Monday, September 03, 2018

Memories Part 5- 1969-1970

The title of this post should be "It was just a dream some of us had..." We really wanted to change the world, make peace not war, become enlightened, get high, listen to good music, and most seriously make a difference. How does a 16 year old with so much passion about all of it learn to live in a time when Richard Nixon had just been sworn in as president? We took to the streets. We learned about draft counseling for our friends and neighbors who faced being drafted. My older brother was still in college and had a 2S deferment. He was safe, but there were others his age who were not in school. We met with a network of people who could make referrals, who understood the fear. How did we do this without the internet? I have no idea. I think there must have been flyers, ads in newspapers, word of mouth.

If you google anti-war protests 1969, you get an idea of how energized and non-stop it was. The first listing says "The whole year major campus protests take place across the country." Even those of us still in high school marched. We raised our fists. We chanted "No More War." We went to Newark or New York City for the biggest marches. I remember a cop on a motorcycle nudging us along on one street so we would stay within their marked boundaries. It was confrontational and not pleasant. Still, we we would not be deterred; we were utterly engaged and committed to ending the war.

Back on the home front my parents were planning their first big trip to California. It was the first time my mother was ever on an airplane. She and my dad flew with my aunt and uncle to San Francisco. They rented a car and drove the coast highway to Los Angeles. Oh what a time that was for them. It was July 1969. They had plans for selling our New Jersey home and moving west after my twin brother and I graduated from high school in 1970. I remember the dates they were gone because my grandmother came to spend the week with us while they were out of town. And, the reason I remember that is because my grandmother and I watched the amazing Apollo 11 moon landing together on July 20th. I sat with her, a woman born in 1892 in Galicia Poland, who came to this country in 1921, who lost her family in the Holocaust, who was as smart and strong as any woman I had ever known; we sat together and were blown away by what we were watching. Ah, it was a promise fulfilled, that walk on the moon. I remembered that the only other time I had sat with her and watched a compelling live broadcast was back in November 1963 when my sister, my cousin and I were in her apartment watching the funeral procession for President Kennedy. Oh we all cried our eyes out together that day. This was an uplifting bookend to the promise, "…before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." We watched.

That summer I had a job. Imagine this: A friend's father owned a small factory that made neckties in a nearby big town. He needed a payroll bookkeeper for the summer. I said I could do it, and so I did. It was not a typical payroll job. The 20 or so employees got paid by piece work. They did not speak English. They sat at their work station sewing machines sewing sewing sewing. Everyday they brought me the tickets, which I calculated to determine the number of products they had made. I kept a record of it all. They were paid weekly, and they were paid in cash. The day before payday I had to calculate how many $20s $10s $5s and $1s I needed, in addition to the quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. It was interesting and tricky stuff. I would give the data to my friend's father and he would take it to the bank. On payday he would come into my office with the cash. I had to make up the little envelopes for each employee with the exact amount they had earned. When I look back on it now it makes me wonder if this was not entirely a legal thing to be doing. I'm really not sure. Quite the summer job for a 17 year old!
A photo of me in the 1969 high school literary journal
But as a17 year old with a free spirit (youthfully irresponsible) would do, I quit that job the second week in August and went to the Woodstock Music Festival with my siblings and a friend. We were as utterly unprepared for the event as suburban kids who had never camped, didn't own a sleeping bag or tent, and didn't even bring food could be. We joined the throngs of people on the street that Friday afternoon and walked and walked to the concert area. There we laid out our borrowed sleeping bags and heard the music begin: Ravi Shankar, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. We only stayed for one night and realized that our plan was not well thought out at all. We slept in that open field in front of the stage, and by Saturday morning knew that we'd have to head home. My brother Marc went to find us food for breakfast. He was gone a long time. He came back, and we ate whatever it was he had found in town. He said the whole town was overwhelmed.  We knew it was time to leave. We walked and walked back to the car, amazed that we could even find it. Marc started the 120 mile drive home. Midway we stopped. He took down the convertible top of his old Ford, and we all napped on the side of the road. We were tired and truly elated that we had made it there and experienced even that wee bit of Woodstock!

Then my senior year of high school began. It was the first year that the dress code for girls which required us to wear either dresses or skirts was finally dropped. I took the money I had made bookkeeping that summer and shopped for really cool clothes in Greenwich Village. I actually wore bell-bottoms on the first day of school. It was such a moment of freedom for us. I was taking all my college prep classes and planning on going to school in California. The backdrop of war and unrest was everywhere. The big plan for fall was two marches both called Moratoriums-- one on October 15th and one on November 15th. The first march drew 100,000 protestors, the second one in Washington DC drew a half million. The crowd chanted "All we are saying is give peace a chance..." That was our mantra back then. We sang the same lyrics on the streets where we marched in smaller gatherings. The anti-war marches went on all of my senior year. And then, on May 4, 1970 four students were killed at a protest at Kent State.
We were somewhere in this protest in Washington DC May 1970
Just five days after that horrific shooting 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington DC. My brother Marc drove my siblings and me 200 miles to that march. It was a crazy chaotic time. My sister remembers seeing armed military on the roofs of buildings. We went to make our voices heard. While we were marching my sister got very sick. She suffers from migraine headaches, and she suddenly had one on the crazy streets of DC. I started walking with her to find someplace for her to quietly rest. A very lovely young man came to help us. He introduced himself, told us his name was Doug and that he lived in Washington. He said he was a student at Howard University and had gone there to know what it was like to be a white minority among a black student population. He knew of a place where Lynn could find quiet. He brought us to a small cafe where there was a couch. He brought her ice for her head. While Lynn rested Doug and I talked. Surprisingly it turned out he was from southern California, spending a year at Howard. I told him we were moving to California in early July. So we exchanged addresses. He gave me his parent's phone number, and we promised to meet that summer in California. Lynn eventually started to feel better, so we found our brothers and made the journey home.

Six weeks later a friend of my brother's named Chris, my sibs and I began the long drive across country to California. We had never been further west than Pennsylvania in our lives! We had planned our camping trip well with a Rand McNally guide that had campsite listings in every state along with descriptions of facilities and amenities. This was going to be a cross-country adventure for suburban kids who were going to camp out for the very first time. My mother told us years later that when we pulled away from the house to start the trip, my father threw himself on the bed and wept. He was so worried about us. Such a soft-hearted man he was.

It was a great journey. We learned how to put up the tent and cook on a Coleman stove. We did make one stop on our way west that was not at a campground. Chris knew some people who were living on a commune outside of Longmont, Colorado. So, we stopped there for a few nights. That is when I fell in love with our planet, when my dreams became bigger than the stories of countries and boundaries. We had driven across the Great Plains.  We saw the Rocky Mountains. We experienced an expanse of our earth that took my breath away. We sat at a table with loving, lovely people who were gardening their land. We talked of the future in a new way. We held hands around the table and chanted OM before dinner. My siblings and I decided to stop eating meat and chose to become vegetarian. I suddenly had a new dream. I wanted land and a garden. I wanted to build my own cabin. I wanted to protect our earth.

But first we had to get to California, which we did. Here is what I remember about my first days there. My eyes teared all the time from the smog (thank you Clean Air Act for somewhat fixing that). I had never experienced anything like it. You could see the dirty air, but not the valley and mountains that were right there in front of us. But we were finally in California.  I had a new dream and a lovely man who had rescued us in Washington to call. Doug was only there until winter before heading to Evanston, IL to seminary school to become a Methodist Minister. He was the kindest support to me when I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in September 1970. We kept in touch for a few years after he left for seminary, and yes, I broke his heart. He took this photo of me before he left. I will always remember him with great affection for how he helped us in Washington DC and in California to make the transition to our new life. (Years later he came to my parent's house and performed the wedding ceremony for my sister and her husband. When we called to ask if he would, he said "Yes, I marry and bury people all the time!")

And that, friends, is the condensed version of the first 18 years of my life. What a time to come of age. My love for the earth has stayed with me all these years. In 1970 the population of our planet was 3.7 billion. Now it is nearly 7.5 billion. I checked, earth hasn't gotten any larger to sustain that growth. And now we have a President who has created a time more horrible than the years that have come before. I am truly afraid, and I know I will march again.

Thank you for reading and letting me share these stories with you. I was inspired to write all this down by a comment someone left on the blog a while back. It reminded me that we sometimes make assumptions about people's lives without knowing really a single thing about them, except for what they write on their blogs and the pretty pictures they take. We have all lived long lives before these internet ones.








36 comments:

  1. Just now, reading about your 16th and 17th years in the painful context of the end of a dream, my mind began to play John Lennon's song that was recorded between September 26 and October 9, 1970 and released on December 11, 1970. It ends with these words:

    "The dream is over
    What can I say?
    The dream is over
    Yesterday
    I was the dream weaver
    But now I'm reborn
    I was the Walrus
    But now I'm John
    And so dear friends
    You just have to carry on
    The dream is over"

    We've been awake for some time now. What is also occurring to me is that those who were born in the United States and are 18 years old today were born in 2000. On a cellular level, as they were learning to walk, they must have felt the events of September 11, 2001. So much has happened in these last 18 years that has been forming them. When they were 8 years old, Barack Obama became president. When they were 16 years old, many of them were shocked to wake up to the worst president imaginable. Our country has been involved in war for their entire lives. They are just now going out into the world as we did in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with hope and desire tempered by painful experience.

    Thank you, robin andrea, for taking us on this journey with you through your first 18 years and for all you have shared on your blog in these strange days of the childhood of the internet.


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    1. am-- Thank you for reminding me of Joh Lennon's song. I had truly forgotten. Yes, the dream is over. I think over-population and the maniacal desire for wealth over all else has us utterly doomed. It has been an interesting walk down memory lane, and I sincerely thank you for taking it with me.

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  2. You made an effort and got out and had some life changing experiences. Interesting account of 18 years.

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    1. Red-- It has been an interesting look back. Thank you for reading it all!

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  3. Thank you for this marvelous gift of friendship, the story of your first 18 years. You are still the person you were as a child; you have always been true to yourself. And please don't look at the world today and think that your efforts meant nothing. Think where we would be now if young people during the Vietnam era had not marched, had not protested, but instead had all shrugged and said, "Going to war is patriotic. I'm happy to go."
    Re: the earth's population, you touch on the truth that most humans would revile you for speaking: There are too many people on this Earth. Of course, it's in the so-called First World where each human uses so much more than a reasonable share of Earth's bounty (let's not call them "resources").
    Coincidentally, today's issue of The Lancet's Planetary Health online publication (free, monthly) had an article about the relationship of humans to the environment:
    What role do humans play today as part of the superorganism Earth? Our role has been compared to that of a cancer or a parasite infesting the Earth. The defining feature of cancer cells is that their growth is unregulated, ie, they do not react to feedback mechanisms, consequently using up a disproportionate amount of energy, invading other tissues, and eventually damaging vital organs and leading to death. Humans have emerged from the Earth, then gained some independence from nature by using technology. ... It is clear now, however, that our success has become our biggest enemy. We cannot defeat nature as we are a part of it. Just like a cancer cannot defeat the body. The moment of a cancer's biggest success, the peak of its growth, is right before the collapse of the larger system.
    If only we weren't destroying all the other beautiful life on this earth in our race to self-destruction. Still, no matter our despair, we can be kind, we can create beauty, we can do our utmost to make the world better. It does make a difference, no matter how small.

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    1. Georgette-- I will always be grateful for the time I came of age. I think it was a profound moment in our country's history. There was an op-ed by EJ Dionne the other day that asked, "Will We Ever Escape 1968?" It's a good question. I love the quote from The Lancet. I have often thought the very thing. It's why I chose from a very young age to never have children. I could not promise anyone a future, and I knew that. So, we go out for walks looking for beauty and hoping to make a difference, and hopefully for the better. Thank for your kind words and friendship.

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  4. Be proud in knowing you had a voice in that trying time. I am 13 years older than you and while I sympathized with the marchers in the 70's and voted accordingly, I did not march. I do see a similar uprising in the youth of today over guns and global warming. There are always those who carry the banners for the rest of us while we use the power of the voting booth. Don't know where everyone was two years ago however we do know 3 million didn't get their votes counted thanks to the electoral college. Hopefully we can rattle some cages in Nov. Have so enjoyed these posts.

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    1. Patti-- I am heartened by the anti-gun protests and the climate change rallies. It does give me a glimmer of hope. If we don't rattle the cages in November, I'm going to be very very worried. Yes, voting is the most important thing we can do.

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  5. 1968 I started the next big adventure in life by going to work staring an apprenticeship. I remember those times and the demonstraions you had over there. well impressed you took part and even more you went to Woodstock. You right about one thing that clown had caused nore problems in the shorttime he has been in than most of the other presidents. He really needs to go. The story from last week well I haveanother for you now and another trophy made by my friends

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    1. Bill-- I love knowing what you were doing at the same time as this in England. I think it's grand! It's true about Trump... he needs to go. We'll see what we can do in the midterms this November, and the big election in 2020. Wish us luck!

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  6. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed these posts. You might think this is strange or weird, but through reading your blog, I have felt some sort of kinship to you, and now I really know why. You remind me sooooo much of my cousin, who I have had a very close relationship to since I was a small child. It's fascinating.

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    1. Sharon- Thank you so much your kind words. I am so glad you enjoyed these posts. It has been interesting and fun looking back 50 years! I love knowing that I remind you of your cousin who you have had a close relationship with. Wonderful!

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  7. I've really enjoyed reading these posts and comparing them with what I was experiencing in England at the same time - I think I'm just a year younger. In England the "summer of love" was much less political than in the US, probably because we were not directly involved in any wars at that time. Here politics was dominated by Heath and Wilson and, though most of us were as left-wing as all young people should be, we really rejected all establishment figures - they were all too "old and cold and settled in their ways here". The mood of my generation, so perfectly expressed by the Beatles, was one of fun and joy on escaping the long years of grey austerity that followed WWII. Suddenly there were upbeat tunes on the radio, bright colours everywhere and crazy fashions, poetry and humour. There was very little "protest" in the songs that came out of the UK, they just poked fun at the established way of life or, once psychedelia really got going, had no connection to it whatever. Even Lennon's anthem, "Give Peace a Chance", has some wonderful nonsense in the verses.
    Much of the optimism of those summers in England has stayed with me throughout my life, in spite of all the horrible things that have happened during the last half-century.

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    1. John-- Music definitely help define the times. We listened to The Beatles, but were swept up in the music of Joni Mitchell; Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Joan Baez; Jackson Browne, etc. It was a time a great conflict in the US, and I think we have never recovered from how much it pulled us apart. Still, there was huge colorful fun back then. I probably should have mentioned the flowers we painted on our clothes, the cheerful dancing in the streets, the joyful noise of having a dream. Ah, it was a time, wasn't it!

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  8. This made terrific reading. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am SO JEALOUS that you made it to Woodstock, even for only one night! That whole period, as tense and full of conflict as it was, also seems incredibly hopeful and full of youthful energy and a desire to change the world. It's too bad that we've lost that optimism -- or so it seems to me, anyway.

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    1. Steve-- Thank you so much for your kind words. My siblings and I are all pretty glad we made it to Woodstock. My mom actually asked my older brother to take us when I mentioned that I was thinking about hitchhiking there. She had a keen sense of how important it was to us. We really did want to change the world. In some unintended ways I think we did. I do think we've lost the optimism, but I'm hoping to see a resurgence in the midterm elections... if not... I don't know what comes next.

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  9. This was again a wonderful moving chapter of your life. I am amazed how much you had experienced by age 18! I am almost jealous when I compare my restless ignorance at that age to what you had already found out about *real* life.

    Re: population growth, have a look/listen here:

    https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth

    As with almost everything related to our planet's health, the answers are out there, we just don't (want to) listen.


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    1. Sabine-- It was a time of exploration and openness as well as political and social awakening. It was hard to resist! I was just reading about Hans Rosling the other day. My brother Marc had just finished reading "Factfulness" and highly recommended it. I will have to go watch some of his TED talks. Yes, the answers about our planet are out there. I fear we won't learn though.

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  10. Agree with everyone -- your writings of memories have made for some thoughtful and enjoyable reading. This post has got me thinking of things that were happening in '69 and '70 in Canada. Politically, Pierre Elliott Trudeau became our Prime Minister in 1968. Trudeaumania swept the country as younger voters turned out in droves to elect him. He seemed to represent what was needed at that particular moment in time. Young people from the states were coming up to live in Canada to escape the draft for Vietnam. I met some during one summer -- oddly enough, they lived at a commune on a little farm that turned out to be one road over from the farm that Don and I bought about 4 years later. One of my uncles also hired a couple of americans to work on his farm. In general, people seemed very sympathetic and wanted to help out these young people as very few Canadians believed in the war. During that time, Jesse Winchester came up to Montreal and was very popular in the coffee shop scene. Montreal was a great place for music - with Canadian and american musicians hanging out - Leonard Cohen, Joni MitchelI - and blues musicians from the states -- Taj Mahal, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. I should probably mention that quite a number of americans came to live in Nova Scotia at that time, especially in this part of the province where I live -- and many stayed on. If you start talking with just about any of the "old timers" who are just a couple or so years older than me, you will often find that they're americans who came here and never left. Other things I remember from around then -- the company, Import Bazaar, opened it first shop in a big warehouse very close to where we lived in Montreal. My mom and I, and my friends, used to go there a lot -- fascinated by all the imported goods from around the world, but especially India. It wasn't long before batik stuff was all over our house, and we were wearing embroidered cotton shirts and all sorts of other clothing from India -- and beads -- and there were bead curtains in my room. Pretty amusing to think back on all of this, but it's sort of amazing how it all came together -- the Beatles going to India, the popularity of Ravi Shankar. It was a sort of crazy time for cultural crossroads. Another odd memory was that the Canadian government put up huge tipi structures made of metal along the TransCanada highway -- places for travelers -- hitchhikers -- to take shelter. I just looked for information on those -- couldn't find anything specific, but found a fascinating paper on hitchhiking in Canada during that period, and that the federal government funded about 130 youth hostels across Canada to accommodate hitchhikers in the early 70s as there were so many Canadian kids hiking across the country. I never did, but most of my friends - especially young men - were hiking all over the country. People hiked to events like the Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto. It seemed like such a free period - everyone going all over. People going to the beaches to play guitars. Another fun memory was of my high school art teacher getting us to put up a wood geodesic structure for the first Earth Day in 1970. He (Rod) was always ahead of his time and so "out there" as a teacher. Good memories of that time period. Again, I think the Canadian spin on all of this was pretty different as we weren't under the threat of the Vietnam war and our politics were going very left of center during that time frame.

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    1. Bev-- I love reading about what was happening in Canada at the time. I also am so glad you reminded me of all that beautiful batik and colorful influences from India. Yes, we were seeing a new world. You remind me of the time my partner (the one I eventually bought land with in 1974) and drove across Canada with our homemade wooden camper on the back of our pickup truck. We fell in love with it there. I remember that we stayed in one of those youth hostels in Winnipeg. The beautiful expanse of Saskatchewan has stayed with me forever. Oh it really was a time to be young, with a desire to explore, and the whole planet before us. Nowadays we do contemplate trying to move to Canada if you know who is re-elected in 2020. We just couldn't put up with another four years of dystopia.

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    2. That's neat. I don't think I knew you had travelled across Canada in a camper. How cool! :)

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    3. bev-- Canada is so beautiful. I'm so glad we took the journey and drove through. I would love to do it again

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  11. I have thoroughly enjoyed your memories. Oh, we thought we could really change the world. And perhaps in a small way, we did.

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    1. NCmountainwoman-- I agree, I do think we changed the world in some good and positive ways.

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  12. Really enjoyed these posts, robin. Thank you for sharing. I'm just now 60, so was oblivious to much and also quit shelterd growing up in a rural area in PA. I too, had a special memory of the walk on the moon. Was with my aunt and was mesmerized -- still am when it comes to space and felt blessed to work for NASA and with its optimistic folks for quite a few years. I, too, took the "zero population growth" mantra to heart and remained childless. It's not a popular choice, but I learned later that my mother was quite satisfied not to have entitled grandchildren! Thans so much for sharing this series of posts. Kim in PA

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    1. KimS-- How wonderful that you worked for NASA. I love knowing that. It really was quite a time back then with space exploration, and certainly not about weaponizing it. I am also so glad to know you were "zero population growth" back then. It was not a popular choice, but I will always be glad that I made it. Thank you for your kind words and stories.

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  13. another great post, Robin. You are 5 years further along than I am, so I was often a distant observer of these events when you were 17, 18, 19. I was aware, of course, but not really interested at 12, 13, 14. It wasn't until I was 15 in 1973 than I became politically aware of both US and global politics and I hit the proverbial roof. My parents and my teachers thought I had gone off the rails. I have a nice fantasy that if you and I were the same age, living in the same locale, we would have been fast friends who marched together. Even though we still march, I think the marches of the late 60s were pivotal in moving our society along. When I was at the DC Women's march, I often thought of you, and carried you with me. My sister in arms. Thanks for these memories.

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    1. Tara-- If we were of the same age and in the same locale, we would have definitely marched together. We've been friends for more than 20 years now (amazing to think of that), and it would have been a delight to add another 20 to that! Yes, my sister in arms.

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  14. I have loved these posts and hope you will keep going. You’re right. Our lives are richer and deeper than is readily visible and I see it as an act of great generosity and friendship to be invited into your memories of these eventful and tumultuous and yet such hopeful years.

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    1. 37paddington-- Thank you so much for your kind words. It has been interesting to try and piece together memories from so long ago. I already want to write a short post titled... "whoops, things remembered later." We are living in such interesting times.

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  15. you should do that post! it's how memory works, isn't it, like dominoes falling into each other, triggering a cascade.

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    1. 37paddington-- I love your enthusiasm. What I have been thinking about is that in 1966 my friend had me read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Coney Island of the Mind." I was 14 years old. It was what opened my eyes in a new way to the world. The poem "I Am Waiting" still moves me in such a profound way.
      ... and I am awaiting
      perpetually and forever
      a renaissance of wonder...

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  16. One of the strange things about the Vietnam War and those days was how normal things were in the US. A young boy could be living a normal life doing the things a teenaged boy does one day, and then the next day he's in boot camp, and a few weeks later in the middle of a war. Then, if he lived, after a year he was kicked back out into normal society, where everyone else had been living their lives as if there were no war.

    Everyone lived their lives normally with not much attention to the war, except for teenaged boys. When you approached the last year of high school and your 18th birthday, the war was very much with you. The way out was college and a 2S deferment. But once you finished a four-year degree, the draft was still staring you in the eye. One of my brother's fellow graduate students joined the Navy to avoid the Army, and my brother was on the verge of doing the same. Fortunately, when the draft lottery was instituted, he and I both got high numbers. I dropped my deferment and still have my 1A card. It's hard to believe how bad things were back then. I sincerely hope we can look back on today and say the same thing, with some relief.

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    1. Mark-- Yes, your description of how it was back then is so true. I paid attention because my siblings and I were so anti-war, but also because my brothers were potential soldiers. My older brother had his college deferment, and luckily got a really high (305) lottery number. My twin brother's lottery number was in the low 100s, and that year it wasn't called. These are such challenging times we are living in. I'm not sure what's going to happen next, but it worries me everyday.

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  17. I'm NOT one who cries easily, but the image of you watching the moon landing with your grandmother nearly did me in. I'm so happy for you that you have that memory. I'm also happy she had that experience, too.

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    1. Colette-- It really was quite a moment for the two of us to be watching that together. I might not have remembered if I didn't start this Memories blog postings. Thank you for your kind words.

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