31 Oct


This morning, when the alarm went off, I was dreaming about a high school class in which the students were giving presentations. One girl was making the claim that Dr. Suess’s imaginary worlds were closer to hell than heaven. The whole thing began with a heated classroom debate on the topic and it was getting pretty excited. Kids were talking over one another and laughing and just causing a general, fun chaos. Then one boy stood up and said, “well, my presentation is on the Illiad vs. the Bible.” And he began to pick up the overhead projector he had brought to class himself. But the girl who was presenting then stepped in and said that she wasn’t done and that she was going to explain that all this Dr. Suess debate was actually about living in a patriarchical society.

At this point, the alarm went off. And though I was plenty well-rested, I kept hitting snooze cuz I wanted to find out both what Dr. Suess’s imaginary worlds had to do with living in a patriarchical society and how the Illiad differed from the Bible.

24 Oct


This past Saturday, the third Saturday of October, is always the date of the Head of the Charles, a rowing race in Boston. I’ve gone to the Head of the Charles every year since 1992, with the exceptions of 1998, when I went out to Seattle, and last year, when I lived in Ecuador. Here’s the catalog:
1992: spare for Cornell
1993-1995: champ 8 in Wisco boats
1996: coach for Mendota
1997: coach and rower in champ 4 for Camp Randall
1999-2000: Camp Randall’s champ 4
2001-2003: champ single

I’ve determined that this past Saturday was the first time that I’ve ever been in Madison during the third Saturday of October. IN MY LIFE! This information is probably not very interesting to anyone but me, but I haven’t been posting consistently, and something is better than nothing.

19 Oct

Jack Jack saves the day

On Friday night, Eileen and I drove out to the High Noon Saloon to get tickets for the Erin McKeown/Mike Doughty concert that would take place there later in the evening. The show was slated to start at 9:30, so we got there around 7:15 or so to assure ourselves of getting tickets. We figured we’d get the tickets, then go somewhere for dinner, and return in time for the start of the show. Both of us were looking forward to the concert, which we just learned about last Sunday when I decided to check out Erin McKeown’s website and see if she was on tour. It just so happened that she would be coming five days later, and holy cow!

As we arrived at the “saloon,” there was a young guy, about Eileen’s height, standing outside, smoking a cigarette and holding a glass of beer. He wore glasses and looked harmless. I wondered if maybe he worked for the place. He said something like, “hey, how you doin’?” and I nodded back and kinda mouthed the word “hey.” We turned toward the entrance, and saw a sign posted on the door that said, “Tonight’s show is sold out.” We were both struck with disbelief. I think I may have said, “you’re kidding me.” We entered anyway, hoping for some vague possibility, like maybe that “sold out” actually meant “there are only two tickets left.” But the bar was practically empty on the inside, so we came back out. Outside was clearly not the place to be solving the problem — at least logically. Eileen said later that she had a premonition that the guy who said hi to us would help us out somehow. I don’t know. Maybe I did, too.

As soon as we got outside, the smoker could tell we were a little upset. He asked if we were trying to get into the show, and we said yes as we approached him. “Yeah, I was at work this afternoon and I opened up an Onion and saw that Mike Doughty was playing, so I hopped on my bike and came straight here.” He was one of those guys who turned the conversation toward himself. He also chuckled at himself constantly. “Rode here all the way from Spring Green, ha!” I wasn’t really sure if he was serious, but he wasn’t the kind of guy you asked follow-up questions. He had enough to say. “So how do you guys know about Mike Doughty?”

“Well, I just kinda got into him about a month ago, but we’re really here more so for Erin McKeown. She’s great.”

“Oh, really? Yeah, this is like the fourth Mike Doughty show I’ve been to and he’s really good. I mean he’s a good performer, you know? And the thing is, he gets better every time I see him, ha!”

The conversation went on like this, Eileen and I smiling and nodding a lot; at one point, he referred to himself in the third person as “Jack,” and soon after, he asked our names. “I’m Tim,” I said, and then pointed to Eileen, ready to introduce her, but giving her the chance to say, “and I’m Eileen.” “You’re Jack, I take it?”

“Well, yeah, ha. Jack, John, or Jack Jack. Or Shut the F Up! Or Get Out of My Face! Ha.” He wished us luck and went inside; we stood, waiting, still kinda dumbstruck and not knowing what to do. Another couple came up and discovered the show was sold out. We followed them into the bar, hoping to maybe piggyback off of their problem-solving skills. Inside, it was slightly less deserted. We glanced at the merchandise tables. I considered a few options: lie and say we drove all the way from LaCrosse; hide in the bathroom for the next two hours.

Just then, Jack Jack came over and said excitedly, “Hey, I may have found you guys two tickets, ha.” He left and came back with a couple of guys in their mid twenties.

I spoke with Markus about how we would have to enter with him and his group of friends since the tickets were “will call.” Eileen spoke with Paul, the other guy, about how they came to have two extra tickets since his girlfriend had just broken up with him. And Jack Jack just kinda kept talking to anyone and no one. At one point, I heard him say, “Yeah, so then they told me I had to go into counseling.”

We arranged to meet Markus and Paul outside the saloon an hour later or so. In the meantime, Jack Jack told us how he read a lot of Stephen King. “Yeah, it’s kinda weird. I mean all I read is Stephen King and Dan Brown, which is kinda a strange combination. I mean Stephen King is like really f!@#ed up and Dan Brown is like crazy-ass sh@#. Well, so, I guess maybe it’s not strange. It’s all f!@#ed up sh!@.”

Yeah. Anyway, Jack Jack, thanks for getting us in. Erin McKeown was sick, so her singing was a little off, but she had a good attitude about it all. And Mike Doughty was pretty good too. I’m sure he was better than his last show, ha.

09 Oct


In one, or perhaps more, of his Lake Wobegon monologues, Garrison Keilor says that cold is a stimulant for sound thinking. I’m a firm believer in that proclamation, even though Keilor’s tone in delivering it is, like so much of his stuff, couched in a sort of loving satire so that you don’t really know if he believes it himself.

I believe it cuz I have empirical evidence. Actually, I’m not sure I really even know what “empirical” means anymore. But I do know that this past week, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, classes were miserable since my room was about 87 degrees. But everything changed on Thursday since temperatures plunged to the mid 50s outside, giving my classroom a chance to get down to what’s known as “room temperature.” Everything was better. The kids were in better moods, I got more engaging in the classroom, and my lessons seemed to plan themselves.

But that night, the temps got low enough that the school’s heating system kicked in, and in my classroom, it remained kicked in all day. By the afternoon, it must have been back to the low 80s in the room. I had opened up all the windows, turned the fans back on, and moved all the knobs to their lowest settings on the “thermostat.” For those who don’t know, “thermostat” comes from the Greek roots, “thermo,” meaning heat, and “stat,” which, as anyone who’s watched ER knows, means “right now.” So really, my thermostat was doing its real job, which is to deliver heat to a room like a pint of blood to a guy who just got hit by a car.

My students were back to their whiney, cloudy-thinking selves by the end of the 50-minute class period, and I started fantasizing about sending them to the ER. I can’t tell you how many of them walked into the room and uttered some variation of “oh my god, it’s like a sauna in here.” The first few students got an explanation from me: “yeah, the heater running at full strength.” One of the little geniuses helpfully suggested that I “should turn the thermostat down.”

“Actually, yeah,” I replied, “I’ve thought of that.”