Saturday, November 4, 2017

Applauding Buffoonery

I know we're all supposed to be outraged at the Russians for planting hundreds of posts/ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums in order to influence the elections.  Actually, the posts were equal opportunity propaganda targeting all sides of the political spectrum.  They were designed to create chaos in our country and they were highly successful.

But Russia isn't the culprit here.  The American people are.  Russian computer whizzes counted on the collective ignorance of the American body politic and the partisan willingness to believe anything that seems to validate strongly held beliefs.  And we Americans did not disappoint.

I saw some of the ads yesterday after Facebook released them.  One memorable one had an earnest young man dressed in battle gear squaring off against Hillary Clinton who was wearing a red cape, carrying a pitchfork, and sporting horns.  Vote Against Satan, the ad said.  Others were equally ridiculous.  Evidently, people bought the propaganda.  Evidently, voters were convinced by that ad and others that Clinton was the devil, that she purposely had people killed in Benghazi, that she had Vince Foster murdered, that she colluded with Russia to give them uranium in order to bolster their nuclear program, that she was somehow responsible for everything wrong in America.

And there were other ads, just as obscenely deceitful, directed against Trump.  And there were obviously lots of us who believed those.  The result:  Our political divide got even more divisive.  We trusted one another even less than we used to.

I don't know if any of those spots came across my Facebook feed, but I can guarantee you that there were plenty of delusional posts proclaiming all sorts of nefarious things that compelled me and I presume every other individual with a brain wave to roll our eyes, shake our heads, and move on to something sane.

That's my take away from all this Russia shit and it is worth saying again.  Russia, like any good and amoral marketer, took advantage of the gullibility of the American people.  It is the American people who are at fault here.

It is possible to get at the truth.  There are ways to find out if the site spewing the propaganda is legitimate or not.  It is possible to cross reference things to determine if something is true or just another piece of bullshit.  If you are not on Politifact or some other fact checking site as often as you are on The Drudge Report, The Daily Beast, or (shudder) Breitbart, you are not getting your information responsibly.

I admit that if I saw a post suggesting that Donald Trump liked to kill babies during his free hours away from his Twitter feed, I would tend to believe it.  But then I would check the site, wait to see if the same news item appeared on a legitimate news site, read some pundit's explanation, read some opposing pundit's explanation, and finally form my own position on the issue.  I would not immediately rush off to the Y to breathlessly explain about Trump's penchant for killing infants.  I would not share the offending item on my Facebook wall.  In other words, I would act like an adult.

I hope I'm wrong, but I think I am an exception.  I just think we would all be better off if we would come to grips with the idea that our certainties might be wrong, might need some opposing input.  If I just buzz through social media looking for those screeds that reinforce what I already believe, I am being lazy and irresponsible and, dare I say it, not acting like a citizen is supposed to act.

Like most of my friends, I have been devastated about the state of my country since last November, but the devastation isn't because I think Trump is an incompetent, mean-spirited buffoon (although I certainly do believe that), but because fully one-third of the people in this country are willing to believe and applaud his buffoonery.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Edifice Complex, Green Mountain Style

Kathie and I are being inducted into the Green Mountain High School Hall of Fame next month.  The principal sent an email informing us.  When I first learned of this, I was momentarily taken aback. I immediately figured the nominating committee had to be composed of lots of our former students and probably not that many former administrators or colleagues.  I could understand former ad types and colleagues nominating Kathie, but those last years at good old GMHS I had a rocky relationship with the powers that be.  And I have to say that walking out of that building twelve years ago was an even more wonderful feeling than walking into it 35 years earlier.  In fact, I promised myself that I would never set foot in that building again and so far I've kept that promise.

The thing that is interesting me is my reaction to this honor.  I had heard a few years ago that Green Mountain was considering a hall of fame and they were asking for suggestions for inductees.  It never occurred to me they would be nominating teachers, so I thought it was a nifty idea and I started thinking of kids' names.  I came up with a ton of them.  But if I had thought teachers would be nominated, I would have rolled my eyes at the whole idea.  If I had thought Kathie and I would be among the inductees (Dale Moore, Dennis Shepherd, and Bruce Rolfing are the other honorees), I still would have rolled my eyes, but only for a second or two.  Then I would have happily acquiesced.

In my humble opinion, it is silly to choose individuals to be honored in something as artificial as a hall of fame.  It is kind of like being a restaurant reviewer writing an article ranking the best hamburgers in town.  The critic might choose the smash burger at Elways.  Of course, other critics would just as confidently choose the one at Park Burger.  They would both be correct.

The same thing with all this hall of fame business.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I think Kathie and I deserve this honor.  I would like to think that most of our students and colleagues would agree.  But there are so many others that similarly deserve to be the first inductees.

Dawn Troup would be the first name out of my mouth.  Next to Kathie, Dawn taught me more about teaching than anyone.

Ken Weaver is another.  He and I spent years together acting as union reps.  We played tennis in the summer.  We drank together every Friday afternoon.  He was the guy at faculty picnic everyone gathered around.

Cindy Fite.  How could there be a hall of fame that doesn't include her.  She had her finger in every aspect of Green Mountain and her students loved and respected her.

Gerry Oehm should be there right next to Denny and lets not forget Orval Seaman.  These guys made the math department in their image.

Bud Simmons ran the best theater program in the county.  I can't imagine anyone living through Bud's drama mill without looking back on every moment with fondness and laughter.

Don't worry.  I won't bother you with a list of worthy students.  If I did that I would be writing the rest of the day.

I will say again that I have my doubts about this hall of fame business.  Is there going to be a plaque somewhere affixed to a wall at school?  Will it be in a special case?  Will people walk by it in reverence?  Will former students, parents, and colleagues make pilgrimages to school to see the plaque in the flesh?

In the best of all possible worlds, there would be nothing approaching that.  I think our country has always suffered from an edifice complex.  We build monuments to things that end up being more important than the things themselves.  I can say that I love good old GMHS and also say that I never want to set foot inside the building again and it won't be a contradiction.  Let's face it.  The building sucks.  The first incarnation had a woefully inadequate HVAC system which was exacerbated by a paucity of windows.  The second incarnation--the remodel--was built on the airport terminal model with departments and kids spread out all over the place.  Science in concourse C.  Language Arts, concourse A, etc.

Green Mountain will always be about people.  It was the Williams family.  The Andersons.  The Monsons.  It was all those teachers I "nominated" above.  It was a steady stream of baby teachers who  wanted nothing more than to help kids.  It was Ted Fulte and Steve Meininger in the music department getting things out of those kids that outstripped all expectations.

So I am going to go to this thing.  I will not roll my eyes.  I will accept the honor in the name of all those kids and families and teachers that I have loved over the years.  It will be a good night.

I only have two things on my mind.  First, I hope the food at the banquet is not too terrible.  Second, I'm wondering when they are going to ask me to come in to get measured for my bust.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Observing Cretins

I think, at age 69, I am beginning to show signs of growing up.

Case in point.  I changed where I dress at the Y each morning.  I used to be back in the southeast corner with all the alpha males and FoxNews Republicans.  After the day I told the loudest of that crew to "just shut the fuck up," I moved to the opposite (northwest) corner because I couldn't stay where I was, listen to that garbage, and still be a civil person.  Kathie and I have also been coming later after all the alpha males pack up and go out looking for Muslims to terrorize.  Yesterday, however, that same loud guy wandered over to my part of the locker room and started a conservative rant.  "North Korea is good; America is bad.  That's what the Left thinks," he proclaimed.  I kept my mouth shut, pretended to be engrossed in packing up my bag, and ran through all the obvious comments I could summon to lay waste this moron, but I didn't say anything.  I zipped up my backpack and got the hell out of there before I started using language not appropriate for the Young Men's Christian Association.

Another case in point.  Earlier that same day I was in the weight room when a FoxNews Republican (It's hard to spot them at the Y just by looking.  They don't wear ill-fitting baseball caps there.), the same guy who turns pale every time he sees me because he thinks I'm a drag queen (He overheard me one day telling a friend that if I ever decided to go in drag, I had a nickname--Hyacinth), walked up to the old guy whose wardrobe alternates between his Knights of Columbus shirt and his tee from the NRA proclaiming "The Second Amendment.  America's First Homeland Security," and started freaking out about lazy welfare recipients.  "I worked hard to support my wife and children, by God.  Why should my tax dollars have to support people who are too lazy to work," or words to that effect. Again, I didn't say anything.  Don't worry, I had a wealth of good arguments guaranteed to lay waste this cretin's argument, but what would be the point?

But I've heard this argument from plenty of people who I number among my friends.  All those people, even the cretin, well, maybe the cretin, would be glad to offer help to someone who is "deserving,"  someone who is destitute through no fault of their own, but they get furious at the idea of helping someone who is "undeserving."

My response to that is always, "What difference does it make?"  Look at two individuals in need of help.  One of them is a mother who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion.  Her husband, let's say, was killed while defending his country in one of those far off places where we think we need defending.  She has a little girl in need of day care.  Her illness makes full time work nearly impossible.  Breaks your heart, doesn't it?  Now look at another case.  A single mother with four children, all of whom have different fathers.  The mother has no clue who fathered who.  The mother is a crack addict.  Worse yet, she is black.  What money she makes comes from her part time job as a prostitute.  If she voted, if she even knew how to vote, she would undoubtedly vote Democratic.

Why would that YMCA cretin and some of my well-intentioned friends gladly offer tax dollar help to the first lady and get furious at offering help to the second?  It is the same tax burden, right?  The cretin will feel the same effect, or lack thereof, no matter who gets the money.  The cretin, by the way, is a big time church goer.  I wonder what Jesus would feel about those two miserable ladies?

The only reason I can put my finger on that explains the different reactions to those two welfare scenarios, is that the cretin wants to punish the prostitute for being lazy and immoral, the cretin wants to act as some kind of judge who rewards the good and punishes the wicked.  I suppose seeing the prostitute and her children dead outside of the homeless shelter at Lawrence and Park Avenue would be some sort of evidence that goodness has triumphed, that America was becoming great again.

If Jesus saw that he wouldn't be able to stop puking.  But I'm not gonna tell the cretin that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

School Daze

I miss teaching every fall when school supply displays dominate every store and I see kids walking past my house loaded down with backpacks, sporting new clothes, on their way to Deer Creek Middle School or the elementary just on the other side of the park.  I loved the first day of kids, the getting-to-know-you activities, the inevitable explanations of rules, the feel of new groups of kids in my classroom.  I also miss school on the last day before Christmas vacation and the last day before the freedom of summer.  All the other times?  You can have them.

There are some things I don't miss about the beginning of the school year, especially now that I am a slave to social media.  I hate the inevitable articles and special reports every fall about our failing school system.  I hate the yearly push to take funding away from underperforming schools and divert it to charter schools that haven't even had time  to underperform.  Now that I'm retired and my only vested interest in schools is my grandchildren, I have found myself gathered outside of schools with parents who gossip about teachers, who threaten to go to the principal for the slightest transgression, who generally act like they have some idea about what it is like to be in a classroom.

Case in point:  My youngest grandchild, Jaydee, is starting preschool this year with Miss Karen.  As soon as Franny and Ken discovered that Miss Karen was the teacher, a friend and neighbor started telling them horror stories.  Miss Karen doesn't let kids talk!  Miss Karen isn't as warm and friendly as Miss Barb.  The thing is that after Jaydee's first day, they discovered that Miss Karen is in fact a sweetheart.  She lets kids talk.  She loves her job.  Jaydee can't wait to go back to school tomorrow.  I hate the gossip, the rumors, the stupidity.

But that isn't the main object of my loathing.  The thing I really hate is the rash of aphoristic sayings about the difficulties and sacrifices of teaching that litter Facebook every fall.  They always have the same messages:

"If you can read this, thank a teacher."
"I'm a teacher and I spend an inordinate amount of time grading papers at home."
"I stopped being a teacher because I had to lesson plan and call parents on my own time."
"I know a teacher who spends money out of his own pocket on extra pencils and pens, extra notebooks, boxes of Kleenex, drawers full of snacks for his students.  Isn't that noble?"
"I quit teaching, even though I loved it, because I could make more money as a waiter, or a waitress, or an Uber driver."

Whenever I see something like that on my feed, I quickly ignore it.  If I responded to it, all those teacher lovers out there would hate me.

Those messages, well-intentioned as they might be, demean my profession.  They make teachers out to be chronic whiners.  If we expect to be treated like professionals, we should try acting professional.  A lot of my former students are lawyers and doctors (probably due to the excellent instruction they received in high school) and as yet none of them have posted lamentations about all the travails facing them in their day to day work.

Someone, probably someone who has posted all those "lets love our teachers" screeds, will be quick to jump in now and remind me that lawyers and doctors make more money than teachers.  They have more security,  more respect from the community, etc.  Well, yeah.  What's your point?  Did you really become a teacher for the remuneration and the love pouring out from the community?  Is it possible that you are that stupid?

I went into teaching with my eyes wide open.  My professors all let me know that my pay would doom me to the middle class IF I was clever enough to marry someone who was also a teacher.  They let me know that I would be working 60 hour weeks, sometimes more.  They let me know that I would have to make troubling phone calls, deal with dull witted bosses and all the rest.  I didn't let that dissuade me.  Neither did any of my friends who ended up in the profession.  When I got my first job at Marycrest High School, my starting salary was $6,300 per year.  I chose to get paid on the ten month plan, $630 a month.  I worked driving trucks during the summer to augment my income.  That was 1972 and I thought it was all the money in the world.

Two years later, Jeffco hired me for a whopping $8,500.  My ship had come in.  I was lucky about buying school supplies.  I taught high school, so I didn't have to buy extra pencils and pens (although I did), extra notebooks (Big Chiefs--although I did), boxes of Kleenex (although boxes were stationed all around the room).  It wasn't a big deal.  Buying extra school supplies, putting up posters purchased out of my own pocket, bringing in spare furniture taking up space in my basement, that is what I did. That is what all teachers did.  I suppose we could have refused.  Could have marched on the ad building.  Could have written nasty letters to the editor.  But nobody did that.  We were all too busy working with kids to worry about how unfair every thing was.  For the most part, we loved every minute of it.

Looking back on my career through the prism of outrage that seems to be in vogue nowadays, I still can't see the problem.  I signed up to be a teacher.  The rewards continue to come in the form of Facebook friends who are former students, lifelong friends who are former teachers.  The sacrifices, the hassles, the parent complaints, the patronizing attitude of politicians and the media, none of that compares to the good stuff.

Please stop whining.  To my way of thinking, I had the best job in the world.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Old People at the Opera

Cosi fan tutti

My first live opera was Benjamin Britton's "Midsummer Night's Dream" at Central City.  I had somehow managed to get a "job" at "Cervi's Rocky Mountain Journal" writing drama reviews when I was fresh out of college.  It wasn't a job in the sense that I got paid or anything like that.  I wrote the reviews for free theater tickets and the pleasure of seeing my name in print twice a week.  I wasn't worried about the money, because I didn't really deserve to get paid.  I didn't know what I was doing, but the editor, a funny and mercurial drunkard, liked my voice.  So, I ended up going to all the local dinner theaters where the performances frequently matched my unenlightened 750 word reactions.  It was a kick to walk into, say, Country Dinner Playhouse and see one of my pieces stapled to the wall.

I was a little over my head, but when I went up to Central City to review the opera, I was completely at sea.  I was a good student, however, and I prepared by reading everything I could get my hands on about Britton's opera.  I did have one advantage; I knew Shakespeare's play quite well, so I could at least talk about the ideas underlying the production.

The production changed my life, just like four years earlier a Regis production of "A Man for all Seasons" changed my life, made me look at theater in an entirely new way.  I started crying half way through the first act.  The music was ethereal which seemed appropriate.  The unamplified voices were transcendent.  The director managed to ring every piece of business he could out of the libretto. At intermission I got to go out into the courtyard and drink champagne and pretend that I knew what I was talking about.  After it was over, I didn't so much drive as float home where I immediately got out my IBM Selectric (yes, it was a long time ago) and dashed off my review.  It was published two days later and the day after that, the paper got a lot of letters praising the production and by extension, my review.  A red letter day.

Since then, I've seen a number of operas at Central City.  Their production of "La Boheme" had me weeping from the first aria to the last.  Of course, all productions of "La Boheme" do that to me.  The only other production of note up there was "The Three Penny Opera."  It is of note, because it was barely mediocre and compelled me to get my opera fixes elsewhere, like Santa Fe.

Kathie and I saw "Cosi fan tutti" up there last night.  I'm not going to write a review here, because it was the last performance, but if I did I would urge everyone to postpone all future activities and make it up to The Teller House at their earliest opportunity.  Mozart's music was light, and tinkly (don't you love technical opera talk?) and perfect for a summer afternoon.  All the voices were excellent, especially Despina's (the chambermaid).  She stole the show.  Of course, Despina's part was written to steal the show.

Quickly, Mozart's light opera is nothing more than an extended episode of "Three's Company" with characters telling white lies to one another, parading around in disguise, all trying to catch the others in some transgression.  At the end, everyone's identity is restored, they all get married and presumably live happily ever after.  Yes, just like most sit-coms, the plot is stupid, but you don't go to the opera for plot.  You go to the opera to marvel at the music, the voices, the ambience, and the thrilling idea that you are a member of a species that could create something that enormous.

And there was champagne in the courtyard.  Kathie and I didn't avail ourselves of that because we were too busy standing in line for the bathroom.  My bladder isn't what it once was.

The main thing I want to talk about though, is the whole idea of age.  I don't like being a month away from 69.  I don't like the way my body looks and acts.  I don't like always being the oldest person in a room, or feeling like the oldest person in the room.  For that reason, the opera is the perfect place for someone nearing 70 to hang out.  We were decidedly not the oldest people in the theater.  With only a couple of exceptions (the youngish woman sitting in front of me looking at her iPhone during the entire production comes to mind), the audience was filled with gray haired, stoop-shouldered, old people and the aisles were littered with walkers and those cute little electric chairs that old people ride through the aisles of King Soopers.  It took almost as long for those old codgers to filter out of the theater at the end of the production as it took for the orchestra to tune up.

The scarcity of young people is worrying.  Whenever I go out at night, the chances are good that I will run into a former student or two.  I see them at baseball games, concerts, and the like.  The other night at Michelle Obama's speech to the Colorado Women's Foundation, there were at least a dozen former students in attendance.  I didn't see any of them at Central City last night.  I worry about what is going to happen to grand opera when my generation dies.  It will be replaced by things even worse than "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars."  Horrible.  Most horrible.

We are leaving for Santa Fe tomorrow morning.  We have great tickets to "Lucia Lammermoor" and "Die Fledermaus."  The opera at Santa Fe is beyond beautiful with the sun going down behind the stage just as the opening chords are hit.  Old people dressed to the nines get there early and tailgate in the parking lot with crystal glasses and plates of foie gras.  The next morning the opera goers congregate at some great place like The Compound or Cafe Pasqual and talk about their evenings at the opera.  I can't wait.  But I'm not going to see very many young people there.

I don't think this all means the end of Western Civilization (Trump has already initiated that), but it does mean the end of one little slice of beauty.  We have precious few slices to waste.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

FLOTUS at WFCO

Michelle Obama looked slim and rested at the Pepsi Center last night where over 9000 men and women, mostly women, gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Women's Foundation of Colorado.

Here is some insider info.  Mrs. Obama had just finished spending some time at a "boot camp" in California where she hiked ten miles a day, ate a purely vegan diet, and ended up losing an aggregate of 12 inches off various body parts.  Franny filled us in on that little scoop over cocktails and truffled french fries at The Four Seasons before we walked over to the Pepsi Center to meet Mario and his wife (Laura?  Lori?).  Even though I am not completely sure of her name, Mario's partner is a middle school English teacher in Dougco.  We hit it off immediately.

It was interesting being one of the relatively few males at the gathering.  I was able to experience first hand the frustration women must feel when  there aren't enough restrooms to go around.  Since the event was ostensibly about empowering women, the organizers (Franny led the Obama team) designated most of the men's rooms in the place for women.  The long lines that persisted for ladies was probably attributable to their unwillingness to use the plethora of urinals in the erstwhile men's rooms.  As far as I could determine, there was only one men's room left on the third tier.  When I finally located the place, I was pleased to discover that, since men are able to use a variety of porcelain receptacles for their needs, there were no lines.  See, even in that female dominated situation, men still seem to have the upper hand.  I did keep looking over my shoulder just in case a group of hard core feminists tried to invade that solitary bastion of male dominance.

I couldn't help but think what some of my FoxNews Republican friends would have to say about the whole night, especially some of Obama's comments.  The whole evening was an ode to the accomplishments of women.  The entertainers were all women.  Except for a local DJ and Mayor Hancock, all the speakers were women.  The hallways circling the floor were filled with women taking selfies, women ordering beers, women laughing and slapping each other on backs.  They acted as if they didn't need menfolk at all.  My FoxNews friends would undoubtedly notch it all off to reverse sexism, just like Black Lives Matter was about reverse racism.

When the first lady spoke, she even had the temerity to suggest that women were tougher than men.  That men were unevolved.  That if a man (like her husband) ever found himself bleeding from wherever, he would sit down and not move until the bleeding stopped.  I thought she overstated her case there.  I remember I smashed my middle finger a few weeks ago while installing Ellie Leinaweaver's deck.  Did I stop?  No way.  I wrapped a bandage (several) around the gushing wound and soldiered on.  So there!  I bleed.  I'm a bleeder.

Obama mentioned the numbers of women who gave up on their power, presumably by voting for Trump, or not voting at all.  I know a number of women who voted for Boss Tweet.  Those same women probably didn't show up at the Pepsi Center because they resent being tied to "Women's Issues."  They voted for Trump because they thought he would shake up the system, reinvigorate businesses, and reassert American power.  They voted as Americans, not women.  Of course, that position seems less impressive when you take into consideration that Trump has done none of those things.

However, I understand their point about women's issues, but for different reasons.  Birth control, free pre-school and kindergarten, sexual abuse, sexual predators, universal pre- and post-natal care, all those things and more are typically designated "women's issues" and I take exception to that.  Those are issues that should concern everyone.

Ted Cruz, for example, is going to vote against Republican Obamacare replacements that mandate maternity care because "why should a man have to pay for some woman's maternity bill?"  Does that position rankle only women,  or does it fly in the face of what all decent human beings ought to believe?

When Donald Trump brags about his ability to grab pussy, is that a woman's issue, or is it everyone's?

I don't think we should have women's issues, or men's issues, or children's issues, or senior' issues.  These are American issues.  Michelle Obama certainly understands that.  So does her husband.  I hope all of us gathered at the Pepsi Center last night will come to understand that as well.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Big Mac Lessons

There is a moment in "My Dinner With Andre" when Andre Gregory invites Wallace Shawn to think about that moment of forgetting that is so integral to the act of sex.  After the sex, however, "the world comes rushing back in quite quickly."  You're there in bed next to your lover and you're on your back looking up at the ceiling, wondering if it is time to repaint.

Spending two weeks at Jenny Lake Lodge is kind of like that.  Like being up on Carol King's roof, "all my cares just drift off into space."  The pleasures of Jenny are so huge, the sensory bombardment so immediate that nothing else matters.  When I get up in the morning, shower, and walk over to the lodge to get Katherine her morning tea, the only thing I care about is the blazing fire place and the morning sun turning the cathedral group pink.  There is a stack of New York Times by the door when I walk in, but I never look at them.  If I did, I might see a headline that might bring me crushingly back to the world and I just can't allow that to happen.  Instead, I sit by the fire and read a book.

Katherine comes over right before they start serving breakfast and she fills me in on the latest Facebook scuttlebutt and any news from the kids.  I listen and I care about all that, but all I really  think about is that day's impending hike or kayak excursion.

The waitstaff filters in during those morning hours and always offer warm greetings.  Jim, the head waiter and twenty year member of the Jenny crew always stops by to say good morning and check up on what we're gonna do on any particular day.  On the last day of our stay, Jim makes his special bloody mary recipe for us so we can have our traditional final day ritual.  Most of the staff make it a point to give us hugs and assure us they will see us the next year.  More often than not, they do.  Thanks to Rachel and Connor and Jim and Maria and Jane and Luke and so many more, we are made to feel like the most beloved folks in the world for fourteen days and nights.  Many of my friends and family wonder why we keep going back there (We could be taking cruises all over the place for what Jenny costs us.).  We have to go back each year.  It keeps us sane.

Today it has been one week since we left Jenny and arrived home and just like Andre suggested in that first paragraph, the world has rushed in.  There was the traffic jam on I-25 on our way back into town.  Then there was the (always) dreaded moment when I look toward our neighborhood for the first time in two weeks convinced that I will spot a pillar of smoke over the spot where our house used to stand.  I'm pleased to report that the place looked just like it looked when we left.

After we pull into the driveway, I always go into the house to check for any disasters that I'm sure must have happened while we were away.  Pleased that the air conditioner still seems to be working, I run into the kitchen to see if the water comes out of the tap.  Check.  Then I do the same in our bathroom upstairs.  Check.  Next, I run down to the laundry room to make sure that the pipes haven't burst and flooded our newly carpeted lower level with water.  Check.

After a half an hour or so of unpacking (basically throwing everything in the dirty clothes), I go outside to see how decimated our yard has been by the string of 100 degree days in Denver while we were cooling off in the Tetons.  I am alway relieved to note that Rene, our next door neighbor, has done a better job watering and mowing than we would have done had we stayed home.

At the end of this last trip, Kathie, who by virtue of her ability to actually hear on the telephone, started making calls to all the various contractors who have to come and fix our kitchen walls and replace our hard wood floors and replace the skylight window that leaked and ruined everything a few months ago.

While she was doing that, I ran out to Virgilios for pizza and salad.  This, our first dinner back, would represent a rather startling departure from the five course meals we eat every night at Jenny.  You know how folks on vacation always say they are looking forward to getting some ordinary food after all the rich stuff they've been eating on vacation?  They look forward to a beef combination at some Mexican joint, or some pizza at their local Italian joint.  Well, people who say that are crazy.  The pizza was a poor substitute for the meals at Jenny.

We went to bed that night after watching some television for the first time in a fortnight.  That was kind of nice, but the next morning we woke up and the bed was a mess and there were towels hanging from the shower and even though we waited patiently most of the morning, Maria never showed up to change our sheets and get us a new set of towels.  Oh the drudgery!

Of course, part of the world rushing back in is us seeing our kids and grandkids again.  They all came over for a family dinner on Saturday.  Katherine made her wonderful fried chicken and I have to admit it tasted better than anything I had at Jenny (Well maybe).  And we all gathered around the table and had a great time laughing, catching up, marveling at our grandchildren.  But then my oldest child said something that brought me quickly out of my reverie.

Before I explain, I have to say that one of the greatest joys about being a parent of our three children is that when I tell people what my kids do, most folks are kind of amazed and invariably ask what we did to raise such impressive children.  I always shrug my shoulders and suggest that they were pretty much planted on me.  Of course, I'm really thinking about all those Andy Griffith moments when Kathie and I had long heart felt talks with our kids that of course set them all on the right path.  The point is that I feel rather smug about my parenting.  It is the only thing in my life, other than my choice of wife and partner, that I feel smug about.

Chris talked about such a moment at our family dinner.  Somehow we were talking about how his kids, Brooklyn in particular, are irritatingly picky eaters, even at McDonalds.  That reminded Chris of the day when I told him that he could order two Big Macs instead of his usual one.  It was obviously a red letter day for him because the memory had to be at least forty years old and I think his eyes were getting a little misty.

"You can't be serious," I said right before I leaned over to Sammi, Chris' oldest girl, and whispered in her ear, "You're dad is full of it."  She laughed and nodded her agreement.

"No, Dad.  It really happened and I remember Nate was really mad that he couldn't have two."

"Wait a minute.  You're telling me that we had a father-son moment where I said you could have two Big Macs?  It was kind of a rite of passage?  Tell me, did I shake your hand and start crying a little?"

The whole thing was kind of depressing.  There must have been some other big moments, some other pieces of sage advice I gave while Chris was growing up.  I'm sure I remember some.

"Always do your best."

"Care more about others than you care about yourself."

"Avoid the clap."

All of those were important lessons, but no, he remembered the one about Big Macs!

The world has rushed back; I'm officially home.