Honors. I landed in Florida Presbyterian College in 1969, graduated with honors in 1973. Actually I graduated from Eckerd College. They changed the name in 1972, part of the elaborate show required to land a major donor.
Draft dodger. I didn't know what I wanted out of college, but I knew I needed to go. For one, I wanted to. I loved to study and discover, and I wanted to be around other people who were studying and digging into cool stuff. I also wanted to play, take drugs and groove with free-loving hippie types, and FPC looked like a good fit. Peace, man. I also needed to dodge the draft. They shot down my try for conscientious objector status, so a student deferment was crucial.
Mr. Natural. I arrived at FPC an enthusiastic dope smoker. I was one of those annoying stoners who looked down on booze as an inferior high. I found a dealer on campus and quickly escalated from toking in the evening to smoking a skinny out my dorm window before heading off to a morning lecture. It was college, stoned. But it didn't take long for that to catch up with me. One night I sat down to an easy essay assignment and found I couldn't maintain a train of thought. I was scared. Had I broken my brain? That was a fear that hit me where I lived. I was easily able to finish the assignment the next morning, but I was shaken. Pot was now on notice. I was also paranoid. Everyone knew someone doing time for simple possession. As Joseph Heller so eloquently put it in Catch-22, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.
I started leaning a bit more towards beer and wine, eating my highfalutin stoner words with a nice glass of chablis.
Raul. I lived in Newton House, at that time an all-male house. My assigned roommate as a freshman was a weirdo. I couldn't make him out, but he gave me the willies. I was very interested in changing rooms if I could swing it. Raul was a senior and a really sweet guy; his room was two doors down from me. I used to hang out with him in his room. On the wall someone had written "The McFadyen-Schultz Center for the Study of Sino-Germanic Linguistics." Raul never explained. I never asked. One day I was complaining about my roommate and out of the blue he invited me to move in with him for spring semester. His roommate was graduating early, so there'd be an opening, and better the devil you know, eh? Raul lived in a corner room, sought after because they're larger. We got along great. Raul was easy to live with, encouraging and kind. He also had a refrigerator in his room, which was not allowed but the RA turned a blind eye. Everyone liked Raul.
Trifecta. When I came back as a sophomore, I didn't apply for a roommate, and glory hallelujah they didn't assign me one. I had scored the campus housing trifecta: a corner room as a single double. It cost more, but my folks didn't complain, god bless 'em. And then midway through the year I did an about face: I invited Bob to join me in my precious single double.
It's complicated. Bob had gone to Mel High too, though our paths didn't cross much there. He was the drum major and first chair trumpet. I liked him; he was an engaging, intelligent guy. Also strikingly handsome. In a twist of fate Bob would become the guy who made my relationship with Hutch complicated, as we didn't say back then. I never held it against him; he was a sweetheart and I could sure see what she saw in him. Better than I could see what she saw in me, truth be told. Bob loved his booze, and since I had quit smoking pot I saw this as a good influence. We started going to an Italian joint called Michelangelo's. They had their drown night on Wednesday: the bottomless sangria pitcher. We went religiously, our midweek drunken Sabbath. We started keeping beer in our fridge: Old Milwaukee on sale, 99¢ a six. We'd have a beer as we wound down every evening. We both sang pretty well, and we'd harmonize on "Just a beer at bedtime," sung to the tune of I'll be home for Christmas. Now there's a sad song. It's no wonder they bowdlerized the lyrics. Bob was a good friend. I never heard from him after college. I always wondered how his life had gone. Over the course of my first two years of school I built a solid foundation for drinking that would last me until 2016.
Sandspurs. FPC sits on an estuary called Frenchman's Creek. I took sailing in Frenchman's Creek as a freshman. Physical education was still a required course when I was a freshman. Sailing sounded more interesting than team sports. I hadn't yet connected with dancing. Sailing was an interesting challenge. I learned how to add vectors by the seat of my pants. But aside from that wisdom sailing had nothing for me. I hate being in boats. You can't walk in a boat, and I love to walk. I would walk along the seawall separating FPC from the waters of Frenchman's Creek. I liked to walk barefoot. I used to go barefoot all summer long except for outings like church. I resented having to put shoes back on once school started. That probably gave birth to my fascination with minimalist shoes, one of many mistakes I needed to make. The seawall contained the landfill my school was built on. Most of the land is dredge spoils. Not much grows on dredge spoils but sandspurs love it. FPC sandspurs are legendary. Bigger, sharper, nastier than any sandspurs anywhere. One day I walked along the seawall to the farthest point I could get to, in back of Kappa Complex. I was barefoot but I didn't want to walk all the way back around the seawall to get to my home in Gamma Complex. I could see thousands of sandspurs from where I stood on the seawall. Leela told me to walk without looking. So I looked up at Kappa Complex and started walking. I walked barefoot through that minefield of sandspurs with wisdom guiding my steps and I was protected. Not a single spur.
Heathcliff. Why would anyone saddle their son with the name of that particular Romantic antihero? Maybe they just read the first part. Well, no matter. I knew him as Heath and he was as close to a kindred spirit as I found at FPC. Maybe ever. We discovered we liked some of the same weird shit, like running around cavorting in the night when fog rolled in off the water. Fog made everything magical and it inspired both of us to cavort. I taught him how to blow grass: I held a blade of grass between my thumbs and used it as a reed to produce loud, sometimes unearthly howls and shrieks. I applied my sax and flute chops and developed some fine points about choosing and preparing blades and bending the sound with my mouth and thumbs. He picked it all up right away and we went happily a-howling when fog rolled in. One day he tried to teach me foot worship. He was telling me how sexy female feet could be when we passed a girl I knew sitting in the sun in front of our complex. She was the older sister of a girl who'd been in my class at Mel High. I knew her because I used to catch rides back and forth across the peninsula with her and her sister, who drove a vintage turquoise Metropolitan. I made the introductions and Heath asked if we could massage her feet. She shrugged and said sure. She did have lovely feet, but I just didn't get the kink. Still don't. To each, as the Brits might clip it. Heath also introduced me to Ritalin. He'd been prescribed it for years and was not that keen to take it. He gave me the last few pills in the bottle, opening the door to my mercifully brief foray into the world of speed. Over the next six months I made my way from Ritalin to snorting crystal meth, even a line or two of coke. Good sense, aka wisdom was strong in me for this one. I could see the downside only too well. At the end of my adventure I forsook all stimulants save caffeine.
Physical education. When I arrived at FPC phys ed was still a required course, at least for us freshman. I think they dropped the requirement after my first year but by then I was off and running, or rather dancing etcetera. Sailing was my first phys ed class, followed by ballet in the spring term. I wasn't interesed in ballet per se, but I was getting interested in theater, so any kind of grounding in movement was appealing. Each class started out with plies in all five positions. I still remember that feeling, sinking by lifting. That's when I first learned to intentionally engage my core muscles, a meditative practice that improves my dancing like nothing else.
Thank heaven. The things you learn about too late. I entered college two years after the Summer of Love, determined to make up for lost time. I was still a virgin. It turns out I could've got laid easy during my senior year at Mel High, but I was clueless, utterly flirtation retarded as several would-be lovers flirted with me strenuously. Before I tell stories of any of my college girlfriends, I need to confess. Sometimes I was kind to them, but all too often I was arrogant and self absorbed. Even mean spirited. I don't know why they put up with me but they did. Thank heaven for that. I'm grateful for their patience, love and forbearance.
Hutch. As a Mel High senior I stuck with my girlfriend Hutch (once I broke up with her best friend Annette), and I'm glad I did. She was the real deal, a true friend, the one who talked me down from my self-imposed exile a few weeks before Sam died. We didn't become lovers until college. But eventually our relationship became complicated. At first I tried being OK with that, but I couldn't hack it, and we parted ways. As I rediscovered in a big way in Boulder, I'm just not much good at poly. Unless it's my idea. Or, well, Ilse.
Confrontation. When things got too complicated for me to handle with Hutch, I left her for Maria. We hadn't heard about EQ back then, but Maria's was astronomical. She confronted me with ways I didn't treat her well. She helped me see how I hadn't treated Hutch well either, once I told her those stories. Hutch once left me a note mocking my shallowness with the memorable line "Oh no, my chocolate brownie has a sandspur in it! And he went off to make magic with somebody else." Maria made me squirm. I'd like to think it did some good; it did with her. But later relationships did not bear that out. I was still a lousy lover far too much of the time, clueless and self absorbed, well into the 2010s.
Diane. I had a crush on Diane the whole time I was at FPC. She was a slender brunette with buck teeth that were just perfect. Unfortunately for me she was already Duke's girlfriend. She loved to sing. She had a sweet alto voice. I began learning the art of accompaniment playing guitar for her. I was a songwriter of sorts in those days. I wrote bossa novaish love songs, including one or two for her. At the time, I wanted to be her guy, but we weren't in tune about that.
Now I see how perfectly it worked. We became close friends. It was such a relief, hanging out with her. There were none of the complications sex burdened my other close relationships with. She was the only friend from college I got back in touch with in the 1990s when I first got online. I never found out what happened between her and Duke. I didn't ask. She was in a care facility for MS patients in the Midwest. We traded pix and I could see that pretty slender bucktoothed girl still there in her. She said she always thought of me as the one who got away.
Ilse came outta nowhere. She was German, she transferred in mid-year, she was sexually liberated, gorgeous, and she liked me. It was like bam! and we were an item. All my girlfriends are beautiful, but Ilse was in a category to herself, way outta my league. Easily an 8 to my 6. We were monogamous at first, then she got another boyfriend. She made it work; we were poly for a few months. Her other guy was an MD. He's a public figure, so I can use his name: John C. McCamy. He wrote a book: Human Life Styling. I was interested in his shtick. I became a patient. I never completed the program because the poly collapsed. Ilse said he wasn't into that anymore and wanted her full time, and she was gonna go for that for practical reasons, him being a successful professional and all. I was sad but it made sense.
Linda was my biggest romance at FPC, the one I moved back to St Pete for to see if I could patch things up with. Linda and I hooked up my junior year, when I was settling into my thesis work, settling down a bit from all the craziness of my first two years. There was always something different about my connection with Linda. She was good looking but no beauty queen. She was nurturing; she made my life feel better; she made me feel more at home in the world. These are the qualities I look for in a partner. With Linda I started to grow up a little. There's not much more to say about her except the basic plot: I fell in love with her and we were together for a little over a year. In my senior year I left her for Liz, and then once that blew over, I made my way back to St Petersburg, in hopes of winning her back, and I did. We moved to Tallahassee together but soon drifted apart, remaining good friends. What was valuable about our relationship is nonverbal; it doesn't make a good story.
Liz was exciting. She was tall and whitish blonde, fun loving, air headed, and she reeked of southern aristocracy. I was so nuts over her I proposed; she was so air headed she accepted. After I graduated we had two visits: I went to visit her and meet her mom at their summer home, a cottage on Sea Island, Georgia. Then a bit later she came to visit me in Tallahassee. Sea Island is an enclave for rich folks. It's privately owned, and the cottages are mansions. I had a great time and was mos def starry eyed. Liz's mom, the only one with any sense, got her suspicions abundantly confirmed, and quietly proceeded with her plans to put an end to this nonsense. When Liz came to visit me in Tallahassee, she stayed at the Holiday Inn. It would nevah do for a single lady to stay with a man, even her beloved fiancé. I went to see her as soon as she arrived. We met at the pool. Then we went up to her room and were just chatting, still in our swimsuits. The door burst open. It was the motel manager. He was reading me the riot act. Rich people have ways of making things happen. After this embarrassment, everything just fizzled. Liz headed home, out of my life forever thank god.
Ed. In college I got back into jewelry making. As a metalworker, not a lapidary. I did metalwork for a year as an independent study project. There were no faculty with metalwork experience. Instead I worked with Ed, a former FPC art student who was making a living as a jeweler. I would go to Ed's house and spend the afternoon, sometimes well into the evening, working on jewelry under his supervision. I did metal fabrication: sawing, shaping and soldering silver. I also did silver castings and one gold casting. When I got engaged to Liz, I cast a gold engagement ring for her and mounted a star ruby in it that my dad found in North Carolina. I had a blast with Ed. He started me out with fabrication. He considered casting a lesser art because all the creative work was done with wax, not metal. It wasn't hands-on enough for him. My first project was silver chain. Fabricating a soldered silver chain is meditative; I had to pay attention. I made links by wrapping silver wire around an iron rod and sawing along the length of the rod. Then I soldered each link, using tweezers to thread it through the one before and close it, then placing the tiny square of solder just so with a brush tip. Then sweeping the flame back and forth until the solder ran. If it ran back to the previous link I had to start over. Ed educated me on many levels. The first time I got there, he wouldn't even talk about metalwork until we'd had a beer together. Ed drank Tree Frog Beer; that's what he called Budweiser. Tree Frog, the beer of choice among the low-life denizens of Zap Comix, was our constant companion in jewelry class. Ed was a biker, and he looked the part. He had tats, long tangled hair, a big pot belly and a Harley. There was always country music on at Ed's. Ed introduced me to country music, especially outlaw country, e.g. Waylon & Willie & the boys.
It was whole-life education there with Ed.
Tai chi. While I was dabbling in theater I took advantage of an opportunity to learn tai chi. A student of Al Huang's came through town. Al had recently moved to the US and was teaching at Esalen and elsewhere. The student offered to teach tai chi for free, but the timing was lousy in the school calendar; only three of us showed up. He liked it, had been dreading a big class. We got an amazing hands-on in-depth introduction and I became an enthusiastic practitioner. The next term everyone was bummed they'd missed out when they saw the three of us doing the lovely short form we'd learned. They begged me to teach it and I said sure. Teaching tai chi taught me you never learn anything quite so well as you do when you try to teach it. We had a great class. I used to have color pix of us hippies having our graduation picnic out on the Bininger Theatre lawn.
Jefferson House was the name of an independent major program at FPC. Not a building, an idea: create your own major, your own peculiar field of study. I couldn't come up with a field of study I wanted to throw myself into for the two years it would take to graduate in an academic field. I was offended by the idea of higher education as mere job prep, making me into an interchangeable cog designed to fit a defined niche in some corporate machine. I wanted education for me, to make me a better version of me. I wanted to major in self realization. I had taken a philosophy survey course as a freshman and I really got into it. I liked the philosophy prof, and he was intrigued by the way I thought. We had some great discussions outside class. He turned me on to language philosophy, especially Wittgenstein. I considered majoring in philosophy but never declared. But that prof was my starting point for a thesis committee. Theater appealed to me more than anything, so I declared it my major as a sophomore. I didn't have any acting talent. I was way too much me to convince anyone I was someone else. But I loved being part of a play. I thought I could make a career in theater tech, so I threw myself into makeup, props, lighting and played bit parts. I had fun with all of it, especially in London. But Leela saved me from that. Theater is just entertainment, an enemy of self actualization. I came up with a brilliantly harebrained plan: brilliant for allowing me to study my chosen topic, and harebrained regarding career prospects. I convinced them to let me study Comparative Mythology. That thesis was my first stumbling attempt to dedicate myself to the spiritual quest. When I graduated I would go to culinary school and become a chef. I was serious about becoming a chef. My thesis committee chairman quoted Bulwer-Lytton below his John Hancock on my proposal: "We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks." What a dope. Me, not him. He was a brilliant guy who turned me on to Faulkner, my favorite literary poison for many lives.
Smoking. In my sophomore year I went in for a routine checkup. I hadn't seen the doctor yet, just the nurse for vitals. I was coughing. He stuck his head in the door and asked How long have you had bronchitis? A keenly developed sense of hearing. When it was my turn, he listened to my chest and I told him about my 1969 head-on, and the broken ribs and the collapsed lung. There were x-rays, and Q&A about lifestyle. I'd given up pot, but was smoking a pack of Marlboros a day. He put it to me straight. I had fibrous scar tissue in my right lung; I'd had bronchitis for god knows how long. If I didn't quit smoking I wouldn't make it past my 40s. So I quit, breaking my first addiction. All it took was the palpable threat of death.