Publishing Plays (well, trying to…)

So I let some time pass without any updates. Bad me. I have been working—hard—on editing, revising and formatting some of my plays for publication. I found a nice little free program (Celtx) to use, along with buying the screenwritersʹ standard FinalDraft. Pleasantly, Celtx—onced I figured out that I had to have Character Names in ALL CAPS—is able to import my previous versions, after a little reformatting, thus simplifying the whole process. (Final Draft canʹt do it, being designed for original writing in that format pretty much only).

My first effort was the much-produced Everybody (née Everyman) which even had productions I didn’t direct. Unfortunately, my selected publisher had very specific guidelines for typescripts which Celtx didnʹt match, so I had to go back to the original script and format it in the word-processing program (the now-defunct but still functioning AppleWorks). Fortunately, Styles made the process tedious and time-consuming but far easier than it would have otherwise been. Everybody, now a two-act play, by the way, has been off for over a week now.

So next I moved on to other spring plays, working on one I really hadnʹt remembered as very good—High Noon at Black Rock, my attempt at a parody-Western. Rereading, I was more pleased with it than I could have imagined. (I hope that is no slam on the cast of the original production.) Anyway, itʹs just about done, awaiting one more full reading and editing. Then itʹs printing and mailing of that (I hope before this week is out).

Meanwhile, I had also started the editing/reformatting-for-import process for The Golden Goose, Brick Red and the Seven Dwarfettes and Hansel and Gretel: Lost in the Urban Jungle. Of all the ones so far, Hansel and Gretel reached completion, and I sent it electronically today, just before I remembered to try to write for this blog. That means I currently have three items at publishers for consideration.

The hardest part about revising my plays has become multifold. First, I seldom stuck in stage directions originally, so now I have to add those. Second, publishers like to have good character lists, which takes time, and a play synopsis and production history. I havenʹt done much creative writing in the past two weeks (unless you count stage directions), but I have summarized and characterized plentifully.

I have two more play publishers on my list, both of whom accept electronic submissions, so I hope to finish two more scripts to send one to each in the next three to five days. Janetʹs heading off to her sisterʹs for their annual Fall Festivus, so my time, starting tomorrow, will be all my own, nearly… The other distraction for the writer-to-be is that leading role as Scrooge in the upcoming Peace Pipe Players/Ohnward Fine Arts Center co-production of A Christmas Carol (mentioned in the previous post). So I also have to attend rehearsals, daily, and attempt to learn my lines. Speaking of which, itʹs past time for me to leave…

©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Good, the Bad and Me

Yesterday, “Underground” came back from its first market, rejected, of course. Today it ships off to the next magazine on the list. Unfortunately, the list of actual mystery/suspense magazines is pretty short this century. Weʹll see. I found a couple more print possibilities this morning, and the list of electronic publishers is longer than I had anticipated.

Yesterday, the first of the series of plays written during my teaching career went off (thanks to Janet). I chose “Everybody” for the initial attempt. It had a bit of an adventure getting gone. One of the publisherʹs requirements was that the play be bound, which I hadnʹt anticipated as a problem since one thing I had rescued from my classroom was the giant stapler Janet had given me. Unfortunately, when it came to mailing day (supposedly last Thursday), the big stapler was nowhere to be found. And I do mean nowhere. I spent six hours searching the house. Most of the untouched boxes from moving out of school were finally emptied and their contents put kind of/sort of away. However, the stapler itself never appeared. We looked again, together, over the weekend without luck, so on Monday, Janet took the envelope and the play to work to use a big stapler there and then mail it for me.

Today or tomorrow a second play goes off to a different publisher, and then a third to a third—all as quickly as I can re-edit and reformat the scripts.

On the good side, I am going to get my chance to play a major role for the first time in thirty-five years. Auditions were held over the weekend for a combination Peace Pipe Players/Ohnward Fine Arts Center production of A Christmas Carol, coming up on November 20, 21 and 22. Iʹm going to be Scrooge, pleasantly enough. Readthrough is Thursday, so there go my evenings again for two months. I just hope I still have the mentality to memorize lines!

©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Morning Update

the run (if you can call it that)

After a five-day lay-off, I actually ran my six miles this morning. Last Thursday something went wrong in my right knee out by the Jackson County whatever-theyʹre-calling-the-hospital-these-days, and I had to limp the long way home. it wasnʹt pleasant today, but with a pair of new shoes, I made it.

I really do prefer running before full light, especially in warmer weather, but it has gotten noticeably harder for me to haul my rear out of bed before 5:00 a.m. over the past several years. So we get Janet off to work, and with breakfast in my belly, I head out to dodge the students on their way to school as I jog around the town. I actually came up with a varied routing that kept me out of their way on Vermont Street, and with the proper timing, I get by both the elementary and high schools when no one is desperately trying to get there. Since I prefer jogging on asphalt (i.e. in the street) to uncertain sidewalks, I do notice how much more traffic there is at 8:20 than at 5:15. But, so far, it works.

I also need to make use of my Y membership, instead of just carrying the card with me when I run so I have a convenient place to stop in case of bathroom-need. I just find the new facility not particularly welcoming nor as usable as the old hospital wellness facility.

Anyway, I got it in today, which is good. With a walk out to Wal-Mart for a Lisinopril refill, that should keep me fit for today.

Now it should be time for actual work. Perhaps I can get some story almost to a finish and complete editing of “Everybody” to send off to a play publisher.

©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Underground

The full story is currently off for consideration at a mystery magazine. This is what I posted on Facebook the day I finished typing it. I got the idea one sleepless night in London in 2002. I am hoping it can become a series, especially since I have at least five other plots and locations already in mind!

My best friend Kevin did instantly observe that I had pulled a Hitchcock in this first chapter…

London_Underground_in_motion

Underground

by John Randolph Burrow

© 2009

I

I saw him pick a pocket on Piccadilly Circus and promptly disappear down the Tube, right by Eros. Nobody noticed, except me. I followed him down.

He wasn’t easy to spot, dressed blandly—khaki-colored polo shirt, drab slacks and loafers. But I kept his brown hair in sight and sauntered along: he was in no hurry once he hit the steps heading underground. His queued for the ticket gate and shoved his pass through, plucking it back from the feeder with utter nonchalance, passed through and headed away, amidst a small crowd, toward the Bakerloo line escalator.

I had followed him. At first, I’d been stunned, struck with a distant kind of awe, perhaps, to have actually seen. Not some slow-motion television recreation, but the actual stunt itself.

The distraction had provided itself. So many people in such varied hastes to get to so many other places. Tourists, tour groups, kids, businessmen and women, cheap punks and shady ladies. One’s eyes couldn’t help pulling one’s soul into distraction and inattention. That’s where I had been myself.

And that’s all it had taken. He seemed to have sensed that sudden moment of disidentity, stepped close, jacket over his arm, looked away, turned away, got bumped back into his pigeon by another passerby (confederate? I now wondered. It didn’t seem so), and made the pluck. Smooth, instantaneous, summoning the poor soul back just as his wallet went away. The schmuck never knew.

Then he was gone. Six or eight steps into the crowd, moving at just the right speed, able to cut around the newsstand, putting its black bulk between the victim and his criminal, then around and down into the Underground.

I had expected to see him pass the stash off to a partner. But he hadn’t needed a pair of stooges to perform a distraction, either.

Even so, I stood, almost as stalled as the pigeon, expecting that pass; but he never did. And he was gone.

My feet were wiser than my brain. I was moving after him without even realizing it. The victim seemed innocently unaware of his loss, and my man was almost as safe as he could be. A perfect crime.

Except for me.

As it was, I was fifteen or twenty seconds behind him onto the stairs, and he was already gone as I started down. Seized with sudden concern, I hurried, taking steps two at a time and brushing by people who froze, offended, not sure I wasn’t a pickpocket or something myself.

London_Underground_Entrance

But it paid off. I hit the big, crowded yellow-tiled oval just in time see him pass through the turnstiles. My TravelCard was in my hand instantly, as if I’d been planning such an action all along, and shoving past, nearly through, a half a dozen commuters, I darted through a nearer turnstile (almost trying a red-X but stepping to my right just in time to cut off a pair of young lovers wrapped around each other and not finding their cards easily enough) as he unhurriedly sauntered to the escalator.

I told myself I just wanted to see where he went, what he did next. I knew I looked rushed, so I played the part—harried tourist. I couldn’t let him notice me among the multitudes. So I took the escalator, too, hanging to the left as he stood calmly to the right, poised nervelessly on his moving step, and nearly ran down my side right past him and arrived far ahead of him at the bottom.

A good ploy, but now I had a problem. I couldn’t predict which way he would go from here.

But I forged on away and around to the next escalator down. He didn’t really have much choice yet, I believed.

My hurried character couldn’t permit to slow down, so I raced on down that next descent, too, not looking back because that would be all wrong, but getting farther ahead. At the bottom came the crisis. The tunnels fed two ways. Would he be off north or south? Would he actually take a train at all? Was he even still behind me?

I couldn’t guess. I stopped in front of the big pair of Tube maps for the lines, behind two other guys, probably tourists like myself, and pretended to figure out what way I wanted to go.

The two guys were arguing. In Italian. They seemed hideously loud to me (and oblivious of my—or anyone else’s—presence). Were there people behind us? Was he still there? Was he turning right or left behind me right now?

A dramatic agony of suspense swept through me. Truthfully, I just didn’t know. He could have turned right around and gone back up. On the first escalator.

What was I doing here? What did I imagine I was accomplishing? I was a silly tourist, not a cop, not a professional detective or something.

What should I do?

So I turned around as though I’d made up my mind—the exact opposite was the truth—and among the people turning rapidly in both directions, I was suddenly looking him directly in the eye. Face to face. Brown eyes under heavy brows. Noticeably almond-shaped eyes. Medium skin tone. Smooth flesh. Beaky nose.

He looked straight back at me.

Did he know?

Was he onto me as I was to him?

I couldn’t panic. I held steady, looked back at him a few seconds (forever, it seemed), and then I pulled out my tube map from my shirt pocket and opened it to examine.

“Piccadilly?” I murmured hopefully to myself.

He simply moved off to my left, and nodding to myself, as though the map had reassured me, I followed.

“Yes, the connection is at Embankment,” I scolded myself artificially, wondering:

Did he have a weapon? A knife. He could use a knife in his “business.” Nice and quick. Quiet. —So stay very public, right?

london_underground

We proceeded through the tunnels to the Tube stop itself, interestingly just as a train arrived. Had he planned it this way? Could someone be that good? I didn’t know. He stepped straight through the crowd into the car directly ahead, just as the doors opened.

I did too, barely wedging myself into the doorway as the entrance slid closed and the vehicle lurched into motion, headed downtown, into the City.

Craning my neck a bit, I could see his shirt among the mass aboard. I thought it was his shirt. His arm. I couldn’t see the head that went with the shirt. I knew he’d stepped aboard. I’d even given him a couple of seconds, possibly ten, to step back out again. I’d seen that kind of stunt on TV. Funny how the movies shape our lives, skewing perceptions, creating anticipations.

Then I’d gotten in. He had to be aboard.

But he’d wisely dressed so anonymously. Not like the dork there, blocking my view. A bright blue shirt, some kind of goofy fishing vest with apparently every one of its dozen, more, pockets stuffed with things. Tourist. I could seek the DK guide peeking out of his side pocket, and he held a Harrods-green plastic bag behind him. I wondered where his wallet was. And a black cap that looked too large on his head. Glasses. He turned and looked toward me.

“Lovely day for a Guinness” in bright new embroidery. Toucan.

He saw me staring at him. His hand went to his breast. The wallet? His left arm touched tightly, protectively, against that side. I shifted my attention, hoping to relieve the dork’s anxiety. And there he was, my pickpocket.

Yes. It was him. Now that the fishing tourist had moved a bit, I could see him as we all rocked and swayed, lurching a bit against each other on tight turns.

He wasn’t that far form me. Much closer to my end of the car than the front. When we came to his stop, he’d have to pass by me. Wouldn’t he?

Where was he going? Where do petty crooks/pickpockets go for an evening? Home? The East End?

My TravelCard was only good through Zone 3.

All I could do was… hope.

Suddenly I felt crazy. What was I doing chasing some criminal across London? What did I think I was doing?

What if he caught on to me?

And, whoosh, shudder, sudden lights: we reached Charing Cross, abruptly stopping, and I fell back against someone behind me. The doors opened, and people all around moved.

People wanted out, past me. He seemed content to stay. It didn’t appear he’d paid any attention to me. But I didn’t want to draw any notice now; rather than block the way, I stepped out on the platform—empty at this time of day of new arrivals—and let the half dozen exiters mill past. Then I stepped back on board.

He stood right next to me.

I almost reached for my wallet, to know that it was safe.

But I controlled myself, attempting to glance idly at him, so close. He was gazing directly into my face. Brown eyes looked wet, soft, almost doglike—but his gaze did not falter. He didn’t even blink. Then he smiled briefly and stepped away, turning toward the windows on the other side. The train lurched into motion and I grabbed for the pole, still trapped mostly in the entry/exit area.

Now what? Next stop was… My eyes went up to the Tube map along the upper side, above the windows, among the ads, searching for the brown line, as the train staggered through some rough stuff in the darkness of the hole we transversed below London, shaking us all around and blinking the lights as contacts briefly shifted off the track. I focused as I struggled to maintain some kind of balance—Piccadilly, Charing Cross, Embankment.

Would he get off in the City? I braced to exit if he moved at this next stop.

With a few more awkward passages, we suddenly shot into light, slowing, and the announcement said something I couldnʹt quite hear or understand. We stopped abruptly. But this was Embankment.

The doors whizzed open and people moved around us. Once again, I quickly stepped out to let the movement occur, off and on, while my eyes kept searching those near me and up the car at the next door as well. Difficult to see, but as the transfer of people in and out eased, I didnʹt think heʹd gotten off, so once more I stepped back within, almost in my same spot but able to ease out of the exit area into the aisle more or less, and grabbed onto the pole for support as the doors whished shut and the train leapt out of the station, pulling us all toward the rear for a moment.

I could see him up the way, about halfway down the car now, comfortably at ease, his coat still over the one arm, his other arm upraised to cling to the overhead rail.

Rumbling straight for and then under the river. Right? Next stop, what?

And we grumbled and lurched through blackness, another rough trip this section, with people bumping into each other some. I couldn’t help but glance to see where his hands were. In his pockets. Not working trapped in here (black outside but cozily overlit within). Or else just too quick for me to see.

He looked my way, caught me staring. I looked away fast. Foolish. Made myself look guilty, like I was watching him or something. (Of course, I was.)

Were we under the river by now? If so, no difference whatsoever. Blackness outside. Rattling and bouncing in the bright interior for us. People pretending to read the ads while probably puzzling about each other.

I looked again at the Tube map—next stop, brown line past the river: Waterloo.

We shuddered and lurched and twisted through darkness a considerable while this time. One thing I was never sure of on the Underground was how fast we traveled on any particular stretch. This trip seemed fast or at least tortuous. Then again, turn and shake, thrust against each other and lights—and now we’d reached Waterloo. The line ended at the next stop, Elephant and Castle, so he’d have to exit there, at least. And now?

The doors whooshed open, and people pressed out past me—him too.

So I waited then followed the crowd. We all surged and tumbled toward the stairs, him too, I assumed. But I had lost sight of him in the crowd. Climbing, I tried to get forward—but that behavior was impolite, and I made no progress. Scanning backs and heads, I couldn’t make any of them seem like him, although my imagination tried.

Then debouching into the great hall of Waterloo Station, our crowd was swallowed up in the hundreds (thousands?) already there. And he was gone. I stopped rudely and turned completely around, searching, but I had lost him.

I didn’t give up immediately. I tried hanging about, staring, wandering to one end and then the other—looking out exits, into shops. But he’d eluded me as efficiently as if he knew I were pursuing him.

After twenty minutes, I went back down and returned the way I’d come.

II

Two days later I went to Kew for the Gardens, leaving quite early and running my TravelPass nearly to its limit for that stop, Kew lying on the extreme edge of Zone 3. I took the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington, changing then for the District out to Kew.

The only difficulty occurred upon arrival—figuring out that I had to go up and over the track to the Gardens, and I arrived twenty minutes before they opened. However, waiting around outside Victoria Gate—as couples and singles much older than I gathered and waited, walking around a bit like myself on the large lobbylike sidewalk area outside the entrance—just seemed idle and pleasant to me that sunny, clear-blue morning. And I felt welcomely released from the Underground.

After the wait, and an overly hurried and jostling queue at opening time, it was a wonderful day, restful, lovely, quiet (except for the frequent jets, circling, I assumed, for Heathrow). Probably the loveliest day of my trip—glassclear skies of limitless depths, cloudless. Even after what seemed like a minor crowd at the gate, few other visitors. Those I met were getting old or had gotten there, diffidently and politely friendly in that old-fashioned WWII British way. No one intruded on others.

I came up to Queen Charlotte’s little cottage, away to the southeast edge, not long after noon, having dawdled through the Rhododendron Dell and stared across the Thames. The long grass around the cottage shifting in the breeze, bedazzled with sunshine, and I stood, mesmerized, for an awfully long time. I know two old ladies came chatting up by the cottage itself, from the other direction, saw me, and leisurely, unostentatiously, made themselves scarce. Later, elsewhere, I did the same for a pair of old geezers debating the floral quality beyond the Japanese tower.

The entire experience drew me back fifteen years. Perfectly. Only that other time I wasn’t alone.

Flowers and plants and huge, ageless trees filled my senses and erased thoughts for scores of minutes in a stroke.

I felt pulled out of time—blissfully sliding out of contemporary experience. At some moments, as at the Queen’s cottage—gazing at that sunstruck, softly moving meadow hedged by shadow, forest—I could almost feel Marcia Kay beside me. Suspended between the present and the beauty of that moment she might almost net her fingers among mine.

But, breathing then, no, it could not be. That was the past, a decade gone. And so was she for these endless, long months, nearly four years. But I shoved that issue away and went on through loveliness, nostalgic, with destiny already behind me, alone.

Finally, well into the afternoon, I decided that I’d had enough bucolic bliss and gradually found my way out and back toward the Tube stop. I remembered noticing a rustic pub on the way in, and by the afternoon light it looked even more pleasant and inviting, so I walked in and ordered a pint of Guinness, which I took outside to sit on the patio in front and enjoy. I actually enjoyed two before getting up to go.

©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Big Retirement Speech (again)

This is the speech I ended up devising for the 2009 Andrew Alumni Banquet. Pretty pathetic, I admit, but I tried. (And, boy, did I mistake who the audience would be. You’d think after 32 years that a good portion of the crowd would be former students—as I clearly intended from the wording here. But that was definitely NOT true. I believe only two, maybe three people were former students of mine. Oh well.) Here’s the speech:


“Ch-Ch-Changes”

Thanks for having me speak here tonight. Mrs. Baugh helped me by letting me know your theme was “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” However, I know she intended to use that theme for her presentation, so I decided to use another song—“Ch-ch-changes.”

Unfortunately, there’s just one problem. I don’t think I’m ready to do this… I haven’t completed my assignment…

These are my excuses for not having a better speech:

  1. I am lazy, to start with, and summer is just too near (hey, if the seniors can use it, so can I)
  2. There were better things to do (like loafing around on Facebook).
  3. I had to mow the lawn.
  4. In four days I had senior critical essays, sophomore book reports (two sets), junior critical essays, and English III book reports—not to mention other homework assignments.
  5. I am lazy.
  6. Meg needed help with her music and the projection screen (and those things I could actually do).
  7. The dog ate my speech. It was a huge speech-eating black dog. And I mean HUGE. Gigantic for a dog. It might have been a werewolf. The werewolf ate my speech.
  8. Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. So Janet and I had to celebrate.
  9. Our printer doesn’t work. Really. I just couldn’t get it to print my speech.
  10. I didn’t know you really expected me to give a speech. Come on. I’m retiring. My career is just about over. Why should I have to work this hard this close to the end of the game?
  11. I just had too many good ideas, and I couldn’t get them all into one speech.

Some of those are actually true, and some are just inspired by things I’ve actually been told over the years. Admittedly a lot of them are things I hear lately (the old memory just isn’t as good as it once was—so don’t expect me to know your names; besides I figured I shouldn’t use old-fashioned excuses that some of you may have tried yourselves—just too embarrassing for this stage in your lives).

Isn’t it amazing how things change and don’t change at the same time over the years? I composed the rough outline of this speech on a computer. A decade ago, although I’d’ve had the computer (the very same computer in my case), Facebook wasn’t even someone’s dream yet, and I was still a little skittish about buying anything online (I mean, sending my credit card number from computer to computer potentially all over the world; isn’t that just insane?). Twenty years ago, 1989, I had recently acquired my first Macintosh—the little old cream-colored cube, and I was fascinated I could make play programs myself. Go another five years earlier and I was using a good old Apple II with the two giant floppy disk drives and the green print on a black screen to type things for a dot-matrix printer. Jump back to my first years in Andrew, and I was scheming to get my hands on one of those IBM Selectric typewriters whenever possible to speed up typing tests. Heck, in my first years here, we were using one of those purple-ink duplicating machines to make copies. I don’t think the school got a copier until after Janet and I were married.

The school used to send us out on snowing winter mornings—at about 4:00 A.M.—to skate our way across the state to speech contests, and no one even shuddered for a millisecond that we didn’t have a cell phone or GPS directions. [I’m pausing here for the polite laughter.] Of course, those same buses (well, not the very same, …usually) still pull out on the same Saturdays in January, February and March and face the same weather at a lot of the same schools we always have traveled to. Just nowadays, every kid is texting continuously the entire time and uploading sixteen thousand photos of themselves and friends with one arm always out of frame. In the old days I worried about every kid remembering his or her script. Now you still worry about that and about their stupid cell going off mid-performance (and worse, the kid answering it).

“Ch-ch-changes.“

The school itself hasn’t changed much. Yes, there’s carpet down in nearly every room—even the library this summer. I kind of miss Lucke’s dynamic colored swooshes on the corridor walls. Gone now. But we have all these new artworks in the gym. The rooms have gotten new super-bright lights and fresh paint jobs—even mine; the old two-toned orange that terrified me on the day of my job interview is now a tasteful pale lavender. I traded in that old fox-scented heat blower for clanking radiators a good while back. The exterior windows changed a long time ago… —so I guess for our current students that’s something not really changed at all.

What changes the most are the faces. Sure, we still have plenty of faculty members that anyone in the last forty years can recall. but many are new, and quite a few are going to be brand-new this fall. I’ve seen five sets of administrators in my time. Fortunately the school secretaries maintain a constancy and great work ethic to keep everything running smoothly.

But the real faces, the ones that count, are the students. I sat down with what yearbooks I have this afternoon to try and come up with some things to say here tonight, and what tugged at me were all those people. Sure, I looked at the play pictures and speech photos, but I was drawn to the senior group photo each year and got thoughtful about all these people, with whom I intersected for only a few short years in their youth, and what they’ve done and become in the years or decades since.

A few I’ve kept up with, a few more than it could have been lately thanks to technology. Facebook has made me acutely aware of how scattered about the globe so many of our alumni have gone. Don’t believe me? Right now one alumna is in Turkey, on vacation from the Mayo Clinic, while another takes time from his military job to travel to Pisa while he’s stationed in Italy. Others are living in the Caribbean, working at Oxford, living all over the United States, and sitting right here in this gym, too.

I even sought assistance from that community on Facebook to help with this speech. I admit it. I had nothing but some random thoughts until today, so I put out my plea on Facebook. Bev Steil assured me I’d do fine (several times; thanks Bev), and Tim Ruff popped up out of silence—working and rearing his kids—to suggest that I should present a humorous poem. After all, it worked for him… at Prom, at graduation, at a friend’s thirtieth birthday. Another friend reminded me that she and her buddies in group improv used to randomly insert a phrase that made me laugh, just to hear me laugh. —Thanks, Carrie D, but I don’t know if “retirement guy” will amuse anyone else but us. One of our current sophomores, since I was whining about all the homework distracting me from writing this speech, suggested I should simply count the sophomore book reports for extra credit. Gracie Bagosy Hessong wondered if I wasn’t still assigning too much homework… My first-semester SES figured it would be best to extrapolate on what a fantastic student secretary and human being she is, and she is, Em Jo (but I don’t want Reid to feel bad if he doesn’t get mentioned).

Finally, when I pleaded with all my “clever, insightful, wise and funny” friends to basically go ahead and write this speech for me (after all most of my Facebook people are current and former students or fellow faculty, with only a smattering of my acquaintances outside of school mixed in), Vicki Haxmeier Gould responded with a laugh: “Oh, so we’re all clever, insightful, wise and funny. Seems like not too long ago, when we would be exhausted from a long day of school and staying late at night, rehearsing our little hearts out at play practice, in fear that we might screw up a line and be sent home after being called schmucks of course…” Yes, she was kidding, but, you know, I am rightly rebuked. I told one newspaper interviewer I was retiring because I felt I’d gotten too grumpy in recent years. I guess I’d forgotten what a grump I’ve always been. Far grumpier than you delightful people (and your kids) have deserved.

So now a new guy—who’s coming to school for an unpaid preliminary bit of preparation on Thursday, by the way—, Mr. Austin D. Hall can try a less grumpy approach. I think he’s going to be great, so please give him all the help and support possible. I personally believe requisitioning your support for him and the future of Andrew Community School might be the most important reason for me to actually be here giving this pitiful excuse for a real speech.

…—And why are we here, Mrs. Baugh and I? You could have invited us any year, you know. Why wait until now? …Because we’re retiring. Give us a few short weeks and we’ll be out of here. Is that what you thought? Might as well get one last performance out of each of them?

So you invited us here to speak because we’re retiring. I wish I had some deep pearls of wisdom to impart on my way out, but that is what I do (did?) in the classroom. All those great writers we read together certainly said deeper stuff better than I can. I just hope maybe something from all of our studies got through… into you…

However, in honor of this occasion, I’ll try a thought or two tonight. (Are you ready for this? I’m not sure that I am.)

I just think that we’re all here, coincidentally together, for such a short time. It seems to me, and it’s what I’ve tried in my grumpy way to practice in my career, that we should be kind to each other. After all, there’s no one else to share this brief journey of life with us. The generations we’re born into are the only people we’ll ever possibly know. Doesn’t it seem a waste to bear grudges or fight with the only other humans you’re ever going to meet? (And, by the way, I stole this notion from Charles Dickens, who observed we’re all just fellow passengers to the grave.) Rather than being annoyed at someone’s antics or issues, let’s simply remember that there isn’t going to be anyone other than the rest of humanity alive right now with whom to share our time.

So my time as a teacher is wrapping up. What should I say about that? …I bet I’ll miss things I can’t even imagine now. I know I’ll miss coming into the office in the morning and being greeted by Mary Ann and Linda. I’ll miss Jim Till doing his job. I’ll miss giving Mrs. Baugh her newspaper in the morning. I’ll miss sitting down at my computer and whipping out a quiz or slapping out an Andrew Comment script in ten minutes before the hosts arrive to record. I may even miss the long hours of play rehearsals and speech practice. I’m going to miss all the exciting and unexpected changes ahead of us in the days and years to come. I’m going to miss everything about every day…

I’d say I’m going to miss the kids (because that’s true), but that loss happens every year with every group of seniors that graduates into the mists of the future. I miss them, but then the next year starts, and I meet some new sophomores and there’s a new fall play, and suddenly the whole year gets racing nonstop hectically to another commencement ceremony. The graduates are gone to change and become the adults you intend to be. I’m such a small part of their youths. —Your youths, whenever recent or long ago. Let’s hope we all made the very best of that time we spent together in this good old school.

Thanks for the opportunity to be here tonight.

©2009 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Hello world!

This begins an experiment hosted by WordPress.com. Noticing the value and/or interest of friendsʹ blogs, I decided to follow their example and attempt to keep a blog. At present, I am just getting used to using the interface, but this is the beginning.

credits: thanks to Ruth and Blythe for the role modeling.

I was wondering if I could find an alternative to posting Notes on Facebook, and this seemed the opportunity—especially since I hear that blogs are so definitively passé. I might as well maintain an unbroken chain of late-coming activities.