Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • Birthday Photo and Verse for Tom Thompson

    • Posted on Jan 26, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Tom Thompson was born 90 years ago this month, in January, 1924.  He worked at UNI in various capacities for decades.  I knew him first as a respected colleague in the Philosophy and Religion Department, then as my Dean in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, then as a friend who made me think and rethink, who read and commented at length on my newspaper columns, and who provided a thread of continuity to life in Cedar Falls.  

    On Friday, January 17, we went to lunch at Beck's on the Hill in Cedar Falls--with another admirer of Tom's, frfe echeverria.   (See photo below) 

    In lieu of a birthday card, which seems silly and superfluous, I presented Tom with this verse---silly but heartfelt: 

    FOR TOMMY THE T

    On Or About His Ninetieth

    January 17, 2014

    Tommy the T went and turned a ripe ninety!

    How can this possibly be?

    It can't be from eating his greens,

    Nor from yoga or counting his beans.

    Could he have found a fountain of youth

    in his jazz and a life less than couth?

    He was but 40 and four when I met him

    A sage and bright presence--you never forget him.

    An Oxherder staunch (sometimes loud)

    A regular lunch-mate and columnist proud.

    He complains about aging, all achey and painey

    Yet through it all he still is our brainey

    Friend Tom, still laughing and bitching,

    At fringey right wingers who get him a-twitching.

    How many books have we plowed through discussing

    The fine points of Freudian insights and cussing

    The starry-eyed mystics about us a-fussing

    With irrational thought that we find so non-plussing. 

    It’s true with his talent for herding the cats,

    Not to mention his sax with its sharps and its flats,

    He might have done more, yet now here’s the truth: 

    What joy to reach ninety with half of his youth!

    HAPPY NINETIETH, YOU BELOVED OLD FRIEND!

    And congratulations on a life well lived, mostly.    

    --Scott Cawelti

    A lifelong fan  

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    Posted in
    • Personalities
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • Language & Writing
    • Aging & Birthdays
  • Attention All Drinkalotics

    • Posted on Jan 19, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    This appeared in the Sunday Courier today (Jan. 18) and grew out of personal experience--namely, a terrible New Year's Day.   Radical moderation works for me.  
    **************************************************
    Certain acts are illegal and/or harmful, yet vast numbers of us do them anyway.  Speeding.  Littering.  Appropriating employers’ property for personal use. 

     
    Most of all, drinking.  Alcohol, that is.  Good ol’ Al, my friend and yours.  He’s invited to every party, dinner, celebration, and sports event on the planet.   And he attends them all.  

    No news there.  Except that last week, the Head of the Centers for Disease Control issued a report that flat-out asserts we drink too much.  We’re not alcoholics so much as drinkalotics. 

    We stop long before passing out, but not before feeling really, really happy.  And thinking we’re very, very witty. 

    Until the next morning, when we feel like dog pucky.     

    Here’s the problem, according to the CDC: Few doctors ask patients about their drinking habits.  As long as they’re not passing out nightly, they’re doing fine.  Yet “social” or “moderate” drinkers are often heavy imbibers, don’t admit it, and happy their doctors don’t ask.

    At least 38 million Americans down too much alcohol, according to this new CDC report.

    How much is too much?  Drinkers, listen up:  more than one drink in 24 hours for women, and more than two for men.   If you’re drinking more, you’re a heavy drinker, says the CDC and other studies on alcohol consumption. In the long haul, that’s big trouble for heart and liver problems, cancer, relationships, jobs, lost potential.  

    A dear departed doctor friend of mine enjoyed a glass of wine or three now and then.  As a doctor he used to joke, “an alcoholic is anyone who drinks more than their doctor.”  We both found his definition amusing, since that meant none of his patients were alcoholics.

    He enjoyed his wine—and his life—immensely.   But he did understand moderation, and kept it under control.  We seldom binged, meaning five or more drinks within two hours.  Many drinkers consider that the start of a good night.  

    I have my issues with Al, though.   On a particularly bad morning last year—after a long hearty party, I noticed that everything about me was impaired.   Memory, energy, mood, outlook, all gone dark and negative.  It felt like a nasty case of flu, both physically and mentally.

    Not pleasant.  I made a list of all those impairments and created this acronym:  MEMHOC, to rhyme with “hemlock.”   Memory, energy, mood, health, outlook, clarity.  All seriously impaired or distorted. 

    So why not quit?   If Al makes us sick, why keep him around?  Good question, and easily answered:  He’s fun.  Really fun, and in small doses, even behaves like a health tonic.

    Up to two drinks, that is.  After that, Al’s poison.

    That’s the dilemma with alcohol.   When we drink two wonderful glasses of wine with dinner, a huge desire arises for a third.  And a fourth.  Then pass the fifth.   Then pass out.

    Vast numbers of drinkers actually drink heavily, bingeing several times monthly.  

    For them, in all its ugliness, addiction looms.

    Radical moderation is in order, and oxymoronic though that phrase may be, it’s the only sensible approach to keeping ol’ Al around without major health issues.  

    For all drinkers who think they’re drinking moderately, here’s a two-step idea:  First, quit for seven days.   Cold turkey, and immediately. 

    This will tell you how much you crave Al’s company.  If you feel lost and upset, or just can’t do it, you have a poisonous relationship. 
     
    Second, if you only miss him slightly around dinnertime, invite him back for short visits. Once, maybe twice occasionally.  Never more.  I guarantee better memory, energy, mood, health, outlook, and clarity.  A better life, overall. 

    Ol’ Al makes a fine friend--but a terrible roommate.    

               

     


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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
    • alcohol
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