Lean on me

by Dug Begley

It’s amazing I don’t have a seizure every time I see a red pen because of Bob Schulman. The man wielded one like Zeus tossed thunderbolts. His approval came down from on high like manna, and the red ink was good. Scorn came in the same blood-red color.

Every week a tattered, manila envelope would arrive through U of L’s inter-office mail system. Every week the staff would crowd around to see what Bob had to say in the margins of the paper he marked up with his red pen. Sometimes I believe it probably drained one pen dry, and he’d pull another from a desk drawer.
On good days the paper had a pleasant “good show” written in the margins next to the story. Other days it looked like Elmo exploded on the page and left a pattern of furiously wide circles and question marks.
I leaned on Bob in my early days as a journalist. He was the ideal sounding board and devil’s advocate. He was never afraid to ask the tough questions and demand more than I could give. It’s the only way to learn, if you ask me.

Bob returned the favor by leaning on me. Literally. At social gatherings or informal chats around the offices at U of L Bob used me as a mobile lean-to. He’d come up to me with a kind smile and his curiously festive bow tie and ask me a question. He’d laugh at my response and place his hand on my shoulder, conveniently located at about the same height as Bob’s forehead. A few seconds would go by and the hand would stay as he shifted his weight. I could feel him settling in for a long conversation, and I’d center myself and let him lean.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my Bob. He always will be.

Dug Begley is a former news editor of The Louisville Cardinal, and currently a
senior reporter at The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas. Contact him at [email protected]