Ron Schueler (1)

January 14, 2008


Act I

In 1998 I applied for a job as an adjunct professor at Johnson State College, a small state school in northern Vermont. I had been living in Brooklyn for awhile, getting by on sporadic temporary jobs. I had been, among other things, a liquor store clerk, a proofreader, a writer of cheaply made books sold to school libraries. I was thirty, same age as the man pictured here. I guess I hoped the teaching job would lead me to a more purposeful existence.

I had gotten my undergraduate degree from Johnson a few years before and was still close with two of my writing teachers there, who put in the good word for me. I didn’t have any teaching experience, but their recommendation helped me get the job anyway. Or maybe they just needed someone, a body. I was given two classes, Basic Writing and College Writing. The pay was meager, but that had never held me back before.

I didn’t have a car or even a driver’s license but a friend gave me a ride to Johnson a few days before classes were set to begin. I had few possessions. I got a second floor apartment within walking distance of campus. The apartment had two small bedrooms, which I left empty. I slept on a futon mattress on the floor of the space meant for a living room. My little gray cat Alice slept with me, burrowing under the blankets and pressing up against me. There were no blinds on the living room windows, so light from the street lamps came in. It was hard to sleep. The view from these windows was of a bank with a digital sign that gave the time and temperature. If I wanted to know what time it was I just had to look out the window. If I didn’t want to know what time it was I was in the wrong place.

I bought a card table and two white plastic chairs from the hardware store next door. I had borrowed a small television from my stepfather, and I set it up on a couple cardboard boxes. It only got a couple channels. I had a boombox, too, but there wasn’t much in the way of radio in northern Vermont. I found I missed the sports talk that had helped fill my hours in Brooklyn. Mike and the Mad Dog. The Schmooze.

The two unused bedrooms faced the part of Route 100 that was known for a few hundred yards as Main Street. There wasn’t much on Main Street besides the hardware store and, further away, a place to buy beer, grinders, and gasoline. Just below the window in one of my empty bedrooms was a slight raised mound of concrete in the sidewalk, right by the doorway of a vacant storefront. Maybe it had once been a doorstep. Teenagers with skateboards were drawn to the concrete mound. It seemed there were always two or three of them out there, taking turns failing some attempt at a trick involving the mound of concrete. The same sound, again and again: rolling wheels for a few seconds, then the clattering of the skateboard, then a pause, then the same sequence again. I sat in my apartment trying not to listen and trying not to stare at what time it was. I bought generic macaroni and cheese and Molson and chocolate at a grocery store just on the other side of the bank. I didn’t have a bottle opener, so I had to pry open the caps of the beer on the kitchen counter, but I wasn’t very good at it, so I ended up having to pound on the top of the beer until my hand was bruised and foam had spilled onto the floor. The formica edge of the counter got torn away from the particle board beneath. The days went by.

“My name is Josh Wilker,” I eventually said to a room full of 18-year-olds. “I’m going to be your teacher.”

(to be continued)


  1. 1.  Ron Schueler once taunted the Best Everyday Player of the 1970s, to his face, by calling him a punch-and-judy hitter.

    Which infuriated the BEPotS so much that he promptly hit a stand-up double and pulled into second base yipping, “I ain’t no fuckin’ punch-and-judy hitter!”

    Score one for the BEPotS.

  2. 2.  He looks like he is staring into the stands at his then-two-year-old daughter, thinking to himself, “Someday, she’ll be the first woman ever drafted by a major league baseball team.”

  3. 3.  A friend of mine teaches freshman comp at a college in Pennsylvania. When he introduced himself the first day of his first semester, he dropped his index cards all over the floor. This is his fourth year now, and whenever he sees somebody from his first class around campus, he feels like they’re still laughing at him.

  4. 4.  1 : That’s some good info, Sly.

    2 : Interesting. I did not know that factoid either.

    3 : O how such laughter wounds. (More on that to come…)

    Incidentally, I have made two corrections to the above post. First, my mother pointed out that I spelled poor Ron Schueler’s name wrong, even though I had his card staring me in the face and even though I call myself a proofreader. Second, in the last sentence, I changed “pasteboard” to “particle board.” I hope no carpenters lost all respect for me before the correction was made.

  5. 5.  I was a White Sox fan and a carpenter during Schueler’s GM tenure, and I didn’t notice the misspelling or the pasteboard thing.

  6. 6.  I remember when the White Sox drafted Schueler’s daughter. Some people took it as an insult to Carlton Fisk that they didn’t draft Fisk’s son that year. Nobody expected any of the late-round draftees to ever play in MLB. Still, the Sox drafted Carey Schueler in the 43rd round of the 1993 draft, and they picked three future major leaguers, including Placido Polanco, later in that same draft.

  7. 7.  I think I am in the same place where you were at that time. Work part time, go to library school, have no direction, drink beer a lot, and love baseball and the Dodgers to the point where I read this blog when I should be working. My rock band of 5 years is done for, so no more cross country tours filled with days of reading in a van and drinking in dark clubs nightly. It takes a while to get used to not living that life anymore.

    Maybe Ron Shueler is contemplating the future where things get tough, but you charge forward anyway. He looks like a general faced with an impossible counterattack that there is no way of getting out of. Grim determination.

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