Teacher: Here and Now by
(40 Stories)

Prompted By Favorite Teacher

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I ‘m gearing up to write my response to this week’s prompt, “My Favorite Teacher”, sitting in my beach house study, facing my MacBook Air, and beyond that the Atlantic Ocean, deep blue this afternoon and speckled with whitecaps as the wind picks up.  The waves roll in, one after another, each breaking into a white line of surf, each strumming the song of the waves, which I love to listen to.

May my mother not box my ears. May the traditionalists in the party crowd notice nothing amiss (except possibly rouge highlights in the salami crust).

My study started its life (when I was a young boy) as part of the screened porch that ran across the front of the house, then was carved from the porch and slapdash-enclosed to be a nursery and extra bedroom (when my youngest sister was born), then was used as a storage bin, then a laundry room, with a window too high and too small to do justice to the view of the ocean until my late wife and I bought out the interests of my sisters in the house, and remodeled its front end as required by the carpenter ants who had feasted within splinters of a total collapse, installing the current study with its broad ocean-view window which draws me to watch the ever-changing currents, and now some wispy clouds forming.  This vista is brain-captivating, except I must keep one piece of my brain on the salamis I am baking and basting for this evening’s Weenie Roast cocktail party, three houses north as the seagull flies.  At last tasting, the salamis seemed to be nicely absorbing the orange marmalade and yellow mustard spread thickly over them forming a crust on top, while their bottoms swam in drippings from earlier bastings.  I don’t have a recipe (i.e., the proportion of mustard to marmalade, notes on acceptable marmalades, the oven temperature, the rotation schedule, the cooking time).  Rather I have my late mother leaning over my shoulder with a raised eyebrow.  It was her signature dish, for this annual occasion.  She brought it to a generation of Weenie Roasts, and received mouthfuls of accolades. I aspire to continue the tradition.

I know how the salamis are supposed to taste when served, sweet, tart, spicy and still warm, accompanied by fresh black bread.  Following a further taste test a minute ago (1½ hours into the baking), I boldly added strawberry preserves to the spread because I worried the marmalade I’m working with is too gourmet, and imparts too much tartness.  May my mother not box my ears. May the traditionalists in the party crowd notice nothing amiss (except possibly rouge highlights in the crust).

My favorite teacher?

I am running out of time.  I can hear children and grandchildren turning off the TV, starting to shower, dress, and talk s’mores.  I can hear my salami timer buzzing.  I still have to carve and plate. I hope the salamis are worthy.  I move with deliberation as I I remain caught up in the glide of the waves.

Okay, I will breathe, and then blurt.

I had various teachers in my childhood and adolescence, and later at college and law school, who engaged me (interrupted the prevailing boredom).  Random memories of my 5th grade home room teacher teaching us songs from foreign countries; my 8th grade English teacher brutally deconstructing the much-loved poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer (“…Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree”), so that in the end it looked like it had been chewed by carpenter ants;  my AP English teacher offering a deep take on the clandestine embrace of young Romeo and Juliet; my Visual Studies professor who coaxed a movie out of me; my Federal Procedure and Jurisdiction professor who made every class a thriller, etc.

But for my favorite, rather than dig into the way-back machine, with rust crusting on its exposed parts, and cobwebs blurring my view, I’ll run (quickly and breezily) with the here and now, with the classical music professor who taught a course on Bob Dylan in the year of Bob’s Nobel, a college undergraduate course which permitted old-timers to audit (as long as we didn’t talk or snore too much).  That course was a wonderful and enriching experience.  And this Fall semester that professor is teaching a course on the Beatles, which I have enrolled in and eagerly look forward to.

May I add that the ocean, with its syllabus revised each new day, is no slouch as a teacher either.

Profile photo of jonathancanter jonathancanter
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Jon, your stories are a joy to read every week! I did wonder if you were ever going to get to a favorite teacher, and I’m glad you did, but it was also fascinating to read about the history of your study and its life as a porch/nursery/laundry room and of course that scrumptious salami — with pictures, no less! If I weren’t 3,000 miles away, I would definitely come over for some of that salami!

    Also, I want details on that music professor, and whether I can audit online.

    • I am pleased to tell a good story; I do the best I can to connect my story to the prompt.
      The course on the Beatles, taught by Prof Yudkin at BU, is an in-person course (live music); his Dylan course was an interesting combine of youngsters and oldsters like me who have enshrine Bob; notwiststanding the consensus disparagement of Bob’s rasping singing voice, Prof Yudkin found virtuoso beauty in it. FWIW, my favorite Beatle was (is) John.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the teachings of the ocean view, how to make your salami, with your mother’s image hovering (and including images of the treat itself – you’ve mentioned the dish in a previous story, now my mouth is watering), and even home remodeling.

    But teachers…in a youthful choir we learned that Joyce Kilmer’s verse had been set to music, so that’s the way I first encountered it. Glad to hear that one of your teachers did a deep dive into R&J. I always wanted to play Juliet and did one of her monologues in acting class, but, alas, never got to play the role. I still love the play (in all its iterations, including “Shakespeare in Love”). And brilliant that you get to audit those interesting classes, but is that really about the teachers or the subject matter? Either way, they do sound like they are interesting.

    • The salami was a big hit. The ocean sound is enhanced today because of the low cloud over. Surround sound. A low roar. You think you are too old to play Juliet? Nonsense. Dragoon yourself a Romeo and stage a reading. Serve drinks.

  3. Susan Bennet says:

    And you’re no slouch as a teacher either, Jon, from how to make the perfect salami to how to keep one’s learning light aflame via auditing college courses. Great tips I’ll use right away, and thanks. Were I an envious person, Jon, I would yearn for your beach house and its ocean delights. But I am not. And yet, on this rainy Labor Day I do yearn to be able to say, Here comes the sun, and it’s all right. Enjoy your next class!

  4. No baloney here! Great description of your home and I sure would love to try your salami (I never knew anyone who made one outside of a deli) I’m a big fan of Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but not so much Joyce Kilmer. (I’m reminded frequently as we drive down the NJ turnpike that there’ s a rest stop bearing his name. I cannot control myself and I recite the “Tree” poem with much eye rolling from my husband. What I recall the most about that piece is the line “upon whose bosom snow has lain”. When we recited the poem in a chorus presentation in 4th grade, everyone giggled at the anatomical reference. I just cannot get that poem out of my head.)

    • My teacher attacked Trees w a chain saw. He was a young guy from Yale, and I think he was passing on to us 8th graders the snark and bile (and wit) of collegiate lit crit, which was brand new to me and very exciting, maybe my most intellectually exciting moment to date (and I will add, this guy was a phenomenal teacher, handing back our weekend themes by Tuesday mornings with sharp and clear commentary: he cared deeply about being a responsive and stimulating teacher, the contrast between him and the English teacher I had the next year who never got back themes, and when he did he had nothing to say, was like from high tide to low, w low being a low number). I guess if I hadn’t gotten sidetracked by the salami, this is where my favorite teacher would have gone. But note, I did not make a salami, I adulterated it (sort of like Mickey D adds his special sauce to the BigMac).

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Another wild ride but worthy.

  6. I think we’ve got your style down pat by now Jon, and as always I enjoyed the read . . . even the salami is starting to appeal!

    And the Bob Dylan course sounds great! Recently we heard a musicologist lecture on the Beatles – fabulous!

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your description of the evolving beach house and the salami you were preparing while contemplating this prompt. What a creative approach. I had not considered recent teachers I have encountered in my life-long learning classes (translation, for old people) at Northwestern University. I think you will love the one on the Beatles. My husband and I have sat through a few amazing lectures on them.

    • Thank you Laurie, glad you liked the overlapping plot lines of my story. Today I had my first Beatles class. The prof said listen to the songs with your eyes closed, with full concentration. Then listen again. One amazing retrospective thing is that the Beatles broke up 50 years ago, and yet continue to be my daily friends.

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