Sunday, September 25, 2011

Having a little trouble with your metaphors? Is that what's bothering you, Bunky??


The Annual English Teachers' awards 
for best student metaphors/analogies

These gems were found in actual student papers!   Enjoy! 

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like
underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just
before it throws up.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling
ball wouldn't.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie,
surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and
Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry
them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the
grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left
Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at
4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had
also never met.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy
who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at
high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one
of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East

Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one
that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law George. But unlike George,
this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating
for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a
real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg
behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with
power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if
she were a garbage truck backing up

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nothing attractive about "mellow"

Have you ever been mellow?
Olivia Newton John sang a song in the 1970s that drove me a little batty.

The lyrics were something like, "Have you ever been mellow?    Have you ever let someone else be strong?"

The words bug me because, no; I can't say I ever have.  Been "mellow," I mean. 

We made a difference

There came a time in the 1970s when the quest for "mellow"was endemic.  The previous decade left us exhausted.  We had tried for a decade to change everything about our world;  our families, our love-relationships, our racial relations. We wanted a world with clean air and water, trees and wildlife.

And we made a difference.  Because of our protest, more women moved into the work force.  Because our brothers and friends burned their draft cards, the war in Vietnam was shortened and the draft eradicated.  Because we dared to instigate, Jim Crow laws dissolved into history.

His administration hated dissent.
But we did these things at great personal sacrifice.  The hard work left us weak, vulnerable and disillusioned.

Our president called us names

Our fatigue made perfect sense. Those were hostile, angry times.

The cruel war was raging.  At home, our  president called us "effete" for standing up for our liberties, "arrogant" for protesting the war and "elite" for pushing for investigation of his administration.  His administration hated dissent.

Those were violent, frightening times.  While the anti-war demonstrations across the nation grew in number and intensity, military and police action against us became more and more aggressive.

On May 4, 1970, four Kent State students were killed; shot by the National Guard while protesting the war in Vietnam. 

The violence was part of everything
We were never, never allowed to look away from the violence.

Every day broadcast news brought vivid, ugly images into our living rooms.  Night after night we sat together and watched images of our young men fight the first war our nation ever lost.

We watched our boyfriends, brothers and dads kill and die.

And the bodies.  The media allowed us to see the corpses of our brothers, boyfriends, friends and fathers returned to us in body bags, day after day after day.

Evening newscasters didn't joke with each other in those days; no one laughed at the events of our world.  These were the days of real media, real news.  These were the days before we expected our journalists to entertain.

Innocence lost

We were the Sunday school generation of the 1950s.  Every day of our elementary school career, we rose together in unity, placed our tiny hands over our hearts and pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

And they lied to us.  All of them.  Our teachers, our politicians, our parents.  Hard to imagine today, but being lied to was a shocking thing in the 1970s.

It hurt us.

More than anything else, however, it made us want to do better than had been done to us. We felt like we were part of something leading to a new world - a new creation.  The dawning of a new age.

In order to build it, however, we were going have to stay the course - fight the good fight.

But my generation was tired.

Olivia wanted us to be as "mellow" as possible.
"Mellow" became a quest
And so, when Olivia asked if we had ever thought about being "mellow," many of us answered, "damn straight."

Not me.  I didn't have the privilege of "mellow."  My father was dead; my mother and I were alone.  She needed me sober, straight and sane.  I was not about to let her down by using drugs.

But I know many individuals who did everything they could to be as mellow as possible.  

Pot, cocaine, heroin and LSD did the trick.  Instant mellow.  Memory loss.

I had friends who lived on drugs.  They pressured me - sure they did.

"Open your mind," one friend said. "Turn off, turn in, turn your mind around."

I assured him that there were still those among us who all ready had an open mind.  And the last thing my mother needed was a stoned daughter.

Take a baby boomer to lunch this week.  

You don't have to be an old hippie to feel the outrage over the way our media is working to sell us on new and better ways to make the rich wealthier.

If you feel it, you're not alone.  Trust me.  Many Baby Boomers (like me) are on to what's happening today.  And we don't like it.

If you're walking through the street sometime and you encounter a Boomer, think for a moment of all we did and the work we left undone.

Don't assume we're "mellow." Many of us are still mad as hell.

Ask questions.  We're always happy to tell our stories.

All we are saying is give peace a chance. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The bad mommy in us all

I'm writing a play about motherhood.

All of my plays, in one way or another, are about my relationships with my two daughters.

This play, in particular, is about the following; my biological and much-loved mother, the woman who mothered me with her friendship - and a serious critique of my own job as a mom.

For the past twenty years I've taken credit for my kids' lives.
For the past twenty-something years I have taken full credit for my daughters' wonderful, creative and excellent lives.

I guess that's not a sin.  Lately, however, it occurred to me that most of the work raising these kids was done by the people we all hung around, and the messages they received from the media.

Of course, I controlled most of the media when they were little binks. . .

I don't know.  Maybe I was right in the first place.  Maybe I'm the main source of their success!

My mother certainly thought the same thing of herself.

Of course, I agreed with her.  There's no doubt in my mind that, without my mother, I'd be living today in some damn trailer down by the river.

If not for my mother I'd be living today in a trailer .
Still - comparing my mother's mothering to the way I raised my children is an apples and oranges event.

This play will be interesting.

The title?  "The Simple Truth."

Will you come to the public reading?  I hope so. . .

Saturday, September 3, 2011

For love or money

I found the chops to walk away.
I used to think I needed a $60 thousand salary to make ends meet.

I was terrified to leave my well-paid position as a curriculum writer for a here-unmentioned online university.

Even so, on October of 2008, as the market crashed and the Great Recession terrified the nation, I found the chops to walk away from a job that made me sick.

In those days, my "boss" was a thirty-something frustrated poet, trying to find her inner "tough-guy" at the workplace.  I liked her.  I really liked her.

No matter.  For some odd reason, she chose to try out her new Nazi skills on me.

Surrounded by people twenty, thirty years younger does not have to be a bad experience.  The harsh stuff happens when you are treated like a child by most of them, and ignored by the others.

I remember the first time my staff went to "happy hour" - my entire staff, mind you - and didn't invite me.

My feelings - - my poor, baby-tender hearted feelings - were seriously hurt.  I thought my colleagues were my friends.  I thought we had shared values, shared goals, and shared respect.

I look back on those days and chuckle.  My ignorance of the American workplace was stunning.  My innocence, even at age 59, was almost pathetic.

Walking away was the most terrifying, provocative and worthy thing I have ever done.

And I don't regret it.

Somewhere, out there, on the Tuesday after Labor Day, an alarm will go off in a lonely bedroom.

Brown haired, blurry eyed and a little unconscious.
A thirty-something-year-old woman who would rather write poetry will rise, shower, pull on her panty hose and hop the bus to downtown Minneapolis.

Brown haired, blurry eyed, and a little unconscious, she'll enter her password to her corporate computer and begin another day, like the day before and the day before - identical to the all the days to come.

I'll be here - on my screened-in front porch, drinking in the last golden days of summer and sipping my home-brewed Caribou french roast.  The newspaper in my lap, and new ideas for my next play dancing through my brain, I'll rethink the dialogue I'm writing, reconsider the plot development, reconfigure my strategy to get the thing on stage.

My former boss has more money than do I. 

And I have birdsong, fading petunias, and the hope of a visit from my three-year-old friend, Brigid.  Brigid wants me to help her decide who she will be on Halloween.

Sixty thousand dollars?

By now,  Miss Boss makes three times that salary.

And I've never been happier.