An Interview with My High School English Teacher

Nicholas Lograsso went back to the past to revisit one of his most influential figures. Mr. Lamerto, if you’re reading this, thank you!

Hi readers, listeners? KCRr’s? Never written a blog before but here goes. If you are wondering why I decided to write this now, there is little story behind it. I joined KCR four years ago and looking back I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended with such a positive experience and being connected to people through the music. My experience here reminded me of someone influential during my time in high school. My English teacher, Mr. Lamerato, who would always try to make our class more enjoyable by retelling stories of his time in college and exposing us to some of the music he holds dear. Also, I might have used the intro he began class with as the intro for our radio show. This was another reason I wanted to give him a visit as I felt that he had a right to know after four years. 

Nick: So, how are you? 

John: Doing well, sixteenth year at St. Augustine High School and yeah just wrapping up another school year.  

N: So, I have a confession to make…since I know the greeting you use for your classroom is so iconic. I might have, possibly, stolen that for a wonderful intro for our radio show.  

J: I love it that’s great. It’s the sincerest form of flattery.  

N: You’re not going to retract my grade? *laughing* 

J: No, I will not retract your grade *laughs* That’s awesome, I’m glad something I taught you is of use, years later. 

N: There’s definitely more than that*laughs* Cool, glad that didn’t go in a totally different direction. Alright first question, what are some of the artists that shaped your college experience? 

J: In college, I was finally on my own. So I had a little more free time to do what I wanted to do. Also I had friends in different colleges that allowed me to have a reason to road trip somewhere. So I’d say the band that probably defined my college experience would be the Dave Matthews Band and that was because when they released Before These Crowded Streets which I want to say was released in 1998. That became probably their highest grossing album and at that time they were touring and selling out places like Soldier Field, two night in a row. So that was the height of their career and that was the height of me having some money and having the freedom to actually follow a band for the first time. Still a huge Counting Crows fan, during my time that was a big deal and probably the start of Radiohead and Coldplay at that time. So I remember exchanging CD’s with people, which I know don’t really exist anymore, but I remember this girl sent me a package that had Coldplay’s first album Parachutes and Radiohead’s OK Computer and I had never heard of either band. So to get that in one package and be exposed to that was amazing. 

NDo you think you would have had the same college experience if you did not discover those artists? 

J: Um, that’s a good question. I’m probably the wrong guy to ask because to me music is completely intertwined with my life. So any major life moment that has a soundtrack to it, certain songs can immediately take you back to a place. So, as an example, Third Eye Blind’s first album Third Eye Blind that came out right when I stepped onto a college campus and they actually did their first tour and came to my university (Central Michigan University). So whenever I hear that album, I immediately think of studying for honors pre-calculus on a college campus, living with my roommates, getting use to that whole lifestyle. I remember vividly in my sophomore year we went to Dave Matthews in Gran Rapids, which is about two hours away. We were nerds so we were in these honors classes and actually came back the next morning for class. So the whole general connection we had, a lot of that centered on the music. So I think no, I think music intertwines and defines a lot of what we do and becomes a soundtrack.  

N: Has your music taste changed at all? Or do you still listen to the same artists and bands? 

J: I think one of my biggest challenges is being married, having kids, having more responsibilities, not being in college has been staying on the cutting edge of new bands that are coming out. So one of my favorite things is to go to The Casbah (a venue here in Downtown San Diego). The only way you are going to see a show at The Casbah of a band you like is that you have to be on the cutting edge, so it has to be their first tour. They have to be small enough but also big enough, they have to fall in a small niche that fits that. I unfortunately don’t have the time to be as invested in that. I do try to stay open to new bands. Probably my favorite “newish” band is a band is called Lord Huron. They are more of like a folk-type band, love them. The War On Drugs, their last album is when I finally got into them, which is an amazing album. I try to keep an open mind, but I still end up often going back to the bands as previously mentioned. I went to the Metric show on SDSU’s campus not too long ago and I was super impressed by Zoé, which is a Mexican band that opened for them. So still piecemealing a few bands but not necessarily cutting edge.  

N: Would you say music defines who you are? 

J: I wouldn’t say music defines who I am. I think what you say, how you act, what you do, defines who you are as a person. I do say that music influences me, influences my mood, influences what I’m doing. I would say it also provides me the atmosphere I live in. So I wouldn’t say it defines me as a person, but defines the world I live in.  

NIf you had a chance to experience college one more time what would you do differently? 

J: To me one of the biggest bummers of college, but when you’re living it, it’s hard to understand how unique that situation is. What I mean by that is living with your friends most likely or some of the time. You most likely don’t have a full-time job so you’re doing these classes which are challenging and keep you busy, but you’re not obligated to be up at 6:00 am every day. What would I do differently? Not much to be honest, I went to a college where it was a college-town compared to SDSU which is in a major city. The people who enjoy college are the ones that stay over the weekends, who involve themselves. Whether that means going to a football game, whether that means seeing a speaker on campus, whether that means going to a show on campus. The ones who hated college or just didn’t like were the ones that got their cars packed and headed home each weekend. So I think the immersion of it, which is what I did, is something that I think is the key to enjoying or not enjoying it and I really wouldn’t change it. I had an awesome, unbelievable 5 years of college and would love to do it again. At the same time I’m very blessed and happy with where I am in life right now.  

N: Ok, one last question, what is music to you? 

J: To me, music sets the mood. So if I’m in the gym, I have a specific playlist. If I am relaxing in the evening, I have a certain playlist. If I’m on a road trip, I have a certain playlist. So to me it is a mood setter and accentuates the situation that I’m in.  

Written by: Nicholas Lograsso 

Sunflower Seeds: New York, New York

New York, New York, I love you! I know that last time I was ranting about how I left Chicago to start a new life in San Diego, but I would move to the East Coast in a New York Minute.

I have never been to such a fast-paced city with so much passion and excitement. Now, before I go off tangent on how much I loved the New York, NY, the Big Apple, Times Square and all those other goodies, I would like to talk about my trip from the beginning.

Approximately 16 of us arrived at the JFK airport after an exhausting morning flight. Some of the fellow travelers had been to the city before, but I would be losing my New York virginity. By the time we got our luggage, we were eager to finally head to our hotel. Unsurprisingly, I somehow managed to lose all 15 other travelers and ended up wandering the subway for an hour. Mind you, I had never been there before, I had no cell phone service, and I wasn’t wearing my glasses/contacts so I was off to a teriffic start. After a few deep breaths, I figured out where I was going and fortunately met up with the rest of the group at our hotel.

I lived in an atrocious, filthy, and cockroach infested apartment this past summer (that is another seed to tell), but this seedy New York hotel was just as bad.

As soon as my three other roommates and I stepped onto our floor, we knew this was going to be awful. The outside of the room doors looked like coffins, so we knew we were entering death. There was mold covering the heater, and the bathroom looked like it was straight out of a horror movie.

One morning I showered so I could refresh after a long night out. I was relaxing and laying down on the bed when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked up, and what do I see, a RAT!!! This wasn’t a cute Ratatouille situation (even though the rat might have been looking for one); this was a very big problem in my eyes. Frantically, I called the front desk and they let us move up two floors to another room that wasn’t too spectacular either. The appliances didn’t seem to work in this one, but at least it was rat free to my knowledge. Out of my entire time of being in the city and on the subway, the only rat I saw just so happened to be in my room! Needless to say, not a lot of time was spent in that ratty hotel.

Later I ventured out to Central Park with one of my roommates to escape the the rat drama.

We were so shocked as to how elegant and captivating a piece of land in the middle of a major city could be. It had snowed the night before, so it looked like it would be in a Hallmark Movie scene. It was pretty cold, but I kind of missed the brisk air in a nostalgic way. Oddly enough, it was refreshing to be bundled up in three puffy jackets. In the park there is a John Lennon memorial. As an overall big Beatles fan, I was overjoyed to be there (I might have shed a tear or two).

I did a ton of exploring in the city and began to feel a bit like Carrie Bradshaw, but only now can I see why she would love the men there. They all seem driven, and honestly their were some of the most attractive men I’ve ever seen (I really dig a man in an Italian suit). The only thing I didn’t care for was the cost of everything. I might have spent a remarkable amount of money on drinks, and my bank account surely suffered, but I had the time of my life so who can really complain.

There are not enough words to explain how marvelous New York was. I loved it because of the liveliness and motivation the city seemed to breathe; overall, the atmosphere was very energetic and the people seemed to be incredibly hard working. Here, I don’t think anyone could ever be bored, for there is always something to see or somewhere to go. It was bright, it was loud, it was New York City. Like Frank Sinatra, I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps.

Written by: Nina Capuani