Last fall, as Buzzsaw Magazine turned twenty, a group of alumni gathered in Upstate New York to celebrate, and a co-founder gave a rambling and nervous toast, with his Mom and the President standing right there. Here is the transcript.
And now for someone with no public speaking ability whatsoever . . .
Thank you all for coming.
Twenty years ago, sitting on the floor over in Emerson 335, playing Mojo Nixon records, if someone had said, one day the Ithaca College President will speak at your reunion, we would have said: Y’know, that’s a good satirical piece—why don’t you write that speech?
Because we never thought a day like this was possible.
We started with seven people, no office, and of course no money.
Yet here we are. And in all sorts of ways, literally and figuratively, we’ve come so far. Some drove. Some flew, with their kids. Some walked over, possibly from Emerson. Everyone took a different path. Because everyone came from a different place. And if you were to ask each person, ‘How’d you get here tonight,’ no two answers would be exactly the same. Each person would give a different answer. Each person would tell a different story.
And, at least right now, everyone’s story ends here in this room. Or if it doesn’t end, it stops, maybe for the night in a Pennsylvania motel during a blizzard, and there’s only one room left, and so people have to share beds, and there’s a mixup in the morning—never mind. Bry’s kids are here.
[wait for laughter]
Buzzsaw was always a collective. People. Ideas. And especially stories. One reason Buzzsaw means so much to so many of us, is because we dedicated so much of our lives—our time, our work, our stories—to creating it and then keeping it alive. It is truly personal. And because of this, I’d like share my own story, which of course is just one of so many in the room today.
Two weeks ago, IC was having an official alumni weekend, and I was up here for some meetings, and I crashed an event because I knew they’d be serving dinner.
Now, I didn’t know I was crashing it. It was a reunion for the class of ’69, and I truly didn’t know that no one else was allowed. And then I found out, because an older gentleman asked ‘Who are you?’ then pointed out the fine print of the invitation, said these words: ‘You don’t belong here.’
But then something funny happened. After my 3rd round of pork loin, I sat down next to a lady who said she was from Buffalo. And I said this was a coincidence, because we used to live in Buffalo, because my Dad was a union cameraman for the Buffalo news. And she said that THAT was a coincidence, because her husband, who was right over there, was Rich Newberg, the longtime anchorman for Chanel 4 News, where he’d gone to work after he’d gradated IC in 1969.
Rich came over, and I showed them some throwbacks on my Instagram. And he said, ‘That’s the Curt I know.’ And he asked how Dad was, and I said he’d passed away years ago, but that after Chanel 4, he’d gone into teaching, and in fact had taught film production at IC. And that’s how I ended up here. (It’s called tuition remission. And it changed my life.)
And so coming here, as a journalism major, I felt very much out of place. Many students seemed to be from a different economic bracket, or said they were from New York City when in fact they were from Long Island or Staten Island or someplace. And they definitely were not interested in what I was interested in. My advisor, Carolyn Byerly, was about to be ousted for abuse, and worst of all, my Dad taught here, at the Park School, and I used to see him around the halls.
I didn’t have any close friends. Not until I met Bryan and Kelly and James and Abby at the Ithacan. [gesture at them] And then Sam and I roomed together. And one of the things that bonded us was a collective idea, an idea we finally embraced, and celebrated, with Buzzsaw Issue 1, in 1999.
That idea was this: We don’t belong here, and yet here we were.
And we didn’t belong. Our first issue got thrown away, because we didn’t know the rules about campus media, or for that matter spelling, grammar, and in the case of our web editor—general hygiene.
[wait for some more laughter]
But then we sold an ad. And then we got a submission. And eventually some fan mail, so we could stop running letters from my Mom and Grandmother, and my Rochester friend who kept getting surgeries he didn’t need.
The next semester, I was interning in LA, and when I cam back to Ithaca, in January, we had a meeting. And it wasn’t in Emerson 335—because he didn’t live there anymore—and because 30 people showed up. Some were 18 years old. Some were sociology majors. Most new recruits were women. One was this punk rock guy who may not have even gone to the colleges, but had a good camera, so he was in.
Kate Sheppard was not here, because she was in high school, or perhaps middle school at the time. This was 2000. Which means some of the current Buzzsaw staff hadn’t yet been born.
And for me this was a profound and beautiful realization: That I wouldn’t change anything. And that all the hardships were worth it. And that all along this story had a happy ending. Because all along, we—all of us—did belong here.
And that’s why we’re here. Because we belong. And Buzzsaw belongs.
I’ll close with a story, because it’s a good Halloween story, and because I’ve now lost track of the belonging/not-belonging parable.
It’s a well-known fact that film majors dress up on Halloween. And in the Fall of ’99 my Dad was teaching senior film production. So I went to his class in disguise, because I knew I could blend in. Dad screened the 1974 classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was advertised with the tagline: The Saw Is Family.
When Leatherface appeared onscreen for the first time, Dad ran out in front of everyone in a hockey mask, revving an actual live Buzzsaw. Students leapt backwards out of their seats, and then gave a standing ovation.
Once again, the path was askew, and I knew I was in the right place. As we all are, here, today.
Please join me in raising your glasses.
Here’s to 20 Years of Buzzsaw.
[To A capella group]
Take ‘em away, toys.