Six weeks since my last post? Wow. I’ve been bad.
And honestly a lot has happened since March 28th.
I took a student group to the national journalism convention in San Francisco April 12-15, sponsored by the National Student Press Association and Journalism Education Association. I’ve been pleased to attend their conventions for each of the past eleven years as a newspaper adviser, and now also as a yearbook adviser. Gave up four days of my spring break to do this.
Last week I learned my newspaper class is no more. Simply didn’t have the enrollment to justify a class of seven when the district informed every school to be prepared for classes of 38. No newspaper class, means the newspaper takes on a very diminished role as some kind of club. No printed paper. There will be lots to do to make it work. I’ll still have the yearbook and a load of American Studies classes, with students probably hung from the rafters of my very small room. But, so be it.
I’m bummed. I offered a model I thought would work, that is working in other schools. No luck. Call it the state of our time, call it bureaucratic indifference. It is what it is. I began as a newspaper adviser 11 years ago. It is the part of my career I most deeply identify with, and now its gone. It’s been a tough ten days or so.
The loss of the paper coincides with a decision Lorri and I made together that I’ll retire at the end of 2019. I’ll be 64 that summer. I’ll have taught 36 years. It’s a long time, and it’s taking its toll on me. After my cancer scare a few years ago, we realized that some things are important, and retiring with health intact is one of them. I don’t know what I’ll be doing with my time, but I’ve had lots of ideas, and some suggestions. We’ll just have to figure it out. Something like 210 school days left until that magical event.
The decision to stop working has had an impact on our planning, and hence spending. The big priority is to be debt free, or as close to debt-free as possible when the big day happens. Though I officially wrap up my work at ER in June of 2019, I’ll continue collecting a check until September, so we’ve put together a plan to whack things back. It’s not that we don’t make plenty, we just spend more than we should, and now things have to change. Now I have to take seriously promises to myself to buy fewer records, miniatures and meals out.
That doesn’t mean I can’t buy anything, and in fact I’ve picked up some interesting albums. I just need to be more planful.
In my last post I mentioned my interest in adding some albums by Eric Clapton, The Band and an Van Morrison. I’ve pretty much focused on the latter for now. My choices haven’t been random. I began with a copy of 1971’s Tupelo Honey, which I enjoy, and set out to pick up the records in his 1968-74 period, which is truly energetic and innovative, a total of eight albums over the six year period.
I am familiar with Moondance. I had it on CD and it’s a really special record. The title track, “And it Stoned Me,” “Into the Mystic,” “Crazy Love,” all such great songs. I wasn’t in hurry to pick up Moondance. I knew that record.
So I shot for Astral Weeks instead. Astral Weeks which has gotten universal praise for its confessional mystic quality. I’ve listened to this record several times. I like it, but it certainly didn’t help me see god. I find fault in myself rather than the record or the reviews. I’m often not a good listener, distracting myself with many other activities as the music plays. Astral demands close listening.
Even so, for whatever reason, Astral doesn’t stay with me the way Jackson Browne’s first solo record does with its powerful collection of reflective, evocative ballads. Perhaps it’s the melodic fluidity of Morrison’s songs that I can’t quite get my arms around, and it’s the structure of Moondance’s songs that make it so accessible. I’ve picked up four of Morrison’s records in addition to Tupelo Honey. I’ve picked up Astral Weeks, Moondance, His Band and Street Choir, and Saint Dominic’s Preview.
Astral Weeks also plays into a new examination of the Boston music scene of 1968. Ryan Walsh’s Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968, begins with an examination of Van Morrison’s stay in Boston, his recording of Astral Weeks and his record contract with Bang Records and the mob. But it’s really a look at the counter-culture in Boston. Lots of energy is devoted to Mel Lyman’s commune in the North Fort Community. A bit about The Velvet Underground’s move to Boston. More about the Boss-Town sound.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is that Astral Weeks the book, is about as interesting as Astral Weeks the record. Good, but not great. Appeal limited mostly to those interested in Boston in the late 60’s. Anyone who compares Boston to San Francisco and the West Coast at the same time needs to get out more.
More to come