‘A little stranger than I thought’: December notes & quotes

Trojan Horse spotted at Chicago Ave. and State Street, Chicago, IL, 11 Dec. 2015

Trojan Horse spotted at Chicago Ave. and State Street, Chicago, IL, 11 Dec. 2015

Living a lifestyle — say, being mindful — isn’t an end in itself. 1 Dec.

My student said she didn’t feel like cheering at the basketball game later that day. I said her coach shouldn’t make her cheer unless she’s really feeling that her school’s team is the best. 1 Dec.

Writing classes teach the forms (the compare-contrast essay, the research essay, etc.), BUT we can also inspire, show students new ideas. As a teacher, I can point beyond the common forms — where I have found my writing niche. 1 Dec.

My student Taylor showed support for her awesomest teacher. 21 Dec.

My student Taylor showed support for her awesomest teacher. 21 Dec.

“I think they went to another dimension … so don’t quote me,” said student of the whereabouts of two of his classmates. 1 Dec.

“Someday, I want to be on that green paper,” said student, referring to the color of the paper on which I was recording notes and quotes that day. “You can’t just say that you want to be on the green paper and get on the green paper,”  said classmate, who has herself been quoted before, and whom I thanked for defending the integrity of the green note paper. Second classmate added, “I think my greatest achievement is getting on the green paper. [It’s] the greatest honor I can achieve.” “I’m sorry,” I said. 1 Dec.

New menus at one of my favorite local restaurants. 30 Dec.

New menus at one of my favorite local restaurants. 30 Dec.

Avoiding iconic photos — I’m less interested now in taking pics — say, of that dead tree in the hay field I drive past on my way to work every morning, a tree that is denuded and leaning and isolated. What I’m calling iconic pics are too abstract, suggesting Decay or Rugged Isolation or whatever. I want to take pictures that are more particular. 2 Dec.

People don’t want to be merely an idea (of sex, or of fame, or of foolishness) to each other. I don’t want to be treated that way by others, diminished to an idea. But of course, celebrities ARE just an idea because fans don’t really know them. 2 Dec.

My local Subway store. 6 Dec.

My local Subway store. 6 Dec.

How hard it is to teach meaning-making. Reading Shakespeare (“The Taming of the Shrew”) with sophomore students: how to get the unfamiliar words and word-order and then also the understanding of the context. 3 Dec.

“No. You think I’M pretty, not her,” said student about social media usage by any of her potential significant others. 3 Dec.

My cat and my wife. 20 Dec.

My cat and my wife. 20 Dec.

Texts live only when they are read. 3 Dec.

Attraction is mysterious. I can’t even explain my own attraction to my wife, let alone try to understand anyone else’s attraction to whomever they’re attracted to. 3 Dec.

Student told me how it’s easy for me to record others’ statements compared to how hard it is to record others’ actions (gestures, etc.). I said that’s a really good point: When I quote others, I’m just recording the words they supply. But to record their actions, the words have to be supplied by me (and my bias, my characterization of the actions I’ve seen). 3 Dec.

A smoker outside my grocery store. 6 Dec.

A smoker outside my grocery store. 6 Dec.

Later, student sang “O Tannenbaum” tune with the lyrics of my last name, “O Hagemann.” 3 Dec.

You can look at any particular tree (or at any particular thing), but it’s you, looking, that’s special, not the tree (or whatever thing). There’s the particularity (that’s an abstraction? huh) that’s special. Well, yes and no. And my attention too is both special and not-special. It’s self-evident, when you’re standing there looking, that those leaves, that tree, and you, exist. Maybe looking at a real thing, and being aware of that, is less a thought itself, more a reset of thinking, resetting one’s mind back from abstracts to here, now. 4 Dec.

An article I read about heroin-addition recovery talked about adult life as a series of administrative duties, getting things taken of. Yeah, sometimes being an adult feels like that. 3 Dec.

“I always look up stuff on Google — worst idea ever,” said my student about seeing photos of terrible diseases, etc. 4 Dec.

A spoon in the chair at my local diner. Our diner employee friend Amin said we could replace it with a fork to surprise the next sitter. Then he said, "Just put a bear trap. Fukk it." 6 Dec.

A spoon in the chair at my local diner. Our diner-employee friend Amin said we could replace it with a fork to surprise the next sitter. Then he said, “Just put a bear trap. Fukk it.” 6 Dec.

Reading last night about Terry Southern, I’m glad that I have a regular gig, that I don’t have to try to make a living from my writing only. 6 Dec.

Even more ridiculous than the word ridiculous? Diculous, which describes the ridiculousness of a naked man, his genitals just a-wavin’ in the breeze. That’s just diculous. 6 Dec.

To despair of describing parts of nature: give directions of each of the spears in a clump of grass. 6 Dec.

Movies sometimes use music to communicate a character’s mood — normally a person’s mood is private, subjective –not communicable. But music can communicate mood. 9 Dec.

As a writer, I turn time — my living-time, my time alive — into texts. 9 Dec.

How Shakespeare uses English language, a whole other way to use the same (ok, very similar) language we use today. All the figurative language is like real speech, even if we use different figures of speech now. 10 Dec.

My journals do not tell one story — but of course they don’t. If there’s no story, there’s no place to go (no conflict to resolve, no plot to finish), no progress, all’s now. There are new moments, ideas, days, but not necessarily progress. 10 Dec.

Looking at a tree as I drive past: I wish I could just stop and look at the tree and not have to go to work and participate in my life for a while. The tree gives respite, or the idea of respite. But what seeing the tree does is that it reminds me of moods, mindsets, calm feelings, I have had before and can have again. 10 Dec.

“You have a gluten allergy. Just sayin,'” said student to me, as she wrote a story in which I was a character. She had earlier asked if I had an allergy, and I had said, “like I’m tellin’ you.” 10 Dec.

“Hey, guys, let them melt before you start moving them around with the tooth pics,” said an adult teacher or aide in a classroom for students with developmental disabilities. I don’t know what she was talking about. 10 Dec.

“I DID turn them in! (pause) Wait, which ones?” said student about some missing assignments she saw on a grade report. 10 Dec.

Two women talked in the booth behind me at the diner about their appreciation for IKEA and its furniture: “It’s well-made. Only thing is, it comes in pieces,” said one. Also, “you can haul it yourself! You don’t need a 10-ton truck!” You can put it in your car, especially if you’re 90 miles away from the store, like we are, she added. 11 Dec.

“I just stood there, reveling in my cookie,” said my wife, of why she hadn’t noticed me clearing the plates off our table at Panera Bread restaurant. 13 Dec.

When I’m grading student work under a time crunch, I have to forget to hurry. Having a second voice (sorta) in my head doesn’t help. This is why it’s hard to watch one’s self work, or to talk about what my mind is doing while it’s engaged in work. (I had earlier thought about how little art there is that depicts what our minds are doing during those many hours a day when we’re at work.) 14 Dec.

I’m writing about being alive. Kinda. But each day, each journal, each particular moment. In my journals, I’m writing what comes to mind at the time of the writing. The date doesn’t matter, except as a season (how some yearly things repeat, like my stress at the end of each semester). My point: this is what the journals are, at a basic level. 15-16 Dec.

It’s not my fault they sell them to me,” said student about smoking the cigarettes that he gets at the drive-thru window at the tobacco shop that opened in a former Taco Bell. 15 Dec.

Moss near light post in grass near Mercedes dealership, Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., 5 Dec.

Moss near light post in grass near Mercedes dealership, Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill., 5 Dec.

Looking at things — tells more about the looker than the things (as Eagleman’s “Brain” show reminded me). As when I notice things, like, say, moss near a light post, and take a picture as if the show others that this moss scene matters. Perhaps it doesn’t matter at all! Perhaps it’s just me declaring/claiming that this matters. 16 Dec.

“I don’t think I washed my hair right this morning,” said student as she entered my classroom this morning. 16 Dec.

“I think it should go down in history that I’m better at doing this than I am at doing math,” said student as he tossed and caught a spool of thread. This was before he dropped the spool. 16 Dec.

Oil-stain art. 12 Dec.

Oil-stain art. 12 Dec.

Being apolitical to be creative — to be partisan, to hold and defend certain views, is tedious, is uncreative. 16 Dec.

One type of meta-fiction is when characters know they’re in a story (as in a story my student wrote, where characters knew they had to keep talking until they reached the assigned word count). As people, we don’t feel we’re in a story as we live, or even when someone tells a story about us. I don’t think of myself as a character. 17 Dec., 19 Dec.

“I regret talking to idiots the whole time I should’ve been writing,” said student. She said she broke her hand finishing up her writings. I said I should post this statement above my classroom whiteboard. 18 Dec.

“You almost like it but then you hate it and it won’t go away,” said my wife of Pomplamoose songs such as this and this. 19 Dec.

While walking my dog at the forest preserve tonight, I thought how our human eyes and minds are good at quickly apprehending patterns, less good at seeing all the details, say, of all the branches and twigs, or all the leaves piled. 19 Dec.

“Mine’s super-lumpy and weird,” said Ashli Waitress of her head. 20 Dec.

The language I use is a phenomenon in my own mind. Others just get to listen in. This is one way of looking at my journals as texts. 22 Dec.

How much one has to learn to first develop a mental model of things against which to compare new things. How, as an adult of 41+ years, I have a sense of what’s normal adult behavior, for example. So I can judge, in art and in reality, what’s not normal. I didn’t know this as a younger person. 22, 29 Dec.

“It’s like shootin’ fish in my hand — it’s easy, but it hurts a lot afterwards,” I said, paraphrasing the old saying. 24 Dec.

“Add some sugar and grease and fix it,” said my brother Dan after my mom said a batch of cookies tasted bland and she’d frost them. Dec. 24.

Elsa at Christmas table. 25 Dec.

Elsa at Christmas table. 25 Dec.

“Hey, I need my plate!” said a three-year old girl at my wife’s family Christmas party, as her plate was taken so that it could be filled with food. 25 Dec.

That same three-year-old girl pushed on my wife’s belly and said, “You have a baby in there? You have a Marcello [her little brother’s name] in there!” My wife does not have a baby in there. 25 Dec.

“He lost his pants — it was one of them nights!” said a father of one-year-old Marcello at the Christmas party. 25 Dec.

“Chuck, how old is the sky?” asked homeowner Jose of the sunset-colored clouds and blue background that artist Chuck had painted on the ceiling of the dining room a few years back. 25 Dec.

On Christmas day, my wife posted on Facebook that “I did both my make-up AND my hair. Jesus better appreciate it.” The next day, I showed her that her post had received 29 likes. “People LIKE it when I threaten Jesus, apparently,” she said. 26 Dec.

“That’s life — ‘a little stranger than I thought,'” my wife said, after I said a call to the local park district was not a big deal but was just a little stranger than I thought it’d be. 30 Dec.

“I have scoliosis — I cannot be the wind,” said a friend after he told a story about having to take a theater class in college where he was asked to “be the wind.” H said he dropped the class. 30 Dec.

At a family New Year’s Eve gathering, my grandpa Lorin said he was about to tell us something he’d never said to his kids or grandkids: “The only reason we’ve been poor is because of butter.” This admission came after grandma Phoebe said she saw him, early in their marriage, putting butter on his cake, because he had the philosophy that butter makes a good cake better, and a bad cake needs it. 31 Dec.

An old man who looks disturbingly like my father appears in cafe foyer's glass ahead of me. Meg's Daily Grind, near Perryville and Riverside, Rockford, IL, 31 Dec. 2015.

An old man who looks disturbingly like my father appears in cafe foyer’s glass ahead of me. Meg’s Daily Grind, near Perryville and Riverside, Rockford, IL, 31 Dec. 2015.

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