Unpacked boxes lingered in a corner of my office/guest room from my move to Groton five years ago. This week, I decided the contents had aged sufficiently and that it was time to deal with them. Opening them took on the feel of an archaeological dig. Flourescent highlighters, dried. Mailing labels, yellowed and peeling from the sheet. Floppy computer disks. Guide to my health insurance, long expired. Dusty, curling printer paper.
Then, it started to get good.
I found more than 100 pages of “Goodnight Peter,” a novel in the works that I set aside when I got hooked on writing October Run. Next came a one-act play done for a class, complete with congratulatory notes from my teacher. Then I began peeling back layers of notebooks from other classes I had taken at Quinnipiac University. My time at Quinnipiac as an “adult” student finishing my undergraduate degree ended gloriously in a B.A summa cum laude. So astounded by the fact that I’d finally finished what I’d begun decades before, I allowed the actual work to slip off my horizon and into boxes.
I pulled out the tattered spiral-bound notebooks embossed with gold foil Qs. As a communications major, with a persuasive streak, I talked my way into a permissive curriculum. I picked courses like I shop for shoes: the best, the most interesting. I found the professors I liked and focused on their classes. The losers were put back on the shelf: the adjunct who taught from a PowerPoint with his back turned to the class; the philosophy professor who downgraded you for not regurgitating his handouts verbatim; and perhaps worst, the professor of Irish history who claimed that English subjugation had been “good for Irish culture.”
And the best? I found Mark Johnston, poet and crazy-creative, who has sadly passed away since my days at Q. He always held my attention and respect. He also wins the “best class kick-off by a professor.” One day he walked to the front of the room and broke into singing “Who Let the Dogs Out?”
Crystal Brian, all around good soul and biographer of Horton Foote, who agreed to supervise me for six credits of independent screenwriting. Our meetings were often accomplished on her personal time as she also juggled care of her young daughter.
Ray Foery, a French film scholar, was rigorous, erudite and charming. He’s definitely not the professor for everyone, but he was a favorite of mine. I snagged a spot in his Hitchcock senior symposium, when I was still officially a “junior.” I tolerated his spot quizzes because they forced me to watch film for details that I’d never considered in the past.
For three years, I worked a day job while I read and wrote, challenging myself and everyone who crossed my path. I set aside fiction in favor of exploration.
Some of the work, with delightful comments:
Apocalypse Now: metaphor for the Vietnam War – You write well and thoughtfully. Bravo!
The Banality of Evil: Hanna Arendt’s perceptive analysis– very much to the point of the question. Bravo!
The Uncommon Witches in John Updike’s Witches of Eastwick – Well Done
Poetry of W.B. Yeats: Fanatic and Crazy – Gracefully written and fundamentally accurate
Tattoo, a short screenplay – the best writing I’ve encountered in all my years at Quinnipiac
I reached the bottom of the boxes. Within minutes, they were on their way to recycling. The notebooks are now on my shelf with other reference materials, a reminder that being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference.