I often use this space to tell my own stories — whether it's about attending my first drag show, sending my kid to college, or shearing a goat. (And, yes, I really did write about shearing a goat. The moral of the story was this: It's a lot harder than it looks.)
I also enjoy telling other people's stories — something I'd like to do even more of in 2020. I guess you could call it a bit of a New Year's resolution. And I'm kicking it off by sharing some of the stories I've been able to help tell over at Rochester Magazine recently through my Random Rochesterite column.
You can find my most recent Random Rochesterite, Mike Seidel, in the current (January) issue of the magazine. Here's a short excerpt from that interview with the 78-year-old retired police officer.
Q: Any rebellious moments?
A: I don't know if I should tell you this story! When I was 17 years old, before I went in the Navy, I was going to the drive-in with (future wife) Jan and my sisters and a friend in Spring Valley. Just before we came off the Ostrander Road south of Spring Valley, I passed several cars, and the front one was a deputy sheriff. He stopped me and gave me a ticket. I was already enlisted in the Navy at the time, and I asked my dad what I should do. Back then, I couldn't pay a fine until I was 18. They set my appearance date, when I could've paid the fine, for after I was in boot camp. My dad said, "Forget it. You're going in the Navy." My recruiter said the same thing.
Q: I suspect that's not the end of the story.
A: I was home on leave and taking Jan to the Homecoming dance in my '59 Chevy when the town cop came out to my car and said, "Remember that ticket?" A state trooper came up, and took me to the Spring Valley jail. It was below the liquor store. I spent the rest of the night in jail. The next morning, my parents came over and paid a $17.50 fine.
For the November 2019 issue, I interviewed Inge LoIacono, an 86-year-old retiree who'd taken one of my writing classes. I'd known from that class that Inge had fascinating stories. Here's an example.
Q: Your husband, Emilio, said you have stories.
A: They're not necessarily happy ones, unfortunately — having been born (in Europe) during Hitler's time in 1933. Dad had a bit of Jewish blood in him and did not want to take a chance. So my family fled from Germany through Poland into Hungary.
Q: What memories do you have from that time?
A: One incident was being on the train, going to Poland, and Dad did not have a ticket. So mom would say to the conductor, "He's in the restroom." That went on back and forth.
Q: You were probably pretty nervous.
A: Yes, yes. Then, as we were reaching Poland, the tracks were blown up behind us. Just flying behind us, because of the war. … My mom was always the quiet one, keeping things to herself. Dad was very sure of himself, very confident about what he wanted to do. Saving his family was his main concern. Dad and I did not get along, but I have to give him that. He always thought of us.
And for the December 2019 issue, I interviewed 45-year-old Joey Keillor, senior editor at Mayo Clinic Health Letter. Here's one story he told me.
Q: Biggest adventure?
A: There've been quite a few, but a real breakthrough was after I'd gone to college for one year. I quit, and a friend of mine and I got on our bikes and biked out to Colorado and got jobs at a ski hill. It's not like that's some amazing adventure, but —
Q: Um, it sounds like a pretty amazing adventure to me.
A: I was 18, and my parents were just in the throes of despair that I was doing this. … Cell phones didn't exist. It was about breaking through to a new world of independence and being your own person. Coming of age.
Q: How long did it take you to get to Colorado?
A: About 22 days to Denver, which included a few days in our tent because it was pouring rain and 30 degrees. The ride was physically tiring, but we were 18 and at the height of our powers, so it was more like existential and psychological punishment. One day in South Dakota there was a head wind and even with all our effort, we could not pedal faster than 6 mph. It drives you insane. You start to question why you're even out there, literally not going anywhere.
Want to hear the rest of these stories? Check out www.postbulletin.com/magazines/rochester/archives/ for a click-through version of past issues.