So, here's how the weekend panned out (pix tommorow, maybe):
"Happy One Year Birthday Blog!!!"
Left for NYC around 9 AM (what should be a 4 hour drive at most)
Made great time through MA and CT
Slowed down a bit in upper NY State
Got through the first 175 miles of the trip in about 3.5 hours
Came to a complete stop in the Bronx
Sat in the car on 95 South exit 6A for about 30-45 minutes with the car in park
Once movement began, more than an hour would pass before I was able to use the accelerator pedal
Began moving again until JFK traffic slowed us down yet again
Experienced serious road rage issues-as did my almost 7 year old daughter
Finally arrived at the Staten Island Hotel at around 4:30 PM
Went down to gym and sweated out road rage for an hour
Met up with Cuzz and CuzzHuzz-in from AZ
Went to church for wedding rehearsal
Drove to rehearsal dinner
Directions sucked, drove around, made cell phone calls
Blew a stop light giving several people heart attacks
Got to rehearsal dinner
Drank two outstanding Margaritas
Went back to hotel and slept
Woke up to sound of alarm at 6 AM
Beat the crap out of alarm clock and cursed out the person who left it set at 6 AM
Woke up again at 7:15 AM
Lazied out in bed for a few before brushing my teeth
Went down to the gym at 7:45 and banged out 5 miles on the treadmill
Ordered room service
Ate cream of wheat while wife and child ate real food
Went to about a million stores purchasing items I neglected to pack
Spent more time on the cell phone
Went for a haircut and shave with my brother (the groom)
Had my face ripped apart by a psycho Russian dude with a straight razor
Learned that putting after shave on a freshly scarred shaven face hurts like a mofo
Went to about a million stores purchasing items I neglected to buy earlier in the day
Took a walk to the Pizza place with my daughter and CuzzHuzz to get Italian Ices
Ate Italian Ices and got major BrainFreeze
Back to hotel, showered, put on Tux, sweat my brains out
Drove to church
Did the best man thing as my brother got married (again, only this time to a beautiful human being, not the creature from the black lagoon)
Began hating the photographer
Went to reception hall
Hung around waiting for the cocktail hour to begin
Ate some cocktail hour food while drinking a cocktail
Got pulled away from my table by the photographer wanting to take pictures
Hated the photographer a little more
Hung around chatting with family for a bit
Overheard the DJ saying that it's almost time for the best man speech
Began to write the best man speech
DJ calls me out for the speech
I make the speech-quite an outstanding one at that
The party rocks on into the night and start of the new day
Receive lots of complements about speech
The night ends joyfully as we all head back to hotels and sleep
Wake up at 10:30
Return tux to Men's Wearhouse
Pick up flip flops for wife
Wife hates flip flops
Ask hotel for a late checkout
Return flip flops
Meet up with brother, sister-in-law, Cuzz, CuzzHuzz, Sister, and nephew in hotel lobby
Make plans to go to Coney Island
Get pissed off because there's nowhere to park
Park in a pay lot-fork over ten bucks
Meet at Nathan's in Coney Island
Eat a Nathan's hot dog and relive a piece of my youth while waxing nostalgic about Coney Island with my family
Walk around Coney Island Boardwalk
Make an "only in Brooklyn" comment as one of the attractions was "Shoot the Freak" featuring a "live human target" dodging paintballs.
Watch Cuzz shoot the freak in the head
Watch my daughter waste about five bucks in the claws that can't possibly lift one of the stuffed animals out of the machine machine
Along with family, take over one of those shoot the water gun into the clowns mouth and fill up the balloon until it pops game guaranteeing a win by the family and a stuffed toy for the littlest of us
Proceed to enjoy the water balloon game even though the jackass running the game was a loser who has no business trying to make things fun as he clearly lacks the people skills to do so effectively
Congratulate nephew Steven as he wins
Move along to the Wonder Wheel, the tallest Ferris Wheel in the world
Enjoy a ride on one of the "swinging" cars
Walk the boardwalk a bit more then walk Cuzz and CuzzHuzz to their rental car so they can get to the airport but not before the excitement of watching retards at the pay lot where they parked (for twenty bucks) not know where the keys to the car were and be so inept that CuzzHuzz actually had to move two of the cars blocking their rental car
Say goodbye to Cuzz and CuzzHuzz as they took off for the airport then said goodbye to the rest of my family as me, wife, and child headed off to our car and prepare for the drive home to MA
Drove home, made good time, got home, went to sleep
While watching the commercial during Jeopardy, I got this odd idea to write a poem using my name. Unfortunately, I was in no mood to put thought into this - it really just came on the spur of the moment. So, I opened up the word processing program, typed the letters of my name and literally the first thing that came to my mind; I simply typed. Here is what came out;
Carve a niche in History, for time is Running faster than I, you or anyone can keep up with. Stay on course and Take all that is yours. Open your heart to People, all people. Hold true to yourself and Even when it seems impossible- Remember why.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
ODD! Anyway, I'm heading down to NYC for my brother's wedding. Gotta do the best man thing - perhaps I'll offer up a dapper version of me in a tux. Regardless, I'll see you all again on Monday (or maybe Sunday evening).
I really wanted to compile a list of pet peeves and funny them up a bit. However, the brain cells (that remain in my brain) choose not to cooperate so I only have one for you right now - which came to me yesterday after an encounter with a student reminded me that this was a pet peeve.
When a student doesn't know their social security number:
I just wanna say...you are in freaking college you little mamma's boy! Grow the F-up, come down from mamma's bosom (though she does have an impressive rack), and learn your social security number - sing it to a song, just like how you learned your damn phone number (it's how I learned your phone number - refer to mom reference).
JoJo used to live with Joe, but Joe was very neglectful of JoJo and let his batteries run out, his ascot collect dust, and frequently ignored JoJo's bouts with scoliosis. JoJo now resides with Nancy, on her desk. No, Nancy does not live on her desk, JoJo lives on Nancy's desk where Nancy looks out for JoJo and takes good care of him. Note the ascot is clean and the posture, divine. JoJo's batteries have been replaced allowing his eyes to light up on command (the flick of a switch) making his appeal even more...alright, I'll say it, appealing.
"To live your life in fear of losing it is to lose the point of life."
I'd been carrying this around for a while meaning to post it but I've been battling the demons of anxiety (I think) of late. When I looked at the fortune today, it made more sense than it did when I first stuck it in my wallet. Progress? Perhaps. Either way, it makes a lot for sense.
I suspect there'll be talking about this one for some time. I'm certain there are alot of opinions about the Michael Jackson case and his acquittal. I plan on being brief - mostly because I didn't follow the case and have not got enough information on the evidence presented to make any type of decision. What I am certain of as an outsider is how easy it is to have a feeling without realizing and/or caring that the potential consequence of the final decision. I admit that when this whole thing got started I was shouting out guilty and hang him without any thought of the reality of the situation and the potential effect on another human being.
It clearly appears (to me) that Michael Jackson has some deep unresolved issues that seen to be the basis for the apparent (to me) peculiarities, weirdities, oddities, and general uncomfortable feeling I get about him as a human being. There is a part of be that believes that the accusation very well could be true and that scares me for obvious reasons but on some level, I truly feel some measure of sympathy for Jackson.
Regarding this particular trial, from the notes and articles I've read and the "expert" legal analysis I've heard, it appears that the jury made the correct decision. My hope is that we are all just far too shallow to understand the complexity of the self proclaimed King of Pop. As he nears his 50th birthday, I hope that after all this time and having gone through this trial and it's aftermath (which I suspect will still have been harmful to him and his career) that MJ makes a real attempt to find peace with himself. In the past few weeks I've been forced to revisit how short life is and that there really is no time to take things for granted and repress a lifetime of anger, insecurity, doubt, fears, or anything.
Michael Jackson may not be in prison, but it seems clear to me that right now he is not a free man. I do hope for the sake of all children that he is not guilty of the charges made against him.
I was cleaning out, or rather, rearranging things in my bag that I carry around and came across a number of Haikus I wrote the day after the last few that appeared here were written. Of the nine in this post, three were written during a faculty meeting and the rest were written during a "customer service training" that many of us at the college were "asked" to attend - it sucked, the person running it had no clue about anything she was talking about, so I cracked jokes and wrote haiku.
This first one was written after the thought of celebrities going to rehab popped into my mind. It simply got me thinking about the idea of addiction, particularly to alcohol and the use of it to self-medicate.
ocean of madness
sorrow's drowning, pain subsides
the wicked liquid
These next two come from a similar place. I commonly "daydream" or "fantasize" about things to help be deal with stress and anxiety. More than anything, these haikus represent (other than how fucked up I really am) where I want to be as a result of my drifting off.
i am a dreamer
at one with my fantasies
in my perfect world
* * * * * * * * *
sunshine on a cloudy day
at peace with myself
This next one is fairly obvious. The idea of dwelling on the past drives me insane - not just when I do it but anybody.
let sleeping dogs lie
yesterday has been and gone
live in the present
I wrote this next one while thinking about a conversation I had some years ago and a poem that followed it as a result. In short, I was asked how I write poems. After some thought, I wrote a (silly/cute little) poem called Poetic Splicings, which was a poem about writing poems. I wasn't planning on including it here but it came into my head, so I will...then I will follow it with my Haiku about how I write Haiku.
I sit and gather poetic splicings
they're not complete
they are just the icing
A twist and a turn
a scene in my mind
then a simple little stanza
that ends with a rhyme
Two or three times
I follow this formation
and then when I'm through
you read my creation
I'm sitting here gathering poetic splicings
...but I'm not quite done yet...
* * * * * * * * * *
five syllables here
the second line has seven
five more, and haiku
The following four Haiku poems I will leave to your own imagination and interpretation. They all come from some place inside of me and have significant meaning to me. Some may appear obvious and will be, some may be less so than they seem. Ultimately, I always write poems for an audience of one, me. My philosophy of poetry is fairly simple, I write what I feel. As a human, I suspect that other humans, especially those who may read what I've written, have felt similarly (considering most humans share one set of emotions) at one time or another and somehow my expressions can be interpreted in a way that may be helpful and/or entertaining. As a reader of poetry, I feel comfortable that my own interpretation of a poem is the right one regardless of the author's motivation, I want it to mean what it means to me (though I often wonder what was running through the mind of the writer as well). Okay, enough said, enjoy the rest and be well.
watch it fade away
too far gone to save it now
when will you realize?
* * * * * * * * *
writing for no one
words come easier for me
these words are for you
* * * * * * * * *
the page starts out blank
the heart gives way to the pen
the page is now full
* * * * * * * * *
alone in the world
surrounded by emptiness
fulfill me cruel world
Aside from the enormous workload I took on today, not at my job, but afterwards at home - the last two weeks have been difficult in dealing with two deaths (recently blogged about) and an email regarding my friend Janine that I received today.
My friend Janine has suffered from a seizure disorder for some time. Though I don't know alot about it, I do know that the last time we hung out, she discussed that she was going to be looking into surgical options.
The email I received from her husband, my friend Rob, goes into some detail about the testing procedures she has endured, the possibility of surgery, and the prospects thereafter.
Rob and Janine are the parents of five children and their whole family are a part of a group of friends that I have known for more than twenty years. I've discussed this group of friends and our reunions at other times in this space but for right now, I am concerned for my friend Janine.
I am asking all of you who read this, to pray, think positively, think good thoughts, any positive energy you can offer to them - do so.
I have no idea how long they had been there, but I am guessing that since the article printed on them was published in March of 2005, it had been there since about then. Only today, June 7th of the same year did I stop too see what those three sheets of blue paper dangling from the top strip of corkboard in the writing center were all about. A part of me is angry with myself for not taking the time to do so sooner considering not only the impact of the content – but also the fact that it was written by someone who I admire, respect, and care about.
For me, the article that follows is more than just a personal testament to what it means to work in education, but it also helped me to validate my own beliefs for being in this profession. The article is beautiful, just like its author who I’ve had the great privilege of working with. I hope that you all find some inspiration in its words regardless of what you do for a living. Thank you Laurel - for writing something so powerful and for always making a difference.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Learning From My Students By Laurel Santini
Chuck wanted to know the number of words in the English language. That was just one of the many questions that I, his writing instructor, couldn't answer. Chuck went so far as to ask a college librarian, who forwarded the question to the associate editor of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries.
Chuck's question was answered, but perhaps not to his satisfaction. "It has been estimated," wrote the editor, "that the vocabulary of English includes roughly 1 million words (an estimate to be taken with a grain of salt) and this includes the myriad names of chemicals and other scientific entities. No matter which way you slice it, the English language is big." And while our language is large, it seems small when trying to capture the spirit of a life lived richly.
I recounted all of that in my eulogy for Chuck. When I heard that he had passed away, I wasn't surprised. Chuck was just the first in a bevy of blue-collar workers in my developmental-writing class who had come to college with weak livers, lungs, hearts, or backs. Men who felt that forever was too long to be lifting furniture, laying floors, or perching on the roofs of other people's homes.
I admit I have a special fondness for such students. My grandfather was a union painter. My uncle is an electrician, my brother a carpenter. And although my parents are both educators, I was raised outside of Cleveland where from the tallest hill in the neighborhood we could see the balls of fire from steel-mill smokestacks.
Chuck was a student in the very first course I taught at a Massachusetts community college. I was 25 years old then, and he was 44. I had no previous teaching experience. My former job included typesetting manuals for a pharmaceutical-training company, a job I hated.
But I had a master's degree in writing. So when the instructor scheduled to teach the course -- an integrated reading and writing class designed to prepare students to take freshman English -- backed out, I was the desperate choice of a community-college dean.
On my first day, I asked a young female student to put away her math homework. When she told me that, in college, students could do whatever they wanted, I was speechless. I had flashbacks of the junior-high bullying I'd endured. It took a minute, but when I remembered that I was the teacher, I repeated my request. "I can't stand you and I'm never coming back!" she screamed.
Chuck approached me after class, arms crossed in front of his chest, rocking back and forth on his boots like a metronome trying to find its center. He wanted me to know he was there to learn. It was all I needed to come back the next day.
Well, that isn't entirely true. After reading the results of the timed writing assignment I'd given to gauge where my students were starting, I was sure that I wasn't up for the job. But as I no longer wished to create tables showing the efficacy of drugs preventing Ggastroesophageal reflux disease, I pressed on.
Because some of my students had never read an entire book before, and because many of them were suspicious of authority, particularly of the educational bent, I thought The Catcher in the Rye seemed like a good choice for our first book. Only one student had read it, the one who had sworn never to come back (after a week of cooling off, she plopped herself back in the front row).
For their essays on the book, I asked the students to contemplate whether there was any way to grow up and not be a phony. Like most of my students, Chuck concluded there was not. He, and other students like him, prized authenticity. Academic writing seemed, to many of them, artificial and insincere. Cynthia Ozick's idea of the "essay as a warm body," as something electric or even animate, seemed preposterous to them.
So there I was, teaching something my students thought was bogus. I knew what I couldn't do to get their interest in the classroom. I couldn't resort to antics. You know the kind: Think Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.
I've never been comfortable as the center of attention, so I opted for honesty. I decided to bring in a copy of my master's thesis, a project at which I had initially failed and had to redraft. I plunked it down on the lectern, all 200 pages of it, and announced that I'd flunked the most important paper of my life.
It made an impression. "You failed at writing?" they asked. "Royally," I answered. For the first time, I was just like them, and it shocked the heck out of us all.
At Chuck's funeral, one of the eulogies referred to his hard times, another to his unpolished edges. And while I didn't know the extent of his problems, it was always clear that Chuck was unhealthy. Underneath the manufactured tan he kept through a New England fall, his skin was jaundiced. He was not just slender, but thin in the way a worn blanket can be.
He was desperate to do well in my class. Every handout I gave, he kept. Chuck had known failure, and it motivated him, it made him compassionate and giving. He met often with another student, a young man who barely spoke the entire semester and was having some trouble in class. In a bar, probably over a beer, they worked on their papers. Between you and me, I rather like that image; it seems terribly writerly.
Chuck did well in my class. He won the developmental-writing category of a collegewide essay contest. The next semester, he visited me in the writing lab and showed me every paper he wrote. Then he got into a motorcycle accident. He visited the campus once he had mended, and after that I never heard from him again.
It wasn't like I missed him. In some ways it was a relief to read one less paper from a former student. As a developmental-writing instructor, I have always felt some responsibility to make sure that all of my students succeed after they leave my course and move on to others. I've read and reviewed essays for hundreds of students who are no longer officially my own.
To some degree I think I finally understand those young mothers in the mall who look down at their children hanging on their legs and yell, "Leave me alone!" I found myself needing to push students away, both for my sake and theirs. And the longer I taught, the more I found myself pushing.
I would pray for a foot of snow, for plumbing failures, for a fire that wouldn't hurt anyone -- anything to cancel class. All of those things happened, but class, like the light at a Motel 6, was always on. My teaching career was like a stale marriage, where even on the edge of an argument there is only apathy. I couldn't write; I barely read. I rewarded myself for grading a stack of papers with a glass of wine. It's probably safe to say that when one has fantasies about becoming a migrant worker, something has to change.
Then I got a call about Chuck.
His funeral was packed. I remember the thick snowflakes that speckled the dark coats of mourners. I remember Chuck's sister slumped over in her seat as I spoke. I remember best an arrangement of photos and mementos. Among the pictures of Chuck before his health began to fail was the framed certificate he had won years earlier in that essay contest.
When I started teaching I was idealistic. I was 25. I wasn't sure whether I knew everything or nothing. I taught my students that writing represents an opportunity to make a contribution to the human conversation. But after seven years in the classroom, I had stopped contributing to that conversation. I no longer wrote or read for pleasure. I didn't read my students' essays, I graded them.
I could say that Chuck's death reminded me that my work touches lives, but I suppose I always knew that. What I'd failed to remember was the reciprocity of teaching, that indeed my students can and should teach me something. As a writing teacher, I am expected to help students find and use their voices. But I am supposed to get something out of it, too, something more than a thanks or the satisfaction of a job well done. I am one of the beneficiaries of those voices, and they inform and contribute to my own.
Now, in the midst of another semester, I'm reminded of a piece of advice from Mr. Antolini, Holden Caufield's teacher: "Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them -- if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."
Laurel Santini is a reading and writing specialist at a Massachusetts community college.
The “suspicious package” that caused Interstate 75 and Daniels Parkway to be shut for more than an hour Monday was not an explosive pipe bomb — but rather wrapped-up plastic foot-long penis.“
Someone took construction-grade plastic, molded it into a penis and wrapped it with duct tape,” said Lee County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Charles Ferrante.“They wrote ‘Happy Father’s Day’ on the duct tape.”The device was first described by the sheriff’s office as a prosthetic penis. Later, it cops described it as a paper sculpture made to look like a penis. "(The rumor that it was actually a prosthetic penis) just took a life of it's own," said Cpl. Larry King.
Ferrante later spoke with a member of the bomb squad who described it in more detail.“Somebody molded it to look like a penis,” Ferrante said. “It was not detected until the suspicious package was removed.”A motorist called the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Monday shortly after 3 p.m. about a suspicious package on the side of the road under the northbound Interstate 75 overpass.The cylinder was more than a foot long in a plastic bag and wrapped with duct tape. It looked like pipe bomb and was in a position that could cause structural damage. Deputies arrived and alerted the bomb squad, which used a robot to disable the cylinder.
The north- and southbound lanes of Intestate 75 were closed for about an hour between Alico Road and Colonial Boulevard. Traffic was blocked on Daniels Parkway at the overpass for an hour while the device was removed.The closures left the heart of Lee County's road system without any vehicles as rush hour approached. After the drama ensued there were back-ups for about 15 minutes, but then traffic cleared to its normal levels. I-75 is the main north-south artery in the region and Daniels is one of the major east-west corridor in south Fort Myers, connecting Gateway, Lehigh Acres and Southwest Florida International Airport with the region's retail power centers and tens of thousands of homes along the way.
Today was a day of remembering, learning, and mourning.
A memorial service was held for Harry Bennett who passed away at the age of 87. I remember Harry as the "nice old man" who always served as an usher at church. Harry was well known and loved by many and I learned today, a WWII veteran.
Also mourned today at funeral services was Phillip Strine. I never met Phillip but I know his parents from church. Phillip passed on this past week at the age of 41 from a heart attack. I found myself deeply affected by this death as I am 40 and it is the second person within a month or two that was within my age group that died of a heart attack. Mortality checks are never pleasant and even less so when they happen in your peer group.
May the families and friends of Harry and Phillip find the peace and acceptance necessary to move forward. Two people at Phillip's funeral told me something this evening that I'll pass on...remember to tell the people that you love that you love them - don't just take for granted that they know.
So, I've had off from work since last Friday and have laid low since that time trying to get some R&R. I am happy to say that I've managed to get some R&R and get a few things (very few) done around the house (most importantly getting the grill out of the garage and ready for use in the yard).
I've seen a couple of movies: Napolean Dynamite - I thought this was good but not nearly as good as everyone else appeared to think. The lead role was hysterical and perfectly played by John Heder but the film overall was good, not great. The Door in the Floor is entertaining drama starring one of my favorite all time actors, Jeff Bridges and features good performances by Kim Basinger (really), Mimi Rogers, and a terrific performance by child actor Elle Fanning (Dakota's little Sister).
The allergies have been a bit rough the last couple of days but I've been trying to tough it out without medication.
I just has a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch! for breakfast (with soy milk of course) and it was better than I expected it to be.
I really hate exercising but have been doing it everyday - reward, I've lost 18 pounds (YAY!).
I'm outta here for now, last day off and I gotta get an oil change and have my tires rotated.