From the archives… the first adventure on Adagio

Image We bought Adagio two years ago about this time of year with the idea that having a boat at in New Jersey would give us a chance to sail and  give us a place to stay at the ocean..  good thinking, eh?  ( no, i am not Canadian)    My solo sailing experiences up to that point were limited to sunfish.   This is the story of my first solo trip on Adagio..

This past weekend I did a solo trip to Tom’s River.   Adagio was resting easily in her slip.  There were still many boats on the hard waiting their turn to be launched for the season.   There were jobs to be done, but the first, and most important appointment for the day was a visit from Bob 23 – a fellow compac 23 owner from the Barnegat Bay area whom I met on on a compac sailing forum on line.   We had a great chat, comparing notes on numerous topics ranging from sailing to cycling to construction..  all common interests that we share.   After Bob left, the first task was to clean the rudder which had quite an accumulation of growth on it.   It is plastic and unpainted, and the boat has been in the water since last season.   As I was inspecting it,  a neighboring boat owner showed up and introduced himself  – took a look at the brush that I had in hand and suggested that a paint scraper would be a much more effective tool.   I took his advice – went to the store and bought some tools and spent an hour scraping the barnacles from the surface of the rudder..   

  With the rudder back in place, I confronted the reality that it was time to take the boat out.   I must admit to some slight trepidation as I started the motor and unfastened the docklines..  Most of my sailing experience has been on sunfish, and the bigger boat sailing that I have done has always been as crew..  not only was I the captain this time, but I was also alone..   I figured that I had better get used to this idea since it is likely that, at least in the immediate future, there will be numerous times when I will be single handling the boat..   and – perhaps it is better to work out some of the kinks before my wife joins me for the first time Smiley

   There was hardly any wind at the dock to complicate the necessary maneuvering  through the marina, but it is fair to say that the tempo of my pulse was slightly faster than Adagio..  the former owner was on his new boat a few slips away, and he cheered me on as I motored  by – but also offered the advice that I probably would want to close the forward hatch if I intended to use the jib –  right – how delicately put –  certainly a useful piece of advice!    I motored out to where we had raised the sails a few weeks before on the trial sail  and headed the boat into the wind..  The reefs that we had put in before were still tied, so the raising of the sail was not quite as smooth as I anticipated Smiley    I smiled at the folks relaxing in the cockpit of a boat anchored near by and asked if it looked like my first day on the water as I drifted by them,  working at the reef knots with the sail halfway up the mast..  they were gracious..    I decided to sail with just the main for a while..   light winds.. directly astern..   made good progress with only one  unintended jibe..     it would be fair to say that I made a boat load of mental notes during the trip!   Of course, the return was directly into the wind.. with  the added excitement of darkening clouds closing in..   I dropped the sail and motored back.   

   As luck would have it,  the small storm swept in as I was nearing the marina.. just a smattering of raindrops but a distinct increase in the wind speed.   The marina operator spoke to me as I motored by the fuel dock.. I have no idea what he was saying..  except when he said ” watch where you are going”  – it was time to pay a little closer attention to the conditions at hand!   I gracefully corrected course, assuming  that the fellow sitting on the stern of that powerboat was relieved that I did so!     I kept hearing the words of the owner of the marina when we agreed to keep the boat in the same slip that it had in previous seasons ” this is a protected spot – hardly ever any wind”   – right..  The wind was picking up and blowing directly across the dock.    There was no time to check my pulse, but if I had, it would have registered Allegro  for sure!   After my 4th attempt and what seemed like an eternity I lined the boat up and slipped into our spot..  no damage to the dock, to Adagio, or to any other boat =  a successful landing!   As I made fast the bow lines, i glanced around to see how many of my neighbors had witnessed the agony of that first solo landing..  if they had seen it, none were looking now  Smiley    The wind died just as quickly as it had risen, and Adagio was resting easy in her slip…   

    I spent that night on the boat – my first overnight on a boat –  a boyhood dream that I have carried all of these years –  and awoke to a glorious morning.   What a day to spend at the marina – except that I had to be back in northeast PA  by 1 pm for an 8 hour rehearsal in the theater at the school where I teach.   So, after enjoying a quiet breakfast and a hot cup of tea in the cockpit.  I thoroughly looked the boat over, checked the dock lines and slid the companionway hatch closed.  Looking back at Adagio as I made my way up the dock, I felt particularly pleased about my first adventure.

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It’s all related…

ImageThis morning I wrote about my trip to Maine.   After making an offer on a piece of land in Phippsburg and having it rejected and then resubmitting it a couple of weeks later and having it accepted,  we are moving forward in the purchase process.  My fingers are crossed that all will be well and that we will close by the end of May.   So, what about the picture of a house under construction, you might ask.   That is the house that we are currently building.  It has been a 4 year process of working during the summers and vacations and gradually getting to the point where we can enjoy living there when we are on break from school.   And, within a month, around the same time that we close on the property in Maine,  we will be moving to this house after living in a dorm for the last 13 years.   The dorm has it’s highlights, but it will be very nice to be in our own home after so many years!

This brings us to bad habit number one..  ( my bad habits, of course)  I typically begin  new projects before finishing old ones which means that I am constantly drawn in different directions.   I probably should have been working on the exterior of the house this past weekend, instead of traveling to Maine..  but even warmer weather is on the way..  plenty of time for exterior work 🙂

In addition to working on the house, the major adventure for the upcoming summer is supposed to be a boat trip to Lake Champlain.  It has been 6 months in the planning stages..  but reality began to sink in on the long ride home from Maine yesterday.   If our next project will be a small house in Maine, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to have the boat there?    On the way up to Maine on Saturday, I crossed the Hudson River at Newburgh NY and looked down at the water, thinking that in a couple of months I would be cruising at 6 mph under this very bridge…   on the way home yesterday  I confronted the reality that  I probably would not be headed in this direction at all, but instead, would be sailing up the coast..  into NY Harbor and then through Hell’s Gate into long island sound..  and continuing on till reaching the coast of Maine.  

On the bright side,  it means a lot more sailing whereas the trip up the Hudson would have been mostly under power..    And, actually, Maine was the first destination that we considered as we talked about moving the boat last summer.   But,  we may never make it to Champlain and all that it has to offer the cruising sailor.  The big draw of Champlain was that my daughter lives near Burlington, a great town to visit..   so we will miss the opportunity of spending time with her and sailing with her on the lake.   Hopefully, she and her boyfriend will find time to visit us in Maine instead…

So, even life at 6mph can be complicated, and, as often is the case, it is our own desires and dreams that are the sources of the complications.   In the end, I am imagining that we will build a small place in Phippsburg which will become the focus of many summer adventures for us and for our kids and their families.   And if that happens, it will all be worth it.   One way or another, however, this summer will include a trip on Adagio, and that will be a dream fulfilled…   jt

How old are you?

It seems that I will have to start taking more pictures… posts without pictures just don’t quite cut it!   I just returned from my latest adventure, and I am still processing the details, but one in particular has grabbed my attention.   There are a hundred different threads to weave here, and I am afraid that I won’t do it all justice, but here is my attempt at 5 am in the morning!

This is about  a trip to Maine that began three days ago and ended just last night.  The purpose of the trip was to meet with a fellow to do a soil test on a piece of property in Phippsburg Maine.   Although not quite finished with the house project that my wife and I began 4 years ago, we are already looking ahead to the next one, perhaps I am doing more of the dreaming at this point, but I am feeling supported by my loving spouse, and that is all important, as I have discovered in the past..

The adventure unfolded along the way.  About 5 hours into the trip, I decided to contact  dear friends, Jud and Frances,  in NH, and ended up diverting my course, ending up at their home for the evening, sharing stories and laughs and falling asleep to the sound of loons on lake Winnepesaukee.  The next morning, before resuming my trip, I was glad to climb to their roof to sweep the piles of pine leaves left over from the winter storms.  At 88, Jud has recently given up chainsaw work and climbing on roofs, but I know that he longed to join me with a broom!

We wrapped up the visit, sitting on the dock with a cup of tea, enjoying the warm spring sun and one another’s company.  Jud told me a story..      two farmers  were leaning against a fence when a hen raced by, followed by a rooster just a few seconds behind.  The chicken ran around the barn and was about to make another pass by the farmers.  The first farmer reached into his pocket and withdrew a few kernels of corn.  “Watch this”  he said.   Just after the hen passed by, he threw the corn on the ground..  the rooster stopped to eat the corn.   The second farmer pondered for a minute and then remarked ” I hope I never get that hungry..”

And then it was time to get back on the road..  another 3 hours to my destination, Brunswick Maine, where I spent Sunday afternoon roaming around the 3 acre plot of land in question and exploring the town of Phippsburg.      In the evening I  met some more recent friends, Ken, Julie and their daughter, Adel.    We had a wonderful dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant in town, followed by a stroll through downtown and then a desert of gelato.  The highlight of the evening was a visit to Ken’s shop where  we watched the sunlight fade over the bay.   For the next hour or so our conversation roamed from one topic to another as Ken showed me the various projects that he has been working on.   And then it was back to my motel and off to sleep in preparation for the Monday meeting. 

I met Jamie ,  our realtor, and Dick, the fellow she had recommended for the soil test,  at 8 am. We walked the land and Dick was able to find a suitable site for the test.  The results were favorable, and we reached a general agreement on how we would proceed.   Then it was off to the bank where I met the loan officer whom I knew only through phone and email contact.  The paperwork was in order and the final task at the bank was to open a checking account.  The loan officer  said “let me see if a csr is available.  

Of course, this was not my first trip to a bank, nor was it the first time that I have applied for a loan, but csr?  that was new lingo for me.    He then introduced me to Esperanza,  a customer service representative..  of course..   a very pleasant csr!   I immediately understood that we had a connection.  We were both from away.   There are two types of folks in Maine..  those who were born there, and those from away..   and I can tell you that Esperanza is not a native Maine name!   As we spoke, we found another connection.  She and her husband, who happened to be a native of the state, live in Phippsburg, our intended home away from home!   Esperanza was very helpful, describing the options for accounts.   It was obvious that she did not want to presume when it came to explaining the free account checking account which required on line statements..  ” are you comfortable with computers?”  she politely asked..  I smiled and replied “yes”.  of course, in my mind a slightly sarcastic ” do i look that old”  thought crossed my mind, but this situation did not warrant sarcasm, and I would never be impolite to a csr.. 

Esperanza hesitated and then asked ” How old are you”    This question sent my mind racing..  how old am i?    why would a csr ask a question like that..  isn’t there some kind of discrimination law that would prevent her from doing so?   And then I looked down at the pamphlet that she has spread open on her desk and watcher as her finger hovered over an option..   senior checking..    Now you might believe that this was a light bulb kind of moment, but no..  it was much more gradual..  the solution slowly solidified in my brain..  “are you comfortable with computers”,  “how old are you”..   wait a minute, I was just on a roof yesterday morning, sweeping pine needles to the ground!    I think like a 29 year-old, and I still ride my bicycle!   sure i don’t have much hair left on the top of my head, and my beard is grey,  but senior checking?  

The sad fact is, that as tenaciously as I try to hold on to middle age,  I am only two years away from senior checking 😦    But what young bank executive made the decision to set the age limit for senior checking at 55?  It must have been a committee of young bank executives, meeting all day,  wrestling with the momentous decision about the transition from middle age to the status of a senior  and then going out after work and celebrating their accomplishment..    

I smiled, and said, ” no, i don’t qualify for that just yet.   Esperanza might have saved the day by saying ” I didn’t think so”  but, apparently she had no way of knowing how much she bruised my ego.  Instead, she continued in her pleasant, helpful manner, and we completed the transaction.   And then I shook her hand and headed back to Phippsburg for one more look at the lay of the land before turning the truck south and heading back to Pennsylvania.

An Evening in the Shop

Fourteen years ago, I ordered the plans for a boat named Redwing,  a camp cruiser designed by Karl Stambaugh.   I have yet to build the boat, not for lack of motivation, but more a matter of priorities.   In fact,  I had the plans lofted in my garage in New Hampshire when we made the decision to move to Pennsylvania…  life is full of trade-offs!  In the meantime,  I built a few six hour canoes,  a cedar strip canoe,  a bolger  Gloucester light dory,  and a pygmy kayak..  and, the purchase of Adagio, our compac 23 two years ago has diverted considerable time and energy..  but the plans for Redwing still sit on my shelf, and I visit the place in my mind periodically where the dream of slowly exploring shallow backwaters in our very own home-built boat lives.     There was a time, a few years ago, when I thought that Redwing just might turn into a reality….

An Evening in the Shop

“So when are we going to get started on the boat project?” I asked my friend as we worked together in his shop.  Finding myself,  yet again,  in need of a sheltered place to work, I had asked him if I could bring some wood  to his shop to be planed.  At 48 years of age,  a number items remained on a list that  had evolved over the years , a list of things that I wanted to accomplish in life.  It did not exist on paper.  Instead, it lived in my mind, and, In truth, I had achieved a number of the goals that I had laid out, but the list seemed to grow longer with each passing year.   Surely, the construction of a shop would seem to  rank high in priority after all these years.  With each new project, the first question was “where would I find the space to work”?   On the bookshelf in my room there was a file containing at least half a dozen different plans for shops that I had bought over the years.  Someday….

My friend was retired, and he was pursuing a dream of his own.   He was restoring a Model A.  However, my sense was that the job was taking longer and costing more than he had anticipated.  We had been talking about building a boat together for at least 3 years, but he had to finish the Model A first.   In between feeding boards through the planer and making adjustments for the next run, my friend announced that his wife and he had applied to live in a retirement village in a town that was about 2 hours distant from where we lived.  I knew that they had been investigating such a move, but I was still struck by the revelation that they had actually filed an application, that they were on the waiting list, and within a year or so, perhaps even sooner, they would be leaving.

Just a few weeks prior to this conversation we had  been sitting at his kitchen table, the plans for  “Redwing” , an 18 foot camping cruiser spread before us, talking about using the space in his garage, currently filled by the Model A  for the construction process.  He was excited about the prospect of moving on to a new project,  of building a boat, and I was looking forward to working with him.

“I’m not sure” he answered after a moment’s contemplation.  We continued the process of planning the boards, the shop filled with the whine of the blades shaving another 1/16 of an inch of wood, leaving the boards smooth and flat and ready to become a part of the jelly cupboard that I was building for my wife. 

Killing the power to the planer, the room plunged  into a deafening silence.  The roar of the machine remained in our ears for a time, but it was the lack of conversation that was most noticeable.  My friend continued to ponder as we began the clean up process.  I watched as he stiffly stooped over to sweep some chips onto the dustpan that he held in his hand.  “ I guess that I won’t be able to build the boat”  The silence was broken with this simple sentence. His voice was filled with resignation.   The time was not right for a response.  I continued to sweep the floor as I grew to understand the significance of the moment.  Even as my own list grew, it had never occurred to me that I might not accomplish everything on it, that circumstances might cut short the pursuit of my dreams.  And yet, here I was with my friend at the very moment that he confronted the reality that his dream of building a boat and using it to strike out on an adventure,  perhaps not unlike Huck Finn, to  go cruising and exploring and fishing with his wife,  would have to be abandoned.

After a time, I agreed that it no longer seemed practical to spend time building a boat as one contemplated the time and effort that would be necessary to prepare to move,  where would he store such a boat at a retirement community anyway.   Practicality does not always enter into the pursuit of dreams however,  and I knew that what I was offering was weak consolation. 

Our job was complete.  I loaded the wood into my van and turned to thank my friend.  We arranged another visit to use the planer again, and then I slid in behind the wheel.  As I pulled from the driveway, I wondered about the future.  I wondered if, in just my sixth decade like my father, I would  simply expire one day without warning, leaving some projects undone and many others still in the dream phase.   Or if I would grow old and incapable of accomplishing all that I had planned.  I pushed the thoughts out of my mind with the resolution that I would begin to build that shop, just as soon as …..

 

It is raining this evening..

Well,  I am sure that there is a great deal that I have to learn about blogging…  the stats are not looking all that inspiring  so far!  But that is ok.  It is fun to write things down, to share them,  and to dream that someday, someone will happen upon this blog and find something that touches them or stirs some recognition or simply puts a smile on your face..  that would be pretty cool!

This entry has little to do with the fact that it is raining this evening.   And, it has even less to do with life at 6 miles per hour.  In fact, it is about the first and only speeding ticket that I earned a number of years ago when I happened to be visiting my kids in New England.   I was on my way from my daughter’s place in VT  to see my son who was and still is living with his mother in NH.   I was somewhat disappointed with myself about getting a ticket, as I tend to be that guy driving nearly 65 mph on the high way who everyone is trying to pass!   But I was snagged, fair and square.

On my way back to PA,  I processed the event by formulating  a play in my mind.  The 8 hour trip gave me plenty of time to work on the project, and I wrote it down when I got home.   A year later, it was performed at my school as part of the Winter Drama Workshop.  In fact,  two different directors did it with two different sets of actors.  What an eye opening experience to see how the same script could be interpreted so differently.

I borrowed an idea from a local department store  that often has sales during which the customer spins a spinner to see how much of a discount they earn as they check out.  The local audience could quickly identify with this aspect of the play.   The process of writing the play in my head eased the frustration stemming from the ticket and made the trip go by very quickly.  I hope that you enjoy it!

The Speeding Ticket

Setting: a small mountain highway in rural NH

Po:  good morning sir.  My name is seargant Kerney with the Winooski police dept.  do you know why I pulled you over?

J:  well, have you ever pulled over someone for driving too slowly?

PO:  never..

J:  and I suppose that today won’t be your first time?

PO: no

J:  did my registration sticker fall off of my license plate
PO: cutting J off    sir you were driving 56 miles per hour in a 40 mile an hour zone..

J:  that isn’t too good

PO: no sir, it is not .  may I see your license and registration please

J: of course  handing over the documents

PO:  jack T  of  150 Blair ave, kingston pa?
J:  that is right

Po:  where are you headed Mr. T?

J:  are you allowed to ask that question?

PO: of course I am allowed to ask that question. I always ask that question.

J:  do I have to answer it?

PO:   I can’t see why you would not want to.. everyone answers the question.   Of course, if you don’t want to, maybe I should search your car.

J:  that won’t be necessary.  I am on my way to my ex-wife’s for lunch.   She always used to hate it when I was late for meals..  I can hear her now.. “ nothing has changed.. your still late for lunch!”

Of course, that is not why I was speeding, mind you.   Here I was trapped on a two lane mountain road behind a logging truck – 30 mph uphill.  You can imagine my joy when the road opened up and I spotted a new passing lane.  Natualy, I  goosed it a bit to get around the truck..

PO:  only one problem

J: what is that?

PO:  you forgot to slow down

J:  yes I guess that is a bit of a problem

PO:  this will take a minute, please remain in your car

A moment later..

Ok Mr. T, here is your license and registration.   The charge for your ticket is $72.

J:  am I free to go now?
po:  not quite, please remain here

( police officer goes back to his car and retrieves a roulette wheel)

PO:  ok, please spin the wheel..

J:  you want me to spin the wheel? ( incredulously)

PO:  it is a new initiative ..  the chief’s idea..  there has been a lot of negative reaction to the department among the locals so he is hoping to foster good will.  You spin the wheel  and earn the appropriate discount on your ticket.

J: (continues in an incredulous tone)  you just issued me a speeding ticket, and now you want to spread good will?

Po:  just spin the wheel sir

J: if I did not know any better,  I would think that I was shopping at a Boscov’s sale

Po:  what was that?

J:  oh, nothing, you would not understand

(a few seconds pass as wheel slows down)

po:  damn…

j: what is wrong?

Po:  it landed on 90% off

J:  (smiling) well, that is a good thing, isn’t it?

Po:   ( despondently)  I have only had three traffic stops all month, and in each case the criminal has earned 90% off.    The chief is going to rip off my head

J:  wait a minute,  a traffic stop makes me a criminal?

Po:  well, you did break the law

J:  yes, but I had no idea that I would be branded a criminal for life.. they don’t teach that in grade school.. maybe if they did I would have paid better attention to the speed limit signs..

PO:  I can’t go back to the station with this report

J:  hmmm,  would you like me to spin again, maybe this time I will get a smaller discount?

Po:  no, that would be unethical – may I have your ticket back?

(J passes ticket back to po: )

PO: ( continuing in a despondent tone )  there you go,  90% off leaves you with a ticket of  7 dollars and 20 cents.

J:  well thank you officer, I am sorry that I ruined your day.  Is that all?

Po:  no, there is one more thing

( reaching inside his coat,  the police officer takes a sheet of paper and hands it to J)

would you please fill this out?

J: what is it

Po:  it is a customer satisfaction survey

J:  (again incredulous)   are you kidding?

PO:  another idea from the chief – it should not take too long

J:  you want me to do it right now?

PO:  that is right, here is a pen

J:  well, the first one is easy.. “ officer is courteous”  I can give you a high mark there.  In fact, if there was a space for me to write in I would add that you have very good diction

PO: good what?

J:  diction, I understood everything that you said.  If this police thing does not work out, maybe a job in radio would suit you

PO:  thank you

J:  let’s see  “efficiency”   that is easy, I was pretty amazed at how quickly you figured out my discount.  I can certainly give you high marks on this one

Po:  third time this month..

J: right..  now I might have a problem with this last one  “demeanor”  there are only three options for me to select..  “  ecstatic,   happy ,  cheerful “

Are police officers typically ecstatic when they pull over speeding drivers?

PO: no, the chief likes to frame things positively, and he ran out of words..

J:  I see.     they really should have an option like  “down in the dumps”  can I write that in?

PO: I don’t think that would go over too well

J:  well, I could mark cheerful, but that probably would not be too ethical.

Po:  no, I don’t suppose it would

J:   so here we have a situation where I am happy because I get to pull away with only a small fine  but your day is ruined because you have to tell your chief that you let another “criminal” go with a huge discount,  and, on top of that, I have to give you a negative survey.

PO:  I wish that I had never pulled you over..

J:  ok, I have an  idea..   suppose you rip up the ticket and issue me a warning..  then you don’t have to report the discount..  that might perk you up.  And then I can give you a satisfactory survey – cheerful would be a legitimate description..  and that will make your chief happy.

PO:  good idea  ( he reaches for the ticket and rips it up)

J:  let me put the final touches on this survey… ( writes on the paper and then hands it to the police officer)

PO:  thank you sir,  have a great day

J:  you bet, and have a great day yourself!

Po: be careful out there –  lots of folks speed on this road

J:  you bet!

Sadie

Sadie

My step daughter, K., and I often do not see eye to eye, but then, how could we? My eyes are crossed 🙂 In fact, it seems like we don’t have a lot of common ground, but my dog, Sadie, was a a connection.

In 2009 Sadie made her last trip to the vet. Kyra was at her dad’s that afternoon, but we stopped by the house so that she could come out and say goodbye.

Sometime after that traumatic event ( i can hardly see the screen through the tears at the moment) I wrote K. a note “from Sadie”

Dear K.,
You were not too sure if I liked you when we first met, but I sensed that you were a warm, caring little girl who would make a good friend, so I did everything I could to let you know that I thought that you were special.

I was happy when you and Aria moved into the house. It reminded me of when I was a puppy and Alison and Erik were about the same ages as you and your sister. Although you were not always around, it seemed special when you would arrive for a few days. I looked forward to going for walks with you or to playing ball with you out on the front yard. And, when you left, I always eagerly anticipated your next visit!

Jumping up on your bed and snuggling next to you for the night was a wonderful way to end the day. I was most content when everyone was home and safely tucked in for the night. I slept with Janet and Jason when you were not around, but it just was not the same!

Thanks for taking care of me. Thanks for taking the time to brush me and especially for the times when you helped Jason give me a bath. I never really liked getting wet, but I appreciated your gentle touch. ☺
Finally, thanks for coming out to say goodbye last night. That was not an easy thing to do. Many adults would have struggled with that decision.

We enjoyed a lot of happy moments together, and I consider myself to be very lucky that you and your sister came into my life when you did. I hope that you will always remember that!
Love, sadie

was it sadie , or was it me trying to reach out to a step daughter who often went out of her way to add another brick to the wall between us.. The wall is still there today, but i think that she put a few windows in it during the construction phase.. every once in a while i see a smile flash across her face, and I think that there is still hope.. jt

After a wonderful hike  this morning with my wife and a group of outdoor minded folks, I spent the better part of the day working on the house that we have been building over the last 4 years.     4 years to build a house?   Well, clearly, we have not been working full time for 4 years!  It has been a part time endeavor,  working weekends during the fall and spring and more or less full time when not sailing or pursuing other adventures during the spring.   And we have already enjoyed spending time here over the last year and a half, but that is for another post.  

The thought that has been on my mind the past couple of days, and during my work time today is Dennis the Menace.   Anyone who was a young kid in the 60’s will surely recognize the show.   I watched it religiously… or I should say,  I watched the re-runs religiously .   The series stopped in 1963, and I don’t think that we owned a TV until the second half of the decade.  

Of course, Dennis was not a true menace.  I think that he always had good intentions, but, week after week, he found ways to make Mr. Wilson lose his cool.   Many years have passed since I last watched an episode, but the voices of the characters are still fresh in my mind.  “Hi Mr. Wilson”..  ”  Oh, Hello Dennis”    ..     It is the “Hi Mr. Wilson”  that is stuck in my mind today. 

When students in my class say something nice or take time to do something polite for a classmate, I try to recognize them.  ” Cody,  your mother brought you up right”   That is one of my favorite sayings..   I understand that it leaves Dad out of the picture and that critics could tear me apart, but, almost inevitably, it brings a smile to the student’s face,  and I know that I struck a positive chord.    So, I guess it is time to make my point, and here it is.   Dennis’ mother brought him up right.  I don’t think that it would occur to Dennis to ignore Mr. Wilson if he saw him on the street.  In fact, I think that Dennis would go out of his way to say “Hello Mr. Wilson”, even if he had to walk half a block out of his way.

On the way to classes earlier this week, I mentioned to a colleague that I had read through a school rule book dating back to the 40’s, and I found that students were expected to acknowledge teachers in the morning.  Of course, this remains an expectation in the military to this day, but  we prefer to run the school in a slightly less disciplined manner.   

I recall my mother telling me in no uncertain terms ( a favorite phrase of hers)  that it was disrespectful for me to say “hi” to a teacher and that I should use the word “Hello”  instead.  We have a lot of great kids at school, and the last thing that I want to do is use this as a forum for rants against “kids these days”,  but I would be happy if kids said “hi” on a regular basis.  In fact, they don’t.   I saw a student walking across the street the other day, and I called out his name, expecting to congratulate him on a performance that he did a day earlier.  He was listening to his ipod…  he never heard me,  and he deprived me of the opportunity to pay him a compliment.  

High school students tend to be social.  In our school, they tend to sit in the halls and visit.  They are very comfortable.. their feet stretched out in front of them..   I guess they are deeply engrossed in their conversations, because they don’t even recognize that they have formed a gauntlet which is difficult to negotiate.   “ok, I say to myself… it is ok that you don’t say hello, but could you please pull your legs in so that those of us intent on getting to class can do so without fear of tripping?” 

When I am in one of those temporary cynical moods, it seems like students whom you have had in previous years forget that you even exist, and the current ones who are worried about their grades are the ones who remember to smile and say hello.   Thank God I don’t get in cynical moods too often! 

So, I am thinking that if my mother was still living, tonight would have been a good evening to stop by and visit and share conversation over a cup of tea and thank her for bringing me up right.   And, as we prepare for a new week at school, I need to remind myself to look for students who are not listening to ipods,  make eye contact with them,  and wish them a good morning.  After all,  good manners constitute the lubricant which eases friction in social interactions, and, while I consider myself a teacher of mathematics, I sometimes think that what the world really needs today is a good dose of manners.   jt