The House on the Highway (2017 early draft)

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transport1

Rain again.

Pre-school day.

The boy is sleepy

But becomes alert when reminded

Of school.

He’s dressed in minutes

His cowlick sprayed out

My shirt is stained

But I cover it with a sweater

That wasn’t tight last month.

 

Coffee.  The boy

Asks for a leftover doughnut.

We say goodbye

To a sleepy mama.

She Misses

Coffee but rubs

Her pregnant belly and Ooohs—

She mumbles something about having a lot to do.

 

Will the missus miss us?

 

We’re a mile away from her

And home when

The first red light stifles

Our progress

Toward timelessness.

I hate being late.

Rain hardens, stiffens,

Strengthens.

The sky sends pellets

And creates tension inside me

While each droplet is just doing its job.

Green light.  No movement.

The head of the driver in front of me is visible

In the side mirror.  He’s

Clearly looking at his phone.

I honk and say something

The missus wishes

I wouldn’t say when the boy is around.

Or ever.

Seconds pass.  The guy looks

Up and eases forward.

Waveless.

My tension heightens.

No recognition of fault.

No request for my forgiveness.

 

Another point-eight miles of green lights.

The next stop is my our turn.

The left-turning lane fills behind me

As the rest of the east- and west-bounders

Pound down the splashy path.

A long, loud transporter

Booms by on the right,

Bearing a modular home.

Look at that house, I say.

He of course looks for a stable structure

Off the road

Whoa, he says, in wonderment.

Is there people in there, daddy?

Not likely, I say.  But I can’t stop thinking about

Its future inhabitants.

 

Where are they at this moment?

Waiting at the lot?

A few cars behind?

Boxing up picture frames

And kitchen utensils in another area code?

Did they pick the color?

Is this their forever home?

<<EEEEEP!!!>>

Will this rain ever quit?

<<BLAAMMM—BLAAMMMM!!!!!!!>>

The impulse to turn around has never been stronger.

The missus misses us.

We miss her.  Work should wait some days.

Daddy?

Yes?

I’m glad you’re taking me to school today.

My son really says this just like that.

I stick a sleeve out my window

To wave my apologies to the cars behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Story in the Clouds (2013)

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I walked out of night class feeling pretty wonderful, believe it or not.  Only 60% of the enrolled students attended, but that was not what merited my demeanor.  I had also consumed an iced coffee–admittedly to keep myself going strong–but I don’t think that’s what attributed to my high spirits either.  I think I actually helped some students that night.  Perhaps I can get to why that was a surprise in another post.

Indiana late summers are usually sticky.  Some clever local weathermen once used the term “humiture” to attempt to define the combination of the actual temperature plus what the humidity added to that.  Perhaps to non-natives, this was bizarre.  Perhaps what it “feels like” should be the only number reported.  Anyway, this particular evening was void of humidity and the sky was bidding farewell to the sun for the day.  This produced my favorite color–that shade of not-quite orange mixed with not-quite strawberry and not-quite plum–and I slowed my walk to the car to absorb nature’s impromptu gift to me…rather, to us all.  Embedded in the brilliant sky were thin clouds of varying shades of gray.  This canvas now had a pallet of color options beside it to create anoter masterpiece.  The clouds, though, are what struck and inspired me.  Two specific clouds, squarely placed in front of me, were stacked like hamburger buns–the air between baring only a thin chimney curl.  It was a sight that might have made Nathaniel Hawthorne smile. 

Seeing this H on its side reminded me, of all things, of a Simpsons episode where, I believe Lisa and Bart (and perhaps the muted baby) sat cloud-gazing on a day similar to the one displayed during the show’s opening credits.  The children were discussing the shapes the clouds made–as children whose entertainment venue is exclusively out-of-doors.  The format of the joke is that Lis sees a formation that appears to the viewer as vague and indecipherable at first, only coming into focus throughout the explanation or analysis.  Then, Bart I believe, says he sees one that looks like (this isn’t accurate, I haven’t seen the episode for years) a local legend on horseback.  The scene changes to his POV and we see a precise version of what Bart just reported.  It’s funny to see how Lisa, the prodigy, creates with her imagination, and her academically disinclined brother can only see with clear, specific images and no imagination needed.

Fall Musings and Other Non-essential Reading

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Not sure where this will end up, but here goes.

If you’ve ever had to endure a conversation with me, you are aware of a few things.  Number 1) My breath indicates my adoration of coffee, especially if it’s before ten.  2)  I have an annoying tendency to make light of just about everything.  3)  You are never quite sure if my words are genuine or sarcastic because I am incapable of exhibiting a change in tone.  4) I tend to begin lists that have no real direction.

In short, opposed to what my mother might say, I’m not perfect.  Nowadays, though, she’ll incorporate passive-aggressiveness (a Lively tradition since the mid-70s) and say things like “I had the best dream last night, Steven.”  Of course, I’m dying to know what Tom Selleck was wearing in this one, but she slams me with “You brought Katy and Whitman over and had shaved your beard.”

What can I say?  I’m the son of one clever lady.

I asked students last week to explain whether or not people in chosen professions (coaches, teachers, ministers, etc.) should be held to a higher moral standard.  I sifted through several responses and learned that younger people–predominantly my high school students–firmly believed that “everyone should be treated equally” while a majority of my college-level students believed those within leadership/representative roles take on an expected obligation to be role models and should be held to that higher standard.

While I did not take the time to calculate percentages, it was something like 53.294% felt everyone is the same while the other 46.706 believed the opposite.

What does this say about our country?

We’re pretty mixed on that one.

Were you hoping for some magical analysis?  Maybe YOU’RE the one whose mathematics are a little rusty.

Side note:  Whenever I call out a page number for the students to find, I tend to complete the prime factorization of that number aloud while I wait.  For example, today I called out “Page Five Eleven, ladies and gentlemen!” then subtly added “Seven times seventy-three for those of you playing at home.”

Anyway, I was reviewing some essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (yes, THAT Ralph Waldo Emerson) to better prepare the students for their incredibly difficult quiz tomorrow.  [It’s actually NOT that bad for the students who read the passages, mind you.]  In the class textbook, there is a sample from Nature.  The section that they read touches on some of the main themes of the entire book.  Emerson believed that (in the early 1800s, gang) Americans were becoming too dependent on a rapidly changing world.  Industry and technology were advancing the nation, but the Romantics held firm that it could spell disaster for the SOUL.

I’ll pause so you can say “Ooooohhh….”

The Romantics were passionate artists.  They adored the little prizes that the earth provided for all of us:  observing a starry sky on a clear evening…taking in the landscape as a whole and dismissing the fact that the land is owned by someone, etc.  This is probably why we still have Pinterest material that encourages us to “Stop and Smell the Roses” or that to “Live, Laugh, and Love” is what we truly need.  Notice it doesn’t say “Live, Buy, Argue, Judge, Insult, Bully, and Demean.”

The other Emerson essay is from a piece called “Self-Reliance.”  As the title suggests, Emerson encourages the reader to seek out a life that one desires and not simply wait to be told or led around.  Of course, it may be our parental duty to expose the youth and guide them, but we cannot, for their sake, pull them by the snout throughout their lives.  True success in this life–I’m paraphrasing now–has nothing to do with one’s bank statement or corner office.  Shouldn’t we instill our children with more faith in humanity and not act on childish impulses to judge?  I’m pretty sure that if Jesus had a tattoo, it would have said “4Giveness iz Key.”

I distinctly remember sitting in my guidance counselor’s office when I was in high school.  He/she, while looking directly at my most recent transcripts, wanted me to rattle off some careers I’d considered.

“Teacher” prompted an eye roll.  Now, perhaps he/she was hoping I would say something like “Forensic scientist” or “Litigator” but I didn’t know what either of those two words meant when I was fifteen.  Then again, he/she might have been jaded by Education and stifled his/her empathy for yet another misguided youth.  In either case, I felt like I was letting him/her down.  But I showed him/her, didn’t I???

I have to mention one more piece before you go back to your other favorite thing to do.  The kids are assigned to read an excerpt from Henry David Thoreau’s (yes, THAT Henry David Thoreau) “Resistance to Civil Government.”  Thoreau was arrested for not paying a tax that he knew would fund a war he didn’t support.  While he only stayed in prison one night (and I believe a relative paid the tax for him), he was inspired to write a scathing essay on any government’s role toward its citizens.  Please don’t quit now.  This one’s good.  In short, he supported a citizen’s right to stand up for what he or she believed was morally right.  He urged readers to not sit back idly and allow the government to intervene at its will.

This is still going on today, folks.

While I may not have all the accurate data to show you [a great pie chart would be perfect here…ya know, because apple PIE is the all-American dietary choice], I can say-slash-type with the utmost conviction that about 4530% of what you do online is being viewed by Barack Obama right now.

Well, anyway, something like that.  So…here’s the point.  If you’re interested in reading about what some of these Romantic authors had to say about 200 years ago, please seek them out.  Chances are their work is accessible for little or no cost on your e-reader, phone, tablet, wrist-microchip, etc.

And help celebrate Banned Book Week (a week that ironically promotes the reading of books that have been banned in schools and libraries nationwide).

Hey, thanks for sticking around to this point.  It means a lot to me.

And Obama.

And the Romantics…maybe.