by Matt Olson

I met Bud at my first, and last, job interview. He was my patron saint of psychology from that day until his death in 2007. I will never forget him, and there are lots who will never forgive him. One of a kind. No contenders.  The scary part is that I think he genuinely liked me and respected me. Some people tell me that this makes me a character of dubious distinction.

I had completed a presentation to my dissertation committee late July, 1977. I showed them the data and analyses, and all but one were seriously skeptical. As I was concluding the presentation, I saw that one of those in attendance was passing around a note... just like little kids in a 5th grade class---except that these were serious Full professors at The University of Michigan. When the "Kick Me" note finally made the rounds, one of the big guys passed it to me and recommended that I re-analyze my data according to the instructions on the note. If I knew then what I know now... "Any linear transformation of the data will yield the same results." ... I could have ended the trial then. Of course, any change in the script would have resulted in an entirely different play and I would not be writing this little story now. Who knows? 

My next 30 or so hours were spent at the computer center. In those days, nobody had PCs or laptops or anything like that. You went to the computer center on campus, found a machine, and did your work. My work took about 30 hours and hundreds of Fortran punch cards (Google it). Grad students today are spoiled punks.  

When I finished transforming my data, according to the instructions on the note-- and saw the same results because any linear transformation.... I staggered back to my apartment, drank a beer, and welcomed a coma. That was when the phone rang.  A woman identifying herself as the Social Sciences secretary at Hamline University asked if I could come for a job interview. I told her that I would call her back and resumed my coma. For reasons that I'll never really comprehend, when I woke up several hours later, I remembered the phone number. Two days later, I was on a flight to Saint Paul, with no clue whatsoever how they found me or what I would do when I got there

When I got off the plane, there were two guys waiting for me. One of them, who introduced himself as Bud, greeted me and told me that I had to be Matt Olson. I agreed that I had to be and shook hands with him and his colleague Jerry. Bud explained that my graduate advisor, one of the founders of Brooks Cole Publishing, was helping him develop a textbook when the man who had a  (my) one-year, temporary appointment in the department walked in and resigned. Given that this was the end of July and that classes would begin in the first week of September, Bud went into a slight panic. My grad advisor, who wanted nothing more than to get rid of his last graduate student and retire to Monterrey, calmed Bud down and assured him that he knew the perfect person for the job. Two birds, one stone. And that is why Bud and Jerry knew to look for a longhair with some turquoise around his neck as passengers came off the plane. He suggested that we stop for a snack before they drove me to the university and leave me for the night, and that seemed like a dandy idea.        

The bar where we snacked had two main rooms. One included strippers, but Bud thought they might be too distracting and that we would have better conversation in the other room, and we did. He asked if I could teach a section of General Psychology, a course on this, and a course on that. I lied and told him I'd be glad to do it. I had the training, mostly. It was likely that I was a little smarter than some of the students. And I could read faster. If nothing else, grad school helps you to learn to read fast. Sure, I'd be glad to teach all those classes. 

Once that was settled, we had a grand time. Some of it was actually spent talking about the small, private college called Hamline University and all the things I could expect from students and colleagues. Some of it was me dropping the names of the relatively high power faculty that had kicked my ass around for the previous 4 years. I knew there had to be a good reason for associating with those bastards, and here it was.

 A few drinks later, as we were leaving, Jerry leaned over and told me that, if he knew Bud, I had the job. Still, I'd have to go through the interview process the next day for the ritual of it. Plus, it was really too late to recruit anyone else for the position. The ritual was not a major problem. Have breakfast with students, some of whom were pissed that I was replacing one of their familiar faces. I still have a deep friendship with the former student who rescued me from that snake pit. Sit for interviews with a couple of committees, both of which were sparsely populated because it was summer. Go out to eat with other faculty so that they could be assured that I didn't eat with my paws and lick my plate. And then a return trip to the airport, during which Bud assured me that I had the job because he didn't give a damn about what the committees thought. And there it was.

Marce was not exactly delighted when I told her that I had a job offer in Saint Paul, Minnesota. When she agreed to stay on this ride with me, at least in the short run, I agreed that I would not take jobs in Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, or Alaska. When I told her about Saint Paul, she said simply "I should have thought more carefully about the list." I reminded her about the arts scene in the Twin Cities, the progressive reputation of Minnesota, and the fact that this was a one-year, temporary appointment. She agreed to come along. 

When we moved to Minnesota, we managed to find a place to rent--in this case, the lower half of a house about 5 miles from campus. Both bicycle distance and, when winter set in, easy public transportation from the campus. I kicked dissertation writing into high gear, selected a few textbooks for the courses I was assigned. And work began.   

Marce found out about the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and managed to find a job there. I thought a professor's salary was supposed to be higher, but no. Together, we would be able to pool our funds and make it.

By the time the semester started, I was ready. The first morning I arrived for classes, I walked up the sidewalk leading to our building, eager to begin the semester. Our offices were and are on the first floor, and the sidewalk passes by them. The buildings crew was not so efficient or professional in those days, and as I walked by Bud's office, I noticed something a little ... well...different. In the grime on the inside of the window, written backwards from the inside so that passersby on the sidewalk could read it clearly, was "Chicago + 3." That was it. I didn't think much of it, even that night when I watched the Chicago Bears play some opponent or other on Monday Night Football. The Bears won by a healthy margin, and it all became a little more clear the next morning when a procession of faculty members "dropped in" to say hi to Bud and pay their losses. Later that morning, he came to our offices and called for a quick meeting out in the common area. Once assembled he checked our teaching schedules and announced that we were going to lunch, and off we went. Most Mondays had the betting line in the window smudge; most Tuesdays included lunch with Bud, all paid for by the Bears, the Packers, the 49ers ... I once asked him if, as a native of Chicago,  the Bears were his favorite team. His response: "I don't follow football."

Those first years revealed that Bud was an avid gambler. No, he wasn't a fan of football, baseball, basketball or Olympic sport. On the other hand, if there was a bet to be made, he was keenly tuned in to the event. And he appeared to win at this craft. He and my other colleague, Jerry, also participated in a sport called "penny stocks."  I don't know if such things exist today, but there used to be initial public offerings of stocks that sold for a penny or a nickel a share. Bud, who had extra money because of his gambling and textbooks, and Jerry, who had a private clinical practice on the side, would each toss $500 in a pool and buy "penny stocks" every month. Sometimes they lost their money; but it only took one or two successful stocks --St Judes, Sears, etc-- to make the whole thing work. They both retired in comfort. I, on the other hand, was making about $1,000 each month. I knew that the penny stock game was out of my league, and I'm sure Marce would have agreed. Bud and Jerry once convinced the other new faculty member, paid about the same as me, that he should play penny stocks. He did, and it was a bad month. They lost all their money. My new colleague went into such a funk that Bud and Jerry wrote him a check for $500. He never played again, and I felt wise.

As his gambling hobby grew, Bud began taking frequent trips to Las Vegas, and when his retirement rolled around, he bought a condo on the northwest end of town. Part of his interest was gambling, of course, but his condo was right on the fairway of the second or third hole of the golf course that came with this gated, condo community. Bud loved golf, which he had taken up only a couple of years earlier, and he was frighteningly good at it. Within days after moving in, he went to the pro-shop to inquire about the course. He asked what it cost to play, and the pro told him that it was $50. Bud remarked that $50 was a really affordable annual fee. When the pro corrected him,pointing out that it was $50 a round, Bud's golf days ended as abruptly as they began. He would sit out on his patio and wait for golf balls to land nearby. The golfers attached to those balls were out of sight, perhaps 100 yards or more away. Bud found it amusing to scurry out on the course and steal the balls. When the golfers finally arrived, looking here and there for the balls that ought to be around there somewhere, they would ask. He, of course, denied ever seeing them. Anybody who ever visited Bud in Vegas went home with a couple dozen golf balls.  

By that time, he had brought me on as a writing partner on two of his textbooks, and he summoned me to Vegas about twice a year so that we could work on our writing projects. My first visit was revealing. We worked all day long drafting sections of text, and at the end of the day, he suggested we, including his girlfriend,  go out to a nearby casino. I explained that I wasn't much of a gambler and wasn't particularly interested, but he insisted. "When you live here you never go out to casinos. The only time I get to go is when visitors come to town." Somehow this made sense to me, and I agreed to go out and play. He was disappointed that I only brought 3 or 4 rolls of nickels to play the nickel - slots, but off we went. 

We went out to the casino nearest his home. As you walk into this place, there is a cashier's cage where you can exchange money for chips or vice versa. The cashier looked up and hollered "Hi Bud." Bud walked on as if he hadn't heard the greeting. Twenty feet or so later, we passed by a Blackjack table. The dealer looked up "How you doing Bud?"  And once again Bud, who only went to casinos when friends came to town, walked on. Bud led his girlfriend to these horrible Keno machines, and asked her to show me how to play. He wandered off to do his own thing. 

I have tried to forget the damn Keno. You put your money in the machine, pick a few numbers between 1 and 80. If I recall, you get 5 or 6 picks.  The machine randomly selects perhaps 20 numbers between 1 and 80. If you match numbers with the machine, you win. If all of your numbers match, the payoff is pretty large (for a nickel game). It sounds like an easy one to win, but the house always has the edge. Bud's girlfriend, also his savant editor, kept picking the same 5 numbers--over and over again. I finally pointed out that she hadn't won a thing yet. Why not change it up?  "Oh no!  These are my lucky numbers. I always win with these numbers."  After watching her lose for about 15 more minutes, I wandered off to find some nickel poker machines.

Perhaps an hour later, Bud showed up with a bucket full of quarters that he won, and we went off to find the girlfriend. By that time, she had lost more than $40 in nickels playing her magic lucky numbers. Out of nowhere, a waitress appeared with a bottle of Andeker beer on a little tray and said "Here's your beer, Bud."  He looked surprised and asked aloud where it came from. She said "After all Bud, it is 11 o'clock."  

When he finally left Vegas, Bud had to clear up three lines of credit at different casinos. That debt plus the discovery of a body in the trunk of a car in his neighborhood convinced him that it was time to go.  He put $450,000 in cash in a suitcase and headed for Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a lovely place on Puget Sound where his youngest son lived. Bud had 7 kids in all. He had some contact with his eldest son and had a very positive relationship with the youngest in Bellingham. The others basically ignored him and never communicated.

Back in the 1970s, Bud noticed that Radical (Skinnerian) Behaviorism was not represented in the department, so he basically became B. F. Skinner. He wrote a book called "How to Shape Your Child's Personality," invoking every behavioristic principle on the table. For example, birthday presents and parties are foolish, non-contingent reinforcement. No reason you should get a present just because you are there on your birthday; if anything, your mother should get a present. So, no more birthday celebrations in Bud's family. Same for Christmas, Easter, whatever. Halloween was viewed as an awful event where children are reinforced for begging at a stranger's doorstep. Bud had no problem making fun of people who celebrated these events, and of course his kids became the neighborhood misfits and outcasts. Most of his kids and his wife resented this transformation-- all except the youngest who was too little to be aware of what was going on. Too bad they didn't hang in there until the 80's when Bud noticed that Humanistic Psychology was not represented in the department. He left Skinner behind and morphed into Carl Rogers. Fascinating 180-degree transformation. 

Once in Bellingham, Bud located some premium condos right on Puget Sound. He just went door-to-door, introducing himself to the occupants. He would open up the suitcase and show them the $450K and offer to buy their condo. Strangely, it worked, and he wound up with a beautiful place with a panoramic view of Puget Sound. Once moved in, he was out one morning and encountered three neighbors. They did the introductions all round, and one of them asked how he liked the small condo village. Bud said he liked it just fine,  but he wondered "What kind of asshole has to have a huge flagpole right outside the door?"  The three neighbors, one of whom was a very proud asshole with his patriotic flagpole, never spoke to him again

At about that time, Marce and I were learning to sail a little 17-foot Daysailor. I was talking to Bud about it, and he told me of his plans to buy a 28--30 foot sailboat and anchor it in the Sound. I expressed my surprise. Told him that I didn't know he was a sailor. He told me that, of course, he was not. Had no interest at all in sailing. He just wanted the boat as a site where he could have parties. He went so far as to make an appointment to visit a sailboat that was for sale. Once on board, he noticed several used condoms casually tossed here and there, and that was it. No more boat interests whatsoever.

Bud had a strange relationship with modern medicine. His grandfather was a physician, and Bud dedicated one of the books to him. Apparently, it was his grandfather who inspired him to stay in school. Makes a nice story, but Bud disliked physicians and didn't see them often.  One evening in Las Vegas, he started to have severe abdominal pains. Rather than call an ambulance, he just stayed home and drank Pepto Bismol.  After his appendix burst, he was found unconscious in his condo. His story is that one of the sororities at University of Nevada, Las Vegas,  offered to come to your place, get topless, and clean. He claimed, at least to me, that it was the topless sorority sisters who found him. Maybe so. 

He was in the hospital for almost two weeks, lost about 80 pounds, and was finally discharged. Probably went out to the casino as soon as he was mobile. One might learn from such an experience, but no. While in his Puget Sound home, he began to experience chest pain and pressure. More Pepto Bismol.  This time it was his son who found him unconscious. About 2 AM, one July 2007 Sunday morning, my phone rang. It was his eldest son, explaining that Bud had a massive heart attack and was on life support at the Bellingham hospital. He knew Bud's wishes, and they were disconnecting the machines later that day. He would call me when it was over.

Next day passed, but there was no phone call. Of course, they were grieving and would contact me soon. Tuesday went by. No phone. On Wednesday, I did a computer search and confirmed that there was only one hospital in Bellingham. I called and lied that I wanted to send flowers to a patient there, but needed to know how to direct them. The receptionist asked who the patient was, and when I told her she said "Oh, don't send them here. We are discharging him today. " 

I waited a day and called him at his condo, and there he was. As big Bud as ever. I asked how he was doing, and he said "I remembered the joke!"

Bud had a reputation for butchering jokes. You could tell him the one about discovering Bugs Bunny in the refrigerator and Bugs says "This is a Westinghouse, right? We'll, I'm westing!"  Bud would retell it to his friends at lunch. He would start laughing before even choking the joke out "This guy discovers Daffy Duck in the refrigerator and Daffy says "Frigidaire!" He would cackle as his lunch companions looked on helplessly. We tried to teach him the joke about how to circumcise a whale-- send down four skin (foreskin) divers.  Pretty simple pun, right? I was at lunch with the gang when he started coughing and wiping his eyes. He asked me if he could tell the whale joke, and I couldn't wait: "How do you circumcise a whale?   Scuba Divers!!'  And down he went laughing so hard he could barely breathe. It was not unusual, on days he went out with his pals for lunch, to hear a knock on my office door in the early afternoon. All the lunch companions were there. "Please tell the joke about the alligator."  or "Tell the one about the fertilizer salesman."  Once they heard the real thing, we would sit howling as they recounted how Bud slaughtered the joke beyond all recognition. One of the football coaches and I made it our mission to teach Bud one joke, just one, that he could get right. That joke will not appear here because it is so foul. Nonetheless, he learned it and it became his favorite. 

So in my post-heart attack, telephone conversation, he told me that he remembered the joke. The context was this: He was unconscious in the life-support room. For whatever reason, he remembered the joke and woke up laughing. When he really became aware of where he was, he began removing tubes, IV lines, those little monitor clips-- everything. He became so damn obnoxious that they decided to discharge him. He told me that a nurse was at his condo, checking up on him; and as soon as the nurse got out of there, he would tell me what his 36 year-old girlfriend did to cause the heart attack. I never got to talk with him again, but I was curious. Bud was 72. Two, maybe three weeks later, he called his eldest and youngest sons together and said it was time. And it was.