I adore working on a college campus. I love the energy and the enthusiasm of 20-somethings. I always defend them when folks start conversations with “Oh my gosh, can you believe kids today?” Almost every student I encounter WANTS to be in school and WANTS to learn (at least something) and many of them work two jobs and drive two hours and otherwise sacrifice A LOT to be at school. On the other hand, sometimes this generation sort of stuns me. Such as when I recently noticed this how-to-address-an-envelope tutorial taped to the mail-center counter in the student center. “Are you seriously telling me that some students don’t know how to address an envelope?” I asked the mail-center staffer, incredulously. She nodded grimly. “We just got tired of explaining it all the time,” she said. I know that actual paper envelopes are going the way of landlines, CDs and watching movies in a movie theatre — but still. I mean, can you believe kids today?
Every time I see this sign — on the side of a building in downtown Pensacola, Fla., — I always think it’s talking about my chosen-and-now-part-time field of journalism and how truly it is “citizen journalism” because reporters don’t have to earn specialized degrees or procure official certifications or register anywhere for anything. Can you write clearly, accurately, entertainingly and well? Good. You’re hired. Do you make things up, ignore the facts and don’t understand the difference between “you’re” and “your”? Sorry. Nice try. On the other hand, as journalism jobs disappear and the journalism landscape shifts almost daily, training and professionalism are key. Another thought: This obviously is my morning to ramble. Perhaps I should get ready to go to work? And kudos to the registered professional COURT reporters at Hitchcock & Associates in Pensacola. Love your sign.
This is why I am in awe of Older Daughter. It’s an experiment she set up for our almost-5-year-old grandson, also known as Capt. Adorable, sort of along the lines of a “Sid the Science Kid” investigation. (Speaking of Sid and his preschool co-horts, am I the only person who thinks Gerald will turn out to be Keith Moon‘s grandson?) Older Daughter and the Captain wondered what would happen to an egg left soaking in water and one left soaking in vinegar. They identified the hypothesis — he thought the water egg would turn into a snowball and the vinegar egg into what he logically called a lava ball (because if there’s a snowball then surely there’s a lava ball, right?). Mommy helped with the handwriting but the scientific drawings are all the Captain’s. I predict a bidding war between John Hopkins and Stanford in about 20 years.
As the calendar gets ready to flip over to September, these are exciting days in Alabama. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you — and you know that if you have to ask, you obviously don’t live in Alabama. Because … it’s Football Eve! Finally, after weeks — months? — of anticipation and planning and hard work and sweat and tears, football is here again. Tonight there are a few high school games, with the bulk of the high-school season openers on Friday night. The University of North Alabama, our hometown college that’s always a powerhouse, plays its first game on Saturday, and then next weekend we get down to business as Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and others show us what they’ve got. All across the state, everybody’s busy checking supplies of school T-shirts, pom-poms, shakers, grills, BBQ and coolers. And of course, just because the season’s starting doesn’t mean that practice time is over. There are still hours ahead of drills and run-throughs under the steamy summer sun as frustrated cries of “Left! Left! You’re supposed to turn left there!” and “Didn’t you see Clint there on the 50-yard line? How could you run over him?” ring out across the practice field. But it’s all worth it on Game Day, as the lights pop on and the crowds gather and the fans follow your every move — roaring approval and rising to their feet in wildly enthusiastic applause for a job well done.
Yup — I love marching band season. Why? What did you think I was talking about???
The other day I turned to my college-student daughter and said, “I’m thinking of doing something really wild and different.” After a couple guesses — hang-gliding? painting the kitchen purple? — she gave up and I confessed my secret: I was thinking about ditching my usual hair guy and wandering in to one of those quick and cheap no-appointment places for a much-needed cut. I was at that place where if somebody handed me a pair of scissors I’d chop it all off myself. You know? One day your hair is good and the next morning you wake up and you cannot stand it one more minute. Or is that just me? Anyway, I knew I had reached that I-hate-my-hair point and I knew it would probably be a week or so before I could get in to my usual guy and anyway I’d always felt sort of guilty about the amount of money I pay for a few snips and razoring and hair-styling when I usually go home and completely mess up his creation anyway. So why not try something different? My daughter, on the other hand, had another solution: Go to the local beauty school. That’s what she does when she needs a trim. It’s cheap and you can get in immediately, she said, and the instructors are nearby in case of crisis. Hmm … maybe that college tuition is paying off because that sounded like a great idea. So that’s what I did — albeit somewhat cautiously. The result? A positive experience overall that I would recommend to anyone who Needs A Hair Cut Right Now. I simply walked in and the receptionist checked her list of available students. I got a sweet 28-year-old girl who was confident and skilled and gave me a trim with a bit of a different style — and a fun half-hour of girl talk and local gossip. Since I also got a shampoo and some hair-drying, the price got bumped up … to $13. Definitely worth it. I also got the satisfaction of helping out some young people, which is always good. I don’t think I’ll give up my hair guy altogether, though, especially not for color. And my usual place definitely wins more points on the calm-and-peaceful front. But for one of those in-between trims or when the budget demands a choice between a hair cut and a new pair of shoes (and we know the shoes always will win), the beauty school was perfect.
When I worked at my college newspaper some 30 years ago, we were in an office above one of the school cafeterias. We had rickety typewriters and iffy lighting and most days had to steal chairs from other rooms down the hall. Today, my university has a whole new building dedicated to the communication arts. I think I’m jealous. In a good way. Because if the next generation of journalists is getting support, encouragement and quality training, then I feel better about the future of newspapers. Read more at my column today in the TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090206/ARTICLES/902060302