The Southern Male and His Truck Sunday, Feb 27 2011 

This 2011 Toyota Tundra moved into the garage Saturday morning after successful negotiations at Courvelle Toyota in Opelousas, LA

I am a product of the Deep South.  As much as I resist, and in some cases resent, the red neck stereotypes and good ol’ boy labels, this culture forms many aspects of me.

So, in response to my old pickup growing ten years old and showing signs of frailty, I bought a new truck this weekend.

Not that I need a truck all that much.  I mainly drive .8 miles from home to work, .8 miles from work to home.   Hauling takes place every other month or two at the most.

But a southern guy just doesn’t drive a sedan–that’s not cool, that’s not “southern masculine.”

Sarah observed quite accurately this evening that I seem to be more pleased with this truck than the previous ones (This is my fourth pickup).  The extra pleasure derives, no doubt, from the extra size of the Tundra double cab: More room for granddaughter Payton “Elizabuff” and friends!

 

To All the Girls I Never Loved Before–For my girl Sarah! Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

The girl of my dreams: And she married me!! (and has remained so lo these many years!)

When I taught Shakespeare as a high school teacher years ago, I dabbled in the Elizabethan form.  Here’s a sonnet to wife Sarah from that era  . . .

“To All the Girls I Never Loved Before”

November 1994

Yet still ablaze, passion’s glowing ember,

Diminished not by rude, mid-life season,

Oft prompts recall, fair dames remembered,

Who loved me never, whate’er their reason.

In misty, vaporous scenes imagined,

Behold their damsel smiles and lusty lips!

And yet more, my troubled ‘membrance chagrined,

Those sassy flashes of lithe, narrow hips!

But still can these alluring charms compare

To that young maiden claimed with nuptial oath?

Her midnight eyes and girlish figure rare

Still teach my manly pow’rs to counsel truth!

So to ye cold flames from dark yesteryear,

You’ll ne’er have chance to Sarah Ann compare!

 

 

 

Setting the table for Inquiry: Where I find myself a year after Deep Water Horizon Sunday, Feb 20 2011 

Daddy's final resting place: The value of remembrance.

The following piece was recently posted at the educational website Voices on the Gulf where my English 1oo2 class is taking part in a community of teachers and students responding to the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill.

Before last summer, I never imagined that I would see the worst, most ghastly environmental disaster in history take place in off-shore Louisiana, not far from where I grew up and very near to the area in the Gulf where I worked in the 1980’s as an oilfield mud engineer working on rigs near the mouth of the Mississippi River.  The disaster that began last April and lasted most of the summer seemed like a nightmare that would only have happened in a third world country, maybe a Middle Eastern country, where nations don’t share America’s values for the environment or industrial safety.  But alas, there the fractured wellhead lay on the ocean floor, billowing millions of barrells of oil in frantic effusion from the bowels of the earth, day after day, week after week, month after month, ad nauseum.

Since the disaster was so unimaginable and unthinkable before it happened, in the aftermath students in my class last semester engaged in conversations about about how one deals with the unimaginable and the unthinkable.  We agreed it’s a meaningful exercise to pause and look around us, to identify people and places and things that we would hate to lose by carelessly overlooking the possibility that the unimaginable or unthinkable might happen.  By that process, students identified significant issues and personal concerns that led to questions that led to research that led to very rich and rewarding findings.  The students worked with passion on their I-Search projects because their topics were personal and significant.

If I were to approach this assignment this semester, I’d look at where I am now. I recently suffered loss.  My dad passed away just a few weeks ago after a bitter struggle with Alzheimer’s.  We buried him on a cemetery hill overlooking a country church, the New Zion Church in rural St. Tammany Parish north of Covington, Louisiana, a church that he pastored when I was a young boy growing up. His burial plot overlooks the church grounds where my brothers and sisters played, the old church builiding that he helped build with his own hands, and the pasture where Daisy the family milk-cow grazed.  Though the family moved away years ago, New Zion has always been a special place, rich with childhood lore.  But returning there for the funeral and burial awakened deep, sentimental feelings for that place.  And, now that Daddy’s granite headstone will be planted on that hill as long as civilization lasts, and Mama’s alongside since she will have a place next to him when she bids us farewell sometime later,  the marker will stand as a family Beth-el, a monument reminding us to remember our roots, the character of the people in that community who shaped us as kids, and especially our good parents who cared more about our happiness and success than anyone else ever has since.

So a year after Deep Water Horizon and its myriad lessons, as I consider life and important things I’ve overlooked or taken for granted, here’s to remembering Daddy, to remembering New Zion Church, and to remembering that so much of who we are depends so much on places we’ve been.  May we guard remembrance!

The National Writing Project Reviewers Creed Monday, Feb 14 2011 

I drafted this piece on the flight home from San Francisco Sunday afternoon after working for two and a half days reviewing Site minigrant applications for the National Writing Project’s special focus networks.  My thoughts were inspired by the collegiality of 100 or so bright and creative teachers and NWP site leaders from around the country who invested their weekend in selfless, meaningful work.

The NWP Reviewer’s Creed

By David Pulling (February 2011) 

We are drafters and crafters, readers and writers, planners and thinkers, converging at times to judge, consider, bless, and encourage the work of peers given for review. 

We received marching orders in the opening session at the Berkeley City Club in Berkeley, California, last Friday morning.

We are stewards of brainstorms, the taxpayers’ dollar, teamwork and collaboration, and time on task.

We are creative, incisive, judicious, and fair, but mostly earnest believers in the work of teachers and learners.

We are colleagues, diverse as the nation that nurtures us, but unified in humanity, civility, love for life, and utter friendship.

So at the end of hard days together we part, jetting off in countless directions of home, happy soon to embrace loved ones who kept home home while we served the public good, but happy too that we did well, that we made a difference, that the craft of teaching and learning is better because we gathered, that some school child or teacher somewhere we don’t know, someone we’ll never meet, may be touched, awed–even saved–by plans and ideas that touched our hands, our minds, and our hearts in this season of work.

Nice to go, Better to go home! Sunday, Feb 13 2011 

National Writing Project business leads me to distant, often exotic places, 3-4 times per year. Thus this evening I find myself in Berkeley, California, a block away from U. Of California in the fabled land of former hippiedom.

And the weather is gorgeous. So is the scenery, with the hills towering above the campus and the distant view of the Bay below. Back home, hard freeze warnings contrast with the temperate air of the Bay Area.

No matter how exotic and fair, though, I’m always pleased to print out boarding passes for tomorrow, knowing home is just a couple of connections to go.

Papaw’s Pulling Girls: Ann and Autumn Tuesday, Feb 8 2011 

Papaw is obviously delighted with the attention of the latter generation of Pulling girls, even if he couldn't recall their names.

In spite of the return to the “routine” at home and work since Daddy’s passing, I continue to find myself overcome with periodic feelings of emptiness as I realize he’s gone.  Not that I want him here in the condition he was: Those final months, even the final years, were unpleasant, as we prayed for his release.  And we’re eternally grateful that he’s finally delivered.

But nonetheless, in idle and random moments, I reflect and remember.  This evening, scrolling through the photos on the iPad, I came across my family’s last visit to the nursing home right after Christmas.  That day must have been one of his final “happy times” as he responded with obvious joy to the attention of grandchildren and great-grandchild.  He probably didn’t understand exactly who they were, but he sensed they were special to him.

This evening, looking through those pictures of him smiling in delight with his various loved ones on that occasion, I was particularly pleased with the one here, with his granddaughter and his granddaughter-in-law: Daddy was always partial to his girls, and even in these latter days when who knows what sense he made of who Autumn and Ann were.  Somehow he realized these girls were special, and his delight is apparent.

Strokeburgers at Checkers, Anyone? Sunday, Feb 6 2011 

"I'll have a cheesburger and chili, and a stroke on the side."

The Acadiana Stroke Center on one side, Checkers seventy-nine cent artery clogging options on the other.

Hats off to the ad man for this example of what I call billboard poetry:  unintentionally poetic, but poetic nonetheless, by the ironic effect of juxtaposing words and images.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you have a stroke, but be merry anyway, because the Stroke Center’s got your back!

Wintery Weatherness: In the pink? Wednesday, Feb 2 2011 

The weather channel graphic plots us smack in the middle of the pink: A rare occurrence along the Gulf!

Anticipation of weather events is exhiliarating.  Like hurricanes, for example.  But waiting for a powerful hurricane to arrive is unduly stressful.  Stress mingled with exhiliaration?  Our nerves can’t handle such.

But how about an ice storm?  Those are rare in these parts.  We can live with a little ice, assuming the severity and intensity stays within the bounds of moderation.  Exhiliaration over ice anticipation is totally manageable and stress-free.  Even if the power goes out for a while,  the fire place and the generator make life bearable, as long as the situation doesn’t drag on for more than a few hours.

So as exhiliaration sets in,  we wait to see what the clouds will shed tomorrow. 

Contemplating the possibility of a winter wonderland, here’s to the prospect of a weather day or two off!  We’ll see what happens.