Monthly Archives: September 2003

Bruce is forgiven

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Never a Springsteen fan, not even a little bit. Some combination of the lyrics, the fist-pumping, the bandanna just don’t do it for me. The music on the old stuff did, I will admit, rock. But it just wasn’t for me. But I have now officially forgiven Bruce for all his references to Wendy, for “strap your hands ‘cross my engine,” even for that abominable “Born in the USA” (parodied so well by John Candy in “Canadian Bacon,” singing the only part anyone knew, that stupid refrain, and fumbling to find any of the words in between). But I am willing to forgive all that for his incredible guitar work on Zevon’s “Disorder in the House.” He nails that song to the wall and gives it the edge that Warren’s voice couldn’t quite work up to.

In other music news, just got a new disc by Karen Savoca, Pete Heitzman, Greg Brown and Garnet Rogers. What I was able to listen to last night was excellent, but the point here is more the site I got it from, cdbaby.com, whose enthusiastic e-mail indicating that all of Portland, Oregon had turned out to wave bon voyage to my disc was refreshing. So was their offer to take my phone calls if I ever just needed to unload on someone. They serve the indie market, and break their genres up into useful subgenres. For folks, the subgenres include “angry,” “like Ani,” “like Joni,” and other highly useful descriptors. Give ’em a whirl.

How dark was it?!

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My decision to switch from not running in the mornings to not biking has finally paid off, as I accidentally got out of bed at 5:40 and went for a bike ride this morning. I was less than perfectly organized and it took me a while to get going. Never did find my heart rate monitor and my bike computer was locked in the truck, so I went on without. It was so dark that I decided it was best to snap on my lights and put them on “freakish strobe mode”, which, in combination with an extremely reflective band around my ankle and a gigantic reflective vest, combined to create so much light bouncing off me that I was confusing satellites. But baby, I was visible. Went soft, befitting my lack of riding this weekend, but got in some good hills and then turned back. More tomorrow.

Toe shoes

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Hannah is going en pointe. You cannot imagine the excitement associated with this. It’s the holy grail of her girlhood. The teacher approved her to move up, the doctor approved her to move up, and so last night she finally got to get her toe shoes. There was a great fuss about it, which is only appropriate. Many shoes were tried, many were rejected. She wore a pair for a while, but her teacher wasn’t satisfied with her fit. Another pair was tried, but they weren’t the brand favored by the school’s headmistress, which caused much nervousness until my daughter’s feet were presented to Miss Madeline, and she declared the fit to be satisfactory. Success!

Ballet shoes always require some assembly — the elastic and the ribbon do not come attached to the shoes. Miss Christine told Hannah that if she’s old enough to go en pointe, she’s old enough to sew her own shoes, and showed her how to do it.

I can’t even deal with how big my girls are getting.

Deposition

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Being deposed for a lawsuit is like dental work, but without all the interesting things going on in your mouth and the rewarding feeling of pain. Three hours of pointed, stupid questions to which I could only answer “I don’t know that.” If it had still been International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it may have been a very different deposition, I can tell you that! A certain attorney would have been hoisted up the mizzen-mast, and then taken aft for a keel-hauling! (In reality, keel-hauling involved tying the offending citizen to a stout rope and dragging him underneath the ship, fore to aft, along the keel. The barnacles were sharp, me friends, the barnacles were sharp . . . )

Let’s stay away from the deep and meaningful, okay?

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Wow, did that suck. If you had any idea what I was talking about in that last entry, great. If not, I promise it won’t happen again. Here’s a more entertaining story from last weekend:

The editors of The Daily Orange put together a cute little book of highlights from the 100-year history of the paper. It was nicely formatted, and instead of reproducing the articles in facsimile, they simply reset them all in a common style, which worked very nicely, even though I’m a sucker for a parade of changing typestyles that are evocative of their decades. (Were I working on the book, I would have been compelled to show each and every nameplate the paper ever had — several of which I had a hand in — and this would be why the book would never ever have gotten done.) The book is divided, much like the paper, into news, sports, lifestyles, etc. (There was, probably wisely, no section for editorials, so my inexplicable rant about oppression and civil war in East Timor, prescient though it may have been, will still have to be enjoyed in its original format. One more example of the wisdom of the editors.) In the sports section appears the longest article in the entire book, the story of the excitement before the very first game in the Carrier Dome — a long, rambling, incomprehensible string of invectives hurled at football fans, polyester clothing, and Ronald Reagan — all under the byline of my pseudonym. (I had a theory at the time that I didn’t want the effect of my serious work to be diluted by my comedy writing, so to the latter I applied a pseudonym I had been stamping on various slanders since high school. Yes, it seems very silly now, especially given its obvious resemblance to the name of a famous fictional satirical character. But let a 20-year-old have a theory and a pseudonym, and I don’t think you can blame the 20-year-old for what happens next.)

So I have the strange honor of having by far the longest article in the book, even though it appears under a name that probably 3 people would still connect with me. I read the article, having completely forgotten about it over the years, and I realize now the value of the pseudonym. Perhaps, just perhaps, this all made some sort of sense way back when. It’s just bizarre, disjointed and dated now. My desperate attempts to be Hunter S. Thompson were more successful, in a writing sense, in other articles; this is just a rant about nothing. Especially alongside articles that are extremely well-written and maintain their power years later. So, let’s sing a song of praise for youthful arrogance, a shocking lack of editorial oversight, and secret identities that can protect us from embarrassment years after the damage is done.

Daily Orange Reunion

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Imagine or remember that there was a time in your life when everything was new, everything was possible, when you knew a lot but were learning more. A time when you had a little bit of talent and a little bit of experience, and you were thrown in with a huge assortment of people just your age or a little bit older who were so tremendously talented, had such promising futures, and who were willing and enthusiastic about mentoring the new kids among them. Imagine that in this diverse mix of young adults, in what could have been a battleground of egos, there had emerged a sense of the common good, of common allegiance to the joint effort, that all shared a goal and mission: to make The Daily Orange — Syracuse University’s independent student newspaper — the best newspaper it could be. For two and a half years I flourished in that incredible environment, and for a long time that heady experience so overshadowed everything I would come to do that I had to put it in the back of my mind, had to push back and forget what an amazing experience it was so that my later circumstances wouldn’t seem so intellectually bleak.

Now imagine that 25 years later, nearly all those people who were so important in shaping your skills, your experience, your very mindset, all came back together in one place to honor the institution you all were part of, an institution that only existed because these people cared enough to make it happen, an institution that helped to define the university community, on campus and well beyond. Many of those people I hadn’t seen since they graduated, and since I went off on a different career track, I had no occasion to see or hear from more than a few of them.

That is what last weekend was like. Dozens of Daily Orange alumni braved the impending hurricane (a no-show in upstate New York, but a more serious concern for folks coming from the southeast) to return to our old stomping grounds, share our memories, talk a little about the past and the future of the paper, and to bask in the glow of being together again.

One idea I try to impart to my children is that they are among people they may know their entire lives. Part of the lesson is “be nice to other people,” because your actions may haunt you in the future. But a bigger part of it is, “marvel at the web of people you will know.” People will come in and out of your life and back in again, in totally unpredictable ways. And people you’ve shared an incredible, intense experience with will be with you, in some way or another, all your days. And when you see them again after 10 or 20 or 25 years, you can pick up right where you left off. It’s the most wondrous thing.

For the longest time, those 2-1/2 years were the best years of my life, a time when I was at my best (in some ways, certainly not in others), surrounded by people who were at their best, all of us thrilled to be part of that experience (but of course we were also cynical ’70s college students, so we could never have admitted it). I learned more about the craft of writing and editing at the DO than I ever would in my classes. Journalism school was a disappointment alongside the experience of putting out a daily newspaper. I expected I would work there throughout college. Honestly, I was so tied up in that world that when all my friends graduated — most of them were juniors and seniors when I got there — I felt a little bit adrift. I didn’t fit in with the crowd that was coming along, and I decided to take a semester off, and the DO just came to an end for me.

But in the time I was there, I was a copy assistant (rim rat), layout assistant, news writer, special projects editor, assistant editorial page editor, and finally co-editorial page editor. I was also the news editor of the Summer Orange one year, and the editor in chief the next. I proofread and did pasteup ($5 and $15 a night, respectively), and sometimes I delivered the papers, too. When I left school I went on to do pasteup full time at the plant where the paper was printed, and thought about what I wanted to do with my life. As I started to ponder the realities of a life in journalism — low pay, bad hours, little job security, high mobility — I realized that it just wasn’t for me. So I finished my degree and stayed on the production side of the business for a few years, before I realized I could put together the public service elements of journalism with a management career, right up the hill at the Maxwell School.

This weekend, I heard people say they’d spent their careers trying to recapture what they had at the Daily Orange. I know the feeling, because running a small typesetting business in my 20s was a far cry from the huge, collective noise that was the DO. (But I’ve been lucky, because lightning struck again for me, and at least twice more I’ve been on the most amazing teams, doing the best work I could imagine. So how blessed am I?)

To spend time with those people again, to get reacquainted with some friends I hadn’t had in my life for a very long time, and to share some of our common victories and common losses, was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Think we could do it again in 10? I don’t want to wait another 25 years.

Too . . . much . . . pressure!

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Gotta be witty, and yet respectful. Gotta make it interesting to people who have no idea what I’m talking about, and yet worth a read for the people who were there. Gotta try to relate what this reunion meant to me without coming off like a sap.

This is gonna take another day.

But for just a taste, imagine if nearly all the people who had been incredibly important to you during a couple of critical years in your life were suddenly all in one place again, along with nearly all of the people who were important to them, and you were all in one place to honor the amazing institution that had brought you all together, an institution that only existed because of the people who showed up each day to make it work.

And then imagine there was an open bar . . . .