The dog days of Dec., after Christmas, before New Year’s, time to reflect and for those who love top ten best lists, time to compile. I have not read enough 2018 books to make a list (although I would choose “An American Marriage” as my book of the year). I have been in a movie theater twice and enjoyed “Bohemian Rhapsody” enough to not want to review it and enjoyed “Green Book” so much that I have written about it.
So, I will avoid the pitfalls of compiling best lists and simply reflect on the year. I am too old to have a mid-life crisis but did experience a life-changing event, retirement after nearly four decades of teaching English. Retirement happened slowly and suddenly. I had vaguely thought of retiring in June of 2019, going out with a wonderful group of graduating seniors. The Santa Rosa fire triggered some serious consideration and one day, as I was walking home from school I decided to retire in June 2018.
After I announced this plan to my wife, I began to take down thirty years of posters and other decorations in my classroom. Eight months later, the walls were bare, the students were informed and the teacher was prepared. For what?
On June 1, I delivered the teacher speech at graduation. The next two days teachers and former students celebrated my career. On Mon., June 3, my former play director, told me that my twelve-year hiatus from community theater terminated with my teacher retirement. I spent the next weeks preparing for my two roles in “The Two Gentleman of Verona.” I also worked on a political campaign from the spring through Nov. 6.
In Sept. “Community Voice” CEO and owner, Yatin Shah, spoke with me about joining his writing team. After a week’s pondering, I told Shah that I could not possibly write because I was extremely politically biased about an upcoming election. Shah and Irene Hilsendager told me that I would not be writing about the election but rather doing reviews and other items of community interest.
Which brings me to my scrapbook. In three months, I have placed twenty-five articles, including two about the election. The first page shows a picture of my wife, Janet and me holding candidate signs in front of Hahn Elementary School. The second page contains my scathing (and last) letter to the editor regarding school district leadership. The other twenty-three articles cover community and theater.
In fact, my very first article, called “Community Makers”, reflects on two Community Voice writers, Jud Snyder and Ann Rasmussen. A second article about Jud Snyder appeared in early Dec. describing one of his pen-and-ink drawings that hangs in my office. I plan to write more about Jud in the future.
Reviewing nine productions of plays, musicals, or ballets with my wife has been a great perk. Not only have the shows all been very well done but also the fun sharing ideas and commentaries has been enriching.
Interviewing local talent has proved rewarding, also. Four interviews of four very different types of people from an award-winning artist to a Grammy nominated singer to a beloved teacher and activity director to a professional clown have created original and interesting experiences for me.
However, my favorite assignments have naturally been connected with the local schools. This month I saw fourth graders harness the wind as they presented their windmill project. In Nov., I watched marvelous dancing, singing and acting in the Lawrence Jones’ production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.” The month before Credo students presented “The Aretha Franklin Reprisal.” I have interviewed Rancho Cotate High School Principal Louis Ganzler about the Freshman Foundations program aimed at supporting nine grade transitions. Band Director Tim Decker explained to me, in another interview, about how the band and its supporters raise money so that it can appear in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Washington D.C. and Disneyland.
Better than keeping a diary, this scrapbook may prove that life really does begin at age seventy-two. The last item in my scrapbook, a picture of “The Community Voice” Staff, affirms that I have made the transition from teacher to cub reporter and that it is a joy to be a part of another team.