Photo by Brooke Estis Bleyl

Monday, August 29, 2016

I Always Walked to School, 3

More about the opening days of my teaching career--exactly fifty years ago ...

And I had a salary!

$5100 a year, and, as I discovered on my first payday (we were paid on the 1st and 15th of every month), that worked out to $168.42 for each paycheck. Bucks up!

And then I started paying bills. Buying food. Paying utilities. Etc. (Bucks down!)

My checkbook balance was usually, oh, about .08 by the end of a pay period--and the worst thing? Those months when the 15th (or 1st) came right after a weekend. Miserable.

I had no extra money for anything. Movies, plays, travels, etc.--forget it! I began to understand with a preternatural clarity the expression paycheck-to-paycheck. Fortunately, there were a couple of families in Aurora--the Bissells, the Frenches--who would invite me over now and then for a meal, and I would eat everything except the chair I was sitting on--though it surely looked tasty to me.

I had no real clue about the size of my classes. Whatever they gave me, I figured, was "normal." What they gave me that first year? Five classes, forty students in each. Two hundred students a day. Five days a week. I just shrugged and got on with it. This is normal, right?

The kids were grouped somewhat by ability--and the English curriculum was married to the American history curriculum into something called Core; I had each class for two periods. I'd never heard of Core; I didn't know how to merge the two subjects; no one else seemed to know, either. I had Core 2 and Core 4 (1 and 2 were the top half of the kids; 3 and 4, the lower) + a class called Reading, a class for the Core 3s and 4s. I knew nothing about teaching reading--I'd done my student teaching in (and preparation for) secondary school classes. At that level, we figured, you know, kids knew how to read ... hah!

So, I was soon doing what all the other Core teachers were doing, grades 5-8: teaching English one period, history the other. (Within a year or two, by the way, we were entirely departmentalized--Core faded into the mists of curricular history.)

Oh, and when I asked our principal (Mr. Clough--pronounced Kluff) what we were supposed to teach in English and history (American in 7th grade), he handed me a "curriculum guide," a document which, I quickly discovered, was no more than a list of the chapter titles in our textbooks. I don't remember the name of the history text (I taught it only one year), but the English book was Language for Daily Use, 7, a very traditional book: grammar, sentence diagramming, chapters on public speaking, composition, vocabulary, letter-writing, writing reports, and so on.
my actual copy, which,
obviously, I kept
The book was narcotizing. But I marched us through it, focusing on the grammar and usage chapters, day after deadly day. I don't know how the students stood it--or me. But soon I was making up stupid and/or outrageous sentences for them to analyze, and both of us began having more fun--sentences like The little boy shot an arrow at the TV. The crow ate only the man's left eyeball. That sort of thing.

In history? Well ... I just marched through that book, as well. Kids answered the questions at the end of each chapter. Etc. I showed dull filmstrips now and then. I'm bored just writing about it, fifty years later.

As the year went along, I loosened up more and more as I began to discover what the kids (and I) were capable of.  I even assigned some creative writing and got the first Arctic blast that freezes writing teachers in place for days on end while they try to grade the alpine piles of papers.

And Reading class? Well, we did have some readers (but no curriculum telling me what I ought to be teaching), so, basically, we read stories all year and talked about them. Our text was Doorways to Discovery, and, yes, I kept a copy (and have blogged about that book, too--Google it).
For the first six weeks of school that year (1966-67) we were on split session with Aurora High School, whose new building up on Pioneer Trail did not open until October. AHS was in the building from 8-12 (as I recall); we, from 12:30-4:30 (or so?). And when the high school finally moved out, they took with them pretty much everything of value--A-V equipment, books, supplies, etc. But they did leave behind one thing I found pretty useful ...

To be continued ...

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 116

1. AOTW: Not even close this week. Yesterday (Saturday) is the day that Hudson has its Farmers' Market out on the Green, just about a block from our house. And yesterday one of the people who set up a booth there parked his/her truck/SUV so that it blocked about 1/3 of our driveway--all morning long! Very difficult getting in and out. Had a mind to call the cops. (Didn't.) Not cool, AOTW!

2. Somehow I managed to finished two books this week.
   a. One was Alan Bennett's collection of short pieces (fiction and nonfiction) The Lady in the Van and Other Stories (2015), a collection I came to know about because of the eponymous film last year--The Lady in the Van--a film that Joyce and I liked a lot. (Okay, maybe we loved it.) (Link to trailer for the film.)

Based on fact, it tells the story of a semi-homeless woman (Maggie Smith in the film), who parks her imploding, corroding van in Bennett's driveway (and, later, garden), where she lived for some fifteen years before her death in the spring of 1989. Bennett (who has a cameo near the end) is played by the fantastic Alex Jennings, an actor I don't believe I'd seen before--though I just checked IMDB and discovered he was in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Wings of the Dove in the mid-90s, both of which we saw.

      - The other pieces in the volume are short stories--"The Laying on of Hands" and "Father! Father! Burning Bright"--both of which I enjoyed, as well, both showing Bennett's wry/dry-but-slicing humor and social commentary.
      * Note--I finished this book while sitting with Joyce in her hospital room last week. Sometimes you gotta read or you're gonna go nuts!

   b. I also finished (with some hospital reading, as well) Richard Russo's collection of stories, The Whore's Child (2005)--another Russo work that I really (mostly) admired and a work that found a variety of ways to move and illuminate me. Damn, he's good! (As some of you know, I'm reading my way through all his works, earliest to latest.) The title story is about an aging nun who decides to take a fiction-writing class with the narrator, and in her memoir (she won't write fiction!) she tells about how she had, indeed, been the daughter of a prostitute; her father, we learn much later (spoiler alert!), was the prostitute's pimp.

      - "The Farther You Go" tells about a guy recovering from prostate surgery--I can relate to that! But I also noticed this story deals with the same sort of incident that figured in Russo's academic novel, Straight Man (1997)--the narrator's daughter is building a house just like his, very near, but has run out of money; her husband has/has not hit her ... and what the narrator does about it. This, I believe, was one of the seeds that grew into that novel.
      - "Joy Ride"--about a mother swooping her young son away to escape her husband--has a little error in it (I know: picky, picky). On p. 78 the narrator (the son, looking back) tells us that in his school days he used to eat packets of ketchup by the fistful, to impress his middle school (bully) friends. Then on p. 105 he mentions the incident again--only this time it's mustard.
         * Still I loved this sentence near the end: "But the worst truths are contained in our many silences" (111).
      - "Buoyancy" tells about a retired prof. of literature (he's also a biographer) who's having some second thoughts about his life's work: "It was foolish and arrogant, he had to concede, to think you could imagine the truth of another human life, to penetrate its deepest secrets ..." (142).
      - I loved, as well, the penultimate story, "The Mysteries of Linwood Hart," another story that tells about a middle school boy--problems at school, with an "enemy," with the broken marriage between his parents, and a reconciliation of sorts.
         *Loved the final sentence: "It was into this entirely different world that Linwood Hart now fell asleep, sadly grateful that he was not, nor ever had been, nor ever would be, its center" (225).

3. We finished watching all of the HBO miniseries Empire Falls, based on the Richard Russo novel of the same name. Ended up liking it very much (a little bit slow at the beginning). Great cast--Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Newman, Helen Hunt, Aidan Quinn, Ed Harris, Joanne Woodward, etc. Troubling story about our tangled webs--and about our determination to inflict pain on others. (Link to trailer for film.0

4. Finally--a couple of words that arrived in my computer this week from my various word-of-the-day online services. (I posted a couple of them on Facebook, too.)

      a. Dissensus (di-SEN-suhs) (from
noun: Widespread disagreement.
Of uncertain origin. Probably a blend of dissent + consensus or a blend of dis- + consensus or from Latin dissensus (disagreement). Earliest documented use: 1962.
“The incident is one illustration of the increasingly divergent views ... ‘There is a growing global dissensus on drugs policy,’ said Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution.”
John Paul Rathbone, Geoff Dyer, Jude Webber; World Split in Fight Over Drugs; Financial Times (London, UK); Apr 19, 2016.
      b. Limacine  \LIM-uh-sahyn, -sin, LAHY-muh-\ adjective
1. pertaining to or resembling a slug; sluglike.
A man on the downhill side of prime--limbs beginning to shrink, the limacine middle expanding, flesh disintegrating into the beard.
-- John Edgar Wideman, Hurry Home, 1970
 Origin of limacine
Limacine finds its roots in the Latin term līmāx meaning "slug." It entered English in the late 1800s.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

I Always Walked to School, 2

yearbook page from the
Aurora Middle School,
my first year of teaching
Nearly two weeks ago, I posted a piece about the first year I began my teaching career--exactly fifty years ago, the 1966-1967 school year. I'd meant to continue, but Life interrupted (see previous posts), and it's really not been until now that I've been able to get back to this ... so here goes ...

I have written at length about my early teaching years in my memoir--Schoolboy: A Memoir (Kindle Direct, 2012--link to book on Amazon), but I'd like to mention just a few things here about those opening days--that first year.

The most fundamental thing I recall is fear. I was still just twenty-one years old, but I was far from confident. Although (as I wrote previously) I'd had a good time at West Geauga High School with 11th graders (an age and grade I would not teach again, oddly, until 2001), I was very insecure about working with middle schoolers. As I mentioned in my previous post, my supervising teacher at West Geauga HS had sternly advised me to avoid that age level, but there I was ... about to start teaching at a middle school.

I'd been, I confess, a little dilatory about applying for jobs. I'd hoped to go to the University of Kansas to start a Ph.D. in American Studies; I'd been accepted. But then I'd learned they had no money to offer me (not that I really deserved any), and since the only money I had was in my pockets, that took care of Kansas. (I still kinda wish I'd gone--but then, if I had, I never would have met Joyce ...)

So I applied for a job at two schools: James A. Garfield HS in Garrettsville (where my mother had just completed a stellar stint of ten years) and Aurora, which I knew had a fine school system. I got interviews at both places. I don't know if Garfield would have hired me because Aurora called first, and I snapped up the job--even though it would be in, you know, a middle school.

I should add this: Getting a job was easy then. There was a big shortage of teachers around the country, and you really didn't even need to have a teaching certificate to land a job--you could get a "temporary certificate," then go back to school and take the courses you needed. As I think I wrote in Schoolboy, if your breath could steam a mirror, you could get a teaching job.

My dad had helped me find a little apartment in Twinsburg ($75/month)--just about five miles west of Aurora--and had made a down payment on a car for me (a 1965 blue Karmann Ghia--a VW product), and I paid about $60 a month for that hunka junk (oh, did it give me trouble!). It looked snazzy/sporty; it behaved like a constipated man about, oh, my age now. (Photo is from the Internet.) Years later, I gave my dad a check for $300--the amount he'd paid down for that car. And--shall we say?--he was shocked. But grateful.

So ... I had a job. A crib. A car.

What I didn't have? A clue about what to do with seventh graders.

To be continued ...

Friday, August 26, 2016

30 Years in the Dough

most recent loaves,
August 20, 2016
Thirty years ago I took our son, Steve, who had just turned 14, to Alaska and the Yukon for about a week.* There were some reasons for this: (1) I had been teaching The Call of the Wild for about a half-dozen years to my 8th graders at Harmon Middle School (Aurora, Ohio), and I wanted to see some of the places that Jack London wrote about so specifically in his 1903 novella; (2) my father had recently given me the diary of his grandfather, Addison Clark Dyer, who had gone on the Klondike Gold Rush (1896-99), the very Rush that lies at the heart of London's book. Steve and I wanted to see if we could find the site of our ancestor's claim (we did).

Summer 1986
near Bonanza Creek,
near site of the old Dyer claim
Steve, by the way, had just survived a year with me as his 8th grade English teacher--and had, of course, read The Call of the Wild with me.

We flew from Cleveland to Seattle (where we spent the night with my great college friends, Claude and Dorothy Steele; he was teaching at the university there), then a flight to Juneau, Alaska, followed by another flight in a small plane from Juneau to Skagway, Alaska, a plane that was piloted by a young man who looked--oh, about Steve's age. Maybe younger.

In Skagway we rented a car and drove nearly 450 miles over the Coastal Mountains and into the Yukon, all the way to Dawson City, which lies at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, the center of all that Gold Rush activity.

In Skagway, we stayed at the Golden North Hotel, the oldest hotel in Alaska, and spent some time in and out of the local shops, looking for souvenirs--and for things I could use in class in subsequent years.

In one of the shops--and I wish I could remember which--I bought a little package of dry sourdough starter, a product that came with a little book of recipes. I knew that Northland veterans were called "sourdoughs," and I thought it would be fun to make biscuits or something to take into class when we were doing Wild.

I had no idea.

the booklet!
Let's back up ... I've just told you a little about the summer of 1986--when I acquired the starter. I should add here that I had been baking our family's bread since, oh, the early 1970s. Joyce and I were impecunious grad students (and I was not exactly making a fortune as a middle school teacher), so I started baking bread for austerity's sake. It was cheaper. (And, of course, a lot better tasting--and a lot better for you). I used principally white flour and dry yeast--pretty much every week. It was part of my weekly routine. So I was an experienced--if not particularly imaginative--baker.

Okay, back to 1986 ...

When we got home from Alaska--just before school started--I decided I'd give the sourdough starter a whirl--you know, just to see?

I remember--I think?--that I had to mix it with flour and water and let it stand overnight. And when I came downstairs that first morning and saw it had doubled and was bubbling away, I felt (as I know I've written before) like Victor Frankenstein--It's alive! It's alive! (He doesn't say that in the book--just that 1931 film ...)

But the first time I baked with it--a failure. The dough didn't rise much (later, I learned that I'd not given it enough time), and the resulting product was HEAVY. But I ate every damn bit of it, and Steve and Joyce pretended it was good, too.

I didn't give up. It worked better the next week--and the week after--and pretty soon I got rid of conventional yeast and, ever since, have done virtually all my baking with sourdough (scones and baguettes not included). My routine is pretty fixed: Saturday night, about 9:30, feed the starter; Sunday morning (after 7) put two cups of starter back in the container, bake with the rest.

I make, among other things: traditional multigrain (no more all-white now) loaves, round loaves, pizza, sandwich rolls, biscuits, pancakes and waffles, a Christmas tree bread, corn bread ... that's what I'm coming up with off the top of my head.

You have to feed and use the sourdough about every week, so it's a bit like having a pet in the house, one that needs periodic attention. Even love.

Every now and then, the sourdough reminds me who's in charge. If I don't do things right, it jars me by behaving poorly (like a surly teen). This doesn't happen often, just enough to keep me humble.

I should add that I'm not all that adventurous with it. Just practical. Bake what I need and love. I'm not interested in devoting hours on end to preparing exotic or excessively complicated recipes.

So ... this has been going on for thirty years now. Thirty years! Working with it is just part of my life now, and I would miss it horribly if I could no longer do it. We give a lot of the products away--our grandson Logan is especially fond of it. The neighbors get some. Family (when we travel). The freezer is sometimes jammed with it.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Sourdough Dyer, age 30, going on forever.

Our fridge:
starter in container on top;
a recent loaf below

*I've written other times in Dawnreader about my two trips to the North. Google them if you want to read about "other" adventures.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Night Before, the Day Of ... and After

Akron General Medical Center/Cleveland Clinic
Monday morning, August 22, 2016

Sunday was a fairly rough night--full of meds and reactions to same and worries. We had to be up at 4:45 this morning so that we could arrive at the Akron General Medical Center by six for all the preliminaries for Joyce's 8 o'clock surgery, a procedure to remove a few inches of her colon, which has a small tear and has been threatening her overall health.

She was very weak by the time we got here, but all the staff were very welcoming and encouraging, and before we knew it we (our son, Steve, was waiting for us when we arrived) were upstairs in the area where all the pre-surgery activities go on. Blood draws, BP checks, questions, questions, questions, an IV. Steve and I were able to sit and talk with her until almost 8, when the surgeon arrived for the final check. I recited some poems for her--Emily Dickinson, Richard Wilbur (a couple of her favorites)--hugged and kissed and wept. A final wave.

She has been incredibly courageous through all of this; the stuff is far more than uncomfortable, which is a pale, pale word for what she's felt the past few weeks as it became more and more certain that we would have to be here today. There's really no choice.

Everyone raves about her surgeon--and we have met him. Dr. Horratas. So we are as confident as we can be about that aspect of it. It's just, you know, the not knowing that make you crazy.

So now (about 9:30) I'm sitting with Steve in the waiting area. His wife, Melissa (who is a nurse and who teaches nursing courses at KSU), is on the way. And I am waiting for the only news I will accept today. There is something absolutely terrifying about seeing someone you love about to be wheeled away into the unknown ... and the fear that you may never see him or her again is absolutely paralyzing.

12:30 p.m.

Through the morning I'd talked with Steve and Melissa, done a bunch of reading and writing (trying to lose myself in work; they were doing the same thing). About 11:30 I shut it all down ... surely this would be over soon? My buzzer would buzz, summoning me to the desk for news ...?

But it wasn't until about 12:30 that we got the call that the surgeon was ready for us, so Steve, Melissa, and I sat in the little conference room (#2!) until he came in. He very calmly took us through it all--let us know that she had come through just fine. He even had pictures, which I looked at with the oddest damn feeling: My wife's insides ... But I felt enormous relief--inexpressible relief. We won't be able to go see her for a couple of hours--after she wakes up and they check her out some more. Can't wait ...

Thursday, August 25

I quit keeping this blog-log of what I'd been doing--just one more thing I couldn't seem to find time to do. But just a few other memories, comments about the whole thing ...

  • The front desk somehow forgot to let us know when we could go to see Joyce in recovery, but Melissa went up and asked, and, apologetically, they said she was on her way to her room. I was a bit upset--the thought that she'd wake up--and not see me there? So we headed up to room 5205, but it was empty; she was on the way. We sat in a little lounge area where we would see her come by--and then, there she was! The aide was talking with her, and she was answering. We went to her room. Embraces. Kisses. Many tears. She was still a little "out of it" when I read to her a poem I'd written for her--so much so that, later, she said she hadn't remembered it! (I'd gotten so emotional during the reading that I was croaking like a frog with laryngitis by the time it was over!)
  • She had an excellent team of professionals who dealt with her the next couple of days--and our daughter-in-law spent Monday night with her in the room, a decision that turned out to be a good thing: Joyce had some ... issues ... in the night, and Melissa was right there to take care of them. A remarkable gift Melissa gave us--herself.
  • I was back-and-forth to Hudson a few times, knowing that I needed rest, as well. And each time I returned to her room, I saw improvement. Her speech, for example, had been a bit difficult for her; she said that she could think of what to say, but her lips, tongue, and teeth were not exactly cooperating--not at first (thanks to the powerful drugs that had put her asleep). The program also called for her to get up and moving ASAP, and on Tuesday she was strong enough to take ten different walks around the hospital unit where we were. She was determined.
  • By Tuesday afternoon they were telling her she would probably go home on Wednesday, and she was excited. Her post-surgical issues were resolving very quickly--for which we were profoundly grateful. Joyce has been very determined the past few years to keep herself in shape, and she goes out to the local health club six mornings a week (early, about 6:30 or so), where she walks, does the rowing machine, some weights. These activities really helped accelerate her recovery, we are certain.
  • Late Wednesday morning we got the news that she could go home, and it all happened very quickly thereafter. A volunteer with a wheelchair arrived to take her to the front door (too far for her to walk), and I headed to the parking lot to get the car. In the car, Joyce told me the damnedest story: The volunteer who'd helped her had been in Joyce's graduating class at Garfield High School in Akron. They had known each other back in the 1960s--and he, in fact, was a good friend of Joyce's next-door neighbor in Firestone Park, a young man who'd actually taken Joyce to the prom! So it goes in Coincidence Land.
  • She continues to feel better, to do better. Right now (10:15 a.m.) we have just come from a long walk around our block. There is still a long way to go on this particular journey, but she is determined to complete it. And when Joyce is determined? Well ... stuff happens!
We were overwhelmed throughout by the kind and loving comments sent along via Facebook, where'd I'd posted some sketchy updates throughout it all. It's just so astonishing to see comments and "likes" from people from all over our lives--from our own elementary school days to recent colleagues and friends to everyone in between. It's what I love about FB.

We have not finished our journey through the tangled wood, but we know where we're headed. We're moving steadily forward. Hand in hand.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 115

1. It's difficult to write today. As my Facebook friends now know, my wife, Joyce, will be undergoing four hours of abdominal surgery early tomorrow morning at Akron General Hospital (now affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic). She has a great surgeon, lots of support from family and friends, but, of course, Worry doesn't care about any of that--nor does Fear. I've learned, though, that work is the key to survival (physical and emotional), at least for me. Murderous Macbeth said, flippantly, The labour we delight in physics [medicates] pain. Which goes to prove that even a murderer can occasionally be profoundly wise. Joyce is working furiously today, too. So I will work on ... until I can't. And inside I will tremble and quake until she awakens tomorrow from the surgery, sees me, smiles, takes my hand.

2. I finished a couple of books this week.

   a. The latest collection of stories by the amazing Joy Williams--Ninety-Nine Stories of God (2016)--a collection of, well, ninety-nice "stories," some of which are only a few sentences long, some of which are a few pages. Nothing lengthy here. The title could be misleading: Most of the stories are not directly about God, though "the Lord" (as she most frequently calls the deity) does figure in some of them. They are, however, about Life and coincidence and confusion and oddity and quirks and ... well, just about anything you can think of. Some examples ...

      - a woman saves her mother's artificial knees after cremation
      -  a man thinks you don't get older in church
      - someone has a pet rabbit named for an adverb--Actually
      - someone says, "We can only know what God is not, not what God is" (story 49).
      - the Lord is in line for a shingles shot at a pharmacy
      - the Lord is in a den with pack of wolves--wonders why they're hunted and hated so
I think you get the idea? Fun to read--quick, too!

   b. Although I finished the "autobiography" part of the third and final volume of Mark Twain's Autobiography, this week I finally finished reading through the back matter, as well (hundreds of pages), including a long account he wrote near the end of his life, an account of his firm belief that two of his close assistants--Isabel Lyon and Ralph W. Ashcroft (who married in the middle of it all)--had been systematically ripping him off. (BTW: There's a recent book that deals in great detail with this matter--Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, 2010, by eminent Twain scholar Laura Skandera Trombley.) Anyway, Twain is an emotionally broken, bitter man by the time all of this happens, and the way he describes Lyon and Ashcroft is brutal.

      - Ashcroft, he says, "insults me as freely and Frankly as if I were his fellow bastard and born in the same sewer" (311).
      - about their wedding: "a binding together of a pair of conspirators" (354).
     - of Lyon, he says, "the muscle in her chest that does the duty for a heart is nothing but a potato" (385).
     - and on and on ...

3. We've been watching the HBO miniseries Empire Falls (2005), the series based on Richard Russo's novel of the same name, a novel I just recently finished (Russo also wrote the screenplay). (Link to trailer.) Quite a cast. Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, Aidan Quinn, Robin Wright Penn, and on and on. The emotion of the novel does not come through nearly so strongly here, but it's fun to watch all these heavyweights in action. We've seen only about half of it so far--so I'll save the rest of my thoughts for later.

4. We're also watching more of the Brit series William and Mary, with the wonderful Martin Clunes (later he became Doc Martin, a character we like even more than his "William" here). We're both souring a little on the second season. I'm especially weary of the deceptive-teen aspect of it. It's all a cliche now, I fear, and every time they become the focus, I become bored. The same with Mary's wacko mom. I'm not sure we'll finish it. It is fun, though, to see Clunes do his thing.

5. Last words--some words I liked from my various word-of-the-day online providers this week.

   a. opacus \oh-PEY-kuhs\ adjective  [DICTIONARY.COM]
Meteorology. (of a cloud) dense enough to obscure the sun or moon.
What is the cloudspotter to do when the cloud layer has grown thick enough to be of the opacus, rather than the translucidus, variety, so that it doesn't show the position of the sun or moon?
-- Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, 2006
Origin of opacus
Opacus is a New Latin construction that stems from the Latin opācus meaning "shaded."

   b. run of the mill, n. and adj.  [OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY]
Inflections:   Plural runs of the mill, run of the mills.
Forms:  18– run of the mill, 19– run of the mills.
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: run n.2, of prep., the adj., mill n.1
Etymology: < run n.2 + of prep. + the adj. + mill n.1
orig. N. Amer.
 A. n.
1. N. Amer. The material produced by a mill before being sorted or inspected for quality; (more generally) goods of an uncertain or variable quality produced by a mill. Cf. run n.2 47a, mill-run n. 3. Now rare.

1876   J. B. Killebrew Rep. Ocoee & Hiwassee Min. District 33   Lumber is cheap. Ten dollars per thousand is the price for inch lumber, the run of the mill; $12.50 for choice.
1877   Rep. Select Standing Comm. Immigration & Colonization in Jrnls. House of Commons Canada 11 App. 172   The run of the mill will cost from $15 to $16 a thousand, and the selections, throwing out portions of it, makes good flooring.
1896   W. G. Berg in A. L. Johnson Econ. Designing of Timber Trestle Bridges App. iii. 39   Lumber can be bought more cheaply by giving a general order for ‘the run of the mill for the season’ or ‘a cargo lot’.
1910   H. Maxwell Wood-using Industries of Maryland 26   The cost of longleaf pine by the run of the mill was $12.05 in 1908 in Louisiana.
1939   M. Evans & E. B. McGowan Guide to Textiles 66   Run-of-the-mill is a term which in general means that the merchandise has not been inspected... Sheets and pillowcases are frequently sold as run-of-the-mill.

 2. The ordinary, average, or mediocre type of something.

1922   S. Lewis Babbitt xiii. 170,   I guess I'm as good a husband as the run of the mill, but God, I do get so tired of going home every evening, and nothing to see but the movies.
1930   Hearst's Internat. Sept. 37/2   But level-headed as a wife and a darned sight better-looking than the run of the mill of wives.
1938   K. A. Porter in Southern Rev. Winter 429   I've got a special job beside my usual run of the mill.
1966   Polit. Sci. Q. 81 2   As long as the going is good, the run of the mill of the citizenry will not enter the political market.
2003   K. Scott in C. B. Bailey Age of Watteau, Chardin, & Fragonard 94   Like Mignard, Chardin used formal means, among them portrait conventions, to set his scene apart from the run of the mill.
(Hide quotations)

 B. adj.
Of an ordinary or undistinguished type or quality; average, mediocre; mundane.
Freq. hyphenated, esp. in attrib. constructions.

1919   Trans. Med. Assoc. Alabama 263   The run-of-the-mill layman is not nearly so well equipped for this work as the run-of-the-mill physician.
1933   Sun (Baltimore) 14 Oct. 4/3   An ordinary, run-of-the-mill gravy.
1943   B. A. De Voto in Harper's Mag. May 645/1   But what they have to say is mostly run of the mill.
1969   Daily Tel. 21 Apr. 17/7   No hard boundaries exist to separate jazz singers from run-of-the-mill night club performers.
2008   Review (Rio Tinto) Mar. 7/3   While its most dramatic uses include replacement joints, surgical instruments and heart stints, it has many more run of the mill applications.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

It's Just Weird ... Falling Out of Love with ...

... sports. I don't really know how it happened--I know only that I didn't will it to happen. But happen it did. And few things have surprised me more.

Those who have known me for a long time know of my quondam passion for sports--for playing, watching, listening, reading about (in the newspapers). One of the great thrills in my life was seeing my name for the first time on the sports page of the Kent-Ravenna Record Courier, which, by the way, often misspelled my name. I was Donny Dyer and Danny Dwyer and other versions. But I didn't care that much. We had an ongoing joke on our Hiram High School basketball team: If you score even one point, you get your name in the paper. A thrill no matter how many numbers follow!

When we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in summer of 1956 (I was about to turn 12), it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the Cleveland Browns. They held their summer training camp at Hiram College, and I saw Jim Brown and Lou Groza and Paul Warfield and many others over the years. I even played ping-pong with RB Ernie Green (and I lost very quickly). I watched them faithfully (obsessively?) until they released QB Bernie Kosar. I lost interest, haven't watched any football games in probably a decade.

In high school I played basketball and baseball. In college I was on the tennis team--and I played tennis afterwards for years at a nearby racket club.

Haven't played tennis in probably twenty years--maybe longer.

It took me a little longer to fall for the Indians. They had a very bad record throughout my youth, and I'd come to Ohio a Yankees fan. But that eventually changed, and I became a big Tribe fan--listening in bed to broadcasts from the West Coast, going to many games--later, watching virtually all of them (often reading something while doing so).

But I haven't watched a Tribe game in five years or so. Or listened. I couldn't name more than a player or two.

The Cavs came along later, too (they were an expansion team), but I was obsessive about them in their near-misses in those years with Mark Price, et al. Price hailed from my hometown of Enid, Okla.; I once saw him in a local grocery store, and we talked amiably about Enid--I was shocked that he was hardly taller than I; I'm 5'8".

I haven't watched a Cavs' game in five or six years. Didn't watch any of the recent playoffs.

I no longer read the sports pages at all.

So what happened?

I don't know. And--please--it's not as if I sit around and sniff about how superior I am. I don't and I'm not. I just really have no interest. I was not even tempted to watch the Cavs' recent Game 7. I'm happy they won--but mostly because that win seemed to make so many others happy.

So, again, what happened?

Again ... I don't know. Some of it probably was due to my cancer diagnosis later in 2004. Suddenly, things got very serious, and I realized that Time and Decline and Death were not just words to apply to other people.

Some, probably, has been due to aging. I couldn't play tennis now if I wanted to (knees, elbow, etc.). Playing catch with my 11-year-old grandson is almost beyond me (that boy throws hard). I know I'm gonna get bonked in the face one of these days!

Mostly, I think, it's just ... falling out of love. Amiably so. A divorce without affect. Without rancor or resentment of any kind.

Our son still loves sports. Our older grandson (11) loves sports, and is very good at baseball and basketball, and is beyond very good in golf. He's already shooting in the 70s--from the regular tees. (Actually, I realize I have seen baseball and basketball games recently--those starring (!!) our grandsons.)

And I'm happy for all who love the games. Loving an activity brings obvious joy to so many people. My own loves have changed, that's all.

Still ... it continues to puzzle the hell out of me ...