Blogiversary Week – The Ecstasy of an Object

Okay! It’s One-Year Anniversary Week here at the Jacke Blog, and we’re counting down the most and least popular posts of the year, as voted upon by you the readers (via your page views these past twelve months).

This morning we started things off with a wayward post about renaming the ebook.  I concluded that I should have renamed the post. Or not written the thing at all. A miserable little creature.

But this is more exciting! The countdown to the most popular! And here we are at number 5.

Jacke Wilson’s Blogiversary Celebration

Most Popular Posts of 2013-2014 #5

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #15 – The Coffepot

This is the story of a young man who was an excellent speller. He won seven spelling bees in a row, dominating the competition year after year after year. And then, in the eighth grade, with a trip to regionals (and state! and nationals!) on the line, this champion lost for the first time in his life, shocking the town.

How could this happen? How did he stumble?

Readers, I have some tough news to deliver. A difficult set of truths.

The Eighth Grade Spelling Bee of Cadbridge, Wisconsin, in the Year of Our Lord 1984, was fixed. Completely rigged. The boy, the potential champion, lost on purpose. For reasons that remained murky for years, he threw the bee.

I know because I was that boy.

It was the worst thing I ever did. But not for the reasons you might expect. Keep reading…

Ah yes. The story of attempting to throw a spelling bee, with a couple of surprise twists. A tough one to write. An easy one (hopefully) to read. Enjoy my misery, people!

I’m not surprised to see this one here. People remember those spelling bees, and they remember the feeling of  being an adolescent longing to fit in, and they remember teachers like the one in the story.

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on this one, including an email from an eighth grade classmate, who himself is now the principal of a school. “I could still kick your ass for doing that,” he said.  If only I’d known that at the time! I was in a strange place called Puberty, where chemicals race through your body and your brain is hyperaware, hyperfocused, and often hypermisguided.

But I’m glad the story came through and resonated with readers. At least there’s that.

Congratulations, Coffepot! You’re the fifth most popular post of the year!

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Back To School Day 2 – Coaching the Only Girl

To catch you up:

And today, we feature Object # 17 – The Shirts and Skins. The story is about what happens when a single girl plays in an all boys’ league – one that routinely divides up and goes shirts-and-skins. I was her coach; what she told me was a total surprise. But there are many layers of shame going on before we even get to that:  Continue reading

Back to School! Causing a Metaphysical Riot Somewhere Between Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Nirvana’s Nevermind

We start with a quote:

I was starting to believe in the power of this thing, not as a talisman but as a phenomenon. It had to mean something that it – and I – had generated so much consternation. I represented something. To some I was a testament to discipline, to conviction, to inner strength. To others I was a fool who needed to be saved. To many I was both. And to a few I became a symbol of something horrible, something wrong with the world, or humanity; I needed to be exposed as a fraud. Whatever I represented, the principle on which I stood, needed to be expunged.

I started receiving threats. Violence seemed real. Would I die for this?  Object #18 – The Monopoly Game Piece

That’s right! It’s another back-to-school week! Last week we celebrated teachers (when we weren’t celebrating awesome princess ninjas or writers laughing or, um, ourselves. This week I’m running a special celebration of what it means to be a student. Or what it meant for me.

Today’s story: the ever popular story about the Monopoly Game Piece.In which a simple refusal (hello, Bartleby!) splits a high school down the middle. Into the world of believers and unbelievers. And finally, to an encounter with an actual religion, and the way it all circled back on me.

So put on your jeans-and-sweatshirt, pop in some Van Halen, and tape a few Sports Illustrated pictures to the inside of your locker door (if you haven’t forgotten the combo – d’oh!). And here…we…go…!

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #18 – The Monopoly Game Piece

A History of Jacke in 100 Objects #10 – The Spitwad

Here’s something I’ve learned: teachers are human.

They’re not superheroes or gods. Not saints or demons. They’re human beings, with flaws and weaknesses like all the rest of us.

Don Ward was a fine man who taught high school biology to undeserving students in the same crumbling, run-down building for forty-three years.

How bad was our school? When I was there, ceiling tiles used to fall crashing to the floor. I’d never actually seen one drop, but at least once a month we’d see one in the hallway by the lockers, broken on the ground with a cloud of white smoke that was probably 100% asbestos. In the ceiling, there’d be a gap that stayed there forever, never to be filled. No money in the budget. Or maybe nobody cared enough to bother.

Not such a great workplace for Don Ward. How did he do it? Why did he stay? It was impossible to know, because he exhibited no personality whatsoever. Zero. His face barely moved when he spoke. With his plain brown mustache covering his upper lip, you literally could not detect any change in his expression for hours at a time. He never smiled. It was like being taught by Buster Keaton without any of the physical comedy.

That was our biology class. Day after day, Mr. Ward stood in front of the class in his drab plaid shirts, droning on about chlorophyll and flowering plants. And in exchange for his years of service he was mocked and jeered and verbally abused by the teenagers who knew everything and had all the power.

Yes, power. Who knows where this power comes from? Teenagers are desperate, scared, and self-conscious. And also cocky, fearless, and totally in control.

I used to feel sorry for Mr. Ward. If only he’d tell a joke once in a while, he’d probably have a better chance connecting with some of the renegades forced to take his class. That’s all it took for other teachers, who could pal around a little. Anything to prove he was not a robot. If only he’d ask if anyone had seen the World Series the night before. Or say he heard something interesting in church last week. Or raise his voice in anger. Or smile.

But no: Donald Ward delivered his lecture in the same way, sentence by boring sentence, until the class, forced to submit to this for months at a time, had developed a kind of of pent-up frenzy. These were high school students, after all. Adolescents! Their insides were full of raging energies that had to be discharged. They needed to show off, to thump chests, to flirt, to challenge authority. They needed all this to survive.

In other classes, the teachers released this energy with a few little quips now and then, letting the students laugh and tease and push back, so the air would clear and the business of learning could begin. It was like the quick open-and-shut of a pressure valve.

Not in Mr. Ward’s class. In Mr. Ward’s class it was all pressure, no valve. For months. Something had to give.

Which brings me to the glorious day when Mr. Ward told a joke. Well, sort of a joke.

Continue reading