Monday, February 08, 2016

I Remember the '60s

You know what they say: "If you can remember the '60s, you weren't really there."  I was there, though.  I was just the straight guy in the hippie crowd.  I had a few experiences that illustrate this.

The first one was with a friend we'll call Arnie.  He was a nice guy, very bright, and a poet.  We were both grad students in the English Department at UT/Austin, and we'd entered at the same time.  Arnie went through a good many changes while we were there.  He was married to Mary, a very nice woman whom Judy and I liked a lot, but he started dating one of his students.  (Dating is, in case you were wondering, a euphemism.)  Judy and I nearly always had lunch together since she was working on campus, and sometimes Arnie and Mary did, too.  One day Judy and I were leaving my office to go eat, and we saw Mary outside Arnie's office.  She had a white fast-food bag in her hand, and when she saw us, she came up and asked if we knew where Arnie was.  We didn't know, but I had a suspicion.  I'd seen his student outside in the hall a little earlier.  We told Mary that we didn't know where Arnie had gone, and we went on to lunch.  One of the saddest sights I'd seen in a while was Mary standing in the hallway as we left, holding that white bag and trying not to cry.  

That's just background.  Arnie and his wife separated not long after that, and his hair got a lot longer.  He grew a beard, too.  He liked to play tennis, and one day he left his apartment without his wallet.  He was stopped by the police on suspicion of being a hippie.  When he couldn't produce his driver's license, he was given a ticket for driving without one.  He was told that if he went to the police station and produced his license, they'd dismiss the ticket.  This is where I come in.  

Arnie came to my office and told me the story.  He asked me if I'd go with him to the police station.  I told him I'd be glad to go, but I asked why he wanted me.  It wasn't like I was going to hold his hand.  He said, "I want them to see that I have straight friends."

So we went to the police station.  I don't think anybody even looked at me, but the ticket was dismissed and Arnie was happy.  He gave me all the credit.

He didn't stick around in grad school much longer.  I heard a rumor that he'd gotten a teaching job (a one-year appointment) at the University of Hawaii.  

I never saw Mary again.


10 comments:

Don Coffin said...

In my experience, grad school was hard on a lot of marriages. At least 3 of the 20 people I entered grad school with (in 19700) were divorced within 2 years...

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Sad story, but not surprising. We saw a lot of divorces too. Today, most of them wouldn't have gotten married in the first place.

Gerard said...

I met my wife in grad school.

I never had an office in grad school to receive lunch. My wife did deliver a donut and a milkshake on separate days over the past week.

Richard R. said...

Perhaps it was - or seemed to be - easier to give in to temptation in the Sixties, or at least in the second half of them. By the time I was in my last year of college, and especially in grad school (a fine arts college) there was plenty of joking, smoking, poking going on. I've always thought there would be a lot of temptation for an attractive male college-level teacher to a pretty coed.

Ed Gorman said...

You're doing some really nice work in these pieces, Bill.

Daniel Stumpf said...

I hope you are thinking of doing more with these writings....

Bill Crider said...

Maybe if I ever get enough of them.

Deb said...

I love that poignant last line, "I never saw Mary again." There's a whole story right there.

Anonymous said...

These are great stories, Bill, and I echo others when I hope for more. And, that you do something more with them. You are a wonderful writer.

SAS

Max Allan Collins said...

We need either a memoir or for you to do enough of these to collect them.