Les Cochran Blog

Fiction Author

September 13, 2016
by lescochranblog
1 Comment

Sax Club is Gone But the Memories Live On!

Former Sax Club location

Former Sax Club location

At dinner Friday night a new acquaintance asked me “How do you come up with story ideas for your books?”

“Be careful what you say” I teased. “My ideas come from my life and that of friends and new people I meet.” Actually, that is a question I’m often asked so I thought it might be a good idea to share how I got the title for the first book in my new historical fiction series about the mafia in Detroit.

The Sax Club at 2325 McNichols Road in Detroit inspired the naming of SAX CLUB: Thorn Birds of Detroit Confront Mafia. During the 1960s and 70s, it was one of the hottest places in Detroit.  It promoted itself as the oldest topless club in the city and was classier than most other places.

You could take your pick, any place in town—Benson’s, Centerfold, Dirty Harry’s, Foxy’s Strip Club, Please Station, Sassy Sandy’s, The Dutchess, Zoo, and countless others.  There were no “gentlemen’s clubs” in those days, Detroit was a working-man’s city.

On Friday nights back then the four (not three) musketeers as we called ourselves filed into the Sax Club.  It’d been another hard week for us at Wayne State University and the four doctoral students were ready to loosen up.

Harold Resnick arrived first, before five o’clock to save the perfect corner booth. He was from Brooklyn and drove a Volkswagen like a New York cabbie.  He kept spare fenders in his garage.  He’s the personality from whom I developed the character Renzo Ricciuti.  You can check him out on the cover of the book—he’s the one wearing the dark sunglasses (you’ll have to wait a bit to see the cover.)

Bill Wolansky arrived next so he’d have the seat directly in front of the center pole.  He was a Canadian from Alberta and very formal, in fact kind of stuffy; that is, until the Disc Jockey announced “Dagmar.”  She was a big-boned blonde who blew him away.

I usually sat beside Bill, to his right.  We were the two senior guys.  I had a flattop back then and drank Singapore Slings while waiting for Lou Anne to appear.  She was the classiest dancer at the Club and always dressed in white.

Most of the dancers were housewives, single parent moms, and Wayne State University students.  In a couple of days dancing they could rake-in more cash than most women could earn in a forty-hour week.

James Harris, an African-American, was the quite gentleman from Tuskegee.  Most of the time he watched the strippers out of the corner of his eye, except when the African-American dancer performed.  Resnick turned Jim’s head to force him to have the same pleasures we were having.

All of this makes it sound like something was going to happen with one of the women, but it didn’t.  We were there to do our regular debriefing and bring a little levity into our narrow, straight-forward academic lives.

One day, I announced, “I just finished chapter 3 of my dissertation.”

“You what?” Wolansky exclaimed, downing a Stroh’s. “How’d you do that?  Two weeks ago you were on chapter 1.”

“I’m on a roll with G. Harold (Dr. G. Harold Silvius was our doctoral adviser and tough as nails).

“Shit,” Bill said, knowing he’d started his dissertation six month ahead of me.

“Now on center pole, Dagmar,” the DJ announced.  All eyes turned to Bill and then back and forth between Dagmar and Bill until her set was over. We cheered to Bill’s delight and went back to our dissertation discussion—Resnick was still working on his proposal, draft 3.

“I’m telling you, Harold” I said.  “Print draft 4 on every page.  I started color-coding the old sections on draft 5 so G. Harold wouldn’t change parts he’d already approved.”

“Did it help?” Harris, who was yet to start his proposal, asked.

“Not a bit.” I laughed. “But it made me feel better.  It doesn’t matter what approach you use, G. Harold is going to make you go through 9 drafts.  That’s why it’s important to start labeling the drafts.”

I threw my arms up in the air as Lou Anne’s name was announced. A hush fell over the booth. “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” blasted from the speakers.  Pointing to me, Lou Anne started her routine, prancing around the stage then sliding up and down the pole.  Stomping her boots, she paused and ripped off her long white bellbottoms revealing her white hot pants.

Whistles and cat calls filled the place.  I cheered.  Lou Anne danced to the beat, pointing to me she slowly unbuttoned her white blouse.  The music stopped and she winked at me. I nodded, downed a Singapore Sling and turned to Bill.  “If you don’t get going I’ll have chapter 4 done before you.”

The challenge was on and so it went, week by week, each of us pushing the other.

Two weeks later a smiling Wolansky was watching Dagmar holding up an approved chapter 4.

I hope you can see how memories create characters for my stories. In my next post I’ll tell you more about the Sax Club and some the characters I met that come alive in my books. Anyone besides me remember the Sax Club?  I’d be great to hear you memories.  If you have a picture of the club (outside or in) or know anyone who might, I’d really like to see it.  I’ll even share it in a future blog post.

I’d also like to invite you to “Like” and Share my Facebook page. http://bit.ly/LesCochranAuthorPage  I will be dropping little clues and and sharing pictures as we approach the book release date.

Cheers to readers everywhere!

September 5, 2016
by lescochranblog
4 Comments

DETROIT: RECOLLECTIONS OF THE BEGINNING

Western High School DetroitOn a recent visit to Detroit I stopped by Western High School where I started my teaching career.  Having undergone a $28 million dollar renovation, the place looked brand new; it has been renamed Western International High School and is now one the city’s premier schools.

The day was filled with countless fond memories many of which found their way into my upcoming “Thorn Birds of Detroit” series.  A couple of experiences from my days living in Detroit didn’t make the series, but I’ll never forget them.

Recalling my first day of teaching makes me smile.  Since the old Tiger Stadium was in the district, I decided to use a baseball analogy with my first-period mechanical drawing class.

“In this class you get three strikes and you’re out!” I announced boldly.

I remember pausing for effect. “Now this is your first warning.”  I glanced around the room.  “Everyone hear that?”

Heads nodded up and down the rows of drafting tables.

“Now, here’s you second warning!  Did everyone hear that?”

The guys straighten on the stools.

“And now, I’d like to give you a third warning.  Does everyone realize that was your final warning?”

Not a word was said.

“And your ass!” came from the back of the room.

“And yours is gone,” I said, taking the student by the arm and marching him to the in-house phone and then waiting for the assistant principal to arrive.

The funniest part of the story came three hours later when I took a break in the men’s lounge.  I had no sooner closed the door when an old-timer called, “Hey Cochran, what in the hell did you do in your first-hour class?  Every kid in school is on alert!”

                                                                ***

The most moving experience I had while teaching at Western occurred at an away basketball game at Detroit Chadsey. I was coaching the JV squad and had a player by the name of Cleophus Pickett.  While six foot five, he defied all stereotypes—he wasn’t fast and couldn’t jump—but he was the nicest kid with the biggest smile you’d ever seen.

I played Cleophus every game; he even made a basket or two that season, but that’s not the story.

When we’d travel to away games, Cleophus was always the last one out of the locker room.  With all of the players on the bus, I’d run toward the locker room shouting, “Cleophus … Cleophus, where are you?”

The call always came. “I’m coming coach.” And then, the big smile would appear.

After the final game of the season at Chadsey, I walked slowly toward the locker room without saying a word.  Peeking inside, I saw Cleophus sitting on the bench tucking the tops of his socks inside his shoes—there were no bottoms!!

I stepped back and shouted, “Cleophus hurry up.”

“I’m coming coach.”

When we got back to Western that night I put my arm around him and asked him to come into my office.  I could feel his body shake; he may have thought he was going to get a beating like he often did at home.

I unlocked a storage cabinet and pulled out a box of twelve pairs of sweat socks.  “Thanks Cleophus for having a great season.”

A glaze filled his eyes.  We hugged each other and squeezed out the tears.

 

August 1, 2016
by lescochranblog
3 Comments

I’m Back in Action Again!

Hi Friends and Fans,

No . . . I didn’t fall off the face of the earth!  I moved.  Let me correct that – – I’ve moved twice since March 15th.

We are getting better organized every day.  And, I’m writing like crazy.  A new series will be coming out in the fall. As you can see from the new header on my blog – – it’s about the “Thorn Birds of Detroit.” (Psst . . . and the mafia :-))

The first novel in the series is ready. I’m working on #2 and #3 and just cooked up a new idea for #4.  I’ll be sending more information as we get closer to the release date.

In the meantime, you need to know that my marketing manager (aka my wife Lin) has been re-doing all our backroom machinations to keep my “Friends and Fans” organized and informed as well as learning lots of professional online marketing skills. Specifically,

  • You will be receiving my blog post via MailChimp (an email organizer.)
  • We have created a new Facebook page just for my “life as a fiction writer.”
  • Lots of novellas – – Yes, Lin has me writing short stories she is publishing and promoting as FREE ebooks to friends and fans.
  • There is so much more I want to tell – – but that would spoil the surprises.

Keep following as more will be coming soon!

 

 

May 19, 2016
by lescochranblog
1 Comment

Universities Have a Spending Problem

Hello Blog Friends,
I know I’ve posted about the high cost of college in the past, but this critical issue must be kept at the forefront.  It is just one of many education concerns we need to address as we try to improve education in our nation.  In the past the quality of education in the United States was the best in the world; today we rank twenty-sixth (26th)!

YES – twenty-five (25) other countries have surpassed us! So, so sad.
Recently there was an article in the Asheville, NC paper indicating the University of North Carolina Board of Governor’s was seeking permission to increase the percentage of out-of-state students as a way to generate more money for operation.  Of course, I had to share my thoughts about that “cop out” approach and suggest a few solutions of my own.  Please be assured that these solutions aren’t fictional (even though I am currently an author of fiction.)  Rather, they are examples of actual monetary management techniques my administrative team and I have successfully implemented.  With that introduction, here is my Letter to the Editor: Citizen-Times, Asheville, NC, published May 8, 2016.
                                                                        *   *   *   *   *
John Boyle’s story, “Is a college education really worth the costs?” in the May 1 edition of the Citizen-Times was right on target. He accurately portrayed the problem faced by most families across the nation — paying for a college education.

Over the past 35 years, public college tuition skyrocketed 12 times, doubling the rate of medical cost increases and quadrupling the rate of inflation. There were no legislative hearings on controlling costs, no action taken by state boards to reduce spending, and no changes in the way universities were managed.graph

The results were catastrophic — a $1.3 trillion student-loan debt — college access limited for millions, their daily spending ability curtailed, and their capability to make major purchases delayed. The suggestion by Lou Bissette, chairman of University of North Carolina Board of Governors, for the state to raise the limit on the percentage of out-of-state students won’t solve the problem.

Universities don’t need more money; they have a spending problem. The Board of Governors needs to face reality and force universities to spend less — change the way they do business, reduce administrative costs, eliminate deadwood faculty, and cut frivolous courses — without affecting the quality of education. It can and must be done!!  Students can no longer afford business as usual.

*   *   *   *   *

Please feel free to share your ideas on ways universities can better manage and/or reduce operational costs without reducing quality.  It can be done and it is past time for them focus on cost reductions.  Otherwise we will have fewer and fewer citizens able to obtain a college education!

April 25, 2016
by lescochranblog
0 comments

Athletics Should Disclose Finances

The April 18 USA TODAY story, “College spending looks unsustainable” only touched the financial tip of athletic-spending issues. Economist Andrew Zimbalist was right: “Politically, it’s not sustainable. Legally, it’s not sustainable. Economically, it’s not sustainable.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert acknowledged “a very small number of the 1,100 (NCAA members) have a positive cash flow, but sluffed it off. Fact is, a recent study by David Suggs at the University of Georgia found only eight of the athletic budgets at the nation’s major programs made a profit – hats off to Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana State, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Oklahoma, and Texas at Austin.

The rest of the universities lost millions of dollars that could have been used to support academic programs. The study also found the problem is getting worse — increases in athletic spending is growing at a rate double that of academic spending. That’s not good news for students nationally who combined have a $1.3 trillion debt.

While proponents justify athletic spending, studies find no link between winning teams and institutional success as measured by the number of applications, increases in fundraising dollars or state appropriations.

Universities should be required to annually disclose a detailed accounting of athletic spending and revenue.

Letter to the Editor, April 22, 2016 Asheville Citizen-Times, part of the USA Today Network

Les Cochran is former president of Youngstown State University, Youngstown, Ohio

March 8, 2016
by lescochranblog
0 comments

Leave the Clowns Behind

Super Tuesday was the last call for the Republican “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth.” It’s time for Marco Rubio to leave the clowns behind, take his troop north, and help the elephants regain some common sense.

Our Senator needs to swallow hard one last time, throw away the script and help revive the Grand Old Party. Traveling to Ohio, he can hitch onto the John Kasich bandwagon, the only Republican candidate who beats Hillary Clinton in every poll.  Putting his ponies behind the Kasich horses will ensure success in the primaries and a win for a Kasich-VP Rubio ticket at the Republican Convention in Cleveland.

Sitting in the second seat for four or eight years is just what Senator Rubio needs—time to gain experience and mature as a leader.  His other choice is to stay with the clowns and watch his career get trumped.

By rallying behind John Kasich, Marco Rubio will ensure the continuation of the tradition that no man has ever become president without winning Ohio.  If he chooses to remain with the clowns, he will help foster a new tradition—no man or “woman” has ever become president without winning Ohio.

Putting oneself behind what is best for the country may be difficult to do, but it is the type of leadership our nation needs.

December 29, 2015
by lescochranblog
0 comments

College Bowl Games: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Published in Naples Daily News, Dec. 29, 2015

Not long ago playing a college football bowl game was something of institutional pride—parades and other events occupied the days in advance. Alumni filled the stadiums. Players were student-athletes, most graduated, and their teams were coached by men for the love of the game. All of that has changed!

College football bowl games have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. This year’s forty bowl-game schedule tipped the scales of all reason. Having teams with 6-6 records was bad enough, but this year the NCAA reached an all-time low. Three teams with 5-7 losing records will play. To provide credence for this decision the NCAA used the team’s most recent Academic Progress Rating to select the teams—even that doesn’t take away the bitter taste!

The teams included in the list were Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and San Jose State. Missouri declined; with all of their problems at least they got this one right. The others jumped at the opportunity, so the three will be playing in the Foster Farms Bowl, Quick Lane Bowl and the Cure Bowl.

Once again our nation’s foremost college presidents have taken another step in their long-standing practice of succumbing to the almighty dollar. Somehow they continue to miss the point—athletic expenditures are growing faster than new income and at a rate significantly higher than increases for academic programs—it’s about spending!

The latest comprehensive study reported that when governmental, student and university subsidizes were removed from the nation’s major athletic programs only eight institutions broke even or turned a profit. Hats off to the real winners—Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana State, Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Oklahoma and Texas at Austin.

Over the last thirty-five years, the number of bowl games has increased from fifteen to forty. This timeframe also witnessed the greatest spike ever in college costs. While medical costs escalated six times, student costs jumped ten-fold at private institutions and skyrocketed twelve times at public universities.
Rising student athletic fees and the use of institutional subsidizes to athletic programs are a part of these costs, and contribute directly to the $1.3 trillion in student-loan debt now faced by college graduates.

More bowl games are not the answer; certainly fewer would be a step in the right direction. The University of Connecticut lost over in million dollars in their recent bowl appearance. Average attendance is at the lowest average in thirty-five years. President’s bending down to take teams with losing records is not the answer. More of the same won’t work.

University presidents must rethink the entire athletic paradigm and then commit to a long-term process that eliminates the use of student athletic fees, eradicates real and hidden institutional athletic subsidizes and make athletics fully responsible for living within the funds it generates. Such reform will be long and tedious, but without significant change both athletics and academic institutions risk the likelihood of an unpalatable political solution.

Rather than waiting, university presidents should seize opportunity by passing NCAA resolutions to:

• Reduce the number of football bowl games to twenty-five with the selection of teams based upon poll and computer rankings of the top fifty teams, expand the playoff system to the top eight teams and schedule the bowl games in the rank order of the teams playing. (Rationale: Restore the dignity of football bowl games, select teams based on the quality of their records, place more emphasis on playing the game on the field rather than having “experts” split hairs, and provide a sense of order to the culmination of the season.)

• Establish a ten-year process that will result in athletic programs “living within their means.” (Rationale: Eliminate the use of student athletic fees and dollars from other institutional sources currently used to support athletics; thereby, reducing the costs of higher education and reallocating dollars to academic programs.)

• Negotiate an ongoing contract with the National Football League that will annually increase the League’s subsidization of football scholarships in the nation’s major football programs. (Rationale: Currently universities function as a “quasi minor-league system for the NFL. It’s time for the NFL to pay its fair share so the financial burden on students can be eliminated.)

• Negotiate an ongoing contract with the National Basketball Association that will annually increase the Association’s subsidization for all Division I basketball programs. (Rationale: Same as for the NFL.)

• Establish an open process to measure institutional progress toward “living within their means,” and that significant scholarship reductions would result for those found in non-compliance. (Rationale: Create a public process with stringent penalties.)
It’s time to restore dignity to college bowl games—make them meaningful and uplifting again rather than sticking with the mundane.

October 12, 2015
by lescochranblog
0 comments

LIFE WITH A LEXOPHILE!

OK, I’ve been writing very serious blogs recently. Perhaps it is time that I lighten up a little. Since I’m a writer I thought I would pass on what I learned about “Lexophiles.”   Please note that is Lexophiles not Sexophiles. They can definitely be described as . . . a love for words  And I have a love for words, so enjoy a few lexophiles on me!

… When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate. 

… A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months. 

… When the smog lifts in Los Angeles U.C.L.A. 

… The batteries were given out free of charge. 

… A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail. 

… A will is a dead giveaway. 

… With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress. 

… A boiled egg is hard to beat. 

… When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall. 

… Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest. 

… Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off?   He’s all right now. 

… A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired. 

… When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds. 

… The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine is now fully recovered. 

… He had a photographic memory which was never developed. 

… When she saw her first strands of grey hair she thought she’d dye. 

… Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it. 
 And finally, the cream of the twisted lexophile crop:

… Those who get too big for their pants will be totally exposed in the end.

—————————————-

If you have a lexophile to share, please do so here.  I will happily share with others.

ALWAYS LAUGH WHEN YOU CAN; IT’S CHEAP MEDICINE!

COMMON SENSE ? ? ?

October 12, 2015 by lescochranblog | 3 Comments


Guns

Last week the faculty at a local university stood tall, giving a glimmer of hope for our community and the State—they opposed the possession of guns on campus.

It’s hard to believe this issue of allowing guns on campus would even come before the Faculty Senate but it did, thanks to the wisdom of the state legislature.  Interestingly, in making Florida one of twenty states to pass such a bill, the legislature didn’t remove the restriction of guns at their meetings or those of any other government agency.

All but one Republican supported the bill; all of the Democrats opposed it.  Strangely, the legislation eliminated stun guns and other devices designed solely for defensive purposes making the intent clear—legislators were NOT interested in personal defense; their vote endorsed vigilante action— a concept rejected by wild-westerners decades ago.

All of that aside, you’d think politicians would follow the lead, or at least listen to those closest to the situation, but they failed to respect the fact that:

  • State University Presidents OPPOSED the measure.
  • State Police Chiefs OPPOSED the measure.
  • State University System’s Board of Governors OPPOSED the measure.

On the other side, the National Rifle Association supported the bill. Their lobbyist said it all:  “College campuses are gun-free zones, where murders, rapists and shooters can commit crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims.”  I spent over thirty years of my career on college campuses and NEVER heard such a definition of university life.

Fact is, deranged individuals do not follow normal logical patterns; they have no feelings for their victims nor fear of the police. And now, they’re protected by the National Rifle Association.

__________________________________________

Common sense?  

By the university faculty?  YES!

By the legislature in Florida?  NO WAY!

By the National Rifle Association?  NOT EVEN CLOSE!

Well, that’s my opinion – – – what’s yours?

September 21, 2015
by lescochranblog
0 comments

SEX ADDICTION AND EDUCATION REFORM?

SmileyYour first reaction to the title of this blog post may be that I’m a little crazy to juxtapose these two concepts.  You’re probably right . . . but that is exactly what I did in Presidential Affair, the conclusion of my “Love, Lies and Liaisons” trilogy.  The key character, Steve Schilling assists the first female president of the United States in passing legislation to reform our dysfunctional education system and finds his way into her White House bedroom.  Hmm . . . sounds like a twist on reality in Washington, D. C.

You may think that compulsive human behavior and educational change are as unrelated as two topics might be, but combining them was the plan from the beginning—show the disconnect and then attach them. It’s the same dichotomy sex addicts deal with all the time—a double life.  On one hand, they may have highly honed decision-making skills capable of running a major corporation; yet, the rest of their life may be totally different—multiple sex partners, lying and cheating, doing whatever it takes to sustain their desires.  We might see their life as a waste, a life of disarray, but to them everything is fine.

In my writing I try to narrow the line between fact and fiction—drawing together reality and my creative liberties. The key character Steve Schilling is handsome, powerful, and an excellent university president with great leadership skills in changing and improving the quality of education.  However he is a sex addict, like roughly six percent of the nation’s population.  He has fine-tuned his leadership and love making skills. What better catch might a woman have?  For some, that question might seem appalling, hypocritical, but not for all.

Twenty-five years ago, women libbers would have called Steve a “womanizer,” though no one in those days ever heard of a “manizer.”  Since then, cultural standards have changed dramatically.  Most women are better educated and more aware of their sexual needs. They are encouraged by the culture to seek their own fulfillment. Many are powerful women in their own right making decisions, deciding what they want, and determining their own lifestyle, including sexual behavior.

So in Presidential Affair, it’s not just a man dealing with a sex addiction problem. Some of the women are complicit with his advances; others pursue him for their own pleasures—it is reality. As an author, I’ve used the key character to combine the issue of addiction with the need to change education in our country.  I had to do a lot of research on sex addiction to accurately write about it. At the same time I used the storyline to share my knowledge about the need to make massive changes in the quality of education in our country.  Are the two issues related?  I think the answer is “No” and “Yes.”  No – one issue doesn’t fix the other and Yes – a sex addict could be a leader in changing education in America. AND Yes – an author can combine the two and they become related.  Well … enough of that for today.

Next time, I’ll focus on our nation’s most critical problem—the need for educational reform.  I’ll provide examples of the needed changes and suggest ways to bring about reform.  It’s a heady issue Steve tackled in Presidential Affair, but he was up for it!