29 March 2019

A Post in Which Various Topics are Discussed Such as Traffic Lights, Weather and the Senate Majority Turtle

There's nothing about Rihanna in this blog post I just like putting up pictures of her.

What happens if you take Tylenol but don't have a headache or any other pain? Does the Tylenol just sit there thinking, "what the hell am I here for? What's going on? There's no pain anywhere for me to numb. For chrissakes I could still be back in the bottle hanging out with my homies. This is a waste of time."

There's this street I cross to go to downtown that has a traffic light. If you get to the corner while the light is red you push the button so when the light turns green for cars you'll also get the green hand signaling that it's okay to cross. But if the light turns green before you push the button there'll be a red hand indicating that pedestrians cannot cross. Here's my question: Why? Who the hell is that red hand telling not to cross the street. Presumably there's no one there as no one has pushed the button. So why the red hand? Also, why can't I cross? Cars are going my way, the cars headed in the opposite direction are stopped. There are no cars turning. So why the hell can't I cross (full disclosure, I cross anyway). There's absolutely no reason for that red hand. I'd like to know what genius thought it necessary to put that red hand there.

I belong to a very tiny minority groups that leaves me out of numerous conversations, conversations that make me feel isolated and like an outcast. I prefer rain over sun, clouds and fog over clear days and cold and cool over warm and hot. People will say: "it sure is a beautiful day!" When it's sunny and warm. Or on rainy days will moan about "the awful weather." If I offer my opinion on the weather people will often conclude that I'm kidding. People also get irritated verging on angry with me for not going along with the program. I'm sure they wonder why I have to be a spoilsport, "everybody" likes warm, sunny days, it's the safest thing to agree on. Regardless of political beliefs, sports affiliations, tastes in music, films, art, TV or food, everybody gets together on the weather. Except for independent thinkers like me. I will get concessions on the rain when in a drought (as is often the case in California, particularly recently) but even there are people who complain about rain. When we get our first rain in nearly five months last October a co-worker ranted, "why does it have to rain today?" Seriously. After more than a third of the year went by without a drop you're complaining about half a day of the wet stuff? A few years ago during the worst drought in California's history rain was finally in the forecast, I happily announced the fact and one person moaned. In the midst of a drought! This season we've had well over normal rainfall and the drought is over -- for now -- but I haven't had enough. At least now that I'm retired I'm spared co-workers blithely going on about "awesome weather" that I find abhorrent. I should conclude by adding that I have no objection to an occasional sunny day. Indeed I like variety in my weather. But endless days of sunshine are depressing in their sameness. Not a popular opinion, I know, but one I hold dear.

I've been of the opinion for a long time now that Mitch McConnell should be taken out and horse whipped. However I've come to conclude that this would be a terrible mistreatment of a perfectly innocent horse. It's hard to think of anyone who has done more to subvert the will of the people than the current senate majority leader. He is the living personification of the Republican who puts party before country every damn day of the week and twice on Sundays. He actually had the temerity to call the Democrats' idea of making Election Day a national holiday, "a power grab." I'm sure he'd love a return to the days when only property owners could vote and there was not direct election of senators and primaries were held in few if any states. During Obama's presidency, rather than serve the will of the people his entire political existence was based on opposing the president. Politicians should be about what they can do for all the people all the time not what they can do to stop, subvert and suppress their rivals. His blocking of Merrick Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court was proof enough of his disdain for democracy. It's been argued by more learned men than me that McConnell has done more damage to our political system than even Trump. According to the noted historian Christopher R. Browning as quoted in a NY Review of books article: "No politician has done more to weaken American democracy and undermine the nation’s most basic norms than McConnell. Nor is any politician more responsible for Trump’s rise to power. All of it has been in pursuit of the narrowest, most parochial goals. What separates McConnell from other destructive political actors, such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his fellow congressional Republican revolutionaries, or President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, is that McConnell’s political actions are unmoored from ideology and policy. For McConnell, politics is fundamentally about accruing political power for the sole purpose of accruing more political power."
 Indeed articles detailing his political degeneracy abound. If anyone has a horse guilty of terrible misdeeds let's put it to use on giving turtle head the whipping he so richly deserves.

I spent the last seven days with a cold/flu in which my glands were swollen, my throat was scratchy and I was lethargic. There was little I could do beyond watch movies and documentaries and take naps. I missed three trips to the gym. No one likes being sick (one assumes) but few hate illness with as much passion as I do. This is in large part due to the fact that I've suffered so little from physical ailments. I was at my last job for seven years, seven months and 17 days and didn't call in sick once. As a teacher for over three decades I suffered more than my fair share of colds but most were mere annoyances and did not keep me from working. Colds are an occupational hazard for teachers. But this recent business about being weak and tired all the time was frustrating. Actually a day or two is not bad, but when it stretches beyond that one gets stir crazy and I've got enough crazy in me without adding stir to it. I'm fine now and in fact just returned from a full workout. It's good to be alive and well.

I have a message for people who talk on their cell phones at the gym: shut the fuck up! You are annoying, rude and obnoxious. Are you telling me that in the days before cell phones, people didn't go to the gym because they were afraid of missing a phone call? I appreciate the convenience that a mobile phone provides -- I'm at the store can you check to see if we need eggs, my train will arrive in 20 minutes, can you pick me up? -- but we don't need to talk everywhere at all times, especially when other people are around. Today at the gym this woman was gabbing on the phone while on the treadmill. She finally ended her call and moved to the stair master where she placed her iPad and iPhone and was looking at and using both. Jesus wept.

I end on a happy note: I'm loving the hell out of retirement.


16 March 2019

I Make it An Even 100 Favorite Films

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
As regular readers of this blog (both of us) may recall, on my recent birthday I posted my favorite 65 films in honor it being my 65th birthday and thank you to all of you who noted that I don't look a day over 30. I have since gotten literally a handful of requests that I go ahead and make it an even 100 favorite films of all time. And so here it is the previous 65 and an additional 35 which, according to my calculator comes out to 100.

1. Manhattan (1979) Allen
2. Stalker (1979) Tarkovsky
3. Goodfellas (1990)  Scorsese
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra
5. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
6. Winter Light (1963) Begman
7. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
8. The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman
9. La Dolce Vita (1960) Fellini
10. Duck Soup (1933) McCarey
11. Europa (1991) von Trier
12. Taxi Driver (1976) Scorsese
13. Chinatown (1974) Polanski
14. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
15. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
16. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
17. Tess (1979) Polanski
18. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
19. Fanny And Alexander (1982) Bergman
20. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder
Rome: Open City

21. Rome, Open City (1945) Rossellini
22. Cabaret (1972) Fosse
23. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
24. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
25. L’Eclisse (1962) Antonioni
26. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 Huston
27. Foreign Correspondent (1940) Hitchcock
28. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) Sturges
29. Dead Man (1995) Jarmusch
30. The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock
31. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Petri
32. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Coppola
33. The Emigrants/The New Land (1971/72) Troell
34. Umberto D (1952) DeSica
35. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino
36. The Ice Storm (1997) Lee
37. Andrei Rublev (1966) Tarkovsky
38. Sunrise (1927) Murnau
39. It’s a Wonderful Life 1946) Capra
40. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Coens
41. Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Godard
42. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
43. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
44. The Third Man (1949) Reed
45. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
46. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Herzog
47. Midnight in Paris (2011) Allen
48. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman
49. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Kubrick
50. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens
51. Match Point (2005) Allen
52. Red Desert (1964) Antonioni
53. Holiday (1938) Cukor
54. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) Dreyer
55. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini
56. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
57. The Big Lebowski (1998) Coens
58. Rushmore (1998) Anderson
59. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
60. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens
61. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
62. Ariel (1998) Kaurismaki
63. City Lights (1931) Chaplin
64. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavetes
65. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Rossellini
66. The Searchers (1956) Ford
67. Network (1976) Lumet
68. Shame (1968) Bergman
69. Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick
My Man Godfrey

70. My Man Godfrey (1936) La Cava
71. The Burmese Harp (1956) Ichikawa
72. On the Waterfront (1954) Kazan
73. Vertigo (1958) Hitchcock
74. Stagecoach (1939) Ford
75. La Haine (1995) Kassovitz
76. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet
77. The Gold Rush (1925) Chaplin
78. Citizen Kane (1941) Welles
79. Requiem for a Dream (2000) Aronofsky
80. If…. (1968) Anderson
81. Hamlet (1948) Olivier
82. Pulp Fiction (1994) Tarantino
83. Silence (1963) Bergman
84. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Allen
85. Le Silence de la mer (1949) Melville
86. The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdanovich
87. Bonnie and Clyde  (1967) Penn
88. La Strada (1954) Fellini
89. Down By Law (1986) Jarmusch
90. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges
91. Rashomon (1950) Kurosawa
92. Birdman (2014) Inarittu
93. Odd Man Out (1947) Reed
94. The Last Detail (1971) Ashby
95. Modern Times (1936) Chaplin
96. Y Tu Mama También (2001) Cuaron
97. La vie de Boheme (1992) Kaurismäki
98. The Match Factory Girl (1990)  Kaurismäki
99. Bicycle Thieves (1949) De Sica
100. Radio Days (1987) Allen

And I still left off this terrific films (not presented in any particular order): Nashville (1975) Altman, Blade Runner (1982) Scott, Do the Right Thing (1989) Lee, Le Havre (2011) Kaurismäki, Platoon, (1986) Stone, Psycho (1960) Hitchcock, La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir), L’Avventura (1960) Antonioni, Reds (1981) Beatty, The Virgin Spring (1960 Bergman, Zodiac (2007) Finchner, 8 1/2, (1963) Fellini, Ivan’s Childhood (1962) Tarkosky, The Wild Bunch (1969) Peckinpah, The Exorcist, (1973) Friedkin Viridiana (1961) Bunuel, Groundhog Day (1993) Ramis, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Whale, Ride The High Country, (1962) Peckinpah The Great Escape, (1963) J. Sturges Bitter Rice (1949) DeSantin, Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Hitchcock, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Gondry, The Man Who Would Be King (1975) Huston, Army of Shadows (1969) Melville, I Knew Her Well (1965)  Pietrangeli, Wild Boys of the Road (1933) Wellman, Heroes For Sale (!933) Wellman, Mean Girls (2004) Waters, Moonrise Kingdom, (2012) Anderson, Broadway Danny Rose (19840 Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Allen, Zelig (1983) Allen, The Purple Rose of Cairo, (1985) Allen, Stardust Memories (1980) Allen, The Great Dictator (1940) Chaplin, A Woman of Paris (1923) Chaplin, The Deer Hunter (1978) Cimino,  Band of Outsiders (1964) Godard, Downfall (2004) Hirschbiegel, The Lodger (1927) Hitchcock,  A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Kazan, Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Ray, Spartacus, (1960) Kubrick, MacBeth (1971) Polanski, Three Days of the Condor (1975) Pollack, The Aviator (2004) Scorsese, The King of Comedy (1982) Scorsese, Animal House (1978) Landis, Blonde Venus (1932) von Strenberg, Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Truffaut, Jules et Jim (1962) Truffaut Paisan (1946) Rossellini, Bullit (1968) Yates, Horse Feathers (1932) McLeod, Cries & Whispers(1972) Bergman, Gods and Monsters (1998) Condon, McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) Altman, Seven Samurai (1954) Kurosawa, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Hill, Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) Pabst, All the President’s Men (1976) Pakula, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) Yates, Stromboli, (1950) Rossellini The Parallax View (1974) Pakula, The Roaring Twenties (1939) Curtiz, A Serious Man (2009) Coens, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) Coens, Hable Con Ella (2002) Almodóvar, Jaws (1975) Speilberg, Bull Durham (1988) Sheldon, The Crowd (1928) Vidor, Some Like it Hot (1959) Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944) Wilder, Personal Shopper (2016) Assayas, First Reformed (2017) Schrader, Letter Never Sent, (1960) Kalatozov, The Conversation (1974) CoppolaSchindler's List (1993) Spielberg, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) Fassbinder, The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) Fassbinder, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Ceylan, Port of Shadows (1938) Carne, Notorious (1946) Hitchcock, The Man Without a Past (2002) Kaurismäki, Jackie Brown (1997) Tarantino, Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) Sturges, Boyz N the Hood (1991) Singleton, Closely Watched Trains (1966) Menzel, M, (1931) Lang, Paths of Glory (1957) Kubrick, Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Mackendrick, Greed (1924) von Stroheim, The Maltese Falcon, (1941) Huston, Bringing Up Baby (1938) Hawks, Light in the Dusk (2006) Kaurismäki, Shadows in Paradise (1986) Kaurismäki, Meet John Doe (1941) Capra, The Exterminating Angel (1962) Bunuel, Melancholia (2011) Von Trier, Shampoo (1975) Ashby, Being There, (1979) Ashby, La Notte (1961) Antonioni, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (1977) Spielberg, The Mirror (1975) Tarkovsky, Red River (1948) Hawks, My Darling Clementine (1946) Ford, The Conformist (1970) Bertolucci, A Separation (2011) Farhadi, Ida (2013) Pawlikoski, Wings of Desire (1987) Wenders Chimes at Midnight (1965) Welles, Philadelphia Story (1940) Cukor, We Need  to Talk About Kevin (2011) Ramsay Of Gods and Men (2010) Beavuois  Wanda (1970) Loden, Richard III (1955) Olivier Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Lean, A Hard Day's Night (1964) Lester, Medium Cool (1969) Wexler, The Verdict (1982) Lumet, Gosford Park (2001) Altman, Viaggio in Italia (1954) Rossellini  The Virgin Suicides (1999) S. Coppola , Cold Water (1994) Assayas Fight Club (1998) Finchner, Long Day's Journey Into Night (2018) Bi, and The Strawberry Statement (1970) Haggman.



12 March 2019

A Walk, A Former Student, A Seduction, An Extra Terrestrial

The Street
Thus begins my second week of retirement. I could spend my retirement just writing about my retirement. But right now I want to write about what happened this past weekend.

Saturday morning I was out for a walk. It was a grey day with clouds promising a downpour within a few hours. Just the kind of day I like. I was walking through our neighborhood which is residential, tree-lined, filled with happy homes. Houses that practically smile back at you. It was somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 so there was virtually no traffic and hardly a soul to be seen. A jogger or two passed by and there were a few people getting early starts on household chairs. I saw a young woman pushing a stroller and a tall man walking purposefully down an opposite street, I imagined him to have urgent business.

The temperature was in the upper 40s which is damn cold for Berkeley, especially in March. It felt good to me, as I was ensconced in warm clothes. My mind was be-bopping around dancing briefly with one topic then twirling around with the next before moving along to another. I remember contemplating my recent difficulties with writing, mulling over the current form of my favorite sports teams and imagining the many ways I would spend tens of millions of dollars if I ever came across such a sum. No topic was delved into too deeply, mentally this was a light and breezy walk that was more intended as light exercise.

Before the walk I had stretched, so I was feeling loose and limber and certainly up to a stroll of an hour or more should I desire it. And I well might have walked for that long had it not been for what happened. I had just turned up a block that I had never walked on, when a young woman wearing only a robe veritably crashed out of her front door and came running toward me. She shouted my last name, with Mr. before it, suggesting she must have been a former student. I was quite startled indeed and even more so when she threw her arms around me and gave me a long embrace. While wrapped within her arms I still did not know who this fair creature was. Finally upon ending the embrace, her hands, now resting on my shoulder, the young woman stood back and looked me squarely — and I must add, lovingly — in the eyes. “It’s me,” she said, “Nora, Nora Bowditch.”

Of course. Nora Bowditch had been a favorite student of mine some dozen or so years ago. Precocious, energetic, curious and fun and destined to be a beautiful woman, hard to forget. I’d not seen her since her 8th grade graduation when she was a mere lass of 14. But why, I wondered, the over indulgent embrace? I’m well used to former students giving me quick hug, but Nora had favored me with something warm and damn close to sexual.

“Of course, Nora! You were one of the best students I ever had. What are you up to these days?”

Nora continued to look at me with something approaching passion. I feared she was going to try to eat me alive.

“I’m kind of cold out here, I just have on this robe and no shoes. Can you come in for a second?”

I saw no harm in it and followed the young lady into her tiny house nestled on the corner of the block. It was a warm and cozy abode. A small living room was crammed with a large over stuffed chair, a sofa and long coffee table. I could see a kitchenette and one door to my left was half open, and clearly led to the bedroom. Another door to my right must have been to the bathroom.

The former student
Nora indicated that I should sit on the sofa and asked if I’d like tea or coffee. “Black tea, if you’ve got it.”

“I do,” Nora replied cheerily. “I’ll have some too. Ya know it was amazing that I saw you. I’d just gotten up and gone to the bathroom and was thinking of laying down a bit more when I glanced out the window and saw you. A one in a million shot!”

“Do you live here alone?”

“I do now. My boyfriend and I broke up a couple of months ago. He moved out and moved to Detroit of all places.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. He turned out the a real asshole and I’ve been happier since he left than I was while we lived together, which was for almost two years.”

I looked carefully at Nora while she prepared tea. She was, as I had predicted years ago she would become, a strikingly beautiful woman. Her bathrobe barely reached her knees and thus revealed a perfect set of legs. Her hair was a bit tousled from having just gotten out bed but was long and blonde and her face was as perfectly structured as any magazine cover model you’ve ever seen. All this is not to say that I was aroused. After all she was nearly 40 years my junior and a former student to boot. But I had to admit the memory of the initial hug was something to savor.

“So what are you doing these days, Nora? Where did you end up going to school?

“I went to Dartmouth. I know, kind of weird, right? In fact after graduating I lived on the East Coast for a couple of years before moving back here with Rory — that’s the ex — two years ago.”

“And are you working? What did you get your degree in?”

“You inspired a love of history in me but I ended up majoring in astronomy. Now I’m a UFO researcher.”

I’ve come across scores of former students and some have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, actors, businessmen, teachers and some are in prison for capital crimes. Nora was my first UFO researcher and thus this was the first time I was surprised to learn of a former student’s occupation. “That must be fascinating.”

Nora handed me my cup of tea and sat down inches away from me on the sofa. I couldn’t believe she was sitting so close to me particularly as her robe wasn’t cinched very tight and I could see, with little effort, most of her left breast. Surely Nora must have known it was on full display. Did she not care? Good god, was she trying to seduce me? I felt like I was watching a movie in which you couldn’t be sure what was going to happen next, except I was the star. It was at once exhilarating and frightening.

“You were the best teacher I had in either middle school or high school and better than most of my professors.” Nora was practically cooing.

“Thank you that’s — ”

“I mean you made history so fascinating and I loved the assignments you gave. Plus you were so funny and cute and took so much time to explain things.”

“You’re very kind to say that Nora. You were a great student.”

“You really remember me?” This she said — I swear it — flirtatiously.

“Of course. Most of my students I forgot the day after the school year ended. But there are some I’ll never forget. A few because they were such god awful trouble and many like you who were such a joy to teach.”

“Awwww,” she replied blushing.

“The tea is good,” I added nervously.

“Are you still teaching?”

“Just retired.”

“Cool, you deserved it. How many years did you teach?

“34.”

“Wow!” And she gazed at me with her big beautiful blue eyes like I was her favorite rock star. I was having trouble not being aroused.

“Tell me about your UFO research.”

“I follow up on claimed sightings, 90% of which are just fantasy bullshit but those 10% that are credible make it all worthwhile. So I interview people, investigate their claims, file reports, I end consulting a lot with Air Force people, pilots, astronomers and sometimes with the FBI and police departments. We’re pretty thorough. We have a data base of credible claims.”

As she talking Nora shifted her sitting position completely exposing her breast and revealing more of her legs. Was this intentional? Was a gorgeous 26 year old woman really seducing me? It seemed so obvious yet so implausible.

“So do you think we’ve been visited?”



“Oh I know we have. Some claims point to no other possible conclusion.”

“I believe you. What got you interested in all this?”

“I had a close encounter of the third kind,” she said matter of factly.

“You did?”

The extra terrestrial
“Yup. Sophomore year of college. I was out for a walk alone in the forest and came upon a clearing and there was a space ship. I stood there frozen for a few minutes before a door opened and this creature emerged. It walked right toward me. It stopped a few feet away and then I got the sense it was scanning me with its big bulging eyes. The thing was like four feet tall and silvery. Anyway, it turned back around got back in the ship and like a second later the ship just headed straight up and was gone like in a blink of the eye. Ever since then I’ve wanted to learn more.”

“Wow that's amazing.” I believed Nora completely and her story was so compelling that I was at last distracted from her body and seeming flirtatious behavior. But then she said this: “Ya know I had a big crush on you when I was in the 8th grade, several other girls did too.”

“Well that’s flattering but that was also a long time ago.”

“Not so very long, besides, you’re still handsome, only now in a more distinguished way.”

That was it. I had to go. There was no longer any doubt about it, Nora was seducing me.

“I really need to get going. My wife is expecting me and we have plans to go shopping.” I made a special point to emphasize the word “wife.” I stood up.

“Oh don’t go just yet. We’ve barely caught up,” Nora said pleadingly.

“Yeah I know, but I was towards the end of my walk when you spotted me and I’m expected. It was really nice — ”

Nora rose and untied her bathrobe. It fell to the floor. She stood before naked.

Of course my jaw did not literally drop but it did dangle. Nora was stunning and I was stunned. at her brazen act. I couldn’t form any words and I couldn’t move. 

Nora smiled broadly then stepped toward me, as she got close I stepped back but tripped and fell, landing on my back. Nora immediately took advantage of my fall and straddled me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. But Nora, why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?” She asked coquettishly.

“For the love of god you’re seducing me. Why?”

“Why does one ever seduce another person. So that they can fuck.”

“But I’m old. I’m married, I’m — ”

I couldn’t continue my protestations as Nora started to kiss me, driving her tongue in my mouth. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t very well push her off and I couldn’t let her continue kissing me, there would likely be a point at which I would succumb to her and that was unthinkable.

After two minutes of kissing me, Nora stood. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go to bed.”

I felt defeated. I felt elated. And I felt terrible. I was about to cheat on my wife with a woman nearly four decades my junior who had once been a student. At the same time I was filled with lust and couldn’t wait to make love to this gorgeous woman.

We entered her bedroom and she started pulling my clothes off. Soon we stood facing each other naked. Nora smiled victoriously. Then my former student got into bed and beckoned me to follow. Dutifully, gladly, regretfully, excitedly, I did. We began by kissing passionately, then I slid down the bed to begin performing oral sex. I had just put my tongue against her delicious nether regions when there was a loud noise that seemed to come from another part of the house. Nora and I both sat up.

“Oh no,” she said, sounding genuinely upset.

“What is it?”

Then there at the bedroom door stood a four foot tall creature of silver with huge bulging eyes.

“That little son of bitch has been following me for six years. I never know when or how he’s going to show up.”

“Does that mean there’s a space ship that’s landed here?”

“No. He usually just appears. I don’t know how but he’ll pop up from time to time. This is the first time he’s done it when someone else has been around.”

“Get the fuck out of here, you goddamned midget!” Nora yelled at the creature. But it stood stock still staring at us.

“How long does he stay?”

“Varies, anywhere from a few seconds to two or three minutes.”

Of course I was fascinating to be looking at an extra terrestrial. I’d long assumed there was life on other planets but here was living proof. I didn’t know how I could tell anyone about it, especially given the circumstances of this close encounter. I also noted that I’d gone flaccid and thoughts of sex where as many miles away as this creature’s home planet. I took the opportunity to get dressed.

“Oh no, you can’t leave.”

“I really have to and this would have been — ”

“I know a ‘mistake’ but I disagree. It would have been fun for both of us.”

“It was great seeing you again Nora. Are you sure you’re all right with that, ah, creature here?”

“Yeah, he just looks and does that scanning thing I’ve mentioned then disappears.”

“Well, goodbye.”

“Now that you know where I live, come visit me sometime. Soon. Tomorrow, maybe.”

“Maybe so, Nora.” And with that I was out the door.

I continued my walk but now I had a helluva lot more things to think about. Later I went grocery shopping with the wife.

06 March 2019

Retired


Retired.

For the first time since I was four years old I am neither in school, working or looking for work. I’m done. Finished. I’m walking a tightrope to nowhere. It’s not as if nothing to do. I’ve got queries for novel to send to agents and their rejections to read. The first of which came Monday, my first day of retirement. It simply read: not for us. What a bunch of assholes, I thought. Not. For. Us. Three fucking words to reject years of work. You bastards don’t have a form letter that is polite? I’ve subsequently received three other rejections and each one has thanked me for my submission and encouraged me to carry on. They were still rejections but neither curt nor cruel. One of the rejections said my novel was not “a good fit” for them. The term “not a good fit” has been around for awhile now. It’s a euphemism. When used for rejecting a book proposal it means: we don’t like it - or - we think it sucks. It’s used between employers and employees too and there it can mean, we don’t like you - or - you suck at your job.

I’ve sent out about a dozen queries so far and a third of them had gotten the thumbs down. I may never hear from other agents. I was very careful in writing my query letter and the synopsis and all the other things some agents ask for such as a one sentence pitch, an author’s bio, a list of similar books and target audience. Some agents want the first three pages, some the first ten, others the first 50.

It’s discouraging to be rejected, regardless of whether you’re told “not for us” or “yours’ is the greatest novel since Moby Dick but it’s not a good fit for us.” But there seems to be an infinite number of agents so you just keep plugging away. Eventually I’ll go over my query letter and all the other crap they ask for and see if I can buff them up, make ‘em even shinier. I’ll also probably go over the beginning of the book and see if there are any revisions that will make it more appealing. I won’t be giving up anytime soon, though. Lots of authors have piled up dozens of rejections before getting their proverbial foot in the door. Right now all I’ve got is a view of the door. Sometimes the door looks like it has a sign on it saying “entrance” and other times the sign seems to say “not for us.”

But there’s more to retirement than having life long dreams dashed. For instance, not working. This is something I’ve been practicing for on weekends and during vacations for decades now. I’m actually quite accomplished at not working. The simple trick is to not go to a job and to do nothing for which you might get paid. Easy peasy.

The problem is that I loved my job. I loved interacting with students from all over the world who were eager to improve their English and who enjoyed my class. I liked the vast majority of the co-workers I had over my seven and half years at the school. I loved teaching, I even liked grading tests and correcting writing. I loved planning lessons. Getting to work was another thing entirely, I had been goddamned sick and tired of commuting for years and was hating it more and more with each passing day. I also didn’t like having to pack a lunch almost everyday. I didn’t like rushing out the door in the morning and I didn’t like having to get up at the crack of dawn and I didn’t like having all my time consumed by a job.

So now I don’t have to commute, I can get up when I damn well please and I can stay up watching movies on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. I don’t have to go to the gym at night after work when it is most crowded. I have more time to write, to read and do whatever the hell else I want like being told “not for us.”

In my last days at the job I received a great deal of cards and notes detailing what a wonderful teacher I was and how enjoyable I made learning. My boss and co workers sang my praises. On instagram I posted some farewell pictures and former students from all over the world and a couple of former colleagues wrote very nice messages to me. This felt very good. I was always uncomfortable being praised when I was teaching but when it was all said and done I welcomed it and appreciated it far more than I’d ever have imagined.
I am a lucky man.

One thing I miss is the countdown. I spent a year counting down to retirement. Now it's here. Nothing to countdown to. I've arrived.

How’s retirement going? Three days in (not counting weekend) I feel a bit numb. Empty. Not happy, not sad. I look back at my last job in the same way that as a youth I would reflect on a great party. It was a great time but it had to end. I’m going to be writing a lot more now. I’ve got a prequel to write to the novel that is not a good fit for some and to others is not for them. My workouts will become more intense as I try to prolong the great physical health I’ve enjoyed. I’ve no idea what’s to become of my mental health which is always in dodgy shape. Retirement could be the best or worst thing to happen to my emotional state since I got clean and sober. It’ll likely land somewhere in between as things do. Just as with work I’ll keep showing up and doing the next thing in front of me to the best of my ability. I’m not working but I’ll stay busy and active and I’ll keep trying to be a published author, if I ever quit trying it’ll be because I’m dead, a condition that seems inevitable eventually but I’m not going to worry about for now.

I’m still here.