mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

attic: office & bedroom 19701971 Grand Exit, part 1

A Saturday morning in February, 1971, Chicago. It was so cold that salt wouldn't melt the lumpy ice that covered the sidewalks. Assistant Professor and Trish drove me and all my worldly possessions to the Greyhound bus station. We watched them load my things into the cargo hold -- 2 green suitcases, sewing machine, and dismantled bicycle. I kissed them and said goodbye to Chicago forever.

I guess there aren't many occasions in a lifetime where you simply abandon an old life to start over. Leaving my job of 24 years in 2003 was one and leaving my first marriage in 1977 was another. But my first was that cold winter morning in Chicago.

I was living in an apartment on the north side with Trish and Celeste. They were still in college, while I trudged off to work every day. I hated it.

You have to understand that the spring before, my last months in college, were filled with excitement. It was 1970. I had pushed my personal agenda of "no requirements" and "team learning" to the point where I had gotten my way: all the independent studies in theology I wanted and no damned history classes.

But after the 4 Kent State students were killed by the National Guard, the whole college rebelled along with me. The administration okayed a schoolwide strike, cancelled classes, and allowed us to create an "alternative university" that held classes sitting outdoors on the breezy shore of Lake Michigan.

Our adored hippie Assistant Professor had been one of the alternate university ringleaders. He institutionalized the idea for the following academic year in an experimental program called Mandala. Trish, of course, had signed up. I wasn't happy. The way I figured it, I'd invented the concept of interdisciplinary team learning. (See PIGS proposal.) Now that it was an officially sanctioned college program, I was gone and working a desk job at Rotary International. Assistant Professor wouldn't even allow me to attend their evening meetings. It was nerve-wracking enough, he said, without having me there watching.

It was not a totally horrible existence. We cooked, we had parties. We met a girl named Sally who introduced us to "The Whole Earth Catalog." I loved it: "new tools for social change." Some people fantasize over pornography or lingerie catalogs. I fantasized over the "Whole Earth Catalog." Every page pointed to an existence I didn't have: interesting tools, meaningful work, friends to change the world with.

I hung on to an absurd infatuation with Assitant Professor without any real boyfriend to distract me. Obsessions are really annoying -- a groove carved into your brain. Left alone, the thoughts rush like the Colorado River, flowing, flowing, flowing through the soft tissue till you wind up in the Grand Canyon and no way out.

In my mind, I was becoming a ghost. Time for some drama. Unfortunately I didn't know how to conjure up a boyfriend or land a dream job. So instead, I woke up one morning and quit my job at Rotary. If you read the description of that episode, you can see how young I really was.

That might have been in December. By that time I had also sent out applications to grad school. But next September was light years away and there was no guarantee I'd be accepted. But no more Rotary! I decided to substitute teach in Chicago city schools. It paid well and had the advantage that you called in on mornings only when you felt like working. The perfect job for a marginalized existence.

In one of my "Whole Earth Catalogs" was an ad for a magazine call "Vocations for Social Change" and it mentioned a place called Green Valley School.

Continued >>>


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