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My life had pivoted on bad advice

As a golden age senior, I sometimes look back on my salad days and come to some conclusions — conclusions that hopefully will help me make better judgements and maybe give better advice.

Yes, advice is what I discovered. My life had pivoted on bad advice. So many people thought that they knew what was best for me — and maybe it continues… but that's another tale from this crotchety old man.

When it came to singing, my fifth grade teacher had everyone sing "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" to establish their singing range. I had never heard that song before and I messed it up. The teacher declared me a listener.

My trumpet teacher told me, "I don't need the money that badly," and my college play director, at my singing audition, decided that I was to be a dancer.I could have really benefited from some encouragement.

I wanted to be a comic. I even did a stand-up routine at the junior high talent show. But people just laughed at me.

I did have a wonderful junior high English teacher. She recognized that I could write but just couldn't spell or do the grammar thing. So she gave separate grades for content and for spelling grammar — usually and "A" and a "D". Other teachers simply gave me the "D". And this was interesting because when the school gave all the ninth grade students a New York statewide English aptitude exam, I tied for top in the grade.


But I also finished top in math and science. It just came naturally, but I had little interest in it. But my dad, a mechanic, wanted me to become a mechanical engineer. Probably good advice to earn a living, not so much for this kid to be happy.

For my last example of bad advice, I turn again to dear old dad, the mechanic, on how to buy a car.

After getting my license, some driving experience, and saving some money I was ready to buy my first car. I had my heart set on a Nash Metropolitan — an early small car.

Dad thought it was unsafe. "You need a big car," he said. "let me pick one out for you."

He saw an ad for a Ford Galaxy. When we checked it out, it was enormous. From front to its tail fins, it looked like it took two parking spaces. On the way home, crossing the Whitestone Bridge, it died at the toll booth. Bad advice.

So here I am. I write, I sing and I avoid projects. And I hope I avoid giving advice.

~ Al Zagofsky









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