Update From Joshua Tree National Park

View from the front porch of my cabin.

View from the front porch of my cabin. The Lost Horse Wall is half a mile away.

As the writer-in-residence the past three days in Joshua Tree National Park, I’ve revised 72 pages on my novel, written parts of three poems, worked on a new story, and read for hours and hours.

Off-the-grid cabins, in the back-country, up a service road, past a gate, are sort kinda a little bit quiet. Who would’ve thought?

What else have I done?

Bouldered 10 routes.

Rock Climbed 5 pitches.

Stared at the stars.

Watched the sunrise over the Lost Horse Wall.

Researched flora and fauna.

Explored to the summits of three domes near my cabin.

Hiked and ran 9 miles.

Watched a black lizard sun himself on a rock on my back patio.

Followed a coyote as he yipped and jogged up an arroyo.

Stood still as two jackrabbits chased each other through the underbrush.

Nudged a yellow and brown centipede as it crossed the road.

Joshua Tree National Parks Writer-In-Residence

I’m really grateful to have been selected for a short-term artist’s residency in Joshua Tree National Park starting at the end of this week. Time to read and write and think in an off-the-grid cabin, plus there might be a little bit of gorgeous nature surrounding me.

I have a novel deadline with Knopf, and this is the perfect opportunity to finish my revisions.

Click here for pics of the writer’s cabin.

Thank you to Caryn Davidson and Meg Foley for hosting me in the park.

Dear Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, and Dead People – A Poetic Response To The Grammys

Sam Smith got up in his red suit and pronounced that we should all be ourselves, so here’s me, writing poems about the Grammys.

 

Stream of Consciousness To The Greatest Of All Time, Kanye West:

Dear Kanye, my grandmother used to repeat the old proverb “Better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt” but your mouth keeps opening somehow a jaw unhinging like a sorority girl vomiting into a Delta toilet at the end of the night your words so repetitive as you flirt with an upside down spotlight which would be a good metaphor for whatever it is that you think you do if only you wrote metaphors or even understood them instead of purely literal lyrics and not rhyming at all in this song that you’re so proud of writing all by yourself like a big kid.

But at least you auto-tuned the whole thing live.

 

Note To Miley Cyrus From The Wrecking Ball:

All I wanted was a year of bashing buildings,

swinging from cranes on enormous steel lines, smashing through

walls, bricks, maybe a few 1960s apartment buildings.

But you brought me into your studio,

skidged yourself on top of me like

a sea cucumber slit open by a fixed blade, the

wet suck, something I will not get over for a long time.

They say that Robin Thicke pedophiled you on national TV last year, but

you may as well have offered me candy and puppies as I was loaded

heavy into your van, the naked wet of your vehicle and now

you’re a finalist for Best Pop Vocal Album of the year?

 

Haiku On Old-School Performances:

McCartney, Hancock

and Madonna? Why are we

exhuming the dead?

 

Kim Kardashian On The Red Carpet, A Cinquain:

Kim,

not musical,

batting eyelashes, turning

in your golden bathrobe,

unskilled.

 

To The Red Carpet Itself:

How did you get this job, not green or blue but

Purple is a royal color and could be the carpet of choice

for stars to stumble across, bubbly and buzzing from limo shots,

or almost stars to walk upon and hope for interviews, cameras, microphones,

anything to reflect their own images.

If you want to catch a raccoon, drive 2.5-inch nails, angled down, into a coffee can

and place something shiny in the bottom: A silver dollar, a bracelet, a small mirror.

The raccoon, masked and striped as if he’s dressed up for a special occasion

will insert his hand, grasp the sparking object, and won’t let go,

even after he discovers that he can’t remove his closed fist from the trap.

Never will he relinquish the shiny piece of something that he is holding

even if he realizes that he has been caught in the open, exposed, looking like a fool.

 

(Thanks to Gavin Marsonette for some inspiration. Hashtag.)

 

7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

After receiving a particularly fear-mongering “Safe Schools” e-newsletter this morning…

And after thinking about how difficult it is to be me…

What a rough life I have…

How much of a victim I am…

And how few things are just handed to me…

I decided to post this very serious essay:

7 Reasons Not To Teach High School

By Peter Brown Hoffmeister

 

I didn’t particularly love high school. No one does, of course, except for that one really annoying popular rich kid who, when speaking at graduation, spews some garbage about the best four years of his life or how prom night changed his life forever.

But for the rest of us, for the normal people, the real people of the world, high school is something we suffer through so we can get on with our lives. On to better years, college years in which we choose what we want to study. Then come careers that we’re passionate about. Family life. Traveling. Maybe a few amazing outdoor adventures.

Most of us don’t choose to repeat high school. But for some reason, a few masochists decide to return to high school, not as students, but as teachers. None of us know why we do this. It’s probably some combination of the following equation:

 

Zero Talent + Social Activism + A College Degree In Absolutely Anything =

MAYBE I SHOULD BE A TEACHER!

 

I had all of the elements of this equation, and after thirteen years as a teacher (less than halfway to a 30-year pension), I’ve realized that teaching high school is actually sentencing myself to an eternity of high school. Other people graduate in 4 years, but I’ve been in high school for 17.

There are countless reasons I shouldn’t have been a teacher, but here are 7 reasons why no one should ever teach high school.

 

  1. School Shooters

High schools are dangerous. You don’t believe me? Watch a little Fox News. According to the diligent and honest reporters at that network, schools are shot up all the time. Going into a U.S. high school is like being a Jew in Syria, like challenging a warlord to a machete fight in Central Africa, or picking an armload of poppies in a field in Afghanistan.

Since Sandy Hook, something like 57,997 schools have been shot up in the United States.

Students bring weapons to school all the time, hide pistols and AR-15s in their lockers. Axes and knives and 9 millimeters and semi-automatic .22 long rifles.

Most boys in trench coats are hiding Mossberg shotguns underneath those coats.

And the average high school boy will kill a teacher given the right combination of autism and access to firearms. That’s a fact.

 

  1. No One Respects a Teacher

Be honest. Does any kid say, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up.” No. That’s stupid.

Kids want to be doctors or firemen or astronauts or soldiers. They want to be heroes, not jokes. Does any kid dream of standing in front of a bored class of 35 people so he can assign some homework? Is that an exciting future to aspire to?

And – be honest now – do you have a single teacher that’s cool enough to start a pop band or be the star of a reality television series on the Discovery Channel?

Clearly not. And speaking of TV, are teachers ever asked to be on the Today Show? Are their highlights ever shown on ESPN? Does the Discovery Channel have a show called Teachers Digging for Educational Gold?

Parents only email teachers to complain. Administrators hold meetings to assign more work for teachers. And students never say, “I really wish I could hang out with my teacher this weekend.”

Respect isn’t something granted to teachers. Respect isn’t something that’s going to happen if you choose this line of work.

 

  1. Teachers Work Too Much

It’s so hard to be middle class in America. And middle class means working.

Including grading papers and prep work, the average teacher works 50 to 60 hours a week during the school year. And it is a fact that teaching is the only profession that requires more than 40 hours of work during a workweek. Every other worker in the United States gets to the 40-hour limit on a Friday and just goes home. But not teachers.

Proponents of teaching might argue that teachers have 10 weeks off in the summer, or that they also have spring break and winter break as well. But that argument minimizes the stress of impending teaching. Most teachers spend their entire summers thinking and worrying about the next school year. Even in a hammock in July, a teacher never forgets the horrors of working with high school students. A teacher might be sipping a minty drink on a beach somewhere, but she’s spending every single second thinking about the next lecture she has to deliver.

 

  1. High School Kids Cuss Too Much

A recent study by Harvard University or somewhere else (I’m not really sure where I got this) proved that 100% of cuss-words are spoken by the 13-19 year-old demographic, and high school students are in the very middle of that age-group. As an adult, and having been around other adults, I can honestly say that adults don’t ever use swear words. So, clearly, swear words must only exist as linguistic vehicles for the physically immature.

Although I’ve heard many people argue that high school students can be articulate and witty and engaging and funny, I’ve seen quite a few teen movies (which are probably more accurate). Therefore, a teen is most likely to say something like this: “Fuck yeah. That’s, like, fuckin’ total shit. Just because he’s a douche-bag doesn’t mean I have to do whatever the fuck he wants. Ya know?”

My ears are sometimes literally bleeding when I get home from work.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Addicted To Technology

According to some great source, 96.7% of cell phone use is by high school students. Teens text and scroll and update and “like” all day long. They’re on Twitter and Facebook. Instagram and SnapChat. They don’t put their phones down. They can’t put their phones down.

According to another great source from the internet, most adults don’t even have phones, and only 1.4% of the adult population uses a phone on a daily basis. All Sprint and AT&T ads are geared toward teenagers, and it is scientifically proven that hell on earth is a line at a Verizon store. But where do we find teenagers waiting for new iphones?

Exactly.

 

  1. High School Kids Are Out Of Control

High school kids are physically incapable of listening. Okay, maybe not physically incapable, but they won’t listen. Trust me. They’re too busy drinking and using drugs, fornicating in the hallways and stairwells, planning the next rager at the quarterback’s house.

Some people believe that public displays of affection were developed by the Italians after World War I, but PDA was, in fact, first implemented by U.S. high school sophomores in New York City, and spread school-wide and nation-wide soon after.

Other signs that high school students are out of control:

They wear hip-hoppity shorts and listen to rap bands.

They speak in an ever-changing slew of slang.

They touch each other even if they’re not even dating.

And they won’t give you enough physical space. Ever.

 

  1. High School Students Are Too Demanding

My final point is this. If you teach high school, your students will want you to teach them something EVERY DAY.

They will want to learn something in your class.

High school students won’t just sit there and enjoy being bored.

They won’t take notes with smiles on their faces.

They won’t listen the entire time that you lecture for 70 minutes straight.

And after they’re out sick, they’ll ask you if they can make up quizzes and homework as if it is your job to educate them even though they are the ones who contracted viruses and missed school days.

Redefining What’s Attractive With Pam Houston As Our Guide

My Integrated Outdoor Program students and I were reading Pam Houston’s A Little More About Me, focusing on the essays “The Morality of Fat,” “Out of Habit I Start Apologizing,” “In Pursuit Of What I Don’t Do Well,” and “Redefining Success.”

We talked about how the media wants us to be attracted to people because of physical attributes, but wouldn’t it be excellent if we redefined attractiveness based on skills (beyond the skill of balancing a champagne glass on a certain backside)?

I asked them to list attractive skills (loosely defined), and this is the list they came up with:

IMG_0415

10 Questions After The Ferguson Grand Jury’s Decision

After last night’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri, I have a ten quick questions:

1. If I shoot an unarmed police officer 6 times, does that count as murder?

2. If a black police officer shoots a white teenager, is that murder?

3. Is it possible to shoot a police officer in self-defense?

4. Are those “injuries” on police officer Darren Wilson’s body truly injuries?

5. Why does Wilson look less beat up than I do after playing two-hand touch football with my nephews?

6. If this shooting took place in an Eastern city, would the verdict be any different?

7. Is anyone surprised that the grand jury decided not to indict?

8. Does anyone else feel like this decision was coming for weeks?

9. If a white man goes into a movie theater wearing body armor and carrying an AR-15 rifle, a shotgun, and two .40-caliber pistols, throws tear gas into the crowd, pulls out his guns, starts shooting, kills 12 people, and wounds 58 others, will the police take him alive or will he be shot dead?

10. Oh, do I sound pissed off?

Release of Brendan Leonard’s Funny Shit In The Woods And Other Stories

From the best of Semi-Rad.com, here’s my Amazon review of Brendan Leonard’s book:

“If you like humor, the outdoors, insightful observations, ridiculous confessions, coffee, short stories, intentionally bad drawings, and people who are nearly, kinda, almost, sorta rad, then this is the book for you.”

Click here to see the book.

Leonard is a contributing editor and writer for Climbing Magazine, Adventure Journal, and The Dirtbag Diaries. He enjoys living out of his van in the American West.