Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31: Stephen King Postponed

No Book Club meeting tonight.  We moved it to next week Friday because of the weather.  While the snow has stopped, the wind is brutal.  When I got home, the temperature gauge on my car was reading four degrees.  Factoring in the arctic clipper rattling through the trees, I'm sure the wind chill was well below zero, and it's not supposed to get much warmer tomorrow.  Nobody wanted to brave that kind of weather, not even for Stephen King.

So, our discussion of 11/22/63 has been postponed until next Friday evening.  I'm glad to have a little more time with the book.  I'm still about 200 pages from the ending.  Usually, I read the final chapter of a book first, to avoid surprises.  I don't like surprises.  I'm resisting the urge to read ahead.  I desperately want to know if JFK dies. but I'm trying to follow the rules for once (possibly for the first time in my life).  I knew that Harry Potter died and came back to life before I even looked at page one of The Deathly Hallows.  I knew Mary Magdalene was under the Louvre before I met Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code.  And I knew the perp of every Nancy Drew mystery before Nancy even had her first clue.

I'm finding little pleasure in not knowing the conclusion of 11/22/63.  In fact, it's causing a great deal of stress and anxiety.  I know most of the enjoyment of books is supposed to come from the twists and turns of the narrative.  That's why authors spend time on things like plot outlines and character development.  It's just not what puts wind in my sails.

Saint Marty prefers something non-chronological.  Something that starts with "and they lived happily ever after" and works its way back to "Once upon a time..."

Let's start here...

January 31: Pneumonia, Old Phoebe, Blessed by People

I started thinking how old Phoebe would feel if I got pneumonia and died.  It was a childish way to think, but I couldn't stop myself.  She'd feel pretty bad if something like that happened.  She likes me a lot.  I mean she's quite fond of me.  She really is.  Anyway, I couldn't get that off my mind, so finally what I figured I'd do, I figured I'd better sneak home and see her, in case I died and all.  I had my door key with me and all, and I figured what I'd do, I'd sneak in the apartment, very quiet and all, and just sort of chew the fat with her for a while.  The only thing that worried me was our front door.  I creaks like a bastard.  It's a pretty old apartment house, and the superintendent's a lazy bastard, and everything creaks and squeaks.  I was afraid my parents might hear me sneaking in.  But I decided I'd try it anyhow.

Holden has been talking about his kid sister Phoebe almost since the beginning of the novel.  In fact, the only time Holden is happy or at peace is when he's thinking about her.  At this point in the novel, he's almost at rock bottom.  He's cold.  He's almost broke.  He's drunk.  He's friendless.  He's sitting by the lagoon in Central Park, imagining his death.  It's a dark moment.  And yet, in this darkness, Holden finds a little light.  In Phoebe.

It's another cold, snowy day in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Except for the university, all of the schools in the area have shut down.  The temperatures have been steadily falling.  It has been a week for hunkering down indoors under blankets.  However, after two or three days, kids don't want to hunker anymore.  They want to get out.

My wife just took my son to Burger King so that he could expend some of his four-year-old energy, of which he has a huge supply.  He spent a couple of hours climbing and running and eating fries.  Sometimes, I get a little jealous of my wife's ability to do things like that in the middle of the day with our children.  I mostly see my son and daughter at night, when bedtime is looming.  I'm the bad guy.  I give my son his bath and nag my daughter about her homework.  I make lunches and pick out clothes.  I don't generally have time simply to play with them.

My wife and  son are on their way home now.  They stopped by the Medical Center to drop off a Diet Coke for me.  As I was walking away from the car, my wife started beeping her horn.  I walked back to the vehicle.  My wife rolled down my son's window.

My son smiled up at me and said, "I see you at home, Daddy."

I leaned in and gave him a kiss.  "I love you, buddy."

"Me, too," he said.

I watched the car pull away from the building, into the afternoon wind and snow.

It was a Phoebe moment for me.  A light in the middle of a dreary day.  A blessing.

Saint Marty is a lucky guy.

Having a Phoebe blessing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30: Pizza Night

The pizza is here, and it's time for American Idol.

I'm beat tonight.  I'm not sure if it's the weather or just my body telling me to get to bed early, but every muscle in my body feels like it's sliding off my bones.  I still have to finish my devotional reading for the night, and I have to read some more of 11/22/63.

The snow has finally stopped falling outside.  It's been storming all day long.  My daughter is hoping for a snow day tomorrow, and I don't have the heart to tell her it's not going to happen.  There still may be wind howling through the trees, and Randy Jackson may be dawgin' some contestants, but I don't foresee any cancellations coming in the a.m.

I don't have much more to say tonight.  My daughter wants me to braid her hair now.  It's one of my favorite things to do.  I've loved it ever since she was a little girl, her sitting in my lap after a bath, her hair thick and wet in my fingers as I pulled and wound.

Saint Marty's getting a little sentimental.

I'm not feeling it, dawg

January 30: "A Farewell to Arms," War, "11/22'63"

...What gets me about D.B., though, he hated the war so much, and yet he got me to read this book A Farewell to Arms last summer.  He said it was so terrific.  That's what I can't understand.  It had this guy in it named Lieutenant Henry that was supposed to be a nice guy and all.  I don't see how D.B. could hate the Army and war and all so much and still a phony like that.  I mean, for instance, I don't see how he could like a phony book like that and still like that one by Ring Lardner, or that other one he's so crazy about, The Great Gatsby.  D.B. got sore when I said that, and said I was too young and all to appreciate it, but I don't think so.  I told him I liked Ring Lardner and The Great Gatsby and all.  I did, too.  I was crazy about The Great Gatsby.  Old Gatsby.  Old sport.  That killed me.  Anyway, I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented.  If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it.  I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.

Holden's older brother, D.B. is a writer.  He also served in the Army during World War II.  D.B. is always giving Holden books to read, and Holden dutifully reads them.  For the most part, Holden likes D.B.'s taste in literature.  In this passage, however, Holden can't understand D.B.'s appreciation of A Farewell to Arms.  Perhaps it's Hemingway's  bluster or style that turns Holden off.  Holden doesn't like anything that even smacks of pretension or falseness.  Lieutenant Henry and Hemingway join the long list of phony bastards in The Catcher in the Rye.

At the moment, I am racing to finish Stephen King's novel 11/22/63 for my book club meeting tomorrow night, and I'm not sure if I'm going to win the race.  It's a huge novel, over 800 pages.  I'm not pulling a Holden here.  I actually love this book and the characters in it,  It's just finding the time to sit down and get through the last 200 or so pages.  I'm trying.  Every spare chance I get, I read it.  It reminds me of the young Stephen King, the guy who wrote books I just didn't want to set down.  I literally could let my legs go numb sitting on the toilet reading this book.

That's my worry for this Wednesday.  Not sitting on the toilet with numb legs, but finishing the book.  Well, that's the worry I'm focusing on.  I have this free-floating anxiety plaguing me today, and I can't nail down what's bothering me.  Perhaps it's a collection of smaller worries ganging up on my psyche.  Whatever it is, I've got this nervous feeling like something is about to fall on my head and knock me out.

Perhaps I should join Holden on top of the atomic bomb and ride it down, a la Dr. Strangelove.

Or perhaps Saint Marty needs to do some deep breathing and get on with his day.

Just hanging on for the ride...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 29: Darkness and Freezing Rain

This morning, freezing rain closed all the schools in my area of the Upper Peninsula.  For the third time in less than two weeks, my kids got to stay home from school for the day.  Tomorrow, the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch.  From Wednesday morning to Wednesday night, heavy snow is predicted.  I know my daughter already has her heart set on another snow day.

I'm staring at the dark parking lot in front of my office window at the university.  It looks calm outside.  The kind of calm that makes it hard to believe a snowstorm is on the way.  I'm sure the puddles are starting to turn to ice by now, and I'm not looking forward to the drive home.  Yet, there's a light in the window glass.  On top of the hill, I can see a house that still has it's Christmas lights up.  Green and red and gold against the black night.

Where there's darkness, there's also light.  Saint Marty needs to be reminded of that every once in a while.

Keeping my eyes on the light

January 29: Jesus, the Kettle Drum, Simeon

...The thing Jesus really would've liked would be the guy that plays the kettle drums in the orchestra.  I've watched that guy since I was about eight years old.  My brother Allie and I, if we were with our parents and all, we used to move our seats and go way down so we could watch him.  He's the best drummer I ever saw.  He only gets a chance to bang them a couple of times during a whole piece, but he never looked bored when he isn't doing it.  Then when he does bang them, he does it so nice and sweet, with this nervous expression on his face.  One time when we went to Washington with my father, Allie sent him a postcard, but I'll bet he never got it.  We weren't too sure how to address it.

Holden has ended up at Radio City Music Hall.  He watches the Rockettes kicking their way through the Christmas show, and, of course, he thinks it's a load of crap.  He doesn't buy into all the "Come All Ye Faithful!" holiness.  In fact, Holden is sure it would make Jesus puke if He saw it.  Instead, Holden finds inspiration in something a lot simpler--the guy who plays the kettle drums in the orchestra.  As the passage shows, both Allie and Holden find this drummer completely authentic.  When he isn't playing the drums, he's focused and serious, and when he does get to play, he makes a sound "nice and sweet."  He doesn't show off.  He just creates a beautiful noise.

February 2, this Saturday, is the feast of the Presentation.  That's the day Mary and Joseph brought the infant Christ to the Temple in Jerusalem for purification and dedication.  As a sacrifice, they brought the standard offering of poor people--two turtledoves.  Of course, the Holy Family are met by Simeon in the Temple, and Simeon recognizes the Baby as the Messiah.  He takes Jesus in his arms and declares Him to be "the Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel."

The thing that amazes about the Presentation is that it isn't someone rich and important who knows the Christ Child.  It's an old man, nobody of consequence.  Like the shepherds of the Christmas narrative, Simeon sings the praises of the Baby.  It's always the humble and poor who first know the Son of God.  I think that's what Holden appreciates about the kettle drummer, as well.  His nervous humility.  As Holden might say, he's not "show-offy."  I agree with Holden.  Show-offy people make Jesus want to puke.  Simeon is not show-offy, either.

On the feast of the Presentation, candles are blessed in the Catholic Church and carried in a procession.  My Lives of Saints explains, "[t]he blessed beeswax candles typify the humanity that God the Son assumed, and signify that Jesus Christ is the True Light of the world..."  The True Light, born in a stable, praised by shepherds and old men.  King of Humility.  Prince of the Poor.

Saint Marty thinks that's something to beat the kettle drum for.

Time to make a joyful noise

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28: Rosebud Afternoon

It's been a long Monday.  I'm just about ready to head off to class to teach.  We're finishing up City Lights with Charlie Chaplin, and then we will dip into Citizen Kane at the end of class.  I can hardly wait to be done with this day.

I have to say that is has been a Rosebud kind of afternoon.  In Kane, "Rosebud" is the MacGuffin, the mysterious last words of Charles Foster Kane that drive the entire film.  Of course, at the end of the movie, Rosebud is identified as Kane's childhood sled, but it really means much more than that.  It represents a simpler time in his life, a time of childhood and innocence, a time when the most important things in his world were throwing snowballs.

I kind of feel that Rosebud longing right now.  On a day-to-day basis, my schedule is a little exhausting, with work and teaching and all.  I'd love to have the kind of day I used to have as a grad student.  My Rosebud would be the office I had in the basement of the university library.  I had a beanbag chair and scented candles.  A mountain of returnable cans in the corner.  And friends.  Tons of friends who just hung around, shooting the crap, trading stories, studying Chaucer or Dante, and eating cheap food.  I didn't have another job.  I was a student and a teacher.  It was one of the best times of my life.

Say it with Saint Marty:  "Rosebud."

Where's my sled?

January 28: That Museum, Different, My Holden, "Rye" Dip

...The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was.  Nobody'd move.  You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket.  Nobody'd be different.  The only thing that would be different would be you.  Not that you'd be so much older or anything.  It wouldn't be that, exactly.  You'd just be different, that's all.  You'd have an overcoat on this time.  Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you'd have a new partner.  Or you'd have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger.  Or you'd heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom.  Or you'd just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them.  I mean you'd be different in some way--I can't explain what I mean.  And even if I could, I'd not sure I'd feel like it.

Holden is talking about the Museum of Natural History in New York.  He remembers going on class field trips to that museum when he was younger.  He describes his favorite exhibits in detail and then talks about nothing ever being "different" there,  Holden finds that comforting.  His brother, Allie, is dead.  His friend, Jane, is dating his dorm mate.  He's just been kicked out of another prep school.  Yet, the Eskimo at the museum is still ice fishing.  The deer are still at the water hole.  The birds are still flying south.  Nothing is different.  Except Holden himself, of course.

Holden craves stability, I think.  That's why his memory of the museum brings him so much pleasure.  He knows that, if he walks up the steps of the Museum of Natural History,  he will be greeted by the same sights and sounds from his childhood.  Nothing will have changed.  And it's change, the process of growing up, that Holden is struggling with.

I have a Holden in my life.  He's in his early fifties.  I had dinner at his house last night.  My Holden is tightly wound.  His parents are aging, and his job causes him huge amounts of stress.  He finds little pleasure in life.  Everything for my Holden is a battle for control.  Holden doesn't want his mother to get old.  He doesn't want his father to slow down.  He's afraid every day that he might lose his job.  He feels out of control.

My Holden's solution is structure and schedules.  He gets up at the same time every morning.  He works pretty much the same hours every day.  He arrives home around two or three o'clock in the afternoon and changes into his pajamas.  Supper has to be on the table by four.  By six o'clock, he's getting his mother to bed, and then he goes to bed himself.  That's his life.

Yesterday, dinner almost wasn't ready at 4 p.m.  Holden lost it.  He started slamming dishes and swearing.  He got into a huge argument with his sister, who was cooking.  There were quite a few "fuck yous" tossed back and forth.  Holden was red-faced and crying by the time dinner was on the table at 3:55 p.m.  Yes, dinner was five minutes early, and he was on the verge of a nuclear meltdown.

I don't know how to help Holden.  He doesn't readily accept advice, and he won't go to a therapist or counselor.  He's headed for a nervous breakdown.

So, my questions for Rye Dip Monday is simple:

Will my Holden get help for his mental health problems?

And the answer from J. D. Salinger is:

"I like Allie," I said.  "And I like doing what I'm doing right now.  Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and--"

I'm not sure I like that answer.  That's Salinger's Holden talking to his little sister, trying to name something that he likes to do, something that gives him pleasure.  All he can come up with is thinking about his dead brother, Allie.  He's stuck, just like the exhibits at the museum.

So is Saint Marty's Holden.

It's true,  Nothing changes at the Museum of Natural History.  As this guy.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27: New Cartoon

Sundays are my most favorite and least favorite days of the week.

I love Sundays because I get to go to church and participate in worship.  I sing with the chancel choir.  I play and sing with the praise band.  I get to experience some real God moments, when the Holy Spirit fills my heart.  That's what I love about Sundays.

I hate Sundays because it means the end of the weekend.  All the tasks I've been putting off need to be completed.  I grade quizzes.  I write up lesson plans.  I read textbooks.  I set out my work clothes for Monday morning.  I prepare myself for another five days of early mornings, late nights, and lots of work in between.  That's what I hate about Sundays.

Tonight, I will set out my outfit.  I will pack up my books for school.  I will try to hold on to the God moments for a little bit longer.  The SAG Awards are on tonight.  I plan to watch them with my wife and daughter.  We will have some special snacks and spend time together.  Then, when the last award has been handed out, we will brush out teeth and go to bed.

Saint Marty isn't quite ready for another week to begin.  He's ready for some Fritos and vapid banter between shallow actors.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26: Coming Through the Rye, Natalie Goldberg, "Writing Down the Bones," New Cartoon

It wasn't as cold as it was the day before, but the sun still wasn't out, and it wasn't too nice for walking.  But there was one nice thing.  This family that you could tell just came out of some church were walking right in front of me--a father, a mother, and a little kid about six years old.  They looked sort of poor.  The father had on one of those pearl-gray hats that poor guys wear a lot when they want to look sharp.  He and his wife were just walking along, talking, not paying any attention to their kid.  The kid was swell.  He was walking in the street, instead of on the sidewalk, but right next to the curb.  He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming.  I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing.  He was singing that song, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye."  He had a pretty little voice, too.  He was just singing for the hell of it, you could tell.  The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye."  It made me feel better.  It made me feel not so depressed any more.

Obviously, the above paragraph is one of the key moments in Catcher in the Rye.  Holden is still wandering the streets of New York, alone and depressed, when he happens upon this family.  The father and mother are oblivious to their child, too absorbed in their adult conversation and lives.  The child, left to his own devices, has created a game for himself, walking along and singing.  Holden, I think, identifies with the boy.  There's a lightness in this passage, a happiness, that isn't present in the rest of the novel.  For a few moments, watching this child, Holden forgets his problems.  He forgets Allie and Jane.  He forgets his own distant parents.  He forgets being kicked out of school.  He just follows the boy through the rye.

We all need such moments in our lives.  Moments when all the worries and frustrations of the world fall away.  They are difficult to come by, especially for adults.  The key is finding the boy in the rye to follow.  For me, that boy is writing.  When I'm writing, and it's going well, I feel like that little boy in the above passage, strolling along the street, humming in the cold December sunlight.

I'm not saying writing is always like that for me.  Sometimes, the act of writing can be an exercise in frustration.  I can sit, staring at an empty journal page or computer screen, unable to string two words together.  At those moments, I'm a little more like the other side of Holden, depressed, frustrated, angry.

Writer/poet Natalie Goldberg wrote a book for those kinds of writing moments.  Writing Down the Bones, published in 1986, contains tiny chapters of writing advice from Goldberg.  With titles like "Beginners Mind, Pen, and Paper" and "The Power of Detail" and "Spontaneous Writing Booths," these chapters are designed for fledgling and experienced writers alike.  I first encountered Bones in the late 1980s, and I have returned to it again and again over the years when I need to be reminded why I decided to become a writer.

One of my favorite passages from the book comes from a chapter titled "Man Eats Car."  In it, Goldberg discusses the creation and use of metaphor.  As a poet, I sometimes get wound up in ideas for poems.  I decide I want to write a specific poem about an important subject, like gun violence or poverty or spiritual loneliness.  Then I get stuck, looking for an image or metaphor to hang this huge idea on.  Here's what Goldberg says:

But don't worry about metaphors.  Don't think, "I have to write metaphors to sound literary."  First of all, don't be literary.  Metaphors cannot be forced.  If all of you does not believe that the elephant and the ant are one at the moment you write it, it will sound false.  If all of you does believe it, there are some who might consider you crazy; but it's better to be crazy than false.  But how do you make your mind believe it and write metaphor?

Don't "make" your mind do anything.  Simply step out of the way and record your thoughts as they roll through you.  Writing practice softens the heart and mind, helps to keep us flexible so that rigid distinctions between apples and milk, tigers and celery, disappear.  We can step through moons right into bears.  You will take leaps naturally if you follow your thoughts, because the mind spontaneously takes great leaps.  You know.  Have you ever been able to just stay with one thought for very long.  Another one arises.

I find something very freeing in those paragraphs.  Goldberg gives me permission to wander through the rye in any direction, enjoying whatever I encounter, whether it's a homeless woman looking for a cup of coffee or a baby rabbit in a snowstorm.  She tells you to trust yourself.  The ideas will come.

That's what Writing Down the Bones is all about.  Trusting yourself.  Trusting that, if you sit down with a pen and paper, if you just write, you will find the image or metaphor or idea you need.  You will find your catcher in the rye.

For Saint Marty, Natalie Goldberg is his catcher in the rye today.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 25: Robert Burns on P.O.E.T.S. Day

Today, January 25, is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns.  I have a writer friend who called my up this morning, and we recited our favorite Burns' poems to each other.  My friend is going to a bookstore tonight to celebrate the great Scot.  His wife is wearing a kilt, and he, I'm sure, is wearing something plaid.

So, this P.O.E.T.S. Day, Saint Marty presents one of his favorite Robert Burns' poems.

Green Grow the Rashes

Green grow the rashes, O;
  Green grow the rashes, O;
The sweetest hours that e'er I spend,
  Are spent amang the lasses, O!

There's nought but care on ev'ryhan',
  In ev'ry hour that passes, O;
What signifies the life o' man,
  An' 'twere na for the lasses, O.

Green grow the rashes, O;...

The warly race may riches chase,
  An' riches still may fly them, O;
An' though at last they catch them fast,
  Their hearts can ne'er enjoy them, O.

Green grow the rashes, O;...

But gie me a canny hour at e'en,
  My arms about my dearie, O;
An' warly cares an' warly men,
  May a' gae tapsalteerie, O;

Green grow the rashes, O;...

For you sae douce, ye sneer at this,
  Ye're nought but senseless asses, O;
The wisest man the warl' saw,
  He dearly loved the lasses, O.

Green grow the rashes, O;...

Auld nature swears, the lovely dears
  Her noblest work she classes, O;
Her prentice han' she tried on man,
  An' then she made the lasses, O.

Green grow the rashes, O;...

Bobby doesn't look a day over 300

January 25: My Best Subject, Second Graders, Poetry

...All I said was English was my best subject.

"Oh, really?  Oh, I'm so glad!" the one with the glasses, that taught English, said.  "What have you read this year?  I'd be very interested to know."  She really was.

Holden is speaking to a nun he has met in a restaurant.  The nun teaches English, and she strikes up a conversation with Holden about Romeo and Juliet.  Her enthusiasm reminds me of many of the middle and grade school teachers I've known.  They have unbridled enthusiasm for their students and subjects.  And they fill me with their enthusiasm.

This morning, I taught poetry to a class of second graders.  Their teacher, "Ms. Rita," was my daughter's kindergarten teacher.  I've been teaching poetry lessons to her classes ever since.  Six years in a row, and I've loved each time.  There's something very uninhibited about six- and seven-year-olds.  They are game for almost anything.  I've had Ms. Rita's students write poems about colors and animals and themselves and similes.

This year, I had them write found poems.  Basically, a found poem is a poem assembled from the lines and words of another source.  I did a poem based on Jack Prelutsky's work.  I did another based on Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  And I did a third one based on words I found on a package of Dove chocolates.  Then, the second graders had to "find" their own poems.

The class had just finished reading the story of the Gingerbread Man, so a lot of them chose that as a source.  It was fun and a little out-of-control.  We talked about chocolate and hippo chips and math.  And, after an hour, they sang me their "Thank You" song.  It was awesome.

Saint Marty wishes his college students were a little more like second graders, or maybe Saint Marty needs to be more like a nun.

I'm not sure this would be a good look for me

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24: A Good Laugh

Pretty tired tonight.  Saint Marty just wants to give you something to laugh at.

It may not be in good taste, but it's funny

January 24: Jesus, the Disciples, and Hope

Finally, though, I got undressed and got in bed.  I felt like praying or something, when I was in bed, but I couldn't do it.  I can't always pray when I feel like it.  In the first place, I'm sort of an atheist.  I like Jesus and all, but I don't care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible.  Take the Disciples, for instance.  They annoy the hell out of me, if you want to know the truth.  They were all right after Jesus was dead and all, but while He was alive, they were about as much use to Him as a hole in the head.  All they did was keep letting Him down.  I like almost anybody in the Bible better than the Disciples...

I love the fact that Holden, this scrawny teenager, is "sort of an atheist."  Yet, he seems to know a lot about Jesus and the Disciples.  As Holden keeps talking, he discusses how Jesus hand-picked the Disciples, and then he gets into a philosophical debate about whether Jesus would sent Judas to Hell.  For an atheist, Holden seems to do an awful lot of thinking about Jesus Christ.

But Holden says he can't pray, even though he wants to.  Holden is depressed.  He says so about every other page of the book.  Depression doesn't allow a person the comfort of prayer.  It doesn't allow a person the comfort of hope.  Holden can't think about Jesus or the Disciples because he's spiraling downward.  He's on his way to rock bottom.

Perhaps if Holden wasn't an atheist, if he had some kind of belief in salvation or redemption, he wouldn't be in quite so black a place.  In Biblical terms, I suppose he's like Saul, blind and bereft, on his way to becoming Paul the Apostle.  Yes, Holden wants to believe in something, wants to have some kind of faith in humankind.  What he believes in at the moment are his dead brother, Allie; his kid sister, Phoebe; and the girl from his summer in Maine, Jane.  Holden can't imagine the future because he's stuck in the past.  He wants to play checkers with Jane.  He wants watch Allie play baseball again.  He wants to take Phoebe to the movies.  He's tired of phony Disciples.  He wants Hope.

In some ways, I'm a lot like Holden.  I see phony bastards everywhere I look.  The difference between Holden and me is that I, for the most part, think the phony bastards aren't going to win.  I believe that goodness and innocence will trump the darkness of the world.  I see evidence of it every day of my life.  In my son's laugh.  In my daughter's red hair.  In the flash of sun on snow.  In a good book.  In a bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.  In the warmth of my wife when I go to bed at night.

Saint Marty is surrounded by Hope.

It's always there

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23: Back to Normal

Things seem to be getting back to normal.  Nobody has thrown up or had an attack of rampant diarrhea in my home for the past twelve hours.  My daughter and son are going to school tomorrow.  I'm going to work and teach tomorrow.  Even though it's snowing like a banshee tonight, I don't foresee a third consecutive day of cancellations happening.

So, the word for this evening is "normal."

Praise the Lord, Saint Marty is ready for a little piece of boring pie.

I guess it's all in how you look at it

January 23: Ernie, Playing the Piano, Country Music

...It was pretty quiet, though, because Ernie was playing the piano.  It was supposed to be something holy, for God's sake, when he sat down at the piano.  Nobody's that good.  About three couples, besides me, were waiting for tables, and they were all shoving and standing on tiptoes to get a look at old Ernie while he played.  He had a big damn mirror in front of the piano, with this big spotlight on him, so that everybody could watch his face while he played.  You couldn't see his fingers while he played--just his big old face.  Big deal.  I'm not too sure what the name of the song was that he was playing when I came in, but whatever it was, he was really stinking it up.  He was putting all these dumb, show-offy ripples in the high notes, and a lot of other very tricky stuff that gives me a pain in the ass.  You should've heard the crowd, though, when he was finished.  You would've puked.  They went mad...

Ernie is the owner of the nightclub/bar Holden has just entered.  Holden is lonely and wants to be around people.  Everything is depressing him.  The hotel, the streets of New York, the people he sees on the streets of New York.  And now, at Ernie's, he's depressed about the music being played.  Ernie is a phony, trying to impress his audience with "show-offy" moves on the piano, and, of course, Holden isn't buying it.

I have to say that I'm pretty particular about music.  I can put up with almost any genre of music, from classical to rap.  There is just one type of music I can't stand, one that gives me a pain in the ass, as Holden would say.  The type of music is country. This hatred stems from years of being forced to listen to my brother's Johnny Cash records in the bedroom we shared.  I knew that, if I heard "Folsom Prison Blues" coming from the stereo when I was a kid, it was going to be a really long night.

This morning, the cable for the TV was not working in the waiting room of the medical office.  It was just cracking static.  So one of the radiology clerks pulled up a country station on her computer and started giving me childhood flashbacks.  When I first heard the music, I looked at her and said, "Please tell me you're not playing country."  She smiled and said, "It's better than silence."  I looked at her with the same expression I'm sure Holden has on his face listening to Ernie play.

This Worry Wednesday, I was forced to listen to almost two hours of pluck and twang, songs about dead guitars and disloyal dogs and cheatin' trains.  You get the idea.  It was not pleasant.  It got to the point where I wanted to find a sawdust floor, drink cheap beer, and vomit.  And I've done plenty of vomiting in the last few days.

Thank God the cable came back.  I'll even take Kathie Lee and Hoda over Willie and Waylon.  It's cold outside.  All the schools are closed, and the university is shut down for the second day in a row.  But at least I don't have to hear someone singing about Jesus taking the wheel.

Saint Marty is not a country boy.  Thank God.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22: The Plague Strikes Back

Just when I thought my house was free and clear of sickness, it returns with a vengeance.  My daughter, who has already been sick once before, just lost her supper in the bathroom.  This bug isn't just some normal intestinal disturbance.  It's the black plague.  I am now going to be condemned to another night of the bucket brigade.  It will be a long, cold, noisy night.

On the bright side....

Oh, who's Saint Marty kidding.  There is no bright side.

I'm a little tired of this...

January 22: Mother Nature, Horwitz, Saint Timothy

..."Listen," he said.  "If you was a fish, Mother Nature'd take care of you, wouldn't she?  Right?  You don't think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?"

This little tidbit of wisdom comes from a cabdriver named Horwitz.  Holden asks Horwitz about the fate of the ducks in the lagoon in Central Park, and Horwitz replies with the story of the fish frozen solid in the water all winter long, absorbing nutrition through their open pores.  Mother Nature takes care of her children, according to the cabbie.

Speaking of winter and cold, it is frigid to the point of dangerous today in the Upper Peninsula.  All the schools are closed, including the university.  The wind chill this morning was -31 degrees.  Mother Nature might take care of her children, but she has the air conditioning set on high today.  Driving into work was pretty lonely.  There were only two or three other cars on the road.

Yes, I did go to work, despite a few trips to the bathroom last night.  I am feeling much better on this frozen Tuesday.  Mother Nature is taking care of me, or Saint Timothy.  Timothy's feast day is January 26, and he is the patron saint against stomach disorders.  Most of the information about Timothy is related to the Apostle Paul.  Timothy was a follower of Paul.  The Apostle sent the young man on many "difficult, confidential missions."  When Paul was thrown into prison in Rome, Timothy was with him.  Eventually, Timothy became the Bishop of Ephesus and was martyred in the winter of the year 97.

My book doesn't say why Timothy is the patron against stomach disorders, but Google gave me this answer:  "It may well be that Timothy had stomach ulcers or simply a weak stomach, and wine was considered to be a soothing remedy."  In a letter, Paul suggested that Timothy drink wine for his poor digestion.  (Paul sort of reminds me of Horwitz, dispensing wisdom to the young Timothy, no matter how misguided it is.)  Whatever the reason for Timothy's title, I could have used his help yesterday.  I spent so much time on the toilet that I think my ass is permanently shaped like an oval.  Even this morning, my stomach was not cooperating with me.  I had crackers and cheese for breakfast.  I had the same for lunch.  Things seem to be settling down now, thank God or Timothy or Mother Nature.

Maybe Saint Marty should pick up some wine for his next upset stomach.

Does he look old enough to drink?

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21: Inaugurations Day, Sickness, "Rye" Dip Monday

I woke up this morning with every intention of going to work.  I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth.  When I started flossing, it was all over.  I don't want to go into great deal here.  Suffice to say, the toilet and I have been on a first-name basis all day long.  Thank goodness I didn't have to teach today because of Martin Luther King Day.  I was able to lie in bed and listen to the Inauguration festivities on the TV.

I listened to President Obama's speech.  I listened to James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce sing.  The only thing I watched was Richard Blanco read his inauguration poem, "One Today."  At first, I wasn't sure I liked it, but it built momentum and ended up being quite moving.  You judge for yourself:

One Today

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello| shalom,
buon giorno |howdy |namaste |or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together 

I'm not sure if the line and stanza breaks are correct, but this is the full text of the poem, delivered by Richard Blanco this morning at President Obama's second inauguration.  He is the first Cuban American to deliver an inaugural poem.  He is the first gay American to deliver an inaugural poem.  He is the youngest person to ever deliver an inaugural poem (he's younger than me).  And I officially hate him.

Well, it is Monday, which means I owe you a Rye dip.  My question today is very simple:

Will my body stop exploding any time soon?

And the answer from Holden and company is:

...She was laying there asleep, with her face sort of on the side of the pillow.  She had her mouth way open.  It's funny.  You take adults, they look lousy when they're asleep and they have their mouths way open, but kids don't.  Kids look all right.  They can even have spit all over the pillow and they still look all right.

There you go.  Phoebe looks all right asleep, not sick or throwing up or rushing to the toilet.  That means I'm going to be all right soon.
Saint Marty's going to take that one to the bank.  Or at least to the bathroom.

My newest person to hate

January 20 (Sort of): Sick Kid, Sick Dad, Christmas Decorations, New Cartoon

Sorry it's been so long since I blogged.  Saturday night, my son woke up vomiting.  He threw up all night long.  So, being a good father, I stayed up with him, rubbing his back as he heaved into a bucket, washing my hands with antibacterial soap about 513 times.

Well, despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to avoid catching my son's crud.  By about two o'clock yesterday afternoon, I could feel my stomach turning in strange ways.  I went to bed very early, for me, last night (7 p.m.).

I had every intention of writing a wonderful post about how much I love Christmas decorations, how much they make me feel warm and safe on very cold days and nights.  (If you're wondering, my Christmas decorations are still up at my house.)  However, my stomach and bowels got the best of me last night.

Saint Marty is going to eat of bowl of chicken noodle soup now.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19: Vomity Kind of Cabs, Lonesome, "Wonder Boys," New Cartoon

The Cab I had was a real old one that smelled like someone'd just tossed his cookies in it.  I always get those vomity kind of cabs if I go anywhere late at night.  What made it worse, it was so quiet and lonesome out, even though it was Saturday night.  I didn't see hardly anybody on the street.  Now and then you just saw a man and a girl crossing a street, with their arms around each other's waists and all, or a bunch of hoodlumy-looking guys and their dates, all of them laughing like hyenas at something you could bet wasn't funny.  New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night.  You can hear it for miles.  It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed.  I kept wishing I could go home and shoot the bull for a while with old Phoebe.  But finally, after I was riding a while, the cab driver and I sort of struck up a conversation.  His name was Horwitz.  He was a much better guy than the other driver I'd had.  Anyway, I thought maybe he might know about the ducks.

Holden is back in a cab, out on the streets of New York, feeling quite alone.  He wants to go home to talk to his little sister, but he doesn't want to deal with his parents.  It's a depressing paragraph.  In a city as large as New York, Holden has no person to turn to.  He eventually turns to a stranger (a cab driver) for companionship, and Horwitz isn't the friendliest guy in the world.

Holden reminds me of a character from novelist Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys.  James Leer is a university grad student with a penchant for lying and loneliness.  James doesn't get along with many people.  He likes old movies and is obsessed with the suicides of Hollywood stars.  On top of all that, he has a tiny bad habit:  he steals things.  James is adrift in life, possibly depressed, alienated from his rich parents who don't understand him.  Sound familiar?  James Leer is a little older version of Holden Caulfield, with a lot of pot smoking thrown into the mix.

I know I've written about Wonder Boys before.  I read it last year for my book club and loved it.  Michael Chabon is a tremendous writer.  Prolific.  Talented.  Good looking.  A Pulitzer Prize winner.  Kind of a wonder boy himself.  When I see pictures of him, he looks like the kind of guy who would be very popular with everybody, girls and guys.  In his senior year of high school, I could imagine Chabon being voted Best Hair, Best Smile, Most Talented, Most Likely to Succeed.

Wonder Boys centers around the adventures of a college writing instructor, Grady Tripp, who has been suffering from a serious case of next-book-itis.  His previous novel, The Land Downstairs, won a big award, and Grady has been working his new manuscript, Wonder Boys, since "the early stages of the previous presidential administration."  It's an immense pile of papers, and Grady sees no end in sight.  Throw into this mix Grady's pot-smoking habit, James Leer's suicidal tendencies, a dead dog, a transvestite,a couple failed marriages, a stolen jacket that once belonged to Marilyn Monroe, a desperate book editor, and you pretty much have a description of Chabon's book.

I'm struggling to find a passage that really captures the strength of Chabon as a writer.  His prose is witty and surprising and lyrical.  Wonder Boys is one of the funniest books I've ever read.  The following excerpt is the best I can do, but it doesn't even touch how good Chabon really is:

I rose like a kite, in fits, tethered to the mortal husk of Grady Tripp by a thin pearly string.  Below me Pittsburgh lay spread, brick and blacktop and iron bridges, fog in it hollows, half hidden by rain.  The wind snapped at the flaps of my jacket and rang in my ears like blood.  There were birds in my hair.  A jagged beard of ice grew from my chin.  I'm not making this up.  I heard Sara Gaskell calling my name, and looked down, way down into the fog and rain of my life on earth, and saw her kneeling beside my body, blowing her breath into my lungs.  It was hot and sour and frantic with life and tobacco.  I swallowed great mouthfuls of it.  I grabbed hold of the opalescent thread and reeled myself in.

It's poetic and heart-breaking and hilarious at the same time.  Grady is looking down on his life, watching his pregnant, married lover trying to draw him back to earth.  Michael Chabon has the ability to move from the ridiculous to the sublime in just a few words.  His writing is stunning.  Gorgeous.  Moving.

And Saint Marty hates him.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18: Norman Dubie, "You"

I'm tired, but I want to give you a poem on this P.O.E.T.S. Day.

This poem is by Norman Dubie, who is absolutely brilliant.  He's the kind of poet that makes me want to give up poetry because I will never approach his level of skill and music and truth.

Yes, Saint Marty is jealous.  Surprise, surprise.


The sunlight passes through the window into the room
Where you are sewing a button to your blouse:  outside
Water in the fountain rises
Toward a cloud.  This plume of water is lighter
Now, for white shares of itself are falling back
Toward the ground.
This water does succeed, like us,
In nearing a perfect exhaustion,
Which is its origin.  The water

Succeeds in leaving the ground but
It fails at its desire to reach a cloud.  It pauses,
Falling back into its blue trough; of course,
Another climb is inevitable, and this loud, falling
Water is a figure for love, not loss, and

Still heavy with its desire to be the cloud.

Plus, he looks like Walt Whitman...

January 18: Jane, Allie's Baseball Mitt, Poetry

...And she never really closed it all the way, her mouth.  It was always just a little bit open, especially when she got in her golf stance, or when she was reading a book.  She was always reading, and she read very good books.  She read a lot of poetry and all.  She was the only one, outside my family, that I ever showed Allie's baseball mitt to, with all the poems written on it.  She's never met Allie or anything, because that was her first summer in Maine--before that, she went to Cape Cod--but I told her quite a lot about him.  She was interested in that kind of stuff.

Jane and Holden are interested in poetry.  In fact, Holden seems to equate poetry with being true and pure of heart.  Allie loved poetry.  Jane loves poetry.  Holden loves poetry.  And Jane.  And Allie.   

Yes, I am typing this post at almost nine o'clock at night.  I started out this morning being really productive.  I put together the materials for a church project; however, it took me over two-and-a-half hours to get it done.  After that, I really didn't get a whole lot more accomplished.  I bought a new watch, cleaned my house, and got my broken tooth fixed.  I didn't blog this morning.  I didn't get any more of 11/22/63 read.  I didn't get a poem written today, which was my biggest goal.  Perhaps I set my sights a little too high.

I really need to start working more on my poetry.  If I ever want to be hired full-time at the university, it's all about publication.  Most people have heard the saying "publish or perish."  In fact, when it comes to higher education, it's almost a cliche.  It's an accurate cliche, however.  Writers who want to be professors need to publish books.  I have one published book right now and another manuscript finished.  That's not enough.

So, what am I saying?  I'm saying I can't afford too many days that aren't productive.  I should have submitted poems to some literary journals today.  I should have researched potential publishers.  I should have written a new poem.  All those things would help my career at the university.

Yes, poetry could help me get a job.  Not too many people can say that.  Perhaps Holden would think of me as a phony or sell-out.  I can live with that.  By selling out, I can support my family doing something that I love.  The kind of job that doesn't even feel like a job.  An Oprah Winfrey kind of job.

Now if Saint Marty could land a book on Oprah's Book Club.

I do look good in berets...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17: Slow Day, Slow Month

Today seems to be going on forever.  In a little less than an hour, I have to teach my last class of the week.  Then I have one more dance open house to attend for my daughter.  The first part of the week pretty much flew by for me, but today seems to be on a slow, frame-by-frame advance.  Each task I complete has taken forever, and my tongue keeps worrying my broken tooth.  I'm afraid to even chew hard.  I have this vision of the entire tooth splitting right down the center and falling out in pieces.

To be honest, January has been a very slow month, frozen to a slight trickle, time-wise.  Of course, mid-winter in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan doesn't really encourage the swift passage of time.  Life in the U.P. is basically movement from house to car to destination to car to home.  We shift from one heated environment to another.  This morning, the temperature gauge in my car read -7 degrees Fahrenheit at 4:30 a.m.  I think we're supposed to hit ten degrees for a high this afternoon.  Eventually, this cold snap will end, and our days will return to normal (20- or 30-some degrees above); when we reach 30, people actually walk around outside in tee-shirts and shorts.  It's practically balmy.  I'm not joking.

Writing this post has killed another ten minutes.  It has also made me realize that nothing of any import has happened today.  That's a good thing.  Things of import generally mean past-due bills or broken teeth.  I'll leave the import to Stephen King and 11/22/63, which is a fantastic winter read.  Long and complex, full of the kind of literary fat that makes it perfect for January days and nights.

Saint Marty will take boredom any day.  He'll leave the import to the professionals.

Baby, it's cold outside

January 17: Buddy Singer, Just One of Those Things, A Flock of '80s

She wasn't listening, though.  So I ignored her for a while.  We just danced.  God, could that dopey girl dance.  Buddy Singer and his stinking band was playing "Just One of Those Things" and even they couldn't ruin it entirely.  It's a swell song...

Holden is still hiding out at a hotel in New York in this passage.  He's in the lounge of the hotel, listening to the lousy band playing there.  He's tried to order a drink and failed the do-you-have-a-driver's-license test with the server.   Then, he turns his attention to a table of women and attempts to get them to dance with him.  He succeeds at this.

Today is Blessing Thursday.  I'm supposed to concentrate on something in my life for which I'm grateful.  Well, I can't get my broken tooth fixed until tomorrow afternoon.  My daughter came in third in her spelling bee, so no trip to the nationals this year.  My coworker refuses to let me play Christmas music on my computer, which always lightens my mood.

My plan this morning was to play music on my computer that my coworker hates so she would be driven to letting my play holiday tunes.  I tried opera, bluegrass, dubstep, and disco.  The problem is that my coworker likes all kinds of music.  She would probably even like Buddy Singer and his stinking band.

Thus, my plan has failed.  In my attempts to find the most loathsome music available on the Internet, I stumbled upon a station on AccuRadio called A Flock of '80s.  All music from the 1980s.  Genesis.  John Cougar (before he became Mellencamp).  INXS.  Eddie Grant.  Currently, I'm listening to "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls.  It's the best station ever.  Of course, the 1980s had the best music ever.  (Can't say as much for the fashions, although those Hammer pants were really comfortable and I looked good in them.)

This Thursday, Saint Marty gives thanks for '80s music.  Sing it with him, "Might as well face, you're ad-dic-ted to loooooove..."

Yeah, I made these look good...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16: "American Idol" and a Broken Tooth

So, I'm sitting here, watching the first night of American Idol.  Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson.  I was stuffing my face with cheddar Combos and enjoying the parade of freaks and tone-deaf wannabes.  Then I stopped chewing for a minute and realized that a piece of my back tooth was missing.  That's right.  I have a jagged fang in the back of my mouth.

I was having a good night.  Now, I can't even concentrate on Nicki Minaj's hair color.  All I can do is worry my tooth nub with my tongue.  With my luck, the rest of my tooth will fall out while I'm asleep, and I'll aspirate it and die.

Saint Marty is one step away from looking like a cast member from Deliverance.

January 16: Old Phoebe, Roller-Skate Skinny, Spelling Bee Worry

...But you ought to see old Phoebe.  She has this sort of red hair, a little bit like Allie's was, that's very short in the summertime.  In the summertime, she sticks it behind her ears.  She has nice, pretty little ears.  In the wintertime, it's pretty long, though.  Sometimes my mother braids it and sometimes she doesn't.  It's really nice, though.  She's only ten.  She's quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny.  Roller-skate skinny.  I watched her once from the window when she was crossing over Fifth Avenue to go up to the park, and that's what she is, roller-skate skinny...

Holden really loves his little sister, Phoebe.  She's practically the only person in the book whom Holden doesn't call a phony.  Like Allie, Holden's dead brother, Phoebe is an innocent.  Life has not had a chance to get hold of her yet.  She's still this roller-skate skinny girl, heading off to the park to play.  Nothing is purer in Holden's mind.

This passage reminds me of my daughter.  She, too, has sort of red hair, like Phoebe.  My daughter's auburn tresses are long now.  A couple of summers ago, she had it cut short one day.  It was curly and flashed in the July sun.  Because she's a dancer, however, she let it grow back out.  It almost reaches the middle of her back.  She's also let her bangs get long, as well, because she got tired of being the only girl in ballet who couldn't pull all her hair back into a bun.

My daughter hasn't been feeling well.  Upset stomach.  Headache.  Diarrhea.   (She would die if she knew I was writing about her diarrhea.)  She went to school on Monday.  She stayed home on Tuesday, although she did manage to make it to her dance open house.  Barely.  She spent most of the two hours on the floor with her eyes closed.  She was determined to go to school today for her spelling bee.  Her English teacher is taking her out to lunch at Pizza Hut before the competition.  My daughter's been studying her spelling list for two weeks.

That's my worry for this Worry Wednesday.  I want my daughter to be healthy.  I want her to enjoy her pizza.  I want her to do well in the spelling bee.  I can see her now, roller-skate skinny, standing in front of the judges, pushing her bangs behind her ears, saying, "Can you use that word in a sentence?"

Saint Marty hopes his Phoebe stomps her opponents.  He wants a trip to Nationals.  That's N-A-T-I-O-N-A-L-S.

The word is "diarrhea"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

It's late, and Saint Marty doesn't have a whole lot of energy tonight.  So he's going to let a picture do the work for him.  This photo was taken at Shrek the Musical on Sunday afternoon.

Not his gumdrop buttons!

January 15: Screwballs, Saint Arnold Janssen, Missionary

We got to the Edmont Hotel, and I checked in.  I'd put on my red hunting cap when I was in the cab, just for the hell of it, but I took it off before I checked in.  I didn't want to look like a screwball or something.  Which is really ironic.  I didn't know then that the goddam hotel was full of perverts and morons.  Screwballs all over the place.

The most ironic thing about this passage is that Holden is probably the most messed up person at the Edmont.  He's depressed, angry, manipulative, and lost.  Basically, he's a teenager.  At this point in the book, he's left Pencey, the school he's just been expelled from, and he's on his way to New York with a vague plan of taking a vacation before he returns home to face his parents.

I think adults react differently to Holden's story than young people do.  I remember really identifying with him as a kid, wanting to be his friend.  When I read the book now, as the father of a twelve-year-old girl and four-year-old boy, I want him to get his crap together.  If Holden were my son, I'd send him to military school or something.  Granted, he's troubled, but he needs to use some goddam common sense.

Of course, that's not a very generous attitude.  I should feel some compassion for him.  He's grieving the death of his little brother.  He has parents who don't know what to do with him, and most of the other adults in his life simply want to lecture him about responsibility.  I know that's what I'd do if he were my son.  I've already had a few of those "responsibility" talks with my daughter.  Holden is floundering, and I want to slap him upside the head.  I guess I'd make a terrible therapist.  Or saint.

Today is the feast day of Arnold Janssen, who was born in Goch, Germany, in 1837.  At around the age of 24, Arnold became a priest and taught science for twelve years.  That's right, a priest/saint who taught science.  Believe it or not, science and religion are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, for a lot of scientists and priests, the two go hand-in-hand.  But Father Arnold wasn't just a scientist.  He was also a magazine editor.  He edited a journal about the missionary work of the Church.  This guy was a true Renaissance man.  Eventually, he started the Society of the Divine Word, and its members became missionaries in Toga, New Guinea, North America, Japan, and Paraguay.

Arnold Janssen puts all of us to shame.  His simple life of science and faith changed the world, spreading charity and love across the globe.  Saints have this annoying habit of making me feel inadequate.  Saint Arnold Janssen in no exception.  I sit at my computer and complain about having to wake up before dawn.  I bitch about how tired I am.  I watch the clock and dream about having a few minutes to read a Stephen King novel.  I sound like the most shallow person alive.  I'm one of Holden's phony bastards.  When he was my age, Arnold Janssen was organizing societies to educate children in Third World countries.  Compared to him, I'm Homer Simpson.

I know I shouldn't compare myself to a saint.  It's a good way to batter my self esteem.  I simply need to be the best person I can be, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

Saint Marty is trying to be a good person today, even if he would rather be at home, in his pajamas, watching reruns of M*A*S*H.  And slapping the hell out of Holden.

This guy isn't good for my self esteem

Monday, January 14, 2013

January 14: Reality Sets In

I'm watching The Antiques Roadshow with my daughter right now.  It's a little past 8 p.m., and my son has been in bed for about an hour.  I'm looking at the clock on the wall, thinking, "I'm going to dragging my ass out of bed about eight hours from now."  My Coke Zero is waiting in the fridge, and my clothes are laid out on the washer in the bathroom.  I can't fight the inevitable.

I will return to work tomorrow morning.  I will be tired.  I will be cranky.  When the alarm goes off at 4 a.m., I will groan, turn it off, and mutter, "You have got to be kidding me."  (Actually, I will probably add a few more colorful words in there.  However, this blog is PG-rated.  Maybe PG-13 on a bad day.)  Then, I will crawl over my sleeping wife and slip back into my normal life of work-teach-work-home-bed.  Repeat until dead.

Reality sets in for Saint Marty.

I know how he feels

January 14: First Day of Class, "Rye" Dip Monday, Poem Question

I'm sitting in my office at the university, waiting to head off to teach my first class of the semester.  It has been a very nice Christmas break, but it is time to get back into the trenches.  I feel rested, relaxed, and ready.  Having these last two weeks of vacation has really helped my frame of mind.  While I'm not looking forward to getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to work at the medical office, I really have a sense of calm today.  Usually, going back to school and work in January is like getting my appendix removed and a root canal on the same day.  Not this time.

Well, the trip to Green Bay was nice.  Lunch at the Olive Garden was delicious.  Shrek the Musical was delightful.  The trip back after the show was a little stressful because of snow and wind.  We arrived home around 11 p.m., just in time for me to see Daniel Day Lewis win the Golden Globe for Best Actor for Lincoln.

It is Monday, and, therefore, it is time for a Rye dip.  There's not a whole lot on my mind today.  As I said above, I'm pretty relaxed.  However, I always have some fear or worry lurking in the back of my psyche.  Everybody does.  So, my question for the great book of Salinger is:

Will I publish poems this semester in some good literary journals?

And the answer from Holden and company is:

...It's a funny thing about girls.  Every time you mention some guy that's strictly a bastard--very mean, or very conceited and all--and when you mention it to the girl, she'll tell you he has an inferiority complex.  Maybe he has, but that still doesn't keep him from being a bastard in my opinion...

That's Holden talking about the girl he loves, Jane.  Jane went out with a guy Holden considers a phony (surprise, surprise), and Jane tells him the guy has an inferiority complex.  Holden doesn't buy that explanation, of course. 

So how does that passage apply to my question?  Well, I can say that I'm usually not very confident about my poems.  I look at the poetry currently being published and think, "This is crap.  I can write better than this in my sleep."  But I usually don't follow through in sending any of my work out.  And that's my answer.  I need to get over my inferiority complex and send my poems out to get published.  I will see myself in print this year.

If phony bastards can do it, so can Saint Marty.

Good day for a Rye dip

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 13: Road Trip, Shrek, New Cartoon

Yes, I am writing and posting Sunday's entry on Saturday night.  I will be travelling all day tomorrow.  I am taking my daughter to see Shrek the Musical in Green Bay, Wisconsin, tomorrow afternoon.  We're leaving early in the morning on this little road trip, and we'll be returning late in the evening.

I will say that long car trips are not one of favorite things.  I'm looking forward to the show, but the six hours of driving are going to suck majorly, especially considering I will be the only one behind the wheel.  But I will have a great time with my daughter.  That is one of my favorite things.

Before I sign off, I want to acknowledge some sad news.  I follow a blog called Alice's Bucket List.  It's written by a seventeen-year-old girl with terminal cancer.  The blog is funny, inspirational, and life-affirming.  This evening, Alice gained her angel's wings.  Please join with me in praying for Alice and her family.

Saint Marty is going to hug his daughter long and hard tonight.

Confessions of Saint Marty

January 12: Ice Skates, "Sagittarius Agitprop," Matthew Gavin Frank, New Cartoon

One thing about packing depressed me a little.  I had to pack these brand-new ice skates my mother had practically just sent me a couple of days before.  That depressed me.  I could see my mother going in Spaulding's and asking the salesman a million dopy questions--and here I was getting the ax again.  It made me feel pretty sad.  She bought me the wrong kind of skates--I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey--but it made me sad anyway.  Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.

Holden is a pretty sensitive soul, beneath all his bluster and lies.  He's misguided, lost in a world that he sees as pretty hostile.  It's a world that took his little brother Allie away from him.  It's a world he doesn't quite want to be a part of, because it's full of people who lie to impress.  Holden does his fair share of this lying himself, but he's not a "phony bastard."  He recognizes the significance of small things, like ice skates and snowstorms and playing checkers.

My friend, Matthew Gavin Frank, recognizes the significance of small things, as well.  In his debut collection of poems, Sagittarius Agitprop, Matt finds the astounding in oranges and feathers and chicken bones.  In the poem, "Sagittarius at Dusk," a tiny sand crab becomes an instrument of revelation:

Sagittarius at Dusk

In the sand, the crab
turns over, shoots its white belly
to the teenage girl, jogging in yellow
shorts.  She thinks it's a dime

but is too wary of the fat-legged
fisherman with the blue-and-white lure
to pick it up, find out
it's a crab.

The fisherman just became a grandfather
at forty-one, holds in his heart
a scrap of metal the size
of a dime.  The purple he sees

is not real, the egret dies eating.
The strangest things keep us alive at dusk.
From this bench, I can see the power plant,
but not the tired people inside

murmuring their small stories
in between small sparks.

Matt's poem makes tiny, lyrical leaps, from sand crab to jogging girl to fisherman to egret to power plant to the small, quiet stories of our lives.  In all the poems in this collection, the tiniest elements of the physical world propel the reader from thing to idea to music.  That's what's astonishing about his work, that he can find the astonishing in something as simple as a...


Here is the saucer upon which my father's head
pools like coffee.  He's beyond medication.
The hummingbirds have overtaken him, bricking
his smile with sugarcubes.  When he speaks to me,
his tongue taps his teeth, a teaspoon gently ringing
the hour against the lip of his favorite mug.  The one
I brought back from Alaska.  The one with three
moose:  mother, father, child.  A cow, a bull, a twig
pulled from a nest, cracked with eggshell and cream.
I adjust his napkin.  I bring him his coffee.  In the bathroom,
a few hairs from his old beard still cling to the sink.

Sagittarius Agitprop transforms its readers, because it transforms the atoms of the universe into the expanding elements of poetry.

Saint Marty recommends Matt Frank's Big Bang of a book.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11: My Friend Matt, "Because of Citrus," Oranges

I love oranges.  I'm hungry tonight.  I just picked up a collection of poems by a friend of mine, Matthew Gavin Frank.  You'll hear more about his book tomorrow.  Tonight, I just want to share a poem with you that satisfies my craving for Navels and Clementines.

Saint Marty hopes you're hungry.

Because of Citrus

The body is a parcel, shamelessly spilling
its oranges.  Blood, navel,

sweet.  Paper-wrapped and unzested, pith
left to tickle the crack of one's ass.

Because of citrus, we can cringe.  Because
the juice, we cry.  Like the body, drinking

is obvious.  But this is not the body.
Not really.  The emptied peel we leave

is only the whale to something smaller,
trying, as we all do, to make love

to another small, same thing.

I'm really hungry tonight