Monday, March 19, 2007


In case you were curious, I have not heard back from Diane. Not that I thought I would. The only surprise is that the letter has not come back stamped "UNDELIVERABLE." At least not yet. Maybe it bounces around between post offices until someone decides that even if it's possible to find the person to whom it's intended it's not worth the effort. Or perhaps the mail carrier delivers it to the address on the envelope without even reading the name and it's up to the people who get it to alert the post office. Maybe the current residents of that address tossed it out with the rest of their junk mail. Maybe Diane got it and tossed it out with the rest of her junk mail, either not remembering or not caring about who the sender was.

What does it matter, anyway? What would come of it if she got it and she did reply? She lives 1,000 miles away; it's not like she was going to invite me to lunch.

Whatever sparked my memory of Diane has not disappeared. She made a cameo appearance in a dream a couple of nights ago. I saw her at a party. Her face might have aged some but her legs looked just like they did in the yearbook photo of the girls track team, right down to the shorts. I told her she looked the same as she did in high school. Maybe I only thought that and didn't say it. I can't remember for sure and maybe you've noticed that the contents of dreams are tough to go back and verify later.

I don't understand the need to look backwards, to recollect and reconnect, but I'm not the only one who has it. I've visited and seen how many of my former high school colleagues are listed. I don't want to contact them badly enough to pay the membership fee so there's a limit to my curiosity but it's there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

VCU 79 Duke 77

This is why I don't fill out NCAA tournament bracket sheets, not even for entertainment purposes only. I never would have picked VCU to beat Duke last night. I tuned in with about 2:30 left in the game and saw that VCU had a chance at the upset. Cool! I despise Duke! What if they went home crying after the first round!

But if I had a bracket sheet to worry about, I could not have enjoyed that delicious possibility. It would have put me in the awkward and horrible position of wishing Duke would win.

Whose entertainment purpose would that serve? Not mine.

I remember in tenth grade giving a dollar to some kid running a pool for NFL games. The following Sunday I spent the miserable whole day rooting for teams I hated and I vowed I'd never to do it again.

So you have your fun with your office pool. I wish you luck. Me? I'm going to celebrate with my new best friends from VCU.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I just finished reading the novel "Hit List" by Lawrence Block. I haven't been reading enough lately, content instead to fill my time passively sitting in front of the TV watching a show or a movie.

Instead of a reality someone created with sets, actors, lights and cameras in productions that can cost millions of dollars that conveniently lays everything out for you, reading delves you into a world created entirely by a single person, sitting somewhere, typing.

But there's a catch. The author encodes his imaginings into "idiosyncratic arrangements in horizontal lines of twenty-six phoenetic symbols, ten numbers and about eight punctuation marks," as Kurt Vonnegut described written English in his book "Timequake."

Reading the book is the process of decoding those symbols, numbers and punctuation marks arranged idiosyncratically in horizontal lines back into imagery. My brain has to picture what each character and setting looks like. It must imagine the voices and the sounds.

It's amazing when you consider it. The way one of my brothers explains it, it's the same process now used to carry telephone calls over the Internet. One person talks into a gadget. It doesn't send the sound waves to to the other person, it turns them into packets of data and carries them to a gizmo at the other person's end (as opposed to the person's other end, which would be how digestion works not Internet telephony), which turns them back into sounds.

And, yes, I too enjoyed seeing gadgets and gizmos working harmoniously.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Drunk Dialing Alert Expired

I issued my "drugged dialing" warning unnecessarily. The valium turned out not to be the happy pill I was promised. Other than the slight fog, I felt nothing unusual, certainly nothing approaching the high I simultaneously looked forward to and feared. I didn't even say anything inappropriate to the cute surgical assistant who fitted my blood pressure monitor.

Unfortunately the local anesthesia didn't work as intended, either. It failed to numb the tooth entirely. The surgeon said that happens with some people and asked if I wanted to reschedule and do it under general. I had intended to do that in the first place until my caring friends at Cigna said that it wouldn't cover general anesthesia for only one tooth.

"Keep going," I told him.

Jesus might have died for my sins but I paid for more than a few of them myself over the next 20 minutes. Complicating things was the hardness of my teeth (one lifetime cavity) and the fact, according to the surgeon, that the roots of wisdom teeth in males are particularly strong. So the tooth was screwing me three ways: It wouldn't go numb, it wouldn't easily break apart and it didn't want to come out.

But eventually it did. I knew the last piece had finally come out when the surgeon started stitching the wound. At least my gums were numb. I didn't feel that at all. The post-op painkiller worked (yay!) and by Friday night I didn't even need to take any more of that. The vicodin didn't make me any more goofy than the valium anyway. My mother explained that to get high from vicodin you have to add acetaminophen. I did not ask how she knows such a thing. The swelling in my jaw made me look like Don Corleone for a couple of days but that's beginning to subside too.

So, yes, the drunk dialing alert has expired. That doesn't mean people shouldn't screen calls from me; it just means that I can't blame the drugs for whatever witless gibberish I utter if they answer.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Drunk Dialing Alert

Drugged dialing would be more like it. Tomrorrow I'm having a wisdom tooth pulled (and eventually removed, I hope). There will be valium involved and possibly painkillers on top of that. Not being a regular drug user, I'm gonna guess that my tolerance for this stuff will be quite low and that the possibility of my becoming completely stupid* under its influence will be quite high.

There is precedent. Like the time in 1998 when a photographer and I shot a story about a runners expo at the Tampa Convention Center the week of the Gasparilla Distance Classic. Olympic champion Bruce Jenner was there hawking these things called Happy Cookies, which where like Chips-A-Hoy chock full of ginko-biloba and St. Johns Wort. We got a sample, left to shoot another part of the expo, came back later, got another sample, went to shoot something else and repeated the process until we realized that we were both politely wasted on Happy Cookies. Good thing we had license to be goofy on that story, which actually aired without getting either of us in trouble.

Less than two months later I had eye surgery. I don't remember the drugs they gave me for that but it wasn't regular anesthesia because it doesn't completely knock you out. It does give some people diahrrea of the mouth. When the surgeon tired of our conversation, I was apparently quite happy to continue it by myself. I remember at one point he announced that he was going to cut into my eyeball and said, "I need you to stop talking."

I remember not talking.

Until I got home and called my mother at work. Or tried to. I misdialed and didn't get her direct line. I don't remember what unlucky soul got to field that call but I'm sure it was plenty evident that Mrs. McQuiston's son was calling to tell her that his drug rehab had failed.

What will probably happen tomorrow is that I'll come home and my cat and I will have a contest to see who can sleep the longest while the ACC Tournament plays on TV in front of us. I'll be using performance enhancing drugs, of course, but Annie practices a lot more than I do so I think it will be a fair fight.

However, in the small chance that I am aware enough to remember how to use a telephone, you might see my number on your caller ID. If so, it might be better for both of our sakes if you let it go to voice mail. And if you delete the message without listening to it.

If you find yourself in mood where "Dumb and Dumber" is too erudite and you crave interactive idiocy without having to drive to a fast food restaurant or wait on hold to talk to a government bureaucrat, call me. If there was ever anything you wanted to tell me but didn't want me to remember, this will be your time.

Otherwise have a good weekend.


*As opposed to my normal partial-stupidity.

Friday, March 02, 2007


Out of the blue I decide to write a letter to a high school classmate I have not seen in more than 20 years. I don't know what caused me to think of her. We rode the bus together and had the same physics class. We were friends but not close outside of school. We never dated, though I asked. When Diane does occur to me, her last name does not and I have to go thumbing through my old high school yearbook to find it.

Of course, that was her name 23 years ago. Some women get married after high school and some of them take on their husband's surname. Diane would have had the chance at some point. She was a late bloomer, a skinny long-legged girl with loose black hair who was just beginning to grow into her body. You could tell she'd always be long and lean and her fair but clear skin would age well if she took care of it. She wasn't quite a head-turner when I knew her but I could see the potential.

Google doesn't offer much hope that she still has her maiden name. Her name shows up only in an online listing of our school's track-and-field records. It's possible that I'll get no closer than knowing that her high-jump record still stands. gives me nothing but links to sites that promise information. For a fee. I wish I had thought to look more people up when I reported news for that Cincinnati TV station a few years ago. It had a subscription to Lexis/Nexis, which is a terrific resource for tracking people down. It's also expensive and I'm not stalking, here; I'm just curious.

Then I try and get a match for Diane's name with an address, age and even a birth month and year. For some reason I'm relieved to see that she's 40. As if I would have kept adding to my age every year and she wouldn't. It makes no sense, I know, but my brain does not come equipped with age-progression software. The picture of her in my mind fades but doesn't age.

Her address is dated 7/2001. I have no idea whether she still lives there. For me that was two states and three residences ago. But it's the only one I find for her.

Now that I have an address to send the letter, I have to write the letter.


Lordy! Lordy! Look who's 40! At least that's what the Internet that Al Gore invented tells me. Happy Birthday! Let me back up a second because if you're not the Diane W. who graduated from Methacton High School in 1985, this letter is going to make even less sense than if you are the Diane to whom I meant to write this.

I should back up again. My name is John McQuiston and I went to high school with you. For a while, anyway. I finished a year before you did. I wish I could brag that I left early to sign a fat pro contract but, no, I'm just older than you are and graduated in 1984. If you don't remember me, try ginko biloba. Kidding! Did I type that out loud? I meant to say that if you don't remember me, I understand. As the years pass, my memories of high school fade at an increasingly rapid rate.

I happened to page through my old yearbook recently. One of the people who signed it apparently found me witty, charming and all around great company, which means she thought more highly of me than I did. She even left her phone number. And I have no recollection of her at all. Not a clue. She signed only her first name and in such a small script that I couldn't make enough of it out to go searching for a possible match among our classmates. Maybe I should call the phone number. It's only been 23 years. I'm sure she's still there.

I lived around the bend from you on Mourning Dove Road in fabulous Audubon. We had physics class together. You were cute. When you signed my yearbook (in much larger letters than Miss Mystery Girl above, thank you) you instructed me to keep in touch. It has taken a couple of decades but now I have. E-mail has made me a much better correspondent.

I'm sure you're waiting for the sales pitch. And if I had one, it would go right here. Unfortunately, I don't have a fabulous investment opportunity for you. I'm not raising money for any worthy cause. (Some unworthy ones, yes, but I don't solicit donations to those.) And my Nigerian e-mail scam comes, by definition, by e-mail. So it's none of that. What happened was that a moment of idle curiosity caught me when I was at a computer and here I am. Well, you were cute.

I went to the University of North Carolina where I learned that I had vastly overrated my prowess at mathematics.* I remember sitting in my second semester of calculus class and realizing that I did not understand a word the teacher was saying. How I pulled a C-minus out of that class I have not the foggiest notion.

I majored in Political Science and Communications, which meant that I had two degrees for which there was no practical use. My GPA was nothing to write home about, though it was something my father often wrote to me about. My principal achievements were that I graduated in four years with no summer school and I never cheated. Don't worry. Nobody else is impressed by that, either.

The time I should have spent doing schoolwork I devoted instead working at UNC's student-run TV station. I learned how to write and report TV news and sports stories. After college I made a living at it for the better part of the next 17 years at stations up and down the east coast. I own a lot of license plates.

I abandoned the life of a TV news nomad in late 2004 and re-settled near Tampa, Florida, which had been one of the stops along my TV tour. (John likes warm weather even more than he likes referring to himself in the third person.) Now I work in the marketing department of a large real estate developer here and do some freelance TV work on the side. I've also produced a couple of short documentary films.

I still know the four chords I learned in high school guitar class and the three I learned in the four piano lessons I took when I was 17. I continue to play both of the instruments equally badly and I have recordings of my original compositions to prove it.

It is said that a rolling stone gathers no moss. It gathers no spouse, either. I have never married nor fathered any children. It's just my cat and me. But, I promise, we're just friends.

I hope this letter finds you -- I hope it finds you at all, first of all -- healthy and happy as you pass another of life's milestones. I would love to hear about your life after high school if you care to share it. You don't even have to use a stamp. You can e-mail me at If you're curious, you can watch some clips of my TV work at or visit my blog at where you might read about how I sent a letter to a girl I once knew years ago and wondered about the woman she became.

Take care,

John McQuiston

*In high school I excelled at algebra, geometry and trigonometry and also made A's in biology, chemistry and physics. Academic success that did not carry into college.

I print it out, fold it up and for the first time in I don't know how long I seal an envelope that contains neither a greeting card nor a remittance. An actual letter from an actual viewer.

I don't know if she'll get it. The address could be wrong. The Diane could be wrong. She didn't have a common last name so I'm confident that's not the case. Maybe the letter will get there only for a jealous boyfriend or husband to see it before she does.

And what does it matter? What if it does reach her and she happens to remember my name, or doesn't remember but is curious enough to open the envelope? What if she finds the letter engaging, amusing and occasionally profound? (sure signs of premature senility but still) What will come of it anyway?

I have no idea. I do know is that for reasons I do not understand, I felt terrific after writing the letter. That's reason enough.