Two days in a row I saw actual celebrities in the vicinity of Celebrity Bakery (the Highland Park cookie-teria where I often meet a friend for afternoon tea and gab). Wayne "The Great One "Gretzy strolled by, hand-in-hand with his six-foot-tall, six-inch-wide wife Janet on Wednesday. He's a golden god, that guy.
Yesterday, who comes waddling along, looking like a smug little pouter pigeon? Lynn Cheney, wife of Darth Vader. Trailing her were four obvious Secret Service agents. Earpieces, same green pin in lapel, same black shoes, the works. Isn't "secret" an important part of that job title? They couldn't have been more conspicuous if they'd been dressed like the Village People.
They even put sharpshooters on the rooftops of HP Village while the Cheneys shopped for hunting accoutrements in the Berretta boutique. Duck, y'all, Dick's a bad aim!
So much news coming off the Hill these days. Buh-bye, lousy football coach Phil Bennett. That half-million-dollar salary worth it? That's per year, per losing season. Jesus. Makes you ill, doesn't it? Remember, we adjuncts often teach for as little as 12K per academic year for a full load of undergrad classes. That's about 200 bucks a week after taxes to try to put something worthwhile into those lunkheads on the football team. Something they'll actually need to know--like, how to write a cogent sentence--after they somehow graduate from college after five or six or seven years. If they graduate at all. I'll never forget the star running back who bluffed his way through all of my writing classes, then capped off his senior year (before heading to the Tennessee Titans) by plagiarizing an interview from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes magazine. Nice work!
The topic of the football team budget came up during a chat with a nice lady I met recently at the laundromat. She and her husband were both employees of the College on the Hill for nearly 30 years. Her husband was part of the campus security force--the coppers, the fuzz, the uniformed constabulary who write the tickets for un-stickered parked cars and ride around the campus after hours picking up passed out frat boys and ferrying them back to Greek Row.
Mrs. Badge, as I'll call her, remembered some interesting incidents her husband encountered over the years. On-campus rapes, stabbings, overdoses, fistfights. The usual. "My husband really cared about the students way back when," she said. "There was sort of an understanding that if you didn't press charges for underage drinking or a minor drug thing, the parents would take care of it. The kid would leave school and get help."
All that changed around 10 years ago, she said. "The school became a large corporation and that corporate mentality took over. These wealthy parents didn't want to hear about problems. They blamed the school if their kids were drunk or on drugs. They'd sue if you tried to tell them their son or daughter...well, they didn't want to hear it. Nobody wanted the responsibility. The school certainly didn't. So the security guys were stuck. Try to be understanding and give a kid a break and they'd get hammered by the administration. Try to press charges or make a legal issue of bad behavior and the parents would get angry. That's why my husband retired. He didn't like what he was seeing."
Drug usage was getting much worse, she said. And the drugs weren't just pot and coke. Heroin was more common. Crystal meth came in. Students burglarized each other's dorm rooms and cars to steal ADD drugs and tranquilizers.
Mrs. Badge followed the news of the drug-and-alcohol-related deaths on the campus last year. "It's only going to get worse," she said. "The school will try to say they're doing prevention programs. They'll get the public relations going. But these kids up there have too much money. They've never been told no in their lives. Their parents are putting enormous pressure on them. I feel like it's all changed and not for the better. It's pretty sad."
The house where the Badges lived and raised their two children (now grown) has been razed to make way for the Bush Library. "There's not a trace of the place left," said Mrs. Badge with a deep sigh. "Nothing over there is like it used to be."