Archive for August 2015
Summer is over. Indeed, all 79 of your consecutive days off are gone, and you’re going to meet all your students tomorrow morning. You know it’s hard for most who are reading this to sympathize. You’ve grown used to the protestations after twenty years, to the point where you don’t really even hear them anymore. It is an ungodly amount of time to be free from the strictures of work, and even more unbelievable when you don’t have a wife or kids to consider when it comes to considering what you’re going to do with your time.
So what did you do with your time this summer? Nothing, really. You didn’t take a class or anything. No need to. Your license isn’t up for renewal; nor do you need the graduate hours. You may have mentioned in a previous post that you’re now at the top of the salary scale and don’t need to take summer classes anymore. That didn’t stop you from taking a pretty significant workshop last summer, but that’s not something you’re planning on doing every summer. But not taking any classes? Unheard of. So much so that you have to stop and think for a long time about the last time you didn’t take a summer course. You think it was 2005, though you’re not entirely sure.
But there were trips, right? Like the time you went on the cruise. Or when you went to China. Maybe you took a few weeks here or there, or a long weekend? Nope. Nothing more than a pair of single-day trips out of state, and a few day straggling back from a family event the very first weekend of summer. Aside from those, you never even left the Chicagoland area, except for a trip to Milwaukee for a soccer match. That, too, is unheard of in your life.
Didn’t it get boring, hanging out at home all day every day? No. Had you actually done that, you imagine it would have been pretty damn boring. But you were so completely active that staying at home got to be a sought-after pleasure.
So, what exactly did you do? For starters, you exercised to a degree you’ve never exercised in your life. You had set a goal to get your weight under 200 lbs. and to maintain that. That resulted in exercising 64 times since June 2. You again ran a bunch of 5Ks. Those will keep you structured and organized near week ends so you can do your best.
You had a handful of home projects to complete, such as cleaning out a file cabinet that had documents in it dating back to at least 1990; most of which you hadn’t looked at in years. You shredded enough paper to fill three kitchen garbage bags. There were two closets to clean out, too. You still don’t know how one person can collect so much clutter. And the damn closets only reinforce the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy that you’re sure you’re not the first person to complain about. And just now you’re in the middle of a huge kitchen makeover. Why not save the biggest one for last?
You spent a helluva lot of time sitting on the balcony reading. That’s a frequent lament in the cold months, that you can’t sit on the balcony and read. So you did a lot of that. And writing, of course! You got in the habit of making yourself work on writing on Wednesday afternoons at a nearby restaurant that has a nice outdoor patio. And the beauty of Wednesday afternoons in the summer? Ain’t nobody else there!
So what else? You have a regular summer tutoring gig that helps keep your teaching mind straight and provided you with a quantum of adult structure. But then there was Netflix… MLBTV… and so much USMNT and USWNT soccer that you couldn’t quite believe it.
To most people, this all adds up to “nothing.” You can’t argue that. But it also all added up to one helluva lot of exercise and rest. So much rest, in fact, that by mid August you were over-rested. It can happen. It happens every year when the calendar turns to August. All of a sudden there is some kind of panic that you didn’t cram in enough fun and slacking off, so you stay up until 2AM, sleep until 10AM, and take a two-hour nap in the afternoon.
Who wouldn’t love to have your problems? Anybody who wants them can check back with you in four months and tell you if they feel the same way. If so, you’ll talk.
continued from yesterday…
We retrieved the boomerang and I gave it a try. I mimicked Joel’s form, including the low-slung arm, and watched the boomerang skim through the air and quickly drop to the ground. Maybe I had held it upside down. I looked to Joel. “That sucked.”
Undeterred, he said we’d keep practicing. I tried again with the same results. He tried again, and it looked like I had thrown it. That went on for six or seven more turns. The thing refused to fly in any manner we expected from a boomerang. It looked so easy on film, so why couldn’t we do it?
We tried throwing it over-armed like we would a baseball but only drove it into the ground. Joel thought to twist his wrist counter-clockwise on release and got the boomerang to fly a little further, but that was it. I tried the same and got nothing different except a cracking sensation in my wrist. We tried throwing with a sweeping motion across our bodies, like a frisbee, but any force we mustered wasn’t enough to make it fly more than thirty feet.
After an hour of trying and failing to duplicate Joel’s initial success, we were no closer to achieving boomerang prowess than we had been to effectively throwing tomato stake javelins two years prior. Our spirits were deflated, and the tendons connecting my forearm to my bicep burned. It felt like my right arm was hanging two inches lower than my left, and my wrist still smarted,
“One more heave,” Joel decided. He measured the wind, but this time stood facing it. He intentionally flung the boomerang high, trying to affect its trajectory and return, ever hopeful that he could still find dominion over the cheap piece of wood. It sailed high, but when it reached its peak, a gust of wind grabbed it and pulled it far over our property line into the tall, thick weeds on the land owned by our hippy neighbors.
We looked at each other and shrugged. We walked to the edge of the property, and then tromped into the neighbor’s jungle to where we thought we’d find the boomerang. It wasn’t there. We expanded our search radius, but no dice.
“I’m gonna be pissed if we lose that damn thing,” Joel said. He pointed to where he wanted me to look, and continued to guide our search for twenty minutes until our shoelaces and pants legs were full of burrs and our hands and arms were scratched from pulling apart thickets and brambles.
We never found the boomerang. We returned to my parents’ house dejected. There was a void in our thinking that we could sense but not quantify. We couldn’t grasp the immutability of the physical universe, and couldn’t verbalize our lack of understanding. There was no explaining why we couldn’t accomplish something that looked so easy or how the boomerang completely disappeared. The idea that something could be so absolute didn’t fit into teenage heads stuffed with gray matter and gray areas we were fated to perpetually negotiate. When I told my brother about our misadventure the next day, he laid out the concrete truth that we could grasp: A boomerang that doesn’t come back when you throw it isn’t a boomerang—it’s a stick.
My local public library offered a writing seminar a few weeks back: Memoir With Panache. It was a good opportunity to connect with some local writers and force myself to go in a different direction with my writing and thinking. I had a bit of fun working on my piece and thought I’d share it here. ~ Jeff
by Jeff Burd
One cool, sunny fall day when I was a teen, my friend Joel showed up in our driveway with a boomerang. He explained that he thought it would be fun to see if we could throw it. It wasn’t much of a surprise; we’d spent the last two years on my parents’ five acres in northeast Indiana determining the fun inherent in an arsenal of weapons. It was small-time at first but had escalated quickly—tomato stake javelins to a slingshot to bow and arrow to bb and pellet guns. Somehow my parents allowed small-caliber pistols and rifles, and then shotguns. I also had a secret go with my brother’s .223 bolt-action hunting rifle and was left with a half moon scar over my right brow from the scope. The idea of a boomerang was a huge and unexpected step in the opposite direction, but I couldn’t think of a reason not to give it a few throws.
“Where should we try it?” I asked.
Joel looked around the yard and overhead, where cumulus clouds had been bumping into each other most of the afternoon. “Somewhere where there’s not a lot of wind,” he decided. “Or trees.” It wouldn’t be the front yard because of that last qualifier. The back yard was too wide-open and windswept, and there was no guarantee we could keep the boomerang out of the pond. So it was the side yard.
We walked to the other side of the house and down a short slope. Joel handed me the boomerang. It was light and flexible, and the wing tips had been painted blue over the natural beech of the wood. There was a red stamp on one side: “100% Balsa”.
“This is gonna be like The Road Warrior,” Joel announced, which was enough to get my mind racing. The film, which we slavered over, prominently featured a boomerang in several scenes; albeit a heavy chrome one with razor edges. At one point, it is buried halfway into the brain of one of the bad guys; a few second later, another villain loses most of his fingers on one hand trying to catch it. The differences between the cinematic boomerang and the one we had didn’t register with us. If we could learn how to chuck that thing, we would be cool like most everything in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of The Road Warrior. And there was novelty, too. Most everybody where we lived was shooting guns, but hurling boomerangs? Not at all.
Joel took the boomerang back from me and found a spot in the side yard. He put his back to the wind, planted his feet wider than his shoulders, and declared, “Here goes.”
He reached his arm back and flung the boomerang side-armed like a sub-marining baseball pitcher. It spun in furious clockwise circles three feet parallel to the ground and was thirty yards away within two seconds when for reasons unfathomable to us it cut at a sharp upward angle, practically perpendicular to the ground. I guess we had expected the boomerang to take a long ovular loop and return to us. Instead, we watched it climb and then suddenly cut back in our direction.
“Aw shit!” I yelled, ready to run.
“Wait,” Joel commanded me.
I froze. The boomerang whirred over our heads and landed safely behind us with a soft thud.
Joel exploded. “Holy crap! Did you see that?” He wore a grin so wide it was falling off the sides of his face. I was mystified. Joel was a bulky, vague mass of a kid, but he was a decent wrestler, could run a few miles, shoot a basketball quite well, and suddenly seemed to have instant facility with a boomerang. How was all that possible?
Press Release: Police Report (downloadable) by Jeff Burd
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: (date mm/dd/yyyy)
On (date mm/dd/yyyy) at (time) A.M./P.M., at (location),
(name of random poor or minority citizen) was observed
by Officer(s) _____________ engaging in (identify
criminal act observed or suspected + criminal code number
[minimize / hyperbolize as needed]). When officer(s)
approached the scene, the party appeared to be
(circle all that apply)
- drunk and/or stoned
- concealing and/or reaching for a weapon
- unwilling to soothe the officer(s) ego(s)
- indifferent to the fact that police risk their lives every minute of every day
Officer(s) were unable to de-escalate the situation because
(circle all that apply):
- they feared for their lives
- they had not yet met their ticket quota
- the citizen didn’t appear to know his/her rights
- “de-escalate?” Are you serious? That’s rich.
While it is unfortunate that (repeat name of citizen above)
was killed (circle one)
- at the scene
- in transport to custody
- under legitimate circumstances while in custody
officer(s) will not be (circle one)
The actions taken have been found to be lawful, justified,
necessary, and in compliance with departmental policy by
(circle all that apply)
- other officer(s) at the scene
- the direct supervisor who mentors the officer(s)
- the chief of police who hired the officer(s)
- the mayor who once saw the officer(s) at a local high school football game
- the prosecuting attorney whose (circle all that apply)
was killed by someone of the same (circle all that apply)
- ethnic group
- social class
as (repeat name of citizen above).
The issue is now closed. The __________ Police Department
remains committed to effective policing strategies and building
positive relationships with the community.