Head Home Previous Next Last

My Son, the Writer Part 1

Cover of Jim Thorpe Today.

Now that I've been in journalism all these many years, I got to thinking —Hey, why don't I write about how I got into journalism.

And after rolling around in my bed one sleepless morning, I chanced upon the title, My Son, the Writer—a riff on the 1950ish Allen Sherman album, My Son, the Folksinger—which itself is ironic as maybe I'm inching towards becoming a folksinger, maybe in the manner of Sherman's satiric fashion.

But enough about titles and into the so-called meat and potatoes of this memoir. But of cause, how can I get into the so-called "meat and potatoes"—another irony as my dear wife, Adele, has gone all plant based and has all but forbade "meat and potatoes." I'm kinda thinking that without these "meat and potatoes," maybe I'm not getting enough iron in my diet—so, maybe that's why I need to add a bit of irony.

Best as I remember, my interest in writing began when I was a kid. I did what most kids do—kidding. I mean, what else do you do as a kid except read stories, soak up stories from the media, and live life. And in living life, from the time I learned to talk, life was so much about telling stories. So, it was just a matter of time until I wrote them down.

As I continue to free associate this introduction, let me insert another preface, and that is, many things were easy for me—writing was not. Sure, I was comfortable with storytelling, but I was constantly told that my skills lied in other places. I was nudged towards math, sciences and engineering while receiving poor grades in "English." Well, Einstein failed math—what did that prove?

I was a first born, and when I was three, my sister came along. Sensing I could not compete with a new born, I started being funny. That worked. That became my thing.



I remember in fifth grade, I was the class clown. Maybe I was bored by the fact and numbers-based education which I found too easy and not very interesting. One time, we were asked to make a presentation on "MY Favorite Sport." I chose sleeping.

Another time, we were asked to give a presentation on the first satellite, Sputnik. So, I traversed around the room, rotating and going "beep, beep."

My next memory takes me to an English class in seventh grade. We had to write a report on Ivanhoe. I wrote a Western-style take-off entitled, "Ivan the Kid." I received a "D" for grammar and spelling and an "A+" for content. Great teacher—anyone else would have averaged the two grades and given me a meaningless "C+."

I was considered a goof-off for the rest of junior high school, then surprised every one in the school when I got the highest score on some statewide English and math test. I was always a good test taker—but a bored student. I have since learned that the problem is sometimes in the teaching—not in the learning.

Like when I went to Stuyvesant High School—one of New York's competitive schools. They focused on math and science—which was all well and good—but I was ripped off when it came to English.

I had the same English teacher for three years. He always wore a black suit—which suited his sense of humor. Not only did was he uninspiring when it came to creativity, he never got around to teaching grammar.

Continued in part 2

~ Al Zagofsky














Last page
Next page
Previous page
Home page