Friday, March 21, 2014

Put Up Your Dukes

Now that the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is in full swing, I thought I'd share a few disconnected memories of my three years on the Duke campus.

When I arrived at Duke in the fall of 1982 I walked up to the ticket window at Cameron Indoor Stadium, slid $80 through the window, and walked away an all-sports pass for the full academic year.  Duke won only 8 basketball games that year, but I did get to see future stars like Michael Jordan (North Carolina).  Cameron Indoor was not filled to capacity.  As a sidebar . . . the Duke football team that year was superb and their quarterback, Ben Bennet, set the all-time NCAA passing record.  The team went to a bowl game.

My first year at Duke (tuition and housing) cost more than my entire degree (B.A. English) from Indiana State.

My years at Duke were a mixed blessing.  One the one hand I struggled emotionally because I could not write what I wanted to write (but instead was forced to write papers on such illustrious names as Zwingli, Anselm, and Julia of Norwich).  But Becky and I were married the summer before my final year, and having her with me in North Carolina was my saving grace.

We were poor. Becky lost her job during my final semester and at one point I was taking a full load of classes, serving as a full time chaplain, serving two congregations and working a campus job.  I've been keeping this same pace ever since and being poor that early on taught me how to survive on $5 a week.  I can still do it (have you priced Ramen noodles, lately?).

One of the happiest days of my life was the day following graduation (a Monday).  I found a ream of yellow paper, two ink pens, and sat on a blanket outside the apartment complex in a full May sun in my underwear and began writing what I wanted to write.  I have never relented, and thirty years later I'm at 30 books and counting . . . and have also published hundreds of essays, stories and poems.

While at Duke, I had a professor who wrote the following comment on one of my papers:  "You can't write!"  These three words set me afire (not in a negative way) and I made a commitment to myself that I would never again submit work that was below my own standards.  I still have that paper . . . and some day I hope to frame those words!

I have a piece of the floor (from Indianapolis) where Duke won their first NCAA championship--beating Kansas.   

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