Sunday, April 28, 2013
The Year I Was Interesting
In the fall of 1995, late one Friday night, I returned to Harmon Middle School from our annual eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. I was whupped. I'd been going on that trip, more or less every year, since 1967. When I first went, the kids were in awe at the JFK grave site at Arlington. In later years--they were still respectful, but the emotion was much diminished--as if they were standing at the grave site of, oh, Franklin Pierce. JFK died in 1963, his brother in 1968. By the 1990s, none of the students had been alive when the Kennedys were in--or advancing toward--the White House.
Anyway, as I said, I was whupped--nothing like three or four days, 24/7, with eighth graders to remind you that you are very mortal. I went into the teachers' workroom (we no longer called it a "lounge"--a word that sent an unfortunate message to the community: Those damn teachers lounge around half the day, work only nine months of the year .... you know).
I checked my faculty mailbox and found mostly junk, including a letter from Cleveland Magazine. I thought it was nothing but a request to subscribe (it didn't look all that remarkable), but for some reason I decided to open it. And there I read something astonishing: I'd been picked by the editors as one of the "Most Interesting People" of 1995. Now that was news that I knew would surprise my students, many of whom had quite different ideas. (My friends and family were all baffled, as well.)
I read on in the letter, discovering that there was going to be a reception for us at what was then called Jacobs Field--out at that restaurant along the left-field line called the Terrace Club. That would be fun. I'd been to park many times--but never in the TC. And then we'd all be featured in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
I was on a pretty good roll right about that time. My annotated-illustrated edition of The Call of the Wild had just come out (Univ. of Okla. Pr.); I was nearing retirement (only two years away); I was writing like mad, thinking that when I did retire, I would have an easy time making up the diminished salary. (That part hasn't exactly worked out the way I thought it would.) And now Cleveland was going to declare that I was a Most Interesting Person.
The night of the reception was all right. We all gut coffee mugs. I met a number of the others who shared the honor. One was a local car dealer who did hyper-patriotic commercials, a couple of professional athletes, and ... I don't remember the rest. I do know that when the photographer walked by, I was erupting in laughter about something. Flash! I asked him if he'd take another. He did. (Guess which one was in the magazine? I looked like one of the 8th graders I to whom I gave detentions for dorking around.)
The magazine came out. I took one to class, showed it to my students, some of whom (all? most?) were getting their first notion that journalists don't know what they're talking about. If they think Dyer is interesting, they must be wrong about everything!
I've spent some time the last day or two looking for that magazine, for the letter, the certificate (Did we get one? I think so?!). But I can find nothing except the coffee mug. Somewhere there's a file folder holding all the goodies ... but where is anyone's guess. If it turns up, I'll post the story, the yucky picture of me.
Meanwhile, last night (Saturday), this Most Interesting Person went to Starbucks for a decaf Americano, came home and read about twenty pages of John Irving's novel Last Night in Twisted River, watched (streaming Netflix, in bed) The Lincoln Lawyer, based on a novel by Michael Connelly, whom I like, got up and fed my sourdough starter. Crashed. Joyce--who is even more interesting--graded papers all evening, came in for the last ten minutes of the movie and asked me 50,000 questions about what was going on. (I handled it very well, I thought.) Eat your hearts out, you boring people!