Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the month “August, 2017”

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

 

Ooh, I Can Hear Myself Thinking

tree aloneTHIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE TIMES of the year at the Chapel of St. Arbucks here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “Why did I buy more onion dip?”).

At this time every year we have a Scholastic Solstice of a sort. For about ten days this place is quiet. The Public Schools have resumed classes while the colleges and universities don’t kick into gear for another week or so. As a result, the usually busy St. Arbucks is an oasis of relative quiet. The decibel level drops from “Karakatoa on the Wabash” loud down to “My headache has disappeared” manageable. The difference is both thrilling and humbling.

During the summertime when the schools are out, St. Arbucks becomes a favorite haunt of the pubescent masses who come in, order a “Strawberry and Cream Frappuccino,” and think they’re drinking coffee – Oh, so grown-up. All they are really doing is getting a fortified sugar rush and turning into nonstop chatterboxes. The giggling alone from a table with 10 high school girls is enough to make my Curmudgeon Lobe work overtime.

It is different with the obligatory teenage boys who are also here, following the girls and trying to look macho. At least they are much quieter as they practice looking both sullen and somewhat dangerous or James Dean emotionally lost and in need of a cuddle.

These two factions are in St. Arbucks all summer, minus the two weeks when their parents drag them to visit the Grandparents in some version of Iowa. When they return though, they have two weeks of giggling and posing to catch up on. It is during those two weeks that we try to get out of town.

When the colleges and universities shovel their students into town they show up by the study-group load, monopolizing tables and power outlets for their computers and cell phone chargers.

As a rule the college age crowd isn’t as noisy as the younger chair-fillers. They just fill the sonic landscape with keyboard clicks, textbook page turning and low frequency murmuring about the validity of the scientific method and the real meaning of “The Fight Club.”

Whatever happened to the days when college freshmen argued philosophy in on-campus student lounges and not out in public where the rest of us can hear them and are thrown into fits of despair for the future?

It is during this all too short respite when the younger students are back learning how to cheat on tests from their underpaid teachers and the older students are still trying to figure out how to smuggle microwave ovens into their dorm rooms that the Chapel of St. Arbucks becomes a place for contemplation, reasonable discussions about unreasonable things and, on occasion, a venue for impromptu middle-aged performance art. Things that could never happen if the students were here sounding like a billion hormone driven cicadas.

At this moment I am one of four customers/worshippers here at St. Arbucks. Two of them are women in their thirties who are chatting and sipping quietly. The fourth person is seated at the table behind me and I haven’t heard a sound out of her. Perhaps someone should check to make sure that she is still alive. If she isn’t, let her be for a while – it’s nice in here right now.

Advertisements

Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Film Stock

ELVIS HAS LEFT THE FOOD CHAIN! I have to admit that was the nastiest and most snarky comment I heard tossed around on the 16th, the 40th anniversary of Elvis shuffling off his mortal coil.

In a way that seemed to me to be more of a celebration of that event rather than a commemoration the TCM Channel ran 24 hours of nonstop Elvis movies. That is not an easy thing to deal with. I think looking up at the sun on acid while eating ghost peppers would be less difficult.

According to the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) Elvis made 31 movies, BUT the people at TV Guide say that he cranked out 34. How there can be that much of a discrepancy is beyond me. Of course, a lot of things are beyond me, i.e. MTV that doesn’t play any music.

Read more…

I Heard What You Said

I WISH TO MAKE A CONFESSION. I am an eavesdropper. I may look like I’m totally focused on the book in front of me or this blank page as I write, but I also have an ear turned to the world around me. I listen in on what other people are saying and I hear some incredibly inane interesting things sometimes.

Listening in is how I am able to do blog posts like that one from last week about the Real Estate mavens at the next table. I should be ashamed, but I’m not. I’m a “Listening Tom.”

Read more…

A Few Days For Ourselves

LOUISVILLE – WHICH IS NOT PRONOUNCED “LOUIE-VILLE,” is where we have been for a nice long weekend. 3 ½ days is not long enough to really qualify as a real vacation, but you take what you can.

This long weekend is our first real time just for ourselves since our Ireland trip last year. For this trip we had no meetings or family obligations.

 We had not made any plans for our trip beyond Sleep, Eat, Nap, Eat, Sleep, etc – plus two actual things to do that would require putting on our shoes.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Two 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued…

 

Wilma Van der Sluice served the best German Chocolate Cake this side of the cafeteria at the Mortuary College. When she set down her last slice in front of me both my eyes and mouth began to water.

“New perfume, Wilma?”

  “Yeah, you like it? It’s called ‘Evening in Newark.’” She waved her two too massive braids my way. My glasses began to fog up.

“Nice.” It was all I could say.

“Well, enjoy your cake while your ‘Little Gum Drop’ here takes care of those customers in the booth by the Wurlitzer. I’ll be right back to help you lick the plate.” I knew she meant that. It bothered some customers, but Love is Love.

Read more…

Questions And Answers Beyond Me

I WAS UP EARLY THE OTHER DAY – a good half hour earlier than usual. So I went for my morning coffee. I now know why I was awakened so early. There was a reason. I was to be told a remarkable story.

It was barely 6:10 AM when I walked through the door at St. Arbucks and I was greeted by a friend I hadn’t seen in months. He had just popped in for a coffee and five minutes later we would have missed each other. I’m glad that we didn’t.

Terry is a retired career Navy man who moved back to the Midwest after 20 years of service. We sat down and he brought me up to date on his life.

Read more…

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

 

Our Lady Of The Crosswalk

crutchesI THINK I SAW EVIDENCE OF A MIRACLE THIS MORNING.

I was driving down Wabash Avenue, heading toward home after morning services/brewing at St. Arbucks, when I stopped at the red light. It was then that I saw it.

Across the intersection at the crosswalk, leaning up against the light pole, I saw a single aluminum crutch. “Shades of Fatima,” I said to myself. “Right here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “What the heck is that?”).

Nobody would absentmindedly forget that they were using a crutch and just walk away and leave it there. Nobody would think that they didn’t need the crutch and just abandon it at the corner. It has to be a relic of a recent miraculous event.

Read more…

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

SOME THINGS JUST NEVER SINK IN: The concept of a Beer Milkshake, Pauly Shore, People who believe that the earth is flat.

The Beer Milkshake is just not feasible without my gag reflex going into overdrive. Pauly Shore – I don’t know where to begin while sober, and the whole Flat Earth movement??? Well, maybe if I lived in Kansas, but…

Last night we were sitting around and my wife, the lovely and Tele-visually adventuresome, Dawn, had the TV remote in her hand. Somehow she located a program discussing the resurgence of the belief that the Earth is not a globe, but a disk whizzing through space like a Frisbee. My digestive tract slipped into Neutral and my brain into Reverse.

Read more…

Everybody, Shut up!

I’M FEELING CROWDED THIS MORNING. I’m feeling that way because I am being crowded today. On most days at 6:30 AM I have my writing corner all to myself, but today for some reason, this is the most popular place in town. Is St. Arbucks giving something away for free today?

With the crowding comes noise – People Noise. The usual background noise in the morning is made up of cars and trucks driving past, but this morning I can’t even hear the traffic going by. Instead all that I can hear is the people sitting at the next table. Three people all trying to talk at once. They are all so excited. Why I can’t understand. They are all jabbering about Real Estate. Not a topic I would usually associate with such unbridled excitement. To each his own I suppose.

Read more…

Nothing. I Got Nothing.

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. At least that was how it felt to me. While it was comfortably warm and calm outside inside my body it was “Batten down the hatches, and furl your sails!”

I was sick.

On Friday I felt relatively well and spry for a man of my age, but by Friday night I was feeling a bit off kilter. I was sneezing and had no appetite. For me that is a rare occurrence. I began to fear that something ugly was afoot.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles

 

The fog was rolling in like a slinky coming down an escalator. I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero on my way to Wilma’s All-Nite Café for a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of cake.

My name is Henway, I’m a dick, head of the best P.I. outfit in town,

“Henway and ____.”

I’ve been thinking about getting a partner.

I’ve been in this racket for more years than I can count. I’m not much at math. I’m more of a people person and tonight I was hoping to meet up with some people.

When I came through the door at the café I could see the owner, Wilma Van der Sluice, behind W2the counter. Wilma ran her café like a maximum security diner. She made the rules and if you didn’t like it the service could really stink.

When she saw me come in she trotted my way, her two too massive braids bouncing up and down by her ears. She smiled and then suddenly disappeared from view. She bounced back into sight almost immediately, still smiling, but with an “It’s Better With Butter” wax paper square stuck to her forehead. Wilma was tough and she was used to these late night slip-ups.

“Hi, Lover Boy. What can I get you?”

“Hi, back at ya, Sugar Lump. I think I’ll check in with my friend there at the counter first.”

Sitting on one of the red vinyl stools was my mentor, the mug that got me into this business, Henry “Hank” O’ Hair. I dropped down onto the stool next to him.

“Hi, Hank, what’s shakin’?”

“Just my gun hand. Oh, it’s you. Hi, Kid.” He always called me “Kid.” He called everybody “Kid.” His memory isn’t what it used to be. It used to be bad, now it was worse.W4

Hank was wearing his trench coat and his aging Fedora, the one with the bullet hole in the brim, but that’s another, much longer, story. He was sitting there, staring at an empty cup. I gave a short whistle and Wilma came running our way, being more careful this time.

“What’ll it be you two hunks of handsome?”

“I’ll have a cuppa, Gorgeous,” I told her.W6

“Me too,” echoed Hank.

“Yeah, a coffee for me and another for my old friend.” Wilma jotted it all  down on her pad, smiled that smile that lit up many a late night like a welcoming sign reading, “Vacancy,” and headed back to her station by the cake dish.

Hank looked a bit down like something or someone had him by the short hairs – and he didn’t have many left.

“You look down, Hank, like something or someone has you by –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know the rest of it, Kid. What’s bothering me? I’ll tell you. I’ve got a case and it’s got me. I’ve been looking for a guy and it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth and I’ve come up dry. He’s on the lam and I feel  like I’m the goat here. I’ve looked high and low, near and far, and even sooner or later – nothing, nada, ne, yaga, yimba, a ole, nyet, nahin, and squat.”

“No luck, huh?” He shot me look that said things – I’m not sure what though.

W6

W6Wilma came back over to us and set down four cups of coffee. She smiled and winked at me. It was either a wink or a return of an old problem she had with a tic.

“Talk to me, Henway,” she said, leaning over the counter, her nose just inches from the brim of my imported Fedora. “Tell me something that will give me chills.” I knew where this was heading. I played along.

“Sure, Lambs Lettuce, Do you have any German Chocolate Cake left?”

“One slice and it’s all for you, Puppy Eyes, if you say the magic word.”

“Houdini!,” shouted out Hank. “The guy must be a Houdini to have me not find him.”

Wilma sighed. “Close enough. I’ll get the cake,” and off she went, her braids bouncing like her  head was on a tiny trampoline.

I didn’t like seeing Hank down in the dumps. I had to do something.

“What’s this Houdini’s name,? I asked Hank. He took a long and loud slurp of coffee, then spoke. “This ghost goes by the name of Lech Ontario. I’ve looked everywhere and Nem, nei, nahin, ne, ….”

I finished my first cup while he finished his sentence and then I told him that…”I gotta go see a man about a horse. I’ll be right back.”

W7The Euphemisms, both Guys and Dolls, were at the far end of the café. As I headed that way I passed by the aging Wurlitzer juke box. There were no songs on there newer than the theme from “The Love Boat.” 

It was a slow night at Wilma’s. There was just Hank and me and one booth near the back that had two people – A blonde whose face could start any clock, and a guy who looked like his face could stop your clock – permanently.

Just past the juke box was one of the few payphones left in the city. On a hunch, I started leafing through the pages of the phone book that was bolted to the phone. It was then that I recalled that Hank had taught me everything I know – well, not everything. I learned how to finger paint years before I ever met him, but you get the idea.

There it was – on page 437, halfway down the page –

“Ontario, Lech – 1313 Blueview Terrace 552-3918”

After I finished washing my hands like the sign on the Guys Room door insisted I went back to my spot next to Hank.

“Hank, have you checked the phone book for this Ontario guy?”

“Huh?”

“The phone book – did you look there?”

Without an intelligible word, Hank got up and slowly walked back toward the payphone. When he headed back my way he muttered, “Thanks, Kid,” and kept on walking. He vanished into the fog like a black cat in a coal mine.

to be continued 1

W5

That’s My Cue

BE WARNED. I’VE GOT ON MY THINKING CAP.

When that happens the dogs howl, babies cry and milk goes bad on the “Best if used by…” date. And I usually end up with my neck in a wringer.

What triggered my lobes into action was a feeling, a nostalgia, perhaps. I got an email from a local theater group that is holding auditions for their next production. I have no interest in that particular play, but it hit a responsive chord in my heart.

Read more…

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Take My Sermon, Please

PulpitJUST ABOUT EVERY SATURDAY my wife, the lovely and officially Reverend, Dawn, sits down and writes her sermon for Sunday’s services. She starts planning each sermon days or even weeks ahead of time, but does the actual typing on Saturday. It is a lot of work. She doesn’t get up there and wing it on Sunday morning. It takes her a lot of preparation time and it shows in her sermons. Just ask anybody who hears her.

This past Saturday she was busy working on her sermon when I announced that I was heading out to St. Arbucks to work on this blog.

“I’m going to attempt to be somewhat creative,” I said.

“Me too,” she answered. “I’ll tell you what – how about it if I do your blog and you do my sermon?”

In the past I have volunteered to write a sermon for her, but her better judgment stepped in and said, “No way, Bucko.” I guess she was afraid that I would hand her a sermon that was a cross between St. Paul and Daffy Duck.

“Jesus and the twelve apostles walk into a bar. The bartender asks, ‘What’ll you have?’ Jesus says, ‘Water for everybody,’ and St. Peter moans and says, ‘Here we go again.’”

I must admit that my writing style is a bit different from Dawn’s. Her sermons rely on Scripture and Theological Philosophy while my sermons would tend more toward what I saw at Kroger’s and “Knock-Knock jokes.”

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

“God”

“God who?”

“God, the Father, who gave his only begotten son…”

Most people know that verse from looking in the endzone at any NFL football game.

I’m still in the market for some inexpensive Biblical bobblehead dolls to use as visual aids. I think that if I could just illustrate the Christmas story with bobbleheads or some sort of Action Figures it would reach out to people in a whole new way. I mean, really, if they can market Jimi Hendrix and Travis Bickle Action Figures at Toys-R-Us I don’t see why they can’t carry the Holy Family or the Three Wise Men (Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh accessories sold separately).

I think that my wife is afraid that I might step over any number of lines of propriety and say or do something offensive. I would never do that. Just because I have a background of working in saloons, comedy clubs and assorted dives it doesn’t mean that I don’t know how to behave in polite society. I’ve even made presentations in front of Kiwanis Clubs and if you can do that and get out alive you can do anything.

If I were the guest sermonizer one Sunday I would get the audience’s, er…congregation’s, attention by being interesting, making my words relevant to their everyday lives, and by requiring a two think minimum.

There is no doubt that Jesus had a sense of humor – just look at the people He chose to pal around with – a bunch of misfits, some “outdoorsmen” worthy of their own show on the Weather Channel, and a tax collector. And one of that crew turned on him.

It was so hard to get good help in those days.

I’ll be the first to admit it – Dawn does better sermons than I could ever do. She has “the calling” for that work. The only “calling” I ever got was trying to get me to refill a nonexistent prescription with a Canadian pharmacy.

If Dawn ever decides that she would like a Sunday off I would be more than happy to step up and knock one out of the park.

I think there is room enough for both of us in the pulpit.

Well, maybe not.

Peace, The Real Peace

A Reblog from “A Teacher’s Reflection,” with the permission of the author.

I talk about peace often in my classroom.  Well, that’s partially true.  When children talk about peace, I jump right in. They have a lot to say. We adults should listen more.

Years ago, when I first had the the good sense to listen to children, it struck me to paint a peace dove in our parking lot, right in front of the entrance to school.  Janine, an artist and parent of Juliet (Starry Night post) and Audrey, was happy to do the job.  Since then, she has returned many times to repaint this simple, beautiful bird.  It has become a symbol to welcome all the families and visitors who come into our school.  Crossing the threshold of peace.

Peace is really very simple.  Children know.  When asked, “What is peace?”, they pause, and pull an answer from their soul.  I think the soul is a heart that has lived.  “My new baby sister, dancing, dinner with my family”… true peace.  That’s what children say.

It took me a while in my teaching to let go of the structure of teaching peace.  I remember interviewing children when we were sitting under a Peace Portal that we had made in the classroom.

I asked, “How does peace make you feel?”

Colin answered, “It makes me feel hearty.”

“Oh… it makes you feel strong?”

“No, Jennie.  It makes me feel heart-y.”  Then he patted his heart.

Oh my goodness!

Colin answered with a why-are-you-asking, and a don’t-you-already-know, mindset.  He was right; I did know.  I was teaching peace as part of my curriculum.  I realized that peace is learned by doing.  I had to set the stage, be a role model, stop and talk at all the little and big things that happened in the classroom, read plenty of books aloud that open the door for both goodness and evil- oh, the conversations we have are pretty intense; from fairy tales to the more subtle, like Templeton the rat in “Charlotte’s Web”.  I made sure children felt comfortable saying what they thought and asking questions.

I was right.  It made a difference.  Thereafter, peace became something  real.  Now, peace in my classroom is something children just understand.  Talking about it, or making a book, or designing a quilt happens as a reflection of what they already know and feel.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

I Want All Or Nothing

THERE IS GOING TO BE AN ECLIPSE in this part of the world soon. I plan to skip the event. Why? Because here in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My eyes! My eyes!”) it is not going to be a Total Eclipse. The TV says that it will be 85% here. In my book 85% is a “C” – OK, maybe a “B” if you’re grading on the curve and you have a room full of Bozos. If I am going to go through the trouble of getting those special dark glasses I want the Full Monty – so to speak. I don’t think I’m asking too much.

Read more…

Cracker!

THE OTHER DAY A FRIEND MENTIONED TO ME that she had a decision to make. It seems that she has a jar that she has used to hold crackers and, for reasons unknown to me, she has evicted the crackers and now fills the jar with cat treats. The decision part of this is whether or not she should tell anyone. It seems that one member of the family is a regular customer of the Cracker Jar.

I don’t make up these things. I don’t have to.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – “God Bless Joe Sheridan”

Today I thought I would post a piece from my short fiction file.

God Bless Joe Sheridan” is the story of the airplane flight from Hell.

 

God Bless Joe SheridanBox tied with cord

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN IN JAIL, but, by God, I’ve done hard time. So have you, if you’ve ever flown coast to coast, shoehorned into a seat next to someone who could be the lovechild of Carrot Top and Casey Stengel.

You know the type. They talk incessantly, but make sense very rarely.

It was on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I thought it was going to be a pleasure trip: see the Smithsonian, admire the classical architecture, shake my fist at Capitol Hill – all the usual stuff. Then I saw “him” trundling down the aisle of the Boeing 7-something-or-other jetliner.

“Uh oh” I said to myself. Why do bad things happen to, basically, nice guys?

I was in the window seat and I knew in my heart that, with this whole airplane to pick from, he was going to end up next to me.

The tip-off was the fact that his carry-on luggage was a cardboard box tied up with kite string.

Read more…

A Day Like No Other Day

EVERY DAY I GET AN EMAIL telling me what “National Day” it is. For example – two days ago (8/9) was “National Book Day.” A fine and admirable thing in my opinion. I like books. I read books. I’ve even written a few and I find them handy in the event of a wobbly table leg.

Not content to leave well enough alone the people who keep track of such things advised me that Wednesday was also “National Veep Day.” Like I care. Like anyone who is a Veep actually cares to be reminded. It’s not the kind of thing one brags about.

“Hello, I’m a Veep. I don’t get any respect. I don’t even get called ‘Vice-President.’ All I get is ‘Veep.’”

Read more…

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

Throwback Thursday from August 2015

When It Comes To Wasting Time I Am Self-Taught

Kite with keyWHILE HANGING TEN OFF MY KEYBOARD today I bumped into a tidbit of info that is, perhaps, the most Obvious, Redundant, and Dumb As a Sackful of Hammers thing I’ve seen in quite a while.

The University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, is offering a course with the title of, “Wasting Time On The Internet.”

Well, yeah. And your point is…?

Read more…

Picture If You Will. ..

TO PARAPHRASE DOUGLAS MACARTHUR (Under 40? Look him up.), “I have returned from Texas.”

A visit with the Family is now checked off our summer “to-do” list and, like most trip to Texas it exceeded our quota of Airline Weirdness.

It seems that every time we fly to Texas the airline (it doesn’t matter which one – Southwest this time) manages to slip over into The Twilight Zone. This time they outdid themselves.

Read more…

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: