On my 5th anniversary, a tribute to my amazing wife, who’s also an amazing mother. A short story of a stranger helping a little girl on a plane. And from illiterate at 37 to college graduate: A wonderful story of hope

And a Happy Friday to you lovely people who are spending a few minutes of your busy day reading words I have typed.

I don’t usually start a Good News Friday with personal stories (except when I write about my little guys, and man it’s been far too long since I’ve done that), but today is May 25, 2018, and five years ago on this day I got to do the most amazing thing:

I married Shelley.

It’s still kind of amazing, looking back, that she married me. That of all the single people in the world at that time, she choose little ole’ me, a 5-foot-5 balding guy who at the time had just left one career and barely started another.

But she did. Choose me and say “I Do” and other stuff.

I have proof, in a little lockbox under our bed, a piece of paper that says “Certificate of Marriage.” I come across it sometimes when I’m going to retrieve our passports or other valuable paperwork, and I smile every time I see it.

I’ve told you about my wife before, a few times: How she’s the kindest, most compassionate human I’ve ever known outside of my late grandmother; how after one date with her, seven months after my divorce, I told my parents and others who had potential dates lined up for me to hold off for a while, I’m going to try to make it work with this amazing woman.

But as much as I thought I knew her then, five years ago today, I know her so, so much better now. We have created two beautiful boys together, and every day of their lives they’ve seen a mother who was loving, caring, firm on discipline when necessary, but always there to comfort with a hug and kiss.

I’ve seen a wife who’s only grown more impressive in my eyes, as a Mom. She works hard all day and sometimes night, but still has time and energy to read them stories, play games with them, and be cheerful.

It is a cliche that a married couple grows closer together when they have kids, but I think it’s true in our case. We’ve barely started this journey (our oldest is still scared of the noise of a public toilet flushing, so we’re like in the opening credits of this parenting movie) but I have to so respect and appreciate my wife more than just being her own person, but as a Mom to two great boys.

Five years. Five years of rarely fighting, five years of making each other laugh and smile every single day, five years of learning and discovering new things about each other (like this week I learned she’s not afraid to climb up on ladders, she just doesn’t do it when I’m around because, you know, I’ll do it for her).

Five years. Not as long as most people have been married; hell, her parents are closing in on year 50. But still, five years is something to be proud of.

I will do my best every day to keep her around some more.

**OK, let’s get to another sweet, random moment between strangers. So I saw this on Twitter the other day, just a small gesture by a person who didn’t know the folks sitting near him on a flight, but helped anyway.

The man’s face in the final photo is just perfect.

**And finally today, one more piece of proof that you should never, ever, ever give up on somebody. They will surprise you with what they can accomplish, or how they can change their life.

From Allison Klein’s fabulous story in the The Washington Post last week:

“Freddie Sherrill was homeless, an alcoholic and drug addict, and he used to steal his kids’ Christmas presents from under the tree and sell them. He was eating out of dumpsters. He could not read or write.

“Sherrill spent years in and out of prison and rehab centers in North Carolina. He once threw a brick through a store’s glass window on a freezing night so police would bring him in from the cold. But after a long and painful journey, Sherrill was able to claw his way back to sobriety and he even learned to read.

In one of his biggest accomplishments yet, he graduated from Queens University of Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree earlier this month at age 65.”

“I started a lot of things in my life I didn’t finish,” Sherrill said. “College wasn’t going to be one of them.”

I loved this quote from Sherrill: “When I stopped drinking and using drugs and alcohol, my whole life was different,” he said. “It was like going from being blind to learning to see. I wanted to be a father. I wanted to be part of the world.”

Tremendous. Here’s a man who looked completely lost, and had done nothing of value for so many years. And here he is, when most people are retiring, just getting started.

Fantastic stuff.

 

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A new underwear you don’t have to wash for weeks. Kelly Clarkson’s heartfelt plea instead of a moment of silence, asking for a moment of action. And a heartbreaking story about the children of opioid addicts

There have obviously been a lot of changes in how I see things in the world since I started making new humans four years ago.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/opioid-epidemic-leaving-grandparents-to-raise-grandchildren-2/

But one of them is that when I hear or see a story like this, my heart breaks even more than usual. Because no kid should ever, ever, EVER have to go through what the families in Utah interviewed by “60 Minutes” had to go through.

Two weeks ago the venerable news program aired this story  about an area of the opioid epidemic in America you don’t often hear about: What happens to the children of addicts when their parents can no longer care for them. In millions of cases, the grandparents have to step in, after their children have been neglected and abused for far too long.

There’s an organization in Utah that’s helping grandparents and kids deal with the ravages of their relative’s drug addiction, and that’s a good thing. But the stories these children tell Bill Whitaker… man. I was crying walking up 1st Avenue here in New York listening to them. Just awful, awful things.

But these grandparents stepping in and being there for the kids made my heart swell. Finally, these kids having regular food and a place to sleep (the anecdote about why one child slept on the stairs when her mom was around just broke me) has made all the difference.

“She’s had to sacrifice almost everything,” one child said of their grandmothers. “She had to change the whole way that she lived because our mom decided to do drugs.”

Watch the story. And then hug your kids or whoever’s near you.

**All right, and now for something on a much much lighter note.

Ever fret that you’re having to wash your underwear too often? Ever wish that you could just wear the same pair day after day?

Well, me either. But apparently the makers of Silver Tech underwear wanted that kind of undergarment frequency.

Organic Basics, a Danish company, has designed underwear that you can wear for up to a week without changing it.

How? Glad you asked! Take it away, Business Insider magazine!

”Our business is sustainable fashion. The traditional way of buying, wearing, washing and throwing away overpriced underwear is terrible waste of resources. And it is extremely harmful to the environment,” says 27-year-old Mads Fibiger, CEO and co-founder of Organic Basics.

Washing and drying account for two thirds of the total impact on the environment, and that is why Organic Basics got started on their underwear. The special ingredient is silver. This particular metal is antimicrobial which is why NASA uses silver to purify water for astronauts.

The underwear comes with a silver formula coating that kills 99.9% of all bacteria and odor in the garment, according to Organic Basics.

”It works. You can wear our underwear much longer before washing. You save time and money while we reduce the waste of water and energy,” Mads Fibiger explains.

So there you go, folks. Keep your underwear on all week, and save the environment while you’re at it.

And if you think I can write a story about wearing underwear and the controversy it can cause and NOT link to this clip from one of my all-time favorite movies, well, you don’t know me well enough yet. Why don’t they make Sunday, dammit?

**And finally today, Kelly Clarkson gave a short, beautiful speech at the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night, about the horror of the school shooting in her home state of Texas last week.

I applaud her sentiments, I applaud her bravery in speaking out, and I too am very sick of moments of silence.

I thought this was beautifully done.

An awful school shooting in Texas and a royal wedding: Just another weekend of good and bad. And the incredible Vegas hockey story continues to the Stanley Cup Final

It was a very strange weekend in the news, and yes I know that in America, 2018, that is saying something.

There were two events that dominated the headlines and many of my thoughts, two events that absolutely, positively, could not or should not be linked in memory.

But I’m going to link them here because this blog is nothing if not a collection of things that occupy space in my brain, and the horrific shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas and the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle were on my mind these past few days.

First, the shooting. Not much more to say other than this, which was a headline in The Washington Post:

“Texas school had a shooting plan, armed officers and practice. And still 10 people died.”

That’s right. A school in Texas, where I believe babies are given guns as soon as they’re out of the womb, a school that had armed security officers and all kinds of drill practices for just such an emergency, still saw 10 people murdered and 10 more injured.

You can do all the drills and arm all the people you want, but these awful incidents keep happening, because the one thing that would REALLY, actually stop them, limiting access to guns, is never going to happen.

How bad has it gotten? Listen to these quotes from the chief of police in Houston, Art Acevedo, in a message he posted to his Facebook page. I remind you, this is a chief of police in Texas:

“I know some have strong feelings about gun rights,” Acevedo said, “but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue …

“Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do. My feelings won’t be hurt if you de-friend me and I hope yours won’t be if you decide to post about your views and I de-friend you…
his isn’t a time for prayers, and study and Inaction, it’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction (especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing).”

Pretty stunning for a police chief to say such strong things, but this is where we are in America.
I was depressed about the shooting and feeling totally helpless, of course, and then I had TV and the Internet screaming at me about the Royal Wedding and quite honestly, I couldn’t stand it.

I have written and spoken before about how ludicrous I find the Royal Family, and all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it. I mean, who really cares? Why in 2018 is there still even a Royal Family, and why do they deserve such attention?

But then I watched a few of the news clips, and looked at some of the gorgeous photos like the one above, and I changed my mind. In this time of such horrible news, a constant drumbeat of sadness, maybe a beautiful wedding that gives joy to so many isn’t such a bad thing.

And that maybe it’s a lovely moment of happy amid so much grief that we all need right now. I admit it: I looked through some of the wedding photos, more than I thought I would. And even if I don’t care about Megan Markle and her new prince of a husband (see what I did there?), it was nice for a few minutes this weekend to just see two people happy.

It’s late and I’m rambling a little, but hopefully my point has become clear as this: The worst of humanity and the happiest moments for others sometimes collide in your brain at the same time.

And you have to deal with them at the same time, and I guess I just always hope that the joy can outweigh the sorrow. For me, you and everybody.

**And finally today, the Vegas Golden Knights. The Vegas Golden Knights! The most improbable pro sports story in maybe forever, or at least a very long time, is happening right now in the NHL.  As I’ve written before, nobody but nobody goes to the playoffs in their first year as a pro sports franchise, and nobody but nobody keeps going like Vegas is doing.

But Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg, a collection of castoffs nobody else wanted, a top-shelf goalie the Penguins just couldn’t keep, did the impossible: They advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Folks, I know most of you don’t care about hockey. But this franchise is incredible. I mean, just watch their pregame entrance entertainment (above), which is the best I’ve ever seen. It’s over the top and glitzy and ridiculous but that’s what Las Vegas is, right?

An expansion team playing for a championship in its first year is bananas. What an incredible story. Go Vegas Go.

Good News Friday: A kindergarten teacher’s “Glue Stick Pledge” is hilarious and necessary. The most amazing blood donor ever gives his last pint. And a very cool welcome back for a Pittsburgh Pirates star.

And a Happy Friday, y’all. It’s mid-May, our new house is finally starting to look like our house as we approach moving day (and hey, I’ve met the mailman twice already so we’re off to a good start in a crucial lifelong relationship), and my toddler has finally learned to wipe himself after going No. 2. (Any toddler parent will tell you how much they miss wiping poop.)

So, you know, life is good.

Life is also good if you’re a kindergarten teacher trying to teach your kids not to eat their glue sticks, or otherwise use them for purposes other than gluing.

Meet Emerald Amethyst, aka Miss Barton, a kindergarten teacher extraordinaire who runs a blog called The Kindergarten Chronicles. A few weeks ago she wanted her students to learn to treat their new glue sticks with respect. So she had them take The Glue Stick Pledge, which made me laugh out loud, many times. (My favorite part is the “circular motions” explanation)/

Here it is, and I’m sure many, many elementary school teachers could relate (Update: Barton said in the week after the pledge, only one glue stick died. Good job kids!)

**Next up, the story from the New York Times’ new “Good News” website page, as they’re clearly stealing my ideas.

So, I like giving blood. Makes me feel good, costs me less than an hour of time, and maybe it helps someone in need. I’ve probably given blood, oh, maybe 100 times. I’ve got nothing on a man in Australia named James Harrison.

He says he doesn’t like needles. But according to this excellent Times story, “He’s given blood every few weeks for 60 years, for a total of 1,173 times.

When he was younger Harrison’s blood was found to contain a rare antibody necessary for a pioneering medication that could help prevent fatal diseases in children. Medical officials say his blood has helped save more than two million babies from a potentially fatal disease.

Despite his distaste for needles, Mr. Harrison has donated in locations across Australia. Last Friday, he made his final donation in Sydney. Medical officials decided that it was time for Mr. Harrison to protect his own health.

Mr. Harrison’s selflessness has been widely praised. He has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his longtime support of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Now, researchers are working on a “James in a Jar project,” with the goal of synthetically creating antibodies that match what Mr. Harrison produces naturally.

Harrison wanted to keep going. What an amazing, selfless human being. And what I keep thinking? Do you know how many tiny bottles of apple juice and crappy crackers this man has eaten, at the recovery station after each donation?

**Finally today, professional athletes move from one team and city to another so frequently, it’s easy to forget how many of these men and women make indelible marks on their towns. Especially when they’re a star player who stayed a long time, and happens to be a hell of a human being.

Andrew McCutcheon was a star on some really bad Pirates teams, then helped finally make them better and reach the playoffs. They never won the World Series, but McCutcheon was a huge reason they are no longer an embarrassment. After nine years, an MVP season and many other great moments, McCutcheon was traded to San Francisco in the offseason. But he came back to the Steel City for the first time as a member of an opposing team last week, and this is what happened when he walked to the plate.

A beautiful tribute to an all-around good guy. You could see how moved he was. Great, great moment.

New HBO documentary “I am Evidence” brutal and hopeful about untested rape kits. The Stanley Cup playoffs are awesome and so is this old clip of how tough hockey players are. And a school bus driver looks up “Yo Mama” jokes while driving the bus

There is so much good TV and outstanding movies right now that it’s easy for great work to get lost.

Hell, most of America still isn’t watching “The Americans” which only has three episodes left and has been freaking amazing the last few weeks. (Watch it, people!)

But I wanted to make you aware of a pretty powerful and sensational and frustrating documentary I saw on HBO last week, called “I Am Evidence.”

It follows the city of Detroit and it’s fearless prosecutor, Kym Worthy, as she fights to have the thousands of untested rape kits discovered sitting in a warehouse outside of town tested to find who committed these brutal assaults against women.

This mission to test rape kits has been going on for years, as finally after so many police departments across the country simply took evidence from women who were assaulted, then either due to negligence or lack of funds, never got the kits tested.

This was happening in big cities like Detroit and Cleveland, and small burgs, too. Thousands of women went through the horrible trauma of being raped, and then nothing was ever done to even possibly see if there was a DNA match in the federal criminal database with their attacker.

We see Worthy and other prosecutors interview survivors like Helena and Amberly, who had nothing in common and lived far from each other but were both raped by the same man. We meet law enforcement officials who make excuses for why the kits weren’t tested (mostly complaining about lack of funds), see the city of Los Angeles police department come off very badly (shocker, I know), and get to hear the stories of victims who’ve had their lives ruined, yet find a way to go on.

There is so much infuriating detail in “I Am Evidence,” such as an examination of police reports constantly focusing on what the victim was wearing, how she was acting, etc. There is (and again, no surprise here) admitted statements from law enforcement that if the woman raped was a person of color, their cases were taken less seriously.

But what emerges out of the anger is hope, and admiring strength. Worthy and other prosecutors around the country are having success catching rapists thanks to the kits finally getting tested. And we see, led by celebrities like Mariska Hargitay who is very involved (and is shown throughout the documentary) that this issue is getting more and more attention.

But there’s still a long way to go. And for every uplifting story like Helena’s, there are so many more victims out there, being ignored.

“I Am Evidence” is a hugely important piece of work. It’s on HBO on Demand, the HBO Now app, and airing throughout the month. I definitely recommend seeing it.

**Next up, the Stanley Cup playoffs continue to be sensational, with the Washington Capitals holding a 2-1 lead over Tampa in the East and a great series out West between Winnipeg and Las Vegas (those traditional, longtime rivals!) tied at 1.

I’m a hockey zealot, of course, and I always declare that hockey players are the toughest athletes of them all, and that their desire to win the Stanley Cup is beyond words.

So every year during the playoffs I find myself watching the above clip, of the Dallas Stars’ Darryl Sydor suffering an awful injury in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and still trying to help his team, because winning would mean that much.
Watch until the end, for the sensational Gary Thorne quote:

“Until hell freezes over and as long as the Stanley Cup is awarded, you will see that shot of Darryl Sydor, crawling to the front of the net, whenever anyone asks what the Stanley Cup is all about.”

So, so great.

**And finally today, always fun to get an entry in the “really? That seemed like a good idea at the time?” Hall of Fame.

Meet a school bus driver in Minnesota named Brenda Carsten. She’s facing 15 separate charges of reckless driving and child endangerment after some seriously scary driving of the bus (while not wearing a seatbelt).

And Carsten also was using her phone to look up “Yo Mama” jokes that students had requested, then passing the phone back to them to read the jokes aloud.

Are you freaking kidding me? This woman should be sent to jail for a long time. What a ridiculous thing to do while driving a school bus.

And now, because you’ve read this far, my three favorite “Yo Mama” jokes off the top of my head:
1. “Yo Mama so fat she’s on BOTH sides of the family.”
2. “Yo Mama so dumb she went to the movies and saw it said “Under 17 Not admitted” and she went and got 16 of her friends.”
3. “Yo mama’s so old her Social Security number is one.”

Juvenile, but funny. Thank you, I’ll see myself out.

 

After being a fan for (most of) 30 years, I finally see Bon Jovi in concert. And they were … OK. And a fabulous Mother’s Day skit from “SNL”

I’ve written a lot of stupid things in my journalism career. I mean, a lot. I once compared high school basketball conference tournaments to foreplay before sex (Yeah, I did that.).
I once called a local high school cheerleading coach “full-figured” in a story (Yeah, I did that too. Hey, I was young and stupid.)

But of all the things I’ve written and wanted to take back, maybe this one takes the cake. In the fall of 1994, I was a sophomore at Delaware and got to Review the new Bon Jovi album, “Crossroads”, which was kind of a greatest hits album but also had some new tracks.

Now despite having been a fan of Jon Bon, Richie, Tico and the boys from New Jersey since 1986 or so, I ripped this album. I was mad that it wasn’t as good as their earlier work, and as you might expect I took lots of potshots at a band I loved and now was upset at subpar work. I really wish I could quote exactly what I said in that review, because despite my old university doing an amazing job digitally archiving issues of the student paper, somehow there’s a few weeks in October and November, 1994 that are missing.

Anyway, to paraphrase what I wrote then, I said Bon Jovi was finished. Done. No longer relevant, or interesting. Surely, I said confidently, they’d be forgotten soon and relegated to the hair band dustbin of history (can you imagine how much hairspray would be in that dustbin?)

Yeah, not so much. A quarter of a century since I wrote that, Bon Jovi is still going strong. Selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden all over the country, and still cultivating new fans and getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

I have long regretted what I wrote and have continued to be a big fan, and finally last Thursday night I got to see the men who inspired thousands of karaoke versions of “Livin’ On a Prayer” (some by me, I proudly admit) at MSG.

I went in with very high expectations. And, well… it was a little disappointing. Some thoughts on the two-hour show, and the crowd.

— So here’s what was missing: Not just Richie Sambora, the legendary guitar player who left the band in 2013. It was the whole “big rock show” thing. There was almost no stagecraft for the show, no big screens, very little flashing lights, not much in the way of production values at all. Jon’s voice was still pretty strong, he shook his little tush for the girls in the crowd a few times, and did his thing.
But the sound was just not great. All the old, huge hits, like “Bad Medicine” and “Born To Be My Baby” were played noticeably slower, as if the band just couldn’t keep the same speed or tempo. What resulted was a bunch of fans like me and others in my section who were a second ahead of the lyrics all night. It was weird and disappointing. Maybe the current lineup just can’t keep up with the ferocious pace of the old hits.

— A few words about the fans: My goodness, it was like 1989 threw up in MSG the other night. The ripped jeans, the hairspray (Al Gore might’ve died if he’d seen and smelled it), the bleached blondes screaming, and the torn T-shirts… it was like my high school dance.

The crowd was also incredibly… white. It was like an NRA convention in there; not a person of color to be found.

— The other issue I had was Bon Jovi played so many of their newer songs that nobody knows. I’d say a quick check of the setlist revealed at least seven songs I don’t think I knew, out of 23. For a band with 40 years of material, that’s way too much.

Still, it wasn’t all bad. “Wanted Dead or Alive” and that old ditty about Tommy and Gina sounded great, and the emotional pitch Jon hit when he went into the stands on certain songs was fabulous. The guy is still a hell of an entertainer.

But overall I was disappointed. I wanted the 1980s Bon Jovi experience, which is probably an unfair thing to expect.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got 1988’s New Jersey to listen to on my iPod, and sway to Livin In’ Sin.

**Finally today, I hope you had a terrific Mother’s Day Sunday, that you called your mother and told her you loved her if you couldn’t be with her, that you spent some time with her if you could, and if, sadly, your mother is no longer with us, you spent some time fondly remembering her.

Instead of bringing us a warm and fuzzy sketch about Mother’s Day, “Saturday Night Live” happily brought us this from the Amy Schumer-hosted show this weekend.

This was damn, damn funny, and I think all Moms can relate.

Good News Friday: The 4-year-old who’s feeding homeless people will melt your heart. A little boy rescues hundreds of dogs from shelters. And in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, adults hilariously apologize for decades-old behavior

And a Happy Friday to you all! I’m a little wiped out and hoarse of voice after seeing my first-ever Bon Jovi concert Thursday night (much, much more on that in Monday’s blog, let’s just say this was something I was looking forward to since 1986 and it only slightly disappointed).

Lots of good stuff to choose from this week, but we have to start with the msot adorable human I’ve seen in some time.

Meet Austin Perine of Birmingham, Ala., a 4-year-old boy turned superhero who has an amazing power: He feeds homeless people. Once a week, he and his Dad drive around the city and, using money from Austin’s allowance, give chicken sandwiches to hungry folks.

Asked by Steve Hartman of CBS News why he does it, he replies: “You know what Mr. Steve? It’s just the right thing to do,” Austin says with a smile.

Followed by his slogan he uses after feeding a homeless person, dressed in his “President Austin” garb.

“Don’t forget to show love!” he says.

I mean, come on! Is he not the cutest thing ever??? You’ll be happy to know that since this piece first aired a week ago, Burger King has offered to give Austin all the chicken sandwiches he needs to keep feeding strangers, and a GoFundMe page set up for Austin has raised $54,000..

Austin and his Dad T.J. plan to use the money raised to open a rehab facility to help re-integrate struggling homeless people back into society.

“Feeding the homeless is the highlight of my life!” Austin exclaims in the update video.

Watching this kid… man, how can you not be hopeful about the future of America?

**Next up today, loyal reader Sanford sent this in and I think it’s fantastic.  Six-year-old Roman McConn wandered by a PetSmart about two years ago at a dog rescue event and was wondering why some of the dogs didn’t have homes. His Mom Jennifer explained to him that some of the dogs needed families to adopt them, and so Roman got to work.

In just two years he’s helped 800 dogs find homes, making videos of these pups in need of love and affection, and publicizing them on the Internet.

“All dogs need homes, right?” Roman said.

How could you not love this kid? If Austin doesn’t save the world, my money’s on Roman.

**And finally today, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and while I have often expressed my appreciation for the amazing teachers who have helped me in my life (including the fantastic Mr. William Gehrhardt, of whom I wrotemaybe my favorite blog post ever, which you can read here), I think what maybe almost as important is apologizing to those teachers who we have wronged.

I personally should apologize to Mr. Scalzetti, my eighth grade math teacher, for dozing off in class because I hated math so much.

Jimmy Kimmel wandered out into the Hollywood streets this week to ask random people if they wanted to say they were sorry, and the results were hilarious and even a little sweet.

Teachers are the best. Sorry for all the trouble kids cause. My favorite story is the guy at 2:30.

Saying goodbye to substitute teaching after six years: It was kind of fun, but I’m OK being done. And an insane Rube Goldberg-type video that will amaze.

I was expecting some kind of finality to settle in my gut last Wednesday, as I took my yellow timecard with my signature on the bottom, slipped it into the machine where I punched out, and walked out of a school office for what in all likelihood was my last-ever day as a substitute teacher.

After six years, and more than 200 days trying to keep New York City elementary, middle and high school kids from killing each other while I supervised them, I worked my last day on the job last Wednesday. I proctored the state math tests at my favorite middle school, Robert F. Wagner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and then taught the rest of the day.

And so I thought, given that I kind of stumbled into the job of substitute teaching (I couldn’t get a full-time classroom position so I started subbing to get some experience), and then enjoying great portions of it, that I’d feel some sadness, or nostalgia, at the end last week.

But nope. I was just beat. Tired from the day, tired from kids being nasty to me (on my second to last day, a smart-mouthed 7th-grader responded to my admonishment of him “Dude you’re just a substitute, I’m not listening to you.”) and tired of what’s often a thankless job.

There are a lot of great things about substitute teaching: No grading papers, no parents to call or deal with, and no principal or assistant principal breathing down your neck with reminders about testing and curriculum.

But there are also a ton of bad things. Like, as stated above, getting zero respect from students. Like never getting into a rhythm in a school, or a class, because you’re only there for a few days at a time. Like never getting fully respected by the faculty and administration at the school, because many of them are inclined to let terrible behavior go when a substitute is in the room.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunities I was given; when I left full-time journalism seven (gasp, was it really seven years?) years ago and became a teacher, I didn’t know if I’d get a chance, anywhere. And the fact that I got to sub for six years, and was asked back at my favorite schools over and over again, meant I got to forge some bonds and relationships with students and teachers.

There were some highlights, to be sure. I’ll never forget the student who walked out of class one day and looked me in the eye, solemnly, and said “Mr. Lewis, thank you for your service.” Like I’m a war veteran or something.

There were hilarious moments like when an 8th-grader asked me “When you were a kid and had a sub, did you do work that day?” And I had to stifle a laugh and say “I plead the Fifth.”

And there were sad moments, like being at a middle school the day high school acceptances and rejections were announced, and seeing the sad faces of 12-year-olds who never should have to deal with such pressure (the competition here in NYC to get into a top high school is insane.)

In the end, it was a great life experience, being a sub, but it’s ending for a few reasons: 1, I just don’t have time for it anymore, but 2, we’re moving to Long Island and there’s a whole process I’d have to go through to substitute there.

So I wrap up my time as a sub happy I did it, but happy it’s over. Which is not too bad as life experiences go.

**Finally today, something completely different: This is a guy named Joseph. He builds machines. He makes videos about them. This one is pretty amazing, and I don’t even know what’s my favorite part. Probably the baby. Or the hammer that starts the Skype call on the laptop.

The whole thing is freaking amazing. Just watch and realize that genius takes many forms.

Yet another absolutely disgusting example of racial profiling, this time against Native Americans on a college campus. “SNL” cold open this week was star-studded and stellar. And LeBron James, just doing what he does, amazingly.

It just seems to be getting worse and worse.
The hatred, the polarization of politics, that’s always been there. People who think it’s terrible today are right, but don’t forget two huge figures from the 1800s had a duel because they were so mad at each other (Hey, that reminds me, that Alexander Hamilton guy had a pretty interesting life. Someone should do a play or a musical or something about him.)

No what I’m talking about today is the fear, the complete, abject fear, and instant judgement so many people seem to have about those who don’t look like them. Look, of course I’d be insane to argue racism is worse now than it ever was, of course it’s not. Things have been way, way worse in the past for non-whites, and I get that.

But it just seems like every week, every freaking week, we see stories like this, and I feel like it’s so important to constantly remind yourself, this is not OK.

What got me off on this rant? This story from the campus of Colorado State University, where last week two Native American men on a tour of the school were pulled off the tour by campus police when a “nervous” mom called to say they unsettled her.

From this Denver Post story: ” Police questioned the men and allowed them to rejoin the tour, but by the time they were released, the group had moved on without them. The men then returned to CSU’s Ammons Hall before leaving campus and going home to New Mexico.

The incident on Monday has prompted a review by the university. CSU officials say campus police responded appropriately to the concerns of the parent, but they also reached out to the two men who only wanted to visit the campus to see if they wanted to enroll at CSU.”

Let’s just get this clear: These men did NOTHING wrong. They weren’t aggressive or loud or obnoxious or threaten this woman in any way. But they were on a tour of the university with her, they didn’t look like her, and so she called the police.

Happens over, and over again. Just despicable. At least Colorado State is trying to make it right, a little bit, by these two men: The school has invited the two men back to campus for a tour, and will pay for their travel from New Mexico to Colorado. This updated AP story has more details, with the woman who called the police unsettled because the teens joined the tour late and weren’t talking much.

Thomas Kanewakeron Gray, 19, and Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, 17, were simply profiled because in this country today, it’s quite OK and perfectly understandable to treat people who are not white like this, in the eyes of so many.

“I think it’s pretty discriminatory,” Thomas Kanewakeron Gray said Thursday. “Me and my brother just stayed to ourselves the whole time. I guess that was scaring people; that we were just quiet.”

Can’t ever “normalize” this stuff.

**Next up today, “Saturday Night Live” had an embarrassment of riches when it came to guest stars this past weekend. To be fair, there’s so much that happens in Trump-land every week, you need a ton of talented people to convey it all.
But check out this lineup: ScarJo, Ben Stiller, Martin Short, Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon all in this fantastic opening to the show. And Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani is just sensational.

**Sometimes it feels superfluous to praise LeBron James yet again. It’s like praising the sun for coming up every day, or giving props to the driver who stops at the traffic light. It’s like, of COURSE LeBron James is awesome, do we really need to say it again?

But yeah, we do. Because what he’s doing so far in these NBA playoffs… I mean, it’s just ridiculous. Playing with probably his weakest supporting cast since, what, 2007 maybe, the kid from Akron has Cleveland one win away from the Eastern Conference finals. He hit the game-winning shot over the Raptors (who everyone thought was the East’s best team) Saturday night and not even for a second did I think the shot would miss. Who cares that it was off-balance, with his right hand, falling away? I was 100 percent sure it was going on.

Couple more things I was thinking about Saturday night, as I texted my boy Tony Jones about our mutual man-crush, Mr. James…

— He came into the league in 2003, and has been playing heavy minutes ever since. It’s now 2018. 2018! Dude has been playing this well for 15 years!

— He has played every second of every game under the biggest microscope possible, and with the exception of that massive ego trip he took that started with “The Decision” in 2011 and lasted a year, he’s comported himself so well on and off the court.

They say we don’t appreciate greatness while it’s right in front of us, that only after it’s gone

Good News Friday: A teenager brings his Mom to the prom she never got to go to. A bar owner in Wrightsville Beach does an extraordinary good deed for 2 people. And the 5K race re-envisioned, for really lazy people

And a Happy Friday to you all! Winter’s finally over here in NYC and summer has already begun, so, you know, spring, I guess we’ll catch you next year or something.

Lots of good news to report this week, but wanted to start with another very cool prom story. 

Joe Moreno, of Corpus Christi, Tex., needed a date for his upcoming senior prom. So he decided to ask the one woman he really loved more than any other: Mom.

Joe’s Mom Vanessa never got to go to her prom, as she had to leave high school upon becoming pregnant at age 17.

“It was a sacrifice that I had made. My sacrifice was to give my children my all. I put everything into him. I push them to become everything they can,” she said.

My mom’s the most important person to me. I really love her and everything she’s done for me,” he said.

Good job, Joe.

**Next up, this is one incredibly story, once again from my man Steve Hartman of CBS News. A bar owner in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. (a town I used to live about two miles from, really beautiful place) learned that a customer, a total stranger, had lost her wallet and wedding ring in his establishment one night last month.

What Jimmy Gilleece did next completely changed the lives of two people. Remarkable stuff considering how far he went to not only get the ring and wallet back, but to reach out to the troubled soul who took it.

Jimmy, if I’m ever in Wrighstville Beach again (shout out to Caroline’s bar there, where I used to do really bad but enthusiastic karaoke of Prince, Bruce Springsteen and others!), I’m buying everyone in your establishment a drink. And you too.

**Finally today, this made me laugh pretty hard, and it’s for a good cause, to boot.

I first heard about this on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me: Have you ever wanted to participate in a charity run, but don’t actually want to run very far? This might be the race for you.

A group in Boerne, Texas is hosting “The Boerne 0.5K,” a 0.3 mile race, and it’s being billed as a “running event for the rest of us.”

That’s right, not a 5k, but a .5K, and man I’m tired just thinking about those 300-odd yards I’d have to run. I have so many questions:

Are there volunteers with water and encouragement at the .25k mark? Can i run through a tape with my arms in the air even if I don’t have time to lift my arms once the race starts, before I’m at the finish line?

And most importantly of all: Is there a shortcut available so I don’t have to run that far?

But all kidding aside, this is a pretty amazing cause. From the story: “The “very fun, tongue-in-cheek event” intended to “lampoon the typical 5K” will benefit the charitable organization Blessings in a Backpack, an organization that provides food on the weekends for children who depend on federal free and reduced meal programs offered through their schools.

Organizers of the event are giving out many incentives to those who participate in and complete the nearly 547-yard race, including race T-shirts, free beer at both the beginning and the end of the race, and even “a pretentious oval Euro-style 0.5K sticker that you can attach to your rear windshield.”

There is even a VIP option — for $25, you get a “bigger” medal without even having to run the race.

That’s awesome. Blessings in a Backpack is a wonderful organization that can use all the publicity and money it can get. And this race should help a lot.