"Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell."
- Emily Dickinson
On Feb. 11, 1861, a tall, lanky Kentucky-born Illinois man boarded a train bound for Washington, D.C. Before his departure from Springfield, the only real home he ever knew, he turned to address the crowd assembled to hear some reassuring words about the troubled times ahead. Instead, President-elect Abraham Lincoln spoke about his home, and from his heart.
"My friends - No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything."
On May 12, I graduate from the State University of New York at Buffalo, culminating a journey that began in the fall of 1998. Accordingly, this is my last week as an editor and member of The Spectrum, and the final installment of "Feet First."
For what this truly means, I need to start at the beginning.
When I departed high school four years ago, the emotional impact of that event resonated as much as a pebble dropped into the Atlantic. I couldn't care less about leaving because I had nothing to care about. Friends, yes, but we weren't terribly close. There was nothing I attached to, and nothing attached to me. Those years were so not fruitful or enjoyable.
I was more or less a non-entity - vague and ill defined. Shadow more than substance. Certainly not the type to walk into school and play "Duck Hunt" with classmates, but definitely not the type targeted by such lunatics.
My first day of college did little to improve the situation. Since I knew nothing of the atrocious parking demolition derby on campus, I panicked trying to find a parking spot 15 minutes before my class started. Discovering the lot by UB Stadium saved me from the insensitive and desperate act of parking in a handicapped spot.
My first class, a World Civ recitation, was canceled. I sat, read The Spectrum, went to English 201 and went home to Grand Island.
My first day of college. Not quite "Animal House," huh?
Avoiding details, things failed to improve. Something needed to be done. Salvation wouldn't fall from the sky. Only turkeys thrown from helicopters do that.
"Something" came in convenient, easy to read format. I joined The Spectrum beginning the next year. I can remember the burst of pride when my first article was published: a review of an Amherst Saxophone Quartet performance.
For some reason, perhaps a drunken wager, it was decided I could inflict more damage on our beleaguered world as an editor and promoted accordingly.
My tenure as Assistant Feature Editor was valuable for showing me just what was required of such a job. More importantly, it was my foot in the door to write "those things with the picture" - meaning this creature called "Feet First." Why "Feet First?" I'll answer that later.
Fall 2000 rolled around. I was promoted (again, I suspect alcohol was involved) to Editorial Editor, a position with a title that accomplishes the impossible of being both alliterative and redundant. When the editor in chief, in what turned out to be a temporary assignment for him, requested volunteers to write a column, my arm raised faster than a ferret moves on speed.
It was at this time I began to sink into the morass of both The Spectrum and UB. I was spending large chunks of time around the other editors, and it was starting to rub off on me. For example, I discovered how big a liberal commie shrew my then-editorial partner Elizabeth Fox-Solomon was, but she wasn't that bad a person.
Spending so much time with these people made me realize the depth of what I was missing. They were having the times of their lives, and I was on the sideline, watching. I was so thoroughly disconnected from the loop I couldn't begin to see the magnitude of what I was losing. Being around these people, more than anything, gave me the necessary kick to the head to get me in gear.
I moved on campus the next semester, perhaps one of the smartest things I've ever done. Sticking my tongue in the electric fan yesterday was not.
Something else happened too. At some point, I'm not sure when, I ceased being that shadow. The prism of The Spectrum gave my day-to-day life structure, giving my world not only definition, but revealing something I'm semi-decent at: namely, this.
The Spectrum is where I grew up. If I slouch while standing, it's because I've forgotten to stand straight, not like previously from a lack of confidence. Whatever fear once plagued me: about the world, the unknown, it's gone. I now know who I am, no longer simply what I'm not.
And now it's time to leave.
I've written this column for two years. In that time, I've been called Lex Luthor. My name appeared on an almost weekly basis in Generation. I've been defended with the misspelled but heartfelt, "Lucinsky's the man!" When other editors have mentioned their association with this paper, and my name is mentioned, it's frequently followed by something to the effect of, "I'd like to hit that guy."
I've loved every minute of it.
I depart from this institution torn. On the one hand, I don't want to leave. At the same time, the world beckons. Who among us is strong enough to resist the call? Not I.
I depart with heavy memories. I was here when editors were arrested for stay in the Union too late on production night. I was here when we impeached and removed an editor in chief. I was here through the dizzying highs and crushing lows of Election 2000. It was here I watched blood, bone and metal tumble from the Manhattan sky. It was here I watched the war begin.
My heart is heavy, but the weight is not a burden. That's due to the true secret of this place. The hours are long, the compensation inadequate and the work incredibly frustrating. But what makes The Spectrum work is the people. If you know any editors, new or old, ask them. The Spectrum is the best clubhouse at UB.
The experiences are enriched by the names you share them with:
Debbie, Helene, Judka, Del Bello, Darius, Justin, Vince, Brian, Nick, Sara, Kevin, Emily, Gene, a multitude of Mikes, Stefanie (I spelled it right), Phil.
Why did I stay when my life would have been infinitely simpler if I had just walked away? Because you all made it worthwhile.
I'm leaving. But I'll come back to visit. I promise.
Oh, and why "Feet First?" Because "The Phantom Menace" was already taken.
". To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell."
The Kentucky-born tall man from Illinois boarded the train, and it left the station.