This Just In




I thought I’d write and let you know: I’m going to Tokyo and Aomori, Japan, in April 2017 – an amazing opportunity for me, and one for which I’m exceedingly grateful.  I’ll be co-chaperoning a trip from Camden Rockport Middle School with my friend and colleague Ian McKenzie, taking ten 8th graders on a most amazing adventure.

So much to research. So much to do. So much to keep my mind bustling at 3am when I should be sleeping. The excitement of traveling does that to me.  To be fair, everything does that to me these days, that awake at 3am thing, but this, THIS will be a real doozy of a mind-ogling thing to enjoy being awake for.



First, we’ll spend two days in Tokyo.  Then, we’ll hop a train to Aomori, several hours north of the big city.  There, we’ll stay with host families, visit our sister school, and go on quieter adventures such as bowling, eating out and seeing local sites. The real adventure is the full immersion into the language, culture and heritage of this elegant country.  I can hardly wait.

The exchange itself (Japanese students from Aomori for American students from Camden) has been going on for a decade. That’s no small feat in this educational and financial climate. It’s a trip that this little seaside town prioritizes. I’m proud and honored to be a part of it.

Four months before we do our traveling, in January 2017, as we do every January, we’ll host Japanese students here.  We’ll keep them ridiculously busy, fitting in all the grandest, culturally rich experiences we can (along with reticent activities like ice skating, too) – and when we’re there they’ll do the same.  It’s a stunning show of global communication, education, acceptance and love. It’s one of my favorite things about my school.


View of Aomori from Aomori Bay

Guy and Garrett went to Japan in 2012.  They went to Fukuoka and Hiroshima, in southern Japan – an entirely different focus and experience: the equivalent of visiting Texas and comparing it to Maine.

How about any of you?  Have you been to Tokyo and/or Aomori?  What can you tell me?





These ARE My Monkeys


And this is a smiling cow.

I was in downtown Camden last week on a field trip with ten students who were taking photographs of their town for an upcoming project.  They were electric with energy for the work they were doing, namely, in this moment, capturing colorful and creative artful window displays.  I, too, was mesmerized by and consumed with what we were doing.

A gray-haired woman stopped me on the sidewalk in front of The Smiling Cow by touching my forearm with her fingers and leaning in for some serious eye contact. “You’re a teacher,” she stated, a southern drawl playing on her tongue.  I nodded an affirmation and, with tilted head smiled a tad.  Before I could speak: “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not you,” she said loudly.  “I taught for thirty years, and I just said to my husband, I said, Thomas, I am just so glad I’m not her.”

“She did,” a man standing behind me said. I hadn’t noticed him. I hadn’t noticed her, for that matter, until she’d grabbed my arm.  I looked from him, to her, confusion rising up in the lines of my forehead – the ones deepening every year.

“Well,” I offered without condescension, “you’re good. You’re not me.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“Yes, indeed,” she said, enunciating words.  “I just said to Thomas, THOMAS THIS IS NOT MY CIRCUS AND THOSE ARE NOT MY MONKEYS.” She let go of my arm, reached around me, took Thomas’ wrist, and pulled him around me to stand with her.  The bright sun shone in my face.  “Were you a teacher?” I asked, knowing the answer.

“Yes, ma’am, I was,” she said.  “I taught the fifth grade for thirty years.  Same classroom!  Same desk! And when I retired, I said to myself, I will never do this again, not for a single day!”  To my silent half-smile, she continued, “And I haven’t!”

“Okay,” I said.  I glanced at my students, who meandered away from this couple, still at work, paying no attention to this stranger hell bent on convincing me of the righteousness of her retirement, I guess. I wished her a good day.  But she wasn’t quite finished.  She took my forearm again, and on the opposite side of me from where Thomas stood, she leaned in for an intimate whisper:  “I only say that for Thomas’ sake!” she breathed, “but I’ve missed teaching every day the past two years. Thomas thinks I don’t like spending all this time with him, but I do.  But I miss my kids something awful!” And then, as she stood straight again, she winked at me, then nodded at my students, put her arm around Thomas’ waist, and walked the opposite direction down the sidewalk.

And every day since, I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I love fall – the start of my work with a whole new class, 79 students this year – and all their delightful teenagerness.  Sigh.  How lucky I am to do what I do, where I do, and for all the reasons I do.  Life is good today.




On Friday night my family went to a rainy and chilly football game at our local high school.  I wanted to do that about as much as I want to sit in a room with Donald Trump, or see his photograph or hear his voice – or have his campaign label Hillary Clinton a liar while nearly every word that comes out of his mouth isn’t remotely close to truthy, let alone the truth.  I’m getting tight in the chest just writing about it now.

And for the record — so don’t send “helpful information” to set me straight on Donald Trump — I don’t want to sit in a room with any political candidate. Not one. I’m tired of their names. I’m tired of their voices. I’m tired of their bullshit and their games and their bullshit games.  But mostly, I’m tired of the effort of being sold the “fact” that America isn’t already a pretty damn good country.  A thriving democracy.  (And no, I don’t live under a rock. I know things are a fucking mess for all kinds of people, across the board, in all facets.) But my god.  Have we forgotten that the right to voice our dissent, to send a letter, to write a blog, to stand up, to speak up, to write down, to criticize…these rights do not exist in all places.  That our right to disagree makes us stronger, better and keeps us moving forward?

We seem to have arrived at a place of expecting and taking for granted these rights, and that is a thorough shame.

Now I don’t care if you agree with me, and I don’t care if you don’t.  All I have is my one vote, and all you have is yours.  Well, my vote and this blog, where I have the privilege, and still the right, to think through how I really feel about things.  I’m not here to convince you of anything at all. That’s the beauty of art. The beauty and the blade, of course, as some of you are itching to respond in disagreement.  I urge you not to bother. I didn’t come here to incite you.

So back to Friday. On the way home from work, I told myself I’d turn off NPR at the first political mention.  It was thirty seconds. I rode home in silence.

When my family had left for the game, after a high energy dinner and making sure everyone was wearing enough layers to not freeze to death, I sat in my favorite chair and turned on Netflix, wanting to just escape.  I didn’t want to think about anything at all. And I don’t watch television normally – I don’t follow any shows – but sometimes Netflix is enticing and helps me get out of my own head for awhile.

I watched an excellent comedy show called Bo Burnham What.  He’s good.  For over an hour I listened and laughed. So I’d like to say here that if you’re needing the same – a get out of your head without the use of substances card – take a look. He has other specials, too, including Words, Words, Words and Make Happy.  But don’t watch if you’re offended by swearing – you’ll certainly be offended.

Here’s one of my favorite clips.

That’s all.

I’m going to go walk my dog along the river and think about my dog and the river, and nothing else.  I hope.