Archive for May, 2020

Day Off

Sunday morning. Coffee and a little chocolate bread. Right after breakfast – scrambled egg and bacon pizza – the computer does what it always does by shooting me suggestive winks and come hither glances from across the room. Don’t you need to send some emails, big boy? How about you and me do a little light editing? You look like a guy who hasn’t graded a test in a while?  

Perhaps it’s the scrambled egg pizza or the downright stormy weather (it’s dark out at 11 am), but I make the decision actively (I pounded my fist and freaked out the cat sleeping on my lap, so very active) to take the day off. You might be saying: Hey, it’s Sunday! Of course you took the day off, that’s a no brainer! You might also be saying: Who cares, asshole? If you’re in that second category, then well shush. If you’re in the first, yes, you are right that it’s Sunday, but Sunday is very rarely a complete day off for me, what with articles and book and editing work that doesn’t seem capable of discerning a Sunday from a Tuesday.

It’s not that I am always productive, but I sometimes exist in a frustrating half-at-work/half-at-ease world which goes straight against the sage advice of a former king fu instructor. “Totally work or totally relax. Don’t do something in between.”  

Which is exactly what I do sometimes on a weekend. Something in between. But not today. Today I decide to take the day off. I make it official (after the first pounding) by writing it in my journal. According to the entry at 24-5-20 11:09, I have three simple points on my to do list.  

  1. Watch movies
  2. Eat junk food
  3. No work & No Pants  

Movies. This is not easy for Burke and me, as we have very different ideas of what a “fun and relaxing movie” entails. I prefer comedy, she prefers movies in which the characters’ lives are ruined in the first ten minutes and are only punctuated throughout the movie by their lives somehow becoming worse until everyone dies in misery at the end. Fortunately, today Burke suggests that we keep it light and funny and so, after a brief game of dueling Netflix accounts, we settle on a movie.

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Sunday Call: Quarantine Edition


“Hey Dad.”


I breathe a sigh of relief. My dad has been calling on Sundays for so long that it’s a clear tradition at this point. When my phone rings on a Sunday, Burke doesn’t blink anymore, she just says: tell your dad I say hi. I then take the call in my room or some other place in my house that has whiskey.

But in these stressful and scary times there’s a ringing phone can mean unpleasant things. Bad news? Did something happen?  

Damo has been my dad’s nickname for me since probably before I breached a uterine canal of any sort. I can only guess this because I would never name a child before considering all varieties of nickname. This is why I am baffled by those who have chosen to name a child Kevin. It seems as if they’re simply stuck with Kev, some more adventurous people might venture into Vin, but it would be greatly breaking the initial structure of Kevin. Some might go for K-Man, but that sounds more like something Kevin’s friends would call him because they felt bad for his name being Kevin or because he was really good at basketball. I suppose Kevey is an option, but only if Kevin’s parents are the kind of people who want their child to be on a first name basis with their therapist.

But long ago, Damo became far more than a nickname and much more a simple barometer of my dad’s current mood. My dad’s mood can’t be gauged physically until he clenches his jaw and sticks it out like he’s Marlon Brando in The Godfather and by that point you’re done for like one of those National Geographic photographers who forgot to notice the lions behind him. Up until that moment, one has to rely on linguistic hints and utterances. The worst case scenario (besides the jaw thing) to the greeting “Hey Dad” is a sigh or “What?” The tone of “what?” isn’t to clarify and it isn’t that he hadn’t heard. It was a clear, monosyllabic question stating “what in the colorful expletive do you need from me and it better not be money?” This reaction is most common after he spends twenty minutes at the kitchen table paying bills and muttering a string of curses and epithets towards someone he simply referred to as “you” followed by a series of disturbingly specific queries. “What in the fuck did you think when … and you can’t even be bothered to answer the motherfucking phone on a Tuesday and now you have the shit-laced gall to send me a cocksu..?”

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Four Weeks of the Coursebook

George, Jerry, Elaine, and Cosmo are going fishing south of the Azores. They have taken a boat and caught the following fish – a swordfish, a white marlin, a blue marlin, a yellow fin tuna, and a mako shark. Answer the questions to find out which fish each person caught.

One of the people with two syllables in their name caught a fish with a color in its name.

One of the people with more than two vowels in their name caught a fish which could be used to stab someone you don’t like very much.

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I sit at my desk. It’s 6:30 am. I open the computer and it makes one of those tired sounds that people in their mid-50s make when they sit on or stand up from a couch. Aside from groaning, it sort of talks to me. Today it says: not again, man. I think it’s a bad sign. I put on my headphones. Easy 90s on Spotify (don’t judge). I start writing.

I have been writing a series of ESL coursebooks over the last month. And while it is something I have wanted to move my career into for the last few years, I have never been busier. I have taken a job that requires putting out an enormous amount of pages in a very short amount of time. Because I am a schmuck.

When I took the job I rationalized: can’t go anywhere anyway, might a well make some cash, just a month of work, then I can relax. These are all well and good, but in the throes of the work I can’t even see straight and I am not thinking about money and I also can’t remember the last time I cleaned my body in water.

At around 10:30 am the cat is standing sideways on my lap looking into the crook of my arm. She’s sort of like a statue only she growls a little if I backspace too fast. There is nothing on the Earth that will keep a cat from doing an action it has learned that it can do. About six years ago the cat realized that loud meows got me to turn on my sink faucet and so it is what I have done first thing every morning for, well, six years. And every day since she realized that she can get up on the desk from the floor, she has done just that. But it doesn’t matter, I am writing.

At noon, Burke brings a sandwich. I eat it but I can’t remember what it was and I asked for something to eat about an hour later. When I was reminded that I had just eaten a sandwich, I squinted and recalled the faint taste of mustard and chicken ham. There’s a weird mesmerized state of being one can get into when working on writing. Though I have approached this state with other work, it seems more intense with writing. It’s a small world that is quiet but for David Gray kazooing on in some distant background.

I get rather into the teacher’s book description of the lesson plan. I write it like a robot but I know exactly what’s happening and what will happen. I try to liven things up with jokes that only I will get, but I’m afraid of getting fired or, worse, being told I am not funny by someone who has to pay me. Still, things get intense. When I reach the closing section of each lesson, I feel as though we have been on a journey together, of verb noun collocations and pre-intermediate grammar boxes. When I end the lesson with the closer, I break into tears. The cat, uncomfortable with this show of emotion, barks at me. David Gray doesn’t say anything.

I wrote a book in a weekend once. Sadly, I am fairly certain that it’s the best book I have ever written and I wrote it in 70 hours. I have been working on another book for six years and it sucks the sweat off a dead wildebeast. Life isn’t fair. But it’s the only other time I have reached this level of meditative writing. I hope that when the coursebook is done and I have handed in my work I can continue working like this for myself.

By 13:30 pm, I have to teach and I speak to my students as if I am speaking through bog water. I make little sense. The cat leaves my lap, I think she’s lost interest when I’m not writing. David Gray is nowhere to be found. I have made my way to a new level of something, but I am not sure what it is. I just wish I had a sandwich.

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