Grössi

It was Swiss National Day. 1 August, when the original three cantons swore blood oaths against foreign aggression and the hated Hapsburgs. It was unlike any other Erste August they had celebrated before.

He sat across from her, a diminutive woman from centuries past, a veritable peasant milkmaid once upon a time who most certainly hurled boulders on the invading Austrians at Morgarten. She might have been a shade, her stature so small against the massive wooden chair she found herself seated upon. His grandmother – his father’s side – who was approaching her 85th birthday.

Grössi. Swiss shorthand for grandmother.

He looked upon her gnarled hands – worn well with ages of manual labor – and remembered the tenderness behind those curved fingers. How she would comfort his father when he was sick – a shot of grög to cure any illness (warm schnapps with water, lemon, and sugar to hide the bitterness) – how those very same hands once fended off a rabid fox using only a wooden pitchfork before his grandfather – Opa – shot it with a rudimentary (possibly flintlock) shotgun. The very same hands that knitted water-tight wicker baskets, carved planks from felled trees, sowed corn in the Alpine climate of Fribourg, cut beans, made salbe to cure wounds and prevent infections, swatted misbehaving children and grandchildren, and toasted fortune and misfortune alike with a hearty Sante and a fiery schnapps. Those very hands, rough as talons, that would pat his head and remind him – even well into adulthood – he was still just a little boy. Hepschabübe.

Apart from his full-blood Swiss cousin who was destined to inherit the family farm, he was the only grandchild who spoke enough of her odd dialect to engage in genuine conversation; the trouble with immigrant parents. He recalled the times she would badger him about his American girlfriends, when he would settle down and find himself a nice Swiss girl.

Üb’ die Berge, she would say, passing him chocolate and sweets, forcing him to sit in the shade and rest as she labored in the fields, refusing to accept his help. Over the mountain, indicating a potential Swiss bride was just over the next Berge for her wayward American grandson.

Nay, Grössi, i’ wie nicht, he would respond a thousandfold. No, Grandmother, I don’t know. His catch-all response for matters of the heart.

Schön, schön, she would sigh gayly, returning her attention to fields needing plowing and hay needing turning. Good, good. It was a waiting game for her – a means of conversation – and even though he dreaded explaining himself in a foreign tongue to this family relic, he found solace in their brief, practical conversations.

She was no taller than five feet, coming to his shoulder on a good day, but with a perpetual crick in her spine, as if the weight of the farm and family constantly caused her to tilt to and fro in either direction. Despite her size – this elderly ragamuffin – she was worth every ounce of her salt, easily outpacing him in plowing fields, harvesting hay, gathering roots, or chopping wood. She was a metronome, and he, in the prime of his Life, found himself wholly inadequate in her maternal, enduring presence. She was carved from the very stone of her mountainous homeland; part of him was certain she watched the granite blossom from nothingness.

He had visited the farm several years ago, intent on exploring Europe via foot and backpack. For a week, whilst his luggage languished in Germany – Düütschesland, she’d mutter – he helped about the place, trying to earn his keep, to show her that not all Americans were fat and lazy. Even though he awoke before dawn and helped milk cows before herding them to the hills, she was always there before him. It seemed Time was afraid of her and merely responded to her bidding. Geh’ du Lese’, Professor, she would say laughingly. Go back to reading. Farm work was no place for a boy outpaced by an octogenarian.

Once, many years ago, she asked about his American interests and what sort of music he enjoyed. Though he did take a particular liking to traditional Swiss polka and yodel, he confessed he admired Rammstein. She swore in rapid fire Swiss, crossing herself thrice – a good Catholic woman – before chastising him for his lack of taste and affinity for megabrutal music. Mein’ Gött. When they visited Rome together later that summer, she entered the Vatican on bended knee, crawling through St. Peter’s gate as a true Pilgrim. The heavens sang.

When his mother was stricken with breast cancer, the very same diminutive woman (who had only left Switzerland three times before) made an immediate pilgrimage to Lourdes to pray for healing. His uncle, who ran the farm, protested at the loss of his most valuable hand for a near week: how would he get by? Soga’ Ketzer brauche’ Hilfe, the good Catholic would laugh. Even heretics need help, she said with love. His Protestant mother had been cancer-free for several years.

He thought of the old woman he and his missionary comrades had served in Santiago de Chile. Abuela, they had affectionately called her, a tiny woman who was easily 80 years old, yet cared for her American hijos and hijas as if they were her own babes. He saw his grandmother in this woman – the very same spark of Life and vitality no hardship could extinguish. She kissed the ground as they left for the last time, falling prostrate, rising for each child, kissing them on the cheek, and whispering Spanish prayers into their ears as they hugged goodbye. He wept that day, finding his Grössi in the slums of Chile.

His thoughts returned to 1 August, a day of celebration and fest. Here they were, assembled as a family: grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, the whole mess of them drunk on wine, schnapps, food, and family.

His father raised his wine glass and the table silenced themselves – the chatter and laughter coming to a hushed close. “I wish to make a toast,” he said in his heavily accented English, “to Grössi. And to Switzerland.”

The quiet table burst into raucous cheers of hear, hear’s and Sante’s as they clinked crystal wine glasses against one another, ensuring they made eye contact with every individual at the table (and never crossing arms; taboo and bad luck) before supping the fine French wine.

Amidst bread, blood, and drink, all was well.

He looked at his father, a proud, strong man who seized the American dream by the throat and throttled every meaningful promise into existence for his family. He held back tears – plain enough to see – as he smashed his glass again and again.

Für Grössi, Vater,” he said as their glasses met.

Grössi raised her own glass, her petite bird arm cradling the fine schlöcki as she toasted her fellow well-wishers.

Für dich,” he said as he met Grössi’s strong, patient eye. “Mein’ Grössi.”

“Mein’ Kinde’,” she replied warmly, the sound of cascading crystal reverberating throughout the room. My child.

She had passed away some 12 hours before, approximately 3,000 miles away, in the comfort of her bed.


My Grandmother in Switzerland passed away during the early hours of 1 August. I last saw her in 2014 when I started Camino Primaris, still the strong, implacable woman of my youth. Her image of strength, tenacity, and willpower will ne’er leave me.

Geh’ mit Gött, Grössi.

Go with God.

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On Goddamn Grendel

Hey there folks,

Wrote this observation up late last night. I reckon it might make far more sense with all the allusions and what have you if you’re familiar with Beowulf, the epic poem (not the shitty movies), and Grendel, the novel.

Cheers.

Continue reading “On Goddamn Grendel”

Broke Down With Nothing but a Pen and Paper

Consider the following to be fictionalized short stories based upon real-life interactions during the previous two weeks. Whilst on the road attending a couple of Advanced Placement seminars throughout New Mexico, the writing bug took hold – travel does that for me.

Enjoy these mad ramblings.

 

Continue reading “Broke Down With Nothing but a Pen and Paper”

Midnight Conversations

Howdy folks,

The following is a short dialogue I penned last night over the course of introspection and the Common Good.

Bear in mind, Caesar was stabbed for the Common Good.

That being said, and only one allusion to a mighty historical figure being made, I hope you’ll view this allegory for what it is.

Ah, yes; what is it?

As I tell my students: figure it out.

Cheers for now.

Continue reading “Midnight Conversations”

Praise for Dorian Gray

Best to read this one to Praise Abort on loop, comrades. The satire is not lost upon me – do enjoy. And be mindful of where you listen to this; not exactly a work-friendly song.

Now then, on to the meat and potatoes, a lovely descent into the darker aspects of self-reflection.

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Dorian Gray

Always been fascinated by Wilde’s piece; are we not all Dorian Gray?

By this, comrades, I mean are we not all hiding something from those closest to us, hiding behind the paint brush and decorated façade of artwork?

Take, for instance, myself.

Few of my charges have seen me outside of school (thank God), and fewer still have read me (thank the gods). No, my goombas, this is not my blog. I will continue to deny the existence of this blog time and again: deny deny deny.

Dorian Gray. I recommend you go and read it. Short, but with a powerful message. Wilde, the tortured artist that he was, secured immortality with this piece. And, yes, comrades, immortality is within our grasp should we choose so – one merely must make the pen (or instrument of your fancy) ensure your mark upon the ages.

Dorian Gray. The melancholic tale of a young man lost to hedonism and vice, indulging narcissism at every opportune. Ah, Wilde; you master.

We are all guilty of being Dorian Gray. Richard Cory. Hank Moody. Grendel. We all have our masks and disguises we put on to deceive and mislead our friends and family. I, comrades, am no different.

The Bruno whom you meet in the hallways and classroom is a far cry from the midnight boozer and weekend rager we all know and love (and a few former lovers positively dislike). Yet it is not without necessity: scarcely can I be myself within the confines of the classroom lest I end up in the unemployment line.

This isn’t to say, comrades, that I’m a drug-fueled, chain smoking, alcoholic on a 24-hour bender, but that my work and personal personas are vastly different. Within the classroom, I do my utmost to ensure I am a paragon of erudition and banter – my charges must learn, after all, and their care is my utmost concern. Hell, my goombas are my raison d’être for without them, my Life would be honestly and completely meaningless – what point is there for me without the pursuit of Knowledge for Knowledge’s sake? Seeing as how I fail at love and relationships harder than a South American dictatorship seeking legitimacy, it stands to reason I put my energies and motivations into something worthwhile and progressive: the love, and sharing, of knowledge.

Granted I am no Dorian Gray, nor Oscar Wilde, but the analogy can be drawn nonetheless. Ah, how I thrive upon the sweet nectars of hops and wheat, how my lungs call out for further enlightment contained within puffs of embers, how the flesh incurs with each warm bed. I am mortal, after all, and though I’m a far cry from Dorian Gray, the indulgence here and there is a powerful motivator. Yet it is nothing without the classroom – to serve.

Are we – all of us – guilty of pleasures and secrets we keep from those we love and behold? Certainly, my Life is an open book (as evidenced by placing inner thoughts and ideas here for public scrutiny) but certainly some aspects must be restrained and reined in, lest those we serve get a distorted view of what is our personal Truth. One must merely be able to open the book and read the words in a sense.

The beauty, comrades, is keeping the two separate. School Bruno and Bruno are two vastly different beings, working in tandem, and giving one another a respectable breadth lest one impose upon the other. Yes, verily, I love my drinking, smoking, and fucking far more than is necessary (bless my liver, lungs, and heart), but that aspect of me bears no necessity in the classroom. No, on the contrary, the Me inside the classroom is the philosopher-king I espouse to my charges. Granted, that’s perhaps the most pompous thing I’ve ever said, but it stands to reason that an instructor must separate the private from the personal Life – the Dorian Gray of the classroom is not the Dorian Gray in the painting.

I am not entirely sure what prompted this writing. No doubt a bout of drink, smoke, and moon gazing is the culprit (as most of my writing is wont to follow), but I still cannot place a certainty upon it. Regardless, the point is thus: we are all Dorian Gray in some fashion or another. Do we not keep secrets? Do we not forgo details? Tell half-truths? Indeed, I wager we all do, ergo I am fine with comparing myself to Dorian Gray – that sad sack of hedonistic narcissism that ultimately proved a cataclysmic and self-destructive downfall.

I am acceptable to that. I am human. I am mortal. But without my vices, why, I’d be rather boring and ordinary – and that would be Hell.

1500 Words of Pompous Arrogance (And Teaching)

Smoke. How I love watching it curl into the night air. Gray against the blackness of the dim night. Stars peeking out from behind the somber clouds, their faint light further obscured by the emanating ember of my fingertips, by the plumes I exhale upon vodka-tainted breath.

Ah, if only the kids knew what I was really like outside the classroom.

Mostly accurate

It has been a spell, certainly, dear reader(s), and I can run through my numerous excuses as to why I haven’t put finger to keyboard in some time. Certainly, my personal journal is stained in all manner of mad scribbles (courtesy of a sexy, new fountain pen), but I find myself lacking – wanting – when it comes time to pen things for my poor, beleaguered blog.

Inspiration; when did she desert me?

Teaching, I suppose, has consumed my day-to-day Life, as I find myself in a constant battle to keep ahead of grading (like the Germans in world wars, I consistently lose) and I oft struggle to present new information in an interesting, and engaging, manner. Wearing a bathrobe to work helps, but woe to the new teacher forced into a dull curriculum that focuses on teaching-for-the-test and not on critical thinking.

To which I respond: fuck that.

Continue reading “1500 Words of Pompous Arrogance (And Teaching)”

Lest You Become a Monster Yourself

Hey there folks,

Here’s where I make a typical excuse about how I’m pressed for time due to being a tired teacher with no recourse from grading an e’er growing mound of papers and spending all my free hours volunteering about the school. How difficult it is, then, to be a poor, beleaguered teacher beset on all side by obligations.

Hot damn; I love my job.

Continue reading “Lest You Become a Monster Yourself”