Thursday, August 24, 2006

now that i have sent a son off to school, i'm looking at the new students differently- even remembering my first year at school- when i tried my best, i really did, to get into college, but the city of boston and the approaching fall in new england distracted me. i'd head out traveling on weekends, come back to a dorm that was wallowing in drugs and craziness, and try to study some more. this was 1972. things got worse when spiro agnew came to town. nixon would have, but i think he was afraid of what would happen. as it was, it was pretty severe. thousands of people filled up commonwealth avenue- street, sidewalk, on the window ledges, climbing up on the trolley shelters, tripping on the empty tracks. the street lights continued to bathe red, yellow, and green light on the teeming masses, also flashing walk-don't walk, eerily, without meaning. i asked somebody what we were waiting for, what was going to happen. as i recall i had just come back from somewhere and was somewhat unprepared. nobody seemed to know. but they were united in their general opposition to the war (vietnam) and the general idea that if nixon did show up, they would give him a piece of their mind.

finally i made my way back to the dorm- my floor had a number of people who were pretty much always there, always doing drugs, playing music, making the carpet soggy. generally i found it difficult and just went off hitchhiking, camping, to maine or canada or somewhere on weekends. but on this particular night it was crazier than usual, of course, and there was no music. some veteran had joined the crowd, and, in a haze of drugs, began telling stories of killing people in vietnam. true stories, true murder stories. indiscriminately, women, children, whoever was there. i don't remember the details except that it was horrifying. he told it with an intentness- as if information yearns to be free, as if somebody had to know this, and this group of people sharing drugs and sitting around in a haze was as good as any. he remembered every detail. he got wound up. he made sure we heard it. made sure i heard it too. then he left, disappeared in the crowd out on comm. ave.

my friends went back to their usual, eventually. more so, maybe. i'm not sure how much a part of that demonstration they really were, anyway- i also was kind of on the fringe. that spring i'd gotten a low draft number in the lottery, but they cancelled the draft right around then- gave up, said they were getting out of vietnam anyway. i remember not believing them. on the canadian border i'd maintain that i was just a student, travelling. actually i was just travelling- though i had no intention of moving up there- just wanted to keep moving, so that, for a while at least, the cold boot of reality wouldn't catch up to me...


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