What Happens When You Have Too Much Time on Your Hands

Writing a blog post right between the end of one year and the start of another is tricky.   Typically writers come up with “the list of the [fill in the blank] of 2014.”   I thought about selecting the top education stories of the year but got a bit depressed.

So before we continue examining challenges of public education for 2015, allow me to share how I spent part of my winter break.

While I am not a fan of starting school in early August, I do like finishing the semester before Christmas.   Students take final exams in middle and high schools so when they return on January 7 they don’t have to turn in projects since a new semester will commence (though a few of my students did mention work assigned by some teachers over vacation).

There really are only two times when my mind is not “on” when it comes to my job: winter break and summer break.   Since spring break occurs in the middle of the semester, it feels more like a pause in learning, rather than a true mental vacation.

Over the years I have noticed that it takes a few days for my body and mind to work at a slower more natural pace.   When I am in work mode, it is difficult even on weekends for me not to think about lessons or students.

So when I am at rest, one of the pleasures I indulge in is to allow my mind to wander, sparked with curiosity, on a number of topics.

In the past week, I read Billy Crystal’s memoir Still Foolin’ ’Em and Jane Leavy’s biography on Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy. How are the two connected?

It started with Crystal discussing his friendship with Mantle in the remaining years of the ballplayer’s life.   In fact, Crystal attended Mantle’s funeral in 1995.   I double-checked this by watching the video of the ceremony on YouTube and there is Bob Costas pointing him out in the audience.

Coincidentally in 2001, Crystal ended up directing the film 61* about Mantle’s and fellow New York Yankee Roger Maris’s pursuit of Babe Ruth’s record (at the time) of 60 homeruns in a season.   This sparked an interest to watch again the Ken Burns’ 1994 PBS documentary series Baseball, a first viewing for my baseball-loving teenaged son.

I then read Leavy’s book on Mantle.   I found myself interrupting my reading in order to view aspects of Mantle’s life online such as a local television video of his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on June 8, 1969.

This exploration of Mantle led me to the ESPN 2007 miniseries “The Bronx is Burning” exploring the tumultuous year of 1977 for New Yorkers through the dual stories of the Yankees’ World Series season with the Son of Sam serial killings. One of Mantle’s closest friends and fellow drinking buddy was Billy Martin who managed the team that year.

And as I watched the TV show, I found out that the lead New York City police detective on the Son of Sam case, Timothy Dowd, who is prominently portrayed in the program, died last week at age 99.

Whether the connections mean anything or not, they do mean that life can be quite fascinating once your mind isn’t preoccupied with regular daily duties. Or maybe I need to return to work before I began exploring other New York crime waves.