Another Day Dawns in the Secondrateparadise

April 8, 1997

Before I officially kick the volume off, perhaps I should explain what I mean by the nonsense word “Secondrateparadise.”  This is a word I made up a while back when trying to think of an entry title.  Of course “paradise” is a nearly perfect place. A Utopia.  A virtual Garden of Eden. “Secondrate” cannot, or is no longer able, to reach this standard of perfection.  The new and gleaming is now second-hand, through use and wear.  Bringing these words together you have the ideal with a broken tail light, the flawless with on run in its stocking.

The word describes my small world a few Illinois counties wide.  If you think about it–when you do have a moment to think in a very comfortable chair, perhaps looking out a window with the best available view (opposed to when in a long grocery line or arguing about what TV to watch)– just being alive and able to experience this world is so wonderful. Some may disagree with my simple pronouncement, because they are stuck in a cycle of unfortunates and strain.  I would like to address these circumstances in passing, but I am lost for a response that ties the bow on my message.  Perhaps this word, Secobdrareparadise, is even more apt for such circumstances–just with a heavier dose of irony.  Others are never able to really live; their environment suffocates their talents and hope before they take their first breath. For this I am sorry, but in discussing the simple issue of existence I seem to have stayed off subject.

The world long ago, according to myths, used to be perfect, and in many respects there is still remains a touch of the undisturbed.  However, this once-model planet, if it ever wwas, lost its first lusters long ago.  “Imperfect” may not insufficient either.  In fact, we have some major problems that are never resolved. Even central Illinois has a few, and certainly the men and women who will today drive through Elmwood on the way to bigger and better things have many issues of the 1990s eating at them. And I pass by many people in the school halls every day, and I cannot guess what their troubles are, what will keep them up at night tonight.  In this same rural community we wave to our neighbor, keep our doors unlocked, and smile at country bake sales.  Welcome to the Secondrateparadise, probably not much different, wherever you happen to be, than your own slightly-askew, occasionally monsooned tropical island.

Now that etymology is out of the way, let’s get on with the goings-on in my own small, bruised, Illinois archipelago.  It has been a slow, quiet day, without a hint of incoming storms.  I am writing this during “Media Experience.”  As I have nothing to do and no new student-made news videos to watch, I am trying to sculpt and shine this entry for all it’s worth. I will try, reading it through again, to make better, but not perfect.

Today everyone in Mrs. Wales’ Spanish classes is at Western for a foreign language festival.  Every year Mrs. Wales goes crazy for it, and this year to no exception.  She has been drilling her students for days to prepare, and she expects nothing less than first.  I hope the people in the play being performed do get first (for their sake).  Mrs. Wales does expect perfection.  She may be disappointed.

Tonight there will be a baseball game at Illini Bluffs.  I won’t play.  I doubt I will play an inning the rest of the season in any games we have a chance of winning.  I’m actually taking this reality/strong possibility really well.  I’m being patient and good-natured about the whole thing, focusing on drills and getting some time in the cages, when the guys who will actually be swinging at the plate don’t need them.  Last night the manager, who we still call Coach Slapeck, talked to us about the team’s attitude.  He gathered us out near the mound at the start of practice, angry to see that several guys had their stats written on the underside bill of their caps.  He asked us to come together as a team.  Like he said, we aren’t going to score a bunch of runs, so we have to play smart.  We aren’t a bad team, but it won’t be an easy season.  Today everyone from Brimfield that had been on the Florida band trip are back, so maybe we can get a lift. Mrs. Slapeck does not expect perfection like Mrs. Wales, but does ask for the effort to become better.  And everyone would like a higher batting average.

Three more days.  Three more days until I can go to Western.  I just want Friday to come already, so I can be a part of the literary festival being held, and to see how my submitted short story will do.  Getting first place would be perfect, but just be nominated is a second-rate prize.

The Cubs are 0-6.  Go Figure.  In their own way, the Cubs then, are perfect too.

Graduation Countdown:  24 school days

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