Tag Archives: memoir

For art, go stand by an eagle.

It was the first day of kindergarten, and free time had begun. Importantly, I had done everything Miss Petersen had said to do –to the letter. In fact, I was pretty impressed with myself for having identified and found an eagle in the visual cacophony of the kindergarten classroom at Manasquan elementary. There I was standing underneath the flag to which we had earlier learned to pledge our undying allegiance to the great man who made America possible, Richard Stanz, and yet I still had no painting supplies in my hand.

I had art to create. I felt I had done some amazing work with finger paints in pre-school, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do with an actual brush.

“Everyone who wants to paint, go stand by an eagle.” Those were her words. Eagle. I know –it made no sense. Some kids went into an alcove and stood by big, propped-up boards. I didn’t know what you called those big, propped-up boards in the alcove, but they certainly weren’t eagles. I looked around the room. You could say I had an eagle eye. (Sorry. Not sorry) We had a bird book at home, and eagles looked exactly like what was at the tip of the flagpole at the end of the blackboard by the classroom door. So I stood there. Certainly she would get around to me sooner or later and lead me to that arting heaven I was promised in church. But she never did. Why did Miss Petersen hate me? I had half a mind to tell on her to Richard Stanz if I ever met him. Continue reading For art, go stand by an eagle.


121 More Valedictorians Than Dalmatians

The high school from which I graduated just named 222 valedictorians; this former valedictorian is mildly chagrined.

This is NOT going to be an
This is NOT going to be an “everyone gets a trophy” rant, but…

On June 3, 1984 I spoke at my graduation from Dublin High School. At that time, Dublin had less than 4000 inhabitants, there was only one high school, and the sole traffic light on Sawmill Road south of I-270 was at Rt. 161.

That's my inspiration face.
That’s my inspiration face.

That day, my co-valedictorian and I gave what has been described as “an inspiring, well-prepared valedictorian speech” to a crowded set of football bleachers. Now Dublin has over 43,000 residents, there are three high schools, and driving on Sawmill frightens me down to my Shamrocks. My high school is now called Coffman, and the bleachers I spoke before are now the visitors’ seats at the shiny bajillion-dollar football “complex” they built on the other side of the school. Moreover, the school I went to is now invisible behind masses of additional wings.

Oh, and there are also 111 times as many valedictorians. From the Columbus Dispatch on June 3rd of this year:

Graduation ceremonies might still be going on if Dublin schools had asked all of its valedictorians to speak.

There were 222 of them.

That means two out of every 10 graduates at Dublin’s three high schools received top honors this year. Dublin Scioto had 44 valedictorians, Dublin Jerome had 82, and Dublin Coffman had 96.

Or to put it another way, the Dublin City School district now has 40 more valedictorians than it had graduating seniors in 1984. Yes, the district now has over 1100 grads, but at that same ratio, my class of 182 would have had 36 valedictorians.

Or yet another way, 121 more valedictorian than Dalmatians.

Even The Today Show’s toothy people who populate the show’s misbegotten third hour, had a laugh at Dublin’s expense. My alma mater is now a laughing stock.

This isn’t going to be some lament about how “everybody gets a trophy.” If you look at the comments section of the Dispatch article, a quick scansion shows approximately 850 mentions of that phrase. And, yes, I know I used “scansion” incorrectly. Would anyone but a valedictorian know it’s used incorrectly? I don’t think so.

No, my lament is about how this development cheapens one of my better cocktail-party lines. For some reason, mentioning this fact elicits a very pleasing “Well, isn’t that nice, but, again, please tell me what that has to do with Caitlyn Jenner?” Now I’m scared that dropping this tidbit will now only brings a cascade of “Me too’s” from the entire room. Continue reading 121 More Valedictorians Than Dalmatians

Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

[As part of WordPress’ “Blogging 101” I received an assignment to write a post based upon that day’s writing prompt question.]

QUESTION: You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?

First, I would head to the 99¢ Store to round up some duct tape, Saran Wrap, chicken wire, and a teaspoonful of neutronium (behind the counter, next to the watch batteries). Yes, I know that much neutronium would weigh 100 million tons, but I think if I bring the granny cart, I’ll be able to get it home. After getting the stuff home and up the stairs, I would combine them in the usual manner to create a wormhole in my hall closet. After carefully adjusting the tension on the duct tape, I would step thru the closet to the campus of Bowling Green State University in June of 1983. There I would hunt down the seventeen-year-old version of myself, who would be up there for a week to participate in the American Legion’s Buckeye Boys State, and I would ask:

“Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?”

For the roughly five years after my mom passed away, from junior year of high school then through three different undergraduate institutions, a quick tally comes up with at least a dozen trips to the emergency room. Of course, some of these were for bona-fide emergencies, but way too many times I ended up in the back of an ambulance because of –for lack of a better word –“escalations.” In this case, I had run into a doorjamb… Continue reading Did you really expect faking amnesia would get you out of this?

The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”

The white cassette tape with no writing came from that particularly messy corner of my bedroom. I knew exactly what was on it without playing it: Me singing Paper Lace’s #1 hit from 1974, “The Night Chicago Died” in a karaoke bar. In Burbank. With seven vodka tonics in me.

It’s not perfect.  It starts late and drops out once or twice.  Also, I suck.  Come, discover why my brother-in-law wouldn’t allow me to sing the “Please don’t eat all the morsels” song to my future-niece in utero:


But, you have to admit, those voddys sure gave me some stage presence. Continue reading The night I sang “The Night My Dignity Died.”


As I was typing the introduction, I knew the name of the blog was going to be an issue. For 30+ posts, it’s been just been a cute little bit of wordplay, shiny stories just hanging there. But now that I’ve declared the blog’s dual purpose of being a writing blog that also deals with my struggles with mental illness, it just seems about four clicks past cute… Continue reading Why ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES?


Back in the early 90s, I was in Los Angeles embarking on what was sure to be a promising and lucrative career in arranging words on pages. A screenplay I had written as a masters thesis at Michigan won the Hopwood Award. With the hubris only a 23 year old could muster, I took to telling everyone that this was the same award Arthur Miller and Lawrence Kasdan won when they were at Michigan. I took the prize money, plus a thousand dollars I won on a 900-number version of Jeopardy! while drunk at 3am, and moved into a bougainvillea-encrusted dingbat apartment building called The Pink Flamingo in Studio City (but really North Hollywood). And, most amazingly of all, through some tenuous connections I was working with an agent who went on to be Jeremy Piven on Entourage. There were meetings in Burbank and a desk on the Universal lot between where the Classic Hollywood impersonators hung out and the Backdraft ride. Rhett Butler reeks of weed.

Then I went crazy. And I left. And I stopped writing. Continue reading Welcome to ORNAMENTAL ILLNESSES…