Podcast: Russia’s McDonald’s knock-off; Tennessee Williams’ secret origin; Hidden ‘Lebowski’ references in ‘The Old Man;’ all that and SPAM recipes

Paul opens the show with sizzle. Dan reviews “Bonzo on the Road to Asguard.” Guests: Emma Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson, John “Tommy Gun” Thompson, and the hot physics major who invited Dan and Paul to a party freshman year at Drake. All that and live music from Cold Slither.

Podcast: Russia's McDonald's knock-off; Tennessee Williams' secret origin; Hidden 'Lebowski' references in 'The Old Man;' all that and SPAM recipes Talking Paragraphs

Paul opens the show with sizzle. Dan reviews "Bonzo on the Road to Asguard." Guests: Emma Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson, John "Tommy Gun" Thompson, and the hot physics major who invited Dan and Paul to a party freshman year at Drake. All that and live music from Cold Slither. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/support
  1. Podcast: Russia's McDonald's knock-off; Tennessee Williams' secret origin; Hidden 'Lebowski' references in 'The Old Man;' all that and SPAM recipes
  2. 47.2 is the unhappiest age
  3. Detoxing from Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trials; Online shopping for retro gear; In praise of Oklahoma softball; Revenge of the Mullet
  4. New format: Paul opens the show from Memphis; Dan goes to 'Bob's Burgers;' Paul buys a smoothie; 'Maverick' makes a lot of money
  5. Vincent Van Gogh plays Graceland and other bizarre adventures from the life of Paul

It’s my birthday and I know I don’t know anything

I turn 47 years old on Sunday.

Forty-seven is one of those ages between a five and a zero that people rarely think about.

School teachers assigned students to write about where the kids imagined themselves at 30.

Jennifer Garner made a lovely movie on that premise called “13 Going on 30.”

Paul McCartney sang “Will you still love me when I’m 64?” with the Beatles.

When McCartney was 64, he split with his second wife.

Sir Paul is 80 now with another wife.

If a teacher asked me to write where I thought I’d be when I was 47, I doubt I would have gotten a single detail right.

I remember writing a story about becoming a famous photographer in Mrs. Dietz’s freshman English class at Winterset High School.

I thought it was important I had a cool car and leather bomber jacket.

My car is cool, but it, like me, shows its age.

I got a bomber jacket. I bought it cheap and tore a hole next to the pocket the first day I owned it. It’s badly patched.

It hangs the closet to remind me how cool I could have looked in cold weather if I were more careful.

I never picked up photography. I couldn’t never figure out the light.

It takes patience, which is the better part of valor I’ve never picked up.

I don’t know what the other parts of valor are, but I probably don’t have those either.

When I was younger, I thought I would have it figured out by now, not 47 specifically, just an adult.

I cannot define “it.” I’m pretty sure I don’t have it. Logically, if I don’t know what “it” is, there’s no way to know if I have it.

But I’m insecure. Most humans are. People who cool and collected are the weirdos. Most of them are actors, which means they’re probably faking it.

Children are often unaware of the burdens of adulthood.

That’s why there are so many memes on the internet about how great childhood was.

The best part of childhood was the absence of responsibility.

Nobody expects you to knock out the rent or pick a good index fund for your retirement investment when you’re 11.

But I thought adults knew what they were doing by virtue of them being taller, knowing how to drive, and being allowed to use the sharp knives.

That turned out to be incorrect. It’s a trick adults play on young people, who don’t know what they don’t know.

Maybe that’s the biggest difference between childhood and adulthood: I know now how little I do know.

I know some things. I can tie a tie. I learned that in Cub Scouts.

I can tie my shoes, too, but I use these elastic laces, so I just slide my feet into my sneakers.

This invention would have saved Parents 1.0 a good deal of frustration.

I can drive, which I only do to join the national conversation of complaining about gas prices.

The truth is, at 47, I thought I would feel stronger and more settled.

Yet I’m still insecure, anxious, and sometimes depressed. I’m wistful and nostalgic, which isn’t all bad until you get into “what might’ve been” thoughts — especially when applied to old relationships.

I’m a needy to the point that I annoy myself.

I pester my friend Paul — who co-hosts our weekly podcast, “Talking Paragraphs” — with the constant suggestion he come visit each year.

There’s no reason why I should expect him to visit me every year, though he has often done so.

He’s not visiting this year. That’s fine. But there’s a bad circuit in my brain that tells me that means he doesn’t really like me, and he’s been faking our friendship for 30 years.

That sounds stupid when I type it out.

If I’ve learned anything in 47 years, most of our problems exist in the gap between emotional reaction and intellectual understanding.

I’ve learned other things, too, like iced tea tastes better out of a glass with cubed ice and no lemon.

I also learned that whenever you can, you should embrace quiet.

We live in a noisy world. Most of what’s being said, and often shouted, isn’t worth listening to.

But if you can find some quiet, that’s always worth your time.

Interrupt it only with the clinking of cubes in your glass of iced tea.

Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Let’s not bury the lede: Finney got a teaching job

I got a job.

I start on Aug. 11.

I will be teaching English to sixth graders at a metro-area middle school.

I’m intentionally vague in that third paragraph.

I hold onto this sliver of public life with my blog and column in the Marion County Gazette.

That does not and will never involve my students.

“My students.”

That feels weird to type.

When I student taught, I borrowed another teacher’s students.

Come fall, I will have my own students, hundreds of them.

When that first bell rings and they stream through my door, it culminates a tumultuous two-year journey.

It began with the end of my 27-year journalism career in the teeth of the pandemic in 2020.

It wound through two years of graduate school where I struggled with school for perhaps the first time in my life.

And soon, the adventure continues with the first bell and students streaming through my door expecting me to know what I’m doing.

These past two years challenged me more than any period in my life.

I learned more about myself and what I could survive than I ever dreamed possible.

This was a terrible two years. This was a beautiful two years.

The terrible came with the end of my journalism career. The trade I learned and loved changed rapidly and I couldn’t keep up with the digital age.

I didn’t write the kind of stories that drew thousands of clicks and taps from the digital reader.

The local paper had been cutting jobs for years. My time finally came in May 2020.

I thought I would be ready for it. I worried about losing my job every day for a dozen years.

But when the end comes, it’s always kind of sudden.

I had to grieve that end. It took time, but I am at peace with it now.

I write my blog. I write for the Express. I don’t worry about audience numbers or even if the topic is interesting to anyone but me. I’m free.

Of course, that freedom doesn’t pay any bills.

The pandemic was a lousy time to look for a job.

I enrolled in graduate school at Drake University. I decided to become a teacher.

The best teacher I ever knew, the late Robert D. Woodward, spent the first years of his working life at newspapers and the rest teaching would-be journalists at Drake.

Woodward’s lessons rattled in my brain every day of my career. It seemed only fitting that his model inspired me one more time.

Graduate school was hard. I earned good marks, but school in your middle-40s is much different than when you’re 18 and have been in school most of your life.

There were a few times when I was sure I wasn’t good enough and I wasn’t going to make it.

I tore a ligament in my knee last July. A friend helped me raise money so I could afford surgery to remove the torn bit on my weak insurance.

Since then, I’ve used a cane and a walker to get around. It’s been humbling.

I was even more humbled by the thousands of people who donated money over the last year to help me pay rent, utilities, and other necessities while I finished my studies.

Some were friends and family, but a huge number were people I’d never met — strangers who knew me only through my work at the local newspaper.

I always thought no one was reading.

The local newspaper had the digital stats to prove it.

Yet here were all these people who said they loved my work and wanted me to come out the other side of this trial strong.

I will never be able to say thank you enough. I can only pay it forward.

I believe it will make me a better advocate for my students with differentiated learning needs.

The last semester of classes on a bum knee was hard.

Drake helped. They let me take one class remotely to ease the pain of walking between buildings.

During student teaching, I felt so poorly after my midterm review, I thought about quitting.

My advisor and supervising teacher would have none of it. They got me on a plan that put me on a path toward success in student teaching and graduation.

I still didn’t believe I made it until my diploma came in the mail a few weeks ago.

I had a job teaching summer school English at one of the Des Moines high schools.

But that broke bad one me. My license wouldn’t be ready in time for the summer session.

So, my old career came in for an assist. I work part-time for the Express.

It doesn’t pay as well as the summer school gig would have, but it’s the first paycheck I’ve earned in a long time.

So, I’ll ask one final time, for the good people who’ve supported me and this blog for the past two years to pass the hat to help get me to August. Then I’ll be making a living wage for the first time in so very long.

I thought I had it covered: summer school the Express. But the better-paying half fell through. Anyway, I won’t belabor it. It’s hard to ask for help, and you’ve all helped so much. If you can spare a few bucks to keep the lights on, I thank you. If not? I understand. These times are hard.

Here are the donation details:

Postal mail: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, IA 50311
PayPal: PayPal.me/paragraphstacker
Zelle: @newsmanone
Venmo: @newsmanone

I plan to keep writing my column and the occasional other stories for the Express when school starts.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last two years, it’s this: Don’t quit. Just keep moving forward.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.