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Category Archives: Memories

“Stargaze”

We spent the summer’s nights
Gazing up at jet-black sky
Pierced by fierce crystal
And deftly marbled with the
Swirling grasp of the Milky Way.
Hand in hand, we kissed, and
We wished
That we would be as endless
As all that we could not see.

It’s Doctor Seuss’s birthday!

While the man himself was born in 1904, his birthday is celebrated annually as Read Across America Day.

Doctor Seuss was a huge influence on me when I was a child. My parents both read Seuss books to me and my sisters. I have great memories of listening to “The Sneetches and Other Stories” (which we would borrow from the YMCA Camp of the Rockies library whenever we would visit Estes Park). The first book that I read aloud was “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” proving to my mother at a very early age that I was capable of reading on my own. That was where my love of books really began, sitting on the couch in the living room, carrying on where she had left off while she took a phone call. To this day, I will randomly quote “Bartholomew and the Oobleck” or any one of a dozen other Seuss titles.

I love books. Three bookstores and two libraries have served as my places of employment over the last ten years, and it all started with a little rhyme. So, though he’s been gone since shortly after I learned to read, I would like to thank Theodore Geisel for all that he’s done for me and for countless other children across the world. Thank you, Doctor Seuss.

Tucker came to live with my family in the summer of 2006. He was found on the side of the road with a small head injury, a stray who looked to have fallen from a passing vehicle, and my sister fell in love with him instantly. It wasn’t hard for her to convince Dad to bring the little orange tabby home.

Though he was ostensibly an outdoor cat, my sisters and I found every reason we could to keep in inside with us. We wanted him to be close to us, and he felt the same way. He would sit outside our back porch door meowing for someone to take pity on him, even on the nicest of summer evenings. I would bring him inside, letting him fall asleep in my bed, curled up against the back of my legs.

He was a smart cat, and took to small-town life fabulously. He didn’t have a litterbox in the house, so he would wake me up with a nip at my eyebrow or wrist so that I could let him out. If I wanted to go get the mail, or pick up a can of Mountain Dew at the local gas station, Tucker would walk with me, or ride on my shoulders, or in the hood of my sweatshirt. At the time, it was the closest I’d ever been to having a pet that was mine. We’d had other cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. but they all belonged either to the family or to one of my sisters. Tucker, though, was my responsibility.

I hated to leave him behind when I went to college. My parents and little sister would give me updates on him when I would call home. On my trips back to my parents’ house, he would be let back inside to spend time with me. During Christmas break, he would spend hours crawling around in the boxes I’d brought home from school.

In short, the little dude was one of my best friends during the years that he spent with us.

Five years ago, I recieved news that Tucker had died. It was a very sudden passing, and we suspect that his head injury as a kitten might have been an underlying cause. Whatever the reason, his death hit me very hard.

Today, I went looking for a writing prompt, and found one that talked about writing a story about an animal. I realized that today was the anniversary of Tucker’s death, and I knew I had to write a little piece about him. I started this blog a couple of weeks after he died, and never really acknowledged that loss here until now, when he’s been gone longer than he was actually with us. So here’s to you, little guy. I miss you like crazy.

Tucker

When I was a child, my older sister invented a world in the garden. I’m not sure if it was more inspired by Narnia or Terabithia, because to me it seemed to be equal parts of both. It’s strange to think of a lush realm in the midst of the Colorado plains, but she managed it somehow. It was hidden away beneath the shade of a plum tree and walled in by a grape vine, and it was there that she established her domain. During the spring, she would pick flowers from the local greenhouse and plant them in her little corner of the back yard. It was a fantastic spot to spend a hot afternoon. With fresh fruit growing overhead (and around the corner in the main part of our parents’ garden) and water from the hose, you could stay out there for hours.

I never said anything to her then, but I was jealous. I wanted something like that, and she’d taken the best spot in the yard for it. I realize now, though, how important having a space of her own was to her. When we were kids, there were four of us sharing two bedrooms, and it was never easy for any of us to get time to ourselves. If I had the bottom bunk of the beds I shared with our youngest sister, I would hang blankets up to turn it into a fort. When we got a new fridge, I asked to keep the box it came in. Some scissor work and marker drawing later, it sat on the top bunk and turned into a Calvin and Hobbes-esque spaceship. Both of these spaces were mine, despite only being partitions within another room.

We would seek out places where our creativity could thrive. I didn’t realize how essential it was then, but the space we could make for ourselves was critical to us. Our imaginations were fueled by the books we read and heard, and the desire to craft something from our own thoughts moved us forward. Today, my big sister is an architect, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She went to college and poured herself onto canvas and into sculpture, bringing her imagination into reality. Just like she did in the garden back home, she’s making the world a little more like she dreamed it could be, one small space at a time. It’s an incredible bit of inspiration for me. I may use a keyboard or a pen and paper where she used paint and clay (and now wood, concrete, steel), but I like to think that, at least in some small way, I’m following a part of her path.

A great man has left this world, and I need to take a moment to talk about him. His name was Theodore Jerry Baum, and he was my English teacher in my junior year of high school. Mr. Baum died almost a month ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to memorialize him in a better way than the sadly lackluster obituary our local newspaper provided.

Like most of the kids my age, I met Mr. Baum long before I took a class with him. When you live in a small town, everyone knows everybody else. He taught English and Television Production at Holyoke High School. My first (and sadly only) class with Mr. Baum was my junior year of high school, and I’d been terrified of him. The man was a sort of urban legend, and he had a reputation, at least in my head, of teaching the hardest English class around. No nonsense. Strict, straitlaced. Or so it seemed.

After a while, though, I got to know him a little better. I learned that he loved German food, and that he delighted in playing practical jokes. When my independent study German group decided to have a German meal at school, I made brats and sauerkraut, brought a crock pot full, and let it simmer in my classroom all day. Mrs. Ortner’s room was right across the hall, and she made it quickly known that she HATED the smell of sauerkraut. Naturally, after sharing lunch with us, Mr. Baum took a cup full of sauerkraut and left it hidden in one of Mrs. O’s trashcans for the rest of the day.

He could move far faster than I ever would have thought possible for a man his age. One of his best pranks involved sneaking up on then-counselor Mrs. Vieselmeyer with an air horn, letting it off right next to her head. She spun around and would’ve likely knocked Mr. Baum into the next semester if he hadn’t jumped away.

On another day, I was walking through the library when a book fell from one of the shelves. As I bent to pick it up, another fell. I glanced up in time to see Mr. Baum hiding on the other side of the shelf, chuckling to himself as he pushed the books through onto my side.

As a junior, I participated in the district academic bowl. He was one of our moderators, and at one point in the evening, a question required the phrasing of a line from Oliver. Cue Mr. Baum singing “Consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family.”

No tribute to Mr. Baum would be complete without mentioning his cat, Brutus. There were several cats that he owned throughout the years I knew him, and each one, regardless of gender, was named Brutus. I never knew how many of them there were altogether, just that there was always one at a time, a constant companion for him.

He loved to garden during his retirement. He moved into a house down the street from my parents, one that had a lovely garden in the back that had been carefully tended for years by the previous resident. Many afternoons I could go for a walk and find him there, Huskers cap on his head, trowel in hand, continuing the work of maintaining the flowers and vegetables that were growing there.

I’ll never forget him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I knew him better than most. That would be doing a great disservice to the many people whose lives he touched. I knew him. That was enough.

 

It’s August 12th. Eight years ago today, I attended orientation at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and made one of the biggest decisions of my life. Eight years ago, I decided to move to Colorado Springs. I’m going to come right out and say that my life would not be anywhere nearly as amazing if I hadn’t. Eight years ago, I met people who have stayed by my side through four years of college and four more years of whatever this beautiful mess I call my life. I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me. The people that I’ve been close to over the last eight years have made me who I am today, and I love you all.

I remember kneeling on the couch, arms resting on the back, staring out the picture window at the frozen landscape. I remember wishing we had a fireplace like my grandparents, so that I wouldn’t have to bundle up under blankets in the middle of a day like this. I would shiver and go to the room that my little sister and I shared, climb up to the top bunk, and shut off the overhead light. A small bedside lamp was all the illumination I would need to lose myself in one of my books, a favorite pulled from one of my many shelves.

After an hour or so, my little sister would inevitably come in and ask me to play outside. I’d reluctantly agree, because I knew it meant getting cold and spending time with her when I could be reading or drawing, but I would agree nonetheless. No matter how much I might have protested, I really did enjoy spending the time with her. I still do. We would get dressed in layers of clothes, including snow pants if we still had a pair that fit us.

We’d finish getting bundled up and wander out into the snow and ice, hoping that the snow was wet enough that it would be packable, allowing us to make snowballs at the very least. Snow angels would be made, should the snowfall be deep enough. If it were a really legendary Colorado blizzard, we’d have enough snow to make forts up against the base of the pine trees in the park. After a few freezing hours, we’d trudge back to the house. Mom would be there, and she’d help us make a couple of mugs of homemade hot chocolate, with marshmallows if we had them.

After that, it would be time for a movie or a game, depending on how tired we were. We would spend the rest of the evening in the living room until it was time to help get dinner ready. All too soon, our day of freedom would come to an end, and it would be time to eat and get things cleaned up before bed. Finally exhausted by our day, we allow sleep to overtake us and dream of the adventures yet to come.

“Footsteps”

These are my last steps through these halls.
This is the last night that I will spend not
Roaming, but monitoring, patrolling them.

New voices now echo forth from the doors,
And new faces, mysterious and unknown,
Peer around the corners. My time is ending.

It’s time for a new generation to take my place.
I can’t believe that my turn is over, but it’s
Time to pass the torch. Turn in my keys, clock out.

I’ve done my time, as it were. Served my sentence
And then some. I’ve been here for far too long,
Unchanging. It’s time to be like water, fluid.

These are my last days in the world that I forged.
This was a place that, once upon a time, provided
Me with the protection and stability that I sought.

I was desperate then, but I am stronger now.
Now I will seek love, freedom, and change rather
Than certainty. There are some things that are better.

Empty hallways will fill again, just as they do each
Year, an annual event that never ceases to amaze.
My part in the growth is done, my exit is stage left.

 As April is National Poetry Month, I present to you an older piece, one that I did two years ago in a class on Poetry and Social Justice. I’ve mentioned it once or twice before. This poem, “Dog,” was published in Active For Justice back in 2010, and I’ve linked to it previously, but now I’ll present the poem in its unedited entirety. Enjoy.

“Dog”

My face is new to you today, but you say hello to me

Anyway. I’m tired as hell, feeling sick, and my feet are

Already sore. It’s not a big deal, though, not in comparison.

Anyway, we’re not even halfway through this walk.

I’m young. I can handle it.

You smiled honestly as we walked up to you, as if

You knew what we were going to say and what we

Were going to offer you. Yes, you say, it’s a byooo-

Tee-full day outside today, but it’s going to get chilly

Tonight, when the sun sets.

I don’t know what your real name is. Out here you’re

A nickname. It’s protection. No one can hurt you if

They don’t know who you are. That’s the idea, at

Any rate. But no one can help you if they don’t know

That you’re here.

It’s a little after noon. I shouldn’t be so tired, and it

Really shouldn’t be an issue, not when I’m seeing

How you and your friends live. Not when I’m seeing

How badly you might need medicine, or propane to keep

Warm, or even just a damn toothbrush.

You don’t say “fucking” in front of us. You try to maintain

Some sort of air of being a gentleman in front of the lady in

Our group. She’s touched by this, and the fact that you call
Her byooo-tee-full, Despite that you’re wearing an inside-out

Hoodie and a bandana, and rarely put down your beer.

You know why you’re here today. You know that you’ve made

Some mistakes. Trusted people you shouldn’t have. Not trusted

The ones who would’ve helped you. Doesn’t matter now. You’re

Here, among friends, fellows, living together in a canvas city

Beside the creek.

You’re glad to see us walking the trail today. My tiredness and

Physical weakness is forgotten as you shake my hand and I feel

Your strength. Strength that you long to put to use for the benefit

Of a society that has shunned you because you don’t conform to

Its standards.

I wish that I could stay to chat with you longer, but we’ve still got

A lot of trail to cover. You’ve got places to be too, now that your

Natty Light and your hand-rolled smokes are done with. Lunch time’s
Over. It’s time for you to grab your bike and move on for a few hours,

But you’ve inspired me more than you’ll ever know.

I hope I see you again, under better circumstances.

                                    -Philip Krogmeier

                                January, 2010

Let’s face it. Not everyone can be as awesome as Geoff.

Seriously. Awesome.

I was properly introduced to Geoff via one of my professors at UCCS, a man named Tom Napierkowski. This was during my junior year, and one of the rare occasions when V and I actually had a class together. I learned a lot about classic literature from this class, and I started to learn more and more about the authors that I was studying. Now this was hardly the first literature class that I had taken where my professor was highly knowledgeable and very passionate about their particular subject. After all, it’s hard to argue with the people who wrote this or this. Still, my class on Geoff (for that is how Dr. Napierkowski will always refer to the man) was one of the first where I realized that I could understand my professor’s desire to know everything there was to know about a writer.

It’s not just that Chaucer wrote fantastic pieces of fiction. The Canterbury Tales are still read and retold, over six hundred years later. It’s that Chaucer wrote incredible characters. The man understood other people. Want to get a handle on an ensemble cast centuries before Stephen King did it? Read Chaucer. Every one of the characters on the pilgrimage to Canterbury has a story to tell, and each one of their tales reveals a little bit about who they are and what they believe. Whether it’s the noble Knight or the foul-mouthed, but funny Miller, Chaucer put in something for readers of every class and standing. He understood his audience, and he crafted something for everyone, and did it in a believable fashion. If that’s not a sign of an awesome writer, I don’t know what is.

Unlike Dr. Napierkowski and V, I’ve not had the opportunity to swing by Westminster Abbey for a chat with Geoff. I’d love to find myself in Poet’s Corner, and just think about the great people that have been buried there since he was. That’s going to have to wait a little while, I’m afraid. For now, I’ll stow that goal away with all the rest, and try to do some writing that will likely pale in comparison. I had what I hope will be a great idea for a short fiction piece the other day, so I’ll be spending my free time today (so, you know, today) working on that and a load of job applications. If it turns out to be a long enough piece (1000 words or so), I may submit it to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, since I’m still waiting to see what Sonia‘s going to throw my way this month. No rush, Sonia, seriously.

As for my reading, well, I decided to go with Larry Niven’s Ringworld to start, and snagged a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for the next reread, since those happened to be the two best titles in their respective shelves at the local branch of the public library. Halo fans take note. Ringworld is a huge inspiration to the titular Halo devices. Potential science issues (which have been addressed by Niven) aside, it’s shaping up to be a great sci-fi read. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, back in the days when I was first discovering things like Dune and Gateway and 2001.