Category: Random Thoughts

The Misadventures of a Nice Boy from Long Island

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I was in fourth grade. Mr. Herman had stepped outside and Mevan (names will be changed to protect the innocent) was about to repeat some information that I apparently made the mistake of telling him in confidence.

“I know who loves Seather…I know who loves Seather… (again, names changed…) I know who loves Seather.”

“Play it cool,” I remember saying to myself. Seather might not know; I mean I am a smooth dude (did we say ‘dude’ back in fourth grade? Not important, focus on the story). Just let it go and everything will be fine.

“I know who loves Seather…I know who loves Seather… I know who loves Seather.”

Really?!? Mevan, be quiet! And where the heck is Mr. Herman?

“I know who loves Seather…I know who loves Seather… I know who loves Seather.”

Seather isn’t happy. Who can blame her? Note to self, no more ‘in-confidence’ conversations with Mevan. Everyone is looking at Seather. She looks uncomfortable… I have to do something…

“I DON’T LOVE SEATHER, I JUST LIKE HER,” I exclaimed as I emphatically stood up from my desk.

***

I never was what you would call a lady’s man. I tended to act more from my heart than my mind. Just didn’t really serve me well.

Also in fourth grade, Mevan and I decided we would see if any of the girls in our class liked us. I know what you are thinking. Why, would I still be hanging in with Mevan after the Seather debacle? Who knows, it was fourth grade and I guess I was loyal.

My note to Telly was fine-crafted and well-thought out.

“Do you like me?”

Box – Yes

Box – No

Please check one – Andy

Carefully, folded with ‘Telly’ written on the front.

I finally mustered the nerve to pass the note which made its way to Telly.

She opened it. Looked at me. Raised her hand, asked Mr. Herman if she could go to the bathroom and motioned for me to come outside.

Excellent! This is good! If she’s asking me to go outside, that means she’s not going to the bathroom to throw up. I’d say progress.

I asked Mr. Herman if I could go to the bathroom and made my way outside. In my mind, Telly would grab me a give me a peck on the cheek and say, “that is my answer.”

The reality was, Telly did grab me, threw me against the wall and said, “If you write anything like this again, I will kill you.”

***

My prowess with the opposite sex continued throughout middle school, high school and college. While in college, I was on – what I thought to be – a very nice date with Folly. At the end of the date, Folly said – – “Andy, I think you are great, but you know why we can’t go out.”

“I do,” I said.

No clue. To this day, clueless.

After college, I was working at a boutique agency in New York and was about to go out on a first date at the Met. I knew the girl (I don’t have to make up a name because I don’t recall her name) I was going with was a fan of the art world, so I wanted to prepare myself. A friend of mine from work prepped me, and I was confident I could speak intelligently about some of the exhibits.

When we walked into the Met, I was ready. “Wow, look at that piece over there. I love how the branches flow outward, asking to be touched.”

“Um, Andy – that’s the headset station to pick up headphones and recorders so you can follow along with the tour of the artwork.”

No second date.

***

Then there was the time when I was working at a different agency in New York where we used to reach out to reporters, producers and talk show hosts to promote authors. A colleague of mine suggested I contact a radio producer in Dallas for my first phone call. She might not take my pitch, but she’ll take your call and listen to you.

In September that radio producer and I will be married 19 years.

Mic. Drop.

 

 

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What Does ‘Outstanding Citizenship with Suitable Academic Merit’ Really Mean?

Dictionary

As the Presidential Election enters prime time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of words. Not just how one word can change the context of a speech – – inciting some while motivating others – – but how pundits, mavens and the self-proclaimed well-informed, describe the political candidates.

Even if you subscribe to the “sticks and stones” theory, it is safe to say we have all been mesmerized, engulfed, exasperated and dumbfounded by the power of words.

For me, words have had always had an impact in my life. As an example, let me take you back to my sixth grade graduation…

I know where it is. Florida. Parent’s bookshelf. One of hundreds.

I’m not sure if I questioned it immediately or not. Either way, it made an impact.

During my sixth grade graduation, I was “awarded” a dictionary. In it, the following was written – – “Awarded to Andrew Shane for outstanding citizenship with suitable academic merit.”

Suitable?

Really?

Now, if I received this in high school or college, I wouldn’t have much of an issue, but in sixth grade I’m pretty sure I was rockin’ some more than suitable grades. Even if I wasn’t recording stellar grades, don’t you think we could have come up with a better word than suitable? If only, the person who wrote this had some resource that could be used to come up with a better word…

Speaking of the person who wrote this, I’ve pondered trying to reach out to him or her (I know…). Ask what were they thinking. Was this the first award they ever presented? Did they scar others?

Couple of foreseeable roadblocks: Good chance the person who wrote it is either dead or has absolutely no recollection. Asking my parents to get the dictionary and tell me the name of the person would end up as an Abbott and Costello routine.

Me: Can you get the dictionary I got during my sixth grade graduation?

Dad: Why?

Mom: What? (hearing is not a strength these days)

Me: I want to see who wrote the inscription.

Dad: Why?

Mom: What?

I actually thought this could be the basis of a movie. Not saying a good movie necessarily, but a movie where our hero (hey, I’m a hero) realizes what he has, what is important and who he is, as he tries to track down who wrote (and why) “with suitable academic merit.”

***

In high school, I ended up managing the wrestling team. I had always wanted to wrestle – – my older brother was an outstanding wrestler (don’t know about his academic merit) and I tried to follow in his footsteps. I wrestled in junior high and was actually captain of my eighth grade team. Not because I was the best wrestler, but because I wrestled the right way – – always trying my best and being an excellent teammate.

In tenth grade, just prior to the start of the season, I dislocated my knee screwing around with friends. My coach wasn’t happy, but when I asked if I could manage the team instead, he agreed. Once my knee heeled, I would work out with the team and – if I do say so myself – could’ve beaten most of the managers on the other teams (okay, truth be told, many of them were girls, but I still could’ve taken them…most of them…).

I ended up managing the team throughout high school and my coach, who also coached the football team, asked if I would manage football as well. During the different end of season banquets, coach awarded me with several plaques for my efforts and attitude – – something I’m sure he didn’t present to other managers.

No mention of academic merit; just good guy. Good heart.

***

So, what’s really wrong with the word ‘suitable’ anyway? According to Webster (the dictionary, not the little kid from the 80s TV show), the definition of suitable is, “having the qualities that are right, needed, or appropriate for something.”

Not awful. Have I been making too much of this? Webster lists synonyms as able, capable, equal, fit, good, qualified, competent.

Outstanding citizenship with competent academic merit… No, still doesn’t feel right.

***

Odds are, whoever wrote the words didn’t think twice about it. It’s just that suitable isn’t an everyday word. Probably not one you would associate with an award or achievement.

  • Most Suitable Player.
  • Academy Award for Suitable Actress is a Supporting Role.
  • Grammy for Suitable New Artist.

Just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But am I falling into the trap of the “woosification of America” where every kiddo gets a participation ribbon?

Don’t think so. Like I said, words are powerful. And for some reason, suitable just doesn’t feel like the right word. Feels like a dig of sorts. Great kid. Not super smart. Here’s a dictionary.

***

What is my point?

A. Think before you speak or post? Sure…

B. There’s a difference between free speech and well-thought-out speech? Yes, just look at social sites, candidate speeches, etc.…

C. Words matter? You bet…

D. I haven’t written anything in a while and just wanted to do a little free-flow writing?

E. All of the Above

And the answer is: E – All of the Above. Thanks for reading.