About 180 Days-The Dark Side (#5)

The inner sanctum turned out to be the last of the original houses on the Chickahominy River from the 1970s construction boom out on the Haven. The house was a simple ranch with a wobbling deck that extended into the river. Jack had gotten to the retreat a little early so he could scout out the scene. He was not prepared for what he would see.

First was the arrival of Betty and Allen. She drove and he got out of his car and hustled around his champagne colored Mercedes to open her door. She thanked him and touched him on the shoulder as she got out of the car. Allen played off her touch well by not acknowledging what had just happened and then shut the car door with a gentle push. “He must have been a valet,” thought Jack.

Jack also thought there must be something going on. He could not be sure, but it looked like Betty and Allen might be having a little something-something. The thought of the two of them together made perfect sense. He did whatever she said. She bossed him around in an overly dramatic way. It was all a ruse. This retreat house was a perfect metaphor for their relationship. They were shacking up.

“This is going to be something-something else,” thought Jack.

The other administrators and board members began arriving and the mingling began. As people introduced themselves to Jack, he pulled his classic move of acting like he was interested in meeting them. The truth was they were doing the same to him, no one cared what a gym teacher had to say about the district’s new instructional program. Finally, it was time for the retreat to begin.

Betty started, “I welcome you all to the retreat for the Willet School District. We are here to discuss the long range goals for the district, which includes the implementation of the PIOUS program. We think that this is the most appropriate solution for resolving the discrepancies of achievement between the various sub-groups of our diverse student population. Let’s start with PIOUS as we have Dr. Jack Rice, who is a teacher at our high school and has been invited to the retreat to share his views on PIOUS. We are fortunate to have him and are looking forward to hearing what he has to say.”

Jack heard a clear message from Betty. She made it clear that she was trusting Jack to do the right thing as she saw it. Jack was ready to play her game without going all Trump on the friendly audience that was sitting in a house decorated in the style of Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills. Sometimes it takes awhile for things in education to catch up.

“Thank you, Betty. And thank you to all of you for your kind greetings and the opportunity to share with you my excitement about PIOUS. As you are well aware, this is a program that helps teachers identify the most practical implications for the content being taught. By doing so, teachers can design lessons that will prepare students for the rigors of the world after their schooling ends.”

“The real world,” said Allen.

“No, Allen, I don’t think that is correct. By saying that you are implying the school is fake. If it’s fake, then why should the students take any interest in what they are doing now? School is their “real world” and we need to treat it as such.”

(Trump-1 and Jack-0.)

Allen looked at Betty and smiled. He kept the smile even as he turned and squinted at Jack. If looks could kill…

Jack continued, “This program has potential. Hopefully, you guys will have the patience to include it in the long range planning for the district. There will be problems. Students will tire of the routine of PIOUS and teachers will resist the idea that a canned program built on shaky research will know more about teaching than they do. But, if the district remains firm and allows the teachers to have an honest say in how PIOUS is implemented, it will benefit the students. That’s all I have.”

(More Clintonian this time…)

None of the other members of the retreat had any questions. Betty thanked Jack for his words and optimism. She let him know that she would be in touch and told Jack he was free to go. On his way out the door someone grabbed Jack’s arm from behind. It was a confrontational board member, Ralph Hanby who had once gone after Jack.

“Jack, do you have a moment.”

“Anything, for you, Mr. Hanby.”


(I feel like I could…)

“Jack, we’ve had our differences.”

“We have?”

“Ha, always the jokester. Honestly, my kids that you were a real ass.”

“That’s a compliment compared to what you have said about me.”

“Now, Jack, we are over that. Let’s talk about PIOUS. You don’t really believe that it is going to help kids do you?”

“I think it has a chance, Mr. Hanby.”

“Ralph. We have our concerns. Since you have put yourself out there, we on the Board, would like your input about how things are going with PIOUS and the general mood at the high school.”

Jack could see there was more than PIOUS involved in Mr. Ralph Hanby’s mission. “As long as you keep things professional, I would be glad to help you.”

“Good. We will be in touch.”

As Jack walked through a cloud of Chickahominay gnats he said, “I’m sure you will.”

Another Day (The New 21)

Are birthdays incorrectly named?

Aren’t they anniversaries?

After all, we are only born once
Unless there is some kind of spiritual renewal
That is happening.

Those would be “reborn” days…

I think about birthdays as
Just another day.

No craziness…

No wildness…

Just another day…

I try to deny what birth
Must have been all about.

It’s all that pushing and squeezing,
Perhaps the greatest example
On the effect
Of cramped quarters and
The need for more personal space.

At birth, we are shown at our most impatient,
We are a force that will not be denied
And an ineffective helper
In the process to get
What we want.




Into the race.

Paying the bills.

Racking up the debt.

Stock piling the calories.

Getting a bigger belt.

Maybe we don’t want
All of that,
But living has consequences,
Some good, some bad,

And they all start
Once we are born,
The one and only birth day.

So on a day like today
When the Facebook well wishes are pouring in
I smile
Because the zodiac in me
Teeters between balance and imbalance,
My scales shift
Between thanks and the twisted way
I see this day
That without a doubt is improperly named.

I appreciate each “Happy Birthday”
Whether it comes from family,
Students, or equally old classmates
Who have spread all over the continent.

Hopefully, advancing age has not let them become incontinent
Because that would be an awful
Thing to deal with
On the anniversary of one’s birth.

Fortunately, that’s not a problem here,
Although a Fat Tire, or two, at dinner
Might loosen things up a bit.

(Take that how you want…)

Growing Old With My Wife

She is the best thing for me
Green eyes that kill
And make things be as they will always be

Her beauty came along and set me free
A kind of love creating pill
That proves she is the best thing for me

She lets me know delicately
How far I have to go still
To make things be as they will always be

Together we will age gracefully
Feelings that we don’t need to distill
To make things be as they will always be

We will grow old peacefully
I’ll always have that passionate thrill
Proving she is the best thing for me

We’ll live together faithfully
Living in each other’s good will
Proof that she is the best thing for me
And making things as they will always be

Slowing Down

Each step is just a little slower
Ten years ago the pace was faster
Thirty years ago at the height of my running hate
I would be lapping myself now

Yet my heart is beating faster
Than it did a decade ago
Or even back in high school cross country
But I’m enjoying this run more

The humidity makes breathing
Akin to drinking a milk shake
The hills are striking nails
Into my starting over weary legs

So this run is taking awhile longer
Than I thought it would.
I’ve got the years to thank
For this 11:00 minute pace.

Bill Nunn


Bill Nunn, aka Radio Raheem, died today. If there is one character who symbolizes what is going on right now with police and African Americans, it is Radio Raheem. The riot scene in “Do the Right Thing” speaks to the tragedy of today with nearly the same impact as dashboard cameras and helicopter audio commentary. The movie shows the prejudices, brutality, disrespect for people and property, and the consequences of justice and hubris run amok. It’s all there, commentary of the times in 1989. It’s a shame that the message is the same twenty seven years later.

I love “Do the Right Thing,” especially when Buggin’ Out makes fun of Clifton for wearing a Larry Bird jersey. When I watch the movie, I don’t see issues of race. I know, that sounds hard, but I see a failure of people to recognize the importance of us all. I see a failure of people to see outside of skin color, a failure of people to believe beyond their religious or political affiliation, a failure of people to breathe beyond their economic assignment. Each a dumb reason to have contempt for anyone else and each an element contributing to the tragedies that too frequently happening across the country (the world). There are too many Radio Raheems today and it’s about time we started paying attention to the way we treat each other.

Let’s hope, “Left-Hand Hate is KOed by Love,” as Radio Raheem said.

RIP Bill Nunn…


Photo Credit: http://cdn.sneakernews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/radio-raheem-2s-620×435.jpg


He had a room with one wall full of books,
Sociology, psychology, law, and pulp fiction,
There to fill his days of retirement.

The problem was not that he already
Had read all of the books on the shelves,
But that his chair was lacking comfort.

He saw an ad in the New York Times
Promising unique comfort from Europe
In the form of a stressless chair.

He called the store on East 57th
With a major credit card ready
To order a chair and foot stool for three hundred dollars.

The chair arrived in perfect condition.
He put it in the corner next to the skinny window
And under a hanging lamp.

He chose to reread The Godfather
Ready to glean reasons from Puzo’s masterpiece
The Italians from Easton called his father Big Al.

He sipped some wine and leaned back into his chair
Turning to page one with an incredible feeling sinking into his spine
And promptly fell asleep.

Three-large for a chair may seem like a lot,
But for a man with a lot of books and more than enough time
Having a good chair for a companion makes retirement comfortable.