The top vote-getter in the Detroit City Council primary in August was Charles Pugh. You Fort Wayners might remember him from his days as a young reporter for WKJG, although he didn’t stay long. He was clearly ambitious, and before long was en route to a bigger markets, until he ended up in his hometown of Detroit.

Most young TV reporters don’t leave much of an impression on me, as infrequently as I watch local newscasts, but like I said — Pugh was ambitious. My main memory of him was a piece he did on the correlation between the Super Bowl and domestic violence, at least three years after it had been debunked, and the debunking had been its own story. The piece was nonsense start to finish, thinly sourced and with the usual domestic-violence victim-advocacy suspects claiming their business always went up during “football season,” etc. The internet was new at the time, and I wrote the news director a note about it via the station’s AOL page, citing the debunking, etc. Crickets. I should add this is typical: Local TV reporting is so glib, and any record of it so fleeting (as I said, this was pre-internet, pre-DVR), that news directors can basically ignore all but the loudest criticism. Mistakes that would get front-page corrections in a newspaper just fly by with a shrug and not even an oops.

I tell you this so you know I’m not inclined to like him, but once I moved here and realized he was a local-media celebrity, I paid special attention. He’d refined his image in the intervening years, acquired the gloss of a big-media-market personality, and was now an out ‘n’ proud gay man. A Freep columnist wrote an admiring profile of him, I guess because it takes a certain amount of courage to be out ‘n’ proud in the black community (although certainly not in the news media). He also has a compelling personal biography, having been raised by his grandmother after both parents died violently (mother murdered, father a suicide) before he was 8 years old. He’d found a high public profile as co-anchor for the weekend morning show, the usual jokey mishmash of wire copy and live standups at pumpkin patches and fireworks venues, etc. The photo that ran with the column was hilarious: The caption said Pugh and his co-anchor were “preparing their newscast,” while the picture showed both sitting in position at the anchor desk, each staring into their own hand mirror with a look of utter absorption.

So when, a year or so ago, rumors started circulating that Pugh was considering a run for city council when his contract expired, I was interested in how it might play out. The big question seemed to be whether his out ‘n’ proud status would hurt him among religious voters, and based on the primary results, the answer was no. It’s pretty amazing to think he beat established incumbents to get the sort of vote totals he did, but until recently, he was very well thought-of.

That all started to fall apart last week, when the newspapers revealed he was about to lose his condo to foreclosure. His initial response was that he was having a cash-flow crisis brought on by having left his lucrative TV and radio jobs (which paid him in the neighborhood of $240,000 a year) to run for council (which would bring him about $80,000, with a $4,000 bump if he again finished at the top of the heap). The second-day stories said no, his financial life had been chaotic for some time; he nearly lost the same condo two years ago, and was served with eviction notices a jaw-dropping 11 times in the previous four years, when he was a renter.

In other words, this is not a guy with a cash-flow problem, but one who is seemingly incapable of managing his own finances, even with an enviable income.

And now I’d like to change direction a bit, because ultimately I don’t really care what sort of journalist Pugh is or isn’t, or what sort of city councilman he will or won’t be. (In Detroit: Bet on will.)

What I want to know is this: What the hell went wrong in this country that Charles Pugh could get a 100 percent loan to buy a $385,000 condo in the first place?

Yeah, yeah — there’s that fat income he was earning. But as we see, his credit history had to be pretty damn dismal. And check out these details:

Records show Pugh paid $385,000 for the condominium in 2005 and took two loans from Countrywide Mortgage the day he assumed ownership. One was for $77,000 and another for $308,000, which has jumped to $331,370 with interest and fees.

According to documents, Pugh was charged 8.25 percent interest, making his monthly payment on his 30-year mortgage payment $2,892. That does not include any insurance and property tax.

That’s 100 percent of the purchase price — no money down. Even knowing this was 2005, the very peak of the madness, when “liar loans” were commonplace and the only requirement for an applicant was a pulse, this still has the power to gall me. Obviously a guy who can’t make ends meet on an income like this is unqualified to be council president in a city in perpetual death throes. Pugh has a lame-ass explanation: “I’m currently going through what thousands of Detroiters are experiencing.” Well, yes, although thousands of Detroiters didn’t manage to screw things up quite so badly on an income of nearly a quarter-mil a year.

But in lots of ways, he’s right — this is what thousands of Detroiters are experiencing. Without his fancy education and income, they fell victim to door-to-door sales by smooth-talking sharpies who promised them free crack, the non-addictive kind. In a way, Pugh is the perfect councilman for this city. He certainly is a perfect representative.

I’m betting he coasts to victory, at or near the top of the field. Just what Detroit needs — another empty suit (but a very stylish one) on city council.

So: Monday. Boat taking-out day. Let’s hope for one with a lack of marital strife. Temperature looks warmish and cloudy. Fingers crossed.

Posted at 6:58 am in Detroit life |

36 responses to “Deadbeat.”

  1. beb said on October 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Oddly enough, I was going to vent on mayoral candidate, Tom Barrows….

    Since the other guy, Bing, is determined to break the unions, I planned to vote for Barrow but over the weekend we got a telephone ,essage from Barrow that pissed me off. First it came up on call-ID was “Out of Area” which doesn’t seem like a good thing when you are trying to get area votes to trust you over the other guy. The other thing was thing Barrow invoked the memory of Coleman Young as a guiding principle for his campaign. While Young is still “da mayor” for most Detroiters’ I consider him to be the one person who did most to destroy Detroit, so I’m not looking for another administration built around bashing the suburbs.

    So my choices are between a union-buster who employees a comvicted felon in his administration and someone who worships the most corrupt mayor in America. Pugh…He’s just the seltzer down the clown pants.

    Good luck with the boat-hauling.

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  2. Peter said on October 26, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Oh, can I get on a soapbox on the mortgage fiasco. Like many of you, I had to put 20% down and sign my life away to get a halfway decent loan, but I’m not resentful of others – if someone basically shoved money at me, I’m taking it. What irks me most is that thousands of people have been ruined, but the ones responsible get paid off.

    Geez, if this had happened in ’68 that would have been the last straw for a revolution; now, meh.

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  3. ROgirl said on October 26, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Yesterday the Freep withdrew its endorsement of Pugh. Oh, the shame of it!

    “Pugh remains a bright and engaging Detroiter, someone whose reporting experience has provided him with real insight into Detroit’s problems. But Detroit will be better off if he finds a way to contribute outside of elected office, at least until his own financial life has been stabilized. He does not deserve election to City Council on Nov. 3.”

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  4. Pam said on October 26, 2009 at 9:22 am

    $385,000 Loan on a condo — let’s see $308K for the condo and $77K to pay off existing credit card debt. That’s about it.

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  5. Julie Robinson said on October 26, 2009 at 9:29 am

    As the DH was rapidly changing channels this weekend I heard that the highest percentage of homes in foreclosure are the most expensive ones. Too many people substituted earning more money for learning how to manage it. And besides, that house was always worth more so you could take out another equity loan, right? The road to perdition followed.

    Oh a happier note we attended the class of ’74 reunion for Sycamore High School this weekend.(town motto: Life offers more…in Sycamore!) I hadn’t been to one for many years and have been missing my roots lately. The big surprise was how enjoyable it was and how all the old lines of demarcation have fallen away. Everyone was talking to everyone else. I was finally persuaded to join Facebook and am already having way too much fun.

    The other big surprise was people’s careers as opposed to how they had been tracked back in junior high. Some of those with the most brilliant job arcs came from the lowest track, the ones that not only weren’t supposed to go to college, but were only given vocational training in the morning and shuttled off to a job in the afternoon. What huge obstacles they had to overcome to be successful.

    Our little town also produced a lot of genuinely nice, grounded people and many of them are in non-profit and helping professions, all the way up to the FBI agent who investigated the Flight 93 crash scene after 9/11. It’s too small for my taste now but it was a wonderful place to be raised.

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  6. Dorothy said on October 26, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Julie that’s a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing. A nice bright spot on a Monday morning. I’ve gone to a few of my high school reunions. Next year will be #35 for me. I missed the 30th because we were living in South Carolina and that was too far to go. But I’ll probably attend #35.

    We might have sold my father-in-law’s house. Cross fingers for us. Waiting to hear back from a young man who came to see it on Saturday when Mike was in Pittsburgh to bring home his dad’s refrigerator (for our garage), and a bunch of stuff we need to go through and determine if we can sell it, or just donate it. This guy came through with his parents and they seem very motivated. He’s currently renting from the attorney handling the estate, and comes highly recommended. They didn’t balk at knowing they’ll have to replace the 64 year old furnace and update the wiring. The sooner we get rid of it the better.

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  7. Sue said on October 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

    “He’s just the seltzer down the clown pants”… beb, thank you for that bit of perfection.
    High school reunions: I’ve never been to mine, and they can’t find me anymore anyway. I wouldn’t want to go, but is it because I wouldn’t know anyone or because no one would know me? My reunions would probably go like the one in ‘Grosse Pointe Blank’ (“Who needs hard liquor?” “I do!”), minus the dead body.

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  8. mark said on October 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    It would seem the US government, through the FHA, is one of those door-to-door sharpies, at least if this report is accurate.

    So long as the politicians throw money at home ownership, the sharpies will line up to get a share. And since the government purchased at least 900 billion of the toxic mortygage backed sedurities (They won’t release the current total), the securities remain popular. If they go under, the government will take the loss and guarantee the investment.

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  9. Jeff Borden said on October 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Our class of 1969 is so disorganized and spread around the nation that we have not had a reunion since the 25th, which was poorly attended. I remain in touch with some of my old friends from high school, so I don’t really feel I’m missing anything, but then again, my sister’s class has one every five years and they’re always a blast for her and her pals.

    I will echo Peter’s comment that we also had to put down 20%, had to write letters about why a $15 payment on an old charge card was five days late and we still felt lucky to get an initial mortgage rate of 7% in 1993. We’re at 5.25% now after two refis to renovate and repair the house. But I do want to take the opportunity to suggest this effort to push people into houses they could not afford did not begin a few years ago.

    We had no debt when we were shopping for a mortgage. No student, car or credit car loans, etc. And we had a decent income with no kids at home. We had set a modest amount for our expenditure and every single mortgage broker, without exception, kept telling us that we could “buy a lot more house.” We didn’t need or want “a lot more house,” but these cats pushed it at us during every meeting. We did need a larger mortgage than we had wanted simply because we had been naive about what could be bought for what we wanted to spend. But I’ve never forgotten all those brokers with light in their eyes telling us how much better off we’d be with a house twice or three times more expensive than what we sought.

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  10. Julie Robinson said on October 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Sue, I didn’t enjoy #10 and everyone passed around a virus at #15, but you might be pleasantly surprised. And I forgot the other big surprise; my little town is thriving and has a busy downtown. Next-door neighbor DeKalb, which is bigger and has the university, is deserted except for taverns.

    Dorothy, best wishes on the possible sale. We are dreading clearing out and selling after Mom dies–she has become a crazy cat lady/pack rat with no visible floor space.

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  11. mark said on October 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    This isn’t good news for the journalism crowd.,0,374885.story?track=rss Particularly striking is that the rate of decline has almost doubled in a year.

    Personally I’m pleased that the bastion of capitalism and free markets,the Wall Street Journal, eked out a slight circulation increase.

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  12. John said on October 26, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Off the topic of reunions and marital discord, did April Fools’ Day arrive twice this year?

    Roger Ailes for President?

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  13. Jeff Borden said on October 26, 2009 at 3:57 pm


    You’re citing a Politico piece that was floated and shot down within hours. The purpose of the story is hard to figure. Roger Ailes is a very good political operative, but he would have as much chance in gaining a nomination as James Carville. Yet Politico breathlessly suggests Ailes’ friends are all atwitter over the possibility.


    The metropolitan daily newspaper industry is dying before our eyes. The WSJ remains an excellent newspaper –if you can ignore the comical editorial and op-ed pages– and it traffics in the kind of information many people seek. It’s political stance may be responsible for some circulation growth, but I know plenty of lefties who scour it daily and could not live without it.

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  14. Rana said on October 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I’m unlikely to ever go to my high school reunion. It’s too far away to travel, for one thing. The other is that, not having been one of the popular kids, I can count on two hands (maybe less) the people I’d look forward to seeing – and most of them have already contacted me on Facebook (some friended, others not, and a couple blocked). I don’t honestly see the point.

    Now, my college reunion, given another ten or fifteen years – that might be fun.

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  15. mark said on October 26, 2009 at 4:28 pm


    You’re right, I think, about the WSJ. While I enjoy the editorial stance, it’s the straight shooting financial news that keeps it valuable for most. If politics influences that, you’re not playing to a bias, you’re just making the information less valuable and reliable.

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  16. Julie Robinson said on October 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Trust me, Rana, I was not one of the popular kids either.
    I had a lot of fun and friends and was in many activities, but if I honestly evaluate my personality back then, it would be “rhymes with a witch”. I attribute this to my parents who told me almost everyday that I was better/smarter than everyone else. May I say that since then I have learned humility and endeavored to teach it in my children.

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  17. Jolene said on October 26, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I’ve sometimes wondered if anyone remembers themselves as “one of the popular kids”.

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  18. Rana said on October 26, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    That is an excellent question, Jolene!

    In my own case it was pretty clear: new kid + weird friends + smart + glasses & braces + unwillingness to conform to peer pressure = not popular. I wasn’t so much UNpopular – I had casual friends among the popular set – as just not really part of any high-status social group (and I didn’t particularly care to be – which also made me odd in the eyes of many of my classmates).

    It wasn’t until I went to college, and found myself surrounded by my skinny nerdy kind that I resumed my self-confidence (missing since grade school, which is when all the moving began).

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  19. Jeff Borden said on October 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm


    The best thing you can say about the WSJ is that the publication has a clear sense of mission about what it wants to do and how to do it. Most of the other dailies including the NYT are trying so hard to be all things to all people they wind up serving everyone poorly. Additionally, why wouldn’t circulation be plunging when the newspapers are smaller and contain less content written and edited by fewer staffers?

    The Chicago Tribune, for example, is moving to that super thin broadsheet size to save money on paper. Combined with the exodus of talented staffers from every department, why am I supposed to believe it’s as valuable as it was, say, five years ago? The Trib “relaunched” its sports section today with a mini-makeover and proclaims itself the best sports section in Chicago, but that is wholesale bullshit. There are dozens fewer people in sports including some terrifically talented and insightful writers who were sacrificed to the bean counters.

    I understand the industry is in crisis, but don’t piss on my head and call it rain.

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  20. Deborah said on October 26, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I was not popular in high school, at all. My sister (only one older sister no brothers) was even less popular than I was if that’s even possible. We were both extremely shy, I still am. I have few really close friends even now. Acquaintances sure, but no real BFFs. The only down side to this is that hardly anyone will come to my funeral (kidding!).

    I am still burning the candle at both ends at work. I spent a great deal of my vacation a couple of weeks ago working. That’s what personal computers are for, right? I worked almost 60 hours last week and that didn’t count the 17 1/2 hours I worked this weekend, all of that at the office. I had a weird incident today that has never happened before, while right in the middle of a presentation I had a complete and total brain freeze, I just stood there with my mouth gaping, groping for the word I wanted to say and the more I groped the worse it got. Then I went into panic mode and started to quake. It was horrible, hope it never happens again. I know it’s stress related, just too many long hours and too many tight deadlines. I used to be able to take it, but not anymore. I turned 59 a couple of weeks ago. Enough. I left an hour early from work today but since I got to work at 6:15 this morning I’d already put in over 10 hours by 4:30. This is all because I am the only one left in my department after lay-offs. Is anyone else experiencing this?

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  21. LAMary said on October 26, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I always had so much about me that was “different” I never expected to be popular and never cared much. I was always the tallest girl and artsy and quiet. I had a few friends and I worked on the paper and on plays and organized art shows. I’m still in touch with a half dozen people who shared those interests in high school, but I’ve never had any interest in going to a reunion. In high school I didn’t care about football or formal dances or being part of a cute couple and I could not wait to get out of that town when I graduated.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on October 26, 2009 at 6:55 pm


    Your statement about getting away from the old hometown resonates with me. The town was nice, but way too small. I think I knew as soon as my early teens, when I was entranced by depictions of big cities in movies, that I was going to be an urban boy. It took awhile, but I’ve been in Chicago for more than 20 years now, which is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I wouldn’t trade it for anything except maybe New York City or perhaps, San Francisco. The weather is lousy a lot, but that’s why they make umbrellas and overcoats.

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  23. Deborah said on October 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    But umbrellas in the wind are the pits. I think I’ve gone through a dozen or more a year since moving to Chicago. Of course I always buy the cheap-ass ones from CVS or someplace like that.

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  24. moe99 said on October 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Deborah, I thought this was an interesting article.

    There are folks who can make lemonade from lemons!

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  25. basset said on October 26, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I went to a couple of reunions, think they were the 15th and 20th. Not fun, probably worse than high school itself if that’s possible. No reason to have them, really, I was just about the only graduate who left and nobody much remembered me.

    >>I had a few friends and I worked on the paper and on plays and orga­nized art shows

    The high school where I graduated (I refuse to say “my” or “our” school) didn’t have a paper. Or plays. Or art shows, all that was sissy stuff and would have taken valuable resources away from basketball. Didn’t have a music program either, except for the band that played at basketball games and the feeder program leading into it; no auditorium, no theater, no choir, no student publications aside from the yearbook, but a hell of a gym.

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  26. brian stouder said on October 26, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    So, here’s hoping that the Proprietress and her peeps successfully got the vessel out of the lake-next-to- the-lake-next-to-the-big-lake-they*-call-Gitche Gumee*, and that ‘the gales of November’ didn’t come early.

    You know, I think I wouldn’t mind a reunion with the crew I worked with at a Maloley’s supermarket back in 1977; an interesting group of people who were at all stages of life, and who “came as they were”

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  27. brian stouder said on October 26, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Say, here’s a total non-sequitur, which I stumbled over.

    Dawn Wells – aka Maryanne on Gilligan’s Island, in a very “appealing” one minute long Youtuber (and it’s entirely tasteful, and suitable for small fries to see)

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  28. Dexter said on October 27, 2009 at 12:47 am

    Off topic as far as I can go here. I don’t go to movies and I don’t do Netflix, but I watch a hell of a lot of films on Sundance, IFC, TCM and the HBOs, and STARZ.
    “Milk” finally came to HBO and I just watched it On Demand.
    So in case anyone else missed it for any reason, I highly recommend it. It’s gripping…I usually take a couple breaks during a movie for soda or tea, but not this one.
    Eight days ago I saw “Slumdog Millionaire” for the first time, also. Wow. I see why these two films won so many awards.
    Just checkin’ in…carry on.

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  29. crazycatlady said on October 27, 2009 at 12:49 am

    I graduated from Redford High School in Detroit in 1974. Never went to a reunion. I figured once a reject always a reject. Why Bother>??? Anyhoo- Pugh will win. Voters here have proven over and over again that no matter how bad the candidate, how corrupt or how blatant the crimes,that name recognition trumps common sense every time. I was hoping that he would bring back some trace of respectability. I was hoping for an openly gay man would prove how worthy gays can be. I don’t know now if I can vote for him. As for Mayor. Who is the lesser of two evils? Cthulu or Godzilla? Not sure about anything now. I would have liked to keep Cockrel for mayor. But Bing is/was a famous basketball player. Nuff said.

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  30. moe99 said on October 27, 2009 at 1:16 am

    small fries, Brian, you crack me up!

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 27, 2009 at 8:12 am

    Cthulhu for mayor! Why vote for the lesser evil?

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  32. Dorothy said on October 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Rana since I didn’t go to college, the only reunions I get invited to are my high school ones. I wasn’t what I would say was popular, but I was friendly (still am), talkative and outgoing, so I think I made lots of friends in all directions. My school was about 30-40% black when I went there. I love the fact that we don’t just go and talk to “only” the white kids (HAH! kids!). We all mingle and get caught up on what’s been going on and we all seem genuinely happy to see each other. At least that’s the way I feel, I assume they all do, too, otherwise why would they be there? I feel like our reunions have leveled the playing field – everyone seems to about the same now, and people who might not have talked to me in 1974 now make pleasant conversation and aren’t as strange as I used to think they were.

    Dexter we rented MILK a few months ago and loved it. We saw SLUMDOG at the theater last year during Christmas week and loved it, too. But you know what? I tried to watch it on HBO when it came on last week and it just wasn’t the same. No surprise element anymore. However, just last night one of the HBO channels had APOLLO 13 on, and I can still watch that movie and feel suspense, even though I know how it all comes out in the end. I’m weird that way.

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  33. MichaelG said on October 27, 2009 at 9:40 am

    I graduated in ’62. Haven’t been to any reunions. They never contacted me. They’ll be having a 50th soon. Maybe I’ll go.

    For you Detroit people I have two words: Marion Berry.

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  34. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Dexter I saw Slumdog last weekend and Milk this weekend and I agree. I didn’t wander into the kitchen for an iced tea or anything.

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  35. LAMary said on October 27, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Basset, my high school was definitely more football and basketball friendly than newspaper, play and art show friendly, and our band mostly existed to play at games. We had cheerleaders, flag twirlers, baton twirlers and a twelve person color guard, all with elaborate uniforms. What I did on school plays was make costumes and design the programs on a budget of nearly zip. The newspaper was bi-weekly because we couldn’t afford to print it more frequently.
    The art show was, I’m proud to say, my zero cost project. The school had an addition built which created a big courtyard. Just a concrete rectangle. It worked for the art show, though. Anyone could submit pieces for consideration, and one of the football players whom I consider the most neanderthal entered a great little wire sculpture of a man crouched on the ground. He had applied wax in places to add some form. It was probably the best piece in the show.

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  36. basset said on October 27, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I don’t remember seeing any basketball players (no football at this school) in the art room, ever. that was time which could have been spent on practice.

    one of the “more neanderthal” ones sat next to me in mechanical drawing class and used to pull my ink drawings out of the finished-work stack and trace them with a ballpoint pen. this approach won him the mechanical drawing award at the end of the year so I guess I was making some small contribution to The Team.

    don’t recall what-all kinds of pageantry and silliness they had at the ball games but there sure seemed to be a lot of time spent on it.

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