My how you’ve grown

I'm still proud of my student Brandt.

I’m still proud of my student Brandt.

I’m in town, the direct message on Facebook said. Would you have time to meet for lunch?

You betcha, Brandt Ranj. I sent back a suggestion of Applebee’s, across Erie Boulevard from where we used to meet twice a week in that Le Moyne College classroom the fall semester of 2010, when I taught eager sophomore Ranj and a dozen of mostly upperclassmen the most I possibly could pass on as a first-time adjunct professor in the new course Music Journalism.

I had fun those 15 weeks, once I got past that shock in the first class. I spilled my guts in my introductory speech, went through the syllabus I’d carefully constructed, typed, copied and passed out and looked at the clock to find … oh, a half-hour to go in the 75-minute time slot. OK, everybody, turn to your neighbor, interview them and write your first story of the semester. You may be called upon to read it out loud.

At the end of our journey, I invited them all to keep in touch. I meant it. I told them how I still talked to Neal Bandlow, one of my professors at SUNY Morrisville in the 70s — ancient history.

Happily, I still run into Ashley Casey, now a reporter at the Eagle Newspapers here in her hometown of Syracuse, every now and again, and we’re Facebook friends and LinkedIn connected.

Brandt, though, he went back down to his parents’ house on Long Island, from which he came to study in upstate New York. Just like I did all those decades ago. Before graduation, before he tried his hand out on the west coast, in May 2013, he took me up on that invitation, and we met for lunch at the Brooklyn Pickle.

Now he filled me in that he had just started a new marketing job with a cool company in SoHo. No, he wouldn’t be able to afford to move from his parents’ on Long Island right into Manhattan quite yet. Or even into avant-garde Brooklyn. But soon he would be moving to Queens. Cool, I told my student. He turned me on to the music of Courtney Barnett, a new favorite of his. I listened, to his words and ideas and optimism. He’s growing up quite nicely.

When we left, I asked him to stop so I could snap his photo with my iPhone 6. “I want to chronicle your maturation,” I said.

“Like the pencil marks next to the door,” he said with a smile.


Right on with the musical suggestion, Brandt.

Who’s invited you to lunch lately, and what did you talk about? Who’s suggested music to you lately, and who was it and what did you think? I had a lunch combo of French onion soup and The American BLT and didn’t much like the sandwich because of a nasty chipotle sauce. What do you expect to get on your American BLT?


48 thoughts on “My how you’ve grown

  1. this is so, so great, mark. continue the thread of connection, just like you and your prof. how great to see the student become a teacher in his own domain. you have made a difference in his life.


  2. Very cool. I went to see my fifth grade teacher after I was grown, my inspiration.
    I haven’t been to lunch in longer than I can remember.
    BLT is bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo on toast. Anything else they should tell you first on the menu.
    How was the French onion soup? I appreciate a good broth.
    I’ve been listening to a lot of twenty-one pilots lately, due to my son’s influence.


  3. What a wonderful excerpt from your life, Mark. I never go to lunch any more as it takes the middle out of my day but I do love the idea of grabbing coffee with old or new friends somewhere interesting. Nice Saturday morning story.


    • I was really happy to take an hour out of the middle for Brandt, Beth, but I know what you mean about packed days these days. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Have a great Sunday in LA, my friend, and thanks for your kinds words.


  4. Nice post bro Mark. I guess chipotle peppers could be considered grown in America, but not exactly what I would want on a BLT myself. I’ve kept up with a few of my students, but my old teachers are long They were ancient then, and I’m ancient now, so—–. I usually avoid Applebee’s, mainly because of price, but also because the last time I was there a waiter poured gravy down a friend’s back. It didn’t look too comfortable for him, so I avoid the place now. Plus, with Micky D’s and LJS just across the parking lot, if I want something from a restaurant I’ll just go there. Or the Mexican place, the Chinese place or the Italian place, all conveniently located within a block of home. Prefer my own cooking though, guess I’m used to it after all these years. Most of my friends agree on that also, so that’s not a problem for any of us.


  5. Ooh, I love Courtney Barnett! (Gonna hang out here for a while and listen to the video. Thanks for the post.) And I love BLT’s. Gotta have it NORMAL with bacon, lettuce, and tomato with a butt-load of mayo and my own little twist of NOT-TOASTED white bread. Kept me alive towards the end of both pregnancies! ๐Ÿ™‚


    • I so wish I had ordered the regular mayo, Rachel. Soft white is OK for your twist, but I prefer the crunch of wheat around my crispy bacon. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you had your go-to during those difficult months. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Courtney it was for your Saturday, yay.


  6. I get this. I am still in touch with my high school academic counselor and a couple of my teachers. I graduate from high school in 1974. I will be 60 on Christmas and I still talk to those teachers, friends, mentors. They still have insights to share with me and each time I see them, I can see the wheels turning in their head…they’re taking it all in and having one of those “you turned out quite nicely” moments.

    Very nice post!


    • I very much enjoy feeling in “the middle,” Corina, appreciating teachers who laid their knowledge down for me to make my life better and now having the satisfaction of knowing I was able to do the same for a generation that came after me. Thanks for your kind words!


  7. Awesome ๐Ÿ™‚
    I got to see my former kindergarten student (a fave) when she was 16. It was spectacular to see how much she was changed, and also the same!
    A BLT should have bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and MAYBE cheese, but I never like cheese on mine. No chipotle sauce, no.


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