Remember that new blog I mentioned last week? Well, it’s up and running! It’s still in its infancy but I would sure appreciate all the support I can get. So, if you’ve enjoyed reading my posts over here, could you kindly link over to the new one and subscribe? It’s would mean the world to me. Thanks!
I came home from what is more and more the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had and got to work on a carpentry project I’m working on for Christmas. Take a gander.
I’m not great by any means but I’ve been taking stock lately of a few things. The thing I would most like to be proud of in my life is my vocation as husband and father. On that front all I can say is I am trying every day. I am a teacher and vice principal. After my family, in my adult life, few other things have brought me such joy. I am a writer who has never claimed to be much good although I do know my way around a few decent turns of phrase. I am a man who likes to challenge himself in the gym, not stopping or giving up until I’m satisfied. I will probably never be satisfied and that is just OK with me. It simply means I will always be challenging myself. And I think that goes for every aspect of my life.
On the writing front in particular, I have been reading old posts to my children. It is fun rediscovering our life together; but not nearly as much fun as seeing the joy and hearing the laughter from my children who really get a kick out of my writing. Also on that front, I have noticed that I have at seven separate times in the past few months started writing new posts only to save them as drafts. Perhaps I will one by one finish each post and publish them. I might even provide context.
Until then, the family is beautiful, school is wonderful, I am building back up in the gym and getting stronger, and Baby Jesus has a comfortable place to sleep in my garage.￼￼
This Saturday I shall take to the friendly skies as I head home to visit my mom. She’s had a health scare recently. Although she appears to be fine I still like to “pop in to town” to let her know I love her.
This got me thinking of an old article I wrote about flying. There are many old articles I have written about flying, in fact. This one, however, made me laugh out loud while reading it to my son tonight. And so I present to you, my lovely audience, the re-printing of My In-Flight Style (originally published October 9, 2011):
When Flying Was Glamorous
came across an article on Foxnews.com detailing the level of formality (or
lack thereof) people choose to display when flying, particularly evident in
I can remember my dad, who was born in the 1930’s, always recalling how “in the old days” people didn’t dare attempt to board an airplane unless they were appropriately dressed. It was as much a social thing as it was a matter of pride. Apparently this meant men wore suits and ties, ladies wore a nice dress. To him, people getting on planes in jeans, shorts, tee shirts, generally unkempt was an abomination. I’ve been watching that new show Pan Am* and I can see what he meant. It must have been an incredible time to fly!
According to the article there are six basic in-flight styles ranging from the “ethnic adventurer” (whatever that is) to the “beleaguered parent” (which I have been on a few occasions). For instance, the “suited frequent-flyer” is, as the name implies, one who flies a lot, typically for business. He or she is recognized by the ability to pack everything with precision into a perfectly regulation sized carry-on bag, and zip through security like it’s no one’s affair. This person has been around the TSA screening line before and his or her sole purpose at the airport is utilitarian. Get in. Get on board. Get to the destination.
much thought I have decided to review my own recent airport episodes and have
concocted two profiles. The first is the type of flier I imagine
myself being and the second is who I actually am.
The Flying Man I Want to Be
a perfect world, I am driven to the airport in a black Lincoln Towncar.
Although I banter freely with the driver I am not personally interested
in his life — except in so far as it is fodder for my blog. Oh, I forgot
to mention, there is soft smooth jazz being piped into the back seat of my
ride. I am neatly pressed in my appearance, calm in my demeanor, and ever
so excited about my destination. I am delivered curbside where a skycap
opens the door, collects my bag, which is black and showcases an elegantly
stitched “HARVEY” near the top. Another skycap hands me a
chilled Sapphire and tonic and leads me to the lounge. I, of course,
given my importance, bypass security altogether. Once in the lounge I
mingle effortlessly with the elite of the world and we trade quips about the
weather and the latest offerings from Brooks Brothers. A stewardess
dressed in stylish garb approaches. “Mr. Harvey, we’re ready for
you. But first, the captain wishes for you to review his flight plan for
your satisfaction.” “Gladly, my dear”, I respond, my voice
now bearing a strange British accent. As we walk through the jetbridge I
pass framed 8×10 sepia-toned prints of myself holding plastic models of various
aircrafts, not smiling, simply presenting. After checking in with the
flight crew I am seated. Another stewardess switches out my drink while
still another approaches with a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
and still a third offers to light my cigarette. My sportcoat has been
placed on a hanger and my shoes stowed overhead. I am now in a red velvet
robe and slippers. The flight is magnificent — no turbulence — and we land
safely, three hours ahead of schedule and, miraculously, my hair is still in
The Flying Schmoe I Really Am
in the realm of reality, I am dropped at the curb by my wife in our white
Chrysler Town & Country. The musical selection is Veggie Tales’ The
Princess and the Pop Star. I try to offer my kids a heartfelt kiss
good bye. “Daddy’s going on a trip now. I love you!”
“Hurry up, I’ve got to get back in time for Pan Am“, my
beautiful spouse informs me as she tosses my bag out the door and speeds away.
At this point I realize I have left my phone in the car and my iPad has
zero battery life because my one year-old daughter decided to watch Backyardigans 18
times this morning. I enter the terminal where I attempt to swipe a
credit card for my boarding pass only to realize that my card has my middle
initial on it and my flight information does not. In frustration I kick
the machine. I break three toes on my right foot. Damn, that’s a
long line I’m going to have to stand in. Shouldn’t have done that.
Meanwhile, in my attempt to get my card back into my wallet I have
actually sprung loose five other cards (two of which will remain missing in
action for good).
spend the next half-hour on the line for security only to be touched in ways no
one should be by a woman twice my size. Past security, there is no lounge
for me. There is only the dull passenger waiting area where there are
absolutely NO seats to be had. I am last to board a plane that smells
like popcorn and urine. I do believe the lady sitting next to me is
drunk. Well, that’s a given, she just threw up. And… OH!
She missed the vomit bag. I’d hate to be the owner of that jacket
she just soiled. Oh wait, I AM the owner of the jacket. “Miss,
you can keep that jacket…” The flight takes off with all the
gracefulness of an elephant leaping from a waterfall. It is turbulent for
twelve hours until finally crash landing at the wrong airport.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I know we were supposed to be flying into
Newark but our pilots both fell asleep for a while. It happens. You’ll be
enjoying a nice weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire!” And, oh yes,
they lost my luggage. Meanwhile, I still have not been handed a single
drink by a stylish stewardess.
Is it any wonder the airline industry has been teetering on the edge of collapse for some time now?! At least I have Pan Am!
*Pan Am was cancelled the day after this post was first published or thereabouts.
I’ve been reading a lot of my older, archived posts to my son lately. It’s a fun trip down memory lane for both of us, except in his case he doesn’t really have a memory of most of it. The stories I’m reading him mostly happened when he was very young. Still I’ve observed some things.
Gosh, I’ve been having fun with this family of mine for a long time now. I look back and realize how much time has elapsed since these older posts were written and see how little has changed in the “Dad loves being Dad” department. It’s kind of like it was my calling or something.
My kids’ personalities were present even when they were super-small. Let me backtrack a moment. My kids were never super-small. Reading about their antics from 8 or 9 years ago I can clearly see large bits and pieces of who they are now and not even some kind of nascent, infantile hint of a trace. No, full on stuff here. Then again, I also see (to my chagrin since I strive to live a life of modestly false humility) that a certain someone who wrote those stories had a fat role in how their personalities formed. In other words, DNA strikes again.
I miss the old prompts. I started the writing of many of those posts as a response to a series of writing prompts. Granted I was always able to take those prompts in bizarre directions but that was a large part of the fun. Perhaps I’ll seek out new prompts.
Tonight I was wondering how I would answer this prompt I just made up (because I’m so clever)…
What are you doing right now?
I apologize to the Federation of Prompt-Writers because that one literally cried out to heaven for vengeance. But let’s go with it for a moment. Smile, sip, repeat. So what am I doing? Right now? Geez, so precise tonight. Oh wait, I wrote the prompt. I suck. OK, I’m sitting in my recliner, watching – wait for it – Nancy Drew. It’s the daughter’s choice. Yet somehow the four of us watched it. Actually, wife and son have fallen asleep and despite the fact that this cinematic gem features a leading actress who resembles Molly Ringwald (not an MR fan), daughter and I are invested in this nonsense. I’ve just finished grading a bunch of quizzes. I’m patting the head of my terrier who has come to sit by the side of my chair. He’s a good boy.
Ask me the same tomorrow night and you’d get a completely different answer probably along the lines of “Currently doing crazy” or some variant. One thing I hope to say tomorrow night at this time is that I jumped back into some semblance of a workout. Despite my recent posts and my insistence that I was just going to ignore every shred of medical “advice” and hit the weights anyway; a few things changed my opinion. I’ll let you in on a secret. Broken bones hurt. And they need time and rest in order to heal. Fortunately my night job hasn’t been too busy lately so that covers that half of the day. But even doing mundane tasks like standing (as I do when I teach) can put stress of the spine. I ought to know this by now.
And the truth is that I do know this. But I also know how dedicated I’ve been to lifting and how I hate being told not to do something. So that next day I mentioned – the one where I was going to get back to my weights? Yeah, I decided I didn’t need anymore painkillers so I didn’t take ’em, see? Yeah, see… And no one could make me either! You just read that sentence in your mind as Jimmy Cagney. Now read this next one as Cagney and Lacey. Harv, how stupid are you!? By 8PM I knew I had made a mistake and that I would simply have to follow orders and rest. So that’s what I’ve done. And it’s only been two weeks since the break. I tried some basics tonight to see what I could manage. Knocked out a few sets of pushups. A set for me is at least 40 pushups so I think I’m at least able to ease back into this. I’ll play it smart and not overdo it and all that. And I still have some of those lovely little Tramadol things they gave me in case I go too far. And I’ll get those gains all over again.
Too much going on to stop and document this past week. Ironically, it’s the excitement of everyday life that I have always sought to document.
On that note, I’ve been reading old posts of a road trip we took almost ten years ago to my son at bedtime. He is my biggest fan and his laughter at our escapades really warms my heart – both as a writer but especially as his dad.
For moments when someone you love praises something you’ve done for them and you feel not proud but truly humbled by it I am extraordinarily grateful.
Now for that preview… I’ll be writing all about this little beauty here real soon.
As many of you know I am a writer. I say this with no pride. There is nothing that I did to merit the gift of being able to string words together. My parents and teachers throughout my life helped me hone the skill. More importantly, God gave me this gift. And it is a gift. He gave me the ability to grasp at a large vocabulary (thank you, English language) and rapidly pull together consequential turns-of-phrase with grammatical aplomb and all that jazz.
I first realized I had this gift when I was a boy of about 7. I was always interested in the news, in telling stories. Could explain why I’ve enjoyed some success as a teacher. My dad read a few different newspapers every day. Notable among these were the Newark Star Ledger (before it was a complete leftist rag not fit to line a bird cage) and the paper he called “the best written English language newspaper in the world” – the Wall Street Journal. Side note: I remember well the great satisfaction he got when the Journal published one of his letters once. I guess due to the influence of dear old Dad I decided one day that I would put together a broadsheet, a newspaper of my own.
I decided to copy what I had seen and so I began with a screaming headline. “Headless Man in Topless Bar”. Oh wait, that was an actual headline in the New York Post around the same time. Something to do with a mafia decapitation at a “gentleman’s club”. No, I think mine was more family-friendly. “Bridget A Jerk”. Bridget is my youngest sister. As I recall she had hidden my roller skates on me and I was none too pleased. The second column blared “Mom Burns Dinner – Distracted by Phone Call”. In italics underneath: “Family Safe from Near – Fatality, Pizza Ordered”.
This little gazette had everything right down to a sports section on the last page. The only problem is that I didn’t follow sports that well. I believe I had the New Jersey Devils defeating the New Jersey Nets 105-13. Not bad considering the Devils play hockey and the Nets are a basketball franchise. Weather? I drew a picture of the sun and slapped a number under it with the word “Fair”. Seemed like the thing to do even if that number was 25. I think my favorite part was the obituaries. Dad was a fan of the “Irish sporting pages” as he called them. I may have literally copied an actual obit or two from the Star Ledger into my paper since I didn’t know anyone who had recently died. Imagine the contrast between the “Kids Alright, Pizza for Everyone” coverage on page 1 and page 2 where we read about Diane Distefano of Nutley who died peacefully surrounded by her husband and stepchildren. She was to be laid out at Biondi’s Funeral Home in Bloomfield with a visitation from 2-4 and 7-9 and a mass of Christian Burial at Holy Family the following morning. Donations could be sent to “Reading is Fundamental” because, you know, she was a 1st grade teacher or something.
I was quite proud of my paper. I got great satisfaction writing it all down, formatting it, and illustrating the stories. The one copy I printed was a big hit; but not for the reason I had hoped. It seemed everyone got a big chuckle out of the absurdity of the thing.
And that’s when I realized I could make people laugh if I just placed the right words in the right order and sometimes played dumb a little. I think I got that from my mom. She’s much smarter than she ever lets on.
In high school I began writing more. I had to. I was homeschooled and as if to prove our academic worth to the outside world our assignments were heavy on writing. I guess just like the guy who hangs around the gym with his buddies will eventually start lifting weights and then probably get good at it (terrible analogy, I know); the guy who writes volumes by necessity will eventually take a liking to it and probably get really good at it too. In college, the fun continued as I would write humorous study guides for my friends where I’d drop inane commentary and references. “Greek philo’s… 1) Socrates who’s pupil was 2) Plato (wrote Trial and Death of Socrates) who’s pupil was 3) Ari. who’s pupil was Alexander the Gr. Many theorize th/Ari killed Alex because he had become too good lkng. Ari was insanely jealous.”
Sometimes. I know, my writing has caused people to cry and not always in a good way. Fortunately those times have been few and far between. But for those instances where I went too far and used the gift He gave me as a weapon I am sorry. As I said a month ago: it’s a new year and this is a new blog.
I do take satisfaction in it. It’s like the pride a man gets when he’s mowed his lawn. I go back and read and re-read my posts. I’m half expecting them to have grown and matured.
Speaking of maturing, tonight I got the shock of my life. I started writing this blog when he was an infant. My hope was to chronicle his life (and later my daughter’s) for them. I wanted to give them stories to read as they got older so they would know how loved they are and all the fun we had. He’s ten now and already a young man in every sense. I suspect his voice will drop and he’ll be shaving before I blink. I’m not ready for that (or the accompanying “talk” we’ll have to have). This world is a lot more dangerous than when I was his age. But he knows I write this blog and he’s caught on that I do it for him. He caught me going through the archives the other day and asked me to read him a post or two. Tonight as he was getting ready for bed he said “Daddy, will you read me some of your stories?” I replied “Why, son? You know the plot.” Then he said “I don’t know, Dad, I just love the way you tell a story. They’re funny and you write so well.”
There you have it. Mission accomplished, I’d say. Tonight I read to him a tale of the time his goldfish died and I had to replace it before he caught on. He was five and, oh, the TWO replacement fish were accidentally killed by my wife. He howled with laughter and then he said to me “Your a good dad.” Well son, it’s easy for me. You’re a very good young man.”
Now keep livin’ that crazy life so I can keep documenting it. He wants me to put the archive in a book. Smart boy.
Gifts from God – be they talents or sons… for these blessings I am most grateful and I pray you discover your gifts as well.
*I started writing this post on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers. If you ever run into a block, ask for his help.
This post is dedicated to readers Jay and Jane who both correctly identified that the heading picture of this blog changed recently.
For several years my Jack Russell Terrier has diligently guarded this page. All the while he sat behind the wheel of our old Town & Country staring at the road in front of him – in this case I-35 Southbound somewhere near Sherman, Texas. We were returning from a family trip to a friend’s cabin in Oklahoma and sitting in traffic. The pup couldn’t resist climbing into Daddy’s lap and placing his paws on the wheel.
When I snapped that picture I actually took a few in rapid succession to make sure I got a good one. The other day I came across the series in my Google Photos feed.
Since I am taking a slightly renewed direction with my posts I thought it wise to tweak the banner.
Now, the dog is staring out at you, not unlike my dear mom used to do when she’d cart us kids around town. I don’t know how she did it (and we never crashed) but I know it scared the hell out of Dad.
So, if you’re ready (and grateful for all that you’ve got), let’s hit the road together. Come on, it’ll be fun!
Besides, you know you’ve always wanted to be chauffeured by a tiny dog.
Folks, I got off all that social media nonsense a while ago. Sorry but I'm not on Twitbook, Facepalm, YouHu, WingWang or any of the others. Maybe an event will happen to make me change my mind like Peter and Paul coming down with flaming swords and commanding it be so. Until then, read the blog and if you feel a comment is in order or you feel like sharing a tip or suggestion for a topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvey is a funny, witty and interesting read. Want to know what's going on in the world of Harvey? Then make a point to subscribe to his blog! You just never know when those pesky Weebles will show up. Hmmm, speaking of Weebles - haven't heard from them in a while (wink). Seriously, you just never know what to expect and whatever you find, it never disappoints! -- Debbi Robertson @ Photos and Facets