Cats, genies and the ambivalence of August

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As a teacher who cherishes the summer reprieves from classroom responsibilities[1], August always finds me ambivalent. On one hand, it is still summer, and there are still three precious weeks to prepare and relax before returning to the daily grind of the school schedule.

Yet it’s also August, meaning the end of summer break is nigh, and every time a “back-to-school” commercial airs, I need to resist the urge to ugly-cry.

However, by the middle of the month, I’m usually ready to return to a routine that is—quite frankly— beneficial to my mental and physical health. And once the preseason football games begin, I can almost smell the autumn leaves and Sundays in front of the television, watching hours of football and making my charitable donations to Manchester’s bookmakers[2].

But my biggest issue with the end of summer break has nothing to do with the returning to the classroom. I enjoy my job teaching writing and literature.

My issue lies with the school start time. High school classes begin at an absurd 7:30 a.m., a fidelity to a bucolic schedule that has been mostly obsolete in America for over a century. Despite the science that has shown that school schedules are objectivity detrimental to adolescents’ mental and physical health, as well as economically unsound, most public schools remain intractable on the issue.

If I were asked to define my superpower, it would be sleeping, and the high school schedule is veritable Kryptonite for the somnolent subset of society.

Please refer to footnote #5.

So in keeping with my monthly musings, random facts, bad jokes, music links and random ephemera[3], here are some thoughts for August.

  • The sandwich was invented—at least officially named—on Aug. 6, 1762. Not wanting to interrupt a gambling session, The Earl of Sandwich requested from his servants some meat between two pieces of bread. Now imagine where our world would be without gambling. Bless you, Earl of Sandwich.
  • Aug. 5 is National Underwear Day. Plan accordingly. Reciprocally, Aug. 8 is National Go Commando Day[4].
  • Unless you’ve had gymnastic moves named after you, go easy on Simone Biles. And can we—please—stop making the personal decisions of fellow human beings the impetus to grind political bones and partisan agendas?
  • Happy Birthday, Jerry Garcia (August 1, 1942).
  • A stranger walks into a bar and immediately spots a foot-tall pianist on the bar top playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on a tiny grand piano. In front of the little pianist, there’s a dog-faced man milking a draft beer. The stranger sits down beside the dog-faced man and asks what’s going on. The dog-faced man tells the stranger that there’s a lantern in the alley outside the bar, beside the dumpster, and if he rubs the lantern, a genie will appear and grant any wish he wants. Not asking any questions, the stranger rushes outside and into the alley and spots a lantern by the dumpster.
  • On Aug. 16, 1977, the “King of Rock n’ Roll Elvis Presley, 42, died in his bathroom from a heart attack, which his personal doctor said was the result of chronic constipation. Yet all of this information may be apocryphal, given my own travels and experiences[5].
  • The month of August was named after the Roman emperor Augustus. One wonders why there weren’t months named after Nero or Caligula because those would be really interesting months to celebrate.
  • Chaim Bloom simply didn’t do enough for the Red Sox at the trading deadline. This team has played their asses off all year—far exceeding expectations—and they needed that validation from the Head of Baseball Operations. Bloom failed to do that.
  • A genie comes out of the lantern and says to the stranger, “I will grant you one wish, any wish you please.” So the stranger says, “I want a million bucks.” The genie nods his head and says, “Done.” Suddenly, there are one million ducks are quacking and crowding the alley and the streets around the bar.
  • On Aug. 6, 1966—the day after National Underwear Day—The Beatles released the band’s first LSD-inspired album “Revolver,” which proved to be the predecessor to their next transformative album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” and later their magnum opus “White Album.” If “Eleanor Rigby” doesn’t crush your soul, you need a lesson in empathy.
  • I really wish the people of Manchester would stop shooting each other. We’re better than that. This is a very cool city, says the columnist who grew up in Rhode Island.
  • CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain” resonated, on multiple levels, literal and figurative, in the month of July.
  • After wading through the ducks, the stranger goes back into the bar, shaking his head. He huffs and pushes the guy at the bar—who is still watching the tiny man play concertos. “What sort of trick was that?” the stranger asks. The other guy sighs. “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that the genie is hard of hearing. Do you really think that I wished for a twelve-inch pianist?”
  • For the first time in my life, I agree with Yankee fans. This cat is definitely the MVP of the MLB for 2021 season. I disagree with the announcer; there’s no ambivalence there.

_________

[1] Contrary to what many people believe, most teachers are engaged in some kind of curriculum work during these months, or they take on summer jobs, in education or outside of it—i.e. freelancing articles and columns for the community. Many teachers do both. By “classroom responsibilities,” I mean the grading, the lesson planning, contacting parents, meetings, etc.

[2] Certainly the legalization of sports-betting in New Hampshire through Draft Kings has rendered the neighborhood bookie somewhat obsolete; however, I’m a creature of habit and never bothered to download the app. Besides, I believe in small businesses.

[3] I intend to ride this boat until it sinks, although—in keeping with the conceit—perhaps it’s time to start pricing life-vests.

[4] I completely made that up.  There is no such thing as National Go Commando Day.

[5] On the cover of my 2012 now out-of-print book from Bottle of Smoke Press “Hangover Breakfasts,” I’m standing in front of The Elvis Is Alive Museum off the I-80 in Wright City, Mo., during the late-90s. Truth be told, I never paid the money to go inside and verify their information. I never foresaw myself in a journalistic role decades later.


 

About this Author

nathan-graziano

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Fly Like The Seagull was published by Luchador Press in 2020. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com