Tuesday, June 2, 2015

the sixties: american folds her wings

The moderately exuberant 1961 Chevrolet was rather a forecast of my life in the 60's. All the parts of the fifties and the beginning of the new decade were there, but folded in on themselves.

1966-1968 would be the time of the big fold for me, as well as for the nation. I would get married and buy a car, and the nation would have rioting against the democrats who had started the decade so hopefully. The seventies would begin with a republican president and national guard troops shooting students.

Marriage just seemed what one did when one was a naive kid from a small southern baptist (you may read Southern Baptist if you wish) town. My mother and my bridg's mother sort of arranged it. Kathy was smart, beautiful, came from a good family: what could go wrong? I had considered going to New York and The New School, but the unacknowledged fear within me told me that in New York I would become too much of what I really was to suppress my cognitive dissonance. While at Louisville, compliments of the CIA, I met a lovely Creole/Cajun/Mulatto boy whom I visited in Chicago, and I decided the second city might be a safe harbor for me. Future bride started college in Ohio, but after a year we were married and living on the south side of Chicago.

It was crazy. I remember the moment I saw our luggage lying together on our honeymoon bed and thinking 'what have I done?'. I had serious crushes on at least two boys in Chicago, but was convinced that the love of a good woman would cure me. Pretension was very popular. My mother-in-law had told the Jonesboro Evening Sun that we had honeymooned on the 'Trans-Canada Express'. We had driven my mother's Mustang to Little Rock for one night at the SamPick. The Johnson administration kept telling us we were winning freedom in Vietnam.

At Roosevelt University I tried to apply Marshall McLuhan's ideas to understanding history, studied art, and could have learned much more than I did if I had not been spending so much time being a family man. By the end of the 1968 semester, I still had not finished my big writings assignments for my BA--the Roosevelt history department was rather demanding--and my major professor suggested I might finish at Simon Fraser in Vancouver, which was then so new there was no moss on its brutal concrete. For the trip to Vancouver, my mother bought us a Volvo 144 as a wedding present, and off I (we) went to Canada. From the quiet seclusion of my prof's Arthur Erikson house on Burrard Inlet, we watched as America elected Richard Nixon.

I was sure the quiet seclusion of Vancouver, with tall firs disappearing in the mist, with 'Hey, Jude' playing magically every time I crossed the Lionsgate Bridge, with a new bride and a new car and a new apartment, would give me some sort of respite from my confusion. But one afternoon I opened the door to look into the bluest eyes I had every seen, and the turmoil returned. If my inner Vietnam war had subsided, now I found myself in Cambodia.

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