Dedicated to culture and critical thought since 1998
1/3/2 Article: Defending my own dumbness

I'm second from the right... in all my East County
glory.(L-R The Vandals: Mark Schwappach, John
Permetti, me, Tony Edison)

By Barry Benintende

"The Reverend Martin Luther King had a dream, a dream he marched on Washington to make happen only to be cut down by an assassin's bullet. The Grossmont Griffins' season was played out under the motto "I have a dream" and theirs' was cut down by poor free throw shooting last night in the Shaughnessy play-offs."

And so it began, January 1982.

  So, there I was, a 17 year-old kid put ahead a year and horribly out of
place in college, even a community college. With my best corduroy slacks and OP shirt on, I applied at the G, the weekly dishrag of Grossmont College-- and I immediately underwhelmed my editor, Buddy Seigal.
The assignment: Cover the Grossmont College Men's Basketball team play-off game over the week end, have something on the desk by 8 a.m. Monday morning. After getting the night off at Chuck E. Cheese, I headed out to the game and saw the Griffins lose by a basket. Banners that read "I have a dream"  still hung from the gymnasium walls as the local team staggered away, crestfallen, the dream was dead.

  With as little experience as I had, and it being late January, I figured a
Martin Luther King reference was not out of place. Holy fucking hell, was I ever wrong.

  It seems making a reference to a murdered civil rights leader was incorrect, even if the team's motto was "I have a dream." Silly me, I figured they wouldn't mind... here was my first lesson in the politically correct world of college journalism. The G, to fill you in, was an odd conglomerate at the time, hippies stuck in the sixties still populated the office, bumping up
against young Republicans thrilled with the recently-elected Ronnie Reagan
and the go-go eighties just kick-starting. Lost among the VW Bug driving,
skull bong-totting types and the supply side economics nerds was Buddy,
greasey-haired musician, fan of pugilism and godfather of quick insults to
those he felt were not up to his standards of journalistic excellence; in
other words, me. Me? I was a kid from El Cajon, wanting to learn as much as possible about the writing game, having little experience and huge dreams of Pulitzer Prizes, six-figure book deals and smoldering hot exposés on local politicians.

  But the G needed a sports reporter, so I was slotted in as low man on the
totem pole. Being a huge Padres' fan and a Christian Youth League baseball and basketball player,  I figured the gig would be no problem. I ended up charting stats of a football team in the midst of a 26 game losing streak, watching my high school civics teacher coach a group a defense-minded hoopsters to with in an inch of their "dream" and getting dubbed, by Buddy, "Barry the Baptist."

  To this day, I have no idea why.

  To this day, I have no idea why I was chastised so vehemently for the MLK line at the top of m story. Was it crap? Well, looking back, with all these years of knowledge and experience, sure. But a rookie mistake is a rookie mistake and I made one.

  It is insensitive to use the quote of a great African American to compare
his dream of people growing the fuck up and putting the racist baggage away and a basketball team (that was mostly African American) getting beaten by a couple of points in a tournament long forgotten.

  Sure, I would've probably gotten my ass handed to me had the line run, and Buddy did do me a favor by re-writing it. A sporting event and the quest for social change are entirely different animals. One matters at the end of the day a helluva lot more. Sure, a 38 year-old can see that, but at 17, my experience with civil rights was pretty much limited to what Walter Cronkite put on the evening news. El Cajon was not exactly Harlem, African Americans, while not nonexistent, were not commonplace. Bluntly put, I was a kid, I fucked up.

  But, 20 years later, I'm still hearing about it. Do I have a sense of humor?
Just look at my paycheck, my wardrobe or my haircut and the "Yes" is
self-evident. Am I tired of hearing this little anecdote repeated so many
years later? Actually, I figure it makes me pretty special. How many other
pimply-faced geeks made an impression on him? How many folks from that staff are still in contact with Buddy all these years later?

  Most importantly, how many other graduates form the hallowed halls of
Grossmont College have gone on to become editors of weekly papers (okay, so the answer is four confirmed with several probables)? I guess it could be worse, I could've ended up getting stuck covering the campus police beat and been totally forgotten by now. I'll just have to wait until Alzheimer's disease wrecks that mind in the pretty little head that belongs to Buddy. He is, after-all, cute as a button when he recants the tale of many years ago when I was too young to drink, vote or have carnal knowledge legally. I went on to edit the sports page for the G two years later and drink my way through college as a music critic (free albums, never had to wait in line or pay for a concert, sweet deal). I ended up being the first guy to interview Buddy when he left the Beat Farmers and formed the Jacks. I've had the pleasure of seeing the man down copious amounts of alcohol in such ample amount that Dean Martin would blush. I've had the pleasure of vomiting outside one of his gigs (okay, more than one). I've had the pleasure of letting my children listen to his music and meet the guy in person. I've had the pleasure of listening to his wife and mine swap tales of our stupidity.

I've also had the cross to bear of a story I wrote, 20 years ago, while
listening to Nick Lowe and Noise To Go on KGB (back when they played interviews and music from guys I wanted to hear) into the wee morning hours. I didn't give it a second thought.

  Twenty-one years down the road, I still think the lead paragraph was
adequate. It wasn't nearly as embarrassing as when I asked the Go-Go's if
they were lesbians. Fortunately, the drinks they threw in my face were not
the flaming kind. That probably would've hurt.

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