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Free Love

Free Love 

The term “free love” is an oxymoron. Nothing in life is free. My little expedition to Mexico was only a small example of just how emotionally, physically and financially expensive love can be. But in the 1960s and 1970s the media coined the term in reference to their interpretation of the newly liberated escapades of America’s youth.

I once had a conversation with a man who was a generation older than me and lived across the street from my parents in North White Plains.

He had seen me come home from Medical School and walk into our house with a very attractive Junior College coed I happened to be dating at the time. He jumped out of his living room chair, ran across the street, up our front stairs, rang the doorbell, and then asked my mother when she answered the ring whom the girl might be. It seems he had a fetish for large breasts and this woman happened to fit the bill of his less than suppressed sexual fantasies.

He then proceeded to tell my mother he thought the woman to be so attractive that he “would happily eat three yards of her shit just to get close enough to smell her asshole.”

It did not seem to matter one iota that he was married to a very attractive blond who was the father of his two teenaged sons.

Knowing his personality to be somewhat brusque, lewd and lascivious, my mother easily dismissed his expletive. But he did later tell me how sad he was that he had completely missed out on the sexual revolution himself. In particular he regretted having missed out on all the “free love” he was reading about or seeing on the evening news. He had other more deeply seeded issues anyway as he had the habit of drinking beer to excess in his basement, in a chair situated under a Nazi flag banner as he consistently lamented that he had fought on the wrong side in the war.

He was of German descent and thought the United States had entered an era of undisciplined liberalism while repeatedly pining:

  • If I had only known where this country was headed, I would have gone over to the other side. Where is Hitler now anyway at a time in our history that we need him the most?

The real problem is that human beings were not biologically designed to live past the age of forty.

I also believe that every decade of life brings along with it both physical and emotional changes that for the most part make many couples grow apart. Time brings unanticipated change and unanticipated change brings along with it unpredictable wants and needs.Therefore, now thanks to modern science, assuming a human lifespan of about seventy years to eighty years, a man or a woman really enjoys seven to eight life variations. It would not be unreasonable to conclude then that with human longevity being what it is, we are probably best suited to be sequential monogamists as opposed to being free lovers.

My 2nd great grandfather’s story illustrates this point succinctly. He died of heat stroke when he was in his thirties. Out of necessity his wife remarried a local widower and they then together raised two families of children. When my 2nd great grandmother then died in her forties, leaving her second husband to still need a woman to tend the household, the issue was more or less forced, which caused him to remarry yet again. On this occurrence and with no lost love for what were then two perfect strangers as parents, my great grand relatives simply left home.

In today’s world, divorce replaces early demise, a fact that coupled with the ability to easily have affairs, keeps sequential monogamy and illicit liaisons both alive and well as a practicably functional sub-rosa institution.

Biology dictates that women want security and prefer to live in nests; for the most part caring less about how their mate looks than what is in his wallet. Men, on the other hand want sex with nice looking virginal women, whether real or imaginary but at least in appearance, and prefer to live in the wild. So they think.

Here’s a perfect fantasy for a male: to be the last man alive in a world with only about twenty or thirty women left, and to have free reign over their sexual fates. Thinking only with his pecker however, he would not be able to predict the awful price he would eventually have to pay by having to satisfy up to thirty wives emotional, financial, and physical needs, not to mention those of their prospective offspring. What a nightmare.

Thirty women, all of whom simultaneously cycling their menses, having communal PMS and then also demanding in one cacophonous uniform whine that the big white hunter should spend more bonding time with his sixty or so children. The collective sentence: Thirty women to choose from; yet no sex for you tonight, Alpha Dude.

Another modern day phenomenon is that of the “trophy bride,” interestingly enough implying something to be attained by hunting big game or by winning at sports. It is amazing to see some old codger who happened to make a fortune, only to dump his long faithful aging wife in order to marry the likes of a midget- brained magazine model. Everyone knows the little nymph would not have given him the time of day if he happened to be penniless, but the old pimp tycoon with his bimbo harlot is a common modern phenomenon that usually leads to disaster.

The Anna Nicole Smith saga best illustrates this point. Love is never free. There is always a price to pay for it. It is always conditional; no matter what the romanticists or the dewy eyed bride to be might have to say about it. But as usual there are exceptions to the rule; Hugh Heffner who created a personally unique concept of the disposable consort.

Even during the hey day of so called free love of the 1960s and 1970s, and in the case of the rare women who were known to sleep with anyone, these girls, otherwise known as “Easy Riders,” were then easily taken advantage of, passed around like hand me down clothes, then usually after the fact discredited in the gossip mill. After all, a man cannot brag about a sexual conquest if the prize is as commonly or easily procured as a penny candy.

Soon enough, the ultimate decline in their reputations at some point then left the “easy” girls dateless and alone. They paid for their actions with their reputations, while unlike some of their smarter contemporaries who may have gone on to became prostitutes, they did not even get paid for their services. This made their efforts an incredible waste of talent and natural resources.

Eventually, just about every one of the so-called ‘loose’ women did settle down with one person and became respectable monogamists. In the long run, the female biological clock tends to wind down in favor of reproduction as it overtakes an unchecked obsessive desire to be promiscuous. Take Marilyn Chambers for example: 99% pure Ivory Soap girl, turned porn star, turned suburban housewife and Born Again Christian doting mother.

The so-called era of “free love” was not the equivalent of people having indiscriminant sex, as believed to be the case by our next-door neighbor. Human nature does not operate that way.

The sexual revolution instead was an expression of a liberated generation not having to be concerned about unwanted pregnancy and about women coming to believe that they no longer had to be sexually suppressed or to be brainwashed like their mothers had been. The belief that sex was a sacred duty, something dirty, a spousal obligation, or that the role of women was to be nothing more than a breeding pod had become a thing of the past. No, rather than free promiscuous love, this era was more akin to people being given a green light to freely express a certain latitude of sexual selectivity while not to be made feeling guilty about doing so.

Love is never free. Even marriage, by definition requires that each person at minimum pays the price of lost autonomy as each then enters the world of Holy Compromise. Even in the best relationship there is a happiness quotient, which is determined by dividing the satisfaction in the relationship by the dissatisfaction.

My feeling is that one should at least get to 90% satisfaction or the dissention factor will start to erode the relationship. Not too many couples get there, or if starting out there, soon find out that the original equation prompting them to get together was flawed; the “love is blind phenomenon,” so to speak.

Then factor in the divorce rate. Half the marriages in modern America end in divorce, subsequently making divorce a multi-million-dollar legal business. Somebody wins, somebody loses, the lawyers line their coffers regardless of the outcome, and then in the aftermath the emotional cost to all parties, including the children, requires intangible calculation.

Many more relationships should result in divorce, but instead languish on the shores of mutual ennui or in the domains of sadomasochism, as such leaving the couple living in a uniquely confining limbo. These couples, who really should separate, stay in bad relationships because of boredom, lack of self esteem, fear of the unknown, fear of being alone, sloth, capitulation, losing money, guilt, convenience, children, or a dozen other possible convenient excuses making their lives a virtual prison without walls.

The elusive dream of finding the perfect mate is a Hollywood fantasy that is well depicted by the weekly tabloids and scandal sheets which now allow us to vicariously keep pace with the ‘Perfect People’s’ frequent marriages and divorces. Perfect people of very little real substance falling in love with each other on movie sets because they actually believe the scripts they are acting out are true.

In reality, the era of so called free love simply did nothing more than to ensure the spread of the already known STDs like Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HPV as well as the new viral varieties such as Herpes that can not even be eradicated with antibiotics.

Eventually the era of truly fee love as the pure entity of indiscriminant male homosexual bath house encounters in the 1980s culminated in the spread of the most pernicious STD known to date; the incurable and lethal AIDS. Death: the highest price to pay of all.

Talmudic Law and Biblical prohibitions against polygamy, sex with relatives, prostitution and indiscriminant sexual liaisons were only put in place to prevent the high cost to society of consanguineous genetic mishaps, anarchy and the spread of genitally mediated diseases.

There are many good reasons to keep your blue jeans zipped and your skirts down. The first and best good reason is that love is never free. It is usually very costly in one form or another.

The second best reason is that even though biology prevails and the urge to mate is innate; love with a stranger in this day and age is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with one’s genitals.

One shot. Over-and-out. Or maybe live to play another day. But at least when playing the same game with a revolver that chambers only one live bullet out of six, the odds are known and can easily be calculated ahead of time.

 

Winter solstice

 

Put your arms around me

Like a circle ‘round the sun.

You know I’ll love you baby

When my easy ridin’s done

You don’t believe I love you

Look at the fool I’ve been.

You don’t believe I’m sinkin’

Look at the hole I’m in.

Stealin’ stealin’

Pretty momma don’t you tell on me

I’m stealin’ back to my

Same old used to be.

(Gus Cannon: Arranged and sung by Arlo Guthrie © Howard Beach Music)

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Sophomore Slump 1967

Sophomore Slump 

I would often tell any irritatingly inquisitive non-smoker who asked me why I smoked, that it was to keep my lungs in shape for smoking marijuana.This stupidity is similar to the sadomasochistic behemoth who continuously tries to excel at lifting and throwing a 500 pound ‘unschpunenschtone’ more than three feet on ESPN’s World’s Strongest Man marathons. It equally doesn’t make much sense to either work hard at getting a lung tumor, an inguinal hernia or a slipped disc.

Because I was fascinated by the machismo image that Arthur projected by smoking his pipe, a more likely fantasy was my belief that smoking would make me more appealing to the opposite sex; like the Marlboro Man It was also the case that cigarettes were dirt cheap and could be obtained for free. All that anyone had to do was walk down to the factory in Durham, take the tour, then be allowed to rummage out back in the dumpster sized cloth bin where millions of rejected cigarettes were thrown and fill up your suitcase. These coffin nails had failed certain quality standards as simple as the packing density being a little off. But like date-expired drug samples, they certainly seemed good enough to me; and the price was definitely right.

Also for the first time, I began to drink beer, started going to various parties on weekends or whenever someone decided to arbitrarily turn a weeknight into a weekend by pronouncing that any given Tuesday, for example, would be a school holiday.

At first the parties were relatively formal and located in public venues. The Blue Laws of North Carolina prohibited what we knew in New York to be “bars,” while what passed here as being “bars” were places where one had to bring a bottle of his favorite booze in a brown bag, pull a chair up to the bar and buy “set ups.” This would simply be a mixer that would cost the price of a shot of booze.

The irony in this antiquated Blue Law was that if one were then to be found with an unfinished bottle of alcohol in his car, he could be arrested for having an open bottle in his possession in “public.” Thus, you could drive to a bar with your own unopened bottle, leave it there after the party with a bartender who could drink it himself or take it home, or you could finish it yourself and then drive home. The obvious result of this convoluted bit of logic was that everyone drank the entire bottle of booze at the party, and then drove home in a car with an unopened brain.

In fact, when vomiting my guts out one night after a “set up” party Tequila binge, I have never been able to drink the Mexican National beverage again. My father told me the same thing happened to him in college except that for him it had happened with Gin.

Over time it became more logical to simply get high on some drug than to drink one self nearly to death. It was also quicker and easier. Also, the character of the parties began to shift along with the trend to using more drugs and less booze. Of course these were not Fraternity parties but rather were being hosted by the ever-growing hippie fringe elements that were forming up around campus. The Frat guys remained preppy and continued to have their booze parties while the “fringies” began to get increasingly freaky and into progressively worse habits.

The University was slowly becoming a polarized mini version of what was going on in America in general as students either remained short haired, conservatively straight, or began to gravitate to becoming long haired liberal hippie freaks. It was also becoming more dangerous to express the new freedoms outwardly.

The jocks in particular did not take well to the change in appearances and although Gym class was mandatory for the first two years, every time one of us showed up in the locker room, the athletes or the coaches would jeer and threaten us. Needless to say we all signed up for non-contact sports such as tennis.

This fragmentation was also tracking the political fragmentation in America.

The hey-day of the civil rights movement was underway and in the South certain people were beginning to show up dead. In North Carolina, the KKK began to believe that the only good hippie was a dead hippie and although we were well aware that the Freedom Riders Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney had been killed in Mississippi, we naively believed that we were immune as long as we stuck to the campus.

We were wrong.

In general, none of us truly respected how hatefully dangerous these people really were until it was brought much closer to home. One night the KKK put a burning cross in front of the Duke chapel. It was an awesomely fearful sight to behold and something one had only read about in books, viewed on television news, or saw in a bad movie. On another night in a drive-by, bricks were thrown through the window of a house I was sharing off campus. We were obviously being targeted because we were stupid enough to have painted the front wall with Peace Signs and hung a portrait of Chairman Mao on the front porch. We are lucky that only bricks and not firebombs were the worst we got.

On yet another night while trying to hitch a ride between campuses I was accosted by three white men in a pickup truck, who jumped out, beat me to the ground and then kicked me while I was down. They obviously did not “cotton well” to my long hair and although I was not severely hurt, my pride was too embarrassed to ever have told anyone about it. As I lay on the ground in the proverbial defensive fetal position they kept yelling:

  • Mother fucking long-haired hippie, nigger lover, son of a bitch. Just go back home where you belong, Yankee Jew boy.

I truly believe to this day that it would have been a lot worse if not for the fact of frequent traffic passing by on a well-lit intra-campus campus road, as well as the saving grace that they did not actually pick me up and throw me into the flatbed back of the truck. However from that day forward I had certainly learned how to watch my back and to run hard and fast at the first sign of potential trouble. Avoidance behavior came in very handy later at the Duke riot of 1968 and then again in Harvard Square at the 1970s protest when the police cleared the streets with riot dogs. Lip service protesting was one thing. Having face to face conflicts with police, German Shepherds, tear gas, Mace or Klan members was entirely something else altogether.

This behavioral training also came in especially handy when I became an Intern at a New York City inner city hospital: spot potential trouble… then run the other way. My brother, who had lived in NY City several years before I arrived, told me that the best way to survive on the streets was to: never make eye contact, wear crummy clothes with holes in the pants, always wear running shoes, always put your money in the toe of your sneakers, and tack from one side of the street to the next if you see more than one person loitering around a door stoop.

That was the time when David Dinkins and Ed “So How am I Doing?” Koch we’re running NY City into the financial ground and the streets were like a Wild West shooting gallery. Not so good Eddie, when one has to experience it from the perspective of being one of the gunfighters at the OK Coral.

Yet interestingly enough, even these horrors would not remotely prepare me for the confrontation about to take place at the end of the year when my father got my final GPA which had propped to 2.6. A snarling police dog, an angry KKK member, or a knife wielding street punk would have been preferable.

Years later a patient told me his blood pressure was only high in my office, but not at home, because he had the “White Sheet Syndrome.” I explained to him that I knew very well what he was talking about because I always felt the same way any time the Grand Knights of the venerated Ku Klux Klan happened to ride up my driveway. I just didn’t have the heart to tell him he had confused “sheet” with “coat;” as my sarcastic comment then went entirely over his head.

In truth, for me it was not really a joke, but rather had been a living nightmare and a fortunate near miss.

edgar ray killen

Edgar Ray Killen: KKK member indicted for the murders of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney.

Thirty years too late

 

Easy Rider

An old black man was discovered sitting in the back of a freedom riding bus headed for Mississippi in 1966. When someone complimented him for his dedication to the cause, given his relative age and enfeebled appearance he looked up and retorted:

  • Hell. I ain’t goin’ down deah to do no protess freedom marchin. Dat’s too damn dangerous. Ize jus goin’ down deah to sing a little Bass and help out with da fuckin’.

(Public sex is safer than public protest)

 

Edgar Ray Killen: From The African American Registry

 

 

 

 

 

College Liberals and Radical Roots (1960s)

Unsolicited Influences 

Shortly after arriving at Duke, the University held the customary annual orientation program in which the entire freshman class was herded into a large auditorium and given the usual run down and pep talks about campus life. In the case of our class, the senior student who gave the introduction could not contain himself with a crude sexual allusion to the “Class of 69”, as being the one they had all been anxiously awaiting; “The Class of Reciprocal Oral Sex.” Although the comment was greeted by loud guffaws, little did he know that his offhand reference to a Kama Sutra position would be nothing compared to the several sexual and cultural revolutions about to take place in the near future, all to be spearheaded by the “Class of Incurable STDs.”

In adding stern warnings about the various temptations associated with being free of direct parental supervision, of the need to study hard and in particular of going astray or avoiding the dreaded “Sophomore Slump,” he felt as though his message had been successfully delivered.It was business as usual with the routine accolades being accorded to yet another freshman class.

Having done reasonably well in freshman year with a decent grade point average; emotionally, however, it was a disaster. My girlfriend, M., was immediately absorbed into a sorority and shortly thereafter began dating upper classmen. This was a double blow to my self- esteem as she was both now the member of an elite club while our eternally pledged true love had gone down the tubes.

She and one of her girlfriends were particularly enamored with a tall blond member of the Junior Class they had nicknamed “Many Pennies,” being their sub-Rosa method of referring to the size of his genitalia. Indirect logical intuition led me to believe then that they either both of them had sex with him or he had sex with both of them at the same time.

Meanwhile, while she was out with Mr.Mega-penis, I firmly began to think that no one of the opposite gender would ever remotely love me again. I got through the depression by studying in the library, and also making a few half hearted efforts to win her back. It was a lost cause because I was simply outclassed, upper-classed and outsized.

She finally dumped me for good one day shortly after we had sex under an old Live Oak tree behind her dormitory on the Woman’s Campus, while afterward she complained bitterly about the crudity of the episode in comparison to the nice milieu of fraternity dorms. I guess she preferred soft pillows and sheets to picking prickly oak leaves and hard Carolina clay out of her butt crack. She also didn’t have respect for hundred year old trees or the way our Grandparents snuck out to do it romantically under the moonlight; because there was no place else to go.

After this final breakup, I incrementally began to become brainwashed by my friend Arthur. He constantly berated my conservative Barry Goldwater politics as he slowly but surely began to make me believe that Democratic Liberalism was equivalent to having a social conscious. However, because the Democratic Party under LBJ beginning in 1965 had begun to escalate the war in Vietnam, as he reneged on his campaign promise to keep American troops at home, there now seemed to be no legitimate political force that embraced social consciousness at all.

It was ironic that LBJ, who had campaigned against Goldwater with an ad depicting a nuclear bomb blowing up a little girl picking petals off a daisy, was now the principle instrument of napalm mediated death in Southeast Asia.

Napalm, or jellied gasoline, is a weapon of particular cruelty that was developed in World War II as a means of making the gasoline burn more effectively. It was used both as an incendiary device designed to maximize urban burning in the great fire raids over Germany and Japan. But even worse, being used as an antipersonnel device, it also had the great advantage that skip-bombs could be made to spewed pellets that are the equivalent of flaming Crazy-glue as they bounced along the ground. These fiery little balls would then stick perniciously to the enemy’s skin, could not be wiped off, with any attempts to do so only serving to spread it further, as though it might be incendiary flypaper or malignant poison ivy. Burning at temperatures between 800 to 1000 degrees Celsius, napalm could not even be extinguished with water. Personally speaking, I would prefer to die in an instantaneously vaporizing nuclear blast.

Arthur’s take on the political scene was that most politicians were stooges of mediocre intelligence who were fronted by wealthy businessmen or corporations. This iconoclastic view, while upsetting to my childhood view of the sanctity and infallibility of the U.S. Presidency, has obviously turned out to be quite visionary.

Feeling as though there was no political alternative at all, college students become distracted by and attracted to more radical elements such as the Student for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Black Panthers or other subversive organizations, who began to get footholds on campus and who began to preach for the complete overthrow of the US government. I can recall attending small seminars by Dr. Howard Levy and Tom Hayden who were gaining notoriety on a national level. Hayden was the founder of the SDS and eventually married the notorious Hanoi Jane Fonda.

Levy was particularly engaging in recounting the story that although he was a Dermatologist, the Army bureaucracy told him he had to function as a Surgeon. It did not seem to matter that he knew nothing about surgery; and basically had on the job training.

He also focused on the fact that the Green beret doctors being used to set up small hospital outposts in the Vietnamese countryside where the philosophy of “winning hearts and minds” was predicated entirely on the concept of delivering medical care first. This age-old ruse which goes back to antiquity is best exemplified by the Apostles of Christ whose faith healing escapades founded the nucleus of what is now one of the largest worldwide religions. The concept of “doctor as God” has only recently fallen by the wayside in modern cultures. However, in primitive cultures that have little in the way of medical services, providing even a few basic amenities goes a long way in establishing a foundation of trust.

Levy eventually spent 3 years in Leavenworth for his antiwar activities and in particular because of his vehement opposition to the subversive practice of offering medical care as propaganda tools, while the other hypocritical face of America’s presence was offering to maim or maul innocent women and children with the likes of jellied gasoline. The carrot and the stick: at its best.

I also vividly remember being privy to watching an interview at the campus radio station with Stokely Carmichael because Buck, Arthur and I had just gotten jobs at the station, which allowed to go behind the scenes. Carmichael was instrumental in promoting the idea of Black Power, Afro-American identity and separatism.

He venomously spewed repeated hate that the root of all societal evil in the World was centered in the history of Western European culture and world conquest. While it was simultaneously inspiring to watch his charismatic delivery, I was still left to wonder what he might do with all us White folks after the Black revolution established him as Emperor of America, and in particular how one could so romantically explain away the history of African tribal warfare, genocide, and slave trading.

I had the unpleasant premonition that life under a Black dictator would not be a predictably pleasant experience. It was also the first time I had ever seen anyone of celebrity accompanied by body guards and wondered why anyone would have to be that paranoid. After all, this was America where free speech was a protected right under our Constitution, was it not?

Although all these individuals were very charismatically persuasive, I also had the same premonition after attending a few SDS meetings where I listened to the venomous hate being hawked by the local cell leaders. The Students for a Democratic Society was a left wing organization that was probably the white equivalent of the Black Panthers. It was never comforting that any of the people in these groups were really delivering a message of brotherly love or a clear vision of world peace but rather that the message of the day was simply to preach the violent overthrow or the U.S. Government.

It was a confusing time and it became increasingly difficult to decide which one of the many devilish public icons one should put any faith in; a problem many citizens had and which sewed the seeds for much of the anarchy that was soon to follow. Because I eventually came to realize that living under a government formed by SDS hate mongers might be the worse of any current evil, as well as being more potentially hazardous to ones health, I paid the SDS lip service, then quit soon after joining. Early fans of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot would have been better off if they too had jumped ship at the beginning. Still wondering to this day if the fact of my brief membership is still in my FBI file, I regret not keeping the membership card for my scrapbook.

The only real good to come out of all this was that I met my first college girlfriend at an SDS meeting and started going with her after the President of the cell dumped her for someone else. Although she was one of the original “women’s libbers,” which made her exciting to be around for a while, she definitely took it all too seriously. This subsequently led to one too many humorless dates involving more in the way of tedious arguments over social reform than fun, laughs and good sex.

Added to all this social turmoil was the enormous pressure of trying to maintain grades and the intensely cut throat competition engendered by those individuals who remained oblivious to what was going on in their surroundings or in the world and who could actually have cared less. Being an A student at a small high school in N.Y. was no guarantee of getting A’s in an environment where everyone else had been selected for extreme intelligence.

However, even genius could have its pitfalls as exemplified by several emotional crack-ups in the student body. This manifested itself in something as simple as the hitchhiking Dan dropping out of school, to the extreme example of the engineering student who blew his brains out with a perfectly functional miniature cannon he had designed and then molded out of solid brass. Having successfully aimed it at eye level from the top of his dormitory dresser, it was even set up to absorb recoil when it fired.

Or the likes of the notorious Duke Shit-Bomber who would defecate in a shoe box, plop a cherry bomb into the pile with a delayed fuse, then place the device in a dormitory hallway and run for cover. No one ever knew where he would strike next until one day the terror stopped as he simply mysteriously vanished, never to be heard from again, so to speak. Perhaps he was recruited by the C.I.A. to work in Viet Nam.

Last but not least, there was an acquaintance of ours, Jack, who fancied himself a world-class oenophile and who always brought his own personal bottle of Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc to parties, hogging it to himself as he lorded its superfine qualities over the rest of us wine ignorant peasants. Jack the Wine Taster, as we nick named him, would sniff, sip, drool, and then moan in ecstasy as he swirled his libation around in a fluted glass. One night however he failed to realize that one of his so-called friends had tired so much at the snobbish effrontery, that when the bottle was half empty had poured in about two jiggers of his piss just to see if Jack could tell the difference. Apparently his highly cultured epicurean taste buds did not bat an eye as he sipped and finished off his subtly refined but slightly reprocessed wine.

As the tenor of the times and Art’s brainwashing began to take root, I did start to lean to the left of center politically and began to fall into the enticing snaring promises of anti-materialism and free love. These philosophies were being spun out of the antiwar movement, and were being made ever more visible in the media by their focus on the flower people in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco. It was certainly more agreeable to pursue these ideals than those being promulgated by the fifth column organizations that had begun to preach the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government. The times were so confusing and unsettled it was easy to succumb to the idea that our culture was seriously flawed and unbalanced, that the fascist powers-that-be were fully in control, that little people counted for nothing and that ultimately, nothing really mattered at all. Anyway the wind blows. Strawberry fields, forever.

Forgetting that my father’s hard working materialistic job was actually responsible for sending me to school, I let my hair grow down to my shoulders and started to pipe smoke aromatic tobaccos as well as those tasty unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes that cost only 18 cents per pack. In reference to his purist anti-filtered smoking philosophy, Arthur justified both habits as such:

  • So what’s the point in smoking, if you really aren’t smoking? Smoking filtered cigarettes is the same as having sex wearing a condom.

Then becoming increasingly saturated by the propaganda of the ultra left, it wasn’t long before I began to smoke marijuana and to begin experimenting with psychedelic drugs.

Arthur kept talking about dropping out and moving to California, regaling me with tales of the free life being enjoyed by a friend of his, Randy, who had gone out there the year before. These fables made me progressively and increasingly begin to seriously question all the values I had been raised to believe in. I also began to intensely hate the military industrial complex and to harbor equal distain for Lyndon Johnson’s having creating a social environment that fostered a cloudy uncertain paranoia about the future.

As students, we all knew that any one of us could easily be conscripted to fight in a God forsaken jungle on the other side of the world when the free pass of educational deferment expired at graduation; all thanks to a cracker from Texas, whom my uncle Bill stated with direct certainty had won his first congressional election on the stuffed ballots of deceased constituents in his district. LBJ might have even calculated how many dead soldiers from his own state would have been necessary to vote from the crypt on his bid for a second term in the White House.

Freedom of choice was ingrained in my Catholic upbringing. I did not have to follow the flower people, I did not have to waste my time frittered away smoking pot while listening to the Rolling Stones or the Grateful Dead, and although I did only pay lip service to the radical movements instead of direct participation I had already opted instead to take the path of least resistance by cheering from the sidelines. The final result was the free choice of copping out and not participating in anything organized or useful at all, or not to even study too much anymore, which in retrospect was all a regretful waste of time. But the times were confusing, and I did not really know any better.

If I had to do it over again, I would have stayed off drugs, kept out of politics and flown under the radar by taking up golf instead.

Duke had a championship level golf course on campus; lessons would have come free covered under general tuition as a gym elective, while a round of golf in the serenity of nature could have easily substituted for a toke of smoke.

Arthur 

So what’s the point in smoking, if you really aren’t smoking?

(Arthur)

 

(Photo and name printed with permission)

School Daze 2: Freshman Year at College 1965

School Daze 2

The freshman dormitories on the men’s campus at Duke are on the quadrangle west of the Chapel. They are a long series of structures resembling Gothic row houses; and are arbitrarily divided into sections that are lettered in alphabetic sequence. Contrary to this generic lettering, the upperclassman Independent Houses have proprietary names of identification, like Canterbury, while the Fraternity Houses have the customary Greek nomenclature such as Alpha Tau Epsilon. This seems to emphasize your relative worthlessness as you start your academic career and seems modeled after the nameless rank-less military plebe class at West Point.

When my parents dropped me off in front of my new home, the freshman dormitory simply known as “J House”, then hurriedly unpacked the station wagon, put all my things in my room, and abruptly headed home, I had a panic attack. Although I should have been elated at the arrival of my long anticipated emancipation, instead I felt nothing but instantaneous homesickness.

To make matters worse the dormitory interior was crypt-like with narrow sunless hallways, tiny rooms with narrow windows, and even narrower beds. The two young men expected to co-habit the room, whose parents were trying to save on expenses, could immediately feel a pervading claustrophobically interpersonal angst. The housing was nice looking on the outside but akin to living inside a medieval tomb. In addition I had to bunk with a roommate who had been arbitrarily assigned to me.

He was a nice enough, but a very straight-laced person who was in college under the Reserve Officer Training Commission (ROTC), a factor that required him to wear a Navy uniform most of the time. I suppose it was the natural progression after Boy Scouts and did nothing to help my previously ingrained distain for uniforms.

The good thing was that he spent a lot of time out of the room, which was fine with me. However to this day I do not know if this was because of his ancillary military obligations and studies, because I was giving off unfriendly vibrations, or because of the constant taunting of the dormitory political liberal, Arthur, who in salutation would repeat his last name over and over again making it sound like the croaking of a nocturnal marsh frog.

  • Brrrrent, Brrrrent, Brrrrent.

Freshman dorm relationships in general tend to be a bit like a group of vacationers stuck together on a long tour package. After a lot of random interactive shuffling about, the various personalities sort themselves out, and then cliques form. The absurdity of it all is that even though you are now buddies, if you met the same people on the street or at a cocktail party, you would never even give them the time of day. Eventually the re-sorting evolved and everyone either joined a fraternity or moved into an Independent Dormitory.

But during that first college year, the blend of disparate souls can make for a significant degree of diversity, camaraderie, or interpersonal tension and hostility before it does eventually re- shuffles. Perhaps this accounts for the origins of the “birds of a feather” Fraternal system in the first place. Better to be with an asshole identical to ones self than to be a diametrically opposite asshole who in relative terms is a real asshole. Our dorm was no exception.

Living next to me in a single room was a good-natured carefree soul from Pennsylvania, Doug, who was totally unperturbed by the world as he let everything roll off his back. He was passionate about golf, and despite his lack of a legacy, got into a fraternity simply because of his athleticism.

Across the hallway was a highly neurotic Jewish pre-dental student who could not get going in the morning unless he repeated his bathroom rituals in a predetermined properly correct order. He could easily be tortured by simply placing one of his previously and neatly aligned pairs of shoes out of line, or by moving his toothbrush two inches to the right. One day he actually had a near nervous breakdown when he lost his Mezuzah. It was the first I had ever heard of this uniquely religious good luck charm and its loss caused the small world of our dormitory came to a screeching halt until the item was finally relocated, then once again placed above his doorway, with all of its associated blessings and mystical protections happily restored.

We had to find it or he would still be perseverating to this day:

  • I lost my Mezuzah. I lost my Mezuzah. I lost my Mezuzah. Where’s my Mezuzah?

He eventually joined the small Jewish fraternity that consisted primarily of intellectual nerds, and was never seen by us again; although I subsequently learned he has made a fortune in cable television but not in amalgam dental fillings or in realigning crooked teeth in some glitzy northern New Jersey suburb.

Being Jewish at Duke University may have fulfilled certain admission quotas, but generally speaking, the Jewish students were a targeted minority. Being a northern Catholic with an Italian last name this made me look good by comparison.

Perhaps it was no accident that the Jewish fraternity house, the Tao Epsilon Phi, (The TEPs) was physically adjacent to the football athlete’s Fraternity house, the Alpha Tau Omega (The JOCKs); such that  on many a liquored up Saturday night it would not be infrequent that these frustrated animals would crash through the barrier door in the basement separating the dorms and proceed to use the Jewish “dweebs” as footballs.

That is if they were not first entertaining themselves or their sorority sisters by their unique tradition of group mooning out the windows or  throwing a television set off the dormitory roof and then gleefully screaming as the screen and neon tubes disintegrated as the appliance completely disappeared into a pile of tiny silver dust particles. The authorities would usually turn and look the other way or slap some inconsequential punishment on the cheeky offenders.

Administrative authorities also turned their other cheeks to the jock’s generally poor academic performances and the fact that their sorority sisters wrote most of their term papers. But after all, what is a major University if it does not have an athletic program, even if the athletes themselves do not really go to school, or in order to matriculate will enroll in specially designed classes such as “Citizenship 101” or “Advanced Primitive Tribal Face Painting”

This particular course comes in especially handy for them on football game day when they put that idiotic black paint under their eyes, a ritual ostensibly designed to keep reflected sun glare from bouncing off their mirror-like steroid induced shiny skinned faces and temporarily blinding them.

  • Sorry coach. I flubbed it cause I couldn’t see the ball. I forgot to wear my war paint.

So what if Duke Football at that time ranked consistently in the bottom ten percent of all Division I colleges. Since the team consistently gets pummeled into the gridiron every Fall Saturday afternoon, their tactics and tendencies to beat up on TEPs may have in reality been nothing better than a simple case of Kick the Dog Syndrome. It certainly was not an example of putting the elements of “Citizenship 101” into daily practice 

In general it seems strange that many Division I colleges continue to maintain both football and basketball programs, but that very few seem to excel in both simultaneously. I was told once that it all revolves around solicitation of alumni donations backed up by a perpetual hope that someday, no matter what, the monetary support will bring in a National Championship. Duke football fans will be dead three times over before that ever happens again. 

At Duke, an equally strange curiosity was the fact that there seemed to be an inverse proportion between the size of the athlete and the size of his unusually diminutive girlfriend, which gave rise to our jocular reference to their imagined sexual encounters as being “spinners” or “propeller jobs.” All in all I suppose that is probably better than the imagined sexual implications attached to the fall and spring Fraternity classics known as the “Greek Games.” 

Further down the hall, in J House, lived another Jewish student, Dan, who was the antithesis of the obsessive pre-dental nut case. He rarely studied, eventually flunked out and later enrolled in a smaller college that was easier to survive academically.

His favorite pastime was to have everyone come into his room, turn off the lights, lie back on his bed, then pull up his legs and ignite his farts with a butane cigarette lighter. He could fart at will and we all laughed hysterically as he entertained us with a repetitive flame throwing demonstration that could have made him a comfortable living in any carnival side show: Methane Man: The Human Flame Thrower.

Of course this is not to say that we neither discouraged him nor did we ever think we were not freaky ourselves when we attempted to measure the distance of the flaming eruptions with a ruler. These activities can be lumped into the general classification of: ND-SN-FBS: No Date-Saturday Night-Freshman Boredom Syndrome.  

Because Dan had no problem hanging cartoons up in the dormitory lounge for public review one of his most legendary achievements was to sponsor the first annual “Gross-Out Art Contest,” an event that nearly got him expelled when one of the contestants submitted a picture of Donald Duck giving Jesus Christ a blow-job. He was an advocate of freedom of the press, having taken some inspiration from the radical contemporary author’s Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs who were breaking down the barriers of literary censorship on a national level with books the likes of “Howl” and “Naked Lunch,” while at the same time Bob Dylan was breaking down the barriers of racial segregation by questioning the morals and mores of polite society or centralized government with his music.Dan was also a natural born stand up comedian, who because of not having a car or other monetary means, traveled back and forth to New York by hitch hiking with a handmade placard stating:

Dan F: A laugh a mile

He always got a ride.

 

Dylan

(Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and Allen Ginsberg)

Another standout was the good natured Georgia boy, “Buck”, who had an innate sense of humor, an open curiosity about the world, was always too quick to fall in love, but who also had a tendency to be easily influenced and easily led astray. Sometimes I think the world was simply a little too much for him. At one point he had to temporarily drop out of school when he retrieved his mail, only to find a note written by his parents to this effect:

“Dear son; Had enough, decided to quit, sold the house, moving away, and sorry but now you are on your own. By the way, this also means you get no more money. Pay for school yourself. Love, Mom and Dad.”

He then decided to either sell or to give away all his possessions, as he became a passionate follower of the teachings of the transcendental meditation icon, Maher Baba, who had concurrently been made famous by the Beatles. Although he was only following his own soft, kindly heart, and truly did believe he could make a difference in the world by following the pacifist trail, we all thought Buck was a little crazed with his fascination for the squeaky impish rodent-voiced little Indian prophet.

Even though cultural issues in America were then turning out to be quite troubled, as America’s youth was beginning to turn away from materialism, most of us seemed to be able to smell the phony little rat wrapped up in the white Sari. We were also still a bit mercenary and not quite at the stage where we were about to think twice when we absorbed all of Buck’s cast aside 33 speed records into our own vinyl collections.

As it turned out Buck was but one of the many, including the Beatles, who were hoodwinked into believing that this great teacher was going to reveal the long awaited key to salvation, but who then were equally and horribly disappointed when on his death bed the Baba’s highly anticipated pre-advertised final words of holy revelation were:

  • I was Rani, I was Shiva, I was Krishna, I was Vishnu, I was this one, I was that one. I am also Maher Baba. I will die, but I shall return.

Why should any one who knows anything about Buddhism or Brinkmanship have been disappointed or even remotely surprised at this wondrous, ever so profoundly clever yet fraudulent revelation? After all, if one believes in reincarnation the Baba did not tell a lie, did he?

Sadly, several years ago I heard that Buck had gone on to become a high school teacher who in being well loved by most but apparently not by all in Atlanta, Georgia, was subsequently shot to death one day in class by a disgruntled student. Perhaps his biggest flaw was that he was the kind of person who could never even hurt a fly and that the disgruntled student probably took his offbeat sense of sarcastic humor without the necessary grain of salt.

In dorm life as well as in societal life, as might be expected, there is always an alpha personality that rises to the top and tends to lead the pack. In J House, his name was Arthur, a pre-law student from Trenton New Jersey, who had an insidious ability to insert his views, to make them predominant, and to cast an air of arrogant condescending superiority.

He was extremely intimidating and liked to prey on weaker personalities while attempting to turn them to his point of view, or if he could not, then spent a great deal of time torturing the intended victim until he at least raised a reactive response. Then when all else failed, his final tactic was to simply raise his voice higher than any one who might be trying to propose a countervailing argument.

My ex-wife also liked to use the torture tactic as she consistently misinterpreted peace and quiet as meaning a lack of interest or lost love. Equally confusing was her belief that having a nasty loud argument meant I was actually taking a sincere interest in our relationship.

Art’s political philosophy was inherently to the left side of liberal. He was also far ahead of me intellectually as he had already been versed in literature I had never even heard of, lording over our conversations with ideas and quotations he had extracted from the likes of T.S. Elliot, Ezra Pound, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac; to name few. He also had very broad musical interests, and despite the intimidation factor, was instrumental in elevating my awareness to considerably more expansive horizons than those attached to my insular introverted upbringing.

Finally and ultimately then, there was myself. A nerdy, conservative northern boy, who originally intended nothing more than to go to school, to study hard, to get into medical school, to subsequently have a life and career that would basically run predictably on auto pilot; with a lucrative almost guaranteed income.

Nice house. Perfect wife. White picket fence. Two perfect kids playing in the yard. Dream on.

I could have never possibly guessed that God had somehow sent my own personal devil, Arthur, to test and to tempt every value I had ever known, or that the War in Vietnam had already set the substrate for my not unwilling journey into largely uncharted waters. I was about to be tested on my ability to tell the difference between black and white. In fact the entire country was headed in a direction that would not allow for any shades of gray whatsoever.

It was 1965 and Lyndon Johnson had just committed the first 200,000 Marines to an escalating firefight, in a geographically divided Southeast Asian country, despite a foreboding forewarning by the fleeing French who had already abandoned the contest that it could never be anything but a no-win situation.

This was a war being proffered by a paranoid super power interfering with a foreign struggle for independence, in a place it had no business to be, and which nearly resulted in tearing the United States to shreds by igniting a domestic civil war of opposing philosophies and moral differences. It was a conflict that in this country was about to cause a borderless internal division having nothing to do with the Mason-Dixon Line and a conflict which ultimately gave Ho Chi Min the ongoing fortitude to see his mission fulfilled and his own visionary dream for his country won and finally realized.

It was a contest that shortsighted American politicians had failed to realize, could only have been successfully accomplished or completed by genocide, an idea that might have actually crossed the minds of some Washington politicos, except for the small fact that the Vietnamese people were not about to go quietly and gently into that good night.

 

Black and White

 

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn.

And everybody’s shouting

“Which side are you on?”

And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot

Fighting in the captain’s tower.

While calypso singers laugh at them

And fishermen hold flowers.

Between the windows of the sea

Where lovely mermaids flow

And nobody has to think too much

About Desolation row.

(Bob Dylan: Desolation row)

Dylan, Robertson and Ginsberg: Source  robbie robertson.com
Poster www.ragtime-society.de/Video/Deutsch/cover.htm

 

Duke University: The Harvard of the South ( And other Sobriquets)

The Harvard of the South

When I became a member of the Southampton Golf Club it was known as “The one down the road from Shinnecock.” When I went to Medical School at Tufts University in Boston, it was known as “One of the other two Boston Medical Schools.” And when I went to college at Duke University in 1965, it was known as “The Harvard of the South.”

It’s a good thing I do not have a thin skinned inferiority complex, or I might have thought my life to be nothing better than a series of second bests and near misses, both in educational as well as in social venues.

In point of fact, akin to undeveloped real estate that eventually becomes unobtainable once it has been “discovered,” both my golf club and that “other” Medical School eventually became quite desirable and unattainable in their own respective rights. At present, one cannot get into either of them without knowing or blowing someone with inside connections.

As a curious footnote, when in the early 1980s golf was still a sport predominantly enjoyed by blue blooded American gentry but not yet passionately embraced on a national level; even Shinnecock had its precarious moment as it narrowly escaped becoming no better than a desiccated raisin in the sun.

The course was a non-irrigated tract of wispy, windblown fescue, not quite qualifying as a true links course because it is some distance from the seaside. It also happened to be hovering on the brink of receivership because of an ambivalent lack of interest by a sparse population of part time local high-society patrons who were the only denizens able to afford playing the silly sport. Everyone else had to eek out a marginal living by farming, clamming, fishing, waiting tables or being in any other kindred service related businesses that only ran from May through September.

The waiting list for membership was a mere six months, while the fees were only a few thousand dollars, including the initiation cost. Yet despite what essentially equated to a red carpet invitation to join, the club practically had to beg people to even consider it.

Several members of our current hospital medical staff took the opportunity to sign on and are now envied as much as those foresighted people who bought property in the Hamptons when an acre on the ocean went for about $10,000. Today there is no land left to buy, the prices fetch six to nine figures; even in some cases just for a knockdown 1950s bungalow like the one my father is currently living in.

On a parallel track, the Shinnecock waiting list is now infinitely long, the startup cost is not disclosed, and when finding a sponsor, it no longer really matters who you know, because in this day and age everyone knows someone. Local legend has it that even the President of the United States would have to be parked on the member waiting list; especially so if he happened to be a Democrat.The same thing holds true for the National Golf Links, The Maidstone Club and the Easthampton Yacht Club, where being a member’s progeny is just about the only thing warranting an entrée.

You see, everything is either relative or it just boils down to whoever happens to be your relative.

Add to this category the prestigious Duke University and the equally reputable Tuft-New England Medical Center. Duke University currently enjoys a superior reputation for undergraduate and graduate work. It also had a curious reputation for pioneering research in the paranormal, although in retrospect this was more likely to be a pseudonym for clandestine CIA brain function and mental telepathy study projects.

It has fine colleges in Medicine, Law, and Engineering and with its world famous Rice Diet, was also one of the first institutions to mainstream the catastrophic implicative importance of obesity and weight loss. This was decades before the rest of America began eating itself to death, before obesity was a pathetic anomaly instead of being the norm, and well before fasting was something reserved for penitence during Lent.

It is also an institution that is situated in the middle of nowhere, being just down the road from Durham, North Carolina, a city which at the time I enrolled had nothing much to offer except for its local poverty, tobacco processing and cigarette manufacturing factories.

Alumni boast the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Nixon, while the institution’s general notoriety has not been undiminished by its repeatedly stellar NCAA basketball teams, led by the only college basketball coach ever to be widely recognized by a single letter. Coach K.

As a small digression, there is a reason that this particular moniker, and for that matter sports monikers in general, do not require an elaborate academic explanation for their creation. The practice is quite simply rooted in a pernicious tendency for sport casters to combine sloth, ignorance, or esoteric sensationalism with an overarching inspiration to create nicknames.

This is a habit that panders to their equally lazy, ignorant, or cult focused audiences, the” fans,” who then tend to think of it all as sports sophistication.

For example we have:

Catfish, Tiger, The Juice, Dr. J., The Bambino, The Big Unit, Air, Flo-Jo, The Bus, The Mailman, The Golden Bear, The Say Hey Kid, Gronk and The Splendid Splinter: to name just a few.

Why these elite and universally recognized people have to be identified by a sobriquet remains to be fully explained, but probably parallels the WASP habit of nicknaming; which I have previously explained simply as: “nobody can figure out why.”

In a similar vein, it can certainly pose both significant pronunciation as well as spelling errors when sport broadcasting mavens are presented with names that seem to be composed of only consonants. It is akin to a school child who  struggles along with spelling, then in giving up on the difficult words, throws the school binder to the bottom of a drawer, and begins the long walk down the road to functional illiteracy.

So too, the sportscaster will tend to take the easy way out, and with the brainwashed fans gleefully following his lead, will then proceed to finalize the process by making the abbreviated names or nicknames into secret cult code words. Or in a similar vein to Bill Clinton’s testimony regarding the Lewinsky affair:

  • You can’t possibly say you don’t know who Coach K. is.
  • That depends on what the definition of K, is.

Or the sublimely and extremely esoteric example of having referred to the Temple basketball star, Bill Mlkvy, as “The Owl Without a Vowel.”

Trust me on this one, because having lived in Polish immigrant farm country for nearly three decades, if it had not been for the fact of inanely repetitive television broadcasting, and until the point that they finally got it right, the famous Boston Red Sox from Bridgehampton would probably have been forever known simply as Carl Y.

At least is his case they were finally able to boil his name down to a simple three letter ‘Yaz, ‘ whereas unfortunately for Coach K., his name contains just one two few vowels and simply cannot be salvaged; or if his demeanor was not so calm he might be known as Coach Krazy; akin to the current fans.

Imagine myself going through the identical situation when I dated someone with the last name Ratyjyczyk. In lieu of being in the avant-garde of the soon to come male chauvinist pig phenomenon, when making introductions by simply referring to her as “The Pole With the Hole,”, it was rather because of superlative memory training in medical school, combined with retention of a few basic manners, that I made it into a mnemonic rhyme instead. After that I never got the spelling wrong: R-A / T-Y / J-Y / Cz-Y / K    You see, it can be done.

More to the subject at hand, Duke was founded in the early 1800s by Methodist and Quaker families, becoming Trinity College when a deal was struck whereby the college would give free education to Methodist preachers in exchange for financial support from the church. It eventually moved from rural Randolph County, N.C. to Durham, in order to imbue it with an “urban” flavor, although I do not understand why Durham could even remotely have been or even yet be considered urban.

At that time a unique research library was opened under the guidance of John F. Crowell, after which Washington Duke and Julian Carr then generously funded the new school from profits made in tobacco. In 1878, Washington Duke linked the remainder of his donations to the contingency that women be admitted on an equal footing with men; a somewhat rare and radical thought for his time. Bravo and kudos to you, Washington.

Eventually, the Men and Women’s campuses were separated by about a mile, as the Men’s school moved to a new West campus.

Perhaps the founding fathers felt by creating this geographic gender separation, that undesirable and potentially scandalous premarital copulation with the East Campus vestal virgins would be held to a minimum. These being the same corporate tobacco czars who while believing that no man would consider walking a mile for a woman, if he happened to be a nicotine addict, would think nothing of walking ten miles for a Camel. This relative value question should be posed to any man who hasn’t had sex in a month or so, albeit not to the few hard-core nicotine junkies who would in fact rather smoke a cigarette than  get laid.

In any event, because of ongoing support from the Duke family, the institution was able to attract faculty from the great northern schools such as Johns Hopkins and Columbia, and by WW I, had transformed itself into one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the country.

Washington Duke’s son, James, eventually created the Duke endowment in 1924 with a 40 million dollar trust fund that seeded the development of a university on the new West campus and progressively thereafter the schools of Medicine. Law, Nursing, Forestry, Engineering, Religion and Business were opened.

The school was renamed after the Duke family when James agreed to this as a request by the University president, William Few being contingent only on the fact that the school be a memorial to his father and to his family. Apparently that deal was a no-brainer. For 40 million dollars, I would even change my own name.

Other more colorful local legend has it that James B. Duke originally solicited Princeton and offered the money to their Board of Governors, contingent on the fact that Princeton re-names itself Duke University. When the Princeton Board of Governors politely refused, James is said to have returned to Durham where he built the new West Campus on a Gothic architectural style and design pattern that Princeton claims he directly plagiarized from its own hallowed halls.

This is undoubtedly nothing more than Princeton sour grapes, because the architecture of Duke University far and away surpasses that of Princeton, as does its current academic reputation. Perhaps Princeton instead should now refer to itself as the Duke of the North.

Truthfully speaking, I believe the legend to be a mere vehicle for Duke to spite the condescending or patronizing attitudes that were promulgated by the arrogant northern colleges and by those individuals who never truly believed that the South could actually ever rise again, nor for that matter to ever be able to compete on any level. However in this day and age academic excellence at Duke, coupled with a predictably lethal national basketball program, is a combination that is difficult to cursively dismiss when it comes to consistently attracting talent on every level.

All legend and folklore aside, the entrance to Duke University is beautifully engineered in a way that forces one to enter the main campus via a small traffic circle that diverts traffic into a long driveway. The circular driveway entrance is elevated above the level of the campus such that as one enters the drive the visual graphic becomes the Duke Chapel as the distant centerpiece of the roadway. Initially being at eye level, it then ascends progressively skyward as one slowly descends toward the center of the university.

It is a breathtakingly awe inspiring sight, and one I am sure that prompted many students to commit, and then to and fall in love with Duke at first sight. It certainly happened to me when I made my first trip around that circle and entered the long seductive, sloping drive leading down to the large flat mall that then splendidly splays itself out in front of those tall, majestic medieval Gothic spires.

As a sight that never grows old, it remains as one of those memories that is permanently etched in the frontal lobe of my brain. I told my mother when I saw the Chapel that there was no doubt in my mind this was going to be my college.

 

 

DUke university
© Photo from Duke University Gift Collection Catalogue: Volume 21 issue 1 2003-2004

 

College Interview: Impress the Dean

Impress the Dean Shoes 

If Coach Joe felt that a life-balanced scorecard was the key to impressing the College Dean at interviews, my black friend Stanley had his own ideas on the subject. He said that in the final analysis, if it came down to a choice between two candidates that the deal would ultimately hinge on the wardrobe.

He told me that getting a three-piece suit and a pair of Brogan shoes would ensure to set me apart in styling. Being especially keen on the shoes, he said that any college dean would recognize the implied “high class” of the person sporting a pair of those specialized Brogan wing-tipped tidies. According to him, I would be “Boss-A and Neat-O-Matic.”

Being somewhat in agreement, my mother took me shopping where we did in fact get the required outfit, starting at the neck and ending right down at the classy toes. However with the head remaining a little suspect, the compromise solution on the Beatle haircut would be that I could keep it, but only if I slicked it back on interview days. I protested vehemently at losing the new trademark of my individuality, but my mother argued that the suit and shoes would then be entirely wasted on the radical statement of my headdress. She said she should have just saved her shopping money and sent me for community college interviews instead in a pair of blue jeans. It was a Mexican standoff.

Coincidentally with filling out applications, it became apparent that a current health statement would be necessary to go along with the rest of the credentials, so off I went to the doctor for an up to date physical exam.

Our family doctor, Emil Beyer, was a man of great compassion and excellent bedside manor. He was also a good family friend.

He asked my mother where I was intending to go to school, listened to her rattle off a list of predominantly State Colleges, and then queried as to whether or not we were considering Duke University in North Carolina. After that he proceeded to describe this prestigious southern college, concluding his comments by telling us that his son was going there.

My mother told him that a school of that caliber was a little out of reach for us and even if there had been a consideration, it would be highly unlikely I would get in based on our geography, cultural background, but also because of the little vowel lurking a the end of my last name.

At that time, the school in fact did draw its student body in large part from the great reservoir of southern Baptists or Methodists.

Dr. Beyer would hear nothing of it. He knew my grades and SATs were good, that I had a number of extra curricular activities under my belt, and he also said that more to the point, he had the sub Rosa selfish agenda of wanting someone local whom he could trust to travel back and forth by car with his son.

My mother vacillated. Emil insisted.

He ended the office visit by telling me to request an early decision application and that he would see to the rest. On my mother’s final protest and query as to how the doctor could be so sure of himself, he went on to explain that his wife had a legacy of wealth derived from her family’s interests in the Ethyl Corporation, had donated plenty of money to the school, and had actually been on the Board of Directors at one time.

He said:

  • Don’t worry. I’ll guarantee your son is going to get in. But be sure to tell him he can’t interview with that silly hairstyle.

When Dr. Beyer told me to get a haircut it became a no-brainer. This directive had a higher purpose, more significant rationale than any arbitrary prohibition from the school Principal, and was even good enough for me to compromise my soon to become hypocritically phony moral posturing.

It was the first time ever that I did not protest a more voluntary visit back to good old Nunzio the barber, whose expletives on the subject of the Beatles while he rearranged my coif, cannot be repeated nor easily translated from the Italian vernacular. It was something to the order of “fache de gots” meaning having a face that looks like the scrotum. But I could have cared less to ask what the continuous stream of sputtering really meant as long as he kept his straight razor holstered to the side of the barber’s chair and politely away from the area near my jugular veins.

I did then proceed to get the application from Duke, filled it out, send it in, attached the physical exam along with a recent head-shot-hair-trimmed photo, and several weeks later as promised by the good doctor did in fact get called for the early interview.

My parents drove us the long 900 miles down to North Carolina, where I showed up at the interview with all the bases covered, sporting new threads, wearing Brogan shoes, and topping it off with Nunzio’s uniquely original conservative hairstyle.

It was the first time I had ever had an official interview of any kind, which also was accomplished without any particular antecedent guidance or coaching. Upon reflection it was pretty astounding that I was able to navigate through it, considering some of the bullshitting elements that had to be thrown in to deflect some of the truly unanswerable queries.

Years later a friend explained to me that getting past the interview is the key to any official acceptance or hiring and is the place where the wheat is finally separated from the chaff.

Naively and nervously not knowing that at the time, I left the interview room relatively numb, diffident, dry-mouthed and wishing for the replay that would have afforded me a second chance to elaborate on all those important things that had been left unsaid.

I should have had more faith in the additional element whose roll was playing out behind the scenes, because sure enough a few weeks later, despite all ordinary odds to the contrary, and also despite the little vowel parked at the end of my name, but equally as promised, I received an acceptance letter to the great and prestigious Duke University located in Durham North Carolina. It was a little bit like magic.

Therefore, in the final analysis, although Coach Joe was right about the extra sports activities, Stanley was right about the clothes and the shoes, all the other ancillaries including a normalized hair cut being in place, as well as then actually reaching the interview phase; with these combined factors not detracting one iota from my mendicant applicant status; when all was said and done getting into Duke had all boiled down to the identically simple reason that my brother got into the Greenbriar Military Academy.

It was the basic principle that drives its own disproportionate share of interpersonal everyday interactions, selections, promotions, heads up timely information and career advancements. It is the principle of not necessarily what you know, but more important and very simply it is the equally preeminent principle of whom you know.

Or, to put it on an even more basic level and known by every street hooker as The First Commandment of Prostitution:

It’s not just who you happen to know, but far more importantly, the real bottom line is whom you happen to blow.

Shoes

 

You got your toecaps reinforced with steel

Hard wearing sole and heel

Make those tired feet feel like new

Take your pick; black or brown

Great for the country or the man in town

You’re gonna need a quality shoe

(Mark Knopfler; Quality Shoe)

 

Rockport Dress Shoes www.brand-name-footwear.age2shop.com

Cherry Pie: A culinary Bar Mitzvah

A Culinary Bar Mitzvah 

One day for no apparent reason other than possibly having hit the wall of maternal burnout, my mother announced that she was cutting down on her house chores. This included the elimination of ironing, reversing shirt collars, darning socks, patching holes in underwear and worst of all, cooking elaborate dinners with desserts.

She even forced my father to hire a black woman, Lizzie, to come in once a week to help out.

I found out about this new domestic policy the hard way when I approached my mother one afternoon to ask her if she would make my favorite dessert, a cherry pie. The rudely shocking rebuke went like this.

  • From now on if you want a cherry pie, make it yourself.
  • But I don’t know how.
  • You should know. You watched me do it often enough.

Fait accompli and that was it. I was on my own.

However I was at least smart enough to attempt this first culinary effort on a Sunday afternoon when my parents went to some social event, so I would not risk having my mother standing over my back, yelling about the mess I was making in her kitchen.

Although I had tried my best to cover up the dessert debacle before my parents got home by tossing the mess into the outside garbage can, the escapade was still discovered by the ‘maternal detective.’ Not too difficult as there was sugar, flour, dough and crimson syrup traces strewn about the kitchen along with that characteristic give-away residual of “pastry baking in the oven smell.”

It was a classical no-win situation because I still got yelled at for making a mess,and wasting food along with the conundrum scolding circular argument of not doing the project when she was around to help me.

  • But, Mom, you said “Make the pie yourself.”
  • I didn’t mean ‘by yourself’ because you don’t know how.
  • But isn’t that what I said in the first place?
  • Shut up. And from now on just stay out of my kitchen.

My father told me not to be too upset as he told me about the first cherry pie he had ever made when he went to college.

  • I don’t think yours was sweet enough. You should have tried my recipe. I used Maraschino cherries.
Cherries

(Just add water)

 

Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy boy, Billy boy?

Can she bake a cherry pie, darlin’ Billy?

She can bake a cherry pie quick as a cat can blink an eye.

She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother

 

Maraschinos http://www.sausalitofoods.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Theory of Minimalism

Raging Hormones: Why puberty begins at twelve

 

Raging Hormones: Why puberty begins at twelve

Puberty is a difficult period in the life of a child. Not only are there rapidly progressive physical changes, but also as if mystically or magically materializing out of nowhere, unusual thoughts and proclivities directed toward the opposite gender emerge like a wild Blue Norther rolling across the plains of West Texas.

Most children probably do not have a clue as to the whys and wherefores of what is happening; or at least not until their peers start to disseminate both information and misinformation about sex. I have already mentioned my friend Eddie, who told me that sex was when a man puts his penis in a woman’s ass and then pisses in it. Meanwhile as their parents are wallowing in anticipatory dread about appropriately timing “the talk about birds and bees” in some cases, ironically the children could probably teach their parents a thing or two they didn’t know themselves; Eddie notwithstanding.

When the subject is finally put on the table it is usually accompanied by dire prohibitive warnings about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; or if religion is piled on by evoking the sexual guilt card and the additional threats of eternal damnation, premarital sex becomes a crime against God; a Cardinal sin.

The reason no one can reasonably come to grips with the problem is a lack of scientifically based understanding. That is, the dichotomy between the societal sexual taboos versus the age at which puberty starts can be explained by the fact that biological evolution has remained a constant factor over time while concurrent societal evolution has become more technically complicated. Societal issues outpace and artificially grow further away from those biological roots.

This has created a significant paradox that unintentionally accounts for the mandatory sexual suppression of the adolescent, who is capable of reproductive breeding but who is also incapable of subsequently coping with day to day survival, making a living, and supporting a family. All of this was more easily facilitated when humans lived in communal tribal bands surviving as hunters and gatherers. For human beings it is simply the case that they are both genetically and biologically programmed by design to begin their reproductive cycle at about the age of twelve. This took millions of years to evolve, whereas our modern technologically oriented society has only taken a few hundred.

The emergence of secondary sex characteristics therefore is nothing more than nature’s way of signaling to the rest of the world that a child is announcing: “Hey look at me. I’m ready.”

The human species, by evolutionary standards is relatively frail. Without the modern medical miracles of safe habitats, weapons, tools, decreased maternal and infant mortalities, vaccinations, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals, exotic surgeries, and the other marvels created by life extending sciences, a human being would stand little chance of living past the age of thirty or forty. Face to face with a Grizzly bear, and without a knife or a gun; the bear will always win. In fact, the average life expectancy of a white male in the United States in 1900 was thirty to forty, which oddly enough also correlates well with the female menopause.

Age forty for a human being then, is a biologically programmed time for everything to be “over and out;” so to speak; including the rationale for a number of Medieval royal patricides.

Even so we are still doing better than our Cro-Magnon forebears whose average life expectancy was only twenty-five years, or our European ancestors in the Middle Ages, who barely made it to the age of thirty. That is why European Royal families married off their girls at about age 14 and nobody blinked an eye about it being a form of pedophilia.

To illustrate this point, does anyone not think it odd or ever wonder why Alexander the Great had already conquered half the world before he was twenty-five? He had to seize the day because the odds were critically against him living for even another half decade. Or why is it a fact that most elite athlete’s careers, including tennis, baseball basketball and football are over before they even reach the age of thirty. Or that for certain other athletic endeavors such as Olympic level swimming, and especially for gymnastics, that the age of twenty five is also considered to be “over the hill?”

Mortality issues were also the only omission in the otherwise exceptionally brilliant thinking of America’s forefathers when they drafted the Constitution. If they had even an inkling that someone could actually live to be 90, they would have set term limits for all political offices at the documents’ inception.

In some primitive tribal cultures the rites of passage to adulthood are actually the official signal of availability of the young man or woman for marriage and child rearing. These people for the most part do not fixate on the appropriate age. They fixate more on the biology, which they simply take for granted, with guidance directed only by empirical observation.

The rites of passage of the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or the Catholic Confirmation ceremonies are also neither mystical nor magical. They have simply lost their true identifiable meanings as a marker for official passage into adulthood. The development of breasts and pubic hair on the other hand, has not. What this means is that if a human being had not already reproduced at a young age, his gene pool would basically become extinguished.

Being just two generations removed from my Italian grandmother who was married when she was sixteen, this circumstance was not considered to be anything out of the ordinary; nor did it raise any eyebrows. Even today there are still pockets in the deep rural south where there are teenaged child brides.

Maybe OK as long as it is not your fourteen-year-old first cousin, which coupled with Jerry Lee Lewis’ notoriety, was more the reason that got him into trouble than for actually marrying a child in the first place. Consanguinity in his case was worse in the eyes of his fans than his getting drunk one night and because Jerry, in believing that he had more talent than the King, tried to drive through the gates of Graceland to kill Elvis Presley with a handgun.

What we now have instead is a society that has become so complex that many people are forced to delay having families until they are in their thirties or even forties, which according the biological species time card should be just about the time they would ordinarily become grandparents or even getting ready to clock out for good.

The ultimate, unanticipated ironic consequence of this longevity has left some of today’s generation having to care for two sets of children. Their own, who may not leave home until they are in their mid to late twenties, and their aging, slowly disintegrating parents who may even have to move back in on the heels of their grandchildren’s recent vacancies. This is known today as being “The Sandwich Generation.”

Couple this with the new modern insanity of men and women becoming parents when they are in their fifties, or even worse for men who become fathers in their sixties or seventies and you get:

  • Hey Johnnie. How come only your grandpa brings you to school. What ever happened to your dad?

All of this only leads full circle to the way it was originally designed in the first place; the early orphan phenomenon, which is summarized as follows:

You are born. You give birth. You die. 

Parents, teachers, and clergy lose perspective or understanding why they have such difficult issues when trying to control teenagers. The reason is that ten thousand years ago teenagers were more functional as integral parts of a larger group, and in fact were expected to reproduce as soon as they could to ensure both the survival of the tribe as well as the greater overall survival of the human species. Imagine, then a primeval cave in which Barbie was the doll who had to play with a real baby, while Ken was the buffed dude out hunting a Bison instead of playing X-box.

Hormonal cycles are finely tuned end products of a biological evolution that makes it virtually impossible to beat any rational thought or guilt out of a blossoming adolescent. 

The reason that puberty begins at twelve is very simple. It was designed solely for the preservation of the human race, but not at all for the preservation of parental sanity.

 

Raging Hormones
© Film: Written and Directed by Michael Dugan

 

Two Catholic Jokes

An Irish Confession 

In a small Irish catholic parish, young Jimmy Mc Shane had to go to Confession. Jimmy was just sixteen, making his mother always surprised at the fact of his voluntary compliance.

On this particular Saturday Jimmie went in to promptly confess that he had carried on and went a little too far with one of the local girls.

The Priest asked:

  • Was it Mary O’Rourke? Well, no father, and even if it was, I would never betray her and tell more about it.
  • Well then, might it have been Kathleen O’Doul?
  • Well, no father, and like I just said, even if it were I would still be bound to protect her honor.
  • Oh for sure it must have been Peggy Flannery, then?
  • Ah, no again father, and even if it was I could never ruin her good reputation by divulging the name.
  • OK, then Jimmie. You’re a good boy for the most part and a very honorable lad to protect your little girlfriend like such, but as you know, the Church sincerely frowns upon such friendly and familiar sexual activity outside the bounds of matrimony. So out with you then and here’s your penance…

Jimmy left the booth and when he saw his friend Sean kneeling in the front pew asked:

  • So what did you get Sean?
  • God. A murderous penance of three Rosaries and six Acts of Contrition. And what about you, Jimmy boy? What was your holy bloody penance?
  • Well, I would say just about twice the same as you. But it was very well worth it indeed, ya know.
  • Be Jesus. Six Rosaries? And just how do you figure that one out to be worth anything but a blinkin’ torture for sure, Jimmy me boy?
  • Because, even though I got fairly and doubly worse the same damnable penance as you did, Sean… I also got meself quite a few damn good leads.

The Papal Version

Several nun novitiates, all in their late teens and early twenties were standing in the church sacristy waiting for final instructions from their supervising Priest before the final sacrament would install them as servants of God.

The Priest stood in front of a large cistern filled with Holy water and pontificated:

  • Now my dear women, you know that when the ring is placed on your hand it signifies your marriage to God, that you will forsake all others in his name and that those same hands will always be busy doing his good work. So this will be your final confession before the sacrament and your last chance to purify your soul before you take this final step. With that said, I shall ask you all once again to confess any potential former secular sexual indiscretions you may have had so that you might be fully forgiven, chaste and truly virginal like our Holy Mother Mary when you take the vows. Sister to be Theresa; what have you to say?
  • Well father. Once I thought about touching a boy on his penis but I never in fact did it.
  • Ah. That is only a sin of intention, not action, so come here and I will place some Holy Water on your brow and your impure thought is now to be cleansed. Now to you Sister to be Kathleen.
  • Well father. Once I sat in the back seat of a car and I touched a boy on the tip of his penis but that was it I swear to God and it frightened me so then I made him take me straight away to home.
  • All right then go over to the cistern and dip the offending finger in the Holy Water, rub it off and be on your way.
  • And next to you Sister to be Maria.
  • Father. I must confess. I once masturbated a boy to orgasm.
  • And do you happen remember which one was the offending hand, my dear.
  • No Father, I don’t.
  • Then go to the cistern, dip both hands in, cover the hands completely with Holy Water and rub them together to expunge the sin.

With that, Mary Alice, who was standing immediately second in line behind the next of the potential interrogates, Eileen, jumped out ahead of her, pointed to poor Eileen and said:

  • Listen to me good father. If you think for one second I’m gonna gargle with that shit after she sits in it, you got your fuckin’ head screwed on upside down.

(As told by Gina Davis in the Movie: Angie)

The Mission Priest

The Mission Priest

Although my mother officially pulled out of the Catholic Church after the Jesuit Brother tried to feel me up in Catechism class, we did make arbitrarily random appearances at Mass. It may have been related to residual guilt or perhaps something as abstruse as a maintaining a small investment in the religious insurance policy that guarantees a place in heaven. Old indoctrination sometimes dies a long and painful death for anyone having been brainwashed by it.

On one of those particular Sundays, when I was about seventeen years old, as opposed to the usual boring pap, the Pastor gave an extremely unusual electrifying sermon about next week’s highly anticipated visit by the “Mission Priest.” He then riveted everyone’s attention and hammered in the final nail by announcing this man was a special envoy from Rome itself. His home base was the Vatican and he was being sent to us for a brief respite from his hard work of converting the dark ignorant masses in Africa. The rhetoric ended with an appeal for everyone to let this man “hear your specially blessed confession.”

He said:

  • It will be the next best thing to having the Pope himself absolve your sins.

This was a first for our small Parrish, so the local priests were beside themselves with eager anticipation. The parishioners all bought into it too, resulting in longer lines on the pre-visit confessional Saturday than any other in the church’s history of collectively expunged sins. 

Although we did not go to that confession, on the following Sunday, curiosity got the better of us and we did go to the Missionary’s mass.

The man must have just arrived from some dismal assignment in darkest Africa, where the heat or some latent insect borne disease must have partially emulsified his brain, because it turned out to be the closest thing to a tent revival show that could ever be seen in a Catholic Church.

He was at once charismatic, energetic, mesmerizing, and was also just about one gearshift shy of being absolutely crazy. Leaping out from behind the pulpit his animated gyrations across the dais caused his robes to fly like sheets drying on a clothesline on a windy day, ultimately imparting the appearance of a purple dervish. With fire in his eyes and a message of brimstone damnation, the underlying theme to the sermon was that all men are guilty of everything until proven otherwise, ultimately making me feel that if he really dug in deep enough he could even get the Pope or Mother Theresa to lay out a litany of hidden dark spots on their souls. 

In making the congregation so paranoid about eternal damning fire in Hell, on the next Saturday the confessional lines were even longer; which unfortunately included my entire guilt-ridden family.

I should have known this was a bad idea because when I came face to ear in a small dimly lit cubicle with this nasty little Ambassador from Rome I had only just recovered from an adolescent guilty perception that Jesus, because he  must have had even better powers of ocular X-ray vision than Superman, was probably watching me when I went to jerk off in the basement bathroom. 

Beginning with the usual banal litany that usually worked so well with the regular priests, who never listened anyway,  we went through the boring routinely rote driven drill, I said:

  • Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been three weeks since my last confession. These are my sins: I have talked back to my mother; I have disrespected my father…
  • Cut the crap. How old are you?
  • Seventeen.
  • So, seventeen, eh. Have you started to date yet? Do you like girls?
  • Yes, Father.
  • And, so, what do you do on your dates with these girls?
  • There’s only one girl, father.
  • So what exactly do you do with this one girl on your dates, eh? Do you kiss? Do you pet? Do you touch her genitals? Does she touch yours? Have you ever had oral sex or actual penetrating sexual intercourse? You know what that is, don’t you? Now tell me exactly what you do with this girl. All the details, too. I need to know EVERYTHING!

On and on went the terrifying interrogation while I gulped, coughed, mewled and sputtered some pathetically trivial answers.

After all one cannot lie to any priest, much less the special ambassador from Rome itself. In retrospect I was also too naïve to discount the possibility as he sat back in his little black booth, that he may have been getting his rocks off by hearing a long string of vicariously graphic descriptions of teenage sex spewed out by stuttering terrified sexual neophytes.  

I finally capitulated: Yes it was true I had kissed my girlfriend, and yes it was true that we had done some heavy petting. 

By the time the encounter was over, along with the usual banal lecture about saving oneself for the holy bonds of marriage, the special grace of entering marriage as a virgin, ad nauseam and ad infinitum, I was doused in a cold wet sweat that left me completely exhausted. 

He gave me the worst penance I ever had, sending me to kneel at the Alter with a burden of doing three entire Rosaries and four Acts of Contrition. Being used to far less cursory punishment, I thought this one was a bit too steep for the sin of heavy petting, so I did the task like doing a multiplication table. After every prayer, I simply muttered: “times ten” or “times four” and got out of the Church as fast as I possibly could; worrying that the maniac behind the screen might leap out of his little dark booth to haul me back in for Round Two. 

This was the second Epiphany that made me realize I had to get out of this crazy religion. The first one had come at age twelve when my dog died and I asked the priest if he was going to get into Heaven. I was told then that animals are not allowed into heaven, only human souls, and now I was being told that sex was taboo as well.

But somehow I instinctively knew that my limited encounters with sex seemed pretty pleasant up to that point, and not even close to the horror these nutty priests were attempting to portray. So here I was being chastised by a semi-psychotic zealot for liking women shortly after a Jesuit Brother tried to seduce me, while my dead dog’s soul was lost forever in Purgatory or Hell. The hypocrisy was too much to absorb. 

I also realized that if I was going to go to Hell over heterosexual sex; which I intuitively liked, then it would probably be a bonus. The realization also struck me that if people like the Mission priest were going to Heaven; a place also devoid of simple comforts like house-pets; then I did not wish to be within a parsec of their eternal prudish and animal avoiding presence.  

I thought I would rather choose to be in Hell with my faithful old dog, sipping on a Vodka, having a naked woman sitting on my lap and watching Duke win another National basketball title on TV. 

Now, that would be as close to heaven as it ever gets.

 Mission Priest

From//www.mtceuropavideo.com