The Powers Hotel, 1883

As Jennie started down the stairs into the lobby, she could see Johnson seated upon the round sofa at the center of the room, his hat in his hands, resting upon his walking stick, a white flower in the button hold of his lapel. He stood as soon as he saw her, walking across the room to meet her at the bottom of the steps. Taking her hand her kissed it, and asked, “How is it possible that you are even more beautiful now than the day I met you?”

“Well Mr. Lynch, I see you are as good a liar as you have always been, and I thank you for it,” she said as she smiled.

“My God, but it is good to see you again,” he said, as he looked into her blue eyes, and Jennie could see that he meant it.

“I can’t believe it has been so long,” she told him, “Seeing you now I feel as if you have been with me all the time.”

Indeed, she thought, he had been there within her heart throughout the long months of separation. How else could she explain his presence in her room those nights when the bed was so cold and empty?

“I trust that you have found the accommodations to your liking?” he asked, knowing full well how the cosmopolitan surroundings excited her.

“Of course! What is not to love?” she said, “There cannot be a finer hotel in all the country. Although I should find even a barn agreeable if you were to be in it.”

Extending his arm, he said, “Come, let me show you the rest of the city”

Jennie took his arm and they stepped out into the bright sunlight of the street. Arm in arm they strolled through the crowds on the sidewalk, fully absorbed in their conversation. Lynch seldom took his eyes off of her, and seemed to be hanging upon her every word. Stopping for dinner in a restaurant full with the business crowd, she felt as if she were the center of attention. The eyes of all the men seemed as if they were upon her as they talked and laughed.

Leaning across the table he whispered, “You have no idea how difficult it is to be this close to you, and not be able to hold you in my arms.”

Jennie blushed, and felt a tingle of excitement as she glanced around to see if any of the people sitting near them had heard.

“Let me take you back to the hotel,” He said, “where I can kiss you without worrying about prying eyes.”

“Why Mr. Lynch,” she responded, “you will have to wait until after dinner before you can have your desert.” Feeling the thrill of the power she had over him.

Climbing the stairs to her room, she glanced behind to make sure that they were not being followed. Even now, in a city where they were both strangers, she couldn’t help but feel as if she was being watched, and the feeling only made the moment more exciting.

As soon as they entered the room, Johnson turned her to him, and bending down kissed her full upon the lips. She put her hands around the bulk of his shoulders, and he lifted her feet from the floor with his strong embrace. Kissing passionately, they pulled and tugged at each other’s clothes until nothing more stood between their embrace. Carrying her to the bed, he lay her down upon it.

The breeze from the window stirred the drapes, and light shone in shafts across the floor. Outside the noise of the streets echoed between the buildings, but all Jennie could hear now was the sound of their breathing, as they rolled about on the sheets, Johnson’s strong hands upon the small of her back, as he rolled her on top of him. Her hair fell in a wild tangle about his face, and still they kissed, heedless of the world around them.

The made love, again, and again, stopping only when the sunlight faded, and the darkness crept from the corners of the room. She spent the night sleeping with his arm draped across her shoulders like a blanket, the sheets pulled down, and the evening air cool against her skin.

When morning came, she woke to the feel of his soft kisses upon her neck. They made love again, then lay in each others’ arms, looking up at the ceiling.

“My dear, the thought of leaving is like a knife blade in my heart” she told him, tears welling in her eyes.

“Shh…” he consoled her, “we may be parting for the moment, but it will not be forever.”

“I wish we could be together like this every night,” she told him, “I feel as if I am only alive when we are together, and all the rest is just a dream.”

He said nothing, but turned her face towards him, and kissed her on the lips.

“Jennie, as much as we want it, it cannot be,” he told her, “You must get back to your life, and your home. In the mean time, I will carry you with me in my heart until we see each other again.”

She closed her eyes and wept quietly against his chest.

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Tales from the Corporate Jungle

One of the great things about living in the Twin Cities is the green space. Even in the midst of the city it’s not uncommon to encounter wild life. I’ve seen eagles, egrets, herons, fox, possum, raccoon, wild turkeys, coyote and deer. (I do not include geese and ducks, which are like pigeons in these parts.) There have been reports of bears in the metro, as well as the rare mountain lion sighting. We even once had a wolf on the loose that was captured just a quarter mile from the kids school. (It had been “liberated” from a wildlife farm by an animal activist, and sadly it had to be destroyed. Also sadly, the animal rights activist was not.) The native fauna at 20 Prospect is a source of never ending excitement for the Indomitable Moxie, and Maggie the Wonderdog.

Occasionally, the wildlife will even show up at the lair of my Dark Corporate Overlords. Being on the ground floor of the office building, with floor to ceiling windows, we’ve gotten close up encounters with deer, wild turkeys, and even got to enjoy watching a hawk disembowel a pigeon in front of our conference room window. (It was during review time, so I think management was trying to send us a message) These little episodes of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” taking place outside our windows has provided a welcome diversion to the grey, monotonous slog that is the workday.

The latest excitement at the office is the presence of a sick looking, mangy fox. He’s decided to take up residence in a crawl space beneath the window ledge of my boss’ office. The windows being reflective, he wanders in and out at will, oblivious to our presence, much to the boss lady’s consternation. Repeated calls by her secretary to building operations in the last 2 weeks has yielded no apparent results. The response from operations was to send someone over to our building to look around, and when the fox would run away from them, they left assuming that their work was done.

Finally, matters came to a head yesterday when Mr. Fox crawled up on the window ledge outside the boss lady’s office and took a dump in front of her. Phones started ringing, and higher powers were brought to bear. Professional Wildlife Control specialists were called in, and meetings convened to plan a removal strategy. Options were suggested, such as sending someone into the crawl space to spread human scent, hoping that it would discourage him from living there. However, H.R. informed us that employment law prevented us from forcing employees to crawl into wild animal dens, so that idea had to be scrapped. (And we wonder why companies are moving jobs to China, humpf!)

Several employees volunteered to bring their firearms into work to “take ‘em out for us”, but were politely declined on the suspicion that they may mistake one of their supervisors for Mr. Fox. Also, I had a discomforting feeling that the firearms they referred to might already be in the glove compartment of their car.

Finally, it was decided that the humane thing to do would be to catch the animal in a live trap, and then presumably exterminate him somewhere out of view of the employees. (It’s not review time) So I was lucky enough to have entertainment outside the window of the conference room where I’ve been stuck in a meeting for 2 ½ hours, as the gentlemen with “Wildlife Control Professional” embroidered on his Carhart jacket has been inspecting the evidence (poop), and arranging the trap in the bushes. Unfortunately, the trap did not consist of a cardboard box propped up with a stick, and a carrot inside of it. (And he calls himself a professional.)

Now the wait is on to see if the fox, or an unsuspecting employee, wanders into the trap to retrieve the bait. If this works, I may need to tip this gentleman, and see if I can get him to set one of these up in the lunchroom to catch the person that keeps burning the microwave popcorn.

@#&*!

It was an hour past my alarm by the time I woke up today. @#&*! For some reason my brain develops these flat spots where it suddenly forgets how to do basic things like set the alarm clock. Also remembering my WordPress password, but that’s a different blog post. I rolled out of bed, walked to the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot (never did take the time to learn how to set up the automatic brew cycle), then got into the shower. As soon as I was lathered up, the dogs began barking at the back door. @#&*! Thankfully, Mrs. 20 Prospect got up and let them out. Her sleep ruined, I proceeded to shave, dress, and get ready for work. I walked into the kitchen to find an empty coffee pot, having forgotten to set it up the night before. @#&*!

Decided against checking my email, or eating breakfast so that I would make it to work in time for my meeting with the Boss Lady (Also to allow extra time to go thru the coffee shop Drive Thru) Kissed Mrs. 20 Prospect goodbye, scratched the dogs behind their ears, fed them and left for work, managing to hit the traffic line up for the high school around the block. @#&*! Now I drive the route from home to the coffee shop roughly 1,000 per year. It’s the same route I take to the kids school. For some reason though, my brain failed to register one of the stop signs until I was about 10 feet away from it. I locked up the brakes and skidded thru the intersection. @#&*!

Thankfully, there were no other cars coming. From that point on I drove with the same level of attention as if it were my first time driving. Got to my favorite coffee shop, run by a nice Ethiopian lady who makes the world’s best brew of Ethiopian coffee, only to find that she has hired some perky, 20 something kid to work the morning shift. @#&*! I hate perky 20 something kids at 7:30 in the morning.

A half hour later I was at my desk preparing for my meeting with the boss lady. Curiously, her office door was closed, and the lights were off. It was then that I realized my meeting isn’t until Monday. @#&*!

Clearly the Universe is telling me that the word of the day is @#&*!

Usually this sort of frustration is reserved for the mornings where I have to drop the kids at school, and suffer through the dreaded “Drop Off Line”. For anyone who drives their kids to school, you will understand what this means. We choose to send the children to Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma instead of the public school for two reasons.

1.) We’re Catholic, and felt that it was only right to subject our children to the same sort of torture we endured as children.

2.) The local public school is essentially a work release program for juvenile delinquents.

Now as I’ve said before, Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma is not your usual fancy pants, highfalutin private school. While it’s not cheap, the tuition is still within reach of regular folks, working regular jobs. We’ve a lot of parents that are carpenters, bus drivers, and secretaries. We’ve also got our fair share of Cake Eaters from the tonier suburbs to the East. So the morning drop off line is a collection of Luxury SUV’s, and beat up Chrysler Minivans. For once though, my frustration is not directed at the subtleness of the caste system that exists between parents. It’s directed at all of them.

Filing into the drop off line, we approach the drop zone by the schools front door. Along the curb is a 75 ft long, clearly marked, white striped section of pavement that is meant for the children to exit the vehicle, and walk to the front door. However, most of the parents of children at Our Lady of the Subdural Hematoma, are too protective of little Jimmy & Suzy to let them off in such a dangerous spot. No, rather than dropping the kids and getting out of line they sit patiently waiting for the line to move until they reach the very front of the drop zone, in front of the front door. It is at that point that they suddenly realize they need to get the kids dressed, and sort their back packs for them. Parking at the head of the line, the cars doors start opening, and the clowns emerge with seltzer bottles and cream pies, and perform a Chinese fire drill. Once they have completed the tricky choreography, they kiss little Jimmy and Suzy on their cheeks, climb back into their vehicles, and WATCH THEM WALK ALL THE WAY TO THE FRONT DOOR. Apparently, you can never be too sure if the children will be kidnapped by satanic cultists, or eaten by rabid wolves in the 40 feet between the curb and the building.

This performance is repeated by each and every car in the line ahead of me. After muttering @#&*! Under my breath for 5 minutes, I reach the drop zone, and let Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect, and 20 Prospect Jr. out of the car, then pull out of line and drive past the scowling, disapproving faces of the parents ahead of me, who are clearly pissed that I have deviated from the sacred drop off ritual and endangered the lives of little Jimmy and Suzy.

Every damn day I’ve dropped them off for the last 6 years has been the same. If I had to venture a guess about the greatest threat to the future of America, I’d say it’s that we are raising a bunch of sheltered, over protected children that will be unable to deal with the rigors of life upon graduation. This drop off line is as clear an indictment against my generation as anything. C’mon folks, toughen up. The kids can handle getting themselves to the front door. Really! All we need to do is slow down to <5mph, and let them tuck and roll when they hit the pavement.

@#&*! Happy Friday Everyone. Is it MFBT yet?

The Artist

Sleep recedes like waves washing down a beach, and slowly I begin to wake from the deep fathoms of slumber. 3am. I rise in my nightly ritual of stumbling to the bathroom, arms extended like curb feelers, and make my way through the obstacle course that is our bedroom. I worry that I’ll wake the dogs, but they snore on. It’s even too early for them to want to patrol their yard. Returning to bed, I roll over and sigh. My mind is playing back the scenes of my dreams like a flickering home movie reel and I know there will be no more going back to sleep…

Limbs outstretched like arms, the maples reach into the velvet darkness. It is late on a summer evening, and all of Prospect Avenue is dark. People murmur quietly on the front porches in the late summer swelter. In this pre air conditioned world, the only sound is the quiet breath of the wind and the whirr of window fans. I walk my bike down the gravel driveway towards the yawning mouth of the old barn, wondering as always what might be lurking inside its musty bulk. That’s when I hear it. A sound as natural to our street, as a mother’s heartbeat is to an infant. From 3 houses down, Mr. Carmichael clears his throat.

I look across the back yard and see a single square of yellow burning in the shadow; the light from his den.  In all the known world of my 10 year old experience, the Carmichael’s is the only house with a den. The exoticness of a room dedicated only to a father always intrigues me. A haven from floral prints, and doilies, it is a world of hard carved decoys, and cast metal soldiers; books line the shelves, and a walnut stained writing desk holds the tools of his trade. We know that the den is off limits when we play at Peter and Danny’s, but the gravity of the room always pulls us into it.

While most Dad’s carry lunch boxes to work, and wear work clothes when they leave in the morning, Mr. Carmichael wear a coat and tie. He is older than the other Dad’s, and has lived here all his life. His history on our street is measured not in years but in geologic time. The resident historian of Prospect Ave., he knew the little old ladies when they were still young.

While we run and play through their yard like any other, we somehow know that his property is different. A tall man, with a deep voice, and a stern look, fear is the wrong word to describe how the little kids feel about him. It is more like respect and deference we would give to someone from another world.

He sits beneath the light of his desk lamp in his den working through the dark hours of a summer night. Pen and pencil in his hand, he is drawing. A newspaperman by trade, his real profession is that of an artist. Stand in the red, sandstone edifice of the Richmond Library, and you will see his drawings on the walls. They record the history that urban renewal has worked so hard to erase.

In my mind’s eye he is always drawing in his den, pausing to clear his throat, a reassuring sound, like the chirping of crickets in the night. Families have come and gone from Prospect Avenue, our own clan arriving in the late 60’s, and leaving by the early 00’s, but I cannot imagine the street without his presence. The last tie to the original residents, once he was gone, the oral history of the neighborhood was gone with him. If only I had had the courage, and the foresight to sit with him, and ask him to share his stories.

A barn owl hoots in the darkness, and I drop my bike inside the door of the barn, and run back to the safety of the porch. It seems like the world I know is solid, and permanent, but in only a few years it will all begin to fade away. Piece by piece, and person by person, the neighborhood will be renewed. The stately maples will slowly succumb to age, and the City’s chain saws, until what is left is a shadow of the place I knew. The houses still stand, and a new history is being written with each passing day, but the world that I knew lives only in the quiet of the night. The images flicker across the canvas of my mind, and are recorded here like drawings of a city that is all but forgotten.

Goodbye Mr. Chips

Sitting in the classroom waiting for the students to arrive, I close my eyes and empty my head of the thoughts of the day. It is 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and I have left work behind. A sub and a cup of Diet Coke for dinner as I prepare for class.

I love this hour. The calm before I stand and teach, encourage, mediate, and moderate a group of 20 adults from all walks of life, and all points on the compass for 4 hours. To think that it took me 20 years to figure out what it was that I was born to do. I often wonder what I would have done if I had discovered it sooner. Would I still have become an engineer, and headed down the path of corporate America? Or would I be sitting in some ivy colored building, brushing chalk dust off of my tweed coat?

Class tonight is on the 4th floor of a non-descript office building, in an office park in the suburbs. It doesn’t exactly exude Cambridge in here, although I must say the University has spared no expense in outfitting the classrooms. Top of the line audio visual equipment, honey colored paneling, rich carmel tones on the furniture; it’s the kind of place where you just want to curl up in a comfy chair with a nice book.

Adjunct teaching is like playing house for me. It’s a part time gig that takes up little more than 10 hours a week of my time. I look forward to these little 5 week long classes, as an escape from the day job that pays our bills. The students that I meet continue to fascinate me. I imagine that teaching adults is a completely different experience than teaching kids. Each person in the room has come back to school for a reason, and has made great sacrifices to be there. They want to be here, and are eager to learn.

The diversity of the student’s background and experiences is wonderful. I am lucky in that the class I teach is a required course in the undergrad Business, Leadership, Human Resources, Nursing, and Christian Ministry programs. I feel like I learn more from them than they do from me. As courses go, it’s a bit of a mishmash. It’s a 5 week long Global Studies course, focused on “Modern World Trends”. We look at social issues like population growth, demographic changes, environmental issues, energy use, human trafficking, terrorism, and technology from a moral and ethical viewpoint. While the lead instructor provides the syllabus, the 5 week nights are essentially a blank canvas for me to paint on.

In a way, teaching these classes is a sort of performance art. Discussion based learning in a cohort setting is completely different from the lecture hall experience I had as an undergrad. In our class my job is to lead the discussion, and help the cohort of students work their way through the issues, to come to a deeper understanding of them. Hopefully they will come away with a broader outlook on the world, and understand how these seemingly disparate issues are all connected by a common thread. If things go really well, they will look at their career, and their lives in a new way. If I screw up, they just go away with a vague memory of five nights of their lives that they will never get back.

No pressure.

It’s a mystery to me how the painfully shy little kid that hid behind his mother, and still hates to go to parties, was transformed into a grownup that is not only capable of standing in front of 20 people, but actually enjoys it. I think that this is what they mean when they say the spirit works through you, for whatever I am bringing to the class is not coming from a dumpy, middle aged, white guy from suburbia, but from something beyond me. Once class begins the switch is thrown, and the spirit begins to flow. It’s a pretty awesome experience.

I’d like to tell you all how qualified I am to be the instructor of a college course, but the scary truth is that aside from holding a Master’s Degree, I have few credentials to show. I have never taken any formal training on how to teach a class. What I have learned has been through self study, and observation. Yes folks, the sad truth is that most courses are taught by well meaning, untrained people, who are paid far less than what you might think. The adult and professional studies business is a lucrative racket for Universities. Rent out a conference room, charge $800 a credit hour, and pay the adjunct teacher $1,600 for the course. For a 3 credit course, with 20 students they pull in $48,000, and probably only spend a little of $2500 in expenses and overhead.

Teaching adults is way more lucrative for a school than teaching “college kids”, and the degree is the same.  I’d love to sit down with someone in the administration and look over the books. I can’t for the life of me understand why Non-profit college is as expensive as it is. I look around at the tenured Prof’s with PhD’s from prestigious schools, and impressive CV’s of research and publication, and see them making less money than some entry level engineering graduates. Yes, it costs money to heat and maintain all these ivy covered buildings. Gargoyles don’t come cheap, but there’s no way that it should cost $40,000 PER YEAR to fill the head of an undergrad.

Yet here I am, another willing cog in the machine of higher education, happy just to be here, and have the chance to teach. I wish that somehow I could quit the day job and make a living at this. The painful irony being that the one thing that keeps me wed to corporate gravy train is the impending cost of college for Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect, and 20 Prospect Jr.

Rerun

hey, hey, hey!

No, not that Rerun. I was referring to my slacking lately, which a friend informed me was reaching “Moonlighting” like proportions.

No, I didn’t get the reference either, so let’s just roll with it.

Fact is, I am afraid that after 680 some blog postings I’m running out of material. I mean there are only so many ways that teenage girls found to break my heart. Eventually the stories all start to sound the same. Not that I only post about unrequited teen age love. I also post moody, overwrought pieces of visual poetry. (That’s meant to be one of them paradoxes, like silent music.)

Oh, and then there are the self conscious posts where I blog about blogging. Very Meta.

I think that all men reach an age at which they run out of new material, and just begin repeating themselves. If you’re lucky, the men in your life will realize this, and just decide to sit quietly and keep it to themselves. If not, you’ll soon know their stories by heart. Each little anecdote of the 50 year old male is like a Tom Shane radio commercial. You’ll never be able to get it out of your head. (Now YOU have a friend in the Diamond business!)

Women never seem to run out of material. They just run out of tact. Around age 50 the filter gets taken off, and they begin to speak their mind at the most inopportune times. Call them on it, and they will just shrug and tell you “It’s my turn honey. Someday it’ll be yours and then you’ll understand”.

What’s different about our generation is not the stories lies we tell. All generations have their stories lies that they repeat over and over to themselves, and anyone else that is willing to listen. (Please Baby Boomers, no GOD DAMNED MORE STORIES ABOUT THE SIXTIES!) No, what is truly different about our generation is that we are the first ones to consider these stories lies to be so important that we felt obliged to type them into the world wide interweb and share them with all of humanity. Because really, in another 2,000 years it won’t be ancient rolls of papyrus that scholars consult for the meaning of life, it’ll be that blog I wrote last Thursday about the date I had in 1983.

Which is my way of saying, this is serious folks. Pay attention. There will be a quiz later.

H.R. Puff ‘n Stuff

I meant to write a new post today. Seriously, I had all the best intentions. I probably had 4 or 5 different ideas on topics to write about that would entertain my adoring legions. (Hi Mom!) Sadly, that was before the head cold settled in, and I started taking cold meds. Now I’m finding myself staring blankly at my desk, marveling over the foreign appearance of my coffee mug, like some stoner. I mean, did you ever really look close at a coffee mug? It’s like… whoa…

You see what I mean? It just ain’t gonna happen today. So as I sit here hallucinating that my desk is moving, I thought I would continue the theme of psychotropic drug induced nightmares, by re-posting one of my all time favorite posts. Hide the children folks, it’s time to go to Mystery Island!

As all 7 of my regular readers already know, I am a child of the 70’s. I came on the scene in the summer of 1968, just as America was beginning its great slide into obscenity and decay, and race riots were burning through our cities, and our souls. As miserable as the 70’s seemed at the time, when viewed from the distance of 35 years people have a way of convincing themselves that it was a idyllic Eden. A simpler time, when our national enemies were clearly identified, boy’s did not wear hair gel, and only sailors and bikers wore tattoo’s.

This is how nostalgia works, and as this blog illustrates, I am nothing if not a junkie for nostalgia. It is the sweetest drug I know, more powerful than heroin, and twice as addictive.

But my childhood wasn’t all Sears tuffskins, and rubber toed Keds. Even now, looking back after 35 years, there are still some things about the 70’s that make my blood run cold. Yes, even in the idyllic confines of 20 Prospect, there were horrors too unspeakable to mention after sunset. I am referring, of course, to Sid and Marty Krofft.

<Shudder>

The name still gives me chills. For those that are too young to remember, Sid & Marty Krofft were the producers of a string of children’s television shows so horrible, and terrifying, that I am reluctant to even list them all here. Like all abominations in my life they too hailed from Canada originally, but somehow made their way into the U.S. Television Industry, where some drug addled executive thought it was a good idea to let them unleash their bloodcurdling dreams on a generation of petrified children.

Nothing in my life has disturbed me more than the world of H.R. Pufnstuf.

This is your brain on drugs

Oh, the horror.

The plot of the show was basically this: A little boy is lured to a sinister island from which he can never escape. Once there, he is pursued by living trees, and an evil witch named “Witchiepoo”. You know, the sort of typically lighthearted plot that plays upon children’s darkest fears, and dresses them up in Day-Glo, psychedelic puppetry.

I am 42 and this picture still gives me the willies

So began my life long fear and hatred of clowns and puppets. Evil creatures that I was convinced would not rest until they had stolen my soul and condemned me to eternal torment at the hands of their foam headed minions.

Welcome to Hell Jimmy!

Was I alone in this pathological fear of H.R. Pufnstuf? Don’t even speak to me of Sigmund the Sea Monster, or Sleestak. At least the children in those shows had other human beings to console and protect them. Poor Jimmy had nothing but a talking, magical hash pipe flute.

Hmm... suck on this Jimmy, and it will all feel better...

I have read that roughly 25% of all Generation Xers have been treated with antidepressants for depression and anxiety disorders. If there were any justice in this world, their medical bills would be paid from the coffers of Sid & Marty Kroftt.