Hopes Rise as Full-Immersion Starbucks Schools Show Gains

WESTLAND, Mass.  It is a persistent problem that has resisted bipartisan efforts at reform: lagging K-12 academic achievement that leaves American students far behind their peers in Burkina Faso, Upper Volta and even Freedonia, a fictional nation that nonetheless has a long history of rigorous instruction in math, science and connect-the-dots puzzles.

school3
“Your mother sends you to Starbucks for two cups of coffee with $20.  How much do you need to run home and get to pay for them?”

But educators are cautiously optimistic that a new approach may reverse the outgoing tide:  so-called “full-immersion Starbucks” schools, where students are required to speak only in Starbucks Esperanto, the fastest-growing language in the world, from their first day in school until graduation, thereby preparing them for the demands they will face in the face of global competition.

school1
“That’s right!  Tall + grande = venti!”

“There is really nothing worse than getting in line behind a mother whose child doesn’t know the difference between a frapuccino and a machiatto,” says Evan Winslow, a partner in a private equity firm who stops at his local Starbucks on the way into work each morning.  “Some of these kids–it’s sad,” he says, shaking his head.  “They can’t even conjugate tall, grande, venti.”

school2
“Very good.  You all get your Junior Barista merit badges!”

“Full-immersion” schools originated in the American South, where the Christian sacrament of baptism is sometimes practiced by dunking innocent children under water until they agree to contribute ten percent of their allowance to a minister who will use the funds to buy a private jet.  They have since spread to upscale suburbs, where all-day instruction in languages such as Mandarin Chinese enhances students’ college applications and teaches them how to order take-out while at the same time allowing schools to hide their pedagogical deficiencies.

school
“Me . . . me . . . me, call on me, I know, it’s mocha Valencia!”

The costs of conversion to full immersion can be significant, but anxious parents say it’s worth the higher real estate taxes they pay on modest $1.3 million starter homes.  “I couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” says Marci Winslow, Evan’s second wife, of their daughter, Palmer.  “I was so proud of her when she walked up to the barista last Sunday and said–calmly but forcefully–‘What part of dry venti soy espresso con panna did you not understand?'”

As Faulkner’s Birthday Nears, Mailmen Ask “What If?”

OXFORD, Miss. This college town of approximately 19,000 was once home to William Faulkner, one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century, but before he became famous, Faulkner was postmaster at the University of Mississippi Substation Post Office here, a fact that endears him to postal employees around the world.


Oxford, Mississippi

 

“He could have been one of the great ones,” says Dewey Norman, a letter carrier for the past three decades. “Instead, he took the easy way out and became a Nobel Prize-winning author.”


Faulkner: “You know what you can do with that postcard, Mr. Beauregard?”

 

The link between Faulkner’s experimental, stream-of-consciousness style and first class mail is celebrated every year in September as postmasters from around the country converge on Oxford to celebrate the Nobel Prize winner’s life and mail-sorting techniques. “Faulkner was known for ignoring customers and playing cards in the back room,” says Mitchell Helms, Assistant Postmaster of Tarkio, Missouri. “That’s a style that will endure when the go-go methods of Federal Express and UPS fade away.”

Faulkner eventually quit his job as postmaster, saying that he was tired of being “at the beck and call of every son of a bitch with a two-cent stamp.” “My sentiments exactly,” says Oren Daily, Jr., a postman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, “even though the price of stamps goes up every year.”


“I’ll be there in a minute–I’m out back sunning myself.”

 

Faulkner even used the imagery of first-class mail to describe the setting of his writings. “I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it,” Faulkner said of Lafayette County, Mississippi, the basis for his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. “I also found that if you lick either of them, neither one tastes good.”

The anniversary of Faulkner’s birthday is September 25th, but postmen sent out invitations well in advance of that date in order to insure a good crowd. “We waited until the week before one year,” says Faulkner’s postal descendant Gregory Hollins, “and the letters didn’t get there until Halloween.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Dead Writers Make More Money.”

Early Voting Begins for 2020 Presidential Race

BEMIDJI, Minnesota.  It’s 6:45 a.m. in this city of approximately 13,000, and self-described “political junkie” Ellen Piper is in line to become one of the first voters in the nation due to Minnesota’s status as the state where “early voting” starts first in America.  “It’s a small distinction, I know,” the sixty-seven year-old says, “but it will give me something to remember in January when my husband Rolf disappears for his annual two-week hibernation in an ice-fishing hut.”

zoilo2
Ellen Piper, trying to find her way out of the polling booth.

 

But when the life-long Democrat is asked what she thinks of Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president, she does a double take:  “I’m not voting in the 2016 election,” she says with the earnest tone she once used to correct her children’s grammar mistakes.  “I’m voting for Elizabeth Warren in the next one,” she adds as the door to the Zoilo Versalles Middle School swings open, allowing her and a number of other senior citizens to take a ballot for an election that won’t kick off in earnest until the 2020 New Hampshire primary.

zoilo
“I do not like to be in this–how you say–blog ‘post.'”

 

According to political scientists, Piper and others like her are the leading edge of a new phenomenon: voters so disgusted by overexposure to candidates and the poor choices made by the two major political parties that they “skip” an election and vote for the candidate they anticipate will get their party’s nod in the next four-year cycle.  “It’s really quite understandable if you know a little biology,” says Professor Errol Halgarten of SUNY-Hornel.  “Many recessive traits skip a generation, so we shouldn’t be surprised if someone refuses to vote for Donald Trump in the hope the GOP will clone a candidate from the DNA in Ronald Reagan’s comb.”

“Early voting” refers to the process by which individuals vote prior to a scheduled election day, and not just to dweebs who arrive at polling places before the doors open.  The types of people who qualify for early voting include those who will be out of the jurisdiction, people with previously-scheduled pedicures, and obese men in sleeveless shirts with back hair and body odor that may “offend” others.

zoilo1
” To my friends in the shape-shifting mud lizard community, I extend the olive branch of forgiveness.”

 

There is activity on both sides of the political spectrum at the Piper household as her husband Rolf waits his turn in line behind her.  “I’m voting for Donald Trump, Jr., who as every intelligent person knows will take office in a military coup when his father is assassinated by shape-shifting mud lizards in 2018,” he says, pausing for a moment while Town Clerk “Evie” Shepherd finds his name on the list of registered Republican voters.  How, this reporter asks in amazement, can he believe anything so crazy as the theory he’s just expounded?

“Easy,” he replies without a hint of a jest in his expression.  “I learned this year that whatever outcome is craziest, that’s what’s gonna happen.”

A Day in the Life of a Spritzer Girl Organizer

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that a small group of cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Saugus, Mass. can be organized separately from other employees.

The Wall Street Journal

cosmetics

It’s never been easy bein’ a labor organizer, but right now it’s never been harder.

Private sector union membership has dropped through the roof, or maybe I mean the floor.  It was 16.8% in 1983, it’s 6.7% now.  That’s why we gotta go after the minnows, because there ain’t no big fish to fry no more.

Which is why I’m standin’ outside Macy’s, bein’ as surreptitious as possible.  I’m trying to organize the girls at the in-store Beauty Bar into the International Sisterhood of Cosmetics and Fragrance Workers.  Yeah, go ahead and laugh, but I want to be the guy going toe-to-toe with Big Perfume fightin’ for the rights of spritzer girls!

What I gotta do is catch ’em as they come out the door and tell ’em how the big department store where they work is gettin’ the gold, while they get the shaft.  An employer can exclude me from organizin’ on the premises, so go ahead, exclude me out, I can still get all the signatures I need as long as I got the right, shall we say, “incentive.”

cosmetics1
“You’ve got some kind of goober between your teeth.”

 

That’s why I loaded up on every woman’s dream: handy, convenient small appliances!  Just the thing to turn a working girl’s few hours away from the sweatshop atmosphere of the cosmetics counter into a miracle of efficiency.  I’ve got a dishwasher-safe countertop donut maker, a Salad Shooter, a Dust-Buster–I should be all set.   Ooh–here comes a poor, oppressed spritzer girl now.  It’s Jeenie, who works the noon to 2/5 to 7 split shift.

cosmetics2
“Absolutely–nose hair highlighting is VERY popular these days.”

 

Hey, Jeenie.  Al DiBartolo of the ISCFW.  What’s that?  Only the best friend a working girl slavin’ away on her feet all day at a cosmetics counter ever had, that’s what–the International Sisterhood of Cosmetics and Fragrance Workers.  Say, how would you like to better your wages and working conditions, huh?  Sure you would–EVERYBODY would!  Well, that means you gotta join together with your sisters at the . . . what’s that?  They ain’t your sisters?  They ain’t even your friends?  If you had a chance you’d scratch Mimi LaFrance’s eyeballs out?  Whoa–that’s no way to level the playing field with the overwhelming bargaining power of greedy bosses to get what’s coming to you.  You gotta band together–sisterhood is powerful!  Listen, I got this nice Dustbuster here for ya–9.6 volt cordless model, it really sucks . . .

Whadda ya mean I really suck?  I’m just tryin’ to help ya girlie.  Oh yeah?  Sez who?  Same to you!  Yer gonna be sorry when we get this place organized.  Don’t come crawlin’ around, begging me ta make ya shop steward.  Blow it out your panty hose!

dustbuster
Dustbuster:  Didn’t seal the deal.

 

Jeez, what a bitch.  Guess I’ll have to catch the next . . . okay, I got a live one here.  Tina Del Guidici–generally regarded as Queen of Mascara, Eyeliner and Blusher.  She’s a triple threat!  Hey, Tina, great job you did on that lady with the oily T-Zone.  It was like the Exxon Valdez there, you was terrific.  Say, we’re having an organizational meeting tonight, it would be great if you could come, we’re trying to get some dignity for you cosmetic and spritzer gals.  Better wages ‘n hours ‘n stuff.  I got a little somethin’ for youse, it’s a gen-you-wine Salad Shooter by Presto, this thing is like the Harley-Davidson of hand-held electric shredders and slicers.  It slices, dices, chops and . . . what’s that?  You don’t like to cook?  You want rich guys to take you out to dinner?

salad shooter
Slice the big ones!

 

Well, jeez, if you’re gonna throw your lot in with the 1% instead of your comrades storming the barricades of exfoliants and lip gloss, that’s your business, but I’d think it’d be nice to make your guy a home-cooked meal every now and . . .

Say what?  I’ll have you know I may be a prick but I’m not a little one.  I should do what to your yeast-infected . . . do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

Well, all I can do is try.  I never met a labor force so unwilling to do what’s necessary to improve their lot a lot.  You’d almost think they think they’re . . . better than their sisters in misses and juniors and their brothers in snow tires and men’s outerwear.  I can’t imagine why, just because they spend 16 hours a day lookin’ at themselves in the mirror.

doughnut

Hey, here comes a prospect.  Lu Ann Bemish-Slaughter.  Hasn’t made enough money to change back to her maiden name since she dumped her no-count loser boyfriend.  She’s low-hanging fruitcake!

Hey Lu Ann, how ya doin’.  Al DiBartolo of the International Sisterhood of Cosmetics and Fragrance Workers.  We’re trying to organize to get you “gals” a pay raise and benefits so we’re offering one-time come-ons like this beautiful Sunbeam Donut Maker, regularly $28.99 at Target but it’s yours free if you’ll sign this card sayin’ you want . . . wait, what?

You don’t need no donuts?  Well, how was I to know you was in Weight Watchers?  I mean, except for your thunder thighs there you’re lookin’ pretty . . .

Hey, officer–arrest that woman for . . . anti-union violence!

Your Teen Tattoo Advisor

Teens!  Ever wished you had a colorful tattoo on a conspicuous part of your body to impress your friends and embarrass your parents?  Ask the Teen Tattoo Advisor to help you “thread the needle”!

bimbo1
That one will keep you warm!

 

Dear Tattoo Advisor:

I have finally persuaded my mother to let me get a sleeve tattoo after literally like years of begging.  Apparently her first husband (not my father) was a Marine and had a “Semper Fi” tattoo on his butt cheek and she has flashbacks when she drinks too much Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

She only has one condition, which is that since winter is coming she wants me to get a long-sleeve tattoo while I would rather get a cooler, short-sleeve pattern since I’ll mainly be wearing it in the summer.

We have agreed to abide by your decision.

 

Tula Marie Hillinan, Neosho, Alabama

 

Dear Tula Marie–

My what a lovely name!  I hope you get a tattoo just as pretty to go with it.

Thankfully this is a question where I can “split the baby” and satisfy both you and your mom.  As you grow older your short-sleeve tattoo will lengthen until it appears to be a grape Slurpee sliding down your arm.  If you go to a cheap enough tattoo parlor that could be as early as January!

 

Dear Teen Tattoo Advisor–

This summer I went out with this guy Duane and the last night of Ottumwa County Fair I got his name tattooed on my right arm.  I did this while he was watching the dirt-track stock car races, and when he got back from the grandstands I said “Surprise!” and showed it to him.  He didn’t exactly get excited and when I asked him what was wrong he said “I’d like it better if it was on your left arm, that way everybody could see it when we’re slow-dancing at the Homecoming Dance and won’t try to cut in.”

Teen Tattoo Advisor, I kept the receipt but when I went back to the booth the guy says sorry, no refunds or exchanges.  Is there any law out there to protect an unsuspecting high school senior like me from the predatory practices of fly-by-night “tat” artists?

Nora Huddleston, Hoxie, Arkansas

bimbo2
Fatal fun for the whole family!

 

Dear Nora–

The tattoo-industrial lobby has fought “consumer” legislation in Arkansas’s bicameral legislature for years on health and safety grounds–you may recall their scary “What if a young person were to die during a tattoo transplant?” ad campaign in 2012.  Then last year the “tattoo rights” movement was again strangled in its crib after State Rep. Michael Overski made the glib comment “Why should we do away with the most visible sign that a person is a likely check-kiter by mandating ‘removal’ or ‘refund’ that will kill jobs in our only growing industry?”

Until our United States Supreme Court recognizes a “Tattoo Bill of Rights” I am afraid you are stuck, although once you cross the border into Louisiana I think you’re okay, those people will do anything if you give them enough money.

 

Hey Teen Tattoo Lady–

Got a question for you.  My girlfriend has agreed to get a tattoo for me but she already has a “tramp stamp” above her butt crack with the name of her last boyfriend “Gene Ray” so I’m thinking of maybe double tattoos facing each other on her thighs, which I like on girls.  She is considering it but wants to know what she should get, so I suggested a Mickey and Minnie Mouse or a Donald and Daisy Duck or something like that but she said no no she HATES Disney movies, she’s not a little girl anymore.

Okay, fine I said, so I’m writing to you for suggestions.

Thanks a bunch,

 

Claude Rumstadler, Plaistow NH 03856

bimbo

Dear Claude–

All I can think of offhand is a “Betty Boop” tattoo on one thigh and her cute puppy dog “Bimbo” on the other.

I think people will get the message.

The Boy’s Hair Was Singed, but Your Shish Kabobs Are Fine

The kids are into baseball now, a development that warms this old good field-no hit third baseman’s heart, so we were watching the Red Sox after bath time.

baseball
David Price

 

“Dad?” Skipper, the younger of my two sons asked.

“Yes?”

“Why are David Price’s earrings bigger than mom’s?”

“Well Skip,” I said in the serious tone I adopt whenever I’m about to unravel one of life’s apparent mysteries for him, “he’s having a better year than mom.”

“Does that matter?”

“Sure it does.  He’s leading the league in innings pitched, has sixteen wins, and he’s third in strikeouts.  Mom’s numbers are okay, and if she focuses down the back-to-school stretch this fall she could end up with a nice bonus at Christmas.”

“Price is really mowing ‘em down tonight,” said Scooter, the older of the two boys at twelve, about the team’s very expensive left-hander.

“Yeah,” I said. “His hair is really on fire tonight.”

“It is?” asked his younger brother Skipper. He’s very literal-minded–may have been switched in the nursery.

“Not really, that’s just an expression that Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee used to use,” I said, alerting him to the possibility of hidden meanings in the things we say.

“What does it mean?” Skipper asked.

“That he’s doing a good job,” I said.

“Then why didn’t you just say that?”


“I chose Sara Teasdale and sleeping pills!”

 

“Well, just like your brother said he was ‘mowing them down,’” I replied. “He used an image of cutting grass to paint a picture in your mind of how easy it was.”

“Oh,” Skip said, although I wasn’t sure he understood. His English teacher at Sylvia Plath Middle School must not have covered similes and metaphor. Too busy helping the kids with their suicidal poetess dioramas.

“Has your hair ever caught fire?” Skipper asked. I guess he just didn’t get it, so I decided to answer him literally.

“Why yes, Skip–as a matter of fact it did one time.”

“It did?” Scooter asked, astounded that the careful, cautious old man who tucked him in bed every night had so many narrow escapes from death as a boy. “How’d that happen?”

“Well, in the mid-sixties I was working at mid-Missouri’s only barbecue restaurant owned by a gay man.”

“What’s a gay man?” Skipper asked. His Human Sexuality Course had been cancelled after a guest speaker taught the kids how to put a condom on a zucchini.

“Skip, a gay man is a man who likes other men instead of mommies, okay? Nothing wrong with that.”

He seemed puzzled, so I drove the point home a little further. “‘Different strokes for different folks’–who said that?”

“Abraham Lincoln!” Scooter answered. Always a good guess around our place, with a registered member of Da Party of Lincoln in da house.


“Umm, no. Guess again.”

 

“No. Skip? Who do you think?”

“George Washington?”

“Nope, you’re both wrong. It was another great American, Sly Stone. Anyway, what it means is we’re all very different in very similar ways.”

“So, he made gay barbecue?” Scooter asked.

“It was asexual, like the amoebas you learned about in science class last year. He got the restaurant from his wife, who inherited it from her dad. When they divorced, she got their home and he got the restaurant.”

“Did he live in the restaurant?” Skipper asked.

“Pretty much. He had a trailer out the back. Anyway, he didn’t like barbecue–he thought it was for po’ white trash, so he tried to spruce the place up a bit, make it into a fancy restaurant.”

“I don’t like fancy restaurants,” Scooter said with disgust.


Happy stock photo family assembles for fake Mother’s Day portrait.

 

“Me neither, buddy, but sometimes you have to take mommies out to them so they know you love them enough to blow a lot of money on an overpriced meal and obsequious service. Anyway, the owner tried to get the customers to use finger bowls . . .”

“What’s that?” Skipper asked.

“A little bowl with warm water in it to clean your fingers after you’ve had something messy like barbecue.”

“What happened?”

“A lot of people thought it was soup. They complained it tasted like warm water.”

“And that was it?”

“No, he tried to vary the menu too. He introduced lobster, and Italian dishes, and–his triumph–flaming shish kabobs.”

“What’s that?” Scooter asked.

“Meat and vegetables on a big sword that you set on fire.”

“Cool!”

“I’ll say. Second only to Baked Alaska in terms of cheap, meretricious dining spectacle.”

“So did you stick your hair in the shish kabob?”

“Not really, but close. I was serving three of the flaming swords one night, carrying the tray in one hand and a tray stand in the other.”

“What happened?” Skip asked.

“I leaned over to set up the tray stand, and the plates with the flaming swords started sliding towards my head.”

“And did your hair really catch on fire?”

“Not totally, but it got singed and I dropped all the plates on the floor.”

“Did the owner yell at you?”

“No, he came out and apologized to everybody while I was picking up the meat and vegetables and swords. He said ‘The boy’s hair was singed, but I’ll have some more shish kabobs ready for you in just a minute.’”

“So did he have more shish kabobs cooking?”

“Nope. He took the ones I spilled back to the room where we washed the dishes, hosed them down, threw them back on the fire, put some new parsley on the plates–and served them!”

“Is that okay?” Skipper asked nervously. He’s always got a runny nose because he has no resistance to germs, thanks to his mother’s fanatic devotion to an unattainable ideal of cleanliness.

“Sure it’s okay. As long as you pick it up within ten minutes, and no carrion bird has tried to eat it and no insect has laid eggs in it–you’re good to go.”

I noticed a new stillness in their demeanor and sensed that their mother had appeared in the doorway to announce that quality male-bonding time watching televised sports with dad was over.

“C’mon you two,” she said. “Up we go.”

“Mom, did you know if you set food on fire and drop it on the floor you can still eat it if you run it through a dishwasher and put some parsley on it?” Skipper asked, his little face a picture of satisfaction that there was a time-tested, hygienic basis to his personal culinary preferences.

“No I didn’t,” she said as she looked askance at me. “Your father tells you the strangest fairy tales.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!”

Vote the Rhythm & Blues Ticket

This has been, without a doubt, the weirdest election cycle in living memory.  If we have learned anything from all the punditry we’ve endured as the field has been narrowed down to the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history, it’s that no one who claims to know anything about politics knows anything about politics.

But knowledgeable amateurs know otherwise–that’s what being knowledgeable is for. There is one American subculture that reliably produces a dark-horse candidate for the Presidency every four years, like clockwork, the Olympics and leap years.

That’s right, the Rhythm & Blues Party.

Every since alto sax man Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson re-worked the Big Bill Broonzy hit “Just a Dream” with a verse that imagined him sitting in the President’s chair, the R&B Party has produced men of the hour who give hope to Americans disillusioned by partisan politics who just want to lay down a loose groove of funky stuff.  You can’t tell the players without a scorecard, so print out this handy, dishwasher-safe Election 2016 Guide, study it carefully, and bring it to your neighborhood polling place this November.

Percy Mayfield: Out of contention, at least for this fall’s election, is Percy Mayfield, who sang “I Don’t Want to Be President.”  Mayfield cited the very public nature of the job–his wife might find out about his girlfriend–and the ever-present risk of assassination: the need, for example, “to have someone taste my cognac before I could take a drink.”

Mayfield’s heir and successor, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, a/k/a “The Gangster of Love,” similarly withdrew from the race, perhaps fearing exposure of his gangster ways, even though he was a decorated veteran, cited for his “funk beyond the call of duty.”


Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson: Father of R&B Candidates

James Brown: Brown dipped his toe into presidential politics with “Funky President,” a cryptically coded thank you note to Gerald Ford, the man who pardoned Brown’s close friend Richard Nixon.


“Where can I buy one of those brand new bags you mentioned–Pat would like one.”

Sadly, Brown is legally disqualified from running because he is dead, but so what?  That never stopped Calvin Coolidge.


Taylor:  “Foreign policy experience?  Dig this Nehru jacket!”

Johnnie Taylor: Not to be confused with “Little Johnny Taylor,” regular-sized Johnnie Taylor supports public policy initiatives that preserve the nuclear family through hits such as “It’s Cheaper to Keep Her,” a diatribe against divorce, and “I Been Born Again,” a testimony to monagamy that echoes a theme popular with evangelicals.

Sadly, Taylor has also withdrawn his name from contention with the song “I Could Never be President,” echoing Mayfield’s concerns.  It is a troubling commentary on our politics that good men with bodacious, honking Afros such as Taylor are discouraged from entering public life.

That leaves Louis Jordan, who declared his 1952 candidacy in “Jordan for President,” promising an administration that will “move you, groove you and keep you fit,” instead of Harold Stassen, “a hipster who takes no sassin.’”


Harold Stassen: Rhythm Assassin

The news of late has focused on the Democratic candidate, who collapsed over the weekend from the effects of pneumonia.  The diagnosis was kept secret–even denied–for too long.  The best approach when dealing with negative news is to get it out there quickly, preferably on a Friday–when she was first diagnosed!  But no, the “handlers” and “consultants” and other “experts” who traipse around all day wearing quotation marks on their heads said to sweep it under the rug until it hit the internet, and then it was too late.  Unlike Huey “Piano” Smith, who copped to the Rockin’ Pneumonia AND the Boogie Woogie Flu as soon as those two fell diseases hit him.

smith

So you do have choices.  You can do the predictable “sane” thing, or you can vote the rhythm & blues ticket, the way young Americans with spunk and moxie and toe jam used to write in “Alfred E. Neuman”–the gap-toothed Mad Magazine icon–for sixth-grade class president.

alfred

As French R&B fan Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “America is great because she is funky.  If she ceases to be funky, she will cease to be great.  Now everybody get up offa that thang.”