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Note: In general contours, this is a true account, but every name that could be changed has been to protect myself from the vindictive (with the exception of a street name).
Dave was on balance both better dressed and more serious in his demeanor than most of the PhD Students in the Department for German and Related Languages at Gigantic Midwestern Research I University. He usually wore khakis and button down Oxford pinpoints, looking quite professional, where most of the rest of us were in the rotation of jeans t-shirts that were either politically antagonistic (“Bush/Halliburton” or slightly later “End Mad Cowboy Disease”) or pop-culture derivatives (college-themed variations of Calvin and Hobbes or other already aging 1990’s pop culture references). I was the polo shirt guy, which put me closer to Dave on the sartorial scale than to the rest of our cohort. What really set him apart, though, was something he said one night after one of our monthly departmental guest lectures. The lecturer had a been a foreign language pedagogy expert from a well-known and then well-respected east-coast university who had achieved some notice in the AATG and MLA circles by reversing, almost single-handedly, the constant decline of enrollments in German that the field had seen since the end of the Cold War at her institution. German pop culture tie-ins! Student writing and creative arts portfolios in German! Internet chatrooms with StudentInnen in Karlsruhe! Our faculty and some of the older grad students, those a couple of years ahead of us, had eaten her Spiel up like fresh Apfeltaschen. Not Dave.