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Doctorate

A trip to Pittsburgh.

Man in doctoral robes at Carnegie Mellon University

Last weekend my former college roommate received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. The commencement was blatantly grand, the artificial Scottish ancestry of CMU enhanced by bagpipers and banners. A degree was conferred by a college president in a tartan robe. Later, Steve's mother wept and his father gave him a minute-long embrace. I am proud to know someone who worked so hard.

In 1994, the Alternative Cinema Club at Alfred University was showing a 3D movie, The Creature From the Black Lagoon. We planned to see it, and he showed up at the movie theater with eye patches, one for each of us.

We put them on and insisted to be let in half price—$1.50 instead of $3.00, since we'd only see two dimensions. The ticket-taker balked, pissed. So Steve and I joined hands and made a scene, crying out “Unfair! Unfair to pirates!” in front of a crowd of the confused. We kept it up until the movie started, then left to pursue something else.

Now, the diploma tucked in the back of the car, we all went to dinner and began to trade pirate jokes.

“What kind of fish do Jewish pirates eat?”

“CAAAAAARRRRRp.”

A pause for chewing.

“What does a pirate use to back up his files on a Unix machine?”

TAAAAARRRR.”

“And what does his parrot say?”

Awk!”

Another pause. A gleam in the eye.

“What do you call a naked pirate in a room with a wolf?”

“I don't know.”

“Conceptual ARRRRRt.”

We laughed and snorted, our sophomore nature preserved in time. The next day—back to our lives and work, he with a doctorate and plane tickets to San Jose, myself back to Brooklyn and my projects here.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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