Saturday, July 23, 2005

How many of the Class of '66 went to JCC?

JCC pool table
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
FALCONER, N.Y. - When my mother encouraged me (as did my draft status) to continue my studies, the only real option in the winter of 1968 was Jamestown Community College, a bit of culture shock after Villanova.

But I managed to screw up fairly well there, too.

Many years later, at an admissions hearing to get into graduate school, the committee remarked on my early, disastrous academic career, but noted that by the time I obtained my B.A. in English in 1973 in California (after attending a total of four colleges) I was a 4.0 student.

"But Mr. Fitzgerald, we do have one question," asked a fellow who would later become my graduate adviser and who is still a good friend.

"How exactly did you fail a 1-unit class in fencing?"

A good question.

JCC could offer some serious academic speed bumps, despite all the jokes made about it because it wasn't a state school or a four-year program and because everyone pretty much lived at home and mooched off mom and dad while going there. My mother let me mooch, because she was sooooo happy I was going to college again and she was scared witless I would be drafted and sent to Vietnam.

JCC professors - especially the ones that found out I was a dropout from Villanova - put the coals to me big time, especially one philosophy professor (he was Norweigan, I think) and a biology prof whose first name was Ted and who was an ardent environmentalist long before it was fashionable.

It was at JCC that for the first time I ran across people routinely using marijuana. (At the dorms at Villanova, there was no drug use, too dangerous. Hell, we couldn't even sneak in a beer.) And it was at JCC that I discovered it was infinitely more fun to go to college in a coed setting than a school with classes of only 18-20 year old men.

It seemed that everyone I met, everywhere, had some JCC connection, even if I was in the Triangle restaurant swilling a fishbowl on a Sunday afternoon. Say "JCC" and someone's head would snap up.

And there were quite a few Class of '66 people moving in and out of enrollment there, too, though I confess I only remember Dave Carlson and Bud Hooper for sure. Art Johnson's girlfriend went there - the statuesque Ann Irvine from Jamestown High School.

I haven't looked at my transcript from JCC since those days 25 years ago when I was at California State University, Chico, applying for the master's degree program.

But I will never forget that F in fencing.

So how exactly did I fail a 1-unit class in fencing?

The class started at 7 a.m., in the gym on campus, three days a week. And you had to suit up in these ridiculous padded outfits before you even went out for roll call.

Need I explain further? Didn't think so.

En garde!


Instead of a song today, I'm posting a link to a company that distributes all kinds of gag gifts, many of which were popular in 1966, like the dribbling glass, the whoopee cushion and a fake gun that puts out a flag that says 'bang,' when you fire it.

I used the site to find something called a 'clapper board,' used in making films. It's the thing they stick in front of the camera right before filming with the scene and take on it and then yell action.

Here's the link. (And hang onto your credit cards tight, some of this stuff is too funny.)
  • Need a Rubber Chicken?
  • Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Grab your Kleenex and watch 'Garden State'

    SOMEWHERE IN NEW JERSEY - Our classmate Gary Shenkle told me about this movie months ago. And though I shy away from 'coming of age' films, I relented tonight.

    Gary, you are correct. It's a great film.

    Although the parallels and sort of 'going home again' aspects might have been more on target for the Class of '66 when we were about 30, this movie still has lots of twists about trying to return to where you grew up.

    The actors portray their characters in very understated ways that moves the film along very nicely. (Oh God, I'm slipping into that Movie Reviewer Voice. Forget what I just wrote.)

    There all the elements: the friends who are still living at home, moms smoking cigarettes, the weird kid who did drugs and became a cop, the mysterious girl, the father-son divide.

    But in the end, I came away very glad I watched the film and not only recommend it for our class, I have a couple of students - who fit the age group of the people in the movie - who may not like it exactly, but I think they will certainly understand it.

    I won't give away anymore of the plot, but as the movie was ending I was reminded of something a friend of mine told me about five years ago, which I have taken to heart:

    Life is not a dress rehearsal.

    I doubt he thought that up, but it's true.

    So, in honor of the movie Garden State, here's today's song:

    Poor Side Of Town
    Johnny Rivers

    How can you tell me how much you miss me
    When the last time I saw you, you wouldn't even kiss me
    That rich guy you've been seein'
    Must have put you down
    So welcome back baby
    To the poor side of town

    To him you were nothin' but a little plaything
    Not much more than an overnight fling
    To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
    And girl it's hard to find nice things
    On the poor side of town

    I can't blame you for tryin'
    I'm tryin' to make it too
    I've got one little hang up baby
    I just can't make it without you

    So tell me, are you gonna stay now
    Will you stand by me girl all the way now
    With you by my side
    They can't keep us down
    Together we can make it baby
    From the poor side of town

    (So tell me how much you love me)
    (Come be near to me and say you need me now)

    Oh, with you by my side
    This world can't keep us down
    Together we can make it baby
    From the poor side of town

    Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-be-doo-be
    Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-be-doo-be
    Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-be-doo-be

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Another Californian from Jamestown, NY

    Marianne Jim
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    IONE, Calif. - Marianne Jim lives a scant 50 miles or so from me here in California, up in the foothills in a town called Ione, which I have never visited, though I have threatened to head up the mountain a lot in recent months.

    It's just far enough away that I'm afraid my little Miata (ailing with a leaking rear oil seal) might give it up. And I'm not sure how many good mechanics reside in Ione who can work on Miatas.

    And I don't want to find out.

    But Marianne has been emailing me, commenting most recently on the Robin Hood run and sent me this joke:


    Jamestown Girls:

    Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given their new wives duties.

    The first man had married a woman from Texas and bragged that he had told his wife she was going to do all the dishes and house cleaning. He said it took a couple days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were done.

    The second man had married a woman from Florida. He bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes and the cooking. On that the first day he didn't see any results, but the next day it was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done and he had a huge dinner on the table.

    The third man married a girl from Jamestown, NY. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house clean, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything but by the third day most of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye; enough to fix himself a bite to eat, load the dishwasher and telephone a landscaper.

    Gotta love those New York girls.


    Nicely said Marianne.

    We have two more soon-to-be Californians: Mick Olson and Linda Hansen-Olson who either have purchased - or are purchasing - a home in Santa Rosa, Calif., about 90 miles from Sacramento. Eventually, I supposed we will have to have some mini-reunions here at my casa, to which all of you, of course, will be invited. Jim and Pam Carr live in Phoenix, only a short Harley trip away.

    Here's a song for today that's been ringing in my ears since hearing it on an oldies station:

    A Hundred Pounds of Clay
    performed by Gene McDaniels

    (Written by Bob Elgin, Luther Dixon, and Kay Roger)

    He took a hundred pounds of clay
    And they He said "Hey, listen"
    "I'm gonna fix this-a world today"
    "Because I know what's missin' "
    Then He rolled his big sleeves up
    And a brand-new world began
    He created a woman and-a lots of lovin' for a man
    Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did

    With just a hundred pounds of clay
    He made my life worth livin'
    And I will thank Him every day
    For every kiss you're givin'
    And I'll thank Him every night
    For the arms that are holdin' me tight
    And He did it all with just a hundred pounds of clay
    Yes he did, whoa-oh, yes He did

    Now can'tcha just see Him a-walkin' 'round and 'round
    Pickin' the clay uppa off the ground?
    Doin' just what He should do
    To make a livin' dream like you

    He rolled His big sleeves up
    And a brand-new world began
    He created a woman and-a lots of lovin' for a man
    Whoa-oh-oh, yes he did
    With just a hundred pounds of clay

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    The course was called 'The Robin Hood'

    JAMESTOWN, New York - Several times each spring and fall, the SWCS gym classes (boys anyway) of the Class of '66 poured out the doors of the school and ran a cross-country track down around behind the bleachers and through some brush called The Robin Hood.

    Why it was called The Robin Hood, I don't know. (Perhaps Tom Priester knows its origin.) I only remember that there was some broken field running involved and sometimes some serious mud in spots, depending on rainfall. And the humidity coming through the thicket! Kee-rist!

    But what really sticks in my mind is how different that course was compared to bombing around the nice flat oval track. I ran short races, 100 and 220-yard dashes on the track team, but the 7/10 of a mile Robin Hood, which included some uphill work, just wore me out every time I ran it.

    And, of course, Coach Flash Olsen would 'urge' me to move faster on the last half when I was gasping for air, pointing out that I should be in good condition, given my track team work, etc. Coach could be quite sarcastic when he wanted.

    I learned on the Robin Hood that native ability and strength can overcome a lot, too. Bob Fulcher, who smoked about a half a pack of cigarettes a day, passed me on the Robin Hood one blustery spring day - running backwards. Yup, backwards, all the while taunting me to pass him.

    I couldn't get by him and it damned near killed me trying.

    Bob didn't compete much athletically, except in gymnastics, where his incredible balance gave him a great edge. When we would water ski in the summer, he fell all the time because he was always seeing how high he could jump or pulling some weird trick like putting the ski rope between his knees.

    When I pointed out to him that I never fell, he told me something that has stuck with me my whole life.

    "You don't ever fall because you don't take any chances, asshole."

    I've told that anecdote many times to my family, friends and generations of university students, minus the asshole comment, of course.

    I haven't seen Bob in 20 years, though I occasionally received some emails from his sister Terrie until a year or so ago.

    He'd be happy to know that I took his advice and I have fallen a lot in my life, but generally been a better - and happier - man for it.

    Today's song is one of my favorites from the Beatles, though what it's connection is to The Robin Hood, water skiing, or taking chances, I 'm not sure. But here you go anyway.

    The Beatles

    Help! I need somebody.
    Help! Not just anybody.
    Help! You know I need someone.

    When I was younger, so much younger than today,
    I never needed anybody's help in any way.
    But now these days are gone I'm not so self assured,
    Now I find
    I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors.

    Help me if you can, I'm feeling down,
    And I do appreciate you being 'round.
    Help me get my feet back on the ground.
    Won't you please, please help me?

    And now my life has changed in oh so many ways,
    my independence seems to vanish in the haze.
    But every now and then I feel so insecure,
    I know that I just need you like I've never done before.

    Help me if you can, I'm feeling down,
    And I do appreciate you being 'round.
    Help me get my feet back on the ground.
    Won't you please, please help me?

    When I was younger, so much younger than today,
    I never needed anybody's help in any way.
    But now these days are gone I'm not so self assured,
    Now I find
    I've changed my mind, I've opened up the doors.

    Help me if you can, I'm feeling down,
    And I do appreciate you being 'round.
    Help me get my feet back on the ground.
    Won't you please, please help me?
    Help me. Help me, oooh.

    Sunday, July 17, 2005

    Crossing the religious divide - in Jamestown

    St. Joseph and child
    Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
    JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - On the Yahoo! discussion group, there has been some chatter about race and ethnicity, which living in California has special meaning.
  • Class of '66 Yahoo discussion

  • When I walk across my university campus - or even just look out at my students in class - it looks like a meeting of the United Nations.

    I have about 50 percent students who are arguably Caucasian, but the rest are a mix of Latino, Asian, African-American and every subgroup imaginable.

    Lately, I have had several Irish students in each class - Irish as in from Ireland, studying in the U.S. because it's actually cheap, given the state of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro.

    Isn't that something.

    But I posted a brief entry on the Yahoo site because I was part of the Catholic minority at SWCS, a small enough group, though I hardly felt any kind of discrimination. As a group, the Class of '66 was a pretty secular outfit when it came to our school and comings and goings.

    I only remember getting extremely pissed off during the summer when my mother would drag me to church every Sunday about 10 a.m. while my Protestant buddies would be out waterskiing and getting all the flat water before the wind came up.

    I learned about religious intolerance when I was dating my first wife, who was from Titusville, Penn. whose family had a strong dislike - no, make that hatred - of anyone of the Catholic faith.

    To their credit, most of that family was up front about it, my now ex-father-in-law telling me early in that relationship that no Catholic would marry his daughter and if she were foolish enough to marry a Papist (Isn't that a term!), well, he would never walk her down the aisle.

    He didn't have too, as I wasn't much of Papist and got married by a Justice of the Peace. Could his name have been Willard Ayres in Busti? Whoever he was, I had stood before him on other occasions for speeding tickets. Then the night I was married, I had three double Manhattans at The Pub which somehow convinced me he was the right guy to perform the ceremony that snowy December night in 1969. There was a blizzard but somehow my '65 Mustang made it there and back.

    The one thing I do remember about the difference between being Catholic vs. Protestant in elementary school was Friday lunches.

    Catholics, at the time, were forbidden to eat meat, so we had such sumptious choices as fish sticks or tuna noodle casserole.

    To this day, the smell of a tuna noodle casserole makes me almost as ill as a whiff of Scotch whiskey.

    This all reminds me that I haven't actually attended a Mass in at least, well, I can't even remember. In Mexico, though, I stop in at every church I visit, usually lighting a candle for my late mother who was very devoute.

    Missing Mass means I've also missed out on the one part of being Catholic that I thought had a leg up on most other religions: going to confession.

    If I understand my Catholic dogma correctly, you can go out all week, sin like crazy, go to confession and be absolved. Voila - goodbye sins!

    A pretty good deal I suppose, even if you do miss the flat water early in the morning.