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Friday, May 27, 2021

My fellow Eckerd alum Richard (regular readers of this blog know him as “Hunk Oman”) tipped me off to this past Sunday’s commencement address at the old alma mater. It was delivered by none other than Dennis Lehane, Class of 1988.

Lehane is easily EC’s most famous graduate — probably the school’s only famous grad (excluding myself, of course). He’s the author of “Mystic River”, which was adapted into a much-acclaimed movie. Lehane’s often spoken highly of his time on campus, so it’s no surprise that he’d come back to visit.

According to Rich, the commencement remarks got some attending parents hot under the collar, to the point where there was much gesticulating and general huff-and-puffing. I’m guessing these choice passages did the trick:

There is an angry, loud and unfortunately popular contingent in this country that will have you believe empathy and mercy are for cowards. No, callousness and apathy are for cowards; empathy and mercy are the province of the brave. And even though this contingent’s loudest mouths all came from wealth, and the only bootstraps they ever pulled up were made of imported Italian leather, they will have you believe that the future of our country lies in the lack of a helping hand and the striking motion of an angry fist. This contingent has made themselves popular by feeding off our innate need for anger. They offer no solutions with the exception of placing more wealth in the hands of those who don’t need it. (To put it another way, I need another tax break like Brad Pitt needs help with dating.) Meanwhile they assail everything that’s good and intrinsically American and pure in this country - the right to free speech, the right to love whomever you choose, the privilege of helping others less fortunate than you, of educating our children, of ensuring a good life for our elderly, of caring for our sick. They want to privatize education and privatize Medicare and privatize Social Security and privatize you right out of the very things that make this country great. I know another word for “privatize” but I can’t use it because I’m in polite company. Make no mistake about it, these are the same people whose ancestors and ideological compatriots from eighty years ago were against Social Security, workers comp, disability insurance, affordable health care, pensions, the eight hour day, the forty hour week, the weekend, women’s right to vote, blacks’ right to vote, integration, and special benefits for veterans… all the while wrapping themselves in the flag and telling us what America is…

So the next time someone pulls the “libel-by-label” card and trots out tired, stale cliches about “the bleeding hearts,” ask them what they stand for. Not what they stand against. What they stand for. And if all they can come up with is some lame BS about a “family-values” world where the family is white and wealthy and the values are something you decree while driving your Hummer to the golf course, then ask them to please keep driving that Hummer over the Mexican border and out of our country because they, my friends, are un-American, not us. And if you ever think about demanding that someone pull himself up by his bootstraps? Ask yourself if you did. Or did you - maybe - have some help? From your parents? From friends? From this great institution?

I doubt many parentals took the advice on that road trip to Mexico (unless they already had reservations in Cabo). But if such direct language makes them that upset, it probably speaks more clearly to their true nature than anything else can.

Aside from the foregoing, I particularly liked Lehane’s comments on the nature of honor:

Honor isn’t Mother Theresa in Calcutta. That’s sainthood. Honor’s a day-to-to-day thing, a small gut-check. Honor is not doing what’s easy if doing so hurts a single soul. It’s the affirmative answer to one simple question you ask of yourself every day: Did I behave with dignity and respect toward all living things? That is the measure of honor and the measure of a human being.

If you’re cynical, you’ll say, “I wasn’t honorable today because the world was dishonorable toward me and I had to fight back.” Sorry. Wrong answer. The measure of a person lies not in what the world does to him, but rather in how he responds to the world. When someone says, oh-so-jadedly, “The world is thus,” you must reply: “No. Thus, have we made the world.” Put another way, hell is not a pit of fire with horned demons jabbing at you or poor Kenny from South Park. Hell is not, as Sartre said, other people. Hell is you, after you’ve sold off your soul and realized it doesn’t have a twin.

Well crafted. Makes me wish I had met him while we were both campus-dwellers (Lehane graduated the year before I got there as a freshman).

If there really was any unusual amount of discord over these remarks, they weren’t noticable enough to warrant mention in the local paper’s account, which was more focused on the presence of the President of Liberia at the event.

An esteemed novelist and a foreign head of state at little old Eckerd’s graduation party. I don’t think my commencement, a dozen years ago, had that kind of star power.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/27/2005 08:06:01 PM
Category: Publishing, Celebrity, College Years | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, February 23, 2021

givers, not takers
The above pin button won’t mean anything to you unless you happened to attend a certain liberal arts college located in St. Petersburg, circa the early 1990s. I particularly like the “Absolut Eckerd” bottle.

Perhaps the alumni association would like this artifact for their archives. If so, give me a hollah.

I’m kinda hoping Dean Sorochty comes across this. It was a thrilling three years, Roger.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/23/2005 07:09:02 PM
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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

goin' gator
I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not gotten a notification from my alumni association in the mail today. The Eckerd College men’s basketball team is going to Gainesville in a couple of weeks to take on the nationally-ranked University of Florida!

Never thought I’d see the day.

Okay, okay. It’s just an exhibition game, a meaningless tuneup for both squads (although I’d bet it’s more meaningful for EC). It would never happen during the regular season, not least because Eckerd is Division II and not worth the Gators’ time.

Still, it’s significant. Athletics has never been high-profile at Eckerd; they never even merited full scholarships. But the school’s new president apparently sees sports as a way to boost the national profile, and so he’s finagled a limited number of scholarships in all programs. I imagine this game is designed to get some exposure, only the first step for such efforts.

I’m not a hoops fan. Still, I’m tempted to take the trip to UF for this. It’s on November 9th, the day after the deadline for my current all-consuming project, so the schedule’s clear. And while the idea of a long bus trip normally would repel me, the college component would make it fun. The key would be having some familiar alum along for the ride. If there’s a decent group going, I’m there.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/27/2004 07:41:10 PM
Category: Basketball, College Years | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Monday, October 25, 2021

Got a kid that’s flunking out of school? If you’re in the vicinity of Mystic, Connecticut, the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration has a program that gives students an alternative learning environment, while they mess with the fishes.

Although it’s not the intent, I’m guessing this program is grooming several budding marine biology majors. Which brings to mind my alma mater, which is known for its marine science program.

More to the point, it reminds me of the comically high attrition rate that Eckerd’s marine science program has. When I was attending, something like a third of incoming freshmen came to the school to study dolphins and other cute aquatic life. Then, they’d get a first-semester dose of daily four-hour lab sessions in microbiology and the like. By the end of the year, the chaffe had been separated from the wheat, and bunches of formerly aspiring Jacques Cousteaus had turned their interests to economics or psychology. An early lesson in Darwinian principle.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/25/2004 10:13:02 PM
Category: Society, Science, College Years | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, October 15, 2021

no beerlympics
The reunion weekend rolls on, with a big dinner tonight at Leverocks on St. Pete Beach. (I had seafood for lunch, so I’m wondering what I should get tonight at this seafood joint.)

There’ll be about 25 of us, plus kiddies. And I’ll pretty much know most of them, excluding some spouses. It’ll be fun to catch up. I know it’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve seen many of them, and in some cases, more like five-plus.

I can’t imagine this being a late night. Most everyone is married, and anyone who’s not won’t be the partying type. For that matter, I’m not sure I’m up for much either. I’m coming into the office tomorrow to wrap up a bunch of things, so the smart move would be to go to dinner, have a couple of hours of fun, then come home, wind down and hit the sheets.

Not that I’m known for making the smart move.

- Costa Tsiokos, Fri 10/15/2004 05:37:40 PM
Category: College Years | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, October 14, 2021

My little rundown of college nicknames was, as R* pointed out, devoid of women.

For the most part, that’s the way it was. Regularly-used nicknames seemed to be more a guy thing at my school (and for that matter, at my high school as well). If anything, nicknames hung on girls tended to be intentionally and wholly derogatory, and so weren’t something you’d say to their faces. Example: I recall one girl at Eckerd getting the nickname “Hummer”, and it didn’t refer to her choice of vehicle.

That said, after digging into my memory banks, I have come up with a few female classmates who regularly went by colorful nicknames:

“Yen” - Jennifer Thoreson. Gained from some English Language Students (ELS) who lived adjacent to her dorm during Freshman year; most were Latin, and tended to pronounce “Jen” as “Yen”. Especially since there were so many other Jennifers on campus, the nickname quickly gained currency.

Kind of an odd duck. Very bright and personable, but could be off-putting. When I last ran into her, about five years ago, she had just gotten married and was on her way to Philadelphia.

“Cricket” - Barbara Small (I think). Don’t know the origin of the nickname, although I think she had it long before college.

Really a friend of a friend of a friend. Casual acquaintence. Partied with her a few times, but never really hung out.

“Angel” - Angela, don’t remember last name. Shortening of the first name, also had it before college.

A weird girl. Petite, kind of crude, not particularly pretty, but had certain… assets that made her desirable. Mainly got to know her for a brief period during which she was going out/sleeping with a friend of mine during Freshman year, and somehow we maintained a relationship through the rest of college.

Yup, that’s it. If I think of any more notable nicknames, male or female, I suppose I’ll post. I don’t want to overplay this, though.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/14/2004 11:38:26 PM
Category: College Years | Permalink | Feedback


e to the c
As previously mentioned, earlier tonight I made my way to Woody’s on St. Pete Beach for an informal kickoff to this college reunion weekend.

It was a small gathering. There were about 10 of us total (plus some offspring). I knew about half of the alums: Rich and Mary Anderson, Jesse and Myla Turtle, Anne Chapin (who’s now married, but I don’t remember her married name). There were a couple of people there who graduated my freshman year, and if I ever knew them, I’m afraid I’d long since forgotten them. They seemed like a nice group.

I was the only Class of ‘93 representative, so I felt a little stranded. Not that it wasn’t fun to chat with everyone who was there, but it would have been nice to see some former classmates, not to mention roommates. But there’ll be opportunity for that in the next couple of days.

Aside from that, I enjoyed the brief gathering. It was nicely low-key, and left me with a true feeling of camaraderie. This, despite none of the people at Woody’s being among my closest Eckerd friends. Just having the shared experience at the same school was enough, and I guess that’s the point of these reunions.

Jesse provided a nice touch: He wore an old Blakely House t-shirt, some 10 years old, that had some kind of mock code of conduct on the back. I was amazed he still had any old t-shirts from his college days; I know I disposed of mine long ago (although I do have one concert shirt from back then still in my closet). I should have snapped a picture of it; if he wears it again, I definitely will.

- Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/14/2004 11:07:56 PM
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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

For some reason, work conversation this morning turned to nicknames acquired in college. Combined with my impending reunion, it got me to thinking of all the nicknames my friends and acquaintences in college had.

My college nickname? I’m afraid those records are classified.*

I’m going strictly by memory, and given that it’s 10 to 15 years in the past, there’s bound to be gaps, misspellings and less-than-accurate recollections. If I’ve excluded anyone, or gotten anything wrong, it’s not intentional. Any Eckerd alums coming across this can feel free to chime in.

I’m also going to (mostly) exclude nicknames that are just diminutives of the full names, just because they aren’t as colorful. So I’m not forgetting J.C., JayRay, Neeck, Gordo, Jimbo and the like, but I am overlooking them here.

In no particular order, with nickname, real name, origin story, and impressions:

“Deuce” - Rick Neverdousky. A shortened portion of his last name.

Not a close friend, but we usually managed to be in the same places at the same times. One of the cheesiest individuals I’d ever met, and the amount of tail he scored despite (or perhaps because of?) that just absolutely killed me.

“Schmu” - Christopher Casey. Shortened from “Shamu”, as in the killer whale. Bestowed in the aftermath of a canoe race where he and his rowing partner managed to flip their craft about 10 seconds after starting, and remained waterlogged the whole rest of the way. (The partner was granted the nickname “Flipper”, of which there’s more below.)

One of my oldest friends, former roommate during and after college. Now lives in Washington, DC, so communication is more sporadic.

“Flipper” - Jason Bauer. See the origin of “Schmu”, above. Not to be confused with “Flip”, another campus regular (more below). I believe Jason once mentioned to me that he would have preferred getting “Schmu” instead, but what can you do…

Former college roommate. Fun guy, good friend, tended to be a lousy drunk to have around. I spent many a Mobile Mardi Gras at his family home during the ’90s. We’ve drifted apart over the past few years.

“Adge” - A.J. Joseph. A shortening/mashing of A.J. (which would tend to give you something pronounced “age”, but that would be stupid, so this was the solution).

Former roommate, right out of college. Good guy, full of confidence, a bit on the goofy side. He was living in town and working at Eckerd until recently; I’ve heard he’s since moved to Colorado.

“Slim” - Real name unknown. Origin of nickname unknown, although since he was pretty thin, I assume the name just fit.

A dormmate during my first semester in my freshman year. I never knew him particularly well, but for some reason I remember him. He was part of a group of guys in the dorm who left in the middle of that school year, under a mysterious cloud. I seem to recall something about drug dealing. My mentions of him over the next couple of years to mutual acquaintences would always elicit remarks of, “Slim? That dog.”; never sought an expansion on that.

“Weasel” - Don’t remember real name, something Hispanic. Had kind of a little-guy weasel look about him, not as much so personality-wise.

I never knew him very well, but we had mutual friends. He graduated after my Sophomore year. Seemed like a nice enough guy.

“Bear” - Mark Bonfiglio. Derived mainly from his hirsute nature. I heard at one point that he wanted to have “Fig” as his nickname, but it never stuck.

Good guy, always very inclusive in social gatherings. I remember his room as the focal point of dorm activity. He married Kat, his college sweetheart, and moved to Colorado and Ohio after graduation. We’ve traded infrequent emails since.

“Woody” - Chris Bell. The story I was given was that during a party, he and Kat (above) were dancing, when Kat pulled away, giggling, and declared, “He’s got a woody! He’s got a woody!”. The presence of other Chrises in the social group also led to the necessity of a nickname.

Funny fellow. He was Bear’s roommate, so we hung out a lot in his room, playing Nintendo and wasting time. The last I heard, years ago, was that he was living in Atlanta.

“Flip” - Don’t remember real name, maybe John-something. I think inspired by the beach visors, with the flipped-up lids, that he often wore.

Never knew him particularly well. He was part of the regular volleyball-playing crew that always congregated behind the dorms or at the beach. He went out for a long stretch with a girl named Danyelle, on whom I had a running low-level crush (I remember her being almost ideal, physically, with dark tan, long brown hair and a slim figure); and so, I was jealous of him.

“Rambo” - David Downing. His military family background, involvement in ROTC and general fondness of militaria got him the name.

Nice enough guy. I don’t think he was ever completely comfortable in his own skin. He was always the responsible one, in that while the rest of us got trashed, he’d be relied upon to get us home in one piece. He relished the role, but I always felt like we took advantage of that. I think he went overseas after graduation; we met up again a few years ago, but I don’t remember what he had been up to.

“Jazzy” - Jeff, don’t remember his last name. No specific origin for the nickname, other than a love for hip-hop.

My next-door neighbor during my freshman year. Another active volleyballer. He was from the Florida Panhandle, a real cracker, but immersed in black culture. Usually very low-key, but a bit more excitable when drunk. I believe I heard he moved to Tennessee to work at FedEx after graduation, and got married to his college girlfriend.

“Floyd” - John Briggs. Shorthand for “Pretty Boy Floyd”, bestowed to him after he was caught preening too long in front of a mirror. Also got a secondary nickname, “Pedro”, after he walked around the dorm one night wearing a Mexican-style poncho.

Roommate of Jazzy’s, and thus also my dorm neighbor my first year. New Yorker, bodybuilder. Nice guy, although I can’t say much else about him stands out now. I ran into him shortly after I graduated, here in St. Pete, but I lost touch soon thereafter.

“Suds” - Greg Suddath. Derived from his last name, and from his copious beer guzzling (not that he was unique in that).

Never knew him too well, but he was a fixture at parties, and always noticable. Lived in Hiaassen House, pretty much a jock dorm, and the neighboring male dorm in my complex during my freshman year.

“Heckler” - Justin, don’t remember last name. Reflective of his wise-ass personality. He originally got “Flounder” hung on him, derived from the Animal House character; he somehow managed to drop it. However, I couldn’t seem to let go of it for a long while afterward, and even now sometimes refer to him as “Flounder”.

A born prankster. Jersey kid, slightly rich, something of a ladies’ man. I would run into him every so often after graduation, and I think he still lives a few miles away from me, but I haven’t seen him in a couple of years now.

“Puppet” - Greg, don’t remember last name. Don’t remember how he got the name, although I guess he sort of had a puppet-like countenance.

Sort of casual acquaintence throughout college. Most memorable moment with him was sharing a 24-hour van drive north from St. Petersburg to New York, where I was dropped off while he and another guy kept going into New England. Lost track after graduation.

“Oaf” - John O’Flanagan. Shortened fragment of his last name; not so much his personality.

Boston native, with the accompanying accent. Part of a neighboring clique, hung out at parties and such. His sister, Jennie, was a heartbreaker.

“Mel” - Richard, don’t remember last name. Given to him due to a passing resemblance to a young Mel Gibson.

Nice guy, never knew him particularly well. Part of the extended group we all hung out in.

“Goose” - Don’t remember real name. Don’t remember the origin, although I have a feeling it was based off his real name somehow.

Truthfully, I barely remember him now. We were dormmates my Sophomore year, and he often hung out in the halls. I think he might have been a computers major.

“Ears” - Erin Kelly. Due to his noticably big ears, also partially off his first name.

Bombastic guy, fun at parties. I actually got an apartment with him and his girlfriend, Margaret, the summer between my Sophomore and Junior years. I think he went to med school after graduation, but I lost track after that.

“Zooey” - Dave Branigan. Not sure how he acquired the nickname; may have been related to his party-animal behavior (animal suggesting zoo).

A guy in my Freshman orientation class/Western Heritage class. Pretty much treated college life as a playground, and dropped out after his first year. I always had a suspicion that he would come back our Senior year, but he never did.



*Actually, I didn’t have a nickname in college. My name’s unique enough.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 10/13/2004 11:17:35 PM
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