Thursday, July 31, 2008

Not Fair To Ask Us What Its Got In Its Nasty Little Pocket

The other day my wife and I were driving home. We saw a guy running up the street in the sweltering summer heat.

My wife said, "Look at that guy. He's wearing cargo pants and all of his pockets are stuffed completely full. What could he be carrying that every pocket on his cargo pants is stuffed so full?"

I said, "Maybe he's carrying a dry shirt for when he's done running down State Street."

It was a strange conversation but stranger yet is that after moments like these I look at her and think, "Yeah, I can talk to this girl till I'm 95.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The present curriculum, I put my fist in 'em

My daytime job sort of makes me feel like I contribute to the community. I've done construction work on train stations, stadiums, food factories, office buildings and I am currently working in an elementary school. The office building gave me the shivers when crews started setting up cubicles for future renters. It was like having war flashbacks or something. But looking from room to room in the elementary school gets my blood boiling.

Let's forget about the sweaty, dirty kid and sour milk smells that seem to hang in the hallways and bathrooms even till the end of summer and focus on the general oppressive, bossy, hypocritical atmosphere that schools seem to create and nurture.

At the school I'm in, there isn't a teacher nor principal in sight and yet I feel like I'm being yelled at every time I turn around. There are nothing but rules posted everywhere you look. Most of them are written using incoherent and rude language. There are signs up and down the hallway that say "Speed Limit Walk" and "Quiet Learning Zone." "Stay to the right." In a hallway full of nothing but coatracks there will be a sign that says "Coatrack for room 51 ONLY!" There are places with hundreds of kid-sized footprints painted on the ground so kids know exactly where to stand at the appropriate time.

Nearly every classroom has its own customized list of rules. Here are a couple of those lists along with my own personal interpretation of each rule:

1. Follow directions the first time given.
translation- Are you stupid? You must be stupid. I told you what to do, now do it.

2. Keep hands, feet, mouth and objects to yourself.
translation- You don't know what a catch-all/cure-all rule is but just don't do anything. I don't want to deal with you. It's not my job to teach personal boundaries.

3. Always be in the proper place.
translation- It's vague but if you can't figure out what it means then you're going to catch it, mister! You know, sit in your desk. Or if I want to ask you a question, be nearby. Or if they need you at the office, be there. Just be where we want you to be. Figure it out.

4. Use all art materials and equipment properly.
translation- In the past there were naughty, naughty students who got excited about art. It was madness. Kids ran with scissors. One kid threw a handful of glitter in the air because she wanted to watch it sparkle as it drifted to the floor. Please resist any creative impulse you may have. Paint by numbers. Draw some hand-turkeys. Do not deviate from acceptable art projects. We are working to gather funds to buy those coloring books where all you have to do is rub a wet brush across them and all the colors appear "in their proper place."

5. Walk in the classroom.
translation- You're a kid. Try not to be a kid. Sure the place is full of kids your age... and games... and toys... but only bad kids get excited.

6. Always show respect for others.
translation- You're six years old. You should be able to write a two page paper on what respect is. So do it. Now. Because we said so. Don't talk back to me. Get in the corner, dunce.

Even if we had a sense of irony, we still wouldn't laugh.

I know the context of these lists of rules is meant in a completely different way but that is the way I read the list. My brain translates it all for me even as I read it. Here's another one:

"When Finished I can quietly"

Finish all assignments

You're done? Here's another one. Or go back and finish the last assignment I didn't give you enough time to complete. If you think any teacher in the world ever runs out of busy work for their students you are sadly mistaken.

Read a book quietly

Ahhhhh, nothing like passing the buck. Learn from someone else for a change. Please quietly read quietly!

Write a story

To be honest, I don't care what you do as long as it's quiet. I got crossword puzzles that need doin'!



Practice my spelling words

You deserve a reward for your hard work. How about you only write the words with their definitions 3 times instead of the usual 5?

Practice my math facts

Statistically speaking, it is evidenced that your understanding will abound statographically cosecant... could you just sit down and shut up please? No, I don't have time to show you how to manually do a square root.


Quietly. No naked ladies, even though it's a valid career. You guys are so childish.

Take a quiz

My mother used to spank me for no reason. I thought the reason would be obvious when I was older but I still don't know what I did wrong or why I could never make her happy. Do you want to take a quiz? Isn't it fun to punish yourself sometimes?

Work on scrapbook

Don't make a mess. Don't ask for help. Scrapbooks: they're educational-ish.

And after "Work on scrapbook" the sign said "etc." which leads me to believe there were many more things that could have been on the list. Let's imagine some more:

feel degraded
squander your youth
contemplate the benefits of sitting in a desk rather than spending time with friends or family
figure out a non-dorky way to walk fast since running is not permitted
hone the skill of whiling away the hours* important later in life
shun people who chew gum or dye their hair outragous colors

Being in the school makes me feel bad for kids. I know we are trying but our school system is not good. I think they psychologically isolate kids. I think they make kids feel like they have nothing to offer because teachers already have all the answers. There is an emphasis on trite and pointless rules. There is a strong emphasis to behave by a standard that adults are even incapable of living up to, yet we come down hard when kids fail to do so. A lot of the classrooms I've been in have inspiring words all over them. Words like honesty and integrity and curiousity and on and on. Most kids don't know what they mean. Most of them are abstract concepts, people probably get confused as to why the words on the walls. I guess they are just big ideas meant to make something click in a kids head and suddenly turn the kid into Ghandi or something.

It is hypocritical that a school sends every message to kids with a stern, disrespectful tone and then plasters the walls about bullies and how to deal with a bully or how to stop being a bully.

I think the problem begins with the ratio of one teacher to thirty students, having to teach at the speed of the dumbest kid in the class. And then having to start all over again next year with a new set of kids. We should inspire our teachers the same way we hope to inspire our kids. Something better than writing whimsical words randomly across a wall. No more fantasy worlds.

I admire people who have the nerve to teach but here are the good teachers I've had through 17 years of school:

Mrs. Warner - 5th Grade
Mr. Mason - 7th Grade Math and Science
Miss Kurtz - 9th Grade English
Mrs. MacPherson - 9th Grade World History
Name forgotten (sorry) - 12th Grade Chemistry
Mr. Vansuchtalen - Intermediate Drawing Class
Mr. Golden - Calculus

The rest were not so great. And there are probably over 100 names on the bad list.

My point is that school sucks. It sucks worse that we try so hard to make them good and they still suck. Therefore, we suck?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I've got my friends and they're ready to swing

I've been trying to make the most of the summer but I still end up working a lot. My 3 yr old cracks me up though. He gets mad when I go to work. The other night, I was heading out the door and he says, "Where are you going, dad?"

And I said, "I have to go to work."

He says, "Why?"

I said, "Because we need money to buy things and pay for things."

And he got this innocent and excited look in his eyes and said, "What are you going to buy, dad? Dad! What are you going to buy?" And his face was so bright that he must have been convinced that the only answer I could give him was something like: "I'm going to get some money so we can buy 13 more plastic light sabers! I know we have a lot of light sabers in this house but it doesn't hurt to have 3 of every style and color."

Why can't we all be optomistic like that?

But I did buy something cool. They gave me a hefty gift card at work, so with the help of my employee discount I was able to get a High Def TV for half price. It ended up costing less than the TV we bought when we got married 9 years ago. We needed a TV for our basement and I figured we may as well contemporize. I had no problem at all with our old TV, but then we got the HDTV and suddenly we have more channels than we did before and the channels that come in HD really are better than the others. I enjoyed the HD so much that I actually watched one (But not TWO) episodes of "So You Think You Can Dance" with my wife. I know. I still feel like punching myself for that but even worse is that now I watch our old TV and automatically think "THIS TV SUCKS!"

I wanted to go to Flaming Gorge again today but took too long getting out of bed so instead we went to some Animal Planet dealie at the park downtown, then we went up to the Snowbird resort up the canyon to get out of the heat and tomorrow I think we're going to Lagoon.

My wife woke me up this morning and said, "I was looking at you while you slept and you have nice lips. But I also thought, he doesn't look like a man. He looks like a little boy."

I laughed and said, "Well, when I was in college and SlimySculpin was my roommate, I went in his room to talk to him but he was fast asleep and he looked like a little boy, too. I don't think it has anything to do with how big you are."

She said, "So you know what I'm talking about."

I've also decided I like this song for the summer. It's not mainstream but you're going to have to live with it:

I asked them to check the medicine cabinet cuz for some reason I leave it there sometimes

I was talking to The Angry Loner at work. He likes to keep his car really clean. Another habit he has is to only pay with $10 or $20 bills and he throws all of the $1's into a pile in his car. He's young and lives with his parents so he has a lot of disposable income. So he cleaned out his car and showed me a wad of about 50 $1 bills.

I said, "Does this mean you'll be going to the strip club soon?"

Another guy overheard us talking and said, "Hey! That will be a good place for you to try out your new pick up line on the ladies."

I said, "What's his new pick up line?"

If you know The Angry Loner, you will know that he thinks girls are trouble and he stays away from them. If you ask him why he doesn't chase after girls he'll give you some excuse about how they'll probably give him a venereal disease.

The other guy revealed the new pickup line, "Hey baby! Is my dick gonna fall off in the morning if we hook up? No? Hi, my name is The Angry Loner..."

I said, "I suppose there is something refreshingly direct about it."

This line has yet to be tested. Use it at your own risk. It has not been clinically proven to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Cuz Life's A Highway That We Travel Blind

If you like the new tattoo you can get your own right here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Freedom's Just a Stupid Superstition

For the 4th of July I was required by work to get a full sleeve tattoo of a burning pirate ship.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Howlin' Around Your Kitchen Door

So Kid Rock must be too busy building a boathouse behind his mobile home to write an actual song. And the new lyrics are about drinking whiskey and smoking "funny things" with an underaged girl? Does this even count as a new song? All he did was take out the werewolf howl.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

And His Face, Which Was A Paper White Mask Of Evil, Sang Us This Song

Lastnight, at work:

Mofo: "Do I seem pale to you?"

Me: "You're definitely fair. I wouldn't go so far as to call you ginger."

Mofo: "What?"

Me: "You look like you can sort of jump and sort of dance. You're fair."

Mofo: "I mean, I don't feel good. Do I look pale to you?"

Me: "Ohhhhhhh.... oops. Sorry."

Mofo: "F*** you, Emmett."

Me: "I guess I had that coming."

The People You Loved That You Didn't Quite Know

We've been really busy over the past couple of weeks. This is a busy time for birthdays in our family and a good time to get out and enjoy life. First off, we made our son cut off his winter mop hairdo. It's amazing what a difference a haircut can make.



I suddenly found myself with some time off from work so I immediately went home and told my wife to get in the car. I've been dying to get to Flaming Gorge. When we first showed up I stopped to car at the Greendale overlook just to smell the Ponderosa Pine and smell the grass and flowers.

It's a great place and I can't help but feel like people treat me like royalty out there. We showed up out of the blue and I asked for a room at the Lodge. After paying what I thought was a fair price for any average hotel room in any dumpy town across America I realized they had given me a condo with a full kitchen, living room and bedroom. When my wife went to the desk to rent some DVDs for our kids, they told her not to worry about paying for them. I bought a "Green River Special" fly rod off the clearance table in the lodge. Those are okay rods, aren't they? (I bought a decent Ross Reel from Cabela's a couple days ago.)

We arrived late in the afternoon and we tried to make it to the dam before they closed the Visitor Center. They close at 6 pm and we rolled into the parking lot at 5:59 pm. But the girl who was locking the place up saw me and smiled and yelled, "What are you doing here?" And she let us in and gave my kids a bunch of Smokey Bear stuff.

We went out to Antelope Flat and that place has some distinctive smells too. Dusty dirt road, even though that road is paved in most of my memories. Sage Brush. And the smell of that slimy stuff on the rocks in the water but then the water level drops and the slime starts to dry and you can smell it. What's that smell called? Muck? I got into the water up to my waist and I was determined to jump in, but it felt pretty cold. So I just stood in the water watching the sun set. I had no intention of leaving there without diving in, but then a small rain cloud rolled in over the water and started dropping rain on us. When I saw bolts of lightning coming down I figured I had better get out.

We had dinner at the lodge and I saw my picture on the front of the menu. The owner asked me how I've been and sat us at a table. I told him I wanted a Navajo Taco. I saw Kevin, the river guide. I asked, "Am I losing my edge or is the water in that lake really cold?" He said, "It just snowed here last week. I think the water is cold."

While my wife was trying to get our kids to sleep, I went hiking in the dark. By myself. Because it seems like such a logical thing to do. And it is, when you love a place and miss it. I layed down on one of those big red rock slabs in the woods and looked at the silouettes of the trees and mountains and listened to thunder down over the lake.

The next morning we went to Mustang Ridge to swim, but it still seemed cold and windy with clouds coming through. Then we drove down to the Jarvie Ranch in Brown's Park. My wife really likes that place. In the old store they have a Sears & Roebuck catalog. My wife flipped through the book and this is what was for sale on the first page it landed on:

It's an "electric belt" that cures ALL weaknesses.

I told my wife, "THIS is why they couldn't catch Butch Cassidy. To defeat Butch Cassidy you must first defeat his electric belt! It's the source of his power!"

They had all kinds of crazy stuff in that catalog. Before the days of High Fructose Corn Syrup, I think Snake Oil was the main ingredient in most things.

After Brown's Park, we needed to hurry home to celebrate Ethan's Birthday early because we went to California this weekend to visit my family. But on the way out of the gorge, I stopped and dove in. Because nothing would be right in the universe if I didn't.

Over this past weekend we did another short trip to Reno to visit my brother and sisters and dads. We mostly hung out at the Casino. We swam in the pool. We saw that new movie Wall-E. It was awesome.