Homecoming King

I’m going back to school.

I haven’t been back to Syracuse in something like ten years. It was circa “Out Of Your Head,” which should tell you something about how long ago it was. Eric Gilman, Paul Perreault, my brother, Chris, and I play were on a small tour through the Northeast. We had a show at some coffee shop downtown. We stayed at the University Sheraton, but didn’t really do much on campus. It felt really alien. And it was only a few years after I graduated. Of course, we were wicked stoned the whole time, so that might have had something to do with it.

Truth is, I always felt pretty alien at Syracuse. It was never really my first choice (that would have been Northwestern). The winters are horrendous. And it’s not much to look at: just a bunch of mis-matched building high atop of permanently gray city (large town, really).

I wanted to transfer pretty much immediately, but — in a flash of unexpected maturity — realized that wherever I went is where I’d be (existential, huh?). So I stayed, and made a home of it. I made some friends, formed the band, and smoked a lot of pot. It was fine.

And the classes were good. I was a dual major: creative writing and newspaper. I was enrolled in two different colleges: Arts & Sciences, and the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Truth is, I loved A&S, and pretty much-loathed Newhouse. I liked all the Big Idea classes. I liked discussing the intersection of dreams and contemporary fiction. I liked discussing The Clash’s impact on post-WWII British literature. I liked writing short stories and discussing them. Communications law? No thanks.

End of the day, though, Newhouse served me pretty well. It was vocational, true. In a way, it was the practical application of all the free thought I learned across the street at A&S. Either way, their career center helped me land my internship at Men’s Journal, and thus my freelance gig at Rolling Stone. So I wanted to pay ’em back in some small way.

So I’m flying up there after work tomorrow night. I’m teaching three classes Thursday (one of which, God help me, begins at 9:30), all of which could be characterized as MTV 101, or How I Got My Really Cool, Really Fun Job.

The whole thing began, as you might recall, with an email to my former dean. He wrote back, and hooked me up with some other contacts, and we worked something out. In short, I volunteered, primarily because I remember how clueless I was when I graduated, and how I could have benefited from some young(ish) dude giving me some kinda’ Real World 101 (no, not the show).

My ulterior motive, truth be told, is that I’ve always wanted to teach. In fact, one of my potential career paths way back when was to do graduate school, then teach. Oddly enough, two of my professors (my favorites: Bob Gates and Tobias Wolff) kind of warned me off the whole thing. That is, I was pretty reactionary against having a “corporate job,” so academia seemed like a good alternative. “If you don’t think there are bullshit politics in academia,” Professor Gates said, “Think again.”

I’m a little freaked out. I keep dreaming about being on stage without a guitar, if that tells you anything. I haven’t really done my homework. That is, I have some notes and outlines, but nothing like a lesson plan. We’ll see how it goes. It could just feel like I’m just a slightly older alien. Or it could feel like some sort of a homecoming.

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