Peeling Back the Sheepskins

eg69soccer

Ah…it’s graduation season and the youth of America is chomping at the bit to snag that sheepskin and move on to the next chapter in life–whether it’s college, a career or rearranging the parents’ basement for long-term mooching in lieu of revenue-producing endeavors.

My favorite graduation was when I was sprung loose from high school. It was 1969 and not one of the 1,735 graduates at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens Village, NY could swear on a Bible they didn’t, at one time, stupidly say to someone, “heh heh..I’m in the Class of ’69.” Yeah..we were Beavis and Butthead years before the animated slackers manifested the description of the show in its disclaimer as “dumb, crude, ugly, thoughtless, sexist, self-destructive fools.” Yay MVB Class of ’69!

Anyway, with 1,735 graduates that’s a lot of bored teenagers to schlep on and off the stage as their names are called, but Mom Nature did us a solid. Our graduation was held outside in a park. Rain threatened and the thick, gray clouds overhead promised to make that threat real. With that in mind the principal and others wisely decided to can the roll call and stage/perp walk. They referenced the rainy forecast and gleefully announced, “in light of the expected storm…you’re all graduated! Move your tassel over and head for one of the picnic tables where your diploma is sitting in alphabetized piles. Find yours and run! Congratulations…and get going! It’s gonna pour!”

Graduation in 30 minutes flat. Four years of hard work ends in a 15 second sprint. Always wished I was tall enough to make the track team.

My next favorite graduation came many years later when I was working for CNN as Detroit Bureau Chief and correspondent. The great staff in my bureau discovered that in the small Upper Peninsula town of Calumet the local high school’s graduation would be feature not one, or even two, valedictorians….but 8! So we arranged to travel up there on a little puddle jumper that would get us part of the way up there to Houghton, Michigan, then drive the rest of the way. We hit the ground running once we arrived, shot profiles and interviews with each of the 8 honored students then covered the evening graduation, which took a long time because there were 8 valedictory speeches! It was late by the time we were done, but then we had to pull an all-nighter to get the piece written and edited in time to make the morning shows.

This, of course, meant the creative process being fueled by junk food and beer and our tired and cranky, and beer-infused shooter constantly harping on me to get the damn script done. “You done with the effin’ script yet? I’m tired and we’re running out of beer!” Yup…got it done, he shook off the buzz and got it done and fed to Atlanta in time to make air.  I think it turned out pretty well. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

I would have loved to see what would have happened, though, if they had held it outside that night. Looked like rain.

 

 

Advertisements

Worth the 53-year Wait–A 12-String Dream Come True

edrick.jpgI’d been dreaming of this day since some time around 1966. Please be patient. The yarn will take a little while. I was 14. Lots of pimples, skinny, awkward, but like millions of others like me, infatuated with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Byrds. Oh…the Byrds. Jim McGuinn’s granny glasses, urgent vocals and that damn 12-string Rickenbacker guitar that made sounds never before heard. Chiming, jangling..think “Mr. Tambourine Man and “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

Those opening notes that instantly announced what was to come and sucked you in and sold so much wax. As soon as the first notes rung in you jammed the volume of your transistor radio and did not give one shit if the kid sitting next to you in the library was cramming for finals. The truth is, that kid instantly forgot about physics and got lost in the ringing of the Rickenbacker’s 12-strings as only McGuinn could command them.

I had only begun playing the guitar a year earlier after years of suffering with an instrument that was popular pre-British invasion…the accordion. My mother encouraged my brother and I to play the squeeze box because the right hand played the same as the right hand on a piano. But we lived in a 440 square foot apartment in Queens and there wasn’t room for one, so the accordion would have to do. I actually played it in my first garage band in junior high school called “The Scenics.” It was a strange combination of my accordion, a guy on the sax, a drummer who only owned a snare drum with no stand, so he propped it on a chair and a chubby guy with a clarinet, rounding out possibly the worst band in history. We decided to play for our music class because you could get extra credit for performing. We played “Moon River,” but then the guy on the sax went nuts, left the stage, walked up to the most buxom young lady in our class and started playing “The Stripper.” Our teacher just muttered, “oh my,” then refused to give us the extra credit we definitely did not deserve.

Shortly after that my mother began saving trading stamps. Not S&H, which were the most popular back then, but the upstart Plaid Stamps. Once she accumulated 10 books she cashed them in for a nylon string acoustic guitar. It came with a little pink pamphlet that showed you how to play a few basic chords and contained the charts for tunes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “She’ll Be Comin’ “Round the Mountain.” Well..as any guitar player knows, you can play a ton of tunes with just a few chords in your quiver. That’s when my friends and I started hanging around the neighborhood music store called Lee Benson’s. It was owned and run by a wedding and bar mitzvah band trumpeter Lee Benson who’s real name was Lee Lebenson. Thin, balding, mustachioed,  very mellow and very patient. Teenagers with dreams of becoming rock stars hung around the store, bullshitted with Lee about music, and bought tons of picks, strings and sheet music so we could learn to play some of the hits of the day. Here’s the sheet music for “Revolution,” “We Can Work it Out,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

sheetmusic Whenever you paid for the music Lee would smile and say “great tune, great tune.”

Mannys-Music-Music-Row-300x186Hang onto those thoughts of Lee Benson for a moment while I skip to the next chapter of this tale. My friends and I often hopped a bus and subway to catch a Knicks or Rangers game at the old Madison Square Garden, about a mile up 8th Avenue from where it is now. We’d arrive early then walk around the area and invariably ended up on 48th Street near Times Square–New York’s “Music Row,” so-named because of the strip of large music stores. There was Rudy’s and Sam Ash, and, my favorite, Manny’s. Ah..Manny’s. You never knew who would be just sitting on a stool just jamming away. Anyone who was anyone in the music biz bought their stuff at Manny’s. Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones…everyone. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a magical place and there, in the front window was that Rickenbacker. Only moments before a guy with a 12-string Rick was playing the opening to the Beatles’s “If I Needed Someone” with a little crowd around him in one of the aisles. What I wouldn’t do to own a Rickenbacker. But man, the price tag dashed my dreams–$365. Holy crap! With an allowance of a buck a week, I’d be in Depends before I could even think of owning one. I was obsessed but also realistic. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Ever.

But the next time I headed over to Lee Benson’s it looked like he had a Rick in his window. What!?! It had that same fireglow finish, acoustic slit in the body and….and….the brand name “Ideal” on the headstock! WTF? I immediately starting quizzing Benson about it and he said it was a “quality recreation” of a Rickenbacker at a fraction of the price–$75. HUH? In reality, a Japanese knockoff. Smart salesman that he was, Benson locked in on my obvious infatuation, took the fake Rick from the window and set it in my hands. I started playing. Not bad..not bad at ALL! Now, where was I gonna get 75 bucks. Well…I had 80 in my bank account. Just enough to cover the price and the tax. After a spirited spat with my mother about cleaning out my account for a guitar, she gave in and I took it home. Smart guy Benson even wrote “Rick” on the receipt. Such a smooth bullshitter he was. My friends oohed and ahhed and I swung that thing like it was a real Rick. idealrick

I joined another lousy garage band called The Purple Perception. Yup..we sucked but we practiced in our drummer’s basement which always attracted his hot, blond next door neighbor sisters to come over and watch. We were too awkward and stupid to get anywhere with them but at least it was an audience. They would be our only audience because we also sucked too badly to get any real gigs. Yup..we broke up after a few months.

I took that bogus Rick with me everywhere. Played it day and night, hauled it up to college, tortured my roommate and it’s been with me ever since. It still actually looks and sounds pretty freakin’ good. But it wasn’t a real Rickenbacker. Over the years I added a Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster to my collection, as well as an electric bass, and acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars–along with a set of drums. But no Rickenbacker, which now would cost more than $3,000. I did well in my career and could certainly afford one, but just never felt I should spend that much money on a guitar. Until this weekend. I found what was billed as a “used” 12-string Rickenbacker on the Guitar Center store website.

realrick.jpgIt was at the store up in Saginaw. I contacted the store and the guy told me the fellow that traded it in only played it twice, was really more of a collector and just didn’t want it any more. I drove the hour and 20 minutes up I-75 to Saginaw to check it out and it was in mint condition. For the first time in my life I laid my hands on a real Rick–a 330 12-string..the same one the late Tom Petty played and Jim McGuinn had sometimes used. I plugged it in to the Vox amp in the store and started shaking. I took a pick out of my pocket and started playing the distinctive intro to “Ticket to Ride,” then “Mr. Tambourine Man,” then “Here Comes the Sun” and even the riff from Bruce Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise.” I looked over at my son who was just smiling a smile that only comes from one’s senses being pleased…and maybe being a little embarrassed by his old man trying to, but failing miserably, to look a little cool. I asked him if I should buy the guitar. All he could say was “you HAVE to have it!” I now I do.

It’s an almost lifelong dream come true and a lesson that no matter how long you defer a dream, it’s never too late to try to bring it to fruition. Whether it’s a career goal, athletic accomplishment, educational attainment…never just shrug it off, because no matter how long it takes, it’s worth the effort. Never stop dreaming and never stop trying to make them come true. I’m gonna go play that Rick now..the real one..the real dream come true. 

Kitsch and Tell

viddlersexterior

Thought you might like to know I recently bought a blue thing that’ll keep my sunglasses from sinking in the river…and a kazoo. These were not impulse items. Indeed, I had considered both for some time but never had the ambition to search among many stores, or online, for either. But I found them them mere yards apart at an old emporium in East Aurora, New York. It’s called Viddlers 5 and 10 with the subtitle, “you never know what you’ll find there.”

viddlerstuffLet’s clear up something first. The 5 and the 10 do not mean nickel or dime. I found nothing there that costs pennies, but I suppose you could make the case that you do need at least 100 pennies to make a buck and most items there cost several of those.

Unlike the 5 and 10-cent stores I remember as a kid, Viddlers doesn’t have a tank of homeless goldfish for sale or a lunch counter serving up malts, BLTs or Bromo Seltzers.

Vidlers bozoWhat it does have is the luscious aroma of old wood-planked floors that squeak with every step, a million little tchochkes begging to collect dust in your home, lawn art, pots and pans, board games, paint, back scratchers, a billion types of candy and other sweets, books, magnets for your refrigerator with a picture of the store, (bought one of those too) and silly signs.

childrensignI love the one that says, “Unattended children will be given espresso and a free kitten.” No one actually buys them, but if you wanted to, Viddlers has ‘em for you.

 

How about a dopey hat that looks like a cheeseburger….or a bison? Might be a hit at the synagogue where every other guy just sports a little round yarmulke? I think bisons are kosher, no?hamburgerhat

Then there’s the toothpick bird. Got something caught in your teeth? Touch the birdie the right way and it coughs up a handy toothpick. I can only hope Viddlers finds the floss flounder one day.

toothpickbirdWhen visiting Viddlers it’s important to check out every one of its many rooms and every corner in each room because that’s where some of the best stuff is hiding, like a some odd sized pan or garden gargoyle.

kazooI found my kazoo begging for attention on a lower shelf. It competed against two other kazoos, but I settled on mine because I liked the box and color. I wanted to try it out, as you would with any musical instrument, but I was told it’s not cool to slobber over something you may not decide to buy. So I took a chance and gambled two bucks it would mesh with my particular playing style.

The blue thing for my sunglasses was hanging near a bunch of toys, and not anywhere near sunglasses, which I’m not even sure Viddlers sells. I need this thing because I’m always afraid my sunglasses will fall off my head and into the drink when I’m kayaking or attempting to walk across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee. Now I can enter water with full confidence that no matter what unfortunate circumstances befall me, my sunglasses won’t sink.

sunglassesViddlers hasn’t always been called Viddlers. According to its website, “Robert S. Vidler, Sr. opened “The Fair Store” in the quaint village of East Aurora. Family legend has it that his mother-in-law complained of having to go all the way to Buffalo (16 miles distant) to buy a spool of thread – and Robert saw the opportunity for a new, local business.”

He changed the name to Viddlers 15 years later.

This was technically my second visit to Viddlers. My first didn’t last long. We intended to stop in on our way home to Michigan from my in-laws place in  Rochester, N.Y. East Aurora, which is near Buffalo, is way off the route but my in-laws had enthusiastically recommended, so we took the detour. Hmm..plenty of parking in the back. Good start. Uh oh…door locked. It was Memorial Day. Sign informed us Viddlers not open on Memorial Day. Bad ending. So now it’s a year later and we avoided all holidays and tried again. This time there was still plenty of parking, but many of the spaces were taken…and the door was open.

We may go back to Viddlers again some day. I do like corn on the cob and ribs. I hope the toothpick bird is still available.

Parked in the Motor City

notbaddet

The reaction from my mother made no mistake about her feelings. “Who did this to you!?!” she shouted over the phone.

I calmly replied no one “did this” to me. I asked for the transfer from Atlanta up to Detroit. It would be a big promotion. She still wasn’t happy since my parents had only retired to Florida from NYC the year before, putting them a lot closer to us and to two of their grandchildren.

It was 1989. I had worked at CNN since November, 1981 in Atlanta, first as a producer on the launch team for what was then called CNN2 and is now a far different network called HLN. Over the next 7 years I moved over to CNN as a producer, supervising producer, correspondent and fill-in anchor but what I really wanted to do is run a bureau. In the spring of ’89 that opportunity opened up when the incumbent Detroit Bureau Chief-Correspondent won his long-sought transfer to the bureau in Rome.

Not many people wanted to move to Detroit. They feared being murdered immediately upon arrival or finding their cars, wheel-less perched on milk boxes. Not me. I grew up in NYC. I loved cities, their energy, cultural mix, history and odds of covering some important and exciting stories.

So I applied…and got the job. It didn’t disappoint me. As a regional bureau we covered all of Michigan, Ohio, eastern Canada and wherever else the national assignment desk sent us. The Detroit Bureau staff was welcoming and we worked together very well. 

This month marks 30 years since we hauled our kids and our stuff up I-75..and parked in Detroit.

My introduction to some of the players in Detroit, however, was, well, not quite as smooth as my start at the bureau. I was asked to give a talk introducing myself to the public relations community at a luncheon. If you know me, you know I’m a pretty short guy. Well..the fellow who introduced me was even shorter! Me, being the wiseass I am, came up to the mic, next to the unfortunate guy, looked down at him and cracked, “I think I’m gonna like it in Detroit!” The audience got the joke and laughed. My fellow shrimp did not, and promptly sulked in his seat. OK…note to self: “Detroiters are height-sensitive.”

It wasn’t long before the late, great J.P. McCarthy invited me onto his morning show on WJR. He promptly took me to task for what he felt was the national media’s obsession with beating up on Detroit I explained CNN had no such obsession, but you couldn’t simply ignore what was really happening. But things took a more positive turn when he asked me to tell an anecdote about Ted Turner, since there were a lot of bigwig corporate executives in his audience. I told him about Ted showing up in the Atlanta newsroom in his blue terrycloth robe on a Saturday morning and cajoling with the staff. We all loved him. J.P. liked that story and over the years invited me back a few times and I was very honored to be a guest during his last week of programs before he retired. Each time, he wanted another Ted Turner story. I always came prepared.

I also love Detroit because the folks are not only welcoming, but blunt in just the right way. My first week in Detroit I was assigned to an auto sales story and was scheduled to interview the head numbers cruncher at Ford. He was weeks way from retirement and feeling a little feisty.

“You know anything?” he barked at me.

“I’m new on the beat so I’m open to learning,” I humbly replied.

“Well, listen to what I say, report it accurately, don’t write any bullshit and we’ll get along fine. So ask me some questions and they better be good ” he, um, advised.

“Yessir.” 

A year or two later I ran into the gentleman at a press event and he smiled as he came over to me and said, “I gave you serious shit when you were new but you more than proved yourself.”

“Thank you very much, sir.”

Detroit. Awesome.

We always thought Detroit was just another stop on the road. My wife and I met at college in Oswego, N.Y., got married a few months after graduating and had lived in Central New York State while I started my broadcasting career at a couple of radio stations, then we took off for Tucson, Arizona to earn our Masters degrees and where I got my first TV job at KGUN, first as weekend weather guy, then reporter, then producer, until I got the tip about the job at CNN.

We loved Atlanta and were actually looking for a larger house as our family grew, but then Detroit happened. Sure..three-year contract for the new position, then who knows?

But CNN renewed me a few more times until they closed the bureau in 2001 and I was laid off along with about a thousand other people. What to do?

Well, there was zero talk about leaving Detroit. We actually lived in the suburbs but we loved the area, Michigan and the people. We became avid fans of all the sports teams, attended games and took advantage of all the area had to offer.

Luckily I had a pretty good reputation in town and I quickly won the National Auto Writer position at the Associated Press, then was recruited by The Detroit News to be the General Motors beat writer and jumped to corporate when the head of PR at DaimlerChrysler started a blog and wanted an autowriter to ghost write and manage for him. Sweet job! That job morphed in an 11 year stay at the automaker where I was the first head of digital communications pioneering the concept of “corporate journalism” with my wonderful, creative team.

In 2016 I decided to retire, but leave Detroit? Leave Michigan? What the hell for? All the things our family enjoys are right here…so we sold the home we had lived in since 1992 and moved exactly 2.5 miles away to another house that had a lot of the features missing in the old one. I’ve been blessed with just enough freelance opportunities to keep me sufficiently out of my wife’s hair and around enough to be of use when called upon.

The bottom line is America has Detroit all wrong. It may be the country’s best kept secret. Great people, culture, major league sports, awesome restaurants, any kind of recreation nearby..even fowling. Look it up. For us, it’s been home for 30 years and we hope to remain here until the grim reaper comes calling….or the Detroit Lions win a Super Bowl. Hmm. Here to stay.

Clucking Over Stampede for Chick fil A

chicksandwichI woke up this morning to read about a stampede of sheep lining up to eat chicken. Here in Detroit people are used to working hard to put food on the table but I would suggest, the meal they got yesterday wasn’t worth the laborious multi-hour wait in line for a breaded chicken sandwich.

 

chick2freep

I truly believe it’s Atlanta’s lingering revenge for the work of General Sherman. He burned that southern city long ago, and now it’s returning the favor to us Yankees by luring us away from work, play, families and good health with the scourge called Chick fil A.

For a few hours Wednesday the chain of chicken joints opened a pop-up version in the lobby of the Chrysler House–a downtown Detroit office building. Long before the doors opened the lines began to form with those who had never sampled the stuff along with those who are addicted to it. Only two cashiers were on duty to handle the hundreds of hungry Chick fil Afficiandos.

chikfila1

Detroit Free Press Photo

 

I lived in Atlanta for 8 years and yes, we stopped at Chick fil A from time to time but we much preferred a chain called Mrs. Winners for our chicken fix. The biscuits were as big as cat’s heads and the chicken was to die for, since the greasy, delicious barnyard bird would surely hasten one’s demise, but who needs to live that long anyway, right?

Let’s get real. A Chick fil A sandwich is a breaded piece of chicken with a pickle on top on a very ordinary bun. The chicken does taste pretty good, but worth wasting one’s limited time on Earth waiting for it? I don’t think so.

In Chick fil A’s hometown, the lines were about the same as you’d see at any fast food place. Here in Michigan, at the very upscale Somerset Collection mall, the lines at the Chick fil A in its food court inexplicably snake around and around while other vendors sadly sit with no one to serve. I’m always tempted to hang around with a camera hoping to catch someone in imagined rapture after taking that last bite, sighing, and lighting up a Lucky to complete the act.

I have another beef with aforementioned chicken place. When I lived in Atlanta and working for CNN, there was a Chick fil A in the commercial atrium at CNN Center. Many of us belonged to the health club on the lower level. Since I worked overnights when I produced the morning show, I would hit the gym when I got off the air at 9am. Did my exercises, swam my laps, knocked myself out playing racket ball, gettin’ real healthy, right? But the fumes from the damned Chick fil A wafted down the stairs, into the gym and after showering and dressing and being hypnotized by the aroma we followed our noses back up the stairs straight to the Chick fil A and promptly ordered two chicken biscuits and waffle fries. A sincere workout gone straight to hell.

Aw..what am I saying? Writing about it has my olfactory working overtime.  It was damned worth it. Gonna head to Somerset Place and get in line.

Shakes on a Plane–A First Class Mystery

airtravelI don’t fly much anymore. After I retired three years ago I went from Igneous Medallion to Toughshit Sucker. That all means I lose certain “privileges” such as schlepping down to the airport several times a week, being herded like calves about to become veal and stuffed into a seat even Barbie would find confining.

Now I fly when I want to, which is almost never. In fact I hadn’t been on a plane in 18 months…before last Thursday for a quick trip to Florida and back with my wife. We splurged and cashed in whatever miles I had lingering in my account, coughed up the difference in actual money and flew first class. Nice.

It all started out fine. I received a notice the day before on my Delta app to check in and I was even asked my lunch preference–Salad d’chicken stale, or a turkey sandwich floating in cheese and a bag of chips. I chose the latter. It was fine, although my cholesterol medication later sneered at me while mocking my choice, saying “you eat that shit I can’t help you.” Damn Big Pharma!

But all that seemed about normal. The spooky stuff was to come. I did NOT receive a notice to check in the day before our return flight. I did NOT receive a request to choose a meal for our return flight. After awhile I became suspicious that perhaps I screwed up somehow…but I didn’t. When I attempted to check in on the Delta app it said I had ALREADY checked in. My wife too! We did not check in. Not having flown for so long, perhaps flying first class now entitled you to a “check in angel.” It did not.  So when we got to the airport I figured I’d just go old school and use the kiosk to check in. BN-PH362_deltak_P_20160808120542I slip in my credit card and instead of being nice and polite to first class customer on the screen it says, “do you want to check in…again?” I mean the box had a freakin’ attitude as if I was annoying it during its reboot break. I reply, most emphatically, “yes!” I thought I heard a pathetic sigh from the little speaker and the instructions on the screen seem to indicate the electronic fucker was ready to see things my way by leading me through the process of re-checking in…even though I had never checked in in the first place. But fine.

delta slidersFrom there everything was cool until we settle in our seats. The flight attendant comes over to me and says, “so you pre-ordered the burgers for lunch.” In fact I did not. I did not have the opportunity to pre-order anything, but I thought I’d play it cool. “I believe so,” I lied. The flight attendant whipped out a computer readout that had my name and “burgers” next to it. Strange. But I wasn’t sure. What if there was something better? So I asked in my most innocent tone, “I can’t remember. What was the other choice?” The flight attendant was delighted to tell me it didn’t matter. Whatever the other choice was there weren’t any left. “Ah! Good thing I pre-ordered the burgers, then!” “Yes,” she replied. “You were very smart to do that!” Although the entire scenario was a sham. So were the burgers. They were billed, actually, as “sliders.” Maybe that’s because rather than actual meat, they appeared to be made with some sort of non-stick chemical in a shade of gray-beige. Of course, since I’m a man and men will eat anything I scarfed down both sliders which later slid through my digestive tract and were useful in waxing our hardwood floors to a high-gloss sheen.

Now I’m actually looking forward to my next flight to see if the Dark Spirit of Delta will further intervene on my behalf. Maybe send me a notice that it already watched the safety video for me, or nixed my drink selection because I deserve a better brand of bourbon. I’m OK with such pro-active service. In fact, I’d love it if I received an email informing me “We already snagged an extra dozen of those Biscoff cookies for you. They’ll be in your seat pocket.” Damn…Delta, you’re good!

My Groovy Cheapass College Education

la-1552449455-ctwg8rk8vm-snap-imageReading about the celebrities and other rich suckers who shelled out fortunes to get their lil’ darlings into prestigious universities through illegal means I can only think about what my parents did to get me into college.

Here’s how it went down. In 1969 my old brother was going to medical school. That’s expensive. Being four years younger, I was about to become a freshman someplace else, which my father stated plainly “would be much cheaper.”

There were two choices. As a resident of New York City, I could go to a city college. A new one had opened called York College. At the time it was no more than a glorified trailer park since the real campus was under construction. The tuition would be a backbreaking $35 a semester. Seemed like a good deal. I could hop one bus, transfer to another and be there in 30 minutes. I wouldn’t drive because there didn’t appear to be any place to park.

There didn’t appear to be any athletics or night life to speak of, unless you consider hanging out at the nearby falafel stand after the sun went down for some “after hours chickpeas.”

I didn’t end up at York College because my parents were concerned I was hanging around some “bad kids” and should therefore be sent to a school many miles away. Not as cheap as York College were the schools in the State of New York, or SUNY, system. I was accepted at Oswego State, about 30 miles north of Syracuse and built along the shores of Lake Ontario. Sound idyllic? Perhaps 2-3 months of the year, definitely. The rest of the year it was a windblown, snow-covered Siberia with an annual snowfall of at least 120 inches.

Nope..not the Ivy League! Closer to the Icy League!

oswegosnow2This would all cost more that York College, but much less than Yale. All-in, tuition was $440, and room and board $1,139 a semester. Still a bargain. My dorm was right on Lake Ontario with a million dollar view overlooking the water–much cooler than a bunch of stringy, clingy ivy. It was also a kick wondering what it looked like on the far shore over in Canada where the beer was much stronger. One day I would imagine rowing to that far off land in my blow up raft that I had bought at Kmart for 7 bucks. Such is the effect of substances available to “serious” academics such as myself.

oswegolakeMy quality of education for that bargain-basement investment? Well..my first class was Sociology 101. It was in a giant lecture hall with Doc Richmond presiding. Remember, this was 1969 and everything was extremely groovy. When the esteemed professor said he really wished there were urinals for women, the rapt/stoned class duly nodded and remarked how exceptionally groovy Doc Richmond was. What a great college!

What I didn’t expect was to find both a career and wife at Oswego. The former helped begat the latter. During an especially raucous party where many beer kegs were tapped dry and upper classman informed me I had a real knack for making strange voices and would therefore be a natural to work at the campus radio station. Talk about groovy! The next day he took me to the station and told the guy on the air I should be a DJ. The guy yawned, told me to show up the following Saturday and I’d be on the air for a couple of hours. From that day, for the next 40 years, I was on the air somewhere from various radio and television stations to CNN.

The finding the wife part came from a group of comely co-eds (they said that back then) who became regular listeners to my show and called in requests. It turns out the upper classman who dragged me to the radio station was a mutual friend and set me up with one of them. It was love at first keg party and we got married six months after graduating. It’s worth noting that several years after our wedding at a catering hall in suburban Rochester, NY, we returned to find out the place had become a topless joint. Made sense.

The point of all this is that it’s not worth the effort to break the law and fork over all sorts of big money to get into a fancy school. Let’s face it, these celebrity offspring were probably too dumb to get in on their own which means they may have flunked out anyway, making the whole idiotic, and illegal scheme worthless.

Personally, I’m glad I was able to go to a school that didn’t break my parents’ budget, making it possible for them to have the great retirement they deserved. I got just about the amount of education I needed to get through life, a fine career and a great wife–all for a few grand a year. Now that’s pretty freakin’ groovy!