Tag Archives: biography

Graduate School, Part One

Once spring 1993 arrived I was a full-time student again commuting from Cape May to Glassboro.

The very first thing I ever taught was my adult classmates how to make an origami butterfly. Each of us was assigned/selected a topic. I spent a week or two (whatever amount of time we were provided) practicing in a bar. Each night after work (I was waiting tables at the time) we would go out for cocktails. I’d take a stack and practice. I then began teaching my friends how to make these. I then created a board with each step and successfully taught my peers. Pretty cool.

Olivet School
I took classes through the summer. My first in-classroom experience was at the Olivet School in Pittsgrove. I was teamed with another graduate student, Mike from Atlantic City. We we assigned to a first grade class. I really enjoyed the experience.

I recall teaching the students the number nine. We used a balloon on a stick to model. I also recall making a bulletin board with a tree. I have little artistic talent, but I was Renoir compared to Mike. His tree was dreadful.

Wood School
After leaving Pittsgrove, Mike and I headed over to the Wood School in Millville.

Johnstone School
My student teaching experience was in a third grade class at the Johnstone School in Vineland.

That summer I completed my thesis The Effects of Multimedia On Student Writing. Interestingly, I entered Glassboro State College, but was graduated from Rowan University.


Defeated, I found myself once again in my parents’ home in New Jersey. I had to admit to myself that my way hadn’t worked. But rather than beat myself up over all that had gone wrong, I have always felt proud of how I reacted. I decided to start making decisions that were in my best interests. Some never understood that for the previous few years, my decisions were being made with someone else in mind.

The first thing I came to terms with is that as much as I would enjoy going through the CIA, I had no desire to remain in the restaurant industry. That was an easy decision, what was not easy was determining what I would do instead.

I had at one time fancied myself a university professor of philosophy. I kept looking at PhD. programs. All required a foreign language. At 26 I had learned a little about myself by then and I knew picking up a language was not going to happen. My friend Steve had found his way to elementary teaching and he loved it. In addition, he mentioned how starved for male teachers schools were.

I began researching and there was a program at Glassboro that would be perfect for me. I was too late to enroll in the first year of the MST program, so I set my sights on spring of 1993 to enroll.

That meant I had nearly 18 months … what to do?

I worked and I learned computers. My folks were the local computer experts and I spent my days learning. At night I built systems with my father. During the day I learned software from my mother. It was the best of both worlds. I was on the RIME network and a couple others. This was pre-Internet, as we know it today.

Being an adult living with your folks is not ideal for anyone. I decided to head to Florida to live with my grandmother for a bit and work. I figured I could pocket a good deal of cash for graduate school.

I was wrong. 🙁 I worked at a seafood restaurant in Dunedin called Jesse’s Dockside. They were so overstaffed money was hard to make. On occasion there was a good payday, but not usually. I looked around and found a high-end placed named Bentley’s. I changed jobs. It was a mistake. While Bentley’s was an awesome place, it could not draw enough customers as it was so high priced. We did tableside service and I learned how to make Caesar salad from scratch, Bananas Foster, Baked Alaska, etc. Money flowed no better here. My grandmother had a stroke and it seemed prudent to get out of the way, so right after Christmas I returned to New Jersey.

Soon enough spring came and I became a student once again.


After college, my plans were not firm. I had a job managing the Mad Batter restaurant in my hometown of Cape May. I began commuting between Muhlenberg and home in the late winter of my senior year. I worked all summer. It was very much like any other year. But as the summer wore on, my parents began to ask what I was going to do come September. Work, I thought. It was their intention to have me move out.

As I pondered spending money to live in a town that I had never had to spend a dime on for board I realized that it was time to move on. I had stumbled into a relationship with a girl I knew from college. She was moving to Boston to attend Northeastern for graduate school and suggested I move in with her. It seemed serendipitous at the time.

Union Square
I drove all night late in September, my little car packed full. I recall arriving about 7:00 a.m. at my new abode. Instead of just my girlfriend, there was another girl I knew from college living there. Sigh …

Without a bed, I slept on an air mattress and searched for a job. Coming from a nouveau cuisine restaurant, I thought I’d walk into a high end restaurant. No dice. It wasn’t long before I recognized the reality of needing a job. I signed on as the manager of a Tony Roma’s restaurant in a suburb of the city.

Boston was off to a rough start: my living situation was less than ideal, I received two traffic tickets in my first two weeks, and we were robbed.

The restaurant was a franchise owned by John Battaglino. Minority shares of the restaurant were owned by Bobby Orr and KC Jones. We hosted many fundraisers for the Celtics and the Bruins. But it was difficult working here. The restaurant was not supposed to make money; it was a write-off for Battaglino and used as a liquor store for friends and family.

Oak Square
As the relationship with the girl I had moved to the city for failed, I found myself needing to find a new abode. At the same time, my friend Steve had returned from London and decided to move to Boston. We got an apartment together in Oak Square, about a mile down the road from where I was living.

This was absolutely the worst move of my life. Being so close, I figured I didn’t need to pack too securely. Bah! I recall driving down Cambridge Street with my mattresses on the roof (I had since purchased a bed) my hand holding them up so they wouldn’t fall off.

We had a nice apartment and entertained quite a bit. We rented our furniture and while it was expensive, it was nice stuff. It was while living here I began dating another girl from college. The only issue was that she lived in Bermuda.

I eventually left Roma’s to manage Hunter’s restaurant at 885 Boyleston Street in the heart of Boston. Hunter’s also owned the Pour House down the street. I came on as new management took over the joint. These folks were exiles from the Newbury Street TGI Fridays. This was the signature store at the time. I stayed here about four months before I returned to Roma’s.

Much of what was wrong with Roma’s had supposedly been corrected. I was asked to return and I did. That lasted several months before things changed again. This was the turn that eventually had JLB sell the franchise. Orr and Jones had left, along with all their trophies. I found myself without a job in the summer of ’89.

Papa Gino’s
Being out of work when you’re young is not quite as bad as when you’re older. I traveled to North Carolina to visit friends, took road trips to see Grateful Dead shows, and had a momentous journey to Montreal for the Amnesty International concert. During this time I worked under the table at a restaurant somewhere (Sudbury?) with Sara. That kept some cash flowing, but things were not great.

We moved in with Sara and Bill in a gorgeous condo in Chlemsford. The lease was up in January 1990. We all found an apartment in Watertown. It was a duplex. Nothing great but fine. It had a puke green rug in the living room. I was very hesitant renting this place. We pulled up the corner of the rug and found a beautiful hardwood floor beneath. We re-did that floor the week before we moved in. I have never worked harder in my life. The landlord was so grateful he treated us to a $100 dinner on the wharf.

I also sucked it up that I needed to work. I joined Papa Gino’s, swallowing my pride as I did so. It didn’t take a genius to see I had gone from a state-of-the-art restaurant to a glorified fast food joint in the span of a few years. I was not happy about it. The Polyester pants I had to wear were the icing on the cake.

Many plans were hatched during this time: move to London, move to Bermuda, get married, enter the CIA, etc. Push eventually came to shove and plans were cemented. I was going to leave Boston, enter the Culinary Institute of America, and then get married.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Sara and Bill got married, my fiancée moved back to Bermuda, and I moved to Burlington. The plans were still on, but looking back, it certainly seemed like the writing was on the wall. Right as I was finishing up in Boston in 1991, I traveled to Bermuda for Cup Match. During that two week stay we broke up. So I headed back to New Jersey broke, broken up, and contemplating being in the restaurant industry for the rest of my life. It is not what I what I had intended …

Muhlenberg College

23-06-02 Muhlenberg

I attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. I had many majors during my four years. Originally I was an accounting major. This was influenced by my sister’s degree. I changed this after my Intro to Accounting class. I earned As in the class, but I was bored silly. I could not imagine doing that for a living.

I was an Art major one semester so I could take a Three-Dimensional Design class that was only available to art majors. Those who know me understand just how silly this sounds. Our culminating project was to build a chair. I did well with that. The big project for me, however, was to build a cube (it was something like two-feet on all sides) out of wood. That was a big accomplishment for me. It even had beveled edges. Then we had to paint an image on two sides that would appear flat from 10 feet away. I upped the challenge, I ended up painting an image on three sides that appeared to be three-dimensional from 10 feet away. I was impressed. I knew what I wanted to do, but couldn’t figure out the math to get the lines drawn properly. I remember Steve Fox taking me down to the art studio on a Saturday afternoon and introducing me to the opaque projector. Within minutes I had what I spent weeks trying to decipher.

We used to purchase VHS players at Sears on a Saturday, reserve a viewing room, gather our friends and watch movies all weekend, and then return the VHS player on Monday. I know that’s how I fell in love with the Deer Hunter. I recall watching Kiss of the Spider Woman and Midnight Express too.

Lived with Larry Stein in a triple in East Dorm (C corridor) my Freshman year. We attended the World Series together. Dave Fredrickson joined us sometime during the second semester.

I recall being studious my Freshman year. I did not travel to Millersville for the warm-up show of the Yes tour. I had a test the following day. I recall it snowed badly that night and Larry and Rubes were run off the road somehow.

Craig, Fox, Matt Walton and I hung out a lot for three years. Our crew included Donna (until she transferred to Syracuse), Liz, Martha, Greg Keil, and Chris. I dated Dawn my Sophomore year. I dated Andrea my Freshman year.

I met Dana and Leslie the first day back from Christmas break my Junior year. They were in Fox’s room chatting when I entered. My mother had given me a pair of little boys’ shoelaces with my name and rockets on them. I put them in my boat shoes. From what I was told later, the girls used to refer to me as Bobby Rocket. I was smitten with Dana immediately.

Had a radio show on WMUH beginning my Sophomore year. That first show was Thursday mornings from 6-8, I believe. I dubbed it the Wednesday Morning Hangover Show. I played nothing with drums in it. By my senior year, I had a prime time show. We used to do a lot of really kewl things. I met a local guy who called into the show because he liked the deep cuts of Pink Floyd I played. He lived in his parents’ basement. He got me a lot of bootlegs I had never heard before. I remember being on the air during Hurrican Gloria when everyone left campus. I was on for many hours because no one came for their shifts. I played every song with rain and Gloria in it. I also remember drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort during that show. It may have been the last time I ever drank that.

East Fest was a blast. I do recall singing American Pie in public. Yeah, my inhibitions were down to do that.

Played lots of Ultimate Frisbee. There was the P-99 party. Yowza! Our run to Rutgers one night. Went camping at Blue Rocks. Loved that! Lots of concerts, including my first Grateful Dead shows.

Had season tickets to a couple of theatres during my time here. Was very into modern theatre.

Had huge troubles with my hearing. I recall calling my mother and telling her I was getting hearing aids. I had stopped going to two classes because I could not hear the professors. She stepped up and found me a specialist. I had to have a huge tube with a large flange inserted in a hospital. I was in so much pain the procedure stopped. The doctor asked me if I was allergic to cocaine. What? They poured liquid cokcaine into my ear to numb me. It worked!

Used to wear a feather earring. As Christmas approached one year, Mom called. She reminded me that Grandfather, a former naval captain, would be present. She didn’t tell me I had to get rid of the earring, but explained I would have to answer the questions as to why I wore one. That is when my earring came out. 🙂

I remember blackberry and root beer schnapps and an illegal slot machine in a night out in NYC.

Walked to a concert from my dorm room. Walked to another concert from school.

Larry dated Karen. She too had a Freshman roommate, Rosanna, who was from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. One night, I believe it was December, it began snowing pretty heavily. Being college, all the dorm rooms facing the quad opened their windows. Beach Boys music was blasted and everyone put on bathing suits and began playing in the snow. Rosanna had never seen snow before. I remember dragging her through the snow. She was so delighted.

East Dorm was the dorm to live in. On Labor Day each year, there was a huge party in the dorm. In PA, one cannot purchase alcohol on holidays. We loaded Craig’s 1978 Monte Carlo up with empties and headed for New Jersey. Rt. 22 was so backed up that we exited and looked for a back road. This was long before Google Maps. 😉 We finally decided we were going the wrong way and turned around in a church parking lot. As we did, Matt said that back home police look for people coming out of church parking lots. Sure enough, we were pulled over. Yes, four guys with cases of empties sure did look suspicious. After checking to ensure there were no drugs, the guy was most helpful. He directed us to how to get NJ to the nearest liquor store. Of course, doing this is illegal. 🙂

Drove somewhere in the Poconos with Craig. Going up the NE Extension, we came across a pretty girl. She pushed it to 100 mph. Craig kept up. Then he backed off. He put a piston through the block. $1200 damage. Yikes!

My parents gave me my graduation present early: a new car. I drove that all over my last sememster. Dana and I drove to the Meadowlands for a Grateful Dead show. There were a couple of others with us. I forget who. Right outside the gate, I got into an accident. It was my fault. Cop called it a no fault. I wasn’t going to argue. Didn’t get tickets to the show. Ended up driving to Connecticut for dinner in Bridgeport with Leslie (Leslie was always part of the plans, it seems). I remember I had a black and blue burger at wherever we dined. On the way home, tired and bothered by the accident, we pulled over to change drivers. At that point a cop came and hassled us. Seeing the tie-dyes he searched the car. Yeag, nothing. I explained we were doing the responsible thing.

I used to take the bus to Atlantic City with all the blue hairs. It cost $10. I received $15 in chips and a voucher for dinner. My parents would pick me up from there. It saved them a lengthy trip and I made a couple bucks.

Craig took that trip once. He just went to gamble for the weekend. He had been a bugger for a while. While he was gone, I found a spare set of keys and moved his car back to campus.

Blew off graduation to go to Maine and then Boston with Leslie and Dana. Thought that was the last time I would ever see Dana.

I had to pick up Butterscotch after the jaunt to Boston. On the way home I stopped at Tower Records to replace a borrowed CD that the cat had thrown up on. That turned out to be the first CD I ever owned. The air conditioning stopped working in my car. Butterscotch was so hot. I was poor and out of money. Went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s and pleaded for a cup of water for the cat. She lapped it all up.

Lived with Craig Cohen in East on G for the next two years.

I had a single in East on the third floor. I forget what letter it was.

In the end, I graduated as a double major: Business Administration and Philosophy.

I was an East Dorm Rat for all four years. Few students live in those hallowed halls for four years.

ZBT was the fraternity I pledged. I dropped out when I realized that after a year, all my friends would have graduated. This was an ongoing theme at the ‘Berg; all my friends were upperclassmen. I knew so few folks in my own class I spent graduation week (including graduation) in Maine and Boston.

During this time I attended my first Grateful Dead shows, had more surgery on my ears, and drove my first car (a Mazda 323).

St. Andrew’s School

St. Andrew's School

When I looked at St. Andrew’s School, everything was different. It was a splendid day and the sun glistened off the pond. The school was no more handicapped accessible than Lawrenceville, but the staff bent over backwards to make my father comfortable. The school was smaller, but had girls, and to this 14-year-old, that was something. The decision was left to me and I selected the lesser known school.

After all that it would be perfect to say how much I enjoyed it. Much like my childhood, it was much more appreciated after I left. It’s not that I didn’t like it when I was there, but I was a teenager struggling with my identity. Living at a school where my classmates flew in on their private Learjets, I think it’s safe to say I struggled with my identity. But who didn’t?

Seeing as soccer was the wrong sport at Wildwood Catholic, I opted to run cross country here. That was the wrong sport here and I was once again on the “loser” team. I played basketball and squash during the winters. I did not play a sport in the spring. My love of baseball was on hiatus for a few years.

I met three lifelong friends here. Bentley was a roommate for part of one year. He, Steve, and Andrew all spent summers in Cape May with me over the years. Steve and I lived together in Boston for a year and a half after college.