…and STILL champion –and thoughts on Instagram

(Feel free to skip to the Instagram part)

Kids, I was down 2 games to none in pickleball to Corey (we’ll call him that since it’s his real name and it’s only pickleball). Corey is a racquetball stud (if that’s a thing), and has fallen in love with the game just like I did last summer.  He’s newer, but he’s really good.  he got a fancy paddle too. During vacation my friend Paul (the old guy I destroy every game now) said Corey beat him badly and I was in trouble. I was starting to believe Paul and surrender my title as CCC (our condo community) champion. But towards the end of the 2nd game I figured out how to beat him. I also noticed he was getting tired.  This morning, Paul and I played 5 games (I won all 5), so it’s not like I was exactly fresh, but I try not to show fatigue (there can’t be anyone still reading this, but I don’t care, it’s my place to feel good about myself). I won the third game, finally, as Corey’s wife watched on. She was snickering a little when I messed up easy shots. I know her well enough I guess, but it bothered me. Corey is ambidextrous and switches hands during the point, but he never comes to the line to volley. All I had to do was hit it deep then go in to volley and it turned things around.  I was up 10-2 in game 2 and he was gassed. I won 11-5. After I evened things up he asked for a 20-minute break because his belly was still full from an omelet at lunch…which apparently didn’t bother him the first two games? You’ll never hear me make excuses like that by the way.  So while he rested in the club house, I worked on new serves, hopping around like it wasn’t 90-some degrees (yes, we started at 3:30 in the afternoon ’cause we’re dumb).  For the deciding game five I started hitting balls on each side of the court making him run. I got up 10-2, match point.  He tried a lob shot over my head but I smashed it back at him and when he tried to hit it…it knocked his paddle out of his hand and his wife laughed at him.

I really wish I’d have discovered this sport in my 20s. I don’t know if I could’ve ever played competitively, like, for money, but it’s a neat fantasy to have. If I can stay in shape and keep playing, maybe by the time I’m 60 or 70, I can dominate old men.

I was never physical enough to play much in varsity basketball.  My running career peaked, but I never ran faster than a 17:52 for a 5K. I stopped playing soccer and baseball in middle school (I miss both of those sports so much). I’ll never be a great golfer, because if I spend that much money–yikes.

My body type, frame, is actually best for pickleball.  My reach actually works well, and I’d love to get some actual coaching in it this winter. I wish it had a cooler name though.

And now Instagram. I took some cool pictures at Gringo Jones today. That store is awesome, and you should definitely go for whatever. Pottery, mirrors, antiques, junk that isn’t junk, etc. It’s amazing in there.  It’s in an old house too.  They have giant giraffes for sale! We bought a few things today: a mirror, the big pot, and a cross.  All three were from Mexico and had a nice colorful design.  I found a desk lap that I LOVED (which I posted on Instagram), and hopefully my wife buys it for me for my birthday. Normally I don’t think stuff like that is “beautiful” enough to pay for, but this lamp just did it for me. It’s got the glass on top and all those colors.  Heck, if I knew it was safe, I’d put it in my classroom. (Not with freshmen though.)

Anyway, so Instagram. If your account is private, I feel creepy “requesting” access. it’s like, “Hi, I’m 40, can I so dem der pictures.” I know it’s not creepy, but I haven’t felt comfortable with a lot of people that follow me. Plus, with my older peers, they post them on Facebook anyway, and I really don’t want to or need to spend more time on another form on social media. That being said, RobDurhamComedy is my Instagram and it has pics from today. You don’t even have to follow me. I’m not private on there.  Facebook’s another story, but I’ll add you if you’ve graduated. I do have a an alum who is dating a girl I have next semester in creative writing…I may need to unfriend him. Or maybe she’s changed, I don’t know.  Dammit, I’m already thinking about school again!

 

 

 

 

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Crap, What If I Do This…

There are some parallels between teaching and parenting (right?). Yesterday, I came across this article about an ungrateful 6-year-old. I wonder if that’s what’s happening to us teachers?  I remember being frustrated a few times after pulling out all my bells and whistles and getting a ho-hum reaction from the students.  I pride myself in making lessons “fun and engaging” but maybe I should focus less on the fun and more on the engaging part.

I took a few risks in my teaching style for LA 10 last year. A handful of things flopped. Anytime I divided class into groups that they chose and had them teaching a section or something small like “adjectives” the quiz and test results were atrocious.  Yet, it feels like that makes it engaging because the class always paid attention to presentations. The trick is, students aren’t teachers. So how do I find a middle ground AND WHY AM I WORRYING ABOUT THIS ON JULY FREAKING 13TH?!!!

Nevermind, goodbye.

I’m back from Mexico

Hey, I didn’t post on my trip (which is for the best). We had a blast as usual and what’s nice is that I still have a lot more summer left after this one since we went so early. I went to my first foam party too!  It was in the pool on the first day as we celebrated Independence Day in Mexico which sounds funny I guess.  I learned a lot at the tasting class we took downtown too.  Our resort is becoming very popular. So far 2 other teachers have gone or are going later this summer there after my recommendation.

It was a younger crowd this year. Or maybe now we’re just older? I don’t know. I’m not in “thinking” mode just yet. I’ve been reading a Hemmingway book titled, Islands in the Stream and I can’t imagine anyone else liking it, but for some reason I do. I loved the first part, the 2nd was okay, and the third is about German U-boats.

My diet is over so I had fun at the store. There’s supposedly a better pickleball player than me named Corey. I beat him before I left, but he got a real paddle and has been practicing and my old man friend says he’s unstoppable now.  We’ll see.

Oh, and I may start the sequel to Around the Block instead of balking more on Somebody Else’s Sky. Hell, I may write nothing this summer.  It’s looking that way. : (

 

Durham Updates

I just remembered that I have to renew my plates before the end of July. You can do this online, but you have to take care of the emissions check, so July 12 at 8 a.m. …good morning Dobbs.

We leave for Mexico tomorrow morning (cab picks us up at 4:45!). I’m excited to return to one of my favorite places on Earth (Secrets Capri).  Somehow I’ve packed a lot less stuff than the usual.

As my book continues to stall, I’ve considered scrapping it for now and writing the sequel to Around the Block. It would make sense financially. It’s a smaller, easier book to put out. I have the market of students to sell it to. I already have the cast of characters. It only needs to be about 70K words (I do want to make it longer than the last one so people need at least 2 days instead of 1 to read it).  I’ll see what staring at the ocean for a week inspires. I always bring a notebook.

I have “hopefully” finished my class over The Holocaust.  We had to do a lot of reading for one week and then I had to write a 5-page essay on the challenges and methods of taking what I learned and applying it to my teaching. I wrote enough to read onto the 7th page, but it probably wasn’t my best work. I turned it in technically 9 days early (despite yesterday’s tweet), but I had to finish it by today because I know I won’t feel like doing it when I get back in a week on the 11th (deadline is the 12th).

One of the Holocaust survivors who visited our classroom at Webster is going to refund all of our $175 class entry fees. Marquette paid for mine so they said I should use the money for classroom resources. I’m hoping to buy 32 copies of the graphic novel, Maus. If there’s money left over, I’ll get a few other memoirs for the room’s library. They already gave me 4 amazing books.

After a small 2-day slump, I have regained my pickleball title winning 7 of the last 8 games (4-0 yesterday). I’m playing some newer and younger than usual competition tonight (instead of going to open mic even), so we’ll see how I do. The three of us are probably too competitive. I can take losing without making excuses or acting angry. These two guys often cannot. There’s a new guy who’s probably 6 or so years older than me that I’m 1-1 against. When I beat him he sulked quite a bit, so tonight I want to see if I can really piss him off. I have to learn to “dink” my 3rd shot.

I don’t feel like working out today. It’ll mess up my swing tonight. It’s the last day of my diet. The weight I’ve lost is about average. I’m okay with it. I’ll probably post a few pictures from Mexico on my Instagram (RobDurhamComedy), and then the album on Facebook when we get home. It’s our 5th time there though, so not really much new to share.

 

Just Freewriting

I woke up before 6 this morning. I’m a bit dehydrated from playing pickleball yesterday afternoon (we’re dumb), so my eyes were dry and I was starving. I did my workout and it figures, the one day I’m all caught up and free, I have a haircut at 10:30. Smack dab in the middle of the morning when I could be up at the pool reading. I’ll have one more homework assignment for this class. It’s basically reading a lot of pages then answering 3 discussion questions (if you take online classes, this is a majority of the work). It’s weird doing critical thinking on nonfiction since most of the time I’m teaching fiction to my students.  He gave us one short story “This Way to the Gas Chamber” and I wrote a nice analysis of it.

So why can’t I get myself to work on my novel much? I still don’t know. If I was a student of mine I’d be furious about it. I have it outlined, I know the first draft will be terrible, I know that I’ll get to know the characters better as I write, I just hate the whole Act I of it.

Part of me says a break is okay, the other part says, “If you really want to be an author…”

I’ll rationalize that at least I’m doing something productive by taking this class and moving closer to that +15 raise I’ll get in two more years.  Then I think about the ridiculous money my friends make. Conservatively twice as much as me–actually that’s too conservative. It’s way more than twice with most of them. That’s okay, it doesn’t mean that they’re more successful I guess.  That isn’t how we measure success or happiness, just failure. I’m not missing any meals. All we’d do is take more exotic trips I guess.  I’m happy with my home.

And somehow I just strayed out to Facebook for 15 minutes…25? I don’t know. We leave for vacation on Wednesday, so maybe I should just accept that nothing needs to be done before then. Stay in shape, win at pickleball, and finish my homework/class.

I wish I could enjoy the evenings more without being bitten by mosquitoes. That sunset last night after the storm, right? Tornado sirens always send me outside to actually look for the stupid thing. I didn’t see it so I figured we were safe. I bet it’s funny when people who don’t experience that on a regular basis watch us Midwesterners ignore the warnings. I’m sure we’d be like that with whatever geographical threats in another place.

It’s fascinating how the day can go from 96 and no wind to 78 and chaos. I almost tried to make that some cheesy metaphor about life.  I said ALMOST. : )

Last Time in My Childhood House

While I was home I went into my childhood house one last time (I hope).  Dad found another buyer and depending on the parking situation it’ll be sold for $25,000 (it needs A LOT of work). I took a video walkthrough as if I’d ever need that to remember what it looked like in there.  The fridge, oven, washer, dryer are all gone. There are boxes of pictures in nice frames, I took a lot of mine. But really, do I need an 10*12 in a nice frame of me in my basketball uniform from 1996?  But can you just throw those out?  I guess I should digitize all of them somehow whether it be a scanner or just taking pictures of them in the right lighting.

The view our old house had over the old football field towards the river and the baseball fields is gone. The new elementary building is being built a stone’s throw away and it’s two stories so you can’t see anything anymore. My family used to all sit out on the porch and watch the thunder and lightning in the summer. Our house was so cramped that it was nice out there. I guess our porch was our most spacious room. My backyard has been taken over by trees that came out of nowhere once the neighbors cut their trees down. The sunlight and my dad’s lack of landscaping ability combined for that effect. It’s so depressing that I’d rather we sold it 15 years ago when it was in decent enough shape. My dad has lived with his girlfriend for almost 20 years and just owned this house on the side. Part of me wants to blame dad’s girlfriend for not marrying him, but then again, it was just paperwork.

I guess at least he saved all of his money that could’ve gone to fixing the house. It’s just sad to see what happened to the places where I grew up. I can’t walkthrough them with the same feeling anymore.

I go back at the end of August for something. I hope it’s no longer in our possession by then, but I have a feeling the sale will fall through.  Here’s the blocked view I was telling you about. That steeple in the top right is from the old elementary I went to that was built in 1897 and has been going since.

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When every girl from my 20s showed up…

Well, not all of them, but a lot of good friends and one kinda ex-girlfriend. We never were an official couple in college, but I broke her heart and fell in love with her best friend (who for the record she said I would’ve been perfect for while we were dating).

Then, I was at dinner with another pal before my show and she said, “You remember Heather, right?” I lied and said I did.  “You better, you took her out on a date once.”

I’m not one to forget things like that. You guys know me well enough to see how preposterous that is. I’m guessing the date didn’t go anywhere…?

So one of my best friend’s ex-girlfriends showed up (twice an ex actually!) because she’s married to the bother of my friend John (this guy who seemed to tried to match my style).

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Then this other girl who never did anything in high school and I don’t think was even in our grade said she had no memory of me in high school.  Really?  Out of the 120 in our class, you didn’t know me at all?  Anyway, she bought some books and felt cool about it:book sign.jpg

So many people on Facebook (here comes negative-can’t be happy about anything comedian) said they wanted to come but forgot.  (LIE AT LEAST!) Or asked if I was going to be there tonight too.  Nope, I was home by 1 p.m.  I sold lots of books though. It was the most nervous I’d been for a show in probably 10 years, but I did well. I made myself listen to a recording from a show last month. (That album isn’t coming out; the sound quality sucks).

Anyway, the girl who I met at UMSL in ’09, Liz, also ran the Ohio State Alumni Club of St. Louis and got me my first teaching job at Imagine in 2011 is the one who’s friends with my ex from college, so that’s why she was there.  (Liz on left, Nicole awkwardly on right). As you can see everyone is married and they were a bit tipsy. The thing is, it’s been almost 20 years so there isn’t even nostalgia or any hard feelings (at least from me).

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Honestly though, the highlight of the weekend was seeing my brother and his girlfriend who’s just passing the midpoint of her pregnancy (sorry, no pics). I bought their dinner Monday and they let me stay at their house Tuesday and Wednesday.  My brother is “almost” ready to be a parent, if that’s a thing you can even be ready for.  I told him for once I had no advice at all.  I did LOVE their new cat though. The little demon attacked my toes around 3 a.m. this morning:

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I spent Tuesday before my show with my friend Deirdre.  She has MS and sometimes needs a cane, but she was actually doing really well the whole time. We even worked out at her apartment complex that morning.  She had put on about 15 pounds since the last time I saw her which she desperately needed to do. If I had a younger sister, I’d want her to be like Deirdre.  We worked at the bank together in 03-’04 and have stayed in touch since.  A few years ago when our group went to Punta Cana she and her boyfriend got engaged there (they’ve broken up since then).

So I’m in a pickleball slump after winning 9 straight.  Old Man Paul has won 4 of the last 6 games including 2 of 3 today (it’s hot at 4:30!).  I get tired and hit everything out or into the net.  The lack of carbs could have something to do with it, so if that’s the case after vacation (starts in a week from today), I’ll whoop his ass more consistently.  Today he wore a glove for a better grip and I made fun of him, so that probably didn’t help.  Oops.

My UMSL friends from last summer’s class are having a party on Friday but it’s at 6:00 in Festus.  That’s 51 minutes without traffic, but during rush hour is going to be way longer. I’m going to see if my friend will drive.  $20?

And I’ll leave you with this clip someone shared.  It’s from an old teen drama called The OC from 2004ish. Modest Mouse is playing a show a minute or so in during their stupid scene:

The Holocaust Class

I finished my 4-day workshop on The Holocaust yesterday afternoon although now I have to do a few things to get the 3 hours of credit. One of them will be to write a reflection on the overall experience. I guess this is a first draft:

(editor’s note: after writing it, it feels very melodramatic, but oh well. Generic apology)

With each night of the workshop I found it harder and harder to fall asleep.

When we learn about something, usually I want to put it to use immediately. How can I “fix” something? What can I do now?  With the horrible facts I learned about The Holocaust I have a different emotion. It’s a blend of whys and hows on some many levels that I have trouble expressing it.  With the more I learned these whys and hows became even more specific. Why did they believe that? How could that group of people fall for this?  Alas, there is nothing I can do in that time period.  Perhaps being immersed in it for hours every day made it feel current and that there was some way I could still stop it.  To a much lesser degree it was like watching a movie you know has a devastating scene and hoping the scene will go differently this time because you’ve done your part to figure out what led up to that scene.

The survivors had the strongest impact on what I learned. Again, they made it feel current. To be given one life and to have it start that way is something that cannot be shaken off after years of silence, communication or even therapy. How does one regain their trust in mankind or in God? Often they don’t.

To think that it could have been any of us born into history at that time in that place is haunting. Suddenly every other pain is minuscule compared to their story. And though we learned not to compare pain, I cannot imagine a worse one to be inflected with.

The workshop gave me multiple perspectives. What did the Nazis believe and why? What slope did their hatred slip down? The more I learned, the more questions I had. Such hypocritical thinking and how it played and manipulated the minds of so many people is still a mystery.  I keep searching for a “real” reason as if once found, I can go back and prevent it.

And then to know what it’s like to move forward. To know that the rest of a life will be spent without family in a new place seems so overwhelming.  Throw a new language on top of that.

I grew a deep respect for the Jewish people after this class. After researching more, I’ve learned what makes a culture of people excel beyond that of others.  Maybe this is why they were seen as such a threat.  Germany was humiliated and shamed, and as James Gilligan said, “All violence results from an attempt to replace shame with self-esteem.”

All of these thoughts continue to swirl through my head every night until I admit to myself that I can’t do anything to change what happened. But, as a teacher, I can serve my role in making sure that a atrocity to any degree of this one never formulates again.

 

Day 1 of Holocaust Workshop

Tonight was just a 2-hour intro meet and greet and we watched a short film which I’ll be showing next year. I sat across the table from Mrs. Coverstone (she’s the one that let me know Webster was doing this whole thing for 3 hours of college credit), and next to an old lady who seemed to have a lot of spunk to her. She was very old but full of energy and character.  I learned a few minutes later she was a child Holocaust survivor and has yet to talk about it. She raises funds for educating people about it and has ties to the museum we’ll visit on Tuesday, but just knowing that about her made me feel very emotional right away. To know that she endured all of that…as a child especially. How does one turn out so well?

I also discovered that compared to a lot of the room, I don’t know squat about the topic. Again I was reminded how it must have felt to be a student in my own classroom starting at square one. I need to remind myself of that feeling for often. So I’ll get quite a few things out of this class. It’s also the first time I’ve been able to take a college class in the last 10 years without letting people know I’m a comic. Thankfully Mrs. Coverstone didn’t out me on that one. I think I’ll be more quiet in this workshop than I normally am. I need to go back to my younger days as a shy student and just sit there and learn.

Also, I left my bag with my school computer there overnight. Oops. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Mall on a Thursday Night

This is interesting. If you’ve read the end of Around the Block…well, the girl from high school (not the stalker) emailed me and said she was reading it. She asked, “Is Katy based on Jamie L.?”  I explained that she was and Brian was based on my buddies but that was about it…which is a lie. She’s going to complete that book and really wonder if she was part of it.

Yep.

I went to the mall.  It was empty. I wanted to get a black wedge for my wife, size 8, minimal straps.  If a 40-year-old man can explain this description, the sale woman shouldn’t insult him with shoes that aren’t even wedges.  No luck, but I saw a rainbow on the way home and I was almost hit by a lady who ran a red light and didn’t even know she did it.

I golfed 18 holes on a “real” course today. Not great, but not awful. It’s amazing how I don’t get better after all these rounds and all these years. I should honestly buy a lesson or six.  But alas, another day of being alone. My wife has had to work a lot at that wonderful corporation who she said laid off all 10 mortgage reps today with no notice. Luckily they need my wife.

A lot of my friends who I haven’t seen since my going away party from Ohio in 2005 are coming to my show in Columbus. Each day I get another one or two emails from them. I’m doing a tune-up show in St. Louis at The Improve Shop on June 23 at 8 p.m.  It’ll be a 20-25 minutes set, but it’ll be a nice way to get back in the swing of it other than open mic.  That’s a tough room, or at least it was the other time I was there a few months ago.

Why am I not writing my next book? I’ve never been this reluctant. I think once my 4-day class starts on Sunday night I’ll be motivated to work on it more for some reason.