1. The air worked against easy running.

2. Explanations were few and far between.

3. The new park was extraordinarily peaceful.

4. Uncertainty dragged his emotions carelessly behind.

5. Everyone is in a different place.

6. Tracking numbers vary in their importance.

7. Who is that on the porch?

A big, fancy non-profit bought a cemetery. They did so to make sure that their manicured lawns were not associated with a rotting burial place that so many cemeteries become over the years.

This cemetery was the final resting place of many local historical figures. There was the writer. His plot had a wrought iron fence around it. There were the conductors of The Underground Railroad. Their plots were right next to the road waiting for the next person in need of help.

The problem with the big, fancy non-profit was that they over promised on how they would protect the cemetery. They, in the interest of tax free land protection, made mention that they would repair damaged headstones, that they would keep the grounds clean as if they were behind the stone walls and high admission prices of the foundation, and that the cemetery would be brought to the forefront of historical discussions about those who found their final resting place now stuck between DuPont’s highway vision and a fire station.

The years passed and more headstones began to fall. The ground began to sink. The prices next door continued to grow and the apathy of what were promises made on the hopes of the living for their dead were ignored.

Then, something happened. There was a blight that began hitting the trees within the hallowed grounds of the manicured nature center of the big, fancy non-profit. The water that spewed from the gaudy fountains began to trickle. Something was happening to all that unnatural development and it was eating into the profits of the organization dedicated to keeping itself going.

No one could understand what was happening. A fear began to seep into the administrators of the non-profit money making organization and the fear became desperation after the pandemic. In the hopes of getting some guidance, a soothsayer came to the grounds and offered some advice.

“Respect the dead. They deserve your integrity. Help them.”

The next day, crews were sent to the cemetery. They cleaned up the grounds and got rid of the weeds that were taking over. Leaning headstones were reset. Those that had aged to a point where the names could not be read were cleaned and the names cut back into the stone. Promises were being kept.

Strangely, the infestations and sludge like water on the other side of the street began to clear up. The grounds were being restored to their previous profit making level. The big, fancy non-profit would be able to survive and the souls of the those laid to rest across the street would be able live the way their ansestors had hoped they would.

Note: I’ve been taking Master Classes during the shutdown. Currently, I’m taking one by Joyce Carol Oates and in it, she has given an assignment to write for 45-minutes without stopping. I used the program, Flow State, to keep me writing the whole time. This is the rough draft. I have not done any editing but I thought I’d see if there was any reaction. It’s about 1,600-words, a little out of my comfort zone.

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Perfect lessons travel like express trains. The problem with learning is that there are often more trains on the track than can be handled and often that leads to some sort of derailment or headon collision. Such is the life of a teenager in townhome community. As if it wasn’t already hard enough to be be a kid, nature or China or some other entity threw a novel virus into the world and locked everything down for the unforeseen future. Kids were left out at what is supposed to be the most important time of their lives, at least as far as social development is concerned.

So the kids were left to the devices, literally, phones, tablets, computer screens, and gaming consoles became their only way to communicate with friends or go to school. Luckily, the start of the lockdown came when it was still cold and rainy, but then there were a few May days where the sun invited the kids outside, the need to hang with friends was greater than social distancing, and outside beckoned to the youngsters.

Back to the community thing, the kids live in a neighborhood that is notoriously polar. There are long time families without kids, senior citizens who have mostly forgotten what it was like to have children. They walk around eyeballing every little thing in the community and reporting back to the association any and all violations of the bylaws. Mostly, they have nothing else to do and are left to making themselves feel important in their waning years.

At the other end of the neighborly spectrum are the young parents. They have kids who are just beginning to walk and talk. For these families, life during the pandemic must be a nightmare. To have screaming, attention seeking, young and impressionable minds, and their insatiable need to love and learning around all the time have got to be insufferable. These families get out and walk with their large, three-wheeled strollers talking on the their phones, chatting with a walking partner, or baby talking their babies. They don’t have a care for the community at any junction of their walk because they are free, able to walk wildly, without the worry of entertaining the little rugrat who is bound and gagged in the over priced stroller.

So, it is at these two ends of dementia, I mean life, that teenagers get squeezed. The old farts don’t want them climbing trees. The young upstart parents want to make an example of them to impress their children. All in all, both are asinine.

I grew up in an apartment complex. I was loud, played outside most of the time, and I am absolutely sure that people were not happy that we were out so much. If I could go back an apologize to the people who lived where we played football, I would, but they’ll have to be satisfied with a big point to the sky because, well, I actually don’t feel like I need to apologize for being a kid. If we had been out tearing things up, I would feel badly, but for playing, no, I’ve got nothing to apologize for. The problem is that today’s adults have become little “bitches” who think that the world is only about them. Their memories have been crushed by the politically correct, my feelings matter most, I empowered to have my right trump yours, kind of thinking.

The older sect, their empowerment comes from the belief that the fifties were the golden years of America. I don’t think they remember that the Civil Rights movement was finally gaining steam, that wars would bookend their decade, and that John Wayne and John Huston were creating some of the worst stereotypes in the name of cinema. It’s that inability to disassociate themselves from the worst of their youth when they judge the kids of today that drives me crazy. Bad stuff happened when old people were young. I bet they did some of it themselves. Today, they’d call their actions, mischief. When the describe today’s kids, they call them hoodlums.

It’s the younger ones I have trouble with. These parents who are just starting out are not too far removed from the indiscretions of their youth. Heck, the little ones in those fancy strollers might even be mistakes. For these just out of adolescence parents to be so uptight about what teenagers are doing is beyond comprehension. What happens to us when we make another? Do we lose all sense of reason? Are we so desperate for control that we lash out at others in an egotistical power play?

I don’t know, but I do get tired of hearing people bashing kids all of the time. Please, don’t get me wrong, I equally hate excusing childish behavior as, “Ah, shucks, they’re just kids,” but so much of the hate put on kids is really a distorted perception on the parts of adults with nothing better to than the be… adults.

All of the issues that people are having right now relating to people are understandable. Covid-19 and the shelter in place orders have put everyone on edge. The lack of money flowing has got to be stressing people out. Then, they have to interact with others, either on a walk, in a store, or watching kids play outside of their windows and they have no idea what it means to be a human being. It means we support each other. It means we take on challenges. It means we are not dicks to each other.

Maybe that sounds a little difficult to some, but you’ve got to get over yourselves and understand the patience goes a long way right now. The walls are closing in for everyone, but having kids outside might be the best thing for them. They need to be outside hanging with their friends. They need to be outside running around strengthening the bodies. They need to be outside getting exposed to whatever germs there are so that their immune systems will get stronger. They don’t need to be sitting around anymore. A lot of adults who are wanting kids to stay inside once thought this way. Get them off of their X-box. They should be outside like we were when we were kids. You didn’t hear about people in our generation dying from stuff. We were tough.

Ah, the good old days, when a little bit of dirt was just enough to figure out what to do, but now, these young as parents who were raised in programmed play, travel sports, and play dates don’t know what can be done with a little dirt. It can be a base, turned into a place to play with cars, gotten wet and turned into a mudpie that is good for throwing on someone. What do I know, I’m just a guy who is somewhere between old head and young parent watching two teenage kids deal with the malaize that is adults who forget what it was like to be a kid.

Maybe we should send them back to school. After all, you need a license or certificate for just about anything. One major exception is becoming a parent. Any couple smart enough to dip a wick can make a kid. Any couple smart enough to want to do should have the wisdom of the past and be able to know that sometimes kids make mistakes.

But wait, they should also have the grace to accept that adults do too. Things are not what they seem. Maybe the events of a situation didn’t happen quite the way they thought. The adults should spend a little time watching Law and Order, the witness usually mess things up with some lapse of memory. Instead of jumping to conclusion, they should remember the lessons Elmo sang about taking a breath and go back to their recliners or quality time with their dirty diaper training wheel organic Kryptonite kids and learn what is real. Kids make mistakes. If they didn’t, there would be no need for diapers.

As my time here winds down, I’d like to thank twenty-six years of working in public schools for my warped wisdom. I spend a great deal of time with kids, mostly teenagers now. I look at them knowing that they are in learning mode. They have to be taught and as hard as it is to get through to them, I’ve got to be as patient as I can be. I’m not always good at it and I’m sure it will be tough to get back in the groove one the pandemic subsides, but I can sit back and laugh at my neighbors who have no clue what it means to raise other people’s children. They don’t know the effect they are having on their kids by yelling at other kids. They don’t know how their baby talk and coddling is creating some manipulative little mofos. Maybe then, I’ve found some sort of Maslow certainty where I’m comfortable with kids. I don’t really have to worry about the neighborhood kids. One, most of them are too young to bother me. Two, their parents are always hovering over them.

That’s not good…

The wind blew too many trees down for the power lines to handle. My dog, scared by the silence of power outages, and I sat at the dinner table. His ears were pulled back, a sure sign that he was afraid of the arrival of nature’s next indignity to hit in April. While his ears were low, his eyes were alert for any crumb that might fall from my dinner of bagels dipped in olive oil. He patiently waited until I offered him a small saturated piece. With no grace at all, he brutishly plucked it from my fingers. Delicious.

Fred’s week went down right after he had his best swim. The water pushed him along, nearly parting as he pushed his newfound pace. There was a post-exercise rush that ended as soon as he got to work. The weight of shutdown culture came crashing down. The drowning nature of the fear existing from the defense of other people’s feelings pulled Fred under. He did the only thing he knew to do. He held his breath, dropping out of sight and stewing about what life was becoming, an unfortunate set of experiences that stole the good from a super swim.

colorful clown toy

There were a few minutes left in the longest school day of the year. My students were deep into a battle of kickball when the emergency lights around the gym started blinking. The calm and panic-inducing voice commanding everyone to leave the building. We went out into the blinding sun and winter’s wind. Luckily, the sun was winning and it wasn’t too cold. The students walked to the safe zone and we waited to hear what could have caused the unexpected building evacuation. Fortunately, nothing was too wrong. A bag of microwavable popcorn burned. The smoke ended the day.

It was like I had never been in a classroom before. They looked at me like I was some kind of freak speaking a language they had never heard. In less than two weeks, either I had forgotten how to teach or they had no clue what I had taught them over the last four months. This was no dream. This was first period after the holiday recess. I scrambled for the right things to say recognizing that time has a way of bringing things back. Somewhere in a story about my high school teacher, they came back to life.

Cold made its way into the morning. Finally. Two of us took to the roads in the dark. We talked training. We talked guy stuff. We shared our preferences for angrier music, the happy pop not fitting our slightly deranged view of the world. I found it comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one who still appreciated the Sex Pistols, although, my expertise paled in comparison to my running partner’s punk rock acumen. He did show his age, a few years ahead of my own, when he offered to let me borrow his copy of “Spunk.”

With that run done and the sun rising, we headed to the fields for a cross country-styled 5K organized by another friend and populated by a bunch of people we all mostly know. My plan was to chill, take it easy on the course, and simply enjoy the time. Like Goggins in Las Vegas and with “Anarchy” blaring on a loop in my head, I took off with a goal to catch the Mennonite woman running up ahead in their bonnets and dresses. Ego is a strange thing and mine was hooked to an adrenaline pump as I pushed harder than I have in many years. We caught the nattily clad runners and for the rest of the way, I ran scared of being passed from behind.

The community theme of the race was exhibited at the finish line. No egos, no trash talking, only the support for each runner as they finished. Times didn’t really matter. Places, either. Hanging with all my friends at the finish lines was awesome. The sun was out, the warmth everywhere, the angry music out of my head.

Thanks, y’all.

Seen in their natural habitats, animals exhibit their truest behaviors. They forget the responsibility for insuring the success of the herd and look only to protect themselves. Think of the teacher with closets full of supplies while the rest turn to funding sites to beg in a socially acceptable way for markers, erasers, paper, or scissors. Think of the teachers who see the classroom as their personal domain, as if it is an extension of their homes, so much so that they are put out when a transient is assigned to their classroom for a period or two.

Maybe it would be good if some kind of animal whisperer came into contact with these egocentrically inclined professionals. The trainer could show them the good of building strong relationships with other members of the pack. Their enlightened ways might help them share some of their resources or maybe even knock stressfulness down a level or two. Of course, the truest habits of an animal comes out in the most natural environments.

Old dogs, new tricks?