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THE WORLD BETWEEN TWO THOUGHTS

My grandfather, Fred Schuster, seemed a strangely marvelous figure in my early memories of him, though he died when I was only seven in 1945. I have no real recollections of any words or thoughts that passed between us while he lived, but what I learned of him in family lore later was impressive. Born just 40 days after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he was a rugged, handsome young man of 20 in an 1883 grainy photo we have (above). That was about the time his own father died and left him a growing brewery business in Rochester MN. He and his brother built the business into the largest commercial entity in early Rochester until prohibition closed them down 1922. Undaunted, he transitioned seamlessly into real estate, buying downtown properties, and before he passed, he was on the boards of many banks and businesses of our city. He and grandmother Roxie had a fine brownstone home with wrap-around porches upstairs and down and a chauffeur to drive them, as many wealthy families did in the early days of the automobile.

In old family albums from his last year, Fred appears in a three-piece suit, balding, inexpressive, and much shrunken in stature, seated in the living room of that house. His fixed glaze reveals nothing really, but in my young imagination, it hid a worldly wisdom I could only guess at.

He was 82 when he died, an age I have recently surpassed myself, and I think I can say more about his blank gaze now. Mythology, which I taught in my own career, says we travel a circular course if we make the full journey, returning finally to the senescence of second childhood and then back to the earth from which we came. As I reflect on all the expensive learning that is slipping from me, my failing vocabulary, my lost recollections of youth and career generally, and my growing confusion about modern life and its direction, I feel inclined to regard grandfather Fred’s fixed gaze differently. If his journey followed the ordained course, that look was not one of proud wisdom, but more likely one of sad and helpless befuddlement. Thank God, for the day we are finally put to pasture where we can move slowly, read a little, decline in peace, and watch the sun go down.

I still have strange dreams, however. This one began as a night fantasy, but has continued as a kind of day dream that obsesses me … a strange pome, perhaps, that I struggle to follow to its end.

In this dream, I am walking down a long path or garden promenade. It is actually two parallel paths, mine is on the right, but about fifty feet to my left is an exactly similar path. I have been on this path since the beginning; it is clearly my life journey’s pathway. On the left hand across a green boulevard walks another figure like my own. We see each other but do not speak. I have tried to make out his distinguishing characteristics as we move along, but he has only one. This aspect of the stranger grows more and more stark and clear as we go. He is NOT ME. That is all I can say about him, but that is clear.

The parallel paths are leading us in a westerly direction, evident because the sun can be seen beginning to set on the horizon ahead, exactly where the paths appear to intersect as such parallel lines seem to do. For most of the journey, I had thought of myself as a bi-pedal hominid like the rest of us. So my traveling companion also appeared so. In advanced age, however, beginning to deteriorate as described above, it is clearer that the idea of ME, is, and always was just that, an idea, a thought no more stable or certain than any other thought in a world where certainties decay. So as we move toward the setting sun, NOT ME also becomes more or less a mere thought as well. This split reality has been the central attitude of my whole trip. From the start, there was ME and NOT ME, and that about summed it up.

I’m also aware this journey has been a long effort to learn all I could about NOT ME, who is in fact everything, the whole world that is NOT ME. And I used to think I had done a fair job of work learning many, many things about NOT ME. Slowly, though faulty and incomplete, it began to seem that everything I knew about NOT ME was in fact a fair description of ME. So that were I somehow to lose everything I thought I knew about the NOT ME world, would I not be losing ME as well? And late in life is that not exactly what is happening as my decline comes on?

When I say the ME - NOT ME split was the basic attitude of the whole journey, however, that is not quite true. Our early infancy does NOT divide reality so. EGO development is a slow process during childhood. We are not born into a split world. If we are headed to second childhood, may we not come again to undifferentiated infancy as well?

And what was that undivided ONENESS of infancy like? None of us can remember. But when I behold a happy babe-in-arms, I think I see a BEING to whom every selfless, timeless second is an infinite glorious revelation. How nice is that.

As the two paths move steadily westward, I am also reminded how 9th grade geometry taught us parallel lines on a flat plane never converge. But since 9th grade, we learn our universe contains NO extended flat planes; space-time is curved and parallel lines in fact always converge.

The sun is setting ahead now, and I wonder if NOT ME is feeling as indistinct as I am. Strange, how all my life staring directly at the sun was impossible, the glare too blinding and dangerous. But ahead, as it begins to touch the horizon just where our paths meet, how restful, glorious, and amenable to our fixed gaze it has become, a Celestial Rose. I wonder if Fred sees it … from the other side … or perhaps from this too in 1945 as I now do.

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The Wifey Chronicles

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Thou Art That

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Just Desserts

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The Teeny Tales

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Wifey and I about to have a Chronicle moment




THE WIFEY CHRONICLES
INTRODUCTION

“So, how’s your marriage going, pal?”

“Great! Life’s sweetest joy, isn’t it.”

“Not even an occasional spat? A marital tiff... or two?”

“Oh, sure. That’s inevitable, of course.”

“Arguments, squabbles, wrangles, disputes, disagreements?”

“Sometimes, sure.”

“Miffs, tiffs, altercations, recriminations...slights, snubs, insults, rows, run-ins, raised voices, cheap shots...”

“Stop!”

“Denials, buttals, rebuttals, fallings-out, indignities...”

“Stop it!”

“Mockery, sneers, jeers, belittlings, hurt feelings, injured pride, verbal abuse, despair...”

“OK, OK! Yes! It’s just a shambles, but what’s to be done? What’s to be done?!”

“Good news, you poor wretch! THE WIFEY CHRONICLES lay all this out in frank transparency and show how the odd love pome, deftly placed, can salvage even the most strangulating routine of daily contretemps. Take heart, couples! Rhymes to the rescue!”

(Colored slides included!)

 





 

These PayPal buttons are the fastest, easiest way to get these volumes mailed quickly. Many have asked after the TEENY tales with the wonderful drawings of Michael Sooy. Here all three TEENY books are available for one low $12.00 price.
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The Wifey Chronicles

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Thou Art That

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Just Desserts

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Of course, if you love fumbling with checks, stamps and envelopes, send them to him at: 1149 Pleasant Circle, St. Paul MN 55112. If you just want to tell him goodbye and good riddance, email him at:sladesch@comcast.net

 


To Order

"Teeny and the Whale" Acclaimed

"The Teeny stories are remarkable tales, both funny and intellectual. Slade is a very understanding man and captures the reader with humor and art. I give it ten stars."
Maggie Osterbauer, '03

"Schuster's work is amazing! He is wise beyond his years, and that's high praise."
Eric Vidrine, '03

"Teeny and the Whale" is a masterpiece plumbing the ocean-depths of the human psyche."
James Byron, '03

"Mr. Schuster's droll wit and Mike Sooy's artistry make for a raucous romp through adolescence and the unconscious."
Ars Azam, '03

"Slade's combination of wry humor and sound moral instruction make his volume worth twice what I paid for it!"
Brian Libby, History Dept.




To Order

Critical Reviews of Teeny's Travels

"This fantastical world of Zander-snitches, horrid harpies, and blimple stones will be a source of pride to heroic teenagers everywhere . . . as long as they have a dead ear for irony."
Sonja Johnson '88

"Oh, the droll, drooling days of adolescence! What exactly are these minds we are concerned to mold? Slade lays it all before us. Here you have it, Dude!"
Molly Gilbert, Admissions

"A terrific poem describing a typical, modern teenager (I think it's Brett Wallnutt) on the symbolic journey of life, the same journey we have read this year in ancient tales."
Samira Abu-Ghazaleh '01

"Teeny's Travel's" is an exhilarating, verse tale delving into the adventures of an average, nutty teenager, probably Brett Wallnutt."
Chad Mayfield '01

"This is one of the greatest works of our times. Teeny is a complex, intricate, fascinating hero . . . as am I."
Brett Wallnutt '01


To Order

Readers Rave for "Teeny!"

Teeny is an hilarious character, portrayed perfectly to relate to young adults. Well worth reading! Very clever! Very funny!
- Ruthie Sudderth, '02

Finally, a story that lays open the truth about adolescence: materialism, power, and sloth. Things come to closure, Chaucer. The curtain is closing, Shakespeare. Move over, Freud. Slade is here!
- Lars Jensen, '02

This is why Schuster's Teeny Series is so critically acclaimed.
- Stephen Van Pelt, '02

A comical tale of teenhood and the complete idiot's guide to Christian selflessness.
- Erik Thunem, '02

An exemplary tale that warns teens of the "hockey" generation to be cautious when touching "pastry." It will grate the nerves of the boorish adolescent, but touch the heart strings of "special" students who interest themselves in literature.
- Mary Stenson, '02

The Legends

Teeny's Travels reprises the "wasteland theme" which informs so many ancient, medieval, and modern tales, including Oedipus and Hamlet. In this story line, a youthful hero on a spiritual quest enters a strange land wasted by a plague afflicting vegetal, animal, and human vitality. The hero visits the castle of the doomed country where he finds an ailing king. The king's infirmity is the source of the plague (king and country being magically one vitality), and it is the hero's task to restore the king's vigor by curing or replacing the ailing king. The king, though infirm, is wise and can grant the hero a vision of the spiritual truth if he judges the young man's heart to be pure. In medieval versions, the vision often involves the mystic grail or sword (inverted cross) of Christian import. At the moment of revelation, the hero must make a correct response, often by asking the right question. Quests imply a climactic question. The hero fails to cure the wasteland as often as he succeeds, but the moral lesson is imparted as forcefully in either case. "By men who won't be taught by other men, shall other men be taught."

Teeny and the Green Knight satirizes a long, 14th-century poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," written in Middle English by an unknown author, a contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer. In it an untested, young hero is confronted by a giant, green horse and rider. The menacing figure challenges Gawain to cut off the green man's head with an axe. However, Gawain must first agree to visit the green giant's domain within a year and have his own head hewn off. Fair is fair. Gawain accepts, seizes the ax, and chops off the man's head. The adventure that follows is marvelous, ominous, full of Christian lore, but not without its humorous implications. Gawain's honor, bravery, and chastity are sorely tested by several trials, most but not all of which he passes. Narrowly escaping death, Gawain returns home, as spiritual heroes must, with a boon, prize, elixir, symbol, or code to enrich his society. Gawain's prize is a simple, green garter, the meaning of which, were it imparted, would benefit young men in any society, especially our own. The Gawain story is the source of a knightly order still revered in England and awarded by her monarchs, the order of the garter.

Teeny and the Whale, like most whale, great fish, or monster-of-the-deep stories (Jonah, Leviathan, Pinocchio, Moby Dick), has a symbolic interpretation. Read psychologically, water (the deep) represents the unconscious, dark regions of the hero's psyche, from which the monster rises to menace him. The monster, of course, is the unmastered excess of the hero's own ego (hubris). Male hubris is the tragic flaw that again and again these tales are concerned to render. As long as the hero remains unaware of the danger his own desires pose (as human desires have no bounds), he will be dragged under and devoured. When he masters fully his own nature, he will rise up and walk upon the flood unhindered. As Thomas a Kempis says, "Know that the love of thyself doth hurt thee more than anything in the world. Forsake and resign thyself, and thou shalt enjoy much inward peace." Teeny is a failed hero in all three adventures.



To Order

Alumni Review

"Straight River Anthology is an insight into the heart and mind of the great Slade. We all wondered what was going on in his head during high school. This is your chance to find out."
Sara Huntley, class of '94

"Slade captures the sublime in everyday occurrences. I enjoy his poetry immensely."
Bob Irby, class of '60

"Slade's poetry isn't Classical...or Romantic...or even Modern (thank God), but it often makes me laugh, sometimes cry (a bitter tear...no loud boo-hooing) and mostly reminds me that the Grim Reaper lurks behind every tree like a boogie-man in the park. Jus'skidding! You must have this book!"
Sonja Johnson, class of '88

"I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poems, a glimpse at the quirky yet intriguing Mr. Schuster. My favorite,"Violins," perfectly shares the unique and amazing experiences this school offers; the emotion this poem conveys is truly touching."
Katie Simonson, class of '01

"I don't read poetry, and if Slade's mortgage is indeed twice his monthly pay, you'd be a fool to feed that monkey. Nevertheless, I bought some copies of his book. One levels the game table in my basement; the other is shimming the bar fridge."
Tim Gillin, class of '68