Saturday, March 27, 2010


The draft of this post was written on the third floor of the Business Building at Phoenix College. My daughter had a quick assignment to do in the computer lab so I gave her a ride. (I figure that chauffeuring her around is amassing karma for me when she hits it big. That’s when, I told her recently, I want her to keep me in a lifestyle that I’d like to become accustomed to.)

As I don’t have a current student ID, I waited in the hall and within a few seconds of sitting at a curiously convenient table in the boring blonde linoleum floored hallway, I had to pull out my notebook and fountain pen. The flashback memories started hitting me in such rapid-fire succession that the only defense was my writer’s instincts.

24 or 25 years previously, I walked the halls of this particular building while taking math classes from a wonderful instructor. I was working down at the state capitol at the time and knew that I wanted more. This instructor, a high school teacher by day and a college instructor at night said he preferred teaching at the college because the students wanted to be there whereas in high school they had to be there. The college transformed his teaching. I don’t remember the math, but I sure remember him.

15 years ago, I took the same accounting course that my daughter is taking. There are some slight changes of course. They are using computer programs while we did spread sheets, but the principles are the same.

This particular building on the Phoenix College campus has a style that could only be found in a climate such as ours. The middle section has hallways open on one side to the outdoors while the two ends are completely enclosed as traditional buildings are. This provides a long section where tables, chairs, and desks are set up for shady study areas. It also brings pigeons. The pigeon cooing echoed through the inner hallway in a low haunting sound that made me snort with laughter when I realized what it was. (Remember the “Goodfeathers” from Animaniacs? Ha!)

I was laughing at the memory of that great cartoon when another flashback hit. This one stung. It was over 30 years ago. I was visiting my parents who had just moved to Phoenix. Dad retired from the Minnesota Highway Patrol after 25 years of service. Phoenix had been a dream destination of his for most of his life, but he had been tied to Minnesota by his career, his wife and kids, and his elderly parents. A particularly traumatic event in which a fellow officer was murdered on a routine traffic stop made Dad decide it was time to retire and make his dream a reality.

Long story short, he started his life over with Mom and my brother going along for the adventure. One of those adventures was going to college. Dad, a ham radio fanatic for many years, was naturally flowing into computers and there I was, sitting next to him in the same 3rd floor computer lab in the Business Building of Phoenix College while he worked on an assignment. He was learning DOS. Dad died in 2005 and I miss him.

Flashback to 10 years ago, I walked into a room on the ground floor of the Business Building and met Sue Meyn. The workshop was on a list of workshops to attend as part of the "Introduction to Creative Writing" taught by Jim Sallis. I felt so ungifted in his class regardless of his gentle urgings to keep at it. I had some incredible classmates whose writing made my jaw drop with their brilliance. But when I met Sue at her workshop on personal journaling, it solidified in my psyche. I received permission to write.

After most of this had been spread onto my notebook, I looked up to see my daughter. She had been standing in front of me for a few minutes, she said, waiting for me to finish. Being a writer herself, she has the ingrained instincts to know when something must be written. Thanks, Kid!