Memoir

Learning to Read the World Through My Radio

A tidy picture of simplicity sat in front of me.  A study lamp stood on one corner of a heavily lacquered wooden desk along with the obligatory dictionary and thesaurus. Offsetting the light in the opposite desk corner, was a radio.  The rectangular plastic box was one of my most prized possessions given to me during an earlier holiday period.  Its blackness demanded attention since the rest of the room was quite drab if honestly described; modest if the color of the lighter tan walls were added.  The radio’s presence also served as a primary companion for an only child who sometimes needed to hear voices of people other than his parents.

I was atypical of a mid 60’s teenager with a radio in their room.  There was never a moment where a parent needed to bellow, “Turn your radio down!”, while the Moody Blues, The Rascals or Jim Morrison were playing, and most enjoyed with the volume up. My radio strayed from the music scene of the FM band to the to the baseball and basketball games being broadcast on the AM side of the airwaves universe.  The secretive affair that didn’t necessitate increased volume.  The only requirement was other contents in my desk and opening my imagination to connect to a larger world.

Four drawers were available to keep needed materials and ‘stuff’ that perhaps made me an early minimalist.  The top thin, center drawer contained pencils, pens, rulers, and geometry tools; along with baseball cards, available for trade or flipping.  The top drawer to my right contained all the paper I’d need for schoolwork as well as stationery for writing thank you notes to relatives or the pro athletes of my choice.  Autographs in the 1960’s were obtained for the price of a postage stamp and the willingness to write to a star letting him know he was your favorite.  The second drawer contained an eclectic connection of important things that I didn’t want to misplace.  Items such as class pictures, award certificates and a Mad Magazine or two could usually be found in there.  The third drawer contained my spiral notebooks, which were turned into homemade scorebooks.  That bin held the real fruits of my labors and the parts of my study time that helped make real world connections to portions of my schoolwork…a sort of gateway for my imagination to overtake the mundaneness off reading and summarizing a period of history or doing the assigned even or odd numbered math problems.

Opening the bottom drawer, along with powering up the radio, opened my mind and helped me discover new possibilities beyond the humdrum learning transpiring each day between yellow school bus trips to and from a large, bricked building with over a thousand minds at various stages of receptivity.  The drawer held a year’s worth of notebooks keeping running scores of most Boston Celtics and Red Sox games.  I could have been classified as a real ‘get a lifer’, but for me it was a labor of love.  And for a time, my schoolwork became secondary to scoring games.

Rooney, Rooney, Rooney… The Craziness Spectrum

“Great teachers are usually a little crazy.” Andy Rooney

From my experiences, Andy Rooney’s quote was right on target. But like most things with our writing or experience, we can’t oversimplify the significance of a word that can parsed into a multiplicity of meanings.  My work in schools has run the gambit from a ‘good crazy’ that translated to an act of courage for the sake of students; to a ‘crazy crazy’ as I approached my newly appointed dean of students position  at a middle high school in New Hampshire. Based on those experiences, I’d add administrators along with teachers to the spectrum of crazy.  Ironically, it was two additional Rooneys (Gerry and Ed) who directly and indirectly helped me understand that we can’t take the word ‘crazy’ too lightly.

Memorial Day 2021…Something Feels Different

This is a link to my Memorial Day Column In the Newburyport Daily News

Since rescuing a very energetic cocker spaniel, I’ve taken regular walks throughout the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport Ma. For us dog owners in Essex County, there are so many wonderful spots to walk, but I’m not sure many matches one of the country’s first rural garden cemeteries consecrated in 1842 and listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The stately oak and pine trees, older than anyone walking the grounds these days, are towering reminders of the largess of those buried there.  Especially those veterans representing essentially all the wars fought to protect our freedom, our democracy and the Constitution that has centered our nation during the most tumultuous points of our history. At this time of year, I always think of my father, George, who served in the Navy during WWII; my Uncle Paul who was wounded on a destroyer in the Pacific theater; my Uncle Sam, who I never met because he was killed in action as his Marine battalion stormed a hill in Okinawa; and my Uncle Charlie who was a crew member on a tank in the Korean War

During my walks of late I’ve made it a point to stop at several graves each day that are staked with small American flags signifying their service and while I can’t list the hundreds of our finest laid to rest in Oak Hill, I thought that at least three could be remembered for paying the ultimate sacrifice: …