Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Pickle's Dillies

I've been looking for a new job for the last fifteen years.

It's possible that I job-hunt poorly.

But our students clean a software development company twice a week, and I really feel like I could make a go of it there.

They have animal crackers by the coffee maker, and motivational posters on the walls saying things like, "Containerize your system's systems!", or "Are you bottlenecking your flowthroughs?!?"

I read the posters and eat the crackers and think, yep, I could really pick up what this computery place is laying down.

Except there is a framed picture of the Big Bang Theory cast hanging near the office kitchen.

I've never seen the show, but I know a teacher with a very terrible sense of humor who adores it. This makes me worry about the character of this place I've decided should hire me.

Well, it's not so much that he has bad humor, it's that he says things like "cha-ching! ba-da-boom ba-da-bing!" and other kinds of pseudo-Italian onomatopoeia.

He also dances like this:

I dance like this:

My wife saw me run the other day, and she said I ran like this:

The more I ran to prove I run good, the more she laughed.

I said all right, let's see you do it.

She said no because she was holding a baby.

My son said his gym teacher did 37 pull-ups.

I said oh yeah? and then I did one pull-up sort of. I had to do a lot of kipping.

It's not that I feel the need to prove myself to wives and sons, it's more like I worry that everyone has forgotten what I am really capable of.

There is a whole group of pickle ball playing daddies at the YMCA. They check their kids into childwatch and then they meet up in the gym.  

I bet I'm capable of pickleball, I think. 

If I wandered up to the pickle ball players, looking manly, looking lost, would they extend a paddle?

And would I take it? Maybe with the thought, this pickle ball court is my new home now. And these men are my new family.

There's good ole Stuart, with his college try of a moustache.

And Cussmouth Wayne, as quick with a goddam as he is with a hard return. 

I love my new family. I love grunting and hitting balls over low nets with them.

But the fantasy collapses when Rec and Ed Basketball shows up and calls dibs on the gym.

These are tall, muscular, dangerous looking people; they have no babies in childwatch. 

Though they easily could. They could make a thousand babies, as effortlessly as passing gas. Even their sweat is virile.

The pickle ballers cede the floor. According to the posted schedule, they should have another ten minutes, but they don't dare cock block Rec and Ed. 

One last volley, one more hoo-rah with a serve, and then the paddles are slipped into diaper bags, moustaches toweled off; sweaty knuckles give slippery fist bumps. 

Suddenly, we are all just homebound dads again.

We check our watches to see if we can still make Library Storytime. We wonder if it's a good night to ask for sex.

I wipe off pretend pickleball perspiration as I lead the students through the doors of the software company. 

There are several start-ups all crammed together in this here incubator; I feel like if I do amazing things, they will notice and offer me a job. 

So I scrub tables with gusto, like I am really feeling the grime and the relief of its removal. 

The second a programmer rises from the toilet seat, I am there. Spraying it down, wiping it smooth, suffering any stench he leaves with a smile and a thank you sir, may i have another?

They employ so many young and bearded wolves. Maybe there is room in the pack for an under qualified silver fox.

I want one of those cool software job titles like "Java Wrangler" or "Python Master". 

You won't know if I'm a computer science guy or a bounty hunter.
But no one notices my way with Swiffer and Windex. My head goes unhunted.

The best I get is a young office lady, shyly coming over to me, her eyes nervously flitting to the floor. She points a pale, slim finger at a conference table nearby.

"There's donuts, over there. From yesterday. You guys can eat them if you want."

I eat a donut, sure. But it tastes bitter, like a job offer that never comes.

The next two taste pretty good though. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Head of the Class

You see, in my last post, I wrote about being stung by a bee.

It was the kind of juicy tidbit you read on the internet and think, hey, that's really something; I would like to know more about that.

Your pulse quickens, your pupils dilate, and you lean in closer to your screen. What on earth will happen next??? you wonder.

But I laid that tease of a narrative on you, then failed to close the deal.

Allow me to quote from just one of the many lost, betrayed voices that rang out after I posted:

"Er...I'm still waiting to hear what happened after you got stung by the bee..." -lily

Good god, man! I read this comment, and I tore my breast in shame.

So I owe you all an account of a bee sting, by gum, and such an account you shall have.

When a bee attacks, are you supposed to hold your breath and try to look bigger, or roll into a fetal ball and play dead?

I did none of those things that fateful day; in fact, I failed my body terribly in its time of need.

I chose to scream, flail my arms and legs in unpredictable circles, and steer my lawnmower directly into a pine tree. 

If my family had been watching from the window, they would have thought Daddy was having a hilarious stroke.

But they weren't. They didn't even care. They were too busy watching Fixer Upper, clapping with glee every time Chip pulled up musty carpet to reveal pristine hardwood floor beneath.

The bee had its way with me, and I wept from the owie nature of my boo-boos.

You know what they say, though: if Mother Nature throws you from the saddle, hurry and get back on her, or risk being someone who prefers the indoors for the rest of your life.

And so, just the other day, I took a group of my students for a walk in the woods.

I let them walk ahead of me, so they couldn't see my tears.

Most of my students are new this year. They are right out of high school, no diploma, no college in their future. They're here to get jobs, learn how to open a checking account, stuff like that.

Not walk in the woods.

They got hot and hungry, and all I could think to ask them are questions like 'what is your favorite thing to eat?' or, 'what is your favorite thing to order at Red Robin?', or, 'have you had the lava cake at Applebees?' 

We passed a memorial plaque that mentioned how the park was named for a veteran of the Civil War.

"The war of the North and the South was stupid," said A.J., a big, greasy looking country boy. 

"Why do you feel that way, A.J.?" I asked, pretending that I am a nurturing educator. I do that by using feeling words and first names.

"Because they shouldn't be fighting. They are all part of the same country. If I was back then, I'd be telling them all to work it out in peace. Like I would get them all in one big room and say you and you need to shake hands and get along."

"But the South refused to give up slavery," I pointed out, glancing back at my black students. I wanted them to know I wasn't racist, and I figured looking at them right after saying the word 'slavery' would do the trick. 

A.J. considered that for a minute.

"Then I would shoot'em in the kneecaps!" he suddenly shouted. "I'd shoot all the generals and be like Now what? Now what?"


After a moment, I asked him if he liked Mexican food.

The trail deadended on the bank of the Huron River. My class and I stood in awe of the water's majesty.

 It's not the cleanest stretch of the river. One of the kids noticed some weird orange-brown slime puddling up and oozing into the water, and we all crowded around to get a good look.

Sometimes, my duty to educate butts up against my urge to be a five-year-old boy. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Caution Tape

I know I haven't posted in a long time.
It's only because a series of momentous events have occurred at me.

For instance, last week I was stung by a bee.

All my creative bits are rusty and off. Please stay with me during this period of terribleness.

Anyways, I am not a man who prides himself on a flawless lawn. I don't aspire to a sea of grass so spongy and perfect that you could have a baby on it.

I do not pride myself on much of anything. Certainly not the stereotypical man things: a clean shave, a perfect spiral, an expertly grilled wiener.

I suppose I could take pride in my ability to make babies.

I even made one over the summer:

This her impression of Buddy Hackett. It needs some work, but I make her practice every day.

Having the baby was surprisingly easy for me.

I wanted to talk more about how long my grass was, because it feels like one of those conversations that we as a society need to have, but I feel like my own contribution to the dialogue is forced and inauthentic:

The hardest part of giving birth was trying to figure out what the nurse midwife was saying. 

She was a Swedish woman who spoke in broken, despondent English, and bore the bedside manner of a mortician.

When it came time to push, she told me to lift one of my wife's legs in the air. I think it was because she wanted me to feel like I was helping. 

It was cool, holding that leg like that. I imagined I was a street musician with my upright bass. Money kept clinking in my open instrument case and I knew I was going to eat well that night.

"Are you interested in a viewing of the placenta?" the midwife asked me, when things were pretty much over. 

I didn't want to, but my wife gave me a poke in the ribs. 

"Be polite. Go over and look at the placenta," she whispered.

She kept splatting it up and down in a puddle of blood, all the while assuring me that it was a fine specimen, a placenta to make you proud.

We brought the baby home, as people do. And then I went back to work.

Summer school was in session. I was mostly stuck with a guy named Ronald.

Ronald seemed to be channeling the spirit of someone's irritable grandfather. He railed against women drivers, democrats, and "Stay off the grass" signs.

He was a starry-eyed racist as well, totally amazed by the bounty of black people that walked the city streets.

"Rap music is for...for..."

We were on a crowded city bus, and Ronald was trying to be discrete. He looked sideways at several elderly black ladies sitting nearby, and stage whispered, "It's for people who aren't normal."

I quickly pulled the stop cord and ushered him off the bus.

"You can't say that kind of stuff, Ronald."

"Helllll yes I can."

"You can't say 'hell' at school, either."

He rolled his eyes. 

Ronald spoke often of his wife.

"Her father won't let us be together. Hoo boy! Does he hate me."

"What's your wife's name?" I asked.

"Lunging Lily. You know her?"

I shook my head.

"What does she look like?"

"A corpse."

It turned out that Ronald's wife was an animatronic devil woman sold exclusively at Halloween Spirit stores:
Her motion sensor had tripped as he'd walked past, she'd leapt forward on her pallid little spring loaded legs, complete with lit eyes and possessed screaming, and he'd fallen into startled, terrified love.

"She's the one for me," Ronald said. "She's the one for me."

After several weeks of hearing him go on about the many virtues of Lunging Lily, I decided to see her for myself.

We did a quick Youtube search, and clicked on a cellphone video tour of a Halloween Spirit store.

It was conducted by a bubbly young mother who followed behind her two toddlers, Jagger and Torch, as they went from abomination to abomination.

Demon babies popped up from their strollers and sprayed the little children with fake blood.

A Japanese rage spirit spiderwalked backwards along a wall, snarling curses.

"Oooh, look at that, Jagger," she murmured into her phone.

Torch slow danced with a drowned girl that motored around on a wheel hidden beneath her ragged dress.

"We have this one at home," she said. "It's his favorite."

As the video played, Ronald became increasingly agitated. He rocked on his heels and rubbed his hands down his legs repeatedly.

The happy trio turned a corner and there was Lunging Lily, standing on a pedestal and set apart from the rest.

"Oh my god," Ronald gasped.

"Guys, look! It's Lily!" the mom chirped, as if she'd just opened the front door to let in grandma or a lovable stray dog. "Jagger, go up to her. Go on."

The little boy hesitated for a moment. He sucked on his pudgy finger.

Eventually, Jagger toddled up to Lunging Lily. She screamed and roared and fired towards him, but the boy didn't even flinch. He only batted her away, and Ronald lost control.

He spit into the screen, swore at Jagger (whose name he changed, mid-howl, to 'Dagger'), and slammed his fists onto the keyboard.

I decided to take him for a walk to help him calm down. We headed for the playground a few blocks from our classroom.

By the time we arrived, Ronald had relaxed back into his angry, chauvinist Grandpa self.

He went off towards a chain link climbing ladder that lead up to a little curvy slide. Someone had strung yellow caution tape all over the ladder.

"Caution tape," he muttered.

Ronald carefully placed his "daughter", a soiled ragdoll he carried with him wherever he went, on the ground, and then he began to climb.

His blue jeans barely fit him, and as he awkwardly struggled his way up the ladder, Ronald's white underwear clad bottom was revealed to all the world. 

He strained under the hot sun, poured sweat. His long legs tangled up on themselves. Ronald heaved and groaned.

"Caution tape, caution tape," he chanted as he climbed.

At last, he collapsed on the platform at the top of the ladder. He lay on his stomach with his pants around his knees, and began to laugh in exhausted triumph.

"Caution tape!" he shouted, for all the world to hear him. "Caution tape! Caution tape, my ass! HA HA HA! Caution tape, my ASS! I'll give you caution tape!" 

Then he slid down the slide. 

He was way too big for it, though, and came to a complete stop at the first curve. 

Ronald sat, stuck and blinking in the hot sun, and I reluctantly rose from my spot in the shade and wandered out to help him.