it kinda sucks.  Recently, the scales have been tipped to the "it kinda sucks" end.  I'm waiting for the pendulum to swing back in the other direction.  Sorry for the mixed metaphor.

Tonight, I am going to one of my favorite events of the month--an open mic at a place called the Joy Center.  I will be surrounded by friends and poets and writers.  We will tell stories to each other, read poems, eat fruit, and fill the empty cups of our lives until they are spilling over.  At least, that's what always happens for me.

I have been looking forward to this event all week.  If you're in my neck of the woods tonight, stop by the Joy Center.  Eat a kumquat.  Listen to some good writing.  If you're brave, stand up and tell us your story.  There's plenty of oxygen in this space for everyone.

Saint Marty is taking a deep breath.  He's ready . . .

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20: Da Da Da Dum, Feeling Trapped, Peanuts and Grapes

Ford is still trying to reason with the Vogon guard who is about to launch Arthur and him into outer space . . .

"But listen," he shouted to the guard, "there's a whole world you don't know anything about . . . here, how about this?"  Desperately he grabbed for the only bit of culture he knew offhand--he hummed the first bar of Beethoven's "Fifth."

"Da da da dum!  Doesn't that stir anything in you?"

"No," said the guard, "not really.  But I'll mention it to my aunt."

If he said anything further after that it was lost.  The hatchway sealed itself tight, and all sound was lost except the faint distant hum of the ship's engines.

They were in a brightly polished cylindrical chamber about six feet in diameter and ten feet long.

Ford looked round it, panting.

"Potentially bright lad I thought," he said, and slumped against the curved wall.

Arthur was still lying in the curve of the floor where he had fallen.  He didn't look up.  He just lay panting.

"We're trapped now, aren't we?"

"Yes," said Ford, "we're trapped."

It's a terrible thing to feel trapped, without any kind of recourse.  At the moment, it appears as though Arthur and Ford are trapped in an airlock, waiting to be sucked into the vacuum of space where they will certainly perish.  After surviving the demolition of the entire planet Earth, this fate seems a little anticlimactic.  One button gets pushed, oxygen disappears, and the two friends cease to exist.  The end.

Of course, feeling trapped isn't an unusual state.  Lots of people feel trapped.  Last night, I felt trapped by a stack of ungraded student essays.  I just sat at my kitchen table, bleeding read ink all over those papers.  Did the same today, as well.  At around 3 p.m., I handed out my last "B-" and was done.  It almost felt like I was floating weightless in outer space.

Last night, my wife's car was sitting at a local mechanic's garage, completely dead.  Just a few sparks, a whiff of ozone, and, viola!, completely fried battery.  Well, this evening, I picked the vehicle up.  It was a costly little fix that we don't have the money for.  Around three hundred dollars.  It's funny.  A little over a day ago, my wife and I had been talking about how we were almost caught up with bills and expenses.  Now, we are trapped again. 

I still haven't secured a new job yet.  I've posted for a position.  I'm interviewing for another.  However, I have nothing definite.  It's like being in an airlock, waiting for the oxygen to disappear.  Haven't been sleeping all that much--four or five hours a night, if I'm lucky.  When it hits the pillow, my head simply begins to spin through the possibilities of loss of job, loss of benefits, loss of health insurance, loss of car, loss of home, loss of . . . well, you get the idea what that rabbit hole is like.  It's a trap.

While I'm usually not a person who wallows in self pity, I've found myself wading into that little quagmire a lot recently.  It, too, can be a trap, feeling like the entire world has suddenly turned against you.  Yesterday evening, after the tow truck picked up my wife's dead car, I allowed myself a few moments of self pity.  (I did this in the privacy of my bathroom at home, so nobody would have to witness it.  It wasn't pretty.)

The sun has just disappeared from the sky.  I'm in my pajamas, and I can feel the pressure of sleep behind my eyes.  For the moment, my house is quiet.  Everyone is still busy with the day's obligations.  Dance lessons.  Homework.  Scholarship applications.  After I'm done typing this post, I will put on a load of laundry. 

Anything can feel like a trap, I suppose.  My son feels like having to take a shower is a trap.  My daughter feels like deadlines for scholarships are traps at the moment.  My students feel like writing their research papers is a trap.  A job can feel like a trap.  Not having a job can feel like a trap.  A marriage can feel like a trap.  Having children can feel like a trap.  It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose. 

Tonight, I'm going to allow myself to feel free instead of trapped.  No grading.  No deadlines.  No bills.  No car troubles.  No looming unemployment.  Instead, I'm going to eat some peanuts and grapes.  Maybe some cheese.  Then I'm going to read a book.  Maybe work on a new poem or watch a movie.  Then I will go to bed. 

All my worries and concerns will be there tomorrow morning when I wake up, waiting to trap me again.

Right now, however, Saint Marty has a date with Netflix.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

March 19: Thanks for Taking an Interest, Not Planned, Really Not Planned

The Vogon guard is still about to throw Arthur and Ford into outer space . . .

"Resistance is useless," bellowed the guard, and then added, "You see, if I keep it up I can eventually get promoted to Senior Shouting Officer, and there aren't usually many vacancies for nonshouting and nonpushing-people-about officers, so I think I'd better stick to what I know."

They had now reached the airlock--a large circular steel hatchway of massive strength and weight let into the inner skin of the craft.  The guard operated a control and the hatchway swung smoothly open.

"But thanks for taking an interest," said the Vogon guard.  "Bye now."  He flung Ford and Arthur through the hatchway into the small chamber within.  Arthur lay panting for breath.  Ford scrambled round and flung his shoulder uselessly against the reclosing hatchway.

Things are not turning out the way Ford had planned.  He tried to talk the Vogon into renouncing his Vogon shouting ways and seeking a more meaningful existence.  It didn't work.  The guard has his eyes on a different prize--a promotion and more shouting.  That's what Vogonity is all about.

Like Ford, my afternoon/evening has not turned out the way I expected.  After work, I sat down for an interview at my local public radio station.  I talked for about an hour about poetry and writing and the Upper Peninsula and being Poet Laureate.  I planned on this interview.

Then I drove home and started grading student papers.  I planned on this, as well.  I knew I had an evening of red ink ahead of me when I pulled into the driveway.  It is one of those diabolical deals teachers have to make in order to be able to enter a classroom.

Then, as I was grading, I got tired.  Really tired.  I only got around four hours of sleep last night.  So, I decided to take a short nap.  Half an hour at the most.  That wasn't planned.  As I was crawling under the covers, the telephone rang.  It was my wife, sounding frantic, telling me that her car battery was dead.  She needed me to come with my jumper cables.  Not planned.

Well, we tried to jump her car.  After few sparks, everything on her car went dead.  Not planned.  We called for a tow truck.  Really not planned.  Now, my wife's car is sitting at a garage, waiting to have its battery replaced at some point tomorrow.  (I'm hoping that it's just her battery.  If it's anything more serious, we're in serious trouble.)  Really, really not planned.

As you can tell, a Vogon airlock is sounding pretty good to me at the moment.  Plus, I still have a ton of grading to do.

Saint Marty should have just stayed in bed this morning, with the covers over his head.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17: Music and Art and Things, Exhausted, Good Dream

Ford Prefect is discussing the tedious life of a Vogon with the young Vogon guard about to throw him into outer space . . .

"Er . . ." said the guard, "er . . . er . . . I dunno.  I think I just sort of . . . do it really.  My aunt said that spaceship guard was a good career for a young Vogon--you know, the uniform, the low-slung stun ray holster, the mindless tedium . . ."

"There you are, Arthur," said Ford with the air of someone reaching the conclusion of his argument, "you think you've got problems."

Arthur rather thought he had.  Apart from the unpleasant business with his home planet the Vogon guard had half-throttled him already and he didn't like the sound of being thrown into space very much.

"Try and understand his problem," insisted Ford.  "Here he is, poor lad, his entire life's work is stamping around, throwing people of spaceships . . ."

"And shouting," added the guard.

"And shouting, sure," said Ford, patting the blubbery arm clamped round his neck in friendly condescension, "and he doesn't even know why he's doing it!"

Arthur agreed this was very sad.  He did this with a small feeble gesture, because he was too asphyxiated to speak.

Deep rumblings of bemusement came from the guard.

"Well.  Now you put it like that I suppose . . ."

"Good lad!" encouraged Ford.

"But all right," went on the rumblings, "so what's the alternative?"

"Well," said Ford, brightly but slowly, "stop doing it, of course!  Tell them," he went on, "you're not going to do it any more."  He felt he ought to add something to that, but for the moment the guard seemed to have his mind occupied pondering that much.

"Eerrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . " said the guard, "erm, well, that doesn't sound that great to me."

Ford suddenly felt the moment slipping away.

"Now wait a minute," he said, "that's just the start you see, there's more to it than that, you see . . ."

But at that moment the guard renewed his grip and continued his original purpose of lugging his prisoners to the airlock.  He was obviously quite touched.

"No, I think if it's all the same to you," he said, "I'd better get you both shoved into this airlock and then go and get on with some other bits of shouting I've got to do."

I wasn't all the same to Ford Prefect at all.

"Come on now . . . but look!" he said, less slowly, less brightly.

"Huhhhhggggggnnnnnnn . . ." said Arthur without any clear inflection.

"But hang on," pursued Ford, "there's music and art and things to tell you about yet!  Arrggghhh!"

You know, I sort of get the Vogon.  Even if you're miserable in a life situation, especially one that you've been in a long time, it's still difficult to make a change.  The thinking sort of goes like this:  you choose familiar pain versus the unknown (which might be painful or might be wonderful).  The unknown is scary.

Perhaps I'm investing too much humanity in the Vogon guard, but, given my current situation at work, I can't help it.  I've been living with the unknown for over a month now.  Not a very fun place to set up camp.  It sort of feels like I'm about to be tossed into outer space, like Arthur and Ford, and I'm trying to talk my way out of it.  But, I know you're tired of hearing me talk about this subject.  I apologize.

It has been an exhausting Saint Patrick's Day weekend.  Yesterday, especially.  Between practicing and playing the pipe organ for Mass and doing the last-minute preparations for the benefit poetry reading I organized last night, I am pretty whipped.  When I got home from church this afternoon, I actually took a nap.  A long one.  Now, I'm moving forward with grading and school work.

I guess I'm just trying to get myself mentally ready for the next five days.  Tomorrow will be the hardest and longest.  Work at 6 a.m. and then teaching until 9:30 p.m.  Long, long hours.  I know that I'll be nearly brain dead tomorrow night.  It's a matter of just keeping my nose to the proverbial grindstone for the next day.

That is my known.  I can handle that.  I've done it before.  This coming week, I have a couple job prospects that I'm following up on.  One prospect is a total blank page for me.  I just have a vague notion of what the job would entail.  The other prospect is a position that I've held before, with people that I know and really like.  I'm hoping that, within a week or so, I will have news as to what I'm going to be doing with my life for the next several years.  (Just typing that last statement also makes me anxious.  It almost sounds like some kind of prison sentence.)

Of course, all of this upheaval could turn out better than expected.  Maybe I'll get a big bump in salary.  Have better benefits.  Be able to save up some money for rainy days (translation:  car problems, heating bills, broken TVs, etc.).  Retire before I'm 80.  That's what I'm going with this evening.  It's a good dream.

And then, as Ford points out, there's music and art and things.

Saint Marty is ready for all of that.

March 17: Chinese, George Bilgere, "Corned Beef and Cabbage"

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, I had Chinese for dinner. 

However, Saint Marty has a poem about a more traditional Irish meal . . .

Corned Beef and Cabbage

by:  George Bilgere

I can see her in the kitchen,
Cooking up, for the hundredth time,
A little something from her
Limited Midwestern repertoire.
Cigarette going in the ashtray,
The red wine pulsing in its glass,
A warning light meaning
Everything was simmering
Just below the steel lid
Of her smile, as she boiled
The beef into submission,
Chopped her way
Through the vegetable kingdom
With the broken-handled knife
I use tonight, feeling her
Anger rising from the dark
Chambers of the head
Of cabbage I slice through,
Missing her, wanting
To chew things over
With my mother again.