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al orner

Spring 2014

Volume 10 No.1

A project of the Journalism III (Editing) and Writing for Publication Students, California University of Pennsylvania

Should servers get mandatory tips? Victoria Martin argues that servers, like herself, should be paid more

Page 3

A controlling monster Spenser Scott tells about living with OCD

Page 4

A leap of faith Josh Herman tells of the first time he jumped off a cliff

Page 7

The pros and cons of drinking at 18 Kate Sheldon takes a practical look at lowering the drinking age

Page 8

Hockey fights: Are the risks worth it?

Jose Negron takes a look at injuries in professional hockey

Page 9

Developing art appreciation

Taylor Stefanko recalls summers with her artful grandad

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2 Calorner

Spring 2014

Welcome to the Cal Corner!

The Journalism III -- Editing (ENG 312) class, as well as the Writing for Publication (ENG 496) class, taught by Professor Margo Wilson, have worked diligently to create this year’s edition of the Cal Corner. In this issue, we are featuring the personal narratives, argument essays and scholarly critiques of the Writing for Publication students. We hope you enjoy reading our work! See our online version at

Servers should be paid mandatory gratuity, by Victoria Martin.....................................................................................................................................3 Facing down a controlling monster: OCD, by Spenser Scott...........................................................................................................................................4 Craving the sweeter things in life, by Taylor Brown............................................................................................................................................................5 Young child sheds light on the bigger picture during a gay protest at West Chester University, by Eric Tito...............................................6 A leap of faith: Taking the plunge, by Josh Herman..........................................................................................................................................................7 Should the drinking age be 18? by Kate Sheldon...............................................................................................................................................................8 Fighting in hockey: Is the risk worth the reward? by Jose Negron................................................................................................................................9 From fan in the crowd to wrestler in the ring, by Cameron Bucar...............................................................................................................................10 Wrestling fan lives for monthly mayhem, by Dan Mader................................................................................................................................................11 The ups and downs of waterskiing, by Rachel Dranko....................................................................................................................................................12 Artful life contrasts with abstract exhibit, by Taylor Stefanko.......................................................................................................................................13 Football head injuries may lead to dementia, by Julian Sepasky................................................................................................................................14 Addiction: Weakness or treatable disease? by Phillip Hough ......................................................................................................................................15 “Huckleberry Finn” and religious hypocrisy, by Amanda Szrafraniec..........................................................................................................................16 Picking up the pieces afer a breakup, by Jane Shrum.....................................................................................................................................................17 Losing a pet and what no one tells you, by Sonya Minner............................................................................................................................................18 Pros, cons of adopting a new, furry best friend, by Jessica Reddington...................................................................................................................19 Meet our editors............................................................................................................................................................................................................................20

From left, Taylor Brown, Lauren Griffith, Deven Bourquin and Max Freese are some of the editors for Journalism III -- Editing.

Cover photo by Matt Kaminski. From CAl U SAI’s Flickr.

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Spring 2014

Servers should be paid mandatory gratuity


Many people argue that the minimum wage should be raised. Servers are paid $2.13 an hour plus tips, which is far less than the minimum wage. It is expected for people to tip well; however, in restaurants without an added gratuity, servers are scraping by because of poor tippers. Rather than raising the $2.13 an hour wage, the gratuity should be made mandatory for all restaurants serving customers. On a busy Friday night, restaurants are a nightmare. Waiters and waitresses are bumping into one another while running food and drinks to tables. Cooks are yelling at one another to complete orders, and the printer almost constantly is spitting out orders to the cooks. As a waitress at a restaurant that has a bar, I have become accustomed to staying up until 2 a.m., waiting for a handful of customers to drink their final beer after last call. I have met some customers who are always a delight to wait on. Those people understand that the servers and bartenders are working for far less than minimum wage. They also understand what gratuity is fair and that our paychecks are hardly enough to buy dinner at McDonald’s. Their tips are what we use to get by; they are the cash that goes into our pockets at the end of the night. Then there are the people who do not understand the concept of tipping, or the effort being put in by cooks, bartenders and servers to keep the restaurant sailing smoothly. Whether it is ignorance or a bad experience that prevents these people from tipping, it still should not be the servers’ pay that suffers. I work at a restaurant that does not add a gratuity to checks and many times have found that it should be mandatory. One busy Saturday night in January, I was running from table to table, refilling Pepsi from the one soda machine in the restaurant, running beer and drinks to customers, taking food and drink orders, and checking to see how my eight or nine tables were doing. I introduced myself to an older couple, got them their drinks and took their food order.

Photo Credit: Victoria Martin

Victoria Martin shows what her meager tips look like after a shift. When the older couple’s hoagies were ready, I took them to the table, asked if they needed anything else and left. When I returned to their table, what I experienced was something worse than the scorn you would receive from your own mother. “This is unacceptable!” the old man shouted at me. The woman chimed in and added that my service was terrible as they had watched their hoagies sit on the oven for a whole two minutes while I brought drinks to my other customers. When I offered to get them, on the house, something else to eat, suddenly nothing was good enough. If they were not the center of my attention all night, I wasn’t a good enough waitress. I gave them their check and got a 13 cent tip. The inability to understand how a restaurant works and desire to lash out at one’s waitress for something the waitress could not control shocked me. When a server waits on many tables at once, it isn’t right to skip out on taking care of one table because of the impatience of another. The inability to understand that the server is making $2.13 an hour needs to be addressed by making a gratuity mandatory in restaurants. I realized from this experience why I enjoy my job as a waitress. Seeing families together having a good time helps me overlook the fact that I am getting paid $2.13 an hour. And most of the time,

goodhearted people are the understanding ones who have worked for minimum wage or less and are generous. People will find a reason to skip out on tipping their waitress because of just about anything. I came across an article from the Huffington Post about a waitress from New Jersey who was left a note, instead of a tip, by a family of four. It read, “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I do not agree with your lifestyle choices.” The woman, who was a lesbian, also happened to be a Marine and posted a photo of the note to Facebook. This is just one example of how people are unethical and look for reasons not to tip. While I do not believe that non-tippers should be banned from restaurants — because sometimes there is good reason for not tipping — I believe if one is eating at a restaurant and a server provides good service, a gratuity should be mandatory. Many people raise children, pay for their education, and pay living expenses from their tips as servers. If all restaurants added in a gratuity that could be taken off in the event of terrible service, which does happen, servers would still work hard and things would run efficiently, perhaps even better. Waiters and waitresses could go home with money to pay their expenses, rather than having an empty wallet because of someone’s personal issues.

al 4 Corner

Spring 2014

Facing down a controlling monster: OCD By SPENSER SCOTT Imagine just for a moment that your mind is stuck on a particular unwanted thought or an image. Then this thought or image is played repeatedly in your mind. Over and over again, no matter what you did. Of course you would want all of these repetitive thoughts to leave your mind. This situation is almost like your TV is paused on a scene of a movie that scares you the most and no matter what you do, that scene will not go away. Not only are you stuck with these unwanted thoughts, but also with the intense feelings of anxiety that come along with it. This is the struggle I deal with on a daily basis. I try to avoid the battle of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder each and every minute of the day, but cannot seem to shake this controlling monster. It all started during the summer going into my freshman year of high school. I began to realize that several disturbing images had crossed my mind that I could not control. These images were basically horrific experiences that I never wanted to become reality. No matter what I did, the thoughts refused to disappear from my mind. I convinced myself that these random thoughts were normal and that other people experienced them, as well. And if people did not experience these thoughts, I would just convince myself that they were little problems that would go away with time. A year or so passed, and I began to realize my “little” problems had gotten much worse. Not only did I have these unwanted thoughts, but I also began reciting prayers. Every time I would start reading a passage of any story, I would feel the need to start praying for something. It was almost as if I could not continue reading until this prayer was said and done. The prayer essentially was to

Photo Credit:

Not just everyone would take the time to line up M&Ms according to color. make sure every person close to me was a constant struggle. There were many OK. My prayer would begin the same times when I was late to class because of way each time. It would start out asking my fear of not having my appliances unGod to watch over my friends and family plugged. I would worry that if I forgot to members, to keep them safe. I would ask unplug something, then something terto keep them healthy and protect them rible would occur. The problem existed in their travels. Once I said my prayer, I not only with appliances, but with other would repeat, “In Jesus’ Name, Amen,” things as well. Sometimes, it was even a up to 10 times before I would continue battle to get out of my car. For example, reading again. It was as if I had to do it. when I got out of my car, I would stand Pretend someone was forcing you to with the door open to make sure I put do something or something seriously the car in park. After minutes of that, I bad was going to happen. The feeling is would check to make sure the emergenexactly the same. cy break was on. When I was finally able I always remember my mom saying to shut the door, I made sure multiple when I was growing up, “Relax. Everytimes that the doors were locked. It even thing is going to be just fine. Try to stop got to the point that I would go around worrying so much.” Or, “I told your dad and pull each door handle to be comwhen you were younger that you worpletely certain. ried a lot.” I would always nod and agree Once I realized how intense my urges with the first statement every time she to check items were, I finally told my said it. I would think that if my mom said mom everything that I was doing. She everything was going to be OK, maybe it bought me a book that teaches people really would be OK. like me how to control their OCD. It I thought this was the most difficult allows me to write what obsessive comlevel of OCD that I would experience. pulsions I have and why. I have not seen I was wrong. Once I got to college, it a professional regarding my disorder bebegan to get much worse. This anxiety cause I think I am capable of keeping my disorder started to take over nearly compulsions under control. Although I everything that I did. Tasks that were have not been able to overcome living as small as checking to make sure my with OCD, it is a challenge that can be straightener and other appliances dealt with. It does not have to control were unplugged in the morning were someone’s life.

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Spring 2014

Craving the sweeter things in life By TAYLOR BROWN Last January when I started drinking water by the gallon, I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I would continually drive to Walmart to replace the 36-count pack of water that I had just bought a few days before, without thinking twice why my body was so thirsty. When I started going to the bathroom once every 10 minutes, I told myself I had a bladder infection and made an appointment with my doctor. When I was at work and started shaking in the middle of dinner rush, I chugged a can of Mountain Dew and went on with my night as if nothing were wrong. When my legs started tingling from the waist down, I asked one of my co-workers who is also a physical therapist, what it could be and she told me it was probably a pinched nerve. That made sense, so I made another doctor’s appointment. All of these minuscule things were happening all at once and still, to me, it was no big deal. Nevertheless, I grabbed my laptop and searched my symptoms on WebMd. My doctor did not have an appointment for one month. I figured whatever was wrong couldn’t have been that urgent, so I made an appointment and decided to wait, that is, until I couldn’t take it anymore. About one week later, I was sitting in the bathroom of the University Health Center, holding a little plastic cup. If I peed in this little cup, it would make the sixth time in the last hour, five of which were alongside I-70 West on the way back from the Monroeville Mall to my apartment. I was expecting to be prescribed antibiotics. I thought I had a bladder infection. A “normal” person’s blood sugar will sit around 120 to 140, depending on the time of day, what food the person ate, when he or she ate or how active the person has been. After looking at the health center’s screen, I realized I was no

Photo Credit:

National Symbol for Diabetes.

longer one of those people. This was the first time my blood sugar ever was checked, and the glucometer read 786. Within 20 minutes, an ambulance was outside of Carter Hall, and I was in a wheelchair, not allowed to walk. Then I was lying on a stretcher, staring at a very large needle that was about to be shoved into my arm. That’s the first time I remember crying. On March 12, 2013, I found out that I was a statistic. I found out that like 28 million other Americans, I am diabetic. But I am part of a smaller percentile -the Type 1 diabetics. I guess that makes us different because we can’t just take a pill and make everything better. We’re different because we were born this way and for some genetic reason, one day, any random day, our pancreas will just stop producing insulin, just because. How is that for a medical diagnosis? That day and the days to come turned out to be a lot of firsts for me. The first time my blood sugar was ever checked, the first time I was ever given an IV, the first that that I had ever ridden in an ambulance, the firs time that I had ever gotten blood work, the first time that I had ever stayed over night in a hospital, the first time I had ever been given insulin, the first time I had ever been in the ICU, the first time I had ever resented my body, the first time in my entire life that I was dealt a hand I wasn’t sure that

I could handle. It has been almost a year since I have been diagnosed, and I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been one of the hardest years of my life. It’s the little things that bother me now, though, more than checking my blood sugar, more than counting carbs, more than giving myself four shots of insulin every single day. Those things are easy for me to deal with because I have to. I don’t have a choice. It is for me a very real life-or-death decision. My wellbeing resides in a little clear glass jar of medication that sits in my fridge. The hard part is dealing with the rest of the world who aren’t diabetics, who don’t understand about being diabetic, who think it isn’t that big of a deal, who think that I became this way because I ate too much candy when I was younger. I am not the only person living in a world of needles and shots and calloused fingers, and that’s reassuring. I am going to have the kind of days when I throw my hands up in the air and pretend that my pancreas is working for a day. Days where I don’t check my blood sugar as much as I should and eat whatever I want, even though I know the gravity of that decision. There are still going to be days when I spend hours and hours looking online at the most recent advancements in medicine that give me hope that diabetes won’t always be a struggle and that maybe normal isn’t so far a way. Since becoming diabetic, I have come to realize how good the taste of a regular pop is after not drinking one in months and how delicious a Snickers bar is after it is left in the freezer for a few days. I savor the taste of my mom’s homemade noodles on Thanksgiving and my aunt Sandy’s celebratory black-and-gold cupcakes after the Steelers win a game. I embrace the moments when my sugar drops just low enough that I can indulge in a little bit of the person I used to be, of the person most of you are, and enjoy the sweeter side of life for just a little while, when being diabetic is normal.


al Corner

Spring 2014

Young child sheds light on the bigger picture during a gay protest at West Chester University By ERIC TITO I remember when I was about 16 years old and my parents and I went to visit my sister at West Chester University. We went because it was parents’ weekend and they were also holding an event called “Restaurant Day.” The event involved most restaurants in downtown West Chester. Each restaurant opened kiosks outside their storefronts so visitors could purchase food from a limited menu. The idea was for people to try a bunch of different food without having to commit to one restaurant for the evening. When we went down that year, I had Cajun-cooked alligator and it was delicious! I also saw Bam Margera, who starred in the show, “Jackass,” and the subsequent movies. The experience was really fun and there were a ton of people around. West Chester University has a population of 12,000 students. When you combine that number with the parents of those students, along with the natives of West Chester, you’ll understand that the local restaurants are provided with a great business opportunity to showcase themselves and their food. Sadly though, bad people can use good things like this to exploit their own agendas. I am specifically talking about gay rights protesters, who were protesting on the street corners of Main Street, which is the most crowded area on Restaurant Day. While it is true that everyone has the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, it makes me sad to see people abuse an altogether happy and good-willed event for their malicious protests. Still, I managed to see the most beautiful thing happen amidst all of the negativity. My dad and I were standing across the street from the protesters, just hanging around waiting for my mom and sister to get their food. Although I knew why these people were protesting gay marriage and gay rights, I still didn’t understand their protests.

Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes, Creative Commons

A Protester claims children grow up best with heterosexual parents. To this day, I still don’t understand why anyone would protest against love. I know they claim that it’s against the Bible and all that jazz, but the only reason they say that is to hide the real truth, which is that the protesters just don’t like gay people. Later that day, I saw two women walking down the street, holding the hands of a boy, who I presumed was their child. I started to think that, the kid, who must have been no older than 5, probably didn’t even know what “gay” means. He didn’t seem to be upset that he didn’t have a dad, probably because he has two moms, and to him, that’s what normal is. In the triangle that was forming, there was my dad and I, the protesters, and the homosexual family that was approaching them. That child represented the innocence in what was sure to be an uncomfortable situation. The two mothers walked straight up to the protesters like a couple of proud lionesses protecting their cub. The two mothers had their arms crossed over their chests and were sneering at the protesters, almost as if they were showing off how normal and great their son was. The boy did not cry or make a scene. He simply was standing in front of the protesters, staring up with a slight smile.

You could tell by their gestures the women were starting to get angrier. But the crowd didn’t seem to notice. The crowd was just enjoying the food and time with their families. My family started to walk in the opposite direction, but I turned around and saw the most beautiful thing. The child’s parents were still shouting in the protesters’ faces, while the boy stood next to them, looking at one person they were shouting at. The protester was looking back at the boy, too, when the child raised his hand and waved at the protester like one would wave at a friend. The protester waved back and then the child held his hand out like a proper gentleman to initiate a handshake, which the protester reciprocated. This beautiful moment of understanding between the child and the protester gave me insight into the bigger picture. This protester was just caught up in a belief system that didn’t really mean anything. I saw in that moment that he would change because of this kid’s blind ignorance to the hateful protest he was quietly putting an end to. This allowed me to remember that hate isn’t something you are born with. Hate is something that you learn.

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Spring 2014

A leap of faith: Taking the plunge By JOSH HERMAN

“Dude, this is going to be so much fun,” my friend Tyler yelled over the radio. ”You are going to love it,” he added. I’m really excited.” We were on our way to a place my friends called, “Blue Hole Point.” It is at the base of a mountain. A cliff oversees a small lake below and today was the day I was going to leap from that cliff into that lake. My friends Tyler and Matt had made the jump several times and I had always been too “busy” to join them. Today there were no more excuses; I was jumping. Ideas to escape the daring feat pingponged in my head. “Slow down,” Matt exclaimed as he pointed to our left. A yellow piece of caution tape was bandaged around a large tree. “This is us, guys,” Matt said excitedly as he put his hand on the passenger side door handle. We filed out of the vehicle, all three of us with towels draped over our shoulders. We stepped to the road and stared down the hill. The lake, the waterfall, and the rocks all came into view. I tilted my head and the cliff came into my gaze. It was much higher than I had expected. A path led up to the jumping point. Matt made his way over to the start of the path. “You should stay down here while we jump in case something goes wrong and we need some help,” Tyler said to me. An intensified sense of worry came to me. Hearing someone else mention the possibility of something going wrong made my knees shake. I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. “You want to make sure you jump out far enough to clear those rocks,” Matt said, smirking. I forced myself to chuckle as a large lump formed in my throat. “You should also come up as soon as you can because the temperature can take your breath away,” he added. “It’s the middle of fall in Pennsylvania.” The temperature of the water hadn’t even crossed my mind. I had thought

once I reached the water, I could stop worrying. Matt and Tyler already had made their way to the top. At the top, Tyler questioned whether it was too cold to jump. “Yes, too cold to jump!” This was a concern I thought was worth discussing. “No way. I’ve jumped when it’s been colder than this. Don’t be a wuss.” Tyler gave in and stepped to the ledge. Matt was the daredevil of my friends. He never turned down a stunt. He was a skateboarder, too. Although he was the most fearless of my friends, he also was the most dimwitted. I couldn’t help but wonder if the traits were related. I watched as they took a few steps back and prepared. They gave each other a nod to indicate that it was time to jump. Then, they were embraced by the mountain air. Gravity made quick work of their descent and soon, my companions broke the surface of the water. Tyler entered the lake feet first, while Matt had splashed down in an awkward horizontal twist. After several seconds, their heads emerged from the water. Their arms and legs flailed violently. They crawled out of the lake and ran to their towels. “Damn, what a rush,” Matt yelled to Tyler. They shivered and shook as they dried themselves. Without a word to the other two, I trudged my way to the path. Today, the boys were jumping off the cliff at Blue Hole Point and I was one of the boys. I was jumping. Knees still shaking and head down, I began my ascension. The climb was manageable, but by no mean easy. I made my climb intentionally slow but reached the launch point nonetheless. I carefully eased my way to the ledge and peered down at my cold and discouraging destination. The lake surface was calm and still and mocked the constant and fierce stir in my stomach. I

knew the longer I waited, the more likely I wasn’t going to go through with the jump. I ran through my short, but vital checklist. “Clear the rocks at the bottom and surface fast,” I thought. I took more of a running start than my friends and in an instant, I was airborne. I remember thinking that it took only a second for Tyler and Matt to go from the cliff to the water, but time became nonexistent during my free fall. As I momentarily pondered my horizontal trajectory, I crashed into the bitter lake and the autumn water cut into me. I was a fair swimmer, but my arms and legs were numb. I kicked and convulsed my way to the edge of the water, where my friends greeted me with my towel. I wrapped myself up and in a moment of reflection, I realized that I had jumped. “What’s the verdict?” Matt asked. I tried to come up with the answer he was looking for. “That’s incredible. We have to do it again sometime,” I uttered excitedly. “My thought exactly,” Matt responded. He turned and walked towards the start of the path leading back to the cliff. He turned and yelled back at us. “I was thinking right now.”

Photo Credit: Andrew Hood An adventurer jumps.

al 8 Corner

Spring 2014

Should the drinking age be 18? By KATE SHELDON

Imagine if drinking at 18 were acceptable. Some say that if one is able to serve one’s country at 18, vote or get married, then the person should be able to enjoy a beer with friends, too. I don’t disagree with this statement, but I don’t completely agree with it, either. When I turned 18, I had just started my freshman year at California University of Pennsylvania. Even if I had been of age when I was a senior in high school, I do not believe I would have been prepared for legal drinking. I am now in my junior year of college and will turn 21 in a few months. I know from experience and from being around college students each day, most of whom are 21 now, they would not have been mentally ready to take on the responsibility of drinking at 18. The maturity of most high schoolers and college students is not up to par with the responsibilities that come along with legally drinking. I have seen many people make terrible decisions while they were blackedout drunk. They also become sick from binge drinking. Most college students, and especially those who are 18, lack the responsibility factor. If I can’t trust some of these people to take out their trash or make it to class on time, then why would I trust them with alcohol? Especially, why would I trust one of them to get behind a wheel, even if the individual had only one drink? I have seen too many friends make stupid decisions because of alcohol, and I know that if the drinking age were lowered, that this would allow teenagers to believe that their stupid decisions are justified because alcohol is legal. On the other hand, I have also thought that, regardless of the drinking age, teenagers still drink whether they are 21 or not. Keeping the drinking age at 21 seems to push teenagers to want to drink in unsafe situations and in less controlled environments and to experiment with binge drinking, which can potentially lead to more health-threatening behavior. It seems as if teenagers choose to

Photo Credit: Many teenagers drink when they are underage. But is it OK?

ignore that they are committing a crime each time they open a beer. By banning teenagers from participating in an act that is universally understood to be a symbol of adulthood, teenagers, in turn, disrespect the law. Something to consider about the drinking age at 21 is that just because young adults who are 21 or older are not supposed to supply alcohol to minors does not mean that they won’t. I have many friends who are not 21, but they have alcohol each weekend because they give someone money to buy them alcohol. I think that underage drinking causes a lot of different types of unnecessary run-ins with the law. I don’t see anything wrong with friends sitting in someone’s house, hanging out and playing drinking games, but I also do not agree with the people who are underage who go out of their way to be able to drink in public. During my first year of college, I had a friend who had a fake ID and she would get served at bars. Granted, she was not as mature as someone who was 21, but I do not think that discriminating among ages helps either. I know some mature 16-year-olds and some immature 50-year-olds, so the fact that there is a limit on the drinking age doesn’t necessarily mean that every person who is 21 will be mature and make the right decisions with alcohol. My opinion on this topic is conflicting, because I do not think seniors in high school should be drinking, but I also do

not agree that one can enlist in the Army and yet not enjoy a beer at 18. When one turns 18, he or she is able to enlist in the Army, but also leave home, go to college, get married, have children, buy tobacco products, vote in elections, get tattoos and piercings, play the lottery, legally change one’s name and rent or purchase one’s first home or apartment. This is why I have such a problem with the drinking age because some of the things one can do at the legal age can literally kill the person. Alcohol may impair one’s ability to function, but if drunk in moderation, it can be used for celebration and is normal for certain cultures. I feel as though changing the drinking age would save a lot of people headaches and would deter young adults from breaking the law just to get a drink. On the other hand, alcohol is meant to be consumed by adults, and I believe that providing high schoolers with the opportunity to drink gives those who are underage the opportunity to drink, as well, because friends will provide it. I cannot say for sure which I would rather have happen, but maybe that is because drinking isn’t really a big part of my life. It does not offend me when people who are underage drink because they are not affecting my life negatively. I think the government is trying to do what is best for young adults by keeping the drinking age 21.

Spring 2014

Fighting in hockey:

Calorner 9

Is the risk worth the reward? By JOSE NEGRON Athletes in any sport must be extremely conditioned and have a competitive nature that will allow them to separate themselves from the others. The game of hockey is a sport that comes with a long list of risks. It is a fast-paced and physical game, accompanied by a lot of controversy and debate. I believe that fighting in the game of hockey should be disallowed by the National Hockey League. If the NHL banned fighting in hockey, the door would be opened for more safety efforts within youth hockey. When I was in grade school, I attended my first Pittsburgh Penguins game with my dad at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Late in the game with the Penguins tied 1-1 with the Detroit Red Wings, play stopped as a scrum began behind the Red Wings’ goal. Two players dropped their gloves and began exchanging fists. I knew this was part of the game, but I had never experienced the live reaction. Fans screamed things like, “Kill him” or “Send that piece of crap back to Detroit.” As a young boy, I wasn’t sure how to react to two huge hockey players punching each other as if the other were a big punching bag. As I grew older, I became fond of fighting in hockey. I’ve always known that fighting is part of the game, but I’ve always been concerned about the cost of these actions to the players and about what could be done to cut down on the punishment athletes endure on a daily basis. A lot of the controversy in hockey has to do with hits to the head and illegal checks into the boards and how these hits can be minimized because many players receive concussions. Penalties and game misconducts are given for illegal hits; however, it doesn’t seem these penalties are of great concern. At the same time, many hockey analysts and sports writers have been

in a long debate over whether fighting should be outlawed in the game. Fighting in hockey has become a big part of this physical game. Many incidents have been reported in which minor league hockey coaches were suspended for allowing players to receive concussions while teaching them how to fight. In the pee wee hockey system, fighting should not be tolerated, and it starts with the coaches and the parents. Coaches should teach their players at a young age to play with a passion and play the game the right way, meaning the players should avoid fights. The physical damage that players endure when fighting in the middle of a hockey game isn’t quite the issue here. Cuts and bruises heal, but the mental damage that fighting causes participants is a much bigger concern. Many former NHL enforcers have passed away in the last five years from drugs, alcohol, depression, and suicide, including Derick Brassard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. Many have thought these deaths may have had something to do with these players’ roles on the ice. All three players were known as enforcers on the ice. The goal of an enforcer is to be the tough guy, sticking up for teammates and dropping the gloves and fighting players if necessary. It is thought that maybe the blows to the head these known enforcers received may have caused not just physical, but mental problems. I understand that fighting in hockey is a huge part of the game. I can honestly say that I personally love to see tough athletes drop the gloves and engage in a battle of fisticuffs. The thing to remember here is that these athletes are also human beings. As blogger Greg Caggiano writes, “Enforcers suffer the brunt of these issues because their job is a lot less glamorous than the superstar scorer. They play

Photo Credit: ‘Goon’ publicity photo

Seann William Scott stars in ‘Goon.’

maybe five to seven minutes a night each time they are out there, wanting to chip in a goal, but more than likely not doing so. They live to fight, and without it, would not have a job in the NHL. When they win, they are revered. When they lose, they are washed up in the eyes of fans.” Caggiano commented on the fate of enforcers in his Sept. 1, 2011, post, “The Mental Health of NHL Enforcers: Time to Ban Fighting in Hockey?” which appeared on his blog, “Reel to Real.” Fighting has been glamorized in the media, on the Internet, and even in movies. In 2011, the movie, “Goon,” depicted the life of a hockey enforcer. The film was gory and gruesome and gave its audience a good look at the pain these players go through. The main character goes through personal problems and finds himself in an unstable state mentally and physically. It made me think about enforcers being human beings with families, players who only do their job in order to put food on the table. They entertain the fans with their brutal actions, but the cost shouldn’t be their lives. As tough as it is to say, I don’t think fighting ever will be banned in hockey. It’s a sport that has always included a lot of passion and toughness. Unfortunately, fighting has been and always will be a huge part of the sport. I just hope that it won’t require another player in the National Hockey League to die from mental problems for NHL officials to realize that it may be time to be a little more strict when it comes to fighting. I want to see the day when hockey will get back to being about who is the best on the ice.


al Corner

Spring 2014

From fan in the crowd to wrestler in the ring By CAMERON BUCAR I was 5 the first time my father handed me a pair of tickets to witness professional wrestling live at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh. I had begun watching wrestling a couple of months prior and couldn’t be more excited to witness the action in person. The drive to the event took only an hour, but it felt like days. My father parked the car in some old, rundown parking lot that charged $20. As we got out of the vehicle, my father turned to me and said something that would stick with me for a very long time. “Now just remember that this is all fake,” he said. “These guys aren’t really beating each other up.” His statement took me by surprise. What did he mean that it was all fake? From that point on, I watched wrestling differently, wondering what was real and what was fake. Thirteen years later, I found myself standing backstage at a pro wrestling event. This time, I wasn’t attending as a fan, but rather, as a performer. After months of training and preparing, I would soon find out for sure how true my father’s statement was. I began training to become a pro wrestler when I was 17. The training cost $800 and was held three days a week. I learned that falling in a wrestling ring, or “taking bumps” as they call it, is certainly no joke. Falling on the canvas will instantly steal the breath from your body, and failing to tuck your chin before impact can lead to a concussion. It was during a normal training session that my trainer, Bill, broke the news that I would soon be having my first wrestling match in front of a live audience. Soon, I stood backstage at the Monessen Civic Center, not thinking that momentarily, I would be wrestling in front of a crowd, but thinking about the terrible odor that flooded the halls. I wondered if the hideous smell was a sign of things to come and if the stench represented what my performance

Photo Credit:

Fans anticipate a pro wrestling event.

would allude to that evening. My opponent for the evening, a man who used the wrestling alias, “J-RU,” had not arrived in the building yet to discuss our match. Since this was my first match, my trainer had decided that I would play a masked character. Moments later, the show began and I could hear the announcer welcoming the small crowd to the event. Soon the entrance music for the night’s first competitor echoed through the building and the opening match kicked off. My match was to go on third, yet my opponent’s whereabouts were still in question. J-RU finally arrived at the start of the second match. I ran up to him and quickly introduced myself as his opponent for the evening. He could tell by my enthusiasm and frankly, just by looking at me, that I was a scared rookie. I imagined that he would have had the entire five to seven minutes that our match was expected to last planned out. J-RU looked at me. “Well kid, let’s just go out there and wing it,” J-RU said. I couldn’t believe it! That wasn’t how things were supposed to go. I believed everything was scripted, like a film. My slight case of nervousness suddenly leaped to new heights. I walked through the curtain and entered a foreign land that I had only encountered before as an outsider. The entrance music that played was a creepy circus tune that seemed to scare the children in the audience. They introduced me as “The Masked Assassin” and that I hailed from parts unknown. I was playing the villain in

the match and I pulled it off by yelling at a couple of children in the first row. It may have been tasteless, but it certainly worked. Suddenly, the bell rang and J-RU ran at me, punching at my chin. I instantly felt the pain piercing through my jaw, but before I could take my next breath, I was hit with another blow. The next five minutes consisted of me taking slam after slam. This match wasn’t about me getting in any offense, but on how well I could learn to take maneuvers. Near the end of the match, J-RU had placed me in one of the corners of the ring. I wasn’t sure what was coming, but I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant. That was when J-RU proceeded to dive into me with a flying elbow attack that would result in his elbow stabbing me in the throat. I knew it had to have been an accident because J-RU immediately apologized. But his apology was followed by another vicious elbow to the throat. Directly after that, J-RU grabbed my head and planted it in a firm grip, then dropped me on the canvas, face first, for a move that is titled the “DDT.” J-RU covered me for the three count and just like that, the match was over. As I lay in the ring, dizzy and in pain, I could hear the crowd cheering J-RU’s name. It was in that moment that I knew I had survived my first test. After the match, I sat backstage and wondered if I would be all right. I felt totally exhausted and it was hard to swallow. I took myself back to the time my father had told me that wrestling was completely fake and that there was no real danger in the sport. I wanted to yell at him and couldn’t wait to show him the swelling and bruises I had obtained during the match. Moments later, J-RU approached me. “Hey, kid, you did really well out there tonight,” J-RU said. “You handled yourself well, and most important, you listened. I hope I wasn’t too hard on you out there.” I took a deep breath, which was nearly impossible to do with my swollen throat, and I thought to myself: ”I didn’t feel a thing.”

al 11 Spring 2014 Corner Wrestling fan lives for monthly ringside mayhem By DAN MADER As my closest friends and I strolled into the West Newton Gymnasium on a briskly cold Saturday in November, the smell of cigarettes and feel of excitement filled the air. A local wrestling promotion, the Renegade Wrestling Alliance (RWA), has live pro wrestling once a month on Saturday. This was the second live RWA event I’d gone to, and I was looking forward to seeing if the wrestlers could leave a lasting impression on me as they did the first time I watched them live. I’ve been a fan of wrestling ever since I was 3. I remember sitting home with my dad, watching “WCW Monday Nitro” every Monday Night. As I grew older, I loved wrestling more and more, and now, as a college student, I can still honestly say that pro wrestling is my favorite hobby. It’s been well-documented that pro wrestling is scripted, with no true competition involved. I look at it as a sports-oriented movie every night it’s on TV or if I’m attending a show live. The athletics, spectacle, and the fans’ passion is what drives me to watch and consume as much pro wrestling as I can. As we paid our $12 to enter the gym, we immediately found the seats that are synonymous with our group of fans we bring every month. The seats are close to the entrance where the wrestlers walk out when they have their match. As we sat down, the ring announcer, Burt LeGrande, began calling out the first two wrestlers who were going to have a match. It was a one-on-one match and was over in less than 10 minutes. The next match, dubbed a “triplethreat match,” occurred. It was for the RWA Cruiserweight Championship, which is for wrestlers who are smaller than the average wrestler and compete with a faster pace than the others and perform high-risk maneuvers. The Cruiserweight Champion, Jay Ice, along with his valet, Alexa, walked to the ring as he prepared to face two wrestlers, Scott Sarin and Joseph Allen Blackwell. The match featured a plethora of

Photo Credit: Dan Mader

Wrestlers G-Raver, left, and Ashton Amherst in a no-holds-barred match. moves that are high risk, in which the wrestler easily could get injured. The fact that the match was fast-paced and featured many moves that could end any of the three wrestlers’ careers showed how much passion all three men have for professional wrestling. The emotional roller coaster had reached its peak and the audience members were ready to let everything they had out for the main event, which featured Ashton Amherst, an independent wrestler who calls himself, “The Best in Pittsburgh,” and fan favorite G-Raver, who dazzles the fans with his acrobatic and dangerous moves. The fight was a no-holds-barred match, which means that any weapon can be used without a disqualification. After about 15 minutes of hard-hitting action, G-Raver walked over to the side of the gymnasium and picked up a 10-foot ladder. To protect their safety, the crowd members began to move away from the action. G-Raver struck Amherst with the ladder and then looked underneath the ring and found a wooden table. I knew something insane was going to happen, so I moved from my bleacher seat all the way across the gymnasium to get a better view of the action.

As the raucous wrestling fans anxiously watched G-Raver climb the turnbuckle with his opponent lying on the wooden table below, I thought, “There is no backing out of this for him. He is going to leap over that ladder and, either way, he is going to land on that wooden table without any cushion for his fall.” G-Raver raised his arm to signal he was going to jump, and he hurdled the ladder. As soon as G-Raver jumped over the ladder, Amherst gained his bearings and moved out of the way, sending G-Raver’s already bruised and battered body through the table and to the gym floor beneath it. I watched in amazement, and chills went up my spine. It was an awe-inspiring event that I’ll never forget. However, the chills in my spine were nothing compared to what G-Raver was dealing with. Blood was leaking from his back like a faucet. The crowd members began to chant, “Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!” As the match ended, my friends and I had our mouths agape and had never seen anything like the event we just had witnessed. The outpouring of crowd chants, dramatic moments and camaraderie made this night one I’ll never forget.

al Spring 2014 Corner The ups and downs of waterskiing



Athletics has never been my forté. My lack of coordination made any sport nearly impossible. The word, “graceful,” was never in any description of me. Considering these factors, one would be able to see my apprehension when my uncle decided he was going to teach all of my cousins and me to waterski. My family has been visiting Conneaut Lake for over 100 years. It is Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake. The town of Conneaut is very small and everyone is on a first-name basis. My cousins and I always enjoyed our time at Conneaut Lake. One particular day I remember was in the summer when I was 10. My uncle walked out of the house and and asked one of our favorite questions: “Who wants to go on a boat ride?” We all shouted excitedly, rinsed off in the lake and made our way to the docks. There, we hoisted the anchor, untied the ropes and set sail. We had always seen our older cousins waterskiing and gracefully gliding across the water and doing cool tricks, and every time when they would come back, we would always ask our uncle when we would be able to learn. “Very soon,” he would say. “You’re not old enough just yet.” But today was the day we were finally going to be like our big cousins. We decided my younger brother was the first to take the plunge. “OK, now keep your body scrunched up really tight and the skis out of the water and hold on to the rope and don’t let go,” my uncle instructed. The engine of the boat revved. My cousins and I were all sitting on the back seat, excitedly watching my brother. My brother followed all of the instructions and was almost up and then lost his balance and fell. “You’re fine, try again,” my uncle yelled from the driver’s seat of the boat. A few more times and he was up. After he went, it was my cousin Hannah’s turn. The same thing happened with her. A few stumbles and she was up. The same went for Alex, then Sarah and then Jessie.

Photo Credit: From Rachel Dranko Rachel Dranko has been waterskiing for 10 years, after starting as a child.

“This should be a piece of cake,” I thought. I strapped on my life vest, put the skis on and jumped in. The water was cold and it was really hard to swim with those big skis on my feet. I followed all of the instructions: scrunch up, hold tight to the rope, raise the skis above the water. Just as my uncle started the boat, one of my skis slipped under the water. I let go of the rope in a panic and splashed back into the water. My uncle swung the boat around and I grabbed hold of the rope again. I tried again, scrunched up, and held tight to the rope. The engine revved again and I started to get pulled out of the water. I was almost up and then I lost my balance and did a nosedive into the water. I tried about five more times and still couldn’t get up. I climbed back into the boat, totally defeated. “It’s OK, Rachel, you will get the hang of it by tomorrow,” my cousin Hannah consoled me. “Yeah, tomorrow,” I said weakly. We pulled the boat back into its dock and

headed back to the house. We scurried off, washed up, had dinner, played for a little while longer and then headed to bed. The next morning we were back on the water. My brother got up on the first try and by the end of the day, everyone had gotten up at least once; everyone except for me, that is. The next few days of waterskiing went by and once again, I was the only one who couldn’t get up. I was so upset that the next day when my cousins went skiing, I stayed in. After a conversation with my mother about how she endured the same difficulties and ended up eventually finding success, I decided to give it another try. The next day, the sun was shining brightly. There was not a cloud in the sky and we made the trek to the boat. “Who wants to go first today?” my uncle asked. “I-I will,” I stammered. I geared up and plunged into the water. The water was so choppy that day. I could barely see over the waves. “Ready?” my uncle bellowed. “Uh-huh,” I said, barely audible. I tightened my grip on the rope. The engine revved. I got into position and then the skis begin to rise. “Oh, no,” I thought. “I’m not going to be able to get up. It’s too choppy. It’s never going to work.” And then all of a sudden, I was up. I was on top of the water and the skis were below me. I was doing it! I looked up and saw my cousins cheering from the boat and my mom giving me a thumbs-up. I managed to ski a few hundred feet and fell. I didn’t care, though, because I had gotten up. I was a waterskiier. I have been waterskiing for 10 years now and recently was able to slalom ski, which is skiing with one ski and is a lot harder than with two skis. It took me a while to get the hang of that, too, but I kept pushing and I never gave up. I realized that although it may take a while to achieve what you want, you have to keep pushing through and try your hardest, no matter how hopeless it seems because going that extra mile will give you the ability to achieve great things.

al 13 Corner

Spring 2014

Artful life contrasts with abstract exhibit By TAYLOR STEFANKO

I grew up surrounded by art. My pap was a commercial artist and my grandmother was excellent at sewing, baking and gardening. It seems as if each of their children and grandchildren have been granted an artistic ability, or at least some creative intent. Each Tuesday during summer break, my four cousins, my brother and I would gather at my grandparents’ house for a new project to work on. We created all sorts of things, from wind chimes to Indian headdresses to sculptures of clay. While we crafted with my pap, my gram taught us other hobbies, like sewing, baking and knitting. The summers I spent at my grandparents’ house were some of the best summers of my life. Not only did we get to create things ourselves, but their house was also covered in my pap’s artwork. Throughout my life, I have compared many works of art to the things that my pap has made. Art today is becoming stranger than the art I grew up with. Because of the creativity and beauty I was exposed to as a child, it has been hard for me to appreciate some of the works I have seen through the years. One of my favorite pieces that my pap made was a large silkscreen print, “Garden of Eden.” It was an abstract print of Eve’s hand reaching to pick the forbidden fruit while the serpent watched. I have never felt a strong connection to religious matters, so the biblical content was not what I was truly interested in. What I loved so much about this print was the amazing amount of detail. The patterns in the tree and the serpent were so beautiful to me. I loved the distribution of color as well. While the tree and the snake in the foreground were colored, the background remained grey. I actually made it a point to go into my grandparents’ room once every so often just to see the print. I will never forget my favorite spot in the world, my pap’s workshop. It was a large, rustic building consisting of two floors and a balcony. On the first floor, my pap kept most of his machines, tools and wood.

To the back left, there was a small room where my pap stored screws, hinges and other building materials. Toward the back right, there was a door to the balcony and a dangerously steep ladder that led to the second floor. The second floor was by far my favorite part of the shop. There were enough musical instruments for an elementary school music class. The room also held a collection of at least 40 pipes sitting in a large bowl, a barber chair, and a sarcophagus that my pap made for a school play that was actually used in a recent episode of the show, “Treehouse Masters.” There were bookshelves stocked with hundreds of books on various topics and thousands of other knickknacks stored in large glass display cases. My pap was basically an artistic hoarder. Not in a bad sense. He just collected items that he saw use for in future projects. Toward the back corner of the main room of the second floor was an area where two drawing tables were set up facing away from one another. As organized of a person as I am, it is strange that I loved a place that was the exact opposite. This is the one exception where the mess didn’t bother me. My pap’s shop was where a crucial part of my childhood took place. It’s the place where I came to love and appreciate art. Last fall, a group of friends and I went to the Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl. One of the pieces that I saw that night was a 3D-animated video by Kurt Hentschläger, “Hive.” It was a swirling mass of people-like figures that moved around on the screen for five minutes on repeat. In the background was a low humming sound. At first, it gave an eerie feeling. But not long after that, I realized that I was at an art exhibit, staring at a video of a ball of people moving around a screen, and that was just odd to me. The Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl was not the first time that I have come across weird artwork. Surely, most people have heard of the infamous painting, “The Holy Virgin Mary,” by artist Chris Ofili. The painting uses elephant dung and

Photo Credit: From Taylor Stefanko The silkscreen print, “Garden of Eden,” depicts Eve reaching toward the apple.

photos of female genitalia to depict the Virgin Mary. Where this idea came from is beyond me – and that’s not just because I have no desire to paint with elephant poop. I just don’t see the reward in offending others. I feel that the art movement has taken an odd turn, and this, for me, is unsettling. The art that I know and love resides in the memories that I have about my grandparents’ house and in the days when I just sit around, painting or drawing for hours on end. Art is a beautiful thing. There is a fine line between expressing one’s self and offending others. Believe it or not, there also is a difference between abstract art and art that one calls “abstract” because the person has no other words for what it might be. I still hold out hope that art will return to a more beautiful presentation. I follow artists whose work I can appreciate. One of these artists forever will be my grandfather. He is an excellent example of what an artist is, and I will never forget how lucky I am to have had him as a teacher through my early years of life.


al Corner

Spring 2014

Football head injuries may lead to dementia By JULIAN SEPESKY

Our country has become more knowledgeable over the years in the field of medicine and personal health. The exploration of stem cell research, the avoidance of the dangers and health issues of smoking, and the constant updates of what foods and drinks may be leading causes of diseases, is helping us progress and become a more consciencious nation. All of the progress in medicine has carried over to the world of sports. Today’s athletes have the ability to recover in a remarkably short time from the injuries they’ve sustained. Preparations also are being taken to prevent injuries. Head injuries, however, have been difficult to diagnose and treat. Football is a sport that involves physical contact and constant impact to the head. According to concussiontreatment. com, a website that provides statistics and answers to frequently asked questions about concussions, “Football is the sport most common with concussion risks in males, with a 75 percent chance of concussion.” Dr. James P. Kelly, the director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for treating veterans with traumatic brain injury and former neurologist for the Chicago Bears, spoke on the subject of concussions in football in an interview with Sports Illustrated magazine. “On the overall spectrum of head trauma, football cases are mild for the most part. Serious injuries can and do happen, but most resolve themselves within 7 to 10 days with no lasting effects. The major concern is Second Impact Syndrome, when a player goes back too early and gets hit again. This can be very dangerous and lead to massive swelling of the brain,” Kelly said. One reason that head injuries have become such a hot-button topic is the discovery of the progressive degenerative disease, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, in recently deceased football players. According to Healthline, CTE is a form

Photo Credit:

CTE is diagnosed postmortem.

of encephalopathy, defined as a disease or disorder of the brain. The disease previously was referred to as Dementia Pugilistica. Unfortunately, this disease can only be diagnosed postmortem among individuals who have a history of head injuries. This can make finding an eventual treatment or cure a frustrating effort. Those who have been diagnosed with repeated concussions and head trauma over an extended period of time can get a CTE diagnosis. Those who suffer from CTE tend to show symptoms of dementia, shortterm and long-term memory loss, overly aggressive behavior, depression and general confusion. These symptoms tend to manifest themselves many years after the initial incident of trauma. According to Wikipedia, between 2008 and 2010, the bodies of 12 former NFL players underwent a postmortem evaluation. All 12 players showed some evidence of CTE. And in 2012, 33 former NFL athletes were diagnosed with CTE after their deaths. CTE is a harmful disease and the damage it causes is being revealed. And football has taken a serious hit in the wake of all of this talk about concussions, CTE, and brain injuries. Many parents now are questioning whether their children should play a sport that can cause serious brain damage over time. According to a recent NBC News/WSJ poll, 40 percent of Americans would rather have their children play a sport other than football because of the concussion

concerns. It is important for parents to get an indepth look at what causes CTE and how children participating in youth football can take precautions against CTE. This is the level where the young players are supposed to learn the fundamentals of the game. Coaches should be held responsible for instructing young, competitive football players on the proper way to play the game and avoid injuries. Although we still have a chance to change the techniques of the young football players, we are left only to strive with great effort to protect our professional football players. The NFL is a violent league, proved by the number of injuries that occur on the field of play each year. The NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have taken strides toward making the game safer and in helping players avoid head injuries. For instance, there have been rules implemented over the past five or six years that protect certain positions. These rules have met scorn from some fans, who adore the “old-school, physical” style of football that was played in the 1970s and 1980s. Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson weighed in on the subject of head injuries. “You are supposed to be tough. You are supposed to play through pain. You are not supposed to cry. We are taught that early on in the game as kids. “Tough sport. Brutal sport. It’s like the gladiator. People want to see the big hits,” Dickerson said on ESPN’s morning radio show, “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” Football is a game that teaches discipline, teamwork and determination, qualities that are necessary for success in any walk of life. Football is certainly a violent sport, but it does not need to be eliminated just because of concussions. Awareness and education about technique is what needs to be spread at every level of the game in order to keep this sport alive well into the future.

al 15 Corner

Spring 2014

Addiction: Weakness or treatable disease? By PHILIP HOUGH The highly publicized death of acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, due to an apparent heroin overdose on Feb. 2, has revealed a new face of an “addict.” Personal experiences and stereotypes often have led to the general public turning a blind, uncaring eye to such occurrences. Social media and news comment sections have been bombarded with support for families and those struggling with addiction, as well as with the opinions of some who firmly believe there is no tragedy involved in a drug overdose brought on by addiction. One writer who posted in the comments section of the article, “How Heroin Kills,” wrote, “What I want to know is ... What is going through someone’s head when they decide, ‘hey, I want to take a hit of heroin today’ for the first time? “I’m sorry, but it’s pure idiocy and people who do this and die because of it deserve to be selected out of the gene pool,” the writer stated. Others have cited personal experience and support for families and addicts. Both vehemently defend their stances. At the heart of this controversy seems to be the label of “disease” being tied to addiction. Many will not accept an addiction as falling into the same category as traditional, clinical illness. It is my belief that individuals holding these views are short-sighted, often missing the bigger picture of addiction and disease. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines disease as “a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” This definition can easily fit addiction, as addiction is most certainly a condition that “impairs normal functioning” and does include distinguishing symptoms. It is with this in mind that we should look at those suffering from addiction.

In my experience, addiction is an aspect, or symptom, of an underlying illness, or disease. Many turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, in an attempt to self-medicate an underlying illness. It is generally acceptable to call off sick from work if one is experiencing an illness with more visible symptoms, such as a virus or the flu; however, it would be less acceptable to call off and cite depression or any other psychological illness. This is where the line gets blurred for many who contend that addiction is not an illness. Mental illness and addiction often are not outwardly visible; however, they seem to be most certainly tied together. This is where the new face of an addict comes into play. We see, as the case was with Hoffman, that addiction grips not just those who stereotypically fit the bill for an addict, but also those held in high regard by the public and their loved ones. High-profile, successful people suffer, as well, from addiction, and I think this can help change our misconceptions. Many believe that the addict uses drugs or alcohol only as a selfish decision to escape his or her own reality, but often these observers never delve deeply enough into the topic of addiction and possible underlying mental illness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which can be found online at drugabuse. gov, answers the question, “Is drug addiction a mental illness?” with a resounding “Yes.” According to the site, addiction “changes the brain in fundamental ways, disturbing a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug. The resulting compulsive behaviors that override the ability to control impulses despite the consequences are similar to hallmarks of other mental illnesses.” I don’t know that any one essay, or any amount of research, will change the minds of people who do not see addiction as an illness, but rather, as a selfish condition that the user chooses to per-

Photo Credit: addiction-treatment.

When it comes to addiction, both highand low-profile people suffer from it. petuate; however, I would like to think that we should all be familiar with facts and studies before we judge. Years ago, I lost a close friend to addiction. He died of an apparent overdose resulting from mixing the drugs heroin and cocaine. He was, by all accounts, a “normal” person; in other words, he didn’t display signs of an addict. He had served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and seemed to maintain a typical lifestyle upon his return. It was only after spending time with him upon his return, at small gatherings and parties with mutual friends, that I saw him break down over his experiences overseas. He gained weight, and he would become overwhelmed with intense periods of grief and sorrow for his actions. He once told me, in the early hours of the morning after a night with a few friends, that “No matter how many people you kill (referring to war), it never gets easier.” This was a man, a war veteran, well over 6 feet tall and around 240 pounds, breaking down. This was only a few weeks before he died, and the last time I spoke to him. There are always underlying issues that result in addiction. There are stories behind the people who become addicts, stories that often reveal disease, psychological or otherwise, but still disease. If the public were more opened-minded about addiction being a disease, those suffering from addiction might be more open about their illness and more willing to seek the help they need to save their lives.


al Corner

Spring 2014

‘Huckleberry Finn’ and religious hypocrisy By AMANDA SZRAFRANIEC Among the many important and obvious subjects comprising “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” lurks a topic that was of major concern and a point of struggle in the life of the author, Samuel Clemens (pseudonym, Mark Twain). In “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Twain frequently criticizes religion and religious hypocrisy. Twain was a skeptic who, from his childhood to his death, harbored doubts about God. He harshly condemned and censured organized religion. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” gives us insights into the moral and religious beliefs of the author. Twain once said of the biblical Adam: “The first man was a hypocrite and a coward, qualities which have not yet failed in his line; it is the foundation upon which all civilizations have been built” (Twain & Rasmussen 137). Many characters in this novel use religion to manipulate others and further their own aims or justify their actions using scripture. Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, Huckleberry’s guardians, are not exempt from religious hypocrisy. From the first chapter, the novel paints religion and believers in an unfavorable light. Huckleberry has been taken in by Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas, two pious and maternal characters who do their best to instill their biblical morality in Huck. The Widow tries to “sivilize” Huck so he can fit into society by teaching him proper manners, reading and arithmetic, and many Bible lessons. Huck is often confused by these lessons and the prayers and daily rituals in the household. Huckleberry comments: “When you got to the table, you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them” (Twain & Hearn 10). Obviously, Huck doesn’t understand why the Widow is “grumbling” over the meal. The Widow forbids Huckleberry to smoke, calling it a “mean practice” and that it isn’t “clean.” He says, “Here she was a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you

Photo Credit:

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain

see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it” (Twain & Hearn 11). Huck can’t help but notice, however, that the Widow, herself, uses snuff. Although it is honorable of the Widow to take Huck in to educate and raise him as if he were her own son, this comment by Huck reveals to us that the Widow does have a hypocritical side. The unfairness of the Widow’s hypocritical commands and Miss Watson’s threats of damnation make Huckleberry feel frustrated and contemptible. He goes to his room and explains that he “… felt so lonesome I most wished I was dead” (Twain & Hearn 12). And no matter how hard he tries, he can’t think of a “cheerful” thought. Huck, a good boy who knows the difference between right and wrong, wishes he were dead because of the conflicting and negative lessons he has been taught. He thinks he is brutish, uncivilized, unholy and probably damned to hell. Huck gets “…so down-hearted and scared, I did wish I had some company” (Twain & Hearn 12). It is no great surprise that he wants the company of Tom Sawyer, who does not judge or scold him. Spending time away from the household tension, with his friend, Tom, only earns him more punishment the following day. Twain created Huckleberry to be more moral and more rational than other characters, despite Huck’s lack of religious education, few positive adult influences and superstitious beliefs. Huck arguably

has better moral judgment than the Widow and Miss Watson. He can recognize, in spite of pressure from society, that slavery is wrong. Huck rebels against society by not turning Jim in as a runaway. Huck was raised, for some time, by his father, who is immoral and brutish, and Huck never fully grasps the moral religious education of his guardians. However, Huck seems to choose the most rational and good decision when faced with tough moral dilemmas. Twain would have argued that Huck’s morality came about through evolutionary means. Twain believed that all people are born with a sense of right and wrong. Demanding that Huck go against his nature because what Huck believes is right is actually wrong, or uncivilized, causes Huck to rebel and eventually blame himself for his “shortcomings” and to feel poorly about himself. It is true that Huck does not always do what is right. He is often confused about what is right and wrong because of contradictory information from his father and his guardians. Throughout the book, he tries his best to absorb the lessons of others, but he also relies on his instincts when deciding what is right. He often does what is right, despite risks to himself. He takes a large risk by helping Jim, a runaway slave, escape to his family. Huck exposes the malicious trickery of the Duke and the King to the Wilks family before the two can rob the family blind, and he even tries to save a band of thieves from drowning. Obviously, Huckleberry is a good boy and not as wicked as Miss Watson and the Widow Douglas believe. Twain created Huckleberry as a flawed, but fundamentally good, person and surrounded him with adults who claim moral superiority but often act against the teachings of their own religions. Works Cited Twain, Mark and Michael Patrick Hearn. “The Annotated Huckleberry Finn.” New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Print. Twain, Mark and R. Kent Rasmussen. “The Quotable Mark Twain: His Essential Aphorisms, Witticisms & Concise Opinions.” New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998. Print.

al 17 Corner Picking up the pieces after a breakup

Spring 2014


I can’t sleep. I used to pretend Jordan was next to me and I would curl up into a ball and wrap my arms around myself, drifting away with a dopey smile on my face. Now every night is a struggle, staring at the fluorescent light outside my window, trying to arrange my fat rolls so I don’t feel them flop every time I turn over. My roommates turned the heat up too high again. Tossing and turning, I finally fling off my comforter and sit up to turn on the light. The too-familiar sting of tears comes once again, a slow trickle rapidly progressing into dry, heaving sobs. Jordan and I spent the summer together. We first met while I was working a closing shift at Starbucks, hardly romantic. My off-duty shift supervisor and one of my best friends, Faith, pulled me off the floor to introduce us. Apparently my crippling social awkwardness and the smell of old, wet espresso beans didn’t scare him off; and so began our unconventional courting. He liked me. Like, like -- like. Like sixth grade kind of like. I had to scoot my butt down and let my feet hang off the end of the bed to put my head on his chest. One sticky July night, he pulled me even closer and squeezed me even tighter and kissed me on the top of the head. I asked him if he loved me. He took a deep breath. He rambled about past girlfriends and getting hurt, and going too fast, until I put my hand over his mouth and looked him right in the eye. “Do you love me?” “Yes, I love you.” “I love you, too.” After I worked my obligatory 16 hours a week at Starbucks on weekends, Jordan would drive me back to my apartment at school. I waited my whole week for those Sunday nights. The hour drive was spent talking about anything and everything over his weird techno music, more often than not with my head on his shoulder. One Wednesday in November, I came home for a doctor’s appointment and decided to start my weekend early because I had been sick. When Jordan picked me up from my appointment, he told me he was taking me to dinner and that he had something to tell me. Naturally, I pestered and pried

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Breaking up can be a difficult task. But most find ways to move on. until he told me on the way. leave little time for sightseeing. “I’m going to South Korea to teach I slammed the car door and let my English.” mother see me cry for the first time since At first, I thought he was joking. He’s a my sophomore year of high school. freelance graphic designer who sells cell The next night, he asked me to meet phones to pay the bills. I almost giggled. him at Eat ‘n Park after work. Somewhere But I realized when I saw his face that he public. Where I couldn’t yell at him. I was dead serious. ordered toast. And I could tell from the sparkle in his We had forced, casual small talk until I eye that he was so excited to tell me. As if couldn’t take it anymore. it were supposed to be good news. “Are you breaking up with me?” “Oh. How long?” He stared down at the table and The sinking feeling started when he started folding a napkin into a neat, tiny said upwards of a year. It intensified as I square, silently. He sighed and finally picked through my food. looked up, meeting my watery, pleading I pretended to be happy and attentive, eyes with his remarkably dry ones. nodding emphatically at every point I started crying into my toast. He had he made. But on the inside, everything made his choice. He didn’t have to say seemed to have frozen. anything. I shrugged away a good-bye I asked him to take me home after hug and hurried past the Smiley cookies dinner, saying I didn’t feel well. When that mocked me on the way out. he pulled in front of my house, I backed After that, I spent months struggling away as he leaned in for a goodnight kiss. desperately to understand. I blamed “Do you expect me to wait for you?” myself. I also felt used and left behind, He said, “No,” of course he didn’t exworthless and lonely, even guilty. Finally, pect me to wait for him. It would be too exhausted and worn down, I hit bottom. much to ask. I started to accept that I couldn’t change “How long have you wanted to do the way things had happened, and I this?” focused my energy on pushing myself in “Months,” he said. the right direction. He told me he had gotten his passport I haven’t yet learned how to stop missand clearances and everything. All he ing him, and I miss him so much it hurts had to do was apply and get approved. sometimes. But even though I can’t see If he was planning on doing this for around the next bend, I know the road so long, he had lied to me for months. becomes smoother, and I will be able He said he wanted to pay off debt and to look back at Jordan and wave with a see the world. Teaching English to South smile on my face because he taught me Korean children 40 hours a week would how to love.


al Corner

Spring 2014

Losing a pet and what no one tells you By SONYA MINNER I got the message on a Tuesday morning. I wasn’t expecting the text message from my mom. I figured it was just another text, asking me how classes were going. It was just another Tuesday in the string of Tuesdays that would make up the semester, after all. Except it wasn’t just another Tuesday, and it wasn’t just any old text from my mom letting me know how things back home were going. “I’m so sorry to tell you like this, sweetie, but we had to put Ollie down. We rushed him to the pet hospital in Pittsburgh this morning and he has a tumor on his spleen. He’s bleeding internally and there’s nothing they can do.” They always tell you the first step of grieving is denial, and it’s true. I remember breaking the heavy silence that surrounded me with a loud and broken, “NO!” I thought that if I denied it loud enough, the news would cease to be true. That wasn’t the case, though, because Ollie was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. It felt like the kind of pain I wasn’t sure I would be able to survive, the kind of pain no one could have prepared me for until it was right in front of me and I had no choice but to face it head on. Oliver was a 10-year-old golden retriever we got when I was in fourth grade, and he was my best friend. I grew up with him. He was there for me every time I had to stay home from school with the flu, and he always knew when I was upset. He wasn’t the most well-behaved dog in the world -- he had awful habits, like stealing socks, barking at the pool water at an eardrum-shattering-level, and chasing cars driving down the road as if it were his job -- but he was still the best in my eyes. After my mom told me there was nothing they could do, I cried for hours. I didn’t want to leave my bed and I didn’t want to think about going to my night class later that day. I just wanted to pull the covers over my

Photo Credit: From Sonya Minner

Oliver at his final veterinary visit. Oliver was 10 when he died. She said she was sorry, over and over, head and cry until it stopped hurting. and I cried harder because my best friend I texted my best friend after I calmed was gone and there was nothing I could down and told her. do to change that fact. “We had to put Ollie down.” The thing about death is that you I wanted to say more, give an explanever feel like you had enough time with nation or maybe just not talk about it the one you lost. at all and tell her how horrible I felt, but On the phone with my mom, I said she was two hours away and I knew it that I wished I could have just said goodwouldn’t do anything. bye, but then she said it wouldn’t have Her response came through almost helped. instantly. She told me there was no “just”; I “No! What happened? Are you OK?” Was I OK? What did happen, exactly? would have wanted another few minutes Three days prior, I had been home, with him, and then another hour, then a packing my car with my belongings beday or a week or a month or a year. Nothcause I was getting ready to head back ing would have been enough. No time, to school for the fall semester. except forever, would have been enough, Just three days prior, I’d told my mom and in the end, we would have still had that I’d be home in a week and that I the same result. would see her, my dad, and Ollie then. Eventually, it got easier. I stopped Seventy-two hours later and suddenfeeling like I was going to cry every time ly he was gone, and there was a dogI saw a picture of him or ran across a toy shaped hole in my heart that I didn’t tucked away in a corner of our house. It think would ever be filled. still ached, but it was manageable. My brother called me later that night. No one could have ever prepared me “How are you holding up?” he asked. for the pain I was going to feel when I re“Horrible,” I said quietly, not wanting ceived that text message on that Tuesday to speak too loudly for fear of my voice morning. No one could have told me that breaking and causing a fresh wave of I would cry harder than I ever had, and tears all over again. even if the person did, I wouldn’t have “Call Mom, OK? She’s worried. She believed him or her. feels awful.” For 10 years, Ollie was there every time I dialed my mom because I knew my I turned around. He was constantly tripbrother was right. I needed to let her ping me up and getting under my feet, know I was OK, or at least that I would ripping up everything he could get his be. teeth on, and barking enough to drive The second my mom answered the me absolutely insane. phone, I burst into tears. We didn’t talk, Now that he’s gone, there isn’t much I just cried to each other over the phone wouldn’t do to have him bark and shove while we were a hundred miles apart. his gross tennis ball at me one more time.

Spring 2014

Pros, cons of adopting a new, furry best friend By JESSICA REDDINGTON When you adopt an animal, you are saving two lives: the life of the animal you adopt and the life of the animal that takes its place in the shelter. Some people are skeptical about adopting from a shelter because of the unknown health condition of the animal. As stated in an article from, most shelters examine and give vaccinations to animals when they arrive, and many spay, or neuter, them before they are adopted. This makes the cost of adopting cheaper and more beneficial than buying from a store or breeder. It is important you research the issue and ask the right questions when adopting. The Humane Society has a page of questions on its website about what you should ask the shelter staff. Ask about the animal’s history; was it given up by the owner or was it a stray? If the owner gave it up, why? Ask about medical and behavioral assessments. Ask about the adoption process and if the animal were spayed or neutered. The Humane Society has more information about adopting and questions to ask in its article, “The Adoption Process: Questions to Ask Shelter Staff.” When adopting an animal, you need not only ask the shelter staff the right questions, but yourself, as well. Are you ready to take care of an animal? Do you have the time to be with an animal to make sure that it is getting everything it needs? Can you afford this animal financially? Will this animal fit well in your home? You want to give your adopted animal the best home, and you need to make sure yours is the one. Approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States, simply because too many people give up their pets, and too few adopt, as it is stated in the article, “Top Five Reasons to Adopt,” found on Most animals found in a shelter are

victims of owners handing them over because of financial or other personal reasons. These animals are not bad and most are not put in shelters because of their attitudes. Many shelters will even screen the animals to see how they behave before they are adopted. Adopting is not only beneficial to the animal but to the owner, as well. When you adopt from a Humane Society, breed rescue group, or the local animal control agency, you open room up for more animals to come off the streets. If more people would adopt pets instead of going to a pet store, more animals could be saved. Sometimes, the dogs you find in a pet store are dogs bought from puppy mills. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) describes a puppy mill as a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation that places profit over the well-being of its dogs, who often are severely neglected. Puppy mills act without regard to responsible breeding practices. If you choose to adopt from a pet store, you should ask where these animals are coming from. You could be buying a puppy that was abused or not cared for properly. You think you are buying a healthy, lovable puppy, when, in fact, the animal is suffering from one or more illnesses and has people problems. If more people adopted from animal shelters and rescues, the puppy mills possibly could be eliminated. There is a bigger risk of your animal having health problems when you buy from a pet store than there is if you buy from a shelter. If the store buys from a puppy mill, knowingly or unknowingly, the animals are at a high risk of having medical issues because the puppy mills do not care for the well-being of the animal. The puppy mills only care about one thing and that is money. Some people are hung up on the breed status. Some people want to buy a

al 19 Corner

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Each year, many animals are given to shelters when owners’ lives change.

purebred animal. Purebreeds are nice and sometimes you may be able to find one in the shelter, but the most important thing should be saving a helpless animal’s life. The breed status should not matter; mutts are going to love you just the same. If you are worried about getting a purebred, you should make sure the breeder is caring for the animal in the proper way. Some breeders are no different than puppy mills. Some of them have an end goal of becoming richer and will manipulate you to believe your animal is healthy. There have been studies that show how animals can help you emotionally, physically, and psychologically. There is a reason that hospitals and schools sometimes use pets to cheer people up. During finals week at some universities, schools bring in animals to relieve the stress and pressures that students are feeling. Some hospitals do the same thing to cheer up the patients. Animals offer unconditional love and will be loyal to their owners. Animals give people a purpose and make them feel needed. Animals also help their owners physically because the pets need to exercise and that gets their owners out of the house. Adopting animals will make you and your pet happier and healthier. Buying your pet from a shelter will start to end the cruelty of puppy mills. Adopting from shelters is, financially, a better choice than buying from breeders and pet stores. Make sure you ask the shelter staff and yourself the right questions. Most important, save lives. Animals can’t always help themselves, so lend them a helping hand.


al Corner

Spring 2014

CAL Corner Editors

From left, Deven Bourquin, Max Freese

From left, Kate Sheldon, Dan Mader

From left, Victoria Martin, Josh Herman

From left, Taylor Brown, Lauren Griffith

Phillip Hough

From left, Professor Margo Wilson, Emily Geyer, Jose Negron, Julian Sepesky

Cal Corner Spring 2014