How I Got Hooked

Thirty years ago, one night spent
Huddled with a hushed TV
To soak up contraband excitement
Hooked me: Georgetown-UNC

As underclassmen, Mids were not
Allowed TVs in Bancroft Hall
So if the six of us got caught
It meant demerits for us all

Gastonia native Chris, a grad
Of Jordan’s rival high school back
In Carolina, said he had
To watch; we gathered on his rack

Eight points after zero hoops
On Ewing’s fourth straight goaltend call…
It still came down to Fred Brown’s oops
For Jordan, Worthy, Smith, et al.

Next year’s Wolfpack-Houston upset,
Georgetown’s win in ’84,
The ‘Nova game (not over that yet)…
Man, I love the Final Four!


Quarterflash is playing at the Elsinore this month.

The band from Portland, Oregon, in 1981
Released a “music video,” this thing they’d just begun
To feature on a television channel, “MTV,”
Which non-midshipman types had seen but which was new to me
The day an upperclassman from the Drum & Bugle Corps
At USNA used the VCR he’d borrowed for
(Ostensibly) the purpose of reviewing marching moves
To play a tape a friend of his had made, which only proves
That officers and gentlemen (by Act of Congress) still
Are teenagers or twenty-something college kids who thrill
As much as their contemporaries to the pounding beat
Of “modern” music: It’s the air they breathe, the food they eat.

Quarterflash is playing at the Elsinore this month.

In 1982 (or ’83) the band The Who
Performed a Farewell Tour [“They’re breaking up? No way!” “It’s true!”]
The radio lamented loud and long the band’s demise
And offered fans mementos in a contest where the prize
Was either Pete’s guitar, Entwistle’s bass, or Roger’s mic,
Or Kenney’s drumsticks (Keith Moon’s still the drummer that I like).
The tour played San Diego in a concert at The Murph
For which a ticket purchased standing room upon the turf
To elbow in amongst my generation and the one
That came before, in which The Who’s ascendance had begun.
As weed was passed from hand to hand (my friend and I declined)
The legends’ warm-up acts performed. The set list’s slipped my mind,
But just before the headliners John Cougar took the stage;
He must have played Jack and Diane, which then was all the rage
On local AM radio (I hated it back then
‘Cause every forty minutes, there’s that stupid song again!),
But when he sang I Need A Lover, I was flat amazed
And blown away. This Cougar kid was good! He left me dazed
(Or maybe that was just the pakalolo in the air).
The act preceding him on stage was barely even there
For all the notice they received from we, the teeming crowd:
All I recall of Quarterflash is they were pretty loud.

Quarterflash is playing at the Elsinore this month.

The Elsinore’s a movie house in Salem, Oregon,
Constructed in the ’20s before “talkies” had begun.
It drew its name from Hamlet: There, the Melancholy Dane
Was summoned to the ramparts to see dear, dead dad complain.
The lobby’s stained-glass windows feature scenes from Shakespeare’s plays
And patrons once were frightened by the witches’ wicked gaze
That pierced the pot’s miasma in the mural of Macbeth
On one high wall (since painted out, ’cause “kids were scared to death”).
The movie palace had descended into disrepair
By early 1993 on my first visit there.
A local restoration group had formed to lobby for
Official landmark status for the ancient Elsinore.
My wife and I attended Dollar Movie Nights, tag-team,
As one would stay home with our son (we worried that he’d scream
If something scary happened on the screen). When we felt bold,
We’d take our babe-in-arms along; while one of us consoled
Him quietly beneath the balcony of Juliet
(The mural opposite the witches’ cauldron; it’s there yet)
The other’d watch the movie; usually Iain slept
And we’d all sit together. Iain’s extra “i” had crept
Into his name, in fact, one night about two years before
When, in another theater, we’d just seen Elsinore
As setting for Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Are Dead (the movie). With a pregnant wife, you quickly learn
The place to be in summertime if your apartment’s hot
Is anyplace the air conditioning ensures she’s not.
For us the movie theater was quite the place to be,
And if my bride decides to watch the credits, cool by me!
The actor playing Hamlet was a guy named Iain Glen,
And we were struck by how he spelled it I-A-I, then N.
Three Ians in the family already…Look, we thought,
The ancient Scottish spelling gives our pending son a shot
At blazing his own trail amongst the elders in his clan…
And, anyhow, we’re parents now: We’ll do this ’cause we can!

Quarterflash is playing at the Elsinore this month.

Another year and our small clan expanded: We were four
When Kari, I and Iain went back to the Elsinore
To act the Scottish Play onstage. I played a lesser lord,
My wife and son were Clan Macduff, and, not to be ignored,
Our infant daughter, Siri, earned the rueful sobriquet
Of “Leatherlungs” for how she’d roar when she was tucked away
Inside a backstage “dressing room” (a closet, more or less)
While all of us were up onstage. In sooth, I must confess
That when Macbeth’s assassins put Macduff’s whole clan to death,
The tortured roar from Leatherlungs was sure to take your breath.
She wants to be an actress, now, and make it her career;
She’ll play the Elsinore one day and say, It started here.

Quarterflash is playing at the Elsinore this month.

The poster in the window cues these scenes of love and joy
All tied to Quarterflash…or am I thinking Loverboy?

Mind Like A Steel Sieve

Ironically, I still have perfect recall
Of the days when my mind was as quick as a squall
On the Chesapeake Bay. I’d blow in from the hall
At the Naval Academy, glance at the small
Printed list on the tackboard, and instantly all
The dynamic arcana displayed there would fall
Into place in my brain with a click, like the ball
In a game of roulette, just in time for “chow call”:


The data don’t race to my brain, now. They crawl
At the pace of a teenager strolling the mall
When there’s homework at home. They malinger, they stall
Like a cowardly anarchist dodging a brawl
With the jackbooted thugs of The Man, or the moll
Of a gangster who’s tired of playing the doll
Or a half-hearted hoplite advancing on Gaul
When he’d rather be working on Hadrian’s Wall.

Less auctioneer’s patter than slow southern drawl
New facts lollygag with a capital LOLL
And it’s odd: I can tell you that Timothy Spaal
Portrayed Lupu in Brecht’s The Life Story of Baal
(1978); or exactly how tall
Lew Alcindor’s (Kareem’s) mom and dad were; that bawl
Is derived from Old Norse; the correct protocol
Used for folding a flag. But your name? Is it…Paul?