Keeping retirement weird. Rejection.


The brothers who run Baja Takeria in San Pancho.

The Marlin tacos at Baja Takeria on Avenida Tercer Mundo in San Pancho, Nayarit are pretty damn good. Pour on the chipotle crema.

There’s another taco place, Tacos Mango, two blocks down on Calle America Latina.  They offer three kinds of grilled steak tacos. We sat at flower patterned oil-cloth covered tables in a sweet open courtyard. Set out on a table are the condiments: A half dozen kinds of salsa, pickled red onions, diced white onions and cilantro.


To celebrate Anne’s retirement we took off for five days to get away from Chicago cold, sit in the sun and plan the next part of our lives together.

I posted here that I was off the grid. That really wasn’t true. San Pancho (officially, San Francisco) is well connected to the internet. I just wasn’t posting.

I did receive and send email.

Over the years I have had my share of internet stalkers. It comes with the territory. Remember Ben Velderman? He worked for a right-wing outfit in Michigan called the Education Action Group.

Ben Velderman filed a FOIA request for all my work emails hoping to find evidence of political use. He and EAG got the six years of emails, but no evidence.

Recently a guy named Theodore, a self-described actuary, has been sending me emails accusing me of being personally responsible for the two-tier teacher pension system in Illinois. He says I was a union boss who sacrificed the pensions of young teachers so that I could live my retirement years as a fat cat.

The closest I have come to being a fat cat is getting one Powerball number on Saturday.

I distinctly recall 2010 when I stood before the Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly begging the IEA president at the time, Ken Swanson, and the delegates not to permit IEA lobbyists to bargain a two-tier pension system. One of the many times I lost a vote. A few weeks later, Speaker Madigan pushed it through the General Assembly in twelve hours and it was signed by Governor Quinn.

Theodore doesn’t mention those guys. Just me.

Facts don’t matter much to Theodore. Checking my email in San Pancho I found this:

The former Tier 1 teacher becomes the rich tourist in a sunny location. Meanwhile, tier 2 teachers lower their thermostat in the hope of having enough money to buy cat food. And the tier 2 teacher doesn’t even own a cat.

Enjoy your vacation, fat cat.

He also said I was a Soviet-style Commisar.

Did I mention that Baja Takeria also has fantastic beer batter fish tacos. They are great with a margarita.

I received an email from the editor of Monthly Review. MR is a left-wing theoretical journal that has been around for more years than it has numbers of readers. I had been contacted by the editor several months ago and asked if I would write a piece on the unions and opt out.

At the time I wrote back and explained that I was a retired K-5 art teacher, not a theoretician. I write short blog posts with short sentences with short words and no footnotes.

In fact, my main theory is what the world doesn’t need are more education theoreticians.

He said it would be no problem. He said he wished more of their writers wrote like that. He could offer me no money and he would like four thousand words.

Four thousand words!

Short words.

For me, that is a lot of short words. But I agreed.

In San Pancho I received this email:

Hi Fred,

At our final make up meeting for the March issue on OptOut the Editorial Committee found that we had much more material than we could publish, or for that matter edit down.

With apologies, we decided that we cannot publish the piece you were so kind as to submit at our request.

We have another piece (which we had to cut down severely) on the UFT and OptOut in NYC that goes into detail on matters that you covered in passing. The committee decided that to publish both pieces, especially given the space problems we have, was not possible.

I much regret that we could not let you know earlier, but it was not possible to reach the decision before our meeting yesterday.

I hope you can make good use of the piece, and that you will forgive us for not publishing it.

Thanks for the work you put into it, and again apologies


Well, that’s swell. I don’t care about when they reached their decision.  I’m not on a schedule.

But, “make good use of the piece?”

What the hell am I going to do with four thousand short words about the unions and opt out?

Damn, I could use a Marlin taco and a glass of Modelo right now.

We are back in Chicago this morning and the wind chill is minus 25.

5 Replies to “Keeping retirement weird. Rejection.”

  1. “what am I going to do with four-thousand words about unions and op-out?”

    Hi, Fred. From a listener who so respects your efforts, a request. How about sending it your friends out here in blog land?

    Your writing style has something some professionals wish they had- an authentic voice- a voice that sheds realism in every word. Never doubt that your words mean a lot to a lot of people- at times the only guide to sanity in this institution we call Illinois education. I am grateful for the Internet and your willingness to be a part of it .

    As for your trip- good for you. The man you quoted should be praising the fact that someone other than the rich can enjoy one of the pleasures of retirement(with careful planning I am sure), not denying a person a little relaxation in a busy life. Make hay while the sun shines, I say.

    I hope you decide to post that piece you wrote, or if you decide not to, can I have a copy? If he is so sorry about asking you to write it, why can’t he put it in a future edition?

    Kindest regards.

    Frank Marks, retired teacher and proud if it

  2. Theo,
    You are partially right, there are many retired teachers and other retired public employees that are on a “cat food” diet, but they are all Tier 1. No one who is in Tier 2 has enough time in to retire.

    1. Anon,
      Yes. Of course. And I explained this to Theodore, the actuary. Tier two teachers are not yet retired. And it is likely that when they do, they will fall below the “safe harbor” requirement of the federal government which demands that a retirement system provide a benefit at least as good as Social Security. But Theodore would rather trust in his own analysis. And blame me.

    1. Oh, yes. Never underestimate the power of a retired K-5 art teacher who once was the president of a 400 teacher local. Now that is the very definition of power.

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