During the summer of 1995, the summer before my senior year in high school, I bought one of those Ivy League hats that other kids wore backwards. It was meant to display my image as an artist. I was going to be the next Steven Spielberg, and this hat would add to that. My friends mocked me for it (teenagers!), but I was determined to live that image.
That fall, I enrolled in Mr. Leonard London’s Project Advance English class, a college-level writing class that was offered through Syracuse University. I had managed to skate by through most of my high school career with Bs. My teachers up through my junior year were competent enough, but nobody really lit any fires in my heart. I enjoyed my TV Production courses, and Mr. Martin Markowitz, the teacher, was very supportive and encouraging in his guidance, but I suspect I would have developed the same passion with any other teacher. I was involved with drama, and Mrs. Isabel Feldstein taught me how to loosen up and project my voice on the stage, which has helped me a lot in my own career as a professor. Mrs. Judith King, my ninth-grade typing teacher, taught me the basics of how to type, which I still use today.
They were all great teachers, but none of them compared to Mr. London. He looked and carried himself like the media image of a college professor, leather elbow patches, tweed blazer, yada yada…My best friend, Albert Farmer, who was in the class with me and loved to rag on my hat, asked Mr. London, “Do you think Craig’s hat looks artsy?” Mr. London said, “Yeah, I think that’s a bohemian look.” At that point, I knew Mr. London “got” me.
The first semester of the class was a challenging one for sure; I did well, but one thing I learned was that everything I thought I knew about writing was wrong. Phrases I had used were not acceptable with Mr. London (for example, I couldn’t refer to “my Mom” in my literacy narrative; it was “my mother”). I was able to earn a B for that semester, which, with the 10% weight from an honors course, turned out to be an A.
But the second semester was where things got real. We read George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and while the specifics of class discussions escape me these 24 years later, I remember him assigning us a paper on our own choice of topic. Being really, really, really into movies (hell, I owned every movie review book known to humankind, from Roger Ebert to Leonard Maltin), I thought I’d give a comparison between the play and My Fair Lady, the 1964 musical it inspired. I remember Eliza Doolittle breaking it off with Henry Higgins at the end of the play; yet, in the musical, they got together. The same ending occurred in the 1938 film version of the play. I was pissed at this, thinking that this was just Hollywood’s bastardization and butchering of a perfectly realistic play. I wrote my heart out, and as Led Zeppelin’s “Sick Again” blasted over my stereo speakers, I hit a “writer’s high,” where I hit some sort of a-ha moment. For the first time in my life, I was proud of something I had written. The assignment had gotten an A-; not an A, but I was still proud.
That energy spread to my college Public Affairs class as well; for the first time, I was loving learning for the sake of learning. The following year, during my first semester of college, I was determined to keep that energy alive, and it resulted in my making the Dean’s List.
Twenty-four years later, my intellectual interests have changed. I’m not as into classic literature as I was, but I’ve developed a love of Singles Studies. My desk is essentially a shrine to Singles Studies; if one were to make a movie about me, a shot to establish my character might consist of a tilt of all those books on my desk: Singled Out, Happy Singlehood, I Didn’t Work This Hard to Get Married. My love of research and learning has been nurtured by many great mentors over the years. But it all started in Room 211 of Spring Valley High School by that man, Mr. London. I don’t know if he’s still alive (my Google searches have landed me bupkis), but sir, if you can read this, thank you!
My name is Craig. I'm an educator, writer, and unapologetic singleton. When not reading, writing, or teaching, I enjoy hiking, running, watching movies, going to concerts, spending time with friends, and playing with my cat/son, Chester.