Weatherford Democrat

Columns

August 22, 2011

Whadda ya really want?

WEATHERFORD — Expect cures for the common cold, erasure of national debt, and world peace before recipients of written invitations really know senders’ actual intent.

In some cases “deep-down druthers” are really pretty shallow. Take graduation invitations, for example.

“Inviters” in four-cornered caps graduating from “this to that” typically are more interested in invitees’ gifts than their attendance.

Preferably cash.

Some invitations invite “what shall we do?” head-scratching. Birthday parties are on the list.

When the honoree’s age is truly high — I mean if the fire marshal insists that cake candles be ignited one row at a time — invitations may convey clear intent.

You know, when requests are for “your presence, not your presents.”

Invites to “off-the-wall” occasions sometimes require the cooperation of an accomplice.

One I saw recently warrants “classic” designation.

Since Jack Raskopf, a retired member of the TCU School of Journalism, was the honoree, maybe it’s best to simply quote it.

Here goes: “So look … you got nothin’ better to do? Come to Jack’s 85th surprise birthday party! Well, it is a surprise, sort of. I’ve already told him about it … actually three times! Each time it is a surprise to him. But definitely, no gifts! He would just forget you gave them anyway.

When you come, be sure to introduce yourself … at least three times. And say it loud. Actually, shout it! Or maybe even write it. It won’t hurt if each time you remind him why you and that crowd of people are in our house. We look forward to you coming to the surprise birthday party of the year!”

At the bottom were the usual details journalists insist on: Date, place, time and “regrets only to Rocky, 817-921-XXXX.”

Perhaps you noticed that the invitation wasn’t signed.

If you assume that Rocky, Jack’s bride, wrote it, you are wrong! She was, however, an accomplice.

A dead give-away to friends who’ve never gotten close enough to turnip trucks to fall from them was this: The invitation was carefully addressed, printed in block letters, totally lacking in femininity. Yep, Jack created the invitation to his own party.

Reports suggest that “a good time was had by all.”

Jack’s friends remember with warmest thoughts the laughter-drenched moments the honoree provided in his first 30-year tour of duty at TCU.

Doug Newsom, a colleague who hired Jack from Rockwell International, asked “Which time?” in response to a query about how long Jack had taught at TCU. Doug explained that Jack was pressed back into service twice soon after his “retirement roast.” He served for 18 months as the first director of the school’s new learning lab for advertising and public relations students. Then, he was back a third time to sub for a teacher on medical leave. That’s when his wife told him not to answer the phone if the department called again.

One of his colleagues, Jerry Grotta, paused when asked to personify the honoree in a paragraph or two, protesting that “it would be easier to write a book.”

Grotta said, “Jack has the most creative mind I’ve ever encountered, and I don’t think he realizes it. He also is one of the funniest of people, and doesn’t realize that, either, and that’s one reason Jack is so charming.”

Jerry “signed on” with TCU largely because of Jack’s persuasion for him to leave commercial marketing research in New York City, where his daily regimen often included meals at best restaurants.

On Jerry’s first day at TCU, Jack said lunch was on him. “He took a $5 bill out of his billfold,” Jerry recalled, “and asked me to run down to the Jack-in-the-Box for a couple of cheeseburgers.”

Party revelers reflected on Jack’s thinking “outside the box” long before ad writers capitalized on it. They laughed about the time he wound up on campus with two cars.

At day’s end, he alternated driving each of the cars six blocks — re-defining leap-frogging — before finally parking both of them at home, six miles away. Asked why he didn’t ask a colleague to help, he replied, “I didn’t think of that.”

On a serious note, Grotta said, “I would trust Jack with my life.”

Party invitees have Jack Raskopf’s name in their BFF (best friend forever) files. Such respect is better than tenure.

I want to meet him soon. I’m thinking his barrel has at least a dozen anecdotes for each monkey therein.

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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