I Want to Get Away

Years ago, my fishing buddies and I created this mash-up of a song. I started singing it again today — a couple weeks into this virus lock down.

* Note: Every time the lyrics change, you need to start singing the new song tune…
It starts with Lenny Kravitz’ “Fly Away” then to Steve Miller band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” and so on.

I want to get away
I want to fly

like an eagle
to the

CC Rider
Riders of the storm
into this world were

Born to be wild
Born to be

Wild thing
You make my heart

Singin’ in the rain
I’m singin’ in the rain

Purple Rain
Purple Rain

(there may be more but I can’t remember it)
Here’s an audio version…

I share this because though ‘I want to get away,’ I am staying home. I do feel like I’m bopping from one thing to another, having trouble going deep into anything (writing, episode-watching, reading, gaming…). This memory reminds me of carefree times and I hope to get on the river again this summer, but I’m taking every precaution at this point. I pray that you will also. We can limit the severity of this virus if we work together.

Coronavirus update

BEST SUMMARY VIDEO: Trevor Noah interviews Dr. Fauci

The numbers of people with Coronavirus in the country exceeded 100,000 recently. The toll this virus is taking on health professionals is tragic. While some news agencies just focus on the dumpster-fire, others share the personal and economic costs Americans are experiencing.

Here’s one of the more compelling personal stories

Fun stuff on the internet:

* 50 Bird Species and the Sounds They Make

* Cowboy Museum Puts Their Head Of Security In Charge Of Their Twitter, And His Tweets Are Hilariously Wholesome

* Universal Studios “Free” Photo Booth, “Can’t Stop Laughing”
(this one opens in Facebook)

* An artist takes a trip to Estonia and comes away with insights about the country and Brexit

* I was going to discuss how many sheets of toilet paper one should use for #1 vs. #2, depending on your gender…but instead, just watch these guys and their alternatives to toilet paper.

Movies we have seen so far:

* Young Sherlock Holmes – We saw it on Criterion, but you can also see it on YouTube TV and Vudu. Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this 1985 flick was much better than I expected. The music and a few of the scenes reminded me of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, E.T., and even Harry Potter for some reason.

* On the Basis of Sex

* RBG

* Amelie

* Hugo

* Moulin Rouge

* Manhattan

* Mrs. Doubtfire
Every once in awhile Robin Williams re-enters our lives. His daughter, Zelda, posted this photo of them on her Twitter feed. And one thing led to another and we enjoyed his humor again last night.

Some of the shows/series we have watched (and where we found them)

* The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel (Amazon Prime)
Here’s the Maizel cast interviewed if you need another fun thing

* The Crown (Netflix)
* Outlander (Starz)
* Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
* Ken Burns’ Baseball (PBS)
* Mark Maron’s stand up called “End Times Fun” (Netflix)

* a few Sherlock Holmes episodes on DVD (PBS version with Jeremy Brett)

Some Teaching and Learning Resources

* Bound to Be Bound Resources for Homebound or Home Schooled Students

* A list of authors and illustrators doing online storytime

* Virtual Tours of 12 Famous Museums

* A Zoom conference called “Moving Online”: Critical and Creative Teaching in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis led by my friend and mentor, Dr. Troy Hicks


Re: what else I’m doing…

We just finished our second puzzle. I liked several things about it: the reminder that we have so many National Parks and Monuments waiting for us to visit; the information about the parks was interesting (and helped when placing pieces); getting reacquainted with the location of the parks (because I love geography); and the vibrant colors of the puzzle. We are starting another puzzle today.

I’m reading a few things of course: The Sun Magazine (and old copies that I didn’t finish); listening to Trevor Noah read his book, Born a Crime; Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thurman (our men’s book group book); Lent 2020, Christ Is for Us by April Yamasaki; and several books of poems (In the Corner of the Living by Janine Certo; Tunsiya/Amrikiya by Leila Chatti; and E-mails from Scheherazad by Mohja Kahf)

I’m writing two books right now. My book of poems was coming along slowly until this isolation set in. Now, I have collected in one document all the poems I’m currently planning on using. I need to revise about a third of them and pass the whole collection by the members of my writing group (and by Judy). Here’s a glimpse at the list of poems I have included thus far:

A Hope Unspoken
First Teacher
Baboo Godoshian
Berube
Test Driving a Hearse
Another Day
Clara was a Tiger
Praise for Anonymous
Dad
Reflecting
Language Lover
In a Democrat’s Car
Open Sky
How You Know You’re in the Northwest
Instead, at 6:30 am
BRF is Not Me
Birth of a Poem
This photo
Opening a Pomegranate
My Brainmind
Poem for Today
Too Still, Too Small
Bob Skinny
Guilt
Why We Are All Not Jesus
Ultimately
If Life is Baseball
Cats
In Love
What Will Happen

I will hopefully be self-publishing them at MSU’s Publishing Service…when it re-opens.

I’m co-authoring a book for teachers also. Kristine Brickey and I are writing a book called Lower Your Expectations: A Teacher’s Survival Guide. Much of it is written; we are tweaking it and hope to have it out in some form by the end of the year. Here are the current chapter titles:

Lower Your Expectations: A Teacher’s Survival Guide

Table of Contents

Prologue: Let’s Get Real
Chapter 1: It’s Not Time to Panic…
Chapter 2: Teachers Need Naps, Too
Chapter 3: Your Expectations are Too Damn High!
Chapter 4: Teaching ‘Then’ vs. Teaching ‘Now’
Chapter 5: When To Bitch and When Not to Bitch
Chapter 6: Honesty and Parent-Teacher Conferences
Chapter 7: Why Won’t You Let Us Teach?
Chapter 8: Now is Still Not the Time To Panic
Chapter 9: So What’s in Your Toolbox?

After reading all of that, I seem busy (even to myself). I don’t feel busy. I was just telling our son, Aaron, this morning how I enjoy the pace of my life. Yes, it has slowed lately, but even before our virus precautions, I have a blessed pace to my life. I’m aware that this life I lead is a privileged, white male life in a prosperous country…and I do my best to use my life for good.

P.S. Zoom dance parties are fun, too!

Need a Book?

Do you ever feel that you are holding books as hostages? I have a connection with every book I own and I love having access to them when I want to read them, but sometimes I feel that they are prisoners. That I’m keeping them from being read by others. It may sound strange, but I’ve learned that even when I think my feelings are odd and unique, others can relate.

As difficult as it is to let go of some of my books, I am doing it on a regular basis. Whether to increase the chances they will be read or to clear out my hoard/library, it needs to happen.

So, as we begin to hunker down for the winter, if there’s a book from the list below that strikes your fancy, let me know and I’ll get it to you. If you want to keep it, that’s fine. If you want to read it and give it to another interested reader, even better. And if you’d rather give it back, I can deal with that too (I’ll just put it in a Free Library near me).

Note: this give-away is also necessary because I keep buying more books.

* Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
* Indian Boyhood, by Charles A. Eastman
* Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin
* What is the Bible?, by Rob Bell
* A Newbery Halloween (a dozen scary stories by Newbery Award-winning authors), selected by Martin H. Greenberg
* Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers
* The 100 Best African American Poems (with CD), edited by Nikki Giovanni
* Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, by Bill McKibben
* The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
* As We Are Now, by May Sarton
* The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
* Unlearning God: How Unbelieving Helped Me Believe, by Philip Gulley
* Telling Writing, by Ken Macrorie
* Reservation Blues, by Sherman Alexie
* Brainiac, by Ken Jennings
* The Book of Forgiving, by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
* A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
* Bird by Bird, by Annie Lamott
* Gandhi: A Manga Biography, by Kazuki Ebine
* Beloved, by Toni Morrison

I don’t know if you can tell, but these are not my throw-away books. Some are my favorite reads (and some are doubles). These are books I recommend. These are books that need to be read. I am freeing them to be read. I want them to have a good home. And I have many more; if you would like to peruse my poetry books, fiction section, Native American collection, biographies…let me know.

October Photo Album

As I looked back at the photos I took in October, I realized it was worth recording a few here. These are mostly chronological throughout the month.

My mother-in-law, Linda Janecke, died in October; she was 81 years old — Judy wrote a loving tribute/obituary to her mom. Linda was a beacon of encouragement and optimism. Though she had bouts of worrying, she had a strong faith. Linda was always quick with a smile or a memory to share. Here’s a link to some photos that Rachel and I put together.


Aaron moved to a house in Lansing and is living with a couple guys.


Rachel makes a wicked good squash soup.


Judy and her cousin, Rob, enjoyed their coffee & tea, as well as the garden.


We visited the lighthouse at the northern point of Old Mission Peninsula.


We also saw a movie (Downton Abbey) at theater in Elk Rapids; Judy met a woman whose children had taken piano lessons from her mother.


The waves were high on East Traverse Bay at Mary Anne and John’s house/cottage — a blessed retreat.


I enjoyed a campfire and a World Series game at the same time.


Tracy the pirate and Aram the clown…and a curious face in-between.

Bonus poem by Bob Rentschler read by me

Let’s Go in a Different Direction

I’ve been struck lately by the amount of people I know that are traveling. Good friends are exploring the Greek Isles. Another friend is doing a fellowship in Tennessee. A retired couple I know are re-visiting Yellowstone Park and the Tetons to experience the wildlife and nature. Another family of adults is in Austria and Germany on a tour. A poet friend is in Italy visiting family. Another couple is visiting their daughter in Japan. A Kalamazoo College student is studying abroad in Germany. A couple took their pre-teens out of school for the year and are RV-ing through southwestern United States. The list goes on. And while I’m a little jealous, I’m mostly just aware of the importance of getting out of our safe spaces and experiencing new environments and cultures. Without travel, our lives are narrow and fear of the ‘other’ festers.

For too many people in this country, fear is what drives them. It’s sad. They fear immigrants and the gifts they bring. They fear imports and the competition they bring. They fear Science and the knowledge it brings. They fear women and the leadership they bring. Their fear leader is taking this country in the wrong direction. Instead of giving him and his negative tweet factory any more attention, let’s change our focus.

The HP ad above, startled me a bit. (You can see the whole thing by clicking on the photo and there’s an article about the ad here) Near the end is this photo and question…Have we lost touch with what’s real? It’s possible. We’ve at least lost touch with what’s important; as I drive around the Lansing area, I notice many people looking down at their phones as they drive. It’s incredibly dangerous. Driving IS real. I admit that I will check a text at a stop light, but looking while driving seems like asking for an accident.

I do think we need to change our focus (I’m talking to myself here, also).

Here are some suggestions:

* Visit a church, synagogue, or other religious institution different from the one that you usually attend. The new minister at the Peoples Church of East Lansing, Reverend Dr. Shawnthea Monroe, was inspirational and challenging in her recent, first sermon. That’s where I sing in the choir; and I do plan to attend regularly. I feel drawn to Congregation Shaarey Zedek, too, though. And the Islamic Center of East Lansing is a very welcoming place also. I’ve attended services at both places of worship as part of the Thanksgiving time interfaith services. This year’s Interfaith Service will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church on South Pennsylvania on Monday, November 25th at 7 pm. if you are interested.

* Get involved politically instead of feeling angry or apathetic. Learn about the candidates (just a suggestion) before you vote.

* Learn something new, whether online, at a college, by reading a book, or going to a film. For example, the East Lansing Film Festival is always an eye-opener for me. The link says the festival starts October 30th, but the Indie festival is going on this weekend…I plan to see Sama and Tel Aviv on Fire in the coming days.

* Travel as often as you can; finding affordable travel is difficult, but possible.

* Use public transportation as a way to change your perspective.

* Participate in a Living Room Conversation as a way to express your concerns on an issue and try to understand the concerns of those who think about the issue differently. https://www.livingroomconversations.org/

* Disconnect from your devices for a day or a few days — look at people, talk with them…even people you do not know. It’s refreshing to talk with people you don’t know (check out the link).


Does the fact that this sign exists mean that someone turned onto the train tracks? Let’s be a little more careful out there, people.

My Brainmind

My Brainmind

— with thanks to Billy Collins

Sometimes I picture it
Directly above my eyes
Hovering just out of my view

Or as a fog I should be able to see through,
A grey mass harboring shadows of unrecognizable forms

But then the sun burns away my unknowing
Or I find a box of light bulbs
And my old friend comes through for me again

If it will the next time I call on it, God only knows —
This mystery brain,
Brother to my heart,
A constant companion directing me like a drone operator,
An encyclopedia with pages torn out

Let us say it is a book
I have been writing constantly, even while watching TV and driving the car
Then re-reading aloud — at least in my head

Or now that it is aging,
An echo of itself,
Papers found in a drawer in my hand-writing but foreign

Like yours, it is fickle,
Rock solid watching Jeopardy,
Absent as a deleted app when asked my 3rd grade teacher’s name,
To define ‘transmogrification,’ or what I had for dinner last Tuesday.
Then present again when I need a seldom-used password

Or is it a dream itself,
Not the grey mass the size of my fist the scientists talk about

But part of my whole being —
In every cell,
Hair, organ —
Is even the food I eat, temporarily,
Part of my mind
While in me?

Affecting everything I do —
What to add into my scrambled eggs,
Whether or not to play the guitar,
Which word to choose as an ending

Unhinged

We have a president who is unhinged.

From Merriam Webster —

“Definition of unhinged
: UPSET, UNGLUED
especially : mentally deranged

Synonyms
balmy, barmy [chiefly British], bats, batty, bedlam, bonkers, brainsick, bughouse [slang], certifiable, crackbrained, cracked, crackers, crackpot, cranky [dialect], crazed, crazy, cuckoo, daffy, daft, demented, deranged, fruity [slang], gaga, haywire, insane, kooky (also kookie), loco [slang], loony (also looney), loony tunes (or looney tunes), lunatic, mad, maniacal (also maniac), mental, meshuga (or meshugge), moonstruck, non compos mentis, nuts, nutty, psycho, psychotic, scatty [chiefly British], screwy, unbalanced, unsound, wacko (also whacko), wacky (also whacky), wud [chiefly Scottish]”

Sound familiar? It’s him.

Others have noted his unhingedness; it just gets worse and worse.

John Bolton was the latest casualty of this unhinged president. He has a love-hate relationship with his own cabinet. He hires people to fill positions and then dismisses them or they resign in record time. Thirty-eight appointees either resigned or were fired. That’s over 75% turnover rate. Just ridiculous.

Some of his supporters have even started complaining, noting that he’s swearing too much. If this is what it takes to make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice, so be it.

There was the whole ‘if Denmark doesn’t want to sell Greenland to us, I won’t visit it’ thing. Shades of terrible-twos or middle school tantrums. And I hate how Fox News uses his tweets as the official record of what he said. Tweets are what you come up with to pass the time. Tweets are usually trivial, lazy comments; he’s passes them off as the inside story of his deepest thoughts, which furthers this ‘unhinged’ persona. If this appeals to you, there are trifles on the internet to keep this memory alive forever.

Some say he is impeaching himself with his every tweet and action.

President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, has a message for people who are excusing President Trump’s racism:

“I had fully intended to ignore President Trump’s latest round of racially charged taunts against an African American elected official, and an African American activist, and an African American journalist and a whole city with a lot of African Americans in it. I had every intention of walking past Trump’s latest outrages and writing about the self-destructive squabbling of the Democratic presidential field, which has chosen to shame former vice president Joe Biden for the sin of being an electable, moderate liberal.

But I made the mistake of pulling James Cone’s ‘The Cross and the Lynching Tree’ off my shelf — a book designed to shatter convenient complacency. Cone recounts the case of a white mob in Valdosta, Ga., in 1918 that lynched an innocent man named Haynes Turner.

Turner’s enraged wife, Mary, promised justice for the killers. The sheriff responded by arresting her and then turning her over to the mob, which included women and children. According to one source, Mary was ‘stripped, hung upside down by the ankles, soaked with gasoline, and roasted to death. In the midst of this torment, a white man opened her swollen belly with a hunting knife and her infant fell to the ground and was stomped to death.’

God help us. It is hard to write the words. This evil — the evil of white supremacy, resulting in dehumanization, inhumanity and murder — is the worst stain, the greatest crime, of U.S. history. It is the thing that nearly broke the nation. It is the thing that proved generations of Christians to be vicious hypocrites. It is the thing that turned normal people into moral monsters, capable of burning a grieving widow to death and killing her child.

When the president of the United States plays with that fire or takes that beast out for a walk, it is not just another political event, not just a normal day in campaign 2020.

It is a cause for shame. It is the violation of martyrs’ graves. It is obscene graffiti on the Lincoln Memorial. It is, in the eyes of history, the betrayal — the re-betrayal — of Haynes and Mary Turner and their child. And all of this is being done by an ignorant and arrogant narcissist reviving racist tropes for political gain, indifferent to the wreckage he is leaving, the wounds he is ripping open.

Like, I suspect, many others, I am finding it hard to look at resurgent racism as just one in a series of presidential offenses or another in a series of Republican errors. Racism is not just another wrong. The Antietam battlefield is not just another plot of ground. The Edmund Pettus Bridge is not just another bridge. The balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel is not just another balcony. As U.S. history hallows some causes, it magnifies some crimes.

What does all this mean politically? It means that Trump’s divisiveness is getting worse, not better. He makes racist comments, appeals to racist sentiments and inflames racist passions. The rationalization that he is not, deep down in his heart, really a racist is meaningless. Trump’s continued offenses mean that a large portion of his political base is energized by racist tropes and the language of white grievance. And it means — whatever their intent — that those who play down, or excuse, or try to walk past these offenses are enablers.

Some political choices are not just stupid or crude. They represent the return of our country’s cruelest, most dangerous passion. Such racism indicts Trump. Treating racism as a typical or minor matter indicts us.” — Michael Gerson

Rebecca Solnit: The Loneliness of Donald Trump

Some have noted that “It’s almost satire. Everything our president says is foolish nonsense and it constitutes malicious ignorance.” Unhinged. Unpredictable. Ridiculous.

This is our commander in chief. I want to be an informed citizen. The more I know, though, the more this stuff rubs off on me. Please, let us make a better choice next time. We can do it. If we work together on this, we can do it.

An Update

I’m in a phase where I feel like I don’t know anything. It’s difficult to write a blog entry of any substance right now. I’m doing a lot of reading. It feeds my unknowing more than reading usually does. It feeds this feeling that this world is almost unknowable. Knowledge can be overwhelming. And a bit immobilizing.

Something will come of all of this. I still write from time to time. I offer this draft of a poem which is somewhat on the subject…

This Is One Poem

I once heard of a tree named Discipline
I wanted to find it and revel in
its constant beauty
obeying duty
but alas, it left me wanderin’

Every ant distracts
Birds’ activity threatens
Intent and focus

A laziness of thought
becomes me
I wear it like

a cloak
an x-ray barrier
a pile of stones
that COPD elephant

incapacitating
movement
toward
forward
no word
for it

Antidisciplinstablishmentarianism
comes close

The Tigers beat the odds

Las Vegas went out on a limb against the Tigers, the limb broke clean off, and now Las Vegas is walking around with its tail between its legs.

I would think that any non-Astro baseball fan would love that game last night.

Verlander pitches a complete game, only allows two hits, never pitches from the stretch (because there were no baserunners all game)…and still loses. This victory may have been our peak performance of the season; instead of being in the World Series, the Tigers beat a World Series contender. It was akin to last year’s Lions’ victory over the (eventual) NFL champion New England Patriots. Unexpected victories are often the most sweet. The Astros may end up winning it all, but last night, the Tigers put together the perfect equation of smart pitching, tremendous defensive plays, and just enough clutch hitting to win a memorable game.