Archives For January 2014

Parlez-vous français?

January 31, 2014 — 2 Comments

francais2I mentioned last time that I was disappointed to arrive as a new student at a school with grades K-8 and miss out on junior high. I didn’t mention that there were redeeming aspects to this new school, one being that I would be able to study French.

Foreign language instruction typically begins in high school, but this school was piloting an enrichment program, and I slid right in on the deal. They enlisted a native speaker to teach the language au naturel: no textbooks or written materials of any kind for the first two years. This would theoretically result in a good ear for the way French should be pronounced. And that is how I ended up in Madame Medley’s classroom.

She was originally from Marseilles and was what many would consider the classic French woman: stylish, attractive, sophisticated, enigmatic, cool, and polite — but frank. Her silk stockings may have rustled softly as she strode past one’s desk, but make no mistake: Mme. Medley was definitely in control of the class.

She made use of cartoon characters on film strips projected onto a screen and reel to reel audio tapes to teach us. Week by week and month by month, we’d progress from one film strip to the next as we mastered the vocabulary introduced on each one. The main character, “Lynne”, and an adult with whom she interacted became familiar friends.

“Bonjour, Lynne.”

“Bonjour, Monsieur.”

“Comment ça va?”

“Très bien, Monsieur.”

Lynne and Monsieur walked us through numbers, colors, foods, articles of clothing, furnishings of a home, and myriad other categories, gradually incorporating verb tenses, articles, conjunctions, syntax and other components of the language into the lessons. On occasion, Mme. Medley would show us a film about France to educate us about the culture. And we were in hog heaven the day she played a 45 of the Beatles’ new release “Michelle”, with Paul McCartney singing en français!

At this point I should mention that in order to get to the French classroom, we would exit our homeroom on the second floor, march down two flights of stairs, pass the lunchroom, the gym, and the boiler room to arrive at a very long, narrow room that could in no way have ever been intended to function as a classroom, with its small windows near the ceiling and scant natural light. But this very feature made it easily darkened and ideal for viewing film strips and movies.

Then one morning, the exceptionally dark classroom played a key role in an awkward development.

We had been doing the standard drill for much of the class period: repetition of new phrases aloud as Mme. Medley advanced the film strip in step with the tape recording. As the hour came to a close and the lights came back on, giggles erupted in her otherwise very contained classroom. In moments, all eyes were on one of my classmates.

Throughout much of the lesson this student had been mindlessly fiddling with her ball point pen, in the same way that a girl might twirl a lock of her hair while reading a book or watching TV. So what’s the problem, you ask? She had inadvertently clicked the ball point pen open, and the dozens and dozens of lazy circles she traced around her mouth left a thick dark blue ring — an inky mustache and beard. No one had noticed before it was too late because we’d been… sitting in the dark.

Mon Dieu, c’est très drôle.

Instant in her intervention on behalf of the mortified lass, Mme. Medley, with a mere facial expression, a few gestures, and only a sentence or two, made it known to all that expressions of amusement at this girl’s expense were to cease immediately. The student was excused ahead of the class to scrub off the unwanted doodle in the Girls’ Room. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t come completely off right then — and nobody expected that it would — but, being a generally good-natured person, she took things in stride and chose not to let the gaffe spoil her day.

Sometimes I wonder whether there are grandchildren who surround her dining table nowadays who have heard tell of the day the lights went out in French class and Grandma debuted as the star of the…

“Bic Van Dyke Show.”

beards

 (Heh heh.)

rose fanning bigger

Rose Fanning Elementary School

Actually, I didn’t learn a single thing in junior high because…

I didn’t go to junior high.

We moved the year before I would have gone and the new school had kindergarten through eighth grade under one roof. I was bummed about missing out on this rite of passage.

During the years I would have been in junior high, though, I did learn a few things, to wit:

  • Landscape designers can and do err.

See those leaves framing the photo above? When I was attending that school, those trees were gingko trees, which had been planted around the entire block. For three seasons of the year, these trees seemed innocuous enough — lovely components of the overall landscape design, by all appearances.

Then in the fall, things got funky. While the leaves were turning a warm, golden color, the fruit of the female ginkgo trees were releasing their odor. Tree experts might tout that “the few weeks of unpleasant aromas are worth it for the beauty the trees add the rest of the year”, but I beg to differ.

You simply can’t justify planting gingkos near an elementary school when there exists a plethora of trees that don’t drop Stink Fruit! I could at this point describe the stench the small cherry-sized fruit released when squished underfoot by students pouring out of the school at 3:30, but it’d be pretty gross. And to make matters worse, boys sometimes thought to throw the nasty berries at each other, rendering the sidewalks a war zone, and me a scurrying refugee. So, NO GINGKO TREES NEAR SCHOOLS. PLEASE.

  • 1960’s girl’s PE uniforms were an amazing equalizer: they made everybody look bad. Everybody.gym uniform

Perhaps the worst fashion statement ever. They hit “homely” right out of the park. Only saving grace? Everyone was in the same boat.

  • By the time you get to seventh grade, there just aren’t many boys who can sing soprano any more.

The last holdout was this guy who was really smart, was a pitcher on city leagues for years, and who all the girls thought was cute. (In addition, he had very good penmanship — and you regular readers know how I respect excellence in the handwriting department). He was that kid who sort of defines “cool” in your peer group. And I’m thinking the other boys might have relished this irony.

  • Having a teacher for a parent doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll move to the head of the class.

I would have figured a kid could just know lots of stuff by osmosis if he or she lived with a real live teacher. But the classmate whose mom taught at a nearby school was just a middle-of-the-road, ordinary student. Color me surprised.

  • If you challenge the boys in your class to broad jump contests on the playground and proceed to jump further than all of them, you will get noticed, but not in the way you wanted.

(Don’t ask me why I expected it to turn out differently…)Milk-Milk-Straws

  • If you blew it with just right amount of force, you could get your straw wrapper to stick to the air intake vents on the lunchroom ceiling.

You just didn’t want to get caught in the act.

  • If you miss nearly two weeks during the first month of your eighth grade year, you might not totally figure out what’s going on in algebra the rest of the year.

Sigh. I really needed a tutor.

  • The prickly eighth grade teacher, who seemingly enjoyed intimidating students, was ill-advised to have taken issue with my reasons for being gone for nearly two weeks at the beginning of the year.

She apparently deemed travel to another region of the U.S. to attend an annual religious gathering with the family a poor excuse for my absence and hassled me about it. I mentioned this at dinner, and the very next day, my dad was at the school going head to head with her in the small unoccupied instruction room next to our classroom. (That he took off work to come to school during the day was a really big deal to me.)  I couldn’t hear the exact words spoken during their very animated discussion, but he had my back. The woman treated me right the remainder of the school year.

Praise the Lord and pass the 3-D grapher.

Dream Big

January 21, 2014 — 4 Comments

I love that this holiday celebrates Dr. King’s role in the transformation of our society. I know I’m not alone in being stirred every time I hear his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In honor of Dr. King and his legacy, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes. I would imagine he was familiar with these words and that they would have spurred him on when the dominant attitude was flinty and the prospect of change seemed bleak:

12d

Harriet Tubman, bronze sculpture by Jane DeDecker, Little Rock, Arkansas

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” 

~ Harriet Tubman, escaped slave, Civil War soldier and abolitionist, 1820-1913

But it’s hard to reach for stars.

  • People will probably call you a dreamer (which would be true), but they’ll use the term pejoratively.
  • You won’t be unanimously supported, because folks often don’t appreciate those who break with the norm and defy the status quo.
  • You might have to forego comfort and security.
  • You will have to risk, and that can be scary.

But our world needs changing — in more ways than I could even list here. In 2014, why not upset your routine, think outside the box, dare to be misunderstood — to reach for that star with your name on it?

I had a friend who really wanted to be an actor. Professionally. He sort of tap danced all around the profession his whole life without ever diving into it head first. He’s not with us anymore, so there’ll be no reaching for any star with his name on it, and I (as well as the rest of the world) will never know what memorable dramatic roles he might have brought to life.

I have another friend who is amazing with horses. She has a sense that she’d really be good at helping special needs kids with equestrian therapy, but has decided to delay this pursuit until retirement. Yet the tears that well up in her eyes when she talks about doing this make me wish she’d reach for that star now — in 2014. Some very important young people really need her, and she might just need them too.

Why do you suppose it is that we ditch our dreams? Maybe we just don’t recognize that we, according to Ms. Tubman (and she would know), do have strength, patience and passion at the ready. I am pretty confident most of us exercise only a fraction of our potential strength; our patience, though meager, is something that can be cultivated and grown, especially while reaching for our dream, with its promise of bringing positive change in the world ever before us. And I submit, unless we’re engaging our passion — that which resonates deep in our hearts — we’re not fully alive.

Some say a dream has been deposited in the heart of every individual, and that each person’s dream contains the blueprint for how to live his or her life. If you survey people, these dreams are quite varied, strewn across a wide spectrum of interests and pursuits. Many are creative in an outright sense – like dance or architecture, but whenever a person is following his or her passion, creativity will necessarily be involved, even in fields in which that might seem less likely.

I believe a world in which everyone is following his or her dream would be amazing — I can only imagine.

What’s the one thing that would cause you to wake up in the morning with the thought, “I can’t believe I get to _________ today!”

  • For those who are already reaching for you star, keep on keeping on. Inspire us.
  • If you know it, but haven’t yet taken action, I urge you — pursue the dream.
  • If you can’t yet identify the dream, please explore.

Because the world needs you. It needs me. It needs us — every one. Dreaming. Being strong. Exercising patience. Engaging our passion.

Reaching for the stars and changing our world in 2014.

 

[At the close of Part II, I had just arrived on campus as a brand new freshman and had discovered that Art Dyer was also there. I was hoping to bump into him soon…]

Soon turned out to be the very next day.

I was in the foyer of the gymnasium complex when an upperclassman spotted him and pointed me in his direction.

[Quite fitting, in retrospect, that our second encounter would also be in a gymnasium.]

He was surrounded by a cluster of coeds, so I kept a discreet distance. Once they cleared out, I approached.

Three and a half years can make a big difference in a girl’s level of confidence. I had:

  1. Left the Stick Girl profile behind
  2. Gotten my first job
  3. Gotten a high school diploma
  4. Flown the coop
  5. Headed west, seeking adventures in higher education

And along the way I had also shed my belief about being terminally uncool. With The Encounter refreshed in my memory, I made my move.

“Art Dyer?” He turned his head. This time I extended a dry hand.

“Hi. My name is Linda Burns. Remember me?”

“Should I?”

He seemed to be rifling through dusty memory files, so I thought I’d help out a little and fill in some blanks.

“We met in 1967 at that basketball tournament in Columbia.”

“Oh yeah, I remember that day… It was St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, right?”

“Uh huh. And after the games, Desiree introduced me to you and your three friends.”

“Oh, I remember Desiree…,” he confessed.

Well, of course he remembered Desiree. Everybody remembered Desiree.

He quickly added, “But I don’t think I remember meeting you. But I wish I did.”

Hmmm. Three and a half years ago he had pretty near put me in cardiac arrest, yet now he couldn’t even remember meeting me? This would mean he didn’t remember what he said, either.

I promise I did not set out to gain the upper hand, but the way things were shaping up, I couldn’t resist going with it.

“Well, you should remember…” I continued.

“Why’s that?”

“You asked me to marry you.”

[Tag, you’re it! Now who’s the deer-caught-in-headlights?]

The expression on his face was priceless. I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed his discomfort so much. But then, he only remembered Desiree.

He looked a tad nervous. “And what did you say?”

“I said, Sure, next time I’m in town.”

This time around, the previously “uncool” quip elicited a broad smile. Somehow, it didn’t matter so much that he couldn’t remember The Encounter – we were developing some rapport. And I found the explanation of his outrageous line rather entertaining: he said he figured he’d have to pop the question to lots of Girls before he’d find one that would actually say yes. A variation on the Princess and the Frog theme, I suppose. His self-effacing humor was winsome, revealing his former bravado to be squid ink, used when feeling awkward around Girls.

We exchanged a few more details about ourselves before ending the conversation. As I walked away, I felt like my efforts to locate and connect with someone familiar had panned out splendidly. I made a mental note to find some way to spend more time with this guy.

I had only been back in my dorm for about a half hour, when the phone rang. I was sitting at my desk when a roommate shouted down the hall, “Linda! It’s for you!”

I was stunned. A call for me?! Who could it possibly be? I don’t know anybody yet — it’s only my fourth day on campus.

I sprinted to the phone.

“Linda speaking.” (Yes, I really talked like that back in the day.)

“O Linda, Linda, will you marry me?”

This cracked me up, and I shot back, one more time, “Sure, next time I’m in town!” Then this slightly cocky, but warm and engaging Art Dyer proceeded to invite me to dinner that evening. (Apparently, he’d made the same mental note I had.) I said yes.

yosemite

We dated for the next three years and in June 1972, I said yes again. Big Time. In the presence of a minister, our families and about 200 guests. The former roommate was best man (yes, the one who scolded me). And of course, Desiree was on hand, too, celebrating her handiwork.

Fast forward to 2014. That guy and I now live in Columbia, Missouri – just walking distance from the Armory that still stands at the corner of Ash and 7th, where we first met.

Sometimes I wonder…

  • What if Desiree and I hadn’t hitched a ride to the basketball tournament?
  • What if she’d never made those introductions?
  • What if he’d never grabbed my attention with his outrageous proposal and The Encounter had never happened?

Maybe, maybe not. But I said yes.

The red and black letter jacket is still in the cedar chest. And the dash of swagger, the self-effacing humor – they’re still reeling me in. And that guy who can still rock a drum set, still rocks my heart.

I said YES. 

[At the conclusion of Part I, my friend, Desiree (not her real name), had introduced me to the first three boys in a foursome and was about to introduce me to the last one.]

I turned to greet the fourth Boy.

“And this is Moose,” said Desiree, with aplomb.

I should mention, at this point, one of the powerful bonding rituals she and I shared: if she met a new boy or group of boys when I wasn’t with her, she always gave me the low down afterward. Which meant I’d already been briefed on the notable facts about each of these guys. I wonder if it would ever have crossed their minds that they were objects of our scrutiny. (The NSA could probably take a few tips from adolescent girls…)

Thanks to Desiree, I had been fully prepped for Introduction Number Four:

  • Name: Art Dyer
  • Nickname: “Moose”
  • Age: high school junior
  • Family: two brothers – one older, one younger
  • Locale: Kansas City area
  • Why he’s definitely cool: drummer in a rock ‘n roll band

You’d think advance intel would have calmed my nerves, but I still had butterflies.

“And this is my friend, Linda,” she continued.

Neither of us was at all prepared for what happened next. As he shook my extended hand, Boy Number Four said…

“Oh, Linda, Linda… will you marry me?”

[I am not making this up. He said EXACTLY that.]

I don’t know which raced faster, my pulse or my thoughts. Oh my, how easy it would be to completely blow the next move and expose an epic level of uncoolness!

I instinctively glanced toward my trusty friend, hoping she was ready to toss me a lifeline. If ever I needed her worldly wisdom, it was now. But could a mere facial expression adequately communicate to her my life-and-death question:

“How do I even respond to that?!!”

She did recognize the wild desperation on my face. Leaning toward my ear, she whispered, “He’s just kidding — say yes.”

What?!! Has she lost her mind?

Somehow consenting to a marriage proposal — even one posed in jest — from someone much older — whom I was meeting for the very first time — did not seem like a good idea. I mean, I was only thirteen and a half! But I was drawing a blank and knew the brief but awkward silence must not be allowed to continue. So I turned to the overly confident Boy in the red and black letter jacket and defaulted to Desiree’s recommendation.

“Sure! Next time I’m in town,” I quipped, with a sly little grin. The Boys all chuckled. And so did Desiree. Suddenly, my face flushed. Convinced that I had just uttered the most ridiculously uncool reply ever spoken to a Boy by any Girl in the Annals of All Time, I teetered on the brink of a meltdown. And in that moment, to be in Desiree’s shadow, rather than the spotlight, didn’t seem like such a bad thing, after all.

With all eyes on me and my crimson face, adrenaline triggered my fight or flight response. I chose flight. Quickly muttering something about being glad to meet them all, I split. Desiree lingered a little longer, then joined me in the parking lot, along with Earl and Jenny. Even though it made an indelible impression, memory of The Encounter gradually faded, as surely as the blush that had reddened my face.

Fast forward about a year and a half, to September 1967.

Desiree and I were sitting on her patio on a warm Saturday afternoon. She read a letter aloud to me from her older sister, a student at our denomination’s liberal arts college in southern California. When she read that these same four guys had been accepted to the college as freshmen, we began chortling. It was a well-known fact in the Girl circles we ran in that the Boys from the Kansas City church were on the wild side. (And the main reason I found the introductions so titillating.) The notion that these Boys could last more than a semester in the conservative Bible college environment was was a real knee-slapper. But after the laughter subsided, I didn’t think about the Boy in the red and black letter jacket again for a couple of years.

TWA

College-bound; walking across tarmac to board jet for LA.

Then, in late August 1969, I arrived on the very same southern California campus. Being a brand new student with virtually no contacts, I was desperate for a familiar face. I suddenly remembered the Letter Reading Episode on Desiree’s patio and the introductions made at a basketball tournament in Columbia, Missouri, years ago. I began asking around if Art Dyer was still there and soon learned that he was.

On Day Number Three of my freshman year, I had the good fortune of sitting next to his former roommate at an assembly. I told him I’d met this guy a few years ago and wanted to say hi and did he know a guy by the name of Art Dyer. I learned that, not only was Art Dyer still in college, but he was thriving. The roommate must have been a little offended by the slight smirk on my face as I asked. But, based on previous intel, the odds weren’t in favor of him still being around. I quickly found out that the roommate  held him in rather high esteem, and I got my ears pinned back as he set the record straight about his buddy’s scholarship, leadership and character. I was distracted throughout the remainder of the assembly, intrigued by this complete reversal in reputation. Now I wanted to meet up with this guy again.

And hopefully, it would be soon.

[CONTINUE TO PART III, Conclusion]

I was thirteen and a half in the spring of 1966. Barely into my adolescence and easily mortified by how uncool I could be in social situations. This uncoolness would only intensify in the presence of Boys. Curiously, being mortified didn’t keep me from wanting to be around them.

My girlfriend and I – let’s just call her Desiree – had gotten wind of an in-state basketball tournament that was going to take place in Columbia, Missouri. A team was going from our church, as well as teams from Kansas City and Springfield. We knew we just had to get there, because this was Boys’ basketball. We bummed a ride from Earl and Jenny and a little over two hours after they picked us up, we were in the presence of Boys. Lots of Boys.

Desiree was much more mature than me, being, in the spring of 1966, months beyond her fourteenth birthday. I might add that she was also quite attractive: exotic features, long dark hair, and a figure that belied her age. I had overheard boys describe her, on occasion – you know, va va voom, and all that.

I was ambivalent about having such a gorgeous friend. The flood of attention she got from warm blooded young males could be pretty demoralizing – I could become invisible in an instant This dynamic no doubt contributed to my sense of uncoolness. But then, every once in a while…

One of the guys in the swarm would do the math. Realizing his buddy was racking up points with Desiree like a pinball stuck on a hot button, he would size up his chances of ever making headway with her. This occasionally worked in my favor. The down-on-his-luck fellow would decide to cut bait and turn his attention elsewhere, at which point he might finally notice me, Stick-Girl-Standing-Next-to-Curvy-Desiree. The fact that I was being settled upon rather than chosen didn’t matter – it was just nice not to be invisible. A not-so-cool girl like me could feast on the crumbs that fell from Desiree’s table.

But I digress. The basketball tournament…

I wasn’t generally into watching basketball, preferring to be on the court rather than in the bleachers. But on this day I was content to watch endless fast breaks, free throws, and full court presses because… the games would be interspersed with trips to the concession stand, ladies room, and water fountain. And it was in the crowded corridors that one would possibly – nay, hopefully – bump into uniform-clad Boys from far away cities. My, that popcorn was goooood!

It had already been a fine day when things took an unexpected turn for the better. At the conclusion of the tournament, all the games having been played and the locker rooms clearing out, Desiree and I stepped outside the gymnasium into the balmy late afternoon air. We loitered near the entrance, cleverly positioning ourselves in the path of the basketball players who would soon come streaming out the door in their street clothes carrying duffle bags. Most of them had already exited when a rather animated cluster, in customary fashion, approached us with eyes fixed on Desiree. It just so happened that she had met all four of them at a prior event, and, like the good and generous friend that she was, she proceeded to introduce me.

At that moment I was simultaneously thrilled and freaked out. These were very cool basketball players from Kansas City, wearing letter jackets. [Translation: older, much older – high school juniors, in fact.] I can’t imagine how anyone could ever feel more awkward or more uncool than I felt at that moment. And yet, I was also jittery with anticipation.

I quickly faked a semblance of composure and managed to get through the first three introductions without incident.

“Linda, I’d like you to meet Warren.”

Handshake, hello. Nice to meet you.

“And this is Britton, …and Pat.”

Another handshake, another hello.

Then a third, increasingly moist handshake.

Hey, I’m not doing too bad, all things considered. Holding up okay under the pressure. What luck! Meeting four very cool Boys at once!

Relieved by how things were turning out, I felt more confident, and ready for the final introduction.

Or so I thought…

[CONTINUE TO PART II.]

1280px-NationalGuardArmoryBuildinginColumbiaMissouri

* This took place at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center, on the northeast corner of 7th and Ash streets in Columbia, Missouri.

Tacky Is as Tacky Does

January 8, 2014 — 2 Comments

I picked up a local magazine the other day and was skimming an article by a designer who was giving advice on how to avoid the overdone, Clark Griswold look when decorating for the holidays. She got my full attention when she made the comment…

“…in my opinion, tinsel is always tacky.”

cropped-xmas-1961-lkd-w-moe-2.jpg

[Note all the tinsel loveliness here.]

Say what? That used to be my absolute favorite part of decorating the Christmas tree.Ornaments, being fragile, and strings of lights, involving electricity, demanded close parental supervision as kids tinselhelped decorate. But when it came time to put the icing on the cake, Mom and Dad could freely relinquish this task to us. A new box of tinsel would be opened and we could just go to town. It was crazy fun to transform the tree into a glorious and glittery masterpiece by draping hundreds and hundreds of these wispy silver strands from its boughs.

“Moderation” was surely an alien concept during those years, which meant the tree probably ended up looking like it had weathered a tinsel factory explosion, but hey, it was our creation and we’d had fun. Which, I’m betting, was my parents’ main objective. And, as I reflect, I doubt they would have traded that just to have our home selected for a Holiday Tour of Indianapolis.

All this got me to wondering: just how many other tacky things am I fond of? And what’s even considered tacky, anyway? Me being of the inquisitive sort, did some heavy duty research… on Google.

You’d be surprised what some people consider tacky. Or maybe you wouldn’t. I was, though.

Things like king size beds, cruises, and big TV’s made some people’s lists. Which made me wish I could do some laboratory testing of said items for the sake of evaluating…  you know, just so I could form an educated opinion as to their alleged tackiness.

Others listed things like name dropping, not writing thank you notes, and having a toothpick hanging out of your mouth as being tacky, to which I sort of nodded. But for the life of me, I just couldn’t understand how Long Island, PTA and Corvettes could be classified as such.

And — don’t ask me why — it came as quite a surprise that the whole “tinsel on Christmas trees” issue came up, again.

So, I guess it just might be that one person’s tacky is perhaps another person’s classy. Hmmm…

Feather-EarringsBut if you ever see me – and the likelihood of this actually happening becomes greater and greater, as I inch ever closer to my Golden Years –  chewing Big Red gum* while wearing a neon velour warm up suit with the logo emblazoned across the butt AND feather earrings, please, please, please make a citizen’s arrest and immediately remand me to the Tacky Police.

My future, dotty Self thanks you.

[* I’m not a gum chewer, as a rule, mostly because whenever I take leave of my senses and accept a stick of gum from a well-intentioned friend, I invariably bite the inside of my cheek. My one encounter with Big Red gum revealed its power to radically alter my personality. I think “sassy” was the descriptor I heard… And, yes, gum chewing made some people’s lists. You had a hunch about that, though, right?]

tournament-of-roses-logo-300x286I attended a small liberal arts college in Pasadena that was bordered on one side by Orange Grove Boulevard, right along the Rose Bowl Parade route. Each fall, the student leadership would gear up to capitalize on the good fortune of our prime location: they’d plan the annual fund raising blitz that involved selling parade programs, concessions, seats in bleachers erected next to the boulevard, and premium parking on campus. It was a major undertaking — I didn’t imagine preparations for the Normandy invasion being much more elaborate.

Because proceeds went to fund several annual trips for the entire student body, everyone was expected to pitch in. I don’t actually remember the duties assigned me that first year, although I do recall being excited about the prospect of working through the night that New Year’s Eve, then heading to the bleacher seats reserved for us — only a block from where the parade turns the corner onto Colorado Boulevard. I was going to get to watch the Rose Parade in person!

Some were assigned to cook (mainly hot dogs, I think) in the student center kitchen, others to shuttle food to the concession stands. Some were to hustle programs to the throngs camped out on the parade route overnight; others to deliver addition programs from the main distribution point to the sellers. There were parking crews with neon orange vests and flashlights, ticket sellers, and money runners. Whatever my lackluster assignment, I understood my role: a tiny cog in a big machine.

Until about three A.M.

When this fellow band member — an upperclassman with a walkie talkie — bumped into me and asked me what I was up to. He was assigned to assist the study body officer overseeing the entire food delivery operation. Apparently he didn’t think what I reported doing was all that important: he asked my supervisor if he could “borrow” me. This meant I could ride shotgun as he tooled up and down sidewalks and driveways in a golf cart, answering his walkie talkie, then racing to extinguish the “brush fires” of the concession business. It didn’t take long to see that this guy had everything under control and didn’t really need my help. I felt a little guilty about ditching my crew, but not too much. I was having a blast.

We kept it up until 7 or 8 a.m., when parade goers’ attention shifted to the commencement of the parade and our work was done. When we returned for the last time to the kitchen and parked the cart in its designated spot, the mood among the students we encountered was high — our collective efforts had raked in some hefty proceeds, according to preliminary reports. I was pleased to have been one of the troops who had proverbially “stormed the beaches” and pulled off a successful fundraiser.

Then I made a big mistake.

I sat down on a student center sofa. And died. All interest in grabbing a parade program from one of boxes of leftovers and heading up the hill to watch those floats vanished instantly. At that point my sole focus was making a beeline to the dorm, wherein was my bed. I had my first and last opportunity to view the iconic Rose Parade first hand — and I slept right through it!

I just checked on those 1970 parade programs: still available online, for a mere $8.00, plus shipping. Despite missing out on the main media event that day, though, I didn’t miss out on a couple of other valuable objectives:

  • I experienced being part of a large, successful campaign and felt the satisfaction of knowing I was a contributor (at least until I hopped on the golf cart..)
  • I demonstrated to that guy I could provide good companionship (a more worthwhile endeavor than you might suspect, at first glance…)

He and I ended up riding off into the sunset together on the Grand Golf Cart of Life.