I hadn’t planned on watching Graduate Together last night but I stumbled on it an stayed with it. I’m glad I did. I feel terrible for all the seniors who have missed out on all the things that make senior year fun and memorable. As I watched I thought back to a couple of my senior years and remembered, sometimes even when there’s no pandemic, getting to the finish line can have it’s unexpected moments.
First…I present to you my embarrassing photo from Futura ’69…yearbook for Martin Van Buren High School Class of 1969, Queens Village, New York. Full disclosure, our high school team name was lame…the VeeBees. Get it? We instilled fear in no one.
Of course, being pimply teenagers we thought we were pretty hot shit being from Class of ’69…oooooooohhhhhh 69! So ready to take on the world… if the world was populated primarily by oversexed 18 year olds. I was only 17 and severely undersexed. I achieved high school graduation at an earlier age because I scored high enough on a test in 6th grade which allowed you to skip 8th grade. It was cool to go from 7th to 9th grade except pissed off 8th graders always wanted to punch you during lunch.
Senior year was eventful. It was during the Vietnam War and students were active in protesting it. Some of the more “radical” kids pasted anti-war stickers on street light posts with little explosives under them. If you tried to remove the stickers you might get burned.
Another set of students were a bit more obtuse. They set off a larger explosive in one of the administrator’s offices. That move cost us our senior trip to Shea Stadium to see the Mets.
It’s important to point out our school was hugely overcrowded–5,300 students on triple session. Seniors had the best schedule–early session. If you could manage to drop lunch, you were in by 8 and out by noon..plenty of time to take a part time job, or screw off the rest of the day. Sophomore had it the worst–late session. In at 12:30pm out at 5:15pm. During the winter it was dark when you got out. Upside, you could either sleep in or attempt to complete your homework in the morning because by the time you got home the night before it was time to watch TV.
So you can see that the run up to graduation was already fraught with unpleasantness. We did have a prom but I didn’t go. Let’s just say my acne would have been an impressive gameboard for connect the dots. Not exactly a chick magnet.
Our graduating class, as you can imagine, was also oversized–1,735 students. You could be 500th in the class and still be considered not so dumb. By the time graduation day arrived the sheer size of the class, combined with the weather, conspired to turn the planned pomp and circumstance into a frantic “run for it!”
You see, the top VeeBees decided to hold our graduation outside–at a bandshell in leafy Forest Park. Beautiful venue on a beautiful day. This was not a beautiful day. As we sat listening to the first remarks from our principal very dark, scary clouds moved in. The wind picked up to the extent we thought via the benefit of our mortar boards we would shortly take flight.
This did not go unnoticed by the principal who decided to call an audible, which was interesting since Van Buren High School was one of the few NYC high schools not to have a football team.
He looked at the sky, then gazed upon the 1,735 graduates, their parents and siblings and thought about how freakin’ long it would take to call out each of our names, have us traipse onto the stage and return to our seats. There was no way possible before the skies would open and, two months before Woodstock, we would be slopping in mud.
Suddenly, the principal made the call declaring “move your tassels over to the left. You’re all graduated! Now…quickly head to a picnic table located in the rear where your diplomas are in envelopes in alphabetical order. Good luck! Bye! Hurry!”
And so went the the Martin Van Buren High School Class of 1969 into the world. We just beat the rain, prepared for whatever storms life would toss us in the future.
This is how I looked four years later at in my college yearbook. My parents refused to display it.
While we’re all waiting for the world to spin back on its axis and people aren’t getting sick or afraid of breathing in public, I thought it might be fun to kill some time thinking back to one of life’s most uncomfortable episodes–that horrible first day on the job.
You know how it is…you don’t know where anything is, everyone in the office is giving you the eye wondering if you’re OK or a jerk or if you’re gonna try to steal their job or be an ass-kisser or slacker. Your main challenge is delicately asking where the washroom is and where the office supplies are hidden. Some wiseass gives you directions to the washroom, but after you memorize every turn and finally find the door as you’re about to explode, you discover the schmuck didn’t add that you need a key to enter. Sound familiar?
I’ll start with a couple of my most memorable/horrible first days, and then I invite you to join the fun by adding yours in the comments.
The date was November 30, 1981. My first day at CNN in Atlanta. I was hired as one of the first producers to launch their second network which was known at the time as CNN2. It later morphed into Headlines News and now HLN.
I had been working as a producer, reporter, anchor at KGUN in Tucson, Arizona. If you know anything about Arizona, it’s extremely laid back. No one gets dressed up, much. Especially producers.
Well…I saunter into the crazy, busy CNN headquarters on my first day figuring I’d wear my “producer clothes.” In Arizona that meant casual pants, an open-necked button down shirt and comfortable shoes. Psych. I look around and everyone else is wearing serious business clothes. Women wearing dresses. Men in dress shirt, ties, jackets, polished, black shoes. I’m already marked as a rube from out west. My boss kindly takes me aside and whispers, “you may have noticed there’s a bit of a dress code.” Well..yeah…would have been nice if someone told me in advance. But that wasn’t the worst thing about my first day. That would happen momentarily.
The boss said we should go out onto the newsroom floor and learn how the national assignment desk worked. So I go up to the first guy I see on the desk. He’s a big, balding, bearded volcano about to erupt. I introduce myself and ask if he could take a moment to explain how things work. Cue the eruption.
“YOU WANNA KNOW HOW THE FUCKIN’ DESK WORKS! WATCH THIS!!!!,” he screams at me. He picks up the tie-line to the DC bureau and starts screaming at the producer on the other end using the most vile language one could muster. This goes on for about 20 seconds. He slams down the phone, glares at me and screams, “THAT’S HOW THE FUCKIN’ ASSIGNMENT DESK WORKS. NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY FACE!!!!” I took that as a most instructional lesson, took my leave and, you know, I never got the guy’s name or saw him again, which was just fine. Boss later asks me if I got the lay of the land on the national desk. I told him about the “guidance” I was given and just grinned, replying “yeah, that’s pretty much how it works.”
First day number 2. August 23, 2005. My first day at what was then DaimlerChrysler and now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It was my first corporate job. Hired away from The Detroit News to ghost write and manage a blog for the head of corporate communications. Cool job.
I’m led up to the sixth floor PR offices at corporate HQ and plopped in my new boss’s cube for all the first day stuff. First thing I was told was to look at my new badge.
“See your badge? It’s green. That means you’re a contractor not a REAL employee. REAL employees have blue badges.” I feel welcome already. Then the next indignity.
“Come with me. Let’s look out the window. You see those parking decks close to the building. You can’t park there. Those are for REAL employees. See that surface lot..somewhere beyond the horizon? That’s where contractors park. So that’s where YOU park. It’s not too long a walk…except when it’s raining, snowing or the wind is howling. Then…it sucks. Welcome to the company!!”
I became a REAL employee about 13 months later but always hid my blue badge. It was out of consideration for the other green badged contractors who were still trudging into the office from the corporate back forty. They would also call me bad names.
On May 4, 1970 I was on the air at WOCR, our campus radio station at SUNY Oswego. The little studio was on one side of a basement hallway in the student union. Our old UPI teletype machine was chugging away across the hall in our business office. I heard the five bells ringing from inside the studio denoting a bulletin was crossing. I ran over, ripped off the copy and read the unthinkable news on the air. Ohio National Guardsmen had shot and killed four unarmed students at Kent State University in Ohio during a large protest against the U.S. bombing of Cambodia.
My phone lit up and angry and crying students were on the other end of the line simply reacting to the news. They just needed to vent, first, to the person from whom they’d heard the news and would later take their outrage to the streets. We joined the ABC radio network for updates and gamely filled the rest of the time with a record here and there mixed in with listener reactions. This was all new to me. I was only completing my freshman year. I had no experience at all dealing with this type of story. I just did my best.
Fast forward 25 years to 1995 when my career took me to Detroit as the CNN Bureau Chief and correspondent there. We covered a large territory and Ohio was part of it. A quarter century after reading that bulletin on the campus radio station I would find myself at Kent State covering the 25th anniversary of the shootings. Most of my crew was too young to remember what happened. My cameraman, Chester Belecki was four years younger than me and remembered it well. We had to explain to our two younger team members why tears were in our eyes as we saw the monuments to the four young people cut down. Each monument was place exactly where they fell. A bullet hole remained in a metal sculpture in front of a classroom building.
Five years later we were back for the 30th anniversary. During our coverage of the 25th anniversary we got to know sociology professor Jerry Lewis, who played an important role on the day of the shootings. He created a course to inform students who came later about what happened on May 4, 1970, its context, consequences and aftermath. I caught up to Prof. Lewis and his class, and filed this report which you might find relevant even today…because we should never forget.
Open Letter to Joe Biden
Dear Vice President Joe..
I know you have a lot on your mind, what with the campaign and trying to remember stuff that happened a few minutes ago, but I’d like you to do me, and the other citizens of Michigan a favor. Please don’t choose our governor to be your running mate.
Oh, it’s not what you think. She’d be great as veep or in any other position in your administration if you win, but we need her here, in the Mitten. “Big Gretch” as she’s come to be known lately is a tough, ass-kicking, no nonsense leader who isn’t letting knuckle dragging cretins carrying loaded weapons into our state capitol whining about her stay-at-home orders affect her decision making.
I feel terrible for everyone who has lost a paycheck or business because of her policies, but she’s looking at the big picture trying to take control of the spread of Covid-19 and it seems that without a cure or vaccination the nasty coronavirus is gonna do what it wants to do in a dangerous and unpredictable manner.
Our idiotic Republican-controlled legislature is doing everything it can to prevent Gov. Whitmer from taking the actions she needs to take because, one, she’s a Democrat, and two, they’re demagogues whimpering about the fact she just doesn’t need them to do her job properly and effectively. One leading Republican the other day even whined, “we don’t want to be moot.” Too late. You are. Sit down. Holster your tongue.
Mr. Vice President, for sure, on a debate stage that awesome woman from Michigan would kick Pence’s ass so hard his Hoosier would hurt, but right now, we need her here to fend off those who think the governor of Georgia is smart in just throwing open the doors to everything, virus be damned. We do that here and there’s a good chance all that progress made because of Guv Gretch’s tough policies will be reversed. Now…I must say…before moving to Michigan back in 1989 I lived in Georgia, Atlanta, to be exact, for eight years. Loved it there until the traffic gridlock resembled the backup in my intestines after eating too many servings of grits and biscuits.
No, Joe, go choose someone else to be your running mate. The truth is, Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is just a little busy right now and by the time this is all over and she’s successful at knocking the crap out of coronavirus here, folks will realize running for Veep may just be too low a bar for that beer drinkin’, backroom brawlin’, backbone steady woman from Michigan.How cool is our guv…the National Bobblehead Museum in Milwaukee made a Whitmer bobblehead.
That’s right, Joe. She’s already got a bobblehead…and that would look great on a corner of the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office….when she’s sitting behind it.
Thanks very much,
Went to the supermarket this morning to buy some basic items: milk, OJ,
prescription-strength Lysol. It was one of those supersized supermarkets that also sells stuff you can’t eat but can wear. Never understood that because none of them have try-on rooms. Just grab a chicken, juice and a cute top and pray they both taste good and look tasteful.
But that’s not the point of this post. I’m getting to that, but first I have to walk in the correct direction on this one-way aisle of prose. Yes..that’s the point. The giant, supersized supermarket has one-way aisles to help prevent people from crossing paths and spreading coronavirus. Excellent idea. In theory.
My first experience today involved finding the brand of soda my wife wrote on the list. I noticed the green sticker at the head of the aisle which meant I could enter. I felt like a law-abiding cart pusher. The problem was the workers stocking the shelves were darting about in every direction crossing paths with me several times. At one point I just stopped short before the stocker and her giant cart of soda bottles broke my plane. We were both wearing face masks and gloves, but I was tempted to make a citizen’s arrest of the obvious one-way aisle scofflaw. Are stockers immune? Do they have special dispensation by order of the one-way aisle cop? Seems they’re as likely to transmit and catch coronavirus as a suburban schlep like me. Aside from trying not to die, I don’t want points on my license for shopping the wrong way down a one-way aisle. I’ll actually have to call my insurance agent to add “supermarket aisle directional indemnity” coverage.
This particular supermarket made my task more difficult by separating brands bottled by Coca-Cola and Pepsi by a full aisle. My mission was to buy two bottles each of one brand, bottled by Coke, and two bottles of Pepsi. I was already at the end of the Coke aisle and ready to grab the Pepsi, but I would have had to walk all the way around since the Pepsi aisle was one-way…the other way. Screw it. I parked my cart at the end of the aisle, which is a directional no-man’s land. There was no one in the Pepsi aisle, so I took a chance, feeling oh, so cavalier, and took the few steps the wrong way to grab the two bottles of Pepsi. I’m sure no one saw me, but I’m also sure my misdeed was captured on the security camera. I wonder what the statute of limitations is for such an infraction.
The rest of the shopping trip went fine as I dutifully obeyed all green and red stickers. A red sticker meant you were at the wrong end of the aisle. DO NOT ENTER! OK, I was a good boy, but I saw two couples absolutely blow through the red stickers in the french fry aisle much to the horror of the guy traveling in the correct direction having a hard time deciding between spring and egg rolls. As the wrong-way couples passed him, he looked like he might need a ventilator right then and there, just from anxiety.
I do like the idea of one-way aisles to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. They’re really just a minor inconvenience and I’m sure a boon to the burgeoning colored sticky floor arrow industry, which, before this all happened, was pointing towards hard times.
To keep in shape I’ve been taking walks and riding my bike a lot. It’s easy, because I live near a very long rails-to-trails trail network. On a nice day parts of the trail are as busy as I-75 in rush hour–jammed with walkers, joggers and bikers happy to get out of the house for a bit. Oh, those folks seem happy enough, but the happiest creatures have to be the dogs.
With nothing much else to do, dog owners seem to be walking their pets like crazy. I’ve seen one of my neighbors walk her little Lhasa apso a half-dozen times a day and it expresses its joy by peeing against our mailboxes as if it’s unleashing pent up outside potty time. Another guy’s husky can’t seem to believe its good luck to get to take long, long strolls–maybe the longest of its life, almost every day!
I was on my bike yesterday along a section of the trail and kept passing a gentleman with a medium sized dog I can’t identify. Both the guy and the dog had the kind of grins one might break into after sticking a straw in a vat of hot fudge and sucking in. When I stopped for a little rest on a pedestrian bridge, the dog, which was not on a leash, ambled over to me and gave me a little “hey mister” kinda bark. I’m thinking, this dog is probably on his second or third walk of the day and has no idea how his luck suddenly has changed over the past month. In the spirit of social distancing I didn’t attempt to pet him but we exchanged friendly words.
The coronavirus pandemic is a terrible reason for anything to happen, but I’ve gotta think all the extra exercise, fresh air and expanded poop and pee opportunities for the world’s dogs is a silver lining in this dark cloud, although I’m sure some dogs, with very short legs have a very different opinion.
While I’m anxious for the crisis to come to an end and some of the restrictions on our movements to be lifted, I sort feel bad for the dogs. Will the fun of multiple walks a day end? Will their humans go back to binging Netflix instead of taking them out as many times? If I was a dog, I’d make sure I gave off as many vibes as possible to let my human know I want this to be our new normal. Lotsa appreciative licks and tail wagging. Off the couch, and on the trail, lazybones! Leash me up and let’s get walking!
I must add, though, I do not believe everything I’ve just said applies to cats. Cats are different. I imagine they’re watching their humans putting on their walking shoes, heading for the door and the cat just thinking, “just go already.”
No. I don’t have cabin fever. Thank goodness I don’t have any fever and neither do any of my immediate family members….now. One did a week or so ago. That’s done. Again. Very thankful. But cabin fever? Not at all. You shouldn’t have it either, or at least submit to it.
Think about what cabin fever really is. You’re tired of being stuck in the house and can’t go out because of some condition. Unless you’re sick, you shouldn’t have it and I hope you’re not.
You don’t need to succumb to cabin fever because if you’re not sick, there’s no excuse for staying in. You can go outside. Take a walk, take a ride, hop on your bike if you have one..or a boat of some sort. I have a kayak. It’s easy to be socially distant when you’re in the middle of a lake. I doubt I’d be in danger of infecting, or being infected by, a bluegill. Those are all safe things to do if you don’t do them in groups where people are close to each other.
We’ve started discovering and re-discovering parts of our state by taking rides from 1-3 hours buzzing through localities, cities and towns, sometimes getting out to walk a little if it’s not too crowded. Just yesterday we visited the tiny town of Linden, Mich. Seen it on the map but never in person. On our way into town we happened on a great little loop of a trail at park overlooking a lake. There were a few people walking, maybe half a dozen. But the trail was long enough for us to space ourselves sufficiently.
In downtown Linden, such as it was, we were able to pull into a small lot close enough to see the water from the Shiawassee River flow over a little dam without getting out of the car.
From there we headed east to Fenton. It’s larger than Linden with new restaurants and stores, and it also featured a small park and walkway with a view of Shiawassee River water flowing over a small dam, creating as much of a waterfall as we needed to justify a quick photo and this little video.
It was a little more popular than we thought comfortable so we found refuge in the car and began the 45 minute ride home, going through the historic burg of Holly and assorted scenic rural townships. Holly is best known for the Holly Hotel located in Battle Alley. According to legend, the hotel is haunted and that lore has many firm believers to this day.
Prohibitionist Carrie Nation also called Holly home for about six years to wail on the evils of alcohol.
We visit Holly about once a year even during the best of times. We especially enjoy the Battle Alley antique arcade which is in a rambling old house with wonderful creaking wood floors, three levels of any kind of old stuff you either need, don’t need or just want. Oh, you can always count on a plate of fresh cookies sitting on a shelf along the main, cobblestone aisle..there for the grabbing. The windmill cookies are especially tasty.
We’ve done the route between Holly and home many times before only now we took closer notice since the ride wasn’t the route to an activity, but our activity.
As you can see, or not see, I haven’t provided any photos of my own except for the Fenton dam. That’s because I was driving most of the time and snapping photos while driving with my knees would probably be more dangerous than the virus. You would think this predicament might spark faster development of autonomous cars. But the real deal is I just wanted to enjoy the ride and sights and talk about them with my family, taking notice of places we might want to return when it’s safer to get out of the car and explore more thoroughly.
It doesn’t really matter how far you go. A little ride to some place that’s not your driveway or parking space is just the mental break you need to try to maintain some sort of sanity. Besides, gas is cheap right now. Go ahead…filler ‘er up, hit the road, and give your brain a little something more to chew on than a TV or computer screen. Yes..get out of your cabin…and break the fever.