Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

The grand tree

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Don’t know about you, but Robroy was getting all geared up for the Baltimore Grand Prix on the streets of downtown come Labor Day.  I loved the idea of cars blasting past my office windows at the speed of fighter jets.  I thought it would be fun looking down from the heights of the Bromo Seltzer Tower like a kid kneeling over a toy racetrack and shouting, “Cool!”

But no great thrill comes without a great moral dilemma.  In this case, what to do about the trees along the race route?  Cut them down?  These are beautiful, mature trees we’re talking about here.  Some of them are personal friends of mine.  But are they worth preserving if they block the grandstands and the chance to inject $250M into downtown’s businesses?

A spokesperson for the city’s landscape architecture firm was reported to say that the trees along the race route would be “uprooted, temporarily moved to other locations and then replanted in their original location.”  He said this effort would be repeated each year of the five-year commitment to the Grand Prix.

I liked it.  I have always said that trees don’t get enough exercise.  So I go for a stroll down Pratt Street to see my friends off, and what do I find?

Stumps.  Shorn-off tree stumps.

Ah, Baltimore.  The human race.  How can we win if we cut off our roots?

Your turn.  What do you stand to lose or gain from the Grand Prix?  Leave a comment below.

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A portrait of the writer as a young man

Friday, July 8th, 2011

At the Marketing Excellence Awards dinner last month, I met a rising senior from a local university who reminded me of me.  I’ll call him Ernie.

Ernie has no clue what he wants to do when he graduates. I asked what he’s passionate about, and he said writing short stories and falling in love. I asked why.

“To me, falling in love is like writing in dreams,” he said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so true. Then you wake up, and it’s gone forever. And you realize you never really had it.”

I was impressed. When I was his age, I could not even have come to an event like this, due to the fact that my only tie still had ketchup on it from the last Valentine’s Day.

“Kid,” I said, “you should be a copywriter.”

“No way,” he said. “I only write from the heart.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Stay true to what you know. There’s no reason to give that up, ever. Keep writing from the heart, no matter what you’re writing.”

He said, “Right,” and looked away, bored.

Exactly as I would have done.

What about you?  What advice would you give a young person who reminded you of you?  Leave a comment below.

(And while you’re here, have another Robroy.)

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Good humor

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Robroy has not always been the steely eyed card shark you see standing before you today.

At 23, I was about as far from that as you can get.  Emotional, insecure and a lousy liar, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be okay in life.  This was back in Chicago.  I was teaching creative writing by day while earning my MFA by night.  At the same time I was trying to fit in with a talented group of very funny writers and actors I’d met at Columbia College.

One night, they invited me to a game of Texas Hold’em.  The five players were:

  • Tom Bell, future writer for “Storm Chasers”
  • Dino Stamatopoulos, future writer for Conan O’Brien
  • Andy Dick, future actor on “NewsRadio”
  • Mike Stoyanov, future actor on “Blossom”
  • And me.

The pressure was on.  Tom dealt, and we all peeked at our cards.  While the guys frowned around their cigars and squinted at the board, I tried to follow suit, so to speak.  Tom glanced at me.  “Your action, sir.”  I was up.

“Raise!” I said.  Everyone stared at me.  Play stopped.

“Does that mean you want to, like, raise?” Andy said.  Dino giggled.

“Oh.”  I put in three white chips, blushing.

Mike looked at me from under his green visor.  I could feel him trying to size me up.  “Let me ask you something, Rob,” he said.  “Are you a poker man?”

“Heck, no,” I said.  “I’m an ice cream man.”

What that means, I don’t know, but everyone laughed.  So I was okay.

Read ’em and weep, gentlemen!

(Read my column, “Working Life,” in the Baltimore Business Journal)

· Andy Dick, future actor on the TV show “NewsRadio”

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Dumb question

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Whoever said, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question,” didn’t know Robroy.

In a cavernous lecture hall for Biology 101 — the first class of my freshman year at University of Illinois — I sat with Mike Hoffman from high school and around 400 strangers.  The professor, a widely acclaimed scientist, according to Mike, was wrapping up his opening remarks by encouraging our participation because, as he said, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Always one to test this theory, Robroy raised his hand.  The prof nodded.  Mike cringed as I called out, “Do frogs have bones?”

It was supposed to be funny.  I always thought I could catch a teacher on that one.  I envisioned him rubbing his chin and saying, “You know what?  I’ll be damned.  In all my years, that’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”  He could get a laugh, improving the lecture, and I could spread my mayhem.  Win-win.

Unfortunately, the professor took me seriously.  “Oh, yes.  Frogs have many bones,” he said.  “Now, please turn to the syllabus.”

I sat there with the smile drying off my face while everyone turned to the syllabus.

At first, I felt foolish.  Then a wave of embarrassment, deepening to shame.  Ug, my ego, my horrible ego!  It was costing me an education.  Had I accepted his authority, and my own anonymity, had I insisted on the natural order of things, and not my own agenda, I could have asked so many better questions: Will I ever be loved?  Do I even belong here?  What am I supposed to do with my life?

So that’s what I learned.  Any questions?

(please comment below)

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Robroy says goodbye

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The worst part of moving away at age 8 was saying goodbye to Patricia Wood.

It was a Saturday morning in Englishtown, New Jersey, about one hour before we left forever for Illinois.  Patricia was hugging me goodbye.  Her mom had errands to run; we would be gone by the time they got back.

My bike had not yet been packed.  I grabbed it as they got into their car.  Riding behind them, I could see Patricia’s round face in the back window.  I had the unbelievably painful urge to impress her one last time, so much that she’d never forget me.

Now, in our neighborhood, in the 70s, the curbs were not cut for wheelchair access.  To get from the street onto the sidewalk on your bike, you had to stop, lift your front wheel, roll forward, lift your back wheel, roll forward, and get on.  Unless you were excellent.  In that case you simply jumped the curb, and kept on going.  As for Robroy, earlier that very morning, for the very first time, I had become excellent.  Patricia did not know that yet.

Her face was getting smaller.  It was now or never.  Do or die.  At top speed, I hit the curb.


The last she ever saw of me was flying head-first over the handlebars and onto the sidewalk.  I smacked the ground and rolled over with the bike crashing down on top of me.

By the time I looked up, she was gone.

The memory comes back to me now.  Robroy is moving again.  No big deal this time.  It’s just the blog that’s moving.  We’re saying goodbye to WordPress and saying hello to our own domain,  That’s all.

But deep down, I’m nervous.  I worry.  What if I leave my readers behind?  What if I try too hard to impress them, and end up making a gigantic fool of myself?  What if they get home and find no Robroy, only a ghost town, a wasteland of words?

I’ll be honest.  I don’t want to lose another friend.  Too painful on the knees.

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Thanksgiving blues

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

This Thanksgiving, Robroy (f/k/a Campus Scout) is especially thankful for my wonderful readers from the University of Illinois who are still with me after all these years.  To show my appreciation, I thought you might enjoy a flashback to the emotional experience of being a freshman and going home for the holidays for the first time.

Here’s an excerpt from Campus Scout’s “Thanksgiving Blues,” courtesy of the Daily Illini newspaper, November 25, 1987:

Do Scout a favor this weekend when you go home.  Try this experiment.

After sitting and chatting with the family, excuse yourself to go take a shower.  Halfway into the shower, pick up a bottle of shampoo and drop it at your feet.


Listen.  Within seconds, someone will come running to see if you broke open your crazy head.

Someone still cares about you, even now that you’re a grown up, mature college kid.

So have a good Thanksgiving, paleface.

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Beautiful Franny

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

My grandmother, Frances Rockwell Vining, who made it to 100, died on Wednesday. My mom and dad were with her. Though she suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years and didn’t recognize us, Grandma was at peace with her decline, warmly smiling and saying, “Thank you, sweet heart,” to the very end.

“Thank you, sweet heart” was Grandma’s calling card. She always went out of her way to make everyone else feel special.  That’s how I felt when I visited them in Western Mass, a few weeks after college graduation. I remember, she brought out some old photos I’d never seen. One nearly made my heart stop.

It was a girl – maybe 18. She was small and fair-haired and breath-takingly beautiful. Even in black-and-white you could see she had pale blue eyes that brimmed over high cheekbones and a laughing red mouth.  She was all dimples and creases, strawberries and cream. I’ve noticed that most people are attracted to faces opposite theirs. For me, it had always been girls with dark hair and dark eyes that turned my head and stole my heart. The girl in the picture looked nothing like that. Strange as it is to admit, she looked almost like … me.

“Who is this?” I demanded.

“That’s me,” Grandmother said, startled, gripping the shoebox on her lap.

“That was you?”

“That is me!”

I know I looked stunned. I had to look stunned. The face in the picture was excruciatingly cute. Looking at her now, it was as if age wore a rubber mask. Yet I could still see the bright eyes behind the cheekbones curving up, a flash of the joyful smile.  I blurted, “Grandma! You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen!”

She took the picture and slipped it back under the shoebox lid, blushing to the roots of her silver curls. “Thank you, sweet heart,” she said softly, shaking her head as if to deny the obvious truth.

Thank you, Grandma.

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Why I un-friended Anderson Cooper

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Talented, articulate, relentless, Anderson Cooper seems to have his heart in the right place.  But his face is in the wrong place.  As the front man of CNN, he is the king of the old media, the grand-daddy of all fear-mongers.  And so I decided to leave him.

Because that’s what old media channels do.  Generate fear.  Think of the City of Los Angeles – what comes to mind?  Smoke pouring out of shattered storefronts.  People rioting in the streets.  Old media channels give us the memory of despair and the expectation of pain.

Versus new media (FB, Twitter, MySpace, etc.), which are beautiful and positive.  At least, you can make them that way.  This doesn’t mean stick your head in the sand and ignore outrages against mankind.  Rather, it means we get to make the news media our own hub of communications.  We get to use the medium itself to come together quickly, to create change and broadcast the response.  We dictate what is news.  You do and I do.

For example, here’s a Twitter perspective on life in Los Angeles today.  If you tweet (pardon the expression if you don’t), you may have seen the recent article by Terry Parris Jr. about how people are using Twitter.

Here’s a part I liked: A company in LA sells hot, portable Korean barbeque in a taco shell.  They have no stores.  They deliver out of trucks.  The fascinating part is this: To connect with mobile customers, the company relies exclusively on Twitter.  They simply tweet their destinations.  According to the article, it’s a cult sensation.  Up to 800 people line up when the trucks arrive at various points throughout the city.

You can follow Kogi on Twitter.  Robroy does, even though we are 3,000 miles apart.  Why?  Because instead of a conventional bombardment of layoffs, bankruptcies and bailouts from CNN, you get upbeat posts about people coming together to make their city a better place:

“Hey, Bruins, migrate over to our new spot at Veteran and Ophir. Let’s make peace with the haters and feed them our tacos… of love!  10:36 PM Mar 17th

So I guess this is goodbye.  Please don’t take it personally, Anderson.  It’s not you – it’s me.

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