Friday, August 19, 2022

After 30 years, we bid farewell to our waterbed

(471 words)

Val and I did something in the bedroom we’ve even after 30 years of sleeping together had never dreamed we’d try.

It was, for us at least, deviant. A little kinky.

It was — and there is no way to avoid this — good and hard.

I’d better explain before any of you daintier readers become faint at the bawdy turn the blog seems to have taken.

We purchased a new mattress. In more than 30 years of togetherness, we purchased our first non-waterbed mattress.

See Val and I were both waterbed enthusiasts long before we met. This put us at odds with 97 percent of Americans who sleep.

I qualify the figure because I’m convinced about 10 percent of all Americans do not sleep even a wink.  Ever. I presume the 10 percent spend their every waking moment thinking up things to say on Facebook to make it uncomfortable for those of us who check out Facebook just to make sure all our old friends remain in a state of spastic euphoria over things like Taco Tuesday. 

At their popularity’s peak in 1984, waterbeds were a $2 billion dollar industry accounting for 22 percent of all mattress sales. In the free love ’70s, they were Hippie staples.

I bought my first waterbed in 1985. I was shopping to fill my very first apartment — this was in Nashville — with cheap furniture. 

I remember the salesman looked like either Starsky or Hutch. I can no longer recall which is which. But I still remember his sales pitch. “There are two things that are better in a water bed,” he said. “One of them is sleep.”


Gimme a break. I was young and new to the city and open-minded about any suggestion that might increase the chances of me getting laid. 

Who could have predicted my stumbling virtue would remain intact, clear up to the magical night in ’96 when my wife said, “I do.” And she did. 

Still does!

Am I going to miss the waterbed? At it’s best, climbing into it on a cold winter night, was like returning to the womb — that is if the womb in which you were conceived was about the same capacity as a 4-ton female pachyderm.’s.

I think I’m going to miss saying I owned a waterbed more than actually owning one.

And I’m a little sad to say goodbye to another one of those things that made the Hippie era so sweet.

Makes me feel like a relic.

To think, I once had a lava light, bellbottom jeans,  beaded doorways and shoulder-holstered wine skins filled to bursting with Mogen David

When I think about it, I’m pretty lucky Val’s stuck with me and am grateful the things we share are deeper than an old waterbed mattress.

I got you, babe.

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Monday, August 1, 2022

You can again call me Professor


(586 words)

The last time I was honored to teach journalism to Point Park University students, I was determined to make a real impression. And I did.

A real bad one.

The class was three hours of me talking. Three! I showed up 10 minutes late, stumbling, barely coherent. I wanted them to think I was drunk.

I know, role of a lifetime. 

These weren’t privileged students. Most of them were paying for their education out of their own pockets and here was the prof showing up late and drunk.

The room seethed with hostility. I took out a single note card and, trembling, I began, “When  …..  I ….. heard ….. I ….. was ….. teaching ….. a three- …… hour ….. class ….. I  ……  figured ….. the …… only …… way …… I …… could ….. pull  ….. it ….. off …… was ….. if …… I ……”

By this point I was smiling, in control, making deliberate eye contact with all 20 students. 

“put ….. really ….. really ….. really ….. long …… pauses ….. between …… all ….. the …. words.”

I’m not going to say the room exploded with laughter, but given the situation, their expectations and my farce, I do believe it was the funniest  prank I’ve ever pulled.

They’d been completely fooled.

The man they’d moments earlier believed to be an incompetent booze hound turned out to be a man of sophistication and wit.

I told you it was a prank!

I mention this now because, as of Thursday, I am again a professor at Point Park University. I’d been communicating with a department head about a one-off address to the journalism students. He said the school had an opening and urged me to apply.

I’d taught grad students creative non-fiction there from 2007-’10. Why was I asked to leave?

If you’re thinking there was some tawdry scandal involving illicit contact between the professor and a beguiling student, well, thank you.

Most people, I think, reflexively believe any scandal involving me stemmed from rank stupidity.

In fact, the university decided to enforce a standard that adjuncts have at least a Masters degree to be allowed to teach. I still don’t have one, but I can persuasively argue my experience renders the point moot.

I believe I can build a compelling 15-week class based solely around all my hilarious failures.

Who knew there’d be so much practical value in so much mortal humiliation?

The key, however, was the praise from the former students of mine that rallied in support of my hire. Check it out:

• “Chris Rodell is a great teacher and his assignments really made me believe in my creativity again. I saved every paper from his class. I still have them and still read them for inspiration and insights.”

• “I’ve stayed in touch with professor Rodell because I appreciated his candor. To this day I find myself reflecting on his real-world advice. He may not hold an M.A. but his experiences make him much more valuable to students. I strongly recommend Mr. Rodell for a position at Point Park.”

• “Rodell is the one professor at Point Park who taught me how to trust my creative impulses and also to think about how I could actually sell my work. Rodell is a phenomenal writer, but also an entrepreneur. And he was the first and only professor — in both my undergraduate and master's degree programs — who showed me how to think like an entrepreneur, too. That's incredibly important in the media landscape today. Without Rodell, I would've never had the courage or impulse to pitch — let alone sell — a book to one of the Big Five publishers, or publish in major magazines and newspapers, or think about my work as something that could extend beyond the written word and into audio and video formats. I owe just about everything I've done as a freelance journalist to what Chris taught me in one semester at Point Park. That's no exaggeration. You should hire Chris.”

So it looks like I’ll be resuming my happy little gig in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh. 

I may not have all the answers, but I’m the perfect guy to get a class through the tough patches when time really … really …. starts …. to ….. drag.”

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