After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.
The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.
A year ago today I was attacked by an ergonomic chair in our office. The following surveillance photos are proof of how dangerous these chairs can be. Especially if you don’t actually know how to sit in one…
Being a journalist, I am trained to notice the most subtle signs of something amiss.
A hesitant glance.
A bead of sweat.
A chair that appears to be built backwards.
So, as I walked through our composition department this morning on my way to the news room, I immediately noticed that Peggy’s standard-issue office chair had been replaced with a broken piece of furniture. Who would do this to poor Peggy with the lower back problems? Why not replace her desk with a TV tray while you’re at it? Maybe we could move the copy machine on top of a book shelf so she has to use a ladder!
Poor, poor Peggy.
Then I remembered her mentioning she was getting a new “ergonomic” chair. Using the deductive skills I’ve developed over 16 years as a journalist, I came to the following conclusion:
As I’ve mentioned, during our town’s annual spring Rhododendron Festival, the carnival sets up across the street from our home.
If it were any closer, I could high-five everyone on the tilt-a-whirl without leaving the couch. So each night after work, I walk two blocks home and pass through the carnival, enjoying the fact that the sound of screaming teenagers — for once — isn’t coming from any of mine. I take time to watch the interactions of people, the motion of the rides, the flashing lights, and take in the carnival-specific aroma of frying corn dogs and sweet cotton candy mixed with freshly spewed vomit from the squirrel cages.
Being a writer, this is a target-rich environment of atmosphere, character and dialogue that I store in my memory to either draw from later or, as in the case of what I’m about to share with you, eventually discuss with my psychiatrist or lawyer.
To the Class of 2017, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:
I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.
Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.
Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.” Continue reading My commencement speech (that no one asked for)
Admittedly, I had a bit of a crush on my College Prep English teacher, Mrs. Fillers, who was young, inventive and extremely encouraging to the only freshman in her class of 25 juniors and seniors.
The first semester was a breeze as she allowed us to explore creative writing with few boundaries. Each week, along with our reading assignments, we were given a new list of 20 vocabulary words — usually with a theme — that we were required to use in a story. Most of my classmates crammed as many of those words into a single sentence as they could (The decrepit, cantankerous, ill-tempered man raised his wrinkled, weathered, sallow fist in a show of furious and frustrated rage over losing his car keys…”)
I, on the other hand, fleshed out 15 to 20 pages of handwritten storyline, usually with the last five to six pages devoid of vocabulary words.
I got good grades but, as you can probably imagine, was rarely asked to read my stories in class due to the time constraints of a 45-minute period.