Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

we were all supposed to wear our work polo shirts today, and i was one of only about three who forgot or didn't read the e-mail telling us to do it. i could have told my boss, actually i have a deep-seated resistance to being told what to wear, and this subconscious rebellion really kicks in in the mornings, when i'm trying to get two young boys dressed and out the door, yet i'm still more than half asleep in my own way. if i actually wake up, i could say, hey, it's only clothes, who cares about clothes? and just do what everyone else is doing. but in fact, i didn't.

so the four-year-old, he was supposed to wear pajamas, and the day before that was siu day; he was supposed to wear siu clothes, some of which of course have dog paws, or "clues" on them. missed them both. and, the day before that, which was mismatched socks day, what do they think, that we're wide awake, early in the morning, when we're trying to hustle everyone out the door? when the dog is yipping, and kids have to be pried away from whatever they are doing, and have trouble keeping any clothes on? poor kid, will just have to explain to his friends, my parents both work, they can't keep track of this stuff, i just wear whatever, i'm lucky to be wearing anything at all.

my older son cut himself cooking, and goes straight to facebook and says he's bleeding to death. but who should be on facebook but his dad and his aunt, both of whom told him to treat it right away. one other woman also chimed in and even gave him specific instructions on how to treat it. incredibly enough, people from far away jumped to take care of him, all telling him what to do, and just in time, for if he'd actually bled to death, we'd have been too far away. but his aunt, i think, actually relished the opportunity to panic and fuss over him; he was doing her a favor to give her that opportunity. on my birthday, my family had bombed my facebook and i'm still relishing the glow of that experience, three whole screens of things some of which i'll save and put here. but at this moment it was a very small family, everyone worried about him and trying to make sure he had the right compress & medicine to put on there.

on the elevator today, i was exhausted, this was why i was taking the elevator, when who was waiting for it but a campus policewoman, a gentle old black lady who was quite obviously tough nonetheless. i asked her if there was trouble, curious of course as to whatever i could find out, particularly if she were going where i was going, third floor northwest. there's trouble everywhere, she said, and i knew it would be rude to push her any farther. but one of the grad. assistants jumped on the elevator, and sure enough, she was wearing one of the work polo shirts, maroon and white as are the school colors. there's your trouble, i said to the policewoman, though she didn't fall for it. she's wearing the uniform, but she's trouble anyway.

a few more people got on the elevator, and i was dismayed to notice that she got off on the third floor, but in fact she was not going where i was going, she was heading more off toward philosophy or maybe political science. i was grateful. some things, you really don't want to know too much of, if they really told you everything, you'd just have more to worry about.

in the evening a benefit concert featured teenagers hanging around listening to a rock band and dancing, after raising money to save pets. these were good teenagers, i realized, all out there doing something good, and hanging out in plain sight where everyone could see them. not only that, but these same kids i had known a good thirteen years ago, when they were themselves in the same daycare, the one i went to today; only now it was thirteen years later, and they were grown, barely recognizable (even my son), and i was lucky to spot any of them and know who they were. but i felt like they had come back, as if they'd been gone all this time, since i hadn't seen them together as a group, and i realized, this same class will graduate soon (this son is seventeen); the whole cohort of parents will soon be together again. our parental consistency, perhaps with the help of this small town, led us to this steamy venue where spring has blossomed, a garage band is playing out into the warm evening, and parents hang around noticing that these kids have grown quite a bit in thirteen years. if anyone ever told them what to wear, i'm sure they just did as they pleased, and had a pretty good time anyway. in this small town they couldn't ever go two steps without someone reminding us parents how much they'd grown and where they were hanging around. they have a prom tomorrow, so we'll see what ends up happening, whether they dress up at all, or just wear the teenage uniform and go anyway. now that they're almost grown, i guess it's their decision entirely.

in the end these clothes things are like overdecorating the holidays; they're just shills, put there because, basically, some people in a small town have very little to do. if they tell everyone to wear something, and some of us don't, then they can speculate as to whether we're rebellious, or just absent-minded. in my case, if i'd thought about it for even a minute, i probably would have changed. they'll learn better than to tell me what to do when i'm asleep. as for the trouble on the third floor, i'm sure i'll hear about that also, eventually, as you always hear, especially if you put out even an inkling of curiosity, and let it be known that you care. somebody will tell you. it's sure to happen, just like it's sure someone, somewhere, is wondering why i couldn't wear the right shirt this morning.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

rain, mist, grayness, and a cool breeze passing through, and i'm not sure where it's going or when it will become deadly hot. it seems colors can actually seem brighter in this kind of grayness, maybe because i see stuff with the "saturation" icon in mind, and see the brightness of the pop-art any given spring blossom would make. there are tons of shades around, orange trees framed by red and pink ones, violet ones up against evergreens, and i occasionally grab one on the camera and make pop-art out of it, but more often, i just see the virtual saturation button doing its thing to my vision as i walk.

an interfaith earth day gathering attracted a number of speakers of different faiths, sufi, hindi, pagan, catholic, unitarian, and i was the speaker for quakers- i, that is, and my young son, who took the opportunity to give the crowd some comic relief and show them what cute can look like when it has the chance. traffic sped by the main street of this small town, and we eventually left, after he'd wandered a bit, found a little of what downtown has to offer. tulips abut the train-man statue, but i'd forgotten the camera, or there would be more pop art here too. lots of stuff that i see every day, i want to make into pop-art- the downtown, the train-man, the park, the stunning trees up against what's left of old stately homes. symbols of the place are good, and anything train...the depot, up against the main street, that kind of stuff. boxcars, cafe, liquor store, i want it all. the library was dedicated the other day (see photo below), and i felt like saying, what this place needs is some pop-art, and just giving it over, but i didn't have it together, too much going on. i have my dreams, have my ticket to dr, have my docket full (more subbing coming, more over-full weeks, less blogging, i'm afraid)- the pop art is an instant, short-time, salve for a busy soul.

musically, i did get one interesting gig in, this one in front of fourth-graders, and i told them about the time one guy came into my class and played a cello- that day changed my life, that's one favor, if i return it a million times, i'll still be glad to return it again. then i played my banjo train song, and at one moment their clapping was almost entirely out-of-rhythm with my playing, but there wasn't much i could do about it, so i relaxed, finished the song, and let them come 'round, eventually feel what it was like, when they were in time. felt like saying- a train doesn't care how you run, it isn't going to change its speed. overall i felt comfortable though- nervous, as usual, as young kids are a tough audience, yet also grateful- to even be playing in front of them, to be able to make that kind of music,is a kind of miracle. some kids held rapt attention, others literally fell asleep, not into it. that's kids for ya.

my own, doing fine, growing like weeds, and i'm spending time with them, which i like. lots of other things going by the wayside, but i'm at least all over the little ones. the bigger ones, pounding me at risk- or at chess, as the case may be, but what can ya do? they go their own way, and they're less tired than i am.

but life being what it is, busy, almost frantic, i'm about to turn 55. i feel like saying, yes, there are signs all over the interstate, celebrating by birthday, they have 55 all over them, can't read the fine print any more so well, so i assume the rest of the sign says, keep on cruising, don't exit yet. or maybe they say, no limit. or, smile, you're on candid camera. you're on the downhill slide toward sixty. saturate; sharpen, publish.

the one thing i'm not doing, writing the novel, writing the stories, or even packaging them, making a webpage, or putting them on kindle. it's just not happening. time slips by, i sit here, playing on facebook or risk, or the bog, and keel over, evenings, even after a big cup of coffee. fall asleep, even as i type, while i grade, or even before i get to it. i need another round of simplify simplify, get the junk e-mails out of my life, for example, or maybe combine some of my efforts, pop art & teaching for example. it's a fast world, time is all ya got, and i'm having less & less of it as life goes on. but, ya know, i'm enjoying it anyway; i've got a good world around me. as i stood in the center of my town, trains on one side, traffic on the other, a little guy dancing at my feet, i thought, here i am, here's quakerism, it's not such a bad match. the other religions were represented; they implored us to notice all they were doing, and how their path to the divine glowed and reflected. the amtrak came by, made noise, and left; trucks turned the corner behind us; the little guy found rocks, batteries and an antenna in the bushes and found some people he knew. we left the diaper bag, with shorts and some water, behind, accidentally, but we're sure to get it back, since everyone knew us, and we'll see some of them tomorrow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

more here.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

the best baseball player ever, in my opinion, was roberto clemente, who played right field for the pittsburgh pirates back in the late 60's, when i was about 13. my brother would win free tickets to ball games on account of good grades, and we would take a trolley car to downtown pittsburgh, then transfer and go out to oakland, in the shadow of the cathedral of learning, where old forbes field had this enormous right field which was clemente's territory. and the pirate pitchers were bad in those years; he had lots of action out there, chasing line drives that landed all over the territory. games had football scores like 14-11, 16-9, etc. as both teams were always hitting a lot, and we'd always curse the manager for leaving the pitcher in too long.

he was the best player because he played every minute with a passionate intensity that was unmatched in baseball by anyone, ever. No matter whether he was diving for a ball, which million-dollar-players no longer do, or running out a ground ball, he was always a hundred percent into the game. he was like this about everything; you could tell when he spoke, even though his english wasn't great; he was just totally focused on doing his best, and there wasn't much else to him, except maybe helping those who came behind him, those who still needed a hand; in fact he died in a plane crash delivering emergency supplies to survivors of an earthquake in nicaragua. for this maybe he should be elected to sainthood, i don't know, but all i can say is, from all those years, there was one play that i'll never forget. it was one of those huge games, maybe 15-12, and the other team had the bases loaded and some guy hit the ball way out to the center corner of right field, deep in the ivy behind the warning track where poor roberto was chasing the ball and trying to separate it from the wherever it rolled; people were rounding the bases and scoring on the poor pirates and everybody in the stands was in a foul mood. when lo and behold, roberto turned around and from deep in right, 390 feet or more, threw a perfect line-drive strike to home, and caught the runner. a perfect throw, unforgettable. he was a hitter, actually, and a runner, a diver-for-line-drives; he had a glove; he was an all-star. but even his throwing was perfect. from 390 feet; you don't see that today.

clemente was puerto rican, but i've been thinking of him a lot as i begin to prepare for my trip to the dominican republic in june. this is a place where people live for baseball, where baseball is an avenue, a way to connect with the world, much as technology in the classroom is today. i learned from watching clemente those days; he was clearly much better than stargell, or any of the other stars we saw coming through, including mays, mccovey, banks, brock & flood. of course he was our own, a pirate; but, he was also just better than everyone else. he mastered his craft, every aspect of it. he remained humble about it. he never forgot the people he'd left behind. he didn't hesitate to dive for a ball, or to jump on a plane to help someone. most of all, he was grateful for his opportunity to show his skill, and this could even have been a game that the championship was not riding on, as those pirates usually weren't in the running in late summer, or even early summer. but that was classic baseball, baseball as it was meant to be played. and, someday, it will be played that way again.

Monday, April 06, 2009

when craig wells died in winter i went looking for a picture of him on the web, and found a curious lack of anything there, pictures or otherwise, maybe one permit he had applied for sometime in california where he lived. so i went searching old photo albums and finally found something from the early sixties, when the twelve of us cousins got together; actually it was usually more like nine, since my uncle bones was on the outs back then with his three sisters, and couldn't make it all the way up to iowa anyway. the remaining cousins, craig the oldest, always looked kind of scottish when they were all together, but that's because we're all wallaces, and i'm in the middle, and there were lots of boys, but just my sister on the years when bones wasn't there. craig, being the oldest, always took a kind of generous older brother way with the rest of us, and lots of us visited him out in california and even stayed there for long periods of time. after a while he got into making wine and actually had a pretty good-running business, was into the art of it, when they found out he had a brain tumor and he couldn't read e-mails very well. that set us back quite a bit because he's not really that much older than i am and seemed really healthy right up until the last year or two.

but what bugs me is that i don't get out there much; almost not at all, and, i've taken to listening to old scottish gaelic missing-home songs as i drive around, not that african became old or anything, but more, that it sometimes lifts me out of a funk, of driving slowly, seeing spring unfold, but being so far away from family with so little chance of actually getting out there. there are a bunch of musicians among those wallaces, and if we were to get together, it would be good, i'm sure, but it hasn't happened, we being so far away, and there being so many of us. a cold grim second winter has set upon southern illinois and in fact the entire midwest, snow as high as six feet in nebraska, gray and nasty northern arctic chill coming down and ruining buds and any gardens anyone had planted, but i hadn't planted mine, being too busy anyway, and kind of in the dumps due to missing a family party for craig back when i was in colorado. i'd kind of hoped the airlines would bump me and tell me the only way i could possibly get home would be to go through california, but no, they stuck me on a full plane from colorado to st. louis and there was no disruption, just a straight shot back to the grim midwest where spring will have to try again to bust out and show. i called the wallace clan, and his wife said the gathering in craig's honor went well and was well attended, but i could only be there over the phone, and even then my voice got caught in my throat as i tried to wish them well and remember him. he was my cousin, the oldest of twelve cousins, loved by all, died in los gatos, 2009, and won't be forgotten. i feel like i don't know enough about him, about what he did and who he was, but time and distance, a grim wind between, that and a busy life, that leaves me so little time to even think, let alone write, it took me weeks just to get this down. next time someone searches though, they'll find this. he was a good cousin, he took care of us. when we lined up, cousin to cousin, he was at the tall end.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

april rocks...



happy birthday!