Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Dave

I didn’t have time to wash my jeans before coming down to L.A., so I fiured I'd send them to the laundry service tomorrow. Then I remembered The Dave.

Dave Womack was college journalism advisor to me, Kaye, Val, Lynette and Janice back in the day, when we worked at The Driftwood newspaper at the University of New Orleans.

We called Dave “The Dave” and we called his son “Little Dave,” even though that wasn’t his name. I used to bop in every once in a while and tug on Dave’s tie, because he wore one to work every day -- I don’t think any other professors did. It was like “hey, a tie!” and also like, hey, a teacher who will let me be goofy. Cool.

Dave was the essence of cool. He never made you do anything. Instead, he’s just ask mildly if you were sure that was what you wanted to do. He’d scan an editorial you’d written and just raise his eyebrow ever so slightly and make his amused face, and you’d be all, what?

Dave never told you how to change it, but he told you what he thought about it, and it was the power of Dave that you wanted him to think you were cool and smart -- that you wanted to change it, whatever it was -- so that Dave would think it was good. If you could get that quiet little nod of approval out of Dave, man, that was the shit.

Dave used to take the top Driftwood editors to the college newspaper conference in New York every year, and so after paying our dues for a few years, one year Janice and I finally got to go.

The conference was great – we met student journalists from all over and we were in New York, by God. The details are a blur – I think there was a St. Patrick’s Day parade, and Janice got mad at me for walking too slow (strolling, really) and Dan Rather spoke as the keynote, I think. Man, I thought he was cool back then. Who knew one day there would be What is the Frequency Kenneth and Weird Danisms?

Anyways, the one thing I remember most about that trip was we were scheduled to go to dinner or something, and Janice and I dropped by the room Dave and a guy student were sharing, and the guy student answered the door with a nervous look on his face. We could hear the shower running, and the student looked over his shoulder and said (I imagine now he whispered) “Dave’s in the shower with his suit on.”

I can’t remember if I really saw it or if I’ve just imagined it incredibly well, but I have a powerful picture in my mind of Dave soaping up like crazy in a gray pinstripe. He explained later something about – well, I can’t remember his reasons for being in the shower with his suit on.

But tonite I took a Dave shower, and washed my jeans that way, and then hung them up to dry. And thought of Dave, who died suddenly a few years ago, and of how I miss him, and how he changed all of our lives for the better.

I think about Mrs. Dave and Little Dave and imagine their lives must be so sad without The Dave. He was a hell of a guy and I miss the hell out of him.


Mark said...

That's a good story baby.

kateco said...

Fond reminiscence alert!

The Dave. And The Dave suit story. I've always thought of it as a tiny urban legend of our own, a drifty Driftwood legend, like the ones about the action in the darkroom or Ken the Archivist.

(Hey, wait a minute. There was actual action in the darkroom and I am pretty sure that Ken was the anarchist.)

Val says, "Dave had probably hung his suit in the shower to steam the wrinkles out. Michelle doesn't know from wool."

I think the shower suit story goes to show how fascinated we were with Dave, this seemingly conservative, deeply steady guy, who put up a raggedy group of weird-ass kids. We liked to see Dave's weirdness -- I mean if Dave was weird then there was real hope for weirdos. Because we all wanted a little bit of what Dave had, a kind of gentle coolness, confidence, rectitude.

For my part, I learned almost everything I needed to know about how newspapers were put together when I was in high school. What Dave taught me was how to be in the world. His trust in us, in our internal senses of quality, rightness, the value of hard work, the uselessness of bullshit -- in our own ability to know when we were kicking ass, or phoning it in or being badly behaved. That's why he didn't have to ride us -- he really believed it was all in there already. All he had to do was reflect it back to us. But what a lot of work that must have been, because we were a pain-in-the-ass can of mixed nuts.

And, he liked us, too; somehow liked our goofey company. When I went to the NYC conference with Dave, he and I went to the Guggenhiem together and he showed me his favorite paintings there -- Van Goghs. It was the first time I'd seen one in person. We also had a great italian dinner and went to the off-Broadway show "Sister Mary Margret Explains it All to You." Hilarious. And then the Driftwood got a great critique and won the Best Weekly award in our circulation group. We were all so proud. It was a perfect first trip to New York -- and you only get one first trip.

Well, lately my memory's been getting a little foggy -- I don't remember The Dave's suit laundering habits from our NYC trip, you'll have to ask Sandy M. about that -- but this morning, somehow, I can recall just exactly how he would smile ... at something like this post from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Driftwood editor new-media phoobah Michelle Nicolosi. And, I'm sure your interns are laughing too. (OMG. I mean she took a shower with her jeans on!)

Mark said...

You should have seen her routine tonight to dry them.

Janice said...

Ok, this will make me stop lurking. It wasn't his suit, it was his socks, underwear and shirt. We actually asked him about it later. I can't imagine he could wear the shirt again unless he ironed it, though.

Mark said...

Yay, a Janice sighting!

Hi Janice. Welcome to M&M.

-- mm

Anonymous said...

Sandy M. here, putting my 2 cents in. I shared a room with the Dave in NYC and I can't confirm or deny that he showered in his suit because we closed the bathroom door when we took a shower. I can't recall any wet suits lying around the room though. Nice thoughts Michelle. Dave was an inspiration to me in my business and personal life. Truly a kindhearted and thoughtful human being whom I greatly miss...Sandy

kateco said...

let me just say ... wow ... look at the old home week

Janice said...

I do remember that the Dave was quite concerned that the legal drinking age might be something other than the 18 we were used to, and had Nikki and I sit with our backs to the waitress when ordering that first night. Nice that he didn't expect us to go without. Also, he went somewhere and came back with cheeseburger flavored popcorn; it made we realize we weren't at home.