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FPC: Florida Presbyterian College

Honor student. I landed in Florida Presbyterian College in the fall of 1969. Graduated with honors in early summer 1973 with a degree that read social science. I actually studied comparative mythology, and I actually graduated from Eckerd College. They changed the name in 1972, part of the elaborate song and dance routine 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 bid for conscientious objector status, so a student deferment was crucial. Fear of being drafted to fight in LBJ's miserable war haunted my nights the way fear of the atom bomb had in the late fifties and early sixties.

Winter term. One appealing feature of FPC was their 4-1-4 academic calendar: regular 4-month terms in fall and spring, with the month of January being set aside as winter term. You only had one class or project in winter term, and you spent the whole month doing a deep dive into whatever it was. There were plenty of immersion classes offered on campus, but a month spent studying something in its native habitat, either domestically or abroad, was a very popular option. You could go to another college using the same calendar for a regular immersion class, or join an archaeological dig somewhere, or create a month-long independent study project. For my first winter term I took one of the on-campus classes. I have to confess I don't remember what it was. Probably some kind of literature; I arrived thinking of myself as an English major, more or less. By my sophomore year I was entranced with theater, and I cajoled my parents into ponying up for Theater, pardon me Theatre in London; that's a story in itself. My last two winter terms became part of my mythology major.

I arrived at FPC an enthusiastic dope smoker with an interest in other psychedelics. I was, briefly, one of those annoying hippies who looked down on alcohol as inferior. My dope use quickly escalated from toking in the evening to smoking a skinny out my dorm window before heading off to a morning lecture. But it didn't take long for that to catch up with me. One night I sat down to write an essay assignment and found I couldn't maintain a coherent train of thought. I was scared. Had I broken my brain? That was a fear that hit me where I lived. I was able to finish the assignment the next morning, but I was shaken. Cannabis was now on notice. I started leaning more towards beer and wine, eating my highfalutin' hippie words with a nice glass of chablis. OK, OK, Boone's Farm was more my speed. Or that sangria.

Paranoia strikes deep. My psychedelic phase lasted from early 1967 until the end of 1970. It spanned three schools: USCS in Nairobi, Mel High, and FPC. In Kenya we just had bangi, but the quality was outstanding. It gave me vivid hallucinations. Some of our Tryp jams were as trippy as watching Yellow Submarine on acid only better: I starred in my own movie for real, playing my sax in the band. I had no idea how good Kenya bangi was until I started buying dope in Melbourne. But Melbourne opened the door to pills and blotters, starting with my trip on the Yellow Submarine. I never became a regular weekly tripper, but I did have my ear out for news of mind-altering pills to be taken, and I took some every few months. In addition to my three trips on the Fishfarm, I went on three at FPC. My Fishfarm trip with Hutch in 1970 just before Sam died was my farewell tour. It was an agonizing trip but also deeply life-affirming. An expression of profound love on her part. I was so lucky to be with her. By that time all the psychedelics including pot were clearly doing me psychological harm. They made me ache with anxiety when I was high, and they made me paranoid the rest of the time. Paranoia was a fact of life in the late sixties. There was the draft, and there was the man. Everyone knew someone doing time for simple possession. Joseph Heller said it so damn eloquently in Catch-22: just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

Raul. I lived in Newton House, at that time an all-male house. I had no male friends I knew of to request, so they assigned me a roommate, and that guy was a weirdo. Sometimes that is a bad thing; he gave me the willies. So I was very interested in changing rooms if I could swing it. Raul was a senior and a really sweet guy; his room was just down the hall from ours. To escape my weird roommate I would hang out with Raul in his room. One day as I was complaining about my roommate Raul interrupted my rant by inviting me to move in with him for spring semester. His roommate was graduating early, so there'd be an opening to be filled randomly by the school housing authorities unless he had a candidate, and we got along great. Raul lived in a corner room, much sought after because they're larger, although they didn't have natural light from two sides when they very well could have, thanks to benighted (and cheapo) sixties construction. Raul was easy to live with, encouraging and kind. He made my second semester at FPC much more enjoyable than my first.

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 drown night on Wednesday: the bottomless sangria pitcher. We went religiously, our midweek drunken Sabbath to celebrate the fellowship of users. We started keeping beer in the fridge Raul left behind when he graduated: Old Milwaukee, 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 Let me call you sweetheart. 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 Leela used hard core left-handed guidance to sober me up in 2016.

Flutter. I had my first episode of cardiac arrhythmia in 1971, spring term of my sophomore year. I'd been running around campus doing errands, literally running. Running from one to the next felt good to me. It reminded me of how good it felt to run in Ridgeways. Running felt so good it became an addiction a few years later. I had finished my errands and I was cooling off when suddenly my pulse started speeding up. I was freaked out, to put it mildly, but I didn't go to the clinic because it went away as fast as it came. But after that I started having more episodes, and they gradually got more intense. I went to the emergency room a number of times over the next few years. It was always the same story. I had what they called an extra beat, a cardiac hiccup. I also had an abnormally low resting pulse that set off bradycardia alarms whenever I had an EKG. As for the episodes, they told me not to worry, these things happen, I was in no danger. Try telling yourself that when your pulse suddenly goes from its normal high 40s (I once timed my resting pulse at 37) to 140 or so and you wake you up sweating in the middle of the night. The episodes always went away, though sometimes they got pretty damn bad. Once in Boulder I passed out at the wheel while driving down Arapahoe Avenue. Somehow I managed to get my car over to the curb just in time. After I moved to Seattle I had an episode that lasted two miserable days of an otherwise fabulous camping trip at Heart Lake. I finally had an episode that didn't go away, in the early days of my miserable marriage. And I finally got a solid diagnosis: atrial flutter. After talking it over with my cardiologist I went for ablation instead of the shock treatment. It worked brilliantly. I've had a few mild episodes since. One rough one when I got seriously off course, needing correction.

Sandspurs. FPC sits on an estuary called Frenchman Creek. I headed for the water as soon as I arrived at FPC. I always loved being around water; I just didn't want to swim in it. The college boathouse was on Frenchman Creek, right in back of my dorm in Gamma Complex. There was a concrete seawall separating FPC from the waters of Frenchman Creek that started near the boathouse and went of forever as far as I knew; I never followed it to the end. I loved to walk along the seawall. 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 in the fall. Decades later that 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. Sandspurs are barbed. It hurts like hell to step on one and even more to pull it out. FPC sandspurs are legendary. Bigger, sharper, nastier than any sandspurs anywhere. One day I walked along the seawall to the farthest point I'd gone yet, in back of Kappa Complex. Out there the grass that produced sandspurs was luxuriant, with big arching flower stalks dripping their painful seeds onto the sand and shell bits below. I was barefoot of course, and I didn't want to walk all the way back around via the seawall to get home. Looking out over the sea of sandspurs I had an inspiration, a vision. I knew I could never pick my way through that mess; I'd be grimacing in pain, bending over to pull the buggers out within the first step or two. A voice inside me said just walk, boldly. Don't look. So I looked up at the horizon and started walking without looking down or trying to pick my way. I walked barefoot through that minefield with wisdom guiding my steps and I was protected by my surrender. Not a single spur. My future self was looking out for me.

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. Physical education was still a required course at FPC my freshman year. After considering the options I decided to take a sailing class, messing about in little daggerboard prams on Frenchman Creek. It sounded a lot better than team sports, and I hadn't yet connected with dancing. I enjoyed learning a few rudiments of sailing. I was delighted when I realized I was adding vectors by the seat of my pants, and I totally get how sailing close hauled into a menacing stormfront would be an addictive thrill. But I wasn't interested enough to pursue it. I've always hated being stuck on a boat, nowhere to walk or even urinate. One semester was enough. So that was my fall phys ed class. In the spring term I took a dance survey course: a little ballet, a little modern, a little jazz. I wasn't interested in any of those dance forms per se, but I was getting interested in theater, so any kind of grounding in movement was appealing. I particularly remember ballet: each class started out with plies in all five positions. I still remember that feeling, lifting by sinking. That's when I first learned to intentionally engage my core muscles, a meditative practice that has proven valuable many times as I've learned to dance.

Theater major. I considered a number of possible majors my first two years at FPC, but English and theater were the only two I declared before I found my way to Jefferson House, comparative mythology, and education for me, not just a career. English seemed the obvious choice given my interest in writing and literature, but try as I might I couldn't convince myself that an academic degree pointing me back at academia was right for me. I wanted something juicier out of life, and theater seemed to fit the bill. There was a theater projects class you could sign up any given term. It had no set curriculum. You got credit for participating in whatever was going on at Bininger Theater, or for initiating your own project. I joined an informal group that met in classrooms (theater time could be hard to book) to read plays and put on scenes for each other. Angela was also in that group. She was an older woman who was infatuated with me. It was not mutual. But she was much better at acting than I was, so I accepted her offer to work up an end of term class project with her: dramatic reading of selected scenes from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I read George and Nick, she read Martha and Honey; we chose scenes to make that work. We worked on that for well over a month, and it had an awful effect on me: I started turning in George, a Class A asshole. It affected my relationships with everyone, and taught me a valuable lesson about acting: it's not for me. Which was convenient, because I had no acting talent. But I loved being around theater people. In my sophomore year I joined a group of people interested in movement and experimental theater. We were inspired by contact improv, which was just beginning: Nancy Stark Smith came to FPC a couple of times that year to give workshops. We were also inspired by Pilobolus, which was also getting going at that time. With these inspirations we started working on a performance of our own, but couldn't agree on a name for our troupe/performance. It was the early seventies, and we were hippies, so we sat in a circle and each of us in turn added a letter, keeping in mind the name had to be pronounceable. Xartpenossu is what we came up with. We gave one performance to an enthusiastic audience. Then I lost interest in theater as I got jazzed about mythology. Looking back it's easy to see why: Leela was directing me away from entertainment, toward the spiritual quest, toward progress.

Grateful. 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 at seventeen, for crying out loud. I could've had a lover my senior year at Mel High, but I was clueless, utterly flirtation retarded as my would-be lover flirted strenuously with me. I was also star-struck by Hutch, with good reason, so the redhead really never had a chance. Before I tell tales on any of my college girlfriends, I need to confess. Sometimes I was kind to them, but all too often I was arrogant, self absorbed, mean spirited at times. I don't know why they put up with me but they did. 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. I was not ready for polyamory in college, and I was still not ready in Boulder. I didn't have the psychological or spirtual maturity required. I finally got there, with much generous help from Ruth and Ariel. Now I get it: consensual non-monogamy is the only right way for me to love.

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 boyfriend most of the time, clueless and self absorbed, well into the 2010s, when Ruth helped me get better.

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 were, alas, just a bit desafinado on that score.

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.

Hedwig 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 Hedwig 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 but I never completed the program because the poly collapsed. He wasn't into poly anymore and wanted her full time, and she was gonna go along with that for practical reasons, him being a successful professional and all. I was sad but it made sense. Gotta take good care of your meal ticket, if that's your jam.

Linda was my best romance at FPC, the girl I moved back to St Pete for to see if I could patch things up with. Linda and I hooked up early in my junior year, when I was just beginning to explore comparative mythology. We were solid with each other until Liz showed up my senior year and I made a complete ass of myself, with enthusiastic help from her. That did not blow over until after I graduated, moved to Tallahassee, and got a job. My new job offered me the opportunity to move back to St Pete and work for a year; I jumped at it, determined to win Linda back if I could. It was slow going at first; she was understandably wary. But after a while she softened and we more or less lived together in my beach cabana. After she graduated we lived together for real, creating a home together in our little one bedroom apartment. Then we moved to Tallahassee together, along with Marty, and we all moved into the lake house. It was around then we started drifting apart, no longer lovers but still good friends. We both moved to Boulder, but separately; she arrived sometime after I did. We were friends in Boulder and even business partners: with a third friend we started up a cleaning business, Partners in Grime, and it was a success. She left the community long before I did, and she and her husband graciously welcomed me into their home in Albuquerque when I left The Retreat so I'd have a few days to get my feet back under me. She was a really good friend.

Liz was exciting. She was tall and whitish blonde, fun loving, gorgeous, and she positively reeked of southern aristocracy. Plus she was a delightful, devoted lover and companion, not just a sexy bombshell. But as I got to know her my love got tainted with venal excitement over her family's wealth and social status. I was so nuts over her I proposed and she happily 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. 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 most definitely starry eyed. Liz's mom, the only one with any sense, got her suspicions about me confirmed (no money, no prospects), and quietly proceeded with her plan to put an end to ours. 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 chatting excitedly, still in our swimsuits. Suddenly the door burst open. It was the motel manager, reading me the riot act. I suspect the Holiday Inn manager cared much more about a handsome tip than public morals, but so it goes. After this huge embarrassment, everything just kinda fizzled. Liz headed home and out of my life forever.

Silverwork. In college I got back into jewelry making. As a silversmith, not a lapidary. I did silversmithing for a year as an independent study project. There were no FPC faculty with that kind of experience so they sent me to 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, practicing some techniques on copper. I also did silver castings and one gold casting, an engagement ring for Liz. I cast her ring by melting down bits and pieces of gold jewelry I'd inherited or thrifted, mostly a big old 18k gold ring. The stone was a star ruby my dad found in North Carolina and had cut by experts; corundum was beyond the capacity of our home equipment. 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 close attention. I made links by wrapping silver wire around an iron rod and then sawing along the length of the rod. Then I soldered each link in turn, 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. I had to be careful not to touch anything with my fingers as I worked because the oil from my fingertips would interfere with solder flow. Then I swept 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 so many levels. The first time I got there he wouldn't even talk about jewelry until we'd shared a beer. Ed drank Tree Frog Beer, his name for Budweiser. Tree Frog, the beer of choice among the low-life denizens of Zap Comix, was our constant companion in jewelry class. Making jewelry with Ed ushered me into a whole new level in the fellowship of users: I bonded with a stranger, right off the bat, by simply sharing mediocre beer. Ed was a biker, and he looked the part. He had lots of ink, long tangled hair, a big pot belly and a Harley. There was always country music on at Ed's. Ed introduced me to outlaw country: Waylon & Willie & the boys.

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 took color photos of us hippies celebrating tai chi graduation with a picnic on the theater lawn. But tai chi never really took with me. Turns out it makes my knees hurt like hell. Not my jam.

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. All it took was the palpable threat of death.

Majoring in making progress. As my sophomore year drew to an end I started thinking seriously about Jefferson House. That was FPC's home for misfits. Not a building but an idea: create your own major, your own peculiar field of study. I had considered all the available options, and there simply wasn't a field of study I was willing to throw myself into full time for my last two years, which was what it would take for me to graduate in an established major. I was offended by the idea of higher education as mere job prep, making me into a cog designed to fit a defined niche in some corporate or government 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. I considered majoring in philosophy but I never declared that as my major. But that prof was my starting point for a thesis committee. I came up with a brilliantly harebrained plan: brilliant for allowing me to study my chosen topic, and harebrained regarding my career prospects. I convinced them to let me study comparative mythology. My plan for when I graduated was to 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 thesis proposal: "We may live without friends; we may live without books; But civilized man cannot live without cooks."

Digging for gold. Jefferson House offered several paths to graduation. I chose to write and then defend an undergraduate thesis. I didn't have a thesis as I began my studies, but I did have a starting point: I wanted to study the myths of the Golden Age that appear in so many mythologies. A mythical time in the distant past when all was right in the world. As I dug into the material I became obsessed with it. I spent all day in the library, day after day, digging stuff up and following leads. When the lights flashed to warn warn me the library was closing I rushed madly around the stacks grabbing books and hauled a huge armload down to the desk so I could keep working back at my dorm. I was literarily digging for gold in the treasury of world mythologies. The thesis I came up with was derivative, but that was OK. No one expected an undergrad to do original research. What was important for me was the direction: that thesis was my first stumbling attempt to aim my life in the direction of spiritual work. I wanted my life to have meaning, and somewhere in me I knew the only way that could happen was if I dedicated myself to the spiritual quest. I was reinvesting myself in my lifelong longing for more.