Savoring the summer days

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

“Summer afternoon; —to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” — Henry James

I’ve spent time lately in our backyard simply enjoying the pleasant weather with the blue sky. I like to look at the oak trees that spread around the neighborhood as well as the ongoing flights of those little birds that don’t sit still very long before taking off again like they’re always in a hurry.

In the early morning, when I work an overnight, I get to listen to the call of a cardinal. I didn’t know it was a cardinal calling until Monday morning when Kelly told me. She knows everything and she’s a hard, thorough worker, unlike her co-worker, who worked with her that day.

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I like to sit in the backyard with a book for some of the time. For now it’s Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” again. A long time ago, a psychiatrist, Dr. Maxfield, introduced me to lithium, which probably saved my life. He also suggested I read Pirsig’s book. Then it was fresh, in the early 70s. When I finally purchased it I found it too complicated to get through. Robert Pirsig is a Minnesota author.

Later, I purchased a Yamaha 500 while living in California — a second hand Yamaha — and rode it back to Austin. There was no Phaedrus written into my ride and I knew nothing about maintenance. When I got back I drove out to the Yamaha shop and Jim told me I was lucky to have made it. I hadn’t adjusted the chain.

I would probably fall in line with the students discussed in the article featured in Monday’s Herald by Katie Johnson on why boys are failing, and what’s being done about it at the Grand Meadow Schools under Joe Brown, where they are using “Boys Adrift, the Five Facts Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Men.”

The five mentioned were: video games; changing teaching methods; prescription drugs, such as those for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; endocrine disruptors, including chemicals found in plastic bottles that may lower testosterone levels; and devaluation of masculinity.

Instead of video games in high school, we had pinball machines located in the Tower, our teen center. At times it looked like John Murphy was a permanent part of the pinball machine. Mr. Nybo supplied the quarters needed to play the jukebox like “Rock and Roll Ruby” by the Saints, which kept the students dancing. Then we didn’t have cell phones to text to your friends — you talked to them in person.

There wasn’t text messaging then; however, notes were passed.

Ward Brossoit, a middle school science and math teacher, says 20 of the 30 teachers have read the book. He also talked about BPA (Bisphenol A) and the toxic bottle and how it affects the brain. Remember the father telling Dustin Hoffman: “Plastics.”

Superintendent Brown pointed out that “almost every one of our discipline problems is male; almost all of our special education population is male; almost all of our underperforming students are male.”

According to the article, a town meeting to discuss the changes will be scheduled this month in Grand Meadow and I hope to see you there. I think we need to give some thought to changing teaching methods but I have no idea what that change would be. At least they are willing to address it just as Mr. Nelson did in his community.

According to the Minneapolis Public Schools “2008 Strong Schools Strong City Referendum” published in August 2008, between 2005 and 2009 the average classroom sizes have increased from 28 students to 32 students. That’s too many.

Personally, I’m not bothered by the devaluation of masculinity. Its days our numbered and that may be for the better, especially after reading what I read on few of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and the “war” they sometimes continue to face, sometimes at home.

We saw the results of this in Vietnam. On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending America’s direct military involvement in the Vietnam War (conflict).

Former Minneapolis Poetry All-Stars, Bosso Poetry, will perform at Super Fresh Produce, 2101 Fourth St. N.W. (in the back garden), on Saturday Aug. 14, at 8 p.m. (right across the road from the charming hamlet of Mapleview).

Prepare yourself for a night of edgy tales and laughter. I finished the book.