Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Transmissions from Kurtz...February 2, 2011

Today was Groundhog Day. I came out of my hole and saw a shadow. I guess that means six more weeks of genocide.

Life has no road maps, but the path we follow is lined with crash guards. When we happen to scrape against one, the marks they leave make us unique. Everything else is shiny and new, and nothing but a factory model, no different from the others. I guess that's where my widow fetish comes from.

Dogs have the unusual habit of eating cat shit. Humans have the unusual habit of eating bull shit.

Rocky was a movie about an underprivileged Italian man who worked out a lot to beat an underprivileged black man. Talk about striving to do nothing.

A stroke is a bad name for a funny disease. I can't swim without laughing.

Someone said I like to hang out in places that are dark and sad. Just like I like my women.

A snail is a slug that thought about salt first.

Religion is a conscience with an accompanying book and music and unnecessary guilt.

I saw my future in HD, and realized it looked better in digital.

I like to light candles before I got to bed. I find the glow to be calming. When I blow them out, I find the huffing of fumes to be intoxicating.

An ex wife is someone who can simultaneously make you realize that you were once great, once okay, once bad, and once awful. But forever stupid. And you can't live that down, no matter how many hookers you choke to death. But, oh, the giggles.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Transmissions from Kurtz

Periodically, Colonel Kurtz adds his insights to all things human and right with the world, and twists them horribly wrong. These are transcripts of his dreams. The horror. The horror.

A pepper plant is a gift that keeps on giving. So are herpes, and I didn't want either one for my birthday. Thank you very much, Catherine Baumgartner!

Napalm is a jelly, but not one to be used for personal lubrication. Except for the Brazilians. They're hot, hot, hot!

It is wise when going up against an opponent that you not underestimate him. Be the aggressor, and start your attack by stepping forward on your weak foot while driving with your dominant foot, then thrust the blade of the knife sideways across your opponent's jugular with the dull side of the blade firm against your arm. With your free hand, grab the back of the opponent's head and pull towards your armed shoulder, then thrust your dominant leg upwards into his sternum to crack it in two. Do this in the field and you'll live to see another day. Do this on Jeopardy! and they'll send you away without the home version. Trebek, you stingy bastard.

Surprise your wife tonight with a dozen red roses. Cook her dinner and rub her back and feet. This will limber her up before you send her screaming into the woods for your nightly game of hide and seek and destroy.

One year for Lent I gave up my faith.

I met a family of opossum once. Damn fine spellers.

Time heals all wounds. SO do sutures and betadine. And fire. Whichever way you go about it, it's going to end up hurting.

When an ostrich is trying to disappear and hide, it buries its head in the sand. I find that when I bury other people's heads in the sand, it tends to make them disappear, as well.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


The Principal walked around the back of the circulation desk and stood underneath one of the new flat screens that had been installed recently during the school's renovations. The $17 million project had secured the decades-old school new lighting, new HVAC, a new kitchen and tray return, new computers, and new HD televisions in every renovated classroom. Not that it did any good anyway, considering the school didn't have cable service and none of the DVD players available had HD upconvert capabilities. Based on what the Principal had to tell the faculty, it didn't look like they'd be getting any of that in the near or distant future.

Ethan sat in front of one of the new computers by the circulation desk for this faculty meeting, off to himself, as he had known that a collection of teachers in a meeting were worse than any group of 12 year olds you could imagine, constantly talking and passing notes and giggling throughout. He wore an ill-fitting powder blue shirt that hadn't been ironed since its purchase, only to be air pressed with the stretch-waist dress pants by the dryer at home in the morning before he had to quickly eat, shower, and walk the dogs before leaving for school. He had some idea what this meeting would be about and suspected there'd be much talking among his colleagues during the meeting, so he prepared his patience for distractions and disharmony by loosening his oxford tie and unbuttoning the top of his shirt. He was uncomfortable as it was, the thickness of his thighs stretching his pants and boxers and his paunch pouting over the reversible belt that was not matching his shoes which didn't have a matching belt in the first place.

A projection screen and projector were set up with detachable speakers to either side of a laptop, and the meeting began by watching a PowerPoint of the upcoming financial woes of the school district for the current fiscal year and predictions for the following two. Property tax collection had been dipping in the previous two years and were getting worse for a district whose monies were dependent upon the housing boom of the 90s and the early part of the 2000s. As the housing market went bust and foreclosures increased and as new communities sat uninhabited, banks folded and people went broke and the county couldn't afford to pay its teachers any more.

At the conclusion of the presentation the Principal turned to the faculty and addressed portions of the figures and what it meant to the staff and spoke with a stern and steady voice with a look of consternation and annoyance on her face.

"We had a Principal's meetin yesterday and it wasnt fun. Believe me when I tell you that durin an after the meetin there were many of us who were losin our voices and most of had done lost it by the end. There wasnt a thing that was said that any of us liked to have heard and we spent most of our voices on tryin to make sure everyone had a job by the end of it but things are bad and gonna get worse so we're gonna have to make some changes and some people are gonna have to move into different positions, but I'm happy to say that it looks like noones gonna have to lose their job altogether".

To this, the staff applauded. Ethan noticed during the duration of the presentation and during the Principal's opening statements that noone in the room had been engaging in their usual snickering or note passing or anything to that nature. He should've known anyway. Ethan had surprised himself by not having a little more foresight in understanding that moods had grown so bad that the staff barely greeted each other in the mornings anymore. People had started leaving earlier and coming in later. Papers weren't being grade. Administrative requests were delayed in their fulfillment or wholly ignored. Some were still trying their best. Some were fading away. Some had altogether given up.

The spring before the faculty had been surprised by new contracts and the requirement to sign a canary addendum to their contract that essentially signified that we knew that contracts and pay may change midstream given the economic hardship of the county at the time. The furloughs came in the fall of 2009 in the form of three 5% pay cuts that were distributed in the September, October, and November checks. For single teachers it hurt a bit, for teachers who were married to a breadwinner it hurt pride more than anything else, and for teachers married to other teachers, it hurt the financially and emotionally at the same time.

When the furloughs were handed out they were told that more might be coming. Then might turned into probably, then probably into definitely, then definitely turned into what the Principal had to say next.

"We're gonna have to realize that the days of business as usual are gone, an they probably aint comin back in my time to be honest".

Ethan glanced around the room to absorb the atmosphere and to gauge the faculty's reaction. Eyes were either directly on the principal, on the floor, or at each other. Round with worry. Desperation. Silence.

"The ITS position has been cut to five people who will serve clusters of eight schools, so Dr. Fall's position here at the school is gone. The In-House position will no longer be filled by a certified teacher. Now its gonna be a parapro and that means we're gonna have to do what we can to keep them kids out of there as much as we can. Class sizes have been increased from a maximum of 32 to a maximum of 35. Library parapros are now going to be shared. There will no longer be two media specialists at any one school. Our dollars-per-pupil amount for supplise is being reduced from $65 a kid to $55 a kid. Middle school athletics are also on the table to be cut and so are graduation coaches".

Being a science teacher, Ethan's position was fairly safe. The Principals had insured the staff since the beginning of the budget crisis that people who had direct contact with students on a daily basis would be safe from any position cuts. No schools or classrooms would be cut or shut down, but some folks who were in the building this year would be gone the next. Attrition was what the county office was banking on now, hoping that enough people would retire, leave the county, or choose another career so people in non-teaching positions could be put in classrooms to dave their jobs.

The part about athletics was disconcerting, though. Ethan and his wife, Ashleigh, both worked at the school and both coached athletics. With the furloughs, they stood to lose $500 a month. If they took away their stipends, they'd lose another $500 a month. if the county had their way, they both stood to lose 20% of their pay each month and things were tight as is. They, like most people in their early 30's, were stuck with a mortgage and bills and heaping amounts of debt, to boot. They had followed the standard set in 90s of living beyond their means that continued even after September 11th and persisted without knowing of the woes to come.

The only person to speak during the presentation was the school's athletic director.

"Now that's just bullshit. Middle school athletics pays for themself we dont need no new equipment and we take in enough from the gate to pay for our supplies an stipends so that crap would only save the county a few thousand a year. There ain't no point to hurtin good people and the kids like that".

"Now Coach I know that an you know that but this county folks we're talkin about and all they know is numbers. And thats all theyre carin about right now too. Ive done said my peace with them and theyve done heard my peace and it seems like we got a problem with understandin one another. The bottom line is that if it can be cut and it can save money and it dont directly effect whether or not these kids learn their four Rs, then its fair game for goin the way of the dinosaur".

For what it was worth, their Principal really did care about them but could do precious little to turn back the tide of waning tax receipts and how much money the county could take. Hell, even the county office couldn't do anything about it. The crosshairs for blame were laid squarely and deservedly on the state Governor and his office for the gross mismanagement of tax dollars during his two terms and he was happily ending his term in this, the worst financial year the state had seen since 1970s and he didn't want to have a damned thing to do with any of it anymore.

The governor's legacy had been balancing a budget and pulling the state our of the red, something he did on the backs of the state's employees, the largest group of which were teachers. Beginning in 2002 he started making "austerity cuts" in education funding in an effort to generate the savings to pay off the state's debt. After two years, he'd accomplished his goals. In his third year, he continued the austerity cuts and began channelling the savings into pet projects of his own choosing rather than saving the money for a rainy day. Now, as 2010 was getting to a start, it was raining and raining hard.

As the Principal opened the meeting to questions Ethan held the mouse from the computer and slowly moved it in circles as his anxieties began to build. He picked it up slightly, eyed the laser light pouring out from it and gently set it back down. He glanced over his shoulder at his wife, who was sitting at a table with her team of teachers. She was leaning over the table on her elbows with both her hands on a green marker that she twirled in her fingers. Her eyes were directed at the pen but he could see she was looking through it, past it, like she was looking at something somewhere on the floor under the table. He could tell she was thinking about things, worrying, something she didn't do as often as he did. She sensed his glance and turned her eyes up and looked at him without moving her head. Her eyelids narrowed and she gave a have smile, but he could sense her worry.

Please, God, don't take her spirit away. She's the only one of us with any optimism and I can't take it if she becomes as cynical as me. Christ, that'd be ugly.

He gave a slight smile back and looked behind her towards the library's floor-to-ceiling windows. It was late in the afternoon and overcast and cold as hell outside.

And it was raining.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Of all the jobs I ever had, this one was the only one I was ever really good at, and the only one that seemed to give me any satisfaction as far as a job goes. If there is such a thing. They told me that if I found somethin' I loved doin' that it wouldn't seem like work at all and that I'd come in to work smilin' and I'd leave work smilin' and the days would just drift by into weeks then into the months and then into years, and before I'd know it, I'd be sippin' a beer on my back porch reminiscing about days gone by and would be travelin' the world and seein' all the things I'd read about in books. I'd find the right gal and we'd settle down and have a couple of kids and the job was such that I'd have plenty of time to raise 'em right and to take care of home matters while still bein effective at my job. Recession proof, they told me. You'd never find yourself on the street lookin' for another job and wouldn't have to worry about downsizing and you wouldn't make much but you were guaranteed a steady paycheck and small raises, but if you hung in there you made out pretty decent in the end and you wouldn't have to worry about losing much since you wouldn't have much in the first place.

I guess they were right, but time will tell, as they say. My folks went through somethin' similar in the 70's with Carter and they told me the same things were happenin' then that are happenin' now and that I just need to hang in there and it'll all settle out in the end and be alright, just like it was for them. Maybe so. Still, things are seemin' awfully bad right about now. We got furloughed three days last year and since my wife and I are both in education, we both lost enough money that would send us on one of the few vacations a year we could afford. Now we're gettin' three more before the school year ends in June and we're scheduled for 8 more next school year already. All in all that translates to around six thousand dollars we're losin' in one year, and I don't think I need to tell you that that's a few vacations and bills paid that ain't gonna happen and here we are on the cusp of plannin' a family and all. Good vacations, too. I'm talking a trip to Sandals for a week and maybe a Disney vacation, to boot. I guess that's a bad way of lookin' at things, I know. There's folks out there got it way worse right now. Losin' homes, jobs, families, all that.

People are hurtin', that I know. I know that in my great grandparents day, they went through somethin' like this that last nealry two decades. Took the Great War to get us out of it, too, but that's oversimplifyin' things. There's all sorts of folks who are pointin' to policy, both domestic and foreign, that can be manipulated and used to get us out of this mess and most of 'em are pointin' to the policies used by FDR and all the things that came out of the New Deal I and II, but, bein' a science and history teacher I can't help but notice that we've entered one of those social situations where we should be lookin' back and learnin' from mistakes, and it damn sure don't seem like we're doin' any of that right now. Big business folks who got us into this nightmare are gettin' bailed out and the government keeps spendin' our money in these "stimulus packages" that don't seem to be sitmulatin' nothin' except for people's anger. Then they wonder why they get voted out of office. And why one group is battlin' with another. Seems pretty cut and dry to me. You got put into office by the people, so why don't you spend a little extra time listenin' to what they want and get to work on that. Folks don't want to see some rich man gettin' richer at the taxpayer's expense. I know that wasn't their intentions, at least, I'd like to believe it wasn't their intentions when they bailed folks out, but that's what is seemin' to be happenin' at an increasingly bad rate. It's the preservation of people's status in our country. I seem to recall President Obama talkin' about the divide between the rich and the poor bein' so distant and how we needed to make sure it wasn't so big no more. At the time, I thought, well, hell, that sounds like socialism. In fact, that's pretty much what he was promotin'. Right about now it seems like what he created is on par not with the New Deal of FDR's days but more of what was happenin' in Russia in 1917. We were encouraged to start a revolution that would better the people and narrow the class divide when all we've ended up doin' was widening the gap further and guaranteein' that the elite remain extremely elite while the poor remain extremely poor.

It's funny, I'm the kinda guy that gets numbers and songs in my head that I can't get out. Been that way as long as I can remember. We'd go on family vacations and I'd see a phone number on a billboard and I'd add up those numbers in ever which a way and come up with sums then I'd subtract the numbers, then I'd multiply and so on. Some folks call it Obsessive Compulsive. Maybe they're right. Anyway, where I was goin' with this was, Lenin and Obama, when you look at the names, got some things in common. They both have five letter last names. They both have common letters in the third and fifth letters of their names. They both came into power when people in their countries were tired of fightin' what they saw a needlessly costly war fought for the benefit of an elite family. Again, I'm sayin' what people perceive, not what is actual. Both guys were sayin' they were gonna fight for the little guy, the workin' class, give us all what the rich have and all things would be equal pretty much. Lenin promised land, Obama promised healthcare. And so on.

Well, that's what I see as happenin', anyway. I'm probably wrong, or at least I'm hopin' to hell I'm wrong but I have an uncanny knack for predictin' accurately some things that are pretty bad. Lenin was replaced by a guy named Stalin, and things didn't get any better after that. The guy folks are thinkin' will take over after Obama is a guy named Romney. Both Stalin and Romney have six letters to their name. Don't think I haven't thought about that one for a minute, too. Of course, there was guy named Trotsky involved with Stalin, too. I guess if Romney's got a runnin' mate with a seven letter name, then we're in for a long, cold ride. Maybe a Polish guy'll run, someone with a name like Kowalski or an Isenberg or somethin'. Throw a little cog into my numbers theory. I think I might sleep better knowin' that.

I've had people tell me that I think too much. My wife tells me to quit thinkin' about things, but, like I said, when somethin' gets to stirrin' around in my head, it has a tendency to stick until somethin' better comes along to replace it and I get to obsessin' about somethin' else. Lately I've tried to learn how to play chess. Figured it would be a challenge that I'd try to master, cause I hate losin' and I lose a lot at it and I've been tryin' to get better but I just can't. And I'm not a dummy. I might talk like it and I might drink like it, but I've been told I've got a genius level IQ, whatever that is, and I usually can master most things so long as I can study it and think about it and learn it. Try as I might, though, I can't get any better at chess. You've gotta know moves and all that, but the biggest trick to chess is bein' able to look ahead a few moves into the future, plan your moves, predict your opponents moves, and then do what you gotta do to be successful. Problem is, lately, I can't look ahead no more. I can't predict nothin'. My heads filled full of uncertainties that I can't take my mind off of and I just can't help but think no matter what move I make, it's gonna be wrong.

Damn, I wish I could get better at chess.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The grey backdrop of an overcast sky could be seen through the canopy of hardwoods and blooming dogwood trees, gently swaying back and forth in a late morning breeze that hurried the waters along on their journey downstream. It was late spring, so white petals were whirly-birding downward, some landing on the banks while others joined the rushing waters. A petal drifted downward, first seirling to one side, heading towards an exposed root that served as a shelter for crayfish in a calm nook of the bend, only to turn at the last second and drop lightly into a vein of water that hugged the edge of a jutting, polished rock. The leaflette rotated in the water, then straightened as it shot the rapid water running the side of the rock. As it shot past, a brook trout adjusted its meander ever so slightly, as though to avoid the petal as it may have been a fisher's lure. The fish swam against the stream, waiting there for an unsuspecting fly to pass on the waters, as it had for so many years before, and will continue on for years to come.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The early morning light had already begun to streak its way through the lattice work of limbs and leaves and the waist-high lespedeza, casting shadows on the ground that were cleverly formed into the darkened facade of what one would suppose was a whitetail. An eager glance through the double lenses revealed that there was nothing there, save for the few darkened twigs of litter that had long since started the process of decaying back into the topsoil of the earth. The focus began to fade slightly, taking on the shades of a light haze that proved to me that I was breathing to heavy, allowing the warmth from my lungs to fog the glassware of the scope.

A system of cold, heavy air had slowly laid itself across the southeast, making the air clear and clean, the kind that you liked to take in slowly to feel the rush of sweet, cool vapors into your lungs that seemed to clean years of smog and smoke from each little branch of bronchia in your chest. A faint gust blew from the southwest, enough to keep the scents and air moving but light enough to keep the head warm by a wool cap. Far from perfect, yet very distant from a foul morning, it was a good day to be alive and kicking, sucking in the essence of nature through every pore and letting the symphony of crackling grass, water drops from melting frost, and scurrying forest animals to set the soundtrack for the day.

As I glanced over my shoulder to look back down the line, my good ear picked up a faint humming sound, somewhat like a distant blower to an air-conditioning unit kicking on in the hot afternoons. I turned back around, scanning the horizon for the sound, listening intently to see if the sound would grow louder, then change in frequency and pitch, which signaled a passing car on the highway of some design I'd never known before. It remained the same, but did sound as though it were passing, but more slowly than a car.

It was at that moment that I saw it, high in the north sky and slowly drifting east. A single white zeppelin, as blanched as a cloud with no writing or logos, was floating on the wind and passing through. Though I'd seen a zeppelin before, this was somehow different, as if to signal something more, something that was beyond my control.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


A shadow was cast upon my wall,
Lingering there for me to see.
Testing me, to see if I knew,
The shape it was supposed to be.

I knew it, though it knew not me,
To be the darkness of another,
The creature comfort of a homestead,
The sadness of what was her.

There she sits, among the waves,
A shade of what once was great,
And there I sat, and spat,
At the calamity of my fate.

I watched the light

It separated.
It folded from the wall like ripples on a pond.
After a penny or a stone had been cast in.
It reverberated with the pulses of the tones of silence, telling me that there something lies within that I cannot understand nor comprehend.
It spoke, with but a whisper of a tone.
It's strangely tangerine hues hinting at a greater design.
What would you have me do, great light?
What purpose should you and I serve on this night?
Nothin'. it told me.
We are, and that's all we are to be.
Play away, young man, play away.
It;s all going to be alright.