Zealous readers of this blog might recall that I am often at the heart of miraculous occurrences -- especially miracles involving balls -- and last Thursday, the gods were at it again, placing me in what may be the most miraculous expression of simultaneity in the history of human consciousness; this all happened in the span of one shortened half day period, the last period the day . . . my friend Stacey was once again searching for a red milk crate full of various balls, and this milk crate of various balls -- which had been missing for seven months -- was usually located under the table in the English office, but it had gone missing way back in September and now Stacy needed the balls for a fun class activity, but after much searching she finally determined that they were long gone, and needed replacing, and so she went down to the gym to beg some balls from the PE department, and while she was down there, on a lark, she inquired about her red milk crate of balls and the PE teachers said that they had "definitely not" seen a red crate of balls, but they did have some random balls that they found -- but they were "definitely not" in a red milk crate, but Stacy looked in the cabinet anyway, just in case, and there it was -- the red milk crate full of balls that was "definitely not" in the cabinet . . . some overly zealous janitor must have taken the ball crate from the English office and put it where it "belonged" down in the gym . . . and while the finding of this crate might be deemed a minor miracle in some circles, I would not pronounce it so, BUT, if you juxtapose this event with what was going on simultaneously in my classroom -- and I mean to the minute -- then this event becomes an integral in a yin-yang shaped whirling vortex of serendipitous beauty . . . and so, while Stacy was seeking the balls in the gym, my friend Laura was searching for copies of Outliers, and so she came down to my classroom because she knew that I taught the book the year before, and I was able to locate a few copies in my cabinet, but I told her that there was definitely a box of them somewhere -- as I had lay witness to the box in the English office with my own eyes-- but I "definitely didn't have it" and Laura said she had asked around upstairs but no one knew where the box was, and so I cursed the name of the amnesiac hoarder who had taken this box of books, and refused to give them to her, and I promised Laura I would keep my eye out for them (as I wanted them for later in the semester) and that I would smote the person who had them and then she went back upstairs with the copies we found, and then . . . moments after she left, Stacey walked into my room, jubilant and triumphant and told me the news -- she found the red milk crate full of various balls!-- and there was much rejoicing, and then she took a quick look around the mess that is my room, noting that there was a box of dusty soccer uniforms on one cabinet, and she wondered what was in the other box on top of the other cabinet and I said "softballs," and she said, "awesome, can I have a few for the milk crate?" and I said, "sure, they're not even mine, they're Kevin's" and so she got on a chair and took a look inside this cardboard box perched high atop my filing cabinet (Stacey is tall) and then she said, "you idiot, this is the box of Outliers," and she was correct, it was the box of Outliers that Laura had been looking for, the box of books I denied was in my room, and while I was denying that the books were in my room, at the exact same time, a PE teacher was denying that the red milk crate of balls was in the cabinet-- and we were both miraculously wrong in our certainty, and so Stacey and I rejoiced even more over this nested sequence of ball-related miracles, a sequence abetted by the limits of human perception and memory, and by my utter stupidity (and not only that, but my good metal water bottle was inside the box of Outliers as well, so now the universe is resolved and at complete stasis and rest . . . aside from what's happening in the Ukraine).
The shiftier of my two children, Ian, recently lost a tooth, and he claimed that the tooth came out while he was brushing his teeth and fell down the drain in the bathroom sink . . . but this sounded fishy, and upon further inspection, my wife discovered that he was in possession of the tooth and -- God knows why -- he didn't want to give it up to the tooth fairy . . . but he obviously still wanted the night deposit that the fairy provides so he tried to pull one over on her (he has known for a long time that the tooth-fairy is mom) and after he got caught he cried and cried because "the tooth fairy doesn't give money to liars."
Megan Abbott's high school cheerleading novel Dare Me is tense, scary, and threatening; not only did I enjoy the thrilling noir plot, but I also gained valuable insight into stunting, teen anomie, and the art of betrayal (and though I know the cattiness of the rather despicable characters is ratcheted up to an unrealistic degree, it does make me happy that I have two boys and will probably never have to contend with a teenage daughter).
Nothing upsets me more at school then when a student disrespects one of the hall aides, especially if the victim of the disrespect is an elderly lady, and so when I saw a student refuse to show the aide at the front door an ID (IDs are required to enter the building) and then walked away from her, I told her I would take care of it and I turned to follow the kid -- and as I turned, I caught him giving the aide the classic two-handed-double f-- you bird, and so I confronted the kid -- and he refused to show me his ID, and attempted to walk away -- and so I blocked his path and things got into that weird gray area where you've lost your temper with a student but you know you're probably not legally allowed to tackle him (but maybe you are?) and so you wonder how you're going to detain him (or you can simply just follow him, I once followed a kid who refused to show me his ID from the cafeteria into the gym locker room, where he attempted to hide in the corner) but luckily, before I completely blew my stack, another teacher showed up and she knew the kid's name -- and so instead of following him, I simply went to the office and wrote him up-- and all this happened before first period, I hadn't even taken my jacket off, so then I had some time to cool-off before my first class -- which is second period, as I have hall duty first period, but I still had to tell this wild tale to my Creative Writing class, but when I was halfway through, one girl said, "You better stop this story now" and I said, "Why?" and she said, "because that's her boyfriend" and pointed to a very sweet girl, who I turned to and said, "You're going out with a guy who gives the middle finger to old ladies?' and she smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah, but I already talked to him about it, and told him he shouldn't do that."
My wonderful wife arranged a surprise one-night getaway for my birthday last weekend (though I discovered the surprise a bit early, because we share an e-mail) and we met some old friends Friday in Greenwich Village, and my friends were nice enough to meet me in a "Dave friendly bar" -- and so Catherine and I made our way from the Hilton near Penn Station to the High Line, and then walked a bit up there . . . which is phenomenal and highly recommended, and then we hit the Chelsea Galleries-- which are directly below the High Line and which are also patently absurd -- and we saw some really bad modern art and some really scary modern art by David Altmejd, who essentially builds sculptures of horror movies, which is cool, but also begets many questions, such as: who buys this stuff? where do they put it?-- and though we found no answers, we did find some delicious pork and pineapple tacos in the Chelsea Market, and then we found Kettle of Fish, the "Dave friendly bar," which means: cheap, wood panelling, dart boards, pinball, dive-like and similar to the Park Pub . . . except this place was also full of beautiful young people, including some super-models hogging one of the dart boards, which was fun to be near at first but then got more and more annoying, but once Whitney and I got on the other board, no one was able to knock us off, a great birthday present, we won in ridiculous and dramatic fashion over opponents that were probably more skilled than us and did this for a good four hours straight, from 8 -12, until things dissolved . . . and then after more drinking and pizza, we made it back to the hotel at 2 AM, got up the next morning and took the train home for soccer practice, then got ready for my oldest son's birthday -- he was born a day before me -- and went to Medieval Times, and though I could barely keep my eyes open, it was quite fun, sort of like professional wrestling (and our knight won!) combined with bizarre dinner theater (and Whitney reminded me of the best line from The Cable Guy, which is spot on: "there were no utensils IN medieval times, hence there are no utensils AT Medieval Times") and then we hosted a sleepover for a bunch of ten year olds and then on Sunday morning, I had to wake-up my younger son and his buddy from the sleepover at 6 AM so we could get dressed to play three indoor 8 v 8 soccer games, and then after coaching that insanity, we rushed to the basketball play-off game, as I am the assistant coach on that team, and we won and advanced in the play-offs, and then I finally got to take a birthday nap.
Things got slightly heated at the recreational basketball semi-finals Monday night -- the league rule is that every player must play two quarters, and most teams have ten players, which makes things easy to keep track of, but the particular team we were playing had been shorting their weaker players minutes all season and our head coach brought this up during the game and so the opposing coach had to play everyone equally, and though this team beat us earlier in the season, we beat them handily this time -- and I was impressed with my coaching partner's strategic use of the rules to make the game fair, but the opposing coach countered with a brilliant counter-strategy: he attempted to have his worst player foul the point guard on our team constantly in the final stretch, so that this weak player would foul out, and he could replace him with a stronger player . . . which, I must admit, is a brilliant plan-- something I would never have dreamed up (I can barely remember to call time-outs).
Although Zman claims that adding washer fluid to the reservoir "does not constitute fixing your car," I beg to differ -- before I put that fluid into the reservoir, my car no longer shot washer fluid onto the windshield, but after I did it, it did . . . and so I fixed it (actually, I'm willing to admit my logic makes no sense, because nothing was broken . . . this was more like changing a light bulb or putting a new roll of toilet paper on the spindle, but -- more importantly-- I now know that you've got a good three weeks between when the "low washer fluid light" pops up on the dashboard and when you actually run out washer fluid . . . so if you see that thing, it's not like you're low on oil or something important, and you don't have to rush out to get washer fluid).
This sentence is more practical than most of the drivel on this blog, as I need to present this example to my students in a few weeks, when we finally wrap up Hamlet . . . so if you don't care about Shakespeare, hippos, feigned madness, and impractical subterfuge, then I give you permission to stop reading this, but for you brave souls, you might learn something fascinating if you forge ahead; once we finish Hamlet, I am going to make the students connect a theme or character or line or allusion from the play to something modern -- a book or movie scene or song or painting that directly or indirectly reflects ideas from the play, and I just stumbled on a wonderful example: after Hamlet learns from his father's ghost that his uncle is the murderer, he decides that the best course of action is to put on an "antic disposition"-- he feigns madness-- as he believes this will allow him unusual freedoms around the castle and also that Claudius won't suspect him of any subterfuge because he's essentially opted out of the political reality inside the castle . . . and while I've always considered this an absolutely ridiculous plan (but artistically very entertaining, of course) I stumbled upon a historical example of feigned madness that turned out rather well for the perpetrator, an adventurer named Fritz Duquesne, a South African Boer soldier, who lived a wild life as a spy, saboteur, storyteller, big game hunter, and heavy-handed purveyor of bullshit and espionage . . . he was also the arch-nemesis of Frederick Russell Burnham -- although they both agreed on one thing, that America should import hippopotami to simultaneously solve the problem of the turn of the century meat shortage and the invasive water hyacinth (and I learned about all this in Jon Mooallem's fantastic article about the attempt to introduce hippo ranching to the Louisiana bayous) but, of course, we never imported hippos, and years later, Duquesne became rather unhinged, and was involved in several terroristic bombings, counter-espionage, and fraud; while he was held in city jail in New York in 1919, he lost his mind, and then the use of the lower half of his body, but the authorities were skeptical, so they stuck pins into his legs and under his toe nails, and Duquesne "never once wriggled or winced" so they transported him to Bellevue, where he sat in a wheelchair in front of a barred window and watched the birds . . . but he wasn't actually paralyzed and somehow withstood the pin torture without revealing his ruse, and day after day he sawed at the bars with two hacksaw blades he had acquired, and finally made a daring and nimble escape, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, hopping a ferry to Hoboken, and then disappearing into New Jersey . . . and he wasn't caught until 1941, when he was discovered to be at the center of the infamous Duquesne Spy Ring, and he went to jail in Kansas and served 13 years of his 18 year sentence . . . so like Hamlet, a wild and artistically satisfying life that could only end in tragedy.
One of the things I love about reading is that it offers total unadulterated freedom of choice -- though I may have several books out from the library, and several more sitting by my bedside, waiting to be read, if I hear about something that piques my interest, I drop everything and commit wanton literary infidelity; I read whatever I want, when I want, without worrying about any recourse or repercussions; in other words, I'll break off a relationship with a book at the drop of a hat; this is the opposite of marriage (or my marriage anyway, as I'm pretty sure I'm forbidden to date other women -- not that I'm going to ask -- and I certainly can't engage in this sort of adulterous freedom with TV shows, because if my wife and I are watching a show, and I watch one without her, it's tantamount to cheating on her . . . and that's why when I heard that Jon Mooallem wrote a seventy one page article about the wild and ingenious plan at the turn of the century to solve America's meat shortage by farming hippos in the Louisiana bayous, I truncated all my previous literary relationships-- including getting to page seven in a new translation of Brothers Karamazov-- and immediately bought the article as a Kindle single on Amazon-- hippo farming!-- and it's well worth reading; there's megafauna, scouts, spies, terrorism, politics, subterfuge, feigned lunacy and plenty of hippo jerky (if you want a quick summary, then check out this Wired article on the article).
When the little light comes on that indicates that your car is low on windshield washer fluid, not only do you have to purchase more windshield washer fluid, but you also have to open the hood of the car and pour the stuff into the washer fluid reservoir (which I haven't done yet -- my big bottle of blue washer fluid has been riding shotgun in my van for two weeks now).
I may not rescue old ladies from burning buildings or dig wells for the indigent, but I did bag and toss at least ten piles of poop at the dog park last week (I think people get lazy about picking up the poop when there is snow on the ground, because it's hard to walk through the deep stuff, but I can't stand seeing a brown pile of poop defacing the pure white snow . . . which is mainly yellow and gray now anyway, from exhaust and dog urine).
Thursday morning I woke up sore but satisfied, as the night before -- at our weekly Over-30 basketball pick-up game, I had one of the best shooting nights of my rather ugly basketball career . . . both my outside shot and my hook shot were on, which is a rare occurrence, and pretty much everything I chucked up went in; my team won five games in a row and got to stay on the court for ninety minutes straight, and so by the end of the night I was not only happy with my athletic prowess but also totally exhausted, and it was with these wonderful memories in my mind, that I went walking the dog on Thursday morning, and when I neared the dog park, I had to climb over a large pile of snow, and though I could clearly see that there was ice on the pavement below, I figured I could keep my balance when I touched down on it -- because I was a great athlete-- but I did not keep my balance-- not even close-- in fact, both my legs shot into the air (similar to this incident, except more spastic) and I landed squarely on my upper back, and then my head snapped back and hit the ice, and I saw stars and lost my wind, and made some weird yelling noises because I couldn't breathe and because it hurt so fucking much, and Sirius licked my face a couple times to make sure I was alive, and I'm hoping that this incident doesn't screw up my outside shot, but I have a feeling that it will . . . or at least I can blame this incident if my shot returns to normal next week (and there is a fairly happy ending to this story: though I felt shaky all day Thursday and my back and neck hurt, I made it out to the pub, and stayed rather late, and while this might not have been great for my liver, when I woke up Friday morning, after four hours of sleep, my back felt fine . . . and my students -- who thought I was going to be feeling it far worse the second day -- were impressed by my resilience; in fact, I may have boldly claimed to one class that I was "unbreakable" and asked a student to throw a chair at me . . . but luckily, this student did not comply with my request).
Though I knew it was a bad idea, I tried to pick up and bag my dog's poop with my gloves on, because it was so cold and snowy, and -- of course -- I got poop all over my gloves . . . but, resourceful soul that I am, I used some snow to clean my gloves off . . . the very same snow which drove me to attempt to pick up and bag a pile of dog poop with heavy winter gloves on, an impossible task . . . and now my gloves appear to be clean.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter was attacked by a swamp rabbit (and the administration could neither confirm nor deny if this rabbit was in any way related to the "killer rabbit" in the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
Though I didn't plan it, I ended up simultaneously reading Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life, by Alex Bellos, and Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann . . . and while there is no question that Brazil is crazy about soccer and America is crazy about basketball, the craziness exhibits itself in very different ways: Brazilians are superstitious, zealous, and obsessively festive about their national pastime (soccer fan clubs also participate in wildly gala and choreographed carnival events, where tattooed soccer hooligans organize thousands of costumed participants in synchronized marching and dancing) and creative to a fault with their gameplay, as illustrated by their incorporation of religion into the sport, their use of bizarre nicknames and their attempt at an "autoball" league in the 1970's . . . meanwhile, the story George Dohrmann tells of elite youth basketball players and their sleazy, despicable, but wildly successful coach Joe Keller paints a portrait of greed, consumption, high hopes, wild aspirations, hard work, hype, enormous success, great pressure, and epic failure . . . all in the milieu of middle school . . . the story is by turns compelling and infuriating, but the book is a must read, especially if you coach kids, and once you're finished, you can check Dohrmann's blog to see where the players from the book are now.