Room mates and Neighbors

Off Campus 1967-1968 

In 1967 Arthur decided to leave school to pursue his California dream. He wanted to be a hippie; his imaginative mind having been saturated not only by his renegade, runaway friend Randy, but also by the likes of Jack Kerouac, as he obsessively decided to pursue his dream of becoming a Dharma Bum. This was a good thing for me because I needed to get away from his liberal influences anyway.

Life on the road was not a good thing however for Randy who was eventually killed when he was hit by an eighteen-wheeler in the dessert southwest while hitchhiking back to New Jersey. It was a situation never determined to be just an unlucky accident or an intentional suicide.

Prior to that I had been in a personal quandary because having had enough of Southern hospitality I could not decide if I should transfer to Georgetown University in Washington DC. I was also indecisive about really wanting to go on to medical school or persuing marine biology because of my love for the sea. Future vocational dilemmas tend to be commonplace for college sophomores, and I only wish now that someone had the foresight to steer me in the direction of investment banking or a career on Wall Street. Several of my classmates, who I tended to pity for being so droll, had predetermined they would make their careers in the financial sector. After all, everyone knew that doctors made a fortune, but how many stock brokers could say the same for themselves? At that point in time a ten-cent rise in a stock price was cause for jubilation.

Because Duke had a top flight Marine Biology school along with the basic sciences program I was enrolled in; would potentially qualify me for admission, so I decided to stay. On a more mundane level, I also still wanted to be with my girlfriend.

My friend Bill who had loaned me the money to go to Mexico for the abortion was dating a woman who claimed to be a cousin of the movie actress Stella Stevens. She was a very nice girl, but the resemblance to star quality looks had not crossed over into her own gene pool. In fact, there was no resemblance at all as well as unfortunately for her she also had to struggle with a proclivity to a horrible perniciously aggressive acne problem. But she made up for it by her own admission of being a nymphomaniac.

This was when I finally modify Aunt Jeannie’s premise that if lack of sex and a resulting sperm back-up is what caused acne in boys, then logic should dictate the opposite for women. One should clearly be able to tell a loose woman by a complexion that gives away the fact she may actually be sperm repository. It was a completely absurd thought, but childhood brainwashing can leave anyone with ridiculous adulthood ideas. And although parental or role model influences can certainly create a fine line when it comes to perverse as opposed to rational ideation, at least I was only being imaginative but not yet crossed into the domain of becoming a serial killer.

For example, it may have only been Mrs. Berkowitz endless and repetitive preservations of: “Wash your hands after you play with the dog, David,” that eventually caused his mind to snap and to hear the murderous directives that came to him from his neighbor Sam’s dog, Harvey.

Over the summer, Bill and Courtney convinced my girlfriend and me that we should get an apartment and live off campus together. It was not a bad idea because of economies of scale but also because it would be a quieter, more private life than living back at Canterbury House. Bill was also a very serious pre-law student and I thought his ambitious study habits would be a good influence.

We found a two family house in what we thought would be quiet neighborhood and moved into the top floor together.

This being the first time I had ever lived with a woman, the domestic tranquility also provided a certain emotional stability that took me off the party circuit.

It was not to say that the four of us would not continue to smoke pot for example, but in this particular circumstance the use of drugs was truly recreational and considered to be a reward reserved only for weekends or for when major school assignments had been completed. It was also a time when I discovered the peace and tranquility of the University Library where I finally broke a lifetime bad habit of trying to study with the television on. I was amazed at the turnaround in my grades.

The downside of living with another couple was that it compounded certain issues such as bathroom congestion, what to watch on TV or unanimity in deciding what to eat for dinner.

The upside was that familiarity bred familiarity and it was not long before Bill and Courtney proposed four-way sex and couple swapping. I did not have a problem with this, thinking it would make for a little excitement in our lives, but my girlfriend was not up for it at all so the idea died a quiet death. Too bad, because in any relationship boring familiarity can also breed ennui, and ennui can then breed either contempt, or even worse, bland indifference.

As it turned out the neighborhood was anything but quiet because there was a local redneck living next door with a wife whom he beat up on a regular basis. Especially in good whether, with the windows open we could hear the verbal fights escalate, after which the walls would start to reverberate as the bodies were slammed around and the baby started to cry. The pattern was always the same. After the physical abuse the wife beater would usually drive away leaving skid marks on the road, then not show up for several days. He would come back, she would take him in, and then the ugly cycle would repeat itself.

We thought about confronting him, so one-day Bill rang the doorbell and spoke to the wife, but she refused to even think about letting us help her. This was followed several days later by a very angry redneck threatening us all with bodily harm or even death if we tried to interfere in his business again. Knowing that he probably had a group of friends who would be more than happy to find any excuse to inflict a few scars on some nosy little rich Duke kids, we politely retreated. That was certainly an eye opener about spousal loyalty and the silence attendant to many wives who not only endure physical or verbal abuse, but who also seem to think that somehow they deserve it. I was astonished.

We thought about calling the police a few times, but our fear of reprisals overcame our desire to do the right thing. We should have known better.

This self-serving, self-protective logic backfired one Saturday night when we were sitting around smoking hashish. It was winter and the windows were shut so there was no way of us knowing what was going on next door. Suddenly, the street was ablaze with police lights and sirens. Three ‘black and whites’ were clustered outside our house and cops were running everywhere.

Aside from making a person irrationally silly as well as provoking incredible hunger, hashish and marijuana can make a person totally paranoid and idiotically stupid. We were high as kites as all the elements of the drug effect were operative when the cops showed up. We were high, stupidly goofy and stuffing our faces when paranoia and fear took hold with a vengeance.

When we saw the cops swarming the neighborhood, our natural inclination was to believe we were being busted. Assuming that the redneck next door had probably turned us in to exact his revenge, we scrambled around like disorganized cats to cover everything up, not only cursing out our neighbor the entire time, but also cursing out ourselves for trying to have been good Samaritans in the first place. After all, no good deed ever goes unpunished.

This is one case where mathematics applies but also where mathematical principles become somewhat impractical as well. The riddle becomes: how much drugs and drug paraphernalia can one get down a toilet bowl, what is actually flushable, and how many flushes will it take in the time it takes a cop to climb one flight of stairs?

We had no clue to the answer because we had never practiced for a raid. Also, in addition to flushing the software one then has to figure out the hardware factor: what to do with pipes or bongs because drug residues and paraphernalia make a person equally culpable as having the bulk product.

I thought we were doomed. All I could see was a prison term, a black and white striped jump suit, a tour on a southern chain gang and a rap sheet that would preclude graduation, much less ever being able to get a medical license. Even though being a felon then would preclude a trip to Viet Nam, it was a small consolation.We must have looked like idiots as we pulled down the blinds, turned out the lights and then tried to flush down hashish while holding onto flashlights for guidance.

The cover up was a fiasco. Pot floats on top, where it then sticks to the side of the bowl. Hash sinks to the bottom. Rolling papers do not at all have the same soluble characteristics as toilet paper, so they float too. The paper sleeves have to go out the back window with the pipes and bongs, not to mention that as this evidence then rains down all over the cops heads, added to the equal stupidity of not thinking that the cops would be in the back yard anyway to prevent our escape.

Bill even tried to eat some of the marijuana, but finely chopped dried leaves were not really designed for easy esophageal transit and much of it to ends up in a sheepishly guilty intra-tooth smile that would test negative for pistachio nut particles or broccoli bits. If you ever want to practice for this, try eating a small jar of dried Oregano.

As the scene unwound we began to realize that there was an eerie silence going on. The stairs were quiet. There were no bullhorns. The front door had not been battered in. There was very little commotion on the street and all the action was being played out next door.

It seems that someone else had called the police on the wife beater who he was in the process of being quietly arrested and hauled off to jail. Although we then immediately lamented the loss of our expensive stash, nevertheless we stayed clean for the rest of the school term and fell back on the legal stuff for recreational fun.

After all, beer and wine as everyone knows, because they are not really drugs, are completely harmless.



Candy is dandy

But Liquor is quicker

(Ogden Nash)



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