Day Zero

“The night ends, and the day, it begins.”

I was talking to my students this week about words that are often confused, by them, in their writing. When we got to fewer vs. less they were confused.

Me: So, use fewer when you can quantify it, and less when you can’t. For example, you have fewer calories, because you can count calories. But you have less fat, because you can’t count fat.

Student A: I count fat all the time.

Me: How do you count fat?

Student A: Like 30 grams.

Me: So you count grams.

Student A: Yeah. So.

Me: A gram is a unit of measurement, quite like a calorie, that you can count, specifically because you can’t count things like fat. You have to count something else that can actually be counted.

Student A: Oh…

Approximately 5 minutes later, we were all good, and Student A finally nodded, assured that fat wasn’t something that could be counted without the aid of quantifiable units of measurement. I suddenly felt like a math teacher instead of an English teacher, then things were all well with the world once more. Continue reading “Day Zero”

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Back to Kansas

I’m sick.

When I’m sick it’s like the whole world just goes away. It’s just me, and my misery. No, my misery doesn’t love company, though the whole world would have me think so. My misery just wants to be left alone, or in the absence of that, comforted and taken care of, like my mom did when I was little. A cold, wet washcloth on my forehead, some herbal tea, a woven blanket, and at times a novel, at other times not. Maybe some smooth jazz or acoustic record to soothe my jangled nerves.

Yes, my jangled nerves. There’s just something about not having full control of my faculties, about the fevered haze of sickness, that makes me feel less complete, that makes me less sure of myself in pretty much every way possible. It’s harder for me to find the words I want to use, tougher for me to analyze situations when I find myself in them, and more difficult to access the knowledge I know I have. It drives me absolutely insane. I’ve never been a good sick person.

Right now I’m listening to OneRepublic. I was lying down on the chair in the living room, you know, the one that has the ottoman nearby for access’ sake, but I couldn’t get comfortable. So I’m here in my study, this West Canada blanket across my lap, like a spinster getting ready to knit a new rug. But I’m typing instead, these lines on this screen, with Ryan Tedder singing over a thumping beat in the deep background, trying to focus on pretty much anything I can hang onto that doesn’t slip away from me with the pressure I’m exerting to keep it near. Continue reading “Back to Kansas”

Addictive

I would totally be an alcoholic if I didn’t stop myself from drinking. Those times when I had more than a few beers, more than a few cups of wine, more than a few tastes of alcohol, they felt good. And I wanted more, but I’ve held myself back. Because I know something about myself I would prefer weren’t true —  I have an addictive personality. When I find something I’m excited about I immerse myself head and shoulders.

Case in point: music. I heard one song by The Cure when I was 18, one song that blew me away. So the next day I went out and bought six Cure albums. I would have bought them the same day but the store was closed by the time I heard that one song. And it wasn’t just The Cure back then. It was David Bowie, and Sheryl Crow, and pretty much anyone who had one good song on the radio. For me it was all about encasing myself in a warm cocoon of their music and never wanting to leave.

Then there’s reading. When I find an author I like I order every single book they’ve ever produced from the library. And if the library doesn’t have a copy, I do my best to find them all elsewhere. My search knows no bounds because I simply can’t help myself. That’s why, just like with the alcohol, I force myself to have only a little at a time because I know if I let myself go I won’t do anything else but read those books voraciously, to the exclusion of everything else in my life. Continue reading “Addictive”

Not ’95 Anymore

“Our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange.” ~Live

It was the summer of ’95 all over again, when Live was on everyone’s lips, when they sold out amphitheaters and arenas seconds from the tickets being available, when they had the rock world by the throat and weren’t easing off. It was taking the ferry across the river knowing that on the other side would be anthems you could sing in your sleep, and a band that truly connected with its fans in a way I hadn’t seen from many bands in live forums before.

But that was 23 years ago, the summer of ’95. That was a simpler time, before digital took over, before CDs went the way of Betamax, before concerts became passe, before rock bands took a back seat to what passes for hip-hop and rap anymore. Yet, for one night, it was easy to believe we were back there because, for one night, it was Live again, doing what they’ve always done better than most — rocking a live show. I guess they were aptly named.

Of course, during the summer of ’95 I hardly ever had good seats to shows. I saw Live about 20 times that summer, and the closest I got was section H in the Spectrum (think nosebleeds — Michael Jordan looked small from that spot). In amphitheaters like the Mann Music Center and the Camden Center for the Performing Arts I was always on the lawn, fighting my way through the crowds to the barrier that separated us from the roofed in portion of the venue. I screamed my lungs out, but we were too far away, even though we were in the same place, at the same time. Continue reading “Not ’95 Anymore”

Scorched Earth

“Only you can prevent wildfires.” ~Smokey the Bear

A fire is a conflagration of circumstances. It is a casual match in a dry field, a bundle of sticks, a blowtorch, a spark, smoke, and ashes. It is all and none at the same time, because a fire is within and of itself. It is wind, and breadth, and air. It contracts and expands depending on the air available to it. And the drier the circumstances the better for the fire to flourish. A fire is brilliant to watch, until it can no longer be controlled.

I watch fires all day. No, I’m not a firefighter. I’m a normal person who simply notices the world around him. And there are way too many uncontained and uncontested fires around that could have been taken care of when they were small, before they got completely out of control and those nearby had to run for safety. Of course I’m not talking about the same thing Smokey the Bear has always been concerned with, but rather the harsh words people wield against each other like torches of flame that burn before disintegrating. Continue reading “Scorched Earth”

“Shhh. We’re Adulting.”

When I was a teenager an older friend of mine took me into an adult video store downtown. I had lived such a sheltered life I assumed “adult” meant the store was for older people, and I felt a bit excited that I, a youth, might slip in undetected. Of course not five steps into the store I saw a poster for one of the videos, and that excitement turned into embarrassment at being somewhere so… risque.

It’s funny to me, though, that the word adult can be used in that way. I mean, I had wanted to be an adult for so long because it meant everything sophisticated, but there was nothing sophisticated about those videos. I left the shop after about half a second longer, but I had already been inundated with a dizzying array of genitalia on the posters and the covers of those videotape boxes. I vowed to never visit an “adult” place again.

Now that I am an adult I see the power of the word in action all the time, not just for those kinds of places, but for pretty much anywhere, anytime. They card me when I purchase alcoholic beverages because these are for adults. I go in to Rated R movies and no one tries to kick me out, because I’m an adult. I have children who look up to me because I’m an adult, and adults are so… smart. Right? Aren’t we? Continue reading ““Shhh. We’re Adulting.””

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