Saturday, September 20, 2008


I never tell my fourth grade students that they are never too old to learn. I tell myself that sometimes, and I try to put it into practice.

All my life, and we're talking quite a span of time, I have envied people who could whistle real loud. They put their fingers in their mouth, take a huge breath of air, and then blow a whistle that snaps your head back, and you can see other people duck their head and wince.

I know that in my pre-retirement years I should be lifting the spirits of the downtrodden, donating my time and services at the Rescue Mission, and making the world a better place for my fellow man, but this summer I could stand it no longer. I yearned to be able to make that whistle with my fingers in my mouth, and my friend and fellow teacher, Greg, was just the fellow to show me. Greg is a teacher, for one thing. Teacher is his name and instruction is his game. And his whistle is so loud it affects your intestines.

Greg and I taught summer school, and several times he put his fingers in his mouth and called over a hundred children to their classroom with one "blow."

I asked Greg if he would be my mentor and teach me how to whistle. I began my apprenticeship with a barely audible air release, like the sound of a grown man at his kid's swimming pool party blowing up the seventeenth air mattress of the day. Pitiful.

A month later, not even a whisper of a whistle had emerged, and my mentor, Greg, disgustingly said, "You'll never be able to do it." I was stunned! Was I a washed up has-been? Was I a dog that was too old to learn a new trick? I started practicing more often. Slowly, whistles emerged. By the beginning of the regular school year, I was able to make a faily loud whistle half of the time. Other teachers with the rare ability to make finger whistles whistled with me.

Kids on the playground were noticing. Some even winced a little and told me I had a loud whistle. Oh, the pride! But I told them that my whistle was not nearly as loud as Greg's, so we went to Greg and had a showdown, a duel, a whistler's contest, and I went first. I let out a good one. Then I carefully watched my mentor. He took a much larger breath, positioned his fingers a little deeper into the mouth, and ripped an ear shattering whistle that beckoned me to greater heights. I continued my studies.

Then today, Thursday, September 19, 2008, at an assembly in front of our school honoring National Pledge of Allegiance Day, the principal was trying in vain to get everyone's attention. I leaped at the chance, and before Greg could even lift his hands to his mouth, I let out a fairly good one, and the kids quieted down. My finger whistle wasn't in the same league as my mentor's, but for a brief moment there was a feeling of accomplishment, of attention getting control of a crowd, and the sense that I was a young dog learning a new trick.

You're never too old to learn, even if it appears to be a worthless talent. The next time Peggy and I are in New York and need a cab, I'll be ready.


I can't believe it! I totally forgot about "Talk Like a Pirate Day!" Every year I confound the li'l deck swabbers (fourth graders) by talking like a pirate all day, except, of course, if the principal happens to drop in to visit.

I was all ready with me accent and me black, eye patch and clever pirate jarrrgon like,"Avast ye there! Heave ho on the math book and open her to page 58, maties!" or "'Are ya wid me, mates? We're talking periods now, and they goes at the end of all yer sentences, aarrrg!" or "You'll be walkin' the plank if ye keeps on talkin' matie," or "Aye, me wee buckoes, and you can feel the heat being released by the chemical reaction. Put yer hands here on the flask," or "Easy there matey. Don't squeeze that pencil so that ye strangles it to death. Let yer hand relax and just let the currrsive flow out o' yer pencil. Aarrrrrg."

I hates to say the words, but I, the Cap'n, done forgots me pirate talk! I'll be keelhauled 'fore I forgets again!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Good News: No Foot in the Grave

There's an idiomatic expression everyone knows that says, "They've got one foot in the grave," meaning that one is approaching the beginning of the prelude of the introit to the introduction of the precursor to death. A nasty business. Especially for one like me who likes to think he has a few more kids to teach and a few more ramblings to ramble.

With this in mind, I would like to proudly announce that I do NOT have one foot in the grave. I may be catching a glimpse of the hole every now and then, but I still have a few more days left in me.

An earlier blog titled, "Keeping Secrets From Kids," alluded to some serious health problems that the doctors felt may have something to do with my brain. Much to my wife's surprise and joy, there is nothing wrong with my brain, at least that the doctors can detect. It seems I am fit in every mental way except for that talking to myself business and twitching ever time I get near some pastry.

That's good news, at least for me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


When I was a boy growing up in the United States in the 1950's, it seemed that the national preoccupation was with women's breasts, tits, jugs, hooters, knockers, melons, or blouse biscuits, whichever you prefer. The brassiere had been invented, modified, and perfected, and with this technology came a fascination that "peaked" with the Persian Points.

My generation, the hippies of the sixties, is transfixed on a different body part, and after years of personal observation and study, I have decided that our nation is now preoccupied with the rear end, the derriere, the tush, the seat, the keister, the bu77, the a$$.

Have you ever noticed that no one wants to sue your neck or your wallet or even your bank account, which would be the ultimate prize? No! They want to sue your a$$.

Nobody wants to beat your face in anymore; they want to kick yer a$$, or whup yer a$$.

No one crashes into an automobile anymore. They crash into his, her, or your a$$.

Doesn't anyone tell anyone else to forget about it? Doesn't anyone say, "I disagree with you vehemently!"? No! They say, "Kiss my a$$." I don't want anybody kissing my a$$, especially an enemy. How do you know what they're gonna do back there? They could change their mind and do something else.

No one beats someone in a race anymore. Now you beat their a$$.

No one says, "I want you to leave immediately! Get your face and your knees out of my office!" No! They tell you to get your a$$ out of their office. At least that's what I hear most of the time.

No one in the United States is a broken elbow, a fractured brain or a tongue. Nope! They're an a$$hole. Or a bu77wipe.

No one kowtows anymore. Instead, they're an a$$ ki$$er or a brown no$er.

No one goes fast anymore. You aren't picking your feet up and puttin' 'em down. Nowadays, yer haulin' a$$.

A woman no longer has a great set o' knockers. Instead, she has a sweet a$$. Or a tight a$$. Or a hot a$$.

No one gets knocked on their back. They get knocked on their a$$. It's in the same area. Why does it have to be the a$$?

You don't get in trouble anymore. And you don't get your neck in a wringer. You get your a$$ in trouble, or your bu77 in a wringer. At least I do. I'd rather have my bu77 in a wringer than my neck. Of course, that's just me.

No one gets out of a chair anymore. They get off their a$$.

How come we don't want to shove anything down someone's throat anymore? When I was a kid, we were taught that you were supposed to shove stuff down your enemies throat. Not anymore. Now you gotta shove it up their a$$, which is a slightly more pleasant experience for your enemy and a much more excrutiating experience for yourself.

It's not an important observation about our society. I might not even be correct. I just thought I'd mention it.

Monday, September 01, 2008


I think I am brutally honest with kids. However, there are some things I never tell a child.

I have been calling in sick lately, and I tell the kids that a substitute teacher will be here. Kids don't ask questions. Good.

I have some serious health issues. Eight years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I had a radical prostatectomy, just a few years before prostatectomies were done orthroscopically. I went under the Big Knife, and it left a big scar. I joined the Prostate Cancer Support Group. They seemed concerned for me that I had been diagnosed at such a young age. The earlier you get it, the greater a chance it will get you.

My PSA is going up and no "hot spots" could be found in my abdominal area. Recently I have had a few incidents of fainting, accompanied by dizziness and nausea. My family physician sent me to a neurologist, who said that it could be the cancer has metastized itself in my brain. That seemed to him the most likely diagnosis. He has me undergoing an MRI and an EEG to see what's in my brain.

I thought of a joke at the time he said it. I could've said, "Well let's hope they find SOMETHING in my brain" (Yuk! Yuk!), or "After so many years of having people tell me I should have my head examined, when I finally do have it examined, I hope you don't find anything wrong." (Ha! Ha!)

However, I didn't joke about it. If they find something, it won't be good.

I haven't been talking to myself as much as to God Almighty. We'll see what's going to happen, what He's got going down.

Life is far out!


When I was a boy I talked to myself. Lots of adults who would catch me doing it would jokingly say, "That's OK, as long as you don't answer yourself." That comment always troubled me quite a bit, because I did have two way conversations all the time. As a boy, I had imaginary conversations with Mickey Mantle and Jack Parr, but I gave award acceptance speeches to large crowds, mostly, and all they did was applaud.

My fourth graders talk to themselves. Sometimes, during transitions in class from one subject to the next, I will hear at least eight kids diligently chattering. I'll watch the class carefully and see no one listening. Then I will ring my little bell for silence, everyone will quiet down, I'll inform the class that no one will be in trouble for talking, I'll ask the class who was talking, and not one single person will confess. I'll call students who were talking over to my desk, one by one, and quietly ask them who they were talking to, and each student will, without fail, question my question.

"I wasn't talking."

"I saw you talking. Who were you talking to?"

"I'm talking to myself. Does that count?"

I'm not a blogger; I'm a writer, and no one talks back. Is there anyone out there reading this? If you are, you don't have to blog a comment. I have come to grips with the fact that I still talk to myself. I talk to myself in my blogs, and as I look back on the gist of this blog site, it really says, over and over again, that I like kids, and I strive to look for the good and the funny and the quirky odd and the rewarding in the classroom, and in general, life itself.

As a child, I used to talk to myself. Like the students in my fourth grade classroom, I still do, but my talking to myself has morphed and hybridized itself into writing. If anyone is out there overhearing this, I hope you enjoy listening as much as I do talking. If no one is listening, it doesn't matter. I'm like the kids in my classroom. "I am talking to myself. Does that count?"