In Flight from …

I never looked for his book online or in a bookstore. He showed it to me, or he showed me a galley proof of it. And now, more than a decade later, I do not remember his name or enough about the book to find out whatever happened to him or it.

The two of us were passengers on a plane, and 98% of my personal air travel history dates from the years 2000 to 2004, when I moved from upstate New York to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and twice a year I returned home for holiday visits. The typical route was Eastern Iowa Airport to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Stewart International Airport (or sometimes Logan in Boston), because there are no direct flights between Iowa and anyplace else I have ever lived. The book author was across the aisle from me.
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Hair-Brained

Among the many things that are better left to professionals—piloting a jet, performing almost any surgery, copy editing—cutting hair always should be included. I did not know this until the day I did.

It looks so easy. The professionals talk to you and amongst themselves while they are doing it, for crying out loud. How do they do that? If you interrupt me while I am merrily typing away, I will pretty much stop typing and begin to glare at you until you decide to ask someone else whatever it is you came to ask me. And how do you know where I live anyway?
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An Angry Man

The greatest newspaper—ever!—is and was the Weekly World News. Its presence next to every grocery store checkout lane is thoroughly missed by every non-Bat Boy walking among us.

Most American boys who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s, and by most, I mean me, made this progression in our reading: from Cracked magazine, which quickly revealed itself to be a pale imitation of Mad magazine, to Mad magazine, which was brilliant but I (we) stopped looking at it around age 14, through a wasteland of our teen years and the New York Times and homework—heck, the Times and all newspapers everywhere just feel like permanent homework, don’t they? AmIRight?—to, finally, the discovery that the Weekly World News existed.

It is a three-word title and only one of those three words is true: Weekly.
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Where Am I?

This morning, I became a grown-up: I attempted to remove glasses from my face that were already in my fist.

For those of you who are lifelong glasses-wearers (it is almost 40 years for me), you know that there are several distinct methods of removing eyeglasses and several messages that can be communicated in the manner of their removal. Off the top of my head, there’s “Two-handed and Thoughtful,” “One-handed and from the Right and Peeved” (I usually accidentally fling my glasses to the floor or across my desk with that one), and “One-handed and from the Left and Trying to Get to the Heart of Things.” There are others. Putting them on in front of people usually communicates this: “Enough Fun, Everyone. Back to Work.”

It can be like semaphore, but with glasses.
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Refresh … Refresh … Broken

Technology has once again one-upped me.

In a former life, I wrote technical documents—white papers—for electrical engineers for five years and instruction manuals that were used in home construction around the nation. You’re welcome. Expertise takes different forms, and mine is in forming sentences. The engineers supplied all the science-y numbers that make buildings happen.

All I know is that I have spent the last eight hours mourning the imminent death of my cell phone, which is going to come when I jump up and down on it. For those of you taking notes, all none of you, I only just recently acquired this smartphone, which has given us all some beautiful photos for this website and my Instagram page. Perhaps it will again, if I do not jump up and down on it.
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Teach Your Children

I taught freshman composition at two upstate New York colleges in the early 1990s for five years. My last class met for its final session at the conclusion of the fall 1995 semester, just over two decades ago now.

From the start of that school term, 20 autumns ago, I knew that this was going to be my last semester teaching or attempting to teach or even correctly referring to myself as a “teacher”; thus, of course, two of the three classes that semester were two of the best groups of students I had yet worked with, and they almost made me regret my decision to retire at age 27. Almost.

The decision never was mine to make, however; I was not a good teacher, and I am grateful that I learned this on the sooner side of “sooner or later.” I am, perhaps, an entertaining lecturer but I am an even better student; as a 20-something freshman composition instructor, I must have been execrable. It’s too bad that I had barely made even the faintest start in what eventually became my pose as a long-suffering anything by the time it was all over.
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The Time That I …

The ludicrous amount of paperwork is what saved us. Or the fact that it is possible that no one at the train yard had ever created the documents that would have been needed to handle the situation, or no one would have been able to find them if they had been created. That is what spared us.

We were up to no good, but in a harmless way, so no harm had been done by definition, so nothing was done about us the night I stole a train.
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A Toy Story

My lust for toys went through phases when I was a kid, from action dolls to Matchbox cars to magic kits to a brief fling with fully functioning model trains, to video games.

The most “useful” action doll was “Stretch Armstrong,” which was the one doll that lived up to its name and moved just like the cartoon character. It stretched. Thus, it was “realistic.” One of my friends had one of these. The least useful was the “bionic man” Steve Austin doll, which was easily broken yet completely indestructible. His bionic eye was not a telescope but instead a simple hole drilled through his head with a glass tube inserted. The tube was cloudy with dust within months or minutes of opening the doll’s box. Thus, it was “real” as opposed to “realistic.” And that of course was the doll I owned.
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