Category Archives: College

I Can’t Even…

As I enter the twilight of my junior college career–getting ready to embark on my final push towards my bachelor’s degree at an as yet undetermined university–I find myself paralyzed. Dumbstruck not by the variety of academic choices that lie in front of me, not by the awesome responsibility of choosing just HOW much debt I intent to incur over the next seven years (2 years BA, 5 yrs PhD program), and not by the use of the Oxford comma (see what I did there?).

No, indeed since November 8th of 2016 I’ve been awed…metaphorically frozen by the, and I use this word judiciously–“reality”–of just who has been sworn in as President of the United States. I guess, like any victim of trauma, I’ve used self-delusion as a defense mechanism. But tonight, while doing laundry during a break from studying The Iliad, I heard an NPR announcer say the phrase: “President Trump.” Obviously, I’ve heard this before, but for some reason, tonight, it hurt. It was surreal. A moment of panic set in and I literally wondered if I had either died, or was suffering from some form of parallel universe awareness. This simply can’t be…

Today, the director of the FBI stated, in no uncertain terms (Don, this means NOT fake news), that the administration of the sitting President of the United States is under criminal investigation for his alleged campaign ties to a foreign government. The Russians. As a child of the cold war, this chills me to the bone. But perhaps the most chilling “reality” is the seeming lethargy with which this news has been greeted by my fellow countrymen.

Let’s review: the republican nominee, and eventual electoral college victor, our now sitting President, is the subject of a criminal (read: treason) investigation for alleged collusion with the Russians to, among other things, affect the outcome of the presidential election.

I’m not going to parse this with anyone, nor do I intend to build a case against him. I believe the investigation alone speaks volumes.

What I do demand is an immediate, and serious examination of the evidence to begin articles of impeachment of this man, and, pending the outcome of the FBI’s (and hopefully a special prosecutor’s) investigation, a constitutional evaluation of the propriety of the last election by our Supreme Court. The buck has never stopped “here” with Trump and it’s pretty clear that the dysfunction has metastasized within his government. I’m calling for the Court, again pending satisfactory evidence of duplicity and criminal wrongdoing, to call for another election.

There is simply too much at stake to allow this narcissistic, impending indicted criminal to continue to govern. Consider the ACA and the wide-ranging effect Trump’s Federal Judge appointee’s can have on our country for decades to come. We can all see the writing on the wall here…let’s quit pussy-footing around the issue and stop calling this man our lawfully elected “President.” Bill Gates visited Trump today to discuss “the internet” today. I was outraged. It’s time for people of conscience to let the emperor know his fat ass is naked for all the world to see.  Government leaders and those in power need to stop entitling this man and his corrupt machine. Call a spade a damn spade.

“President Trump”…I can’t even.

 


How 2 Wheels Changed Everything…

BikeDad

Dec. 21, 2007 is my sobriety date. I haven’t found the need to ingest any alcohol or other mind altering chemicals since that date. I’d love to claim that this occurred because of a personal epiphany or that I was suddenly struck with an urge to get healthy, but that would not be the truth. The truth was, as I was sitting handcuffed in the back of a CHP car, I decided to change my life…enough was enough. I had somehow contracted the disease of alcoholism (funny how that happens…I thought everybody blacked out and drank as much and as long as I did), and as a result of my actions while drinking…I had picked up my second DUI the night I was fortunate enough to be in that CHP car (as opposed to the Coroners van).

The State of California decided I needed to be without a driver’s license for 365 days. Damn. That was inconvenient. I had a life then. How the hell am I going to get to work, pick up my kids…do life?

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The answer took the form of 2 wheels. For the next year, I did life on 2 wheels. Entertaining my kids, work, grocery shopping…life was done on 2 wheels.

In a million years, if you would have told me I’d be a cyclist now, at age 55…I would have genuinely laughed. And I did at the spandex laden freaks I saw on the side of the road. Until I became one…

As I spent that year on 2 wheels, something clicked inside me. Every single time I set forth…those first few pedal strokes invoked a sense of freedom and youth in me I hadn’t felt since I was a kid on my Schwinn. And that feeling remains today.

Last year, I rode over 3500 miles. On the bike pictured above, I’ve ridden 12,602 miles. And I’ve become a cycling addict. Every climb calls to me like another challenge awakened…every long ride instills in me a sense of accomplishment and…well…life.

I’ve lost 30 lbs cycling and for the first time in my life, all my lab work at my annual physical was normal…hypertension: gone…high blood sugar: gone…routine labs: normal.

So it was with this justification that I decided to spend some money on my health and my future. I bought a “real” road bike. A carbon fiber dream that I’d been coveting for a few years.

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I haven’t even taken it out on the road yet. It just didn’t seem right until I eulogized my 2007 Gary Fisher Mendota…

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The two wheels that got me to the market, got me to work, to my meetings, to my kids…the two wheels that helped keep me sober and helped me quit smoking–the two wheels that profoundly changed my life and my health. I didn’t see it coming. Sometimes the best things in life work that way.

I hate to part with you my friend. And although you’ll be my campus bike when I get into UCLA in 2017…you’ll no longer be my daily rider. My daily meditation. My daily savior on two wheels…

 

 


A Brief Detour to the Other Side of my Brain…

 

So the dearth of posts here recently can be explained by something other than my general lethargy or reticence to engage.

For the last year-and-a-half, my academic career (community college) has taken me from one side of my brain to the other.

I originally re-enrolled at the community college that I took my first class in 1979. Yes kids, you heard that right…1979. It was an Emergency Medical Technician class I took as a senior in high school. That class led to a 26 year career as a first responder (EMT, Paramedic, Fire Captain).

When life intervened in 1999 and my world turned upside down as the result of my step-son’s car accident…all the best laid plans I had flew out the door before I realized they were missing. Without rehashing the last two decades (artfully hidden elsewhere in this blog), in the spring of 2013 I decided that a degree in Addiction Studies would afford me a stable career in a field I believed deeply in.

Well, two things happened: when I began my coursework, I also found a job in the field and was quickly disillusioned at the profit-making nature of the business; but more importantly, while taking my basic coursework for the AS, I found a passion for learning again. Not to say that as I younger student that I craved knowledge (far from it), but I found that as an adult with some life experience under my belt, that what I was learning about politics, world history, literature, and mathematics simply enthralled me.

Yet again, I steered a course change and decided to obtain a BA in English at UCLA (other fantasy universities include Berkeley and Georgetown).

Based upon by GPA, I was accepted into my colleges Honors Transfer Program for UCLA, and for the past three semesters I’ve been slogging through Math and Spanish courses. I dreaded Math and looked forward to Spanish. Both expectations were misguided.

It turns out that in order to attain fluency in a language, immersion and more than three semesters of the language is required. So after 3 semesters I can read and conjugate verbs like a boss but am panic stricken if I actually have to form real sentences in my head. Still, I managed to get A’s all three semesters.

Math was the surprise. I have always suffered from profound math anxiety, and frankly was dreading these classes. What I found was a real “duh” moment. If you put in the work, study, ask questions, seek outside help, that math is actually pretty stimulating. Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in Logarithms where I was sure the nuclear anxiety would take me out, but I persisted on and moved onto Honors Statistics last semester; another class that 4 years ago I would never have even had the courage to attempt.  I’ve received A’s in all 3 math classes the last 3 semesters. No one is more shocked than me…

So here I am…finished with the core work to get into university and back to my true love…general knowledge. This semester is going to be very challenging as I have three Honors classes: Physical Anthropology, Cinema, and English (persuasive writing). It also means a boat-load of research papers and familiarity with MLA/APA that I haven’t used in the last year-and-a-half.

So, of course the panic has set in…but it’s a panic that has enabled me to maintain (fingers desperately crossed) a 4.0 GPA during my time here. I didn’t set out to do this by any means; it has simply been a by-product of my thirst for knowledge and has now become self-perpetuating.

Three more semesters to go and I’m hoping to report my entrance into UCLA (or CAL or Georgetown or, as my life seems to arc, somewhere else I haven’t planned) as a junior.

Until then, my brain has shifted back to the other side, the non-math/language side and I’m hoping to crank out some more Conversations with the Moon…

 


Skool Daze….

I’ve ruefully neglected this blog for the last several months.

I just finished 2.5 years at a community college (no really, I took my last final less than an hour ago) while in pursuit of a transfer to UCLA and the ever popular Bachelor of Arts in English.

To date (today), I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA. Um…pretty sure that ends this week when grades are released.

I’m 54 years young, work full-time and have been carrying just under a full-time schedule in school. This year, in order to satisfy the requirements of the Honors Transfer Program I’m in, I needed to take Elementary and Intermediate Algebra (all the basic Algebra leading into Stats, Calc, etc.) as well as Spanish I and II.

Two distinct languages to learn. Two VERY hard classes for me. Although I’m an English major, I triaged my time and concentrated primarily on Algebra. I’ve always suffered from major math anxiety, but through a ton of hard work, have actually learned to enjoy math this year.

Well right up until last Saturday when I had to take my final that would release me to UC level math (I need to take Honors Stats next Fall)…

Thank God I walked into that exam with a 96% because after the first problem, all the formulas in my head magically disappeared behind a veil of clinical panic.

I simply couldn’t remember simple formulas after I saw a problem I specifically decided NOT to study for…certain it wouldn’t be on the final.

I could go on and on about my anxiety and depression after the test, but suffice it to say I pulled my head out of my ass and put things in perspective.

What I did learn is my ego has carried my through this 4.0 journey and as with all things pride, I needed a knock upside the head. Time to quit relying on my ability to “see” the answer during these tests and actually put in more hard work than I have been willing to exert.

At the end of the day, if I do that, I will excel. If I don’t, I’ll continue to ride this tenuous GPA right into the ground.

So hello blog world. I’m back for at least the summer on a semi-regular basis to hone my writing and try desperately to forget logarithms and rational equations…

Goodbye 4.0…hello humility.


Mid-Term Malaise…or How I Found Courage in the Gallows of Boredom

No, this post isn’t about the midterm elections this week, although I do have a whopper brewing in my head vis-a-vis my utter disappointment with the incumbent president’s performance.

This is about the space I find myself currently in.

Sheer boredom. Malaise. Mind numbing…nothingness.

I’m just slightly halfway through my fall semester at college. I haven’t blogged in quite some time. I’m slogging through core class requirements as I muddle my way towards my final two years at UCLA.

I worked 88 hours the last two weeks while studying for two exams in my Spanish and Algebra class respectively.

I have no life.

I have no time to blog/write anything other than vapid responses into the lamest online Spanish software ever created. Software that the instructor admits is inferior and responds to our concerns with “it’s not my problem, it’s your problem”.

Welcome to junior college.

This sucks…

I had an extraordinarily rare day off today that I spent getting a flat fixed, driving to my old college to begin the academic renewal process for an “F” I received 29 years ago in a Poli Sci class; and riding my bike 20 miles. I then spent well over 5 hours grinding through my Spanish exam and homework.

And it hit me.

Courage isn’t what happens when you are facing an immediate threat. Courage is borne out of the little things.

The willingness to persist when giving up would be so much simpler; when you can find a hundred reasons to rationalize your decision.

Courage is faith. Being willing to put one foot in front of the other when you can’t see the finish line. When you’re not even entirely sure where that finish line is and what it will look like.

I walked into the middle of a physical altercation the other day outside my apartment. A fight was in progress and I was in the midst of it before I was even sure what it was. I responded forcefully and decisively and defused the situation. Not because I have courage, but because it was reflexive, muscle memory gained in a previous lifetime.

Courage is simply not giving up when you’re not entirely sure what the outcome will be. But you know you’re doing the right thing, despite the sheer pedestrian nature of the task. And the long hours. And the absence of a social life.

It’s a quality problem to have. As tough as this road is right now, I know how fortunate I am to be on this path.

So to all those erstwhile meek students out there, grinding out those core classes, quietly tolerating those professors who are phoning it in while they collect their checks…I salute you.

In your own redundant ways, you’re displaying a great deal of courage.


Selfies Are Tough With Tears in Your Eyes…

Sean Newport
A little over two years I birthed this blog while I was on leave from work after hip replacement surgery. My first and second posts concerned the reality that my first-born was off to college. She’s now a successful college junior in D.C. I made sure to memorialize our last moments together with a (sort of) selfie of her and I together. Actually, the man taking the picture was my son.

My son. The man that less than a half an hour ago I kissed and embraced very hard as I said goodbye to him. My youngest begins his collegiate journey tomorrow. I meant to take a selfie to continue the tradition but a couple of things happened.

At some point in the evening after our awesome “guys” dinner at a local steak house and our post-feast visit to Starbucks, I needed him to go. Not because I wanted him to go but because the reality was starting to set in. And so were the tears. And the lump in my throat that is still present.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t about me at all…it is. The empty nest just showed up at my door and for the first time in my life, I have no genetic family within driving distance. But it’s so much more…

It’s the sadness of physically parting with my best friend. My son. My little guy who is now bigger than me.

It’s the joy of and excitement shared of watching him embark on what I am absolutely certain will be a wonderful experience at a Division I school and the promise of a bright future as he studies Biology and Pre-Med.

It’s the sadness of seeing the sands of time fall in front of my eyes. Each grain hitting the sand pile like a hammer on marble. It was acutely present tonight.

It’s the joy of accomplishment. My son and daughter are each talented and unique individuals who have set off on their own paths with enthusiasm and discipline. Four eyes on the prize for sure…

It’s the sadness of loss. Of saying goodbye to a man that means more to me than I could ever express in words. To a young man that carries my hopes and dreams for him along with his own.

So…any selfie I took tonight would have been smeared through the eyes of a proud father…

I miss you already buddy. Vaya con dios my son…


How I Spent My Summer Vacation…

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My fourth semester of the “Return to College Tour” starts tomorrow so I thought I’d share a few thoughts regarding the last few months.

When I finished the last semester I posted a blog stating I would use this summer break from school to hone my craft…blog-wise.

Ok, so that didn’t happen. What happened was that I realized life happens. And when life happens, I tend to get sucked into the vortex of drama that daily life can be.  To whit:

I moved back to the City of Los Angeles for the first time in 35 years.

I transferred jobs…to a more high-stress, high-return sales environment. So far so good. The challenge being to not get swept up in the upward shift in income as I will again need to downsize in 2017 when I enroll at UCLA.

And as always, people can be counted on to do the wrong thing. I’m currently mired in a landlord-tenant dispute with my old landlord (I’ll spare you the details, suffice it to say they are sticking me to the tune of several hundred dollars despite the oral assurances of their representative)…so yeah, that’s pretty fun.

And oh yeah, when I moved, as I was pulling in front of my new apartment complex, my nice shiny Penske rental truck saw fit to take the front bumper off a parked car. More fun.

At the end of the day though, I’m loving life. Although the next three semesters of school are core classes for the transfer to UCLA and have nothing to do with writing, I suspect the discipline needed to maintain my GPA will lend itself to actually doing some creative writing, aka my blog. We shall see…

Finally, I’m frankly staying as busy as I can to avoid the sense of impending doom I’m experiencing with the loss of my youngest child to the University of Oregon. My new Duck is also my best friend (he’s the handsome one in the photo above) and I am really sad that I won’t be able to see him as much as I do now. Of course, this is tempered by my immense sense of pride and love I have for him. I am incredibly excited to watch his journey, just as I have marveled at the journey of my now college-junior daughter on the east coast. But there is a special bond between father and son and I’m already hurting…the good kind.

So, much like every other chapter of my life, my best laid plans got waylaid. Life got in the way.

And it’s a good life.

*Note to self: quit making plans. Just do the footwork and let the results take care of themselves…

 


Coming Up for Air

Phew. That was tough. Tougher than I thought.

I work full-time and go to community college carrying just under a full-time unit load. I’m currently in the Honors Transfer Program with an eye towards enrolling at UCLA in the Fall of 2017 as an English Major (an admission I realize is suicide on a blog).

The Spring Semester ended yesterday and I got my ass handed to me. It wasn’t unmanageable but it seriously kicked my butt. 9 units, three core UC/CSU classes.

Poli Sci was the easiest of the three. I’ve been a political wonk/news junkie my entire life so a lot of the material was intuitive. Pretty sure I aced this class. The irony here is that in a former life I was a radio reporter and interviewed my professor 35 years ago when he sat on the local Board of Supervisors. Pretty sure this guy is at least 83 and still pretty darn sharp. Very inspiring.

Intro to Western Civilization was brutal but ultimately, fascinating. I had no idea I would have an interest in Ancient Civilizations, but now I’m hooked. That the teacher was rated on RateMyProfessor.com as one of the hardest history profs was something that eluded me prior to enrolling. She was extremely difficult. Her tests (minus the Final) were all essay. She required a 10 page research paper with 3 original sources. Suffice it to say Rate My Professor is now my first stop before I enroll. I did learn quite a bit in her class but ultimately was frustrated by her lectures. They were schizophrenic and didn’t seem to follow any form of structure that I (or my classmate) could discern. But at the end of the day, she had a passion for history and knew the material. I got an A.

Finally (and here’s the tricky part as this professor follows this blog and I’ve yet to receive my grade), despite the fact that I didn’t use Rate My Professor the last two semesters, I’ve scored big-time in my choice of instructors. My English 101 professor was fantastic and superb at the art of creating cogent research papers.

But this semester, serendipity caught up with me in my choice of English 102 instructors. Dr. Gino Pellegrini received his doctorate in English Lit from Purdue and specializes in multicultural studies. He is brilliant and personally inspiring. He is “that” teacher. The inspirational one. I have had only one other; Mrs. Doi in high school developed a love for English in me that continues today. Dr. Pellegrini nurtured that. His teaching style was engaging and the 3 hour class flew by. And did I mention he was incredibly hard? Early on in the semester I had a come-to-Jesus moment where I realized I was in way over my head and had no business being in his class…I was caught for the fraud that I am. But I persisted and worked hard. He made us write our asses off in class. Although I despised the handwriting, I loved the pressure, the immediacy of collating ideas and doing my best to make sense of them. It was a lot like blogging. For his final, he required a rewritten portfolio of our work and a research paper on an author. I chose my literary inspiration, John le Carre and had a literal blast writing it. I know he’s considered a genre writer, but I hope my paper changed that image. The Final was a 3+ page hand-written essay on Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I had prepared an outline in my head prior and felt pretty good about what I wrote. What I didn’t expect was the emotion that welled up within me as I wrote the paper. This is an extremely bleak work and as I wrote I suffered for the characters. It was emotionally draining. When was the last time your professor pulled that out of you?

Dr. Pellegrini demanded the best of me and I can’t thank him enough. I needed that. It has given me the inspiration I need to continue on the path I’m on and face even greater literary challenges.

You can check out his blog here.

So for better or worse, I have more time to blog. And I intend to, as the next 3 semesters will be void of any English classes. Maybe it’s time to get rolling on my novel too.

Either way…I hope you all had “that” teacher that inspired you. I’ve been lucky enough to have two in my life…

 

 


There is a Time for Censorship…

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This was too close to home. Both literally and figuratively.

The murders at UCSB were committed by a deranged man that went to High School next door to mine. His crime was committed in the campus community of a university that is well known to our area. One of the victims was from one of our local high schools.

Most chillingly for me however, the Facebook post of the older brother of my son’s best friends, and a friend of mine: “IV deli got shot up. People taking cover in Blaze. Stay inside and stay away.”

My friend was working at Blaze (a well-known Pizza place on the loop) when he heard the gunshots and saw the terrified bystanders take cover in his place of business.

I’ve had enough.

We’ve dissected Sandy Hook. We’ve examined the effects of the Reagan era mental health funding cuts.

We’ve talked gun control ad nauseum.

Now misogyny is being introduced into the debate of yet another tragic mass murder.

When. Does. It. Stop?

Here’s a humble suggestion: STOP publishing the names, details, videos, manifesto’s, and psychotic rants of these killers.

STOP IT NOW.

My son asked if I watched this clown’s YouTube video. Of course I didn’t. Why in the hell would I want to watch the pathetic lamentations of a killer. Apparently I’m in the minority though.

If the media would self-censor everything but the basic details of the killers (ie. age, location, occupation) perhaps these individuals wouldn’t develop such a sense of final self-aggrandizement.

They KNOW they are going down in a blaze of glory. Their pathetic lives will be celebrated by the TMZ’s of the world. Their meaningless existences will be broadcast and examined by every voyeuristic media outlet.

They will be famous. Their lives will finally have meaning.

Stop it. Just stop.

Let’s celebrate the lives of the victims. The innocent lives snuffed out by this nameless/faceless madman or woman.

Let’s not give these losers any more type, air-time, exposure.

Let’s leave them under the rock.

If we do this, maybe they won’t crawl out into the pale light any longer.

I’m not looking.

I encourage each and every one of you to do the same.


Seeking Meaning at the Tip of a Spear

One of the most fascinating byproducts of my return to college is studying history. I’m currently enrolled in a class named Introduction to Western Civilizations. The course begins with the Ancient Babylonians and Sumerians and the wonder of the Fertile Crescent. Yesterday we were introduced to Henry VIII. I recently finished our semester project, an exhaustive research paper that was to be heavily sourced and presented to an instructor quite familiar with the material. This was one I couldn’t fudge. I trudged through and received a much better grade than I had expected.

The subject of my paper was Alexander the Great and his impact on current military strategy and tactics.

We have been exposed to a wealth of material about wars through the ages. Prior to the Common Era, or the existence of Christ and the acceptance of monotheism, most, if not all of the conflicts revolved around land or access to natural resources.

But the common theme of warfare since the emergence of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, et al, has been the persecution of those individuals whose views did not comport with their own. In other words, if you don’t worship my idol, the value of your life is nothing and you have become a threat to my belief system. Therefore, I will kill you.

Clearly outrageous behavior back in those dark days before science enlightened us and allowed us to think critically and resolve many of the mysteries that were deified in ancient times.

I truly believe that deep within each man and woman, there is an unexplained (as of yet) hunger for meaning in our lives. Why are we here? What is our purpose? Compelling questions that have endured through the ages…along with the accompanying fear that if thy neighbor doesn’t share our conception of our god, it’s okay, if not encouraged…to kill them.

I am a spiritual man. I am not an atheist. I pray daily. I pray to an unseen spirit or energy. I don’t know what form my God takes. I deeply respect the freedom all mankind shares in worshiping whatever God they choose. I do not respect their ancient need to kill each other over these beliefs.

The inherent value of studying history is that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors.

For those of you who hold a certainty about the form and existence of your God, I applaud you. I also ask that you put the spear down and let the rest of us worship our own God.

After all, don’t you think that’s the answer to the question: WWJD?

 


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