Monday, June 3, 2013

Battered by Whimsy

As summer looms, you may find that this blog goes into hibernation.

It's not because I have run out of ideas.

HA! As if that could happen. As if I could ever exhaust my creative energies, or spend the atomic fuel of my dying star, leaving a sucking black hole of well-worn dookie jokes.

No way.

Well, maybe.

I guess that is part of it.

But also, unlike most of you working class mugs with your silver spoons and gold-plated Slap-its, I don't get paid throughout the summer, so I have to shlump my wares all over Ebay to keep bread on the table.

Any time I get on the computer is used up managing auctions, making craigslist deals, researching items. The window for blogging is squeezed tight; the one for drawing pictures is shut almost entirely.

I hope you folks don't abandon me.

On top of that, I am most likely going to be transferred to a different classroom, and if that happens, I will absolutely have to find myself a new job.

I am burned out on all of this, and starting over with new butts to maintain and foreskins to degrime is just not something I can stomach.

If anyone has a job out there for an unemployed english major with a masters in library science that pays something in the low millions, please message me.

I was mowing the lawn the other day. Sometimes I take my shirt off when I do this, but all the jiggling scares away the feral cats I hope to someday hug and love.

I was mowing the lawn, and I thought, maybe I should write a book about special education. Like a humorous expose of it's failures and that one triumph it had that one time, laced with little history lessons, maybe the odd interview here and there.

Maybe I would become like an expert consultant on the subject, someone they bring in to keep the discussion real.

How much do you charge for a speaking engagement? I decided pretty quickly I would not be one of those jerks who make all kinds of odd requests: "Yes, I will accept your honorary degree, but I must have a bottle of Colorado Springs water waiting for me in my hotel room upon my arrival. It shall be room temperature, and half of it should already have been consumed by a beautiful Chilean chamber maid named Consuela. She shall have left a single moustache hair upon the bottle's lip."

Nope. I'll just show up and tell it like it is. Given my record of public speaking, 'like it is' will consist of some nervous stammered statements and then a deterioration into full blown tears.

"Was he spitting or just popping his lips? Because he pops his lips like this." Martin's mother, a stern middle aged black woman in a fashion forward lady suit, pulls her lips inwards and then pushes them quickly out, making a delightful popping sound.

We are in a meeting, a disciplinary investigation into why my student Martin has been suspended from riding the school bus.

The bus aide who filed the incident report is already shaking her head.

"No no no, I know that popping he does. It be different. This be spitting." She imitates the sound and the quick forward head jerk of a person projecting spit. "Not that popping". She pops her lips in the exact way that Martin's mom did.

"Well you know, when he does that," Martin's mom pops her lips again, "sometimes spit can come out."

The bus aide is more insistent now. "M-m m-m, this be spitting, not popping. I know what you mean and this be different. It's not this-" Pop! "it be like this-" Spit motion

Our director of transportation, a weary looking businessy guy with greasy white curls leans forward onto his finger tips.

I wonder if he is smelling his fingers. Because that's what I might do right then, sneak a little sniff, take the edge off. Long to be anywhere else than facilitating such a ridiculous conversation.

He clears his throat and turns his attention to the bus aide.

"So you would say this was directed spitting?" he asks.

"Definitely directed, definitely. Not no pop." She glares at the mother, who stares back unblinking.

After a moment, Martin's mom makes a little note on her yellow office pad. From my position next to her, I can see she has written "directed spitting" in quotes, followed by a question mark. Her copy of the incident report has been marked up feverishly in red pen. Things underlined or stricken through; notes and half sentences in the margins.

They move on to the next charge against Martin.

"When you say he blew snot, I want to understand exactly what you mean," Mom says.

The aide rolls her eyes all around.

"Lord, I don't want to tell it. Make me sick. I tole that boy to be quiet and he jus sprayed-" she hesitates, suddenly reluctant to say the next word, " he sprayed boogers just over everything. The seat, the girl in front of him, everything."

"Now he has a sinus condition, you know, a condition that causes his nose to have a lot of discharge. Was it just that his nose was running?"

"Oh no! No no! This ain't no runny nose, he did like this" and the aide lifted her finger to block off one nostril, and mimed blowing snot out of the other.

"He did this?" Mom asked, and copied the bus aide's imitation of Martin shooting his boogers.

"Just like that," said the aide, and she did it again. The two of them passed imaginary snot projectiles back and forth across the table.

I looked at the transportation director; his eyes were focused out the window, dreamy like.

Everyone in that room was a government employee; all of our paychecks coming from your tax dollars. There were three classroom aides at 27,000 a year each; one teacher at 70,000, bus driver at 25,000, bus aide at 19,000; transportation director at 95,000; and Martin's mom, a government worker making 100,000 plus.

390,000 tax dollars so we can all sit around discussing the physical consistency of Martin's nasal mucus.

"No no, this was green, and it was everywhere!" The bus aide is raising her voice to be heard over Mom's objections.

The bus driver finally decides to weigh in. A stout Irishman, he looks like one of those guys who turns beet red after one can of Molson and goes to his woodshop to miter saw things. His seems to have a low threshold for guff-taking.

"What I don't understand is, why can't they get some kind of Rosetta Stone for Martin, so he can communicate? I mean, scientists can get monkeys to read with a Rosetta Stone, why can't they do something" he trails off in a way that means 'you know what I am saying', only none of us know what he is saying.

When he says the word "monkeys", the bus aide's head snaps around to make seething eye contact with Martin's mother. Things are about to become very real.

It takes everything, all I have, to not start giggling.

Not until the meeting is over, and Gary and I are on our way off garage sailing, do I let the laughter come. A small, wry chuckle I have perfected through hours of practice in the mirror, right after my Frenching lessons I do on my closed fist, but immediately before I tweeze my ears. If that mirror could speak, I wonder if it would beg someone to mercy shatter it.

Gary is a stocky man with Down Syndrome. He and I share a love of thrift stores and garage sales, but as he is graduating this week, this is to be our last outing together.

Storm clouds hang low over miles of Michigan farmland, threatening to cut our shopping off. I forget sometimes how close the land is to the city here. How you can eat Italian gelato with a frustratingly miniature spoon one minute, turn left, and suddenly be surrounded by the smell of manure and Massey Fergusons burning diesel.

I forget how easy it is to get lost, and then I realize that we are indeed lost, and have been for perhaps forty-five minutes now.

"That barn looks vewy familiar," Gary tells me. I would take hope from that, like we are finally headed back in the right direction, but he has said that about every single plain red barn we have passed.

"Thats the way to my house. Stwaight down that road." He is pointing a chubby finger at someone's driveway.

"No, I don't think so buddy."

"Oh really? Cause I have a gweat sense of direction."

Each time we come to an intersection, he dramatically swings his arm in front of me and tells me to turn a certain way, like an Indian scout listening to hoof beats in the ground.

"We are pretty lost," I tell him. Gary ignores me; he is holding a videotape he purchased at our last stop, and gently stroking its slipcase cover.

"This movie has my favowite actor in it," he tells me.

"Oh yeah? Who's that?"

"Billy Way Cyrus."

I can't think of anything to say.

Eventually, we find an old farmer mowing his lawn and I ask him for directions. It begins to rain.

Nothing I find at garage sales is for myself; it all goes to fuel the Ebay machine I need to keep my family afloat. On a good day, there is the thrill of the treasure hunt and the promise of a nice profit; on this particular day, we are just lost and unlucky. I did find a tin chicken pushing a space age stroller that houses two fuzzy little chicks. As the chicken rolls along, it lays little plastic eggs and shrieks. Some things are just for me I guess.

As we hurdle along back to town, now in the right direction, Gary produces a bendy action figure of the mother from The Incredibles. He holds it up and pulls at her limbs.

"Have you seen that movie? The Cwedibles?"

"Yeah. You like that movie?" I ask.

"I just like the mom. She's very...fwexible." Gary bends the rubbery figure in half, then lifts its backside up to me. "I like her costume, how da booty sticks out." He taps the crudely sculpted buttocks. "When I get home, this is what I'm going to do with it-" My blood freezes, anticipating a reenactment of some unspeakable man/toy union, but he merely bends the limbs enough so that they can hook around the handle above the car window. "Hang it just wike that."

The wind blowing through the open window makes Mrs. Incredible dance. Gary licks his lips.

I am mowing the lawn, trying to beat the rain, thinking about my book. The problem is that I can't stay interested in anything, ever. I am like a child. I want to take my shirt off but I don't want cancer. My grey flock of chest hair depresses me anyways.

If I wrote a book about special education, it would be about a paragraph long, and then have a picture of a talking butt wearing corduroy pants.

The butt would make terrible butt puns and no one would find it funny.

No college would give me an honorary degree. No bottled water.

Very few people win accolades for drawing butts.

Even fewer write books.

And only one person, only one, cares for my particular brand of expertise.

That one person is you, several people on the Internet. That one person is you.


  1. There's more than one of us. And I'd totally give you an honorary degree and invite you for a speaking engagement. Enoy your summer, boss!

    1. Hi marianne! I am sure you will hear from me. I am still working an 18 day program over the summer, and with all the new...delights....that will bring, I am sure I will blog some things

  2. That argument about Martin in the office was veRy wonderful.

    Question: Would the moustache hair have to come from Consuela or could it be from someone else preferably Coloradoan?

    Now I am curious to know if there is anyone with a legal name of Billy Wayne Cyprus.

    That is sad that they don't pay you in 12 monthly installments, because that is the way we live. Maybe they eXpect you to hibernate for 3 months.

    1. Hi esb-thanks! Glad you liked it. You can opt in for 12 monthlies, but each check is so significently reduced that we can't get by on it. Hence, ebay.

    2. You are quite the entertainment bargain, as I usuaLLy read you at least twice. (ha - its a good thing I proofread as I had accidentaLLy left the word 'read' out of that sentence.)

  3. I'm sorry I don't have the authority to give you any honorary degrees, but if you wrote a book about special education in your usual style, I'd buy a copy and encourage all my friends to do the same. Even if it was 60% MSPaint sketches of butts.

    1. You would really buy it??? You are awesome. Now I wish I was one of those writey people that actually write books, instead of one of those bloggy people who complain about how I will never be able to write a book.

  4. Gee whiz I'm glad you posted something. I was really starting to worry about you! Maybe you should consider mowing lawns for other people as a side job? You could be "the lawn guy" and take your shirt off in other people's yards and ponder the vast recesses of your mind. (It sounded better in my head.)

    1. Its funny that you say that, because I am the worst lawn mower in the world. I start out OK, but then I get bored and start making hedge mazes and peace signs and stuff. When the mower runs out of gas, I just leave it in the yard all year. I think its why my neighbor always drives really slow past my house and shoots out the windows.

  5. It's not so much that we care, but that your first post was free and we got addicted. Personally, I could give up any time. Any time man. I'll just read one more, and then it's OVER!

    Two more then . . .

    Also, do you think Mrs Incredible must have had the easiest births ever?

    1. Yes! Absolutely. But I guess that is kind of gross to think about. But lifting a tent flap maybe? And just reach in and Bob's your uncle, there's the baby...ugh...thanks a lot Jules, now I no wanna watch the incredibles no more

  6. Happy Summer to I must go spit or at least blow my nose!

    1. Why thank you! I am sure I will still be writing things, and things of the usual medium quality

  7. You're already writing your book. Just start putting all these blogs together, illustrations included, and see how much you've got. Then write/draw some more. I've read that memoir/nonfiction doesn't have to be as long as fiction. You just need like 50,000 to 70,000 words. Get going. I would not only buy a copy for myself, I would buy copies for everyone I love as Christmas gifts. Stocking stuffers for everyone! Could you make the book long and slim, so it could slide real easy into a stocking? Thanks.

    1. Hi Mandy! I always tell you how nice you are, and it is still true. ha ha a book yep that would be something. Maybe a board book. one of those ones with a hole in the cover and some carpet sample glued in behind it, pretending to be a goat's flank. Only it would be some wrinkly pleather posing as my bald scalp. There would also be a scratch and sniff of my old man mothball breath. I am into this now. 50,000 to 70,000 words huh? I imagine a board book with that many words would be kind of house sized.

  8. In PA, there are companies who study the effectiveness of social policies that will hire consultants for Special Education studies, etc. I was offered several hundred dollars to tell my story about getting attacked by a client when I worked in home care "facilities" to a conference. (I dicked out, so I don't know what the whole deal was.) The owner of the company was related to a friend and that's how they found me. You may have to get creative with your search terms, but chances are there is an equivalent company in your area who would be happy to pay for your input.

    1. Hey Megan! I really appreciated your comment; it has given me something to think about and research. Please don't dick out on things on a regular basis though, because running away won't solve anything. I love you.

  9. Yeah, you are right! We do care for your particular brand of expertise! I think your book would be hilarious and I would buy it!

    1. Thanks Devon Mum! I can't ever see writing a book, just because I have no attention span...but if I did, I would certainly hold you to your promise of giving me money.

  10. Ok, this is my 7th attempt to comment on your blog today. Blogger doesn't like my apple devices.
    You'd think I'd give up.
    I've intentionally waited until all the other things have been said so that I can have the last whine. Word....

    Don't do it, man. Don't leave us in a dark, cold, gweenbrick-free void. What will we do?
    Just a few notes here and there. That's all I need. There are levels of survival I am willing to accept. You don't even have to draw. Just WRITE. (Although the drawings are part of my lifeline.....)
    DON'T GO!
    Stick around!
    Do it for me!
    (And maybe some of THEM too....)

    1. Now now Heather, I am not actually going anywhere, I just don't get as much time to blog but I wanted you all to know I was not quitting or anything. Please send me 3,000 dollars and I will sit and blog all day instead of making money for the summer. I know you are filthy rich because you have an Ipad. Someday I will be rich too, and buy an Ipad and sit around all day on my Ipad not being able to leave comments on an incredible blog because the internet, the REAL internet, does not work with my Ipad. And then I will just make vines of my son hula hooping until I die and he is too old and fat to fit into his hula hoop.
      P.S. I know you are not really rich and I am just kidding. You are poor like me. So very, very poor.

    2. {
      I have an iPad ... wow, thanks for pointing this out about being filthy rich (== iPad-edness);((I used == instead of = simply because I am getting aLL Java-ish from prigrammong.));

  11. Write the book, man. Just do it and don't perseverate on future possibilities. You've got it in you to do this. It might be a painful birth, but you've got it in you. More painful is "what might have been."

    Do it.


  12. Superb, vividly executed stuff. See you when you can get bloggytime. It's cool. We'll be here.

  13. I enjoyed your post Mr Gweenbrick, it was educational, amusing and in places thoughtful. Point being keep blogging. It's not about you, its about us and we are quickly bored, need validation for our own blogs and cry easily. Don't make pictures - I never make pictures - I steal them from the interweb. Just type in your subject and then put the most interesting picture in. Google will take care of that - and in the surplus minutes that you have from not drawing you can write. See, problem solved. I can't solve your money problems - I have so many of them myself already, I can't really take on anyone else's. If I hear of any jobs that pay squillions I will take that job myself and then be in a position to employ you. Don't worry, I will.

  14. I would buy that book several times and give copies to all my friends, especially if it had butts in it.

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