Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Not a Math Guy, But They Told Me Today That This is Year #5 For Me At The University. Great to Have a Good Lunch

Let's do the arithmetic. I came to Fairfield University in 2011, then followed with 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. This is 2016.

That equates to:


Yep. They're correct, I'm heading into my 6th year. Phew! That was fast. It takes me a second to get my head around the numbers as they work in academic terms. We think of years in terms of 1st and 2nd semester and not ball drop to New Year's Eve.

Blink of an eye.

I was honored to be among the guests being recognized for service to southern Connecticut (me with a meager 5 years compared to the 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s 35s, 40s, and 45s - yes, people really give a lot of time to the University). I took the break mid-day while editing audio for a cool project I've been part of, and then I began thinking of the work that has been done since arriving:

  • Bank of America Grants,
  • Several Writing Our Lives conferences
  • the LRNG/John Legend Work
  • Kwame Alexander on campus
  • Matt de la Pena on campus
  • almost $500,000 in grants
  • the creation of Ubuntu Academy
  • the creation of Young Adult Literacy Labs
  • 6 years of teacher leadership institutes 
  • 5 years of Poetry For Peace
  • 5 years of MLK Essay Contest
  • the 2016 MLK Vision Award
  • eeks - 3 administrative assistants
  • 100s and 100s of hours of delivered professional development
  • the welcoming of Chitunga into my permanent work
Wow. that's a quick sketch of what it's been (and nothing is more important to me than the last bullet).
Year 5. I will take it. In another 5 I'll be tied with my time at Brown (and lord knows this is a completely different ballgame).

I'm not weirded out by the # of years as much as how fast the years go by. I guess I just need to roll with it, which I will. Midweek - much to due and I'm already ready for summer vacation. I seemed to have missed this one.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Experienced My First @RedBull @Flugtag in @louisville_ky @waterfp. So Glad We Were In Town #PeopleSoFriendly

Upon arrival to Louisville last weekend, Sue informed us that the Red Bull Flugtag competition was
being held on the Waterfront. Flugtag? What? We had no clue what the even was about, but decided to check out the scene on Friday night where all the competitors were doing final touches on their workmanship for the Saturday event.

Seriously. The individuals participating in Flugtag were some of the most passionate, generous, and enthusiastic people I've ever met. They were more than willing to share with of us their designs, the reasons behind them, and the special presentations they had prepared for the launch. My favorite was the 'hard rock' theme with an electric guitar that lit up. They ran as headbangers (Tunga liked the plane, naturally).

The next morning, after our walk over the Ohio River and back (totally sweating), we joined the thousands in attendance to see how the apparatuses would do. It was hilarious, and despite the sudden downpour following a change in winds and the intrusion of boats on the water, the experience of the day was a total success (just a little wet).

For me, Flugtag was a total geek-fest: design, ingenuity, creativity, humor, and competition. Whoa! How did I not know about this delicious occurrence before? Where else do such phenomena occur? Why am I now a fan of Red Bull, although I've never even tried any of their products? Count me in. Let me bring Red Bull to all my classes and get my students hyped!

And the winner was! Ba dum dum ch'! Dukes of Hazard!

Ah, but here's the real kicker! After seeing so many designs plummet to the Ohio without hardly any airlift, they announced the world's record. Seriously? Holy Cow. It was phenomenal. I couldn't wait to go home to see if I could find the launch online. 

Bingo! I present the world's record from Long Beach, California in 2013. I hope these designers were hired afterwords for serious problem-solving work. Red Bull has created a fan out of me and I'm campaigning to make this an Olympic Sport in 2020. Bravo, athletes, and thank you Louisville, as always, for keeping the world a lil' weird. I loved every second of it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Sometimes I Love Airports, and Then There Are Times When I Lose All Faith in Humanity and Have No Clue How Our Species Functions

We made it. Phew. The flight home was almost impossible. We got to the airport at 2 to leave by 3, but two hipsters snuck onto the plane with two other people’s tickets, causing a delay (they had to be removed) and while this happened, storms hit Chicago, causing us to be grounded for two hours, which meant everyone missed their connections and Sunday was an absolute mess.

Tunga and I had a few hours to kill and planned on getting dinner at O’Hare so we weren’t that stressed. The other customers, however, were irate and with the cell-phone generation, we got to hear it all.

I knew things were odd when we entered the plane and the stewardess said there are two men sitting in your seat. Please ask them to move. We did, and then they moved to the seats in front of us until those customers came. They moved again. This continued to happen for a while. Then the stewardess had a very difficult time getting people to put their chairs upright, turn off their technology, and even put on their seatbelts. The plane was a congregation of complete assholes. The worst, however, was this blonde behind us with a plastic face who kept calling all of her friends in “high places” to register her complaints about how bad the airline was. She demanded to get off the plane to talk to people who knew what they were doing and didn’t even respect the pilot. Tunga and I were perplexed that any of this was occurring.

When we finally got off the plane, the hipsters were in the lobby on their cellphones, and we couldn’t understand how they weren’t arrested for stealing another person’s identification. It was a mad house and they suggested we all redirect our flights which I did THREE times, only to be disconnected right at the finalization. So frustrating. When we finally got a new flight, they boarded the original to Chicago (3 hours late), and I realized, FUDGE, they took our carry-ons underneath and we needed them. They had our car keys in them.

Miracle of miracles, they let grounds people locate our bags and get them to us so we could get to the rerouted flight.

The people, though, were outrageous and it was unnerving to think that such behavior is allowed to exist in an airport, especially with high security and all the stress on TSA. I didn’t see any manners: the airlines employees, the customers, the telephone operators – UGH. What a giant mess.

I’m hoping today will restore some faith in humanity…Yesterday destroyed it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pissing with Peg, and Other Brown School Memories. It's the Little Things That Stop Me In My Place and Make Me Think.

There are so many scenes around Louisville that make me stop and become nostalgic. Friday, however, when Chitunga and I visited Alice at the Brown School, I had to pee so went across the hall to the men's bathroom. Of course, it wasn't open like it used to be and I needed a key to get in. Allanna was walking by and helped me out. When I entered, I saw that the bathroom became a custodial storage area. The two stalls, however, were located in the back where they always were - I just needed to climb over boxes.

Boxes. Reminded me of Peg Box. Reminded me of the conversations I had with Chemistry teacher Peg Box as she sat in stall #1 blowing smoke out the window and I pissed in stall #2. I always said I was going to write a series of scripts called Pissing with Peg, because we had the best, two-minute conversations in this location. I never saw her in the stall and she never saw me. Yet, because I was the only male on the 3rd floor, she knew it was me. We simply chatted like good ol' friends.

And Peg is brilliant. She intimidated the heck out of people because she was super intellectual and gifted. She knew a lot and she took NO CRAP from anyone. She fought the good fight in her own, aggressive and biting way. I loved her for that.

Of course, Peg retired soon after I was hired, but I never forgot our conversations, even after she departed. Every time I used the bathrooms I thought of her and wondered how she was doing - the trail of smoke that often lingered from stall #1 was missed.

It really is the little things that trigger the largest things...the odd quirks that are normal, yet abnormal, and only have meaning when they are no longer.

Today is the last day in the 'ville and I am sad we have to leave. The friendliness in this city remains and the kindness will always be cherished.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

All Love To Louisville Writing Project Today @KentuckyWP @UofLCEHD. Generations Right Here. Ubuntu

In 1994, when I arrived to the University of Louisville to work on my first Masters degree in English Education, Dr. Ann Larson was hired as new faculty. She quickly took me under her wings, pushed my professional world forward, and advocated for my 'out of the box' teaching philosophy. Soon after, Jean Hicks introduced herself to me as she worked with Dr. Marjorie Kaiser with the Louisville Writing Project.

Time flies. Obviously Jean became the Director of LWP and now Ann Larson is the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development!

Yesterday, Chitunga and I were touring the University of Louisville to check out their Business and Accounting degrees, and both Ann and Jean were able to take us to lunch at the University Club (where we also ran into Marcelle Gianelloni of the my Louisville Nature Center days and Robin Lipsey from my Critical Friends/Brown School days). It was wonderful to catch up with everyone, albeit briefly) before we headed out into the heat.

Today is the Louisville Writing Project's fall conference and I'm wishing all the presenters, including the new ones who recently went through the summer institute, the best workshops. It's hard for me to get my head around where I was in 1994 and where I am in 2016 and how much all of this is swirled together with memories, support, trust, education, and love. It is all overwhelming.

It was, however, fantastic to see so much mentorship in one photograph - an explosion of story and history.

Go Cards! Go LWP! Go CEHD! Ann and Jean, I love you both!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Arrived to Derby City In Time to Experience the Oppressive Heat, Get State Fair Time In, and See All the Wonderful Changes

We have arrived in Louisville, Kentucky. I'm writing before I go to sleep, so this will be a short post. Today, Chitunga and I will tour the University and have dinner with Alice and Charlie. Yesterday, we did the State Fair (oh, how I forget Kentucky) and Vietnam Kitchen.

Win. Win. Win. Sue. Sue. Sue. Win. Win. Win. She always knows what to do.

It is a bit odd staying in the Galt House rather than at a house-house, but I figured it would be best to be centrally located downtown. Our window looks out at the Ohio River and the Mohammad Ali Center, so I guess I made a right decision.

Full day ahead today: Brown, included (and hopefully the Irish Rover).

It's Friday, huh? Well, here's to loving it and making the best. More to come, I promise.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

And Then There Is That Time That You Try to Explain Jello To Someone From Togo Who Has No Context For It.

It's a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Edem and I were driving home from campus listening to People of the United States when there was a report about the different ways states have socials: ice cream, coffee bars, open bars, and then Jello. He cocked his head and me and inquired, "What is Jello?"

I then preceded to explain. Sort of (I'm pausing here so you can think about how you might explain Jello to anyone who has never seen it, tasted it, or felt it. Without any context for the --- what kind of food product is it? --- dessert, it is much more difficult to put into words.

I started with the fruitiness, then switched to a more gelatinous ice cream, but I only received blank stares. I wanted to explain nursing homes and preschool nurseries, but knew I wouldn't get far. I contemplated gummy bears and Swedish fish, but that isn't correct either. The only solution I could think of was trying to make it, but I don't think I've had Jello in years (didn't Bill Cosby promote it or was that pudding?).

It bothered me all night. I couldn't figure out a way to explain Jello to someone who has never experienced Jello. The more I thought about it, the more creeped out I became as to what the #$@#$# it actually is. It seems my mom and grandmothers used to make a strawberry-cream cheese jello mold for particular occasions, but even that surpasses any explanation I might give to someone foreign to the product.

I guess one can only say, "Oh, you'll find out after doing an overnight in a hospital."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

When In Doubt, A Face Usually Says It All. Body Language People. Body Language. A Face Doesn't Lie.

Pam really, really wanted to get together after I returned from Syracuse, simply because she wanted to have someone to hang out with. I made arrangements on Tuesday to write in the morning, so that we could run and do errands in the afternoon. I need new sneakers because I wore the treads off the ones I bought earlier this summer.

"Sure," I said to Pam, "I can run to DSWs. And Christmas Tree Shop. And Walmart. And Ocean State Job Lot. And Michaels. And Wine Depot."

I didn't end up buying anything, but I enjoyed an afternoon of store hopping.

Edem, who is visiting from Syracuse and watching Glamis this weekend while Chitunga and I tour Louisville, had a different experience. His face says it all, "Um, what is going on here? Bryan is yelling at pam about how slow she shops, and Pam is telling Bryan that she's keeping a good pace, and the two of them keep on laughing, even though they act like they're fighting the entire time."

Yup, he wanted shopping with the twins separated at birth, and was also treated to an Applebees salad, although we learned that he hates unmelted cheese. Go figure.

It was great to see Pam again, although Chitunga and I are heading right back out. I wish I got new sneakers or that any of the shopping proved to be fruitful, but it was a total bust. The company was good, though, and Edem gotta see Orange and Milford.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

This Morning a Song Triggers a Thought Triggers Memories Triggers These Words

1982. John Cougar Mellancamp debuts the song Jack and Diane. I am 10 years old and leaving 4th grade to enter 5th grade. It is Cicero Elementary School and I have Mr. Finster. We have sex education classes that year and all the books make sense. I only have one question, however, which deters my mother's response (Mr. Finster says, if you have questions, ask your parents), and since I do have a question I ask and she responds, "I think you need to ask your father." I understood the books I was given to read (and even the brochures handed to me for 'little brothers" that were in my sisters box of Tampons, although she gets very upset that I read these because she's in 6th grade), but I want to know an answer to my question.,

"I get it, dad. But how do you know when you're done. I mean, how will you know when you're finished."

His answer is quick and he doesn't even get to inhale his Lucky Strike more than once before he tells me. "You'll know, son. You'll know."

Last night, 2016, and 34 years later from the debut of that song, I'm talking to Edem about Blackish and we decide to watch a couple of episodes. In one, "Twins," the story is about how Jack and Diane, the youngest kids, no longer want to be twins and wish to separate from their shared bedroom. Their mother, "Rainbow," explains to the two kids they were named after John Mellancamp's song and she proceeds to do a horrible rendition of -- it is not even recognizable). She explains, "Come on. It's one of the catchiest songs of all time."

Not the way she sings it.

And Edem asks, "What is this song she is talking about?"

Edem arrived to the U.S. from Togo as a 16 year old after losing his parents to war. In a short period of time, all on his own, he's graduated high school and college, and is currently searching for what is to come next. "I've never had a television," he tells me. "I am not used to watching t.v." My t.v. is rarely on except college basketball, Big Brother, and when the twins are in town.

Edem's finds an adventure reality show to watch, where a British man is camping (rough) with Courtney Cox. She's starving and he finds a dead sheep in a pond of Ireland and says they should eat it. The meat is rotting, however, and he says it is no good. He says, "We'll have to eat the maggots." He cuts off the ball sac of the sheep and stores the maggots in them until they can burn a fire later. He will cook the maggots and she will eat them because they are roughing it and she needs protein. I haven't seen Courtney Cox in a decade or so (has Friends been over for a decade?). She is on her way to become Joan Rivers. I'm sad that her face is so plastic...perhaps she did it while auditioning for a part in the Hunger Games - perhaps in the Capital. Courtney Cox tells the Irish guide about her divorce with David Arquette, aging, being a single mom, remarrying, and trying to find a relevant voice in her midlife. For me, I can't get over her cheekbones and the fact that they don't move. Her mouth looks like it is in constant pain. It has been restructured Hollywood style to show no wrinkles, and I'm wondering about what midlife must be like for the rich and ridiculous because they can afford to create the mythology that they are forever young.

And I'm singing,
Oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone
Oh yeah say life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin' is gone,
while sharing the music with Edem (on YouTube for crying out loud) so he can get the reference for Blackish, which has had him laughing since we began watching it. He wonders why the kids are named Jack and Diane and why I am laughing at how horrible the mother recreates the song for her twins.

And I text the twins, Abu and Lossine, to see if they've seen this particular episode, but they haven't. I wonder if they know the Jack and Diane song, too. I tell them, "Oh, that song I'm a Boss-Ass Bitch plays when the father gives his oldest daughter her first car."

Feeling old, I watch Mellencamp's video for the first time in a long time (I'm used to hearing it on the radio). I Google the  lyrics that I've heard a thousand times because I'm old and that is a staple in the lives of my generation but I want to know I've been singing them correctly all these years. I'm trying to feel the song for all its memories, but while listening to it in my 40s it has me thinking about how inappropriate/appropriate it was for my generation and, although I'm listening to it as I've done forever, I'm thinking about Edem's question about cultural references and then I have a flashback to a conversation Chitunga and I had earlier in the morning about his dream that was a little off color and, to be honest, timely for his age - uncomfortable for him, but hilarious for me, and I'm thinking about 5th grade. "You'll know son, you'll know."

Actually in 10th grade I knew.

But now I'm 44 and Courtney Cox looks like she's been made by Mattel. She is 52 years old. That Mellencamp song, though.
Little ditty about Jack and Diane
Two American kids doing the best they can.
And I'm thinking of everyone I left in Syracuse, especially my sisters, and what that song means to them, and it makes me think of my parents who more than likely heard us singing that song in the car, to and from little league practices and band shows, and it makes me think about youth, 5th - 12th grade, and what my parents must have thought while raising kids when music on the radio was as it was and before Courtney Cox looked like a Pez dispenser.
Gonna let it rock
Let it roll
Let the Bible belt come down
And save my soul....

Monday, August 22, 2016

And Just Like That We've Returned Back To Connecticut and Already We're Missing The CNY Love of Family and Friends

Last day in Syracuse and Tunga says to Sean and Jacob, "We're going to take you to breakfast."

Um, okay.

We did.

And the entire trip I kept thinking, "Oh, this is lil' KC and lil' Bryan." They were playing tricks on one another in the back seat like we used to do, and as soon as we entered the Cicero Diner, the table became a playground. Yes, we came for breakfast, but to this age it meant a bowling alley, race cars, Legos, and projectile missiles. In a blink of an eye, Sean built a pyramid out of jelly on the table. Another blink, Jacob knocked them down.

Cool. Well, after the waitress laughed and said it was cool.

We will miss family time from the week and I owe a special shout out to the parental units who graciously opened their home to the their only son and his chaos for the week: friends, Corn Hole, pool games, and noise. I know I interrupted their routines.

Two other shout outs to my sisters for being wonderful women in my life and tremendously supportive of my world.

The third shout outs go to the bro-in-laws, niece, and nephews. Always fund to laugh with you (get ice cream with you).

I needed the break. I needed the running through Cherry Heights streets, the chlorine, the beers at Chubby's and the Clam Bar.

I needed the love and am thankful that it all arrived over the last 7 days.

And now...the transition to the Fall semester begins. Ugh.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Ultimate Athleticism of Susan Marilyn Crandall and Her Olympic Debut with Corn Hole on Sunshine Saturday

There are occasions when SudyRip flexes her muscle and joins the family in physical games such as football, lacrosse, basketball and wrestling. Cynderballz and I have fond memories of the time she played badminton with us and Chippers flew underneath her lifting her in the air so she flew straight on her ass. Dad has memories of volleyball and softball, and even times on the bowling alley.

Yesterday, though, we talked her into playing Corn Hole in the back yard and I was so impressed by her form and willingness to jump in the game. She didn't win, but she looked mighty good trying to win. She did this even with puppy dogs as obstacles.

The clouds came in yesterday, uninvited, but we still got a backyard day of barbecue, games, and pool. Chitunga joined us from Connecticut, dad pulled out bacon-wrapped scallops, the twins arrived with Edem, and Rhiannon joined us after moving things from Apartment A to Apartment B. I'd have to say it was a successful day, although it would have been nice if Casey and Dave could have joined us.

One of the best highlights of the day was when the boys and I were all watching the Women's Olympic volleyball team and Jacob was bored and going through Papi Butch's things. He pulled out a book and showed it to Chitunga and Sean, asking, "Why does Papi Butch have this?"

The title was Having Sex Over 50, and I imagine a practical joke comic book that was given to him 25 years ago when he turned 50. Dad blushed and got mad, while Chitunga just burst out laughing. It was very, very comical

Ah, but I have to report that it is Sunday and time to head back to Connecticut (boo). It's been a refreshing week that I very much needed....very, very much so. I am so thankful to my mom, dad, and sisters for opening their CNY lives this last week. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Catching Up With Mr. Werdi During a Spur-of-the-Moment Lunch at Tullys - from 9th Grade To Junior Year of College

Woke up on a Friday, wrote a few recommendations, went for a run, ordered a sandwich tray for evening festivities, and even met Werdi Mugaya for lunch at Tully's. Mr. Abdi was supposed to show up, too (we made arrangements with him), but he never arrived. He didn't call, in fact, until we were leaving, but we got our lunch in anyway.

Great catching up with him on his summer work at a few camps, his first semester at SUNY Brockport after transferring from OCC (and replacing the twins), and the normal stresses of being a first generation American wrestling between home culture and a new culture. We've been working with one another for around 8 years and it has been amazing to see him grow up as much as he has.

In the meantime, it was a night of pool and ice-cream with the nephews (and a trip to Wegmans....I got my Asian BBQ sauce...a few bottles actually).

Today, with the high temperatures, we definitely plan on a pool and game day to stay refreshed.

Here's to the Crandall chaos.

Friday, August 19, 2016

What Do We Do With Our Summers When We Don't Have Olympic Games To Watch. I Vote For Olympics Every Year

I'm not sure what I will do when I can't wake up and plan my day around Olympic events. The women's volleyball team loss today to Serbia did a number on me, as did the false starts in several track events (eliminating the relay runners) and the almost disqualification of the U.S. Women runners after a poorly executed baton hand off.

The sports cuts into the day, and wastes time before we can run another corn hole tournament in the backyard (and too bad we didn't introduced a badminton tournament..............yet). That time is coming because that's another way to compete with the boys.

We managed to get a Chubby's round in with dad, and even shot some pool where Edem and I rocked the worlds of Rhiannon, Abu, and Lossine. Too bad they only had the techno version of Riptide by Vance Joy, our summer song 2016. It was good enough, but it would have been better to have the original.

And Paulie is gone from Big Brother. We knew that was coming, and the vicious fan in me wish he had the round trip ticket just to keep things fun. Nope. Not this time. Bye Bye. Now we await the new Head of Household. Big week to see what big moves happen next.

Ah, man. It's already Friday and today we welcome Sean, Jacob, and Dixie to the Amalfi Drive mix. Although the sun will be out and fully heating the outdoors, I'm hoping to get some writing done indoors in preparation of big meetings next week.

Of course, the Olympics will be my distraction as I take a break from the University life for a week (sort of). TGIF, as always.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Flashback to the 90s, A Day of Pool Action on Amalfi Drive, Night-capped with Chubby's Pizza and More Corn Hole

My mom laments often that no one is over to use her pool this summer and the only activity out back has been the red cardinal birds. "Cherry Heights has been dead." Well, I think we changed all that when Rhiannon came over, followed by the twins and we started a few matches of Corn Hole. Before long, Akech, Edem and Dylan joined us, matched with Glamis and Bella. Michael Wroble also walked down and this mean e have enough people for a volleyball game.

Mom, sitting up on the pool said, "Um, I don't think we should grill out. Too many people. Why don't we do Chubby's?" So, we did. I ran up with dad to get pizza, Val's wings, and hot wings, while they continued to play in the pool.

After dinner, it turned into more Corn Hole tournament time (Abu and I with 6 games in a row).

This is the kind of summer I dream of (or at least the used of a little vacation time while I can have it - grade in the morning and play in the afternoon and evening).

To top off the evening? Big Brother at 8. I'm sure my mom is thinking, "Hell no. We're not doing this again." But she wanted activity like it used to be in the backyard of 5388 Amalfi. We brought just that and it was an absolute blast.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

CNY is Not CNY Without a Clam Bar Trip in North Syracuse (Although I've Missed Several Visits The Last Few Trips).

The storms were disappointing, although I prepped my entire day hoping for another Labor Day storm. I will forever associate visits home with the damage and wind destruction from way back when, when the storms wiped out the region. I was thinking we might have a recreation yesterday, but nope. It was mild (although a tornado did start up across Oneida Lake).

The Tuesday highlight was taking time out from grading to have a steak sandwich at The Clam Bar with the parental units, although I should have opted for the scallops, shrimp, and pasta dish that my dad had. Truthfully, 80% of my North Syracuse memories involve The Clam Bar in some way. A step up from Chubby's, The Clam Bar has been part of our CNY life more than any other restaurant, even McDonald's.

Grading. Grading. Grading. I'm almost done. Also, I went for another run, but needed to walk part of it off because of the electric shocks running down my leg, into my ankles, and out my toes. I'm not sure what that's about, but it was impossible to run at my normal pace. It hurt too much.

It may have been an after-effect of watching Paradise Island  with my mom. Days isn't on because of the Olympics, and she has managed to find the world's cheesiest reality show ever invented (and she's hooked, even though she apologetically keeps asking for forgiveness for watching such cheese). I will give her credit because Hope, Marlena, Bo, and Roman have been hijacked in Rio, and she desperately needs drama in her life (that is, if those characters are even on Days any more).

And with that, it's Wednesday. I'm scratching my chin hairs wondering, "Will there be Corn Hole tournaments, today?"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back In Cherry Heights, Running, Driving, and Walking Down Memory Lane and Feeling My Way to the Halfway to 90 Point

I saw on Facebook that Alex Fried's daughter wished him a halfway to 90th birthday (at 45). That will be me in February. I thought about this yesterday when I ran four miles through Cherry Heights, the same streets I began running in high school, the same roads that have been here for me through college at Binghamton and Louisville, the years I was traveling back and forth from teaching days at the Brown School, my return to Syracuse University for my doctorate, and now with my visits from Connecticut.

I suppose everyone feels their neighborhood where they grew up is still their neighborhood. I remember in high school I always said that age 15 was the perfect year because it was the last summer before starting jobs and having time taken away from us. Those were the summers of Duncowing football and Peter Caroli wiffleball park. They were days hopping from pool to pool and Southkirk Shores with the Marleys. The nights of truth or dare, Uno, pitch, and rummy.

Up until 15 we roller skated, road ten speeds, pulled one another by rope, and played Ghost in the Grave Yard and Hide and Go Seek. These games, of course, turned into foolish walks and talks under the street lights at night, which led to Vic Ciccerelli parties, and eventually driving licenses and mingling with kids from other areas of Cicero and Clay. But the Cherry Heights memories are most central.

Running by the Delucias, Ryans, and Messinas. Seeing Kirsten's house, Alex's house, John Dellavechio's house, Rich Hoppe's and Rick Chandler's. Yesterday I also ran by Kelly Bannon's Michelle Bower's and Denise D'Angelo's. I went across Caughednoy, over to Spruce Hill, and onward to Fortuna and Luchessi.

As the pace moves forward, I am thinking about childhood parties with the Deerstines, Nikoloffs, Kralemans, Shaeffers and Altiers. It brings out the later years when the world revolved around Karl and all the beer that could be drunk as neighbors gathered by the garbage cans.

Kickball in the street and so many baseball games.

All that comes back every time I return to Central New York. And I pass all the new generations, and I think, "Dude, you're an old guy now." There have been 26 graduating classes from CNS since our 1990 departure, including my niece's. Even so, it feels like the neighborhood still belongs to those of us that ruled it from 1984 to 1990. I can't imagine there was a better crew of kids than us or that others had as much fun, both innocent and adolescent, than we did when we romped the streets.

How many times did we have to shuffle the cars in our driveway? How many times did I jump in the pool after I got home from working at Great Northern Mall? How many shoes did we wear thin as we did lap after lap after lap of Amalfi Drive? The home run derby marathons...cutting through Future...and sneaking to Penn Can Mall or A&Ws for their 3 cheeseburgers for a $1 days. Of course, we grew more adventurous as we got older and road our bikes to Hiller Heights and the Junior High School, Gillette Road and even Mattydale.

Now, I come for the Christmas holiday and when lucky, like now, for a week in the summer. I expect to see all the same people as I'm running or walking the dog: Bobby, Carmen, Peter Boy, Jimmy, Jason...all the usuals. I expect to see the same parents out in the yards, but it has all changed. It is surreal, too, to know that so much life has occurred since those days, but when I return I expect it to be the same as it always was...

the streets I walked with Dusty...the ones with Tizzy...Smoker....Juliette Catherine Alanis Madonna Scrappy Doo Olivia Houdini Dennis...Baby...and now Glamis.

And I see myself in the same mirrors that hang in the home of my parents and reflect on the aging process...long cuts...and now the grays. It really does go by way too fast.

Monday, August 15, 2016

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream (Well, Bro-in-Law Mike and I Do Anyway). CNY Ritual Revisited.

I made it to CNY with limited traffic and only one thunderstorm between Binghamton and Cortland. I was in time for a late lunch, some corn hole, a dip in the pool, meeting the new puppy, Max, and the obligatory ice cream cone at a new location --- Byrne Dairy on South Bay Road. Darn place didn't have chocolate and peanut butter (a flavor that Abu made popular this summer in Connecticut).

As it was Sunday, too, there was space in the evening to watch Big Brother and to see the sudden turnaround in the house.

At 9 p.m., the evening came to a close. All the goals for the weekend were met. The humidity finally broke and I indulged in a tasty treat.

Oh, did I mention I got my BLT. Nothing better than summer-fresh tomatoes, bacon, mayonnaise, and lettuce on crispy toast. Mom misread my desire to play corn hole with a want for corn-on-the-cob, so I got one of those, too. Fresh corn from CNY farms.

Now to pace the grading and writing for the week (with eye on Tuesday for being a miserable day - perfect for being on my butt indoors).

Get the yummy where you can.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

With The Heat Turned Up, I Simply Want To Chill Out. Thinking About My Parent's Pool & Contemplating a Road Trip Home

I knew when I walked the dog on Saturday and returned drenched that I needed a pool. Later, I mowed the lawn and was again soaked in my self-created sweat. I thought how nice it would be to have a pool to jump into and even though about swimming in the sound (although I didn't want the hot sand on my feet).

So, I need(ed) to make a decision about how to spend the week getting ready for the next semester and several writing projects needing to be turned up on the stove, and decided this might be a good time to head to Syracuse. It's hot there, too, but at least there's pools to jump in (and my parents and Cynde keep their homes in sub-arctic temperatures).

I hate leaving Chitunga to fend off the heat alone, but he has to work in the garage all week. I know, too, that we're flying out to Louisville the week after and soon after that, another semester begins.

The refrigerator is stocked for him and I will throw together a hamper of summer crap to wear, then do the 5 hour trek to Syracuse. It's a much needed break away from the Connecticut life and a heck of lot closer than driving from Kentucky like I did all those years ago.

With 96 degrees, before humidity, now seems like as good of a time as any. I want a BLT, some corn hole with Butch, and to restock on Wegman's Asian BBQ sauce. The only regret is that Tunga can't join me, as he's obligated to his job without the ability to take time off. He could use a few more swim lessons, but they'll have to wait. Maybe he can find away to join us and be a surprise, but it is doubtful. Mt. Pleasant will have to be his castle to take care of for a short time.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

And Then Comes That Moment When The Six Weeks Catches Up and I Grow Dead in the Brain...Exhausted.

When I came home from the office and the twins weren't with me, this is the position that Glamis took immediately. Earlier yesterday morning when I got up, she was curled up with a pair of shoes Abu left by the door. She was licking them. She knew, and now she is depressed.

I, too, grew sad. Driving home without the singing, laughter, and jokes reminded me that I'd come home to a quiet home (Tunga was working) and that the television that has been screaming "USA" and "GOOOOAALLL" and "Look at that Scmuck" would await me with a black screen.

No massive dinner to prepare. No sorting clean-up. No planning what's coming next.

Just stillness.

I tried to grade, but my brain wouldn't cooperate. It simply wanted to stare off into space and to think about nothing but hitting the pillow. The last night, driving home from Massachusetts after midnight and staying up for dinner until 2:30 a.m. threw off my sleep and I barely kept my eyes closed for two minutes.

This man is pooped. The whirlwind of summer festivities and all the energy it takes to keep things floating suddenly disappeared and it feels like an anvil fell on my head.

Of course, Glamis eventually got out of her funk and pulled out every squeaky toy she could. The rest of the evening was the annoyance of those squeaks and her intentional throwing of the toys underneath couches and chairs where she couldn't get to them.

I gave in. I simply watched Big Brother and said, "It's okay if you go to bed early."

And so, today I hope to begin renewed and refreshed. The humidity and heat doesn't help with the desire to sleep the day away, but I need to refashion the pace and go forth with the next projects.

The poor Corn Hole boards and beanbags are in the shed wondering, "Where'd everyone go?"

It's fun having such company, you know?

Friday, August 12, 2016

One Item Knocked Off Chitunga's Bucket List...Glad The Rest of Us Were Brought Along For the Ride.

We left for Foxborough, Massachusetts, at 2:30 and arrived around 6:00. Actually, we arrived around 4:00 but the traffic getting in was much so that Tunga and Abu had to jump out of the car to find somewhere to pee. Lossine and I then sat in traffic for another 40 minutes while they found people to play Corn Hole with.

We were there in time for the game, though, and with my intention to eat at Red Robins before the game, we ended up eating the oranges, chips, and peanuts I packed. There were too many people to fight for dinner in any of the restaurants.

I'm EXTREMELY grateful to Kathy Silver and her family for offering us 4 pre-season tickets while they were out of town. They beat the New Orleans Saints and the spectacle of a NFL game was worth it all. Also worth it was the grin that never left Chitunga's face the entire time we entered the stadium. It was genuine and worth the long trip up there.

I never imagine how in the middle of nowhere the stadium would be, nor did I ever think about the limited ways for thousands and thousands of people to enter in and exit out-of an arena. I can only imagine the behind the scene stories that come with employees who work there all the time. By the time I parked, my car was almost on E because we sat so long (was lucky to get to a station on time driving home, too, especially when we were only allowed to exit one way upon leaving and it was in the opposite direction of where we needed to be.

"Um, Bryan," said Lossine. "You're dealing with Boston drivers. People in Massachusetts make up their own rules. You might as well follow them."

We sort of went off-roading to find our way to I-95. We went three exits, following gas station signs and when we arrived, it was closed. Lucky for us, we found another a mile up the road.

But Gillette Stadium. The National Anthem. The lights. The fans. The cheerleaders. The huge screens. The atmosphere. All of that was superb and worth every second we spent on the road.

We made it back by 1 a.m. and I'm happy to report that Glamis was a good girl...she didn't even eat the biscuits and peanut butter we left her. We walked her lots before we left and it was super, duper hot. Tiring her out worked.

And tired out was true for us, too. It was such a relief when air started moving in the stadium by 9 p.m. - I can't imagine playing football as they did. It was pea-soup humid.

Ah, but today we sleep in...well, the twins and I. Tunga has to work...both jobs...ugh.

It will be sad to say, "Bon Voyage," to the twins today, too, as they depart, but that has been the plan for the summer. They will be back...

...we just don't know when...not just yet. Hopefully it will be sooner than later.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Guest Blog From @AbuBility Upon His Last 24 Hours in Connecticut, Summer '16. His Words Here.

Today's Blog Post is Brought To You By Abu Bility.

Has it been a month already? Well, I guess the saying is true. "All good things must come to an end." (Bryan inserts a Boo here...Boo for Abu). And tomorrow marks the end to our stay at Mount Pleasant Ave in Connecticut in 2016, another year (Bryan adds Phew). Crandall is a schmuck but, he is the greatest schmuck you'll ever encounter in your life. 

As we say our goodbyes tomorrow, I will be thinking of my brother, Chitunga and Bryan, as they drive back to CT without us. My brother and I are heading to Boston to spend the night with one of our college friends before hitting the road back to Syracuse on Friday. We will have to part ways after the New England Patriots game.

This summer has definitely been another for the books. From going to a NYCFC soccer game in NYC to Yankees baseball and a Patriots pre-season game against the New Orlean Saints  at Gillette stadium in New England. We also had our last Sunday dinner with Pam on a Wednesday night (because we needed one more dinner session with our Connecticut mom). When you sourround yourself with good people, life seems to get better no matter what is going on in the world. I am glad I have these wonderful people in my life and that I can go to them whenever I need them. They really are family and as the picture shows a family can come in a different forms (just look at us). 

I do hope to be back in Connecticut within the next two weeks working or at least doing some interviews. To my Connecticut people, it's been real. Working with the kids in Ubuntu Academy and Young Adults Literacy Labs was another great experience this summer for Lossine and me.  I hope to keep working and inspiring young kids as they follow their educational dreams. My wish is to assist them in making their Americans Dreams a reality. 

Before all is said and done, I want to say a special Thank You to our hosts, Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall and Chitunga, for the great hospitality. I don't know what life would be like for my family and me without all the help and great advice given us the last eight years. 

Thank you, Thank you and Thank you. I will see you guys in a few weeks inshallah. 


And with that, we are traveling to the Patriots game today.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Team Bryan, Just 5 Players Short of Fielding a Baseball Team. Corn Hole Will Suffice. We Got This

The good thing about growing up with sisters is that I learned early how to be a pain and pest. Casey was usually the punching bag for all the pranks, but I became well suited for my adult life, too, especially with Abu and Lossine in the house and all the pranks they play on me. I can easily get revenge.

It's been a mini-war where Lossine puts whatever he can find into my bed and, with Abu's help (and Patrick's), I've been able to do the same. Last night's feast was insect carcasses found in the back yard.

There was plenty of time to find them, too, as we played almost four hours of Corn much so that we've decided that we think it should become an Olympic sport.

I told Rhiannon when she visited earlier that Mt. Pleasant had become a frat house. It has, but we are super clean and respectful (with minor alterations for boys being boys).

Last night, though, was cheeseburger and barbecue chicken pizza and a marathon of bean bag tossing. Three of us made four in a row (which was on the table for extra something, although we never decided what). I still had time, though, to locate the bug carcasses strategically on a pillow so the pranks could continue (I am sure I will regret it a 2 in the morning when they finally retire to sleep).

Our summer time together is winding down, though, and I can feel the sadness approaching. It's an absolute riot to go at one another from sunrise to sundown, and the stillness upon this week's departure will definitely be a punch to Chitunga, Glamis and me. The twins = playfulness, and I appreciate every second of it.

Shoot. As I type this, I believe Lossine has found his pillow. I just heard Bryan screamed up the stairs. This isn't good.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Didn't Even Know They Knew How To Ride a Bike, But Then They Took Off. Monday Night Relaxation

The twins slept in, which meant they slept until 11, so I started my day off getting an oil change, lining up paperwork, and doing bills. We made it to campus after lunch and quickly rearranged all the items from the summer, bringing them over to the other office.

Then, I came home to run, hit a volleyball around, then have dinner made for us in Monroe when Abu and Tunga played Kermit and Ms. Piggy on two 3-speed bikes (and they didn't get lost this time).

Finished the night off watching rap battles on their x-box, which was more like spoken word poetry than rap, but it was as they said, "Bars. All bars."

Now I'm looking at the calendar ahead thinking about this time last year when I had five months (sabbatical) to recover from the summer. I don't have such a luxury this year (and an excuse to run up to Syracuse to break a finger).

Ah, but this morning I'm heading back to work and leave the dynamic duo at home with the Glamster.  I need to get on top of paper work and have a moment to think for myself.

And with that, I'm off.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bella Makes The Blog. So Sad That Papi Butch Didn't Bring Her Sunday Apple Fritters to Pine Grove Road

So Sad. No Fritter Today
Cynderballz sent me this Sunday message from her dog, Bella, when my father didn't show up with his ritual weekend Apple Fritters from Price Chopper. Casey's kids were under watch by the Amalfi parental units, so I suppose the grandparents got distracted.

Today is clean up day for Abu, Lossine and me, as we will try to find my desk underneath all the crazy supplies that took over my office this summer. I told them they can sleep in to when their bodies wake them up and then we'll head in.

I spent yesterday basking in the silence, finishing teacher stuff from the institute, getting groceries for the week, and prepping for the posse to return from the Yankees game. In one swoop, half of the groceries disappeared, as Sunday night took on festival mode with Pam, Patrick, Derrick, Katelyn, and the boys: cheeseburgers, beans, corn, salad, and mozzarella sticks.

I did find time to watch Spain and France play in Men's Volleyball and wish I had an opportunity to play at such a level (ha ha, as if). I am also thankful that I'm not that gymnast who bent his leg upon a landing...OUCH. Given that it has been almost a year since the great pinky break, 2015, I can feel for that man's pain. Ah, but it was his leg.

Yankees won upsetting Cleveland's winning streak and I wish I caught the part when Abu and Chitunga were put on the fan cam. That would have been awesome.

It seems strange to know that 100 people will not be awaiting me at Fairfield University this morning, but all will be good. I need the mental space.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cleaned Up Nice For a Quinceañera. @Chitunga1995 Celebrating Saturday With Jacob and Friends

Tunga sent me this photo of Jacob and him before Jacob's little sisters sweet Quinceañera. They ran a 5K to kick of their day, he picked up a new suit while the twins and I cleaned the house top to bottom and he was off. That left us behind to continue the Mt. Pleasant Corn Hole tournament, 2016, in which Lossine upset Abu's winning streak, and then I was able to clean house soon after.

Ah, the humidity. I am feeling the weeks that just were, but I got a 4 miler in myself, although I didn't race for a t-shirt. I just sweat in the pea soup that has been Connecticut air.

Today, all three boys are joining Pam at Yankees Stadium as they take on Cleveland (Pam was given four awesome tickets leaving me as the 5th wheel). Looks like Glamis and I will have quality time in absolute silence, which I'm looking forward to - hoping that I don't sleep the entire day away out of boredom and an unaccustomed lack of energy in the house.

I get used to seeing Tunga in his black pants and work shirts, followed by his gym shorts and t-shirts. He cleans up nicely for special occasions which I know this is - a cultural tradition Jacob's family has been working on for months.

I am going to take advantage of this day of rest and, seriously - seriously, I think I am going to take this rest thing seriously. I need a full day to process everything that just was. And with that, let my mini-Bryan day begin.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

And With That, It's A Wrap. Five Weeks of Incredible Writing @FairfieldU with @cwpfairfield @writingproject

I'm cooked, because I just completed the five week marathon I set up as my PRIMARY responsibility with CWP-Fairfield: youth and teachers of Connecticut. Three years ago I redesigned our Invitational Summer Institute so that selected educators would have more opportunities to work with stellar teachers during Young Adult Literacy Labs. Last year, I told my program manager, "We hit 150 kids this year and there's no way we can handle more. Let's aim for this as a goal in 2016 so I can keep my sanity."

Truth: I messed up. Word of mouth, social media, reputation, and our incredible educators increased youth participation by another 50 young people. We reached 200+ kids this year in Little Labs for Big Imaginations, Novel Lab: Character Matters, Novel Lab: Plot Matters, Project Citizen, Digital Journalism, Sports Writing, The Spoke Word, and College Essays. The number of kids signing up allowed me to hire 18 incredible educators and writers, undergraduate students, and youth advocates to teach the labs. Additionally, I hired Julie Roneson to co-direct the teacher institute and had an office full of snacks for the entire week (and pizza on Fridays). With State and Federal funding decreasing, I was able to bring a profit to CWP that wasn't here four years ago. This, of course, can be reinvested in teachers and students we serve, including our participating in the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and NCTE conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

A HUGE asset for the second year was bringing Abu and Lossine Ability on board to work with teachers and kids in all the labs, and hiring awesome educators to plan, design, and implement Ubuntu Academy (a lab for relocated and refugee youth). All of the labs had guest speakers (i.e., Caryn Sullivan, Kwame Alexander, Jack Powers, Chris Crutcher) and Fairfield University was more that spectacular for proving expertise and space for the work we do (shout out to Carol Ann Davis, Elizabeth Holt, and Yohuru Williams for amazing everyone).

Special to the redesign, though, are the opportunities for youth from 18 school districts and teachers to participate in writing workshops and conferences together. The next step of the work is to publish the writing achievements collected this summer.

We collected data from parents, too, every Friday who said things like, "These labs have changed my kid. I wish this was similar to their experiences they receive in school. I can't get my kid to stop writing now."

My mind is overwhelmed with the stimulation from it all and I sort of worried when one mom said to me this afternoon, "I'm telling all my friends about this experience. Seriously, I'm sending my kid back next year and he will be bring many of his friends. Other parents need to see this."


The good news is that if parents are willing to sign up their kids for our literacy labs, I can offer summer employment for incredible writers and teachers.

I am forever thankful to Fairfield University and the National Writing Project for standing behind this work. Next summer, I will be without a Supporting Effective Educator Development Teacher Leadership grant (as I doubled up this summer), but I have a few tricks up my sleeve, already looking promising (stay tuned hip hop artists and 1st and 2nd grade teachers).

In the mean time, the twins are telling me I need to learn to relax. Of course, as they are vegging in from of the t.v. I'm posting this morning's blog. I learned so much from everyone this summer, so sleep is a nice idea, but the knowledge needs to be shared with others. Kids love to write. Parents love their young people achieving. Teachers want to feel validated and have their professionalism recognized.

If you build it, they will come. It feels good to know that Ubuntu really works. Who we are together is really building who I am. I am feeling rather proud this Saturday.

Friday, August 5, 2016

In The Tradition of @cwpfairfield, A Last Day Acrostic for Participating Teachers @WritingProject @FairfieldU

This is my 6th cohort of teacher-leaders in the Invitational Leadership Institute and my ??? poem trying to capture the voices and perspectives of the students I have (although they teach me as much as I teach them. The 2016 crew was phenomenal as they always are. I'm entering this last day of Young Adult Literacy Labs with a smile. This has been another spectacular summer.

A Summer Together, Us


U and I = We, &
b ecause of us, this cohort free, is in harmony with the
u nexpected, what is suspected as knowledge built from trust and
n estled amongst cone flowers, we must, recognize the artistry of how we
t each and trust that greater generations have searched and thrust,
u pon oceans, skies and land. We become

M usic makers when we stand, find a song
a nd learn to hum the tunes no matter right or wrong, for
t eaching colleagues and classrooms to become strong,
t hanking the Great Whatever to have this opportunity to belong
e ach other during a summer sing-a-long of
r eflection, writing, and practice – alone, our
s olos create a tune, but together its the cacophony of what makes us who we are.


C uz 5th grade mattered most to me,
o utwardly became a host to free the
l aughter and love for creativity, the
l earning and finding serenity with
e agerness to write through complexity,
e levating wisdom through inquiry and a
n eed to write the word and the world.

F inster’s class was a carnival of knowing,
a sking youth to argue and continue growing,
l etting our minds imagine galaxies, all that glowing,
l acing possibilities with language, modeling and showing
o h, the places we could go, ya know? We
n eed leadership to show us the way. So, 5th grade…Hooray!


All of us do it, really, for the Joshua’s,
l essons taught that can’t be planned, and
l ife epiphanies too grand for state assessments and voyeurism.
i can be me, because of who we are together.
s isters, brothers, siblings, mothers, fathers, teachers, a feather in the
o verature, ovations, symphonies, conversations.
n elson Mandela was right to call for Ubuntu.

T his road stops, but this path opens.
a return. A departure. A circle. A line.
f inding a way for student voices to shine –
t he village is required, indeed.


E ach of us needs a bow tie, a
d esire to ask how, what, when, where and why.

F leeing allegorical caves to eternally fly, to prove
i f we’re right (or more than likely wrong),
a rm wrestling with Aristotle to be ethically strong,
n udging Nietsche and humming along to the woulda,
s houlda, coulda punk music scrambled like eggs in our heads.


D own with the king for years,
a bout ten of ‘em, recruiting suckers, Mac and Mike, and making men of ‘em.  Throwing
v erse like Green Eggs and Ham, poetically rehearse like Sam I am &
e clipse the sun, I am that man,

W illingly cursed, linguistic spam, grabbing the mic
o h, this writing jam, our election year, now that’s a scam,
o nward we fight, we is the exam
l oving this work ain’t an epigram, because
e ach of us teach, POW! ZIP! ZAP! WHAM!
y es we got game, our pedagogical slam!


G od needs to do something about the DMV,
r each into his crockpot of chaos, you see, and
e ventually do something about the lines, the attitudes.
t his is the human condition summed up by an institution.
c hurches, districts, governments, nations,
h ell needs no explanation when registrations are due,
e veryone understands bureaucracies make us blue.
n ext. Next. #94. #94. What are you here for? a licensed renewed?

M en and women, such brutal beasts with political feasts of
a ccountants, lawyers, surgeons, and morticians, at least
t he taxes are put to good use. Abuse? Um, sir,
h ow can you charge me when I don’t even live there anymore?
e ven when I’m free (born in chains) I implore you hear me out.
w henever I’m in a thunderstorm, hurricane and/or the rain, the
s un eventually returns to explain, as Marley does, every little thing is going to be alright.

K: If I be waspish, best beware my sting
a nd P: My remedy is then, to pluck it out. Her
r esponse?: Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies (and
a ll our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death). Whoops. Wrong Play.

P etruchio tries: Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?
e xeunt (no not yet): In his (ring ring ring, hello)
t ounge. Who’s tongue? (not King Lear’s fool)
e lloquentia perfecta. drool. Yours, if you talk of tails. School.
r ight. Iambic pentameters are cruel…
s hakespeare’s language, feminist, so (very hot) cool!


A udentis fortuna iuvat, wrote Virgil, fortune favors the brave,
l and of the free for Kek is gaining wisdom about liberty,
l earning the best interest of students, says Gallagher,
i s teaching to read like writers and to write like readers,
s o they’re prepared for college and the workplace.
o h, you know, The National Writing Project thing, is
n othing else but a pro-learning thing.

A trox melior dulcissima veritas mendacis, the bitter truth is
n othing compared to the sweetest lies. Of all the
t hings that impressed Kek, “tribes from all
o ver the world” were most amazing. In a tree, stargazing,
n ot wanting to return home, cow grazing in a field.
n osce te Ipsum. Know thyself,
u ntil there’s nothing else to be known.
c overing as much material as possible (Gallagher again) is
c ause for the surest way to extinguish curiosity.
i believe all of us are working against this.


K nock knock. Who’s there?
a venue. Avenue who? Avenue knocked at
t his door before? Knock Knock. Who’s there?
I ce cream. Ice cream who? Ice cream right now if you don’t let me in (&
e ventually, determined, I know I will win when I find my way inside.

Z any jokes? Knock knock? Whose there? Butter. Butter who? Butter bring an
u mbrella, because it looks like rain outside!
r eally, Crandall. Knock Knock jokes. Whose there?
l ettuce. Lettuce who? Let us out of this room. It’s cold in here.
o h, Bryan just turned on the air conditioner once again.


J ust when the truth revealed itself from the
e lephants in the room, we made the choice of door #2, a
n ew car? No. A kaboom! with pink Big Brothers
n ext to a pen of walking pigs, what a zoo,
i ntellectually, how do we know what’s true, while
e xiting from the shackles they create in caves. The

C ackles of ugly sisters, they rave, haggle us with
o ur hubris, bliss depraved, as brought to us by NBC. We
x ist, exact, and extract everything we see (but is any of it reality?)


B een trying to bend it like Beckam since I was born,
e levating my athletic game, but somewhat
t orn by the nincompoop tendencies of my play.
h ey, Dad. Catch. A football, until the hospital has its say, and there I

L ay (or is it lie) in a bed with a pinky to the side -
a nd I can’t hide because it’s broken, a token of the
m anic way I approach sports (my every day), well intended,
b ut on display (oh, shit. I think I’ve lost again) trying to find my way.
e h, um, err, well, eek. I’m not the only one…in
r eality that Howard guy didn’t have any fun (and
t hat is the truth behind why she drank the whisky).


B oy, my Spanish is rusty…if non existent…
e stos es la vida, pensar en nada en la presencia de gente que nos gusta (when
a ll I am thinking about is everything in
t he presence of beautiful people. Las personas hermosas son
r aras, no se distinguen por la cara, sino por el alma.
i can be wonderful, too, with all of us (that’s you…and I owe a
z illion thank-yous to the stars.

M an, even my English fails me at times (even as
i attempt some rhymes across the page.
c asualidad destino no se pero te
c onoci por algo…
i know there’s reasons…there always are.
c rea las mas alta y mas grandiose vision possible tu vida --
h eck, even Oprah knows Spanish, it’s her quote! porque te conviertes
e n lo que crees. I think we’re all something amazing.


C olonialization requires the demonization of culture…an
a nnihalation of tradition, a destruction & mental inhibition where one
r eality is right, and even if one puts up a fight, the other is made wrong --
even if strong, history is only partially told. “On earth,” writes
e mmanuel Jal, “The worst people are not only those who commit evil”
n o. It is “those who stand by and turn a blind eye.” In Sudan, how many have

D ied and why do so many of us not ask why? How many more will
e ventually try to find a way out of
r efugee camps to fly with an opportunity of hope.
I t’s the proverb again and again, “Until the lion learns to write, the
s tory will glorify the hunter.” At the core of what’s common & standard an
e cho of injustice, injury, and suffering. That’s the immigrant story.


L anguage is a hymnal, the obvious entwined in subliminal confusion, mixed with an
i ntellectual confessional twisted amongst the carnival, and spiritual,
z inging hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah…
z est is the secret of all beauty…(and
I can hear their chorus sing, “When Israel was in
e gypt’s land, let my people go. Oppressed so hard they could not stand.

L et my people go. Go down, Moses, Way down in
e gypt’s land: Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go.”
w e all know, and our performance is to show, that
i nvestment in them….to see them grow is what we’re all trying to
s ing (his eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watched). Grace is what we bring.


C onstitutionally, I’m unconstitutional,
a nd unconditionally nonconforming
t o the conversational hypothetical (somewhat
h ysterical, but oddly congregational)
y ou get the point, I’m patriotic and pathological.

S ociologically I become historical through the
c acophony of the allegorical, but this may only be
h ypothetical because my understanding of history is questionable
a nd sometimes it’s unethical with the detestable ways humans are un-
g overnable (especially in years where candidates, unpresidential, are
e xistentially, incorrigible and impossible). This is just to say,
r eally, these weeks have been irreplaceable.

A nd there was a day in a library where he began to share his story. he and his
b rother with scars. those wars. I went to the Liberian to check out a book…
u nusual look she gave with curiosity. Are you a big brother or something?

B ooks. Those looks make less sense now that I know more. No,
i am not their manager and they’re not in a boy band, either. I’m just here to
l end a hand with this American thing. What? What do they bring? An
i nteresting thing. They bring absolutely everything.
t hey help me to sing and to cling to what matters most.
y outh. hope. laughter. And history. Love. Shadow. Ghost.


L aughter. In the end, isn’t it humor that we’re after?
o h, here’s one for you. What’s orange and
s ounds like a parrot? Um. Duh. A carrot.
s o, what kind of teacher passes gas? Oh,
i give up. A Toot-er. Knock knock, Who’s there?
n eedle. Needle who? Needle washcloth to wipe up your drool?
e very Captain Stick ‘em needs a sidekick, Splash, you fool.

B ut strawberry air-freshener is never cool.
i got another for you. What did the alien say to the book?
l a la la la la la la. Ready? Take me to your reader. Here’s an
i mportant one. Knock Knock. Whose There?
turnip. Turnip who? Turnip the volume. This is my favorite song and
y ou, me, him will always sing along, forever 15.


J uly and August. The Cicadas.
u biquity and ominiscience. The five week dance of notebooks,
l iving and reading and breathing and writing and reflecting and sharing and
i nvesting in one another; an act of inquiry
e volves into discovery only to be

R epeated again. Them. Those kids (those adults)
o ur double-sided minds sculpted around bureaucratic
n onsense (their policies do little to raise student voices)…the
e gotistical always stand in the way with all the ridiculous they have to
s ay (doubt they listened to NPR any time today).
o h, it’s August 4th and the Cicadas are singing forth, but
n ow…now we have each other.

B y this time
e very year, it comes – this disappearance as soon as it arrived,
c aught in traffic on I-95, the artery finally clears
a nd suddenly we’re free to drive away.
u buntu. a voice singular becoming unified in a chorus,
s ymphony, cacophony, and harmony of
e verything evolving together.


W e. Us.
e veryone, on the same page, but writing a different story.

M agic-making, discovering, summer therapy, recovering
a ll that made us want to teach
t o reach one another, a sister, a brother,
t o united and to belong,
e nlightenment from a summer sing-a-long, we are
r eady, and we are strong for whatever the next chapter brings.