I seem to have a mild case of creeping crud — headache, congestion, sneezes, that kind of thing — and combined with the bit of sunburn I picked up yesterday, I’m not entirely stoked about getting some lesson planning done this afternoon, but figured I could get rolling after I jotted down a few things over here. Thanks for dropping in!
This was Homecoming Weekend in Mondoville, and the Spawn was involved in a couple of activities, which Mrs. M and I wound up checking out. She rode in the parade with a crew from her sorority. The parade route was maybe 5-6 blocks long (we’re a small school in a small town), starting at a former elementary school that now houses the college’s education department and culminating at our main entry, where one will find a large fountain and our admin building, the portico for which doubled as the reviewing stand. Mrs. M and I sat on the fountain’s edge and watched the various groups go by, including a contingent from Mondoville’s Class of 1967, who sang the fight song as they passed in review.
After the parade, the Spawn did a shift for her sorority’s charity fundraiser, the annual “Teeter-totter-a-thon.” I kicked in a couple of bucks, and cheered the Spawn on for a bit. The ladies seemed to be having a good time for a good cause, and I saw more than a few of their alumnae swinging by as well.
And of course, the Old (and not-so-old) Grads are a big part of Homecoming. This is my fifteenth year at the college, which means I’ve completed fourteen years, which in turn means that the Freshpeeps I taught in my first semester here were showing up for their ten-year reunion. That hadn’t actually occurred to me until I ran into a group of same, including former Berries Andrew and Evan, as well as a number of other alums of more recent vintage.
A real kick for me is getting to meet the children of the kids I’ve taught. They’re almost all in the baby-to-toddler range at this point, and the Spawn and I served as impromptu sitters for the five-month-old son of a couple of recent grads as they posed for the big alumni picture. On several occasions, I was thinking, “OK, if I teach until I’m 70, then I could maybe have this kid for a year or two.” Not a bad goal.
Seeing my former students, and hearing about how they’re making their ways through life, is one of the benefits of this gig, and it reminds me that a small college in Mondoville can be a pretty good place for a career.
The football game, alas, didn’t go so well for the home folks. We jumped out to a 17-0 lead at the half, but gave up several big play and lost on a field goal with a few seconds to go, 27-24. Even so, it was a nice day for football and for seeing folks I hadn’t seen in a while. A personal highlight came when a former Mondoville football star walked by my section of bleachers, carrying his toddler son. I said hi to Will, and to his little boy. Will said to his son, “This is Dr. Moore — he’s the best teacher I ever had anywhere. He’s the smartest man I’ve ever met.”
After Will and the little guy had moved on, someone sitting near me said, “Kind of makes the job worthwhile, doesn’t it?” And it does.
Another highlight of the week was the visit of this year’s Gerding Author, crime writer Danny Gardner. The Gerding program involves Mondoville’s freshpeeps reading a book from the author, who comes to town for a couple of days and gives talks, both to the freshpeeps and the larger community. I’ve talked about past authors with whom we’ve worked, such as Ron Rash, Mary Doria Russell, Dave Cullen, Silas House, Peter S. Beagle, and Lawrence Block. Although Danny’s a debut author, we thought his novel, A Negro and an Ofay, would be a good work for our kids to check out.
The hunch played well, and our students seem to have gotten a great deal out of the book. But they got even more, I think, from meeting with Danny himself, and Danny appeared to get a lot out of meeting with them. His address at the Newberry Opera House was passionate, personal, and inspirational, covering topics like responsibility, education, and the importance of self-definition in a world that seems only too happy to reduce us all to a collection of stereotypes. He covered similar topics in a less formal chat with the freshpeeps on Friday morning, and signed books as long as there was anyone asking him to do so. But he also spent a lot of time in intense conversation with the kids as he dealt with them. Over and over, I heard him tell kids — especially those interested in creative fields — that the most important thing for them to do was to maintain their enthusiasm. Many more people quit on their talent, he said, than have their talent quit on them. Stay at it — stay afire.
And the last kid to whom I saw him speak? That was something special. The kid was a young African American man who said he wants to write, but had some difficult life circumstances get in the way. Danny sat down with him for twenty minutes, encouraging him, talking about his own experiences, and concluded by sharing some personal contact information with the instruction to reach out anytime. And he meant it. They embraced, and the kid went on his way. With luck, I’ll see the kid in one of my creative writing classes soon, and when I do, I’ll be glad that he had this talk with Danny that may have sent him my way.
Thanks for coming out, Mr. Gardner — and feel free to drop by anytime.
And speaking of books, I’m pleased to report that Broken Glass Waltzes officially makes its return tomorrow, thanks to the fine people at Down & Out Books. If you’ve read it and left a review, I thank you. If you’ve read it but never left a review, I encourage you to do that. And if you haven’t read it yet, I invite you to do so — I’ve tried to make it worth your time.
Meanwhile, my short story “The Birthmark and the Brand” may be found in Betrayed, a charity e-anthology from Pam Stack’s Authors on the Air Press. Profits from the anthology will go to combat domestic violence, and you’ll enjoy some fine stories from some very good writers along the way. Check it out!
Also, my story “Ampurdan,” based on a painting by Salvador Dali, will be appearing in Lawrence Block’s new anthology, Alive in Shape and Color, which comes out in just over a month. But you can beat the Christmas rush and order your copy now, and with authors like Joyce Carol Oates, Joe R. Lansdale, and David Morrell in the anthology, that’s not a bad idea at all.
And last but not least, I’m scheduled to do a reading at a special Christmas-themed edition of Noir at the Bar at 106 Main in Durham, NC on Pearl Harbor Day (7 December, for the less historically inclined.) If you’re in the region, I’d love to see you there!
Well, I have some work to do, so I’d best get to it, but as is my habit, I’ll leave you with a bit of music. Here’s an odd little cover of post-punk heroes New Order’s best known track, “Blue Monday.” Orkestra Obsolete approaches the song with oddball 20s- and 30s-era instruments, including Diddley bow, hammered dulcimer, harmonium, zither, musical saw, dulcitone, glass harp, and other items from the toy box. I dug it — maybe you will, too.
See you soon!