College

We all grow up with expectations. My parents made it clear that I was to go to Harvard or Yale on a full scholarship, as they had no money to give me and, even if they had it, they wouldn’t give it to me, as I was on my own once I turned 18.

I took that literally and moved out during my senior year of high school. I still had no plan other than to go to college, but I wasn’t going to be the doctor they wanted me to be, and I wasn’t going to Harvard or Yale. I applied to exactly one school. I got accepted and the plan was set in motion.

Over that summer I discovered a whole world that I hadn’t known existed. Suddenly I had a life; a life I didn’t want to leave behind. My car was in no shape to drive 2000 miles to school, so I pulled the engine and replaced the clutch so it could make the trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that until it was too late to drive out there before school started.

I booked a flight to LA, arriving without some of the bare necessities like sheets and blankets. I stole an airline pillow (back in the day when airlines provided pillows) and used towels for sheets until I could go shopping.

While I wasn’t stupid, being a student had not been my favorite pastime. It didn’t take long to realize that paying large sums of money to do something I didn’t enjoy was not a viable life plan.

It rained in late October. I went up to the roof of my building and looked out at the ocean. Two things struck me: 1) I could see the ocean, which I hadn’t seen from there for the previous two months, and 2) my eyes didn’t burn. I hadn’t realized my eyes had been burning for two months until they weren’t. That was the day I knew I was leaving Los Angeles as soon as the semester ended. The semester wasn’t a total loss – I gained two lifelong friends and knew what I wanted to do with the next part of my life.

I arrived back here and went back to work at the organization I left behind. I became Executive Director and stayed in that position until I shut down the organization and moved on. I started another organization with other folks and stayed there for the next ten years. It’s still alive and well nearly 40 years after I left it. My parents wondered when I would do it “for real”, which to them meant I had to be the sole proprietor of a business if I wasn’t going to be a college graduate and a doctor. Another ten years went by and I went to college when I finally had a reason to be there – a reason that was not “because you’re supposed to” or “because your parents want you to”. Did a college degree suddenly make me smart at 45? Nope. College is not for everyone and it is not the arbiter of intelligence. But you knew that, right?

In case you hadn’t noticed, his “deep thinking” is wrong, but he says it quickly and convincingly, which is usually good enough “back where I come from”.

Talking people down from bad trips was not something you learn in college classes (though I note that you can now get a professional certificate for guided psychedelic therapy for research – and soon to be therapeutic – purposes). Running a co-operative business required communication skills that were beyond what was needed in most schooling (and would an MBA have helped?). Being a plumber required a sort of three dimensional thinking that was different than that needed in school (and is taught via apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training). Working in the developing world required solving problems with the tools you had, not always the tools you wanted. Working in health care (okay, that was after college) required knowing how to use big words but also to know what those words meant so you could use small words when they were more appropriate (which is most of the time). Common sense and critical thinking are the major life skills needed in most endeavors. Are those taught, or learned? And what’s the difference? Discuss among yourselves.

So go to college if you want to and have a reason to. Do something else if it interests you more. Know that whatever you do, the odds of it sustaining you for the rest of your life are slim. Have a fallback position, or know how to think on your feet and change when the time comes.

Some of us are crocus and bloom early but not for long. Some are late bloomers like chrysanthemums. Some bloom repeatedly throughout the season, like some roses and lilies. Maybe your blooms aren’t showy. Like many trees, they come and go and many folks don’t really notice. Or do others just see you as a weed?

Bob Odenkirk (“Saul Goodman”) wrote the character of Matt Foley for Chris Farley while both were at Second City. I’m twice as old as Matt Foley, so I must know twice as much, right?
David Crosby 8/14/41-1/18/23

He would have been 70 today.

I was a college misfit. I went to a school that was a mix of (local) East LA kids on scholarship, and east coast boarding school kids. There were four of us from flyover land – two from Kansas, one from Detroit, and me. Scholarship kids, too. None of us could afford private school. And I soon learned I did not belong in LA.

One of the local kids befriended me and every weekend we hit the record stores in his blue Datsun pickup truck, where he would prowl the cutout bins. Sometimes the clerks would alert him to a new arrival. He listened to everything. He was a rock ‘n’ roll fan in a big way. While he never played a note, he moved on from college to working in record stores for the rest of his life.

He would have been 70 today but died in 2015, from complications of diabetes. I did not know until later, but he died with dear friends at his bedside. I wrote about him here. My eulogy wasn’t the only one. As the Coachella Valley Weekly noted about the 2015 Los Lobos release “Gates of Gold”, “the title track is a bucolic back-porch ramble tethered to a galloping gait. The melody is buoyed by honeyed guitar and loping Bajo Sexto notes. The lyrics look beyond the temporal pleasures of this world, focusing on more spiritual concerns. It serves as a sweet elegy for longtime pal, David Okuma who passed away in June.”

Gates of Gold, 2015
One of the best songs ever. The link on my original post has been taken down, so here it is again, from 1987. To me, this album was their masterpiece.

David and I traveled to San Francisco in that pickup. We hung out at the home of one of the rich kids from school at his home in Pacific Heights. Mom and dad had flown to LA for a party, so Gardner said we could sleep over. He sent me down to the kitchen for beers when his parents, dressed to the nines, walked in. Oops. I introduced myself and ran back up to his third floor aerie and told him what happened. Seconds later the phone rang. He said, “That’ll be Mom.” Somehow we passed muster and were allowed to stay. It was David’s first time out of LA. A few years later I convinced him to fly to Wisconsin to visit – his first time out of California. So much for my impression of all Los Angelenos being jet-setters. While he lived on the freeways of LA, he was a small-town kid at heart. His small town was the music world. His jet-setting was limited to chauffeuring his friends to the airport when they went on tour.

David Okuma, 1953-2015 – ¡Presente!

“Musta been a whole acre of ’em…

and much funnier speeches than they had last year.” 1 Graduation is upon us and social distancing seems to have disappeared. While the graduation ceremony itself was open only to students (no family, no spectators), the after ceremony picture-taking and milling about looked like 2019 or earlier. You can see a few people in masks in the background of this photo. The crowd had just thinned – I took the picture while stopped in traffic so I didn’t have a lot of time to wait for the right moment.

The Tayles, a local band of my youth, wrote a song called “Master of the Arts” looking into the future of a friend with an advanced degree (“We all say that we knew him when…”). I wanted to play that for you but cannot find the cassette it was on – I may have thrown it and others out when I had no way to play or digitize them. (It’s available on Amazon Music for those who subscribe.) That’s a long way of saying that I am now the parent of a Master, one of the graduates honored this weekend, though in an online ceremony with the department only.

But since I’m talking about The Tayles, here they are at The Nitty Gritty in 1972, from the album “whoaretheseguys?” For some reason, this is on YouTube, while “Master of the Arts” is not.

Olio

Per the photo above, my proclamation of the Death of the Bubbler appears to have been premature.

I got to hug my son and daughter in law Sunday for the first time since Christmas 2019, or maybe birthday the next month. I wasn’t keeping track of it then, not knowing it would be the last time for over a year.

When people asked if I ran, I used to answer, “Only if I’m late for the bus” or “Only to chase a soccer ball.” Living with a dog who likes to walk, trot, canter, and gallop, I now find myself running so he can run.

Rhubarb season is back. Since we’ve been watching “The Great British Bake-off” I was inspired to make my first lattice-top pie in years.

Not a perfect lattice, but that won’t affect the eating. The dark rim is the drip tray under the pie.

Lloyd Price

We lost a musical giant last week. Lloyd Price died May 3 (I have seen 3 different dates published, but this date is quoting his wife, who ought to know), at the age of 88. He had his first hit in 1952 with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”. He went on to start a record company, develop housing, and help to promote the “Rumble in the Jungle”, the heavyweight boxing championship match in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

It was my introduction to New Orleans-style piano, featuring the great Fats Domino.
While many have recorded Stagger Lee in various forms, this is the version I grew up with. My older brothers may have tormented me (see below), but they had good taste in music.

Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia is underway, back to its traditional spring running as the first of the Grand Tours. Like the better-known (in the US) Tour de France, the Giro has various colors of jerseys for leaders in different classifications. The last place rider in the Tour is known as the Lanterne Rouge (red light – like the light at the back of a train). The Giro’s last place rider formerly won the black jersey (Maglia Nera), which was discontinued due to the fierce competition for the jersey. Once again, we honor Luigi Malabrocca and Sante Carollo as honorary members of the half-fast cycling club.

1 Martin Vanderhof (character), speaking of a college graduation in “You Can’t Take it With You”, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. This is the role that made me realize I was an old man at age 16.