Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31: Ghosts and Pumpkins

Well, the most popular costumes I saw this evening were the guys from Duck Dynasty.  I also saw a few teenage girls dressed up like Miley Cyrus.  Weird hair horns, skimpy little shorts, and whatnot.  When I saw those girls, I looked at my wife and said, "Who would let their daughter dress like that?"  Of course there were ghosts and zombies and Dorothys from The Wizard of Oz.

I am not looking forward to getting my kids up tomorrow morning for school.  It's going to be like raising them from the dead.  Lots of groans and growls.  I may have to feed them brains for breakfast.

Heck, Saint Marty may need some brains, too.

Mmmmm,,,Brains....The Breakfast of Champoins

October 31: Rain Like a Bastard, Happy Halloween, Tricks and Treats

Boy, it began to rain like a bastard.  In buckets, I swear to God...

As Holden says above, it's raining like a bastard right now.  It's around 9:30 p.m. on Halloween night.  It has been a long day of holiday festivities.  Costume parades.  Tricks and treats.  Ferrying my kids from one friend's house to another friend's house.  My son was so tired that I had to carry him from my car to the house.  My daughter, remarkably, had an unmoody day.  No surprise tantrums.  No whining and crying at bedtime.  When we got home, she watched the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown.  Then she took a shower and went to bed.  No drama, whatsoever.

Me, I'm sitting in my living room, listening to the rain on the window behind me.  I'm beat.  I'm ready for this day to be over and for things to return to normal.  I'm also ready to raid my kids' Halloween candy in search of a Milky Way.

Tomorrow is the first day of November.  Thanksgiving month.  On Saturday, I'm going to clean out my front porch and put up my Christmas decorations.  That's right, I said Christmas.  I don't believe in waiting until the last minute.  In fact, my goal is to be the first person on our street ready for Christmas, inside and out.

Saint Marty isn't competitive.  He just loves making his neighbors feel inadequate.

My two little ghosts

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30: Too Tired to Think

I don't have much to say tonight.  Too tired. 

However, Saint Marty has pictures of his kids' pumpkins.  Enjoy.

My daughter's jack-o-lantern

My son's jack-o-lantern

October 30: Pneumonia and Died, Low Blood Sugar, Ambulance

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...

 Holden does get very sick in Catcher, but he doesn't die.  He ends up in a hospital, recuperating, but his condition doesn't have a whole lot to do with pneumonia.  He's depressed to the point of a nervous breakdown.

Stress can do a lot of things to a person.  For Holden, it unhinges him.  All his pent-up fear and sadness comes spilling out at the end of the book.  Last night, stress got the best of me.  I went to bed, fell asleep, and woke up with EMS guys in my bedroom.  My blood sugar was eleven, and I was having seizures.

I don't know why it happened.  I tested my blood sugar and ate a snack before I went to bed.  I remember being really tired when I climbed under the covers.  So tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.  And then, I'm having some weird dream where my arm is being stretched out by dark, shadowy figures.  I remember strange, deep voices, too.  And then I woke up with an IV in my arm.

Because of my close encounter of the ambulance kind this morning, I've been tired and achy all day long.  I want to go to bed and stay there for about a week.

Pneumonia is sounding pretty good to Saint Marty right now.

Been there, done this...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: War of the Worlds...

I just watched a documentary on Orson Welles' radio broadcast of War of the Worlds on PBS.  It was interesting.  I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know.  Welles was, to put it simply, a genius.  He knew how to get an audience worked up.  Panicked.  Terrified.

I admire Welles.  I admire the fact that he pushed the barriers of radio as a medium, the same way he pushed the barriers of film with Citizen Kane.  I hope, some day, I can do something as ground-breaking.  Of course, after Kane, Welles never did anything to equal it.  Unless you count Touch of Evil.

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Citizen Marty or Saint Kane.  Maybe Touch of Marty, although that sounds like a porn site.

I just have one last thing to say:  "Rosebud..."

The Martians are coming!

October 29: Fairly Christmasy, Season of Joy, Holiday Prayer

It was Monday and all, and pretty near Christmas, and all the stores were open.  So it wasn't too bad walking on Fifth Avenue.  It was fairly Christmasy.  All those scraggy-looking Santa Clauses were standing on corners ringing those bells, and the Salvation Army girls, the ones that don't wear any lipstick or anything, were ringing bells too...

Most people forget that Catcher is a Christmas book.  It takes place just a few days before the holiday.  Holden talks about Christmas trees and Christmas shopping and Christmas "dough" quite a few times.  Perhaps the time of year has a lot to do with his breakdown.  After all, Christmas is not all "tidings of comfort and joy."  For some people, it's tidings of darkness and depression.

As I was driving home this evening, I noticed that the city workers had hung the Christmas decorations on the streetlight posts.  That's right, two days before Halloween and my little hamlet is ready for the yuletide season already.

I have always loved Christmas.  I love its light and spirit of love, generosity.  In particular, I love Christmas shopping, finding the perfect gift for loved ones.  As a parent, I love seeing my kids' faces on Christmas morning when they open their presents.  I love the surprise, followed by sheer joy.  I know the meaning of Christmas.  I know it's not about presents or gifts.  But...I really like being able to give people what they want.

Seeing those Christmas decorations on the streetlights tonight kind of depressed me.  I know I'm not going to able to be extravagant this holiday season.  My daughter wants an iPhone like crazy.  My son wants some new kind of computer tablet for kids.  My wife has a ring I gave her on our wedding night that needs to be repaired.  All of those things are out of reach for me.

It's not going to be a season of joy this year, and I can't do anything about it, aside from...say a prayer, I guess.

Dear Big Guy in the sky,

It's me.  I know You're probably tired of hearing from me.  Sorry about that.  I'm writing to ask You to help me this Christmas season.  I don't know what kind of help I need.  You do.  Therefore, I'm going to have to You, I guess.

I love my kids.  I love my family.  I love my friends.  Help me to find a way to express my love this Christmas.  Somehow.

Oh, and while I have Your ear, if you could send us some good weather this Thursday for trick-or-treating, that would be great.

Your loving child,

Saint Marty

Can't we just move from Halloween to New Year's?

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28: Grading Midterms, Writing Christmas

I'm sitting in my university office this evening, grading midterms and writing about Christmas.  I have two classes worth of exams sitting on my desk, roughly 70 papers.  Not fun.  And I'm currently stuck in the writing of my Christmas essay.  Basically, I've gotten George Bailey to the bridge, but I can't get him to jump.

I grade a midterm.  I try to write.  I grade a midterm.  I try to write.  That's the rhythm of my night.  Pretty soon, I'm going to break out my iPod to try to drum up some yuletide musical inspiration.  I can almost see where I need to go with my essay, but I simply can't find the words to get there.  Perhaps Bing Crosby will make the tumblers in my brain click into place.

Time to grade another midterm.

Anybody out there have a cup of eggnog to share with Saint Marty?

Jump, George!

October 28: Boys and Ghouls, Snow, Magic 8-Ball

Well, it's Halloween week.  Yes, I said "week."  Somehow, over the years, Halloween has been extended to encompass an entire seven days of festivities.  There are parties and dances and movie marathons and parades.  Little boys and ghouls need rubber masks that drip blood or glow orange.  Costumes carry price tags that rival car payments.  Halloween ain't cheap anymore.

My son is going to be a S.W.A.T. police officer.  My daughter finally settled on a ghostly beauty costume.  It's something she found on the Internet, and she managed to talk my sister into purchasing it for her (thank God).  We have the shoes and makeup to complete said ensembles.  I think we're in good shape.

October 31 is supposed to be the warmest day this week, according to the Weather Channel.  At least in the mid-50s.  The rest of the week can be summed up with three words:  "cold" and "rain" and "snow."  This morning, I had to actually brush off and scrape my windshield.  That irritated me a little bit.  I don't hate winter.  I hate Halloweens that resemble a Currier & Ives print.  Last year, thanks to the backlash of Super Storm Sandy, I had to trudge through six or seven inches of snow to go trick-or-treating with my kids.  It was miserable.  My son wanted to quit after the third house.  (I made him go around the entire neighborhood to get me . . . I mean him . . . to get himself chocolate.)

Well, I'm sure you know what my Magic 8-Ball question is this week:

Is there going to be warm weather on Halloween night?

And Holden Caulfield says:

I put my hand on his shoulder.  Boy, he amused me.  "You're a real friendly bastard," I told him.  "You know that?"

That's not very encouraging.  It's like Holden is patting me on the head, saying, "Silly bastard, I can't believe you're actually asking me that question."

Saint Marty's going to be wearing his thermal underwear on All Hallow's Eve.

I know how you feel, buddy

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27, Classic Saint Marty, Making Idle People Merry, New Cartoon

Well, as I say, better late than never when it comes to posting.  It's been a pretty busy day, and I haven't had a chance to sit down with my laptop until now.  I carved pumpkins with my kids.  I drew up my lesson plan for teaching tomorrow.  After I'm done typing this up, I have to go make a quiche for work tomorrow.  The fun never stops.

I have Classic Saint Marty from early 2012.  It's on a subject still near and dear to my heart for obvious reasons.  It's from the year of A Christmas Carol.

Saint Marty has to go chop some bacon and sausage up now. 

January 20, 2012:  Making Idle People Merry, Working Poor, Poorly Working

"I don't make merry myself at Christmas, and I can't afford to make idle people merry."

Scrooge makes this comment to the two gentlemen who visit his office on Christmas Eve, looking for a charitable donation.  It touches upon one of the biggest myths about the poor:  that they are lazy people who don't want to work.  A lot of people (Republicans) think that because someone is out of work or can't pay bills, s/he is taking advantage of "the system."  (I know a few surgeons who prescribe to this notion.)  Just by using the term "idle," Scrooge seems to imply that the poor are simply standing on street corners, waiting for hand-outs.

While this stereotype may be true of some poor people, I know that most people who struggle with their finances have jobs.  As a matter of fact, most work their asses off just to put food on the table.  Foreclosure is not the result of somebody who won't pay his mortgage payment; it's the result of somebody who can't pay his mortgage payment.  What I'm talking about is the working poor:  individuals who have paying jobs and still can't rise above the poverty line.  A lot of people (Republicans) think that if someone has a minimum-wage job at McDonald's, s/he should be able to have a home, a car, a family, food, heat, clothing.  These people are wrong.

My point is that most poor people want to work, and most working people want to pay their bills.  It's not that the working poor are poor workers.  The working poor are poor because they are not paid a decent wage.  I live in a country where 20% of the people own 85% of the wealth.  We live in a world where the richest 2% of adults own more than half of total global household wealth.  If you do the math, that means that 80% of the people in the United States are living on 15% of the country's wealth.  And 98% of the people on this planet live on less than 50% of the world's wealth.  That's a little obscene.

I have to be honest:  Scrooge pisses me off when he makes his "idle people" speech.  He's supposed to piss you off.  Dickens wants you to recognize the falseness of his statement.  Bob Cratchit is not idle, but he's poor.  Bob Cratchit is not the exception.  Bob Cratchit is the rule.  The truth is that most poor people work.  Most poor people work really hard.

Saint Marty just wants to bitch slap the Scrooges of the world.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26: A Composition, Christmas Essay, Old Poem, New Cartoon

...Anyway, finally I had to come right out and tell him that I had to write a composition for Stradlater, and that he had to clear the hell out, so I could concentrate.  He finally did, but he took his time about it, as usual.  After he left, I put on my pajamas and bathrobe and my old hunting hat, and started writing the composition.

One the few things Holden does well is writing.  He's good at English.  Of course, as I've said before, it runs in his family.  His older brother, D. B., is a professional writer.  His brother, Allie, wrote poems all over his baseball glove.  The only subject Holden isn't flunking at Pencey Prep is English.  That's why Holden's roommate, Stradlater, asks Holden to write an essay for him.

I have an essay to work on this weekend.  A Christmas essay.  I do it every year.  The local Public Radio station puts out a call for people to record Christmas writings for the holiday season every year.  I just got that call yesterday.  I've already started writing it.  I need to simply get it done.  Soon.

Therefore, kind Saint Marty disciple, I will not be writing a new poem this weekend for your reading pleasure.  Instead, this post contains an old poem.  Hopefully, it's one you haven't read before.  I have to work on my Christmas essay.  The clock is ticking, the deadline looming.

Saint Marty has to get in a yuletide frame of mind.


I want to speak about bodies
Changed into new forms.
My daughter, ten, on the verge
Of petal, stigma, ovule, sepal,
Talks of All Hallow's Eve, the form
She will assume when Selene
Rises into the starry heavens.
Talks of the living dead, hunger
For the taste of flesh, of body.
Then changes her mind.
She will be straw in cornfield,
Blight against crow feather.
Then she chooses
A fairy nymph of cobweb,
Draped in lace and silk,
Arachne's fine handiwork,
Fat with flies and moth wing.
Her muse shifts yet again.
She will be spell caster.
Pointed hat, frog skin,
Green and marbled with the dark
Matter of the universe.  And now,
Her final mutation, she will be
A girl, red-cloaked, a penchant
For forest and hairy stranger
In her young breast.  I fear
This form most.  Fear she won't
Want to morph back on All Soul's Day.
Fear she will just keep changing
States.  Liquid.  Solid.  Vapor.
Until she drifts away from me,
Or becomes some creature I don't know
How to love.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25: Kay Ryan, Genius Award, and a Poem

Well, I want to offer you guys a poem tonight by a poet I admire.  Kay Ryan.  Former Poet Laureate of the United States.  Pulitzer Prize Winner.  MacArthur Genius.  Community college teacher and advocate.  She's really amazing.

Saint Marty hopes he grows up to be like her.
A Certain Kind of Eden 
by:  Kay Ryan
It seems like you could, but
you can’t go back and pull
the roots and runners and replant.
It’s all too deep for that.
You’ve overprized intention,
have mistaken any bent you’re given
for control. You thought you chose
the bean and chose the soil.
You even thought you abandoned
one or two gardens. But those things
keep growing where we put them—
if we put them at all.
A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall.
Even the one vine that tendrils out alone
in time turns on its own impulse,
twisting back down its upward course
a strong and then a stronger rope,
the greenest saddest strongest
kind of hope.
Kay Ryan--an amazing artist

October 25: Sandwich Bar, Burger, Fairy Tale

...After I put my bags in one of those strong boxes at the station, I went into this little sandwich bar and had breakfast.  I had quite a large breakfast, for me--orange juice, bacon and eggs, toast and coffee...

Holden really doesn't eat a whole lot in Catcher.  Near the end of the book, he stops in a diner and orders a doughnut that he doesn't eat, as well.  He does eat his breakfast from the sandwich bar, though.

If you can't tell from the above discussion, I'm a little hungry.  My wife and I are going out to lunch with a friend in a little while.  My friend, out of the blue last Friday, said to me, "I've been craving a burger.  Let me take you and your wife out to lunch.  In the spirit of friendship."  Well, I don't pass up free food.  Ever.  So, this afternoon, we're going out for burgers at a nice restaurant on the shores of Lake Superior.

That's my focus right now.  Food.  I didn't have much for breakfast, and dinner is a long way off.  I'm so hungry right now that I'm physically tired.  In between each sentence of this post are long minutes of sitting and staring.  Bus station minutes, when you're waiting for the Greyhound to pull in from Chicago.

Which reminds me...

Once upon a time, a man name Phillips lived on the banks of a great lake.  Phillips was a patient man.  In fact, he was known throughout the kingdom as the most patient man alive.  When he got up in the morning, he'd patiently say to himself, "I think I'll wait until lunch time to eat breakfast.  That way I'll enjoy breakfast even more."  When lunch time came, he'd patiently say, "I've already waiting this long.  I might as well hold off 'til dinner.  Then I'll have the best meal ever."  At dinner time, he'd patiently sigh and say, "I'm a patient man.  I think I can wait until tomorrow morning to have breakfast."

Day after day, it went like this.  Phillips kept putting off breakfast, and he became thinner and thinner.  One day, he was so weak from hunger that he couldn't even get out of bed.  "That's OK," he whispered.  "I'll just wait until my strength returns."  He patiently closed his eyes, listened to the waves of the great lake outside his window, and fell back asleep.  He never woke up again.

Outside his window, a beautiful bluebird sang, "Dumbass, dumbass, dumbass."

Moral of the story:  "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" or "do not put off until tomorrow what you can eat today" or "my fairy tale really sucked today."

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Mmmmm....toast good!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24: So Damn Sleepy, Daughter's Ear, Piece of Mind

...It wasn't that I was bored or anything--I wasn't--but I was so damn sleepy all of a sudden...

That pretty much describes my current state at the moment.  The members of my book club left about an hour or so ago.  We had a good meeting about Stephen King's sequel to The Shining.  Everybody loved Dr. Sleep.  My sister, who didn't read it, loved the reviews about Dr. Sleep.  (My sister rarely finishes the books for book club, but she spends a lot of time reading about the books we read for book club.)

Today, I'm supposed to give you a piece of my mind.  I'm too damn tired to voice a strong opinion about anything.  However, I am a little disgusted by the high costs of medical care.  My daughter ripped the earring out of her ear this morning.  She did a pretty good job.  She split her earlobe in two cleanly.  My wife took her to the pediatrician.  The pediatrician wouldn't touch it; he said she needs to see a plastic surgeon.

So, I went to the office of a plastic surgeon I know, and I found out that, to get my daughter's ear fixed properly, I have to pay $250.  It's considered cosmetic surgery, so the office won't even bill my medical insurance.  Obviously, that's going to be a problem.  I can barely buy a stamp at the moment.  I don't have an earlobe fund in the bank.

Medicine in this country is too damn expensive.  Way too expensive.  I guess I'm considered middle class.  I make too much money to qualify for food stamps or to get my kids free hot lunch at school.  Yet, I can't afford to get my daughter's ear sewn back together.  That's pretty depressing.

The healthcare industry in the United States needs to be scrapped.  It doesn't need to be reformed.  Reformation indicates that it used to work and needs to be returned to a former state.  The healthcare industry in the U.S.has never really worked all that well.  And now, when a twelve-year-old girl has an open wound on her head, the fix is so expensive that she may have to live with it for a while.

President Obama didn't go far enough with healthcare reform.  He should have mothballed the whole system.and started over.

That's a piece of Saint Marty's mind.

I don't know how to get to either of these streets

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23: Book Club and Hash

Tomorrow night my book club meets at my house.  This month's book is Stephen King's Dr. Sleep.  I know I'm not going to finish reading it by the time people start showing up tomorrow evening.  I'm working on it.  If I didn't have to register patients or teach tomorrow, I may have gotten it done.  Unfortunately, I have to do both of those things, so Dr. Sleep will remain unfinished.

I did make corned beef hash for book club.  I had the corned beef and hash browns and roasted red bell pepper.  I mixed it all together, heated it up, and added salt and ground pepper.  It tastes pretty good.  My wife wants to have some of it for lunch tomorrow.  I suppose that's a compliment.

If you're reading this post and know how Dr. Sleep ends, drop me a line.  Tell me what happens.  Don't worry about ruining the book on me.  I usually read the last chapter of the book first anyway.

It probably has something to do with Saint Marty's fear of the future.  Or his fear of clowns.

My vote is for the clowns.  They're scary shit.

October 23: Till You Do It, the Future, Unfounded Fear

...I mean how do you know what you're going to do till you do it?...

Holden doesn't like the future.  In fact, he spends much of Catcher trying not to grow up.  He's stuck in a time when Allie, his younger brother, was still alive.  When Jane was his neighbor, and he played checkers with her every afternoon.  When he was happy.  Holden hasn't been happy for a long time.

Most people fear the future.  The past has already happened.  A person can have regrets about the past, not fears.  The present is just the past or the future waiting to happenTake your pick.  If you're hopelessly nostalgic, it's the past.  If you're chronically worried, it's the future.  Sometimes, I'm the former.  Most of the time I'm the latter.

Fear of the future is unfounded.  To paraphrase Holden, how do you know what's going to happen until it happens?  It's kind of silly to worry about the future.  I'm worrying about things that haven't occurred.  That may occur.  That's like not crossing a street because a car may run a stoplight and kill me.  The future isn't happy or sad, positive or negative.  It's a vacuum, until it becomes the present.

Most worries come from the future.  There's no reason to worry about the past, unless you committed a murder that hasn't been solved.  There's no reason to worry about the present, unless you're in line to ride a roller coaster or have a rectal exam.  The future is about worry.  For worry.  It's the realm of undiagnosed illnesses and un-lost jobs and un-filed-for bankruptcies.  It's where all the bad things are going to happen.

I'm not going to dwell on the future this evening.  I'm too tired for that.  I'll leave the future for tomorrow.  As Annie says, tomorrow's only a day away.

Saint Marty just hopes that day doesn't involve emergency gall bladder surgery.

She's probably a methadone addict now

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22: White Halloween

I'm sitting in my living room right now, watching the end of the movie White Christmas.  Bing Crosby.  Rosemary Clooney.  Snow.  Irving Berlin.  There's nothing better.

I haven't gone out of my head.  I watch Christmas movies all year long.  I chose this film because it snowed this morning.  A lot.  It's still freezing outside.  The last time I checked, it was still raining white.  It looks like we're headed for another White Halloween in the Upper Peninsula.  That's not unusual.  Last year, we got a full-on storm on All Hallow's Eve.  Several inches.

Since my daughter was born, there has been exactly one Halloween that was warm and beautiful.  The rest have been Bing Crosby holidays.

Saint Marty's pretty sure Bing is going to be caroling in the Great Pumpkin this year.

Hot chocolate anyone?  It goes great with pumpkin carving.

October 22: Dopey Girl, Baby Clothes, Prayer

She wasn't listening, though.  So I ignored her for a while.  We just danced.  God, could that dopey girl dance...

Holden loves dancing, and he loves girls who dance.  Jane dances ballet.  When Holden gets to New York, he hits the ballroom to listen to the band and dance with somebody.  He finds a "dopey girl."

My daughter has been dancing since she was in kindergarten.  When I watch her onstage now, it breaks my heart.  She's no longer that dopey little girl in the pink leotard anymore.  She's graceful, beautiful, grownup.  Every time she leaps in the dance studio, she goes higher and higher, further and further.  She's dancing away from me, as it should be.  That's a parent's job--to raise a child until that child doesn't need you any longer.

Tonight, I was helping my wife price baby clothes for a clothing resale this weekend.  It was one of the most depressing tasks I've ever done.  I kept on coming across outfits my daughter wore when she was a baby.  I could actually still see her in some of them.  I kept pressing them to my nose, expecting them to smell like her baby lotion.  (They didn't.  They smelled dusty, like a storage bin.)  I'm feeling a little nostalgic, in case you haven't noticed.

Dear God,

I miss my little girl.  The one who used to climb into my lap, put her head on my shoulder, and fall asleep, snoring little snores against my neck.  Things weren't simpler back then.  They were new, fresh, exciting.  There were still problems.  Big ones.  But I had my princess who looked up at me like I was Prince Charming.  Maybe King Charming.

I know I'm doing my job.  My daughter is a strong, independent young lady.  She doesn't rely on her old man so much.  She has all the answers.  At least, she thinks she has all the answers.  I'm not as smart as I used to be.  In a few years, I'm sure I will have learned a whole lot.  Probably around the time she's 20 or 21.

In the mean time, I'm going to have to depend on You to watch over her, keep her safe.  She really is a precious child.  Loving.  Kind.  Smart.

Keep her safe, Big Guy.

Your loving child,

Saint Marty

When did she get so big?

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21: My Dark Office

I'm sitting in my office at the university.  The lights are turned off, and I've opened the blinds on the window to watch the day end.  There's still some blue in the sky, but steel-colored clouds are taking over.  I can see the tops of the pine trees across the street crawling with wind, as if a crop of angry crows is sitting in the branches, getting ready to take flight.

In the time it took me to write that last sentence, the blue sky got gobbled up.  Now, all I can see is the roof of the coming storm.  In a few minutes, it's going to be dark.  Really dark.  This is the kind of evening in the Upper Peninsula that signals the end and the beginning.

The end of the 80-degree October days with maple trees so red and orange they look impossible.

The beginning of the 20-degree October days with green and white existing side-by-side, both stubborn, refusing to say "uncle!"

Saint Marty's just going to sit in his dark office and watch until nightfall.

I'm not ready for this yet

October 21: Work, Snow, and Magic 8-Ball

I worked my butt off today.  When I sat down this morning to make my To-Do list, I had nine major tasks to complete.  As of this writing, I have finished six of them.  By the time I go to bed tonight, I fully expect to have the entire list moved from the "To-Do" column to the "Dun-Done" column, as in, "I dun done all those things."

I haven't been this productive in a while.  Most days, I've been only finishing three or four projects, if I'm lucky.  My recent lack of motivation bothers me.  Usually, I'm pretty goal-oriented.  I want to get things done.  That's why I have To-Do lists.  I suppose I can chalk my absent ambition to my current money problems.  Finances have taken up residence in a good portion of my daily thoughts.  I can also blame the changing seasons.  In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, weather does govern life.  As the days get shorter and colder, residents of the U. P. change.  They eat more, sleep more, gain weight for the upcoming winter months.  It's like getting ready for hibernation without actually hibernating.

Tonight, it's supposed to snow.  Anywhere from one to six inches, depending on the TV station you watch.  I am not ready for it, physically or mentally.  I want at least five or six more weeks of autumn.  Then the snow can come.  Walking across campus to my office this afternoon, I saw white precipitation.  Fine white specks, like dandelion dust.  It made me want to cook and eat a 25-pound turkey.

My question this snowy 8-Ball Monday is this:

Are we going to have an easy winter in the U. P. this year?

And Holden Caulfield says:

...I had blood all over my mouth and chin and even on my pajamas and bathrobe.  It partly scared me and it partly fascinated me.  All that blood and all sort of made me look tough...

Dammit.  I don't want a tough winter.  I don't want to look tough and feel tough.

Saint Marty prefers his winter pajamas warm and dry, not tough and bloody.

Checking another thing off my list

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20: Classic Saint Marty, New Cartoon, 2011

Well, I do have a Classic Saint Marty for you guys tonight.  I decided to simply check back two years to see what I was doing.  I was hoping to find a notable difference in subject or mood.  I didn't find that.

Basically, Saint Marty is just two years older.

October 20, 2011:  The Lost Week Ends

This whole week has been a blur of cold medicine and bad news.  I'm glad it has come to an end.  I am staying positive.  I will not say anything about coughing all night long or the lack of groceries at my home at the moment.  (We hit Walmart tomorrow.)  I'm not going to bitch about being rejected by The MacGuffin.  I did enough of that this morning.  I'm not going to express any negativity about the shitty economy or job situation or the fact that I'm going to die as a part-time adjunct.

Nope.  Only sunshine from me tonight.  So...that's about all I have to say.  My wife is waiting for me to arrive home.  The kids are probably driving her a little nuts.  It's too cold to play outside now.

Saint Marty, walking on sunshine tonight.  Sort of.

Confessions of Saint Marty

October 19: One Little Kid, New Poem, "Orange Day," New Cartoon

While I was waiting around for Phoebe  in the museum, right inside the doors and all, these two little kids came up to me and asked me if I knew where the mummies were.  The one little kid, the one that asked me, had his pants open.  I told him about it.  So he buttoned them up right where he was standing talking to me--he didn't even bother to go behind a post or anything.  I would've laughed, but I was afraid I'd feel like vomiting again, so I didn't.  "Where're the mummies, fella?" the kid said again.  "Ya know?"

Holden meets these two boys in the Museum of Natural History.  I believe they're the last in a line of kids Holden encounters in Catcher.  Each one has a wild side.  The boy above, with the unbuttoned pants, is a prime example.  He doesn't know he's supposed to be discreet or embarrassed.  He's an innocent, a resident of the rye field.

The kid with the unbuttoned pants is my son.  My son doesn't care if his fly is unzipped.  He hugs and kisses indiscriminately.  When he plays, he plays hard, until his head drips with sweat.  He hates baths, loves dirt, and doesn't stop what he's doing for unimportant necessities like going to the bathroom.  He's my wolf boy.

Of course, that has created a few problems with his kindergarten teacher.  Detentions.  Red cards.  Phone calls.  I'm almost becoming immune to these events.  They're becoming a normal part of my days.

That's what my new poem is about today.  My missing link son.  I've also included a new cartoon.  It was drawn last weekend, when I was in the Wisconsin Dells at my daughter's dance convention.

Saint Marty has a pumpkin to carve for his son now.

Orange Day

My son had an orange day
in kindergarten, stuck crayons
in his ears, red in his left,
yellow in his right.  Chased
kids at morning recess,
tried to lick them, his tongue
a pink bullet in the barrel
of his mouth.  Sat under his desk,
screamed like a peacock at dusk,
roosted in dogwood above Georgia
clay, while his classmates practiced
their numbers:  1, 2, 3, 4, up to 100.
Took off his shoes, socks, spread
his monkey toes, picked up
a brush with them, painted
water lilies in a pond on the floor
where sunlight sparked purple,
pink.  Chewed his mac and cheese
at lunch to orange glue, spat it
on the table, made a map of Hannibal's
journey over the Alps, raisin
elephants on the highest peaks.
Beat plastic drums in music class,
refused to make that damn spider
climb the water spout, instead
played Ligeti's Atmospheres,
moonrise over the monolith
of his chimpanzee heart.
His teacher calls me at night, says
she's at a loss with my son,
doesn't know what to do
with his untamed ways.
I want to tell her it's all about
evolution, that he's learning
how to walk upright, hunt
through pinecone and maple
for blueberries, slabs of bloody
venison.  Give him time, I want
to say.  To learn the agriculture
of her classroom, its fields, furrows,
seasons of alphabet, trapezoid,
computer and gym.  In this epoch,
he won't be caught in tar lakes
underneath asteroid rain.  He will
survive, become a new link.
Homo kindergartenus.  Note
the wide scoop of his skull to accommodate
all he will know by year's end.
His cave drawings hang on our fridge.
Concentric orange circles, bull's-eyes.
"See," my son points, "this is King
Pumpkin.  He's bigger and oranger
than the rest."  I stare at his paintings,
feel the planet skip, stars reorganize,
something end, something begin.
The dawning of a new age.
Tonight, I'll pack his lunch,
for another orange day.
Apple juice, carrot sticks,
maybe a grilled cheese sandwich.
It's supposed to rain tomorrow,
enough to make the mastodons
hunker down in the woods,
orange hair slick with mud, moss.
Maybe my son will find
them there, in the trees
behind the playground.  He'll climb
into their orange center where all
he can hear is breaths.
Deep, orange breaths.
He'll skip school.  Stay there
for the rest of the day.
Happy.  Wild.  Orange.

Confessions of Saint Marty

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18: Jonathan Johnson, a Good Guy, "She of Tioga Creek"

I wrote in my last post about my poet friend, Jonathan Johnson, who gave a reading at the university last night.  I thought I'd offer you one of his poems this afternoon.

I've known Jonathan for over 15 years.  He's a really fine poet and, in general, a really good guy.  Generous, kind, and supportive.

Saint Marty hopes you enjoy it.

She of Tioga Creek

Marsh went mostly unnoticed then,
and the sun's tremolo through spruce shadows
was just the context our desire used for
your feet on the dash, and the outpost houses
with their dead Chevys were mere residences
for the dusk behind what we decided to say,
and we were never the land we imagined ourselves,
so there's nothing of us to notice now, as I pass.
Not even in the roadside park where we pulled off
and walked the creek up to a dark we used
to unfasten each other from weeks of expectation
in so many other grasses under your back
and where I held the source of your true voice
that, soft, almost mourning, was also the delicate water
inches from your hair where I don't stop
but drive by, past more bleached, dead cedars
we must have passed when we got back on the road
but wouldn't have seen in the night beyond our headlights'

A great friend

October 18: One Thing, Couldn't Concentrate, Fairy Tale

"One thing I like a lot you mean?" I asked her.

She didn't answer me, though.  She was in a cock-eyed position way the hell over the other side of the bed.  She was about a thousand miles away.  "C'mon, answer me," I said.  "One thing I like a lot, or one thing I just like?"

"You like a lot."

"All right," I said.  But the trouble was, I couldn't concentrate...

Holden's sister, Phoebe, challenges him.  She wants him to name one good thing in his life.  One thing that makes him happy.  And he can't really do it.  It takes him almost two pages before he answers her.

I understand where Holden is coming from.  It's difficult to concentrate on something positive when you're overwhelmed.  It's like the old saying, "You can't see the forest through the trees."  There's too many trees in my way, blocking my view.  I can't see the big picture, whatever that big picture is supposed to be.

However, Phoebe's little challenge is a good one.  There's always something good to focus on.  It's just a matter of redirecting your thoughts.  Instead of bills or car problems or housework or schoolwork, I need to think of one thing that I like.  A lot.

Last night, I went to a poetry reading at the university.  The poet is a friend of mine, someone I was in graduate school with.  He's a great writer, and a fantastic reader.  There were so many people at the reading that the university had to bring in more chairs, open up the next room, and change the sound system to accommodate everybody.

Jonathan read poetry for almost an hour.  And told stories.  And talked about his love for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  And read poetry with a violinist.  It was a fine evening, and Jonathan was gracious and charming.  I was surrounded by people who love poetry and music.  I felt at home, peaceful.

That is the one thing I like a lot this week.  Which reminds me of a story.

Once upon a time, a lumberjack named Donovan lived on the shores of a large, green sea.  Donovan loved walking along the beach, picking up driftwood and stones thrown up on the sand by the waves.  He loved the water, the smell of salt in the air, the otters that swam in the beds of brown kelp.  The green sea brought him happiness and joy.  It was his one thing.

One summer, a drought took hold of the land.  Day by day, Donovan watched the green sea shrink and dry up.  The otters moved away.  The sand baked into clay.  The kelp beds dried to brittle tinder.  Donovan lost his one thing.

He sat in his cottage on the beach, sharpening his lumberjack ax, praying all day and all night for rain.

One afternoon, Donovan offered up one last prayer, "Dear God, if You send us some rain, You can take anything away from me.  Anything.  Just give me my beautiful green sea back."

At that moment, it started to rain, and it rained for forty days and forty nights.  The green sea returned and returned and returned.  By the time the rain stopped, the sea was three times as big as before.

Donovan sat on the beach, watching the waves.  Suddenly, a wolf came out of the woods behind him.  The wolf was desperately hungry because the rain had driven away all the other creatures of the forest.  When the wolf saw Donovan, it sprang on him.

Donovan remembered his promise to God, and he didn't fight back.  He let the wolf eat his right foot, both of his thumbs, and his left testicle.

When the wolf was full, Donovan said to it, "I promised God, if He gave me back my beautiful green sea, He could take anything away from me.  He gave me back my one thing that makes me happy, so I gladly offer myself up to you."

"That's funny," the wolf replied, licking his lips.  "God told me that if I came down here to the beach, I would find a true friend."

"Then," Donovan said, "why did you eat my right foot, my thumbs, and my left testicle?"

"Well," said the wolf, "I didn't want to be hungry when I met my true friend."

Moral of the story:  wolves are pretty damn stupid.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Cover your testicles if you see this guy

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17: From Princeton, the University, Elitism

"Birdsell, Birdsell . . . from Princeton . . . Princeton College?"

Holden talks a lot about schools, from Pencey Prep to Princeton.  On the whole, he finds students and teachers from these institutions to be pretty shallow.  Holden prizes truth and genuineness.  His harshest criticisms are directed at people who put on airs, who worry about social class and status.  Phonies, basically.

I have worked in higher education for almost twenty years.  In that time, I've seen my share of phonies.  Generally, they fall into two categories.  First, there are the wannabes.  The wannabes haven't achieved anything.  They are probably graduate students who pretend to have read books they haven't even heard of.  In casual conversations, they say things like, "I much prefer the postmodernity of Coover to the minimalism of Carver."  They're constantly trying to impress.

The second category consists of Lancelots.  These are people who have gone on a hero's quest to find the Holy Grail of academia:  a tenured job at a university.  They are wannabes who've made it to the top, and the Lancelots are very territorial.  In casual conversations, they say things like, "It is our job, nay, duty to uphold the integrity of this institution."  (Translation:  "We have to keep out, stomp on, exterminate anyone who isn't like us.")  It's elitism, but people with advanced terminal degrees make it sound really classy.

I'm surrounded by wannabes and Lancelots at the university.  They are both equally vapid, but the Lancelots through a healthy dose of elitism into the mix, as well.  Nowadays, pretty much everyone in higher educations knows the tenure system is going the way of the mastodon.  Soon, everyone will be able to see tenured English professors only in glass display cases, right next to the petrified T-rex manure.

Don't get me wrong.  I would love to work as a tenured, university professor.  It would be a dream job.  Six-figure salary.  Benefits.  Sabbaticals.  Conferences.  I would be in English department paradise--elitism, dinosaur spore, and all.  Mark my words, thought:  tenure is a dying

And that's piece of Saint Marty's mind.

Meet Professor Lancelot and his colleague, Professor Mammoth

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16: Any Dough, Phone Call, Money Worries

"I got my damn bags at the station," I said.  "Listen.  You got any dough, Phoeb?  I'm practically broke."

 Holden comes from the upper class.  His family lives in an apartment in Manhattan.  His dad is a corporate lawyer who spends his free time producing Broadway shows.  His brother writes screenplays for Hollywood, and Holden has attended every prep school on the East Coast, it seems.  All these facts indicate a certain level of financial security.  The only reason he's broke near the end of the book is because he's already used up all of the birthday money his grandma sent him.

This morning, my wife and I had several minutes of deep financial crisis.  She had me look up the balances in our savings and checking accounts.  Or lack of balances in our accounts.  It was not a good way to start the day.  In fact, I would say it killed any chance I had at a peaceful state of mind.  My wife went so far as to say, "We shouldn't have taken that trip to the Wisconsin Dells."

Of all the worries I deal with, financial worries are the worst.  They drain my energy.  They hang on like a bad cold.  Right now, I'm exhausted.  Not because I've been working since 4 a.m.  Not because I went to my daughter's chorus concert tonight.  I'm exhausted because all I've been thinking about all day long are ways of supplementing my income.  The only thing I've ruled out completely is a job at McDonald's.

I know this situation is temporary, and that God is watching over us.  If God could get me a raise or a full-time job at the university, perhaps I'd be able to relax.  Last night, I couldn't fall asleep.  I think I finally drifted off around 1 a.m.  That means I've gotten about three hours of sleep since Tuesday morning.  I feel a little unglued, like something's knocked all the stuffing out of my favorite teddy bear.

As soon as I'm done typing this post, I'm going to bed.  I'm done with worry.  I'm too tired to worry.  I've used up my entire supply.  Now that I've mastered worry, I can start practicing trust and faith a little more.  That's what's going to save my sanity.

Saint Marty isn't quite ready to give up yet.

I've been here before

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15: Phoeb, Joy, Father's Prayer

She wakes up very easily.  I mean you don't have to yell at her or anything.  All you have to do, practically, is sit down on the bed and say, "Wake up, Phoeb," and bingo, she's awake.

Holden loves kids.  He loves their innocence, their lack of adult worries and cares.  All he wants to do with his life is protect kids from reaching the edge of childhood and falling into the abyss.  Holden realizes that adulthood isn't all it's cracked up to be.  In fact, adulthood is something to dread, fear, avoid at all costs.  Of course, Catcher is all about Holden's fall into this abyss of adulthood.  The abyss is a place where a young person can die of leukemia, where something that unfathomable can happen.

Tonight, I'm sitting in my living room.  It's a wreck.  My kids were home from school today, still recovering from our weekend in the Wisconsin Dells.  Tomorrow, they go back to school, and life returns to normal.  My daughter will complain and whine in the morning.  My son will go to school and stick crayons in his ears or try to lick some other kid on the playground.

They're normal children with normal problems.  I wish life for them could remain as simple as a page of math problems to complete.  Hot lunch or cold lunch.  Green behavior versus red behavior.  But his world is designed to become increasingly more complicated the longer you're here.  I don't want my son and daughter to remain children forever, but I wish they could somehow maintain their child-like joy in normal, everyday things.

Right now, I can hear my daughter giggling in her bedroom, talking with my wife.  I can't make out what they're discussing, but, every once in a while, there's a burst of laughter.  Tonight, my son went to dance class, and he had a great time moving and acting silly.  Adults worry way too much about looking foolish.  We worry about the opinions of other adults.  Job evaluations.  Parent/teacher conferences.  Pageviews on blogs.  We use these things to measure our self worth as workers, parents, writers.  We don't do anything purely for joy or happiness.

That's the attitude I'd like to save my children from.

Dear God of joy,

Yeah, it's me again.  I know I'm writing late.  Sorry about that.  I hope I didn't wake You up.  Although, it would kind of worry me if You were actually sleeping.  I kind of picture You as not needing a whole lot of sleep.  Like a college student during finals week, except You don't need the pizza or caffeine pills or espresso.

Anyway, I want to ask You to help my son and daughter hold on to their joy.  I see it every day in them.  In the way my son laughs when I read him a book that he's already heard 548 times.  In the way my daughter whispers and giggles in her bed at night.

I know they will both experience sadness, disappointment, heartbreak.  That's inevitable.  But, in the midst (that's right, I just used the word "midst") of all that pain, let them have light.  Let them stick crayons in their ears.  Let them explore the playground with their tongues.

Let them always know how much I love them, how I want to give them the world.  How they'll always be my babies.

Your loving child,

Saint Marty

Sometimes, you just gotta dance

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14: Wedding Anniversary, 18 Years, Magic 8-Ball

Today, my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary.  Eighteen years.  It's hard to believe we've been married that long.  Those of you who've been reading this blog a while know some of those years weren't all rose gardens and Godiva chocolates.  We've dealt with some pretty serious problems.  Mental illness. Addiction.  A year of separation.

When two people enter into a marriage, it really is for better or worse.  My wife and I have had our share of worse, but we've had a whole lot of better, as well.  We have two beautiful kids who we love, for better or worse, too.  Mostly better.  Struggles are part of life.  I admit that I let struggles sometimes overwhelm me.  I'm working on that.

Today, my focus was not the struggle.  Today, I celebrated 18 years of love and family.

My question today for Holden is...

Will my wife and I have happiness and prosperity in the upcoming year?

And the answer is...

The show wasn't as bad as some I've seen.  It was on the crappy side, though.  It was about five hundred thousand years in the life of this one old couple.

Alright, that's not completely negative.  On the crappy side, but still all about love for about five hundred thousand years.

Saint Marty will take that.

Happy anniversary, my love

October 13: Last Day in the Dells

Second day at the Showstopper Dance Convention.  My daughter's feet are sore.  My nerves are more than a little frayed.  I just had a bath battle with my five-year-old son.  He didn't want to take a bath, and I was in the line of fire.  I was slapped, bitten, kicked, and punched.  By the time I finally got him in bed, he looked like a cast member from The Walking Dead.

However my daughter had a great time.  From 7:40 a.m. until 5 p.m., she hip hopped, jazzed, krumped, locked, and popped herself silly.  She is on dance overload right now.  Like my son, she has passed out in her bed.  She did not slap, bite, kick, or punch me.  She simply mumbled something like "I'm hungry pizza to brush with iPod" and stumbled into the adjoining room.

It was a lovely weekend.  I know I'm supposed to do a Classic Saint Marty today, but I'm too tired.  I'm not going to apologize or feel guilty.  Guilt is something I indulge in way too much.  It's my constant companion.  I should be working on a poem.  I have a stack of quizzes to grade.  I yelled at my son tonight when he refused to get undressed for his bath.  My daughter danced all weekend without hip hop shoes because I couldn't afford to get her a pair that fit her.  Tomorrow is my eighteenth wedding anniversary.  I haven't even purchased a Hallmark card.  Like I said, I'm a master at guilt.

No guilt tonight, though.  Exhaustion, yes.  Sore muscles, yes.  A smidgen of anxiety about upcoming bills, yes.

Saint Marty has plenty of time for regrets tomorrow.

P. S.  Saint Marty apologizes for any typos.  Too tired for proofreading tonight.

My daughter and her favorite dance instructor, Dena Rizzo

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 12: Ballet and All, Dance Convention, My Daughter

"She's a dancer," I said.  "Ballet and all.  She used to practice about two hours every day, right in the middle of the hottest weather and all..."

Jane Gallagher, the love of Holden's young life, is a dancer.  It's one of the first things we learn about Jane.  Well, that and the fact that Holden's roommate, Stradlater, is going on a date with her.  I don't know if Holden ever provides a physical description of Jane--hair color, eye color, etc.  I've always pictured her with auburn hair and brown eyes.  Lots of freckles across her nose and cheeks.  Tall and thin, with dancer's legs.  Basically, Jane is an older version of my daughter.

I spent the day watching my daughter dance.  Hip hop.  Tap.  Ballet.  Hip hop again.  I followed her from class to class here at the Kalahari Resort.  She worked her little butt off.  I'm always amazed when I see her dance.  She's confident and graceful.  Sometimes, I marvel that I had something to do in the making of this beautiful creature.  My daughter.

That's all Saint Marty has to say tonight.  He's a proud daddy.

P. S. Sorry.  No poem or cartoons this weekend.

Jane Gallagher.  I mean, my daughter in the Wisconsin Dells

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 11: Alice Munro, Found Poem, Good Night

I'm pretty darn tired right now, and in about six hours, I have to get up with my daughter to go to the dance convention.  An early warm up and hip hop class.  I want to go to sleep.

In honor of Alice Munro's recent Nobel Prize in Literature, I'm posting a poem I found online.  It's a found poem by Elizabeth Crawford and is based on Munro's Runaway.

Saint Marty hopes you like it, although he's too tired to really care if you don't.

Found Poem – Alice Munro

For Writers Island writing prompt: Contingent

Found Poem

That Is What Happen

You put it away
for a little while,
and now and again
you look in the closet,
for something else
and you remember
and you think, soon.

Then it becomes
something that is just
there, in the closet,
and other things
get crowded in front
of it and on top of it
and finally you don’t
think about it at all.

The thing that was your
bright treasure. You don’t
think about it. A loss
you could not contemplate
at one time, and now it
becomes something
you can barely remember.

That is what happens.

Alice Munro in Runaway
Elizabeth Crawford 6/4/11

Notes: Was reading the above novel last night and came across this quote which I thought read like a poem. Then found the prompt this morning and went back to the quote. I know that found poems are usually taken from technical writing or newspaper and magazine articles. This is a bit of a cheat because it comes from fiction. But when I saw the word contingent, I thought of the many things we care about deeply, even people, who somehow end up in that closet, barely remembered. Our treasures are contingent on our awareness, and continued nurture, to retain their definition as treasures.

I'm too tired to look for a different picture of Munro

October 11: Edmont Hotel, Wisconsin Dells, Fairy Tale on the Road

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...

Holden spends one night in the Edmont Hotel.  He discovers it's full of "perverts and morons."  Of course, Holden isn't the picture of mental health himself at this point in the book.  He's about a day-and-a-half away from a complete nervous breakdown.

Tonight, I am blogging from a remote location.  I am sitting in a room at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.  It's my annual pilgrimage to the Showstopper Dance Convention with my daughter.  The place is crawling with tweenage and teenage girls wearing sequins and sporting pony tails.  I believe this is my daughter's third time here.

Some people find the Dells a little, well, kitschy.  And it is.  Everything is overpriced and fake.  We tried to order two cheese pizzas from room service a little while ago.  They were going to charge us $60.  We got pizza from Domino's instead.  Now, everyone is settling down for the night, and I am enjoying a little quiet time.

Before I close this post, I owe you guys a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a simple man named Simon took his daughter on a trip to the country fair.  It took them all day to arrive at the Kalahari Inn, where Simon had made reservations.  Both father and daughter were so exhausted that they decided to eat in their room.  They ordered a mutton pizza from the Kalahari's kitchen.

When the pizza arrived, the delivery page told them, "That will be sixty gold pieces, including the delivery charge."

Simon was outraged.  "How can you charge that much money for a lousy mutton pizza?"

The page shrugged his shoulders.  "Don't ask me.  You're the one who ordered the pie."

Simon refused to pay for the pizza, and he and his daughter had beef jerky for dinner.

Moral of the story:  Simple Simon ordered pie, man, while going to the fair.

And Saint Marty lived happily ever after.

Don't order the pizza here!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 10: An Explanation of Why I Didn't Win

Now that I've defended Alice Munro's selection as the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, let me explain why I didn't win this year.

You see, once the Swedish Academy has narrowed down the list of candidates for the Nobel to five, they spend the summer reading those five writers' works.  In order to preserve the secrecy of the process, the shortlisted writers are often given code names by the Academy, to avoid possible leaks of information.  Thus, William Faulkner might have been called Bubba, and Pearl S. Buck was possibly known as Buck Rogers.

Assuming I was on the shortlist with Munro, her code name could have been "A. M.," and my code name was probably "M. A."  Well, when it came down to the selection of the actual winner, "M. A." certainly defeated "A. M." in the vote.  However, some dyslexic clerk at the Swedish Academy inverted the letters when typing up the results.  Thus, instead of my name being announced this morning, Alice Munro's name was spoken.

It was a clerical error.

But Saint Marty isn't going to ask for a recount.

She's just lucky I'm not in a bad mood today

October 10: Isak Dinesen, Alice Munro, and the Nobel Prize

The book I was reading was this book I took out of the library by mistake.  They gave me the wrong book, and I didn't notice it till I got back to my room.  They gave me Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. I thought it was going to stink, but it didn't.  It was a very good book...

 As I've said before, Holden has pretty good taste in authors.  Isak Dinesen was nominated at least two times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, both times making it to the "short list" of five authors under serious consideration.  She lost to Albert Camus one year, and I think she lost to a Russian writer the other time.

This morning, the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature was announced.  Everybody was expecting a Japanese novelist or a Romanian journalist.  It ended up being Canadian writer Alice Munro, who is 82 years old and writes only short stories.  It's the first time an author has been recognized by the Swedish Academy for short fiction.

My guess is that Munro is going to be a popular choice around the world.  She's internationally regarded as a master of the short story form, and she looks like a grandma.  I listened to a phone interview with her this morning, and she even sounds like a grandma.  You can't get angry about a grandma winning a prize.

Putting the grandma factor aside, however, I must say that some people in literature forums I visit had some fairly negative reactions to Munro's award.  Most of the criticism was based on her subject matter, which isn't considered important or worldly enough.  Others commented on the fact that the Swedish Academy chose her because she is a woman, and the Swedes are trying to even up the disparity between male and female laureates.

I think both of these reactions are, to put it bluntly, bullshit.  Let me explain.

Criticizing Alice Munro for writing about rural people in rural Canada living rural lives is like criticizing Charles Dickens for writing about London so much.  Her short stories have brilliant psychological insight and lightning moments of revelation.  Just because Munro confines her work to her own little piece of the world doesn't make her any less universal.

And dismissing Alice Munro's award as the Swedish Academy's attempt to even up some sort of Nobel gender seesaw is insulting.  Munro won the prize because she's an exceptional artist, not because she has a vagina instead of a penis.  To follow the gender argument to its inevitable, and misogynistic, end, that means that because Munro is a woman, her writing is necessarily inferior to writing by men.  Puh-lease.

So, Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.  Get used to the idea, Munro-haters.  If you don't like it, take action.  Immigrate to Sweden, become a linguist or scholar of renown, hang around Stockholm a lot, pay-off some Swedish academics, and get elected to the Swedish Academy.  In the mean time, shut your pie holes.

That's a piece of Saint Marty's mind.

This year's winner

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9: Nobel Prize Announcement

It is Nobel week in Sweden.  The winners of this year's Nobel Prizes are being announced.  Tomorrow morning, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced.

In the a.m., I will be sitting at my computer, watching everything live at the Swedish Academy.  Last year, just when the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy was going to announce the winner's name, the broadcast froze up.  I never heard the name.  I found out later by checking the news reports.

I'm hoping it's some author I like who wins the Prize.  Someone caring and talented and humble.  Someone who's up-and-coming instead of down-and-going.  Someone like...You can finish that thought.

Saint Marty has to go write his acceptance speech.

I think I'll look good next to Churchill

October 9: Nobody Won, Daughter's Dance Team, Barely Awake

"Nobody won," I said.  Without looking up, though.                       

Holden has caused his school's fencing team to lose their meet.  He lost their foils on the subway.  That means they showed up to compete and found out all of their equipment was A. W. O. L.  Holden can't seem to hold anything together in his life.

My daughter was supposed to dance with her school's dance team at a J.V. football game tonight.  She didn't dance.  This afternoon, she came home from school sick.  She threw up.  She threw up yesterday morning before school, too.  However, she said she was just really hungry, and she went to school.  Today, my daughter couldn't dance at the football game because the school nurse is one of the helpers with dance.  The school nurse said my daughter wasn't allowed to participate.

My daughter was disappointed.  She went to bed before 9 p.m.  The last time she did that was when she was six or seven years old.  She must be really tired.  I haven't heard a single noise from her bedroom since she went in there.  Either she's playing with her iPod, or she really went to sleep.  My money's on the iPod.  Before she went to sleep, she told me that she never would have called to come home if she knew it would interfere with dance.

Worries tend to multiply during the day.  I find that if I wake up with a worry on my mind, at the end of the day, that worry has multiplied into dozens of additional concerns.  I was worried about my daughter this morning because she wasn't feeling well.  Tonight, I'm worried that my daughter won't go to school tomorrow morning, that my son will accidentally cut off someone's thumb with a pair of art scissors, that we're not going to have enough money for our trip to the Wisconsin Dells this weekend, that my daughter will spend the entire three days at the Kalahari Resort throwing up.  And that's only a few of them.

I am falling asleep at the moment.  It's nearly 10 p.m., and I've officially been awake for 18 hours straight.  The good thing is, I get to do the same thing tomorrow, too.  So I'm going to be barely awake on Thursday, too.

Worry never helps things.  Usually, I worry about things I have no control over at all.  Like my daughter's illness or my son's tendency to stick crayons in his ears at school.  No control.  I need to let it all go.  I'm cranky, and my wife is berating me for not washing my daughter's dinner plate.  I need to keep my lips closed, or else I'm going to say something I'll regret.

Saint Marty doesn't recommend alcohol as a coping mechanism, but a cup of spiked hot chocolate would taste pretty damn good about now.

That's what I count on...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8: Don't Ever Tell Anybody, Daughter's Concert, Prayer for Shirts

...Don't ever tell anybody anything...

That sentence s the second-to-last in Catcher.  Holden has just finished telling the story of how he ended up in the hospital in California, and now he's regretting it.  He has started missing all the people in the book, even the ones that irritated the shit out of him.

As a blogger, I pretty much write about my entire life.  There's not too much that's off limits.  Sometimes, I get a little nostalgic about some of my topics.  I miss people, places, things.  Tonight, I went to my daughter's concert.  The concert was put on by a traveling group called the Young Americans.  They're a bunch of very talented young people who travel to schools and conduct workshops and stage a show.  It's like a modern Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movie, the kind where Mickey looks at Judy and says, "Let's put on a show!"

Three years ago, my daughter was in the first Young Americans concert at her school.  She was in the fourth grade.  Now she's in seventh grade.  As I was watching her perform, I started missing that nine-year-old girl from the first concert.  She's growing up so fast.  She has officially entered the moody teen stage, even though she won't be a teenager until December.  She's been practicing her teen sulk for a year, however.  I can't hug or kiss her in public any more.  I embarrass her on a daily basis.  I have to remind her constantly, "You know, I'm considered kind of cool at the college."

I miss the little girl with the lisp who held my hand when we walked together.

Speaking of missing something, I have a little prayer for some missing clothing items.

Dear God of all lost things,

My daughter lost the shirts she needs for her dance team routine tomorrow night.  I've driven myself crazy trying to find them.  For two hours, all I've been doing is looking for a white tee-shirt and a pink tee-shirt, and I'm done.

I'm tired and cranky.  I don't know where else I can look.  So, I'm asking You to help my wife locate those shirts tomorrow morning.  They're at my parents' house, we think.  Please, help my wife find them in the morning without too much bloodshed and screaming.

Oh, by the way, if You could make my daughter just a little bit more responsible, that would be awesome.


Your lost sheep, Saint Marty

Sometimes, nostalgia is not a good thing