Chronology 1

Since you express interest, my daughter, I take keyboard in hand to make some account of my time upon this Earth.

I first took breath at 8:15 on the morning of July 16th, 1949, at the then-tiny Miles Hospital in Damariscotta.  It was a typical 1950’s birth: my mother was drugged, so of course I was too, a fact I was to come upon when regressing through my birth in my therapy period.  Untypically, I escaped circumcision, though both my brothers and father were –that ob-gyn just did not routinely do it, to my everlasting gratitude.

Though we came out of the hospital to a tiny summer cottage, by autumn we were established in a house in town, on the hill right across from the hospital, actually, right where Peter and Lucy live, where we went to have dinner and sing?  I remember little of that house, more of the house next door where my constant playmate, Chris Baker, was recovering from the auto accident that took his eye.  As a child I remember peering into the strangely deep pink socket as his mother cleaned it out and then popped his glass eye back in – it had a ghoulish appeal to a boy.

My brothers, 6 and 9 years older, were at school most of the time, and were companions to each other.  As third child, I was left to raise myself a lot, thank goodness.

My Dad, surprise, surprise, was a workaholic, and was busy in his office dawn to dark starting up Saltwater Farm, the business where he sold clambakes to individuals, the first to do so, so he had a lot of work to do.  He took a full-page ad in The New Yorker to get started, but strangely what made his fortune was an article a friend did for the little Ford Times – house organ of the Ford Motor Company – that made a live-lobster clambake from Saltwater Farm a yearly tradition for many unions and working families on Labor Day.

When I was three and a half, he bought Edna and Everett Kelsey’s farm and we moved to Clarks Cove.  What a different place it was then! Linoleum floors, paint and wallpaper thickened all over the house over horsehair plaster and lathes, every system old and creaky.  It had been a boarding house for the ice men and the brickmakers, and ‘summer people’ in the season, with Edna and Everett living in just the two rooms of the ell, out of one of which Edna cooked for the boarders.  There were three barrels under the large old lead lined sink under what is no the counter: one for flour, one for beans, and one for molasses, and that got ’em through the winter.

There was a hand-made woodshed – I mean the nails, pins, timbers, and shingles all hand made on this farm where the garage is now – and the barn, working blacksmith shop, and five-car garage that blew away in the hurricane of ’56.  It had a Ford Model T in it, and an old surrey that we kids used to pull along the road in front of the house – someone as driver, the rest as horses.  The blacksmith’s forge was, unfortunately, given to the Maine State Museum, as we could probably use it in the coming depression.

One time, bored, I went into the barn and took an old sharpening wheel and set it in motion with its foot pedal, and then took a pick-axe and dropped it on the turning surface, ruining that old antique forever.  I wish my father had just tanned my hide and had it over with; his look of disappointed reproach was worse, and I can’t remember doing such wanton destruction of property again.

I was certainly a bored and boring, praeternaturally lazy child.  I certainly remember days when I took off into the woods to build dams or down the fields to the midden to search for something salvageable, but I also remember days of writhing at the bottom of the stairs and whining up to my working mother, “I don’t have anything to dooo-ooo.”  It was ever-so-rural Maine in those days, and we were new.  There were other children around, but mostly older, so I saw my town friends on the weekend.

I know I was dragged on sailing trips, and I know I found them both boring and scary by turns.  Dad was an adventurer, but a yeller when he was scared, and judging by his yelling he was scared a lot of the time.

School was a welcome way out, and I excelled, the little bastard who always has his hand up – smug and scared and earnest.  I tried actually not putting my hand up for a while in third grade – it was manifestly not cool (though that word was not yet in our lexicon) to be so nerdy – little glory if you’re right, and humiliation if you’re wrong.  I stood it for two or three days, and then I could stand the turgid pace no longer, and started putting up my hand again, just to keep things moving along.  I have given myself no trouble about being a participator since then; it’s a nerdy job, but somebody has to do it.

I was in the school, now the fire station, at the top of the hill, two rooms, grades 1-4 in one room, 5 – 8 in the other, ruled over with an iron hand by Mrs. Gwendolyn Thompson, the first of a series of old lady tyrants who seem to mark my passage through life.  At the time she was a royal pain, brimming with temper, cultivating an image of herself as tough but fair, when in fact she was like any other petty tyrant – the smaller the territory, the more vehement the control.  Actually, I was scared enough to be good, but I was still a teacher’s crank, not a teacher’s pet, due to my opened mouth and smart-aleckiness (so were my brothers who preceded me in her classroom).  I could never take Abe Lincoln’s sound advice: “It is better to close your mouth and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.”

There was a terrible set of temper tantrums on my part between 7-9 years old – throwing things like mad, sometimes causing damage – coinciding with the birth of my baby sister and the consequent loss of attention.  I was literally transferred to a bedroom on the third floor, where I was scared of the witches in the attic, and once came across a bunch of my mother’s mother’s silver, and concluded for a couple of horrified days that my parents were burglars, sneaking out at night after I had gone to bed to rifle other houses for loot.

The temper tantrums resolved into not seeing, or so I believe – the anger didn’t go away, it was just sublimated, and I chose, like the rest of the family, to not look things in the face and become instead myopic, getting very thick lenses from fourth grade on.  I am quite sure – running against the establishment view – that this myopia was a ‘decision’, not an ailment out of my control, and I’ll tell you why.  One night during my spiritual period I was doing a meditation where we bent forward and rested our head in our hands.  It went on and on, and I got bored, so I spent my time trying to really relax my neck, letting my head rest in my hands like a bowling ball.  The meditation was very long, and I managed to get my neck really relaxed.  The next morning, I rolled over in bed and looked out through the window across the street to where birds sat on a wire.  No way, at 20-400, that I could see birds or a wire without my glasses.  My eyesight was perfect all that morning, and re-established itself as myopic by the afternoon.  I can only write this off to the deep relaxation I had in my neck and eye muscles.  I have improved my eyesight since then, but never so dramatically.  As you know, I had Lasix surgery, and though it hasn’t done a thing for my psychology, it’s been very successful in terms of seeing.

Men worked on cars, older boys shot squirrels, crows, and anything else with their BB guns, deer season was serious business.  Dad established the plant, and hired Ervine Hatch out of the shipyard to tie the building together and build water tanks, and built the precursor to the current pier, so that he could pump water uphill to the plant and keep thousands of pounds of lobster super-fresh in clean seawater, but readily available for packing.  Though workers came and went, Ervine was foreman for many years, toothless and strong, patient and long-suffering.

I remember getting up at ungodly hours – 2 or 4 in the morning, to pack lobsters in the week before Labor Day or Christmas.  Other times, I remember accompanying Dad out to the end of the pier on super-cold stormy nights to hold the flashlight for him when the power failed and we had to get the gasoline pump going or all the lobsters would begin to die.

Winters were far colder then, below zero temperatures common in winter, while seeing any ground at all between December and May was rare – not these New Jersey winters we have now.  Ice fishing, ice skating, sledding down that big hill between us and the school, building snow forts we then used for weeks.

TV was just coming in, and I loved it, but we didn’t have it.  I would go over to Ervine’s house, chat up his wife Jewel, and try to get her to turn on the TV – soaps, Pinkie Lee, Howdy Doody, it didn’t matter – it was moving, it on the screen, and it was from far away – irresistible.  Edward and Julia didn’t get a TV until long after we were gone from the house.

Philip Hatch, Ervine’s son two or three years my senior, introduced me to sex in a furtive and unsatisfying way – I believe he went on to some molestation charge or something, so he was weird, not just curious as I was.  I was simultaneously grateful (to be initiated), disgusted, used, furtive, guilty – sex was a touch nut to crack in the 50’s, absolute silence surrounded it.

I was, you must know, an utter ponce in grade school years – fodder for bullies, a nerd, a fool, a bedwetter until way too late, especially at camp when I was 8 and 9, to my everlasting shame (Summer camp was in general a trial for me.  The first year I got strep throat and had to be hospitalized, then be home and resting for the rest of the summer.  One way out), always out of it, always playing the little adult, entirely bad at sports, uninterested in cars, not the boy, not the man, more like someone’s unsure mother.  I got along much easier when I hit California and the early days of what is now called ‘metrosexual’.

Very specifically, in 5th grade, noontime recess, I struck out in the softball game, and as I turned away from the plate, seeing Dwayne Seider’s ‘Oh, God, what could we expect?’ look and the opposite side’s glee, and I made a very hard decision deep inside, which I would vocalize later as: “Alright! You go play those physical games and I will play the intellectual games, and we’ll see who comes out on top!”  There were 5 people in my class, three of whom are still in the area somewhere; just over 20 in the whole 8 grades.

Thus confirmed as a plump whining nerd mamma’s boy … But let me not be too hard on myself, I also had a wicked gift of mimicry, and had already learned to pass up chances to be cruel. One morning, imitating the older boys, I captured a frog in a little pond and proceeded to subject it to all kinds of torture, culminating in hitting the poor little thing over the head with the spiky mace of an early horse chestnut.  Suddenly I relocated within myself – I cannot describe it any other way than a change in point-de-vu – and I saw what I was doing.  Instantly filled with remorse, I returned the frog to the pond and waited until it had recovered and swum away.  I trace what little compassion I have from that day.

As I got into the upper grades, I snuck comic books home under my winter coat on the days of my piano lessons, as Mom didn’t approve of Superman, Batman, my favorite Green Lantern, or best of all, the Justice League of America.  Though born into Truman, the first political figure I remember is ‘Ike’ Eisenhower, and he dimly.  The 50’s were a world of sincere 4th of July parades past the little stack of cannonballs and a mortar on the little green in front of the white church, with firetrucks passing under the stately elms in slow motion, and crew-cut men in white shirts waving flags by the side of the road.  It was a simpler time.

Dad would take the kids to Sunday school, go to his office and get some work done, and come back to pick us up.  It was only later, after the children all left, that they became pillars of the church.  I hated making clay squirrels and colouring pictures of God as a man in a white beard, so I switched from the Congregational to the Christian Science church, where I could discuss more interesting things like atonement and whether animals had souls.

I would always get carsick on the way back from Sunday School, which I always laid off to being hot in the car in a suit, but later realized was anticipation of Sunday afternoon, when Dad, finally unable to work, would relax his knots into a migraine headache, so that Sunday afternoons he was generally intolerant and sometimes intolerable.

Since you only knew the gentle, depressed Edward of his later life, it is hard to envision the hard and sharp-edged Edward of his younger years.  I used to shake his hand and call him ‘sir’, and lived in fear of his disapproval.  I do remember with great affection games of Russian Bank played on the carpet in front of the stove.  Even though he was merciless in playing, it was great interaction and training in attention.  Otherwise, he was a lecturer, and a good one, a professor manqué, like all the Myers.

He and Julia were both very squeamish about sex, though they must have enjoyed it themselves, with four children and a couple of miscarriages to their credit.  I was sent to bed with a very hot face and without supper for walking into the living kitchen – just the two of them there – with an apple in my shirt as a joke, saying, “Look, I only got one milker.”

Julia, though gentler than Edward, had her own rigidity around social niceties, as she does to this day.  Although she was more physically affectionate than Dad, she was underneath more reserved, and I was not to find out the depth of Edward’s passion for his children until I divorced your mother, when he was fiercely and perhaps too partisan on my side (and Felicity’s too, when she divorced Bill).

One story for this: I came down in my pajamas late one evening with terrible pains in my belly, sharp, large pains I had never felt before.  Dad correctly diagnosed gas, and put me on the floor on my back with my knees up, having me press down on my belly.  We were soon rewarded with a fart, which immediately relieved me, but Julia looked up from her magazine and said “Edward!” in a reproving tone, as if suppressing impolite noises was more important than relieving pain.

In the summer, this small town life was counterpointed with the summer people, still my parent’s friends though we were now ‘year-rounders’.  Their kids – from Darien, Scarsdale, and the wealthy suburbs of Boston – were so impossibly more sophisticated than I was, from this little town in Maine full of carpenters, fisherfolk, and clam diggers, that again I felt excluded, standing awkwardly at the summer picnics, trying to be polite and gather some cool, and utterly failing.

Of course, I was no better at fitting in with the locals during the school year either, with my mid-Atlantic pronunciation and my home education.  A lifetime of being a misfit started very early, and I have spent much of my life knocking on the door of various groups, only to refuse to join when they finally open the door.

I think my parents would have been just as happy if I chosen to go to the local high school, but I elected to follow my brothers to prep school.  Mt Hermon, in western Mass, was a Methodist school, with chapel 4x / week and Bible study 3x / week still clinging to its otherwise liberal agenda.  I credit Mt Hermon with giving me some work ethic – everyone at the school had a job in addition to academia; I worked in the kitchen for 3 years.  And theater – I tried out for plays from freshman year right through senior, usually landing bit roles, but sometimes playing the lead or near-lead in those awful (looking back, at the time they were great fun and a chance to interact with girls without the humiliating expectation of trying to get under their clothes, which obsessed my waking and sleeping hours) school productions.  Here finally my feminine self and the mimic as well found an outlet.

I was impossibly green my freshman year, and played the wise-fool for sophmore.  I remember writing a scathing letter to my Dad after Kennedy was shot, as if this was what he wanted in his criticism of Kennedy.  He took me for a long walk in the woods to explain loyal opposition.  By junior year I had abandoned the Barry Goldwater conservatism that I took from him (I remember declining to wear a black arm band the day after Goldwater was defeated), and was leaning toward the Beatles, the civil rights movement, and more worldly concerns.  I was a junior in high school when I first heard of pot, but knew no one who smoked it until someone gave me a joint on spring holiday in Washington DC.  Didn’t do a thing for me.

By the time I graduated I was heaped with honors – a proctor my senior year, several awards and Dean’s List – I was kind of amazed, as I still had ineffective nerd written all over me, but I must have done something someone liked.  I had of course applied to Princeton, where my brothers, father, grandfather, and several assorted friends and relations had gone.  But I also applied to Harvard, and a visit to Princeton convinced me that an all-boys campus was not the place I wanted to be, so (horror-of-horrors to my family) I chose Harvard over Princeton, never even opening the envelope from Princeton.  Have it still, somewhere.

Meantime, I had started summer jobs to get spending money for school.  I started as a caddie for the local golf course (but was too talkative to make it in this job).  I found digging clams to be too muddy and demanding, and then landed (through Mom) a job in Mary Smith’s truck farm.  Mary was Maggie’s sister, the white-haired woman holding you as a baby in that photo we have, but in 1963 Maggie was not there yet, and tall and broad Mary Bean Smith and I would work together every morning from 6-9 am, weeding and harvesting and preparing the lettuces for market in large galvanized tubs.  Mary was a wonderful companion, taught me a lot about life, and was entertained by my juvenile flights of fancy that I would spin as we weeded.

Another two years I spent the summer crewing on Horace Henriques’s Concordia yawl, and here, from someone other than my father, I learned to love sailing.  A giant of industry who summered in Pemaquid, he was a tough old captain who taught me how to scrub the decks and polish the brass and what order to pull on which ropes, but was generally kind and tolerant, and – unlike my father – did not yell.

One particular day sticks in my mind, when we started at 5 in the morning in the fog at Tenant’s Harbor, and made it all the way to Winter Harbor in Schoodic.  Horace and his two guests went off to a yacht club party, and I was left in the hands of two sisters who taught the loose 16-year-old how to French kiss.  Yum!

So I think that takes us to the summer of ’67.  This may have been the summer of love in San Francisco, but the East Coast was behind the times, and such things were just beginning to enter my consciousness.  By senior year in high school, I was still a virgin, against the war, singing at open mikes and ‘hootenannies’.  I lost my virginity ever so gratefully to Peggy when she came home from a trip to Europe at the end of that summer, in the Glory Hole cottage down by the shore.

So now I want to give a little more attention to my college years, since that is where you are now, and so many changes of note happened to both me and the world during those very intense years.

The innocence of Camelot had been shattered by whoever’s spray of bullets ended Jack Kennedy’s life in 1963. Lyndon Johnson, who finished Kennedy’s agenda (in a way Kennedy himself probably would not have been able to mount) by passing the Civil Rights bill and continuing the space program’s bid for the moon, was also mired in an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam.

Having started on “Blowin’ in the Wind” on the guitar at prep school (and moving to 12-string very early, bought it from Winslow for $200, a fortune of an ill-advised expenditure for a 14 year-old in 1964 – never regretted it), I arrived in Cambridge in the fall of 1967 in my stove-pipe Levi’s and fleece lined jacket, all ready for Club 47 and the other folk clubs in Cambridge, all centered around the new phenomenon of Bob Dylan – and Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary, Donovan, Arlo Guthrie and ‘Alice’s Restaurant’.  The ferment was alive all around me, and I was drawn into it easily as a moth to flame – adventurism winning out over conservatism.

But you must see a socially awkward preppie in his madras sport jacket arriving into the dorm in Harvard Yard, drinking in the flavor of the Square – so much more innocent but just as bustling then – but mostly still a ‘good’ boy, toiling away in Widener Library, trying to make it at Harvard.  Peggy was down in Providence, also at college, so we saw each other infrequently.

I had two roommates At Weld Hall in Harvard Yard.  One was Chris Durang, now a famous playwright in NY.  He came to Harvard with the express purpose of seeing every film he could.  He would only take morning classes, because in the afternoon he would disappear into the Brattle, moving from theater to theater, coming back to the dorm only at 12 or 2am if he could find a midnight showing of something.  He was pasty-faced, the Pillsbury dough-boy, plump and (as it turned out) gay, and Cartney and I hardly ever saw him and thought he was weird.  Clearly talented and smart, he was just too weird for me then; in hindsight I wish I had delved into his unique mind more.

As I side note: however much we were for civil rights for blacks, and probably could be convinced about feminism (as long as it didn’t interfere with our sexual freedom), gay rights were not on the table, and gayness was anathema, even several years into my hippiedom.

And hippiedom began in earnest.  Cartney James, the grandson of the author Henry James, was my other roomie, and he had dope, pot, grass.  Well, he didn’t, but his friend (Brownie, maybe?) did, and so for the first time I got high.  I had tried once before but felt nothing; this time I was floating as if on a ship, and the being-taken-out-of-consensus-reality was a very welcome change in my life.  Though I did well in my academic life and kept my parents fooled, Cartney and I and a few friends were raving every night, culminating in finally taking acid in the spring of 1969.  My first trip included seeing ‘2001, A Space Odyssey’, Kubrick’s early psychedelic film, but what I remember is coming on in the subway, getting paranoid at all the surly faces going swirly, and giggling at the suddenly ridiculous turnstyles of the Red Line.

I continued to work in the theater, and here I found my second teacher, my father really being my first.  Dan Selzer was later to take his own life while a professor at Princeton, but in ’67 he was the radical darling of the Harvard theater crowd, talented as an actor, director, and professor.  Short but large of spirit, a shock of curly hair everywhere, large and sensuous lips; I got to join an improvisation group he started.  It was not a course, so we added 3 nights per week, as I remember, to our already pretty honkin’ academic schedule in order to show up for his group.  Everybody showed up every time, or you had to answer to the group for your absence, and the total dedication shook a number of people out in the first couple of months, but those who remained were right there.

Dan would take us every night through a series of exercises to free the voice, the breath, the body, and then we would move into improvisations, never anything with a script.  It was intense, and intensely interesting.  I wasn’t very good, but I loved it.  One night Dan passed out slips of paper, giving each of us a role.  I got the piece of paper labeled ‘candidate’; others got ‘spectator’, or ‘secret service agent’; one got ‘assassin’.  So, nobody knew who was who, except for me, as I got up on a chair and began a speech.  This was the beginning of the 1968 campaign, so I was doing satire, going back and forth between radical right and radical left rhetoric, showing off, going from Eugene McCarthy to George Wallace and back again.  Because my speech was rambling and so obviously grandstandingly self-conscious parody, the skit lost power after a few minutes, and Dan called it off, the moment broke, and I stepped down off the chair and went out of character.  At that moment the assassin struck, firing into my chest.  All hell broke loose: I sagged to the floor, secret service agents jumped on the assassin, people started tending to me, a doctor appeared.  I cannot remember when this was in relation to the King and Bobbie Kennedy assassination, but the vibe was in the air, and this one improvisation – the more so for taking shape after it had been ‘called’ so to speak – affected us all deeply.  Some women ended up crying in the ladies’, and we were all shaken.

Looking back, it seems that both the world and I are on a cusp in those heady spring days of 1968, at the end of my freshman year.  I was pretty tied to Peggy, my first love and first ‘lay’, though I had snuck in another lover from Radcliffe, but being fair to or understanding women had not yet entered my radar.  The softening of the hard edges of reality had definitely come in via the drugs, and political change was definitely in the wind.  I went up to New Hampshire one weekend to work with the McCarthy campaign, but my heart was more radical, and I ended up contacting the Cambridge office of the Quakers, and getting assigned as a ‘Vietnam volunteer’ for Providence.  The summer of ’68 was a life changer.

Armed with a back seat full of literature, the princely salary of $25/wk, and a VW beetle my brother Allen loaned me for the summer, I prepared to take the town of Providence by storm.  Housed in a squat with a couple of sympathetic reporters from the Journal, I joined with other anti-war students and adult liberals in the Rhode Island Committee for Peace in Vietnam.  Ann Finger, a prescient and dedicated cripple (‘differently-abled’, I know, she had a bad couple of club feet, and crutches, and in those days it was ‘crippled’), started the Omega Coffeehouse (Omega = resistance, get it?) on lower Thayer Street, and we were off – harassing the cops, giving out fliers about draft resistance, counseling kids about avoiding service – even helping a couple of AWOL servicemen from Narragansett naval base to escape to Canada.

First, I met R. Michael Frenchman – ‘Frenchy’ in those days, never Michael or, god forbid, Raymond.  We have just passed our 40 years of friendship mark.  We hit it off right away, being similarly indeed.  I was insufferable in those days, a radical without a clue; adamant, vehement, incoherent, and having the best time.  Michael’s and my teacher, guiding us through all this madness, was a black protester named Tony Ramos.  I guess King had come out against the war by then, but a black guy in the anti-war movement was still a rarity; it was a pretty white movement, while civil rights was all about blacks and mostly about the south.

Tony, son of a Cape Verdean (and therefore Portuguese) fisherman, tall and thin, big funk mustache, handsome and articulate as all-get-out, was the first post-racial person I ever met – hard to think about now, but back then, no matter how egalitarian you were, there was an unbridgeable gulf between the races.  Not Tony, he was a cultural and sexual omnivore, and an artist to boot.  He has refused induction into the army in Providence (there was a draft then, you know), and then fled to Canada before he was indicted.  When King and Kennedy were assassinated, he returned to the States, and took sanctuary in a church, announcing his whereabouts.  Many people stayed at the church in solidarity with his move, and when the Feds came to take him away, they had to take him over the bodies of the protesters.  I was not there for that event, but arrived soon after, and Tony, now out on bail, was Michael’s and my mentor.

I was never one for radical communism or the SDS, and Tony set us on the right course: this is a long revolution, a revolution against fear.  The political system was unimportant, perception was everything.  Tony was courageous, outrageous, and definitely in the eyes of the police, an uppity black man.  He was in and out of jail all summer, usually for minor offenses.  His long-suffering petite white wife Ann (he was a prodigious sexual athlete, with anything that moved) just rolled with the punches as Tony led the show.  Eventually he went o trial and served for two years in Allentown prison.  When he got out, he and Michael started a video business in NY, but it collapsed around 1978 into fights between Michael and Tony, who had had an affair as well as a partnership, and now you cannot mention Tony around Michael, but he was a big influence on both of us.

I was hauled off in a paddy wagon only once for my activities.  I spent a night in jail, and I don’t mind telling you I was scared.  How Tony maintained his cool in the face of the Irish cops and their flashlights used as truncheons, I don’t know.  I was scared and could be seen to be scared, I imagine.  They put me in a line-up in the morning – you know, in front of all the cops with the lines that say how tall you are behind you – called me a ‘communist outside agitator’, as I had come all the way from Cambridge to disturb the citizenry of Rhode Island with my radical views on peace.

That was the summer of the Democratic convention where Mayor Daley sicced the police on the protesters, and we came out of that summer discouraged with the whole cops and robbers game of protest, sick of the whole political system, in fact.  Michael and his girlfriend went out to Southern Illinois, to get themselves educated at little cost – you could establish residency, and thus get very low tuition.  Tony headed to jail.  I headed back to Harvard for my sophmore year.  A man we suspected of being an undercover cop was being rather too helpful around the Rhode Island Committee for Peace in Vietnam, so we made him the office manager and all left, leaving him holding the organization.

I came back to school, back to more courses, back for more drugs, back to continue my work with Dan, but the center was not holding in the widening gyre.  Halfway through sophmore year, I moved into an apartment with Peggy – all hush-hush, no one could know, I still had my dorm room and the fiction that I lived there.  Nixon got elected, and sometime in the spring of ’69 the student protests overflowed and we took over the University Hall admin building, holding it for a couple of days until the University brought in cops and cleared the building.

I was caught up in this – who wants to see one’s fellow students, even those in wheelchairs, being dragged out and beat up – but was really against the ruling ideology around Harvard of communist / socialist style of revolution; I was more for a media revolution, and very much in the American constitutional tradition – I just didn’t think our government was doing its job very well.  In the aftermath of that takeover, many classes were canceled and the whole mood for the rest of the spring was a very heady brew of student-run classes in radical peasantism intellectualized, a kind of Mao-ist take on the world in which I had no interest.

I was in Dan’s course on Shakespeare, and me and a small band of brothers were doing a multi-media production at the Loeb, a labor of love into which I put everything, including the kitchen sink.  It included music from a band, theater, skits, a complicated set, and a break in which we gave everyone a Popsicle.  This production got no critical notice at all, while the huge year-end paper on T. S. Eliot and Tom Stoppard, put together in a mere three days because I had devoted all my time to the show (can’t even remember its name now), got an A and a placement in the upper echelons of the English department for my junior year.  Again, Dean’s Honor List, in spite of the fact that I did one exam high on acid, and the others were just wedged in between druggish nights, classroom days, and evenings spent either at the improv group or doing the multi-media show with my compadres.  You make some of your closest friends at college, and Roger and Sammy and Bob and Cartney and I spent a lot of time together, though none of these friendships lasted beyond our 20’s whereas Michael and I have moved from strength to strength.

Somewhere in these months I realized I was going to drop out.  It was moment, crossing the yard at Dunster House, the backpack on my back.  It was a momentary realization that I crossed some kind of line and could not return, that even if I became too afraid to make this move, I would make another similar move soon.  It was a feeling of taking hold of my own life.  While living with Peggy and taking drugs were hide-able offenses, dropping out of school would put me definitively in opposition to my parents’ way.  But I knew I had no other path in front of me, so I determined to drop out, and followed through, to Julia’s horror and Edward’s annoyance.

Part of dropping out was surely my realization that I was not that good at theater, despite my love for it, and English Lit was hardly going to provide me with much room for advancement, so there was both a rebellion and a resignation in my dropping out.  This ‘lost period’ makes me sympathetic for yours.

So, summer of ’69 finds me in the wrong side of Cambridge, doing odd jobs, getting broken into, generally screwing up.  In mid-summer, Peggy and I hitch-hiked out to Carbondale in southern Illinois to see Frenchy and Susan, and he ended up showing me a book of Buckminster Fuller’s.  I gave it back as too hard to read, and he gave it me again, asking me to stick with it.  I did, and Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth became my new bible.

A couple of months later I returned alone to Illinois, and Michael and I did my one and only drug deal, cutting down hemp bushes by the side of the cornfields in middle Illinois, hanging them upside down for a few days, and then harvesting 22 pounds of poor quality marijuana, which I (so foolishly, but it was a more innocent time) packed into a suitcase and flew back to Boston for resale.  I was not a successful dealer, and all the stuff I bought with my ill-gotten gains was stolen out of my car the next year.

The more important result was that Peggy and I packed up from Cambridge and moved out to southern Illinois – as corn-bread as it comes, almost Appalachia – and we went to school, both graduatingfrom SIU at the end of 1971, me with a BS in Design.  The time in Carbondale was a time of treading water, really.  I was ostensibly in the environmental movement, certainly into whole systems thinking, but going to school at SIU was hardly challenging, so I spent a lot of time playing pinochle and watching Nixon slowly swing in the wind as the Watergate hearings slowly captured him and forced him out.

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3 Responses to “Chronology 1”

  1. Deborah Serrano Says:

    I read every word of this and thought about it for much of the day. I’m floored by how different your self concept was from my experience of you during the time I knew you. My mother also reminded me recently of lunch that we had with your mother at your house. Funny story. Should I write it all out, or do you think we could have a phone conversation sometime soon?

  2. Arthur Kilmurray Says:

    Happy New Year Tom,

    Love your way with words (most of the time!). I had fun trying to visualize you in those early years and remembering my own memories of the late 60’s in Cambridge. Hope you keep going with this.

  3. R. Michael Frenchman Says:

    Tom, I didn’t notice exactly when you posted this material. E-notices of postings on Naymz, Flickr, Quakkr, Nudjr and all the other insidious social network sites generally get declined and/or trashed. For the techie that any hold me to be, I tend to be a surprisingly (?) e-private person. I tend avoid digital social networking as somewhat self-indulgent, time-consuming and time-far better-spent spam. Like I wouldn’t buy a TiVo as I barely have time – or stomach – for fresh TV.

    Anyway, this is my very first Naymz visit and, therefore, posting.

    I am in a sense surprised and yet not at all surprised by your frank, proud, witty, highly self-deprecating chronicle. Quoting Ms. Serrano, I’m a tiny bit floored by how different your self concept was from my experience of you during the time I knew you. I have known you as my dearest and closest friend/confidant/soul brother and teacher of truly important things for 40 years. Our only (mercifully brief) period of angered estrangement was when I felt you had failed to live up to the extremely high standards and regard that I assumed/presumed of you. ’nuff said of that – certainly here.

    That I would figure as prominently as I do in your chronicle – as well as in your life – are one of those little mysteries of close relationships that I so often miss. The Ms. Serrano-effect in reverse.

    Let me say that there are a number of wondrously enticing factual errors and perceptual differences that I hope we can visit over some Martel XO in the near future.

    This will be my first and probably last such public outburst in this e-domain. So thank you for your open to the world New Years treat. I look forward to more in print, on video and especially in person.

    And “hi” to all the rest of your fortunate social network.

    Frenchy

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