Small Town

Well I was born in a small town And I live in a small town Prob’ly die in a small town Oh, those small – communities. John Mellencamp “Small Town”

A cool song. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. As an adult, I moved to New York – Brooklyn to be exact. I lived in Brooklyn for more than 4 years. From there, I lived in Manhattan for the same amount of time. I then spent a little over two years in the Bronx.
Besides being a bit of vagabond, you’ll note there is no small town in my past. So, unless you count my time at my college (State College, PA – the main campus of Pennsylvania State University), I am as big city as you can get. Well, that is until my family, and I made our way out to the suburbs of North Jersey nearly six years ago.

THE MOVE

I couldn’t take it at first – the suburbs, that is. I don’t like mowing the lawn (http://larrydbernstein.com/sort-of-green/), and I like noise, and thrive on activity. Yet, I’ve adjusted. There is peace and quiet and space. I love the space. So even though a part of me will always miss the city – Manhattan in particular – I am okay here in the burbs.
There is a sense of community in a small town. When I think of small towns, I think of familiarity. When I lived in the various boroughs of New York City, I was in high rises (some were higher than others), and I would see the same people coming in and out of the building. Yet, I knew very few if any of them. We shared hallways but not lives.
It’s not like that here in the suburbs. Now, it’s not like I know everyone, and we get together for brunch once a month on a rotating basis. Still, you can’t help but see people around whether it’s at the bagel store, the dry cleaner, the bank, or the town pool. At one point in my life, I probably would not have cared about this or even found it suffocating. Now, there is something about it that I find nice, decent, and comforting. It’s as if because of our proximity, we are bound together on some level.

OUR TOWN ACTIVITIES

Our town does some nice things to foster this sense of community. There is a Memorial Day Parade. The fire engines, police cars, EMTs, local servicemen, and high school march. You can watch the whole parade in less than an hour. There is nothing cool about it. But we’ve gone multiple times and enjoy it every time. We get to see and appreciate those who support our community.
Yesterday we attended a carnival at the local public school. The carnival was simple – none of the rides is about to make its way to Six Flags. We were there only a short while, but the boys had a lot of fun. They went on some rides, ate some popcorn, and drank some Coca Cola. We saw past and present classmates of SJ (who attends the school). Also, my wife volunteered to work at one of the booths. The tickets and snacks were pricey. But we didn’t complain. After all, the purpose of the carnival was to raise money for our local schools.

My wife hard at work at the booth and dealing with two clowns.

My wife hard at work at the booth and dealing with two clowns.

SJ & BR - two swingers

SJ & BR – two swingers

The boys and I enjoying the fair.

The boys and I enjoying the fair.

This big city guy is content. “It’s good enough for me.”

Want To Be There

“Okay, fine, good.” These are the answers I get when I ask my children about school. None of the responses – including the good – go along with enthusiasm. When I ask for more details, it is as if the children were trained by the CIA and refuse to give out information. However, there are those rare days when the children are excited about their school day. Those are great days, and I love to share their enthusiasm. SJ had just such a day on Monday.
I work 5 days a week. I am out of the house by 6 A.M. and return at approximately 4:45 (work often continues after the children are asleep). My wife works five days a week. For three of those days, she is in the city. She leaves just after she drops SJ off for school and returns home by 7 P.M. The two days she works from home she is expected to be working her standard eight hours.
I am thankful that we are both employed and have managed to stay so throughout the recession and the tepid recovery. We have not had to fret over bills (though I occasionally forget) and have not had our salaries reduced.  We have been fortunate. No complaints despite the long hours. That’s life, and we accept it.
When SJ gets excited, it is hard to understand what he is saying. He talks fast, and his details are all over the place. Yet, on Monday he was very clear. He was happily rambling on about a Thanksgiving Festival his school was going to be having. SJ informed me that BR, my wife, my mother, and I were all invited and there was room for everyone. He would be singing songs. There would be food for everyone. The details kept spilling out of the smile that was his mouth.
He was thrilled, so I was excited. Of course, I would go to see this grand performance. “When is it?” He had no idea.
“Come on daddy. Let’s look at the note in my back pack. They sent a note home for you.” He hurried down to the kitchen, opened his back pack, took out the note and gave it to me. He instructed, “Read it.”
I read the note and was sickened. The big event was on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at 1:30.  Why? Why do they make these events, psyche the kids up, and then schedule them during the workday? Of course, the notice mentioned how we must reserve as the event has been a tremendous success in the past with many family members attending. How can they attend, I wondered? Don’t they have jobs, daily responsibilities?
I’m sure all of the parents have daily responsibilities. However, many find a way to fit this event into their schedule. But I can’t. I can’t go. I feel guilty. I feel like crap. I have a limited amount of days I can take off of work – like everyone else – and have used some already. My wife does not know if she can make it either as she is in the office on Tuesdays. Lastly, we don’t want to pull my other son out of school to attend. My mother, however, will be attending. Thankfully, she is retired and enjoys attending the children’s events.
So, SJ will have representation. Despite this, I am angry about being put in this situation. As a father and educator, I am thrilled to see my son excited about something at school. I am glad the school has gone to this effort which is motivating students (well, at least one). It is no one’s fault.
Sometimes, it really would be nice to be in two places at one time!

Reject Me!!!

Sometimes in life we face rejection. I know positive-thinking types might say something like, “Well, you learn as much as or more from your failures as you do from your successes.” They may have a point. However, rejection still sucks. Yet, I crave rejection.

A few years ago, I initiated the YOC. YOC stands for year of communication. I was tired of the irony that–despite the incredible ease and multiple outlets for communication–people seem worse at communicating. One of my very few type A personality traits is returning calls/emails/texts etc. expediently. I don’t accept someone saying I was too busy to get back to you. Do you know anyone who is not busy these days? Okay, there may be a couple, but you know what I mean. There is always time for a two-line email or an 8-word text. “Crazy busy over here. Talk to you soon.” I am perfectly content with that type of rejection. So, go ahead friends/family – reject me.

There was a point that I was considering switching schools. Fortunately, I was able to get some interviews. Unfortunately, none of the interviews materialized into jobs. It’s okay. That’s life. I can move on. Really, I can. But something about the process pissed me off. I took time out of my schedule to prepare myself, come to you, answer your questions, and send you a thank you. Is it too much to expect a rejection letter? Tell me no thanks, good luck, and see you never. Yeah, I can easily get over the lack of communication, but it’s not cool dude. Not cool. Just reject me.

One of my goals this summer was to send off some of my work in the hopes of getting it published. I did have a touch of success and a couple of misses (including one where the publication simply publishes the winners without letting the rest of us know we were not chosen). The rest of my submissions – to quote the band Genesis – “No Reply at All.” Now, some (hopefully all) will be contacting me shortly to let me know that they received my submission. The editors will tell me my work blew them way. Ok, maybe not. I can handle it. A writer with thick skin (well, at least not reed thin) – can you believe it? Anyway, reject me.

I feel better now that I have gotten this off of my chest. In fact, I am ready to scream reject me. Just don’t ignore me.