Best to listen to this song to get into the right mindset. This is not a nice post but it is raw; my personal thoughts on the latest developments.Continue reading “What’s Best for the Kids”
Snow has been falling for the past several hours, impossible to stick as the rain of previous days prevents a proper freezing point from being established. And yet it comes down, thick at times, these flurries. You can see them illuminated in the street lights of Zurich, this endless descent; cars are beginning to develop a blanket of white, but the ground remains slick – wet wet wet – perhaps the morrow will bring ice.
And, much like this march of maddened moisture, I find my own quest rivals it: I must continue. I must, for I haven’t any other options. Much like the snow, I descend upon the Swiss countryside, travelling from my base in Zurich to all corners where my ancestors once stalked. Here, the Staatarchiv Thurgau. There, the Stadtaarchiv Aarau. Graubunden. Bern. Diessbach. Leimbach. A thousand names foreign and familiar. A constant mix of Staat- and Stadt-, going into these old buildings with the same tired line,
“Es tut mir Leid – meine Deustch ist schlecht.”
Most speak English; though I am grateful for that, I do my best to speak the lingua franca. When in Rome, as the adage goes. But, given the professional and academic nature of the mission, my language skills are wholly lacking in this regard – before long, I must revert to English so that I might be able to make my immediate concerns and questions known.
Bah. Stupid Americans.
All the same, it is an exhilarating quest – especially when information is uncovered, shared, copied. I have documents. I have anecdotes. I have stories and recordings and pictures. From visiting family members – the kind you only hear about from your folks when they mention the Old Country, these obscure types that one finds so difficult to place or to visualize – so much can be learned.
My great-grandfather on my grandmother’s side was a bastard. “A devil,” it was claimed by a man who knew him once. He built a magnificent palace in a humble farming town, not unlike those obnoxious houses, the McMansions, just outside of my small hometown. His wealth was acquired from less than legal means, dubious at best, and that mystery remains to be solved. I have theories: I need evidence. But by all accounts, his wealth didn’t make him any more likeable or relatable. “A devil,” he repeated. “The day he died was a party. One of my happiest memories about the man.”
He had to sell the manor house and farm in his dotage as his ego couldn’t afford the upkeep. He died, broke, broken, and despised; riddled with cancer. All that remains of his folly is a stone stable. That will last, far, far longer than he. A stone stable house? How absurd.
“My brother was a good boy – a scholar, driven,” claimed my great uncle. You can see Grandpa in this man’s visage, old and wrinkled, the very same ears and nose that he once sported (he could wiggle them, you know, and he always amused us as kids by doing so); this living relic of my dead grandfather was like a curious oracle upon a hill, one that you must climb a desolate peak or brave the harshest elements, just to get a glimpse of his wisdom.
I merely took a plane and train.
But, there he is: my grandfather’s brother. Near 100 years old, sharp as a knife, stooped as any old man his age, yet his eyes ablaze with recollection as the memories came pouring forth. Poor thing, for I put him through the ringer with my questions for hours, constantly filming and recording and questioning and verifying this and that. Once he got going with my questions, I could scarcely keep the pen moving for such was his worth. “He was a good boy,” he repeated several times, “and was determined to achieve more than his allotment.”
Of course: he wasn’t the firstborn therefore he had no inheritance or farm to look forward to in the town of his birth. He would have to strike out on his own, to find his own greener pastures, if he was to achieve that.
He did. With the Mennonites in Iowa, the Swiss in Southern California, the deserts of New Mexico. He would have milked a dozen cows by hand had he stayed behind in Switzerland, sharing a parcel of land with his eldest brother, building a cramped farmhouse on the same plot.
He milked thousands at one point, employed dozens, and raised a family that has since spread across the nation. Humble beginnings. My great uncle’s eyes are still aflame, the brightest spark of an old man sharing older tales – those memories that needed to be said – as I try and capture them all. How pleased he is, how pleased he is, to be speaking thusly and about the old times.
“Es tut mir leid – mein Deutsch ist schlecht.”
It doesn’t matter, I suppose, for the information has been shared. Now comes the power of the pen, the single greatest invention of mankind, the very weapon that has damned nations and cost countless lives. The humble pen. With a stroke, fortunes are changed, lives are rewritten. If this seems cliché, for indeed it is, just remember that the latest war began with a pen stroke and not a bullet fired from an indiscriminate barrel. The smoke rises from the paper, the ink more deadly than bombs.
Is that, then, what I am doing? Declaring war? Don’t be absurd. I am merely penning a family history. A Familie Geschichte as it were, tramping about here and there in this familiarly strange country to track down the stories and anecdotes and documents that I should have tracked down a decade ago. Ah, hindsight – what dumb 23-year-old thinks about their elders in such a vein, eh? At that age, my grandparents were still young, still spry: they would live forever.
And, with this pen, I shall make it so.
The quest continues though my time in the Old Country nears an end. The snow is still falling; I expect ice tomorrow. My coat isn’t warm enough and my hiking sandals won’t keep the cold out. They are better for Camino, for Spain, not for this mission. But, alas, it is what I have. I shall make do. Perhaps I make a nice snow angel, have myself a snowball fight, on the morrow.
Perhaps I freeze and complain about my lot, shake my fist to the heavens and cry foul.
It doesn’t matter for the snow will continue to fall. This inevitable march of time, of progress, as it seeks to smother everything in its path, but is resolutely being denied a proper footing.
Much like my quest, the stories are burning, brimming just beneath the surface, waiting for me to find them. Not even the cold snow will smother them whilst I draw breath.
The fire in that old man’s eyes is mine now, and I will burn.
It has been a long spell – one would reason that given this past year’s pants-on-head pandemic, I would find myself with far more writing time. Indeed, I have scribbled some rather shitty poems, some creative pieces, a genuine letter of resignation, a slew of academic research papers, and some other riffraff that doesn’t warrant publishing to this mediocre and neglected blog. Alas, I am only human.
Oh? The letter of resignation? That.Continue reading “The Prodigal Grandson”
Hey there folks,
Foremost, let us get one thing straight. Stop Googling me.
Look there, that errant cigarette cocked so precariously to the wrong side. That messy mop of long blond locks lost unto themselves. How can that bedraggled devil wandering the dusty streets of Spain truly be the fellow you submit your essays to? And wine? Nonsense – I’m a red-blooded Swiss. I’ll have me a mighty fine beer any day.
Though I won’t say no to a nice Malbec. Or Chianti. Or any wine, really.
Fuck, I love wine.
For all my students who have a predisposition to Google my illustrious name, do be mindful that some huckster is masquerading as your eccentric English teacher. See the difference between the two photos? Come now; how could anyone be fooled in to thinking one handsome devil is portraying the other?
Alleged narcissism aside, let us focus upon the meat and potatoes of this sojourn into madness.
Fuck, I love Tobacco
There is something to be said about vices and how they keep us human. After all, comrades, how are we to trust someone who has ne’er indulged themselves beyond the Dark Stream?
I first started smoking at 16 when I was punished for fighting at NMMI. I was only a Sophomore in high school, but my heavy boots and quick tongue found me in a moral quandary my young mind wasn’t capable of extricating itself just yet. My squad leader – a loveable chap who shall remain nameless – recognized my errant behavior and my uncouth attitude toward rules and regulations. After receiving my duly (and justly) fit punishment for breaking the rules, he and I stole away to an insecure power bay and there – on those hallowed grounds of cavalry stomping – I indulged myself for the first time.
Ah, how flitting is the smoke.
I went cold for five years when I found myself sworn to a girl I was for certain to marry. But, if you know my story, comrades, you know that weren’t the case. After five years of biting a hole into my cheek, of swallowing my tongue, of putting on the Richard Cory face, I watched as Rome burnt afore me; I hadn’t even a fiddle to play.
These days – far from that five years – I find myself with a couple of proper pipes and an endless supply of fine American Spirits. There is something to be said about addiction, comrades, for I find it humanizes me. After all, when one compares themselves to Beowulf’s greatest foe, it is reassuring to relate monstrosity to humanity. Am I not flawed? Am I not imperfect? Ah, yes; so very much so. All courtesy of a finely wrapped and packaged death sentence I all too happily indulge: we all die. Enjoy it.
The Longest Journey by Ensiferum has been on repeat for at least an hour – quite possibly more – and though I have listened to this song a thousandfold, each new reverberation brings a new realization. The Dark Stream; pray tell, what is it?
On the morrow I am to teach the Allegory of the Cave by a Mr. Plato. Some Greek blowhard who had some good ideas and unintentionally spawned Christianity. My faithful readers, I implore you to remember we are born of pagan ideals mixed with the blood of the Savior. The Allegory is a stark reminder of this. We escape toward Truth. We must cross the Dark Stream lest we let it consume us.
To my students who are reading this drivel, foremost: stop. Read something of substance. I shan’t quiz you on what your loony instructor writes, but that of what truly matters: this ultimate quest for Truth. And certainly don’t take up smoking; we all die, but at least die knowing you made a contribution aside from being a lung cancer statistic.
Back to the Allegory for I find it a most provocative piece: we delight in our ignorance. It is humanity’s universality. I have some kids who are dumber than a sack of hammers and are destined to make a killing in the o’lfield one day swinging said hammer, but is Life merely an amount of zeros following a dollar sign? No, comrades, far from it.
Beyond that Dark Stream – the proverbial End – and far beyond the Cave of Ignorance, a whole world yearns for our touch. Our gentle boot to the ass. The slap of indignation across the face of realization. To think – to fucking think! – that we are to merely exist to swing hammers and collect a paycheck; ah, how that irks. How it perturbs. How it disturbs. Disrupts. Defiles. And, most damnably, distorts.
We, my comrades, are not put upon this sphere of influence to collect magical pieces of paper with a monetary value in constant flux; render unto Caesar and fuck all. We were not put upon this globe to work until our hands shrivel in dotage and our ungrateful children retire us to homes of the walking dead. And we certainly weren’t put upon this earth, comrades, to labor for no higher purpose.
Are we not to serve as reminders?
Ah; education. Education – that bridge across the Stream, straddling the Cave – to enlightenment. My little bastards have but a taste of it; far more is to come as Real Life swings the proverbial Dick of Life into their wholesome faces, but let it be clear that it is with the best of intentions. Certainly, a dick in the face is frowned upon in polite company, but if you can learn something – for Good or Ill – is learning not worth it?
Years ago I learned I found relief in stimulants, my beautiful tobacco, and mastered the art of keeping an addiction under control for self-betterment. With each new high, I found the dragon e’er out of reach until I stumbled upon that one high replicated e’ery 49 minutes. Teaching, ah blessed Teaching, how you, like my tobacco, keep me humble, alive, and awake.
We all die, comrades. We all struggle with addiction. Self-doubt. The cancer of the soul that one day will claim us as another statistic of whatever egress you fancy. But, comrades, but, we aren’t there yet. Make something of yourself. Make something of yours. Embrace your mistakes and realize you were simply the Escaped Prisoner from the Cave the entirety.
If, dear reader, these words are lost upon you, then I fear you ne’er left the Cave. Rethink yourself. Rethink the Cave. The Dark Stream. Rethink you. What have you to offer, after all?
I am a near-alcoholic, chain-smoking, foul-mouthin’, fucking crazy.
But at least I am Free.
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.
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.
Hey there folks,
Foremost, happy Good Friday (regardless of your religious beliefs), and may you get to spend this time with loved ones and the like.
Spring Break draws to an uncomfortable, yet welcome, end; by Monday morn, my charges will once more be at my pedantic mercy. Perhaps it sounds odd, but I do look forward to returning to my classroom. Only two more months of formal schooling afore Summer break reaches us in earnest. Frankly, I wish to keep the indomitable pace going and work hard for these next few weeks, all the better to savor what Summer brings to us mere mortals.
If Summer is anything like this past break, well, I’ve much to look forward to, comrades.
Spring Break began with a spot of welcome news from my bosom comrade, Stephanie, of Camino fame. “We bookended the newsletter,” she snapped me. Indeed, it was as she said; my article was emblazoned proudly upon the very first page of the La Concha newsletter whilst Stephanie’s wonderful review rounded off the entire manuscript. Not a bad bit of news to wake up to on your first day of a week-long respite.
Goaded by my incurable desire to perpetually wander (and equally bolstered by the humble pride my published writings evoked), I set course for Duke City. Armed with a rather plump bag of clothes and toiletries, a slew of essays in need of grading, and a score of plastic army men, I began my Spring sojourn by visiting my nieces in Albuquerque.
I suppose my brother and my sister-in-law were there too, but, come on! Babies!
For several days, I lounged about in abject laziness, earning myself a few points toward Slothfulness on the Greatest Sin Scale; fret not, for Pride and Arrogance remain my Greatest Sins (not sure I should be proud of that, but the irony isn’t lost upon me either). Alongside my nieces, I must have watched Boss Baby a half-dozen times; add in repeated viewings of Frozen, Trolls, Story-Bots, and a slew of other kid-friendly shows for the bulk of my stay. When one sits down and actually analyzes Boss Baby, it really is a horrifying concept: best not to think of such things. My rhetorical sentiments were lost upon my nieces, all the cooing and babbling failing to satisfy my desire for a genuine, philosophical discussion.
Whilst lounging about in Albuquerque, provided schedules lined up, I did manage to visit a few old comrades for victuals. My dear comrade, Roxann, (yes, the wedding one) and I dined over shish kebabs and gyros, regaling one another with anecdotes of teaching and cat ownership, all the while lamenting the fact we are growing older in body. The couple of hours we spent together over good food and better conversation, comrades, made me realize a few things:
She’s right; I’m not getting any younger. The recurring pain I’ve in my left shoulder won’t abate with time; indeed, it is liable to become worse as the joints and sinews holding my body together begin their slow process of degradation;
The world yet remains unconquered. My trip to the Holy Land may be postponed for now, a tenure in the Peace Corps currently on standby, and my delusional plans of grandeur may be a tad unrealistic, but the fact remains that the globe still has much to offer;
Do it, she urged. Stop lollygagging and making excuses, comrade. Simply do it.
I dined with Camino comrades – a lovely couple I met at the Gathering of past years – and we swapped tales (both old and new) about our Camino experiences. After complaining of thick, sucking mud, the constant deluge of southern France, bed bugs, joint pain, inscrutable pilgrims, the oppressive heat, and the ever-present language barriers, we all shared a good laugh. “Who would want to do such things again,” we chortled. “One must be nuts to go back on Camino.”
They leave next month for France.
I leave July for Spain.
The Way, comrades, is inscrutable, and the allure – the pull – it has upon me is hypnotic. There, walking amidst strangers in a foreign land, with but a few belongings upon my back; that is where I feel most alive.
Yes, my classroom offers me a very excellent manner of achieving immortality. Working with my budding scholars brings me great joy, one I have never felt before in any of my various lines of work. But the hardships of the classroom are not quite the hardships I’m endeared to on the Way.
Yes, certain individuals can make me feel alive, but I am exceptionally good at keeping them to a distance. “What are you running from,” I’m oft told. Whenever one comes too close, I prick myself upon their thorns – a Rose bloodied by negligence and lax stupidity. The Way reminds me that Life isn’t about me: it’s about other people. It would be good to have a refresher.
In short, comrades, I aim to return to the Way. A respite on the dusty trails is just what my soul needs in order to maintain balance for the coming year.
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.
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.
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.