Writer’s Workshop: XII

1-2 GIF By Aluron CMC Warta Zawiercie via Giphy

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who, for minor infractions of classroom deportment, would tell you to write a twelve-line poem about the thing you had just done.

For example, I was doing a vocal impersonation of our history teacher (who was Mr. Connelly, no relation) and was told to write a twelve line poem entitled "Mr. Connelly’s Cough Drops."

I did impressions of our Latin teacher (whose name escapes me after 50 years) that were good enough that I could get the class to shut up by saying "All right, gentlemen, settle down," which is what he said when we were getting rowdy, which classrooms filled with 14- and 15-year-old boys are often wont to do.

I could also forge my Religion teacher’s signature, but refused repeated requests to forge notes for guys who wanted to get out early.

Ah, the things you learn in Catholic high schools.

And, just like that, when I finish this line, I’ll be halfway through this week’s assignment, which is to write a post in exactly 12 lines.

For purposes of this exercise and others like it, I consider one line to be equal to one sentence, and since I can write really long sentences (one of those things the writing books tell you not to do), it means I can say a lot, or rather use a lot of words to say just about nothing.

I was really good at essay exams, where I could fill an entire blue book (which, as you know, is so called because it’s blank pages in a little notebook with a blue cover into which you write your answers to exam questions) and say pretty much the same thing a dozen times, differently each time, which probably explains why my average was a C, maybe a C+ or C-, thoughout college.

I was a smart kid and a lousy student, not really the best thing for college, but when you think about it, considering the time that I was in college (mid-1970’s), I could have taken a couple of computer science classes and gotten a job and not spent four years asking myself "why don’t I just take a couple of computer science classes and get myself a job and forget this college thing until I feel like it?"

I write about my academic career (such as it was) a lot because after nearly 44 years since I graduated college I’ve had a chance to think it over and have come to the conclusion that I could have spared myself a lot of agony if I had done things differently, like taking a couple of computer classes, thus making myself employable, getting myself a job, and holding off on college until I had a better idea of what I wanted to get out of it than I did when I was 18 and still a really dumb kid.

They (whoever "they" are) say that the human brain doesn’t fully develop until a person turns 25 years old, and even then I’ll bet there’s quite a standard deviation, where some are fully developed at 18 and others still haven’t achieved full maturation at 65 or so.

I’d love to stay and talk some more, but this is my twelfth line…

Writer’s Workshop: Friday Night TV

John Fogerty with "I Saw It On TV."

I was not what you’d call a social butterfly when I was in high school. I spent most of my evenings and nights at home, and a good portion of that time was spent in front of the TV. Especially on Friday night…

I’d spend the primetime hours (7-10 PM, because that’s what they are in Chicago) watching channel 7, WLS-TV, the ABC station. I’d sit and watch whatever they threw at me: The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch (I had a crush on Marcia), Room 222, The Odd Couple, Love, American Style, and whatever else was being offered. Most of my "watching" was sitting there with the TV on, smoking cigarettes and drinking Dr Pepper. I wasn’t exactly engaged in the stories, it was just "somethin’ ta do." Some Friday nights I’d go to my room and find "somethin’ ta do" there.

At 10:00, I’d watch the news on either channel 7 or channel 5 (WMAQ-TV, the NBC station). Most of the time, I’d put on 5, because The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was on there at 10:30, but every other week, ABC would have In Concert, and sometimes the bands were worth watching. There were the nights where they’d tell you that David Bowie and Procol Harum were the featured performers, but they never said how much of the show would be David Bowie and how much would be Procol Harum. So, if you weren’t a Bowie fan, but really wanted to see Procol Harum, you could end up sitting through over an hour of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, with commercial breaks every fifteen minutes telling you "Coming up, Procol Harum!" It took a while, but soon I figured out that In Concert was more trouble than it was worth. They would simulcast In Concert on WDAI, so I’d figure out a way to record the audio feed, and watch Johnny, Doc, and Ed until midnight. The Tonight Show was pretty good on Friday nights. Maybe even a little zany.

(That was the big thing in the ’70’s, where the local TV station would co-ordinate with a local FM radio station that broadcast in stereo. They’d tell you at the beginning that the show was being simulcast, so turn on your FM radio and turn off the sound on the TV, and you could hear the show in glorious stereo. Trust me, it wasn’t anywhere near as cool as they made it sound, and again, more trouble than it was worth.)

After Carson was The Midnight Special, hosted by some musical artist and Wolfman Jack, the legendary Southern California DJ. That was usually pretty good, meaning there was at least one, and maybe two or three, artists worth watching. Even if not, it was after midnight, which made it cool to watch.

The music didn’t stop there: WMAQ picked up the syndicated Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and ran it after Midnight Special. Rock Concert was everything ABC’s In Concert promised but didn’t deliver. They didn’t simulcast, but who cared? That was just a pain, anyway….

By then, it was 2 AM and I’d usually be out of Dr Pepper and cigarettes, but I’d just have to stay up long enough to see the sermonette, the Seal of Good Practice, the signoff message, the National Anthem, and the "ant races"….

Writers Workshop: Hello Out There!

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The way I tend to think of the seasons, September 1 is the first day of autumn, December 1 the first day of winter, March 1 the first day of spring, and June 1 the first day of summer.

So, yesterday was the first day of autumn, and I looked back over the summer and realized that I spent the entire summer at home, in the house.

I’m not complaining, understand: I didn’t have to go anywhere, so there was no real reason for me to leave the house.

And yes, while it might have been nice to go out just for the heck of it, the fact is I really got kind of used to it.

We can get food delivered from a couple of restaurants in the neighborhood, or Mary doesn’t mind going out to get food from the ones that don’t deliver.

She does most of the outside stuff, like going to the store, and has a couple of friends she meets, so when she’s finished with them, she orders something for me and carries it home.

If the Covid-19 boogeyman ever goes away (and it looks like it’ll be with us at least until November of next year), and there are actually places to go that have real unmasked people in them, I’ll get out then, and if not, I’ll get out when I have a medical appointment.

Right now, the next appointment I have is on the 20th, to have my teeth cleaned, and maybe we’ll stay out and go somewhere for lunch or something afterward, maybe a Frappuccino.

Or maybe not…

Writer’s Workshop: You’re Dreaming…

Image by KAVOWO from Pixabay

This is later than I usually get to my Writers Workshop entry on Thursday. This is my third try at writing this: I tried the one about quitting my job, and realized I had written about that (maybe not for this) before. So I tried the one about a post from a previous August, and fell into a rabbit hole where I was reading and not looking for something to write about. And, of course, I took a nap or two and had a dream or two. Maybe it was just one dream and it seemed like two, I’m not sure.

It’s interesting that in my dreams I’m either smoking or drinking Coke. I quit smoking 30 years ago, and haven’t had a Coke in I don’t know how long. Maybe it’s all the old commercials I watch, some of which I include in my posts.

Anyway, in this dream I had this afternoon, I took out my laptop, then walked away to buy a Coke and a pack of cigarettes. I got talking to someone, and realized that I had left my laptop on my desk and started to worry that someone would take it. (I’ve actually lost one that way. Maybe it was a reminder not to do that.) I don’t know if anyone had, because I woke up before I got back to my desk.

This is the kind of dream I have these days, where I’m either at work or school and I’m walking around talking to people. Not sure what that means, but I’m not going to drive myself crazy trying to figure it out…

Writers Workshop: School Days, School Days…

Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

After my freshman year of high school, Mom and the three of us moved to a house in the suburbs. Mom had picked this house for a couple of reasons: she could afford it and the schools were great. It was going to be an adjustment for us, because up until then we had gone to Catholic schools, and were used to the way the Catholic schools did things. For example, when I was a freshman we were placed in classes based on the result of an entrance exam, and with few exceptions we spent the day with the same 32 guys.

At the new school, your level was determined by placement exams you took when you were ready to start. My brother Jim was starting as a freshman, so we both took our test one morning during the summer. I had to take more tests because I already had a year under my belt and was entering as a sophomore.

A couple of weeks later, we met with the transfer coordinator, who explained that the school operated on a "level" system. There were four levels, 1 thru 4, with 4 being the most rigorous and 1 being the least. Level 2 was the average level, and level 3 was for the above-average kids who weren’t smart enough for level 4. I had been in the top class at St. Ignatius, so naturally I expected to be placed in level 4, and was shocked when the guy had me in all level 3 classes. I tried arguing with the guy, and while I was able to talk myself into level 4 Geometry, he convinced me to stay with level 3 classes, and that they could always move me up if that wasn’t enough of a challenge.

My ego was a little bruised by all this, but I agreed to do things his way. I was determined that I would prove him wrong. Needless to say, I didn’t: I soon found myself in over my head in Geometry and that even level 3 was a challenge at times. I did manage to finish the year in Geometry with a D, but did well enough in my other classes that it didn’t hurt too much.

The main question I had on my first day was, where could I smoke without getting caught? It turned out that about half my classmates smoked, and they had figured out that the grassy field to the east of school beyond a cement pillar belonged to the Cook County Forest Preserve District, and thus was technically off campus, even though it really wasn’t. There was really nothing the teachers could do if they saw us out there. I made a lot of friends out there…