I was a sophomore at USC (the one in South Carolina, not Southern California) when I took a fiction writing class. I knew that I wanted to write professionally one day, and had already contemplated taking one of those novel writing correspondence courses. (More on that later!)
I asked some questions of the department and learned that the class was to be taught by Ben Greer, a published novelist with a few titles to his credit. I was enthusiastic to know that someone who had been through that process that I was so interested in dealing with myself would be heading the course.
I remember the first day quite well. Greer, a tall, slender man, introduced himself and told us that we were going to have fun while being creative. He talked a little about his books, and read a scene from one of his books, The Loss of Heaven, which was set during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. I recall that the scene was set in a cabin or lodge, apparently Johnson’s, and that he was having a conversation while rubbing skin lotion on his hands. The way in which that scene was described just set it firmly in my mind. I don’t recall the conversation itself, but I recall the mental picture I had of the president sitting there, rubbing Calomine lotion on his hands.
He then surprised us by turning one of the empty front row seats around to face us, sitting in it and leaning towards us while speaking more and more softly. We all leaned in a little, perhaps in part on a subconscious level, as he said that there was one thing, more than any other that he wanted us to learn from this class.
“If you don’t learn any other thing at all, I want you to learn…that Rush’s has the best Chilli-Cheeseburgers in town.”
I knew at that moment that I was going to enjoy his class.