Monday, May 7, 2012

Pocketing the Change

As I was loading my pockets the other day, I thought, “I sure do carry a lot of stuff when I go out for a guy who doesn’t really have a job. Depending on what I’m wearing, I have between six and eight to ten pockets. In these pockets, if I am under full sail and going to be out for a while I have four sets of keys (don’t ask me why—I just do), two pens, maybe a pencil or two, my cell phone, a small calendar, a supply of my blog cards and Observer business cards, my wallet, which is a world into itself, and about a dollar in change. I’m set for most contingencies like this, but it does take a while to load and unload all this stuff when I leave and when I come back. But I’ve found I need everything I carry into order to function. I feel a little like the soldiers in Tim O’Brien’s marvelous book, The Things They Carried, except I don’t carry weapons and ammo and I don’t run the risk being shot when I go out. Not a high risk, anyhow.

I was thinking about pockets and remembered one of my colleagues, a woman named Mary, who was very involved in her three children’s lives, like many other working moms, in spite of the demands of being a full-time teacher. She was always doing something for them or involved with some activity at their elementary school. We ate lunch with about six other teachers, and one day Mary came into the room where we ate, sat down and put her head on the table.
 Some one asked, “Are you all right?”

“No,” came the muffled reply, “I’m not.”

“What’s wrong?” someone else asked.

“I agreed to be the Pick-a-Pocket Lady again this year,” Mary answered.

“What’s a Pick-a-Pocket Lady?”

Mary lifted her head up. “It’s something I do for the kids’ school carnival every year. I wear a big smock covered with pockets with little prizes in them. Kid come up and take a prize out. It’s like being nibbled to death by ducks. I hate it.”

“Why do you do it?”

Mary put her head back down. “It’s for the kids. And I’ve always done it so I can’t get out of it.”

Eventually Mary’s kids finished elementary school and the job of Pick-a-Pocket Lady fell to another hapless mom.

As I load and unload my pockets I feel like a kind of minor league Pick-a-Pocket...Guy.  I have moments when I wonder if I should carry some sort of man bag. I decide against it since I’d have to answer a dozen questions about one if I did carry it. I do have a handsome canvas messenger bag that I carry teaching materials in. If ever I went to a carryall that would be it.

I thought of all this because I was, as I said, thinking about pockets and about the five pockets of Biscuit City I fill every week. The blog has been running since May 24, 2011, with 265 entries to date. I enjoy writing the pieces: it does take some time and effort, but I’ve met some terrific people (on line) because of it. I get good comments and readers tell me they enjoy or are stimulated by some of the posts.

In reality, writing a blog every weekday is about like writing a daily newspaper column. Before my editor Susan Svihilik, was summarily fired from her position (and I resigned my column writing job with that paper in protest—and started “Biscuit City” as a replacement), she and I were talking about daily columns one day and we agreed that a single writer would need at least one assistant to do a daily column.
 My assistant is Nacho the Cat, and the conformation of her paws makes typing difficult for her so she’s not much help, although she does listen carefully when I read something aloud to see how it sounds.

So, I want to tell my Faithful Readers about some changes to BC—not major changes like switching to all posts on fashion or some other impossible (for me) subject. The changes are with how each daily pocket is filled.

Mondays I will continue to write about whatever pops into my head or something that has happened to me or interests me.

Tuesdays I plan to share some stories from my past. There’s a lot of past and so I have a lot of stories.

Wednesdays I have been featuring an interview with a writer for a while and more recently with an artist. I love doing this post, but it is rather labor-intensive so I am going to switch out and write about technology and society, a subject I find fascinating. I’ll drop in an occasional interview from time to time.

Thursdays will continue to be observations on writing, generally gleaned from other sources.

Fridays will continue to be Poem of the Week, although I plan to use poetry I have written, at the urging of some friends.

So there you go. Thank you for being BC readers. I hope you find the posts to be amusing or enlightening or stimulating. And please remember to click on the ads. :^) Rock on!


  1. Dan, so much good stuff here, I don't know where to start, so I will begin by loving your reference to O'Brien. He's a legend in Viet Nam literature--very difficult stuff to read because it's painful, but his writing style is completely accessible, and I would recommend everyone do it at least once.

    As to a man bag, you can go for it, or go for the more "masculine" backpack. You might also opt for a front pouch pack, which is convenient because it leaves your hands free. Also, you can tuck the pouch under your shirt, which is safer than leaving a wallet in your pocket.

    You would never want to carry my huge bag filled with every contingency-related item I can think of. You can hurt your shoulders carrying that thing.

    Susan--I love that woman! She is the reason I write for the paper. I will never forget her for taking a chance on ranty 'ole me.

    Pick-a-Pocket sounds like fun if you are into little kids. I'm into other kinds of kids (like sicko adults who seem to have missed out on good parenting). They earn money in class and get to spend their fake bills on books, paper, etc. about every three weeks. (By the way, I spend money on these prizes and can always use donated Spanish/English dictionaries.)

    Nacho sounds like a grand editor.

    I don't know how you manage to write a blog entry every day or how you can schedule topics the way you do. I am much too random (and rebellious) for that kid of structure. Good for you!

    Thanks for writing BC. I thoroughly enjoy it!