Monday, May 16, 2005

May 15, 2005
We got to Flag at 12:30 on Friday and picked up the graduate ("I've got one word for you: 'Plastics'") and went to a pre-grad party at Kendra's rental house. Her entire family was there complete with new baby. Several champagne toasts to the grads, several photo ops. Two people from Philadelphia said they recognized me from the History Channel.

Got to the Walkup Skydome at two, parked in a dorm lot and went in early to grab decent seats. At about three Carole and Bill Glenn showed up, then Brad, Carol, EJ and Cedes and finally Debbie, Kenny and Mother Radina, who we guided in off the freeway by cell phone. One of the more positive-phenoms of late is the honing in by cell phone. A guy comes out of the tunnel, leans over me and says, "I’m at the lower tunnel, Section H, where are you? Okay, white shirt? Raise your hand. Okay, got ya." Back in 1969 (when I should have graduated) this conversation would have sounded like this: "We waited for you for a half hour. We never did find a seat. Where the hell were you?"

The warm-up act were those Ko-pee-koo-aii dancers I saw two months ago. They had the jungle drums and the watusi-hippie dancer gyrations. Kind of groovy if you were on acid which we weren’t.

The grads came marching in at about 3:15. Way too slacker for me. Throwing stuff. Guys in cutoffs and flip-flops! Beach balls flying around. Stupid stuff written on their hats. Peace signs, crap like that. But I can't really complain because it was our generation that started all this in-your-face posturing. And now I see what we got for it. Kids who make us seem like choir boys.

I think there were 6,100 graduates spread over four ceremonies: two on Friday, two on Saturday. The Friday morning session got the governor of Arizona so I was glad I missed that (just kidding). Finally the NAU band cranked up the graduation march and Kathy hugged me and said, "Can you believe it, Thomas Charles is graduating?" I smiled and said, "I won’t believe it until I see the cap go in the air." And it was true. I kept expecting campus police to come into the concourse area at any moment with night sticks, surround Tomcat's chair and escort him out of the building.

For a good two hours we listened to those Wal-mart boat squawkers rip through the air. I never saw one, so I don’t even know what they look like but the sound is like a trumpeter on meth being goosed royally, over and over.

As the Masters degrees were being handed out a mail voice from behind us, boomed out, "Jake, I love you!" I leaned over to Kathy and whispered, "Over emotional dad, or gay lover?" When Kathy responded that she thought it was the latter, I asked why and she said, "Tenor."

Finally, we could see T-Charles approach the stage and everybody got excited. The latest speaker aid is to have the impending grad hand the announcer a sheet of paper with the appropriate name and how to pronounce it (one of the more clever ideas to come down the pike since my day when Coach Cook announced Alex Nish and handed a diploma to Katherine Lamb.) T. Bell handed the piece of paper to the announcer and we all stood and cheered. My son broke into a hook-em horns meets Metallica air-guitar hand stance, and stuck out his tongue like Gene Simmons. We all turned to each other and said, “What was the name he gave them? It didn’t sound like Thomas Charles Bell.” Later, at the $850 catered bar-b-que (Route 66 Catering) at Kiwanis Park, I finally cornered the grad and he admitted the name he handed them was, “Thomas Edison Bell.” Where are those campus police when you need them?

"There's more learning than is taught in books."
—Lady Gregory

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