Twenty five years ago this week I quit my job at the 15th Street Grill in Tulsa OK and moved to Durham NC to start graduate school in sociology at Duke. Fordyce Eldred and Bob Butler (the owners and chef) gave me a really nice mixed case of wine and two wine tools—one of which has survived the quarter century. I had just graduated from the University of Tulsa, and I decided to go to Duke instead of Stanford or UNC (the other two top choices). I’d been working at 15th Street Grill off and on since 1983, and when I left it was among the top cool restaurants in the US.
Wow. What a wild ride. I was glad to have guys like Fordyce Eldred and Jerard Campbell and Bob Butler and Jim Williams and Jim Ross and Chris Cauthon and Octavia Booker there at the Grill. But, there I was, 21, married, with a kid, and heading off to grad school…
Grad school was a breeze compared to having to live at the margins. I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to go to school. The early marriage thing didn’t turn out so well, but other than that, I learned a lot in graduate school, and I was fortunate to land a very nice job at Vanderbilt. Things went well with my research, and I met all kinds of cool people like Alfred Darnell, Victor Anderson, Anthea Butler, Walt Gove, Jack Gibbs, Kim Green, Andy Fiala….and Alison Watts. I started playing ultimate frisbee and then running seriously, and did a few triathlons and lots of duathlons. In the last ten years I’ve mostly raced bikes, but it’s strange how each period seems like a different experience, disconnected and alien…especially from where I was 25 years ago.
It’s strange how my professional connectivity has varied over my career. Over the last decade, I’ve become a bit alienated from my main area of research, but yet I find that scholars in general are open and informed about who is doing what and the subtle difference between good and not quite as good.
Mostly, I’m lucky to have gotten out at all. 25 years ago I was a busboy in Tulsa, and I left to go to graduate school at Duke.
I’m glad I did.