Friday, March 13, 2009

Another Clever Idea from a Dunce.

New Platform Signs at Fernwood on the Moor.

The International Train Station at Fernwood on the Moor had a problem with crowds pushing forward to get the best seats on The Coastal Express. The Station Master knew it was a matter of time before someone got hurt. He ordered the placement of new signs along the platform. His new approach did the trick by adding a touch of humor to the warning. Problems with platform encroachment have declined significantly. Just another example of creative thinking here in The Confederacy of Dunces.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bernie Bumble, Award Winning Crossing Guard

Bernie Bumble with his New Stop Sign and Police Whistle which he Gladly Blows on Demand.

Bernie Bumble helps children cross the street on their way to school. This has been his passion for the past twelve years - a passion recently rewarded with the nearly prestigious ‘Crossing Guard of the Year Award’ given by Cloverdale’s Police Department.

Bernie and his wife Della Bumble, Ticket Agent at Cloverdale's Train Station (see the post on The Coastal Express) attended the luncheon held in his honor at The Hairy Lemon on the High Street in Cloverdale. Bernie is a regular at The Hairy Lemon Pub. He enjoys the friendly atmosphere, the quaint decor, and the dozen or so lemon inspired drinks offered on the menu.

The Hairy Lemon

Every Tuesday and Saturday Bernie and Della meet their friends at the Hairy Lemon for small talk, drinks, supper and darts. Their Pub Nights start with a lemon daiquiri for Bernie and a lemon sarsaparilla for Della. Bernie usually orders a Shepherd's Pie for his supper. Della enjoys the soup of the day along with a turkey sandwich and chips. Laughter fills the Pub as the night ages, and with the laughter comes music from various local bands brought in by the manager.
“Laughter and Music go hand in hand here at The Hairy Lemon,” says Loren Nape, night manager of the pub and lead singer of The Crows, one of the local groups that perform on stage twice a week. Bernie enjoys The Crows. He says they play a perfect mixture of folk tunes and hits from the big band era. If his knees are agreeable, Bernie and Della will creak our of their chairs and shuffle a jig or two on the dance floor. If Della is in good form she will dance a very believable Jitterbug. Bernie does his best to keep up but sometimes can only stand semi-still and move his hips back and forth. Della dances around him while their friends whistle and holler.

Della cutting the rug at The Hairy Lemon.
Bernie is in the back playing darts.

The evening ends with both doing what they love. Bernie shoots darts and Della and the girls talk and dance with the younger fellas. After a quick night cap they walk home arm in arm like two young lovers on a moon lit night. They are inseparable.

Bernie’s Luncheon was attended by several local dignitaries including the school’s Board of Governors, the Police Chief, and many students that somehow managed to talk their parents out of a day at school. After eating, the small gathering was called to order by the Police Chief. He read a long speech on the qualities and duties of a crossing guard and then correlated those qualities with Bernie, proving the selection committee made the right choice for awarding Bernie ‘Crossing Guard of the Year’.

The luncheon ended with Bernie standing to acknowledge the gathering’s warm applause. Afterwards, he was presented with a golden cup, a gift certificate for a free meal at The Hairy Lemon, a new hand held STOP sign and a new police whistle. Bernie was speechless, so Della stood up and thanked everyone for attending and thanked the selection committee for rewarding her husband’s dedication to the children of Cloverdale. Bernie highlighted his wife’s brief remarks by tooting his new police whistle when she finished. It brought another round of applause.

Friends, I give you Bernie Bumble, an award winning crossing guard, a regular at The Hairy Lemon, and devoted husband to Della. May he live long and protect our children with his every watchful eye and much admired police whistle.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All Aboard the Coastal Express. Our Train of Dreams

The Coastal Express. The Confederacy's Train of Dreams

Some days when I need time to think, I escape my obligations and take a walk to Cloverdale’s train station to ride the Coastal Express.

As I approach the ticket window I hesitate a moment to give Mrs. Della Bumble time to make her prediction. Mrs. Bumble has issued tickets at the Cloverdale Train Station for the past thirty-five years. Her greatest talent is guessing where you want to go before you speak. As you approach the window she holds her hand out to stop you from talking. She looks deep into your eyes while catching a quick glance at your hands for luggage. Once she is ready, she thrusts her finger at you through the bars of the ticket window and gives her prediction. Mrs. Bumble is gracious in defeat. If she is wrong you get a Double Stuffed Oreo from the open package kept beside her desk for snacking.
"Strawberry Junction!" Mrs. Bumble says while waving a finger in my direction.
“One ticket to Cloverdale,” I say to Mrs. Bumble. She gives me a confused look and always gives the same answer.
“Mr. Williamson, you’re in Cloverdale. Look around. Are you daft?” She adjusts her reading glasses so she can see me better through the ticket window.
“And a good day to you to Mrs. Bumble,” I answer with a smile. “I know where I am and I still want a ticket to Cloverdale.”
“You want to buy a ticket to go to a place where you’re currently at?” she says looking for sense in a senseless statement.
“Mrs. Bumble, I’d like to take a day and just ride the Coastal Express. Now correct me if I’m wrong. It leaves Cloverdale and goes west to Dudley in the Dale. After a brief stop the train continues to Tamworth on the Tide.”
“Correct,” she answers.
“From Tamworth on the Tide it follows the Coast of Despair northward to Strawberry Junction.” she nods her head again as I repeat the train’s itinerary. An itinerary she knows all to well. “From Strawberry Junction we travel east to Fernwood on the Moor.”
“Yes, Yes and Yes. You’ve got the schedule memorized and that is the end of the journey,” Mrs. Bumble says while slamming her hand down on the wooden desk for emphasis.
“Oh, not so,” I correct her while pushing up my glasses. “The Coastal Express takes on fuel and water and if I’m correct prepares to start the circle again.”
“Yes, its picks up passengers coming in on the electric train from the Other World,” she says pointing to the map and the track connection between The Confederacy of Dunces and The Other World.
“And, pray tell where does the Coastal Express go after leaving Fernwood on the Moor?” I ask.
“Why Cloverda......,” Mrs. Bumble stops in mid sentence. Her eyes grow large with understanding. “You want to ride the train in one big circle knowing it will take up most of the day and into the early evening?”
“Got it in one!” I shout as I slam both hands on the counter top.
“Well, it is a beautiful journey through the prettiest countryside on God’s good Earth,” she answers while calculating the cost. I hand her my credit card. She swipes it and opens her ticket drawer pulling out a series of tickets. Each one is stamped with a destination and pushed through the window. I gather the tickets and my credit card, thank Mrs. Bumble for her time and walk toward my chariot for the day.
"Stop," I hear Mrs. Bumble shout from the window. I stop dead in my tracks and spin around to see what I forgot. I see her stick her hand through the bars, open it, and there is my reward sitting in her palm - a Double Stuffed Oreo. Thanks to Mrs. Bumble, this journey of imagination through the lush green countryside was starting on a sweet note

Join me on my next journey. We will pack sandwiches and make it a day of clickity clack along the railroad track in the Confederacy of Dunces's Coastal Express.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grandpa's Pride and Joy

Its time to meet two of Cloverdale’s newest citizens. May I introduce Master Copy and Master Paste, twin sons of Derrin and Doloris Decker of 63 Popular Circle. Of course their real names are Desmond and Dilbert.

The twin boy's Grandpa is the one with the sense of humor. Once he knew Doloris was having twins he started scheming on the perfect gift. He searched the internet for ideas but couldn’t find anything that grabbed his funny bone. Yes, there was Curly and Moe and Bread and Butter and Mutt and Jeff and Tom and Jerry and Apple and Pie and blah blah blah......... As I said, nothing took his fancy.

One afternoon Grandma Decker was working on her computer in the parlor. Grandpa was on the porch enjoying a warm afternoon with an ice tea and his bb gun. The neighbor’s dog was on his hit list. He was determined to reward the mutt with a little surprise for digging up his carrots. Bunny, the dog, seemed to know something was amiss and stayed as far from the Deckers as possible. Grandpa didn’t mind. He was retired from the railroad and had all afternoon. Time was on his side.

At quarter pass two he noticed his empty glass and called out to Grandma for a refill. She told him what he could do with the glass. Grandma didn’t like to be disturbed while she was scrapbooking. Grandpa knew the glass wouldn’t refill itself so he made the effort and went to the kitchen. On his way back to the porch he made a stop in the parlor to see what Grandma was up to. Grandma was OK with an observer but you had to stand back and not crowd her. “Breathing her air” is how she put it when you stood too close and put her nerves on edge.

Grandpa watched as her wrinkled hands maneuvered the mouse. He noticed how she grabbed pictures from one side of the screen and place them onto her album.
“How did ya do that?” he asked while scratching his chin. Grandpa wasn’t one for the computer. He was still baffled by the VCR that sat on top of their old TV set in the den. It was used once ten years ago. Now it sits and flashes some useless numbers in eerie green.
“I find a picture I like and I copy and paste it into my album,” she said as she demonstrated by copying an angel with large white feathered wings and golden halo from one side of the screen and pasting onto her scrap book she was preparing for her granddaughter Debbie
“You see, you get a perfect copy.”

A light bulb exploded over Grandpa’s head. I could have said a light came on, meaning Grandpa got a brilliant idea, but Grandpa’s brain was missing too many cells to catch a thought illuminated by a simple light bulb. No, grandpa responded to explosions only and this came over as an explosion.
“Yes!” The old man shouted as he danced around the parlor.
“What is it?” Grandma said as she clutched her blouse signifying the shock of his shout nearly gave her in a coronary.
“I’ve got the perfect idea for Derrin’s new twins,” He said as he grabbed the keys to the 1983 Chevy and skipped out the door. “I’m heading to Tamworth on the Tide. Got to do some shopping. I’ll eat supper there.”

Grandma shrugged her shoulders and went back to her angel. She watched as Grandpa narrowly missed the garbage can as he backed out of the driveway. With a screech of the tires he was gone heading for the Coastal Highway. She saw Bunny make a dash for the lettuce. She smiled.

Whenever Derrin and Doloris bring the twins to Grandma and Grandpa’s they must wear the T-shirts Grandpa made specially for them. As soon as they pull into the driveway Grandpa rushes out to the car, pops the trunk an unfolds the double stroller. The boys are his for the afternoon. He takes them on long walks around the neighborhood looking for anyone stupid enough to share the sidewalk with him. Most folks know to stay clear until he passes because if you don’t, you’ll be forced to fuss over the twins and hear the shirt story for the thousandth time.

We aren’t sure but some are saying that Grandpa may love the shirts more than his two grandsons. Like I said, only some are saying it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Why I Became a Teacher

I've been asked several times why I became a teacher. Why didn't I go for the big bucks and go into business? There are many reasons. So many in fact I'm afraid you'd grow bored and move on to something more interesting like stock prices, farm futures and the movie reviews for the new film showing at Cloverdale's Grand Theater.

Something came across my desk that I think highlights one reason I became a teacher and I thought I'd share it with you. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here are pictures. I think you'll understand as you look at them.

The following are student responses to tests. Enjoy them and then we'll talk.......

Do you understand? I get to work day in and day out with unique individuals. As Mastercard says..... It's priceless.
So cheers to all my witty, sarcastic, brilliant and unforgettable students. I enjoy each day of your company here in The Confederacy of Dunces. Keep me laughing and I'll stay young forever.

Mr. Williamson

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Miss Crumble's Crusaders

Little Alfred and Molly prepare to attack the Heathen and Free Jerusalem

Miss Crumble teaches kindergarten at Confederacy Elementary School in Cloverdale. She considers herself to be progressive in her teaching styles. If the average teacher does it then she won’t. She looks for new and innovative methods to liven up her lessons and make learning meaningful to the children.

“The children must understand the world they live in,“ she explained to the school’s board of directors when they called her in to explain her most recent attempt to help the children understand the conflict between Christians and Muslims.

Two weeks earlier Miss Crumble turned the school’s playground into Palestine. The Big Toy represented Jerusalem. Half her class played the role of the Crusaders under the command of Tommy Millfield (Richard the Lionheart). The other half played the Muslims under the leadership of Marvin Hill (Saladin). The event was titled “The Children’s Crusade”. Each five year old was in costume complete with sword made from cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil. Instead of bows and arrows the children shot spit wads at each other using school cafeteria straws.

The battle began at 1:00 P.M. and lasted until the Muslims surrendered and gave up Jerusalem. It seemed they didn’t get a potty break right before the battle and the Crusaders did. Many wondered if Miss Crumble, known to be a Sunday School teacher at the local Baptist Church, withheld potty time intentionally to swing the battle in the favor of the Christians. She denies this and claims that anyone accusing her of it are pro Islam and anti Christian.

Cloverdale’s four Muslim families, none of whom have children in Miss Crumble’s class, complained to the board. Hence, Miss Crumble was called in to explain her teaching methods.

Miss Crumbled arrived at the board meeting dressed like Joan of Arc as an example of using simulations to teach history. When questioned about her tactics she explained that ‘voices’ told her to do it. The board understood what she was doing. Joan of Arc used the same reasoning during her trials in France. Mrs. Butha of St. Charles Street asked her to ‘return to the present’ and give reasonable answers to their questions.
Suddenly, Mr. Phelps of Popular Circle, feeling inspired by Miss Crumble’s philosophy, jumped to his feet and shouted to the crowded room that Miss Crumble should be burned at the stake as a witch. He pointed out the window to the Tether Ball pole right outside and in full view of all gathered as the place to do it.

Miss Crumble as Joan of Arc

Needless to say, the meeting fell into chaos. The board called another closed door session to resolved the issue next month. Until then Jerusalem has been restored to its previous Big Toy glory and Miss Crumble is back to teaching traditional colors and numbers.