Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Be A Teen? No, Thanks

I realized today that there is a major reason that I'm happy not to be a teenager anymore. Dick Clark may want to be and profess to be ageless, but I, for one, am perfectly happy to be who I am at this age. I do not have to be concerned in any way with what people think of me: this separates me from teens by a huge gap.
Two examples made that clear today. We were dressing more warmly to go outside for class. A 9th grade girl asked to borrow a sweatshirt because the one she brought didn't match her sweatpants. She preferred a used sweatshirt from my "take one for today" pile to the obviously new one she had brought; I repeat, SHE had brought. Suddenly, it was not what she really needed to keep warm while running outside playing soccer. I can hear the conversation:
"Hey, Jenny. Why is your sweatshirt gold and your sweatpants yellow? That looks gay." (yes, they actually DO say things like that in spite of our best efforts...they just won't say it in front of me). Off she goes to find something more acceptable. D'oh!
Later, another class was moving from the gym to the cafeteria to take a short test. I said, "Walk this way, please" and began a silly walk out the door. Nobody emulated the walk. I love that gag when the Three Stooges do it; I crack up every time: Moe, Larry and Curly following some receptionist and walking so goofy. Of course, they may never have seen the old shows, but when I stopped them and said, "No, really! Walk this way" and began again, a student said (thinking she was out of earshot) "Why do we have to do such retarded stuff?" (yes, they talk like that, too!)When I asked her where her sense of fun was, she replied that she didn't have one. Of course, she meant that she didn't have one like mine, but I suspect she was being accurate from her perspective as well. Being silly for a moment would never occur to teens in the presence of an adult. They refuse to be themselves, choosing to self-present instead of self-disclose. Hence, I think they lack the joy that we older folk have because we know that we will be excused for momentary lapses into silliness. Our world has a much more broad perspective than does theirs, surrounded by peer and media expectations. I KNOW I'll never be Derek Jeter or Shaq...
I'll never be Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Moore, Louis L'Amour or even Beva Plain, BUT I HAVE A BLOG.
It's all about perspective.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What A Drag It Is Getting Old

Mick Jagger may have thought that back in '66 when Mother's Little Helper hit the charts, but you can bet he doesn't think so anymore. Touring rockers, even those in their 60's probably still have all the refinements from groupies to Evian water to Hell's Angels as security...oh, wait. That was at Altamont a long time ago. Anyway, it's probably still a sweet deal for him and Paul McCartney. How about Quiet Riot? Where have they been? They didn't last long enough on the charts to get old, gracefully or otherwise. Others like Great White can't remember how the pyrotechnics are supposed to work. sad.
All of that being said, I think there's a lot more Mick than Quiet Riot left in me at this stage. JC used to say, "There's snow on the mountain, but there's fire in the valley." We lived in Kansas and seldom saw snow or mountains, for that matter...I always thought he was just making stuff like that up. Cryptic message deciphering was not my strong point as a kid even with my Fargo North decoder ring.
I sometimes feel like the Tin Man and need oiling, but after six knee surgeries, there's not much left to "oil." Still, today, I travelled 21,000 steps while on the job: a total of more than ten miles. I may stay up late tonight, or at least until ten o'clock just to see how the baseball games come out (Darn those Red Sux).
I feel as good as a person twice my age, and I dare one to come out and say I don't! Smackdown time!
What additional benefits do I get from the aging process? I saved another two dollars on senior citizen night at the grocery store this evening (a total of almost $7 in two weeks! I wanted to make a chart on Excel, but my wife told me I was being idiotic)...enough for two bottles of Frappacino. My room last weekend was as uncomfortable as hotel rooms ALWAYS are, but I paid less for it than a younger person would have. Let the good times roll! My students now call me "old man" instead of "uh, like, hey you." Plus, I get the added benefit of not having to save money for my old age. I can enjoy all of it now. And if you see a U-Haul backed up to my grave when I die, you'll know I decided to take what was left with me.
Peace out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Senior Coke, Extra Ice: Another Half-Full Story

I'm not a huge McRonald's fan. "Back in the day" when this company packaged everything in styrofoam (50,000 years to biodegrade) and chooped down rain forests to provide grazing land for my quarter pounder, I was adamant about not stopping there under any circumstance. Even though Consumer Reports indicated that the best fries anywhere (an oxymoron form a health perspective?) were to be found under the arches, I refused. Now that I have reached a certain age, I must relent, at least a little.
Fast food places, movie theaters and my high school commons area are serious purveyors of soda pop. Heck, we should have our students walk around with "COKE" plastered on their backpacks. Morning announcements might as well begin with "Have an icy cold Coca Cola with those Pringles." I'll admit, I'm not much for soft drinks, but when I am, McRonald's gives me all I want for $.39 as a benefit for being a senior citizen. I'm not proud. Why pay over a dollar when I don't have to? Save that money for more ace bandages or Geritol! I will admit to sitting there in the company of other "seniors" like myself after a tough pickleball match and drinking six cups of lemonade, no ice (it's not REALLY soda, after all ;) I've earned the benefit as a working person for a really long time. Any reduction in price is a positive for me! One senior I know asks for extra ice in her senior Coke...actually a violation of the senior code since you need to get more for your money when you're on a fixed income. Though, of course, there is the constant bathroom thing, too.
Our grocery store gives a discount to seniors on Tuesday. While I'd never shopped on Tuesday before, that $3.85 I saved this week bought one whole gallon of gas and a Slim Jim! Hot diggety!
I just booked my first hotel room as a senior citizen--proof of age and/or a list of medical infirmities, prescription drugs and fifteen candid pictures of grandchildren required upon check in. What a deal! Life just keeps getting better. I probably will get a room on the first floor so I don't have to drag a walker upstairs or have other patrons listen to me wheeze as I climb the stairs. I refuse the elevator...I'm not that old, after all.
AARP constantly sends me the potential of great deals on almost anything for a very low (it really is) price for membership. Unfortunately, they are unaware of my refusal to join things. I wouldn't belong to any group who would have me. Said originally by some famous person not named Darrell.
The benefits of age continue to pile up. Had I known it would be this great, I would have gotten older sooner.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Half-Full For Today

I've never considered myself a tremendous optimist. If the glass was half full, I'd think that Fred drank some of my Kool-Aid or poured some in a glass for me and left a loogie in there somewhere. That ploy worked best, of course,with Lime Kool-Aid. That doesn't necessarily make me a pessimist, either...I mean, half a glass of Kool-Aid was more than I usually got,anyway. I've been a fence-sitter, I guess, wavering between figurative half-empty and half-full glasses of water...playing the odds or hedging my bets all along. If things were going great, I'd be wary; if things were going down the tubes, I was certain that there was a bright spot coming: there is a limit to the amount of crap that falls in one place, even in an aviary.
At any rate, the apple fell on my head today, and I realized what a sweet gig I have for this school year. Of course, the dark cloud part is that we're only 14 days into it, but I really feel like this last go-round is going to be positive. Sure, I teach every minute of the day except for my 30-minute lunch break; sure, I've got freshman and two classes with written homework; the other day, I walked over 20,000 steps between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. giving me, roughly, 10 miles of exercise for the day. However, it struck me today that I have no office politics; no complaining or listening to complaints about who isn't doing the job and which kids are the most rotten and who does and who doesn't enforce the rules. It's fabulous. I prepare in the evening, walk in and present the lesson in my inimitable fashion and move to the next one. In no time, my day is complete, and I still feel positive. It feels a little like dentistry, as I have said, but I think my patients look forward to seeing me in a way that a dentist does not experience.
Of course, it's early in the year, but I like it! So, why would I retire? Hmmm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Land Lines or Cell Phones: Call Me

I've never been comfortable with mobile phone technology. I don't want to know people's innermost secrets as they blab at the supermarket, the movies or in boring meetings. I just don't want to be that familiar with them. If I'm in my car or in the bathroom for some privacy, it's because I WANT to be there...don't bother me! I spent years proclaiming that I didn't need or want one. While I caved in eventually and got a cell phone for emergencies, when I really need it, it failed to work, providing me with yet another reason to wish I still had the Cobra CB or the 10-pound portable phone that plugged in to my car and sucked the battery dry faster than an 8-track player on ACC.
Anyway, I was trying to connect with my son after yet another dreadful Packers loss in order to hand off his son for the return drive to Cleveland where he would be forced to listen to the newly-calculated odds of the Browns winning the Super Bowl. There was no fumble on the play as opposed to the Packers game, but the phone failed to work properly and forced us to rely on the scripted game plan which was to meet at the Arby's on the highway. I felt confident in the plan but thought I should take the phone just in case something went awry, and we got to keep the wiggleworm for another day or so.
Phone one audible on the other end. I call ring tone even though the numbers indicate I'm being charged for a call. I shout so loudly that the Arby's drive-through guy comes out to see if I wanted the curly fries or the regular ones.
Days and experiments later, I call the phone manufacturer customer support line. The first suggestion from Raoul was to take the battery out of the phone. Armed with a scissors, I pry and dig, severing an artery and six locks of hair, but I get the battery out. In a very helpful tone, my friendly customer service guy indicates that the battery is defective and has been recalled. I was about to ask why I wasn't notified but realized it was because my PHONE WASN'T WORKING! At least the car company informs me of recalls that could save my life...there's no scissors involved in their recall, either. I probably missed several important calls during the time in which I was unaware of the deficiency. No doubt President Bush called to ask me to head FEMA, and I'm certain Publisher's Clearinghouse is out there looking for me with a big check.
My fresh, not-deficient-in-any-way battery is speeding to my address even as I speak. It was a good thing I had a "real" phone so I could call for help. I wonder what people do who only have cell phones?

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Definite Signs That I'm Anachronistic

You know how we're said to be the last to know about everything? Like our girfriend is cheating on us or we've been fired or there were custard-filled doughuts in the workroom three hours ago? Of course, by the time we find out, our wives already know, someone else is sitting in our cubicle playing with our bobblehead of Brett Favre, checking out our iTunes selections AND the only remaining edible is a crappy, prune-filled Danish! That's how I feel. Here are the indications that make me think I'm an anachronism:

1. I just discovered how to publish and edit a blog, thinking it's a big secret unless I give out the URL . Dozens of spammers find me in seconds, it seems like, and my genius student Kyle said he found the site " about five minutes." Hell, I still have trouble finding it myself sometimes.

2. I recently attended a wedding at which the DJ played some unintelligible song and all the women got up and began shaking their "groove thangs" while I sat there looking nonplussed. A young man said, "What's the matter? Didn't they teach you this in dance instructor school?" Fortunately for him, I had a handful of mini Kit Kats that I'd just swiped from my grandson and was busy stuffing my face. I subsequently returned to school only to find THAT SAME SONG on a CD that the kids used for volleyball. "Oh this? It's been played at every dance I've been to for the last three years!" Thanks, Beckie. sigh

3. A neighbor recently lamented an upcoming birthday: number 30. I noted that David Bowie's Fame was #1 on the Billboard charts on the day she was born. Then I remembered, David Bowie was almost 30 when he sang that song, and he and I are almost the same age. Add almost 30 and 30, and you get anachronism!

4. I just got the hang of the iPod shuffle and now that's old technology! The iPod nano (as in "nano, n-nano, you can't have one") holds jillions more songs, isn't much bigger and is so affordable that every kid on my block will have one while I hold steadfastly to the 2nd generation stuff. (But I still have a reel-to-reel player...AND tapes!) Anybody can carry something that weighs less than an ounce. Real (reel) men need something that weighs 10 pounds and says "manly" on it. Portable schmortable! If it doesn't take up an entire wall of the den, I don't want it.

4. Dennis wears jeans to school that are so ripped and torn that the only thing I couldn't see was the label. He says it's a fashion statement: paying $60 at Abercrombie for destroyed clothing...I wouldn't, but that's just the old man in me, I guess. No scientific data to indicate what the rest of the student population thought, but my informal poll ran about 4-3 against. We'll see if he still wears them when it's a billion below in winter! Flannel boxers might be the only addition would be my guess.

5. I want the Cleveland Indians to LOSE, for goodness sakes.

6. My wife and I just booked a hotel room at the "senior citizen rate." 'nuff said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Self Portrait

1st period, 2nd period, 3rd period GO!

Dentistry in the Education Field

In what could be my last year, I have been "assigned" to what might best be described as a dentistry schedule (of course, it could also be a doctor, a stock broker, drive through window person at McRonald's or any other profession in which clients are seen quickly in an attempt to pass as many through as possible in a given amount of time for a maximum amount of profit). Here's the deal: I have eight classes of 48 minutes with a three-minute break between them. After the fourth class, I get a half-hour lunch break for responding to email and collecting thoughts for the home stretch, then it's back to class. I'm certain grade school teachers would say, "So what? I've been doing that for years! Qwitcherbellyachin!" but in a high school setting where the pace has only recently changed from 90-minute periods to shorter ones, it's new for me. I go from room to gym to room, presenting the lesson and moving on to the next group of eager students. By the end of the day, I have no idea what I just did; ever-smiling me is an automaton. This frantic pace makes it hard to reflect on the valuable parts of any lesson...what to add, what to change; how to get through more effectively the fine points of developing a working relationship with others? Did I put a crown on the right patient and extract the right tooth? Did that person want fries? This frenetic activity forces me to think in other places. The shower is generally the best place; in the shower, I once had the idea of recreating a battle in The Hundred Years' War with cardboard cutout figures to show the effectiveness of the longbow as opposed to the crossbow--definitely a thrill to see high school students shooting a volley of arrows at cardboard figures then charging with cardboard swords--but they remember the lesson! And no, Mom, they were not running with pointy objects in their hands. There are other venues as well. I had a "genius" idea (so-called because it was mine) on self-presentation while mowing the lawn over the weekend and couldn't wait to use it. Upon further review, after I'd presented it, the idea put some students in a position to feel less than positive about their self-image. Idea to the shelf...but I was thinking! Students look at me like I really AM losing it, but it's simply a matter of trying to remember which class was which and what I had written down in my lesson plan. Of course, it also requires a response time faster than FEMA...ok, bad example. I have no intention of counting the days until retirement because the challenge is a fascinating one. There are many new students this year and many new challenges. Lead on, McDuff!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Middle-Age Dilemma: A Haiku (Bless Me!)

In Springtime of Youth
it was too pricey; in Fall...
it's all bad for me

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lance Armstrong and I Are Wavering

News that the retirement of Lance Armstrong might have been announced prematurely reminded me that he and I are very much alike. Oh, we're not the only ones who have waffled on the timing of retirement. I think Willie Mays ended up playing for the Mets when he should have been working the door for a casino and playing golf with executives like Mickey Mantle did. And Jim Brown...oops. There's no way I'm saying anything even remotely bad about Jim Brown. Word will get out, and he's tough! Nobody wanted to see Michael Jordan butcher baseball even though his minor league team got a great new bus out of the deal: when the doors opened and closed, it made a "swoosh" sound I'm told. I wasn't even thrilled to see him playing minor league basketball again with the Wizards. Drafting Kwame Brown proves that he should have stayed retired. Finally, he got wise and bought into a motorcycle racing team. Now THAT'S a fitting way to retire. Now, every time I wear shorts to class that hang low and make me look even more skinny than I am and tempt students to try to pull my shorts down, I thank Michael for popularizing the style.
Speaking of style, Chief Justice Rehnquist retired in style! He went out on top just like we all should though few of us do. That's where the similarities between myself and Lance Armstrong become too incredible to ignore. After seven wins in the Tour de France, he definitely went out on top (no matter what the namby-pamby French sour-grape journalists have to say). I believe I am at the top of my game, so to speak as well: I treat all students with respect, I challenge each of them to be better each day, and I'm not afraid to call their mothers when my students do something well. I would like to think I'm respected by my peers even though that might be reaching a bit...a prophet in his own country, and all that. I have been rewarded by my professional peers by being named the Wisconsin Secondary Physical Educator of the Year for 2005. I should be humble and say I don't deserve it, but it's really not for me to say. Having decided that both Lance and I are at the pinnacle of our careers, it's time to draw the amazing comparisons.

Lance Armstrong

1. From the United States 2. Born in Texas 3. Wears a LiveStrong bracelet 4. Rides a bike at work
5. Recovered from cancer 6. Likes Sheryl Crow 7. Accused of taking drugs 8. Waffled on retirement at French journalist jabs 9. Has a web site 10.Trains year-round for one race

Darrell Patterson

1. From the United States 2. My dad was born in Texas, and I've actually visited there 3. Wears a LiveStrong bracelet 4. Rides and wears a bike at work 5. Tutored students reecovering from cancer 6. Likes Counting Crowes 7. It has been suggested that he MUST be taking something 8. Waffled on retirement at IHOP 9. Has a weblog 10. Well, I don't do this one

I could go on and on, but I think the facts are plain: Lance and I have much in common. Sometime within the next year both he and I will find out if all this retirement talk was for real. Peace out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why Algoma Really Needs Me

I never really thought of myself as indispensable before. I missed 60 days twelve years ago recovering from aneurysm surgery, and the kids got along fine. In fact, they took great pains to tell me how much they liked my substitute. Ok, Ok...humility is an ok thing. However, it occurred to me today that my students get things from me that they don't get elsewhere. For example, I would guess that I was the only instructor today that asked the students if they knew why the flag was lowered to half staff. A few just shrugged; a few thought that maybe it wasn't exactly half staff...maybe more like two-thirds or seven-sixteenths; there were the "oh, is it?" looks from some, but one energetic young lady offered the answer that the flag had been lowered because of the untimely death of Bob Denver. Yes, THAT Bob Denver, the Skipper's "little buddy" who had passed away yesterday. As we walked into school from the tennis courts, I spent the time explaining a) that is probably wasn't for Bob Denver b) that Bob Denver was not a singer c) that John Denver, the singer, had already died previously in an ultralight crash. "No wonder I never hear any of his songs."
By the time we hit the building, an astute young man had figured out that Chief Justice William Rehnquist had died and was to be buried today. I didn't have the time to explain who HE was or that he was one of Wisconsin's most famous sons because the lunch rush was on.
When Dennis asked me later what "funk" was because some people had asked him to join a funk band, I knew my educational duties were just beginning. I ripped off the Monsters of Rock CD playing in the gym and dragged out Funk Essentials so everyone could learn a bit about expanding their musical horizons. Of course, every rose has its thorn, and Dustin kept screaming "Slipknot! Slipknot!" at me as I slid through the tracks of the CD. Ears perked up and voices sang as one to Brick House, and the realization of what funk was all about dawned ever so slowly across the room just ahead of the point to the last joke I had told. Dennis was uncertain whether or not he wanted to be part of a funk revolution in Algoma High School, but at least he knew what funk involved and what it sounded like. The rest of the lesson concerned itself with tennis footwork, stretch reflex mechanism and racquet face angles. I'll bet they talk more to each other about funk than they do tennis essentials.
Maybe ska tomorrow...there's a lot to learn before the year is over, so sit right back and you'll hear a tale: a tale of a fateful trip.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Day One, But Who's Counting?

If retired time goes as quickly as the first day of school did, I'll be 75 in no time. It was astounding to me that the first day has come and gone...and I'm still not certain exactly what happened when. First days are great, and I had a blast. Many of my students this year are kids I've never taught before...that means my jokes will all be new and whatever zany stunts I come up with (e.g. the "slides" of my summer vacation) will be as fresh as they were 30 years ago. The Lynn Dickey/Darrell Patterson baseball story hasn't been told for years, but I'm saving that for January when things get stale. That challenge of new students alone is enough to get me to "turn it up a notch" when I walk into the building. I think I hyperventilated a bit at, fun, fun.
Teaching all eight periods of the day served at least one positive purpose: I did not have to walk around listening to how dissatisfied various people were with the class lists (sure to be changed by tomorrow!); room assignments (how come HE gets that room? He has only two classes in there and I have six!); why the computer system doesn't work (you mean I have to push "save" to send my attendance to the office?) and a host of other crucial issues. I admit to frustration as well but realize that things won't change so I need to adjust, and as long as the office is cleared of paperwork, the administration is happy no matter how many extra kids get stuffed into crowded classrooms. I get paid to do a stipulation about it being uncomplicated.
Whew! The only difficulty is the organization of each class and the timing. Weeks of spring training work great for baseball players but then how many get hurt during the first week of the season? I get no spring training. I did work for eight solid days to prepare for the first day, and now it's time for Day 2. The first day we begin to play for keeps. I wouldn't have it any other way. Plantar fascitis will prove troublesome, I suspect because it hasn't gone away. Raquel will have to come back and do her magical massage on my foot soon.
And, in the middle of all of this, I think of how incomprehensible the whole situation along the Gulf Coast is after Hurricane Katrina. I GET to go to school, drink unpolluted water, have bathrooms that work, have no fear of looters and vandals. My house is still in one piece, and I know exactly where all of my family is. How can I even talk about hardships? I haven't known any in comparison. Gas prices rising will be the extent of my suffering. Lucky me.