Fiddler On The Roof

November 20, 2007 at 10:54 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

  Growing up with Heathens as parents as I did, we didn’t have alot of traditions that really remember.  Memorial Day and the 4th we BBQed, Labor Day was generally a reunion of some sort.  Thanksgiving we ate.  Christmas, we gave presents.  That’s about it.
  In my former life being married, we had some traditions, many of which I felt were forced upon me.  In later years I came to embrace the idea of tradition, and so I wanted to detail in writing what they are, and perhaps enumerate some new ones.  Let’s start with a list of the holidays:

New Year’s Day.  The tradition I am most fond of on NYD is to sleep late, lay around in my underwear, and eat and watch a movie.  No agenda for further purpose is allowed.  I like it.  Might have a drink or two as well.
Ground Hogs’ day–I’d like to light a small bonfire in remembrance of the car I had that burned to the ground.
Valentine’s Day.  The traditional card and candy, perhaps flowers.  Perhaps a small jewelry item.  Dinner and sex.  Good times.
My Birthday.  About a week after Valentine’s day.  Dinner and sex.  I don’t need jewelry.
Steak and a Blow Job Day.  I believe this says it all.
Easter.  I. . .I don’t know what to do about Easter.  I used to "celebrate" it the Catholic way, with my ex’s family:  big get together and meal, egg hunt, and presents.  I surely don’t get the concept of presents on Easter.  Do I need a new tradition for Easter?
Kim’s Birthday.  I believe this calls for Dinner and sex.  Maybe a present, even.  I’ll get her something as well.
Memorial Day.  I sure do want to BBQ and drink beer.  Would like to do it with people.
4th of July.  My son’s birthday.  Call him, maybe see him.  BBQ and beer.
July 23rd.  Our real Anniversary.  I’d say dinner and sex.
Labor day weekend.  Usually some kind of get together with the family.
Halloween.  Halloween starts the first weekend in October, with the putting up of decorations.  Need to watch scary movies also.  Buy candy.  Dress up.  Give out candy.
Thanksgiving.  Well, the parade, first and foremost.  I take some kids downtown to the parade.  Then we cook, and eat, and drink.  The weekend for putting up Christmas decorations.  Also:  need to watch some Christmas movies.  At noon on Thanksgiving, K-SHE plays Arlo Guthrie’s "Alice’s Restaurant."
I also like to try to make a new recipe on Thanksgiving.  In theory not a good time to experiment, but there’s usually plenty of food, so it’s not a bad idea.
Christmas.  The Christmas season begins on Thanksgiving.  Putting up the decorations, playing Christmas music.  Like to attend at least one Christmas party of SOME kind.  Geez.  Come on.  The new tradition involves "when do I get the kids?"  See if Mitchell will stop by.  Christmas eve or Christmas day–need to go to Carl’s.  Coordinating this is part of the tradition.
Shopping is part of the tradition as well, and so is eating and drinking.  The 100 proof southern comfort is something that I have to have, I guess.  Dad liked it.
New Years’ Eve.  I’d like to go somewhere, do something, somewhere.  with someone.  Even if WE have one?  A party?

I contemplated this, as I am often likely to do.  I have a friend, or two.  Bunny may or may not have a party, which I may or may not be invited to.  The Dude’s brother may also have one.  I don’t want the college type party…..I’d like just a get-together:  talk, drink, eat.  Sit down.  Very few people flashing their tits.  No incredibly loud and annoying music.  No one screaming, "PAAART-EEE!  Woohoo!"  Is that too much to ask?
The Dude’s brother and his friends–the neighborhood group–seem very nice.  Too nice, sometimes.  Random group sex is likely to break out at any given moment, and I’m trying to preserve Detroit’s innocence.
My cousin Joe, or even Uncle Joe–they might have a suarez–that’s always a nice possibility.  Who else do I know? 
I think what I want–I want a circle of friends.  I have two.  With me, it’s more of an awkward threesome than an actual circle.  I’d like to have a group of friends.  I’m a friendly mother fucker–why don’t I have more friends?  Is my breath that bad?

On the other hand–


The Cluttered Life

November 17, 2007 at 10:44 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Retraction..
I used to be slob.  Of course, now I’m a slob in recovery.  I used to be a packrat.  I still am.  I gave up so much.  Everything.  I gave up everything I owned, everything I ever had, all stake and claim to any and all possessions, save the very few I could get into my truck as I  drove away, leaving my wife and children and house behind me in a cloud of dust and a burst of tears.  I used to save everything.  Not to the extent my parents did, but close.  And then once in awhile, about every 18 months, I’d go through a cycle of manic cleaning and getting rid of everything.  Wiping the slate clean.  Full and utter starting over.
And the starting over I did recently was the start over to end all start overs.  I don’t ever want to do it again.  I don’t ever want to get rid of my stuff again.  It’s my stuff, and I want to keep it.
But now that I can see the forest I’ve cleared after getting rid of the trees. . .
I have no right to judge.  Of course, everyone does, and I used to pride myself on being more understanding about people’s foibles, quirks, idiosyncrasies and what-have-you.  My feeling was that. . . .knowing how *I* was, everyone else is certainly better than I.
We judge and view people through our own personal lens.  It’s not prejudice, it’s human nature.  We have to have a basis to start from.
Having gone through what I have gone through (liquidating my assets) I view other people through that microscope:  I got rid of everything, you should also.
I "simplified" my life, so should you.  I got rid of material possessions, and therefore you should also.  I have a good woman with the patience and good nature to clean up after me because I am an oblivious slob, and that’s what you should get also.
The entire point I was trying to make in the writing of my trip was the spectrum of human experience that I saw; each was different, each was valid, each was unique.  Each served the purpose of the person having it.
Most often, we also judge things that remind us of ourselves more harshly.  In Judy, My beloved’s best friend, I perhaps saw too much of myself, and didn’t like it.
I do see in her much of myself.  She has an easy going nature, I can tell.  Of course, I may be the champion in that arena.  But I’m not competitive.  She has a relationship that she’s not exactly happy with that she suffers through.  I wish her the best with that.  It took me a long time, and I am not giving ANYONE relationship advice.
She has a Finnish ancestry–I’m right there with her.  She is a little sensitive; of course she has every right to be.  I am as well.  I have a much thinner skin than I let on.  The calluses have built up in certain places.  But, while thicker, it’s more fragile there.  But it’s good, since I’m not smart enough to recognize a mistake when I’m making it, at least I can understand the hurt I cause after the fact.

Judy, I am so, so sorry.  I really am.  I write alot, and alot of what I write is crap.  I don’t even mean everything I write–sometimes it just comes out.  You should see some of my crap BEFORE it gets edited.  Lordy.
It’s a helluva way to find out someone actually reads my blog.  Sorry.

People Who Need People. . .

November 16, 2007 at 5:28 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

.  . . .And people who don’t. . ..
  Well, we made it back from our trip pretty much okay, which you wouldn’t have known because we don’t have internet access.  I didn’t read the fine print on the DSL contract; apparently they want that money EVERY MONTH.
  So let’s talk about the trip.  Having exhausted our resources, we drove Nigel, my fifteen year old Mazda MX-3.  I was concerned. . .
  About a number of things.  First of all, he’s fifteen years old, which is old for a car.  Lots of things could go wrong.  Secondly, I had just *had* him worked on–usually something else breaks when that happens.  And also:  we were going to bring alot of Alex’s stuff up to him. . .and bring back with us . . . a *surprise*!
  We knew this going up, that we were going to be bringing back Detroit’s sister.  In a nutshell (ironically):  she has emotional and psychological problems, and has spent a lot of time homeless.  She has meds, but has trouble finding a job.  Maybe it’s the interview process–?
  But despite what my conspiracy-soaked friend The Dude says, the economy is not bad.  Not here, at least.  But in Michigan, brother, they have problems.  So we are going to bring her back with us (!), let her stay with us (!!), and help her get on her feet and be independent (!!!)
  So my concerns about the car revolve around bringing that load back with us, that far.  Not that it’s that much, but that it is that much for that *small car*.  Nigel was made to haul around, at most, four small Japanese people, weighing in at 118 pounds, plus a few groceries, like sushi and rice and seaweed.  Am I stereotyping?  Does the Pope shit in the woods?

  And I realize now that the trip was not about the trip; it was about the people.  I just deleted a bunch of crap that was about the trip.  Not interesting.  So:

  Carol and Phil are the parents of one of Alex’s friends, and that’s who he stays with.  They are nice people.  Very nice–taking in Alex.  But he wasn’t the first.  There was another teen they took in as well.  Honestly, there were people all over the place.  It was like a bus station, but cleaner.  And no drug deals.
  We got to meet their very large extended family, all of whom seemed to live there.  Also, Alex’s friends.  The next day they all took off of school to visit with Detroit; it may have just been an excuse to skip school.  I got to meet Saira, finally.  The girl who Alex claims is not his girlfriend, but she really is.  She is very sweet, and very nice, and very pretty.  Probably too good for him.
  I worked on their computer, cleaned it up a bit, made it run faster.  I thought it was the least I could do since they let us stay there.  Carol and Detroit talked a bit–I think Carol had some venting to do and was glad to have a woman to vent to.  Not about Alex, but about the kids in general, extended family, step-kids, blah blah blah.  I heard her say once, shaking her head, "I’m just the step-mom." 
  So the situation may be alot for her, but overall I think she likes it.  She likes having all the people and kids around.  I feel sad for Detroit; I know she likes it too.  Late at night, Carol was sitting on the couch watching her tv show with just one daughter, which I guess was the closest she could get to alone time.  So I sat with them for a while, waiting for the computer to finish its activity.
  It seems to me like what they have is what I’ve wanted, but I swear I can’t stand that much of it.


  We took Alex with when we went up northwest-ish.  Detroit showed me where she had lived, and we visited her brother Chuck, and her sister Margaret was staying there with him.  This was the exact opposite of Phil and Carol’s.  It wasn’t a big house with lots of people, it was the smallest apartment I had ever seen, with two people.  Adding us three, it was crowded.  The place was about ten by ten, that was the living room-kitchen-dining room-family room.  Upstairs, the same size or smaller was the bedroom, master bath suite, and library.  I really have seen closets that big.
  Chuck seemed. . .easily annoyed.  He has a way, a certain way–of doing EVERYTHING.  He does not like to have his routine interrupted.  Of course, his routine does not consist of much–eating, sleeping, and walking to work–but he likes his routine the way it is.  He’s single, oddly enough, and never been married.  He admits to being too set in his ways now, which was an incredible understatement.
  Margaret seemed mousy and quiet.  I guess she was just trying to stay out of her brother’s way, which was kind of like trying to someone’s view of the sky.  I’m sure I’ll find out more about her.  But we left her there that day, telling her we would get her the next day. 
  We then visited Pat, a friend of Detroit’s.  First of all, I was never clear on this:  Did she or did she not "go out with him"?  Were they together at one time?  Did she ever bang him?  And why does it matter?  I don’t think I ever got a straight answer.
  He is an older man, and not what I expected.  I expected taller, and thinner.  I don’t know why.  Both he and Chuck worked at the same sugar factory, the town’s life-blood.  They both had things to say about each other as well.  And they both…
  This is strictly a guy thing.  You can pick up subtle clues about people from little things, and this is not a little thing, it’s a big thing.  The handshake.  Each one offered their hand like it was a cold, wet carp.  And that’s what I felt like I was holding.  I have an understanding of why Chuck is like that:  he just doesn’t . . .like *people.*  Fear of intimacy, or however you want to analyze him.  He doesn’t want to be close. 
  So I don’t know what it says about Pat.
  Pat was nice, very social.  All these people have their own very odd and unique way of living.  He has a six year old daughter who was very sweet.  Rambunctious.  From what I understand, the mother– a younger woman–wanted nothing to do with her?  Of all the odd things I saw, that one actually hurt me.
  Detroit read a little to her, in the dark house.  I understand having lights off in the room you aren’t in, but the room you ARE should have a goddamn light on.  And I have wide peripheral vision, so out of the side of my eye, I see a whole area that is dark, and it bugs me.  I like light.  That’s why I leave the lights on, asshole.  I mean honey.
  It was an older house, it seemed.  Or maybe it was just ramshackle.  I don’t know.  It reminded me, though, of visiting my dad’s friends with him, when I was a child in the 70’s.
  Pat showed us his spread.  Out back, in the dark, and cold, and light rain, we walked to his pigeon shed, and his chicken shed.  The little girl would grab various birds, hold them and pet them, and then proffer them to me.  It was sweet.
  The we went to see Detroit’s friend Judy, and her. … .ah. ..the guy living with her, Casey.  First we had to get past the dogs, and then Casey introduced himself as Judy’s boyfriend.  But they slept in separate rooms?  Not buying, Jack.  His handshake was firm but brief, and he quickly withdrew his tiny Asian hand.  He had no doubt been taught by someone so that he could mimic American customs.
  Judy was nice.  We sat and talked, and Casey was on his best behavior that evening.  The house was.. .. cluttered.  I mean, as bad as my parents house was *before* my mom died, and we all cleaned it THE FIRST TIME.  Detroit never saw it.  But seeing this made me want to grab Judy by the shoulders and shake her like an infant.  Later I found there was a reason for it:  everything was still in probate, so she didn’t want to get rid of anything.
  The next morning, she treated us to breakfast before she had to go to work, we said our goodbyes, and then went to a park to chill for a while, because it was still early, and we were putting of picking up Margaret.
  While at the park, I discussed with Detroit My Plan.  Spoiler Alert:  Ultimately, it was going to work out for the best.  The town itself was pleasant, seeing it in daylight.  It had a small-town feel, like Mayberry in the new Millennium.  It reminded me of Troy, where we had lived.
  So, after putting it off as long as we could, we go to get Margaret, and tell her the plan.  The gist of it was, there was no way we going to get her and her stuff in the car, with us and our stuff–to say nothing of the trip back to Roseville wherein we would also have Alex and his overnight bag.  So my plan was this:  I will buy her a bus ticket, if there is a bus leaving from Bay City (our next stop), put her on a bus for St Louis, and on our way back through, pick up her stuff and bring it with us.
  She cried a bit–thinking we were going to ditch her (which I contemplated)–but adjusted to the concept.  We explained that she would be able to take more of her stuff this way, as opposed to leaving most of it behind.  And I was going to feel better–just the 30-40 minute trip from there to Bay City (our next stop) with all of us in the car really stressed me out.  And Nigel.  Poor fella.  That’s alot to haul.  But luckily, that was the biggest load, and it was the shortest leg of the trip.

Bay City

  We buy the bus ticket, departure Sunday at 10 am.  Then we drive to Detroit’s aunt’s house.  Aunt Darlene and Uncle Ted.  They were there, as well as Aunt Sharon.  These are Detroit’s mom’s sisters.  The women were both very nice, personable.  Very friendly.  Maybe because they had been drinking?  They took me right in, that was nice.  We got there early in the afternoon, maybe 3?  and stayed up till 11 or so, talking.  It was nice to meet some people who got me.  I think these were the "cool aunts" Detroit has.  And I learned more about her family.
Sharon left early, maybe at 8.  Sometime after dinner.  The next morning, Darlene made us all breakfast, and that was nice.  Detroit took her sister to the bus, made sure she got on it, and came back.
  We sat and talked some more, and I got to talk to Uncle Ted.  He came to America when he was 15, from Poland.  I saw his last name–a lot of consonants.  This was right after WWII.  And–he raises pigeons.  To race.
  He’s been doing it since 1960.  He told me of the history of it, and the current state of affairs, and how racing has improved the breed.  It was interesting stuff.
  And then it was time to go.
  We loaded up, said goodbye, and headed back to Caro, where we got the rest of Margaret’s stuff while Chuck slept.  Then we headed to Roseville, and dropped Alex off.  We said goodbye, and left.  It was later than we wanted to get started, but we made good time.

St Louis

  Margaret was due in at 12:10am, StL time.  we rolled in a little after 11, enough time to unpack, mapquest the bus station, and head downtown.
  The St Louis Bus terminal is the stuff of legends.  This is the thing that lets you know, without a doubt, you am in a dirty, dangerous area.  Anything can be had for a price here, and I believe that price is under ten bucks.
  Her bus showed up about 1230, twenty minutes late.  We scooped her up and got out of there as soon as we could, and went home.  Home.  To sleep.  I have to work both my jobs the next day.
  As I drifted off to sleep, finally in my own bed, Detroit by my side, dog under the bed and cat on top, and this strange new person in my house now–I remembered what Detroit said to me somewhere on the trip back home.  We were in the car by ourselves, alone at last.  Out of nowhere, she speaks.
  "I think I’m going to end up owing you big time for this–"

Goodnight Wisconsin!

November 6, 2007 at 4:44 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  The other night, Detroit and I went to a comedy show.  The Last Comic Standing was touring with the top 5 winners.  Uh…Ralph Harris, Amy Schumer, Jerry Dee, Lavell Crawford, and John Reep.  It was at "The Family Arena," in St Charles.
  For you outer-worlders, St Charles isn’t exactly. . . a suburb or St Louis.  It’s more like the western destination for spurious white flight.  Spurious–because now, people are moving to the south, and way, way west, like O’Fallon and Wentzville.  And also where I had moved: northwest to Troy.  But St Charles is the first destination across the bridge, the place where, if you’re playing racial hide and seek, you can yell "Base! Can’t touch me!  Base!"
  I haven’t digressed; this is filler so that you feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth.
  But it’s also relevant because the comics kept mentioning it, as if to remind themselves of where they were ("Goodnight Wisconsin!"), but also because one of the comics was from St Louis,  Lavell Crawford. 
  So, Detroit ordered the tickets, and they came pretty quickly.  They had been on sale for a while, and yet she was able to get 7th row on the floor.  These were good seats, but it made me wonder how big the house (the audience size) in this small arena was going to be.  It holds about 11,000 people, but it was set up in half-house configuration to hold about six thousand.  In that setting I would estimate between half and three-quarters full.  Maybe closer to half. 
  So I take off work that night, and we go to the show.  The barbarians at the gate wouldn’t let us in without paying for parking.  Again, this irks me.  It is their OWN goddamn parking lot!  It’s like paying for parking when you go to McDonald’s to dine in.  What the FUCK?
  Actually we didn’t bring any cash with, so we turned around and left, went to the gas station and used the cash machine.  Then we get back to their very own parking lot where we have to pay for parking.  We park close to the building, go up the steps, and walk in.  Where do we go?  Down there, and down the steps.  Okay.  We go in, go down. .. and can’t get on the floor.  We walk to the other side, go back up the steps, and go out.  It’s like a maze that takes us close to the prize and then dumps us out.  We ask, and we are supposed to go down *the other side*, and that leads us to the main lobby, which we could have just walked into. . .without walking up, and then down, and then up, and then down steps again.
  We walk in right as the show starts.  They had a local comic start the show, a John-something-or-other.  I swear I had seen him at open mic.  In fact, some of the material sounded familiar.  That would be a good gig to get, I imagine.  Wonder how that happens…?
  Then Ralph Harris comes out.  He was number five of the five finalist.  He does his bit, and then MC’s the show.  In my opinion, he should have been higher than 5–more like two.  And based on last night, he was number one.
  Amy Schumer comes out next.  She is cute.  The one female with all the guys, her performance is subdued compared to the them.  Even Lavell–a big, big boy–gave a more energetic performance.  But also, I just feel like I heard all of her stuff before, on the show.  All the rest of them did new material.  Actually, she did what I expected them all to do, so I was pleasantly surprised that all the rest had new material.  So, she wasn’t that good, but she has a nice ass.
  Then Jerry Dee came up.  He was never one of my favorites during the show, but last night, he shined.  He was great.  He was a teacher, and he talked about that.  It was some good stuff.  Then there was an intermission.
  Soda and nachos, the breakfast of champions.  Intermission over, and Ralph Harris came back out, and he did a short bit where he imitated his grandfather.  Then he introduced Lavell Crawford.  Lavell was funnier than I expected.  His bit has always been just fat jokes–he is fat.  But in this set he did more than that.  He talked about his church and stuff too, so it was a fairly clean set.  His mama was in the audience.  And the St Louis audience showed him a lot of love.
  Then Ralph Harris came out again, and introduced John Reep, the winner of Last Comic.
  I like John Reep.  He’s funny, energetic.  He started off with some dance moves.  That was hilarious.  But–
  Like Amy, some of his material I had heard before.  It was still good, and mostly it was new, but some was older.  And he had the energy.  All in all, it was a very good show.
  As Jerry Dee had said [paraphrasing] a guy emailed him and wanted his money back because Jerry had performed some material he had seen before.  He emailed back, "Dear Dickhead, do you go see a rock concert and then demand your money back because they performed songs from the CD you just bought?"  So I can’t fault them. Or ask for my money back. . .
  I was paying attention also, to how clean (or dirty) their acts were. Lavell was the cleanest, but he still got in some poop jokes.  Classic stuff.  But the others, while not especially graphic, still got dirty enough.  I would say at least PG-13, with a few–very few–Rated R spikes.  And I’m sure Dane Cook, who performed in St Louis the previous night, was rated NC-17.  I still want to have some clean material.  Not necessarilly "clean up" my act, but have some cleaner stuff available.
  And maybe–just maybe–not so many jokes about porn.

Happy Trails And Mixed Metaphors

November 5, 2007 at 4:26 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  Like an impending surgical procedure, I’m looking forward to our upcoming trip with a mix of apprehension and subdued glee.  Detroit and I are going to hit the road. . . again.
  I love going on the road, but this trip is going to try me.  In fact, I’m sure it will also convict me and sentence me.  It’s not even the most obvious reason:  We’re going to bring Detroit’s sister back with us.  Is this an early Christmas present, I wonder?
  Detroit asked me how I felt.  Well, I’m not sure.  But she knows her better, I said.  If she thinks it will be . . doable, then it’s okay with me.  And I owe her, because she willingly went with me to move in with *my* sister, and she didn’t even hardly complain.  (There is a pause here for the sarcasm and irony to sink in.)
  No, it has more to do with Nigel.
  You see, we were going to rent a car.  At first we thought we could fly.  But, no, one of the reasons we are going is to bring Alex the rest of his stuff–guitar, amp, xbox, things like that.  SO no plane.
  Well, maybe we could take a train.  As visions of John Candy danced through my head, we checked into it.  It might work.  It just might–It would be romantic, and less stressful.  We could sit and talk, or read, let the miles roll by….."Ridin on the ‘City of New Orleans’–" 
  I was abrubtly rustled out of my comfortable fog by the Terms and Conditions.  There is a limit to how much we could take with us on a train, also.  John Candy popped like a bubble above my head.
  Let’s just rent a car, then.
  Yeah, "just" rent a car.  As it turns out, "Terms and Conditions" is the bane of my existence.  Why?  Well, because:
  You can rent a car with unlimited miles, but you can’t go out of this state or the states that border it.
  If you have a round trip plane or train ticket, fine, but if you don’t we need a credit card for a deposit.
  No credit card?  Well that’s fine, we’ll simply take a cash deposit of 500 dollars or 3 times your rental fee, whichever is greater.  Or your first born.  We’ll just take it from your debit card.  Give it here.  Give it!  Give it here!  Now!
  Would you like to upgrade your vehicle from a Segway to something with seats?  It’s only an additional 75 dollars per day.
  Of course you *need* the insurance.  Otherwise we’re going to charge you for everything.  You can pick up your car any time between yesterday and last Tuesday.
  We went to all the travel sites, and the car rental sites.  Detroit on her computer and I on mine, simultaneously, like engineers at mission control during the Apollo 13 crisis, trying to find a way to solve this problem.  If only I had a slide rule–
  We checked out HotWire.  Their deal is, they give you a great price, but you don’t know with whom until you pay.  Kind of like going on a blind date, and paying in advance for dinner before seeing if the other person is a troll.  They had a great deal, pay in advance, but no mention of a deposit.  Could it be?
  I called.  Yes, of course I know you can’t tell me with whom the deal is–nonetheless there is no mention of a deposit?
  Yes of course there is a deposit, silly boy!
  One place–I forget who at this point, and it doesn’t matter–had no deposit.  "We’ll simply run a credit check–"
  Aiy yi yi!  I hung up before they could trace my call.

  I had axed Jerry, my mechanic, about taking Nigel on a long trip.  He said, "You know.. . . .I don’t know.  I mean, it should be okay, barring any serious or major complications.  I think."
  Because of our financial situation, the option of taking Nigel has turned into the final solution.  No money for a deposit–that should have occurred to me sooner.  No credit available on my one lonely credit card.  And I sure as shit don’t want a credit check done right now.
  Nigel is 15 years old.  But he has only 140 some-odd thousand miles.  I say "only" because that averages out to about 10 thousand per year.  That’s not much at all.  Meanwhile, Fred, my 01 Ford Ranger, is six years old and has 150+ thousand miles.  Most of them are mine; I’ve had him five years.
  Other than these bearing and brake issues–which, to be fair, alot of it was my fault–other than that, he’s been fine.  The engine runs great.  I guess.  My point is, for a Japanese car, that’s not alot of miles.
  And we’re probably looking at 1600 miles round trip.  When I lived in the country, that was less than three weeks worth of driving.
  I guess my real concern is the weight, and what it may do to the suspension, and what it will do in terms of pushing the engine too hard.
  On the way up, it’ll just be me and Detroit, and Alex’s stuff.  I hope that won’t be too bad.  Then the second leg is us three because Alex is going to ride with us, visiting family friends.  And then. . .we pick up Detroit’s sister.  All four of us in the tiny car?  I hope it doesn’t splay to the ground.  And then we drop of Alex and head back.  The last leg is Detroit and her sister and I.  I hope she’s not too heavy.
  The part I’m most concerned about is when all four of us are in the car.  And we’ll still have our personal luggage, such as it is.  And the Sister’s emotional baggage.

Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

November 2, 2007 at 5:35 PM | Posted in Notes on Society | 1 Comment
  The public school system, by and large, in this country is a disaster.
  Teachers’ unions protect lazy, inept, and basically dangerous teachers while asking for more money that will be ultimately squandered before it reaches the level it needs to be helpful.  And how much do they really need?  It’s like throwing money down a well.  Meanwhile lawsuits, ill-suited programs, unrealistic guidelines, and not using success as a measure to grade teachers perpetuates the problems while they blame the government for not giving them more money to waste.
  Well, in a sense, it is the government’s fault for being in the education business in the first place.  But no, let’s continue down this path, and let them run our health care as well, because it makes sense.  It makes the same kind of sense as leaning in to a right cross to the chin.  What else does the government do better than the private sector?
  Is that crickets I hear chirping?
  Private schools have larger class sizes, and less money per student, and yet they have a higher graduation rate, higher test scores, and just overall higher success rate than public schools.  Why is that?
  There is an upswing in businesses that do tutoring and teach reading to school-age kids that are in public school and NOT LEARNING.  Now, why is that?
  More and more parents are home-schooling.  Hmmm.  Why is that, I wonder…..?
  This one teaching concept is a mere microcosm of the problems.  This has been repeated over and over again with other teaching tools, but this is one with the most telling statistics to prove it was the wrong move:
  The English language is a mutt, a bastard hybrid of other languages.  It is not easy to learn all the varied nuances.  Or peeves.  Whoever thought of phonics as a teaching tool was a genius.  It was English. . .with training wheels.  It allowed a way to teach the language at one level, and then gradually integrate the real language into it.  The desired effect–learning to read–is achieved.
  Because someone comes up with a different idea doesn’t mean it’s better.  In fact, it’s worse.  Whole word learning, repetition and memorization works–but not as effectively, not as early, and not with the statistically provable evidence of test scores.  And certainly not for everyone.  Since phonics was removed from the curriculum, literacy rates have steadily declined.  This is a fact, and all the wishing in the world won’t change it.
  Similar paradigms emerge with other teaching methods.  New math–Christ in a sidecar, don’t get me started.  Don’t get me started!
  Given all the ineffectiveness of public schools, why in God’s name would we allow them to dispense birth control to our children?  In terms of education, they couldn’t find their ass if their head was shoved up inside it, and we want to give them more control over our children’s lives?
  We allow them to teach morals (or a complete disregard thereof) to our children when they can’t even teach them to read?  Is everyone in this country insane?
  School vouchers–school choice–is the biggest nightmare for the government and the teacher’s unions, and the best hope for our children and our future.  If the schools–oh, Heaven forbid!–have to *compete* for students, that means they have to IMPROVE.  They certainly don’t want that.
But the status quo is sooooo comfortable.  It makes them feel all warm and fuzzy, like navel lint.
A low level sort of competition takes place already, in terms of real estate.  A house right across the street from an identical one may be twenty or thirty grand more, simply because of the line between them:  the school district line.  Which means only the richest among us can afford good schools.  Of course, it’s no coincidence most of the wealthy choose private schools, because they are measurably better in all categories.
  Why are places like Sylvan learning center thriving?  Well, for one, they’re successful.  Because, like any business, they have to be successful to stay in business.
  If you were a doctor and 40% of your patients died, how long would you stay in business, keep your license?
  If you owned a restaurant, and 2 out of 5 customers walked out with out paying, how long could you keep your doors open?
  If you were a mechanical engineer who designed bridges, and had a staggering 60% of your bridges still standing after 4 years. . .is that something to underline on your resume?
  We’re talking about a 40% dropout rate nationwide?  Is that right?  Nationwide, 70% graduate.  For that to be the average, some schools are higher, and some are much, much lower.  Dropout factories?  How about poverty factories?  Because that is what that creates.
  The overbearing teacher’s union, whose only real purpose is to act as a PAC for liberal candidates, has no interest in improving teaching methods, improving the quality of teachers, or anything else that might betray their corruption over the last many decades.   Corruption?  Too harsh?  How else would you explain their completely stubborn refusal to enact any *real* improvement, and instead pass the buck and blame the government?  Is it ineptitude?
Well, that’s where the government comes into play.  Bumbling ineptitude and an overbearing, inefficient bureaucracy that ignores the real problems while enacting ankle-biting rules and regulations that don’t solve anything and tie the hands of the very few good educators that are left.
  I mean, I’m not a conspiracy guy, but if I was, it would seem like there is some sort of . . . conspiracy. . .to dumb down the kids, and then our nation. . .to make us easier to control. . .and then make us part of a world government, the New World Order.  Sound crazy?  Maybe.  For all of the goals they *say* they have, that seems to be the only one they are actually moving towards accomplishing.
  Okay, did some of that piss you off?  Maybe I have to have a disclaimer here.  I’m sure there are many excellent teachers out there.  You, reading this, may be one of them.  Statistically speaking, however, you aren’t.  Or maybe you know one.  There are good teachers out there, but they are powerless against the system.
  And even if you are one of the good ones, chances are you know at least two teachers that should be fired . . . or shot out of a cannon.  So ask yourself this:  what about the students of *those* teachers?  What about their futures?
  Even if you are a good teacher, you can’t say anything about bad ones.  You can’t go against the machine.  Do you understand my point now?

  And this–all of this–arose because I handed out Halloween candy the other night.  The younger kids had to tell a joke or do a trick–it is "Trick or Treat" after all.  I had fun with them.
  But we were getting some older kids, like middle school, maybe even freshman or sophomores in high school.  An alarming number of them couldn’t answer this question:
  "What’s 8 times 7?"
  I’m going to make up some quiz questions for next year.  Swear to God I am.
  I’ll have them read a paragraph out loud, and then tell me the theme of it?  Tell me what year the Civil War was?  How about the war of 1812?
  How long was the 100 years’ war?  116 years.
  Or maybe bring out a white board, and have them graph an equation, or identify the parts of a sentence.
  Name the planets, maybe.
  Maybe my house will get egged or TP’d.  Maybe.  Or maybe they will look back later in life at the life changing moment they had trick or treating, when a middle aged bald guy quizzed them about their school lessons, and they realized then, that there was a need to know that stuff after all.
  Because knowing stuff…….uhm…..knowing stuff–gets you candy.  Positive reinforcement; it works.  If you get the question wrong, I’ll also have cattle prod.

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