Friday, September 21, 2007

"THE BARD"

My mother used to make me read as a young boy. She would place me in a well-lit, living room chair and make me read hours at a time. I had been enrolled in a number of book clubs. As time passed, although I would not admit it to her, I began enjoying the things I read. The book clubs that I belonged to consisted of things like biographies, non-fiction work, all-about books and historical figures combined with classical literature like Robinson Crusoe and the Deerslayer.

Out of pure coincidence two of my monthly book club selections were All About Shakespeare and a biography about Shakespeare. I found them both very interesting and from that time forward whenever Shakespeare was mentioned, I listened intently, but growing up in the 50's and 60's with the people I hung out with, it was a secret kept close to the vest.

During my high school years I had the good fortune of attending more than 2-1/2 years of private school, more that 1-1/2 at a local Catholic school and one year of prep school (once again, this is not a euphemism for juvenile detention facility). It was while I attended prep school that I had an instructor, Mr. Hubbard, who taught us how to read and understand the poetry of Shakespeare. "What light through yon window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun." This line is one that caught my attention. I never considered myself a romantic but I could picture some adolescent boy looking up at this beautiful young girl and thinking how her beauty could radiate like the sun. I really thought it was pretty cool.

When I returned to Mohonasen, in their great and wonderful wisdom, they were experimenting with a new English program. Monday's, Wednesdays and Fridays, the entire senior class went to the auditorium for a large lecture. At other periods two or three times a week we were broken up into much smaller groups that were called "seminar". My seminar teacher was the lovely, Miss Quinn.

The rumor on Miss Quinn was that she was a former nun. I didn't know if that was true or not but it sure as hell appeared to be. I don't really remember what it was we were studying but she had asked if anyone wanted to read one of the poems that we had just been assigned out loud. One of the girls volunteered and really did a poor job. I made some stupid comment and Miss Quinn asked me if I felt I could do better. I said "Most definitely."

She asked me to come up in front of the class and read it aloud. I did what she must have felt was an outstanding job with my reading because she stood there looking at me wide-eyed with her mouth wide opened. She came over to me, touched my arm, and said "that was fabulous". I went back to my seat. I remember I sat next to Fred Mastrianni and on the other side of him was JanineTherriault. Janine leaned across Fred and whispered, "I think she may have had an orgasm when she touched you." Fred and I cracked up.

Fred who was a really nice kid was probably the best jock in our class but was not a rocket scientist by any means. He and I decided that we would have a contest to see how many times we could get her to touch us. Each class after that I would always go up to her, touch her shoulder or elbow, get as close as I could and tell her how much I was looking forward to her class. After a few weeks, Fred gave up because I was way too far ahead of him. Miss Quinn almost died the day we did the poem "To His Coy Mistress."

Lets just say the sexual overtones hung in the air....but since it was a Mohonasen classroom, not for everyone. I had no doubt that that year I was Miss Quinn's favorite student. Everything being equal, looking back over the years, she was a very strange ranger but she knew her literature.

Shakespeare is in my life, even today...
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time; and all my yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle, life is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing."

When daydreaming I think of this Macbeth soliloquy and it somehow feels appropriate for the stage of life that I am in now. The only part that I would disagree with is I feel that my life has indeed been significant. If you cut that line out, it would almost be a good epitaph for me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two Idiots Thursday-Volune IV-Entering the Twlight Zone


Summer 1971...Cruising the backroads of Altamont in the '66 T-Bird. Just the four of us, two idiots and the wives. Up Sickle Hill Road, we found a sign that said, " seasonal use only, road closed from November 1st. to April 1st." Up we went,dirt road and all. No sign would deter the two idiots. Potholes, gravel, downed trees, dead animals and rip rap, all littered the road. You can tell no one had been down the road for quite some time. Higher and higher, twisting and turning, the road went on. Dilapidated shacks, long abandoned, were slowly being overtaken by brush and small trees. Cresting the hill on the left, we saw what looked like the remains of an Alfred Hitchcock movie set. It seemed to call our name. Circling the exterior proved to be nothing out of the ordinary. The windows were too high and dirty to see inside. Forcing open the front door proved to be quite a challenge. The words "breaking, entering and trespassing" never entered our minds.Once inside, it became hauntingly quiet. All that remained on the first floor was a rotted kitchen cupboard, filled with empty antique ketchup bottles and old magazines. The stairs to the second floor were rotted, but navigable. Three bedrooms, cast iron bed frames and rotting springs. Throughout the house, wherever we walked, were cobwebs and dust. The basement was cold, dark and damp,not to mention eerie.We remained inside for about 15 minutes. It was exactly what an abandoned house should be.

We walked back to the car,where upon both our wives said, almost in unison," who was playing the piano?". We both laughed and asked what they were talking about. They said that the entire time we were in the house, they heard piano music. We both freaked out, knowing there wasn't a piano inside. Our wives insisted. Knowing them as well as we did, we knew they wouldn't lie.

Back down the hill we went, stopping in the village for something to drink. We inquired about the house. The proprietor, who was at least 100 years old, told us that years ago, a local music teacher had a heart attack and was found dead at his piano. His family was so distraught, everything was removed from the house and the piano was destroyed so that no one would ever play it again.

We haven't been back since.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

FOR SUSAN/SUSANNA/ZSA ZSA



I was fortunate that my parents gave me a name that was hard to change into a nickname. Only three times was I forced to bear the burden of my name being changed: once, when I attended sleep away camp (no that's not a euphanism for juvenile detention) there was another boy who spelled his name with one "n", he became Glen1 and I became Glenn2 -- 2 quickly became deuce, so for 4 weeks I became known as the "deuce". In grade school, for a brief amount of time, the 4:00 PM cartoon show was hosted by a woman named Glendora. That name was extinguished with a punch or two on the playground. While in Boot Camp, we were given canvas jackets to wear to ward off the cold. This wasn't part of the regular uniform so they had us stencil our names on the left chest side. After about a week, all that was left of my stencil was the NIC. So they called me Nick.

Glenn is a Scottish name which means small, rural valley or dale. I've always been proud of my Scotch-Irish heritage, there was never a time when I wished I had a different name.

Many young people today follow the role models that they see on television who take names other than their own. People like Sean Combs, who can't seem to make up his mind what his name is. He went from Sean Puffy Combs, to Puff Daddy and now is PDiddy, except with his clothing line is concerned, he is Sean Jean, a little confusing.

Inner-city kids, who I taught for years, all have a street name, which I refused to call them by in class. I told them that their parents chose their name and they should be proud of it. It wasn't uncommon to hear me say something like, "No Rayquon, I will not call you pork chop", or "No, Laquasha, you are not Jelly Bean as long as you are in my classroom."

Pride in names seems to be something of the past. Imagine being an 86-year-old grandmother and your name is Apple or Moon Unit, it just doesn't seem appropriate. It is as if people don't think about the future and what this can do to a person.

So......why is this entry titled For Susan?

My wife shared an email with me about how a friend entering school one year was placed in a class with multiple Susans. Arbitrarily, the teacher gave her the name "Sue". This name stuck throughout her time in public school. She decided on leaving home to attend college that she wanted to be Susan, and from that day on would correct people when they called her Sue. I find this commendable. It is her name and I don't think it is inappropriate to demand that you be called by your rightful name. Of course, that doesn't hold true when you work with me, I used to work with a man named Michael who whenever someone called him "Mike", he would immediately correct them by saying, "please, I prefer Michael." I just couldn't do that. I used to call him Mike, Mikey, Mickey and after a while, he would just shake his head and laugh.

Susan is a Hebrew name drawn from Susanna, or, Zsa-Zsa which translates to Lilly. I can understand why someone would want to be called by such a nice name.

Now....knowing me, from this day forward in my mind Susan you will forever be Zsa-Zsa.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two idiots - Volume III - Why hunting should not be allowed in Rotterdam

Mariaville, Fall, 1975. Full duck hunting regalia including chest high waders.

We ran the checklist: hunting license, duck stamp, 12-gauge shotguns, 50 rounds of #4 Remington magnums, thermos, lunch, cigarettes, flashlight, insulated socks, long underwear, Elmer Fudd hat and duck call.
After pulling up swampside, we slid open the side door of Glenn's Volkswagon van and, in the dark, made our way to the swamp. We positioned ourselves perfectly for the morning flight. We waited...and waited...and waited for the morning flight.
Sunrise never came. Befuddled, we made our way back to the van, flicked on the radio only to hear, "don't forget to turn your clocks back one hour."
So, here we were, each taking a seat in back of the van with an hour and a half to kill. To not get overheated, we removed our waiters and some insulated clothing. We killed time telling jokes and resorting, once again, to our infantile fart fighting. Once again, it was a tie!
It wasn't long before we saw the sun rise, albeit through a mist of flatulance. Groggily making our way back to the swamp, we repositioned ourselves. Shortly after first light, we spotted ducks in the distance and Nick began to call them in. One came in range and flew directly in the direction of Nick's call, and was quickly disposed of with one shot. In excitement, Nick handed his Browning Automatic to Glenn and proceeded to wade into the water to retrive the fallen prey which was just beyond his reach.
When the water reached his family jewels, he turned to Glenn and screamed, "I forgot to put on my waders!" We laughed from the time of retrival until we arrived home. Our wives laughed as hard as we did, but not as hard as you will after this next story.

It seems as though one of our hunting friends wanted a new shotgun, which was given to him as a Christmas present from his wife. He immediately called us and we made plans to hunt that Sunday morning.
Upon arriving at his home, we rang the bell and out he came, obviously not prepared to hunt. George rolled down the drivers side window to hear what John had to say. He informed us he was not ALLOWED to hunt that day. As if we were a highly trained chorus, in unison, we replied, ALLOWED!!!???
He told us there was a disagreement over last night's dinner. We busted his chops until he broke down and confessed, " I didn't finish my peas and she won't let me go."
We stared at each other for several seconds, then broke out into spontaneous laughter. Not believing him, we requested he summon his wife, and the fool did just that.
Out she came, IRATE! Spit flying from her mouth, she informed us, in no uncertain terms.....George sat at the opened window facing her; Nick was rolled up in a ball trying not to laugh and Glenn was clutching his stomach making dolphinesque clicking sounds.

She continued on, "This is my house and he and I had an agreement that he did not live up to. I clearly told him, no peas, no hunting."
It was at this point that the three of us lost total self-control. Glenn was alternately laughing and fighting for air, and Nick was laughing, kicking his feet and slapping his legs, while George howled with laughter, pumping his arms like a long distance runner.
She turned on her heels and returned to the house. John stood there watching us laugh, until his wife stuck her head out the door and made him return to the house. We remained in the driveway until George was well enough to drive. The entire time, she watched us through the picture window.
It took us a long time to get ourselves under control. It was all good until Nick ordered eggs over easy, home fries and peas...for breakfast.

We never had the pleasure of John's company for another hunt.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Two Idiots Volume II - Mohawk Drive In aka The Passion Pit

The Mohawk Drive In was one of six located in our area, but was, by far, our favorite. Glenn can remember when he used to go there with his parents, in his "feety pajamas". Our fondest memories were as teenagers, when there were two kinds of drive-in trips. The first was the "all male" trip, where you brought food, beer, booze and a few bodies hidden in the trunk. Of course, frequent drinking led to frequent "monster bleeding". The long trip back from the "head" was really a "recon" mission, listening for moaning,heavy breathing or the always present foggy windows. Once contact was initiated,our first responsibility was to gawk, next, as a recon squad, violently rock the car and make a beeline back to ours. The mission was considered extremely successful if you recognized the car and it's occupants.
The other kind of trip was every adolescents dream.......date night at the passion pit. As Junior High students, we would listen to the stories older teenage boys would tell. However, asking for a date was one thing, getting one was another. The dynamic duo,(aka Two Idiots), were well known for "hit & run"), so parents were skeptical to send their innocent daughters ANYWHERE with us, let alone a drive-in. We were left with no alternative but to leave the confines of Rotterdam and attempt to pick the fruit from distant trees. Once successful, testosterone knew no bounds and Mount Pleasant and Notre Dame became targets of interest. Once secured, we were off.
What was playing and what time it started did not matter. we were there, on our own turf and it was "D-Day". After successful window fogging, it was time for smoke and a snack. Paying more attention to our appetites than our dates, it was off to the concession stand, while they visited the ladies room, always together. We usually just bought popcorn and a soda, since the food looked NOTHING like what was shown on the screen. One thing we learned early, never go to the concession stand during intermission. Between bugs, beer farts and Glenns less than hygenic date, the night stayed with us long after we returned home.
Scoring was usually first and second base, with the occasional triple and lets just say we wern't "long ball" hitters. However, batting for average, the hits added up and it wasn't long before we "stole home".
Summer soon led to Fall, and the cooler weather forced us indoors after school, but that's another chapter in the life of the Two Idiots.

Saturday, September 1, 2007