The Eye, with jewels

Chameleon: An Interactive Exploration

Part VI -- Reminiscing Anecdotally





"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
-- Clarence Shepard Day, Jr., once-reknowned author, poet, artist, and outspoken supporter of women's rights

"My love for you is like the ocean: vast, volatile, and potentially deadly."
-- male cartoon character to his woman friend on a valentine card he's made for her

"The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."
-- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), a Civil War veteran, political leader, and orator who presented what were then considered radical views on religion, slavery and women's suffrage

"For you shall go out in joy/ and be led back in peace./ the mountains and hills before you/ shall burst into song./ and all the trees of the field shall/ clap their hands."
-- Isaiah 55:12

"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you."
-- Deepak Chopra, medical doctor, author and speaker, pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and named by Time magazine among the "Top 100 Icons and Heroes of the Century" in 1999, "the poet prophet of alternative medicine"




Lady Liberty, 'We can do no other' Judaica
I, A Woman

Prelude (Abbreviated Synopsis of the Synopsis of Technology and Me) -- Strophe -- Growing Up Rich (To The Manner/Manor Born) -- Manhattan! -- Music and Hippiedom -- Settling Down and Yuppiedom -- Technology and Careerism -- Wilderness Basics (Beasts and Heathens part 1) -- Art and the Internet (Beasts and Heathens Part 2) -- Epic Coitus Interruptus -- Town/Community Life -- Frivolities -- Beasts and Heathens (Finale) -- Recoveries -- Reprise -- Joie Plaisir Eibr -- NOW (New Original Word)

Chapter 3 (1964-1970) -- Music and Hippiedom



Tanks

"What a dream I had/ Pressed in organdy/ Clothed in crinoline/ Of smoky burgundy/ Softer than the rain/ ... And when you ran to me/ Your cheeks flushed with the night/ We walked on frosted fields/ Of juniper and lamplight/ I held your hand...."

-- For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her by Simon and Garfunkle from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

As a kind of dowry, my grandparents gave my first husband a check for $2,000, which he promptly took to the bank and got cash because he wanted to know what it felt like to walk around with that much money in his pocket. Somewhat later, Ronnie insisted on buying a white convertible T-bird (Thunderbird) with red leather interior which cost about $100 to replace a windshield wiper, I think. Before becoming a full-time ETSU university student, he worked as a traveling salesman for a few years and we lived variously throughout Georgia and North Carolina particularly, and also in Boston where I worked downtown for a small and discrete charitable foundation owned and managed by the Lodge family. For that fairly brief duration, we rented a very large room with bath in an older Newton Center mansion with expansive grounds for the suburbs that was also within easy walking distance of public transporation, the train and trolley cars. Although we had a hotplate for cooking and perhaps a small refrigerator, we ate most of our meals out at various restaurants or brought takeout home from local Italian and Chinese restaurants. Earlier in Charlotte NC, we'd been given a new two-story townhome with a patio and pool in exchange for my showing apartments in the complex and keeping some records, while Ronnie sold his yellow page book and advertising in it to local businesses. We'd also lived near High Point NC, with his cousins and their two young children, very briefly in a comfortable brick hilltop home surrounded by thick, uneven woods before finding first a one-bedroom trailer in an unusually pleasant, forested park with grassy open areas off the main street there and later a small two-bedroom home close to that. Still later, he was transferred to the flatlands of Goldsboro near the Atlantic coast where we rented a one-bedroom apartment over a garage situated on the land of a private home. Once there, we ran out of cash and I discovered washing clothes during the interim in our bathtub. My grandparents sent assistance, though, when notified of this unusual approach to couture cleanliness. We also passed through Athens GA briefly and nearby swamplands with their eerily lovely Spanish moss hanging from all the old, whispering trees telling their stories of the southland, where I had at first difficulty understanding the accents and pronounciations of common words, colloquialisms, and place-specific grammatical constructions.

When we first met and began dating, Ronnie lived in a two-bedroom apartment near the Atlantic and A1A with two other young men. They all made extra money parking cars nights and on weekends for the fancy restaurants and lounges lined up on the street opposite public beaches and tossed their coins into a communal "pot" for shared expenses and/or emergencies. It was a very light-hearted, humorous and fun atmosphere of tolerance and friendship that also involved frequent trips to sand and bikinis sported and spotted under palm trees and the raucous, crowded, noise-filled traffic between those and the bars loud with Beach Boys recorded music and others celebrating the free-wheeling party life of oceanside times. Although the wedding was formal with a sit-down dinner at an elegant oceanfront hotel courtesy of my grandparents, our general entertainments were much more relaxing and unstructured. They also included at one time a couple who enjoyed very much playing bridge and we got fairly good at that for awhile. Both of us enjoyed miniature golf, as well as swimming and just sunbathing, and the nightlife there that included exotic Polynesian decor, dining, fruit-laced beverages, and dancing entertainments with torches and grass skirts most especially. Having just moved from the crowded, sometimes feverish streets and buildings of Manhattan, all the open space and sky and sea of Florida's east coast then, not built up as it was later and over-trafficked with retirees most particularly, was very appealing and healthily inviting to spend as much time as possible out of doors.

On our first of two round-trip drives from Fort Lauderdale all the way north to Dayton OH and back, I had a very bad cold, flu, and was woozey-headed during most of that beautifully scenic and diverse travel, most particularly through West Virginia and its capitol of Charleston by the river. The parts of Dayton where Ronnie's family -- having emigrated from East Tennessee rural homesteads during Depression Era years for factory jobs and steady incomes of the city -- lived were sturdy inner suburbs of generously-sized older houses with covered front porches on level lots and easy access to urban amenities, nightlife and department store shopping. His typically large and close extended family shared cooking, serving and cleaning duties convivially and well out of long years' practice. Southern cooking with fried nearly-everything was new to me and, except for the hush puppies, took some getting used to with fat pooling onto plates in ways my grandmother would have found very distressing. Cobblers and homemade pies were the common dessert and nearly everything came with bisquits and gravy, together and separately.

Learning to make proper gravy was my coming-of-age ritual as an acceptable country wife. Entry was not really possible without that facile skill practiced and acquired. Cornbread was important, but secondary to good biscuits. Sweetened iced tea went with everything, including cold beer. With the part of his family that had abandoned northern winters for the suburban Florida seaside inland we attended all-you-can-eat catfish diners and the roasting of a wild boar once. Fast-talking Yankee me learned to slow down linguistically and go on a diet of more commonly used and understood words and phrases. His kinfolk were kind, generous and comical, teasing and warm, not harsh or critical. However, certain things just had to be mastered. There weren't a lot and the bar was soft and comfortable, amenable to errors and failings here and there. They swapped jokes and stories, correcting each other's memories and filling in where needed, enjoying each other's company and feeding on that shared intimacy and remembrance. From his Tennessee grandmother we received a brand new, delicately hand-stitched quilt, an Appalachian tradition for newlyweds.

Into conventional gender roles, I once came home, unhappily, from a few weeks' paid vacation with my grandmother in Manhattan to a sink overflowing with crusted, dirty dishes Ronnie had accumulated during my absence. With a legacy from my grandfather, I bought the Johnson City one-bedroom trailer we lived in and our next sporty car, wrote his class papers, and did all the cooking and housework besides keeping full-time University employment in the Office of the Dean of Admissions, a position acquired through his contacts in having a golf scholarship that paid his tuition and perhaps books. The trailer was situated at the very back of a large empty and cleared lot on one of "the tree streets," a block from University grounds. Its owner was a middle-aged woman high school teacher, widowed and living with her only child, an older teenaged son, in a spacious and dark turn-of-the-century home shaded by thickly branched trees and shrubs surrounding a semi-circular driveway in the front. Although friendly and pleasant with me, she had problems with tricks played on her by youngsters from her classes and I got the impression she wasn't the most popular instructor in that school. She and her son were both superstitious in a kind of typically Old South manner of paranoia toward actually easily explicable phenomena, but it was part of their personalities and the structure they placed on their minds and lives very comfortably and unswayably. Things always went thump and bump in the night, indoors and outside where one didn't stray too far from an easily accessible door.

In that era, it was common for young women to put their husbands through college with the understanding that they, and their future children, would be supported generously once that spouse graduated and found a good and well-paying job. However, just months before his graduation and fulfillment of that unwritten contract, I left him, a tall and good-sized man, despite his cornering me in our bathroom and wrestling physically with me about it, for a married but usually separated pops and folk guitar player with a working band who lived with his roommate in an apartment over a garage, rode a street bike to classes and town, and introduced me to the music of Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkle, among others. He suggested one time that for an English class assignment I write my short story about a cockroach. I thought he was crazy and protested but, no surprise, ended up doing it anyway, comically. To my great relief, the professor loved it and gave the paper an "A." It probably made his day, being so different and unexpected in a funny way. When that guitar player and I split, and after my having a female roommate for a few months, I lived for two years or so with Ronnie Taylor, a NC mountain blues guitar (and strings, generally) player who later owned his own small aircraft, produced and marketed an album of his original songs and found employment for awhile playing backup for Doc Watson performances, and some members of his working band, along with a few other people, including my best friend here in Tennessee, and visitors off and on. From that situation, I met the man who became my second husband.

When Ronnie Marion and I had separated, he left the trailer I'd purchased a year or so earlier and I decided that moving to the District of Columbia and attending school there would be interesting. After some research, I filled out and filed an application to George Washington University, which was accepted subject to a personal interview on site. Unfamiliar with the territory, I made reservations after checking resources available and stayed at the centrally-located and historic Willard Hotel (now "intercontinental"), a memorable treat in every way and took a taxi to and from GW's Admissions Office. Subsequent to returning to Johnson City, I received a complete acceptance, however the tuition was much steeper than a public state university, as were urban living expenses, so I needed my grandmother's financial assistance, to which she somewhat hesitantly agreed. Shortly thereafter, mother intervened with her adamant opposition and determination that instead I live in Manhattan with "Nana" and attend New York University about which I'd never expressed any attention. As I had no interest in that alternative plan, enjoying independent living and the freedom geographic distance afforded me variously, I chose eventually -- and with some remorse since I'd been looking forward to city study, sophistocation and excitement -- to stay put where I could easily afford to be. Either way I'd have worked part-time, but in Tennessee I already had that position and adequate funds left from my grandfather's legacy. Although at first I'd cried despondently on living in that area as alien and uncomfortable, it wore well on me over the ensuing years. ETSU, particularly its Sociology/Anthropology faculty and students, turned out to be more challenging, enlightening and enlivening than ever I'd envisioned or foreseen, including outstandingly admirable individuals who became close and intriguingly wonderful and good, lifelong friends and staunch allies through decades hence of challenges and possibilities. Later in the business world, I did occasionally regret not having the more recognizable bacchalaureate and the keys that might have offered to more ready entrance and advancement, but looking back honestly I'm not convinced it would have made much difference as talent, congeniality and hard work triumphed whatever initial obstacles there might have been. And, again, you just never know about the road/s not taken for whatever happenstance or reason, in this conscious existence anyway.

In reaction to my experience with Ronnie One as my grandmother called him. I resolved to remain permenently from then on legally a bachelorette, to paraphrase Canadian musician Rod Stewart,"Instead of marrying again, I'd just find a man I didn't like and give him a house(and car)." [Later, my second and third husbands ovverrode with intense cajoling, corraling and promising everything including Chanel plus warnings of their immanent demise otherwise that sincerely oft-repeated resolution, all three ex's having asked me out on dates following no-fault divorce procedures I initiated and financed.] Post divorce, I allowed Ronnie Marion to keep the green Mustang I'd purchaesed with funds from my grandather's legacy of $10k, which I'd also tapped for buying the trailer we lived in and some college costs, to me and equally to mother in 1961. While attending college full time, Nana sent $100 per month for my expenses and was generous with other monies and goodies for the duration also, in return for which I wrote her regularly and honestly of my life and companionship experiences as a single student, wearing in the meanwhile the Tiffany platinum ring she'd presented as a "divorce gift," set with a star sapphire surrounded by small diamonds,and met with her Manhattan lawyers as requested concerning detail of the Wills that left her estate and my grand father's to me as they had since childhood in strictly-administered stepped staggered sums depending on age of majority ---to the full knowledge of many others including my best friend from East Tenessee and the person who later became my third stepfather, George Baillie, and his adopted son, Mike, and daughter, Diana, and of which I kept copies over the years for my records --with my solemn promise to honor her wishes in responsible monetary discretion and cherished care of bequeathed heritage generational properties. Through illegal finagling, mother and George, self-identified "Conservative Republicans" and "born again Christians" who railed widely against my "liberal" Democratic Party and spiritual affiliations and practical and beneficent egalitarian conscience in matters social and financial, claimed over 66% of my grandparents' estate following Nana's untimely demise, dispersed the principle amount(approximately a million dollars in today's money) and some valuable heirlooms throughout the 1970s within six years leading to their utter bankruptcy(three times officially). On the bogus Will filed in 1976 to Florida's Broward County, my self-delusionally profligate and avericious mother hadn't bothered to disguise her handwriting in signing my grandmother's name. It was mother's lifelong contention that as the sole offspring, those funds and property were rightfully hers and that my grandparents erred grivously in over-riding accustomed inheritance tradition in fsvor of an heir(me, their granddaughter) suited naturally and by their intentional training and discerning choice in cautious husbandry of the '"family fortune" thoughtfully conserved and grown by hard work and studiously intelligent attention over nearly 200 years. Later when mother fell fatally ill, no disaffected neighbors called or visited or offered consolation and assistance in person or sent cards. None attended the occasion of throwing her ashes over the Shenandoah River thereafter either.Mindless of suceeding generations and bereft of funds and credit, she had no need of a Last Will and Testament, and there was nothing to submit to probate but a legacy of contentious ill will and well-documented fraud.

While Ronnie Taylor and the rest of us were all still living in the house-under-the-railroad-tracks, my very generous and loving grandmother flew my best friend and myself up to Manhattan to stay for about a week in her large seventh floor apartment on 57th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. With both of us in college, "Nana" paid for all our meals and entertainments too, including our attendance at a Broadway performance of the legendary musical "Hair." Knowing the score, however, we managed to sneak off to it without her advance knowledge. A traditional and conservative thinker in some ways, "Nana" would have walked out, with us trailing behind her, at some of the production sights and sounds and its alternative culture scenes and themes. As it was, my grandmother was just very upset with us for about a day for failing to include her in our revelry. And we did have a beautiful time. Many years later, I knit a birthday afghan of red, white, and blue with a little yellow fringe to refresh my best friend's memory, happily, of that occasion and the joy we felt and shared with the message of those "Age of Aquarius" actors and musicians.



Beau was a hobo, we shared in delighted whispers. He had no fixed address, no "permanent pad," no "strings" like the rest of us to family and place and expectation. His only "strings" were catgut on his banged-up acoustic folk guitar. Beau belonged only to the mists of the night wherever he happened to "hole up," strumming and singing softly to tales and woes of long ago. His temporary "digs du jour" became under the railroad tracks at our rented house there during one extended stay with Ronnie, an old friend of his from earlier days. In the smoky haze I drifted toward sounds that murmurred of ocean waves and found myself within a few hours sleeping on the beach unbound beside Beau and by the crashing Atlantic foam of Hampton Roads. Hitchhiking to his focus of enlightenment and intrigue, we visited the Edgar Cayce institue also and explored transdimensional realms of cognizance and being with the friendly couple who owned the one-story beachfront motel where we camped from inclement days. Content to live conscious minute by conscious minute there in undefined time and unformed space, Ronnie's appearance to retrieve me to my earthly belongings and college course track in East Tennessee met a cold, uncooperative initial reception of disbelief in the essential necessity of abandoning the free beach and free me glorying in warm sands and oustretched skies like welcoming arms or hands.But reasonand practicality prevailed over my lingering longings for the coast and shaken routines of free-verse rhyme.

One day Donnie talked the three of us into driving to Nashville to check into recording and promo for their band. Ronnie was unenthusiastically realistic about the prospects of a mountain blues group (most recently called the Mother Jugs Dirt Band, before leather craftsman and singer/harps player Donnie succumbed in oceanside NC to a massive heart attack at age 60) in the big city and the mainstream music business and difficult to persuade for the adventure. Before the current highway system it was a time-consuming but interesting drive on smaller, windy two-lanes and we did end up daytime in a small recording studio and by night in a kinda honky-tonk, darkish and smoky bar as well as walking the crowded sidewalks of some old and narrow streets. I don't remember now where we slept. It may have been an inexpensive motel room or with friends of Ronnie who, as is the norm, knew quite a few regional musicians as friends and pick-up playing buddies where they exchanged new equipment and venue info and techniques. We stopped also at the large commune called The Farm and were shown around by residents with explanations of how it worked and was run. Nothing came of the Nashville visit in terms of music or business contacts. A more fruitful trip later to the near-sacred Galax Fiddlers' Convention yielded the kind of informal associations Ronnie most enjoyed, gleaned from meandering amongst other musicians camped out and playing singly or in informal groups, sharing stories and "business" tidbits between licks and hits and chords. A subsequent visit to Gatlinburg for a music festival in which they played, interspersed with informal storytellers before that folk art became a subject of professional commerce and university degree, on a large, raised wood stage to a dispersed audience afforded my first awed and charmed encounter with ski country here, before it had neon-ed out and franchised-up, as well as with whimsical telling, which I found enchantingly new and delightfully different.

Ronnie was hardly a preposing presence physically at around 5'6" with a comfortably proportionate body and thick mop of brown hair, but when he began to play bottleneck blues in any circumstance from city park to mountain field to small cafe, he owned the crowd and the room. He was that good at what he chose and loved best -- although, as is prevalent with many naturally-gifted country musicians, he could play nearly anything and enjoyed a new challenge like a sitar for study and improv, learned and experimented in genre from folk to rock 'n' roll, and broke the glass neck off a real whiskey bottle more than once to "do his thing" at a spur of the moment gathering. His singing voice was a deep baritone and he enjoyed making up funny lyrics impromptu, partly to see if any noticed or knew the difference. His acoustic was a treasured antique Gibson and there was much informally knowledgeable bartering with friends and strangers over equipment. Like Donnie, the band's lead singer, he played "harps" (harmonicas) well also in accompanying himself Dylan-style and experimented with drums on occasion. Although not sanguine about art and skill possibilities, when pressed and like his mother and sister amongst many indigenous Appalachian families and folk, he played also the standard autoharp, a kind of mountain staple similar to the expected suburban spinet piano of that time.

In a representative example of interrelationships between our amorphous and peripetetic group of friends, tall and handsome, curly-dark-haired Donnie later married NYC's Harriet, who changed her name to Rose and divorced Brooklyn-native Mark, a dogmatically strict Jewish leftist politico who landed them both in jail for awhile here. My second husband, Bob, and I stayed with them in their small city apartment a year or so later, attending a few legendary Fillmore East performances and visiting a small communal group at a Woodstock farmhouse set amidst a wide expanse of rolling fields and groves of leafed trees. One of its resident young women declared there that she didn't need drugs because she was "naturally high" all the time. It was a pleasant place and gathering.

As a consequence, particularly, of the class instruction and extracurricular activities of two professors, an unrelated man and woman who both became good and close personal friends, of Sociology and Anthropology, I participated in student protest actions and work of the Southern Student Organizing Committee, an affiliate of SNCC. We created and distributed informational flyers, organized activities, and discussed politics late into the nights at their headquarters in a private Johnson City home. Finally, when the university refused to renew the teaching contracts of those two icons for their outspoken embrace and introduction of "leftist" viewpoints and counter-culture lifestyles, all but two other professors of Sociology and Anthropology, my major at the time, resigned in protest decimating course offerings. Mass campus actions were initiated culminating in a well-publicized and -attended march inspired and led by our friend Charlie Dyer behind a corpse effigy of the now-defunct Department. Thereafter, professors and students dispersed to various parts of the country to continue their activities.



During the late 60s and early 70s, the earliest protest groups had generally grown and splintered into a sometimes cohesive organizational array from ultra-radical to liberal in addressing civil rights and anti-war approaches and activities. For instance, the Black Panthers grew out of the peaceful movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) out of frustration with the less confrontational Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. As the Vietnam War dragged on in varieties of violence and escalated in money, materiel and manpower spent, protests became larger and more widespread, particularly on college campuses subject to demonstrations and the takeover of academic and administration buildings, as well as on city and town streets.

Amongst alternative affiliates ineffectiveness in diminishing or terminating armed national involvement in Southeast Asia gave rise to mounting anger, frustration, defiance, and subversive militarism toward the status quo, the dominant society that still supported feeding the bodies of young men and some women, mostly nurses, into that voracious pit. Continuing insistence on claiming losses as wins destroyed Johnson Administration credibility as hippies and yippies sought to undermine its existence and support by means fair and foul, but certainly no less ethical than those employed in conducting wartime actualities and maintenance.


The image that always stuck in my mind over the years was of Buddhist monks, heads shaven and in their simple religious robes, immolating themselves publicly in protest of the situation in their country. That's a long way to go to express despair and dismay and choice of what is generally considered to be one of the most painful paths to death rather than one more instant of life and consciousness as is. We all watched that expression of ultimate discontent repeated by quite a few on evening news broadcasts which also brought us details of the infamous Mei Lai massacre, providing irrefutable evidence that our moral compass had been totally lost there -- not unfortunately an unusual incidence of similar atrocities historically during military engagements, pograms against unfavored ethnicities and minorities, and whatever else has brought the pots to boil over millenia.

Creativity positive and negative in destruction and construction seem endlessly varied as minds stretch the limits of possibility at either extreme of pleasure and pain, the heights of humanity and the depths of its opposite. When finally our personnel were withdrawn, leaving some equipment along with POWs, MIAs and native allies abandoned to the guerillas of Ho Chi Minh, Nixon and Kissinger declared American victory as our remaining helicopters plucked desperately clinging South Vietnamese allies from Saigon rooftops in leaving finally before the Communist North closed in. I never believed that our protest activities from individual to massive accomplished that end, but simply that the country and administration got tired of it and more interested in other pursuits like opening diplomatic and economic relationships with China, still under Chairman Mao Tse Dung and veiled by the Red Curtain.

As an education, we had learned organizational and promotional techniques, problems of management amongst persons and associations of very diverse backgrounds, opinions, argument and direction within ranges of the left, compromise toward progress, and celebration with joy and gusto. In the process, we also studied and discussed differing philosophical, religious, social and political theories and beliefs with youthful enthusiasm and some naivite. Our alternative lifestyles included creative dress and hairstyles incorporating those of other cultures and times and expression through handwork arts and crafts, which were valued very highly. Separation from the mainstream included brown rice (which I disliked immediately upon discovery) with its elevated nutrients to sandals and nudity in discarding learned habits and definitions to locate our pure, natural, healthy selves on a learning curve we hoped would lead to perfection, Nirvana from the Hindu point of view, of ideal social and individual order. Peace. And love. No doubt a fairly normal yearning in times of war. Yin and yang. The dialectic. A pendulum swinging between stasis and its extremes to chaos out of control and unpredictable. War, peace, and all the points in between on either side.

In working toward living together peaceably and creatively, we hippies and yippies used Eric Berne's Games People Play particularly as a guide, pointing out slippage in each other to old, learned, unhelpful behaviors and attitudes. We weren't just trying to make a new world. We were trying to make new people, ourselves. United by communal beliefs and goals, our heroes and sages were mostly white male philosophers, bands and singer/songwriters: Jerry Rubin, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Abbie Hoffman, Country Joe and The Fish, Jimi Hendrix, Mott The Hoople, Eugene McCarthy, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Muhammed Ali, and old folk tunes. In terms of religion, many of us explored Eastern paths, particularly Buddhism. In San Francisco, some of us took Tai Chi classes and read the Tao Te Ching as a kind of bible. Another was Be Here Now by one of the psychedelic gurus who'd previously been a Harvard psychology professor. We weren't into Christianity at all because it was the male-dominant dogma of mainstream culture that had brought us slavery, segregation, Vietnam, ultra-materialism, and rigid codes of conduct, relationships and morality that inhibited and clashed with our real nature as human beings, creations and reflections of God.

It was a time of a lot of soul-searching to discover the selves buried in learned roles and games, as well as fun. Some of it was painful, as we broke the bounds of behaviors and thought patterns we'd been trained to accept and act upon, but we were dedicated and determined to change the horrors those had brought about, to change the country and the world. We failed and -- except for geographic pockets of resistence and light -- the dominant culture is stronger than ever. I never believed our protests ended the Vietnam War, that instead the government simply decided finally to cuts its losses and move on, somehow declaring itself the victor. I'll never forget the television coverage of our helicopters trying to lift frantic American sympathizers off rooftops in Saigon and Vietnam, of course, has been united for decades as a Communist state. The theory of "the big lie" never dies in supporting aggressive, monolithic capitalist structures. It reminds me of the protagonist in "2001: Space Odyssey" encountering the huge black monolith and tripping out to other galaxies and surrealistic planes of reality. A person doesn't have to be "high" on anything material to invoke all of that.

My second husband, Bob, an Army veteran half a year older than me and father now of one beloved daughter by his second wife, and I flew to San Francisco and found an affordable efficiency apartment in the Tenderloin District, one known as being a little rough but centrally located to many amenities, including Fillmore West where we enjoyed numerous well-known musicians playing very affordably as light shows flared along the walls and ceiling and floor. A little later, we moved a few blocks north to live in a one-bedroom apartment with some friends who had followed us out from Tennessee. There were also a fair number of free concerts, one where Jimi Hendrix sang and played, given in public parks and the Grateful Dead, for instance, performed at a small club. It was the happening place to be in the summer of 1969.

As protests against America's involvement in the Vietnam War, and for equal civil rights for women and minorities, organized, spread and grew, we found ourselves on the streets of Haight-Ashbury one day amidst a very large crowd of mostly young people dressed variously and multi-florally. There were bands playing on several stages, including one where a man was dancing naked to the rhythms and beats, and President Nixon sent Army tanks rolling in to intimidate and disperse the people. They are very large. Some of the women put flowers in the turrets and most of the rest of us blew kisses to the soldiers assembled menacingly with their weapons pointing toward us from inside of them. The local police also had a very heavy presence there in cars and on their feet. We went on listening to music, talking, dancing, and celebrating our right to gather peaceably in public places until late into that evening and stayed in the apartment of friends of friends there for a few days before returning to the Bay's Tenderloin District.


Some months later, we meandered down the Pacific Hcoast from San Francisco to a musical gathering where Bay-based Jefferson Airplane, among many other famous bands, played to a huge crowd surrounded by heavily armed officers and members of the Hell's Angels gang all decked out in chains and black leather on their out-sized motorcycles and assuring the hippies that they were there to protect them.

In my backpack hitchhiking with Bob down Pacific Highway, camping in public parks along the way to what turned out to be a somewhat desolate and dust-dry commune off Laguna Beach with a stopover in downtown Los Angeles,I'd stored two place settings of the family sterling so we wouldn't be wanting anything in terms of stylish dining along the way. I'd misplaced my grandmother's 22k monogrammed gold thimble amidst prior communal arrangements back east. In those times in California, hitchhiking was considered reasonably safe, adventurous transport within cities and between towns with their avoacdo trees and other indigenous exotics and we had little trouble garnering rides with interesting companions from elderly ones to 20-somethings for congenial conversation in conveniences ranging from an antique car to a fully-loaded psychedlic van.



Although Bob and I took airplanes from Dulles to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to San Francisco, we rode back to Tennessee in company of the younger brother of a best friend. Passing most notably by majestic Colorado mountains and rivers, Bob and Johnny drove then through monotonous and seemingly endless stretches of flat mid-West cornfields. There was nothing in view ahead or behind for miles and miles and miles but their tasseling and the two-lane highway interrupted by an occasional drive leading to farmhouse and outbuildings with an expansive, unyielding sky of mid-hard blue overhead. For lunch we stopped at an isolated and unfriendly outpost there, where the two men in bell-bottom pants and longish hair played slots for diversion, and then headed on toward the Eastern rises and falls of my favorite state, home again to warm friends and familiarity of the Appalachian heartland.

Back in Johnson City, we resumed ETSU classes and became volunteer broadcasters for the student radio station briefly. When our other married couple friends, David (a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and later active Mensa member, died at age 54) and Judy (later an antique shop owner married for many years since to a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran), with whom we'd lived before marriage in a Johnson City apartment, returned from San Francisco, the four of us rented a two-story farmhouse in the suburbs together and shared, as usual, expenses and housekeeping chores, as well as educational pursuits and entertainments. From there, Bob (became a degreed statistician, manager, consultant/speaker, and salesman) and I moved to Richmond VA into a second-floor apartment just vacated by another couple, Charlie (some of whose more recent photographs and drawings appear in ACR, a now-retired successful realtor, housing developer and rental entrepreneur, and business owner with a B.S. in Sociology from VCU) and Carol Dyer (a UT-degreed and bank-employed attorney now), who were friends from Tennessee. The rent was $45 a month for two bedrooms, one with a loft double bed, a large front living room overlooking a main street within walking distance of the Fan District and VCU, and a fairly good-sized kitchen in the back. Once while visiting, the thoroughly Germanic Carole arranged all my spices alphabetically and helpfully for me.

John Lyle (also an ACR contributor and Jonesborough TN generational native, now a retired ETSU professor) worked as a VCU art history professor during that time and was a somewhat distant friend from our close circle, along with Ed Knipe, a Sociology professor there and one of the two whose contracts had not been renewed earlier by ETSU, culminating in various and somewhat prolonged protest against that and other seeming wrongs. The woman professor, Helen Lewis (later became very well-known and honored internationally as an author and speaker, Chairperson for several years recently of the Appalachian Women's Assocation, and long-time activist/organizer for Appalachian socio-economic fairness, healthy ecology, and preservation/growth of self-supporting indigenous culture and crafts), returned to her mountainside home in Wise, West Virginia and earned her PhD with distinction.

At least once after dispersing cross-country from "the house under the railroad tracks," a bunch of us met at Virginia Beach, eating at our favorite fishing wharf restaurant with its long wooden tables and benches. My best friend abhors ocean food, but she loves the beach, including sleeping all night on it even when a motel bed's rented and available. Her ideal retirement dream has been to walk its sands with a geiger counter searching for hidden treasures, lost gemstone rings and things, to support herself while enjoying the sounds and sights of sea and wind at leisure.

Because we both worked and/or attended school full-time, Bob and I agreed early on to split obligations and responsibilities pretty much down the middle by formally divying up household chores and taking turns fixing meals. In the process, we acquired gourmet to everyman's cookbooks of many ethnicities and cultures as well as culinary supplies, including exotic spices. I always took care of accounts payable/receivable and he was in charge of the lawns and heavy liftings. We also shared the work and expenses later of remodeling three houses and furnishing our various habitations, as well as the joys of home and worldly entertainments. And we learned to dance together well. After awhile, I grew bored with following recipes and began experimenting with concoctions based on what we'd learned of mixing and cooking different ingredients. The results were usually interesting and appealing although Bob complained that, if something was truly outstanding, he knew he'd never taste it again and no one else would ever enjoy it either. I made the dishes up "on the fly," and never noted or remembered in exact detail what I'd done with any particular one. Years later, I applied the same methods and skills to learning and experimenting with country cooking of wilderness edibles, which gave rise to OSCR's "Backwoods Recipes" section.

I'd learned rudimentary culinary and budgeting skills from my mother and grandparents. Mother's specialty was cakes and her mother's was pies, all made from scratch. Jeanne in Manhattan tried to teach me the art of making crisp and wafer-thin southern corn pancakes, but I couldn't catch on to a recipe that called for a hand-full of this and a finger-full of that, although I tried off and on over the ensuing years because they were so wonderfully good. Beck's survival offering was cooked pinto beans with many flavorings. Pris mixed hot and spicy Western salads of leafy vegetables and meat. Gail fixed creme brulee. Mickie slow-cooked North Carolina barbecue, and Edith made sousse. Frances developed tasty vegetarian soups from her gardens. In Richmond, I learned to mix, knead, let rise, knead, let rise, and bake variously shaped and materieled rolls and breads. In the wilderness of later decades, I learned to make French crepes for Jewish cheese blintzes as well as pancakes from them with jellies or fruits or syrups.

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"Home -- that blessed word, which opens to the human heart the most perfect glimpse of Heaven."
-- Lydia M. Child (1802-1880), abolishionist, activitist, novelist, journalist, and poet who wrote extensively on justice issues for Native Americans, African Americans, and women

"Our life is frittered away by detail.... Simplify, simplify."
-- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), writer, dissenter, transcendentalist jailed for tax-resistance to the Mexican-American War and author of Civil Disobedience, arguing that conscience should be one's ultimate guiding light and influencing Gandhi and King

Meditations/prayers from Silent Unity's 2008 On Sacred Ground calendar:
"I am always in the presence of God, the presence of peace."
"The abundance of God is everywhere present and flows to me in fulfilling ways."
"I have instant access to the mind of God, and I am divinely directed in all I do."
"I am safe and secure in the presence of God."
"Through the life of God within, I am strengthened and renewed."
"With the love of God in my heart, I radiate peace to the world."




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Twenty-four Hours of Democracy


Original text and graphics c. A Country Rag, Inc., Jonesborough TN, 2008, 2010.