Thursday, October 29, 2009


That's how I've felt these past two months (and as I write that, it strikes me how fast they've flown; is my beautiful summer really that far gone?). I've been so damn busy with everything in my life that I feel like I've lost touch with life itself.
Ever get lost in the supermarket as a child and wander from aisle to aise searching for your mom with fear gnawing at your stomach because you realize you might be here forever: alone, disoriented, scared?
I feel like that kid again.
After such a wonderful spring and summer, it seems strange that I sit here searching for where I took a wrong turn.
But I'm working my way back into the world.
Here I am again. I promise not to get lost for so long next time.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Burn Rubber

"Get behind the wheel. Stay in front of the storm."
In less than twenty-four hours, my foot will be planted on the gas and I'll be flying at eighty miles an hour toward the California border, toward the desert, toward the mountains, toward the freedom of the road. It's about time to take off again; it's been a couple of years since I really got the hell out of here. It didn't help reading On the Road for the millionth time this spring, when a fever was already consuming me.
But now it's time.
Wanna come with me?
I think the road is a very American symbol. The movement was all westward for much of our history, and now, sitting on the edge of our continent for nearly twenty-seven years, I move south, north, and east.
If I asked you to come with me, would you?
Well, would you?

Monday, June 22, 2009


So here I sit at 6:49 in the morning, and I've already been awake for nearly three hours. I guess I woke up when my brother was getting ready to go to work because when I went to wash my face the bathroom was hot with steam and the mirror was fogged up, so I could only see a vague reflection of myself.
I lay in the dark for awhile, thinking and thinking and thinking. You've been there before: Thinking is the worst act to lead a person back to sleep. But I've never been good at quieting my mind. When I was in high school and I used to wake up in the middle of night, I would sit and write for awhile, and I would usually fall back to sleep after a poem or two. I should have done that this morning I suppose, but I left my notebook at school, and I have issues with typing poems straight to the computer without handwriting them first; maybe it's a nostalgia for the pre-digital age or maybe it's simply that I find the words easier with a pen in my hand.
So instead I've sat awake and watched the dawn creep through the windows of my den.
I hate confusion. I have an intense desire to control everything that I possibly can in my life. I'm old enough to know by now that some parts of my life are beyond my control, but I have also learned to recognize what I can control. Confusion is a lack of understanding, and when I can't understand something, I can't control it. The most frustrating part of interacting with other people is the confusion they cause. Sometimes I want to scream at them, and I think it stems from the lack of control I have over their decisions--their decisions that ultimately affect the course of my life. What do I say when I think someone is making the wrong decision? It seems that no matter how eloquent my argument comes out, it fails to move some people.
I hate not having control.
And so instead of sleeping until 10 like I should on my first Monday off, I woke up in the dark and lay in bed and thought.
Some way to spend a Monday morning, huh?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Getting Lost

I find that there are times in my life that I want to just take off, just let my rubber hit the pavement--my foot on the gas--and just go. It's not a matter of trying to escape from myself. I know, from trying too many times and reading too many books, that escaping from myself is neither possible nor desirable. Rather, I want to leave all of this to find myself yet again. With time there accumulates a certain silt, and it sits like a fine powder on my sense of self until my identity is a bit harder to see, a bit dusty. I'm heading out into the desert to clear away that dust.
It's been one hell of a year. Many relationships have been built; some have been torn down; some have risen from the ashes like the phoenix only to inch back toward the fire. While these relationships with others have brought me an immense amount of joy and my fair share of pain, I know that the most important relationship I have is with myself. I am only accountable, at the end of it all, to me.
And it is for this reason that I leave, every so often, to cleanse myself, to gain some perspective on who I am and what I want.
All I want now is you.
Why can't I have you?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Well, I suppose this makes sense.
Here I am at about 7 in the morning on my first full day of summer, and I can't sleep any longer. When I was a kid and school would end for the year, it would always take my mind and body a few days, sometimes a few weeks, to fully adjust to the idea that I didn't have to go to school. Now, as a teacher, it seems the same phenomena plagues me.
I've been thinking a lot over the past week about the nature of friendship. People like to put parameters on what is acceptable or unacceptable, what one is supposed to do as a friend. We go around acting as if there exists a written rulebook detailing the rights and wrongs, the expected duties, and so on.
The reality is that there are so many different types of friendships that it's an impossible act to classify. I have friends that are pushing 65, and I have friends that are 17, still technically minors by law. I have many friends of both genders. People are often surprised at how many women I'm friends with (and I mean FRIENDS: don't get any ideas). Many people most certainly find it odd that I'm friends with almost all of my ex-girlfriends. "I could never do that," they say. Why not? There were reasons why I was attracted to the woman in the first place, and unless it was purely physical, that quality probably still resonates. So romance didn't work out with us: so what? I'm friends with my parents. That strikes many people as strange. I like my parents as much or more than any people on the planet. Same with my siblings. My brother and sister are awesome. When I go to family meals, I get excited because I get to hang out with people I love beyond the familial bonds.
I am a lucky bastard for having the friends I do.
And forget the rules: There are none.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I'll Wait for You

I’ll try to get through this without crying; I expect you to do the same.

When I sit and consider what your class means to me, many memories float to the surface: All of us laughing in class (sometimes you with me, mostly you at me); the papers you wrote; the presentations you gave. Those are all there. But more precious to me are those moments outside of class, those times when we spoke, person to person, still teacher and student, but the lines blurred so it was hard to tell who was teaching and who was learning. The best moments for me involved discovering who you are and sharing a bit of myself beyond the Mr. Dalley persona that I enact in the classroom. When we went to retreat, my favorite times were spent sitting on my porch in rocking chairs with you and talking together or lounging on a bench in the sun and babbling about who-knows-what or playing the guitar while sitting in a circle of rocks or playing Ninja by the campfire. Those moments for me are much more real than anything that can happen in the constructed classroom setting.

I tell you the truth when I say that you have taught me more than I could ever hope to teach you. You have made me believe that the students at Whitney are the best in the world—not for your test scores but for the people that you are, for the care that you have for others, for the love that I see put into practice. You continue, day to day, to amaze me.

Whitney is a special place, unlike any other school. But do not be sad to leave this place; rather, be happy for what you’ve had here. And most of all, be excited for where you are headed.

I look out on your faces and I feel many different emotions at once: love and fear, pride and anxiety. But most of all I feel envy: I am envious of you for the amazing worlds you are about to enter. Be open to all kinds of new experiences as you go out into those places. As Cat Stevens sang, “Oh baby, baby, it’s a wild world.” The most intense envy I feel, however, is for those worlds that will receive you. I wish we at Whitney could keep you a little bit longer. It’s selfish, but one year with you was not enough for me.

Now I know what you’re thinking: All of this emotional mush from Dalley? Dalley, the cynic? Dalley, the man who does not believe in a soul? Dalley, the man without a heart?

Well, good for you: you got me. I have a heart, and it is you who made me put down my guard. I can’t help myself.

I was sitting in my classroom a few weeks ago and wrote this poem while thinking how much I’ll miss you guys. It’s called “The Gardener.”:

The one lesson

I try to teach

To my students

That I hope

They always remember:

Love what you do

And life will be easier.

I would say

It’s cliché

(And it may be),

But it’s also true.

This job of mine

Is never work.

I get paid

For the privilege

Of watching

Boys and girls

Secure their roots

And grow

Into men and women,

Wonderful trees

That will reach

Their branches

Out into the world.

I will miss you all

When you are gone.

But I will look for your leaves

Stretching toward the sun

On and on and on.

Thank you, class of 2009, for allowing me to grow along with you.

You are my soma, you are my center. Keep carrying the fire.

I will miss you.

Come back.

god and all that other nonsense

A long time ago (approximately seven years now and before), I believed in a god, though my faith had been waning ever since the age of about seventeen. It's safe to say that most of my conscious memories take place during a time when I attended church: I went to a private Christian school beginning in kindergarten. Religion was a given; it wasn't a choice.
When I was nineteen, I took a religious studies class during my second year of college. One of the assignments was to write an essay about our own religious backgrounds and our beliefs. I wrote at length about my Christian ideals (although when I think about it now, the words were most certainly half-hearted, a sort of automatic writing). One of the subjects I wrote about was miracles. I confessed that I had never witnessed anything akin to a biblical miracle: walking on water or turning water to wine or healing leprosy or raising the dead. What I wrote was that I needed no supernatural wonders; the people in my life were miracles to me, a proof of a god's benevolence.
Seven years later, and here I sit writing it again: people are miracles to me.
Of course at present there's no supernatural link in my mind. What I call a miracle now is simply a beautiful accident. A miracle is something that I don't fully understand. While I can say that I think I have pretty decent understanding of humans, our kind continues to baffle me in many ways. But what I've witnessed over the course of the last nine months is the amazing capacity for us to love one another.
I could sit and explain love as a mix of seratonin and oxytocin and vasopressen and dopamine and so on. It may be, but that does not change how wonderful it feels to love and to be loved. I am amazed day to day at how lucky I am: to have loved and to have been loved like I have. Evolutionary adaptation or not, I love love.
To those of you I forget to tell enough: I love you.
I love you now. I will love you always.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Set... GO!!!

Last senior sunrise

You all make me happy.

Here's to you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One of My Kind by Conor Oberst

I can't live in this city
But I was born here
And I know all these people
Where they went to high school
Where they got their angle
Here they waited tables
Still call me brother
Like Cain and Abel
There, see all those old men
How'd they get so swollen?
I got so many broke friends
Who say I owe them
From when we were children
How did it happen?
Where is it going?
Is that your question, man?
Where does all your frustration lie?
Why are you pulling out your hair at night?
Just try and have a good time
All the rest aside
You're still one of my kind
I can't think in this city
But I remember
I know every story that it ever told me
Well, I got the blueprint
To create my own myth
That's what made it tragic
Like a summer snowdrift
Yeah, going to call my first love
Meet her at the new club
Tell her all that I've done
Finally be forgiven
And get good and drunk
Like it feels you're young
There are things against us
But I will fight tooth and nail
Stand in the sickening sunshine
After staying out all night
And maybe it's the good life
All the rest aside
The rest aside
The rest aside
You're still one of my kind
I can't live in this city
But I'll probably die here
Maybe that's how you feel
Like a poisoned cornfield
Like a best friend backstabbed
An abandoned train track
We're living straight-lined
Are you one of my kind?

Sing it back

Around twilight on Sunday, I was driving home from my parents' house after eating a nice dinner and watching the game. I felt pretty good, but there was also a gnawing at the back of my brain; some part of me felt empty. I began thinking about our contradictory emotional nature as humans: how we can feel happy and sad all at once. I guess, I thought, the word would be: bittersweet.
A second after I thought this, the song "Bittersweet Symphony," by The Verve, came on the radio. If you've ever heard the song, you know that the intro is strings playing a wistful harmony. If you haven't heard it, go listen to it before you read on so you can catch my mood.
I turned left onto my street, which has a bunch of old trees on each side which tower above the street, providing a sort of canopy; many of these trees are jacarandas (with the pretty purple flowers). The leaves of the trees nearly meet in the middle, but there is a strip of open sky available to anyone who wishes to look up. I looked up. As the singer began to sing, as I began the slow drive toward my house, I looked in between the trees to see a plane flying low (I live near the Long Beach Airport), going the opposite direction. We both kept moving toward each other until we converged, and I nearly came to a stop as I watched the bottom of the plane as it flew by me. It passed out of sight and I watched it descend in my rearview mirror until it disappeared.
I pulled into my driveway and sat for a minute, maybe two, and listened to the song. It was the perfect soundtrack to that particular moment in time.
I knew, as I sat there, that I couldn't stop time, that it would keep moving whether I wanted it to or not.
We all converge for a brief time until we pass by one another, and we watch each other recede in our rearview mirrors until we disappear.
Those few brief moments we've had have been sweet, and the flying by can be bitter, but only if we let it be. The people in my life are amazing, and in the most selfish sense, I want to freeze the frame, put it in an album, and hide it away so I can look at it when I get sad. But at the same time, I don't want anyone to stop at all. I want all these people I love to keep flying on to their next destinations so they can have new experiences in other places.
Yeah, it's a bittersweet symphony.
But I prefer the sweet, don't you?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Usually I abhor Mondays with the fire of fifty suns.  I look out my window with what I'm sure is an expression of complete futility.
Today is different.  I am happy and sad all at once because it's the last week until the end of the year: happy at the good times to come; sad at the thought of all you guys leaving.
What is this strange feeling at the center of my chest?  Could it be...? I think...
Yes, I have a heart.  And it's halfway broken.
Fix it, please.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I had another dream that I shaved my beard, but only partially this time.
What's my subconscious trying to tell me?
To be honest, I'm quite tired of this beard.  It's been fun, but I want it to be gone.  Only a couple more days and my wish will be fulfilled.
Kudos to Karthik for being the only one man enough to keep it for the full term.


My cat is mad, batshit crazy, insane.
She will be standing in a room, watching me get dressed or brush my teeth, and she will inexplicably run at top speed down the hallway and all throughout the house; she climbs the curtains and puts little claw holes in them so it looks like stars in the daytime; she ascends the screens and perches on top of the open doors; she walks along my headboard and jumps (unprovoked) on my face while I'm reading; she nurses on a soft blanket I have on the couch and purrs so loud she sounds like an engine (She's doing it right now, in fact.).
She looks like a gray tiger, with black stripes all down her body and on her belly and on her legs.  She has what looks like an "M" on her forehead, and little white patches next to her eyes surrounded in black so it looks like she's wearing a superhero mask.  Her paws are white like she's wearing little white shoes. 
Sometimes I get so frustrated with her antics that I yell at the top of my lungs.  But she just stares at me, looking bored, as if to say, "Really?  Is that all you got?"
She's insane: no doubt about it.
But I love her.
I envy her energy.  There are many times in my life when I wish that I could have the courage to run top speed, climb curtains, perch on doors, and display a general disdain for others' disapproval.  She gives life her all, and then she sleeps so deeply.  I envy that too.  I'd be willing to wager that only humans suffer from insomnia.
When all the women leave me, she will be here.
That's not so bad, is it?


Here I am at 5:21, and I feel impatient: with sleep, with myself, with the world.
It's one of those restless moments in which I feel that I want to fly (or at least walk, possibly run, around my neighborhood, pretty purples flowers and me). But I so sorely feel the ground and know that flying is impossible at the moment. There's so much to do here on earth in the next week.
I want to escape.
And I will soon enough.
The road waits for the rubber of my tires.
Here I come.

Friday, June 12, 2009


The last of the school year is trickling down the drain, and I'm watching it, and I don't want to say good-bye to you all.  This year has been an amazing one, and if I had any doubts about why I got into this profession, those doubts have been quieted.
I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.
Have I said thank you enough?
Thank  you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Once upon a time, there was a little boy.  The boy was full of energy, never sitting still, always running around until he almost drove his mother crazy.  In the midst of all this movement, he would often stop and think about the things around him. 
 One day, when he was riding his tricycle down the sidewalk,  he stopped and looked around.  Many of the trees on his street had these pretty purple flowers on them, and the flowers would fall down and land on the sidewalk and on the street and sometimes on the boy.  He would try to catch them while he was riding as fast as he could on his tricycle.  Sometimes he caught them and he would throw them in the air and turn around to watch them fall on to the sidewalk.  
He began to think as he sat there staring at all these flowers, in the trees and on the ground and stuck to the wheels of his tricycle.  He wondered why the flowers were there.  He thought and he thought, but he could not figure out why the flowers were there, and why they fell, and why they came home with him on his wheels and on the bottoms of his shoes.  
He decided he would ask his mommy when he got home, so he rode as fast as he could.
When he got home, he saw his mommy on the porch and ran to her.
"Mommy, Mommy, I have a question," he said, breathing heavily from riding as fast as he could.
"Okay.  Let's go in the house.  But first take off your shoes so you don't get flowers on the floor."
The boy took off his shoes and followed his mommy into the house.  She got him a glass of water and sat down at the kitchen table.  She patted the chair next to her, and the boy ran over and sat down.  He took a long drink of water.
"So what's your question?"
The boy sat for a moment. "Well... Why are there all those purple flowers out there? They're pretty, but what are they for?"
"Hmmmm... Let me see..." His mommy sat and put on her thinking face. "There are two reasons."
"What?" the boy asked, excited that his mommy had not one but two answers to his question.
"The first reason is so we can look at them and notice how beautiful they are, and that makes us happy.  Doesn't it make you happy to see all those flowers?"
"Yeah," the boy said. "But not when they stick to my feet.  And sometimes they smell bad."
His mommy laughed.  "The second reason is so that we know that summer is almost here.  That's the most important reason."
The boy thought about the most important reason.  Summer to the boy meant many things: no going to school and staying up late, sometimes even until nine o'clock; going to the beach and sitting in the sand and making sand castles and going in the water where his daddy would swing the boy into the waves and hold him on his shoulders so he was the tallest; it meant his birthday on July 24th and presents and cake and his friends; it meant swimming in the new pool that he watched the men build a few months ago and then sitting in the sunshine to dry; it meant going to the library as much as he wanted because his mommy would always take him if he asked.  
The boy's eyes lit up at the thought of summer.
"That is the most important reason," the boy nearly shouted.
His mommy smiled and said, "Yes it is.  But now it's time for bed.  Go get ready."
The boy walked through the kitchen toward the hall.  Before he got to the hall, he stopped at the door and looked through the screen at the pretty purple flowers falling on his street.
It was almost summer.
The boy was me at four.  
Twenty-two years later, I am still just as excited for summer, for the many reasons the boy gave and for many more.
Here I am, at twenty-six (almost twenty-seven), elated at the thought of two months of total freedom.  The time goes much faster than it used to go, but those two months are still glorious.
Now if you'll excuse me: I have to go watch some pretty purple flowers falling on my street.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Trust me

I once heard a speech that was supposed to be one of those now-I-feel-able-to-fly-or-move-mountains  speeches where we all left and signed up for the Peace Corps or something.  The speaker gave a piece of advice that went something like: "If you truly want to have a rewarding career, find one in which you can change someone's life."
Now I don't know about all of that.  It struck me--at the time--as a bit self-aggrandizing to want to be the one to change another's life.  I know what you're thinking: That's right up your alley, Dalley, you egotistical bastard.  Yes, I am an egotistical bastard.  But I still don't claim to have the ability to change lives.
I've realized, since hearing that speech, that the true key to having a rewarding career--hell, a rewarding life--is to be open to being changed by others.  I have learned this through practical application: I have the privilege of working with some amazing people on a daily basis, people who continually surprise and delight me (and most of them are no more than eighteen); I can say with absolute certainty (which, for me, is rare) that I am a changed man because of my profession.
How did I run into such luck?  Make no mistake: it's luck, and I am a lucky man.  There's no providence or god looking out for my well-being; I am simply lucky as hell.  I get to go to a place where I learn each day and have the opportunity to sometimes, just maybe, teach people a little something too.
Thanks, guys.  
You changed me.  
For the better.

Monday, June 8, 2009


The perfect line proves so elusive.
I guess that's why we keep writing.
I guess the point is that there is no perfect line because each moment in which we write we are different people with a different purpose for putting the pen to paper.  
Wouldn't life be boring if we bottomed out?

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The beauty rests not in what you say; the beauty rests in how you say it.
We have been trained by our educational institutions to search for some sort of deeper meaning beneath the outer layer of art.  When we read, we think of themes; when we watch films, we think of themes; when we view paintings, we think of themes.  And then when we try to create art, we nearly drown when we think, "But what am I really trying to say?"
Leave that question behind; banish it to the borderlands where it belongs.
Solomon said it best a long, long time ago: "There is nothing new under the sun."  Nothing you produce will say something entirely original.  But the way you say it: That can be new, exciting, refreshing.
I've tried to live my life with this in mind.  I am nothing new, nor is my life.  I am so small; my time is so short in the grand scale of geologic time.  Yet I know that if I can make my life an art and bring a freshness to the things I do day to day, like driving or walking down the hallway, then I can create meaning in the very act of living.  The living is the meaning, after all.  There are no themes lurking beneath the surface of life.  I will be judged on what I do, but I will also be judged on how.
That's style: the how of life.

Okay, okay!

At the urging of a certain someone at school, I decided to start a blog.  I'm actually rather excited because now my random thoughts which don't fit well into poems can be born in the modern-day prose project we call a blog.
In the beginning, Dalley created his own heaven and earth.