e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


where were you when...

This could just as easily become a Facebook Note, but for some reason I feel compelled to do it here. Will the blog go away? Not yet. Maybe I need an exit strategy, a plan for the blog's final blaze of glory. Die young, leave a good-looking blog? Darby Crash had his five-year plan for The Germs. For years Michael Stipe talked about REM playing a 12/31/99 and then calling it quits (so much for that plan). Or maybe the blog keeps chugging like Mick Jagger. Who knows?

From Parts-n-Pieces comes this exercise. Describe what you were doing when...

1.) Challenger space shuttle explodes (1986): Sitting in sixth-grade science class, St. Anthony School, Youngstown, Ohio. The teachers roll a rickety tv into the big wood-paneled study hall and we watch footage.

2.) Berlin Wall falls down (1989): Tenth grade. I have no recollection except for days or weeks later reading the Time Magazine cover-story in the school library. The lyrics from the Sex Pistols' "Holiday in the Sun" are in my head.

3.) Oklahoma City federal building bombing (1995): Junior year, University of Detroit Mercy. I walk back to dorm after American Lit. Again, the communal tv experience, this time in Reno Hall's first-floor lounge.

4.) OJ Verdict (1995): A few months later, I meet with my supervisor, the Residence Hall Director (I was an R.A. at the time), who listens to the verdict on NPR during our meeting.

5.) Princess Diana dies (1997): I'm spending the summer working two jobs: research assistant in the YSU English Department, and night-shift sauna cleaner at the Youngstown YMCA. But this weekend, I'm at Nicole's house, visiting Detroit. We watch the news on the local Fox affiliate. Clearly the news had planned to lead with a puff piece about a hometown Aretha Franklin concert. They must change plans, resulting in this awkward segueway: "The Princess may be dead, but the Queen of Soul is alive and kicking right here in the motor city." Oh, that Fox news.

6.) Columbine massacre (1999): Los Altos Village apartment complex, Tucson. Working on a seminar paper for Theresa Enos's Classical Rhetoric course, University of Arizona.

7.) JFK Jr. Plane crash (1999): Also in Tucson at the time. Rich Hansberger and I are in my old blue pick-up truck, driving to a meeting at Ed White's house south of the city. I think we're on a committee revising the PhD program's core requirements. Rich and I talk about the Dead Kennedys and how their name seems all the more counter-cultural given the iconic representations of JFK Jr. already circulating in the press.

8.) Bush/Gore crazy election (2000): Various groups of campus radicals (Students Against Sweatshops, our grad student organizing group, etc.) hold a big rally on the mall. Grandma Red comes to Tucson for Thanksgiving. Gore gets ripped off. It's all a haze.

9.) September 11, (2001): Nicole and I are still asleep (we're on Tucson time). My mom calls around 6:30 a.m. We put on the tv. Nicole goes to work at the appellate courthouse amid ramped-up security. I go teach at UA (a couple sections of English 397). We get Thai food that night and talk about worries over anti-Arab violence, reports that the local Air Force base could be the next target. This seems like it happened decades ago, or maybe two days ago.

10.) Space ship Columbia disintegrates (2003): No memories whatsoever.

11.) Hurricane Katrina hits (2005): I'm in California for Hung's bachelor party. Via phone, Hung pleads with his parents (who live on eastside of New Orleans) to go stay with relatives in Baton Rouge. They finally relent. I take the red eye to Detroit. Anna picks me up at the airport and, exhausted, I sleep on her couch as the levies break. When I wake up, The Today Show is broadcasting images of the flooding.

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