My best friend from back on Northland Avenue, Lakewood Ohio, posted these photos from back in the early 60’s, when I was probably around 11 years old. ‘Amazing to see it all – it seems so long ago.
‘and today (via StreetView)
In 1974, I became Program Director at the The Music Station, WRVU 91.1 FM. The ‘Werve was a 300-watt powerhouse of a college radio station, and I did afternoon drive as ‘Dashing’ Dave Roberts. It was a lot of fun and a great community to be part of, I seriously considered a career in Media before heading off to graduate school to study engineering instead.
The station is long gone, reduced to internet streaming and the broadcast frequency sold off. But a minor storm burst on Facebook today when a YouTube audio track was posted by the PAMS company, who did all of our radio jingles, featuring me as the DJ. A surprising number of friends recognized me (the hair or the smile?)
I remember going to Dallas to cut the package: the producer took us to lunch, then into the studio where a group of singers belted out our clips. They’d do a segment, then turn and ask me how it sounded. Can they hit the ‘W’ a bit harder? “Hit the W’ said my producer, the tech miked in the command, the conductor talked to the singers, they hit the W. Very fun and impressive for a 20-year old.
It also gave me my first experience managing, where I learned the importance of Lucy Kelllaway’s basic principles: “Make sure that everyone has a proper job to do. Pays everyone fairly. Make employees feel that their efforts are recognised. Gives folks nice people to work with.”
‘Makes me want to dig out the old airchecks (if the oxide hasn’t fallen off the tape backing).
I had traveled to Chicago to start clinical trials of our new device prototype (which worked fabulously, happily) and managed to hit a (rare) sunny weekend as well. Easter holidays kept the roads clear and prices low, giving a good choice of places to stay, eat, and relax.
And, since it was my birthday as well, we could indulge.
One of the things I miss whilst in Europe is heart-of-America roadside food. Pizza (Bill’s Pizza and Pub), Vienna Beef Sausages (Poor Boy on Maywood), Rack ‘o Ribs (Famous Dave’s): this sort of thing just doesn’t happen across the pond. I stayed with smaller portions and took a doggie bag from each place, but it’s more food than I’m used to eating and I expect a week-long fast in penance upon returning to the Netherlands.
At this rate, I won’t make 59 (the “rich and sassy’ part appeals, though…)
On my birthday (Easter Sunday), we drove past two homes where I grew up, remarkably unchanged over the years. Each had a small addition; all of the houses still looked much smaller than I remember (and it’s not just that I was much smaller back then – these are teen-age years).
Brookfield Zoo is the major animal park in Chicago, one of the first to put animals in natural settings instead of cages, organizing by themes instead of species. It’s got a wonderful collection of bears and bison; amazing to watch the seals and walrus’s swim behind the glass (who knew that their tails did that?).
The giraffes, aardvarks, apes, and wolves were especially good.
It’s a smile to see the relentless branding of each exhibit, each animal with someone’s name as sponsor (I remember one particularly horrible nocturnal rodent in Milwaukee with a plaque saying This exhibit is in memory of *** from his friends).
The elephant house is being refurbished, so the megafauna are scarce, and many animals seem a bit stressed to be seeing people again (the polar bear was pacing ten left, ten right, looking especially troubled).
But the flowers and birds were out, the fountains playing, a nice breeze blowing the children’s laughter across the greens. Just a nice afternoon to stroll and enjoy life’s time together,
The school was impersonal and indifferent; long winters along the windy lakefront were brutal. The professors were excellent and the facilities were superb, but the program had huge gaps in my interest areas. I’m a signals guy and the only signals professor was a tenured EE whose passion was asserting that the Holocaust never happened.
It made the path to a degree uncertain. Where European schools are focused on doing three year’s time and publishing a small collection of papers, our American programs were all about persevering until you’d done enough and wanted out badly enough. Only when a student said “I’ve had it, I’m leaving”, would they get permission to write and defend their dissertation. Our unofficial mascot was Theodore Streleski, the Stanford mathematics graduate student who bludgeoned his advisor to death with a hammer after failing to earn his doctorate.
It’s strange to return to those halls. Our department was at the northwest corner of tech, overlooking the lake (now overlooking recreational sports facilities). The stairs with red standpipes, the bulky brick walls, the open ceiling full of pipes, wires, and florescent lighting, all were unchanged. The visual processing laboratory, where I teased out the relationship between brain and vision, was still there; a few familiar faculty names dotted the abstracts along the walls. An office sign revealed that a former post-doc was now a full professor. Graduate student spaces had moved from heavy wooden desks to cloth and metal cubicles.
The department office was modern; Gwen, our assistant, was long gone. The same job openings and occupational warnings filled the bulletin board outside. There was a plaque announcing participation in the Biomedical Education Consortium: it’s eerie how many of those institutions were also waypoints for me over the years. Maybe it’s inevitable within a small field.
Outside, the open spaces, once grass or parking lots, had all been filled in with massive buildings. The observatory and computer center were gone (quaint, now, to remember going to a Center to do my computing). Academic halls of Molecular Therapeutics and Diagnostics or Executive Education fill old roadways and footpaths. It all appears to have grown and connected,like the images of colonizing biofilms that we’re preventing in CamStent.
The cafeteria has gone commercial; the bookstore virtual. The only sign of political awareness is for student activity board president. The library is busy (for how much longer); a new sculpture garden fills the old summer-stick theater space. And more buildings- theater, music, art, all named after benefactors and their parents in bold signage. It looks like the blond brick and sandstone of Cambridge from some angles.
I spent a few hours touring around the campus, remembering places, people, events. The building where I took a mime class, the paths where I walked on dates, the professor’s house where a mentor reminded me that ideas always have to come before tools. A lot of the old feel of an academic grove, thoughtful and contemplative, is long gone. It feels like the buildings shelter and separate departments rather than bring them together for collaboration and fertilization.
It gave me a good launch in life, strong friendships and credentials for the succeeding 30 years. But it feels like a touchstone, not a home: still someplace I’m glad to have moved on from.
I’m visiting Chicago this week, placing our device prototype into surgery at Evanston Hospital. The facility is four blocks from Northwestern University where I earned my Masters (1979) and PhD (1982) in the department of Biomedical Engineering.
A long time ago, indeed. But six years of my life, the same that I’ve been expat.
I wrote a couple of days ago about the tidy red brick row houses in Dutch villages. Evanston also builds with red brick, but each to their own lot; same two or three stories, but with much larger trees. It’s a style the British call detached, but in America that probably describes the social distance between neighbors more than the physical gap between their homes.
The wide streets are a notable change from Dutch villages, al is the profusion of huge, flowering trees, white and pink against the blue sky. Spring is a bit more advanced in the Midwest, with bright green shoots luminous in the sun (very Hockney-esque). The play of light and shadow along gardens and brick, was beautiful.
The other contrast was the silent emptiness of it all: no cars, bikes, pedestrians. It was silent except for the birds: no pedestrians, no children, no shoppers. It’s such a contrast to the constant hum of Maastricht.
I angled off along to the lakefront north of campus, the lighthouse and art center was still there, along with the stately homes that I used to think that I might move into some day. The waters were whitecapped and turgid green, flags snapping in the cold northerly wind. The edge of the campus was much as I remembered, the same gothic-letter signs, the industrial bulk of the Tech Institute, the orphan and emerging departments sequestered in neighborhood houses around the main campus.
Funny…the details that I forget after being away 30 years that are nonetheless absolutely familiar once I see them again. It restores me faith that there is an objective reality that endures irrespective of what we think about it.