The First Weekend In January

 Getting the Christmas tree out of the house is just one of the events that makes this weekend distinctive.

Getting the Christmas tree out of the house is just one of the events that makes this weekend distinctive.

(Sunday Paper, Volume III, Issue 1)

This is a distinctive weekend for me.

Well, not this particular weekend...it's not like there's anything special going on. (Although today is my half-birthday which is always a fun thing to make a big deal out of for no reason at all.)

But what I mean is the first weekend in January is one that every year brings to mind certain associations.

There's a feel to the first weekend in January that I can't think of any other weekend in the calendar year having.

Let me tell you what I mean.

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I guess this is a relatively recent phenomenon, because a lot of it centers on my teaching career. And even though it's been more than three years since I've been in the classroom, I still get this same feeling every year at this time.

The history here is that we would come back from winter break and immediately face report-writing deadlines. For those unfamiliar, this wasn't just a report card for much of my teaching career - they were narrative reports we would write about the students, and I was responsible for about 15 (give or take) overall progress growth reports, and then 30 or so for each subject I taught - language arts and social studies - and then another 15 or so reading reports.

I didn't hate the task - as you know I don't mind writing, and as I became a more veteran teacher there was always plenty of data to draw from so it was never a tremendous struggle. (There were times it was hard to get the words down but the work always got done.) It was just always a bunch of work. And despite my best intentions every year to get started over winter break (with the occasional one or two I'd get finished before winter break, which was always a good feeling), I'd be faced with the majority of the 90-plus reports I needed to write when we went back to school in January. And they'd be due in a couple of weeks.

So what I would do was take the first weekend in January to get a bunch of the work done. I'd head to the library early on that Saturday and just write as much as I could into the afternoon. Then I'd come home and watch the NFL Playoffs, and I'd set up a table near the TV, and I'd write some more at home.

I would never finish that first weekend, but I'd get a big chunk done, and this weekend always makes me think of that. (I think that anticipatory feeling of waiting for the playoffs to start - especially the couple of years where it was the Jets game I was waiting for - and having the reports in the early part of the day to help pass the time is part of why this experience is so imprinted on my brain.)

It's also the weekend when I would take down the Christmas tree...and in past years it would sit outside for a week before I'd put it by the curb for the town's collection. But this year the city (! as of January 1!) is collecting the trees a week earlier than usual - I don't know why, but it is much more in synch with my schedule.

So maybe that's another part of why these things are so distinct in my memory every first weekend in January. It's a sense of the holidays are over - it's back to the ol' not-having-a-tree-in-your-living-room normalcy...a sense of back-to-work....and with kids in school that 'vacation is over' feeling is still fresh.

Either way, it's the one weekend out of the year I can pin a distinct feeling to.

Writing

*Maybe you saw on Facebook that I have another essay coming out. I told you a few weeks ago that I was doing some submitting - this is one of those submissions, and man is it great to hear someone say "we like this and want to publish it." I'll tell you here since you're the people who are reading the Sunday Paper and you deserve the scoop: it's an essay for the 'My First Home' feature  in the Sunday Boston Globe. It'll come out on February 4th. I'll definitely be teasing it some more leading up to then, but I figured I'd give you the details first here.

*Busy week - my first time dealing with my Wednesday through Friday work from home...it went well, but I've now completely shifted from someone who was excited about snow days as a teacher to someone who's terribly inconvenienced by snow days as an hourly worker.

Comedy

*Good start to the new year comedy-wise. Probably had my worst of the three 'First Jokes' shows I've done on New Year's...but that's fine. It's brand-new stuff, so that's happened before where new jokes fall flat. It's just higher-stakes since it's in front of a full room of audience members instead of in a bar with just comics at an open mic. But I tried two jokes in my 90 seconds and the second of the two has potential. I believe in it. Otherwise, that show's a great time - you get to see a wide variety of comedians and it's a good hang. Tuesday and Wednesday I hit open mics and continued to work out some newer material.

*This week I'll be on the show at Redbones Tuesday night - if you're familiar with the restaurant, the show will be in the downstairs area. It's a good show gaining good traction. Come on out. And then Thursday I'm back at Stand Up Break In for the first time in a long while. Very happy to be getting back there, you know how I feel about that show. Both shows have great lineups, so if you want to see me perform, this is as good a week as any to catch me. Details are at the 'Comedy Shows' link above.

What I've Been Enjoying

*Since we got the new TV (more on that in the coming weeks when, I suppose, I'll run out of other topics to write about eventually) we've been using an Amazon Prime subscription that Kathy recently signed up for. And that means I can finally watch a lot of shows that people have been talking about. I remember last April someone telling me about the "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel", a series about a 50s housewife who enters the world of stand-up comedy. Then, around September, I guess, it got a lot of press...so not having been in the streaming TV world (I don't even know what to call that, actually...but not having had Amazon, I mean), I don't really know when the show came out. (Is 'came out' what we say anymore? I'm such an old man with TV now.)

Anyway, over the past week and a half or so I've half-binged the show, and I really enjoyed it. The comedy portions of the show - despite the fact that they are supposed to depict the comedy world sixty years ago - are 100% what I'm seeing in the comedy world today/when I was just starting out. (The least relatable part is how easily and how often Midge can pass her kids off to someone so she can go out and perform.) The acting is pretty good too - my favorite performance is turned in by Tony Shalhoub as Midge's dad.

Notes

*Happy New Year, and welcome to Volume III of the Sunday Paper!

*I mentioned above that the town (I mean, city!) is collecting the Christmas trees this week with the garbage collection. I always dread the removal of the tree because of the huge mess of pine needles between the living room and the door as I take it outside. But this year when we bought the tree I bought this bag they were selling there. It was marketed as a tree skirt that when you were done with the tree you just pull up and over it and then dispose of the tree. Kathy and I couldn't quite figure out the skirt part, but we already have a skirt - we didn't really need it for that purpose - we just needed to be able to wrap up the tree and get it outside without making a mess...which it still did. If there wasn't a foot of snow on the lawn I might have been able to throw the tree out the front door with relatively little mess...but as I haven't cleared that doorway yet, I had to go all the way downstairs and the bag started to rip and needles spilled downstairs. It's not the perfect solution I was hoping for.

*I am at mid-February levels of snow fatigue. This does not bode well considering how, as we have certainly previously established here, it is only the first weekend of January. Remember the edition of Silly Mind Games about the melting snow? (It was Silly Mind Games IV, for those of you keeping track at home.) How I like to mentally guess at whether the snow on the ground will stick around and for how long? After the pre-Christmas snow...and then the Christmas snow, I was thinking there's no way it's time to start playing this game. Then with the freezing cold temperatures I started to think it was possible...and now we're here with mountains of snow and it could very well be like this until May. It's going to be a long winter, folks.

*And, well, as though it wasn't depressing enough there's also the anxiety-inducing aspects. There's some warming happening this week, topped off by some rain in the forecast next weekend...that's not enough warm weather to melt all the snow on the roof...but just enough time to get the rain to pool up there and find a spot to leak!! Hopefully I'm wrong...but I guess I'll be out with the roof rake this week. You know, in the warm, 30-degree weather, after the ice dam-creating cold is done.

*Luckily the bowl pool served its purpose and got me to NFL Playoff season...which will bring us close to March Madness and then baseball. I did surprisingly well in the bowl pool - I will likely finish in fourth place, just out of the money. I have some *ahem* rooting interests in the football playoffs, but mostly I just enjoy watching the teams narrow down towards a hopefully new Super Bowl Matchup. (See Silly Mind Games III.)

*OK, thanks for reading. I'd better go...gotta clean up a bunch of pine needles.