Paul Stories: Miss Little and the Tetherball Pole

In 1965, when I was in 7th Grade, Beaumont Elementary school still had tetherball poles on the blacktop. This was a 10-foot pole with a ball on a rope attached to it at the top. Two people stood on opposite sides and smacked the ball until one of them got it wound all the way around the pole.

For some reason, I found it amusing to hold the pole with one hand and run around it in circles. It rains in Oregon, so I should not have been surprised when my feet flew out from under me and I landed on my chin.

 I was bleeding. The playground supervisor was Miss Little, my 6th grade teacher. She told me to suck it up. I went to the office, bleeding the whole way. Mom came and got me. It took six stitches to close the wound, and I still have a scar on my chin, which can’t be seen because of my beard.

Mom and I already disliked Miss Little (and the feeling was mutual). This incident did nothing to smooth over those feelings.

Paul Stories: String and Spoon

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Influenced by Hugh Downs, Dave Garroway and Steve Allen, as a five-year-old, I tied a string to a spoon and pretended it was a microphone, which I used to interview friends, relatives and my brother, Steve, who ran the “camera” (it was a broom). I was always the host of the “Paaauullleee” something show. At my final staff meeting at KBPS, I was given a light bulb attached to a string because the staff misheard the story.

Paul Stories: Twilight of a Mediocre Academic Career

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In the middle of my freshman year, I met with Prof. Tony Sinskey, my advisor. In my first term, I had four passes and one incomplete, in Calculus. He said, “If you don’t stop spending so much time at the newspaper (Ergo) and the radio station (WTBS), you are in the twilight of a mediocre academic career, taking the path of least resistance, just slipping by everything. That can be done, you know. This is really a pretty easy school to slip by, if that’s all you want. But what will you be qualified to do if you just slip by? Certainly nothing in Mathematics or the Natural Sciences… It’s very easy here to try to do too much. And unless you’re a genius, your academic performance will suffer. And I don’t think you’re a genius.” Turns out I was qualified to be a journalist. And he was right, I wasn’t a genius.

Paul Stories: My Tux and my Sax

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OK, I admit this is cheating. Most of these stories I have told ad nasuem over the years. But this one actually elicited a “how interesting” from a listener.

In 1992, at the age of 40, I decided it was “now or never” to fulfill my childhood dream of learning to play the saxophone. My first public performance was with the Open Systems Today jazz band. I only knew four blues chords, but I did OK.

When it came time to buy a horn, instead of renting one, Joe at Campana music told me to buy a new Selmer Paris tenor sax for $3,000. “Look at it this way; if you play it for 30 years, it’s under $10 a month.” I hit the 30-year mark last year. I purchased it with my inheritance from my grandmother. I asked Dad what Grams would have thought of me using her money for a horn. “She’d say you were a damn fool.” And, it’s now worth more than I paid for it (not counting inflation). Take that, Grams.

The brass bands I’ve played with required formal dress during concerts. For the first two years, I wore a used tux I bought at Goodwill. Then in 1993, my tailor (yes, I once had a tailor) suggested I buy a $3,000 tuxedo. “I can make it timeless; lapels get wider and narrower, but I’ll give you one right in the middle.” I used my winnings from the Scrabble TV game show to pay for it, it is now in its 30th year.

Paul Stories: Dr. Pepper and Vodka

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There was a tradition at The Tech. I was told (probably falsely) that the staff wouldn't elect someone editor-in-chief that they hadn't seen drunk. Then, as now, I rarely drank to excess, so at a party in October or November, held on Burton 5, I sat myself in a chair and allowed Storm Kauffman to hand me my favorite mixed drink all night: Dr. Pepper and Vodka. Yes, people thought it was vile then, too. Anyway, everyone saw me drunk. I puked in the bushes of some fraternity on my way home.  At the traditional annual mid-December meeting of The Tech board of directors, Dave Tenenbaum was elected chairman for the express purpose of riding herd on me. Here’s how it was written up in The Tech: “Paul E. Schindler '74 was elected Editor-in-Chief for the new year. He ran unopposed, winning narrowly on the 17th ballot. When asked what he planned to do differently from present practice, Schindler answered, ‘I'll try to be a little less competent.’"

Paul Stories: Early Politics

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Mom was chairman of the Young Democrats at Portland State during the 1960 presidential election. She drove Ted Kennedy into Portland when he flew in to campaign for his brother John, who was elected president later that year. He was 34, mom was 24 (for the mathematically inclined: yes, she was 15 when I was born). She told me Teddy was handsome and wildly sexy. Oregon went for Nixon, so all my third-grade friends were unhappy Republicans the day after  Kennedy won the election. Mom taught me this little tune, which I sang to irritate them. It is sung to the tune of Whistle While You Work.

Whistle while you work
Nixon is a jerk
And all his henchmen,
All his doormen
Now are out of work

Paul Stories: First Slap

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In second grade, in 1959, Kari Sue and I sat in a tree in her back yard, discussing how much we both wished we could fly. Not in a plane, but like birds. It made me feel very close to her.

I also recall trying to kiss her once on the playground. She slapped me, making my nose bleed. It bled on and off, at night, for months afterwards, any time I rolled over on it. I considered her my first girlfriend. We drifted apart, went to different high schools and saw each other at the 2016 50th reunion of our grade school class. Hoo-Boy; I’m sure that if this happened today I would have been suspended from school.

Paul Stories: MIT Admissions Redux

Last week’s item, Time for The Truth was about the things I did to gain admission to MIT. Turns out, I wasn’t as easy to admit as I thought. I was shocked to discover I’ve never told this story in the column.

In the spring of 1974, the Buckley Amendment opened all existing admissions records of colleges to inspection by students. I marched into the office of MIT Admissions Director Peter Richardson and asked to see my file. “I don’t care what the law says; I’ll read it to you, but I won’t let you read it.” He whistled, “You had the lowest SAT physics achievement test score of any member of the class of 1974. Also, half your class got 800 on the SAT math component; you got a 750 [the shame of the 95th percentile]. And you are the only student in the class of 1974 whose verbal score [780] was higher than his math.” Admitting me was apparently a difficult decision. Every applicant file is read twice. If the two readers disagree, the file goes to a third reading. My readers disagreed. I was admitted after a third reading. One of the readers wrote, “Would you admit LBJ?” That would be ex-president Lyndon Johnson. I am not sure if the remark referred to my liberal Democratic politics. But I have always suspected it was because I was large, noisy and pushy—just like LBJ. Anyway, the answer was yes, so I became an MIT student.