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October 26, 2021

Funny Papers Again Column | School Daze… in Two-Part Harmony

It is not uncommon that readers will occasionally offer nice comments about Funny Papers Again, and because I’m only good at speaking to people when they are an audience and I’m working from a script written by someone else, I usually find myself tongue tied. But I do try to comment that finding a subject each week is often the hardest part of the job; at least for me it is. This week is one of those times when my Muse seems to be on holiday somewhere, fickle things muses. Then, with only 16 hours ‘til deadline, social media inexplicably offered me a way out and I’m taking it. So here goes.

How many of you are aware of the social media site Facebook? A few of you, OK. I enjoy my short scroll and click visits to the site as there are names and faces of people I’ve long known and so little glimpses into their lives are appreciated. But there very often appears on the site random questions or comments that, as the site owner intends, get responses. One such comment asked something, I disremember what, about college and university alma maters; that one struck a chord with me. Do you want to know why? Let me tell you why.

On a recent road trip I ventured down into some territory I once knew well, down in what is know as the Inland Empire, the San Bernardino, Riverside areas of SoCal, and as I drove south on the 215 (properly that would be “on Interstate 215,” but generally freeways and highways are referenced as “the 91” or “the 405” or “the 101,” etc.) I passed by the exits to my university alma mater, and as one would imagine it brought up memories of my days on campus.

And I was on campus where usually I was older than my professors; so of course to most of my fellow students I was ancient, grandfather age. It made for an interest few years; I assure you. It came about that I returned to academics (I started community college at Hartnell in September of 1970) while on a Christmas visit to my parents in Corona, a city in Riverside County. A few days into the new year my mother suggested I stay, as there was really nothing for me back in Greenfield. She was right.

I had been working for a couple years for a fellow who owned a business in town, a business that had been in operation in the same location on El Camino Real in Greenfield for over 60 years, and this was in 1997. Well, over the months we had made enough product that the owner told me one day in mid-December that he could shut down for a while and supply his clientele out of his inventory; when I asked how long he planned on shutting down, he said about three years. OK. (As things worked out, that business never re-opened and the location has been for many years an empty lot).

So, like Bing and Rodney, I went back to school. The alma mater I was driving past was California State University, San Bernardino, where in 2003 I received a bachelor’s degree in communications. Here are some random recollections of CSUSB: It was a campus of rich cultural diversity where classmates were Asian, African, Black, Mexican and Latino, Middle Eastern and a smattering from Europe and the Balkans; some new to America, some long established.

One Japanese girl in my study group was new to America, in her third year at university. She dressed in the unique fashion popular in Japan at the time, sort of an amalgam of parochial schoolgirl uniform, “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” and “Lolita.” She is probably now very successful as she was very intelligent; and intelligent in like four languages.

Often in communications classes students work in small groups of five or six so one gets to interact a bit closer than during normal lectures. I worked once with two young Black guys to whom everyday was “Friday,” or “Next Friday” or the “Friday After Next”; we called them, of course, Craig and Day-Day; if you don’t get that reference you don’t, that’s all.

Their constant antics and loud arguments over trivialities were well known and they were always together. Both brilliant communicators in the fashion of the great Black thinkers of the past; their insights to how the media presented minorities should have been heard by everybody. But a goofier couple of characters you’ll only meet in the movies.

I had a professor who wore a Dodger jersey to class because the name of the player across the back was the same as her name; she cared little for baseball but liked her name. Professors hold office hours during which students have a chance to speak tete-a-tete, usually these offices are small and cramped with just enough room for a desk with a chair on either side, the walls filled with shelves of books and papers. The first time I walked into this professor’s office she had her dog with her.

Let me digress a bit: this professor once met Robin, of Batman and Robin of the 1960s TV show, one Burt Ward by name, who ran a dog rescue facility in a nearby town; she visited the facility after seeing a local news story.

Now, back to my visit to her office. The dog she owned was the same as the Caped Crusader’s sidekick’s rescued dogs, Great Danes. But hers was not just a Great Dane but a great Great Dane, as in big. The beast’s first reaction to my entrance was a long, deep growl. Long, deep. The animal rose from the floor to its full height, about the size of a Shetland pony.

The professor assured all was well and to go ahead and sit; and so for the remainder of the meeting, about 15 minutes, this behemoth stood 18 inches off my left shoulder, its massive head on level with my own. I never went back.

And that is my word limit for this week; to be continued. Take care. Peace.

Steve Wilson
King City and Greenfield Columnist

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