Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another First in This, the Digital Age

Diego Fuchs at about two months old, in the summer of 2003
It's about 5:30 pm on a Friday, and I've prepared my materials for the meeting with which my day will start this coming Monday.  An Alejandro Escovedo CD is playing in my computer's disc drive, and other than a lone custodian emptying classroom trashcans down the hallway, I'm the only human being in this part of the enormous Cedar Ridge High School campus.

During football season, this is my quiet time at work.  The students and teachers pile out between 4:10 and 4:45, and I'm actually able to sit, and work my way, undisturbed, through what's left on my "to-do" list until having to make my way over to the stadium to stand on the sidelines, greet and "watch" our student section and try not to cheer too obviously for our Raiders.

It occurs to me to do something that I've never done before.  I begin to script an email to my eldest son, Diego.  I can do this, because we have enrolled our children in the district where I work, and all middle schoolers (Diego is in sixth grade now) are automatically given a student email address, which stays with them throughout the remainder of their school careers.

The workload facing Diego far surpasses anything he's ever had to deal with before.  He takes Language Arts, World Cultures, Science and Math, along with a journalism elective, art and Physical Education.  It has been tough, but so far he is handling his business, as they say, and maintains a good average.  So I write him this email, whose subject line reads "GOOD JOB!" :

Hi Diego, it's Dad.

Just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I think you're doing a great job.  Mami and I both appreciate how hard you have been working, and yes, we are always going to push you to be even better, because we KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!

I don't think Diego even knows he has an email account, but I'm looking forward to when he reads this, because my message, along with the follow-up sent by his mami are meant to encourage him to continue to work hard, and to know, as Jeanette said in her first email to our child, "we've got his back."  We always have.

And we always will.
A more recent shot of Diego Fuchs, class of 2021.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Beginning with 'THE END': The Birth of a Manuscript

"THE END," my son Diego said, and I typed the words, thus finishing his first official manuscript, a short story entitled ALIEN!!!!!!!!!!!  Without getting into too much detail, it's something he wrote for his Language Arts class at Ridgeview Middle School, and it tells the tale of a man named Brian who encounters an alien, Dexter.  It is a cautionary story about what happens when one takes something that belongs to someone else without asking.  I had agreed to be his "scribe," and to type as he told it.  

The story is maybe 500 words in length or so -- about a page and a half long.  The length is irrelevant, however, as is the subject matter, really.  What struck me most in this experience was that moment of completion.  It took a while to get there, yes, as I had to remind Diego at times to slow down and let the story unravel.  He couldn't wait for the "then-the-alien-appeared" moment, and I had to convince him to set the stage -- to describe the place, and put the reader there, so that when it came, that point in the story would be even more powerful.  He bore with me and added the odd detail here and there, and I think he got it when I hit him with my old writing teacher mantra:  "Show, don't tell."

"Can I staple it together?" Diego asked excitedly, as the three pages, including the cover, above, came chugging out of the bowels of our printer.  

"Go for it," I said.

His eyes appeared brighter than I'd seen them in a while, and he had that half smile that told me he was happy but didn't want to let on.  And then it hit me.  I knew what he was experiencing, because I've been there myself.  In the old days, it happened after you yanked that final page out of the typewriter, with a winsome shriek of the roller, and you placed it underneath all those other pages you'd written, with the cover page on top, your byline nicely centered underneath the capitalized title.  You banged that stapler, or clipped that paper clip, or punched those three holes, or however you bound your finished product.  

And then you held it lightly on your fingertips, and you felt the heft of your work.  

I witnessed that moment when my 11 year-old son felt that wondrous feeling for the very first time, and said to me quickly, as though almost hoping I'd miss it, "That was fun."  Of course I have to tell myself to calm down and not make too much of this.  This doesn't necessarily mean he'll become a writer like his old man and his grandparents.  

But who knows?  Maybe it does.  Maybe someday someone will be interviewing him for the New Yorker or the Paris Review and they'll ask him about when he first knew he wanted to be a writer.  And maybe he'll think about it for a moment and then he'll say, "You know, it may have been the moment I held that first completed story in my hands, shortly after writing the words, 'THE END.'"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Random Hill Thoughts

A couple of random thoughts came to me as I ran and (mostly) walked the hills of West Central Austin last week:

I'm a bit like the man who beats his dog on Friday night, then wakes up on Saturday morning and feeds the dog fillet mignon, cooing to him sweetly.  I've got to decide whether I'm going to be good to my body or bad to it.  It's difficult, and pointless really, to do both.

The calico cat was back on her perch atop a utility access box on the corner of West 7th Street and Blanco.  Every time I came around that corner, panting and sweating, that cat looked at me with what I perceived to be a smirk.  It was almost as if she were shaking her head, thinking, "God, what fools these humans are.  Look at this one, running.  On purpose, and with no dog chasing behind him."

Another thought, while driving home.

Sunrise on MoPac 

Sometimes, sailing through the 
nascent landscape, as violet
night gives way to fiery morn, 
I shake my head at the sight 
of so many others, just
like me, their headlights tearing
bright shards in the window of
the day.  I'm that time
traveller my father imagined,
dropped suddenly into today,
from a time when horses
were the mode.  Unreal,
I think to myself.
Could so much fantasy
have really become so 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ancestor Visitation

Last night as Jackson and I sat across the dinner table from one another, my nine year old decided he was going to draw me.  He then began to look back and forth, from his paper, to me, to his paper, and back to me.

"My mother used to say that to draw well it's necessary to keep your eyes on your subject and off your paper as much as possible."

"Shhh," Jackson said.  "I'm trying to concentrate."

As he concentrated on my face, I felt a giggle start to form.  My brother and I always got the giggles when Mom drew us -- her eyes burning with creativity, love and gin.

"Man, I wish you could have met my mother.  The two of you would have really hit it off."

"I have met her, Daddy.  I'm serious."  He said it so sincerely that I had to stop what I was writing.

"Right here."  He pointed to his heart.  "I see her right here.  All the time."

"You do?" I asked.

"I do," he answered.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

First Kiss

Echoes of the Carole King
record we listened to
earlier that night fill
the silence in my head,
as I reach my hand
across the darkness toward you.

Impulsively, I have flicked off
the light switch in that
funny little outbuilding your
grandfather built to house
a ping pong table.

Now, in the still blackness of
this mild summer evening,
we're not playing ping pong.
As your mouth raises up to
meet mine, I breathe in the
exquisite aroma of your breath.

Time stops for those
few moments, and NOW I
understand.  Now, in
this most pristine of
moments, I know why
it is that whole
nation-states have risen
and fallen for this
thing called love.