Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Greetings from Bootleg University

I have to share, y’all…

So, I am answering my e-mail on the first Monday of the New Year – “minding my own bidness,” as Eddie Murphy would say – when I open the following e-mail from my alma mater, Bootleg University (obvious, though apropos, not its real name; all names are withheld or changed to protect anonymity):

Dear Dr. Coakley-Thompson,
President [Name Withheld] of Bootleg University was invited to the inauguration of Robert Franklin, Jr. as the tenth president of Morehouse College in Atlanta on Friday, February 15, but… is unable to attend. Is there any chance you would be interested in attending as the University's representative?

I confess; I am both honored that they’d thought of me and curious as to why… all at the same time. After all, when I’d attended the university, I wasn’t even a mere blip on the radar screen there. I also have a love/hate relationship with the place. Never known to nurture talent, this is the same university who, rumor has it, told a certain popular action film star (hint: his ex is married to a much younger man, with whom he’s friends) to hang it up and find work in some other field. Rumor also has it that they’d told another theater student that she’d never amount to nothing. Years later, she became one of the breakout stars of a famous Black musical co-writen by Ossie Davis. I rest my case.

Nonetheless, curiosity devours me whole. I send the following missive in response:

Good evening, [Redacted].
I am honored that you are considering me to be the University's representative on such a monumental occasion. I am certainly interested in attending but remain curious at to what representing the University would entail.
Please feel free to reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to discuss this further.
Wendy Coakley-Thompson, Ph.D.

[Redacted] does, indeed, call, and we discuss the proposition on the table. It turns out that our chronically wrong Alumni Association has told him that I still live in Atlanta. When I tell [Redacted] that I’ve relocated back to DC, he asks if I’d consider flying down to represent the president at the graduation, at the ensuing convocation, and at the concert on graduation night. I’m thinking a free trip to the ATL, during which, after my spokes model duties, I could drop into my old haunts and sign a few books… perhaps host a reading or two. “Sure,” I say.

[Redacted] and I hang up, all simpatico. “Thanks very much for agreeing to represent Bootleg University,” he says in a subsequent e-mail, then asks for my updated contact info, which I happily give. Moreover, [Redacted] and I are now on a first-name basis now. I e-mail back promptly:

Hi there, [Redacted].
Good talking to you today.
I'm happy to represent my alma mater. I'm sure we'll be working out all of the transport and accommodation details as the time approaches… Let's talk again soon.

Simpatico evaporates like water in the Mojave Desert, though, when I get [Redacted’s] next e-mail:

To read the rest, check out the January 17, 2008 entry on Blogging in Black...

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